PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. I am joined by the Attorney-General and the Minister for Industrial Relations Senator Cash. And I want to thank, before I start, the Attorney and the Assistant Minister for Women and the Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General and Industrial Relations, Amanda Stoker, as well as thanking Minister Payne as the Minister for Women and co-chairing the Cabinet taskforce in relation to matters that we’re here to report to you on today.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 39 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in recent times. The events around this building over the course of the past few months have only further highlighted and reinforced the seriousness of these issues, the challenge that we face and the great frustration that is felt by Australians, and in particular women, all over the country. Sexual harassment is unacceptable. It’s not only immoral and despicable and even criminal, but particularly in the context of the Respect@Work Report, it denies Australians, especially women, not just their personal security but their economic security by not being safe at work. Now this is why my former colleague and then Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer established the Respect@Work Inquiry, and asked the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, to undertake that report. That was back in June of 2018. It was the first report of its kind, I understand. I want to commend, again, Kelly O’Dwyer, for her leadership in calling this issue out and initiating what is, I think, been a very important process. I also want to thank Kate Jenkins for her leadership in this role. Not just her conduct of the Report and how she has gone about that Report, but the leadership she has shown in the very inclusive and responsible and engaging way that she has sought to manage and address what are highly sensitive issues, highly challenging issues. I pay great tribute to her respect and the maturity that she has shown through her leadership in the way she has been dealing with this issue.
The Government first responded to this Report, after receiving it in January last year, in the Budget, where we adopted nine of the 20 recommendations that had been directed solely to the Australian Government as part of the Women's Economic Security Statement in the Budget last year. Today, we complete that response, and are the only Government to have provided a response to this Report. And we do so by embracing the Respect@Work Report. All 55 recommendations are either agreed wholly, in part, or in principle, or noted where they are directed to governments or organisations other than the Australian Government, or the Government is able to achieve the intent of the recommendations through other means as set out in the Report. Last night I had the opportunity to speak to Kate Jenkins, and I know the Attorney has also, and the Attorney will speak more to that in her remarks, and we were able to speak through our responses and the support we’re providing right across the board for both the intent and in the overwhelming majority of cases, the specific recommendations, as put forward.
Now Kate Jenkins’ Report, Respect@Work, is a game changer. It is changing the very narrative that will drive the appropriate actions needed right across governments and across our society. We believe our response, A Roadmap for Respect, will do the same thing. It’s about creating a culture of respectful behaviour in Australian workplaces. That is what we are seeking to achieve to stop sexual harassment in those workplaces, so Australians can be safe at work. Our response is based on our Government’s core values - respect, dignity, choice, equality of opportunity and ensuring justice. The response, as you will see set out in our Report, is guided by five key principles as we’ve assessed all of these recommendations. This Report was considered at length by Cabinet on more than one occasion. It was also considered by the Cabinet taskforce, co-chaired by the Minister for Women and I, again only in the course of this week. And there is extensive consideration of both the recommendations and the actions the Government intends to take, but what guided us were these five principles. Everyone has a right to be safe at work. Sexual harassment must be prohibited in the workplace. Policy must be evidence-based. There are many recommendations in the Report that go to the urgent need for better data and research and information to guide the responses, not just of the Australian Government, but all governments and indeed employers and workplaces and employees all around the country. Prevention must be our goal, is the third principle. Stop it before it starts, to put it another way. Fourthly, simplicity and clarity is necessary to make the law easier for Australians to understand and access. This is a complicated area in our legal system. Our response is designed to make it less complicated, wherever possible, and there are many recommendations in this report that go beyond the Commonwealth Government’s responsibility, and in particular, to the legal systems overseen by state and territory governments. The Attorney wrote last week to the Attorneys-General around the country, referring again the Report to them and seeking their responses to those recommendations in that Report, and indeed it will be discussed tomorrow at National Cabinet when I am tabling this response to the National Cabinet members. And fifthly, laws must be consistent with the broader legal framework and fundamental legal principles.
