PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon, everyone.
National Cabinet has met again today for the first time in a fortnight and if I could have the first slide, please, we're on track, and we're making progress, far sooner than we could have ever imagined several months ago when National Cabinet was first formed back in mid-March.
The three-step plan that I outlined several weeks ago is now very much in implementation as you can see from the chart, which we reviewed today, that step one is done in all states and territories. Moving to step two in most in a few weeks' time in June. But steps two and three implemented and on the way to, in states like Western Australia and the Northern Territory. I want to thank, again, all the Premiers and Chief Ministers, sure, from time to time there are points of difference and there are frustrations and there are things that I have no doubt that Australians would like to be moving faster than they are. But we outlined a plan and we're implementing that plan.
The Premiers are getting on with that plan and we still have an enormous amount of work to do in the months that are ahead. And that is to both manage, as always, and suppress, the virus, and to ensure that we can reopen our economy. And our economy is reopening. We continue to receive the information and the data that is showing an improvement and an economy that, while it has been severely impacted when compared to economies overseas, which have been subject to far more onerous restrictions than Australia, not just on the health front but on the economic front, is fairing much better.
So, when we assessed where the plan was at today, we also took advice from the AHPPC, the medical expert panel and from Professor Murphy, and the full health impacts of the first step of that plan, it is still too early to make a judgement about what the health results of that are, and it will be a week or two yet before all the results can be in as we’ve seen Australians move back out of their homes, go back into work places, slowly being and going back into playgrounds and into schools and all of these things they have been looking forward to doing for so long. But the impact of that on the health results, it will still take several weeks before we have a full assessment of what that follow-through impact has been, and that will help guide further the Premiers and Chief Ministers in the further decisions that they will take in the months ahead. And so we look forward to them doing that.
On their behalf, I want to make two points today: And the first of those is what are the expectations? Are our expectations of zero cases? No. That has never been our expectation, nor our goal. Eradication? Elimination? These are not the goals that we have. If it's achieved as a by-product then well and good. But the fact that a case or a group of cases may present is not something that should restrict moving ahead and getting progress on implementing the three-step plan and bringing Australia's economy back to a COVID-safe environment in which jobs can be restored and livelihoods can be restored.
The second point I'd make is this: And that is the risk remains great and always has been. Australia's success can lead some to think that perhaps the risk was never there in the first place. But that is not true. We only need to look at countries as sophisticated as ours, as developed as ours, with health systems as strong as ours, who have death rates 100 times what has occurred in Australia. So, we would be foolish to think that we were immune or that we are immune. And as a result, the three-step plan, keeping the balance between the health management of the crisis and the economic management of the crisis in balance, continues to be the balance that the National Cabinet seeks to achieve and I believe is achieving.
What we've also agreed today, and I'm pleased to announce, that we're not just working together on the immediate impacts of COVID-19. But we have been working together on developing a new five-year hospital agreement between the states and territories. All states and territories have now signed on to that agreement as of today. Guaranteeing the essentials that Australians rely on. Hospital services, there can be no greater essential than that. And today, an agreement that will see an investment by the Commonwealth of an estimated $131.4 billion dollars be made in a demand-driven public-hospital funding model to improve health outcomes for all Australians, to ensure the sustainability of our health system now and into the future. The new 2020-2025 national health reform agreement provides for an estimated additional $34.4 billion in funding to public hospitals over the five years from July 1 this year. This is in addition to the over $8 billion in health investment made by the Commonwealth during the COVID-19 response.
There is also as part of our agreement, a funding guarantee to all states and territories to ensure no jurisdiction is left worse off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and guarantees the Commonwealth's funding contribution for public hospitals over the next five years. Now, this agreement, importantly, includes funding to provide life-saving immuno therapies to Australians suffering with conditions, in particular cancer, the CAR T-cell therapies. These can cost half a million dollars per treatment. They will now be provided under these agreements to Australians who need them without that level of cost. That's what you can do when you can guarantee the essentials that Australians rely on, and the economy is what enables us to provide that support. And that's why it's so essential that we continue to work together to strengthen our economy to support such critical agreements like the one we've been able to come to today.
