Press Conference - Camperdown, NSW

Transcript
19 Feb 2021
Prime Minister
E&OE

The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP, Premier of NSW: Good morning, everybody. I'm extremely pleased to be here at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney alongside the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, the New South Wales Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, and many, many key staff, our front line workers in the New South Wales health system. 

We are all extremely pleased and excited that the vaccine rollout will commence on Monday here in New South Wales. And RA will be one of three hubs where within the course of three weeks, 35,000 frontline workers in quarantine and throughout our health system will receive the vaccination. It is a complex but simple process for us, for those of us who will eventually get the vaccine, and especially for those people who will get the vaccine on the first few days. The Prime Minister, myself and minister Hazzard have just had a walk through. And I want to thank all of the staff involved in the process. They've gone through a number of processes of dress rehearsals for want of a better term to make sure everything is precise and ready, and also to make sure that especially with the first vaccines that are administered, that we have good observation, good data and good information to support everybody through the process. It is a mammoth task, but a critical task and a game changer in dealing with the COVID pandemic. 

I'm incredibly proud of team New South Wales and the way everybody has worked together. And the vaccine rollout is an example of that. And I want to thank the Prime Minister and his team for facilitating the supply of the vaccine, but also working with us in making sure it's distributed as efficiently, as safely as possible. And it is no doubt going to change the way in which we live with COVID. It does change the way in which we will think about the restrictions and life. However, in the meantime, until there's a critical mass of our population who've been vaccinated, we all have to stick to the rules as strictly as ever. We can't be complacent during this time. We're in a transition phase. We cannot be complacent. The second that we're complacent, community transmission will occur and we will go backwards. And that's something we don't want. What we need to make sure is during this transition phase that we continue to follow the health advice. We continue to get tested even if we have the mildest of symptoms, and that we make sure that when we're available- we have the opportunity to take the vaccine, that we should take it. And that is really important. As you know, both the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca, when they, when that arrives as well, have different ways in which we need to store them and get them out to our communities. And that's obviously a factor - That's okay, it’s a medical emergency - But obviously that also has a factor in how the vaccine is distributed in the cohort of the population that will be invited to have the vaccine. 

I believe very strongly that the overwhelming majority of our population in New South Wales will be very keen and eager to get the vaccine. But I also understand that people want confidence in the process, confidence in the efficacy, and can I assure you that when my turn is here, I will be getting the vaccine as quickly as I can. I think it's an extra line of defence. And the more of us that get the vaccine as soon as possible, the better it is for everybody. And can I thank the federal government for the supply, they've made sure that there's enough doses for everybody and we're looking forward to be able to roll that out in New South Wales. 

Obviously, the PM will say a few words and then we're happy to take a few questions. Thank you. 

Prime Minister: Thank you, Premier, thank you, Gladys. And thank you, Brad. And particularly thank you to you for the work that I've seen here is as impressive as anywhere you will find it, I believe, around the world. You know, I've said on many occasions I've never felt more proud to be an Australian, but I'm very proud of my home state, too, I've got to say, Gladys, the leadership you've shown together with Brad and the whole team, but particularly the health professionals and workers here of New South Wales, have done I've got to say, I think the best job in the world. And, you know, you think about a city as sophisticated, as amazing as my home city of Sydney and what Sydney in particular has been able to achieve over the course of this pandemic when you compare it to places like New York and London and Paris and so many of the great cities of the world. And I tell you what, Sydney shines on a bright day, as we all know, but it certainly has shined here during the course of this pandemic under your leadership, Gladys and Brad and to all the amazing health workers that we have here in this state. So I thank you very much for that. And so we've seen that on display here again.

We're ready to go. That's the clear message when it comes to rolling out this vaccine. We have been preparing. We have been planning. We have been dotting the I's. We have been crossing the T's. The best medical experts and professionals in the world have both signed off on these vaccines. So you can be confident. But then the best medical experts and professionals in the world have been designing the process and have been preparing for this process. As you've seen that just upstairs, they are ready to go. What particularly impressed me today when I saw this process is how sympathetic it is. How human it is. Yes, it's a jab and yes, there's a lot of technology and yes, there's a lot of science, but what I'm particularly pleased about is the care, the concern that is being demonstrated to Australians as they'll come through this process. I know for many this may be a very anxious process. And I think the plans here have taken that into account to reassure, to calm, to encourage, to observe, to make sure everybody's okay. So it's just not about the health protection of the vaccine. It's the care that is being put into this and the care that is being provided to every Australian through the amazing processes and systems that have been built here, that are on display here. 

