Press Conference - Canberra, ACT

Transcript
28 Jul 2021
Prime Minister
E&OE

PRIME MINISTER: Gold, gold, gold. That's what has happened today. It's a something for all Australians to celebrate, and I know that really lifts the spirits of Australians right across the country and particularly back in Sydney, where they continue to go through the lockdown and where they've had some very difficult news today, and I'll come to that obviously very, very shortly. But again, to Ariarne Titmus. She is the absolute Queen of the pool. All Australians are proud, no doubt, but Tasmanians most significantly, and her adopted state of Queensland. Tasmania itself is now running up the gold medal charts at the Olympics. And I'm sure they're celebrating that along with all Australians. Also to Kaylee McKeown yesterday, I haven't had the opportunity to remark on her tremendous performance. And I can only imagine just how proud her father would have been. And, of course, her sister and her mother. And to see everyone up there with Dawny, it was just such a wonderful sight and particularly out there on the water, our wonderful rowers, an awesome performance, as everyone else has said. But our Olympians are doing us tremendously proud, but particularly at this time. I know when so much of the country, and especially in Sydney, they are going through a very difficult time to be able to see their exploits, I know will bring them some measure of cheer. 

Now, that news today, of course, was very difficult in Sydney to be going in to another month effectively of this lockdown. And it was information that I suspect most Sydneysiders expected. My own family, of course, is there and I'm talking constantly to people back in Sydney. And it is tough going. But what I want to assure you of, absolutely assure you of, as you've already heard from the Premier and the Treasurer of New South Wales, that the Commonwealth Government has your back, just as we've had the back of Australians all through this crisis, ensuring way back to last year whether it was the economic supports we provided through JobKeeper and JobSeeker, COVID supplement, the cash flow boost, the support packages to the arts and entertainment industry and to the aviation sector. This continues to flow and the priority is to ensure we're there to support those who need that help, because this is the task. We will come through the lockdown. The lockdown will be released, as it has been, thankfully, and in South Australia and in Victoria. And on the other side, we come back strongly. That's what we saw last year when a million people got back into jobs, when we saw our economy grow back to a level higher than it was even before the pandemic. And the way we are structuring these supports to people, whether it's the individual payments or the business support payments, are to ensure that those businesses and those individuals can get through as whole as possible through these lockdowns, so on the other side, our economy can roll back on the other side. So that is what it's designed to do. And our measures of support are never set and forget. All states and territories, together with the Commonwealth, are working closely as we're adjusting how we're dealing with this Delta strain, how we're adjusting on the ground when it comes to the way lockdowns are being put in quick and effective, as we've seen, and those states come out of it, but also to learn the lessons, ensure that we're giving every support we can to the ongoing situation in New South Wales. 

Now, I can confirm what the Premier and the Treasurer in New South Wales have already said. Over the course of the last several days, indeed, up to a week, the Federal Government has been working on a programme of additional support that may have been required should Sydney have gone into a further lockdown. That meant last night we were able to bring to the table the enhanced measures that we were able to agree last night. And I thank the Premier of New South Wales and the Treasurer for the cooperative way we've worked together once again. We did it several weeks ago when we announced the initial package. And we've worked together again to provide this increased support, which would see business cash flow initiative extending out to businesses of $250 million turnover, maximum payments of $100,000, up to 40 per cent of turnover, and a minimum payment of $1500 to those smaller businesses. I also don't want people to forget that there's a $1000 a week payment to sole traders as well. So those individual sole traders who are out there, may not be incorporated, the support was there in the initial package for you as well. This support dates back to the 18th of July, and that means that 460,000 companies and 3 million employees of those companies will be supported through this direct support. It's necessary. The lockdown is going into a further month, and that means we need to continue to press forward in providing that support. 

Now, I note that also, Victoria, we came to an agreement, the Premier and I, together with our Treasurers and the Treasurer will say a bit more about that later this afternoon. Victoria has gone into a further round of their business supports and we're meeting those costs 50/50 with them, just like we have in New South Wales. And I thank both the Premier of Victoria and their Treasurer for working so closely with Josh and I in coming to that arrangement. And should South Australia need something similar, I've spoken to the Premier and Treasurer Frydenberg has spoken to Rob Lucas and those discussions are ongoing should they need that support. 

