Address and Q&A, Federal Budget Lunch Sydney, NSW

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14 May 2021
Prime Minister

Prime Minister: Thank you very much Angus, thank you very much for that very generous introduction. I can only return the compliment, Angus. I’m greatly served by a wonderful Cabinet of which Angus is a very important part. Our gas-fired recovery, technology not taxes to reduce our emissions, the agenda of investment, the agenda of technology that we will see achieved in this country over the next 10 years and beyond is very much a result of Angus’ incredibly hard work.

Can I also acknowledge, before I commence, all my other colleagues here, but I particularly want to acknowledge David Coleman who’s with us here today. You would have noted in the Budget the very significant announcements that we have made on mental health, and David, together with myself and Greg Hunt as Health Minister, were the architect of those, and I know it’s something both he and I have a deep passion about, and this was certainly I think a wonderful piece of work, David. And I want to commend you and acknowledge you here in our hometown together. So it’s great to have you here with me as well. To all of my other colleagues who are here.

Can I acknowledge first and foremost though the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and elders past, present and emerging. Can I also acknowledge any veterans who are with us, any Defence Force personnel, indeed, who are with us, and simply say to you thank you. Thank you for your service to our country.

Can I also acknowledge not only my colleagues who are here today and my state colleagues, Damien, as well, but can I acknowledge of course Philip Ruddock and Chris Stone who steer our division so ably, and not just from a federal point of view but I’m sure Damien would agree from a state point of view as well, and we greatly appreciate the work of all our party members and of the New South Wales division, which is my home division, and it’s very nice to be home, Philip, amongst friends and amongst our divisional supporters. And I thank you all for being here today in your support for what we’re doing.

I said this during the course of the week in Budget. To so many of our supporters and friends who were there, you assist our agency. You have enabled us to be successful politically, which means that we can do the things that we know are so necessary for the nation's future, and in joining us in this way, you were part of that. You were part of what we’re doing. You’re enabling what we’re doing, and I want to thank you very much on behalf of all of my team, the New South Wales division in particular, but my broader team right across the country for the great support that we receive.

It’s been about a year, in fact a bit more than that, since COVID crashed into the globe, and the virus today and the pandemic we face today continues to rage. In fact, it’s worse now than it was at this time last year. And we live in a world that is increasingly uncertain, and I want to echo what Angus has just said. We have to deal with the times we’re in. We have to deal with the world as it is, not as we’d necessarily like it to be. And I think that is the practical nature of Liberal National Governments, and always has been. Whether it was the Menzies Government originally that was dealing with the rebuilding process after the Second World War, or as the prosperity period that was enabled under the Howard Government, we are dealing with the pandemic times, and having to take the decisions consistent with liberal values that enable us to take this country through. And I want to talk a bit today about those values and how they apply to the decisions that we’ve made and the decisions we are making as part of Australia’s recovery plan.

Right now, here in Australia, we are living like few countries are in the world today. The average fatality rate in the OECD countries - so I’m talking about the countries that have similar health systems, similar advanced economies - the average fatality rate in OECD countries is 1,314 per million. In Australia, that figure is 35.7. Now, what that means is, had Australia experienced the same rate of fatality from COVID as countries like us all around the world, there would have been more than 30,000 more fatalities here in this country. That’s what together as Australians we have worked together to avoid, wherein so many other countries around the world they could not, and it swept over them. And it overwhelmed them. And it wreaked great havoc and great devastation. But not here, not here.

And equally, as you can see on the chart, which sets out - that top right-hand corner - that’s where you want to be. Where your economy is finding its way through strongly through the pandemic and you’ve minimised, as far as possible, the health impacts of the pandemic. So there we sit, amongst a handful of countries in the world today that have been able to find their way through the complete uncertainty that we faced.

I’ve mentioned it many times when I stood with the Treasurer or the Health Minister or so many others in the Prime Minister's courtyard in Canberra. And I said, "We are staring into the abyss,” and we indeed were. The uncertainty has been of like no other time I’ve certainly experienced, and for so many others. Those who are more senior to me will remember those awful times of the Great Depression and the Second World War, but for most Australians today, these are things we read about in the history books, they’re not things we lived through. But we’re living through these times.

