Doorstop - Murrumbateman NSW

24 May 2020
Prime Minister

SENATOR JIM MOLAN AO DSC: Ladies, gentlemen, thank you very, very much for coming out here on this beautiful Canberra morning. Nothing so good as on a Canberra morning as to be in a chocolate factory and a chocolate kitchen and a chocolate shop. We're here for a number of reasons today. We're here, firstly, and my job is to welcome the Prime Minister. But we're here for a number of reasons today. The Prime Minister will introduce our candidate for Eden-Monaro, our successful candidate for Eden-Monaro, someone who knows this area tremendously and has worked in this area for years, managed a two per cent swing in the last general election. We’re here listening to people about Robyn Rowe’s chocolate shop and also about Anthony Nicoletti’s cafe and restaurant in Jerrabomberra. So a great day. Thank you very, very much for coming and Prime Minister, I might hand over.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much, Jim, and it’s wonderful to be here with you, Fiona, and to Robyn and Anthony. Thank you for having us here at your place, a beautiful place, and we wish you every success [inaudible]. Australia is building back. Australia is fighting back right across the country. I said some months ago 2020 was going to be one of the toughest years Australians have ever faced. That has certainly proved to be true so far. In Eden-Monaro and the many, many communities that make up the electorate of Eden-Monaro, they have also experienced more than most, more than many, these terrible hardships. Whether it's fires, droughts or the one you can't see and that is COVID-19, it has had a devastating impact on businesses and families, on communities right across this very diverse part of the country. But this is a set of communities that will never want to be defined by what happened to them, but more by how they respond and how they’re building back optimistically. And over the course of the next few weeks when the byelection is held, there will be that opportunity to affirm a positive and optimistic way back. The build back that is occurring right across not just the communities of Eden-Monaro, but right across Australia. The supports that are there to enable, to support, to get in behind and encourage them forward with clear plans, whether it's with what we're doing with Snowy 2.0, a project of gigantic scale which has enormous benefits right across this region. Or with what's happening with the Kings Highway or the many other projects that are supporting communities that go right across the Eden-Monaro electorate.

All of this is about the road back. It's all about the plan to get communities back on their feet as they look optimistically forward to that future and those plans obviously need someone as part of the Government that can work with us to ensure we are making those plants hit the ground in the best possible way. There will be two years between now and the next election and there will be a lot to be done, because as much has been achieved in recent months as Australia has stared down COVID-19 and now the New South Wales economy, in particular, is opening up again. The build back from the fires earlier this year, more than $75 million in direct support going into the Eden-Monaro communities right across those affected. Whether it's over in Batlow or Tumbarumba or down in Bega or Eden or right along that coast. All of these communities being supported by those critical funding that has come when it is needed. And where it's needed to be fixed and done better, like the small business grant program of $10,000, working together with those on the ground to ensure that program worked better, then it has worked better and those supports have come through.

So now it's about the road ahead and how we work together to do that and the candidate that our Party has chosen here locally across the electorate, Dr Fiona Kotvojs, who stood for us at the last federal election, has the experience and importantly she has the local understanding, having been born and bred, having served as a volunteer whether it be in the Cobargo Bushfire Brigade, or serving in Lifeline or YouthLine, serving our country as a reservist in the Defence Force. I mean, Dr Kotvojs has experience and qualifications that people would spend a lifetime aspiring to, let alone achieving. This is exactly what Eden-Monaro needs right now. Someone who has that experience, who has those qualifications, who has worked her life here, whether it's achieving her post graduate qualifications in education as a doctor or working in the science area or working as she has in the areas of overseas aid. This is someone who knows how to get things done and has been doing it her own way, in her own family, on her own farm, in her own town and she has been doing it and now wants to take that experience and apply it to lead the way back for the people of Eden-Monaro as their representative. And that's why I'm so pleased that she's received that overwhelming endorsement of our local party members across Eden-Monaro. I’m looking forward to spending the time with Fiona in the months ahead, however long the Speaker will make the decision about when the byelection is called. But it will be an opportunity to lay out again and to affirm the plans that we have to support that build back from the ground up here across the many communities that support life here in Eden-Monaro.

