PRIME MINISTER: Good morning everyone. I’m joined by the Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton today because we’re making an announcement about the launch of Australia’s cybersecurity strategy. But before we come to that I’m sure you’ll understand there are a range of issues I’d like to address firstly regarding the situation in Victoria. I’d also like to touch on the issues in Beirut as well before making some comments on the cybersecurity strategy and handing over to Peter to address those issues in more detail with you.
I know there’ll be many Victorians at home today and they will have joined us now, and I extend my greetings to you and my appreciation to all of you, what you’re going through is tough. We’re here to help you push through this in every single way that we possibly can. Over the course of this week we’ve been responding to the changes that have been put in place by the Victorian government to support them, to ensure that we can make this work as best as we possibly can. Changes have been announced to the pandemic leave disaster payments and there were over about 2,000 calls that were received yesterday and those payments are for Australian citizens and residents being made today and the balance of those to short-term residents will be made later this evening and into tomorrow morning. We’ve acted on the childcare changes and are pleased with the response we’ve had from the childcare sector. There are obviously still issues regarding those who can access childcare, that’s obviously a decision for the Victorian Premier and we will continue to make our representations on those issues. But the viability of childcare, the guarantee to the parents for their places, for the jobs in those facilities and, of course, to ensure those facilities themselves continue in the services they provide, will continue to be supported.
Another very important area, though, is the mental health of Victorians as they’re going through this very difficult period. Already the Health Minister, Greg Hunt, on the weekend announced that we’d be providing additional mental health support. As I often do, I have had the occasion to talk to Professor Pat McGorry as well, well-known to Peter Dutton during his time as Health Minister and have listened carefully to his views which I always find extremely helpful. Today, I have asked the National Mental Health Commissioner, Christine Morgan, working together with Dr Ruth Vine, who’s the deputy chief medical officer for mental health, to work closely with our Victorian counterparts on additional measures that may be needed to support Australians particularly in Victoria as they are working through the stress, and anxiety and strain and the pressures that are upon them and their communities and in their households as they deal with these issues. I believe there’ll be further announcements made by the Victorian government at some point regarding their support and we strongly encourage that and welcome that and appreciate the engagement we’ve already had with the Victorian government on those issues.
But today, mental health and suicide prevention is one of my government’s highest priorities. For Victorians these last few weeks have been devastating and the loss of freedom that comes from the first lockdown now combined with the second one with the Victorian wave, not being able to connect with friends and loved ones, concerns about employment, all of this takes a toll. Young mums who won’t be able to have access to childcare or have just gone through a long haul of homeschooling now having to face another long haul of it. This will put incredible pressure on families and particularly for families with children with disabilities, and it’s important that we play our role to support each other. It’s why I said the other day, anyone around the country who knows a Victorian, get on the phone and encourage them and support them during this time of their need.
I want to encourage people that help is available, and I encourage people to seek out that support through the many mechanisms that are there and I’ll come to those in a second. But this morning I’m announcing a further $5 million to support Headspace, $2 million to support kids helpline, $2.5 million to support Lifeline, and $2.5 million to support BeyondBlue. Specifically in Headspace, that is to increase outreach services to young people in the community who are in severe distress. This will particularly focus on Year 11 and Year 12 students, young people who have lost their jobs, and tertiary students, the funding will be used to recruit and train additional outreach workers who will connect with young people in the community under supervision of the experienced Headspace staff. For those young people who are already connected to Headspace, the services have been there to support them but there are many more who are seeking that and the advice I have had is we need to build that capability to support more and more young people as they go through this time of stress. For BeyondBlue, that funding is to expand capacity, extend counsellor webchat hours to operate 24/7 and boost the ability to refer people with severe and complex needs for 5 additional sessions. At Lifeline the money will be used to deal with increased call volumes from Victoria, and for Kids Helpline, $2 million for Kids Helpline, to increase their call answer rate and service responsibilities and to deal with additional demand for services and links to further support.