So using those key principles that guided the response to the recommendations that I’ve already out, gave you a summary of our response to, and the Attorney will go into more specifics in a moment, there are many specific responses and actions in this Report and our response. The financial implications of the decisions we’re making in our response will be incorporated in this year’s Budget. The Commonwealth, my Government, will be stepping up to our responsibilities in response to this Report, but not just in this area but in the many other areas that will be necessary, whether that be in women’s safety more broadly, or indeed to the many other issues, whether it’s being harassment that occurs in social media and online environments, and the corrosion that we’re seeing in so much of society that leads to the lack of respect, that from that depleted well of respect comes the many other behaviours that we see that women are so vulnerable to. But in making this response, I make this one encouragement to Australians. This is a culture we have to change right across our society. We will be stepping up to our responsibilities but we all, each and every one of us, individually, have a responsibility for our own behaviours and our own actions and what we can positively do to ensure that we can change the culture of behaviour. It’s important that, as we address these issues, that we do it not in a way that sets Australians against each other. We have to do it in a way that brings Australians together, that work together to ensure that we can change this culture. And the Government is committed to following that path, and again I want to thank Kate Jenkins for the way that she has demonstrated that that is the way forward, not to set Australians against each other but to ensure we bring together Australians to work on the changes and behaviour and the solutions that are necessary. Again, I want to thank the Attorney and Assistant Minister Stoker. We have been working together at a high pace over these last many weeks, as I advised in the House that I was personally and directly involved in ensuring that we were able to bring forward this response as soon as possible in, over this recent month or so. And I want to thank Minister Payne also for the work that she has done and, particularly, most recently in the co-chairing of the Cabinet taskforce. And I want to thank all the Cabinet members. We have brought all the Cabinet together on this and we have one view and we’re of one mind and of one resolve. I will pass you onto the Attorney.
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, ATTORNEY-GENERAL, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. And I’m very pleased to join the Prime Minister today to release the Government’s response to the Kate Jenkins Respect@Work Report. In terms of the Report itself, without a doubt it provides a series of comprehensive recommendations to prevent, which as the Prime Minister has said, is just so important, and address sexual harassment. What the Report also highlights though is that it’s not about one person or one industry. This is a societal problem that requires a societal response. And in that regard, the Report itself and its recommendations are addressed to the Australian Government, state and territory governments, employers and industry groups. We all have a role, as the Prime Minister has said, in stopping sexual harassment. The Prime Ministers also referred to the statistics in the Report. They are actually just, and continue to be, unacceptable. Finding that 39 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men have recently experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Again, this is unacceptable. In our response, what we do is set out our long-term commitment to preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. As the Prime Minister has said, we come together as a Government to do this. The Cabinet is united in our response to this Report. And that is why I am pleased that in relation to the 55 recommendations, as the Prime Minister has said, we have agreed in full, in principle, or in part, or noted, for example, where they are addressed to industry, all 55 recommendations in the Report.
I also had the opportunity last night to speak with the Prime Minister and Commissioner Jenkins and I have also had an extensive conversation this morning with Commissioner Jenkins. She is very pleased with the Government’s response, and the commitment both Kate and I made to one another, her as the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, and myself as the Attorney-General, is we are now going to work together to ensure that we implement this response and, in fact, when I leave here, Prime Minister, I’m talking to Kate again.