So I want to welcome Fiona to our team as a candidate and she, I know, will leave no stone unturned, no community unvisited as she moves around and sets out how she will be able to take forward that plan, particularly over the next two years, two vital years for these communities. These are the years of building back and restoration and it will need someone on the ground as part of a government that can deliver on the ground for those communities in these vital times. Not a time for talking. It's a time for doing over these next two years and someone in the Government who can be able to make those plans a reality here on the ground. So I want to thank you, Dr Kotvojs, Fiona, for first of all, saying you're prepared to come back and stand again and to carry on what you started at the last election and to demonstrate once again that you're the right person to select the people of Eden-Monaro here, right across all the many communities that make it up.

So I want to invite Fiona to come and say a few words about how she intends to take things forward as our local candidate and then we'll be happy to take some questions on those and many other issues. Thanks, Fiona.

DR FIONA KOTVOJS, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO: Thank you, everybody. I am truly honoured to be here today. It's a great pleasure. I'm honoured to have been selected by the members of the Liberal Party across this electorate in a democratic process to represent them. I'm honoured to be able to work for our communities across this electorate.

By way of background, I was born in Bega, born and bred there, spent time with my family, with my dad's work and my parents’ business travelling across Cooma to Tumbarumba and regularly up to Queanbeyan. My community is who I am. It has formed me and as a consequence of that, I give back to the community and I see that as critically important. So locally, I've been involved with the Dignams Creek community group now for many years. In Cobargo, I'm a member of the Rural Fire Service and have been for the last 15 years. I'm active in our local church and I also do volunteer work in two of our local primary schools a day a week for several years. More broadly, across the whole electorate, I'm on the Anglican Church Property Trust and that covers the whole of this electorate. I'm also a director with Oxfam Australia.

So for me, community is really important. And I believe that it's important to contribute, to give back and to serve and that's why I nominated to stand to work for this community as its representative in Parliament and to serve it in that way. My background and my experience means that I will be able to have the skills and the expertise to be able to do that. I have experience as a teacher in high school. I have experience owning and running two small businesses here in this electorate, so I know what it's like to be affected by COVID-19. I'm on a family farm down in Dignams Creek and yes, the bushfires did go over us. We spent three weeks while they were deciding what they would do and they went through the farm. So I know what the pain is like when you lose fences, you lose pasture and you lose your property. I also work in international development, and that's given me great skills in identifying problems in government service delivery and determining how to resolve and address those problems. I've worked on disaster relief programs and that at the moment is really critical. We need those skills to help restore our communities and work for the improvement of our communities as we move forward.

Why I'm standing and what I want to do in this electorate - First thing is to help restore all of our communities back to the way they were, build them back even better than they were before. I find it really exciting that so many of the communities have the resilience and are working to make themselves better into the future. And I look at what my local community is doing in the planning to make us a stronger community in the future. It's absolutely fantastic and I want to be there and help support that and work for that. I also want to help for youth and for our young people. When I finished high school, I had to go away for work and for study and unfortunately, that's still the case for many of our young people across the electorate. So for me, it's really important now that we work for the long term so that our young people have the choice as to whether they go away or whether they stay for their work opportunities. Having that choice is really critical.

So thank you very much for this opportunity. I really appreciate it. And, Prime Minister, if I can pass back to you. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Fiona. Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, when did you know about the JobKeeper bungle?

PRIME MINISTER: I was rung by the Treasurer late on Thursday night.

JOURNALIST: What was the process? What did you do?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the first thing was to ensure that we were able to understand the implications of this. And let me be clear about what has happened. What has happened is that when we first put together the JobKeeper plan, this was at a time of incredible uncertainty. No one could say for sure what the months ahead we're going to bring and we designed JobKeeper to be delivered to those who it is indeed being delivered to. And Treasury put forward an estimate of what they thought the demand for that program would be and they thought at that time that it would be reaching out to around 6 million people. Now, it has proved that that has not been the case and the demand is not as high as Treasury estimated and along the way, the information that we were getting back from the Australian Taxation Office was indicating that that initial estimate was accurate. But as we've all seen, there was an administrative error in how that information was being tracked by the Australian Taxation Office. That was relayed to Treasury and then that was relayed to the Treasurer and to me.