Now, that'll be the case as we move from these initial phases with Pfizer. And we moved in the AstraZeneca phase and it will go out more into GP's and there’ll be pharmacists and it'll get into remote communities and all of this. And so the care that has been put into the planning and the preparation I'm seeing matched by the care that is being provided to each and every individual. So you can feel confident, you can feel safe and you can bring your family. And I'm looking forward to those vaccinations starting very soon as is I know the premier and the other premiers because as she rightly says, as this programme rollout, it does change how we can ultimately manage this virus in this country. This does change it. And that's why it is our government's biggest priority, particularly now as we prepare the country to engage in the vaccination process and to ensure that we can significantly reduce the risk of serious disease. 

That's what this is about. When Gladys and I sat around a table almost a year ago now, our biggest concern was serious illness and fatalities. I mean transmissibility at that point was certainly an important topic of conversation. But what we were concerned about were those horrific scenes that we were seeing of people dying, some with ventilators, some without, in the most awful of conditions, this vaccination deals with that risk. And as a result, that changes how we can confidently go ahead managing the virus in Australia into the future. 

Still a long road. But again, I want to just thank everyone who's been involved in the meticulous health planning here. But the thing I've really got to thank them for most is the care that they're putting into this, the care.

Now one last thing I want to ask everybody to do to support the vaccination process and the digital process that's associated with that. Go to my.gov.au today, particularly if you're in those early phases of the vaccination rollout, please go on there. Please update your details to ensure they're accurate because of that process, actually is supporting the certification process for the vaccination more broadly. So it's a simple thing. Those who know that they're in that first wave, that's important. Of course, those who are elderly, we've got 240 facilities that are in towns right across the country, 190 locations around the country, which will be in that first wave of vaccinations, we're protecting our most vulnerable, protecting those who are working on the front line, protecting our health workers who have been working with this not just today, but for the full last year. And their courage and bravery well we all know. 

So happy to take questions, of course, of the clinicians who are with us as well. 

Journalist: Are you confident that once everyone is vaccinated, the programme is completed, that we can open up our borders to the rest of the world?

Prime Minister: What I've always been confident about is taking one step at a time when it comes to managing the virus. I'm confident that as we move through the vaccination process, we can significantly change how things are done here in Australia. And I think the very suggestion you've made is very possible. But I've never got ahead of myself on this, on the science. We wait for the evidence. It's not just Australia that's getting vaccinated here. It's the rest of the world. And some countries like Israel, we've seen some fantastic results coming out of Israel. But when we're thinking about countries in our own region, in Indonesia, for example, in India, I was talking to Prime Minister Modi about these things yesterday. There are big jobs to be done there. But look, I think it is a reasonable expectation that as time goes on, as the vaccination rolls out across the world and here in Australia, you should rightly expect that things will change in how we manage the virus. Why? Because the risk of someone getting seriously ill is addressed. There are plenty of viruses that are dealt with here each and every day. And we don't have the sort of controls that we have in place to protect against those viruses in the community that we do for COVID. So I think you can expect to see that normalise as time goes one.

Journalist: PM on that issue, travel etc and the borders. Once we start having these vaccines and we take the details down and take all people’s information down in the system have we got any further yet on the vaccine passport to enable that travel to one day happen? Has that got any...

Prime Minister: You mean internationally? 

Journalist: Yeah. 

Prime Minister: Look, this is a process that we're still working with, with international partners, ICAO and others. And what we want is a proper accreditation process which can load up into that system. Now, we obviously have very good systems here and we've worked hard on them. We know what our systems can do and we can be confident about those. It's about getting to a level of confidence across many jurisdictions that would enable that outcome. So once I think we get a greater understanding of everybody's systems, that can give the airlines in particular because they are the gatekeepers here largely on this, they can have the confidence about what's being loaded up, who's had a vaccine, what vaccine have they had, who approved that, what's the role of the WHO. So there's a fair bit of work to still go there. 

