Transcript - Interview with Paul Murray, Sky

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01 Feb 2021
Prime Minister

PAUL MURRAY: Here’s our chat from his office a bit earlier today.

PRIME MINISTER: When you've got these new virulent strains like we had in Brisbane, you don't know what you don't know. And they move a lot more quickly. Now the breadth of how far this is applied, obviously is different to what happened in the northern beaches, which was a much more localised lockdown. Right from the outset I mean, I've never had an issue with a localised lockdown. And what you saw in the northern beaches in particular was a good example of that. But it was the same we saw in north west Tasmania quite a long period of time earlier on in the pandemic. You do want to give your contact tracers a head start with something like this, because it can move very fast. I mean what we saw in Victoria with that second wave was devastating. And so, getting on top of it quickly is important. But at the end of the day, these are balanced judgements you've got to make. For those who are watching from Western Australia, I mean, this is quite a shock. I mean, you've had a very good run there and that's great. But this type of event was not unforeseen. And we've always said that, you know, this idea of eradication well, you know, people are coming home. You can't stop Australians coming home.

MURRAY: But also, it feels like several times last year we were talking about the new normal, but it feels like the new normal is one case equals shut it all down? Happened in Brisbane, close the borders to New Zealand, happens now in Perth, there was the Adelaide situation. Is this the new normal where we're going to get used to lockdowns, for one case?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't think so. I actually don't think that. I think what we've seen in Brisbane, what we saw in Perth now and what we saw in New Zealand, that was related to new virulent strain cases and you know that one case can turn, you could be at 100 today. In not a very long period of time. And that's what we're seeing overseas. When I speak to European leaders, I mean, they weren’t even doing genomic testing on the strains that were going through their countries, and that's why their case numbers were exploding. And so you get to that stage, you can't stop it then. And so, you know, you've just got to take this one day at a time. So this idea of a new normal, this is how it's going to be- it's just dealing with what's in front of us, now the vaccine starts being implemented our best understanding our best timing at the moment is at the end of this month. And while that's not a guarantee against transmissibility as the vaccine rolls out, I think this will see over the course of the year - because it takes some time, then we'll see the practises change too.

MURRAY: Is this, is there a number written down somewhere that is the tipping point of X number of people vaccinated equals we- when cases pop up we don't have to go back into lockdown? Is there a you know, 25 per cent is good, or it's 100?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it's look, it's all it's all degrees and it's all based on, you know, the situation at the time. I mean, the virus writes the rules, not you or I, and not chief health officers or chief medical officers either. It's their job to try and understand it as best as they possibly can and give us the best advice they can. But at the end of the day, it's leaders that have to make decisions. We don't and I don't delegate my decision making responsibility to the chief medical officer. I listen to him very carefully. But ultimately, I know the decisions I take, are the decisions I have to take. And that's the same for all the premiers and chief ministers as well. And you have got to take responsibility for those. And today I was making that point, that when you're managing something like this, then if there are consequences to the decisions that you've made, well you don't get a free pass on those.

MURRAY: There's a political calculation that seems to be at the heart of some people's operations, which is win state elections by closing the borders and then presumably at some point in the next 18 months, Scott Morrison and a Liberal Party are up for re-election. So if the economy is in any way indented because of closing borders, it'll be his fault. We saw that out of Queensland last week?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, look, the politics of it is not my first sort of focus on this, today I set out pretty clearly that for us to do all the things we want to do this year, and there's really important things this year, people getting back into jobs, people getting their businesses moving again, young people getting trained, going to universities, you know, opening up again, not just domestically, but also hopefully more broadly internationally, for that to happen we've got to nail the the delivery of this vaccine. And we took a big decision at about August of last year because we foresaw that the rush on vaccines was going to be significant. And I don’t just mean rushes from developing countries, developed countries. And we're seeing that in Europe now. And so we took the decision to create a sovereign vaccine manufacturing capability here in Australia. Like we did with masks and a range of other things earlier on in the pandemic. And so we built that, with CSL down in Melbourne. They're producing them now. The first part of our vaccine delivery depends on those international shipments coming out of Pfizer and AstraZeneca, but that moves quite quickly into the broad mainstream balance of population inoculation, and that is from Australian produced doses. So we're one of only a handful of countries that actually have this capability. I can tell you, looking at what's happening overseas right now, pretty happy with that call.

MURRAY: So you said today there is a good chance by October, we could get the best part?

PRIME MINISTER: To get everyone through, that's the plan to get through it all by then, we might get there sooner. Australia- and every country has their challenges in getting vaccines. I was talking to Bibi Netanyahu a little while ago, and they are going great guns over there, they are a much smaller country. It's a very small country, but they've got challenges with temperatures and delivery into quite arid and remote areas. And I said well Bibi we’ve got a few of those as well mate. And, you know, everyone is sharing information about how this is done, you know, even the eskies, and well he doesn't call them eskies, refrigerated transport receptacles or something like that.

MURRAY: Yeah esky mate.

