Interview with Gareth Parker, 6PR

Transcript
13 May 2021
Prime Minister
E&OE

GARETH PARKER: The Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison, a good early morning to you.

PRIME MINISTER: G’day Gareth.

PARKER: And happy birthday. 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much. Thank you. 

PARKER: I don't suppose Jenny and the kids have had a chance to give you a present yet, have they?

PRIME MINISTER: No, no. I won’t see them till late tomorrow night. But that's pretty normal for this time of year for me. It's been ever thus. Another day at the office, mate. 

PARKER: I presume that you're hoping the Australian people will give you the birthday present of increased approval ratings as a result of this Budget?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, well, those, those things are always up to them. You just do this job to the best of your ability every single day, and that's what the Budget was all about. It's about securing Australia's economic recovery. And, you know, we've come so far over these, over these past few years, particularly during the pandemic, and we've got to keep going. All of it can be so quickly lost if we're not continually diligent about this, and that's exactly what the Budget is doing. It's securing that recovery, keeping us going on the right track. We're living in this country like no other country in the world, almost, at the moment, and we want to make sure we maintain that for our jobs and for our health.

PARKER: The old rules of budgetary restraint don't seem to apply anymore. Has that freed you to sort of take on and tackle more of these social areas that perhaps a Liberal Government ordinarily wouldn't?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've always had a very strong record of tackling the sort of issues that we've addressed in this Budget. I mean, take mental health, for example. It was the Coalition Government that put headspace into position, and that's been an enormous success. And what we've done in this Budget on mental health is taking up that success with the new Head to Health programme, which is, basically a headspace for, for adults over 24 and also for young kids. A network of some 40 centres that we begin with, and then also 15 centres for those for children, supporting their mental health. But you're right, Gareth. I mean, we're in a pandemic, and in a pandemic ideology means nothing. You’ve just got to do what works. You’ve got to focus on the problem. You’ve got to save lives. You've got to save livelihoods. And given that Australia today has more people in work - 13.1 million Australians compared to the 13 million that were in work before the pandemic hit - very few countries in the world can say that. In fact, very, very few, if any, advanced economy countries can say that. And if we'd had the same average fatality rate of COVID as there is across the OECD - so they’re the same countries as Australia, sophisticated health systems, developed economies - 30,000 more people would have died in Australia. So when you look at those two metrics, it says that Australians have done incredibly well. And of course, we’ve played an important part in that. More than $300 billion now invested in securing this recovery directly through health and economic measures to get Australia through.

PARKER: There have been some Australians, of course, who have paid a heavy price for that success, and primarily they are Australians who have either business interests, or most acutely families who, who live overseas - that’s either Australians with adult children or perhaps elderly relatives overseas or just people who want to see their parents or their grandparents. The Budget assumes that the international borders will open in the middle of next year, and I noted with interest your commentary around that issue yesterday, saying that it's really a Budget assumption, not evidence of a plan. But what those hundreds of thousands, in fact, millions of Australians increasingly want to hear from you is just some pathway forward about when they'll be able to see their loved ones again. Why can't you give them some confidence about that?

PRIME MINISTER: I understand that concern, and as you know, in Western Australia, that hasn't just been about being able to connect with families overseas. It's been connecting with families within Australia.

PARKER: Indeed.

PRIME MINISTER: And, and so that obviously caused great anxiety, and this is what happens in pandemics. It does put constraints on us, and that does cause that, that suffering and that, and that hardship for Australians. We understand that. Suffering is far worse if you've got 300 people dying every day, as where they’re still seeing in the United States, and the absolute horror that we're seeing unfold in the developing world. The pandemic is worse today than it was a year ago. Now, what we've said about borders is, and Greg Hunt has made the same point, the borders don't just work - one day they're open and one day they're closed. That's not how it's going to work. We're working on ways at the moment where, if it's safe to do so and you get the health system right and the protections right, then Australians we would like to see, if they're vaccinated, to be able to make those trips and then return safely, and then quarantine under a different type of arrangement. Now, we're not there yet. The health advice doesn't support that. There is not one state or territory government in the country at the moment that is ready to do that. Similarly, other states - we've been working with South Australia, New South Wales, the Northern Territory - on programmes that can see elements of our international student industry return, but we're still some way away from that. So I can't provide certainty that doesn't exist anywhere in the world, Gareth. I mean, I know we'd like to know what this is, I know we’d like it. But I cannot risk the health and jobs of Australians. We're working to be able to establish such an opportunity.