Journalist: Prime Minister, the premier has said earlier this week that people working in hotel quarantine will be chosen based on their willingness to get the vaccine, is that something you support?

Prime Minister: Of course, of course.

Journalist:  Do you think everyone working in hotel quarantine system should have to get the vaccine?

Prime Minister: Well, we’re strongly- strongly encouraging it yeah.

Journalist: is there, you’re strongly encouraging it, is it going to be mandatory?

Prime Minister: Well, I'll let the premier speak to that. But when it comes to particular occupations, whether that's hotel quarantine workers, whether it's the ICU workers here at RPA or it's people working in aged care facilities. Our chief health officers and the chief medical officers have already had discussions about this. And their advice at this point is that there would be no requirement for that. But they are watching that very carefully. That can only be enforced through a public health order under state laws. But what I thank all the premiers for, and particularly Gladys, is that should that be necessary, we would seek to do that on a nationally consistent basis, exercised through consistent public health policy. Gladys?

Premier Berejiklian: Oh, yes, certainly I have overwhelming confidence that sufficient numbers of people who work in our quarantine system or have the potential to work in the quarantine system will be vaccinated. All the feedback I've received from the workers that I come into contact with is that the vast majority are enthusiastic and feel it will give them an extra protection, not just for themselves, but also potentially for their families and loved ones. We know the greatest risk to New South Wales is through the hotel quarantine system and people working in the system know that. And I want to express my deepest gratitude because these are our men and women who are on the frontline every day protecting the rest of us. And I think it's only fair that people who are in that situation are offered the vaccine first. But also I understand and appreciate that the vast majority will want to take it. And if they don't, my strong preference is that people who have the vaccine are the ones that work in the quarantine system. There's thousands of people from whom we can, we can make sure that's the case because that allows us to move forward and reduce the risk for everybody. And we don't like to make things mandatory in New South Wales. If you look at the way in which we've dealt with the pandemic, it's been a lot of trust between the public and our health experts and the government and the business community. We've all worked together on trust, and I have absolute confidence that sufficient numbers of people will come forward who are offered the vaccine and take the vaccine, because we know that it helps us reduce the incidence of serious illness. And there's also studies to suggest it reduces the rate of transmission potentially as well. And these are all pluses. It's an extra line of defence, a very important one, and especially for that for those people on the front line. The feedback I've had from those I've spoken to is overwhelming enthusiasm to take the vaccine. 

Journalist: Do you have any plans to write that into the public health order? 

Premier Berejiklian: Well, we you know, for us, it's early days. It's watch and see for us. But I have confidence that the vast majority of people who are offered the vaccine, especially the health workers, because they appreciate what the virus can do, some of them have witnessed the horrific consequences of severe illness. Some of them have been nursing our COVID patients. Some patients are in hospital for months and come back to hospital after they've had a mild case. And then return for months and months, so we know the severity of the disease. We don't want anyone having to go through that. And we also know that you can't predict how someone will react once they have the disease. But the vaccination will prevent serious illness. It will reduce, we know reduce the rates of serious illness and that’s what we need to get to, it will be in due course very similar to how we treat and react to the flu vaccine. I mean, the flu vaccine is there. It reduces the incidence of mortality, reduces the incidence of serious disease. And the success of us dealing with the pandemic is getting to a stage where we can live with COVID, where the vast majority of people who might get the disease don't end up in hospital. They don't get it severely. They don't die from it. And that's why the vaccine is so important. My strong message to everybody is, please, please take the vaccine.

Journalist: Would you consider offering incentives to make sure that people do take it and if so what incentives would you consider?

Premier Berejiklian: Yeah, I'm completely happy and comfortable for there to be incentives for people to take the vaccine. I think that's a positive way to do it rather than penalising people who haven't taken the vaccine. I would like to see incentives for people who do take the vaccine because it is a good thing for our community. I know there are some, a minority in the community that don't feel that, but the vast majority of our residents, I think, will welcome the vaccine's arrival. Appreciate what it can do in our fight against COVID. And also, this is what I've really been, really been buoyed by during this process, is that all of us aren't just thinking of ourselves, but we're thinking of our loved ones. We're thinking of people around us. And getting the vaccine not only helps us keep ourselves healthy, but also those around us. And that's really important as well. 

