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  • Written by Scott Morrison


FORDHAM: Thank you very much for talking to us. I know it's a difficult day for all of those Qantas workers. Look, they want to know in the short term, are you going to extend JobKeeper?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, JobKeeper, as you know, is there until the end of September and as I said yesterday, and I've been saying that for many weeks now, we understand that there are sectors of the economy - aviation is one, the entertainment industry is another - that will continue to be affected much longer than many other businesses that thankfully are starting to open up again. So it has always been our view that we're going to have to provide targeted support in those areas. Now, we've got the review of JobKeeper. It hasn't hit my desk as yet, but we've been working hard on those issues together with all the budget Ministers, and we'll be able to make a decision soon. But what I've said to Alan Joyce and what I've said to everyone is we understand the need for further support.

 

FORDHAM: We have a lot of support stopping in September: JobKeeper,  JobSeeker, business loans, travel subsidies, mortgage relief, eviction bans, they're all gone at the same time. That's got to worry you.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we put in place a whole series of things three months ago and we put them in place for six months. Now, most countries didn't do that. They did it for three months, Ben, and we did it for six months to give us time to then plan out the next step and that's exactly what we're doing now. I think people shouldn't rush to conclusions about what the government is going to do post-September. We understand what's going on out there. We're very closely connected to that and we're going to keep ensuring we have policies to support people just like we did back in March, just like we moved effectively and significantly. We understand the need. But we've got to make the decisions and we've got to get them right and we've got to calibrate them correctly. We've got to get the design right. And that's why we gave ourselves that six months to ensure we could then plan the next step that goes beyond that. And, of course, there'll be a next step beyond that and we're in the process of designing that now.

 

FORDHAM: You know, the timing is crucial on these things because people are nervous and you'd understand that. So when can people expect an announcement?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the announcement will be made in the third week of July, which is when the economic statement is handed down and we've been saying that for weeks. So that's about three months in advance and that's how we planned it, Ben. We put it in for six months, we planned for a review within the first three months so then we could make further decisions about what happens beyond that point. And you're right, there are many other things which states and banks and others have coming in place and as far as they relate to the Federal Government, we're looking at all of those as well. We've been planning our way well through this, and we're doing better than any other country in the world. But the news for Qantas employees is devastating. As you know, I have many Qantas employees in my own electorate in southern Sydney, in the Shire and in the St. George area, and it'll be devastating for them in the months ahead. But for all of those who are remaining with Qantas, they will remain on JobKeeper and as I said, we're working on the plan for the step beyond that.

 

FORDHAM: PM, as you know, there's a lot of unrest out there about changes to vaping and 28 Coalition MPs have now signed a letter condemning the vaping restrictions. I just want to read this to you so you get an understanding of the emails I've got. Wayne says vaping saved me, I can now watch my children grow up. Chloe says my dad, partner and I all quit smoking thanks to vaping. Owen says vaping not only saved my mental health, it saved my life. Brian says if vaping gets banned, I know I'll start smoking again. Tara says, my kids need me. Vaping ensures I'll be there for them. Anne says I've saved $31,000 by vaping, I can't go back to smoking. Derek says if vaping is so dangerous, why don't we ban tobacco? There's a lot of unrest out there about these changes, PM.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, individuals who get their vaporiser nicotine containing e-cigarettes or nicotine containing refills, they can get that via permission granted by the Department of Health to a doctor or a medical supplier, who would be able to import the goods using a courier service or by a cargo service. Vaping products that do not contain nicotine are not affected by these changes.

 

FORDHAM: You can go to the servo and buy a packet of bungers.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Ben, there's a review underway at the moment. There's a regulation that the Health Minister has put in place. The Health Minister is handling this issue. He's talking to our colleagues about it. As you can appreciate, my focus is very much right now on the corona recession and on the health pandemic and serious outbreaks going on in Victoria. I must say, it's not an issue that is getting my direct attention at the moment. It's an issue that the Health Minister is focusing on. I know he's been on your station talking about this very issue, and I'm sure he'll be addressing that further, that issue further with colleagues and take into account the various feedback that's coming back.

 

FORDHAM: You'll have a look at that feedback, though, because I understand. I mean, we've got jobs as the focus and also what's going on with coronavirus. But this is a big deal to a lot of people and we shouldn't make it harder for people to be able to do this kind of thing. And when we lose thousands of Australians smoking cigarettes every year, it just doesn't make sense and it opens the government up to criticisms and suspicions that people are saying, oh, well, they don't make money out of taxes from vaping and therefore they want people smoking cigarettes.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, nicotine vaping products are currently banned under state and territory regulations currently, Ben. But the nicotine replacement therapies like sprays, patches, lozenges, chews, they're all available and they don't require a prescription. We're very strong on our anti-smoking message, Ben. We don't think it's a good idea to do that. We know what the health consequences of all of that are, and we obviously support and encourage people not to smoke and we've got many policies and other supports in place to support them.

 

FORDHAM: But you’re happy to keep an open mind on this, right?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, yeah. But I'm letting the Health Minister deal with it. As Prime Minister, we’ve got National Cabinet today... 

 

FORDHAM: Understood. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: These are the issues that I need to focus on. 6,000 jobs going at Qantas. That's what's got my attention. 

 

FORDHAM: Okay. Why don't we just talk about water ownership? Why is there no publicly available register when it comes to water ownership? We know that 10 percent of Aussie water is foreign owned. We don't know the names and faces of the owners. Now, Josh Frydenberg told me this week that the government knows the names of these people and we don't. Should that change?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'll discuss that with the Treasurer, Ben.

 

FORDHAM: But do you believe that we should know who owns our water?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Ben, we've got a range of things going on in the water space at the moment, and there's reviews going on with the ACCC and various things like that and we've got advice coming back to government. How we manage our water resources is absolutely critical, absolutely critical, and particularly when we've had such challenges with drought in recent years and with a bit more coming through the system at the moment, we want to make sure it gets to the places which can support farmers to grow the things that is going to support about 60 million people around the world. In fact, more than that.

 

FORDHAM: You were out there supporting business last week. I got a call from Andrew who spotted you at Bunnings in Artarmon wearing tracky dacks, buying cubby house supplies. True?

 

PRIME MINISTER: It is true. I was helping Lily with her passion project for school. We're building a cubby house and I suspect there'll be a few more visits before we're done yet. But Daniel up at Artarmon Bunnings was very helpful and I thank him. But I am missing the Taren Point Bunnings where I would normally have gone when I was back in the Shire. 

 

FORDHAM: Have you applied for HomeBuilder? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Maybe CubbyBuilder.

 

FORDHAM: Thanks for your time. We'll talk soon. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Ben. 

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