Press Conference - Parliament House

Media release
23 Jan 2020
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister
E&OE

PRIME MINISTER: Well thank you ladies and gentlemen, I’m joined here by the Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy and of course the- the chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell. There are a number of updates that I want to provide and they'll be providing further details in each of their areas and I will make some other points about the assistance and support being provided to charities in relation to the bushfire crisis. 

And of course, I've just come from a meeting with the Coalition of Indigenous Peak Bodies, led by Pat Turner. And I want to thank Pat and all of those who were able to join me there for what has been a very important meeting as to how we're continuing to work together to close the gap. The big change that has been occurring in policy and outcomes that we're working to, for indigenous Australians is they are now looking at this gap from the perspective of indigenous Australians, not from the perspective of governments, but listening to indigenous Australians about those gaps, where they are, how wide they are, and the policies and the responses that are needed from the perspective of indigenous Australians and the coalition of indigenous peak groups has been invaluable in their partnership with us to go about that work. And that work will go forward to the Council of Australian Governments. We are working with indigenous Australians all across the country, but it was a very productive meeting and there were particular initiatives about data collection, but also in the area of early childhood education. There were discussions around issues of housing. It was a very comprehensive meeting. And again, I want to thank Pat Turner for her tremendous leadership in the way we have been completely turning around, the way we are approaching this issue of closing the gap and ensuring that we're doing it from the perspective of indigenous Australians, from their view, how they're looking at those gaps and how we can overcome them. 

But moving on, let me make some important points today about the coronavirus. Now, I know that Australians will have concerns around this issue and particularly those who may have elderly parents and those others who are more susceptible to these types of things. And I just want to provide you with some assurances about the information we have available to us now. And Dr. Murphy will take you through some of the more specific issues about the nation's preparedness, both at a commonwealth and a state level. This is a rapidly evolving matter, and we're obviously taking advice from the World Health Organisation. But after consulting other government agencies in the states and territories, the Department of Health is undertaking evidence based, proportionate, additional measures. The national incident response room where I visited yesterday has been stood up within the Department of Health and has been activated in response to this outbreak. A human coronavirus with pandemic potential was added as a listed human disease under the Biosecurity Act of 2015, enabling the use of enhanced border measures. Flight MU 749 from Wuhan has landed in Sydney Airport this morning. All passengers on this flight have been greeted by biosecurity and health officials and receive information about the virus on arrival. And if they have symptoms of an infectious disease, they will be assessed by NSW Health. Additional information will be displayed at all major international airports. And you saw some of that yesterday when I was with the CMO, and at all major international ports around Australia with instructions on what to do if travellers have symptoms or if symptoms develop. DFAT has updated the Smart Traveller travel advisory for Wuhan. So let me be clear, it's for Wuhan, not China as a whole. But just for Wuhan, to reconsider your need to travel to Wuhan. That was updated this morning after receiving further advice overnight. The Department of Health is also preparing updated advice for doctors and other health professionals in Australia and we’ll be providing advice on the Department of Health website and to peak organisations for circulation. The Department of Health does not currently recommend mass screening of passengers at airports, including thermal scanning, due to the limited evidence of effectiveness of those measures. And I'm sure Dr Murphy can add to that. There are over 10 million protective masks in the national medicine stockpile and there have been no confirmed cases, I'm advised, of the virus in Australia. So the Government has moved quickly. The Department of Health, the Chief Medical Officer working closely with states and territories to ensure the necessary precautions are being put in place. The scale and level of of risk on the coronavirus is something that I'll allow the CMO to speak to directly. But it's, I think it's important that we continue to get good information. We go about our normal course of business. But just being aware of those risks and to the extent that they are there and you're in a situation where you might be more in a risk profile than others, then appropriate precautions are taken and the treatment services are available. 

Going to move to the other matters. And then I'll ask both the CMO and General Campbell to respond further. And then you can, they can take questions along with myself. The other thing we’re announcing today is that on the 7th of February, that will be 28 days of continuous compulsory service for reservists. When we called out the reservists on a compulsory call out earlier this month, they were advised that they would be deployed for those 28 days of continuous service and beyond that as required. I want to thank all the reservists and their employers for their rapid response. We went from some 890 deployed people through the Defence Forces back in December to over six and a half thousand in a matter of weeks. And that has been an extraordinary exercise conducted by our defence force. And I think General Campbell and General Ellwood and all the team that have been working so closely on this. It is making such a big impact on the ground. I saw it first hand again yesterday when I was at Batlow and at Tumbarumba inspecting the medical unit that was there, but also seeing the work that was being done on road clearances and support for agricultural producers in those areas. It has been an outstanding effort that I think has not just had a practical impact, but really lifted the morale of communities that have been so devastated in the wake of those bushfires. 

