Doorstop - Croydon, NSW

12 Mar 2021
Prime Minister

Dr Fiona Martin MP, Member for Reid: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. I’d also like to acknowledge our veterans and our servicemen and women who sacrifice their lives for our freedom. Welcome to Reid, Prime Minister and Minister Cash. Thank you Edwina for hosting. We are here at Phil Gilbert Motors in Croydon which is in Reid. Everyone in Sydney knows that if you want to buy a car in Sydney, you come to Parramatta Road. This is where we have an incredible range of car dealerships and today is an exciting day for the car industry association. Phil Gilbert Motors has been in Reid for over 30 years, an incredible family-owned business with over 180 employees across two different sites and 12 new apprenticeships, very exciting. Today, we have some exciting news for the car association so I would like to hand over to the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister: Thank you, Fiona and Michaela. Edwina, thank you for having me here today, it is great to have representatives of the dealers here today and those deals are made of trade-ins. 

Before I come to that, though, I just want to make a couple of points about some international matters before dealing with the announcement of today. First of all, I'm looking forward very much to later this evening, in fact, the early hours of tomorrow morning. I will be joining President Biden and Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Suga from Japan in what will be the first ever leaders meeting of what is known as the Quad. This is a historic meeting of four leaders from these nations, which are such close friends. And I'm looking forward to the discussions that we will be having over a range of topics, in particular how we're dealing in the region with COVID-19, the challenges that we have with security and maritime domain here across the Indo-Pacific and also, of course, how we're working together to achieve net zero into the future on emissions and move to a new energy economy right across the Indo-Pacific region and indeed around the world. And I'm sure there will be many other issues that we address and the technology partnerships will be necessary to achieve those goals. So it is an historic moment and I think it does demonstrate Australia's agency in the world. This is something that we have been working towards for many years now. It has been a goal of ours to see the leaders meeting of the Quad come together. There have been meetings of foreign ministers. There have been many other meetings. But when governments come together at the highest level, this shows a whole new level of cooperation to create a new anchor for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and working with important other partners in the region, and particularly the ASEAN nations and their view of the Indo-Pacific that so much informs our own. So looking forward to that tonight, it will be in the wee small hours of tomorrow morning. But I can assure you I'll be bright-eyed as we engage in what is being an incredibly important gathering for Australia. 

Also on international news, the OECD candidacy has gone into extra time, it’s into golden point I can tell you right now. And while Mathias Cormann may not have been an NRL fan but an AFL fan, I'm sure he is getting all the support that is necessary. And I really want to thank him and the whole team and all of those around the world that I've engaged with over these many months, a very important role that Australia is seeking to have our nominee a seat to. The OECD brings together like-minded countries from all around the world, like minded-liberal democracies from the Americas, from Asia-Pacific, from Europe and across the United Kingdom. We've been a member since its foundation, and we're very pleased for the first time to be putting ourselves forward for such a unique international role. 

But we're here today at this dealership because for me, motor dealers have been a touchstone through the course of the pandemic. Early on, I was one of those, in fact, on some occasions a very lonely voice when there were those who thought we should shut the car dealerships down during COVID-19. I said we can’t do that. There's no need to do that. Many of the dealerships, as we see here, people are outside, they are very large buildings with the room and the space where these things can be managed. And we fought very hard to ensure that dealerships stayed open, but we didn't stop there. JobKeeper has been a lifeline to the dealerships right across the country. In fact, at Phil Gilbert's here and the operations they have and hundreds of employees they have, they graduated off JobKeeper at the end of September. But for that six month period, it held this business together. It held the employees, the apprentices, the others who are part of this business, together. Now, they've graduated from JobKeeper. And as they've graduated from JobKeeper, they've seen their own business really start to improve. And the most recent data for new vehicle sales is showing, particularly amongst utes and ute sales, that that is driving a lot of the recovery we're seeing in retail sales across the country. And that is the evidence of the comeback of our economy. And it is the evidence of how businesses, small, medium and large family businesses like the one we have here, have been able to make their way through, their Australian way through the COVID-19 pandemic and be part of what is a striking recovery here in Australia that is leading the world out of the COVID-19 recession. 

