PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, everyone. I am joined by the Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt and Professor Skerritt, who heads up the Therapeutic Goods Administration. I said several weeks ago at the Press Club that our top priority this year was to roll out the vaccination programme here in Australia. This is an enormous exercise. There has been meticulous planning undertaken for an extensive period of time to make sure we get this right, so Australians can have absolute confidence in the programme that's being rolled out here in Australia. The vaccination programme is critical to our ongoing management of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the vaccines that we have, they address the critical issue of serious disease and indeed, the risk of fatality that can arise from COVID-19 and increasingly we're seeing positive signs about its impact on transmissibility as well. This is an enormous exercise that requires many steps. The planning of the strategy, the securing of the vaccines, going through the important approvals process which can give Australians confidence. I said this morning when we take our children to be vaccinated, it's Professor Skerritt who says that vaccine is safe for your children to take. This is the same Professor Skerritt who is telling you when it comes to these vaccines that they’re safe to take and it's in your interests and in the public health interest of the nation.
That's why I'm pleased to say today that the Therapeutic Goods Administration has today approved the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for use in Australia following a full and thorough assessment process. The vaccine has met requirements for standards, for safety, quality, and efficacy, and will be provided free to Australians and it means that Australia now has two safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available. Initial supply into Australia will be imported from overseas. In the coming months, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be manufactured here in Australia, as the Minister for Health and Aged Care and I visited the facility in Melbourne just last Friday. And that will mean Australia is one of the few countries in the world that can manufacture its own COVID-19 vaccine here by CSL.
Our vaccination programme is on track. Our vaccination programme has the backing of Australia's best medical experts and that means that we can proceed along the path that we have set out and I look forward to working with all the states and territories and medical health professionals across the country, those involved in the logistics supply chain, to ensure we can get this out right across the country and it's going to make a huge difference to how we live here in Australia this year, and in the years ahead.
I will pass you to the Minister for Health.
THE HON. GREG HUNT, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Thank you very much, Prime Minister and Professor Skerritt. AstraZeneca is cleared for lift-off. What I can say is that the TGA has approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in Australia on the basis of all ages and a second dose at 12 weeks. They have taken the best advice from around the world. They have also had the opportunity to examine the advice and real world evidence gathered from the emergency use provisions in other countries. In particular, the Lancet Journal said very recently in an article published on 3 February 2021, ‘COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca confirms 100 percent protection against severe disease, hospitalisation, and death in the primary analysis of phase three trials.’ That's the Lancet. And then overnight, the World Health Organisation in its statement for authorisation of use noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine was shown in clinical trials to be safe and effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 with no severe cases and no hospitalisations, more than 14 days after the second dose. Now, the world will obviously continue to gather evidence on safety and efficacy, but from the Lancet journal, from the clinical trials, from the World Health Organisation, the strongest possible advice. Our Australian officials have taken advice from the United Kingdom.
What that means is that the vaccine rollout is on track. Yesterday we mentioned the Pfizer vaccine, I can confirm today we're expecting at least 240 aged care facilities to be included in the vaccine programme next week. That's a very important step forward in protecting our older Australians. The AstraZeneca vaccine, on current advice, we hope and expect that it should be able to commence subject to shipping confirmation, which we can now proceed to, in early March, if not earlier. In early March if not earlier. And then, of course, we move to an increase in total numbers with the CSL Australian-made AstraZeneca vaccine due subject to TGA approval to commence in late March at one million doses per week to be made available. So that programme will help keep Australians safe.
Then finally I would note that around Australia, we have seen two new cases of community transmission, both within Victoria, both already on the advice I have, within isolation. Seven states and territories with zero cases and a total of 55,000 tests around the country at a time when we know that there were 374,000 cases and 8,200 lives lost around the world. So our containment is strong. But we always have to remain vigilant. The vaccine rollout is on track and today's another important milestone. I particularly, thank John, before asking you to speak, want to thank you and all of the team at the TGA that have worked extraordinary hours to tick every box, to assess everything, to make sure that safety, safety, safety, is the number one priority. They and our medical professionals and all the companies involved have worked literally around the clock for a long, long period. Thank you.