Journalist: The Victorian Premier has added the families of quarantine staff to his list of priorities to receive the first jab, would you do the same?

Premier Berejiklian: Oh, we’re definitely looking at that. But please know that we are the state that is lifting the majority of the burden. And we've got 3,000 people coming in every week. I'm not sure where Victoria's up to, but we've got 3,000-

Prime Minister: Zero.

The Hon. Brad Hazzard, NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research: Zero. 

Premier Berejiklian: Zero at the moment. We've got thousands and thousands of people working in our hotel quarantine system. And when it comes to organisations like the New South Wales Police Force, they have a roster. So potentially thousands and thousands of police officers can be rostered on. And of course, with our health workers, we have thousands and thousands of them involved in the process. So please know that, of course, we're going through the list of priorities, but our main priority is to protect those on the front line. But also to reduce the likelihood of community transmission and that’s what really matters for us and please know that the reason why I’ve been probably the loudest advocate for that amongst all the Premiers is, it's because New South Wales is doing the heavy lifting on that.

Journalist: The AstraZeneca vaccine, has got the TGA approval now we saw the pictures released earlier in the week. It’s rolling off the production lines, why are we waiting till March to get that one out, why aren’t we starting that straight away?

Prime Minister: Well, there are two AstraZeneca vaccines, as you know. There is the ones that are coming to Australia from, that are being imported and the ones that we're manufacturing. And so we are as you know, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved here in Australia. And so we are looking forward to the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccines in Australia very, very soon. And then it'll follow the same process for preparing for its rollout as it has with the Pfizer vaccine. And so we're close.

Journalist: So no reason why we couldn’t roll it out tomorrow?

Prime Minister: Well it’s not here, the very good reason for it not to be rolled out tomorrow is the AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet arrived in Australia, 

Journalist: But the one we are making has started the production, it’s there?

Prime Minister: But that goes through a further approval process by the TGA. What Professor Skerritt said earlier this week on Monday is he approved the AstraZeneca vaccine that is being imported from overseas. And there are two parts to an approval. There's one that basically deals with the vaccine science of the vaccine itself. And then there is an assurance around the manufacturing process to produce that vaccine. So the manufacturing process for the imported AstraZeneca vaccine has been concluded and it has been approved. They will now continue to go through the approval process for the Australian manufactured vaccine for AstraZeneca. So that's that's that process.

Journalist: On another topic if possible?

Prime Minister: Well I’m going to just stay on health for the moment. And then once we're finished with health, then I might excuse our clinicians. 

Journalist: Premier just to Alice’s question, could you provide a specific example of what an incentive might be?

Premier Berejiklian: Oh, look that will be up to private organisations. We, you know, I presume that airlines might say that they would want people vaccinated when they go on international flights. There could be some hospitality venues that may be able to ease restrictions further if you know, patrons have- I mean, look, there's a whole range of options. And I don't want to speculate, but I am very much of the view that rather than penalise people who don't have the vaccine, we should be thinking about ways in which- sorry, there's another plane. 

Prime Minister: Signs of life returning to normal.

Premier Berejiklian: Rather than penalising people who don't get the vaccine, I think we should be considering incentives and, but it may not be government led. There may be private organisations that choose to have those incentives. But as I said, if you look at our track record in New South Wales, we don't like forcing anybody to do anything. But what we can do is give the strongest advice, the strongest recommendation and our preferences. And we just ask the community to respect that. And I think the vast majority of our citizens will, because they'll appreciate that the sooner the vast critical mass of us get the vaccine, the sooner we can lead to a more normal life living with COVID. And we know COVID is going to be around, unfortunately for some time, for years. But just like the flu, the secret of success will be treating it as much like the flu. The flu can kill, obviously not at the same rate and not of the same severity. But we have to get to a stage where we can live with COVID without having people worried about getting to hospital or dying. And that's why the vaccine is very useful in that process. But until we get to that level of critical mass, we have to keep with all the restrictions. We need to get tested with the mildest of symptoms. We need to make sure we are keeping the hand sanitisation as well. And of course, our quarantine workers can't let down their guard more than anybody. We know that a second of distraction or a second of letting your guard down can have tragic consequences. And now we actually, during this transition phase, as I call the vaccine rollout, we need to be more vigilant than ever because the risk of the vaccine- or the risk of the disease seeping out into the community is great. And we need to be on our guard every single day until a critical mass of the population has access to the vaccine. 