And so when I look at that and the employment record that Angus referred to, where there are 13.1 million people in work today - and you might flick that forward to the next slide - 13.1 million people employed in Australia today. There were 13 million employed before we went into the pandemic. More people in work today than there were before the pandemic hit. And as you can see from the chart there, once again, no other advanced economy of that scale can lay claim to being in that position right now. So we are indeed fortunate. Anyone who’s of my age will remember the song by Talking Heads, David Byrne, wrote ‘Once in a Lifetime.’ And he talks about you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack - you don’t have to sing along, I’m not going to sing it - beautiful house, beautiful wife, I can certainly [inaudible] on there. And he brings it all together and says, “Well, how did I get here?” And the song goes on to say that in the days go by, but that's not what has happened here with Australia. We haven’t arrived at this point right now because we just let the days go by. No. We took action. We were active, we leant forward. We looked at the challenges and we practically set about getting this right, and as right as we possibly could.

Now, that doesn't mean we've got everything right. Sometimes there's that expectation. Certainly, certainly by my critics, certainly by our political opponents. But on every occasion we have sought to act in accordance with a set of principles, and from the outset we set them out. And I remember doing it in March of last year, not far from here. And we said we'd be targeted, we'd be proportionate, we'd be practical, we’d have a road in and a road out, when, on terms of major spending initiatives and things of that nature. And we’d use things that we know work, not things that we would trial and experiment with. And we followed those principles, and here we are today.

Our policy responses were, have also been about not putting government the centre or seeing government as the solution. That's what our opponents see. Our response, our solutions were designed to do one thing and that was to enable every Australian to do what they needed to do to get Australia through this crisis. Keep someone in work. To be in work. And so our policy responses were all geared towards backing Australians in, not seeing government as the answer but seeing Australians as the answer, and our government has that in common with the Howard Government, has it in common with the Menzies Government. This is what Liberal National Governments have always backed in the individual enterprise and initiative and determination and resilience of individual Australians, their families and their communities. Government is not the answer. Government is the enabler. And at a time like this where monetary policy is spent and, regrettably, borders have to remain closed and we don't have population growth and immigration, then in those circumstances, in those times, a responsible Government will act in the way that we have.

I want to talk about two programmes, in particular, to demonstrate this. The JobKeeper programme. This was a uniquely Australian programme. I had no interest in the programmes which were being pushed upon us by our opponents - untested, untried systems that didn't exist in this country and we were urged to be adopting them. But we took our time, but we moved at the same time with great haste and we developed a programme of income support that was uniquely Australian. Very practical, we were using existing channels - the Australian taxation [inaudible] - and we knew it would work. We weren’t going to try and come up with something new. That's when you get overpriced school halls or people's houses burn down when you put batts in their roof. That's not what we did. We paused. We looked at the experience and we came up with things that would work, because we know they already worked. So we used the existing distribution channels, and fair, too. Some of us said we should have had an income support system which was handed out as a percentage of your total income. And I said, “We’re not doing that. That’s not the Australian way.” If you're getting taxpayer support, then your need is the same as everyone else's. You're not entitled to a higher level of need than someone else because you've lost your job and someone else next to you has lost your job, or you're reduced to zero hours. You're in the same boat, and we’re going to give you the same support.

And so we took the decision to do this in a fair way and a practical way, and we did it in a way that was also proportionate to the challenge. And we did it in partnership. JobKeeper would not have worked were it not for the strong confidence of Australia's employers and their employees to trust their employers, and the financial relationship they had with their banks. Because we basically said this - you want to keep your employees? Employers said yes, yes I do. Employees, do you want to still be with the business? Yes we do. Okay, this is what can happen. We need you to go to your bank, we need you to go and borrow next month’s payroll and we'll sort you out on the other side. And for employers, we know that means that's, that's a big thing for you to take on. But we'll back you in. And for employees, yes, you may not have the hours you had before and, yes, you may not have the income you had before, but this is going to see you through. And they said, yep, we’re in for that. And we went and changed a number of industrial relations laws, which gave us the flexibility so they can all work together and work this through. That's the liberal way. That's the Coalition way. This wasn’t Government being the answer, making you come along to a Government office to get a Government cheque. This was done in partnership and this was unique.