PRIME MINISTER: Eskies, chilly bins, as they’d say across the ditch. But you know that, all of those things that that's what actually rolling out a vaccine strategy- that's what Greg Hunt and Brendan Murphy and these guys, you know, they are talking about eskies, because if you don't talk about the esky no one gets the jab. And it's a very practical process we're now engaged in.

MURRAY: I'm surprised by the number of people who’ll send me an email suggesting some sort of nervousness about getting the vaccine. Now, obviously, I- you or I could not convince the people who think that, you know, there’s microchips and DNA changing and all of that. But what do you want to say to people watching us tonight about why they've got to get that jab as soon as possible and why you can trust that just like you’d trust any other jab?

PRIME MINISTER: I take my kids to get vaccinated in this country, because I want them to be healthy and I want them to be protected from things that can seriously harm them. And when I'm- Jenny and I make that decision, we do it on the basis that we know because if I call Professor Skerritt, who heads the Therapeutic Goods Administration, who's gone over the ins and outs of this vaccine backwards and forwards, up and down every which way. And he's worked out that it's safe to take. And we have that system in this country, which means about 95 per cent of Australian's children inoculation occurs. It's one of the world's leading inoculation and vaccination rates, and it's the same process. We’ve ensured that process has not changed in any way, it is not- we are one of a few countries that have not gone down an emergency vaccination pathway, and that means the TGA has done the job. And so in the same way, I would take my own child to be vaccinated, well it’s usually Jenny that does it most of the time I think as you and I both know,

MURRAY: Lets be honest, lets be honest.

PRIME MINISTER: Anyway, I happily endorse and encourage for that to happen, then I will do the same, and I'll take my mum, you know, I think on this one I know some older Australians might be a bit nervous about it as well. I think we've seen a bit of that in the response maybe many of your viewers listening right now, in the same way that you used to take your kids to get vaccinated. And I remember going with my mum and you walked in and there was a big table of little teaspoons with, with pink, something pink in there, I had no idea what it was but she told me I had to take it and then bang in the arm. And Mum told me took me to that, well, I'll take mum this time, you know, I think families have got to look after each other. And why? Because it helps all of us.

MURRAY: I was interested to see today you were very clear about saying basically the blank cheques are done. You've- you in terms of budget responses, you responded to the emergency triage and now we are in recovery, 90 per cent of jobs lost in the pandemic are back. That all supposes that we don't get third waves, fourth waves, fifth waves, all of that right. But set the expectation for everyone, because I can feel the politics between now and March is about JobKeeper. The politics from March till the end of the year is what about this industry? What about that industry? What do you mean when you say blank cheque is done?

PRIME MINISTER: I think one of the mistakes, and I doubt it’s been your viewers who've made this mistake or you Paul, but some formed the view that when we step forward with JobKeeper, this was some sort of ideological overhaul of the government, that was just complete rubbish. It was necessary. It was an emergency. You know, you throw a life raft in when someone needs assistance in that situation. But when, but times change, you get past the crisis, you get past the immediate emergency. We did it because we needed to do it. And had we not done it, we know, for example, that some 700,000 more Australians would have lost their jobs. And so as we're moving into this year, as 90 per cent of the jobs are back and we know there are still industries and sectors and businesses that are struggling because of the pandemic. But by and large, we're making our way back. And at some point, you gotta flick over and you've got to go from, okay, we don't need the emergency support- it’s a bit like going from ICU to an in-patient. And then you're an outpatient. You go in for a bit of physio and that sort of thing. And then, you know, you're back like you and I and running marathons all the time. And you get to that. But that's where we're going. And so you don't take the antibiotics forever. You know, the course comes to a conclusion.

MURRAY: There's a lot of people in this building and you were at the Press Club, my apologies, where the bubble got it’s chance to ask you-

PRIME MINISTER: I’m sure you were sorely missed,

MURRAY: The feeling is quite mutual. You were asked about if Australia was systemically racist. You were asked about, almost everything other than vaccines, practical things. Last week, endless conversations about Albo's team and all the rest. It feels like there's a lot of people who want to get back to business as normal and politics as normal. And you're not reforming enough this, and you're not doing enough that. What do you say to those who want to drag- I’m not just talking about the media, I’m talking about all the politicians and all the people who want to take us back to pretending that we're not where we are, which is a lovely island in a lot of crazy at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. So we're not there yet. You know, we are still a long way from where we need to be, and there's still a lot of difficult ground to cover. And so my focus hasn't altered, nor of that of my entire team. We're not back to where we fully were prior to this pandemic. We're not back to where we want to and building for where we need to go in the future. We're dealing with a world that is changing rapidly and COVID-19 has accelerated some of those negative, those negative trends that have really impacted on the world, becoming a lot more unpredictable. And we face a lot of challenges there. You know, in 2021, I know what we have to get through. But, you know, the way we get through as Australians and I said this on Australia Day, is we choose to be optimistic. Chris Richardson said something really good the other day. He said, you know what? The glass is a little bit better than half full. You know, this is the half empty half full thing, it’s a little bit better than half full, and it’s filling up. And the optimism is what gets us through. And it's not a sort of a vain sort of romantic optimism. It is, it's real because it's based on something real, which is Australian's tenacity and the way we get through stuff and we focus and we get there. So we’ve got a lot of that to do this year. I mean down here in this place, you know people talk about elections and all that sort of thing. The election’s due in 2022. This year, I’ve got to get people back in the jobs, I’ve got to get businesses back open, we’ve got to roll out a vaccine. You know, I've got to keep delivering the services in hospitals and in mental health something- and you and I have talked about a lot and there is a lot of goodwill between I and the premiers and chief ministers. I know your listeners would be going, yeah, but you argue about everything else. And there's a fair bit of that, I admit. But, you know, we have one of the few countries that at least we're all talking, you know, we might have been disagreeing, but in so many other countries, in their federations, they weren't even talking. You know I can bring them together. And, you know, you play the percentages on this stuff, to use a rugby league terminology. You know, if you can get 80 per cent of something that's better than 100 per cent of nothing. And and that's how we need to progress this year. And the others, they can make their noise on whatever they like. But I just want Australians in a job. I want them to feel confident about their health and their safety this year and Australia's place in the world, and that when they go to the doctor, when they send their kids to school, when they- there’s some big change we need to make in aged care this year or their mental health needs helping, they know we're focussing on that.