As a result of decisions we've taken today, we're going to now move into the next phase of Operation Bushfire Assist, and that would mean the compulsory call out provisions will terminate on the 7th of February and that those recommendations will be made to the Governor-General. The compulsory call out of reservists is a power that should be used sparingly and in a limited fashion. And we are treating this call out in exactly that way. The power remains to further call out into the future should that need arise. But it's important that we use it in a very limited way, and that's exactly what we've done. Now, I want to stress absolutely that this does not mean in any way, shape or form that you're going to see any, any significant change at all in the level of the Defence Force deployment to support the recovery effort with these bushfires. We're just simply moving into a non compulsory call out phase for reservists. Many, many reservists, thousands of reservists will continue to provide ongoing support in their roles on a voluntary capacity as part of the operations they're already involved in. And the General Campbell will be able to take you through how that will continue on into the future. We know that this risk, that these fires and the recovery effort, which requires the deployment of Defence Force, will be needed for months and months to come. And that's what the Defence Force have been planning for. They've begun the consultation in communities as to their ongoing role. And I saw this on the ground yesterday. As you see local contractors starting to come in and doing the work, which involves road clearing. And that means the defence forces can move on to the next task. And we can see that local effort now start coming in as communities rebuild themselves. This is important for the revival of these local economies as well. The recovery process is very important in actually supporting the local economies. And so where the defence forces have been urgently needed, they have been there. They have been clearing past. They have been dropping fodder as they continue to do today. In particular, the run that was done from W.A., a tremendously generous effort from our friends and fellow Australians in Western Australia that has now made its way to the East coast. And that's being assisted with its deployment by the defence forces over the next few days. So this is a new phase of the deployment, but the intensity of effort and the response to need at the direction of of the of the defence forces remains in place. We are here for the long term. We are here for the recovery. The Defence Force will be here, day in, day out supporting that effort. 

Now, another matter which I know has attracted a lot of attention, indeed was raised in the roundtable we had both with the charities last week, as well as with the national peak organisations on Friday that I convened here in Canberra. And today, the National Bushfire Recovery Agency is having further engagement with those charitable groups. It is very important that the funds that have been raised by charitable groups through the generosity of Australians obviously get to people as quickly as it possibly can. We are working with the state governments to assist the charities to do just that. They were very clear in the meeting I had with them last week that they want to honour the trust that has been put in them. These are the charitable organisations that Australians have always had deep trust and respect for. The Salvation Army, the Red Cross, St Vincent de Paul. These are trusted, respected, good-hearted organisations that have proved themselves in so many disasters, and that's why we rely on them. This disaster is of a very large scale and we are working with them to support them, to ensure that they can get more support out to the places where it's needed. What has been worked on as a response of the work the roundtable we had last week is the Commonwealth has been building a database capability which would enable charitable groups to access that, to know all of those we've been able to support in these communities. Now, that's around about 50,000 people and about $60 million that has already come out from the Commonwealth to go to those individuals into those communities. The state government in New South Wales in particular is also working as part of this process to support the charitable groups to get that support to where it's needed. There is a constant process of communication to identify priority needs through the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, but also with the state governments. So our message is very clear. We want to encourage the charities to get that support to where it's needed as quickly as possible and the Commonwealth and the state governments are working together to give them every assistance we can to help them with that important task. But I know that we are very appreciative of all the work they do, of the volunteers they themselves have within their own ranks that are in recovery centres, that are in communities, that are there to help people in a time of need. And so it's about working together to help them do the job that they do so ably. 

Can I just move to one last point, because I imagine it is an issue that some of you have noted, and that's on the issue of the labour force data today. I'm very pleased to say that the unemployment rate has come down to 5.1 per cent. We welcome that and I can say that unemployment now is lower than it was at the 2019 election, the 2016 election and the 2013 election. And over 1.5 million jobs have been created over the course of the last six years since we first came to office. So I welcome those figures. I also welcome those figures as they relate to youth unemployment. Keeping our economy strong is the basis to ensure that as a government, we can continue to provide the support and essential services that Australians need, whether that's the National Disability Insurance Scheme, whether it's the support for mental health and our towards zero goal on suicide or indeed the unprecedented response we're making to these national disasters and other challenges that we face as a nation today. With that, I'm going to ask Dr Murphy to provide some comments on the Coronavirus and I'll ask the CDF, the Chief of the Defence Force, to do the same on his areas and then we'll take some questions on that. And I'm sure there are other things you'd like to raise with me as well. 