In terms of sexual harassment in the workplace, I think we’d all agree - in fact, it needs to be just a basic fundamental - everybody has the right to feel safe in the workplace. To lead the national effort, the Government has outlined a number of measures and reforms in the roadmap, including, as you already know, the creation of the Respect@Work implementation taskforce to deliver the legislative and regulatory reform. Kate Jenkins chairs that taskforce. Kate also acknowledged in the Report that the current system is incredibly complex and it is incredibly confusing for both employers and employees. We are going to simplify and strengthen the legal framework. But as the Prime Minister has also noted, you need better coordination between all of the agencies that are responsible for this issue in the workplace. We also though need to continue to support strong preventative action. As the Prime Minister said, we need to stop this behaviour before it even commences. And in that regard, the Australian Government, and we’ve done a lot of work on this in the past, but we continue to be committed to and will work with the states and territories in relation to delivering education and training programs. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, you need to understand both what your responsibilities are, but also what your rights are. Supporting targeted research but also ensuring that the actions, the policy actions we take to address sexual harassment in the workplace, they are based on evidence. In terms of supporting national action, as is set out in the response, the Australian Government, we are committed to leading and facilitating discussions with state and territory governments, as well as the private sector. In relation to the recommendations that are made to the private sector in the Report, we welcome them. We will support any initiatives to help the private sector prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace. I would also encourage industry - utilise the training materials that have already been released and are being put together by the Respect@Work Council. Work with, actively, the Respect@Work Council. In terms of the recommendations that, as the Prime Minister has said, require national action - the Commonwealth, the state and territory governments working together. As the Prime Minister has said, National Cabinet meets tomorrow. I have also already written to my state and territory counterparts asking them for their response to the Respect@Work Report, but also saying to them, how can we work together to deliver this response. I’m also meeting with the work health and safety ministers in mid-May to finalise the response to the review of the model workplace health and safety laws. This is relevant to the recommendations in the Report. I just want to touch on, briefly, those recommendations that are directed to the Commonwealth Government. What the Report found is that the existing legal and regulatory frameworks for addressing workplace harassment, they’re complex but they are also difficult to navigate, for both workers and employers. What we are going to do, and have accepted, is to develop and implement a suite of legislative and regulatory reforms. Our aim is to reduce complexity but also strengthen the national framework for addressing sexual harassment. For example, we will amend the definition of serious misconduct in the Fair Work Regulations to include sexual harassment. We will also clarify that sexual harassment can be a ground, or a valid reason, for dismissal. This will give employers the certainty they need to take action. But what it also says to employees and victims of sexual harassment is there are consequences for this action in the workplace. We are also going to amend the Human Rights Act so that the President’s discretion to terminate a complaint under the Act is extended. Currently it’s six months. As you know, victims don’t necessarily come forward in that six-month period. We’re going to extend that out to 24 months, to enable them and give them the time, they may need to come forward. But what we’re also going to do is clarify the scope of the Sex Discrimination Act, that it extends to judges and Members of Parliament. As the Prime Minister has said, this response today builds on work that has already been undertaken and it was implemented in 2020, in terms of the funding of the nine key recommendations from the Report, which was of course the establishment of the Respect@Work Council and implementation following from that. Sexual harassment, it is just unacceptable anywhere in society. Our response, The Roadmap for Respect, provides a clear path for action to achieve meaningful, cultural change across the nation and to deliver safer workplaces for all Australians. As the Prime Minister has said, everyone has the right to be safe at work. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, perhaps Minister Cash, you mentioned some specific legislative changes there. When can we expect to see those? And also you didn’t mention legislative changes, the other changes recommended to the Sex Discrimination Act, in I think it’s recommendation 17 and 18, to put a positive duty on employers. Do you agree with the principle of that? Will you actually …
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, ATTORNEY-GENERAL, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: Yes, we do agree with the principle of that. And as we’ve noted in the Report, a positive duty already exists, as you know, for employers under the Work Health and Safety Act. So that positive duty does exist. What we’ve said is we want consistency and we want to reduce complexity. So we’re going to now look at how you could implement that in the Sex Discrimination Act, but not make the system more complex and not confuse people as to where to go. So certainly we’re now exploring that, exactly.
JOURNALIST: When can we expect to see those changes?
