Press Conference - Australian Parliament House

12 Jan 2020
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning everyone. I’m joined by Minister Greg Hunt and Christine Morgan who is the head of our mental health agency and we thank her for joining us here today. Can I start by offering our sincere condolences to the family of Bill Slade, who was killed overnight and that was confirmed, while fighting fires near Omeo with Parks Victoria. I had the opportunity to pass that on to the Victorian Premier this morning. This is a terrible tragedy, as all of those fatalities have been during the course of these terrible fires. 28 people now have lost their lives in the course of these fires. And for all of those other family members for whom this latest confirmation will be just a further reminder of their own loss, our thoughts are very much with you also this morning.

Can I also just confirm a couple of other things before we make some announcements this morning. And that is that I can confirm that since the stand-up of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency just a week ago today, $42 million dollars has already been paid to the states to support those local council areas. I can confirm that we're adding one additional council, that's the Alpine Council in Victoria, to that list of 42. We will also be moving, today, we've been working with the Victorian Government, to declare 3 of those councils as Category C assistance areas and there is a range of supports that flow from that and they'll be confirmed later in the day. Further than that, of course there was the tax and welfare compliance arrangements which have been waived. The mobile pop-ups have been established. We've seen them now in operations in many localities that have been bushfire-affected around the country.

The National Security Committee of Cabinet has now considered quite a series of proposals. We'll be detailing one of those here today as we have already on other occasions with other measures. I can confirm that 2,700 reservists have now been deployed. That has occurred in six days since that call-out occurred. Sorry, in the past week I should say, since that reserve call-out started last Saturday week. I want to commend the ADF and all of those reservists for their very prompt response to that call-out. Around $40 million has now been paid out in various forms of disaster assistance by the Commonwealth to over 30,000 people. Those payments will continue to flow and I would note that where there are issues or, as there is on occasions in the minority of cases, some confusion about eligibility and these things, Minister Robert has set up a very, very swift process for reviews to be undertaken or where there are policy changes that are needed to ensure that payments can flow, that is being done very swiftly. There are a large number of people that are involved in assessing and making sure these payments get out. In the odd case there may be circumstances that need to be rectified. I want to give you that assurance that that is being acted on with the Minister overseeing that, very carefully and very clearly.

Over the course of the next week, the ministers are convening round tables, the Minister for Health in fact convened one on Friday, I'll be participating in one in particular on small business on Tuesday. There'll be those on tourism, agriculture, the scientific community, environmental groups and there'll be a gathering of a series of national peak groups here in Canberra next Friday to consult and further consider proposals around the bushfire recovery response. Today though, the Government is announcing a further policy announcement that goes to the critical issue of dealing with trauma and mental health occasioning from these bushfire disasters around the country. There has been a deep scar in the landscape that has been left right across our country. But I am also very mindful, as is the Government, of the very real scars that will be there for quite a period of time to come for those who've been exposed to the trauma of these bushfires. These bushfires have been across so many different areas. People who have been exposed to them, many have returned to where they may - where they reside, having been away during those fires, and it's important that the response today reaches out across all those who have likely to have been impacted. The response that we're providing today is considerable. There's $76 million dollars being dedicated through the National Bushfire Recovery Fund. That is going to counselling support on-the-ground, in communities, Medicare rebates, to ensure psychological support sessions, bolstering support for Headspace to ensure that, particularly, younger people who've been exposed to these terrible events are getting the support that they need. In particular, the reach out to emergency responders working with the state governments and the services that are delivered through their agencies. As I've met with so many who've been those first responders, you can see it, and it is a very difficult burden that they have been carrying and we need to assist them with that first responder trauma and mental health support, and that's coming through this package. More broadly, and we've learnt this from previous disasters, there is a need to be proactive in the outreach of these mental health services. That outreach is going to be there to extend people who may not come forward, who may not think that they need that support, but there is additional support going into outreach services to achieve that. Now, all of this is coming out of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency fund. I remind everybody that fund, that $2 billion dollars is over and above all of the Category A to C assistance which the Commonwealth provides, as well as the disaster payments and disaster allowance. So these funds are in addition to all of those amounts which are provided under various arrangements that we have directly with the states and territories or directly as a Commonwealth government.