If more is needed to be done more will be done, and the report that will come back to me I am expecting tomorrow from Christine Morgan and the deputy CMO will, I anticipate, identify further areas for us to do further work. Now, tomorrow the 10 additional individual psychological therapy sessions for Victorians that will commence tomorrow. That’s under Medicare for people in areas impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic who have used their 10 sessions already in a calendar year and this applies to all in Victoria.
Telehealth has been an important mechanism for health services delivery throughout the pandemic not just in Victoria but all around the country. And indeed for mental health, as Dr – sorry, I should say Christine Morgan has said from this very platform here before you, we’ve got about half of those mental health counselling services and the last data I saw a little while back was actually now being delivered through telehealth. So the overall total number of support services provided under those telehealth arrangements means that we were meeting the same level of service provision prior to the pandemic. And telehealth has been very important. So if you need help, your GP is the best place to start. Telehealth is available to you there. So you can have an appointment from home via telephone or video. Your GP can provide medicare subsidised mental health services or can refer you to other Medicare-supported services provided by psychologists, psychiatrists or other eligible allied health workers. So from tomorrow in Victoria I have mentioned those additional Medicare subsidised therapy sessions. On the web, beyond blue’s coronavirus wellbeing support line which was originally established through the $10 million funding in our first mental health package is available at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au and that service is available in 63 languages other than English. Head to health is another site, headtohealth.gov.au is a central repository of useful tools and resources for maintaining wellbeing and accessing a range of evidence-based free or low cost mental health services. Young people can log on to Headspace at Headspace.org.au and in addition to mental health support, including through E-Health space, Headspace has a digital work and study service which we supported through the $6.8 million investment we made in our first mental health package.
If you are a health worker there is a dedicated tailor made mental health and wellbeing program for front-line health workers led by the Black Dog institute. And we have provided $3 million to establish this earlier on, and that’s available through the Apple store and Google Play Store and is online at the blackdoginstitute.org.au. The Beyond Blue on telephone, Coronavirus wellbeing support line is available to you at 1800 512 348. Anyone expressing distress can seek immediate advice support through lifeline on 131 114 and kids helpline 1800 551 800. These organisations are receiving additional support. Lastly, if you’re concerned about suicide, living with someone who is considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the suicide call back service is available at 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.
Now they are sensitive issues for us to discuss in the middle of this pandemic, but important. If you need help, reach out. Help is there, support is there. Additional support is being provided. If you’re aware of someone who may need help, talk to them about that. Show them the app. If you’re in a position to do so, tell them about it, tell them about these numbers. Australians, we’ve got to talk about these issues openly in the middle of this pandemic crisis, and I encourage all Australians to have those open conversations. Be clear, if you’re feeling vulnerable. Let people know. We’re all there to help. They’re there to help you also.
I also can confirm that families will be able to use their NDIS plans flexibly to support access workers in their homes, particularly in instances where children with a disability can no longer attend education or other day programs. Families should discuss their needs with their provider or contact the NDIA to seek assistance. What this means is if a family normally had a child attend a day program or special school and those facilities are not open, the family can use their existing plans flexibly to get disability support workers into their home to assist. Disability support workers are considered essential workers in Victoria.