PRIME MINISTER: We’ll draw together a package of legislative reforms this year and whether that can be done in time for the Budget sittings, well, that is, that would be our goal to do that before the end of June, to introduce that, but it’s important, I think, with such sensitive legislation that we engage with the drafting of that legislation, that we consult on that. And what I would like to see happen here is I’d like to introduce this legislation through the Attorney and see this enjoy bipartisan, multi-partisan support. We have always sought to deal in this place, in my experience and I’m sure the Attorney’s experience, whether it is these issues that are before us now, or indeed the very serious issues of violence against women and children, the national plan that was first initiated, Violence Against Women by Prime Minister Gillard, supported wholeheartedly by the Coalition at that time and also in Government with more than a billion invested. We’ve always done that in a bipartisan way. It has never previously, in my experience, been a matter of partisan debate or rancour, and I would hope that that is the path we can get back on.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, could you just unpack how these new rules would apply to MPs. Because obviously there’s issues of Parliamentary privilege, you can’t, you know, remove an MP from office. Obviously it wouldn’t be retrospective, but MPs would now be on notice that they would face consequences if they engaged in sexual harassment that was found to be proven. What would those penalties be?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, what I’d, I’ll ask the Attorney to speak more specifically to that. There are many issues that we’re still going to have to work through, Sam, as we draft this legislation. The recommendations are not, I’d say granular, when it comes to the drafting in many of those provisions and how those matters are worked through. What’s important though is the principle that is established, and that is that MPs and that is judges, but also we’re also going to be taking up the recommendation that state public servants are not exempt from this arrangement. Currently they are exempt. So it is about getting everybody as much on the level playing field as possible. You’re right to note that Members of Parliament find themselves in a different situation because of the nature of how we come to be in these jobs. We have one boss, and that is the Australian people who elect us, and that is a process that we’ll have to work through carefully in the drafting.
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, ATTORNEY-GENERAL, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: But you’re right, Samantha. We will be subject to the same law as anybody else which means you will be subject to the same consequences. Somebody can bring a complaint against you to the Commission. That complaint can be looked at. If it is upheld, it will be upheld. If it is not, it is not. If …
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, ATTORNEY-GENERAL, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: I think that there would be consequences for any Member of Parliament themselves who is found to have breached the Sexual Discrimination Act. I think the people themselves would speak.
JOURNALIST: Given the unusual employment arrangements in this building that we have canvassed a lot in the last few weeks, how would that work in practice for staff, for example? Are you going to have to look at those employment arrangements in order to make this work in the way that you want?
PRIME MINISTER: For staff, I think it is more straightforward than for members of Parliament. Members of Parliament under the Act and how we happen to be in these roles, again, is different to a staff member. And it is also the case that staff members who work for members and senators, as opposed to those who work in the ministerial wing, the ministerial wing processes, I think, lend themselves much more to operating like another workplace and so I would expect those rules to work in a very similar way to someone working in a company or another public sector agency or something of that nature. Now, it should also work the same for members of and senators' staff, but in that case, the employer is the member or the senator and they would be the ones who'd have to be taking action consistent with what is put forward in the law.
JOURNALIST: Why has it taken the events of the last six weeks for the Government to complete its response to this? And before you say the pandemic, we're all aware there's been a pandemic, you have been able to manage other issues as well.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, no I wouldn't agree with that last assessment. There have been many issues that, yes, we have continued to pay pensions and we have continued to fund childcare centres and we have continued to do all of those things. Last year was a very extraordinary year. We would all agree with that. There were many issues that we were not enabled to advance last year because of the demands and pressures of COVID. For example, not on one occasion last year was I asked about this matter in the House of Representatives, nor were my Ministers. Not on one occasion did that come up in Question Time in relation to the Respect@Work inquiry, I am advised last year. But that said, this Report we did provide our initial response in last year's Budget. 9 out of the 20 recommendations that were directly recommended to the Commonwealth Government, we responded to in last year's Budget. 9 out of the 20. Now, we have completed that process for the other 11 and we have gone further to the full 55 here today. So it is a matter that I'm pleased that we have now addressed. Last year was a very challenging year. Last year, when it came to addressing issues particularly impacting women, my focus as was my Ministers', was ensuring that they were protected as much as possible from issues such as domestic violence and $150 million in additional supports were put in place to support the states and territories in the services they were providing to protect women during COVID. Our efforts on the economic front were particularly designed to ensure that we got women back into work and we could protect their jobs and women were the most of the genders that were impacted by job losses. So last year we were very focused on those very urgent needs to protect women at a time when they were very vulnerable during COVID. We put the additional resources in and now we have been in a position, I think, to address these more systemic and longer-term issues which are very important and I'm pleased we're able to do that today.