The other thing we agreed today is a major change in terms of how COAG will work in the future. And, if I can move to that chart, COAG is no more. It will be replaced by a completely new system and that new system is focused on the success that has been yielded by the operation of the National Cabinet. What we'll be doing is keeping the National Cabinet operating and particularly during the COVID period, we'll continue to meet on a fortnightly basis. In a normal year it will meet on a monthly basis. Wouldn’t meet in person. One of the things we've learned over meeting so regularly is we can work effectively together as we get together using the telepresence facilities which means Premiers, particularly for those in the more remote states have been able to access that engagement on a far more regular basis and it has worked incredibly well. And so we will continue to meet on a monthly basis in an ordinary year and we’ll continue to meet on a fortnightly basis as we work through the COVID period.
Now, how it will be different to the way COAG worked, is the National Cabinet will be driven by a singular agenda, and that is to create jobs. It will have a job-making agenda. And the National Cabinet will drive the reform process between state and federal cooperation to drive jobs. It will drive a series of Ministerial Cabinet subcommittees, if you like, that will be working in each of the key areas, and this is an initial list of areas and that will be further consulted on with the states. So in rural and regional Australia, on skills as I was talking to the National Press Club just this week; on energy; on housing; transport and infrastructure; population and migration; and recognising the important role of health, in terms of having a healthy workforce and a healthy community to support a strong economy.
The National Cabinet will continue to work with a laser-like mission focus on creating jobs as we come out of the COVID crisis and we work into the years into the future. The National Cabinet will work together with what is known as the Council on Federal Financial Relations, that is basically the meeting of Treasurers. They actually met today. Those treasurers will take responsibility for all of the funding agreements between the states and the Commonwealth. They will no longer be the province and domain of individual Ministerial portfolios, the Treasurers will bring ultimately those agreements together, consulting with the portfolio Ministers but being responsible for all of those agreements.
And National Cabinet agreed today that one of the first jobs that the Council of Federal Financial Relations will need to do, is look at all of those agreements and how they can be consolidated and rationalised. Obviously, there are the large foundational agreements like the ones I’ve announced today, they will obviously continue in the form that they’ve been set out. Education is another which is already in place. But there are multiple other agreements that will be available to the council to be able to be looked at and consolidated and reviewed by the Treasurers to ensure we can get a more effective federation.
Important task forces will continue, that previously worked to COAG in important national agenda issues. Women's safety and the work that the states and territories have done with the Commonwealth to combat domestic violence. This is an important national issue and an important national agenda. It will remain part of the national agenda, as will Indigenous affairs, in particular, the work that is being done on closing the gap and the closing the gap priorities being worked together with the Indigenous peak groups as part of the closing the gap process.
Once a year, the National Cabinet will meet together with the Treasurers as well as the Australian Local Government Association in a new council which is focused on national federation reform. This agreement, this set of processes, the funding agreements, ensuring that we continue to get expert advisory support, both directly to the National Cabinet and each of those Ministerial areas, which won't be pursuing a shopping list of agenda items, they'll be pursuing the tasks that National Cabinet has set them to create jobs in our economy.
Now, over on this side is a long list of Ministerial reforms and regulatory councils that currently exist and interact with COAG. Those forums will be consolidated and reset. Ministers will consider the value of each of those and I suspect we'll see many of them no longer be required. It's important that Ministers at state and federal level talk to each other but they don't have to do it in such a bureaucratic form with a whole bunch of paperwork attached to it. They need to talk to each other, share ideas, but the congestion busting process we’re engaged on here is simplifying that. They come together to solve problems, deal with issues and move on. They should talk to each other because they find value in it, not because of the requirements of some sort of bureaucratic process.
There are a series of formal regulatory councils which are created under statutes, particularly things like the Disability Reform Council, the Energy Ministers, they have particular roles under various legislation and there are a number of others but we will be looking to consolidate and reset those as well.
So we want to streamline all of those endless meetings that go on so we can bring it back to one focus: Creating jobs out of the back of this crisis, and ensuring the federation is focused on that job just like we have been focused as a National Cabinet on managing the country through our federation through this national crisis of COVID-19.
So, that is an exciting new agenda for our federation. Federation reform issues and responsibilities between states and territories and the Commonwealth will be considered at the National Cabinet because we think that gives Australians confidence. And this really is a job of rebuilding confidence, right across the country. And that includes confidence in our governance and making sure that all governments are working closely together and in particular that we're doing so to get Australians back into work.
The final details of which ministerial groups are set in this area, and as I said, the consolidation that takes place in the other areas, that will come in time. But we've agreed on the new structure and we think that will ensure for Australians that they’ll get better government, more focused government, at both a state and at a federal level.