PROFESSOR JOHN SKERRITT, HEAD OF THE THERAPEUTIC GOODS ADMINISTRATION: Thank you, Prime Minister, and Minister for supporting the work and the announcement. So this is the second vaccine that we have approved for COVID-19. We are also the second, only the second regulator in the world after the European Medicines Agency, with whom we work very closely. We have a preferential, long-standing collaboration and relationship, and it's been strengthened under COVID times. But we're the second medical regulator to have actually done a full conditional approval of the vaccine. There's a number of other countries such as the UK, you're familiar with, Brazil, and so forth, who have authorised this vaccine in emergency authorisation.
As the Minister said, just overnight, the World Health Organisation confirmed its support for an emergency use listing for this vaccine. They also confirmed a couple of things I want to tackle head on, because I know they've been the subject of some discussion, both in the medical fraternity and the media. The first relates to age. And our approval of this vaccine does not have an upper age limit. While the data for this vaccine in older groups is limited, and that goes back to the original design of the trials, where AstraZeneca targeted their initial trials towards health care workers, who obviously are of working age and usually under 65, and only included older people later on. But our analysis of the data gives us no reason to suspect that the vaccine would not be fully efficacious in older groups. Secondly, the experience in the UK, in the rollout, and we've got to remember they have been vaccinating with the AstraZeneca vaccine now for more than a month, and their experience is also of very good results obtained with both of the major vaccines in older groups. And of course, their rollout has been targeted, not only towards front-line health workers, but towards those in what the British call care homes. So there is real world evidence of the vaccine going well in older groups, and also there's evidence from blood tests looking at the response of the immune system to these vaccines, which again shows a strong immune response in people over 60, people over 65, and so forth. Yes, more data on a lot of things will emerge as months and weeks and years go by, including the duration, how long these vaccines actually provide protection for. But on the balance of the evidence, we have no reason and we felt there was no reason to limit its use to particular age groups.
The second thing I want to tackle head on is efficacy, because a lot has been said about this vaccine. As the Minister said, a recent study just published a couple of weeks ago in Lancet, one of the world's top medical journals, showed from a more detailed analysis of trials, because as time goes on, you have more people who may or may not get COVID from these trials, more people whose data can be assessed for safety and performance of these vaccines. And it showed 100 percent efficacy against severe disease, illness and death. More importantly, it showed that when there was a 12-week interval between doses, and this is what ATAGI, the advisory group has recommended, there's 82 percent at least protection from those groups. And what is important with that 12-week interval is it seems if you leave it more and more weeks, that you do get greater protection. And frankly, there's not a difference when you go into the real world whether something is 82 percent or 90 percent. So I would emphasise that a lot of the discussion on numbers is not particularly relevant. What is important is to get vaccines into people's arms. AstraZeneca gives us a vaccine that can be used not only in major facilities, but also in primary care through GPs and potentially through pharmacy practices. And having a vaccine accessible in a country as wide and brown as ours is absolutely important. All this information has now been published. If you go to the TGA website as well as the main Health Department website you will see that information.
Finally, I will mention a little bit about pregnancy and vaccines. As a group of international regulators, this is something that's obviously keeping a lot of us thinking. Now, like many clinical trials, vaccines are not tested in pregnant individuals, whether it's a new medicine or a new vaccine. Generally, if you're known to be pregnant, you can't volunteer for a clinical trial. It's just a safety measure, a precautionary measure. However, there were a number of people who didn't know they were pregnant or became pregnant during the trials, and there haven't been reports of adverse outcomes. The other thing that regulators worldwide are doing is recognising, especially in countries like the UK, US and Europe, some of the hospitals cannot afford to take their pregnant nurses and doctors off the front-line, when we're in a crisis situation with a sheer number of cases. So many of those people have exercised personal choice by being vaccinated. They're being closely followed on a register. Obviously, those babies are yet to be born and so forth, again, there's no evidence of anything untoward such as miscarriage or illness during pregnancy. But as the weeks and months go on, we'll know a lot more about pregnancy with these vaccines. The aim, of course, is as time goes on we'll know more about the vaccines in all the groups in the community, including children.