But importantly on JobKeeper, and this is what's important about how we're doing these things, we knew we had to start and we knew we had to stop. And there were plenty of people, particularly our political opponents, who would say, “No, don’t step, don't step it down. Keep it in. Keep it going forever.” And that's what they would have done. And while we carry a massive debt now, which we don’t deny, had we followed the advice of those who said if you had to you couldn't turn this off, it would have been far worse and it would still be billing even now. And it would have taken resource that we couldn't put then into the programmes we are now investing in in this most recent Budget. So you know, you know when to get in and you know when to get out. And we held firm to that decision and I think that said a lot about the way that we seek to manage Budgets and work with others.

Now here's another one, and that's called HomeBuilder. The residential building industry was facing falling off a cliff in September of last year. So earlier in that year we put the programme together, which would have seen $25,000 to support Australians who wanted to build their own home. The programme was so successful that now some $2.7 billion has been invested in this programme, which is leveraging some $39 billion worth of construction activity in our residential building sector.

And our opponents backed us, they said it won’t work. It did. Big time. Years of pipeline of work to our construction industry, and the flow on effects of that when the home is built and you buy your fridge and you get your carpet and you buy your car. [Inaudible]. The multiplier effects of that and the confidence that builds - $2.7 billion investment, $39 billion outcome advised by the Master Builders, more than 100,000 homes have been built because of that programme.

Now we backed that in, of course, by backing Australians’ decision to want to go and invest that and to go and be that - a first homeowner, a homeowner, a home builder. We put $25,000 down. They put down the other $300,000, $350,000, $400,000. We leveraged their decision, their enterprise, their costs. We didn't [inaudible] it, we unleashed it by making this investment. And one of the things, and I know John Alexander who’s passionate about people owning their own home, constantly invoking to us as leaders the Menzies ambition of home ownership, which I think our party can speak so strongly to. We have now the highest level of first homebuyers in March in 11 years, as a result of this programme, the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, the First Home Super Saver Programme, and one third of all owner occupied lands in the March quarter were for first homebuyers. We haven’t seen that in quite a while. I know it’s still hard, very hard to buy your first home, it’s really hard, it’s really hard to save for that deposit, very difficult. But more Australians are achieving that at the moment than we’ve seen in a  very long time because of the programmes we put in place.

But it's not just in that private housing market. The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, which I established, we established when I was Treasurer, that organisation in just three years has directly, through its activities, seen 2,700 new affordable housing dwellings financed through that programme and refinancing some 6,500 more affordable homes. Working with the community housing sector, directly in partnership with them, with the [inaudible] model and the [inaudible] National Housing Infrastructure Fund, which it does enabling infrastructure to ensure that other housing developments can proceed, and supported, this is just in three years, more than 4,400 new dwellings across the country.

Again, not Government just being it, working with community organisations, with partnerships who are also putting equity and their own effort into these things to realise it. We’re enabling, we’re leveraging. We're not replacing. We’re not saying, “Sit down, we’ll do it.” We’ll say, “We’ll stand next to you and then we’ll do it together.” That's the Liberal National way.

Now we saw an alternative to this last night where the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the Labor Party, said he’s going to build 30,000 homes. But this is the math. This is the Albo-nomics maths. A plan for housing, when you compare it to HomeBuilder, that will spend four times as much and get two thirds less houses. It’s what it is. Four times as much and two thirds less. And you wonder why they always want to increase taxes, because the gap between that, that's how they [inaudible]. Now they said though, “Oh, no, we’re going to pay for it by the dividends out of the, out of the Future Fund.” Now, I think Peter Costello’s a pretty amazing individual, and I think he does an amazing job of the Future Fund, but in order to meet those targets the Future Fund has to double the rate of return, double the rate of return on a fund that could draw down, as opposed to the existing fund where all [inaudible] is reinvested.

