Press conference - Australian Parliament House, ACT

22 Mar 2020
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: We’re a strong nation, we’re a strong people, and in the months ahead, we're going to find out just how strong we are. We have the example and inspiration of generations that have dealt with challenges like this before. And we have the advantage of the lessons that they have passed on to us about how we can stick together to stick this through, to build a bridge to the recovery on the other side.

We cannot prevent all the many hardships, all the many sacrifices. That we will face in the months ahead. And while these hardships and these sacrifices may break our hearts on occasion, we must not let them break our spirit. And we must not let them break our resolve as Australians.

Today, we are making important announcements to support those Australians that will be in the frontline of the blows that we will experience, the economic blows we will experience as a result of the global health crisis, which is the coronavirus and its severe economic impacts. To cushion the blow as much as we can to build a bridge to the recovery on the other side. But we must remember first and foremost that this is a health crisis. The health battle is the main battle that we face. The health battle is the battle that all Australians are enlisted in as we fight this virus. As a national cabinet we have already taken significant actions. But we know more will need to be done.

Our capacity in hospitals and aged care facilities and our workforce challenges are all matters that the National Cabinet is addressing as is indeed our individual cabinets at federal and state level, securing the essential medical supplies has been a daily task that the Health Minister has been leading together with the Industry Minister and other Ministers across the Cabinet. And enforcing the social distancing, keeping a healthy physical distance from one another. This is one of our most, if not our most important weapon against the spread of the coronavirus, which means we can save lives and we can save livelihoods. I brought forward the next meeting of the National Cabinet to this evening after consulting with Premiers and Chief Ministers yesterday on a range of matters. As you know, last Friday when we met, we had scheduled our next meeting to focus on the issue of further and stronger measures to deal with local outbreaks within state jurisdictions. We are bringing forward consideration of those matters to a meeting this evening. Also, after consulting Premiers and Chief Ministers overnight, we have decided that we are moving immediately to recommend against all nonessential travel in Australia. So that is that all non-essential travel should be cancelled. Now, essential travel, what referring to is for work related activities that are essential. It could be the compassionate grounds and issues of those types of arrangements. But also when it comes to essential supplies and activities, movements of health workers and and other important arrangements that are needed to keep Australia running.

Our other message as a group of leaders at national and state and territory level is this, to fight the virus we need you more than anyone. We need you to comply with the healthy distancing, the social distancing measures that we have put in place. What happened at Bondi Beach yesterday was not okay and served as a message to federal and state leaders that too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough. So the measures that we’ll be considering tonight means that state Premiers and Chief Ministers may have to take far more draconian measures to enforce social distancing, particularly in areas of outbreaks, than might otherwise need be the case. The more Australians themselves assist us in this fight against the virus to protect lives and to protect livelihoods, the more and the better able we are to ensure that Australia comes out stronger on the other side. So it's a simple plea. We need you, we need you to do your bit when it comes to social distancing, to keeping that healthy distance, to respecting and following the rules that we're setting down. But more stronger measures will be coming and they will be coming in more localised areas to deal with outbreaks. Those decisions will be being made by state Premiers and Chief Ministers as they apply to their individual jurisdictions. We will also be working hard to ensure that the scaling of those measures and the identification of areas of outbreak that require those measures will be as far as possible, consistent between state and territory jurisdictions. What that means is what may be necessary in a part of Sydney may not be necessary at all in rural New South Wales or indeed in Perth or other parts of the country. But please be assured that what we're working on is to ensure that there is a consistent, as far as possible, set of measures, set of tools that state Premiers and Chief Ministers can use to apply in each of their cases. So if you see it happening in one part of the country, that doesn't necessarily mean it has to apply in your part of the country. There are parts of the country, particularly in Sydney, where these outbreaks have been more severe. And I know the Premier in New South Wales has been focusing on this very, very keenly, particularly over the course of recent days, as we've seen the increase in the number of cases in New South Wales.

The other point I'd make is that the Commonwealth is working to support state jurisdictions wherever we possibly can. Not only have we increased our resourcing to the health system and working closely with them through the medical expert panel. But even as recently as last night, we were mobilising additional personnel out of the Australian Defence Forces to assist state and territory jurisdictions with things like contract tracing, so these are people with medical backgrounds or at least some form of knowledge gained through their training and experience in the defence forces, which means they'll be able to add further weight and support to states, some of which are coming under great pressure with the rising number of cases.

Let me now turn to the economic support package and I'll ask the Treasurer to go through these measures in greater detail. And I thank the Expenditure Review Committee and all Ministers who've been working closely on these issues over the course of the past week. I also want to commend the state and territory governments for the measures that they have been taking when it comes to addressing the economic needs in their jurisdictions.

The package of measures, combined with those we've already announced sums to some $189 billion or around 10 per cent of the size of our economy. 10 per cent of the size of our economy, that is unprecedented in this country. What we'll be doing as I said is focusing on those in the frontline. Those who will be feeling the first blows of the economic impacts of the coronavirus. We will be supercharging our safety net. We'll be supporting the most vulnerable to the impacts of the crisis. Those who will feel those first blows. To preserve the businesses that comprise our economy so on the other side, they can bounce back strongly and don't have to reassemble themselves from the ruins of failed businesses. I also want to note that this is a set of measures which is about looking over the next six months. There is no two week quick fix. There is no four week shutdown and it all goes away and we all get to go on about our businesses. I've seen those suggestions. The medical advice is very clear. There is no quick solution. We have to steel ourselves for at least the next six months and the measures that we put in place we need to be prepared to carry on for at least the next six months. They need to be sustainable. They need to be scalable.