I’d also just like to close by saying that each of the major vaccine companies has now commenced studies in adolescents or in some cases in children as young as six. Thanks very much.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Professor Skerritt, and thank you again to you and everyone at the TGA for the extraordinary job they have done for their country over these many, many months. I seek your co-operation as usual, because we have Professor Skerrit with us, why don't we focus on the vaccine and the announcement first? I'm sure there's other issues you want to raise and we can address those then. So on the vaccine. David?
JOURNALIST: On the science, and possibly Professor Skerritt could answer this one too, but you mentioned that there was a stronger efficacy with the 12-week delay between the first and second jabs. I thought we were heading towards a rollout that was a 3-week gap. Is that changing, what is going to be the approach on the gap?
PROFESSOR SKERRITT: So the 3-week gap relates to the Pfizer vaccine. The recommendation on the gap for the AstraZeneca vaccine is 12 weeks. That will add complication to the logistics. This is something that the rollout team, part of our same Department of Health, we’ve been meeting just today, Brendan Murphy and I and the others met to discuss that today. Now what we said at TGA, is you could give the second AstraZeneca jab anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks. Because let’s say sadly if you had to start chemotherapy in a few weeks' time, you might want to bring that jab forward. So it’s efficacious as soon as 4 weeks after, the AstraZeneca, but the recommendation, routinely, is to leave it 12 weeks.
JOURNALIST: Professor Skerritt, the TGA information on the jab says it should be a case-by-case basis for older people you’ve just said that there's no upper age limit. Can you explain what that means? And should older people get the AstraZeneca vaccine?
PROFESSOR SKERRIT: So we recommend that older people should get the AstraZeneca vaccine. The wording "case-by-case" I guess relates to a discussion of really, it comes down to what old means. I'm 61, when I was 40, I thought that 60 was old. Now I've decided that 61 is very young. So old is always in your mind. To be fair, what, I'm going to get into trouble now. To be fair, we were aware and there were reports globally of deaths in Norwegian aged care facilities. Now it turned out that sadly, hundreds of people in any state or territory die per month in aged care facilities of what we used to call old age. So the issue about old people for any medicine or any vaccine or indeed any surgical procedure is look at what doctors call futility. If someone only has a few weeks to live, you don't give them a hip replacement and you may not give them a vaccine or medicine. So that's where we’re hinting at, but the vaccine is recommended for use in all ages.
JOURNALIST: Given the 12-week gap here, does that mean reaching your goal of having everyone vaccinated by October, you would expect every Australian to have had at least their first jab by the end of July, and if I may Professor Skerritt, how does that gap interact with people getting the flu vaccine? Do they have to wait until they've had both doses or could they get it in the middle?
PRIME MINISTER: I'll let Professor Skeritt deal with the second question and then Greg can deal with the other one.
PROFESSOR SKERRITT: I'll talk with respect to the flu vaccine and again, this is an issue which has occupied the minds of regulators worldwide. Because we're wanting to identify whether there are particular adverse events related to the COVID vaccines, or the flu vaccines for that matter - if you give both of them together, you don't know which one may have caused the problem. Not that we're seeing significant problems. There's well known issues such as headache, temperature and sore arm and so forth, but nothing that seems to be really very serious. So at the moment, it's recommended that you have your shots 14 days or so apart. So if, for example, you're in a phase 1A group, if you're say a front-line quarantine worker or whatever and you have your shot in the next couple of weeks, we'd recommend them to wait a couple of weeks until they have their flu shot. But they don't have to wait until the end of 12 week or the end of both shots to have their flu shot.
THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Just in terms of the timing, what it means is that more Australians will have more vaccines earlier. That's a happy by-product of the decision. It also means that we are absolutely on track, so every Australian who seeks to have the vaccine will be in a position to have had at least the first dose. We'll look at what it means in regards to the second dose. But frankly, it's very, very good news. It means higher efficacy. It means more Australians earlier and it means a position where every Australian who seeks to have it will undoubtedly have had their first dose. We will now remodel what it means in terms of the tail But I would say - it doesn't mean we're on track. It means that we're ahead of schedule for where we intended to be.