I want to thank Greg Hunt for bringing all of this together and working with Christine and the sector more broadly. The Government is working through in a very orderly and a very carefully considered way, to address all the key recovery issues that need to be attended to. The policy work is being done. National Security Committee of Cabinet in an expanded membership, is looking at each and every one of these proposals as they are coming through, they are going through the filter of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency led by Andrew Colvin and the process he chairs with every single Secretary of every single department in the Commonwealth, to ensure that we get the design right and so it can reach the area of need. We are focused on other priorities particularly at the moment as they relate to small businesses that are affected in these areas, we are focused on the habitat and environmental recovery that is so critical, and will be part of the renewal effort that will come over the next decade. There'll be many other issues that we'll be touching on as the National Security Committee meets on several occasions again over the course of next week. Thank you, Greg.

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks very much Prime Minister and Christine. This morning, Christine and I met on behalf of the Government with a group of people - GPs, psychologists, Luke McCormack, who is the senior psychologist at the National Trauma Centre, where, for the first time, we have mobilised on Australian soil the medical assistance teams, and, in particular, though, with two firefighters from the Balmoral RFS. The captain, Brendan, and Vicki, one of the members of that RFS, and that Balmoral Village faced one of the great conflagrations that we had seen during the course of these terrible fires, and they talked about the challenges that individuals in the community but also the emergency responders, the volunteers had faced. It affects each of them in different ways. Vicki lost her house and yet she was here today to talk about the needs of her community and it reminded us of the incredible courage and resilience of individual Australians and of the volunteers, but also the fact that each individual can be touched in a different way. And their stories have helped inform, along with the advice of medical and mental health professionals around the country, of Christine and the people we've consulted, the states and the territories, the package that we're bringing forward today.

The $76 million dollars that we'll be providing is about ensuring that there is support for every person who has been touched by the fires in terms of their mental health and recovery needs. It’s immediate support, with regards to 10 counselling sessions for people who have been in the fire-affected zones, whether that's farmers, whether that's young people, old people, whether that is small business people, people who are living in residence in the area and faced the fires, or visitors or emergency service personnel and volunteers. In addition to that, there is an investment in both telehealth services immediately available and also the 10 Medicare psychological services. Sometimes the harm and the trauma will only manifest itself later. It might be 3 months or 6 months. It can be different for everybody. But we want to make sure there's immediate support through the counselling and longer term support over the course of the next two years. If more is needed, more will be provided for people with whatever conditions and whatever circumstances they might individually have. Then, as the Prime Minister said, a particular focus on youth through the support of almost $7.5 million for Headspace and that will reach across the states that have been affected by the bushfires. In addition to that, $16 million for emergency service personnel, such as those we saw today, they're going well, both Brendan and Vicki are going well but they know the stories and they recognise the risks that they and many others face. Our volunteers are extraordinary. Our professional workers are extraordinary. But all of them, as Luke has said to me, have the risk, the fear, the chance that they may suffer some mental health effects at some stage and that's why we want to specifically support them. And then the community outreach, which is something that Christine has emphasised. That by giving communities the support through $6.9 million dollars to hold their events, to bring people together, to chart the recovery, sometimes it's not a medical professional that a farmer or somebody will reach out to. It's if they're sitting, they're talking, then they'll feel that for the first time they can unburden themselves. That can lead to the help that they need. So that process of immediate support, individual support, and community recovery are all built together in this package. Christine?

CHRISTINE MORGAN, CEO NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION, NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION ADVISER TO THE PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Prime Minister, thank you, Minister. I would just like to stress and to say, firstly, thank you to all of those who've contributed to collaborating with us to form what we wanted to be two things. One, we wanted a comprehensive package and, secondly, we wanted it to be compassionate because the one thing we know at the moment is that it's OK to not be OK. This is a really significant event that has touched not just one community but a whole range of different communities, different demographics, and we know that our mental health is an integral part of our humanity. It's almost impossible, I think, to go through this without some sort of impact. So we consulted broadly. We learned through our Beyond Bushfires which looked at what has happened after the Black Saturday fires, we looked at the WHO guidelines and we consulted.