I also want to note, the measures that we announced today, come on top of the normal stabilizers that occur in our economy, access to family tax benefits, access to other benefit payments, rental assistance, all of these things as access to primary payments like the jobseeker payment and others kick in. So when someone gets access to the jobseeker payment and the Treasurer will be taking you through that because we're expanding the eligibility, that means they also get access to many other payments that can add hundreds and hundreds of dollars per fortnight to their annual income. This is about supercharging the safety net. The measures will double income support for those on jobseeker. They will help Australians to access more of their own resources to get through this time of crisis. They'll provide more support for pensioners and carers and the other most vulnerable groups who are recipients of benefit payments. It will provide a life line to cushion the blow for small and medium sized businesses with grants of up to $100,000 to see them through, and it'll also provide a shield to protect you. Whether it's issues of insolvency or bankruptcy, the normal rules aren't going to apply here. We want to make sure people are there on the other side. We have to change the rules for this period to make sure more, more and more Australians get through this to the other side so they can bounce back strongly when it's over.

This will not be the Treasurer and my last visit to this podium, these podiums, to make announcements on these measures. This is the next tranche. It's focusing on those who are going to feel the first blows. There will be more packages. There will be more support. There will be more issues that even now haven't presented themselves or even couldn't be conceived at this point with what we may face over the next six months. And we will be working night and day to ensure that we bring forward the measures that Australia needs to get them on this bridge to the recovery on the other side.

The more we work together, the more we share the load, the more we share the sacrifice, the more we do the right thing together as Australians, the more lives we will save, the more livelihoods we will be able to preserve, and the stronger we will all be on the other side.


THE HON. JOSH FRYDENBERG MP, TREASURER: Well, thank you, Prime Minister. Since the government announced its first stimulus package just over a week ago, the global and the domestic economic environment has deteriorated. We now expect the economic shock to be deeper, wider, and longer. Every arm of government and industry is working to keep Australians in jobs and businesses in business, and to build a bridge to recovery on the other side.

Today, the government is announcing a second package, $66 billion dollars to cushion the blow to households as a result of the coronavirus and to support businesses, and we are enhancing in an unprecedented way Australia's safety net. This package is consistent with our principles. The initiatives are targeted, are temporary, are proportionate, are scalable, and are using our existing systems. Today, this package, together with the other initiatives that have been announced, sees the government's support for our Australian economy, announced over the last 10 days, at $189 billion dollars or as the Prime Minister said, around 10 per cent of GDP.

Today's package has three parts involving 10 separate initiatives. The package will support households, including casuals, sole traders, retirees and those on income support. It will provide assistance for businesses to keep people in a job and it will provide regulatory protection and financial support for businesses to stay in business.

Today, the government is announcing the doubling of the Jobseeker Allowance, formerly known as Newstart, through the introduction of a temporary coronavirus supplement. The government will also waive the assets test and waiting periods for the Jobseeker Allowance, allowing more Australians to more quickly access the support that they need. The coronavirus supplement will provide an additional $550 a fortnight on top of the existing jobseeker or Newstart payment and will be available to sole traders and casual workers who meet the income test. This means anyone eligible for the maximum jobseeker payment will now receive more than $1,100 a fortnight, effectively doubling the jobseeker allowance. In the first package on the 12th of March, we announced a $750 payment for Australians on income support. Today, we announce that from July 13, a further $750 payment to those on income support that are not eligible for the coronavirus supplement. This includes those receiving the age pension, the carer's allowance, family tax benefits and the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. In total, 5.2 million Australians. We are also reducing the deeming rates by a further quarter of a per cent to reflect the recent Reserve Bank interest rate cut. Over 900,000 thousand social security recipients on income tested support will now benefit. Our economic response will allow those Australians who are in financial stress as a result of the Corona virus to access more of their own money in superannuation. From April, those affected will gain access to their superannuation capped at $10,000 this financial year, and a further $10,000 next financial year. These withdrawals will be tax free. I repeat, these withdrawals will be tax free and available to those who are eligible for the coronavirus supplement, as well as sole traders who have seen their hours worked or income fall by 20 per cent or more as a result of the coronavirus. So if you're a sole trader or you're a casual and you've seen your income or your hours worked fall by 20 per cent or more as a result of the coronavirus, you will be able to get early access to your superannuation. Applications will be made online through a simple declaration to the tax office. This initiative builds on existing provisions that allow early access to super in the event of hardship or on compassionate grounds, and it is estimated to put up to $27 billion dollars of superannuation back into the pockets of hardworking Australians. This comprises less than 1 per cent of the 3 trillion dollars in superannuation today. APRA, the prudential regulator, has advised the government that they do not expect this initiative to have a significant impact on the industry overall. The government is also giving retirees more flexibility over their superannuation. Currently, retirees are required to draw down a minimum of 4 percent a year from their superannuation, a number that increases with their age. The government is halving this requirement to 2 per cent for this year and for next year, to give retirees more discretion over the management of their assets.