PRIME MINISTER: One here, and then we’ll come over the other side.
THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Can only deal with 12 weeks.
JOURNALIST: Sorry just on the AstraZeneca vaccine for over 65s. Are you breaking away from precedent in terms of lack of data? Would this have been approved if we weren't in a pandemic?
PROFESSOR SKERRITT: No we're not really breaking away from precedent. It's perhaps not very well known, but many vaccines are actually approved on what are known as immunological correlates. In other words analyses of blood samples, so let’s use the seasonal flu vaccine. As many of you will know, every year, because the flu vaccine mutates or drifts - the flu virus mutates or drifts so much, we need to bring in a new flu vaccine. Sometimes it has four components. Sometimes one changes, in a bad year 2 or 3 or, we’ve never had all 4 change thank god, but 2 or 3 can change. So it changes every year. Now, we simply can’t, don't have the time to wait to a flu season happens to see people get the flu and whether the vaccine works. And so, we use a lot of tests with blood and cell samples. And so, it's quite well established in vaccines to look at that evidence from blood and cell samples, and it showed quite a strong immune response in the over 65s. And so, it's very similar to what we've been doing with other viruses such as the flu virus for a long time.
JOURNALIST: If we had either one or both of these vaccines last month or the month before like we have seen in other nations, Melbourne would still be in lockdown, other state capitals would have gone into lockdown, and with that in mind, was it worth it to go through the slower approval process rather than going through the emergency approval process?
PRIME MINISTER: Look I appreciate the question. Firstly, there has been no slow approval process. This has been, I think, the most efficient and timely process that the TGA I think has ever undertaken for any vaccine. And they've done it in a way which has cut no corners, ensured every inquiry that they would have undertaken in relation to a vaccine would have been undertaken. And that was the safest way to conduct that process and to arrive where we're at today. So the option of doing something different was not present without putting at risk the safety of the process. That is sacrosanct I think to the effectiveness of the vaccine. And let's not forget that the significant success that Australia had over the course of last year in comparison to other countries created the space, Australians created the space for Professor Skeritt to be able to do the best job that they are capable of doing. And I've got to tell you - Australia's TGA’s best is the best in the world. And so that enabled them to do that. So that was the right decision. That was the right decision to do that and that's why we proceeded on that basis.
JOURNALIST: I’ve just got one on IR, can I just ask about IR, that...
PRIME MINISTER: Unless there’s vaccine questions? Because I’m going to excuse Professor Skerritt.
JOURNALIST: Professor, obviously dealing with something new in terms of a multi-dose vial. What wastage are you building into the supplies, obviously we are over supplied by raw number? And are there any circumstances in which you can envisage a particular person getting both vaccines?
PROFESSOR SKERRITT: As you’ve mentioned, the Government has procured many more vaccines than the whole population of Australia requires. And it may well be that we're in a position to share them with our Pacific neighbours in the coming months once we get to a situation of vaccine rollout in full swing. In terms of wastage - this is something that the group working on the rollout is very focused on. And I won't steal their thunder by going into detailed strategies, but they have detailed strategies to make sure that there's going to be enough people present and available, for example to use up the entire Pfizer vial. One of the advantages of the AstraZeneca vial, and that's why I said earlier - it's important to remember that approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine will really help with people getting vaccinated. Because this is a vial that can go- if you use half a AstraZeneca vial in a GP's practice, it can go back in the fridge overnight and then it can be used again the next day. You don't have to throw it out. So there's a lot of advantages to this product - including less wastage.
JOURNALIST: Are there any circumstances in which someone could get both?
PROFESSOR SKERRITT: We're encouraging people and this is a consistent message globally, we're encouraging people with your two shots to have two of the same thing. We don't have a crystal ball and what we don't know, especially with the emergence of variants or maybe these vaccines provide two years of protection but not life. Whether in 2022-2023 people will have to have a booster. No-one knows that, again it’s something that we are looking at fairly closely. The immune response seems to be pretty durable but there's only one way that we will know next year whether people have to have a booster and that is wait until next year. It may be then that a different vaccine is ideal to use as a booster. There actually are some trials starting in the UK and one or two other countries where they're deliberately using two different vaccines to see how well that combination works.