Journalist: What if people don’t sign up to mygov health, they haven’t opted in, is that going to create problems in keeping track of the vaccines and for future?

Premier Berejiklian: Well, clearly, we just ask everybody to follow the health advice in New South Wales, every state has their own booking system. So as we start with the early cohorts of health officials and police and cleaners and frontline workers that are getting the vaccine, we have a booking system which you go through. But obviously, it's really important for us to have national data on who's getting the vaccine, what the consequences are. And that is important research for us to be able to use in the fight against COVID. So I ask everybody to follow the instructions you are given to log on to the national website, but also to make sure you follow instructions in your state in terms of the rollout. And that's what people have been doing in the main already. There's nothing new there, but it's important for us to have national data as well as state based data, and that will help us not only fine tune the rollout, but also fine tune our response to the pandemic. 

Journalist: Prime Minister, when are the doses at CSL in Victoria-

Prime Minister: When are the doses at CSL in Victoria expected to be approved?

Prime Minister: Well, Professor Skerritt outlined that on Monday, and that really is in his hands and we anticipate hopefully that will occur next month. But at this point, that is completely in their hands. And I can assure you I won't be doing anything that would seek to place any undue pressure on them going through the proper medical process that they should follow. That is so important. Now, our Therapeutic Goods Administration is the world standard and that is critical to Australians having confidence. And I just want to reinforce the points the Premier has just made. I think one of the reasons, if not the most important reason that Australia has done so well and indeed New South Wales has done so well under the most strain, I should add, is because Australians have responded so well, Australians have been sensible, they've been cautious, they've been sensitive, they've sought the information. They've made good judgements. They've supported each other. And, you know, we're backing that in. And that's why I can be confident about how I believe this process will roll out. It’s not just because Teresa and Paula, they're doing an amazing job. And our health workers are doing an amazing job. But, you know, Australians are doing an amazing job. The turnout I remember, Gladys, on the testing, when everything that has happened and whether it's here or whether it's the turnout on testing in Victoria or Queensland or anywhere else, Australians are going, yeah, we get it. We know what we have to do we get it. And that can be a bit inconvenient at times. But we get it. And we know if we keep following the advice and doing the things that are being asked of us, we're going to keep ourselves in the best possible position. And that's, I just continue to encourage Australians to go down that path and being themselves, because that's their natural, their natural inclination. 

Journalist: Prime Minister once there is the initial phase after the three weeks, do you think the vaccination is enough to convince other Premiers, Ms Berejiklian hasn't done this, to enforce quick lockdowns when there's just a handful of cases?

Prime Minister: There is no doubt that the vaccination programme being rolled out, particularly once you're dealing with that sort of first line of defence of frontline workers, protections around in aged care facilities, which is part of the first week’s roll out, the quarantine workers. And so on, there's no doubt that that provides a big change to how we assess risk around COVID in this country and all the measures that we have put in place across the country, whether be it nationally or whether as independently determined in each of the states. Those decisions, as they have said themselves, are based on the assessment of the risk as advised by their health officers, but not just by the health officers, because premiers as the Premier knows, and leaders, we have to make decisions that take into account all of these factors, whether it's the health advice, the economic advice, the industry advice, critical supply chains, safety on roads, all of these sorts of things, we're charged with the responsibility of taking that broader view. And the work that I commenced with the Premier’s very strong support at the last meeting for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to go away and work with the Directors General of all the states and territories to answer this question for us. Okay, the risk is going to change, i.e. it's going to go down with the vaccination. It's going to go down because of the improvement in practises. So when the risk goes down, what does that mean for the other responses that states have been using up until this time? I mean, you only use a tool for as long as you need that tool. And if you don't need that tool anymore, well, you can put it back in the box. And I think we're getting to that point on this and I'm looking forward to it. And I know the Premier is very supportive of that as well.