There were three key things that we knew were important. One, that we provide what we call psychological first aid. That is the ability to be there and to actually help people deal with their immediate need for security and safety, to have strategies to cope, and to enable them to start to regain a sense of ability to control something. So through, as the Minister has said, the distress and counselling sessions which we're making available to people, that is there in the community straightaway, through PHN’s, through the Services Australia, or through the recovery centres. The second thing is the provide access to mental health services. That is something we needed to do above and beyond what is there for any Australian anyway. So the additional psychological therapy support services that are available on a Medicare-rebated basis and the 10 sessions that are available through the tele-health Medicare rebate, will mean where ever you are in Australia, even rural and remote areas, you can gain those extra services and the most important thing about those is you don't need a mental health plan. Whilst we encourage anybody who is affected to go to their GP, the GP is a fantastic first door, you can actually access those services by going to a psychologist yourself. So we call on any Australian who needs that, who has come from a bushfire-affected area to do it. The third and most important thing as the Minister has said, and we've heard this loud and clear, and we heard it again from Brendan and Vicki this morning, is enable and support communities to actually be able to respond and find solutions for their own members. We know that communities have an incredible ability to identify what they need. So rather than coming in over the top and superimposing services, make it an enabling thing.

Part of the recovery, as Vicki said to us this morning, is that anything that anyone wants to do is a positive, so let them contribute. It was critical to us that the package actually focus in on what can communities do to try and find the answers themselves. So, in that compassionate approach and comprehensive approach, we've tried to ensure that we've opened every door. We've tried to ensure that any psychologist or other therapist in Australia can be accessed, whether it's through the public health services through the PHN’s etc, or whether it's through the rebated system that we have in our private health. We've opened the doors. We want people to come forward. We're enabling communities so that as the Minister and the Prime Minister has said, average Australians, every Australian, can reach out to their neighbours because they know best what it is that's needed. We just want to encourage everybody to say don't think that you just have to be strong and get through this. In fact, that would be unusual. This is about starting to find the conversations you can have with people because if we can work on our mental wellbeing, then we can best underpin every other aspect of recovery in Australia.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Christine. So this is an initial and additional investment in these programs. As we've said throughout all of these recovery agency fund programs, if more is required, more will be provided. We are monitoring closely the take-up of these services and working closely with the states and territories to ensure they can continue to meet the mark that we’ve set. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is there a particularly incident that stands out for you that puts a bit of colour around the trauma that people are going through, through these bushfires?

PRIME MINISTER: There are so many. There are so many. Whether it was embracing Owen up in Taree, meeting those, you know, in the south coast town, inland town there of Cobargo, being over on Kangaroo Island, being up in Rappville some months ago, walked into a community there that had been hit by a ferocious fire storm and they took shelter in the local school together. And on each occasion, you can see the shock, the fear, the bewilderment on occasions, you see how resilient people can amazingly be in those circumstances, yet, at the same time, you can sense their frailty. You particularly see that amongst the firefighters. Tired, they've seen things they'd prefer not to have seen, they've experienced things they'd prefer not to have seen. There is a lot of raw emotions out there. That's why I say there are scars on our landscape and there are scars on our people, and scars you won't see. The rebuilding effort is not just rebuilding the infrastructure, it is just not rebuilding the towns and the homes. It is rebuilding communities. To do that you have to help people restore as well. No-one is immune from that. None of us are. Any of us who have been out there and experienced it, those who've experienced it in the worst possible form by being directly impacted either through loss of homes or in the worse cases, loss of loved ones. So this is going to be quite a healing process for our nation. And it's really time we focus on the healing. It's time we focus on healing our communities, our people, healing the divisions and bringing people together to focus on the task we have. That's my focus. That's my team's focus.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you just clarify, are you open to a more ambitious 2030 target or are you ruling that out? Are you sticking to 26 to 28 per cent? And what did you mean by being open to "evolving policies"? What new policies do you wants to consider?

PRIME MINISTER: Sure. David and I had a long conversation about this morning and, again, I thank you, David, for conducting that interview this morning. What I've said, I think very clearly, the Government has set its targets and we're going to look to meet and beat those targets. That's what we've done in Kyoto. That's what I intend for us to do when it comes to Paris. In meeting and beating those targets, we will always be taking up the opportunities of measures that enable us to achieve lower emissions, but lower emissions at the same time as we stay true to the policy I took to the last election, and that was to ensure we get the balance right, to get our emissions down without putting a tax on people, without increasing their electricity prices, without removing the industries upon which they and their communities and their towns and their regions rely on for their very livelihoods. So it's a balanced policy. There will be new technologies, as there has been since the Kyoto targets were first set, and we will look to embrace those and we will look to take the opportunities that are in front of us to ensure that we don't just meet these targets but we beat the targets that we have set. And at the end of the day, that means ensuring we get more effective emissions reduction while continuing to strengthen our economy and protecting people's jobs and their livelihoods. Our policy is one of balance. Australians, I think, believe they want that balance in how we approach these issues. They are challenging tasks. But they are ones where it can't be either/or. You have to be able to balance these interests - that's what the national interest demands.

