Press Conference - Australian Parliament House, ACT

07 Aug 2020
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon, everyone. We have completed what has been the 25th meeting of National Cabinet, earlier today. That's an indication of just how often and how regularly Premiers and Chief Ministers and I have been working together now over these many months to just to deal with the many practical issues in responding to this pandemic. In a normal case, that would take over a dozen years for Premiers and Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister to meet together. And I can assure you that the familiarity of meeting together is really helping the way we deal with these challenges at a very practical level, not just just between leaders. But I must say, between the officials of our governments, our Ministers, it is producing the type of environment that I think Australians should expect of us all in how we work together. Sure, there's disagreements on this and that from time to time, I can assure you those working relationships under, often great stress, are working very productively.

I also want to start today by acknowledging our aged care workforce, its aged care employee day today, and I want to thank all of them for the amazing job that they're doing. Many of us across the country know from personal experience just how amazing people are who look after our elderly in our community. They are a true inspiration. And at a time like this, and particularly where they're working under particularly extreme pressures, as we've been seeing in Victoria recently, they've showed that what is a tough job, is a tough job that they do with great care, great love and great compassion. And I want to thank them for the tremendous job they do, whether they're doing it incredibly hard in Victoria today or or other parts of the country where it is the job they do every day under more routine circumstances, a terribly important job. And we acknowledge the great contribution they make to our country and to the care of our elderly.

Earlier today, the Treasurer made the announcement regarding the extension of JobKeeper arrangements, the changes in the eligibility rules. I was able to brief the National Cabinet on that today. That additional investment of some $15 billion dollars, which brings the total investment in JobKeeper now to over $100 billion dollars on the part of the Commonwealth. This is the largest program of this nature the country has ever undertaken. It is at a scale, which is unprecedented and it stands well in comparison when we look around the world at the various forms of support that have been provided during this crisis, JobKeeper has been a lifeline to people's livelihoods. It's been a lifeline to businesses. It's been a lifeline for the certainty and assurance that it's provided Australians that I know they've been relying upon on these very difficult months and as we've seen at the outbreak of the Victorian wave and the impact that that's had specifically on Victoria. Knowing that JobKeeper is there, knowing that JobKeeper is supporting them, their families, their businesses, their communities I think comes of great assurance.

This has been a week where there have been many, many challenges to deal with. Victorians more than anyone know that. As a Government we’ve responded to the changes that have taken place in Victoria, we've moved to provide the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, that is progressing extremely well. And those payments are being processed and they're being progressed through Services Australia, who've stood up those services very quickly. The changes that we've moved to put in place for childcare and the changes that we've made to JobKeeper as we've considered and looked at the evidence and the likely impacts on the ground and making sure that JobKeeper can do that job that people are looking for it to do. This is a national program. This is not an arrangement that has been put in place specifically for Victoria. It's a national program. And I was able to remark to the other leaders today at the meeting there'll be many people in their states and territories who will also benefit from the changes that have been made for eligibility to make sure that JobKeeper reaches to those parts of the country where they're also continuing to do it tough. Quite understandably and rightly, we're all very focussed on the hardships being experienced in Melbourne and across Victoria. But let's not forget, in the rest of the country, there are many businesses that are still doing it tough. There are many households that are also doing it tough. The pandemic is still there. Many restrictions still in place. I look forward to standing behind this podium again in hopefully not the too distant future where we can plan out another road map out. And I believe we will be able to do that. And we're making great progress towards that. But for now, there are very serious challenges we need to address.

The overall commitment of the Commonwealth now in the various measures, both on balance sheet, particularly in direct fiscal measures is well over $300 billion now at a state level and territory level combined, that that investment is just over $40 billion dollars. We spoke today about the importance of continuing to work together to provide the necessary supports to the economy. We noted the measures the Western Australian government has released just this past week. Measures also that have been put in place in other states and territories. And we're going to continue to work together to ensure that we're providing that support into the economy, that businesses, employees that the country needs and at the next meeting we will be welcoming Dr Lowe from the Reserve Bank, together with Dr Kennedy, who will meet with the National Cabinet again.

More broadly, while it has been a week for solving problems, putting solutions in place quickly but in a considered way at a Federal level, it is also a time to remember that there is the strong plan to ensure that the economy comes out of this strongly. The measures that we've already put in place, whether it's been in the homebuilding sector, the entertainment sector, the many other specific parts of the economy, but also the need to address critical issues in our economy, whether it be on skills, we had a very long discussion today about skills, and I'll come back to that. But whether it's that on a workplace in industrial relations, work in the energy sector, the work that is needed in the manufacturing sector, to see that there is both an enablement of scale in that sector, but as well as having a security of of sovereign supply within Australia. All of these issues are part of our plan. And I want Australians to have that assurance that while we are in these, again, very dark times, places we're not unfamiliar with through this pandemic, that the governments are working together. And I can assure you the Federal Government has a very clear and strong plan for the road out to ensure that Australia will emerge strongly from this. And I believe we will emerge strongly, than many and most, if not all, developing- developed nations in the world. And that is because of the resilience and spirit of the Australian people and the capacity of our economy as it's been demonstrated on so many occasions.

