Press Conference, Melbourne

15 Aug 2022
Prime Minister, Premier of Victoria
Moderna vaccine manufacturing in Australia; Scott Morrison taking on additional portfolios; PEP-11 Timothy Weeks; aged care

DANIEL ANDREWS, PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Well, thanks very much for being here. You've all heard the speeches. So, I won't go back through everything from the top. But can I say firstly, how good it is to have the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese here today for a very significant announcement that's all about the best science leading to more manufacturing and more jobs. This facility and, of course, acknowledging Moderna, as our partners between our Government, the Commonwealth Government and Medina, this is one of a kind, nothing like it in the southern hemisphere, nothing like it outside North America. It's all about more jobs, better product, the latest developments, the latest innovations in science, delivering better health outcomes, but also just confirming that Melbourne really is the centre of science, the centre of advanced manufacturing, the centre of innovation in our nation, and beyond that in our region. So, this is just a fantastic day. A thousand jobs, 500 in construction. This is a pretty big facility, 1.5 MCGs. And it just confirms our place in scientific discovery and the translation of that wisdom and knowledge into products and jobs. Sovereign capability is so, so important. For the last two and a half years, everybody around the world has wanted the same thing same things at the same time. And because we didn't make enough things here, that's made a challenging time even more difficult. With today's partnership, today's announcement, we can look with a sense of confidence, not just for the products we know will come from this partnership, but all the possibilities in so many other parts of respiratory medicine, as well as cancer, all manner of other patients are set to benefit from this. It's a fantastic day. And again, I thank the Prime Minister for his partnership, not just in this, but in so many other areas. It's so good to be able to welcome the Prime Minister here, leading a Government that is about doing things, getting things done, working with the states, and particularly working with Victoria, to provide that national leadership. And of course, to have Moderna here as well, fantastic outcome. I will now throw over to the Prime Minister to add to my comments. And I think we're happy to take any questions you have.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Premier. It is indeed a great day to be here with the Victorian Government and with Moderna, celebrating what is an extraordinary achievement to actually having a manufacturing facility like this, taking science and innovation, making sure that it is commercialised, helping to build our national sovereignty and national security. Australia has always been very good at science. And we've been good at innovation. What we haven't always been good at is commercialising the opportunities that come from that. And one of the lessons of the pandemic is that we need to be more resilient, that we need to be more self-reliant, and we need to make more things here. I said during the campaign that I wanted a future made in Australia. This is a practical example of exactly what the new Government is talking about. This is an example of the sort of activity that we'll see replicated through our National Reconstruction Fund that we will introduce legislation on before the end of this year. This is precisely what we need to do, creating high-value jobs, creating a big bonus for Australia. And here in Victoria, Monash, I congratulate Monash University as well on the leadership that they're showing in this area. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, have you asked the Solicitor-General to look into the reporting that Scott Morrison took on additional portfolios?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is extraordinary and unprecedented. And I have asked, when I return back to Canberra, I flew down from Canberra this morning, when I return this afternoon, I'll be having briefings with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet who are seeking advice on this. Let's be very clear. Australians knew during the election campaign that I was running a shadow ministry. What they didn't know was that Scott Morrison was running a shadow Government. A shadow Government that was operating in the shadows. What we have when we get sworn in as ministers is that there's some transparency there. A whole lot of questions arise from this. What did Peter Dutton and other continuing members of the now Shadow Ministry know about these circumstances? How is it that the Australian people can be misled whereby we know now that Scott Morrison was not only being Prime Minister, but was Minister for Health, was Minister for Industry and Science at the same time as Resources, was the Minister for Finance, and we had the extraordinary revelation that Mathias Cormann, apparently, wasn't aware that Scott Morrison was the Minister for Finance as well as himself. We all know that Scott Morrison had trouble doing the job that he had. Perhaps it was because he was doing so many different jobs that we didn't know that he had. In Australia, we have a Westminster system of government that produces accountability. This is the sort of tin-pot activity that we would ridicule if it was in a non-democratic country. Here, in Parliament, I, as leader of my Party, and Peter Dutton now, but Scott Morrison as the former leader of the country, would table the list of ministers. That is not some academic exercise. That is so that people can be held accountable. And how is it that the Governor-General could swear-in Scott Morrison into ministerial portfolios without there being a transparency there about that process? This is quite extraordinary. Australians need a Prime Minister who's focused on the job that they're given. Nothing about the last Government was real, not even the government itself.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, we learnt that having sworn himself in as Resources Minister, Scott Morrison used that power to cancel a gas exploration project about 50kms off the New South Wales coast. Would you have supported that PEP-11 project had you been Prime Minister at the time?