The maths don’t just add up. The sentiment is genuine, I’m sure, no doubt. It’s a sentiment we share, ensuring that Australians can get affordable homes. But when it comes down to it, you need people who know how to make things happen, and whether it's HomeBuilder or the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation or the many other initiatives we’ve put in place, we're getting this done. And I think that highlights how we're going about these tasks. So our policies, our responses to leverage the efforts of Australians sets out how we need to keep going about this. We need to keep doing what works. We need to go even further, because that's what's required to secure Australia's recovery.

And this Budget is a plan to secure Australia's recovery. And what that should tell you is that we know it can be lost. We know we can lose the gains. We know we live in circumstances, as we've seen in so many other countries, Europe going into a double-dip recession. We know that everything Australians have worked so hard for over the last 18 months and the big decisions that have had to be made. The great gains can be lost with the wrong approach. They can be lost if we don't hold our nerve. They can be lost if we don't maintain the direction that we've set ourselves in these many months, going to where we are now.

So our economic recovery plan, and I'm not going to go through every one of these points, you’ll be pleased to know. You can read all about it in the Budget, but that plan - lower taxes, a highly skilled workforce, reliable, secure and affordable energy, cheap by technology not taxes, a transformative digital agenda, which I spoke of a few weeks ago, understanding the future of the digital economy and how that's going to drive Australia's success in the future - $1.2 billion in this year's Budget. It was $800 million in last year's Budget. Two billion dollars in the space of seven months committed to Australia's digital transformation. Easing the regulatory burden, cutting the red tape for businesses, record infrastructure investment, our rolling $110 billion dollar plan, prioritising the dynamic industries of the future. Our Modern Manufacturing Initiative, only launched last October, as those roadmaps are now out and the funds are now available for application. These are critical sectors which are so important to Australia's future. This Budget sets out once again further investment to make things here in Australia and keep making things here in Australia and making smart things here in Australia.

But so fundamental to this plan is lower taxes, as Angus said. We are the party of lower taxes and in this Budget we set that out again. We went to the last election fighting on the basis that Australians should keep more of what they earn. We made that commitment and we legislated that after the Budget, after the election, I should say, and those lower taxes, that principle which says a dollar in your pocket is better than a dollar in the Government’s pocket. You're more likely to turn that into ten dollars than the Government is, I can assure you, and that's why I want it in your pocket. Because in your pocket, you’ll invest it. In your pocket, you'll look after a family. In your pocket, you'll build a home. In your pocket, you'll make a difference with it. And that's what lower taxes mean. And that's why when some say, “Oh, but now we need to increase taxes because of the great weight of the things that are needed to be done by governments.” I say, “No, this is the worst time.” And as I saw those recommendations come in before the Budget and people saying, “Oh you need to raise taxes to do this or raise taxes to do that.” No. The Australian economy is recovering, is, is strong. And stronger than almost anywhere else in the world. But it is not immune to bad policy and bad policy is higher taxes when you're seeking to recover and grow your economy and build it for the future again.

Now, there are many measures in there, of course, the extension of the LMITO - the low and middle income tax offset - which will be a further stimulus measure in the economy, as it has been this year. So it will be next year. It's a stimulus measure, unapologetically. But the temporary full expensing provisions that are in there for business, which are seeking to drive investment, are incredibly important. It will cover some $320 billion of investment. It supports 99 per cent of businesses and the 11 and a half million Australians who work. And the spending on machinery and equipment, already now this is its fastest rate of increase in seven years from the tax incentives we're already providing for investment right now.

Now, you will know that the Australian corporate tax rate has been 30 cents in the dollar for a very long time. For the first time now for those businesses under $50 million, from the first of July, that will fall to 25 per cent, and that is welcome. But that's not all, because across so many areas of the tax system where we provide support, particularly for firms and businesses that are investing, firms that are investing in technology and research and development and so many other areas, there are myriad tax incentives that play into an even more advantaged tax position for businesses who are looking to invest and to grow and to employ.