Having addressed those issues, I want to turn to advise which if he were able to be here in Canberra the Treasurer would be joining me for this. We discussed it this morning and in the spirit of being very open and transparent with people we thought it important to share this information as soon as we had been advised. I’m sure the Treasurer will be available for further discussion with you later in the day. We received further advice from the Treasury on the impact on the economy of additional Victorian restrictions. The additional restrictions announced by the Victorian government on the 2nd and 3rd of August are tighter and extend for a longer period than assumed in the earlier estimates that were provided. Treasury has assessed the impact of these new restrictions and notes there is a high degree of uncertainty in relation to any of these estimates, and these estimates will be further updated in the October budget. The additional restrictions in Victoria in August and September is estimated to reduce the size of the real economy, real GDP in the September quarter by between $7 billion and $9 billion dollars. This is a heavy blow, a heavy blow. 80 per cent of this economic cost is expected to be in the affected areas of Victoria, of around $6 billion to $7 billion dollars in that state. The remainder represents a preliminary estimate, and I underline that, of the broader impact on confidence in other states and supply chain impacts from the shutdown of certain industries in Victoria. The combined effect on GDP of the stage 3 and 4 Victorian restrictions through the September quarter is expected to be in the order of $10 billion to $12 billion dollars detracting some 2.5 percentage points from quarterly real GDP growth. The national unemployment rate is now expected to exceed the forecast peak of 9.25 per cent and may instead peak closer to 10 per cent which I note is in line with what the governor of the Reserve Bank was also indicating. But of greater concern, as I have said to you before is the effective unemployment rate. We know the measured headline rate of unemployment rate does not tell the full story about what’s happening with people’s jobs and I have been very candid with people about that. And it is estimated the increase in effective unemployment to be between 250,000 and 400,000. Now, that isn’t necessarily people who have lost their employment but it also includes those whose employment has been reduced to zero hours. But as I said, the effective unemployment rate is the one we’re watching. This should see, we estimate, it is estimated, that we would see that effective rate of unemployment which had fallen in the most recent numbers down to just over 11 per cent head north again back to where it had come down from which is in the high 13’s. So, that is very concerning. That is very troubling but it is not unexpected in the circumstances these measures will have a very significant cost, and it will impact the recovery path, but the task doesn’t change. We get on top of this issue in Victoria and we band together and we make this work. And we work together across the country to do the things we need to do, to boost that demand, to encourage that investment, to rebuild our economy, and to go forward. I know this news is upsetting and disappointing. But, Australians, we have to keep our heads up. Let’s keep our heads up together. Let’s look out for each other and let’s get through this and I know we will.
The work of government though, continues, Peter, and importantly today there are many other issues as a government we must address. The digital economy is our economic future as it is for nations all around the world and it brings such extraordinary opportunities. We have seen the opportunities of that even in the matters I have just been talking about with how we’re dealing with the delivery of mental health services and other important services not just the economic impacts. But those opportunities, while they have many positive outcomes, the crooks and those who may not always share our interests, they see opportunities, too. And that means to realise the success of the digital economy, and the prosperity that comes for all Australians, there are things we need to do.
And now, the first cybersecurity strategy was launched by my predecessor, I was there with him back in 2016, and now today’s strategy builds on that approach. And there are three key things we’re seeking to do here. We need to protect the essential infrastructure and services that makes Australia run. We need to protect our economy, working with all the businesses in our economy who share in that responsibility, and we need to protect you and your family from the dark web and the trolls and those who would seek to take advantage of the most vulnerable in our community, the elderly and others. And our secret weapon in this fight is you. By having the awareness, by having the understanding, the tools available to you to ensure that you can take the protections you need to take based on the support we’re providing to assist you to do that. We’ll ensure that we focus on those big issues of the infrastructure, the energy systems, the banking systems, all of that, and this strategy ensures that we have the tools to do that, to increase our intelligence and awareness of these issues, to support small business, to build our cybersecurity workforce and to make sure they’ve got the tools, but at the end of the day we need you. And what we’ve seen most recently when I alerted the country to the cybersecurity attacks in recent times, the response from business was fantastic. And that built our resilience. We’ve got to keep Australia strong, we’ve got to keep Australia safe and we’ve got to keep Australia together. That’s what we’re doing.
THE HON. PETER DUTTON MP, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Prime Minister, thank you very much. Look, I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to build on the 2016 strategy, and the government’s really been dedicated to trying to keep our families and our communities safe everyday since we’ve been elected, and for a number of years obviously the Prime Minister and I have worked very closely together to keep our country safe, our borders secure, but the threat now online is as real as it’s ever been. So if you’re at home with your kids today, you’re worried about who they’re chatting to online, and if you are in a small business you’re worried that the next email that you click on may have a link to some ransomware, or if you’re in government if you’re running an energy retailer, you’re worried about the threat of a state-based actor or you’re worried about somebody who may have malicious intent, and the reality is that all of us are spending more and more time online. So we need to have a strategy as a country to deal effectively with the threat. We wouldn’t allow our kids to go down to the park knowing that they were talking to a paedophile in that local park. Why would we allow our kids to do that online? And we know now that the dark web is essentially the sewer of the internet, where paedophiles and other criminal syndicates hang out, exchange images of children, and we are going after those people and we want to make sure that people hear a very clear message that the government is determined to keep our kids safe, to keep small businesses safe, to make sure that if there is an attack on our telecommunications, or our banking or our energy sector that we have the ability to deal with that threat.