PRIME MINISTER: I wasn't Prime Minister at the time. That's the point. The Prime Minister at the time was also the Minister for Resources at the time. And we know that if you are the Minister for the Environment, or the Minister for Immigration, or the Minister for Resources, a range of portfolios have within the legislation that's provided a responsibility for the Minister to make a decision separate from the Prime Minister or from Cabinet processes. Bearing in mind all of the information that is available to that Minister. Now, the fact that Minister Pitt disagreed with the decision that was made by the Prime Minister as the Minister for Resources as well as Minister Pitt, is quite extraordinary. I don't think it's clear whether Minister Pitt was aware that his role had been usurped. I think PEP-11, I was on the record raising my concerns about the project. As was a range of people in the Labor Party about that. We asked questions in the Parliament about the PEP-11 project to the Minister for Resources. There was an obligation upon the Prime Minister at that point in time, if not beforehand, to actually reveal what the arrangements were. This isn't some, you know, local footy club. This is a Government of Australia where the people of Australia were kept in the dark as to what the ministerial arrangements were. It's completely unacceptable. There's an absolute need for clear transparency to come through here. And it's not as if the journalists who had written about some of this weren't in close contact with the Government from time to time about issues that were raised by the former Government, but it's clear that the Australian people deserve explanations. This is very contrary to our Westminster system. It is unbecoming. It was cynical and it was just weird that this has occurred. Australians will be scratching their heads today knowing that the Government that they thought was there wasn't actually the Australian Government at all.

JOURNALIST: Did you ask the Solicitor-General to look at this?

PRIME MINISTER: I have asked the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. He will be seeking advice from appropriate people including the Solicitor-General about all of these issues. I'll be getting a full briefing this afternoon. We have had revelations last night on and then further revelations this morning. This is dripping out like a tap that needs a washer fixed. And what we need is actually to get the full flow of all the information out there and then we'll make a decision about a way forward here. But these circumstances should never have arisen. You know, we do have a non-presidential system of government in this country. But what we had from Scott Morrison is a centralisation of power, is overriding of ministerial decisions, and all done in secret. All done in secret. And we know this comes on top of what we saw on May 21, on election day, whereby the Prime Minister and Minister, the Minister responsible, overrode the advice to put out information about the arrival of a boat here in Australia in order to cynically pursue political objectives in direct contradiction to what had been the Government's policy. We had that investigated by the Department of Home Affairs and that damning report released. But this goes to the way that the Government was operating, over what period of time, is unclear. But what is clear is that there are real consequences for it. Perhaps this explains why we didn't order enough vaccines. I mean, the Minister for Health might have thought the Prime Minister was ordering them because he was also the Minister for Health and he thought the Minister for Health was ordering them. What we know is that this is a shambles and it needs clearing up. And the Australian people deserve better than this contempt for democratic processes and for our Westminster system of government, which is what we have seen trashed by the Morrison Government.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you have any preliminary advice to the Solicitor-General as to whether any laws had been broken? I guess what are consequences here?

PIRME MINISTER: No, I don't know. I'll wait for the advice. Because my Government will operate in an orderly and transparent way. Not like the former Government. Australians deserve better than what we have seen revealed over the past few days.

JOURNALIST: What consequences could be…?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not pre-empting any of that advice. I'll accept that advice and we will operate in a transparent way. And I'm sure tomorrow, in Canberra, I will have more to say about that.

JOURNALIST: Does the Governor-General have any questions to answer here about why he's done what he's done and why he didn't tell anyone?

PRIME MINISTER: I'll have more to say about that when we receive advice. But let's be clear here. This was a centralisation of power by the former Prime Minister. And the former Prime Minister should be held accountable for his actions as well as the actions of other members of his Government. This was a political decision, or a series of political decisions, were made. It's not clear to me or, indeed, to anyone at this point in time how many other portfolios Scott Morrison was sworn into. But what's very clear is that this was a sign of no confidence by Scott Morrison in the Morrison Government. In the Morrison Government. Because he didn't allow Ministers to do their job.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, are you disappointed that Timothy Weeks has returned to Afghanistan to support the Taliban?

PRIME MINISTER: The Australian Government advice remains that people should not return to Afghanistan, people should not visit Afghanistan, and it's very clear that the human rights of women as well as others in Afghanistan have deteriorated since the return of the Taliban.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, a survey of aged care staff out today shows that nearly 60 per cent of frontline workers believe the plan to mandate 215 minutes of personalised care for residents by 2024 is impossible to achieve. The survey, I think, polled 1,100 workers between May 27 and June 12. Is it likely that you may have to recalibrate your targets for the aged care sector given workforce shortages?

PRIME MINISTER: These aren't my targets. These are the recommendations of the Royal Commission. And the Aged Care Royal Commission indicated what was necessary. It's not surprising at all that aged care workers who are under enormous pressure, and have been so for a long period of time, are concerned. We know that was documented, well documented, by the Royal Commission.

JOURNALIST: How many more aged care staff do you expect to have in the system by the end of this year and where will you be finding them?

PRIME MINISTER: We will continue to work on those issues. The first thing for us to do is to stop people leaving the sector. And a Government that is concerned to actually lift up aged care and to lift up the care that's given to our older Australians, to allow them to live with the dignity and respect that they deserve, is a first step. Because we know that people were leaving the industry. We also know that part of what can occur is the structure of the industry, a range of workers were working part time. And the advice there is that if you move to a better system, then that will help to alleviate the shortages which are there. In addition to that, we have indicated training will be important. And in addition to that, of course, for a long period of time, the health sector have seen people come to this country to make contributions. Well, I don't know if Mark wants to add anything there? Okay. Thank you.