The second part of our package sees a massive scaling up of support for small and medium sized businesses across the country. We are increasing cash payments to SME’s to boost their cash flow and to keep their workers employed. All employing businesses will receive at least $20,000. All employing small businesses will receive at least $20,000 and some of the larger SME’s will receive up to one hundred thousand dollars. And we are extending this measure to around 30,000 not for profit organisations, which have an annual turnover of less than $50 million dollars. This will be a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of employers like the local hairdresser, the local cafe, the local mechanic whose income has been significantly reduced over this difficult period. This is the single largest measure in this second package, and together with the first initiative in the first package for small businesses is worth $31.9 billion dollars in total. This payment will be automatically paid through the tax system largely over the next six months with the first payment after 28 of April. No new forms will be required from Australian small and medium sized businesses.

Over the course of the last week, $105 billion dollars is being injected into the financial system by the government and the Reserve Bank of Australia, the purpose of which was to lower the cost and increase the availability of credit, particularly to smaller, medium sized businesses. Today, the government is going one step further and is guaranteeing in a 50/50 partnership with the banks and other lenders, more lending to Australia's small and medium sized businesses. This $40 billion scheme, which will start in early April, will provide loans of up to $250,000 for up to 3 years for a business with a turnover of less than $50 million dollars. No repayments will be required for the first six months. These will be unsecured loans and they will help build a bridge for small and medium sized businesses to the other side of the coronavirus, and I urge small businesses to go and talk to their bank about these new opportunities that are available. These funds will provide hope and confidence to a vitally important sector and together with the red tape reduction for SME lending announced on Friday, more credit will be coming their way.

The third part of our package will provide a regulatory shield for what are otherwise profitable and viable businesses that find themselves under severe financial pressure as a result of the coronavirus. Now is the time for more flexibility in insolvency and bankruptcy laws to keep these businesses alive and to trade through this period. The government is proposing to increase the threshold at which a creditor can take action to initiate insolvency or bankruptcy from as low as $2,000 today to $20,000 and giving companies and individuals 6 months instead of 21 days to respond. We will also provide relief from directors, from personal liability, where the company is trading while insolvent. This relief will be provided over the next 6 months and will be vital to helping companies get through this period. As a result of the health related restrictions being put in place to reduce the impact of the coronavirus, it will not be possible for many companies to comply with their obligations under the Corporations Act, for example, holding general meetings in person. A temporary 6 month power will be provided to me as the Treasurer to deal with these situations as they arise

These extraordinary times require extraordinary measures and we face a global challenge like we have never faced before. But by working together, we will get to the other side and we will bounce back stronger. Today's announcement will provide hope and support for millions of Australians at a time when they need it most. We know that there is more to do and we will continue to do what it takes.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Josh.


JOURNALIST: You’ve announced an enormous amount of measures today on top of the ones a couple of weeks ago and you're flagging more, without sort of getting too far ahead but are you anticipating doing more and measures in the nature of what you've announced today or are you looking at something different in terms of community support or?

PRIME MINISTER: There are two points to make. The first one is that we set out some very clear principles, which I, in fact, ran through at the AFR event last Monday week. And those principles are being applied to all of the measures, you'll see them in the measures we've announced today. They scale up from things we've already announced. They're sustainable, over that, and they're focused on that six month period in particular. They're temporary. They're not structural, with the exception of the one measure relating to deeming rates, which reflects the decision we also took last week. And so we have clear principles that are guiding the types of, the types of arrangements we're putting in place. Now, those principles are important because they're protecting Australians in the future. They're protecting Australians down the track. So that what we do now, we do right now and then we build back from that period of time. And we don't as as as little as possible, put that burden on future generations.

So that's the first point, as you've seen in this package, which is very much as I've been saying now for the past week, about comforting, if you like, shielding and softening the blow, cushioning the blow that is different from the the focus that we had in the first package. And what is becoming very clear as these events go from week to week to week is new challenges emerge very, very quickly. And we need to be very agile to respond to those. So there are all, there are more challenges across the economy, how we can put those who will find themselves in in a distressing situation or stood down or out of work or their businesses unable to earn what they did before. How we can be better deploying that effort across the economy. We want people where possible, subject, of course, to the health restrictions, ensuring that we can keep the economy functioning as much as possible in these rather extreme times. Workforce issues in particular are very important. You heard me announce earlier this week the additional support we're putting into aged care. There will be challenges there. But one thing I'm very encouraged by has been the business to business, government to business engagement that's been taking place as people just solve practical problems, unforeseen problems. And what I would say, particularly in terms of the last measures that Josh was going through, if you've booked a wedding or if you've booked a trip, understand the person you booked it with, they're going through a hard time, too. 

And what we need to do is give each other a break at the moment and sit down and just work through these issues practically as Australians, understanding that if you force your issue, you make someone else's issue harder, which at the end of the day is going to make your issue harder at the end of it. So it's very important that Australians, I think, work together practically.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve been standing here for a week telling Australian's about social distancing and why it’s important. Why do you think Australians are not listening?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's more a challenge to Australians, I'd say, Lanai. It is very important. It is very serious. It is deadly serious. And that's why I would appeal to them that they all have a role to play. People cannot be cavalier about these things. They must take them extremely seriously because lives and livelihoods are at stake. What we saw on the weekend at Bondi Beach, I know would have been innocently done, but negligently done. And it's important that that serves as a wakeup call for the entire country to ensure that they take these social distancing policies very seriously and the states are moving quickly to mandate them and enforce them. And as I said, they'll be taking even stronger measures in particular areas and potentially more widespread. They will upgrade as necessary. But the more social distancing we do, the less severe the economic impacts have to be. And so that's why I appeal to Australians that you are enlisted in our fight against the virus. You have a role to play.