DR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Thank you, Prime Minister. Just a little bit of extra information on top of what the Prime Minister has said. The Chinese authorities have now confirmed that there are 571 cases of confirmed coronavirus infections and 17 deaths. Those data are not surprising. We know that over the last week we're getting a significant feed of data as the Chinese authorities get on top of some of the historical and retrospective data. This is what we expected to happen. The other developments are that the Chinese authorities have now stopped transport out of Wuhan city, including after the flight today to Sydney, there'll be no more flights from Wuhan city we're being advised, nor will there be other transport out of Wuhan to other parts of China. So that threat of direct flights from China after today's flight, which the Prime Minister said was met by biosecurity officers, New South Wales health officials and I'm pleased to report just on the way in that no ill passengers were found on that flight. So we still, of course, there'll be people who've been in Wuhan city in the last few weeks or month when the disease has been circulation, who could come to Australia from other cities or other ports. So we continue to provide enhanced advice at every port of entry, both airline and sea and others. There have been no reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Australia as yet. There will be on a regular basis people who might be suspected that the state and territory health authorities will investigate. If we do find a case, we are extremely well prepared. Every one of our state public health departments has a designated isolation facility and clearly established protocols to get people to those facilities. The tests are being sped up at the moment. It's still taking one or two days to get a confirmatory test. We're getting much more rapid tests on the hand. And at the moment, as I said, there are no confirmed cases. So we are watching this development. The World Health Organisation had a meeting last night and they haven't yet declared this a public health emergency of international concern. But they are meeting again in the next 24 hours to reconsider that position. We are meeting again with all of the state and territory health officers this afternoon and tomorrow to discuss, make sure that we have good information, good shared information. We are well-prepared and are keeping a very close eye on this, so I'll leave it at that. Thank you, Prime Minister. 

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. General Campbell? 

GENERAL ANGUS J. CAMPBELL, AO, DSC, CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE: Thanks, Prime Minister. As the Prime Minister has said, we are seeking through the Minister of Defence, Senator Linda Reynolds, to the Governor-General, the revocation of the call out order effective on the 7th of February. I anticipate personnel in the reserve who have been serving under continuous full-time service will start to transition from that service on and from the 1st of February. I anticipate that those personnel will typically have served for 28 days of continuous full-time service. As the Prime Minister also noted, this is in no way either the end of reserve contributions to the ADF’s Operation Bushfire Assist, nor indeed to the ADF’s continued efforts. All those who have been participating through a call out mechanism are invited to consider if their circumstances allow a call for volunteers to continue to serve as reserve members within Operation Bushfire Assist. And indeed, that invitation is extended more widely to all members of the reserve across Australia whose circumstances might allow them to continue to serve in Operation Bushfire Assist or to start their service of Operation Bushfire Assist in a voluntary basis. The Australian Defence Force is working through our joint task forces in New South Wales, in Victoria, and in South Australia, Tasmania in close cooperation, in complement and under the direction of state and territory authorities to ensure that effort in relief and early recovery is focused where communities require it. We will continue to be doing that and we will be engaging with communities to understand when rightly we lift off in specific roles or specific locations because of the return of commercial or local capabilities or because tasks have been completed and it is now better to wait our efforts elsewhere. I want to emphasise to you all, please, that you should see this as an appropriate transition in the form of service being invited of our reserve component, not a change to the effort being offered by the Australian Defence Force to assist in this time of national bushfire concern. We are also, at any point, well able across the Force, to lift the rate of effort or to redirect that rate of effort as the bushfire season continues to unfold and we come to see whether more substantial and catastrophic circumstances re-emerge or not. And that will continue to be the case throughout the next coming months. Thank you very much. 

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, General. Questions both to Dr Murphy and General Campbell as well as I on the matters that I've announced. Jen?

JOURNALIST: General Campbell, there is an emergency situation unfolding right now near Canberra Airport with the fire situation reaching Queanbeyan. Is the Defence Force currently assisting with firefighting efforts down there?