JOURNALIST: The carryover credits, could they be dropped?

PRIME MINISTER: In the same way that as we move forward with our Kyoto, and Greg can speak to this because he was Minister at the time, there has always been the option to have those carryover credits and they've been used in the past and if they're needed, it is the Government's policy to use them in the future. But what our commitment is to do is to reduce emissions and reduce it in the way that I've said. That is to ensure that we protect Australians from reckless targets, from reckless policies that can destroy their livelihoods and their incomes, and the future of their towns and of their regions that force up their electricity prices and then force up their costs of living. That is not a policy that our Government embraces. Our Government embraces a balanced policy that reduces emissions and strengthens our economy. But, Greg, you might want to comment on that?

MINISTER HUNT: Sure. I know this well because I lived it for a decade. I remember when we came into Government in 2013 there were many people who said, "Well, you'll never achieve your Kyoto 2020 targets without a carbon tax and an electricity price." Then when it looked like we were going to, they said, "You'll never achieve it without the carryover credit." I would say for historical purposes, carryover was included in the Australian commitment by the Labor Party not just as an option but as a condition precedent for Australia participating in Kyoto 2. I think that point has been lost to history. That it was written in as a condition precedent for Australia participating in Kyoto 2 by the Labor Party. Nevertheless, we haven't just done that, we've achieved our goals and we've then gone on to beat them. What does it mean in practice? It means that whilst Australia under the previous Government, and I acknowledge and appreciate this, committed to -5% for 2020, we've actually achieved an effective -10% but without an electricity tax. We will do it without having to rely on the carryover. The important thing is, going forward, all this means is we're achieving and recognising what we've achieved early. It's a bit like paying off the mortgage early. You wouldn't want to take away the incentive. This is the perverse thing. You wouldn't want to take away the incentive for people to over-achieve early because that actually matters. That's important to the planet. That's important to the global achievements. I have a suspicion that over time we'll do better and better and better because we'd said we'd do better, and we did that for 2020, we're already ahead of our 2030 targets, 10 years in advance.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister just on the bushfires, there are reports that there’s ABC and NBN infrastructure has been damaged. Do you have any details on that? Do you have any figure on the economic infrastructure costs of the fire?

PRIME MINISTER: On economic and infrastructure costs at this stage it would not be possible to give you any sort of reliable estimate on that and there’s a further reason for that, is the fires have not yet finished. We still have many, many fires burning around the country. The conditions, while they've significantly improved after the peak day a few days ago, that gives some welcome respite to go and address many of the issues we’re talking about. Today, the ADF has actually I understand been involved in helping support air lift people in the energy sector to get to particular areas so they can start making assessments and doing reconnaissance on how to stand up some energy infrastructure as well. The same sorts of supports are being provided to the other sectors - well, the ABC I can't speak to. I'd have to check that with the Minister for Communications. I've been a bit more focused on telecommunications and I do know that the NBN has been moving very quickly to restore their services, and particularly in those first few days, we saw a dramatic reduction in those customers that were without access to NBN. It dropped by thousands. That was great work done by NBN to get in and restore a lot of that. But there are still many customers both from an energy and telecommunications point of view which are cut off. One of the great pieces of work which has been done by the ADF, by our defence force, has been retaining contact with isolated communities. That's been particularly the case down in Victoria around East Gippsland where there are many of these communities, and as, I think, at a press conference at the other day, I was talking about in advance of the peak day, we were getting in early again in the case that they may have been cut off again. And so that's with satellite right phones and various other tools that may have been available to us. And so yes, telecommunications, infrastructure are very important. As is energy infrastructure. There is actually a medical team that has gone up into the Snowy infrastructure to support those who are working up there as well. All of these tasks are part of the coordinated recovery effort that the Commonwealth is involved in through Andrew Colvin's agency. It is working hand-in-glove whether it’s with telecommunications companies, energy companies, state agencies and various others.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you flagging potential expansion of constitutional Commonwealth powers in these kinds of national emergencies?