JOURNALIST: You were just talking about the additional COVID resources...
PRIME MINISTER: I’ll deal with this question first before we go to others.
JOURNALIST: I think we have the same question.
PRIME MINISTER: Same question, fine.
JOURNALIST: Some of those additional resources that you put into the sector during COVID, will they be extended in the next Budget considering that the sector itself is crying out for extra funding as an ongoing commitment? And Senator Cash, when it comes to some of these legislative changes that the Government has agreed to, can you give us any practical examples about misconduct that's currently falling through the cracks that would be caught up in these changes?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, on the funding issue first, we will consider that. I should note, though, in the states and territories now, not all the funding that we have actually provided has been acquitted by the states and territories in that area. So there is still funding still unspent by states and territories when it comes to the additional support that we provided during COVID and so I'd want to be confident that we were already getting the acquittal of the support that was being provided. But we are going through the Budget process now. The pandemic is still a pandemic. The virus hasn't gone away. Of course, Australia's economic position now is greatly enhanced from when we first put those measures in place and also the risks that were presented by job loss and also by lockdowns and people being potentially put in positions where they were vulnerable in their own homes, those sorts of risks have significantly declined because of the removal of the restrictions that were previously in place. So we're dealing with a very different situation. But take, for example, the issues of mental health support. What we have always known when it came to the mental health support that we put in to support Australians during the pandemic that, yes, there was an immediate burden, there was an immediate impact on Australians' mental health and wellbeing, but the tail would be long and that there would be ongoing impacts and that is something that Pat McGorry and I and Ruth Vine, the assistant Chief Medical Officer which has responsibility for mental health. That is a matter that we review regularly. So we will continue to be driven by the need and the evidence and the success and implementation of the programmes and that's what will drive our decisions and we look forward to working with the states and territories and I look forward to hearing from the states and territories what additional supports that they plan to put in because this would be a joint effort.
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, ATTORNEY-GENERAL, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: In relation to your question, one of the issues that was raised throughout the report was that employers just do not A) understand necessarily their obligations in the workplace, but in relation to taking action in terms of sexual harassment, so we'll say in this case unwanted sexual advances, they felt that because it is not specifically referred to as a ground for serious misconduct, it means they can't terminate for serious misconduct or alternatively it is not currently listed as a valid reason for dismissal. They can't even take that first step. So we are going to ensure they know by making the changes that if you want, if sexual harassment is occurring in the workplace and it is proven, you can terminate a person for that. You still have to follow due process. Can I give you another example, though? The stop sexual harassment order. Currently, as you know, you can get a stop bullying order, you apply to the Commission and the Commission can, if you can't conciliate, issue a stop bullying order which means I may now not report to, I may work a different shift. One of Kate's recommendations is that there should also be a stop sexual harassment order. We agree in principle with that, but we believe the more simplistic way to do that is to actually confirm in the legislation that a stop bullying order includes sexual harassment. So they are some really practical ways, they may sound simple, but they have been a disincentive to date, in particular for employers, but also for employees, to understand there are consequences. Raise the issue with your employer so it can be dealt with properly.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on vaccines, ATAGI is meeting today to discuss the latest advice...