JOURNALIST: Professor Skerritt, people who've already had coronavirus, will they be receiving either of these vaccines? And Prime Minister, today, Victoria's announced it's going to be building its own quarantine facility, which could spell the end of hotel quarantine. Given that we've just approved two vaccines, and we're starting the rollout, is something like that necessary? And will you be providing any federal assistance?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ll let Professor Skerritt do the first one.
PROFESSOR SKERRITT: I'll do the first one short. Again, the advice, there is no advice saying don't have it. And of course, in Australia, we're fortunate that the numbers are fairly small. But a number of other countries are vaccinating people who have had coronavirus, there is no adverse event. In fact, what we're suggesting is that some people may only get off with one shot because in a way, what the vaccination does is give a further boost to the natural immunity you may have had from catching the disease. But time will tell with Australians. That's one area that our hospitals and doctors will carefully monitor. They'll take particular interest in people who have had coronavirus and then they give a vaccination to.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Professor Skerritt. The other issue, of course, we will work with the Victorian government, the New South Wales government, the Queensland government on all these issues, as we always have. I mean, we've provided significant support to all the states, particularly through the Australian Defence Force. And when it comes to supporting those quarantine arrangements in New South Wales, they've operated hotel quarantine at triple the capacity of when Victoria was actually open and they've been able to do that quite successfully through hotel quarantine. I note also that the New Zealand government, which doesn't operate as a federation, have also consistently used hotel quarantine as the most effective way to enable people to come back and for those facilities to also provide an appropriate quarantine period. But we'll continue to work with states on these issues as they wish to pursue them. Also seeking to get as many Australians home, I should stress international travellers are not allowed to come to Australia. Australians, residents and citizens are allowed to return home. And that's what we're seeking to do, in many of these cases we look at these as supplementary capacity to hotel quarantine. It is true, even though on an international scale, the number of incidents in the Victorian situation are few. They've, of course, had a pretty significant impact, particularly last year. But it is also true that in seven other states and territories they've had, they've had great success in managing that inflow and also preventing both breaches. But where breaches occur, their systems have been very strong, whether that's in Queensland or Western Australia, of course, New South Wales or other places. But we'll work with them as we always have. And I know the Victorian government has always appreciated that support. Yep? Greg?
JOURNALIST: These facilities- are you saying they should not be used to replace hotel quarantine but complement it,
PRIME MINISTER: We’ll work with the Victorian government That's all I said, Greg.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that Victoria, through this announcement today and through the language of Dan Andrews over the past week, that he is shifting away from the hotel, preference for hotel quarantine?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's just not clear yet based on the information that's in front of us. But, you know, the objective, the task doesn't change. Our focus as a government is, of course, on delivering the $6 and a half billion dollar vaccine programme, and that's where the Commonwealth has been putting in our effort around these issues and we've worked with the states on the many other issues, so 2021 can prove to be a far more open year than 2020 was.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister you said this morning that I'm not happy about this being brought to my attention about the Britney Higgins,
PRIME MINISTER: Sounds like we’re moving onto other issues which I'm happy to do but I don't think we need to detain Professor Skerritt for that. But Chris, did you have one more for Professor Skerritt?
JOURNALIST: On travel, as you roll out this vaccine and people are vaccinated, are you going to change your disposition towards Australians travelling overseas and returning who have been vaccinated?
PRIME MINISTER: Not clear yet, and we have to wait on the evidence for that and the success of the vaccine and what that means in terms of transmissibility and other issues, that obviously we don't rule that out. But those decisions will be guided by the medical advice when they're ultimately taken. But I look forward to that day.
So we're going to move away from those issues. Professor Skerritt, thank you to you and all your team. Doing a great job, thank you very much.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister you said, I'm not happy about the fact that this, the Brittany Higgins matter was not brought to my attention. And I can assure you, people know that, amongst those people, I assume, is Defence Minister Linda Reynolds. Are people from your office also, have they also been spoken to, with your disquiet about this?