And with that, I'll pass you on to Professor Murphy. Thank you.
PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Thanks, Prime Minister.
So we have been seeing generally less than 20 new cases a day in Australia of COVID-19 and that is what we expect to start seeing. We may see more cases, as the Prime Minister said, as we relax restrictions but our aim is to make sure that outbreaks are small and controlled. An interesting statistic is there are only two people left on ventilators at the moment in Australia, a long way short of the 7,000 potential that we catered for in the worst-case scenario. We are doing about 30,000 tests a day with a very low positivity rate of 0.05 per cent at the moment. We would still like to do some more tests. We would like every person with an acute respiratory problem, cough, cold of any sort to get tested. That is the best way to track the virus.
So today I presented to National Cabinet the national surveillance plan, which is a document that shows how we're going to track surveillance of this virus over the coming months and that will be published on the Department of Health website and give you full information on all the things we're monitoring. I also presented the first report back on the Pandemic Health Intelligence Plan. You'll recall that that was the plan that we used to convince National Cabinet that we were in a fit state to start easing restrictions and that was the basis before people moved to step one of the three-step plan. That first report really is only on two weeks' worth of data because most of the restrictions were only relaxed two weeks ago. So as the Prime Minister said, it is too early to draw definitive conclusions but we are on track. All the measures we thought should be stable and in good shape remain in good shape at the moment. But in two weeks, it's not possible to be absolutely sure and we do need to watch the data over the next one to two weeks to make sure that we're not getting more than the expected small outbreaks that we do expect to see as we relax restrictions. We've got to be sure that we're not going to get a number of outbreaks or outbreaks that are hard to control. We don't expect to get them, we expect to be able to control those outbreaks but at this stage, we do need to be cautious about saying that the relaxation of restrictions hasn't had a deleterious public health effect. We don't think so but we must watch and be very careful.
You'll remember that those parameters to do with epidemiology and modelling of the virus, the public health capacity, our capacity to test and contact trace and follow up people and of course our health system capacity. Our health system is now getting back to business as usual. Elective surgery is heading right back up to normal in a number of jurisdictions and people are starting to go back to the doctor and the clinic and that is all great. So we are on track but it is too early to be absolutely certain. If I can make one plea to everybody as we get back to normal life, just remember the simple principles. Keep practising the physical distancing. Please go and get tested if you are in any way unwell and stay home and keep practising all those hygiene and distancing measures we talked about.
We did have a final discussion today also on public transport, how to make it as safe as possible by trying to reduce density, staggering travel times, lots of enhanced hygiene and we do recognise, the AHPPC has recognised that in a crowded public transport situation some people may choose to wear masks when they are really up close to other people and we acknowledge that is not an unreasonable thing to do, not that we are recommending it in the general community in Australia at the moment because of the low case numbers. But if people do choose to wear masks, they need to be careful that they are not a complete protection and they need to be worn very carefully. We will be publishing some advice on that as well.
So, on track, no reason to deviate from our planned recovery path. But we've got to still all be very careful. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Phil?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on the new National Cabinet structure, do you envisage that once this crisis has passed the Premiers will fly to Canberra for face-to-face meetings like they used to with COAG? How can you assure us over time it doesn't grow into a bureaucracy like COAG which critics said is a place where good ideas went to die?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, I used to say that too, and it was true. One of the reasons why the National Cabinet has worked is it has actually operated as a Cabinet. And that means it operates within Cabinet rules and it operates under the Federal Cabinet's rules and that relates to the security of documents, process, procedure and all of those - if I could have that chart back, please, that's it - all of these committees also will operate on that basis as well. When these groups get together, there's a lot of theatre, a lot of people in the room. And that can really, I think, restrict the genuine reform discussions that you have to have. Having these groups operate like a fair-dinkum Cabinet, I think, has been really important. We're all members of Cabinet so we all understand what those rules are and I don't think that has been the MO for how COAG has operated and I think that's a really big change. We do want to meet, well, National Cabinet will meet twice a year in person. The National Federation Reform Council meeting, with the treasurers, that will happen once a year, I think it’s important for that to happen. But what we have noticed is the pace of meetings, the regularity of meetings, is really important and having a very clear mission is really important. There are so many national issues, as you can imagine, across the country and there is a place to deal with those and we're providing a place to deal with those but what we're saying as leaders of government, federal and state, is we must focus on jobs and that's what will drive our monthly agenda. And in the months ahead, that's on a fortnightly basis and more regularly as required. So it's a much more flexible way of working, Phil. It gets rid of so much of the formalities and staging that is around these events and it enables treasurers, as well, I have got to say, and prime ministers and premiers to have these sorts of discussions. Without sort of lifting the veil, I mean, on the night before every treasurers and leaders' meeting I have been to, there is usually a get-together and that is the best conversation you ever have because you're genuinely talking about the issues you need to and that's how National Cabinet has operated. We've been able to find that candour and collegiality in that new format. We will put it all the way through these others and we're not going to have the myriad of these agendas which are going on all the time, bubbling up and distracting often the core focus that the leaders need to create jobs.