PRIME MINISTER: Before we move to vaccines, I'm very happy to go to vaccines by the way or other issues, I note. Are there any other questions on the Report?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you and Minister Cash have both spoken about the need for legal change and attitudinal change. You’ve already got quite a powerful ad campaign running on violence against women but obviously harassment while related is a little different to that. What consideration have you given to an advertising campaign about this? And secondly, people sometimes say they struggle to know the difference between flirting and harassment. I think when you're on the receiving end you know but not always on the delivering end. What do you say to people who might say you're actually just trying to ban flirting in the workplace?
PRIME MINISTER: I think they're both very practical questions and I think highlight the complexity of this issue. Firstly, on the issue of public information campaigns, you know, we're very open to that. Because I think those campaigns are sometimes one of the best ways to deal with the ambiguities of what your second question is, so people can start to sort in their own minds what's Ok. I was recently at a game and there was an older couple sitting next to me watching the game. They weren’t backing the same team as me, by the way, they had a much better night than I did that night. But I heard something that the husband said to the wife about something she had said, and he said, "We can't say that anymore." And I went, that's what we were talking about. It wasn't angry, it wasn't dismissive, it was respectful, it was positive and I think that's the sort of conversation that we have to have in our relationships, in our communities, in our homes, in our clubs, in our churches, wherever you happen to be. We’ve just got to have these conversations and people need to understand in our own workplaces what is okay, what's not Ok. People just want to know. I think in many cases, we're dealing with unconscious behaviour and we want to help inform that behaviour and I think people will happily change their behaviour if they were aware that some of their unconscious acts could be leading to that sense of hurt or dismissal with their fellow Australians. In other cases it's malevolent, in other cases it's predatory. In other cases, it's violent and I think those lines are a lot clearer and I think what we're doing here today brings further force to deal particularly with those types of behaviours. But I think you're right to say that the way we deal with the balance, you know, so much of what we talk about even outside the workplace with violence against women. That's why it's so important to say it all starts with disrespect. That's where it starts and I would argue not just disrespect towards women, disrespect full stop. We’ve got to be careful in our society that we don't allow the reservoir of respect to drain and I fear it is. I genuinely fear that the reservoir of respect and the way we deal with each other and speak to each other is draining. I think social media has the most corrosive impact on that behaviour. And we shouldn't, therefore, often be surprised that if we are struggling to draw out of that well of respect, the respect that is necessary for so many important relationships, let's go back and ask a few questions about how we got into that first place in the first instance. Certainly governments have roles in that, but it’s not only governments.
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, ATTORNEY-GENERAL, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: If you recall Our Watch a number of years ago actually launched the Stop It At The Start campaign which really did what the Prime Minister said - start the conversation in relation to looking at what we say, which we would just say naturally, but not understanding what the impact is. And I think the one that really resonates with me because it is something now I hear as you have, Prime Minister, given back to me - don't chuck like a girl. That was one of the ones where growing up people may have said that, but we now know it has connotations. Do not say it. So I think that continual raising of awareness, the highlighting of examples, but it's also why last year we did fund the Respect@Work Council because one of the roles that the Respect@Work Council is literally to bring together, headed by Kate Jenkins, all of the regulators, the Fair Work Ombudsman, the Fair Work Commission, Safe Work Australia, state representatives, also bringing in experts as required. Because one of the first things they are doing and we're almost there is developing the Respect@Work website. If you don't know what your obligations or responsibilities are, we need as a Government to ensure that you have a place to go to, and that is something that the Council is very, very focused on. But also ensuring that it doesn't matter what age you are, you have actually got the appropriate training and resources and that is something we're also working with the states and territories on.
JOURNALIST: Just how much of the events of the past two months in this building influenced the way that you have responded to this Report? And had it not been for those events do you think you would have reached the same conclusions?
PRIME MINISTER: I think we would, is the honest answer. And because the principles that I set out for guiding our response are our enduring principles. The values that our response is based on are our enduring values as a Government. That's how our Government operates. You'll recall at the beginning of the pandemic before the lockdowns had even begun, I set out the principles by which we would respond economically to the pandemic and then we made decisions in accordance with those principles. We're doing the same thing here. Our Government is guided by these principles and these values. There is no doubt that the events of recent months have, as I said, re-enforced the significance and highlighted it once again and the frustration that I think that is felt. But I think the response itself is reflective of our principles as a Government and our values as a Government, which I would argue is enduring.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on vaccines, if I may, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: We'll go to vaccines now.