The supports, though, aren't limited to business. We will be further increasing the levels of support provided to individuals through the COVID disaster payment right across the state of New South Wales. We'll be increasing from next week, the maximum payment of $600 to $750 and we'll be increasing the payment for less than 20 hours from $375 to $450. In addition to that, we will be extending support to those who are on welfare payments and they will be able to receive a payment if they've lost more than eight hours, of $200. Now, remember, they are already getting payments through the social welfare system. So in the case of someone who is on a full JobSeeker rate, they're getting just over around about $315 a week. So that $200 comes on top of that and does not in any way undermine the support payments they're getting through. It obviously goes in addition to the Youth Allowance payments, the pension payments. The whole point of this is that people aren't able to earn that extra income they were earning and these payments are there to support them to ensure that there is some recognition of that, that they have been prevented from doing that. And this will provide them some additional support. 

I might run you through also where we are currently on those levels of support, both in Victoria and in New South Wales. In New South Wales so far, 812,372 grants of disaster payment assistance have been provided. That represents 463,558 individuals who have received direct support from the Federal Government to ensure they're getting through this crisis. The total amount out the door and in the bank accounts of those who need it in New South Wales is already $411.7 million. The great advantage of the direct COVID disaster payment system is it's fast and it means that we can calibrate the support, as I've announced here today. So if you're in New South Wales at the moment and you're one of those 463,000 people this third, this Thursday, the regular payment you've got of $600 will clock through again and you'll receive that or $375, if you're on that payment. If you're on the Sunday payment, Monday payment, you will get that $600 and $375 again. Next week you will get a $750 or $450 payment. And next week if you're on welfare benefits and you're seeking to get access to this, you can apply for that by going online on Tuesday, OK. So those welfare benefits, those support payments start from next week. You can go online and you can apply for those on Tuesday at Services Australia. Now, for those beneficiaries, they will be in an advantaged position from the perspective that they are already dealing with Services Australia. They already have their customer recognition numbers and those things. And so that online process should be very straightforward for you. 

In Victoria, I can also confirm that 143,855 claims have been made in Victoria. That's 140,998 individuals and, sorry, $78 million have been provided very promptly at the end of that lockdown already in Victoria. If you're in Victoria, you will still receive your second payment at the end of this week. So if you got that payment already, you will get a second payment in Victoria. And I think that enables people to have the confidence in how the system is working. And if we are faced with other short, sharp lockdowns in the future, then these are the arrangements that will be in place going forward. 

Can I also just note a couple of things in relation to New South Wales, we have to push through this lockdown in Sydney. There is no other shortcut. There's no other way through. We have to just hunker down and push through. What we're asking people to do in Sydney is to abide by the restrictions that have been put in place by the New South Wales Government. To stay home, to get tested, to get vaccinated, and the additional opportunities to ensure that you can get the AstraZeneca vaccine with the walk-in clinics. We're already seeing a great response to that. So everybody in Sydney, that's the only way we're going to get through this. Stay at home, get tested, get vaccinated, continue to support one another. All of the mental health support lines are open to you. We've already got an over $17 million dollar package that we put in place to upgrade and put more funding into those services so they're available to you. And we will keep working with all the states and territories to ensure that we come through this. And as we've already seen once before, as we did with our economy after we came back from last year, we will come back just as strongly this next time because of the significant support that is being put in place. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Are you disappointed [inaudible] New South Wales has been able to deliver this funding to businesses. This was announced weeks ago and there's been very little support and the AFP Commissioner has said that drugs are just as dangerous as terrorism, how much of a dent has Operation Ironside put into the drug trade in Australia? 

PRIME MINISTER: A big dent. A big dent, and they're doing a great job, the AFP, and they're dealing with all the threats that Australia faces. And I thank all the members of the AFP and their partner police forces all around the country who do a tremendous job on behalf of us all. And they're always got their eye on every threat, current, emerging and dealing with it. They are one of the best resourced federal police agencies around the world, and they're getting great support from our government. 

On the other matter. We've got to focus forward, you know we've just got to focus forward in terms of getting through this lockdown. Much has been learnt about the Delta strain in recent times, and governments all around the world are adjusting how they're responding to make sure they can get it right. Of course, I think we've learnt over these last six to eight weeks that when we are faced with this Delta strain, of course, as we've seen in Victoria and South Australia, that is the model we're going to have to follow. And that's why we're adjusting the support to be there to ensure that does that. But, you know, all governments, can I assure everyone, because there'll be lots of commentary, I'm sure there'll be lots of criticisms. There'll be lots of hindsight. This Delta strain is very unpredictable. And can I assure you that all governments, federal, state, everywhere and I particularly want to thank those hospital workers at the moment in New South Wales, where the system is under strain and they're doing a great job as the Health Minister in New South Wales said today, keeping pace with the demand that's there. We have one of the best health systems in the world, they're all doing their best. They're all doing their best to keep Australians safe. We've been saving lives and livelihoods, and we're going to keep doing that by sticking together and focus on the problems that are in front of us. Mark.