GENERAL ANGUS J. CAMPBELL, AO, DSC, CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE: The Defence Force is both assisting to a degree and looking to whether that needs to be reinforced. Those fires have, as you know, just emerged in the last couple of hours. I have people who are both involved as persons who need to be moved from areas and office buildings that are potentially in danger and also those persons who are part of the bushfire assist effort,. An unfolding situation. 

JOURNALIST: And aircraft?

GENERAL ANGUS J. CAMPBELL, AO, DSC, CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE: Our aircraft are available wherever that need might be required. 

JOURNALIST: General, have you worked out at all how much the extra effort of the military contribution to bushfire assistance is going to cost in terms of the paying of reservists, the deployment of assets and things like that? 

GENERAL ANGUS J. CAMPBELL, AO, DSC, CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE: We're working to understand those figures. But this what the Defence Force is for, to help Australia.

JOURNALIST: Are you going to need an additional appropriation for your operations budget?

GENERAL ANGUS J. CAMPBELL, AO, DSC, CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE: I think that's an interesting question, perhaps for another time. 

PRIME MINISTER: The Finance Minister and the Defence Minister are working through those issues but I should stress that the support we've provided through the Australian Defence Force and I should say in addition to that category A, B and C assistance in the disaster recovery payments and the disaster recovery allowance, that is all being funded from within the Budget and I should stress without a levy. There was no need for us to apply a levy because of the way we’ve managed the nation's finances and on top of that, you've got the $2 billion recovery fund and the deployment of that I've gone into some detail about over the last week. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned trust with charities. How can Australians and people from around the world who have donated to the Red Cross for fire only to be told that it could be used for cyclone or flood response down the track trust charities and will you commit to reviewing how that money is handled when it’s coming in such big volumes in very specific incidents like the fires?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, I’m not going get ahead of the issue here in this sense. We're working with the charities for them to fulfil their obligations and to those who have made donations and how they can best get them the support that they have to those families, to those people where they need it. That's, that's my focus at the moment. I want to help them do the job they're doing and in every way we can assist them to do that and there's been an enormous amount of work done over the last week to give them that the technology tools, the database, the information, to be able to direct them to people who need that assistance. And I know the New South Wales State Government in particular is working on proposals to assist them with that. See, right now, I just want to get the support to where it needs to go and all of the charitable groups are part of that effort and they have conveyed to me personally in the meetings we've had their commitment to maintain the trust. And so it's for them to follow through on that and I'll be looking for from the charitable organisations as they work with the Commonwealth Government, as they work with the state governments, to be able to give us clear indications about how they're getting that support to people, because we need to coordinate with them as well. It's as much an operational issue as it is a trust issue because it's all about getting help to people who need it. 

JOURNALIST: Just on Wuhan. There are still outbound flights from Sydney travelling to Wuhan. Are there any concerns that we're sending people potentially into areas where the infectious disease occurring? And secondly, the incubation period for the illness takes some time. 

DR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Correct. 

JOURNALIST: Might we be receiving people who are, in fact, ill that we don't know about?

DR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: It is always possible that we could have or received people, there could be people incubating the virus on that plane today. That's always a possibility in any disease of this nature. That's why our response at the borders has been as much about detecting people on the flight, but is also telling them that if they become unwell in the next week or so, in the next couple of weeks, to contact their doctor and tell them that they've come from Wuhan. That is the most important thing. We're providing that information to every doctor in the country today, all the health facilities. The biggest challenge is finding people who may have come during an incubation period and developed the disease. If they do, it's not a big issue. We, as I said, we've got really good systems to quickly isolate, test and quarantine people. 

PRIME MINISTER: Doctor, you might want to, as you've advised me before, the risk of this virus and how that compares to some more serious strains that we've seen in the past. 

DR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Sure. So at the moment, whilst the evidence is still evolving and we don't have a complete picture, there are clearly a number of mild cases of this condition. We believe that there are likely to be more than the 571 confirmed cases because we believe they're are mild cases that haven't been diagnosed. So whilst there is a mortality, not a high mortality, a mortality of 17 people so far, they've likely in many of them have been people with existing chronic diseases or comorbidities and so the early evidence at this stage would suggest that it's not as severe a disease as SARS or MERS. But we don't have the final picture yet and we're watching it closely. But there are clearly mild cases.

JOURNALIST: And just on the outbound flights issue?

DR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Well, the city of Wuhan is now trying to ban all transport in and out. So I think that will be solved, too. I think the Chinese authorities are really trying to isolate that city. That's a developing issue at the moment. 