PARKER: Just so I understand it, though, is it your position, though, Prime Minister, that it relies on the states to come to the table to allow people, for example, to quarantine in their homes? That once the states agree to do that, then you would be able to move on this? I'm just wondering what the hurdle is.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that is exactly what we're working through at the National Cabinet now. That was the tasking I gave our medical advisers over at, well over about six weeks ago now, probably longer than that, where we're looking to provide. Now, some states are moving on those things. And but, you know, it's got to be safe, Gareth. I mean, we cannot take what we've achieved for granted. It can be so easily lost. And so, of course we're being cautious. Cautiousness has saved Australian lives. Cautiousness has kept Australians in jobs in a way that no other country, virtually in the world, has. So believe me, I understand the anxiety that this causes, but I also appreciate that making the wrong decisions on these things could cause absolute devastation, as we've seen in other countries. So they’re hard choices you’ve got to make in a pandemic. But we've been making them and we've been keeping Australians safe and we've been getting them back into jobs in a way that few countries have. So, you know, we've come a long way. We've got to keep going. That's what the Budget's about. And so I understand the anxiety, but when there, when you, when we can give greater clarity to a timetable, then, then we will. We're certainly working towards that. We're doing the work on it.

PARKER: The vaccination rollout is obviously the other critical component to this discussion. Overnight, Moderna have announced that they've signed a deal with your Government to provide 25 million doses of their mRNA vaccine …

PRIME MINISTER: True.

PARKER: … which is great news. Do you have any clarity about when that will be delivered and who will likely get it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s 10 million doses that, that come for the Moderna vaccine now and that will come in this year, and that will support particularly that back end of the year where I've talked, you know, we've already got 20 million additional Pfizer vaccines that we were able to secure. We're trying to bring as many of those forward into the third quarter, not just in the fourth quarter. These ones are due, these 10 million - so there's two doses, that's effectively five million, for people - that was due to be here in the fourth quarter of this year. There’s then another 15 million of what is called booster doses. Now, that's a different vaccine again. That's next year, and that's to deal with, you know, possible variants and things like that. So we're now well in the phase of, you know, dealing with what's coming next because the pandemic’s not going anywhere. I mean, just because we can put, you know, 60,000 people over in Optus Stadium doesn't mean that the pandemic’s over. It’s, it is still there.

PARKER: Yeah. Is it likely under 50s will get the Moderna jab?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, yes. Yes. I mean, that's, that's the point.

PARKER: Yep.

PRIME MINISTER: Because we've got AstraZeneca for those who are over 50. And from Monday, people will be able to go to their GP if they're over 50 - those who are part of the programme, the many of them - and be able to get their AstraZeneca vaccine from next Monday from a GP. You can currently do it from state, state based clinics, as well as the GP respiratory clinics at a federal level. And then we're bringing forward as much of those Pfizer doses as we can. And then we will also have these Moderna doses scheduled to come in, in the fourth quarter of this year. 

PARKER: Prime Minister, thank you very much for your time this morning on 6PR Breakfast. I hope we can do it again soon.

PRIME MINISTER: Just before I lose you Gareth, one point in the Budget which I think all Western Australians want to know. The GST deal delivers $2 billion, $2.115 billion additional to the State Government in 21-22. That's on top of the $1.547 billion that that deal has delivered in the current financial year. So this deal keeps on delivering.

PARKER: You were never going to undo that. Mark McGowan said you were going to undo it. I didn't believe him. I said there's no way Scott Morrison will undo that deal.

PRIME MINISTER: And you, and you were right Gareth, and I know Mark believes it, too. And that $2.115 billion is in the coffers of WA next financial year because of the deal that this Government did, and secured the GST for WA.

PARKER: Point made and understood, Prime Minister. Thanks for your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Good on you, Gareth.