JOURNALIST: $750 a week, Prime Minister, this is now the same level as the original JobKeeper. So why not reintroduce JobKeeper? 

PRIME MINISTER: Because it's not the right solution for the problems we have now. What we're doing now is faster. It's more effective, it's more targeted. It's getting help where it's needed far more quickly. We're not dealing with a pandemic outbreak across the whole country. When we did JobKeeper, we had to employ it across the whole country all at once and we did it for six months. What we need now is the focused effort on where the need is right now. And so it can be turned on and off to the extent that we have outbreaks that occur. JobKeeper did not have that flexibility. It did not have that agility. Those payments that I mentioned, $411 million in New South Wales alone, businesses under that scheme would have had to have gone to their bank, borrowed that $411 million to make it available to their employees. In this case, we just acted and got the payments to them, in some cases in half an hour of application. Now, that never happened. JobKeeper was a great scheme. But you don't play last year's grand final this year. You deal with this year's challenges. You deal with this moment's problems and what we've designed together with the business cash flow support, when you put that together, that is providing the assistance we need now. Now, I would note, and this is very interesting because what we're not seeing and I don't expect we will see because of the way the COVID disaster payment is moving so swiftly, we have not seen an uptick in people going on to JobSeeker. Because they understand they're getting that support from the Government. They're staying with their employers. That means in a month, hopefully when business returns, they'll go back into work with those employers, they'll get on with their jobs and our economy will roar back to life. So this is the right answer for this problem. 

JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, the increased payment, will that now be the existing model going forward for any further lockdowns? 

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. 

JOURNALIST: And secondly, do you have a sense of how much this is now going to cost with the changes? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, to give you an idea, we believe now with all of these measures in place in New South Wales, that the Commonwealth support from the Federal Government to people in New South Wales will be running at around about three quarters of a billion a week. Now, that was basically what we were doing last year in Victoria when Victoria was in the same lockdown. So it's a commensurate level of support, three quarters of a billion a week. And I want to acknowledge that's just the Commonwealth Government. The State Government is also putting in significant supports  beyond that as well. So there is a great deal of economic support going in at the moment. And what that is doing is keeping the New South Wales economy as whole as possible, because your policy challenge here, your economic challenge, in what, frankly, is our biggest economy in the country. If New South Wales had befallen this last year, together with what happened last year, then I do not believe we would have seen the economic recovery that we saw last year. So New South Wales did tremendously well last year, but now they've confronted this, this year. And so it's important that we keep the New South Wales economy just like others, but particularly New South Wales because of its size, we need to keep that in a fit shape so it will recover strongly on the other side. And that's what we've seen from our measures. Australia has had, the IMF has acknowledged it today, one of, if not the most effective economic interventions during this pandemic almost anywhere in the world. And we're applying those same lessons to the challenge now in New South Wales. But we're just not cutting and pasting before and thinking that will solve the problem. We're actually designing and upgrading our plans to ensure they meet the needs right in front of us.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, people are looking for hope and reassurance from their political leaders at the moment. If people do all the right things through this lockdown, stay home, get tested, get vaccinated. What do you hope life looks like in Australia come Christmas? Can you give people the reassurance that if they do the right thing, they'll be able to see their families, they'll be able to travel interstate?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, good question. Good question. As I said, our vaccination rates are now running, we're even doing better than a million a week. And, the upgraded advice from ATAGI, the revised advice from ATAGI, means that we're going to get much more effectiveness out of the AstraZeneca vaccine doses that we have available. And, I commend the New South Wales Government on opening those walk-in clinics. I would encourage other state and territory governments to be looking at similar initiatives. The AstraZeneca vaccine is a safe vaccine. It's an effective vaccine. It's saved lives all around the world. It's the most recognised vaccine in the world by all countries - particularly when they're looking at people travelling, it is more recognised even than Pfizer. And, so, this vaccine is really important. And, I'd encourage people to take their initiative, use their informed consent, get informed through their GP, go and get it at the clinic, at the pharmacist and any of these places, and ensure we continue to build these vaccination rates. The Pfizer doses, of course, increasing, but the AstraZeneca is there, and that gets us to our goal a lot faster. Now, with what we're seeing, bar any unforeseen events, then I believe by the end of the year we will be in that position where everyone who's had the opportunity for a vaccine will have had it, and to ensure that Australians have joined that task in achieving the highest vaccination rates possible. Well, I would expect by Christmas we will be seeing a very different Australia to what we're seeing now. What we're seeing overseas is when countries do reach those much higher vaccination rates, then that does give their governments a lot more options in the suppression limitations they have to use to deal with the virus. Lockdowns become a thing of the past when you're at that level. And, I've noted the, we'll be considering those issues from the Doherty report modelling. It's being brought together now with the Treasury modelling. That process is happening right now. I don't want to say that will be resolved on Friday, it, that will be our first discussion. I suspect many more will be required after that. And, I hope we'll be able to set those targets and give more definition to phase two and phase three in that time. But, we have a plan for that. We are setting the targets scientifically, combined with the economic advice as well, and that gets us a roadmap to Christmas, I think, that means that we'll be living life different at Christmas than what we are now. Phil.