We have seen here and elsewhere attacks on all sorts of institutions, overseas attacks on democratic election processes and many more examples of the way in which criminal syndicates, particularly during the COVID period, have ramped up their activity to try and target online, kids, families, businesses, and so I want to thank very much Andy Penn for the work that he’s done, his leadership in the industry body that we brought together to advise and inform this strategy. It was a collective of probably the smartest minds that we could bring together to assist us in putting the strategy together. There’s obviously been an enormous amount of work done by the Department of Defence and I thank the Minister, Linda Reynolds very sincerely and similarly with Paul Fletcher, the Minister for Communications but across government we’ve really worked hard day and night to come up with this strategy. It’s a $1.67 billion strategy over the course of the next decade that will help keep Australians safe online.
Importantly today, we’re announcing we’re going to have an extra hundred cyber detectives hunting these down these criminal syndicates that are targeting our children online. The stories that we hear from our investigators are quite overwhelming, and the attacks now that we’re seeing on all sorts of businesses, but families as well, what should be a safe environment is not for many families. We want to make that safe through this investment strategy, through this cyber strategy and I’m very pleased that we’re able to launch it today.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Peter. I want to come back to the issue of Lebanon as well but I just might ask one of my staff there, if you could just provide me with that briefing that is on my desk, that would be great. I have a lot of things going on today. I had that pack there with me. I can say though, there’s $2 million support we’re putting in to support the relief effort. That’s an initial support that we’re providing to Lebanon and the international assistances being in place. I particularly want to thank those other embassies that have assisted us and Australians in these circumstances, particularly the British, they’ve been tremendous and we thank them very much. I also want to thank our consular staff – sorry, our embassy staff and those working on consular issues in these last 24 hours. They always do an absolutely incredible job in these terrible circumstances. I want to thank Minister Hawke yesterday and Minister Payne. We reached out directly to members of the Australian Lebanese community yesterday and we had engagements with them and to both express our sincere sympathies for the terrible events in Beirut but also to let them know what we were doing to assist. We are considering a further round of other ways that we can support in this terrible incident in Beirut. But I also want to stress our advice is this is a terrible accident. An absolutely terrible accident. I’m sure there’ll be inquiries into how that occurred and I note that there is, actions already are under way to that end in Lebanon now. This is a terrible accident. I know many in Australia, in the Lebanese-Australian community, will be feeling it very deeply and I was pleased to be able to talk to a number of those yesterday.
So why don’t we go to questions?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, for Mr Dutton, can I please ask what powers are you seeking to direct the Australian Signals Directorate and for ASD to identify, conduct operations against Australians who can be a target of those? And what are the limits on those proposed powers?
MINISTER DUTTON: So if you’re a paedophile, you should be worried about these powers. If you’re a terrorist, you should be worried about these powers. If you are committing a serious offence in relation to trafficking of drugs, of ice, for example, that’s being peddled to children, you should be worried about these powers as well. If you’re part of the Australian community, the 99 per cent of people that aren’t involved in those activities, then I don’t think you have anything to concern yourself with. This is a power that enables the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to help stop paedophile networks online, for example, operating in the dark web on encrypted devices. And that’s the reality of the modern world. We should have, as the Prime Minister has said regularly, the same laws applying in the real world as they do online. And we’re asking for nothing more, nothing less than that. But the fact is at the moment that we have seen a massive spike in the number of paedophiles online during the COVID-19 period. They are targeting kids because they know kids are at home. And as the parent of a teenager, as a parent of teenage children, perhaps your girls are more well behaved online than mine Prime Minister, but whilst they’re telling you that they’re studying, if Fortnite is on in the background or TikTok, don’t be surprised. And the reality is that people are trying their best to groom kids online and terrorists are swapping information, people are trading gun parts on the dark web and it cannot be a lawless space. And so this law applies to those people and those people only.