But I'd liken it a bit to this: If you're building a house and the contractor comes to you and says it's going to cost you $350,000 and they come back to you several months later and say, well, things have changed and it's only going to cost you $250,000, well, that is news that you would welcome. There are many things you don't know in the middle of a crisis and when you're designing programs and schemes the size of JobKeeper, there were many unknowns. And Treasury did the best they could to estimate what they thought the cost would be and the Taxation Office did the best they could to roll out that program as quickly as they could. And around three and a half million people will benefit from it. What we are seeing on JobSeeker is we're seeing an elevated level of people seeking that support. But I need to stress, JobSeeker and JobKeeper go together. JobKeeper is one program. It's not the only program. It's designed to sit with cash flow support and the many other programs we have had to help people through this crisis and put together that's going to help more than five million Australians. So sure, the estimate was overstated and the process with the Taxation Office to keep us updated on that had a flaw in it. We acknowledge that. I acknowledge that. And ultimately I have to take responsibility for those things.

But what it means is, is Australians won't have to borrow as much money. This is not money that is sitting in the bank somewhere, this $60 billion. That is all money that would have otherwise had to be borrowed, borrowed against the taxes that future generations would pay. And so the result of this is that the program will cost not what it was estimated to cost and that means for the taxpayer, their debt levels will be lower, it means the interest bill will be lower and it means that the Government will be able to ensure that it continues to provide the many other essential services without the burden of that greater debt. JobKeeper is doing its job. JobSeeker is doing its job. And the Government will continue to do our job to deliver that much needed support with as minimal cost to the taxpayer and the debt burden that they'll be asked to pay to get us through this crisis.

JOURNALIST: Are you ruling out using that money to extend the program, whether it's to more people or beyond September?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's not free money. It's not money that's just sitting somewhere that can be spent. That's all money, that money is actually sitting in the accounts of banks and foreign lenders all around the world and so if the suggestion is that we should be increasing borrowings more than would be needed to deliver the program that we've designed and delivering, well, the answer is no.

JOURNALIST: People were told the line was drawn in the sand at $130 billion.

PRIME MINISTER: No, that's not right. What people were told was we drew a line in the sand on the eligibility for that program. That's what the program was designed to do. We set the eligibility rules out. And why did we do that? Because we wanted to ensure that money, that support got to those businesses to keep them connected. Now, Treasury made an estimate of how much this would cost. That estimate was cautious. It overstated what the demand would be. Now, I remember in times past where people have made estimates of revenue, for example, they made estimates of revenue from the mining tax when the Labor government was in power and those estimates proved to be wrong. The only difference was they spent the money that never turned up. They estimated that the iron ore price would be at $185 or thereabouts permanently, estimated a whole bunch of revenue that was going to come in, which didn't. They spent it and Australians ended up paying more. Now, I accept that we would prefer that that error in the process of how the information was being collected by the ATO had not occurred. But it's not going to cost Australians more money. In fact, it's going to end up costing Australians less. And for a country that is currently carrying the burden of some $150 billion still in direct financial support to communities all around the country, that is a large cost and it's got to be paid back in and every dollar was borrowed. And I won't put an additional burden on Australian taxpayers any more than is absolutely necessary.

JOURNALIST: On our relationship with China, Australia joined Canada and Britain over the weekend to condemn China for expanding…proposing to expand its ability to monitor and oversee Hong Kong's security agencies. Why did the government do this? And are you willing to countenance doing it during this time could aggravate China further and perhaps lead to further trade restrictions?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Australia has only joined with others to express what we have already expressed directly to the Chinese Communist Party Government in Beijing, as we did last and through the course of this week, late last week when we were advised that that was what they intended to do. And that's consistent with the position Australia has always held when it comes to the basic law and the proper position of one country and two systems, which we accept. And that statement is totally consistent with everything Australia has ever said about these issues. So I don't find the statement remarkable. I see it as completely consistent with everything we have ever said about this issue, both privately and publicly.

JOURNALIST: Mike Pompeo has also this morning issued concern about Victoria being part of the BRI, saying it could undermine, potentially undermine the United States’ security sharing with Australia. Are you concerned about Victoria being part of the BRI?

PRIME MINISTER: We didn't support that decision at the time they made it. And national interest issues on foreign affairs are determined by the Federal Government, and I respect their jurisdiction when it comes to the issues they're responsible for and it's always been the usual practise for states to respect and recognise the role of the Federal Government in setting foreign policy. And I think that's always been a good practice.

JOURNALIST: Back on JobKeeper, does the indications that given that sort of, I guess, Treasury were taking a worst case outlook of the economic damage done by coronavirus. Does this suggest, does this mistake suggest that the economy is actually tracking better than we were thinking? That unemployment won't hit 10 per cent, that the growth will be better than we thought. I mean, is there...