Tim, Tim.

JOURNALIST: On that issue, Hubei Province’s numbers or Australia's numbers of coronavirus now, as I understand it, have passed Hubei province’s at the time that China imposed the total lockdown in that area. How confident are you today that we actually don't really need similar measures? And might we even see some similar measures in some of the regional areas you were alluding to earlier?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is exactly what I'm suggesting Tim. This is exactly how Premiers are working. I'd be careful at comparing Australia's data to other jurisdictions. Australia's testing, for example, shows that we have the lowest, one of the lowest, if not the lowest test positivity in the world. We're at 0.7 per cent compared to USA at 13, UK at 5, and Korea at 3. And we're also seeing a less severe impact of the virus on those who have contracted it in Australia than we're seeing by the more general levels overseas. So I would caution people to be very careful about the international comparisons made because the data is not necessarily directly comparable. But the point is the same and that is as things escalate, more severe measures have to be taken. And what I'm telling you is they're coming, they will be coming. They will be applied by states and territories in more specific ways and they will be done and as consistent a way as possible, as considered by states and territories  and we will be considering some of those further this evening.

Yeah Greg.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] it’s going to be in the first instance particular suburbs or particular towns where there is a high infection rate, they will be, that will be, there’ll be locked down for, as I said, particular suburbs before you consider a widespread lockdown?

PRIME MINISTER: What we've done as a National Cabinet is to establish a baseline for healthy distances between people and a common set of rules that work across the whole country. Now, you've already seen in Tasmania and the Northern Territory further measures taken because in those cases especially, they have more vulnerable populations. So you’re already seeing a more tailored response in specific locations based on the risk that is presented there. And what I'm saying is, is that you will see more of this, you will see more regional focus to this, you will see more targeted responses from states and territories and that will be done at their instigation based on their health advice. And they will seek to do it as consistent as possible, as states that have faced with similar outbreaks in similar situations and where possible, that will seek to be restricted. But in some cases then I suspect states and territories will take a broader application. But this is what we're now facing. This is the next stage of this. This is what was anticipated some weeks ago, almost a month ago when I said we were now moving to prepare for pandemic like situations. And so that's why there's been an enormous amount of information flowing between the states and with the Commonwealth on everything from hospital arrangements to medical supplies and a lot of these other measures. So the National Cabinet continues to work on these.


JOURNALIST: Treasurer, what is the measure of success for the package you've just announced? Do you have a forecast from Treasury in terms of jobs saved or unemployment going forward?

TREASURER: Well what Treasury say is that the spending that we are announcing today and with our first stimulus package is putting around 5 per cent, equivalent to about 5 per cent of GDP in the June quarter and around 7 per cent of GDP in the September quarter. What that could mean for growth in the June quarter is about 2 and 3/4 quarters per cent. And what it could mean in the September quarter is around 3 and 1/4 per cent. But what that is, does not take into account of is the dramatic impact on economic activity as a result of the Coronavirus, which Treasury obviously say is very hard to to be definitive about at this point, but what is absolutely clear about this package it's all about cushioning the blow. Enhancing our safety net to support Australian retirees. Support Australian pensioners. Support Australian casuals. To support Australian sole traders. To support Australian families, get to the other side. And we know that small businesses are enormously resilient. But this is really hurting them where it is, whether it's a cafe or a mechanic or a hairdresser. And so these measures by providing at a minimum $20,000 and up to $100,000 for small businesses who employ people, gives them a chance to get to the other side.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned at the start that non-essential, people should not be doing non-essential travel. Are you talking about travelling to another city or are you talking about driving across town to go to a playground? What does that actually look like? And if I might, to the Treasurer, you mentioned the other day that you'll be introducing the money bills this week to parliament because the Budget's been pushed back. Is that a concession that the May parliamentary sittings won't go ahead? And would that have to be passed on Monday as well?