Specifically today, there was quite a discussion from the Victorian Premier updating his colleagues about the nature of things in Victoria, and there was an appreciation to the strong support provided by the Commonwealth and the other states and territories to assist in Victoria. We've got nurses coming from WA, from South Australia, we've got support out of the Northern Territory, more coming from Queensland, testing and tracing being supported in New South Wales, and Tasmania. This is a truly national effort to support what is occurring in Victoria. And I know the premier was very grateful for that. And the support continued to flow from Premiers and Chief Ministers to assist those efforts. And I'm also appreciative of that support. There was also a very strong focus today on stress testing our our national preparedness more broadly, specifically in the area of quarantine, as well as in aged care preparedness. And Professor Kelly will speak more to those issues when he follows me in a few minutes’ time. There was a report from Jane Halton who's been undertaking that quarantine, a review. She's been in two states now in New South Wales and up in Queensland. And there were some very good lessons and experience that she was able to pass on the need to ensure we conduct quality and assurance testings at the state level over these quarantine arrangements. The training arrangements are there and in place. But she was particularly complimentary of the hospitality workers and the hospitality teams at the facilities that were providing the accommodation as part of the quarantine program, and that the way that the hospitality and hotel sector in Australia have gone out of their way to ensure that people who are in quarantine are treated as guests, guests that like to see the meals menu rotate every couple of days. So they're not the same choices every night. The attention to detail from our hospitality professionals, she particularly pointed out, and I think that's worth acknowledging here today, those, those facilities have been under a lot of pressure and they've been going to a lot of effort to make that quarantine experience as as positive as it possibly can be, we have a world class hospitality sector. And I was very pleased to hear that report, right down to making sure that an 8 year old had a birthday cake as they departed quarantine one day. They didn’t know that the hotel knew it was their birthday. Little things like that make a big difference in a pandemic like this. And those sorts of stories greatly encourage me. There will be an ongoing auditing of aged care preparedness around the country, learning from what has occurred in other jurisdictions. A key part of that is how workforce is managed, how the integration of public health units and broader aged care response is delivered, and also being in a position to put in place quite quickly an aged care response unit similar to that which we've been able to stand up in Victoria, which has aided greatly in our ability to stabilise that situation.

We also agreed that international travel constraints on inbound arrivals to Australia should be continued in their current form. We look forward to, at some point, that that might be able to be altered. But at this point, we are not going to put any further strain on the quarantine arrangements around the country and they will remain in place now for some months. We also agreed the freight code. I mentioned that to you a fortnight ago. That was a protocol a fortnight ago. It's a code today and it will now be implemented with enforceability by the states and territories through their channels and it's important that we get as much consistency for transport operators on things like that. And finally, there was a very good discussion with the Skills Commissioner, Adam Boyton, joining us to talk about the skill's task that we have and working particularly through the JobTrainer agreement that we've been able to bring together, which, as you know, is a billion dollars of investments between the states and the Commonwealth that will see 340,000 training places made available this year, this year. We also agreed the tasking of the National Cabinet Sub-committee on Skills and their program of work, which will go over the next month or two as they're finalising those arrangements around the JobTrainer initiative.

So with that, I'll pass it over to Professor Kelly to speak to a number of items. In particular, we updated on the vaccine progress today to National Cabinet. Look, I want to encourage people. We can't, we won't know when a vaccine will come. But as Professor Kelly will tell you, there's never been a global effort like this and there are some positive signs there that we can be hopeful about. Australia is positioning itself well to take advantage and be in a position to be able to manufacture and supply vaccines should they be developed. There are many projects that are underway around the world and we have a process for identifying those that we believe we can take an early position on. But the other thing Australia has been saying and supported strongly by the Premiers and Chief Ministers, and I made this point earlier in the week at the Aspen Forum, and that is whoever finds this vaccine must share it. Any country that were to find this vaccine and not make it available around the world without restraint, I think would be judged terribly by history. And that's certainly Australia's view and we'll continue to advocate that view in every conversation we have as I certainly have.

Professor Kelly?

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, ACTING CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Thank you, PM. So my role today was to update on the epidemiology of the COVID-19 issue and particularly the Victorian wave that's dominating the numbers that we're seeing each day and the trends that have happened since our last time we met as National Cabinet. Of course, Victoria is not alone in this. There are small numbers of cases, many of them related to Victoria, in neighbouring states, in South Australia and Queensland, and particularly in New South Wales. There are only two jurisdictions without active cases at the moment, ACT and Tasmania. So those increasing numbers, what can we see from those? I shared that with the Premiers and Chief Ministers in our hook up. We can see an increase in the elderly, particularly those over the age of 80 and 90, and that reflects what we are seeing in aged care outbreaks in Melbourne in particular. But still, the vast majority of cases are in that young age group and this is really an important issue for us to consider in our community engagement strategies right across Australia. What are we doing to engage with our youth to make sure that they know that this is not just a disease for elderly people? That might be where we're seeing the deaths and that that's very tragic. But young people are getting infected, young people are transmitting the virus and young people sometimes are also experiencing the severe end of the spectrum of the disease. We talked a little about the Victorian measures and our confidence that we have that what is happening in Victoria, particularly in relation to movement and mixing restrictions. So the lockdown measures will be effective. We saw that that was effective during the first wave. And now with even stronger measures that have been introduced over the last week, they will also be effective, but not immediately. There is always a lag time of one or two weeks for any of these things to show what is happening. That's the nature of this virus.