JOURNALIST: Wouldn't you expect, though, Prime Minister, that in a more normal situation where you don't have the total focus on a crisis, that you'll get more political fragmentation? You'll have state elections, parties fighting each other and so on. How do you intend to try and smooth that out? And secondly, as you're talking about federalism reform, do you believe in principle that the states should have more revenue-raising powers?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, on the first issue, Michelle, it's just something we have all got to work hard on. Politics still exists and the environment, the media environment we operate in, which is very interested in conflict, that also exists and that's just how it is. And we're all experienced and professional politicians and leaders and we understand that. So it is very much up to each of us to value what we've been able to establish, I think, in the National Cabinet and seek to preserve it. The other way, though, importantly, Michelle, is how we deal with the financial issues of national partnership agreements and as you can see here, that will really be the responsibility of the Treasurers. Previously, all those funding agreements have all been belted out in portfolio ministerial councils, endlessly, round and round and round and then ultimately in a half unresolved sort of state they can trickle through for a stoush between the leaders. That's not a good way to work. Now, the value is that many of the Premiers and Chief Ministers and myself have been Treasurers before as well before. So we understand Treasurers are in a unique position to work across all government areas and they can reconcile a lot of these things and they also have a key responsibility in ensuring constraints and responsible management of public finances and it brings those two issues together. And the Treasurers are well placed, I think, to resolve many of those issues and so it won't distract the leader’s agenda which has to be very focused. That's the third point. And that is where we can focus on an agenda and a clear purpose to create jobs, and I would expect at some point we might be able to nominate, certainly the Federal Government has a jobs target, and that can be the clear purpose of why we're meeting together every month. That's why we have the broader issue of the Federation Reform Council to once a year deal with those broader, important issues like domestic violence and our progress on closing the gap. So it's about managing the agenda, it's about managing ourselves and I think it is about valuing what we have been able to create in these recent months. We have met more times in the last two months than Premiers and Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister have met in 10 years. And so, you know, amazingly, something good has come from that. More than something good, much good has come from that. And we recognise it and we want to preserve it.
I'm just going to take them today.
JOURNALIST: How long will you extend free child care beyond June 30?
PRIME MINISTER: There will be a decision made on that soon. It’s under consideration by the Government.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you have said there is no Commonwealth advice for state borders to remain in place. Did you bring that up today in National Cabinet and put a timeframe on that table that you would like states to perhaps hurry up the reopening of those borders?
PRIME MINISTER: We had a very candid discussion about that today, as you would expect we would. That's one of the good things about National Cabinet. And once again, of course, it's the fact that National Cabinet never made a decision to put in place state borders and that is the case. Now, I want to stress that during this period of time, freight and business travel has continued unimpeded. And all the data I've seen, particularly with the movement of freight and goods et cetera, that has continued and the barriers at the borders have not presented any issue when it comes to those quite critical supplies. And that hasn't happened by accident and regardless of the borders being in place, the states have worked very hard on that. But the second point I would make is, that means the borders principally relate to leisure travel between states and territories. Now, under the three-step plan, it wasn't until step three that it was envisaged that there would be interstate travel. Now, whether you have a border or you don't have a border formally put in place, step three of the plan, which was expected to be in place in July, is when that was expected to be the case. Now, I note that all states and territories are working towards that, whether they have borders or not. But the truth is, and I'm sure, and this was discussed today, that it's preferable to be able to be in a situation where you don't have borders as soon as possible because, obviously, that means that the tourism industries in particular and particularly with school holidays coming up might be able to benefit from that travel. So, I think we've got to keep the issue in perspective. We don't agree on everything. Not everyone always does. It would be a bit weird if they did in a democracy. And we have to bear in mind that in the vast majority of cases, the states and territories have worked very well with the Commonwealth on these issues and I still remain absolutely optimistic that common sense will ultimately prevail on the timetable that National Cabinet has set out.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about the situation in Hong Kong and the national security laws aimed at pro-democracy protesters? Would Australia consider applying sanctions against Chinese officials? What's your message to Hong Kongers who are perhaps now considering coming to Australia given that they feel they have lost living in a democracy?