PRIME MINISTER: I'll probably deal with both and Josh can add to both of them. What we're saying is non-essential travel should be avoided, and particularly when we're talking about interstate travel over longer distances. You know, the sorts of travel that wouldn't be normally part of your, your daily life. So going to the shops is something you have to do. Getting to work is something that you have to do, other important tasks that you have on a daily basis. Sure, but I think Australians can exercise their common sense about things that they they know are not essential. And this is, again, the point I'm making to people. We will give you as many rules as we can, and as many guidelines as we can. But we also need you, we need you to think carefully about what you're doing and your own behaviour and the impact that it has on others. This is incredibly important. It's not just about each of us individually. It's about the person standing next to us. It's about the person who lives across the road. It's about the elderly resident in the same apartment building as you, or where ever you might be. We need to think, obviously, about making sensible decisions for ourselves and our own families. And we also need to think about the decisions that we are taking and its impact on other Australians. So it does mean those, those holidays that you might have been planning to take interstate over the school holidays, cancel them. That's what it means. That's regrettable and I know the impact that will have for many people in those communities where those holidays were going to take place. These decisions are not taken lightly and for those who are arguing for extreme measures all over the country, we would only take the further measures based on the medical advice, because at the same time that we're trying to protect lives, we are also trying to protect the livelihoods of Australians and that means acting on the medical advice and ensuring that we remain totally at locked groove with them on the, on the incremental changes that we're making. So regrettably, it is the case that that travel has to be reduced to stop the spread of the virus around the country. Other states will be making other decisions on these issues. And I understand they'll be making further announcements today. I will leave them to do that. But know, all of these decisions, whether it was in Tasmania, the Northern Territory or elsewhere, they are making those decisions in concert and in consultation and talking those issues through with our other Premiers and Chief Ministers to ensure that we all understand what we're each doing.

Now, when it comes to the Budget, what we will be doing this afternoon is I'll be sitting down with the Treasurer and other members of my senior leadership team with the Opposition, and we'll be working through a range of issues to go to the operation of the Parliament in the months ahead and we have some specific proposals which I don't propose to go into here because we intend to work those through. There have already been quite a lot of discussions we've had with the Opposition this week, and I thank the Leader of the Opposition for facilitating that process. I'm looking forward to meeting with them this afternoon here in the Cabinet rooms and we will also at that time be talking through the measures that the Treasurer has been announcing today and the legislation around that, the supply arrangements we would need to put in place. We have to be conscious of the fact that because of the spread of the virus, it may not be physically possible to convene the Parliament over the next six months. So we have to prepare for those contingencies. So the plan is to move to a much more emergency mode operation for the Parliament, but to ensure the primacy of the Parliament is respected in ensuring that any of the measures that are taken to support Australians are done so consistent with our Parliamentary democracy.

Kath, you’re patiently- and well distanced.

JOURNALIST: Just a point of clarity, that the doubling of the jobseeker allowance with the supplement, I think you said that that's available for sole traders and casuals who meet the test, so what is the test? Because I think you said for superannuation, you could lose 20 per cent of your hours and then get access to your super payments. So is the jobseeker thing, have you got to lose your job? Is that the test? And also, if I may, just on that second $750 payment, just I'm just looking at the press release it says it goes out in July. Is that right?

TREASURER: From the 13th of July.

JOURNALIST: So given the likelihood from what you both foreshadowing that we're moving into lockdowns, we're moving into regional lockdown. So you’re confident that you will get the bang for your buck out of a $750 payment dollar payment in July?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, let me make a couple of points and then I'll let Josh go to the specifics. The nature of these these payments and the purpose of these payments are changing. What this next payment is to indicate, is that we know this is going to go for six months. So we had one payment scheduled for April. We have another payment now scheduled for for July, for the next quarter. This is clearly saying that we expect this to go on for some time. And we know that those vulnerable groups may need additional income support during those periods. So, yes, it will provide some sort of support into the economy. Sure. But it will also provide some very real financial support for the most vulnerable in our community. So it has that broader purpose to that payment on that occasion. If we have to revisit these things again, then of course we will. In terms of the eligibility I'll let Josh go through the specifics. But the point about it here is there's sort of two tiers. There's a loss of income for a sole trader where they can access their own savings to get them through, through their superannuation. But there is also the ability for them to keep working in their business, to keep earning income around the income test and to ensure that they can also access the jobseeker payment and that jobseeker payment, even if it would be at a very low level because of the taper, they would still get the full $550 supplement that goes to everybody who is on the jobseeker payment. And I’d note that in addition to that, it also would enable them to access the energy supplement rates, the pharmaceutical allowance, the rent assistance, which is up to $139.60 potentially per fortnight for those with no dependent children, $185.36 per fortnight for families with three or more children. There's family tax benefits A and B, which can, including supplements, which can see hundreds of extra dollars per week for those families. There's carers allowances, there's mobility allowances, there's education supplements. There's a range of other payments and supplements that are triggered by getting access to the jobseeker payment. And so this will go to people who are stood down, not technically unemployed, but stood down. And this is about keeping them connected to the business, keeping their income flowing. I agree in still a modest way and not what they'd be usually getting if they were earning. But what we're trying to do with this package is ensure it's targeted to those who will feel the blow first and most, and getting as much income support to them whether further income support is required to broader groups. Well, that's something we can always look at. But now it's those who feel the blow first and hardest.


TREASURER: Well, thanks, Prime Minister. So we've waved the assets test we’ve waived the waiting period, but there's still the income test. So if you earn less than a $1,075 a fortnight, you will get that full $550 dollar coronavirus supplement. So this is good news for a sole trader who may still be in work, but have seen their income reduced they will now get $550 a fortnight, if you're a casual and you've still got some hours but again, your income has fallen below that $1,075 a fortnight. You will get the full $550.

PRIME MINISTER: So up the back here.