PRIME MINISTER: People, people know, people know and they should know. And these are issues that I would hope would come to my attention. And that is one of the many things that that I've asked the deputy secretary of PM&C to look at is as we work through the issues that have to be worked through and we want to make sure that those systems are up to the standard that I would expect.
JOURNALIST: Will heads roll over this?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ve answered the question Andrew thanks.
JOURNALIST: The question though, Prime Minister, Brittany Higgins says there were three very senior people in your office who knew about this alleged rape within days of it occurring? And you found out almost two years later, these are people you talk to on a daily basis. Why did they not tell you? Were they protecting you? What was the reason for you not being informed?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, in terms of three people, well, I should stress that the chief of staff of the minister's office at the time was not in the Prime Minister's office. They came and worked in the Prime Minister's office at a later time. So they were not there working directly to me or to Dr Kunkel in my office.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, there is I should stress that in relation to my principal private secretary, there is nothing that has been put in front of me, nothing, including phone records or anything else that suggests that that indeed was the case. So there was an issue of a security breach which was dealt with at the time. And the alleged perpetrator was sacked, removed, quite swiftly over the security breach, in terms of the allegation of a sexual assault that was not in front, I'm advised, of my office at that time. And so that that matter came later and was being dealt with within the Minister's office and on an anonymous basis ultimately. And so that matter was not at that point brought to our attention because the matter then didn't proceed to a police investigation. And that's why today I've expressed my concern about how these matters didn't progress to a police investigation, because that is always that would always be my wish that that- should that be what Brittany wanted.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] didn’t express that? They didn’t tell you, were they protecting you?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I know that Minister Reynolds expressed that wish directly and that it was her wish that this matter be taken forward for investigation. But ultimately, ultimately, that was a choice made at the time.
JOURNALIST: Why didn’t the Minister tell you Prime Minister, why do you think the Minister didn’t tell you?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I understand Minister Reynolds will say something further about this, but I understand there was a judgement made about the balance of protecting Brittany's privacy at the time and a judgement was made on that basis. Now, that judgement can certainly be commentated upon. It can certainly be judged. But that was my understanding of what occurred at that time. I want to stress again that this awful incident, this terrible incident, those who were around Brittany at the time were endeavouring to support and to help her. Now, as I said this morning, over the passage of time, clearly that was not effective. And I accept that. I accept that absolutely.
JOURNALIST: Picking up what you said about phone records then, do you not believe Brittany, that she was contacted by a senior person in your office to be checked in on in the wake of similar reporting? But why would someone from your office check in with her following the reporting on Four Corners around that issue if it wasn't because they were aware of it being beyond a security issue?
PRIME MINISTER: The point I'm making to you is that is not the recollection or the records of my staff on that matter. It's just not, so I can't really speak more to it than that. I understand that over time, particularly in situations like this, that information can become confused over time about who makes contact and things like that. I accept that. So I make no judgements about that. In fact, one of the things that has concerned me most about this issue is that clearly the trauma that built up over a period of time well after the incident itself as well. And I think that's one of the key things I want to hear from the Deputy Secretary about how we can ensure that support is immediate, effective and ongoing. Because on those three tests, particularly the latter one, clearly that support wasn't provided in a way that supported Brittany. As I said, that's something I would expect for my daughter and I should have no lesser expectations for Brittany and that's why I've taken the actions that I have today.
JOURNALIST: Was she mistaken in her recount that she is making?
PRIME MINISTER: I can’t comment on it because I wasn’t a party to either of the conversations.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, God forbid something like this was to happen again, how quickly would you expect to be told if one of your ministers was aware? And who would you expect to be told by?
