Interview with David Koch, Sunrise

05 Oct 2021
Prime Minister

David Koch: The Prime Minister joins us now from quarantine at the Lodge, live and first. Prime Minister, morning to you. 

Prime Minister: Good morning, David. 

Koch: Gee, a bit happening in politics in New South Wales. What do you think of Dominic Perrottet? There's talk that you've clashed with him in the past, that you dropped the f bomb during a phone call with him. 

Prime Minister: Well, Dom and I have been working together for years and we've known each other for a long time and we've got an honest relationship and we've got a lot done together. In New South Wales, we've worked together to deliver over $6 billion in support to individuals going through this latest crisis. There was the work we're doing last year as well of bringing New South Wales economy through the very difficult challenges we've had with COVID. We've got an honest relationship. When we disagree, we disagree. But the next day we get back to work. I mean, that's how normal people get on with each other when they know each other well. And we do. 

Koch: The State's in shock after Gladys Berejiklian stood down. She has enormous support for the way that she steered the state through COVID. Any chance of you offering her a job in federal parliament, would you like to see a run for the seat of Warringah? 

Prime Minister: Well, let me first say I totally am grateful for the work that Gladys has done as Premier. I've worked very closely with Gladys over a very long period of time, back when she was Treasurer, and even before that, and I think she's done an enormous service to the people of New South Wales, and I join with the many thousands, if not millions, of people from New South Wales who are very sad that she's had to step down and she has a lot more to contribute. I know that. But they are really issues for Gladys to work through when she's ready to do that. Right now, she's going to deal with the issues before her, but I know she's got a lot more to contribute and there are many ways that I'm sure she can do that. And when she's worked through those issues, I'm sure she'll set out what she would like to do next. But I'm quite certain that the people of New South Wales would love to see her contributing in one way or another. 

Koch: Oh, ok. So when she's ready, you'll have a chat and say, why don't you think of Canberra? 

Prime Minister: Well, look again that that really is up to Gladys about what she wants to do next. And, you know, we have a proper selection process in our party, and there are many different ways that she could serve, they don't necessarily need to be in the parliament. But I respect, you know, Gladys taking the time in what has been a very difficult, very difficult period for her. And I just want to wish her all the best and she should know that she has tremendous support both in the Liberal Party and I think right across New South Wales for the fantastic job that she's done. But I know that work will continue with the next Premier. I mean, they've worked together, they've got a great plan to bring New South Wales out of these lockdowns that backs in the national plan, which we've put together. Their vaccination rates, highest in the country, will soon be at those 70 per cent double dose rates. Here in Australia across the country, it's likely today will hit those 80 per cent first doses around the country, which is welcome news. And so the vaccination programme is pushing ahead and pushing strongly and nowhere, nowhere more strongly than New South Wales. 

Koch: I want to get on to the new medications you're going to bring in, in a tick, but one last question on New South Wales. It's put a lot of focus from the general public on ICAC, who are thinking, who the hell are they and who are they responsible to? Who reviews them? Does ICAC need to be reformed? 

Prime Minister: Oh, look, it's certainly not a model that we ever consider at a federal level, and I think that's been on display for some time. And you know, you've got to have processes that assume people are innocent before thought to be guilty and that is a real problem. So it's not a model that we've ever contemplated going at a federal level. And, you know, we have a set of arrangements at a federal level that can be built upon, but certainly not going down that path in New South Wales. And I'm sure there are millions of people who've seen what's happened to Gladys Berejiklian, they'll understand that's a pretty good call not to follow that model. 

Koch: See, I think most of us thought that they were all the same, but anyhow, we've been proved wrong on that. Let's get on to COVID issues now. You've signed a deal to purchase 300,000 anti-viral pills to treat COVID. Is that going to be enough and have you learnt from the shortcomings of the vaccine rollout? 

Prime Minister: Well, again, vaccine rollout is now hitting, we think, 80 per cent first dose today, and we dealt with the earlier problems we've had. We've turned that around and Australia's vaccination programme is running very strongly. Molnupiravir, the new treatment, it's a tablet treatment, unlike its predecessors, sotrovimab and remdesivir, where you have to go to hospital. We've had about just over 110,000 cases in Australia of COVID in total, in total, over the last almost two years. This is 300,000 courses. That's on top of the other two treatments as well. What it does, David, is ensure that you do not develop a serious illness. So it means you can take it at home. You won't have to go to an ICU or go to hospital. So that puts takes pressure off the hospital system. It still has several months in clinical trials in the United States to go. So we still have about 30,000, bit more than that, of sotrovimab courses that's provided in the hospitals. So this will be another example of just how the technology and the medical advances are ensuring that we can live with this virus. So when we get to 70 and 80 per cent vaccination, then we will have also treatments in place into the future so we can ensure the pressure comes off the hospitals. We can live with the virus. We can ensure Australians can take their lives back. We've saved lives, saved livelihoods. I want to see Australians now take their lives back. 

Koch: And when we get to 80 per cent in individual states, overseas travel is back on the cards. And who can travel? Is it vaccinated Australians travelling? Can vaccinated tourists come in or double vaccinated family members of Australian citizens? Can they come and visit for Christmas? 

Prime Minister: Well, the first cab off the rank is Australians. Australian citizens and Australian residents who are vaccinated, they will be able to, in New South Wales, be able to travel overseas and return. And if you are double vaccinated overseas and you're an Australian resident, are an Australian citizen, you’re immediate family, you'll be able to travel under those arrangements. But we need to get those home quarantine facilities or procedures in place. New South Wales will have those in place next month and for the other states and territories, and I've spoken to Dan Andrews about this. We're getting trials in place there as well. Once that home quarantine model is up and running at scale, then this will enable that to happen. The next priorities are skilled migrants that are very important for the country and who are double vaccinated, as well as students who are coming and returning to Australia for their studies. They're another important priority, and we will get to international visitors as well, I believe next year. The priority is Australians, we're ready for takeoff. 

Koch: Yeah, definition of immediate family doesn't include parents, should it? 

Prime Minister: Well, no, not at this point, but we will look at that next year. And I think once we get into next year, we'll be able to look at the broader groups. But look, David, I'm not ruling anything out at this point, and we'll work closely with the states and territories. We've always had a very flexible approach and tried to deal with situations as they presented through COVID. That's what's enabled us to get through. But immediate family, well, the definition is, of course, your partner, your children, but you know where there are other cases that are involved, well, we'll look at those in due course. 

Koch: Ok. Prime Minister, appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us. 

Prime Minister: Thanks a lot, David.