PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much, Phil. And and to Peter as well and to all of those who are joining us here today. These are very extraordinary times. And to be joining you in this way from isolation here in The Lodge is certainly unique, but it's great that we can continue to connect up. The government doesn't skip a beat as we continue on, regardless of these rather extraordinary circumstances.
Can I also acknowledge the Ngunnawal people and their elders past, present, and emerging. And as you know, I always like to acknowledge our veterans and our serving men and women, particularly at this time, as we're dealing with some very difficult issues, which we're all very aware of. We owe them a great debt and we thank them on behalf of a grateful nation for their service. But to all of you, thank you for your service to our country. Last year, I addressed the leadership of the APS, at the event at the Great Hall, and I said I wanted the APS to be professional, capable, flexible, technology enabled and citizen focussed, and open also to outsiders and diverse points of view, both within and without. And I believe this year has been a year of great delivery for our Australian public service, in spades. On behalf of the government, I want to thank all of you who have served so well and say thank you.
This year, the Australian Public Service and the entire public sector stepped up, and Australians needed you to, I needed you to, I said last year that more than advice, implementation and execution was key. It remains my view, in 2020 we witnessed strong implementation and execution by the APS during the most difficult crisis we've faced in certainly in my lifetime and in many generations. Silos fell. They dissolved, real substantive and fast collaboration occurred. You should all be enormously proud of what we've accomplished this year. We faced twin national crises in real time, a health crisis and an economic one, to save lives and to save livelihoods. There was no rulebook. There was no set of procedures for the broader actions that were undertaken by our public service, certainly when it related to our pandemic plan that was implemented. But the broader activity of the public service and what I saw occur, you've written that book now about how it should be done, through your actions. Decisions that once might have seemed absolutely impossible, like closing the national borders, quarantining Australians - including a Prime Minister - closing pubs, gyms, schools, theatres, weddings and funerals limited, a very difficult decision, shutting up places of worship. All these were made in a matter of days, difficult decisions made decisively, but also based on clear medical advice.
Thousands of members of the APS were redeployed. Within 24 hours, hundreds were seconded to Services Australia answering calls. We even had a Service Australia call centre operating out of Parliament House. All up, processing hundreds of thousands of claims in weeks. We saw functions and apparatus like the National Cabinet and the National COVID-19 Co-ordination Commission quickly and supported almost instantaneously. We witnessed incredible action in the earliest days of hearing of COVID-19 in Wuhan. DFAT staff drove 12 hours from Beijing to Wuhan to coordinate getting Australians out. And our consular staff around the world have been working tirelessly since. We all shared a goal this year, the executive, the parliament, the bureaucracy, and that was to save lives and to save livelihoods, and be COVIDSafe ourselves. And that's still our goal.
This year we've tragically lost 907 Australians to this virus. Our performance though as we all know has been very strong, but we can't bring those Australians back. But it's worth remembering that the mortality rate around the world has been more than 4 times greater than ours. And in the US and the UK and many European countries, it's been 20 times greater. Ours has been an $18.5 billion dollar health response. Every part of our medical response has been like an interlocking piece of the jigsaw. The national medical stockpile dispensed over 82 million masks, the purchase of thousands of ventilators, the deployment of emergency resources, a pathology ramp up some 700,000 COVID tests, 150 pop up COVID clinics, the absorption of the private hospital system into our COVID response, mobilising over 30,000 hospital beds and 105,000 skilled workers for our national response. Decisions about elective surgeries, accessing a wider pool of medical professionals, rolling out telehealth. A 10 year reform rolled out in 10 days with 38 million telehealth services provided so far.
The dramatic expansion of mental health funding and support further expanded during the Melbourne lockdown. Targeted support for indigenous communities, dozens and dozens of critical health decisions working hand in glove with the states and territories and of course, the incredible work that continues to ensure Australians can access a safe and effective vaccine in 2021.
There have been massive decisions on the economic front as well. You delivered JobKeeper. The biggest financial lifeline in our nation's history. This happened in weeks. $100 billion dollars, in fact, a bit more than that. 3.5 million jobs supported, 700,000 jobs saved. Now, I've been around this place for a while and many of you watching on have been around even longer. I find it hard to think of any single act by a Commonwealth government that has had a bigger impact on more lives in this country than JobKeeper. It has been a defining, game changing moment in our nation's history. It was the product of Ministers, particularly the Treasurer, working together with myself as Prime Minister, the then Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, working together with Treasury officials, led in particular by Steven and Jenny, to produce an extraordinary programme. I'm proud of many things during my time as both Prime Minister and in other Ministerial roles, but I'm going to be hard pressed to think of something that has had a more transformational impact and we couldn't have done it without you.