JOURNALIST: Minister, what’s your simple message then to parents with kids of that age to keep them safe? And Prime Minister on China and the cyber threat how much of this strategy is about China?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s about Australia. It’s about protecting Australia. And it’s about protecting Australians from wherever potential threats come and whatever form those threats might take. And those threats emerge in all sorts of different circumstances and Peter Dutton I think has set out those very clearly. Some weeks ago when I outlined the defence capability plan and the defence strategic update on the strategy, indicated there were there were a range of threats there and state actors that we had to deal with and we’ll continue to do that. But that, you know, wherever the threat comes from, we’ve got to be able to deal with it. And there are many state actors who are active in this space. And we have to be able to come to terms and deal with that. And are.
MINISTER DUTTON: Look Kieran, as a parent, I’d say the best tool is to to educate your children to be realistic about the threat. There’s no sense as a parent sticking your head in the sand, believing that you kids aren’t going to be online, the devices are a big part of our lives as adults and they’re a massive part of the lives of our children. And we just need to be very careful though, when you’re using basic passwords, date of birth or your surname, whatever it might be in a password it’s very easy for that to be exploited. If you’re, as I say, at a park you’re not going to allow your child to go and sit on a park bench beside some known paedophile in your community. But online, for some reason, we’re allowing kids to hang out in chat rooms, to be groomed, to be asked for pieces of information. And as parents, as leaders in the community, we want to make sure that we can help parents educate their kids. So I think protection is very important, so online and being realistic about the threat and getting the information from trusted sources, the e-safety commissioner. Have a look at that website to see what you can do to download the protections to protect not just families, but businesses as well.
JOURNALIST: Minister, you’ve spoken before about your concern about Facebook moving to end to end encryption. And it sounds like they’re going to continue with that plan. Do these new capabilities for the AFP address that, to give law enforcement that kind of access at that initial stage, or do we potentially need more?
MINISTER DUTTON: No, they don’t. And. I mean, Attorney-General Barr, the home affairs minister in- the Home Secretary in the United Kingdom, Priti Patel has spoken about this as well and many others. So we’re worried about where police can’t see information in an environment where a warrant issued by a court has no enforcement. So we wouldn’t allow somebody to have information or evidence of a crime that they were about to commit, say a terrorist attack, and for a warrant to issue from a court yet the police weren’t able to pick up that notebook or that phone with that information on. And yet somehow we allow end to end encryption where an exchange of this information can take place. But even with a warrant, the police can’t recover that information or stop a terrorist attack from taking place. So that’s what we’re trying to do with Facebook and the other companies. And this gives the police an extra tool in the encrypted world, in the dark web to make sure that we can help try and keep families safe.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister on June 20, you held a news conference here where you issued a nationwide warning about an extraordinary threat to- cyber threat in Australia. What’s the status of that threat now, what’s happened subsequent to your announcement, your warning, has the threat increased, has it decreased, what’s the status?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, people still try it on. But what I’ve been pleased about is by bringing that to the attention of the public, we have had an extraordinary response from the corporate sector and we’ve engaged heavily with our state and territory partners as well. And what that has resulted in is a greatest position of resilience of Australia against these attempts. And so Australia is stronger today than we were then. And that is principally because of the tremendous response we’ve had from people engaging and understanding that cyber security isn’t just about what the government does, it’s about what you do. I think Peter just made a really good point. When I often talk about, you know, the laws of the real world having to apply in the digital world, that applies to us, too. The rules of common sense about where you let your kids go and how you operate your business and how you who you let in to your shop, and all of these things that- this is the rules apply in the digital world as they apply in the real world. And that is a message for each of us individually as business owners or as individuals, as parents, as grandparents or kids, as much it is for governments protecting key energy installations and things of that nature and banking systems. So the response to that, Mark, has, I’ve been very encouraged by the way Australians, corporate, really reacted and responded and took it really seriously. We have to take it seriously, but we can’t let it hold us back.
JOURNALIST: PM can I first of all check, this $1.6 billion dollars, is that over and above the $1.3 billion that you announced when you were doing the defence update?