PRIME MINISTER: And that's why we changed the travel advisory today, based on that advice overnight.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] communicate directly to you that they are…

DR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: No, we haven't had formal communication. Our communications so far is that the Chinese authorities are locking down the city and trying to stop all traffic out and in. That's what we’ve heard so far. But that needs to be confirmed. 

JOURNALIST: People can still travel to Wuhan, there are still flights available, but the city is trying to…?

DR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: The city has stopped... my advice is that the city, the Chinese authorities, have stopped all flights leaving Wuhan. I have don't have up to date advice on what they're doing with incoming passengers, but we are advised that they are trying to cut down all traffic in and out.

PRIME MINISTER: I wouldn't be suggesting people travel there. That's what the travel advice means. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, did you meet with Michael McCormack and…

PRIME MINISTER: Before we move to those other issues, while we've got the CMO and the General here let's deal with those issues. But I'm happy to come to those. Any other questions?

JOURNALIST: Yeah a question to the General. HMAS Adelaide is leaving the New South Wales coast today. I believe there is still sort of fire danger in the area today of extreme heat. Is there any particular reason why it services are no longer required? 

GENERAL ANGUS J. CAMPBELL, AO, DSC, CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE: It's heading back to port in Sydney. But as you'll appreciate with our naval assets, all of which are on very short notice to move, it can be redirected at any time and indeed, we'll be maintaining amphibious sea capability to support the bushfires as might be required throughout the bushfire season. Right now, it's not seen as being as well utilised as other elements of our contribution through road and air capability. So that's why and I want you to think of this as a very dynamic operation. We move our assets to get the best effects in particular circumstances and as circumstances change, we change the way we're employing our Force. Thank you. 

JOURNALIST: Is there a test for the virus yet?

DR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: There is a test for the virus. At the moment the test is a two-faced test. It's an early test for pan Coronavirus to say it's that type of virus and then the labs are sequencing the DNA. So that takes a couple of days, but within days we'll have a specific one step test that will be done in less than a day and our labs across the country are developing that. But there is a test at the moment and we're getting a quicker one. 

PRIME MINISTER: And I think there was one more to General Campbell?

JOURNALIST: General, the reservists who do want to stay on in a volunteer capacity, are their jobs still protected? 

GENERAL ANGUS J. CAMPBELL, AO, DSC, CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE: They would have to engage with their employer. So those provisions, both of compelled service and protection of employment, change in a voluntary setting. So each would engage with their employers to understand their arrangements. And could I say that Australian businesses, employers all over the country have been extraordinarily supportive of the call out. And also of voluntary service of our reserve, not just for the bushfires, but for many, many years. I deeply appreciate it. Thank you. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister- 

PRIME MINISTER: Ok thank you very much, General. Thank you, Dr Murphy. Yep?

JOURNALIST: How does the jobs and unemployment rate change the debate around stimulus for the economy?

PRIME MINISTER: It's always our job, and it's always our focus to continue to strengthen the Australian economy. Before the end of last year, you were aware that I'd been working closely with the states to bring forward about $4 billion dollars worth of infrastructure expenditure. And I was pleased that we were able to get that moving and that, that will now be rolling out, particularly over the balance of the course of this financial year. These are important projects. They were projects that were already part of the Government's program. And to be able to get the moving is something we're pleased to be able to do, similarly the very significant investment we're making in bushfire recovery, that will also have a positive impact on the ground, but it obviously displaces the many negative aspects. And you would have seen the reports in relation to the lower visitation now expected in the tourism industry. So there's a lot of swings and roundabouts in all of this. The Australian economy continues to grow in the face of significant international and domestic challenges. And so our plan, which is to ensure that we continue to engage international markets, that we continue to invest in our skills performance, that we invest in our infrastructure, that we operate under low taxing environments. All of this is designed to ensure a stronger economy, because without it, you can't get unemployment down and you can't put yourself in a position to be able to fund the sort of recovery assistance we're putting in place in relation to the bushfire crisis, as well as to keep investing in the important projects we have in essential services like disabilities and mental health.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister I understand you had dinner at the Lodge last night with some of your colleagues. Was Bridget McKenzie's future discussed? And was she present at that dinner? 

PRIME MINISTER: No, she wasn't there. I mean, I dine with the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister regularly. You'd expect me to.

