Interview on Sunrise

17 Sep 2020
Prime Minister

DAVID KOCH: Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, thanks for your time. How concerned are you that so many Australians are still stuck overseas?

PRIME MINISTER: We are. We have increased the support to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade quite considerably to help people in those areas but we have made the decision to increase the number of people who can come back into Australia by about another 2,000 every single week. The Deputy Prime Minister has written to the Premiers about that. That will come into effect on Friday week. Back in July, the Premiers asked that we take the heat off the quarantine system by putting these caps in place and that is when Victorian numbers were surging and New South Wales had their challenges and that was reasonable at the time. But we have done the review of quarantine. We have got ADF people into Western Australia and Queensland and New South Wales and other places so now is the time we’ve got to start taking those caps off again and so this will see another 2,000 people come back every week. And, look, I think it is a sensible move and two weeks ago at National Cabinet, we all agreed we had to get on with this and so we are.

KOCH: So you don't need the approval of the Premiers to get this up and going? You can just enforce it?

PRIME MINISTER: No. We went through a process with our officials to work out what was the best way to get people home and it's on commercial flights, going through the hotel quarantine system which the states have been running, in most cases extremely well. We have just reviewed all that through an agreed process. And so this will see New South Wales still taking half of everyone who is coming back and Queensland will go from 500 to 1,000 and Perth will go from 500 to 1,00 but, you know, we have got between those two states alone over 400 ADF people on the ground helping with quarantine already.

KOCH: A lot of Australians are really distressed. I know you are across the interview we did yesterday with a Perth couple Chris and Candice Dix who were stranded in Ukraine unable to get home to their kids. Do you have any update on their situation?

PRIME MINISTER: I understand they will be coming home shortly and obviously this decision will help that. We've also got passports to them. As you know, the government also helped them get to Ukraine in the first place and so we have been assisting them as well now trying to get home. So this decision that has been made, I think, will certainly help that and speed the process up.

KOCH: OK. Will we have enough planes to bring people back and meet those quotas? I noticed Anthony Albanese suggesting we use Air Force or government jets to bring people back.

PRIME MINISTER: No our advice as there is no need for that. There are plenty of commercial planes, they just need to lift the caps so they can run the services to Australia. It's the caps that were stopping the planes. So, you know, we are happy to agree to the Premiers request back in July but we are over that hump now and so we can start lifting those caps. I really want to thank particularly the New South Wales government. They are carrying half the load here and they are not just Sydneysiders and New South Wales people coming home. They are Tasmanians, they’re Queenslanders, they’re Western Australians. So they are making sure they can get home to their state eventually too.

KOCH: Yep and anyone with coronavirus from another state gets counted in the New South Wales one in quarantine, which must be annoying for the Premier.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s true.

KOCH: Hey, that's the international border situation. The state border situation, Annastacia Palaszczuk is saying you are going to have to quarantine for 14 days if you want to be on the hustings for the state election coming up. Are you prepared to do that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, we have Parliament sitting through all of that period and we are doing the Budget as well, David, so whether I was ever going to be able to get to Queensland anyway is a sort of secondary issue. I have got federal responsibilities. But I should be subject to the same rules like everyone else. I don't think there should be double standards about these things. I think the same rules should apply. And I know the hardship from speaking to people first hand about what these things are meaning for people. We have got to get this resolved and we have got to get these borders down eventually. Not right now. I understand the concerns that are there. I have never said they had to bring them down immediately. I have just said we have got to have sensible and fair exemption systems and not have double standards and explain that we are doing. Every state has a different situation and I respect that, but at the same time, we have got to get to a situation where having these things doesn't mean we are winning as a country when we deal with the virus. We have to live with the virus, not let the virus destroy the way we live.

KOCH: Absolutely. Just on another topic today, you are announcing a $1.9 billion investment package to help lower emissions. What technologies will you be investing in? You are saying solar power has had all the encouragement that it needs. You are going to look at other alternatives.

PRIME MINISTER: Hydrogen is a big one as part of that but there are also things like carbon capture and storage, there is the technology that is used in steel plants and household capture. All sorts of carbon capture is used in our agriculture industries. It is about manufacturing technologies which can be used to lower emissions energy. But it is about jobs. About 35,000 jobs, particularly, that'll come from this. I mean, 10 years ago Kochie, you will know, that the sorts of things we are now working on for energy were jets and streams back 10 years ago and so we have got through solar and wind and we have got to firm that dispatchable, reliable power and I have talked about the need for gas being the transition fuel. But where we are going to, that's what this phase is investing in and that will create the jobs of the future. But to keep the jobs of now as well, which is incredibly important, and support our manufacturing and industrial industries, our construction industries, where there are so many jobs and you can do that with lower emissions, more jobs and lower costs.

KOCH: So a focus on hydrogen. I know they are trying to introduce that into the Whyalla steelworks.

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. That’s exactly right. Alan Finkel, the Chief Scientist, this has been an important project that he has been pursuing. We have got partners in Japan that are working on this project. Australia will be a world leader in this hydrogen technology. It will support freight movement, trucks, it is very exciting stuff. But it is still some years off. But you have got to invest now to get the payoff 10 years from now and so we have to broaden the basis of these funds that were originally set up and just looked at solar and wind. That was fine but now we have to move on to next-generation technologies.

KOCH: Prime Minister, I know you have to go. Appreciate your time, thanks for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, David.