MURRAY: Alright speed round now, because I've taking up too much of your time. I appreciate it very much. OK, when do you expect to speak to President Biden?


MURRAY: He calls you, or you call him? How does it work?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh it’s set up between the two of us yeah. I mean, he's getting to, there's a number of countries now, you know India, South Korea, and Australia who are in a similar- we've already had one conversation a while back and that was good.

MURRAY: I've talked a lot last week about New Zealand maybe changing its priorities a little bit or China helping them change their priorities, they’re part of five eyes, but they wouldn't sign up to a joint statement about Hong Kong. There was the ministerial comments late last week. How important is it that New Zealand is all in on Five Eyes, not trying to keep an eye somewhere else as well?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ll make a couple of points. First one is, what they ultimately signed up to with China only brings effectively their trade agreement to where we already were, but the Five Eyes is really important. And so are liberal market democracies, the OECD - Matthias Cormann that we put forward. He’s doing really well. And we're in the last couple now, which is, you know, it's fantastic. But all of these countries need to align more. You know, there's another view about how the world should run and then there is the view that we hold as liberal democracies, free market democracies, business led economies, and on security issues and intelligence and how we work together to support our region and see them be sovereign and independent, that we can keep open seas, that there aren’t parts of the world's oceans or seas that are inside and outside clubs. And this is very important not just to Australia, but all liberal democracies. I don't take the view that, you know, every systems as good as the other. If that was the case, you know, we’d flip a coin each day, and decide which way you run the country on you know, are we going to run under an authoritarian regime or liberal democracy, nope liberal democracy all the way, forever.

MURRAY: Correct.

PRIME MINISTER: And we've got to continue to maintain our vigilance over this. And to do that, we've got to stick together on this stuff. It's very important.

MURRAY: But just on that, do you believe Google is going to pull the plug on Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: I tell you, Microsoft would be pretty happy if they did. Talking to Satya who runs Microsoft, Bing- Bing would go off. So no, look, I'm going to be having a chat with the head of Google very soon again, I've spoken to them before. We are just trying to find a way through here. We all- neither do we want everybody stuck in the courts forever either, we'll just find a sensible way through here. But the thing about the digital world- and we’ve got kids, I mean, I worry about kids online and all of this as we all do. It can be a very unsafe place. And, you know, the golden rule for me is, is what happens in the real world has to happen on the digital world. Just the same rules. You know, you can't behave in an uncompetitive way. You can't, you know, abuse people and carry on like a goose, although plenty seem to, I don’t think you should have a rule necessarily against all that. But you’re still being a goose. And we have to ensure that that world, which is increasingly part of our lives, runs on the same set of rules. And a lot of the regulation and how taxation works, antitrust competition laws, they've got to catch up. And, you know, you can't have these platforms with a business model, which is about being in the Wild West forever. The sheriff turns up eventually and they might go through a few of them. But I'll tell you what, the sheriff eventually gets the rule of law in place in this world. And it's very important it does, because our media and as much as you and I both love them and at the same time might be frustrated from time to time, that's a good thing. And it's important that our commercial media, not just the taxpayer funded media, is present and thriving. And because that's what upholds liberal democracies.

MURRAY: Bloody oath. Now can I present you with what might be the first potential controversy of 2021.


MURRAY: Would you like to declare now early and on national television, will you be going to the football this year?



PRIME MINISTER: Oh I can't wait. I'm looking forward to Matty Moylan playing a lot of games this year and he looks like he's pumped for it as well. You know, there's nothing more optimistic than a sharks supporter at the beginning of the season.

MURRAY: Well, I’ll see you for the Tigers towards the end of the season.

PRIME MINISTER: Excellent. Hopefully I'll be feeling exactly the same way.

MURRAY: Thanks for the chat.

PRIME MINISTER: Good on you.