JOURNALIST: When you think about all the time you've had to tweak the income and business assistance since the start of last month, and yet you've raised the threshold for business assistance now down to two - sorry, I can't talk in this bloody thing, sorry - up to $250 million. Do you envisage that'll be the end of the matter or, I mean, I know you never say never, or may have to go further for larger companies if New South Wales keeps going?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we never, we never set and forget. I think that's been important. And, you'll remember last year, JobKeeper wasn't our first announcement to deal with the pandemic. From memory, it was our third because we kept upgrading it, and we responded to the evolving nature of the pandemic, as we understood at that time. Our first response from memory was around $17 billion, and I'll tell you what, that sounded like a lot at the time. By the time we got to JobKeeper, well, it was minnowed. And, what that tells you, Phil, is that there's no, there's no guidebook to COVID. Even when you think you understand it, the Delta variant comes along and it changes all the rules and you've got to adjust. And, I think one of the things Australia has done - and I know National Cabinet's had its critics and its baggers, but I'll tell you what, the fact we meet every week and we work over this and then we make the changes and we adapt and we listen to each other and then we fine tune our programs - that has been enormously valued, enormously valuable. And, we've got to retain that adaptability and that flexibility, and we've got to meet the problem in front of us, because I can tell you, the problem in front of you keeps changing quite quickly. That's not, that's not unique to Australia. It's the same everywhere in the world.

Now, you make the point about larger businesses. The advantage of larger businesses is they're operating right across the country. Their operations aren't confined to New South Wales. So, this measure really does focus on those businesses that are predominantly impacted by their operations in New South Wales. So, if they've had a 30 per cent fall in their turnover, well, they would have a heavy set towards New South Wales. Now, we'll keep looking at those issues, and there are some specific sectoral issues there, which I think are relevant, that have particularly acute impacts from these things. But, more broadly, at this point, it's not our advice that that would be needed.

JOURNALIST: Why are younger Australians not listening to you when they're being told that they can get the AstraZeneca vaccine if they want to? And, there is particular hesitancy in migrant and vulnerable minority communities like Indigenous communities. What is your Government doing to combat this and have Australia, and has Australia got on top of this virus?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, well, first of all, they are listening and they are getting vaccinated, and they're doing it in the tens of thousands. And, the convenience of the clinics that you've seen the New South Wales Government set up with walk-ins, I think is very, is a very good initiative. And, I think the change in the ATAGI advice will, will greatly assist it. As you recall, I've been pushing this for a long time. I was talking about it back in June, was criticised quite strongly at the time for even floating the idea. But, I'm pleased to see that the advice is, has mirrored that view, and that we're now seeing more and more young people taking that opportunity. And, I would encourage them, with informed consent and talking to their doctors, making their choices. But, we are seeing them do that. It has saved the lives of young people all around the world, particularly in the United Kingdom. So, I commend them to give that serious consideration, as ATAGI has said.

In terms of cultural communication, well, this has been our task right from the outset of the pandemic, and the work that the Department of Home Affairs is doing with direct in-community consultations, in-language communications, the work the New South Wales Government - and I've got to say, the Victorian Government - has been doing, you know, phone trees into communities, working with religious leaders, a lot of direct communication. That has been a high priority. It's also been a challenge. But, at the same time, it's been, I think, a broad across the Government effort to ensure we're getting these messages in the languages and in the forums and the situations where people can receive that information. And, it's been a big effort from both state and Commonwealth Governments. But, you're right to highlight it as a priority. It certainly is.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I ask about Government payments.

