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Prime Minister interview on Sunrise

  • Written by Scott Morrison

DAVID KOCH: Prime Minister, good morning to you. 


PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. 


KOCH: Those restrictions start at midnight in Victoria. Thousands of businesses are closing, 250,00 people out of work and the Reserve Bank yesterday said that unemployment will now peak at 10 per cent. How is Victoria's economy going to survive and come back from this?


PRIME MINISTER: It is a terrible blow to the Victorian economy, to the national economy as well. But it is a terrible blow to Victorians themselves, and particularly to Melburnians that are facing the restrictions of this lockdown. It’s going to be a tough six weeks ahead. We are doing all we can to support Victorians and Melburnians, specifically, through this very difficult time. Today, this morning, as of very late last night, we will be able to provide a triple guarantee to childcare in Melbourne. That guarantee means that parents will not lose any of their places in childcare and we’ll continue to pay the subsidies to those childcare facilities for those places. Secondly, there will be further sustainment payments made to childcare centres so they can stay operational and that means for their employees that they will have the employment guarantee. So a triple guarantee for parents, for the services themselves as well as for the employees. This is necessitated by this big lockdown in Melbourne and so I want to thank Minister Tehan who will have more to say about this today when he makes that announcement. But we have been working on that since, obviously, we got the news of the changes on Monday afternoon.


KOCH: That is great news. A lot of support going into Victoria. The pandemic leave payment, disaster payment that you introduced for Victoria, a lot of people are saying yes, they absolutely need it because we want people to stay home when they’re self isolating and not have the financial pressure. Why not do it for the rest of the country as well to stop it escalating? To stop other states getting to Victoria's level?


PRIME MINISTER: First of all, those payments, as you said, they will start from 8:00am today. 180 22 66. We’ve also been able to agree with the Victorian government, because it is a shared initiative, that anybody who does not have or has run out of their sick leave and is being ordered to isolate can access the payment in Victoria today. 180 22 66. Now, it is a shared cost arrangement with the Victorian government, they pay for the short term Visa holders in Australia and the Commonwealth pays for the Australian residents and citizens. Now, if other states or territories want to enter into a similar arrangement, then I will be making an offer to those states and territories if they wish to do that. Of course, they are not facing the same level of challenge and the health advice we had out of Victoria was to do this. So we are pleased to do it. That option is there for other states and territories where they believe they need to move to that stage.


KOCH: well, that is good news because this is such an insidious, insidious virus going around at the moment. People have got to be so vigilant. These figures beggar belief yesterday. 3,000  home visits of people supposedly self isolating and 800 were not at home. That is staggering, isn’t it?


PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s disappointing. The work that is being done by the Australian Defence Force, which has been another big part of our effort in Victoria with the tracing and tracking down of those in isolation, it’s ADF offices out there with Victorian police and other knocking on doors and around 25 percent, is the advice I have had consistently, is where they’re finding people not at home. That’s just not on. Now today, obviously, with the lockdowns as they come into effect, we hope to see much greater compliance and, frankly, I welcome and urge the Premier and I'm pleased that he was going down this path that there would be further fines. So there is the financial support for you to stay home in isolation. But if you refuse to do that, well obviously, you will get hit by a fine and I think that is pretty fair under circumstances.


KOCH: And these groups that call themselves sovereign citizens and just defying any of the regulations and we saw a disgraceful attack on a female police officer just yesterday. What do you say to these idiots who say we're sovereign citizens? You can't tell us what to do.


PRIME MINISTER: Get real, is my message. Get real. I know this is a very difficult time for everybody. I know people are angry. They're frustrated. There's been a lot of confusion and still to be worked out on some of these restrictions and particularly in relation to suppliers and we’re working with the Victorian government. I know the supermarket sector as well on the distribution issues, many issues have been raised with the Victorian government there and I hope they're addressed. But for everyone else, I know it's tough, but we've got to get through this and we've got to make this work. And what we don't need is those sorts of disgraceful incidents we saw with that attack, that assault, on a police officer just doing their job. Let's just remember people are doing their job, seeking to have these arrangements followed and complied with. It's not an unreasonable thing to wear a mask. It's not an unreasonable thing to do those basic things around distancing. I know the tougher stuff is that you can't go to work, the tougher stuff is to close your business. The tougher stuff is for your kids not to be able to go to school. That's tough and that's going to be really difficult. And that's why we're providing the scale of support that we are.


KOCH: Yeah, well said. Now, aged care centres are the focus again. Vast majority of deaths centred around aged care facilities. One of the worst hit, St. Basil’s. It's been revealed the Federal Government did not know about that outbreak for five days. Is that right?


PRIME MINISTER: There have been delays in us being made aware through the testing programme in a number of facilities, and that has obviously contributed to the problems that we've had. There's also been the issues of the immediate stand-down of staff, which has also significantly exacerbated the ability of these facilities to provide that continuity of care. Over the course of just over the last week after I returned from Queensland, the Aged Care Response Centre in Victoria has done an extraordinary job. We've got a watch list of facilities that we're reviewing every single day and every single evening. We've been able to take people out of facilities and put them in hospitals. We've been able to get access to staff. Now, continuing to get access to staff in aged care is a real challenge. But I do want to express my sincere condolences to the families and apologies, frankly, to those families in those centres that were most severely and acutely affected. And it was, they were unacceptable outcomes. But what I can say, David, is there's over 430 aged care facilities in Melbourne and what we've had is some horrible outcomes in a couple. There's been about half a dozen that have been in an acute sense. But the balance, even those with COVID cases, have been managing very well. And the aged care response centre that we put in place working with the Victorian government, ADF, AUSMAT teams, others, that is making a big difference to stabilise the situation.


KOCH: Okay. I know you've got to go to another commitment. Just quickly, have you seen these pictures from that deadly blast in Beirut this morning? Obviously, our thoughts go to everyone here. Do you know what caused it, have you had any information?


PRIME MINISTER: No, there's no information on the cause. I've been receiving briefings on that overnight. Normally, there's around 20,000 Australians there at any time. And we couldn't say with COVID restrictions how many of those have returned to Australia. But it is very distressing. I can confirm that there has been one Australian who has been killed, which is terribly devastating, and we obviously can't reveal details of the specifics of that at this time. But our sympathies to all the people of Lebanon. There is such a large Lebanese Australian community here and they will be worried about loved ones. The details, hopefully we provide that number to you before going on air. That should be on your screen if you have concerns about relatives, that's the number you can call. And that's where our efforts are, where our Embassy is. It was significantly impacted, but we can report all the staff there are well. But the building that the Embassy is in has been significantly compromised. But I'm pleased that apart from some cuts and scratches, our staff are all okay. 


KOCH: Prime Minister, very much appreciate your time. Thank you.

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