JOURNALIST: The issue of dealing with cruise ships is one that is having international implications. For example, the Norwegian Jewel has 282 Australians currently trapped on it, that ship has nowhere that it is allowed to dock. What is being done specifically for those Australians, but also more broadly, who is taking charge? We saw over the weekend the debacle between New South Wales Health and Border Force, who's actually leading the response and dealing with Australians on cruise ships, particularly when there's an increasing likelihood that they'll have coronavirus on those ships?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are two separate issues you're raising. One is for those Australians who find themselves overseas on a cruise ship or indeed Australians who find themselves isolated like several hundred that we know to be in Peru. Now, in terms of both of those groups, that is the priority of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and they are working on a range of measures right now as to how they can best support to return, allow, enable people to be able to return to Australia. It's not a straightforward issue, but it is something that DFAT are working on very carefully right now through a range of options that have been well advanced from when that question was first put to me a few days ago, the same types of arrangements are being worked on for those Australians who are on cruise ships. So if you have family or relatives who are stranded in any of those places or are on cruise ships, understand that it is high, very high on the list of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to find a way to safely ensure that those Australians can return home and even more importantly, ensure that they can get access to medical treatment should they require it.

More broadly on the issue of cruise ships. There is a very clear set of rules, and I'd simply say this with the issues on on the weekend, we're going to have lots of challenges and all of those who are working on these issues, whether it's those who have to provide the health clearance for those to leave the ship or which as we know it's done at the state level, or those of Border Force who have their job as part of this process, they have to work together carefully. So I'm not going to get into any issue of of commentary on that event. What I'm going to commit to and as the Premier I discussed this yesterday is just double down on our commitment to working together as closely as we can on every occasion things won't go exactly as we might like it. People are working under extreme stress, often with limited information. And we're going to support those people to make the best decisions they can. And the states and territories are standing shoulder to shoulder with each other and with the Commonwealth to resolve any problems where they came up, that enabled a lot of clarity to provided to other states that can face the same situation. And you always learn from these situations. And I think all of those, whether in the New South Wales Government or the Commonwealth Government that was working on that issue, and I'm very confident that those issues will be addressed in the future.

Andrew, you've been very patient.

JOURNALIST: Thank you Prime Minister. Just on behavioural aspects that you've talked about at length, just on some of the tin tacks element of this, you've talked about people showing a lack of common sense. But when it comes to this meeting that you’re having tonight in the National Cabinet, what about pubs, clubs and restaurants? Many of them are still heaving with people. Are people either ignorant, wilfully or just cavalier? Will you tackle that issue tonight? And secondly, can I ask you what what are you trying to do to improve home delivery, which for a lot of people, has been simply cancelled for God knows what reason,

PRIME MINISTER: You mean from commercial providers?

JOURNALIST: From you know Coles, Woolies cancelled home delivery because they can't find enough spots. What are you doing to ensure that they, that really ramps up?

PRIME MINISTER: Two things, I've already flagged that issues of of internal gathering's and more targeted regional responses to that is what is being considered by the states and territories as part of the National Cabinet this evening. As you say, if there have been pubs and clubs that are heaving with people on the weekend, that is simply an invitation for the states and territories to shut them down. And if they are unable to get a handle on that, then they are bringing on what would be their worst outcome. And there's a responsibility, both of those who run those venues and the patrons, I underscore, and those who are going to these venues, I mean, coronavirus is not a secret. Everybody knows it's it's wall-to-wall on every coverage and every conversation happening around this country today. And so there is no excuse to say you don't know, it's one to one and a half metres. It's a four square metre rule. You've got to keep your healthy distance between each other. If Australians can't do that on a broad scale, then they are denying the governments and the authorities the most important weapon we have to save lives and to save livelihoods. And states and territories will have to take more severe responses to deal with that. So we are simply appealing to people to show common sense, to respect each other. And do the right thing when it comes to following these very simple rules. But inevitably and I suspect soon, there will be need for in particular locations for more extreme measures to be taken. And that is exactly why I took the decision to bring forward the next meeting of the National Cabinet from Tuesday evening to this evening where those specific issues will be managed. Now,

JOURNALIST: About Coles and Woolies?

PRIME MINISTER: Coles and Woolies. Now, this has been something that the Minister for Home Affairs has been working on, and part of the national coordinating mechanism. There are a range of issues that need to be addressed to establish better warehousing and depots for distribution when it comes to home supply. Also, you would have seen this week, the Victorian government for example, I know other state governments are doing this, we have done it also to increase the resources, going into things like Meals on Wheels and things of that nature to support those on home care packages, the elderly and so on, who are very dependent on these services. And so it's important that we provide that resource support. But what I am impressed by is that these private companies, whether it's Coles, Woolies or others, are working very closely with us to ensure that we can resolve some of those logistical challenges that are being presented. And the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, has been, together with his department, working closely with them to resolve some of those problems.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned the testing rate, and you said the other day 85,000 people have been tested,

PRIME MINISTER: It's well over 100,000 now.