PRIME MINISTER: You've been very patient, Andrew.

JOURNALIST: Yeah, thank you very much Prime Minister, as ever. Just to seek some clarification on Pablo's question. When it comes to those Government payments, you say that this is the rule from here on. Is that from week one, or do you have to get to the fifth week? And, secondly, Dominic Perrottet, and pardon my French, says he's been a right pain in the arse. Is he right to claim responsibility for the announcements today?

PRIME MINISTER: It's a partnership. Who cares who takes responsibility for the credit for this. Ronald Reagan had a great saying. You know, if you care about, you get a lot more done if you don't care who takes the credit. So, whoever wants to take the credit for this payment, knock yourself out, ok. I'm just happy we're getting payments to people. That's what I'm, that's what I'm focused on. Who cares who gets the credit. I don't, I really don't.

On the other serious point, though, that you raise, it is from week, eligibility is from day one. So, for example, in the South Australia experience that we've just gone through, eligibility was from day one. But, they made the claim at the conclusion of that week. So, they get paid in arrears for that week and the payment level will be at that level. Eligibility from week one.

JOURNALIST: So, the extra payment that goes to Youth Allowance, to people on JobSeeker, it's now starts from week one, as opposed to week five?

PRIME MINISTER: Correct. Correct. And, the reason for that, the reason for that - and we changed eligibility to week one when Victorian lockdown occurred, and that was followed quickly by the South Australian situation - because it was very clear that this is now the pattern. Now, we will, I hope not, but it is clear that the best response in these circumstances with the Delta variant is that approach. I think that's fairly obvious. That's not a criticism. I make no criticism of decisions that others have made. I seriously don't. Everybody makes decisions on the best information they have, and in good faith, with the best intentions for their citizens. But, I think there's a clear learning here, and that is the approach that I would expect states would follow in the future.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the JobKeeper and 2020 JobSeeker were plagued with complaints from businesses that it was a disincentive to work. Is part of the reasoning of this new system is that there's less of that disincentive to work because you can essentially turn it off and on when lockdowns are turned off and on?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's a very good point, and it's targeted. That's the other point. I mean, one of the problems we had with JobKeeper after some time is that Australia opened up again and we had people who were getting income support payments who then were taken out of the labour market. Now, in other parts of the country, the labour market is, you know, employment market is functioning, and people, if they're unable to get hours there, have got the opportunity to seek hours in another place. So, what we're doing here, because it's so targeted to the area that's affected, we're not interfering with what's happening elsewhere. Remember, it wasn't that long ago when, holding a press conference on employment issues in Australia, we were talking about massive labour needs and labour pressures and workforce shortages in so many areas. Now, of course, when you put restrictions in like we have in New South Wales and in Sydney, there isn't another place that someone can go and get that hours. In fact, we don't want them to go and get those hours. We want them to stay at home. We want the lockdown to work, and the sooner the lockdown works, the sooner we get out of lockdown.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on the roadmap and having hope for how we get out of this. When, you mentioned you have the Doherty Institute modelling, when will we actually see some specifics around that four phase plan and how we progress through it? Are you talking weeks, days?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I hope it's weeks. I hope it's sooner than that. But, that all depends on the process we're working through with the premiers and the chief ministers. I mean, like in any normal Cabinet process - I mean, I've spent the whole week in Cabinet meetings. I've just come out of one this morning - you have papers, they go through a normal Cabinet process. You evaluate it, you discuss it, you make decisions. We don't release Cabinet submissions in advance. You all know that. It's important that premiers and chief ministers and I have the opportunity to, to discuss that information and in a secure way and to come to conclusions and to make decisions and to set those targets in the best interests of the country. So, that's the process we're engaged in. We're keen to do it as, as promptly as we can, and then to release various information that we can at that time to inform people about what the plan is and how we've been able to set those targets. And, so I hope that, you know, we're talking a couple of weeks, I hope. If it takes longer than that, well, it will take longer than that. What matters is getting it right, and we are one of few countries, to the best of my knowledge, that has gone through this scientific process - looking at the experience of other countries and said, well, what, what rates do you really need to have to ensure that if you do go into the next phase where you don't lockdown, and you do use other measures to control the virus, that you have a higher likelihood of being successful. Because, if you get that wrong, well, you end up with very long lockdowns, and nobody wants that. So, it is important to get the right scientific advice on this, to get the right economic advice, because you've got to weigh those two things up. Restrictions cost the economy, it's true, but an outbreak getting out of control also costs the economy. So, those, those are the, the difficult issues we have to weigh up and get right.