There were major supports for households and businesses, pandemic leave, JobSeeker changes, cash flow support for small and medium sized businesses, keeping a country going through a pandemic, over $500 billion dollars support in total, representing over 25 per cent of our GDP when combined with the monetary measures of the Reserve Bank, major decisions on visas, tenancies, childcare, aged care and so much more. Done professionally, done carefully and done quickly. Proving what I said last year, meeting the standards of high quality implementation and execution, you helped keep this country's head above water while so many other countries were plunging. You know, when you decided to join the public service, I suspect it was to be of great service to our country in moments just like this. This year, you've realised that vision for yourself, and I hope you feel incredibly proud of your service.
Now, we're expected to have one of the lowest falls in GDP across the advanced economies in 2020 across every area of government, people adapted and responded in areas most don't know about. And perhaps we'll never know. The National Measurement Institute, which if you didn't know, measures things by the way, ramped up its efforts to take testing masks, people and instruments and tests for labs and frontline staff. The engineers in the ADF who'd already demonstrated their great skills on so many occasions during the bushfires and the drought, rebuilt and refitted mask machines in the Med-Con factory in Shepparton as a result of that, that factory now has an output capacity of 200 million masks per year. All part of a tremendous effort by the ADF in 2020.
I said in the Parliament at the start of this pandemic that this year we would find out as Australians how strong we really are. And I can happily report to you that the quality, depth, skill and commitment of our public service met that test. It is strong. It really is, and I'm very proud of it.
This year, our country has witnessed the Australian public service at its very best. This virus we know is a common enemy all around the world. And like an enemy, when it engages, it seeks to disrupt our plans. But you have met that disruption head on. And now I'm going to ask for something from you once again, and that is more next year.
We are rebuilding what we've lost. We are reclaiming the jobs, the investment, the exports, the businesses and the hopes of millions of Australians that were crushed this year. And they're rebuilding. We are now, and as we go into next year, we are in the comeback phase. We are in the recovery and rebuilding phase. And you have as critical role to play in that, as you have had in the phase we've gone through this year as we've cushioned that blow and carried Australians through and ensured that we can get to the next stage.
To put it in perspective, the amount of support in particular we have given in our support of Victoria in this year alone, over about $35 billion dollars, that's more than a third of their total Budget this year. That is extraordinary.
And going forward, the recovery and rebuilding the plan for achieving that is our JobMaker plan, creating the settings for Australians to make decisions with confidence. Starting a business, getting training, building a home, having a family, even going on a local holiday. Our Government is about a business led recovery. We want businesses to drive this recovery. Now, that doesn't mean that there's no role for government. Quite the opposite. But what we have to be clear about is that we are enabling, through our policies, through the work that you're doing, a business led recovery. Because that's what is sustainable. Governments can't carry countries forever in our economy. Our economy will be driven by businesses. And so our policies and our implementation must be about spurring those businesses on to make those decisions, to plan for their future with confidence, and to move forward. There has been an important time for government and for government to step up, but we are very clear that it was temporary, that it was targeted, that it was proportionate, and it used the existing distribution channels to ensure that it didn't fail and it hasn't. Government has done and is doing the essential job that it had to do in the midst of the crisis. But we must graduate from that phase and allow business led recovery to take us forward into the future. 2021 is about ensuring our country recovers from the worst economic shock in our lifetime and businesses will carry that forward and we're already on our way. Major decisions on manufacturing, on skills, on energy, on cutting red tape, reducing the cost of business through deregulation. And of course, the Budget, which is our blueprint, our recovery plan from the COVID-19 recession. We're looking ahead to 2021. We'll need to keep our foot on that accelerator.
This year is coming to a close, but we all know the crisis is not yet over. We need to keep bringing Australians also home. Thousands more are still stuck overseas, wanting to get home to lives and loved ones here. And I want to thank those, whether they be in the Department of Home Affairs or the Department of Transport, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Those over at Services Australia who are also assisting in this effort, contacting people overseas. This is what I'm talking about, how all of these agencies have worked together in the past year. Let that be your take out from this. You know, a lot is said about this town, in particular, and I know we have federal Commonwealth public servants all around the country. But a lot's been said about it in the past, about how it only looks inward at itself and it doesn't connect with the rest of the country. Well, I think the Australian Public Service has done a lot this year to disprove that. And what it's also disproved to itself is that everyone doesn't have to stay in their silos for this to work. You've demonstrated how when you come together, you achieve great things. So that's got to be our take out. Let's take that as the learning and the legacy from what has been a very, very difficult year. That coming together does work. It does get better outcomes. It does increase the productivity and the outcome delivery of our public service for all Australians.