Now, in this Budget there was new arrangements for digital gaming [inaudible], for medical and biotech companies with the new patent box initiative, which I think is incredibly exciting for innovation and technology in those sectors, and look forward to how we can bring that into the clean energy sector and rolling it out in those areas. And we're seeing an enormous investment take place, I think, in those areas now, and that will only increase into the future. But when you take into account all of these various incentives, work done for, under the global talent programme, which is led by Peter Verwer, he’s had some work done with [inaudible] and they’ve worked [inaudible], shows that the effective tax rate in Australia right now, because of all the measures that we've put in as a Government, the effective tax rate for new investment in this country is 21 per cent, not 30, not 25, 21 per cent. Now that’s [inaudible]. And I’m not putting those taxes up because I need that tax rate to be at that competitive level to attract the best and brightest, investment in the firms, lift our productivity as we go out around the world, through this initiative.

You can see it in the step down chart, which I won’t take you through, but whether it's a biotech company, a small capital [inaudible], when you, when you throw in the supports on R&D, and amortization and depreciation and instant expensing, when you throw them in on top of that, what we're doing in the Modern Manufacturing Initiative and the other supports that are there, and now with the patent box. I mean, for some [inaudible] we will see, particularly in the biotech, research, innovation sectors, an effective tax rate for new investment of somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent. Now, that’s competitive, that’s a reason to move your business here and now, and you can move your business into a country that has one of the most successful records on both the economy and health of any country in the world. And that's what we mean by the [inaudible] programs are doing, even as we speak.

It's an exciting new programme which was initiated by our Government. It's focussed on attracting high value modern enterprise and exceptionally talented individuals - 30 per cent, 30 per cent of our attraction so far in the digital, digitech sector. A quarter are researchers and entrepreneurs in health and life sciences. That includes a global expert in SARS-CoV-2 and research into Hep B. Twenty per cent is in pioneers, particularly in research and clean energy.

So friends and supporters, thank you for being here today. The Budget is a plan to secure Australia's recovery, and it's the right plan, ground deep in Liberal and National values that have served the nation on so many occasions in the past, whether it was the challenges of the Menzies time or the Howard time or indeed our time now. These values will guide us, and it says that it's Government supporting the initiative and enterprise and determination of individual Australians, enabling, standing with them, not seeking to replace them, hold them back, or tell them the Government knows better.

Government can do good things, but I tell you what, the Australian people can do better. And that's what we want to leverage, and that's what our Government is about. Business-led growth - eight out of 10 employees are in the private sector, and that's where the further job growth is going to come from. And it's not going to come from the Government getting in the way of that. It's going to [inaudible], it’s going to come from Government enabling that, to backing it, to support it. So you can do the many challenges that you have.

So we will keep going on that path. We will ensure that through this Budget we will stay on top of COVID-19, we will ensure that we continue to create jobs and build our economy for the future, guarantee those essential services that Australians rely on, whether that be in aged care, mental health in particular, which received such treatment in the Budget, or protecting women's safety, and indeed to ensure that we make sure Australia is resilient and secure in a very uncertain world. And I think with all of that together, this Budget, I think, meets the challenges of the times, consistent with the Liberal and Nationals values that we hold dear. Thank you very much for your attention.


Question: Prime Minister, thank you for your good management, your good Government and your great leadership. We live in very uncertain times and I think we all expect and need to be kept safe. However, Australia is a very successful, diverse, multicultural society, and there are many Australians with linkages right around the world. What would you say to those Australians as to when the borders may open and when families could be reunited?