As the PM mentioned, we talked at some length about aged care, and I was very happy to see the commitment from all of the first ministers to work very strongly and closely with the Commonwealth in relation to aged care, particularly in preparation and prevention in states outside of Victoria. So as the PM has mentioned, there's a lot of assistance going to Victoria right now. That's a major issue for them and we have this new concept of the Aged Care Response Centre that has been set up so that literally we have people in a large room, but together, from all of the agencies that are working on that issue right now. From the Commonwealth, the emergency management area of the Commonwealth, as well as health officials, the ADF, our AUSMAT teams, nurses and other workforce surge capacity that's come from other states, crucially and very importantly and very good engagement from the Department of Health and Human Services in Melbourne, as well as their emergency management Victoria. So the sector itself and concentrating on communications, on workforce and particularly the surging workforce and on infection control. And so we talked through that at National Cabinet. What would it be like if that was to happen in each of the states? And a really strong commitment to audit where we are now everywhere through the aged care sector so that we can be preparing for that, look at preventive activities, further training that may need to be required, for example, and particularly that response, that acute response phase, so that that would be ready to go if this happened. Preparing for the worst, hoping for the best.

In terms of vaccines, I think as the PM has said, there is really strong optimism here. We can't promise that there will be a vaccine or when that may occur. We've never had a vaccine for a coronavirus in the world before. But the very best minds in the world are concentrating on this. Many companies, well over 100 different types of vaccine that are in development, and many of those are already in clinical trials in what has been described by some as warp speed. So these things normally take years. This is taking months, even weeks to get through this. In Australia, we're very prepared. And as the PM has mentioned, those prongs, the things that we're looking at very specifically in relation to research and development and support, they're not only for researchers here in Australia, but also through international, bilateral and multilateral relationships. We're looking very, very clearly and carefully about purchasing, advanced purchasing options as well as local manufacturing options. We're looking, of course, at the regulatory aspects to make sure that whatever does become available it works, as well as being of high quality and, of course, being safe. And all of these things are very important in the coming months. But I'm very optimistic that we are well-placed here in Australia not only to contribute to that worldwide effort, but also to benefit from it.

And it just strikes me, too, that whilst we are concerned, of course, about what's happening in Victoria right now and in other parts of the country in relation to COVID-19, I think it's worthwhile remembering where we've come from in these few months. So in January, this was a new virus. We didn't know anything about how we might develop a vaccine. Now we have vaccines in clinical trials and developing well, showing that they work and that they're safe. We've had rapid development of testing capability in our laboratories here in Australia and around the world. Our public health capacity has been increased and improved and we've seen, particularly, a very well-developed plan to know when things are needing to be further developed or responded to. Huge amounts of stock coming into our national medical stockpile, not only personal protective equipment, but also lifesaving drugs that we now know can work against this virus. We've had an increase in our hospital capacity through the private health hospitals in particular, but also through training and purchase of ventilators, for example, in intensive care. We've got telehealth that's available right throughout Australia. And so there is a lot that we can be confident about that we are prepared and indeed using those capabilities right now in Victoria and, particularly, in aged care in a very coordinated and supportive and responsive way.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Professor Kelly. Happy to have questions. Michelle?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there's been an increasing feeling within some sections of the Liberal Party that measures are going too far, particularly in Victoria. David Kemp, a former Howard government minister and party elder, wrote about this this week. He said the federal government should call out the situation in Victoria. What is your message to those Liberals who think that the health response is putting the economy too much at risk?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I've said from the outset that we're managing two crises here. We're managing a health crisis with the pandemic and we're managing the economic recession that has flowed from that and I've always addressed them as twin crises and it has always been a very difficult task to balance out those two issues. We see quite clearly that if the virus and the pandemic moves into community transmission, the havoc that it causes. We can't just pretend that that's not the case. It is the case. It is a serious pandemic. It has a death rate in Australia more than five times the flu. We've got hundreds of Australians who passed away. So it's a very serious health issue. And so that's important to recognise. But we support health measures and we support restrictions that meet health objectives. And it has always been the Commonwealth's position to follow the medical advice in these areas. That advice is interrogated. That advice is worked through. That advice, we seek to understand it and what's behind it. We understand that medical experts are not experts when it comes to the economy and in industrial practises and things of that nature. And they're not the ones we look to on those matters. At the end of the day, the system we have in this country is a federation and states have complete and total control over those types of restrictions. Now, as a Commonwealth, we seek to influence that and we provided significant input over the course of the last week and particularly recent days. And I'm pleased that there have been some changes to the implementation of those measures and where further changes are needed, people can be assured that the Commonwealth would be pushing those issues quite strongly. But the way we're doing that is by working in to the government in Victoria and seeking to do it that way. I don't see a great advantage of engaging in that process in some sort of public spectacle. I don't think that would be good for public confidence. I don't think that would be good for public assurance. I think what, regardless of which way you vote, it doesn't matter whether you're a Liberal supporter or a Labor supporter, that the virus certainly doesn't discriminate and it is seeking to cause its havoc wherever it can. And so we need to continue to have a balanced response that looks at the economic and health issues. But the health issues in Victoria, I have to stress, are very, very serious. Our own both Professor Kelly and Professor Murphy were involved at my request in a very high level dialogue with the Chief Health Officer in Victoria last Friday night, it was. I wanted to be assured that the health advice that was going to the Premier was understood by our health officials and they could advise me and our Cabinet and our Health Minister about where Victoria was heading and their advice concurred. Now, when it comes down to the precise description of those measures, that's a job for the Victorian government. They are their restrictions. They will have to be accountable for them. They will have to explain them. They will have to manage them. But it's my job to try and make them work. It's the job of the media, it's the job of oppositions, it's the job of others to do what their job is. My job is to make this work as best as it possibly can and that's what people elected me to do.