PRIME MINISTER: No it’s inclusive of that amount, I’ll let you finish.
JOURNALIST: Then Minister, if I could just go back to the powers of ASD, ASD is not allowed to operate inside Australia. So when you talk about the way they’ll cooperate with the AFP, is that for looking at activity that’s happening overseas on servers overseas?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s inclusive of the amount, but when I announced that amount, I said the details of how that was to be acquitted would be contained in the cyber security strategy, which is what we’re doing today. But there are some additional measures that are contained in today’s announcement and with new funding attached to that. And they range from one of the most practical, which was to ensure that there are additional AFP officers to actually then go and follow through on what this capability has provided us to identify people. I mean, that’s a very practical thing. At the end of the day, someone has still got to slap the cuffs on, and that’s what this does.
MINISTER DUTTON: So Chris, ASD obviously has a very unique set of powers. They’re the best in the business. And I think we should be very proud of the work that they do. They are involved in military operations where they stop terrorist attacks taking place. They prevent all sorts of crimes being committed against Australian citizens. And even recently in relation to COVID-19, the ASD was able to step in and block some of those scam attacks where Australians were being targeted financially and are being asked to give passwords, etc. So we could have built that capacity within the Australian Federal Police, that technical capacity, the decision that we took was that that would just be a duplication of that effort. It would take years to ramp up. And the threat from these cyber actors is here and now. So what we’re proposing here is that the Australian Federal Police or the ACIC, with a warrant from a court knowing that somebody operating a server, whether it was in Seattle or Sydney, if they’re targeting Australian citizens, that the Australian Federal Police or the ACIC, with that warrant from a court, would be able to target that paedophile network regardless of where they are in the world. Predominantly, though, as you’re well aware, most of these servers and these syndicates operate offshore, but our desire is to protect Australians here and abroad, if that’s appropriate. So that’s the skill that we’re tapping into, the power only applies to, as I say, the two agencies, the Australian Federal Police, the ACIC, not the ASD. And they can only be exercised in relation to those people who are alleged to be committing very serious offences. There’s more detail that we will provide in time. But we are talking about terrorists. We are talking about people involved in very significant drug operations. We’re worried about those paedophile networks in particular. And that’s the target. And that’s the logic behind what we’re proposing today.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if I may ask a question about WA’s border trial, WA Premier Mark McGowan has requested that the Commonwealth support WA’s request for the border court trial brought on by Clive Palmer be vacated and a fresh trial be ordered. WA says this will be important as it means the evidence given by experts called by the Commonwealth last week will be struck out. What’s your response to this? Our understanding is Mark McGowan spoke to you on this yesterday?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I haven’t had any discussion with Premier McGowan on this. I have a letter from him and I received that yesterday. And I’ll be writing back to him in a way that I believe will assist the WA government with what they’re seeking to achieve. The WA government asked us to withdraw from the case with no other requests. We did that on Monday. We did it fulsomely and comprehensively. But I’ll be writing back to him today. And our response, I believe, will assist what they’re seeking to do. The WA Premier, he has a quarrel not with me on this at all. His quarrel is elsewhere.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the pandemic, back in April you stood there and then and you said that the Commonwealth would give cooperation for the Ruby Princess special commission. Why is it then that the Commonwealth has resisted a summons from Brett Walker for an official from the federal government to give evidence to that commission, especially when mistakes have been made by Border Force and also the Department of Agriculture staff? And Minister Dutton do you believe that the Border Force officer who misinterpreted this document as being negative for COVID-19 would have allowed 11 isolated passengers to leave the Ruby Princess if he had properly understood the documents?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I’ll let Peter, you go.
MINISTER DUTTON: I’m happy to deal with the whole thing. So we have cooperated. We’ve provided a submission to the inquiry and there’s precedent in history in relation to Commonwealth and state inquiries, you’re aware of all of that Andrew, so we have provided that information. The suggestion by you that there’s been wrongdoing by the Australian Border Force is completely wrong. Now, the Australian Border Force does not have a role in relation to clearing people on health grounds. We do not employ doctors and nurses at airports or at sea ports. My- people within the Australian Border Force, who again have gone above and beyond in this response, have really worked day and night to keep Australians safe, I’m not going to have them besmirched on a regular basis by anybody. And well, it is actually-
MINISTER DUTTON: Because, I’m sorry it is. Because in your question, you put that there was wrongdoing and there’s not. Now, those officers have done their job in relation to this incident and others, but they do not provide clearances. They are not, they don’t have the technical capacity to do that. They are, they are involved in customs and migration clearances of people.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Andrew. I’m going to go, to I’m gonna go over here to Phil.