PRIME MINISTER: Well Treasury have already commented on that and they have indicated that the economy is tracking better than we expected it to back at the time when JobKeeper was put together. Now, there's been updates to what Treasury's view has been on where they think unemployment will go since that time and I'd refer you directly to that, and they haven't altered those estimates. But we are in a very uncertain time and what's important is that we continue to roll these programs out and make sure they hit the ground where there's been like Anthony's business here or other places around the country where it has proved to be an absolute game changer in providing the confidence support to those businesses.

I mean, from the day we announced JobKeeper, what we have seen is a more than 75 per cent bounce back in consumer confidence as measured through seven consecutive surveys by the ANZ. Now, it has been an important confidence booster and I welcome the fact that the demand for the program has been less than what Treasury estimated. Now, there are many challenges that the economy will face beyond September. We know that and there are particular sectors that will feel this for longer, particularly those who are particularly dependent on international borders. And we know we know that and we understand that and we'll be considering that carefully.

But I stress again, JobKeeper is not the only program that the Government has put in place to support Australians all around the country. There are many programs. There's the program, which is led by the Deputy Prime Minister, which has targeted support, including to the Mogo Zoo here and in the electorate of Eden-Monaro to ensure that private zoos could be able to keep their head above water when it goes through the COVID crisis. So there are many programs which are quite specific in detail. We're very mindful of the challenges in the media and the creative arts area. We're very mindful of the areas in housing construction or in parts of the country, whether it be in North Queensland or other places, that are deeply affected and will be more deeply affected than other parts of the country. That's why we've set up these many and different programs. JobKeeper is not one size fits all. It's not intended to be the sole form of support to everyone who is in need. That's why we have JobSeeker. That's why we have the cash flow allowance. That's why we have the targeted industry programs and funds. And that's why the investment which we are making, which is unprecedented, has been so great and the programs have been so varied to ensure we can meet the need where it exists.

JOURNALIST: There was an expectation that money was going to go into Australians pockets, given the tough times that we know so many people are continuing to go through you mentioned there that the arts sector and the entertainment sector, those who don't qualify for JobKeeper. How do you sell this to the Australian people that money shouldn't be redistributed to them?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, again, it wasn't a commitment of that amount of money. It was a commitment of a program that was estimated to cost that amount of money if that many people took it up. And that's completely different. I mean, the government announces programs and runs programs every year and Treasury makes estimates of what they'll cost and in some years it costs more, in some years it costs less. That was the estimate of that program. But just like the young couple who is trying to build their first house. If they get a better cost than what was quoted, then they're going to welcome that news. And the taxpayer who would have to borrow the money to pay higher levels of support, they need to be taken into account as well.

So we will continue to target our support and it will become more targeted as time goes on for this reason. The economy is reopening and New South Wales is leading the way on that reopening and I welcome that. It's something, as I think most people know, is something I've been pushing for some time. And so I welcome this and as the economy reopens, then large parts of the economy will no longer need to be dependent upon government subsidies and they'll be able to stand on their own two feet. Now, as more and more businesses can do that, then that means we will be able to target more and more of our assistance to those areas in greatest need and that has always been the government's plan. And so what we will continue to do is roll JobKeeper out each and every week to all of those that it was designed to provide support to and those who it was designed to provide support to are receiving that help. But the JobSeeker program, which is available to all of those you’ve mentioned at commensurate levels, they will continue to receive that support. I mean, we're running at about four times the daily average of people making claims in the social security services at the moment. That's because people are reaching out and depending on the social security net that we've strengthened and that's providing much needed support right here and right now.

JOURNALIST: At the World Health Assembly, Greg Hunt flagged again Australia's desire for inspection powers to be granted to the World Health Organisation. Is that something that the Government is going to continue to pursue given that China is clearly against that idea and in general, over the weekend, China didn't set a growth target as they normally do for their own economy. Are you concerned with things like coal importers being told to buy domestic coal in China rather than from places like Australia? That China's financial position, rather, is going to have an impact, not just the diplomatic situation, on Australia's trade.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's no doubt as our primary trading partner that the economic success or otherwise of China is going to have an impact on broader global demand and particularly here in Australia. I think that's a very straightforward assumption to make. But the other assumptions that are being made about what is occurring there and in relation to individual commodities and items I don't think necessarily holds up. I mean, we see this from time to time and I can understand in current circumstances why lines might be drawn by some, but I would caution against that. There is a regularity to some of these things as people in those sectors understand and well know. And so we'll continue to manage each of those issues on their merits as they should be done, and we would expect the same.