Prime Minister: Well, thanks, [inaudible]. And in particular, right now, we are readying the planes, those Qantas planes, they're on their way over to India as we speak, very shortly. And they're taking with them the next round of emergency supplies of oxygen concentrators, of respirators, and the many other forms of medical support and assistance we’re providing to India. And they will bring back Australians - Australian residents, citizens and close family members - and they will be bringing them back to Howard Springs at the National Resilience Facility, quarantine facility, that we have there in partnership with the Northern Territory Government. That is going to happen this weekend because of the very strong action and decisive action we took several weeks ago. That pause has done its job. The number of cases that we had up in Howard Springs at that time was over 50. It's now down to four. [Inaudible]. And also around the country we saw the number of those, of active cases in quarantine, fall from 292 to 171. So the system’s ready to respond. Had we not undertaken that pause, then I think we would have put ourselves in a position where that just wouldn't have been possible, not just for a couple of weeks, but months and months and months. But importantly we can now do it and do it safely, and we can do it consistently and sustainably. And I'm pleased that we're going to be able to do that. And these are the challenges [inaudible] we’re going to have to keep working with, over the course of the many months ahead. Your borders just don’t one day open up and, it's not that binary. It's, it's a step by step process. The Health Minister and I have talked about it, whether it's green lane opportunities, which we already have with New Zealand. I've already mentioned that the next country we’d love to do that with is Singapore. We already have a process where we're engaged with our health officials and expert health advisers to understand, with the states and territory, whether we can be in a position where we're, where you’re vaccinated in Australia, that you would be able to travel and return and have an alternative form of, of quarantine, preferably in your home, and for a more restricted period. Now, that still has to be worked through. The health has to be right. We don’t want to let this thing back in. Once it’s in you can’t get it out. And with the new variants and new strains, they’re going to be with us for some time. Many other countries in the world, it’s too late for them to try and achieve what Australia’s achieved. They can’t get to where we are. And so they’ll make their decisions. But here in Australia we’ll make the decisions which, which are right for this country. And that means ensuring that, particularly internally within Australia, we can keep, while our borders are open, internally as much movement, as much activity as we possibly can. And I believe over the course of this year we will see an even more proportionate response, I think, to the challenges that come our way with the inevitable breakouts that you will have from time to time. As all states, none better here than New South Wales have dealt with so, so successfully. So that will see us, I think, then move to others in the critical workers area, where we will be able to, I think, make more progress there. Last time I was up in the Northern Territory a few weeks ago, I was talking to the Northern Territory Chief Minister about a project he asked us to work with him on there in relation to workforce entry into Australia and we're working with him on that. I noticed that was something that was the centre of the Leader of the Opposition was mentioning yesterday. But the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory had already engaged me on that some weeks ago. So we'll continue to work on those programmes with the states and territories and be very practical. But we've got to be very careful here to understand that as much as we'd like the world to be different, it's not. The pandemic rages more today than it did a year ago. And sadly having ravaged the developed world, it is now ravaging the developing world. And that brings with it a whole series of new challenges, new variants, new strains. I was talking to Prime Minister Modi just, just last week, and he is dealing with a challenge which is hard for us to conceive in this country. And so we’ll give them every support. But it's important that when we bring people home, we bring them home safely. And we'll continue to do that and we’ll work with the states on other capacities that we think we can build together. But we are in it together, and I'm sure we will continue to maintain the success of what we've already spoken about today. But I [inaudible].

Question: Yes, look, thank you so much for that, Prime Minister, and what a fabulous and very generous Budget it is. And, and as you say, it's certainly a Budget for the times. And one of the things that I think, and this was kind of an underlying theme for your, of your, of your speech, was that we have to have confidence in where we are now and where we’re going to. And unfortunately, often, confidence is undermined by misinformation. And so I just would wonder if you could kind of share with us where, where the vaccination programme really is, and what the, where it's been and where we're headed to.