JOURNALIST: Olivia firstly.
JOURNALIST: The list of businesses allowed to remain open under Victoria’s stage 4 restrictions. Sorry, the list of businesses allowed to remain open under Victoria’s stage four restrictions wasn’t released until the middle of last night. So a lot of workers woke up this morning unsure whether they were going to be able to go into work or not. When were you advised of what businesses would be allowed to remain open?
PRIME MINISTER: I was, I received the final list personally a few moments before the Premier made the final announcement. Now, there had been consultations going on between Commonwealth officials and input I should probably better describe it as, from Commonwealth departments and agencies. And quite a lot of departments, of infrastructure, industry and others were providing input to the Victorian government over the course of those several days leading up to that announcement.
But the final list was circulated to me not long before the Premier made his announcement.
JOURNALIST: The list released last night about which workers can continue to go into work?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, that wasn’t a list that was provided to me.
JOURNALIST: The Victorian situation has obviously deteriorated-
PRIME MINISTER: [Inaudible] the Commonwealth, by the way, it was just not a list that was directly provided to me.
JOURNALIST: The Vic situation has obviously put a spanner in the works, the three stage re-opening of the economy. But on top of that, we’re now seeing Premiers like Annastacia Palaszczuk say, you know, new border closures. South Australia putting up restrictions, the business in WA that Annabel just referred to. How confident then are you that you can salvage that that plan to open a COVIDSafe economy to get all the states back on board and work towards a COVIDSafe economy? Do you still think that’s realistic?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, I do. But it will take some time. I mean, the setbacks in Victoria are serious and significant, and that is devastating for the Victorian economy. But as I indicated before, also for the national economy. And while the majority of those impacts are within Victoria, the supply chain impacts, the confidence impacts. These things are obviously impacting other states and territories. But let’s remember, seven out of eight states and territories are in a fantastic position, an actually tremendous position. Zero cases in Queensland today, but still in New South Wales, only about a dozen cases. And they’ve been able to keep that down for several weeks now. Just a handful of cases, dozen or so cases, certainly under 20. And that’s been an extraordinary effort under the pressures that that system has been under in New South Wales. See New South Wales’ result, the results in other states do fill me with confidence. I mean, yes, the virus has given us a terrible beating down there in Victoria, but in New South Wales and Queensland and many other states and territories, well, they’ve been serving it back. And that shows that I think we can come through it. But obviously, the ability to do that starts with ensuring that we have the health situation in a stronger position than certainly we have it now in Victoria. Now, you’ll recall many months ago, I mean, interstate travel was one of the restrictions that was in place right across the country at the outset. So I’m not surprised that states will be hesitant, even where they have no cases about those, that potential movement of the virus, that doesn’t surprise me. That’s why I’m not offering any commentary or response to that. All I’ve simply said is that in these circumstances, let’s work together, as Victoria and New South Wales did, together with the Commonwealth very constructively on the New South Wales border closure and with WA that’s why I’ve recommended the way forward as to how we can work constructively on those border issues. And I look forward to the Premier of Western Australia accepting those key principles that I set out to guide that. So yes, Phil, I think we can get there again, but we’ve got to push through this first and we’ve got to push through it together.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister yesterday you flagged some issues in the Victorian supply chain, how confident are you that these issues have been dealt with? Have you heard from Daniel Andrews on that issue today? And are you concerned at all that Victorians are going to go without any important goods over this lockdown period?