Phil? I’ll come over the other side.

JOURNALIST: PM, on the JobKeeper extension, the Treasurer said this morning that if JobKeeper 2.0, if that is to go, if anyone wants to keep the original rate of $1,500, then the states should contribute. He said the Commonwealth is not going to change those two tier payments. Did any of the states today raise the level of the payment in the National Cabinet post-September 28? Is there any push now?

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, there was, I think, well, there was an appreciation of the steps that the Commonwealth has taken. I don't know if I'd describe it as 2.0. I think it's still very much 1.0. JobKeeper is JobKeeper. And what we've done all along is, as we've worked through the pandemic, is seek to adjust it as we need it to deal with the circumstances on the ground. Now, for seven states and territories around the country, the circumstances are largely as they were when we announced the changes for post-September arrangements not that long ago. Obviously, in Victoria, it's changed quite dramatically. And I've said consistently that JobKeeper needs to be a national programme. It will find the need wherever it happens to be, whether that's in Bunbury or Brunswick, it will find it. And that's how it's designed to be delivered. And that's what it is doing and I'm pleased about that. With the scale of the Victorian wave, then that necessitated us to look at a more recent experience to ensure people qualified. And, look, we take a very open mind to these things. We're not lodged in particular positions from any ideological viewpoint at all. Quite the contrary. I think the Government has demonstrated, month after month. Practical problem, practical solution, practical problem, practical solution. Don't get involved in the politics. Don't get involved in all the other nonsense that can go on and the noise and various things. Just sort it and work with people and get on with it.

Katharine? Katharine, then Andrew for a change.

JOURNALIST: I'm not clear. Just on the aged care staff. I'm not. There's obviously been a discussion at the National Cabinet today about the desirability of rolling out the rapid response capability that you've established in Victoria. Has the National Cabinet agreed to do that nationally or have you just had a conversation about it? And also, if I may, just on the vaccines. You said a number of times, Prime Minister, that any country that successfully develops a vaccine or brings it to the stage of development must not sit on it, must not hoard it or whatever adjective you want to use.


JOURNALIST: Who are you talking about?

PRIME MINISTER: Anyone who develops it. I mean, Australia, we pledge that if we find the vaccine, we'll share it. I think every country's leaders should say that.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] somebody will not do that?

PRIME MINISTER: That's not what I’ve said.

JOURNALIST: No, no, no, I know, that's that's why I’m asking you the question?

PRIME MINISTER: That's not what I've said. So I think that's the answer to the question. On aged care, we are moving forward with preparedness plans in all of the states and territories. They move to an agreement to do that, not just a discussion and I think that's very important as as Professor Kelly said, quite an enthusiastic agreement across all the jurisdictions, very keen to get in place and to do the stress testing of their own systems. And that's already underway by the Aged Care and Quality Commissioner now, at one level and I think this will take it to another level. But already we saw, I think, what was a very good response in Queensland with their preparedness plan up in Queensland recently. They're working through at the moment. That was a good outcome. We've seen it in other jurisdictions. So I think states and territories are very mindful of this and keen to adapt and apply the lessons that have been picked up in Victoria. But I'd stress the Aged Care Response Centre is critical to that because it brings, it's actually emergency management led, through the pandemic I think a key lesson that we've all learnt is it's not just about health. There is a health response, but there is a broader response. And when you have emergency management, you're thinking about communications with the local community. You're talking about supplies and logistics. You're talking about a whole range of other needs that might pop up, whether it's a community in Colac or or anywhere else. And so it's not just about a nurse or a doctor. It is about many of these other supports that are necessary. And the hardest task, I've got to say, of the last couple of days, the previous week’s hard task was stabilising aged care.

The hard task this week following the Victorian government's announcement of restrictions, which I understand there are many criticisms of, and there's confusion, so, but I understand that, has been how to work drawing together the industry feedback, which I particularly acknowledge the Treasurer, Josh, has done a tremendous job just drawing that industry feedback in and the national coordinating mechanism through the Department of Home Affairs, drawing that in and getting that to the Victorian government. And I think that's had some some good success this week and a good example of what the partnership is. But ultimately, they'll make the restrictions. They'll enforce them. And they're their calls.