Now, Australia has advanced, I think, a very common sense idea and it's not directed at any one country. It would simply be the idea that in the future, including here in Australia, if there was ever something like this that were to occur again, that we might have the ability to ensure that we are able to access information as quickly as possible. That's not a criticism. That's, I think, just a very common sense and straightforward suggestion and we'll just work with the various agencies to see if that can be achieved.

JOURNALIST: You flagged the need for IR reform, tax reform. Can you outline why this will be important to get us through the back end of the COVID-19 crisis and will you be willing, be trying to implement your reform agenda in this term of Parliament, or will you be willing to take it to the electorate and win a mandate for it?

PRIME MINISTER: Australia is building back and my sole focus now, having worked so well with the states and territories to get on top of the COVID-19 challenge we face. Now, we're not out of the woods yet and we know we all have to be careful. And social distancing - well Fiona and I are practicing it, not so much the rest of you today - And that's a reminder. We need to continue to do that. We need to remain careful. We're building as we build back a COVID safe economy. So Robyn and Anthony's businesses can flourish again. That's why this is important. But the other job, the other curve we have to work on is the jobs curve and we need to do things that create jobs. And what I'm interested in doing is working with anyone in this country who wants to work with me to create jobs. I'm not interested in ideology. I'm not interested in all those other things. I'm just interested in getting Australians back into jobs.

Any premier, any chief minister, any union leader, any business, any business leader, anyone who wants to work with me to create jobs, we've got a partnership. And that's the way I'm going to proceed, whether it's on workplace relations, industrial relations, whether it's on skills development, whether it's how we get finance to businesses, whether it's how we access markets, whether it's how we deliver assistance, whether it's to bushfire affected communities right across the Eden-Monaro electorate and continue to do that as those businesses build back up and get their confidence. The thing that gets Australia back to where we want to be is making jobs. Job making is what I'm all about, and that's what my Government will be all about. And job making is honestly what this byelection is going to be about, because that's what we need here in Eden-Monaro. We need the jobs back here in Eden-Monaro and that means the businesses need to go forward and that means you've got to focus on the things you need to do positively and optimistically and that's what Fiona's campaign is all about. It's about that plan to get the jobs back, the businesses back, and we've got the plan to do that and the record, which is demonstrated in the past. And I need Fiona in my team to help me to deliver those jobs, as we have done before right here in Eden-Monaro.

JOURNALIST: Treasury forecasts are one thing. The ATO also got the numbers wrong, it failed to spot these errors initially. How can you be sure that there are no other mistakes when it comes to doing the numbers? How can Australian people trust that you are good economic managers?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is the government that brought the budget back to balance. This is the government that constantly exceeded expectations when it came to the financial performance of the budget year in, year out. That's how we brought the budget back into balance over six years. That's how 1.5 million jobs were created before we hit this COVID-19 crisis. So on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, the track record of my government and the governments I have been part of proves the point. We know how to bring the budget back into balance. We know how to create the jobs and our plan is to create those jobs here. Whether it's the almost billion dollars in infrastructure that has either already been delivered here since our government came to office or is committed underway now and planned for the future, or whether it's the work we're doing with tax reform, which is delivering more money into people's pockets. Those tax...

JOURNALIST: But are you confident you haven’t got the numbers wrong?

PRIME MINISTER: It was the first question I obviously put to the Treasurer. And when things happen like this, it's one of the first things you do. You get the officials who have been involved in the program to go back over and look at all of the elements of the program. And that's, of course, what they would do. That's what a competent public service official would do and I have a great deal of confidence in our public service and the officials and there are many, of course, who live here in the Eden-Monaro electorate. I respect them greatly. But what happened here is we had Treasury make an estimate of what the cost of the program would be in a very uncertain time.