But there are not just COVID-19 impacts that hit dealerships like these and many around the world. The agency model, the way dealers work with manufacturers, is changing. And recently, you'll know that the Government took very strong steps to hold the big tech multinational companies to account and redress the balance of power, the imbalance that existed for media companies and that existed for news media organisations in this country. We have a reputation as a Government of standing up to large multinationals to ensure that Australian companies get a fair go and the same is true for motor dealers here in Australia. And so what we're announcing today, after much consultation and working with the sector, is we'll be moving forward on a very similar basis to the way that we've been dealing with those big tech companies, with the big manufacturing companies and multinationals from overseas. Now, I know many of those companies will welcome those changes, those big manufacturers from overseas. And I'm pretty confident that the ones that Edwina works with will welcome those sorts of changes. But there will be others, they're going to need a bit of the treatment that we had to apply to those big tech multinationals to get them around the table and to ensure that Australian companies got a fair deal. 

So the arrangements we're announcing today is to put into place mandatory requirements, mandatory requirements on good faith bargaining that is required, increased penalties for those who breach those arrangements. We expect big multinational companies to deal with Australian companies fairly and to do the right thing. They're not allowed to come and ride roughshod and justify it on the changes to their business models, the decisions taken in other parts of the world. We want to ensure that our Australian companies continue to provide the great service. And here in this company, you can see what that means for ordinary Australians. New apprentices taking on boosting apprenticeships around the country, getting their chance. People have come to this country from other countries, migrated here, got their skills, like Reza who runs this shop floor right here, now training others and bringing them forward. That's what family businesses like this do and we're backing them in and we will stand up to the multinationals on their behalf and make sure they get a fair deal. 

I'm going to ask Michaelia Cash to take you through the details and then we'll hear from the dealers and then we'll take your questions.

Senator The. Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills and Family Business: Thank you, Prime Minister, and it really is a delight to join the Prime Minister, Dr Fiona Martin, my very good friend and colleague, but also Edwina and Simone who are running the dealership that we're at today, but also James Voortman and Stavros, who are here today on behalf of the thousands of car dealers across Australia. A small family business, they are the backbone of the Australian economy. There are around 3,000 dealers across Australia. They employ around 60,000 Australians. And here in Edwina and Simone’s business alone, they employ over the two sites around 180 Australians. And I was just delighted today to meet some of the new apprentices that they've taken on, 12 this year under the Morrison Government's boosting apprenticeships commencement initiative. And that, of course, is the 50 per cent wage subsidy for those 12 apprentices. 

But today we are here because when you back family businesses, small and family businesses every step of the way, you need to ensure that the playing field that they play on is a fair one. And certainly the consultation that we have had with the dealers across Australia has shown the Government that it's not. And that is why we were announcing today very, very strong changes in relation to the franchise code, but more specifically, the automotive schedule to the franchise code. The three changes that we will implement almost immediately are an increase in the penalties. If a manufacturer breaches the good faith negotiation part of the code, they will now face a fine of up to $10 million. The feedback we received from dealers was very much that the current penalties of $66,000 per breach, they were seen by the manufacturers as just the cost of doing business. It can never be just the cost of doing business. And that is why we will now increase the maximum penalty that a court can apply to $10 million. We will also ensure that the agency model is covered by the automotive schedule. As the Prime Minister has acknowledged, businesses do change the way they do business. But we want to ensure that when a car manufacturer decides to change the way they do business in Australia, they still have to abide by the strict laws that we have in place. So we will explicitly now include the agency model in the automotive code. And, of course, the voluntary principles which we released early this year, in particular to ensure fairness. When a car dealer is negotiating a new agreement with a manufacturer, they will now become mandatory. And that means that when you're actually negotiating that new agreement, the car dealer, they were able to say to the manufacturer, we need to include a clause that is all about compensation in the event that the manufacturer decides to close its business or leave Australia, that car dealer will get fair and reasonable compensation. We will also now, though, continue to consult in relation to a standalone automotive code because many of the issues the car dealers face, they are unique to this industry. But as the Prime Minister has also said, we will also seek to consult in relation to picking up what we've done with the media bargaining code and applying it to the automotive industry. And that is in the event that a car dealer and a car manufacturer cannot come to an agreement, for example, in relation to the amount of compensation that a manufacturer will pay to the dealer in the event that they terminate the agreement, compulsory arbitration will apply. 

I think that any Australian listening to this today will say, isn't that just fair? And the answer to that question is yes. 3,000 thousand dealers, 60,000 Australians who every day rely on their job with their dealers. We're going to back the dealers every step of the way. And that's why today we're announcing the strengthening of the automotive code. Thank you.

