Interview on Sunrise

Media release
01 Jul 2020
Prime Minister

DAVID KOCH: Prime Minister Scott Morrison Good morning. How worried are you about the outbreak in Victoria?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's a serious outbreak, and I want to commend the Victorian government and Premier Andrews for the decisions they took yesterday. We've been working closely with the Victorian government on this issue. We always said that as we re-emerged and opened Australia up again that we would need to ensure we had strong testing capabilities, which we do, strong tracing capabilities where people get the virus and to be able to isolate them and strong local responses. And what you're seeing now is the example of those strong local responses. Several weeks ago or months ago, I should say, we had to do exactly the same thing in north west Tasmania. And so that's what happens when you get an outbreak, you contain it in those areas. And I thank the people of Melbourne in those postcodes will have to show a lot of patience in the weeks ahead, but by doing so, they'll be saving lives and they'll be saving livelihoods.

KOCH: We just need to look at the ramp up of cases in California and Florida to know that we've got to be good at this. Let me pick you up on your point on testing. Everyone agrees with this. I'm stunned that it's not compulsory if you're asked to do it, both in quarantine in hotels and also doing tests around these postcodes. Should it be mandatory if you're asked?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're dealing with this crisis in a very Australian way and I think that's important. We're not a country that tends to mandate these things. Certainly if people are coming back through quarantine, then we have the ability as it's now being demonstrated, they can either stay in the hotel for longer or they can have a test. It's their choice. But when it comes to broader testing, that's why we've provided some of the other options when it comes to saliva testing and that's particularly important for elderly, for young kids and also those with disabilities. So it's about using more a carrot here, I think, David, and we're seeking to get people's cooperation here and we think that's the Australian way to do it.

KOCH: Yep. One of the great successes of this fight against the virus has been at the National Cabinet. It’s worked so well, but is it starting to fray? Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has accused you of picking on Queensland for not opening up their borders quicker.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's an election in Queensland, David, so I think we can sort of file that under those comments under those sorts of things. You know, we all understand that. But let me say this about the National Cabinet, and I acknowledge the contribution of all the premiers and chief ministers. Steven Marshall, I made similar comments about their border changes yesterday, as I did in Queensland. But everyone has worked together. It doesn't mean we're going to agree on everything. National Cabinet has never had a position of internal borders and, you know, as the Prime Minister of the Federation, well, you know, we got rid of internal borders almost 120 years ago and we're one country and we've got to deal with outbreaks as we are. But that's why I commended Michael Gunner yesterday. What Michael Gunner has done in the Northern Territory is they've got a restriction on to ensure that no one is coming out of those hot zones in Melbourne. But, I mean, if you live on the other side of Melbourne or you live up in Bendigo or Ballarat, you're as affected by what's happening in those suburbs of Melbourne as you are living in Sydney or anywhere else. 

KOCH: Good point. Today, a big announcement. $270 billion will be spent on upgrading the nation's defence over the next decade. Why do we need it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the world has changed. David, and it's changed and it continues to change rapidly. We're for a peaceful, stable Indo-Pacific, a certain environment in which people can trade and live their lives and sovereign nations can work and trade with each other and have good relationships. And to do that, you've got to have, you know, a responsible deterrent and Australia plays an important role in our region, working with others, particularly like India and Japan and many other nations, Indonesia, right across the Indo-Pacific. And of course, it's all built on the foundation of our alliance with the United States. We've got to be aware of the potential threats that can emerge. I mean, the strategic competition between China and the United States means that there's a lot of tension in the cord and a lot of risk of miscalculation. And so we have to be prepared and ready to frame the world in which we live as best as we can and be prepared to respond and play our role to protect Australia, defend Australia, because my number one job is keeping Australians safe.

KOCH: Okay, and keeping them in jobs. So can we afford this defence spending? We’re engaged and you’re engaged in the debate at the moment on whether we can afford to keep JobKeeper going, whether we need to review it, winding back the increase in government debt. This spending is four times bigger than JobKeeper.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is done over 10 years. JobKeeper is over six months. And I think that puts that into perspective, David. And of course, when you need to take action, as we have been in responding to the economic crisis, we've done that swiftly and we've done it effectively and we will continue to provide support where that is needed in the next phase of the supports we provide for income into the economy post September. But, you know, we have these priorities. You're absolutely right. Keep Australians safe, keep Australians in jobs, keep Australia's economy strong and keep Australians together. That has been the very first statement I made as Prime Minister and that remains my absolute focus. But this $270 billion has been built into the medium-term estimates for the Government now for some time. We had the target of hitting two per cent of our economy. We're going to hit that on the 1st of July for this year, and we will go beyond that. But, you know, if you don't have a strategic defence of your country, then you are unable to achieve all the other things that you hope to achieve as a nation and that importantly means your economy. There is no strength in an economy when there's no stability, and we have to make sure we maintain that stability in our defence of our nation.

KOCH: Prime Minister, I appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot, David. Good to be with you.