JOURNALIST: And Greg Hunt said 97,000 testing kits are coming in. Obviously, they're going to be running out over a certain period of time. So what's being done to bring in more testing kits? Can we actually make those testing kits in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Two things. Yes, we are bringing in more. And the Health Minister has been successful in the course of the past week to be addressing what the the immediate supply requirements are. But that also means that we must be judicious in the way we use those testing resources. I mean, as I said we've got the lowest test positivity in the world I'm advised at 0.7 per cent. That means we have a lot of people who are being tested who are testing negative, in fact, more than 99 per cent. So we need to be judicious in the way that we use these testing kits. Now, these testing kits and resources are very important for how we manage the spread of the disease as well, the virus as well, because it helps us understand where people are and what the intensity of infection is. And so we'll continue to use that data and the testing kits are important for that purpose. But the immediate issues around the supply of those tests have been addressed for the foreseeable, over the, I'm not going to go into a specific timeframe because it's a function of demand and those demands can vary. But also the work that has been done with the Doherty Institute to ensure that we're getting domestic sourced testing options before us as well as other- they're not replacement tests, but they are tests that can be helpful, which can even be done in surgeries. So there are, this is one of the highest priorities the Health Minister is working on every day along with PPE equipment and ensuring that's getting to the places it needs, it's needed most. I also want to thank the Western Australian state government and other state governments are moving on this, that they are looking at their own elective surgery waiting lists and ensuring that they're focussing on only stage one, and urgent stage two cases. This is a matter we've discussed. Now, each state and territory will make their own calls on that. Western Australian made that decision and that's a sensible decision, because the less urgent elective surgery means there is less of a demand, obviously, on theatres and ICU’s, but also importantly on PPE equipment, which is used in those procedures.

Yeah, I'm trying to give everybody one go so I’m-

JOURNALIST: I’ve just received a text message saying we've just broken the news that New South Wales and Victoria are pushing for a total shutdown of all non-essential business. So a state-wide lockdown and school closures from Tuesday. Would you support that? What's your reaction to that?

PRIME MINISTER: My reaction to that is the medical expert panel, the AHPPC is meeting this afternoon. That includes the health officers of all the states and territories. They will form a view on the range of issues I've asked for them to form a view on, that will be presented to all the Premiers and Chief Ministers this afternoon. And we will meet as a National Cabinet tonight to consider our response. And that's where I intend to provide any any response to those recommendations. That is the orderly and the calm way to deal with these things and to make decisions in a responsible manner.

JOURNALIST: Have your girls been at school every day this week and will they continue to go?

PRIME MINISTER: I don't go into the health status of my children. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Are you still on the same page as the state leaders, when it comes to keeping school, schools open and is there any more certainty for parents about whether schools will remain open after the school holidays?

PRIME MINISTER: Just just in relation to the last question. I can assure everybody that I've been following the same health advice and for attendance at school, that I have offered to all Australians. I want to be very clear about that, but I would also ask, and this goes for all Members of Parliament and all public figures. I would ask you to be respectful about the privacy of our families and of our children. I am aware of circumstances where the children of of members of Parliament and the schools they are attending were the subject of some attention. I don't think that's fair to our kids. I really don't.

JOURNALIST: Are you still on the same page with state leaders about keeping schools open? And is there any more certainty to parents that schools will remain open after the school holidays?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that is the position of the advice, and that is the decision that National Cabinet has taken, if there was any change to that that would be based on any change to advice we received from the medical experts and any decision that has been made by the the National Cabinet. The issues that we've been presenting on importantly, on the medical advice that we've had remain the same challenges. It is still the case, and the the the evidence is that the incidents of the coronavirus amongst younger people is far lower than it is for the rest of the population. And so the health risk to children is less, is our advice, than to other parts of the population. It is also still the fact that if there were widespread school closures across the country, then that would seriously impact and disrupt the health workforce that is needed to save lives. And so that is a paramount consideration also of the National Cabinet. But we will continue to consider all of these issues based on the expert advice. We will do that in a calm and reasoned manner according to the disciplined process with the set for ourselves, which means we're all working together and being nationally coordinated in our responses.

I’ve got time for a couple more, Brett? Then I’ll come here, and then I’ll come here. Yep?

JOURNALIST:  Prime Minister I know it’s not your favourite platform, but a lot of our viewers have been in touch on Twitter. There are Australians who are overseas. They can't get commercial flights home. They're quite anxious about getting back to family and friends. Could you see a scenario where we might see some more repatriation flights? And also, could you maybe spell out when you talk about parliament operating in an emergency type scenario? What could that look like? Virtual meetings of Parliament, for example?

PRIME MINISTER: Well on the first question. I gave an earlier response. I'm not sure you were here when I gave that response, but the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are working on those consular cases and particularly where there are larger groups. Lima is a good example of that. There's the cruise ship examples. They are the two most pressing at the moment. But for those who find themselves isolated or stranded in other places, then there are the ways that they can get in contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, even if that's being done through a family member, to ensure that DFAT can become aware of where people are and what the options are and what consular support and advice can be provided to help get them home. But this is one of the many challenges that we're working on and at this stage on not going to advance to the point of suggesting any particular flights, but obviously we are working to solve that problem. The problem is people are isolated and trying to get them home. And that's the problem I'm seeking to solve. And that's what DFAT is working to solve.

Now over here.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: Oh on parliament? Well, we've got a meeting this afternoon with the Opposition. I don't want to pre-empt that meeting. I don't think that would be fair to the Opposition. We're working through issues that would enable the Parliament to be reconvened on an emergency basis to deal with any essential legislation that was required, particularly to address the coronavirus pandemic that is going around the world. So that's the priority for Parliament. There are many other issues, though, supply, government services and so on, which needs to be maintained. And there are very sensible and rather conventional things we can do to support the supply. There are also terminating programs and things like this, which would also need to be addressed. But the more more challenging element will be that in the weeks and months ahead, where there are further measures that require legislative support, that would be able to ensure the Parliament can meet in whatever form it can to ensure that those measures went through the appropriate democratic process.