Now, what I know is as a result of this, not one extra payment was made that shouldn't have been made. There hasn't been any loss to the Australian taxpayer here. In fact, it's been the reverse. It means that the program will not cost as much and Australians will not have to borrow as much as they were previously being asked to do. And so that's why the government will continue to manage these issues very responsibly. You just don't go around and borrow $60 billion on a whim. You don't do that. You carefully consider every dollar you have to borrow and we responded very quickly on JobKeeper. It was an historic amount that was estimated. And I’ve got to tell you, on the day, it was a big gulp for the government to understand what we needed to do. But we didn't flinch. We knew this was necessary and we responded quickly. We made the estimates based on the best of information we had available to us, and they've proved to be overly cautious and as a result, the taxpayers of Australia will not be saddled with the same amount of debt that they might otherwise had been, had those worst case estimates materialised.

JOURNALIST: Should Josh Frydenberg take more of a responsibility here for this stuff up and Labor is calling for him to appear before the Senate COVID inquiry. Should he do that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think the Treasurer and I and all the members of the government who have been directly responsible for the administration of all these programs have done exactly that. I reject any suggestion otherwise. And in terms of Senate inquiries, well, as Senators know and as the Labor Party knows, they signed up to the Senate inquiry knowing full well that that doesn't extend to House of Representatives Members. So I find it a bit cute and I'm playing a bit of politics, frankly, about this. They signed up to the inquiry as it was set out and now, I think, to suggest that - they know that House of Representatives Ministers don't appear at Senate inquiries. That's not the normal practise. That's not the arrangement the Senate has. When Labor wholeheartedly agreed to having the review being done by the Senate, they understood that. So I think to now try and change the rules exposes that as just a bit of a political stunt.

JOURNALIST: On community sport, Prime Minister, we've had the sport tool kit come out released today. Can you explain to us how important it is to begin that process of getting our sporting clubs back into action? And just could I also put a question to Dr Kotvojs. We know that climate change is going to be a central issue in this upcoming byelection, especially given that the bushfires have taken place. Do you believe in a zero emissions target by 2050?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you know what the government's policy is on that and it is the government's policy that we have a technology roadmap. Technology, not taxation, is our approach when it comes to meeting our emissions reduction targets and we're about a year ahead of our 2020 commitments and we're very pleased about the action that we've taken and the results we've got to achieve in the future. We have our 2030 commitments and we will deliver on those and we have the plan to deliver on those more importantly, and technology will play a vital role in ensuring that we meet the emissions reductions targets that we have set. And I have always believed that we will, because I have great confidence in our scientists and our technologists, in our industries who are all moving in that same direction. And the technology roadmap, I think, provides that national leadership that can keep us going down that path. Because, you know, it isn't conferences or taxes that reduces emissions. It's businesses changing their practices, using technology that actually reduces emissions, lowers their costs and makes it commercially viable. That's actually what reduces emissions. And that's what our government is committed to doing.

Now, on community sport, and I'm sure Dr Kotvojs can add to this from what I've just said, but on community sport, I have been passionate about seeing that come back into play. I mean, sure, it's great to see the NRL and the AFL getting back, but frankly, I think in Australia, sport isn't just something people watch. It's something they participate in and they particularly do it at a community level and at a community level it binds communities just like it does in many communities across the Eden-Monaro electorate. So my only comment on that is really to encourage people to closely follow the guidelines, to talk about them amongst the coaches and the support officials in each of the local clubs and to make sure that those rules are being followed. And that means we'll be able to get our kids back on the playing field and even the mature age kicking a ball around on a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday afternoon. And the sooner we can do that, the better, because it's all about getting back to life as normal as it can be in a COVID safe world. And so I applaud the work that the AIS has done on community sport. There's been an enormous amount of collaboration to get that up and away, but it's going to take the active partnership, participation and good sense and judgement of people out on those playing fields all around the country to make sure it sticks and that means that we can keep doing it through the winter and then into the summer. But Fiona?