PRIME MINISTER: We've issued several statements on this matter and we've done those in concert with like-minded countries on this issue, as recently as today. And that sets out the Government's very clear and consistent position regarding the basic law and what we consider to be the departure from those principles which have been widely seen as the one-country, two-system process. So we have been fairly clear about that. Obviously, the situation for Australia is principally driven by the fact that we have a large number of Australian residents, and those with connections with Australia, who live in Hong Kong and obviously are keen to provide them with the normal support we would provide to an Australian resident in any situation like this. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is working very hard to ensure that they can provide that support during these times. Now, on the broader issues you raise regarding sanctions, that's not an issue currently that is currently before the Government. That's not something that’s under consideration. We have expressed our view and we’ve expressed it, I think, in a very diplomatic and I think very courteous way and I can say it is exactly what we have communicated directly through our diplomatic arrangements is what we have said publicly and I think it’s an observation which is very fair and very reasonable and the issues that we’ve highlighted outlay our concerns.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, given how quickly we're progressing towards the end of stage 3, was there any conversation about the stages beyond that? And if I may, Professor Murphy, what indicators would you be looking for in terms of app downloads, testing figures et cetera to move to beyond stage 3, easing of restrictions?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'll start off. We're at 6.1 million downloads now and that's great and we obviously want to still see more and they continue to grow every day and I think it’s important that as people continue to move more out and about in the community that they realise that downloading the COVIDSafe app keeps them safe, their families safe, their communities safe and that's the principal reason why we would encourage you to do that. We have only just put step one in place and we are yet to know the full health impacts of that. So being able to speculate about what's beyond step three at this point is very, very difficult. Now, that's not through a lack of willingness to want to do that. I can understand particularly in the entertainment sector why they would be keen to know when you can get 200 people back in a theatre or for the major sporting codes to have crowds back. But at that stage that is not known and we will step through each of the stages that we've set out and make the assessments and take the advice from our medical experts and on that note I'll pass to mine.
PROFESSOR MURPHY: Thanks, PM. So the things we are looking for to progress beyond stage three will obviously be stable epidemiology, according to the Pandemic Health Intelligence Plan. The same sorts of things we are talking about, only small outbreaks, readily controllably. Very important that we have active testing. We've got to keep our testing rate up because it is the only way we’re going to find the outbreaks. I say again and again and again, every Australian who has a cough, cold or sniffle, please get a test. We've got good testing, we’ve got good stable epidemiology with small outbreaks only and if the Australian public are managing to maintain all these new behaviours of physical distancing, hand hygiene, and all of those things and have shown that they can do things in a safe way in the progressively increased gathering sizes, that will give us the confidence to look at a staged further progression in the future. So as the Prime Minister said, it is early days yet but we will certainly be doing that work. But it is very much keeping much of what we're doing at the moment and really important that the Australian public can embrace these new ways of behaving and interacting and not go silly when we start relaxing.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the New Zealand travel bubble, would you be supportive of one state, for example, New South Wales, opening up first if other states are refusing to open their state borders? And Professor Murphy, if I may, is there any justification from Queensland saying there is too much community transmission in New South Wales, for example, we must keep them closed?