JOURNALIST: Treasurer, on the superannuation, particularly the $10,000 withdrawal, will that require legislation or regulation? And secondly, a lot of the package has been focussed obviously on SME's for the larger companies are you open to having to maybe take equity states, effectively nationalise some industry, some critical industries? Given the pace and change and things like that you're seeing with the virus? Is that something that is going to have to be on your agenda?

TREASURER: In relation to your first, it's a legislative change. And I just want to point out that the superannuation funds last year had about $300 billion in cash. So the superannuation funds have the ability to provide what Treasury estimate to be about a $27 billion injection into the economy. What we're talking about is less than 1 per cent of the funds that are currently under management in superannuation. This is the people's money and this is the time they need it most.

In respect to your second question both the Prime Minister and I, as well as the Finance Minister, have said that is not our priority right now. That is not our focus right now. When it comes to some of the bigger companies you would have seen in a sector like aviation that was hit and we made a number of announcements that is providing some relief there. We continue to do some work around other measures that the government could take. But as we've both made very clear, the Prime Minister and I today, this is not about set and forget. This is the second package. The first package was a stimulus package. This second package is a safety net package. We'll continue to do what is necessary to support the Australian economy, to support Australian jobs and support Australian businesses.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister where does sport come down on this essential to nonessential-


JOURNALIST: Sport come down on the essential or nonessential scalable- will teams still be able to travel interstate for games that are still going on. Or is this, because these new domestic travel measures spell the end for 2020 sport?

PRIME MINISTER: I would say not.

JOURNALIST: Non-essential?

PRIME MINISTER: That’s right.

JOURNALIST: So that’s the end of sport, potentially for the year?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's not the end of sport.


PRIME MINISTER: But what we're saying, no no, so you’re talking about the AFL and the NRL? We will work closely with them about how those arrangements- I thought you were talking about children's sport, people travelling to competitions and down, you know, the Nationals for the- well the Surf Lifesaving Championships I understand have been cancelled anyway. And a lot of the arrangements, particularly for kids sport and wide participation sport, I mean, netball’s been cancelled in the Shire and things like that. And that's to be expected. But in terms of the NRL and AFL and those types of arrangements, well, I think the principle is important. But we, I'm sure we can work with both of those agencies with with their respective state and Chief Medical Officers at a federal level. If there are new arrangements that need to be put in place there, that protect the health and safety of everyone. Well, that may be possible. So I'm not going to pre-empt those outcomes, but I'm sure we can work those issues those issues through on a on a practical case by case basis.

Michelle's got a question. If you don't let Michelle have question... Michelle?

JOURNALIST: You've obviously got quite a lot to get through tomorrow in the Parliament. Would you hope to get it all done and dusted and just have a one day sitting or is it going to go into two days?

PRIME MINISTER: If it needs to go into 2 it will. And so that will depend a lot on how the procedures work. We also want to make sure the Parliament, the Parliament still has to do its job and and  there are important ways that needs to take place in the Chamber on the presentations of measures and the essential debate that should take place on those measures. But I do appreciate the practical spirit in which the Leader of the Opposition is engaged in these discussions, as well as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and Penny Wong working together with Mathias Cormann, Christian Porter has worked closely with Tony Burke. So people are being very practical about these things and that will mean that it will meet for as long as it needs to. If we can get through the business in a day, well, good. If it takes another day, well, it'll take another day.

JOURNALIST: Are you bringing Western Australians here by any special flight? Because I noticed Mathias Cormann [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: We’ve been making some arrangements to support flights for Members to be able to get here. That also helps minimise some of the risk. But I mean, each party is gone to its own arrangements on the pairs. And we have focussed on those Members who are coming from longer distances, those who are more, older or those who indeed might have other health issues potentially. And that's worked pretty sensibly up until now. And I'm sure that the arrangements will work very practically tomorrow as well. And again, I think the Leader of the Opposition.

You started, Phil, so I’ll let you finish.

JOURNALIST: In relation to what you were talking about with the airlines and so forth. Some of the bigger businesses are starting to experience trouble raising capital on markets and so forth. Is there a potential for, say, the Government extending a line of credit for some of these larger companies or if they start experiencing such [inaudible]?

TREASURER: Well Phil as you know, one of the major pillars in our economic response, in addition to our two stimulus packages, has been the move by the Australian Office of Financial Management, as well as the RBA to inject $105 billion of liquidity into the system. This will help the banks meet some of the demands from their existing customers. Let me emphasize, whether you're a big or small business there is an alignment of your interest with the bank’s interest. The banks want their customers to get to the other side. In fact, the bankers know there is the other side to the coronavirus. I've been in daily discussions with the banks. And there is a real willingness to work with their customers to help them through this very difficult period.

PRIME MINISTER: So look, while Australians may be self-isolating in many cases and keeping their distance from each other. I want to assure all Australians of this, that together we will get through this. We will not want to see anyone go through this alone at the end of the day, through the support that we're providing. But we need to support each other. We need to care for each other and together Australia we will get through this, and we will emerge stronger.

Thank you.