DR FIONA KOTVOJS, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO: Thank you. I do thank you for your question. I thank you for the opportunity to make clear my position on climate change. So I believe that the climate is changing. I believe that humans contribute to that changing climate and I believe that we need to have a reduction in emissions, that we need to look at approaches to be adaptive and to have our communities resilient. So some of the strategies for that is having a great solid plan, which we do. We're on target to reducing emissions. For those of you who aren't aware, you know, Australia has the highest level of take-up in terms of solar power of any country in the world per capita. That's a fantastic thing. I'm one of those people. Our home is completely off grid, runs on solar. Our home is open on an annual basis for sustainable house days. So people come to have a look at our house and the practices that we have in terms of sustainability. I believe that we need to look at more adaptive and resilience strategies, looking at things about how we can increase the amount of water that is stored and available through dams, through groundwater recharge, other strategies. And things like bushfires, I mean, I know where I lived, the difference in areas where we had the fuel had been managed and the national parks and state forest had done hazard reduction burns. I know that those sections around our property, the fire came through with far less intensity, it was much easier to manage. The environment wasn't damaged to the same extent. You know, it's already reshooting, regrowing, there are birds, there are animals back there. In comparison to the areas where the fuel was not managed, huge difference. We need to look at those strategies and do that well.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the arts sector, most art industries are reliant on large volumes of people to be profitable. Given that the likelihood of tens of thousands of people gathering is not on the horizon any time soon, what certainty can offer given that there is clearly still demand? I don't know if you know but last night 80,000 Australians tuned in to watch Powderfinger have an isolation concert online. So there is economic incentive there to have some support for the arts sector [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there have already been a number of initiatives [inaudible] right now. And I expect to see that come through the Government in the weeks ahead. I will leave him to continue that work. I have no doubt he's being consulting on that plan. But like so many areas of our economy affected by COVID-19, in many cases businesses adapt to the COVID safe [inaudible] changes to the practices of this small business here in Eden-Monaro. And so that is going to continue to be part of Australia's economy. A lot of adaptation and there will be some sectors for whom that will be a bigger task than others and that's why we have more targeted measures in these sectors. We have already set aside funds to do that, in a fund which is overseen by the Deputy Prime Minister and we've already allocated some significant funding out of that program to affected industries. So we will continue to do that and that's one of many, one of many, and we’ll continue to ensure we’re providing support to boost the jobs. As I said, anybody who wants to work with me on creating jobs, well, my door is open.

JOURNALIST: Just on easing restrictions, you said you’re pleased with New South Wales but are you satisfied with the rate in which restrictions are being lifted across the country? Should the borders reopen? Annastacia Palaszczuk said that she won't reopen the Queensland border until September. Is that too long?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, National Cabinet has been working incredibly well together and one of the reasons it has, I think, is we all understand our own responsibilities and we focus on those and the decisions we have to take and we seek to align across all the parts of the country as much as we possibly can. When it comes to the issue of borders, that was not a decision of National Cabinet, that domestic borders should be put in place. That was a unilateral decision taken by those individual states and territories. Basically, there's been a version of it in Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. So that was not the product of the medical expert panel advice…

JOURNALIST: But for the sake of the tourism industry in this country...

PRIME MINISTER: Let me finish... So what I'm saying is is that there is no National Cabinet decision to have domestic borders and states and territories where they’re making those unilateral decisions, they are accountable to the people in their own states for those decisions and justifying why they need to be there and the health and the health protection they believe it may offer, and indeed the economic damage that it can create. And so it is very much an onus on those premiers to be able to justify those decisions, which was not a decision of National Cabinet, as to why that is the right thing to do for their states. Now, I think one of the reasons the National Cabinet has worked is I have not sought to interfere in their jurisdictions. But what I will say is I think New South Wales is leading the way on this. I think they’re setting a cracking pace. I really want to thank Premier Berejiklian and Dominic Perrottet for the great work they're doing there to really open this up. And let's not forget, New South Wales is the state that has been most impacted by COVID-19, they are the state that has had the most number of cases and many of the most challenging cases and in many ways are most at risk. And they're moving ahead. And the next two years is all about doing just that and that's why here in Eden-Monaro to have the right person in the job, which is Dr Kotvojs as part of my Government, so we can keep this plan continuing to work here on the ground.

These next two years are incredibly important to the many communities of people who live here in Eden-Monaro. They need someone who is part of my Government to help us continue to deliver on the ground, the infrastructure and services, the grants, the support, the reconstruction plans. Whether it's how the orchards get rebuilt in Batlow or how tourism businesses, fisheries businesses, the forestry businesses up along the coast get back on their feet and create those jobs and indeed, the cafes, coffee shops here around, whether it is Jerrabomberra or elsewhere, Murrumbateman. That's where the jobs come from and all of us as leaders around the country, premiers, chief ministers, myself. Our job now must be to create jobs and make decisions that create jobs. And so I am urging all premiers to do just that. The more jobs there are, the less welfare that's needed, the less money that Australians have to borrow and the more we can get back to the life that we had not that long ago. Thanks very much.