PRIME MINISTER: The short answer to your first question is yes. And the states are well aware of the Commonwealth’s position on that. If we're in a position to introduce a travel-safe zone between Australia and New Zealand at an early stage and we're all aware of the epidemiology in New Zealand, it’s on the same basis as here in Australia. And there are health officials who have met on that in the past week and Brendan and I discussed that, Prime Minister Ardern and I, and we discuss it regularly and we are progressing well and I don’t intend for the jobs that I know will be created particularly in our aviation sector to be held up on the basis of decisions that Premiers may yet still wish to make. I made it clear today that the jobs in Qantas and in Virgin and our many other airlines, but particularly those two airlines and we all know the challenges with Virgin at present, that trans-Tasman channel being made open again is going to mean jobs for people who work in the aviation sector, it’s going to mean jobs for caterers, it’s going to mean jobs for baggage handlers and pilots and flight attendants and refuelers and everyone else who’s involved in an industry that has taken the biggest beating of them all. And there will be, and Prime Minister Ardern and I agree strongly on this, that the additional benefits, net positive, that will come for both of our countries opening up to each other again is a strong one and we have both put ourselves in a position to do this. I can't see it happening amongst too many other countries at this stage, I think that is still some time off but we are looking forward to that day being sooner rather than later and so I would hope that if you’re in Sydney and Melbourne at the moment you can get to all the states and territories and to Auckland at the same time but let’s see what happens.
PROFESSOR MURPHY: Just on the state border issue, AHPPC hasn't made any recommendations about it but we understand states have taken positions based on the differential case numbers in adjacent states and I understand that Queensland is regularly reviewing their position, as are all the other states with borders and as the case numbers fall significantly in New South Wales as they had in Victoria, I am hopeful they will may see fit to reconsider that position.
JOURNALIST: We saw on the eve of Reconciliation Week Rio Tinto blow up one of the oldest Aboriginal heritage sites in the country over in the Pilbara, do you think that should have been allowed to happen?
PRIME MINISTER: I haven't got a brief on that particular project, or the circumstances surrounding it. So it wouldn't be wise for me to go venturing opinions on things that I have not received detailed briefings on the detail.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will you listen to the advice of the Reserve Bank Governor about the risk of turning off JobKeeper and other employment assistance too soon?
PRIME MINISTER: We've had lots of advice on these matters and I think it's important to contextualise all of this. The Government has many measures of support. JobKeeper, JobSeeker, cash flow assistance targeted to industry sector support. And we are planning to ensure that the economy and jobs get the support they need to get us through this crisis and to get us out the other side. JobKeeper and JobSeeker, and how they're currently framed, have got their legislative timeframe heading out to the end of September. But it is important to ensure that we come out of this crisis strongly and we continue to create jobs in our economy. And so we've always been flexible about how we manage this. But what is important to know is that as time goes on, more of the economy gets stronger. And more of your economy is less in need of those specific supports than it was at first. But some sectors of your economy will need them for longer. Now, whether that's in the measures you're talking about or in other measures, well, that's an option for the Government to consider. But I think there's been quite an error being made to think that JobKeeper is the only economic support that the Government is providing. That's not true. There are many, many, many forms of support that the Government is providing and we will target the best measures to do the job that we need it to do and that is to support people, staying in jobs, and getting back into jobs. That's what's the most important thing and that’s what we're focused on and our programs will support that. We have been doing, and will continue to do, the fiscal heavy lifting that the Reserve Bank Governor first said when we were back in Parramatta in March at what was the last COAG meeting. And it's important that we do that and states do it with us and I think $150 billion in six months is some pretty heavy fiscal lifting. The Reserve Bank may have run out of ammo when it comes, largely, to what they can do on cash rates, but the Commonwealth Government, in particular, has certainly stepped into the breach and we've done so significantly and we anticipate that we'll need to do that for some time. But that doesn't mean that that requires you to do it in every single measure that we currently have out there. We've got a lot of flexibility.
JOURNALIST: Why should cabinet secrecy apply to ordinary policy discussions between the federal and state governments? Won't the public need greater transparency about why decisions are being made on, you know, basic things like transport and skills that, after all, aren't part of a national emergency any more?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, in the same reason that in state Cabinets and federal Cabinets they work together under Cabinet rules to come to conclusions and have debates, which produces good decisions that supports essential services and this is just the same process. I mean, it's not a spectator sport. It's a serious policy deliberation which needs to be done between governments and by Cabinet members within Cabinets and it's applying the same disciplines and the same opportunities. What matters is the outcome. What matters is the services. What matters is the hospital beds and the schools and the funding and support and the targeting and the performance measurement and the accountability and that's what all of this is designed to do and that's what this system will do.
JOURNALIST: But Australians have occasionally been mystified by, like, for example, why did the National Cabinet come up with a solution for commercial tenancies and not residential tenancies?
PRIME MINISTER: I explained that decision at the time, you must have missed my explanation.