PRIME MINISTER: It is a good question. And because - the most common question, I think, that's been put to the Federal Government, particularly in recent weeks, has been about what actions the Federal Government should have taken or have taken. Now, we know what actions we have taken, and I've outlined them again this morning. Two significant actions that were taken last Saturday, and I want to be very clear about this, the first one was the call-out - Saturday week. Was the call-out, compulsory call-out, of the Reserve. Not the standing defence force, to go and provide support in response to requests from the State Government. That's been done in fire disasters whether within states or specifically or across borders, for many many years that's been the default setting of how the Federal Government responds to these disasters. They do it at the request of the state government and that's what's happened in times past. So on this occasion what we did was, A, we sought approval from the Governor-General and received that for a compulsory call-out of up to 3,000 reservists and those numbers currently stand at 2,700. In addition to that, the instruction was given to the Chief of the Defence Force to act regardless of a response - sorry, act regardless of a request where they thought they needed to do so. When they did so, they would seek to do so in a way that engaged. And so the instruction was, "Move forward and integrate." As opposed to, "Respond to request." Now they are the two big changes that have occurred from previous events. Now as I stressed with David this morning, that has taken us into some extreme constitutional territory and that has been able to be achieved because of the cooperative spirit that is existing between the states and the Federal Government in how we're responding to this crisis. Now, in the future, one of the other things that has often been put to me is, "Why has a federal national state of disaster or emergency not been declared?" Well, the simple answer to that is, There is no such thing. There is no such statutory state of emergency which is declared at a federal level under federal laws. See, states of disaster, as was declared, or emergency in New South Wales, and both of those have now completed in both of those states as of today, they then give particular powers in New South Wales, say, to the Chief Fire Commissioner, RFS Commissioner. There are powers in Victoria which enables people to move people on and those powers followed the Black Saturday fires. There are specific authorities and payments, and other things that are triggered by those declarations. And so, consideration of what a federal "state of disaster" declaration by law would mean is a very serious matter that the Commonwealth will now consider in concert with the states and territories. That's what I was meaning this morning when David was interviewing me, to point out where we need to go into the future. And the role of the Federal Government, there is an expectation that I think has been quite clearly communicated that in the future, and indeed now, as has been done, there is a more prominent and directive role as opposed to just a response role. And that would require consideration of all of those issues and, likely, referral powers, potentially, based on the conversations I've had with the Attorney-General.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you, just to be clear, are you open to lifting the emissions reduction target and do you accept that this unprecedented crisis has perhaps changed the public sentiment that demand, I guess, stronger action on climate change?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'll say what I said before. We have set our targets and we intend to meet and beat them and to evolve our policy to ensure that we reduce emissions as much as we can within the policy framework of not having a carbon tax, not having people's electricity prices go up, not wiping out the important industries that Australians rely on for their livelihoods across the country. What I'm saying is we want to meet and beat our emissions reduction targets consistent with the policy I took to the last election.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the US has increased its travel advice to Australia making it, putting more warnings. Have you taken any action, or what action are taking to address that?

PRIME MINISTER: I've been in direct contact at senior levels of the US administration.