James Voortman, Australia Automotive Dealers Association: Well, today is a great day for the automotive industry, dealers in country towns and cities across Australia will be celebrating because today the Government has made an announcement which will see a fair and reasonable standard set. A fair and reasonable standard that many of the most-ethically minded manufacturers are already adhering to it. It also provides dealers with confidence, confidence to employ more people, confidence to take on more apprentices, confidence to invest in their businesses, continue to pay their taxes in Australia, and also support those sporting teams and community groups that they already do. I want to say a massive thank you to the Prime Minister for making this announcement today. A big thank you to the Small and Family Business Minister Michaelia Cash for sticking up for Aussie dealers. Thank you to the local member, Fiona Martin, who has been taking this issue up in Canberra. Thank you to everyone involved and to the Morrison Government for all you've done over the past 12 months.

Stavros Yallouridis, CEO Motor Traders Association of NSW: I can only relay what the Prime Minister, Minister Cash and my colleagues from the industry have said. We are very grateful that the Morrison Government has taken this initiative. And we've worked hard for many decades tabling the concerns for a fairer retail and dealer agreement with the franchise laws and to hope that we can have a fair trading agreement for the future. Thank you.

Prime Minister: Thank you. As usual, Let me just take a few questions, as many as you like, on this announcement today, particularly while we have the industry representative here with us if you'd like to raise some questions on that. And then I'm happy to take any if you would like we can move to other issues. So,  I'm standing up for Australia's motor dealers. Well, I'm pleased to see there's so much support for that. OK. Well, thank you very much for joining us, particularly Edwina, for allowing us to come here today, and for Reza for allowing us to be in the shop.

Journalist: Prime Minister, what’s your message to China as to how its position is following the Quad leaders meeting? Should Beijing be concerned?

Prime Minister: No, I don’t see why. I mean, this is about four nations that have had a long-term interest in the Indo-Pacific. For us, this is where we live, this is where Japan lives, this is where India lives and, of course, the United States across the Pacific has had a long-term presence. And so, this is about an anchor for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and that benefits all nations of the Indo-Pacific, it benefits all the sovereign nations, and particularly our ASEAN partners, that we’ve been a close friend of for so long. This is about ensuring that we can trade more easily, it’s about ensuring we can do that more peacefully, that there is freedom of movement within the seas and the overflight of the area to ensure that there is facilitation, trade and movement across our great region. And before these four nations, liberal democracies, standing up for our values, coming together and ensuring that we are an anchor for peace and stability in the Indo Pacific.

Journalist: Prime Minister, on the tourism package – how crucial is it that state governments give a guarantee that borders remain open for this package to be successful? And why is so much funding going to Queensland destinations when the Queensland Government was one of the main states to keep the borders closed?

Prime Minister: Well, let me make a couple of points. First of all, I am very pleased, I learnt overnight there is some 75% increase yesterday in Australians searching for domestic holidays in response to the announcement – that was just yesterday. Hearing that back overnight from the airlines from that initial announcement yesterday. It all starts on the 1 April and that means over the next couple of weeks, we spoke to some large wholesalers last night, they are putting their product together – discounted product to go with the discounted airfares, to package that up and make sure it’s ready for Australians, who, frankly deserve a holiday. Sydneysiders, Melbournsiders, Melburnians or wherever they are in the country, they deserve a break. They have been working hard for this last year, it has been a really tough year. And by ensuring that they can get that break with them and their family and they get the opportunity to support those parts of our tourism industry around the country that are most and most reliant on the international tourism sector, then that is what this is all about. Now, of course, of course, we want to see the domestic borders remain open and that’ll ensure the benefits of this package flows through to those who need it most. And so, of course we would expect premiers to want the flow of this benefit into their states, and particularly their regions that are most reliant on international tourism, and this is the key point. That is all about addressing what the ongoing impact of the closed of international borders are – international borders. And so, what we've done, with the support of Austrade and other advisers, is to identify those initial places that not only where tourism is a very significant part of the local economy, but international tourism is a very significant part of their tourism economy, and that is how we have selected the places. It’s not selected on the basis of which premiers and states have been naughty and nice, that is not what this is about. This is about trying to get targeted support to those Australians on the ground who need more tourists in those communities. That's what it is designed to do. All of our responses to the pandemic have been targeted, they’ve been proportionate, they’ve also been very disciplined, seeking to respect the taxpayer. The taxpayer is providing $1.2 billion in support – that’s no small amount. That is a significant amount. I used to work in the tourism sector. This would be the single largest support package specifically for the tourism and travel industry in Australia's history. So it is a big package that taxpayers are putting their hands in their pocket to put money in the pockets of those who are in these distressed regions. And so that is what has driven our decisions and as other locations we think can become part of this scheme, then we will look at that, and we’ve already indicated that right from the outset. But the places we’ve picked, at this point, are really those who are most disproportionately impacted by the closing of international borders. And so to ensure that we can get the help to them, then we need those domestic borders to stay open.