JOURNALIST: ATAGI and TGA are discussing the updated advice from the EU and the UK. When do you expect to receive an update from those groups and do you expect their advice to change at all?
PRIME MINISTER: What their advice will be will be a matter for them, first of all. Secondly, they're meeting today and so I would hope to have received further advice from them later this evening. I have already advised National Cabinet members of that process very early this morning, that that's the process we're going through. There'll also be not only a relaying of that advice, which I note is a - just so people understand which all these groups are. There is ATAGI, and that's the group that oversees these assessments and that is led by co-chairs Professor Allen Cheng from Alfred Health and Associate Professor Christopher Blithe from the Perth Children's Hospital. These are our experts that are considering this information that's come through from the UK and Europe overnight. They will then be making some recommendations that would normally be passed on to the Therapeutic Goods Administration and for them to implement. They also come to the Government. I have asked that that also be relaid to the medical expert panel of the chief health officers and the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Kelly will bring them together today. That will enable the premiers and the chief ministers to be advised by their chief health officers as well. I think we need to maintain, I think, a perspective on these issues and that's what I'm sure ATAGI will do over the course of today. I mean, you will have already been aware through other experts that have been in the media today putting in context the type of risk that needs to be managed here. Let's note that in the UK, the advice is that some 6,000 people's lives have already been saved by this very vaccine. So we need to consider the positive benefits of them. But what we're looking at here is an incidence of these clotting behaviour of some 1-to-5 for every million. To put that in some sort of perspective, the combined oral contraceptive pill, that can include adverse side effects of venous thromboembolism, VTE, that's 7-to-10 per 10,000. So 1-of-5 to a million versus 7-of-10 per 10,000. Equally a commonly used antibiotic, amoxicillin, that has a clinically serious hypersensitivity in skin reaction, that's 1-in-10 per 10,000. Even when you go to something as commonplace as Paracetamol, although rare, a known adverse reaction with Paracetamol products including increased level of liver enzymes and severely lowered white blood cell count and that occurs with a frequency of 1-in-10 per 10,000. So we're dealing with something at the moment that the advice has been to us that impacts people to the tune of 1-to-5 per million. And so what ATAGI will be doing is they'll be looking at that evidence and they, of course, will be weighing that against the very positive benefits of the vaccine programme and then they'll be providing further advice. So my message to premiers and chief ministers this morning is the same message to Australians - we’ve got the best people in the world looking at these issues to give us the medical expert advice. Our Government has always approached this pandemic and all health issues to be led by medical expert evidence and advice and we'll be taking that today and the decisions will follow from that.
JOURNALIST: Has this had any impact on your rollout targets for the vaccine with the changing health advice and just on another matter if I can, Andrew Laming, he's under investigation by the AEC for operating 30 Facebook pages anonymously which he used to attack sometimes quite vigorously his political opponents. That seems to speak to the disrespect through social media that you talk about. He's also given half a million dollar grant to a rugby club linked to one of his staffers. Do you maintain he's a fit and proper person to sit in the Coalition party room and in the Liberal National party room?
PRIME MINISTER: I might deal with the first question with the vaccines. At this point, no, there's no advice to suggest there would be any change to the rollout of the vaccine, particularly when we're dealing with 1B populations, the majority of which are older Australians and the medical impact of what we're talking about here is what we have seen from the UK deals with much younger and we also have alternative vaccines in Pfizer presently for those smaller populations, front-line health workers, quarantine workers and so on. So my advice at this point, but that's obviously subject to what ATAGI might say later in the day, there is nothing to suggest at this stage that there would be any change but we'll update further if there's any change to that.