Journalist: But does that happen after the next, after the initial three week rollout or are we talking, vaccination?

Prime Minister: Well, I'm going to let, I'm going to let those officials do their job and to calibrate that and to understand it and advise us on that. Because, you know, every step of the way, we have been careful about how we've done this. We've just taken, you know, cautious steps, informed steps. We've sought the information. We've listened to the experts. We've talked it around. We've discussed it, we’ve sat as cabinets, state cabinets, federal cabinet, National Cabinet, and made decisions. And we'll continue to do that. 

Journalist: Will you be getting vaccinated on Monday?

Prime Minister: I'll be getting vaccinated very, very soon.

Journalist: PM I’ve got to ask too, we've got the state rollout on Monday obviously  and the federal roll out on Monday with the aged care versus quarantine etc etc, who’s going to go first?

Prime Minister: Well, what is important who goes first, are those who need to be in the front line of dealing with this. And we've already said who should go first in the national vaccine strategy. That's who should go first. I think it's very important, and the Premier and I were discussing this earlier today in the first round, I'll be taking the Pfizer vaccine and so will my Chief Medical Officer. The Premier will be taking the AstraZeneca vaccine because I think it's important,  as will my Health Minister, be taking the AstraZeneca vaccine. I think it's important. These are all great vaccines, they're not better than each other. And it's important for us as leaders and this is my health advice, that I demonstrate I'm happy to get it. Very happy to get it. I think it's important people understand it's safe. And there's no way I can say that more than rolling up my sleeve and getting the vaccination. 

Journalist: Prime Minister, there’s quite the pressure you’re facing, the world is watching and waiting to see what you’ll do if Facebook don’t back down and return the news pages?

Prime Minister: Well, I might thank them for this. Thank you so much. Good luck, you're doing a great job. 

I've been in this space before. You know, Amazon told me when I was Treasurer, you know, we don't - we’re not paying tax. You know, we're not going to be subject to paying tax on, on products of less than a thousand bucks. We're not doing it. We’re going to pull out of the country. I said, you go right ahead. You go right ahead. But the law of our country and who pays tax is made by Australians. They came back within three months. And when we dealt with those horrific, those horrific scenes in Christchurch of the, of that terrorist attack there on that mosque. The first thing we did, apart from consoling our Kiwi brothers and sisters was to say that can't happen. And we called them out and I said to them, you know, you can get an ad to me on your platforms in about two seconds, but you're telling me you can't identify violent and extremist material and you can't get rid of it. I'm calling you on that. I took it to the G20, got all the leaders of the world to agree with that position. There was also the Christchurch process, which Prime Minister Ardern led with President Macron. And the world came together on that and we called them out. This is the same process. Look, I applaud Google for the way they have engaged. They have respected this process, yeah they had some concerns about it. They said a few things early, negotiations work like that. But I would just say to Facebook, this is Australia you want to do business here you work according to our rules, and that's a reasonable proposition. We're happy to listen to them on on the technical issues of this, just like we listened to Google and came to a sensible arrangement. But the idea of shutting down the sort of sites they did yesterday as some sort of threat. Well, I know how Australians react to that. And I thought that was not a good move on their part. And they should move quickly past that, come back to the table and we'll sort it out. But our record as a Government is on, is resolve. We've demonstrated that before. I've worked with these other organisations before. Threats are made. And that's not a good way to deal with this Government. 

Journalist: You had international support on the Christchurch agreement, will you get more support on this one as well Prime Minister, you’re ringing India’s Prime Minister for instance.

Prime Minister: Well, let me just be clear about that. I mean, well, I was speaking to Narendra Modi yesterday. We were talking about a whole range of other issues, as you'd expect us to. But this is one issue we discussed because there's a lot of interest in it. People are looking at what Australia is doing. I've had these exchanges also with Prime Minister Trudeau, and I know Prime Minister Johnson is very interested. I've spoken to President Macron about these things, in the same way we talk about that they should pay tax too. And we discuss that a lot. And so there is a lot of world interest in what Australia is doing. And so that's why I, I invite, as we did with Google, Facebook, to constructively engage because, you know, they know that what Australia will do here is likely to be followed by many other Western jurisdictions. And Prime Minister Trudeau has made that exact point. They're already going down this path and they're looking precisely at it now, you know, I suspect by the time the G7 and the G20 comes around, I suspect this issue will be long addressed. So I don't think, I haven't made any suggestion that I'd be taking it up in those forums. I would hope that we would have resolved it long before then. Long before then. But it's not okay to unfriend Australia because Australia is very friendly. We'd like to remain very friendly and it's time for them to friend us again. 