Journalist: Prime Minister, a number of European countries have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine – are you concerned about this, and should we be following suit?

Prime Minister: No, I took advice again this morning – as you know, I’m the Acting Health Minister as well as Prime Minister for the next few days – from Professor Murphy and no, that is not the view of our medical advisors. And the TGA obviously looks at these reports when they come through, but they do their own batch testing, as I was visiting just this week, on the batches that were made available going across Australia – there is some 300,000 doses that are already out and being distributed from AstraZeneca, and there is another 400,000 which about to go out. Now that, of course, is a lot less than what we had anticipated of international supply in these early phases, we’d anticipated to be around 3.8 million. Now, that obviously has an impact on the amount of doses available in this early stages of the rollout and that, as Professor Murphy said yesterday, that has an obvious impact on the early-stage rollout. But the fact is, we should be at around 150,000 doses administered by the end of this week. We said many, many months ago, in fact about a month ago in particular, that we would hope to get in those early phases to around 80,000 a week. Now, we are getting up to those levels now as we conclude our third week. The other point I would make about the vaccines, given you’ve raised the topic, and I note the response to what was evidence given yesterday by Professor Murphy, this is not news. The Health Minister made it very clear on the 16 February, I was standing right next to him as was Professor John Skerritt in the courtyard in Canberra, where we made it very clear that the change in the advice that the second dose being received after 12 weeks, rather than four weeks meant that the second dose having been received for AstraZeneca by the end of October wouldn't be possible. That was made very clear by the Health Minister a month ago. So that isn't new information. It's important that as we continue to update, that it's important to stay up-to-date on where the goalposts are on this, and so that was not a surprise yesterday, certainly not to me – that is what we had advised the country a month ago. But as the vaccination rolls out, as another thousand GPs come into this system over the next week, and in the weeks ahead, ramping up to more than 4,000 – that army of dose administrators will be significant, and we will get to the point also with the rollout of the domestically produced vaccines from AstraZeneca out of Melbourne and that will really enable us to ramp up.

Journalist: Prime Minister, why shouldn’t the showgrounds, football stadiums, carparks or perhaps, raceways be used to help utilise and boost the rollout of the vaccines?  

Prime Minister: Well, the vaccine strategy worked up, particularly for these early phases, we’re not talking about the balance of the population in these early works. We're talking about 82 year-olds in aged care facilities. We're talking about healthcare workers, we’re talking about those who are working in quarantine and we’re making great progress through the state-based arrangements for those workers and we have given additional doses, particularly here in New South Wales because they carry the major load of the quarantine system here in Australia. And they’re working steadfastly through that, and here in New South Wales they are making great progress on that. Our priority at this time is getting to those aged care areas and about one-quarter or thereabouts of the total amount we have been able to vaccinate so far, I think it's about 380 facilities, just over that, that we've already been able to reach. So we're not going to pick people up out of aged care homes, put them on buses and take them to stadiums. That's not the right thing to do, that's not the care way to administer these vaccines in these early phases. We are also going to be going out to Indigenous communities very soon, and those 400,000 AstraZeneca, which obviously don't have to be stored at sub 71 degrees, that gives us the opportunity to be reaching out into those Indigenous communities – and so we need to go there, rather than bringing them to where we are. Now, as we go on we’ll continue to work closely with the states. The GP system will have up to around 5,000 GPs involved in this process, and a handful, a handful compared to 5,000. I was advised this morning, roundabout only 30 have decided they don't want to participate. Thousands are saying they want to be involved in this. They do it with flu jabs every year. And so we’re involved with that. We do millions upon millions of these vaccinations on flus every year. This is a specific type of vaccine and that’s the primary method through which we are administering that system and the states have their systems as well which we’re boosting as well. There’s the GP respiratory clinics as well which is the larger system for administering these doses, and so that is the right plan for Australia. We’re not in the situation that the United Kingdom is, or Italy where 300 people are dying a day. That’s not the crisis situation that we find ourselves in, so we can do it in this orderly way and do it in a way where we can provide the appropriate care, particularly the most vulnerable, those who are disabled and those who are aged.