PRIME MINISTER: The Premier, I understand will be making some further announcements on this today. He may well have already done so while we’ve been standing here and we have been, as I’ve indicated, very determined to ensure that they have been fully aware of the feedback we’ve been getting from industry. Now, there are, this occurs at a number of levels around critical supplies, and particularly when it comes to food and not just in Victoria, but the knock on effects of that for supply chains in other parts of the country. I can say that we’ve passed on that advice very frankly and very fully. And so I’ll await to see what the announcements have been from the Premier. Ultimately, he has to make those calls and he has got to- and I’m sure and I know he is seeking to appreciate all the dimensions of this. That is certainly my view. But ultimately, he has to make judgements about weighing these things up. And he’ll, he will make those calls. And then we will just have to do our best to make that work.
JOURNALIST: Minister, just one for you. Hylton King deported overnight, a part of another wave of New Zealanders. What do you make of his actions? But also, are you not worried that sending more Kiwis back to New Zealand could anger the New Zealand government?
MINISTER DUTTON: Well, I think this is a crime that really shocked Queenslanders. So this individual strangled a young policewoman and it was a vicious crime. It was a cowardly act. And my decision to cancel his visa and deport him from our country I think reflects the values of most Australians. 99 per cent of people who come to our country do the right thing. But in this case, clearly he’s done the wrong thing. And we just don’t want people of that very poor character in our country. So I think good riddance to him. I’m glad that he’s gone. And I’m sorry that the young police officer will live for the rest of her life with, scarred with the memory of that incident, because it was a very, very cowardly attack and he deserved to be deported.
PRIME MINISTER: Back to Lebanon, just on the other points. I mean, most of them, I covered off before, but the aid we’re providing is both to the World Food Programme and to the Red Cross for food, medical care and essential items. There were, as I indicated yesterday, staff who were injured in the explosions. But they are safe and accounted for and we wish them a speedy recovery. I also want to thank the US officials in their embassies in Beirut for their support. And just to remind people of the consular emergency centre line, +61 2 6261 3305.
I’ll take one more and then I think we’ll leave it there, John?
JOURNALIST: Thanks Prime Minister, just with an effective unemployment rate of 13 per cent and a significant hit from the Victorian situation. Will you be considering significant new discretionary aggregate demand stimulus to stop that jobless rate becoming entrenched? And can we afford to wait to the October 6 budget if you are prepared to do that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the ERC is meeting constantly, and the Treasurer and I are considering some further issues around JobKeeper, as I said we would be and the Treasurer will make more announcements about that. We are making announcements constantly about this. The Budget will be in October and that will be another significant, arguably the most significant instalment in these announcements in addition to those that have already been made over these many months, I mean, right now, let’s not forget, we’ve got a billion dollars going into skills which we’ve announced between the states and the Commonwealth. We’ve got $1.5 billion dollars going to support 180,000 apprentices. We’ve got a $600 million dollar plus HomeBuilder programme. We’ve got a $250 million dollar entertainment industry programme. We’ve got new incentives going into the film industry. There has been a significant amount of aggregate demand stimulus and support work. And that’s on top of JobKeeper and JobSeeker and the $750 dollar support payments that have gone in twice now in both quarters to welfare beneficiaries. The cash flow assistance support. So there is a significant investment, unprecedented in this country that is continuing to be made and that will continue to roll out. And if there are measures that need to be brought forward, they will be brought forward. But the budget also provides the important platform to actually pursue even longer term reforms. And I’ve said, been talking about those now for some time. The skills issues, the industrial relations issues, the energy supply issues, the manufacturing industry strategies, all of this, critically important infrastructure, which has been such a huge part of our economic plan. The budget will address all of these things, but on top of that, there will continue to be supports, like the measures I announced just today to help with the mental health situation in Victoria. So the expenditure review committee of Cabinet is meeting again this afternoon, and we meet very regularly to deal with these issues. The news about the economic impact is devastating. But I can tell you in terms of Australia, even with these hits, even with these hits, we are doing better than many and most. I mean, you only have to look at the information we receive about what has happened in Spain, in France, what’s happening in the United Kingdom. All these very large developed economies, Sweden as well, which had very few restrictions but has experienced a significant fall in their GDP in the June quarter. Australia is doing better and we will keep doing better if we keep sticking together.
Thanks very much.