JOURNALIST: Just in relation to the Reserve Bank again, the language does seem a little different. You talked about getting the economy off medication, the Reserve Bank Governor said it would be, quote, “a mistake” to turn it off the stimulus too early. So are you at odds in any way with what the RBA is saying on that and in relation to the IR stuff that you have been discussing this week, you have been asked a couple of times about the better off overall test, the BOOT test, do you think it has served its purpose in the current environment and do you think you might have to get rid of the BOOT test?
PRIME MINISTER: I think you’re falsely creating a difference between the Government and the Reserve Bank. No we are actually ad idem on these issues. And what we have done, I think, has demonstrated that and our infrastructure programs in particular, which I know Dr Lowe has shown a great deal of interest in, not just recently but for some time, and that program of bringing forward investments, more than a billion dollars just last week announced to pump up programs at local government level with those sort of infrastructure programs, quite small ones, actually, which very strongly job creating in regions right across the country. And so no, I don't think there's any real difference between what the Reserve Bank and the Government is saying and more importantly, what the Government is doing. I think it's very consistent and the numbers and the investments and the supports we're putting in place I think back that up. So we'll continue to go down that path. Now, what I'm interested in, in terms of the announcement I made earlier this week, is employers and employees getting together to ensure that people are in jobs. And I know one thing: If you're not in a job, you're not better off. If you lose your job, you're not better off. And my concern is if we keep going down the path that we're going down and have a discussion that is constrained in a whole range of ways based on things that used to be the norms before, then people are going to lose their jobs and they won't be better off. So I'm interested in making sure Australians coming out of a COVID crisis where millions have less hours, and over a million don't even have a job, and I want to make them better off and that's why the industrial relations changes that I hope to come out of this consultative and good-faith process will deliver changes that will keep people in jobs, that will get people back in jobs. Because when you're in a job, you're better off and that's the better off I'm interested in.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you talk about on the fiscal side it is not necessarily about continuing existing programs to deliver fiscal support if the economy needs it later in the year. Could you envisage that maybe shovel-ready infrastructure programs could form part of the next leg if fiscal support is required?
PRIME MINISTER: It already does. This is the thing I'm puzzled about when this is written about. Last year, we brought forward around $4 billion worth of infrastructure projects. Last week, we announced more than a billion dollars in extra projects working with local government. We are already doing this. It is not part of the next step, it is part of the now step and it will continue to be. It is an important part of the economic plan that we have been pursuing both through the crisis and indeed before it. That’s what you can expect to continue to happen. As you saw on the chart before, infrastructure and transport will be one of those key areas where we will be seeking to create and drive jobs as part of the National Cabinet’s JobMaker agenda going forward. So absolutely, John. It is, it was, and it will continue to be. It is a very important part of what we do. And we just want to do it better and coordinate it even better. And the Victorian Premier often says, when I talk to him about this, the challenge is not the bringing forward of expenditure. We've already done that. The challenge is actually getting the projects going on the ground. And in the deregulation area, this will be critical. Not just when it comes to things like the EPPC Act, of which there is a significant review underway right now and I think we'll be able to make major progress in speeding up approvals of projects to some of these big projects underway, that will be very important. But also the planning and development works that are happening with projects that are already on the books and making sure they can start a lot sooner. So we are looking together, as states and at a federal level, to find those projects that can happen as soon as possible. But there is actually a capacity of the sector to deliver those projects and there are issues around availability of materials and a range of other things and those prices, when the supply and demand get out of sync, actually force the prices of projects up. So it is very much part of the plan and we're looking forward to seeing more of those hit the decks.
JOURNALIST: With so many media companies closing, does this boost the case for a federal ICAC? And on a similar note, are you comfortable with government facing less scrutiny with so many media companies closing?
PRIME MINISTER: Well anyone who loses a job, that's a bad day. And that’s why as a Government we're focused on creating jobs and trying to prevent further job losses, whether it is the media sector and the announcements that were made by News yesterday, I spoke with Michael Miller last night, and it is a hard day for those journalists and those who work in that sector, particularly out in rural and regional areas. But whether it is a journalist’s job or whether it’s a tradie’s job or a health worker’s job or anyone else's job, we want to make sure we can get our economy back performing more strongly than it is now as soon as we can so we can create those jobs again. Now, in relation to the other matter you raised, I answered that question to Michelle earlier this week at the National Press Club and that is where that sits.
Thank you all very much.