Yeah, Andrew.

JOURNALIST: Thanks, Prime Minister. Professor Kelly, something like 1,100 health care workers have got COVID-19. What's the discussion inside the AHPPC and elsewhere, maybe national cabinet about the appropriateness of of mask use and whether P2 and N-95 masks need to be deployed to stop this happening elsewhere? And secondly, every death is tragic, but the death of a 30 year old being somewhat of an outlier, what can you tell us about the circumstances there, whether they were co-morbidities or the like?

PROFESSOR KELLY: So firstly, masks, this is an ongoing discussion. And like everything that we've done in this pandemic in terms of our health advice to government, it's based on the best data and the emerging evidence as we see it. So in terms of the health care workers, any health care worker that gets sick whilst they're at work is, you know, that's we need to deal with that and work through how to prevent that. I'm absolutely committed to it. We need, though, to be led by the data that we have and the information we have. What we do know about many of the health care worker cases in Victoria that's come from the community rather than at work, it appears. And we're seeking more information from our Victorian colleagues on that aspect. But in terms of the specific question about P2 or N-95 masks, those so-called respirators, there's a live discussion in AHPPC at the moment, they're meeting now and they're looking to finalise some, an update to that to that advice. In terms of the individual, of course, I'm not going to talk about an individual case, but only to say that, as you say, all deaths are tragic and a death of a young person, a young male in this case is also tragic. There were some comorbidities, but it does actually stress what I said before, this is not only an old person's disease. This is a disease for all of us. And whilst most people only have asymptomatic or mild cases, occasionally they are severe and occasionally it can lead to death.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask about pandemic leave, first in residential aged care. Has the Commonwealth decided to tip more money in to fund paid pandemic leave outside hotspots as ordered by the Fair Work Commission? And second, more generally. Have any states other than Victoria signalled that they want to take part in the pandemic disaster payment or for that programme to be expanded?

PRIME MINISTER: On the second question, no. And I've written to all the states and territories making that offer, and none have indicated that they'd like to take that up. And the Commonwealth will support the decisions of the Fair Work Commission, as they've made those orders.


JOURNALIST: Thanks PM, Professor Kelly, this week the World Health Organisation has said that we can't bank on there being a silver bullet to combating COVID-19. Is it more a question of if there's a vaccine? Not when? And if there isn't. What does that mean for the virus? How long will it linger? And Prime Minister, what does that mean for the economy and Australia's response to suring up businesses if there isn't a vaccine?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I might start and hand to Paul, whether there's a vaccine or whether there's not a vaccine, time will tell. And I'm also encouraged by the reports that Paul has provided to us today and provided to federal cabinet with the health minister earlier this week. So we look forward to that. But you can't count on that. That's why the economic plan that we're putting in place and have been now for many months is so important. You have to address the health issues and perhaps it will be a treatment first as opposed to a vaccine that will mitigate the impact and enable broader restrictions to be eased. But it is the income supports, it is the aggregate demand supports that are put in place into the economy. And so whether that's HomeBuilder or the various other things we've put in place, I mean, the announcements we've made on JobKeeper, I mean, the Commonwealth has come to the rescue when it comes to JobKeeper. That's what it's been doing now for some time. And in relation to the Victorian wave. The Commonwealth has come to the rescue with JobKeeper for those who will be most significantly impacted. But beyond dealing with the immediate aggregate demand issues and income support issues, there is the changes, as I've said many times, for the economy to make, whether it's in industrial relations, whether it's in skills training. And that's why today, again, another great step forward in agreement amongst the states and territories to progress that skills agenda with already a billion dollars into that programme, the supports we've put into apprentices, of $1.5 billion dollars to keep 180,000 apprentice's in jobs. Looking beyond that, there's the energy challenges. I've talked a lot of times about what we need to do in the gas sector, and I'll have a lot more to say about that in the months ahead. What we're doing in our manufacturing sector, what we're doing to get infrastructure, almost $10 billion dollars brought forward. That's the plan that that can give the confidence and the assurance because that plan goes in place, vaccine or no vaccine and operating in a COVIDSafe economy is then the challenge. And that has training elements, that has workplace practise elements, and it has how we adjust supply chains and how we change how we do business.

The digital economy gives us great opportunities to move. In any crisis, there are always opportunities for businesses. And making sure Australian businesses are in a position to achieve that I think is very important. So there is a broader plan when it comes to the economy and that continues to be rolled out vaccine or no vaccine. But we're also putting the effort into the vaccine because obviously our economic plans are accelerated significantly by that being in place. We can't allow our economy to atrophy during this period. JobKeeper has been, and the cash flow supports, have been so important to that end, ensuring that we can keep our economy ticking over even at very low levels. And in this last week in particular, the discussions the Premier and I have had have been about trying to keep the economy, even in Victoria, at a level of operation, which will mean on the other side, when we come out the other side, we're not making it harder on ourselves to see it re-emerge.