JOURNALIST: Just in regards to Queensland, there's been another leak out of hotel quarantine. What's holding up progress on the feasibility study into the Damascus Pinkenba hotel quarantine? And, can you see that being approved to be built and operational before the end of the year?

PRIME MINISTER: I hope so, but that's really a partnership arrangement. There's no hold ups on the feasibility study that I'm aware of. That's going ahead.

JOURNALIST: It was meant to be, Simon Birmingham said it was on February 5, July 5, that it was going to take a few weeks to get through that feasibility study.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're still in July.

JOURNALIST: Still in July ...

PRIME MINISTER: So, we're still in a few weeks. And, no, I haven't been advised of any hold up on the Pinkenba option or on the, the Western Australian option - looking at Jandakot and the Airport. Those, those programs are underway. We moved very swiftly on the Melbourne option. Premier Andrews and I are very keen to see that come online this year. I expect to see it come along online in stages. So, 500 rooms first, probably more later. I would hope that we can get going on Queensland soon. There are a number of issues that are being raised in that process by the Queensland Government, totally legitimate issues. We've just got to work through those and hopefully we can proceed as soon as possible.

JOURNALIST: Just on the economic advice that you were just referring to, do today's support measures now go into that Treasury modelling, and will that impact what the vaccination rate needs to be to avoid these lockdowns? Does, you know, more support for businesses and individuals mean the vaccination rate needs to be higher as well?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it doesn't really work like that. I mean, the economic supports we're putting at the moment are actually just to ensure you can keep your economy as whole as possible, so it can emerge strongly on the other side. The work, the economic advice, what it effectively does is say that, look, if you go through a protracted lockdown, then that costs the economy, but it also costs governments with these types of payments. So, that's already assumed into, you know, the advice that they're, they're giving. You have lockdowns, you have significant economic support payments that you, that you necessarily have to provide. So, you know, that's why getting this balance right between the economics and the health is really important. Countries that have moved too soon have found themselves shutting back up again within days, and we don't want to get in that situation. What we want to do is make sure we hit, hit these targets, set these targets right. And, then all of Australia, like our Olympians, we go for gold on, on getting those vaccination rates where we need to go, because the supply's there, the distribution's there, the pharmacists, the GPs, the clinics, and we make a, we make a gold medal run all the way to the end of this year. And, the sooner we get there, the sooner we get there.

JOURNALIST: There was a report yesterday, there was a report yesterday, so, I think I get two because I've been standing without an umbrella.

PRIME MINISTER: Fair enough, fair enough.

JOURNALIST: There was a report yesterday that your office intervened after some frustration being expressed with the Health Department's signing of deals with the pharmaceutical companies. Is that report correct?

PRIME MINISTER: I don't know what you're referring to.

JOURNALIST: There was a report yesterday that between March and August last year, your office and a staffer, an adviser from your office, Alex Caroly, became involved in the Department of Health's attempts to get a deal signed with the pharmaceutical companies because of frustration that those deals hadn't been signed earlier.

PRIME MINISTER: No, that just sounds like a lot of chatter in Canberra to me. We work with the Department of Health, with the Department of Treasury, with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, every state and territory government. We work with industry. We work with the GPs, the AMA, the pharmacists, all of them. We're all working together. I mean, people work together, talk to each other every single day. I'm not really, don't know really where that came from, but sounds like someone just having a bit of a natter over a coffee to me.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, like our Olympians will Australia beat COVID?

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry?

JOURNALIST: Will Australia beat COVID like our Olympians?

PRIME MINISTER: Australia will beat COVID. I mean, COVID will always, you know, be lurking. I mean, it doesn't completely get eliminated. The flu's not eliminated. There's many infectious diseases that are not eliminated. But, with the vaccination program, the way we've been able to keep our economy together, even when it's going through what Sydney is going through now, what Victoria has gone through, South Australia, and God forbid, what could still happen in other states and territories, this is why I'm so keen to ensure the vaccination program around the whole country remains on track. We are hitting those marks. We have worked so hard to get to those marks, and we cannot disrupt it. We need to deal with the challenges that we have and are - providing additional doses, support where we can and are, giving the economic support for people to push through. But, in the same way, our Olympians have been pushing through and achieving such amazing and courageous results. I know every Australian has that Olympian spirit in them, and I have great confidence that that is why we will beat this Australia. Thank you.