Prime Minister: Well, look, thanks for that question. And I've just got to look it up because I get my daily updates from the vaccination programme. And today’s vaccination update shows that there were 85,874 people who were vaccinated yesterday. That brings us now to a total of 2.98 million people have been vaccinated across the country. That means by about now, I think, we’ve already crossed the three million mark, in terms of the vaccinations we were expected to happen today. We thought we'd reach that mark by the end of this week, and we certainly have. And what we are seeing is the vaccination programme, despite having some early challenges with accessing supplies, particularly the AstraZeneca supplies from Europe in those early phases, and much is said about four million and one million, basically there were three million doses that didn’t turn up. That's what happens in a pandemic. And while others might want to make political advantage out of that, we’ve just got to deal with the reality of this. And then after that, of course, we had the TGA advice on AstraZeneca, which was not something that had been contemplated. And that, of course, led to some initial hesitancy. And now the AstraZeneca vaccine will only be used for those aged after 50. We got together with the National Cabinet, I brought them back together and got them back on that COVID operation tempo, and we worked through that programme. We brought forward over 50s vaccinations to just, that started right across the board last Monday week, and on next Monday will be available through all GP clinics that are providing vaccinations right around the country. Our GPs are doing an amazing job, by the way. They’re the ones administering, they’re the overwhelming portion of vaccine doses that have been delivered in this country. But we're now running well over 400,000 a week. We will see that number I think continue to increase, as extra doses are going into the GP clinics next week. And we'll have a bigger population with [inaudible] to, to go to those GP clinics for the over 50s. And then we will move into the next phase, which deals with those who are under 50, and the additional Pfizer doses that we were able to secure, that was an additional 20 million, that was due for the fourth quarter of this year. We're working hard on how we can bring that forward and then, Greg Hunt’s doing a good job on that. There was also the additional mRNA vaccines that we were able to secure this week, and that was for both this year, some 10,000 doses, and that also involved 15,000 additional doses that deal the boosters. So that's to deal with the variant strains next year, and things of that nature. We’re already thinking about not just the doses we're hoping people can have this year, but the doses people are going to need to have next year, because we're not seeing this as something that is ending any time soon. And so we’re still seeking to stay ahead of that, at the same time while supporting, particularly our regional neighbours. I was speaking this week to both the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and the Prime Minister for Fiji. Fiji is having a particular challenge right now but Frank’s, I think, all over that, and I think they’ll do a great job sorting that out. But we've got tens of thousands of doses which are going into those countries to support their vaccination programmes. And that's also an important part of what we're doing. So after some initial challenges which related to medical reasons and supply reasons, this happens, we will continue to have other shocks, I imagine, and other variables. That's why we're cautious about when we’re saying things will get done by. It will happen as quickly as possible, and we greatly value the work that’s been done by the states and territories, particularly here in New South Wales and the clinics that are being set up here in New South Wales. And with the support of Brad and Gladys, I think that's working extremely well. And we'll see those rates of vaccination further increase as the year goes on. And I believe we’ll, I think the assumption that it's likely we’ll get there by the end of this year, I think that’s a reasonable assumption. But at the moment, it's still just an assumption. And there's a lot that has to happen between now and then, just like we had early on in the programme, I suspect there'll be a few other things that will come our way, and we'll deal with it then just as the way we have already.

Question: Thank you, Prime Minister. [Inaudible]. My question concerns the Middle East and last night on Chris Kenny the former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that he believed that the [inaudible] is precipitated to counter the success of the Abraham [inaudible]. I'm not going to put you in the difficult position of asking whether you agree, but what I would like to ask is whether you believe that the momentum that Abraham beholds is now over, because of the, of what's going on in the Middle East?

Prime Minister: Well, thanks for the question. It's obviously a deeply sensitive topic and it's one that both personally and our Government is deeply concerned by the terrible and escalating violence that we're seeing in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. And, as always, we'd urge all those involved to exercise restraint, to restore calm, and so people can live peacefully and to avoid any unilateral actions that might destabilise peace. That said, that said, Israel unquestionably has the right to defend itself and its people. Unquestionably. And, equally, Palestinians need to be able to live safely. As a Government, we believe in the two-state solution. It seems now in politics here in Australia that is no longer a bipartisan view, and I think that's disappointing. That is certainly our Government's view, and we stand strongly and always have with the nation of Israel, with its many challenges over many, many, many years. Indiscriminate attacks with want and disregard for civilian casualties perpetuate the cycle of violence and bloodshed. The protection of civilians remains paramount, and it's just very important that I think we continue to be mindful of the human beings who are in positions of great danger and uncertainty and fear. The world is not like we'd like it to be. It is as it is. And within that I think we have to recognise the [inaudible] rights of nations like Israel, and the right to defend themselves. But also our shared obligation to ensure that all can live peacefully in the region, including in [Palestinian territories]. Thank you.