But, Paul?

PROFESSOR KELLY: So silver bullets and crystal balls, I don't have either. So what's going to happen into the future? Will be the future. What we have got in front of us and a very detailed plan about how we can get in the game, if you like, in terms of vaccines and making sure that we are, well, ready to have one if it comes. So that's that's on vaccines. And as I said, I'm much more hopeful than I was even a few weeks ago in relation to that, in the last couple of weeks there have been published papers, so not just speculation or or announcements by certain companies or universities, but actual published papers demonstrating that there are there are several different types of vaccine that are now absolutely developed and appear to be effective, at least in terms of making antibodies against this virus. And and they remain for at least a few months. We don't know about the long term yet, and that will be something we'll find out as time goes by. We know that those initial trials at least show that there is a good safety signal. So there's much more work to do. But that's, that is a it will be part of a plan going forward. But just as the PM has said about the economy, we don't have all of our eggs in the basket of a vaccine. We have, we have our suppression strategy it has served us well until recently in one state and enforced, in four jurisdictions, we still have no community transmission, which is our aim of that suppression strategy and and in the other ones other than Victoria, the control is remaining very strong. So we have all of those things, not just a silver bullet.


JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] that you were concerned about the speed with which Victoria was handing over data in recent weeks, the speed of contact tracing and reports that some federal authorities thought that it was bordering on obstruction, that they got much more information when Alan Cheng came on board. Is there any truth to that? And how important is it that all states share that data in a transparent manner?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's a lot of speculation in that report, and I'm not about to comment on things that people speculate about, we established the the national dashboard to ensure that we were getting the data that was necessary to look at this issue from a national perspective. And that process was worked up by the medical expert panel. And I'm pleased that that dashboard has been fully populated by all states and territories, including Victoria, as the Premier was able to advise us this morning. So that's welcome. Data management is a key part of the process of combating this virus. And there are key indicators that are necessary to manage that process. I know that the Defence Force is one of the things the Defence Forces have been doing. They are a new type of keyboard warrior. Not the, not the one that most of us don't take any satisfaction from out there on Twitter and Facebook. These are good, these are good keyboard warriors. They're in there, data entering in command centres down there in Melbourne to ensure that the data that it's feeding up to those making decisions are much more tighter, and much more reliable than it would have been happening before.

So when you have a scale of, and a volume of things that are happening in Victoria, the data systems have to keep up. Now, you know, it's not that hard to enter that data when you've got no cases, zero, type it in. But when you've got a lot of cases, your data management systems have to grow and build to cope with that. And that's a key thing that Commodore Hill has been involved in in Victoria, is helping the Victorian government build up their data management capabilities.

JOURNALIST:  Prime Minister, on that and then a question on aged care. You mentioned the data coming into the dashboard. Can that dashboard be publicly available so Australians can see what's happening across the state and have transparency about that data? And on aged care, I just want to drill down a little bit on what's happening and what happens next? Are you confident that you've got commitments from states to learn the lessons from Victoria? We saw that in Victoria, St Basils didn't notify federal regulators for five days. We saw that there was they were too slow to act on elective surgery to free up a workforce. Have you actually got commitments from states that they will notify immediately of any cases in aged care and make a workforce available if there are outbreaks?

PRIME MINISTER: I’d give two responses. One is there's certainly today, was an acknowledgement of all of those factors. And we were able to report that to National Cabinet today these key learnings. And there was certainly an acknowledgement, Paul wasn't there? Of those factors. And what we agreed to do today is over the next fortnight, translate that into a codified national preparedness plan that sort of brings all that to a head and ensures that those commitments are in place. But I've got to say, I'm not doubting that those commitments will be there at all. The keenness to move to that from premiers and chief ministers today didn't need any, it didn't need any encouragement. I can assure you. And that's that's very welcome.

JOURNALIST: And the data?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, look, that's a matter that I'll raise with the other premiers and chief ministers. I mean, much of what's in there is you already do get, there is already quite a lot of data that's published in relation to this. In fact, premiers and chief ministers stand up almost every day going through that information. I think there's been a wealth of information that is being provided and I've got to say transparency, particularly from the work done by the chief health officers and indeed our great CMO team federally, who have been very open and very accessible to respond to those sorts of things. But that's a matter I'm happy to take up with the other premiers and chief ministers.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you've mentioned that you had a good working relationship with state and territory leaders, notwithstanding a few points of contention. One of those has been the WA border closure. The West Australian government wants the Commonwealth to ask the court to strike out evidence that has been put before it in the Palmer case. Will you do that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I have an outstanding relationship with the Western Australian government and we’ve pulled out of the case as they asked us to pull out. And so one quarrel I don't have is with Mark McGowan. Mark McGowan's quarrel is with Mr Palmer. And I believe Mr Palmer, and I'd be very encouraged because this is the only way out, I think is for Mr Palmer not to proceed with the case. He's the only one who can prevent that case from going forward and I think that would be a good decision. And Senator Cormann has made similar comments today, and I support those comments.