JOURNALIST: Does Senator McKenzie need to resign?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, as you would have seen in the statement that was issued yesterday afternoon, last Friday, I referred the matter of the Auditor General's report to the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet to consider any matters there that were relevant to the statement of ministerial standards. Yesterday, there were further matters relating to disclosure that were reported, and I immediately referred those matters also for the consideration by the Secretary. That process is important, has been put in place on many of these occasions simply to ensure that there's a consistency of application and assessment in relation to these issues, and it's the right thing to do for me to seek advice on those matters. And I'm awaiting that advice and I'll wait for that report. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister could you advise whether Senator McKenzie declared on her personal register of interest that is held by your office that she held a membership in the [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: Well again, there’s a process in place to look at all of those matters and we’ll report on those matters once the Secretary is in a position to. 

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] spoken to?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I haven't. I haven't. I've allowed him to do it independently. And so I'm not putting any pressure on him one way or the other. I mean, he needs to do his job. That's why he's there. And I have confidence and trust in his abilities. And he will, I'm sure, get under this task as he has now since last Friday. In a, in a timely way. But he needs to assess it thoroughly and follow proper process.

JOURNALIST: If that assessment finds that she wasn't in breach of the Ministerial Standards, would you expect her to resign, given she's a Nationals Minister? You aren’t in a position to sack her are you?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, let me make two points. First of all, the reference of this matter last Friday to the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was done with the full knowledge and acknowledgement of the Deputy Prime Minister. I also advised the Minister at that time, the referral yesterday of those other matters was done in concert with the Deputy Prime Minister, and he was fully aware of those matters at that time. And we have worked closely together on these issues as you would expect us to within a coalition. But I'm not going to prejudice the outcome of that report. I think that would be unfair to that process and to the Secretary. I'll let him do his job and then I will look at that advice and take whatever action is necessary. 

JOURNALIST: Do you stand by the contention that you and your ministers have been making over the last week that she's done nothing wrong, that no rules have been broken?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they were quoting the auditor general's report. 

JOURNALIST: Why does Bridget McKenzie still have a job, given how scathing that auditor general’s report was?

PRIME MINISTER: Well this is why these matters have been referred to the Secretary. And I'm following that process. I said at the time, as you'll recall, that I took these matters very seriously. I took the auditor general's report very seriously and we are acting on the recommendations of that report. And as to how that report and his findings reflected in any way on the statement of ministerial guidelines and indeed what were a very different set of matters, very, very, very different set of matters which were reported on yesterday, which was new information. Then it was important that they were similarly referred. And so I'll await that advice. 

JOURNALIST: Will the investigation known to these matters look into any interactions between your office and the Minister's office? 

PRIME MINISTER: This is a report on the statement of ministerial guidelines and the matters I’ve referred to them. But there are no issues there. 

JOURNALIST: What role did your office have in administering those grants, in deciding where they went?

PRIME MINISTER: Prime Minister's, and my office will refer matters that are put forward to us, advocacy for various programs from local constituents and members. That is the normal course of events. The matter and the program was administered by the Minister and Sports Australia, not the Prime Minister. 

JOURNALIST: Why did it take until yesterday for you to say that Senator McKenzie had been referred to Mr. Gaetjens when I think on Monday you were happy to mention that you have referred it to Christian Porter, the Attorney-General? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that was in response to a question. And what I referred to yesterday was in response to inquiries from the media.

JOURNALIST: There was reports this morning that one club was given $8,000 dollars through this program. There's no- that club has been placed into liquidation and no one knows where the money went. Sports Australia is trying to claw that back, are you concerned about the operation of this grants program if things like this are occurring?

PRIME MINISTER: What I'm pleased about is that hundreds of sporting bodies all across the country who put forward eligible projects were able to get support for those projects and that they have a government that cares about the sporting infrastructure and communities. Because I've got two daughters. I don't want them changing in the car, or out the back of the shed. I want them to have access to sporting facilities in our community like the boys do. And sporting infrastructure is central to the functioning of Australian communities. That's where people come together and that sporting infrastructure engages participation of people of all ages to ensure that they can live healthy lifestyles and be functional and part of their communities. And this program was designed to support that infrastructure, that enables them to do the wonderful work that they do. The auditor general's report has been completed. The Government is following up and actioning the recommendations of the auditor general's report, and any of the other matters that you've raised. I have referred, properly, to the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for review in relation to the statement of ministerial guidelines. And I will await for him to complete that process properly. But if you’ll excuse me now, I have some family matters I have to attend to. 

Thank you very much.