Journalist: Prime Minister, you've previously said that you were unaware of the Brittany Higgins incident, but a text message revealed today that one of your staffers knew about it and he said that he told you about it back in 2019?

Prime Minister: No, that's not what the report says at all. It says nothing about him telling me anything. That's not what the report says at all. It refers to-

Journalist: So did your office know about it earlier than this week? 

Prime Minister: Well, the matters that, I'm aware of those reports and those matters are in the scope of what I've asked the Secretary of the Prime Minister and Cabinet department to actually look into within that scope. And we've had that conversation this morning. And I would expect that to be considered in the scope of what he is already doing. But I set out in the Parliament this week the timetable of when I'm advised my office knew about it. And I can tell you I knew about it on Monday and frankly, it shattered me. It absolutely shattered me. I mean, of course, the many ramifications of this, but frankly, the one that shattered me the most, it was just the sheer humanity of what has occurred here. And that was deeply distressing, as I'm sure it was for everybody when they were first confronted with this news.

Journalist: The messages aren’t [inaudible] though, [inaudible] The messages aren’t a good look though, have you misled the Australian Parliament or has your office misled you about it?

Prime Minister: I certainly have not. I've sought to be as open and honest as I can be about this matter, I've told you everything I know about this matter and I will continue to. This is devastating. This is awful. And there are many who I know, anyone who has been confronted with this information, I'm sure would agree. But, you know, the thing that's most important is, are the issues that Brittany has raised. And I've been listening to those carefully and seeking to address them in the best possible way I can. So and I'm just going to continue doing that. We have to deal with issues of culture, which I'm sure you would agree are not confined to the, you know, the offices of Parliamentarians. I mean, this is an issue that every workplace deals with, and we have to make workplaces safe. I have no doubt it occurs in the media, in the media workplaces and media workplaces, offices in law professions or whatever it might be. This is a big problem. And we've all got to do what we can to change the culture of all of our workplaces. And that is what I'm committed to do. I'm horrified by this. It has been deeply distressing, but it's, whether I'm distressed is not the issue. It's about Brittany at the end of the day and anyone else in that situation. And that's what I have to maintain my focus on. And that's what I am focussed on. 

Journalist: Are you disappointed though that your office didn’t tell you in April of 2019 when they found out, apparently found out?

Prime Minister: Well, that is not a matter that's been established. And my advice is, is exactly as I set it out in the Parliament. And that's why I've asked the department to within the scope of what I've asked them to do to look at these matters in terms of the advice I've received, which I think is the appropriate thing to do. 

Journalist: Why do these messages suggest otherwise then?

Prime Minister: Well only you can- that is for you to interpret, what I'm telling you. 

Journalist: Isn’t it for your office to interpret?

Prime Minister: Well, I've received the advice from my office and I've asked my department to actually look into that advice so I can be assured. I would like to know if there was anything different here, I would like to know. I want to know. And that's why I've asked the Secretary of my department to actually test that advice that I've received. That's how I go about understanding these matters fully. And I will continue to be open and honest. But the most important thing is to focus on what we have to fix, because that is an ongoing task. It has been an issue for a very long time now I hope, and I would hope that is improving. But, gosh, we've got a lot more to do as a community.

Journalist: Premier one issue in regards to a state issue, there’s been criticism from Jodi McKay about the appointment, the potential appointment of Mick Fuller the Police Commissioner to the NRL Commission, apparently you have given your approval? What’s the situation?

Premier Berejiklian: Oh, look, there's nothing come across my desk and if anything of that nature came across my desk I would make sure that there was no conflict and everything was okay before anything like that preceded. 

Journalist: Do you think it would be a good appointment to the NRL Commission? 

Premier Berejiklian: I don't want to answer hypotheticals. That's a matter if and when it materialises. Thank you.