I've written to the Premier in exactly the terms I said I would yesterday. And we do and have provided support for the outcomes that the Western Australian government is seeking to achieve and I noted there was some reporting that was different to that this morning and that reporting wasn't correct. But anyway, we're going to keep working with the Western Australian government. That's the commitment we've made. We've set out important constitutional principles that I think will assist with that process and I look forward to that being supported. So that's why. It's all set out in my letter, Lanai.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, business leaders have been critical of Victoria's handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Are you disappointed in how the Victorian government handled the hotel quarantine process and should they be more upfront about what happened? And Professor Kelly, if I may, are you concerned that COVID might leave young sufferers with permanent health conditions, whether that be heart and lung? And is this being discussed by senior health officials?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, firstly, let me say our government wasn't elected to be disappointed, frustrated, angry, upset or any of these things. We were elected to get things done and to work with others to get things done. There are appropriate accountabilities that all leaders, including myself and my government, state and territory governments, there are appropriate accountabilities. And they'll have to face those accountabilities and they'll have to answer those questions, indeed, as you put them to me. And they need to be transparent about that and they'll need to be able to talk of the consequences of the decisions that they've made and that's all entirely appropriate and how they've gone about that. That is a job for, indeed, the media and the other channels of our democracy to be able to do that and I fully support that. My job, though, is to actually make things work and to provide whatever support I can as Prime Minister in my government to make things work on the ground because people are depending on me to do that when it comes to their job, their health, their business, indeed, their city and their town, their farm, their factory, their futures. And so that's why I've adopted the approach that I have and I think that's the approach Australians would expect of me.

I'll leave disappointment, frustration, anger, all entirely understandable in circumstances to others. But I don't think, as Prime Minister, I can indulge those feelings for myself. I totally understand and I don't consider it an indulgence on others that they may feel this way. These are tough times and they are really straining and testing people. So particularly in the area that you mentioned in terms of engagement with industry and business, this is why the Treasurer took action. He convened roundtables with industry and business leaders. He listened. He collected their input. We provided that through to the Victorian government. And we've made an impact. We've made a difference. And that's what we need to continue to do and that's how we'll continue to play it. That's what we’ll continue to do.

Was there anything Paul, did you want to add on that?

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, ACTING CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Just on there on the second question about young people and permanent damage to hearts and lungs and other parts of the body. Yes, it relates to my previous comment that this is not just a disease of old people, and whilst it's mostly mild illness, about 80 percent of people get through this quite well, there are about 20 percent of people that do have either more serious acute infection, or indeed, long-term effects. Things like chronic fatigue, as has been noted from this virus. Some, we don't know about permanent because it hasn't been around for too many months yet, but certainly long-term issues with lung damage and damage of the vessels, the blood vessels around the body in various parts, including the heart. So, yes, this can be a very severe illness and it's something to remember. Don't take it lightly. And when there are suggestions that people should take note of protecting themselves and those personal protective issues that we've talked about a lot, you should take that really seriously, whoever you are.

JOURNALIST: Questions for Professor Kelly. In the ACT, the Chief of Police has said that contact tracing is being threatened by people leaving fake names like Mickey Mouse on sheets at cafes and other venues. Should but at the same time, people are saying they have privacy concerns about leaving their name and their phone number where anyone who walks up to the counter can see it. Should venues be made to use something like QR codes to be a little bit more secure? And on the advice for MPs to isolate before they come to Canberra, some of the Victorian MPs are reportedly not happy about the idea about having to quarantine for two weeks. What was, why was the decision made that they couldn't, say, abide by the same rules that were in place for the Treasurer? And how many MPs have registered that they're going to quarantine before they come?

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, ACTING CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: So several questions there. The first one about QR codes, there are places around Canberra. I know the swimming pool I go to has a QR code. And so people, if they want to use that, they can. I understand people's privacy concerns, but we're in a pandemic. And I can absolutely say that the quicker people can do that contact tracing, the better the outcome, not only for individuals, but for the society in general. So please think about putting down those false dresses and false numbers is not going to help you and it doesn't help anybody. The second question was…

JOURNALIST: Coming in to Canberra.

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, ACTING CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Ah, yes. So Parliament returning. The last time I stood up with the Prime Minister those questions came about whether it was safe. And we've done a lot of work with the Presiding Officers in how to make the Australian Parliament House safe. And the PM himself asked for my advice last week, I think it was, in relation to what should happen in terms of people coming from Victoria, in particular, and that was a two week quarantine period was what my medical advice was that that was necessary to absolutely protect people within Parliament House, people in the ACT and the whole of Australia. When you consider how the Parliament House works, everyone. People come from every state. We don't want to be seeding cases to other places.

PRIME MINISTER: And in relation to the point you make about the Treasurer, those arrangements were some weeks ago and a lot's changed since then and the Treasurer himself will be abiding by those two week arrangements, as will the Health Minister. And look, I understand that can be a frustration. I mean, for many of these members, that means they'll be away from their family for a month. As a father of two young children, I understand that. I don't see them that regularly either these days either. But I'm sure all Members of Parliament will understand their responsibilities here. I'm pleased that the advice has been that there's an option to do that quarantine in Victoria before heading up to Canberra. But that also has some strict arrangements around it. And I'm sure that that will be adhered to. The Parliament will meet. I said it was always my intention that it should meet on the 24th and it will and it won't look the same, but it will meet and going forward there are some very constructive ways that we continue to manage the meeting of the Parliament as we go through to the rest of the year.