JOURNALIST: On a proposed royal commission, can you outline more what the terms of reference might look like, and in your interview this morning you mentioned that this would need to be done in acknowledgment of the impact climate change is having on our conditions. Would a proposed royal commission look specifically at climate change policy?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, first of all, I will seek to take through a proposal in the next little while through Cabinet - that's the first step that needs to be done. That proposal would then need to be consulted upon with the states and territories, in the same way that we were able to arrive at the terms of reference for the disabilities royal commission. The Disabilities Royal Commission also addresses many areas that are outside the Commonwealth's constitutional responsibilities. So letters patent that complemented the federal royal commission would likely be necessary, I think, for it to be effective and look at the fall gambit of issues that I believe Australians will want considered in looking at this crisis, which I stress again is still occurring and there is still many months of fire season ahead of us. What I said this morning is I thought there were three areas in particular that we would need to look at. The first of those is the operations both in terms of the preparations for this season and the response that occurred, and the recovery mechanisms that have been put in place, and how that has worked together between the Federal Government and the state governments. And in particular there, the issues that I was referring to just before about a more direct and proactive role of the Federal Government and, particularly, the defence force and how they could be deployed in the future. I should stress that that could also extend to how various categories of payments of assistance and disaster support are also declared in particular areas. There is a currently a process for that. I don't have any particular complaints about that process but if we are going to look at those issues then they're relevant things to consider as we move through. The second area is to understand that the climate we are living in now and will live in for the next 10 years, the advice is hotter, dryer, longer seasons. And with that understanding, what the implications of that are, for assisting us at a federal and state level, to build our resilience to deal with that new environment and that will continue to change, going forward. That needs to be understood. And so, what is the resilience actions that need to be taken. The third part of that is really what is the adaption policies and mechanisms that need to be used to ensure that we can adapt to that new environment more broadly. Now, that isn't just about bushfires I should stress. That applies equally to floods. It applies to cyclones and other forms of natural disasters and the national disaster risk framework which we initiated in the last Budget and was considered and agreed at a top level by ministers in June of this year and more details of that are now being worked out through the local governments, which is another thing we referred to this morning. That is an important issue as well to be considered going forward. So what we're saying is the issue of the fact that we're dealing with hotter, dryer, longer fire seasons, that is an established point. That is not something that we have to spend a lot of time ruminating over. That's the case. And that's going to be the case going forward. And so it's important that we have an environment policy that addresses that into the future, practically, and issues of our emissions policies are very, very open for all to see. I've already addressed those in my earlier remarks.

JOURNALIST: PM on the ADF and calling out the ADF, are you suggesting there could be federal legislation to have some sort of federally-declared state of emergency? What would be the role for the CDF? I think you said this morning that the CDF would have to believe that public safety is at risk. Isn't the CDF's role to look beyond Australia at defence threats? Would this be a big change in his role?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it would be I think, as recent events have shown, with the involvement they've had in this last 10 days or so in particular - but let's not forget they have been involved since September when the base of support for the operations on that fire was in Canungra and I was there in September. What this would mean is there would be, after all assessments are undertaken, yes, a proactive role for the defence forces of this nation to be engaging in response and recovery in relation to disasters of this nature. That would, if that were the path we went down, that would require some rethink of how defence positioned itself, training that was undertaken, what its arrangements were to deploy. They've proved to be outstanding under General Ellwood in recent times and prior to that, under their other commanders. There is no criticism of that. But if we’re moving into a new proactive position for the role of defence forces, there are obviously implications for that. We are not rushing to that decision. I think there’s a lot to asses before we got to a point like that. But the key question that has kept coming back and is being asked I think quite reasonably by the public, is what is a federal state of national disaster? What does that then mean, what resources are then brought to bear in those circumstances, what powers and authorities are then assigned to particular individuals that sit within the federal structure? Clearly, the Chief of the Defence Force would be a very important person in making independent, objective assessments about how such powers could be used. I think that's a very important issue. So there are a lot of sensitivities here, there are a lot of legal issues to address...

JOURNALIST: Legislated powers?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, it would have to be. I mean, I’m saying the power to do that now is very unclear. And I say, it is happening now under a very cooperative environment and necessarily so, and that's understood by the states and territories. But to continue to do it on that basis as we move to a new normal then I think it would need a much more resilient legal framework to be able to be clear about who does what, when, what triggers it. And what happens in those circumstances.

JOURNALIST: Would you need a referendum on that? Or could the states confer the powers?

PRIME MINISTER: No, the states could confer those powers.

JOURNALIST: Christine can I ask you a question? I just wanted to know what some of what the mental health impacts that these volunteers and residents are at risk of getting in the short-term and the long-term?

CHRISTINE MORGAN, CEO NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION, NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION ADVISER TO THE PRIME MINISTER: Very good question. Because there are a range of different issues. I think the Minister and the Prime Minister heard me many times say that we use two words "mental health" to describe a very broad range of things. So I think though that what we do know is there are increased rates of anxiety. Obviously across the range of anxiety disorders. There are increased rates of potential depression. We must look at the potential for PTSD amongst people who are on front-line services. But can I stress that there is the initial response that anybody who has gone through something like this will have where they will be feeling concerned, but there is the heightened risk then, of actually coming within one of those mental illnesses. It is predominantly around the anxiety, the depressive, and the impact of stress.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you all very much.