So we need to stay vigilant. We need to stay the course. And whether it's on our COVIDSafe behaviours and social distancing and hygiene to prevent second or third waves of this disease from taking hold or maintaining the course and supporting the business led recovery. Next year we’ll be delivering that COVID-19 vaccine. We've got a strategy that puts Australia at the front of the queue for a safe and effective vaccine. Whether it's one we bring here or one we develop here, and our elderly, health and aged care workers and other vulnerable people will be the first to get it. In a year of recovery and rebuilding, we will be asking for fresh thinking and new ideas and delivering for Australians just like this past year. My message to every member of the APS is that you demonstrated this year that together you are stronger, more effective and more capable than I think perhaps you imagined as well. So let's step out in that in 2021. And I need you fresh in 2021 as well. So use the Christmas break to recharge.
Just in finishing, let me make two points. Recently I set up the Policy Implementation Committee of Cabinet. You all know that the Expenditure Review Committee and the National Security Committee are the big subcommittees of Cabinet which drive a lot of the Government's agenda. The establishment of the new Policy Implementation Committee sits at equal status with both of those Cabinet subcommittees. And what they're designed to do is to ensure that we stay on track for delivering what we have developed and sought to put in place through our budgets. How we deliver is, frankly, more important than even the planning phase. It's the execution, as I said last year, that is most important. This Policy Implementation Committee of the Cabinet provides a venue, a channel for accountability of performance against what we've set out to do. And I can tell you honestly, the inspiration for it for me was in the major changes we made to Closing the Gap this year. And I want to thank particularly the team that worked on that and Ray and everyone there. Because working together with the Indigenous leaders, what we came up with was a set of metrics, not about just what we wanted to achieve. Whether it's reducing the mortality rate for infants in Australia from Indigenous communities or the school attendance rates or any of these things. But it set out what the things were we had to track well on to achieve that goal. It actually set out a clear pathway and a set of metrics and a dashboard that said if you want to achieve this and if we want to know we're tracking towards achieving this, then right now we know we need to be achieving this. And that's how the Policy Implementation Committee, that's how I want it to work.
One of the things I need to be looking at right now as Prime Minister and the other ministers is to know that we're going to hit this mark in two years time, ten years time, indeed 20 years time when we think of long term defence procurements. It's fine to talk about the absolute outcome metrics. But there are metrics we need to satisfy every single day to know we're on track. Now, you are the professionals about knowing what those are. That's where your skill and your expertise comes into being. And that's just not the role of central agencies. It is the responsibility of every department for you to be supporting your ministers so they can know how we're tracking against what we as a Government have committed to do. I take delivery and my commitments very seriously to the Australian people. That is a bond you have as a Prime Minister with the community, and I'm relying on you to help us ensure that we can deliver on those commitments and knowing what we need to do each and every day.
Final point I wanted to make was a personal reflection, but it's far broader than that. I'm sure Phil would join with me in welcoming the nomination of Professor Brendan Murphy, as the Australian of the Year from the ACT. Brendan is a very humble guy. You all know that. And he has possibly the worst jokes in the public service, I suspect, having had to endure many of them over our many meetings. He's a wonderful man and he's a great Australian. I'm so proud of you, Brendan, that you've been nominated. But the thing about this is when I tease Brendan constantly about his notoriety, is I know that he accepts this nomination not for himself personally. I know that he feels he's accepting it on behalf of all of you. He represents the tip of the spear in so many respects, supported by Paul Kelly and so many others who have worked so hard over, particularly in the health area this year. He is the tip of the spear of the entire public service effort during COVID-19. In so many ways, he's been the face of the public service. And I know every time, as it's been also true with Paul, we've stepped out there and particularly in those early days of the pandemic and we faced the nation and we said it's going to be okay, we're going to get through this. Of course, they look to a Prime Minister for that. But to be flanked by one of you, by a member, a professional member of our public service, that's said the same thing. I think that said a lot about the partnership that you and I have in our commitment to serving the Australian people. So congratulations, Brendan. You're up in a pretty good field, I've got to say, with Shane Fitzsimmons and many others, but I appreciate the way and the humble way in which you received that order on behalf of everyone here in the Australian public service. And I wish you all the best and I look forward to more of those jokes, I suppose.
PHIL GAETJENS, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET: Thanks, Prime Minister.