JOURNALIST: You mentioned in your opening remarks about stress testing quarantining. Can I just clarify what you actually sort of meant by that, those comments? What that entails? And to Professor Kelly, you talked about your growing optimism of getting a vaccine. Do you think we'll have it by year's end? And how do you think, if we do get it, it will be rolled out? Will priority be given to the elderly and the most vulnerable? If you want to go overseas will you have to have a jab before you're allowed out of the country? Things like that?

PRIME MINISTER: Do you want to deal with that one first, Paul?

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, ACTING CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Yeah, so in terms of timing that goes near the crystal ball territory, which I don't have. But, look, there are now, right now, right today, several vaccines that are in clinical trials whilst they're also looking as how to scale up massive manufacturing. So that, you know, we'll know more about that in coming weeks and months about how fast that will be. In terms of the prioritisation piece, that's certainly a very key component of the vaccine strategy and will depend a lot about what type of vaccine comes, where it's going to be most effective, how much there is. All of these things will be taken into account as we go forward with that planning.

PRIME MINISTER: On the stress testing, I mean, Jane Halton is conducting that review and that's informing how that can be done. One of her observations today was the need for auditing and assurance of what is being done by states and territories with the management of their quarantine. And that will go to issues of the security, of the training, of the performance on PPE and all of those types of procedures. I mean, Jane has done some great work already and that will inform how states are able to follow through on those things. This week, in Western Australia, the ADF are now providing that support at the request of Premier McGowan to assist with the hotel quarantining in Western Australia. That has been available to all states and territories and we've been pleased to provide it wherever that offer has been taken up.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Queensland Premier ahead of National Cabinet today flagged that she'd be pushing for no exemptions to international travellers being able to not do the mandatory quarantine after that mix up that happened with the consular case. Is that something that was agreed to by the National Cabinet today? And Professor Kelly, is there a reason why Sydney MPs will not be forced to do quarantine if they've come from a hotspot, given what Canberra’s position is on Sydney visitors?

PRIME MINISTER: Do you want to deal with that one?

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, ACTING CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: So I'll take that first one first. So our definition of a hotspot is the definition used by the ACT Chief Health Officer. Sydney is not a hotspot according to that definition.

PRIME MINISTER: And on the other matter. No, I wouldn't say it was raised in that way or addressed in that way today and that actually wasn't a consular case. That was the movement of an individual who wasn't even travelling on a diplomatic passport and that individual had been given authorisation for travel by the Queensland Chief Health Officer. So I think those issues are quite separate. But in terms of how consular issues are managed, and I've made that point earlier in the week.

Time for one more.

JOURNALIST: Thanks, PM. Will you consider Labor's proposal for digital participation for Victorian MPs? And Professor Kelly, should Queensland MPs, federal MPs, self isolate when they return to Queensland after Parliament, given Queensland has declared Canberra as part of the hotspot?

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, ACTING CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: The second one is a matter for the Queensland Chief Health Officer.

PRIME MINISTER: There have been border arrangements in Western Australia and other places for parliamentarians when they've attended Parliament before and there have been arrangements put in place for those members. And that really is, though, a matter for the Queensland government. On the other issue, I spoke about this with the Leader of the Opposition the other day. The Government had very similar thoughts along these lines and I expressed to him the other day when we discussed it that we had no objection to that at all. One of the points that the Leader of the Opposition and I very much agree on, and that is that if you're voting in the Parliament, then you've got to be here. We can't have a situation where people are sort of phoning in votes into our Parliament. I mean, you can have no confidence that you haven't got, you know, 14 people standing next to them when they make those votes. That’s just not on. That's not how our democracy works. And the pairing arrangements can provide for the flexibility needed to enable those votes to be done in the normal and the appropriate way. We have no objection to moving to participation by those means, including, if it were necessary, if I had to be isolated for whatever reason I would hope to participate in Question Time and be able to do that if I had to do it remotely, fine. Equally, if others had to ask questions or if others wanted to participate in debates. I mean, these are not unique ideas. They are sensible ideas and they're ones that the Government had already been contemplating. So we welcome working together on that. Whether that is in a position where it's at a standard, technologically and otherwise, with procedures to be in place for when Parliament meets next, well, we'll see. But there is certainly no policy objective or objection, I should say, or any other resistance on the Government's part. But we'd obviously want it to work. I don't think you're going to fly blind on something like that. There has been some participation of members and other parliamentary procedures, committees in the Senate. Some of that has gone well. There have been some criticisms of that. I'm sure the Manager of Government Business would want to be confident that any procedures that were put into the House and any opportunity for people to participate in that way could actually be done. I don't think it would reflect well on the Parliament to the citizens if they saw that not working well. And so we would share that objective and I think that's a sensible contribution and I'm happy to agree with it and work together to see when we can achieve it. With that, thank you all very much.