Journalist: So Prime Minister, yesterday, you said everyone would be vaccinated by October and you said that on television. Today you are now saying that they’re not?

Prime Minister: No, you are misunderstanding me. The first does will be administered by the end of October – that’s what I meant.

Journalist: So, when are you going to be honest with people as to how delayed the vaccine rollout is? Because the information that you’ve been giving has not been consistent on this.

Prime Minister: No, I totally reject that. We were clear a month ago that the October deadline would not include the second dose. The Minister said that a month ago, and that's what Professor Murphy said yesterday. So that's what the Government's saying. What you're reporting is up to you, but what the Government has said has been very clear and it was the move from four weeks to 12 weeks which meant the second dose being completed by the end of October, for all of those seeking them, that wasn't going to be possible – the Minister made that point. The early stage, we have been very clear, we were supposed to get, and contracted to get, 3.8 million AstraZeneca vaccines in these early weeks. We've got way less than that, 700,000, but the fact we have been able to get 700,000 out of Europe, given what they’re going through in Europe, has been a Herculean effort by our agencies to achieve that and already now we are getting to those early figures of around 80,000 a week, which we hoped to get to in those early phases and we’ll continue to update the Australian people as we have been doing, and I would encourage you to follow those updates carefully.

Journalist: China has donated vaccines to the IOC for athletes. Would you be comfortable with Australian athletes taking a Chinese vaccine?

Prime Minister: That is something that those athletes have to decide, based on their own medical advice. My only advice is - that I can give - is the advice that I receive from the Therapeutic Goods Administration about the vaccines that we believe are safe for Australians. They have been tested here in Australia and in the majority of cases they will have been produced here in Australia. I'm sure the AOC is very mindful of that and ensure that our athletes get the best possible advice to support them in the health decisions that ultimately they have to make.

Journalist: Prime Minister, how long have you known that Haha Liu has been an agent of foreign interference and what have you done to respond to his links to Michael Sukkar and Gladys Liu?

Prime Minister: Look, I’m not going to go into the details of those matters – I don't tend to comment on national security matters. But I think the implication in your question, I wouldn't, I wouldn’t agree with the implication.

Journalist: Back to the Europe situation, I mean, these must be really concerning reports for you of people dying after getting blood clots following the vaccine. Has the TGA requested data on this and should Australians be worried about this, given the fact that there is no one with COVID in Australia, let alone dying of it?

Prime Minister: Well, all the data from all of the places that we have relationships with, which obviously includes Europe, is being fed into the TGA, as I indicated in response to an earlier question. That data is examined and that is what informs the decisions that we take here in Australia. Remember, the batches that we distribute across Australia, those batches are tested here in Australia – they’re tested here by the TGA. I was watching them doing it just earlier this week. So we have a very robust process for examining that and as additional data, as I said late last year, we would have a front row seat on the roll out of the vaccine in many other countries where they have had to do that because of their urgent crisis situation. And the learnings from that have been taken into account as we've been rolling out the vaccine safely here in Australia.

Journalist: So you’re not worried by these reports?

Prime Minister: I trust our Therapeutic Goods Administration. And the advice that they give me, and the data you are saying that they should seek, they get and they analyse it – and if they have any change to the advice then they tell me.

Journalist: But you’re not worried personally about these reports?

Prime Minister: No, I'm not, no.

Journalist: Prime Minister, yesterday Brendan Murphy said that the first dose of the vaccine is almost as good as the second dose. Do you think that sends a dangerous message considering that you want people to go and get that second dose?

Prime Minister: We must get two doses and he didn't say get two doses. What he said was, exactly as you’ve just outlined and that was that the first dose of the vaccine has a very good effect. And you may be interested to know that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a single-dose vaccine, not a two-dose vaccine is reporting its results and they are very similar, I understand, to what the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is producing in those other jurisdictions. So what he's saying is that the first dose is a good dose, the first dose actually provides quite an effect but the course of those doses is to have two and that's what we've invested $6.5 billion in ensuring Australians will have across the portfolio of vaccines that we've committed to – and that means we will be in a position to ensure that that first dose, that has been our target and we will continue to update against that target. We are providing, at least weekly, if not daily now, updates on the vaccination program and I look forward to that scaling up in the weeks ahead. Thank you very much.