In relation to Mr Laming, I would simply say on the issue of grants, those grants aren't decided by members of Parliament. They are decided by the department, recommendations are made by members of Parliament, and then they are assessed and considered to be whether they're compliant with rules and then the decision is taken at that level. So it wouldn't be right to put it the way you have put it. In relation to the other issue, where there are recommendations on other matters that have been reviewed by the AEC, then I'd expect them to be fully complied with.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you expect or are you open to following steps being taken in Europe with new warning labels on vaccines and potentially giving under 30s a different vaccine, potentially the Pfizer one, would we have enough stock to do that?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm intent on not pre-empting any decisions of medical experts and speculating. That's what I'm intent on doing. And so I'm going to wait for the advice to come forward and then we'll allow that advice to lead the response the Government will make. Chris?
JOURNALIST: There's reports there might be a coronavirus case in New Zealand. Do you have any advice on that? And are you concerned that events like this may derail the travel bubble?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't at this stage. Sam?
JOURNALIST: Just quickly, in relation to Brad Hazzard, he made some surprising remarks on the 7.30 Report last night. He said that the states are in the dark about how much vaccines were being produced. He said, "All the health and state and territory governments are keen to work with the Federal Government but it's difficult if we don't know what the supplies are and it would appear the Federal Government aren't very sure, are we?" He also went on to claim that “7.30 Report is a very good programme, we get a lot of our information from you.” What's going on if Brad Hazzard says he's getting his information off the rollout from Leigh Sales?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the states were given 12-week forward plans of distribution of vaccines. That was provided to all the states and territories. And on that basis, I'm sure the Minister of Health in New South Wales will be looking forward to the further provision of public information that we’ll be discussing at National Cabinet tomorrow. I'm very keen for there to be a more widespread dissemination on the vaccination programme and the doses that are made available. As I explained yesterday, I think, this is a very complex vaccination programme, the biggest Australia has ever engaged in. I think people are coming to terms with the process and understanding how the process works. There's been a lot of confusion between a vaccine that's on the shelf and ready to be administered, whether it be in a hospital or in a GP's surgery. A vaccine that is having been produced, as we discussed yesterday, Sam, is in the process of having batch-testing or formal approval out of AstraZeneca overseas, or one that is actually in the process of distribution at any given point in time and that can take up to a week for them to be moving around, and to be put into position to be available and on the shelf for distribution. So I think a lot of these supply numbers are used interchangeably and I think that has led to some confusion. And so I'm looking forward to being able to provide that information very transparently with the support of the states and territories, but it is the case that the states have had a forward 12-week plan. I'll be discussing how we will continue to update those forward plans for distribution. The key issue, though, that I think that is being made very clear, particularly in the last few weeks, is that the pace of the vaccine rollout is a function of the supply of the vaccine. Vaccines are being distributed, they're being made available. We are likely, by this time tomorrow or soon after when I stand before you after National Cabinet, to be able to say we will have reached the millionth vaccination in Australia. We expect that to happen over the next 24 hours. And that vaccination programme is dependent on the supply of vaccines, whether that be from overseas and I have already been fairly clear about what the issues were there, or, indeed, the supply of the vaccines out of CSL and their distribution. So those are the issues that we'll continue to work on. If the supplies are not in place, then you can have as many stadiums as you like. You can have as many distribution points as you like. You can have the fastest trucks in the universe. But the supply will determine the pace of the vaccine rollout and there are a lot of variables when it comes to supply and sometimes those variables impact on the nature of that supply. And so I know people would like things to be more certain, I know that they would like to have guarantees going out months, but the Commonwealth Government doesn't have those and, as a result, they're not ones we can share with others. So we will continue to provide the forward dose distribution to the states as we have been doing, and that information will be more timely. I want to see it being done at the most top-line level, if not more detailed, on a daily basis with more deep weekly statistics that set out, I think, the issues which I think will help both in your reporting and the Australian public's understanding of all of these issues. Thank you very much.