PRIME MINISTER: There are two points there. The first one is and this is what I've referred to the Deputy Secretary and I flagged this, that in cases like this, there is an argument for a mandatory advice to the relevant department, which in this case would be the Department of Finance. But I just add a note of caution on this, that I would not want to have anything done in this process that in any way might create a triggered action that might lead to someone like Brittany in this circumstance not wanting to proceed. So I want to be very confident that any of these things that we might do around this event would in no way impede the agency of the victim in these cases and someone like Brittany in these cases. So I'm not going to rush to or any knee jerk reaction here. There is best practise in a lot of other jurisdictions, in a lot of other workplaces. And I would like them to look at that and carefully advise us about what the automatic response should be. Now, it is also possible that in circumstances like this, a terrible incident like this, can be advised to me, both by the Minister and through my office in an anonymous way. And I think it is very important to protect the privacy of individuals in these situations. And it is my absolute understanding that that was the intent of Minister Reynolds.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what is your advice on the exact time your office knew about this alleged rape? What is your advice on that? You've obviously been speaking to people in your office about it.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, my understanding is that that precise matter was within the last couple of weeks.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask on IR, PM. Minister Porter has announced you have dumped that provision pertaining to the better off overall test in order to secure the rest of the Bill. Labor is unmoved by this, saying if you get re-elected, you're going to try and bring it back anyway. Can I get your response to that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the reason that we've decided not to proceed with that element of the package is because we've been engaged in good faith discussions with parties in the Senate and that those good faith discussions have arrived at the point where if we want to go further, then it's important that that provision no longer be pursued. So we think in good faith that that is a good one. Now, that shouldn't come as a surprise. We were very clear that in trying to get things through the Parliament, we would work with good faith partners. Now, the Labor Party hasn't sought to engage with us at all. We've got more engagement out of the union movement than we've got out of the Labor Party. And so the question now is, given that seemed to be the issue they had, well, why are they now going to vote against a Bill that actually ensures people get paid and that there's a pathway from casuals to permanent? I mean, is Labor going to drop the politics now and get on with it so we can get people back into jobs? Or are they going to cling onto this as a way of continuing to engage in a political debate here in Canberra? It's really a matter for them. But now, once we go through this package, then that's the package that we'll put and that's the package that we will legislate. I've always been very clear that we're seeking to get things done here. Where things can't get done and the Parliament doesn't support things, then why would we put people through that process?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the review you've announced this morning, the one by the Deputy Secretary and one from Celia Hammond. What's your timeframe for those reviews and will you commit to making the finding of them public?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm going to wait for further advice from both Celia and Stephanie about both of those issues on the timing. I mean, is this new. I want them to consider what they need to do, how long it would take for them to do that job thoroughly, and so I'll wait for further advice on both of those questions to come from both of them as we work through the process of having this set up and established. Today in the party room, I had a fair bit to say about this issue with my colleagues and the responsibility on all of us. But as I said in my earlier press conference today, it's just not on the Government members of Parliament to ensure that it's the right environment here in this place. It's incumbent on all members of Parliament in this place, they're all employers. And frankly, everybody who holds a position of authority in this building, whether they're running a news agency, they're running the prime minister's office or they're running an MP's office, we all who work in this building have an obligation to try and make it as safe as possible for everyone who works here. I'm going to have to call it then after that one, because Question Time.
JOURNALIST: Jacinda Ardern is not very happy with you and your Government for the stripping of citizenship of someone who went overseas potentially to be recruited by ISIS. Can you give us the background to that? And what assurances are you going to give Jacinda Ardern that what Australia did is in New Zealand's interests as well as its own?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, my job is Australia's interests. That's my job. And it's my job as the Australian Prime Minister to put Australia's national security interests first. I think all Australians would agree with that. Now, the legislation that was passed through our Parliament automatically cancels the citizenship of a dual citizen where they've been engaged in terrorist activities of this nature. And that happens automatically. And that has been a known part of Australia's law for some time. I understand that the New Zealand government has had some issues with that, and I understand that. And the Prime Minister and I are scheduled to speak later today. We speak quite frequently. This is an issue we've discussed before. So I'll leave how we practically deal with those issues to our discussion later today and I'm sure the many others that we'll have. There are still a lot more unknown about this case and where it sits and where it might go to next and so I think that will also be a subject of our discussions. But Australia's interest here is that we do not want to see terrorists who fought with terrorism organisations enjoying privileges of citizenship, which I think they forfeit the second they engage as an enemy of our country. And I think Australians would agree with that. Thanks very much.