RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning to you.
PRIME MINISTER: G’day, Ray.
HADLEY: Gee, you’ve had a week.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's been a lot of weeks like this. This time last year, Ray, we were in the middle of the Victorian second wave and dealing with some really terribly serious issues there. And, there's some familiarity between what we were doing then and what we're facing now. But, you know, we've learnt a lot since then and we're applying those lessons. And, that's what you saw in the package we announced yesterday, both direct support for people, if you don't mind just, if I can just say specifically what we did there.
HADLEY: Yeah, sure.
PRIME MINISTER: That means on, from this Friday, those first four local government areas that went into lockdown, and from next Monday for the rest of the state, we are increasing the direct payments to people who’ve lost hours because of this lockdown. So, if you've lost more than 20 hours of work a week, it doesn't matter whether you're part-time, casual, full-time, doesn't matter who you work for. If it's because of the COVID lockdown that you've lost those hours, you will get 500, sorry $600 a week. And, if you, it's up to 20 hours lost, you know, one day a week, eight to 20 hours, you get $375. Now, you get that by accessing Services Australia on 180 22 66, from next Monday. It's right across New South Wales, and I know you’ve got, you know, listeners right across New South Wales. And, because we appreciate, in the arrangement we came to with the New South Wales Government, the lockdown in Sydney is obviously affecting people outside of Sydney. We also announced a joint package of business support of between $1,500 a week to $10,000 a week for businesses up to a turnover of $50 million. That is around 40 per cent of their payroll on a weekly basis. And, that is on both payments from week four onwards, for as long as the lockdown has to run. That is commensurate with, you know, what we've done in the past. In Victoria last year, when they were in the lockdown, we were pumping in, without request, three quarters of a billion dollars every week to support the Victorian economy and to support Victorians. Now, in this package that we announced yesterday, it's $500 million a week, it's actually a bit more than that when you take the direct payments into account between the Commonwealth and New South Wales Government. As you would have heard today, the New South Wales Government is providing further business support on top of that, which is, you know, I think also well-designed.
HADLEY: Now, just, if we go through this. It’s $600 a week if a person's lost 20 hours or more, or $325 to $375 each week if a person has lost between eight and 20 hours. Now, the payment that’s being made by the Commonwealth or the State Government to the companies who’ve had turnover of less than $50 million, now, that's not like JobKeeper. It's not as if you're giving them money and they've got to then pay the people who are retaining their jobs. The money is for them to basically continue to operate and continue to employ people, if they can.
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, that's right, and they may use it to supplement their wages as well. I mean, that's, we're saying that's their decision. It’s based on what we did a year ago. A year ago we did a whole bunch of things. There was JobKeeper. Now, that was a national program, cost over $90 billion, its scale was, you know, like nothing the country had seen before. And, so, we had to do it that way. This way we can make those direct payments to people straight from the Government. We don't have to go through the business, and that means it just happens more quickly. People can, as they’re already getting, we've already had about 130,000 of those claims made and processed, and people getting that money already in the lockdown to date. So, it's a more direct way of doing it. And, so, the business doesn't, if they have to reduce someone's hours, they don't have to make, you know, make that up. They should ring that number and they can get that support and remain working or connected to the employer. That's right.
HADLEY: Ok, I'll get a stack of emails and calls today from people. By the way, just as we talk, no new cases in Queensland, two in hotel quarantine, and only one in Victoria, but that's a primary, close contact, as I told you listeners.
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, good news.
HADLEY: Now, this is an anomaly, and I don't expect you’ll have an answer off the top of your head, but it's one that I'll get through the day. ‘I wonder if you could help me. I don't want to ruin young families. I have a small business. In 2019, I only had two employees, monthly review of $40,000. By 2021, I've got five full-time employees and two part-timers. Now, we might have similar turnover this year. Do I, am I eligible for assistance?’ Because, you know, it's predicated on what you're doing in 2019 compared to what you're doing in 2021. Now, this is a business that’s changed in the number of people they employ and the way they operate from that two-year period. Is there any respite for people that have changed circumstances?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, look, I believe there will, and that was one of the key issues that Dom Perrottet and I and the Treasurer and Gladys was speaking about while we were working through it. I mean, you've got to put some basic rules in place.
HADLEY: Oh, sure. I understand that.
PRIME MINISTER: I know Services New South Wales, who'll be administering this payment, will be looking for ways to deal with those sorts of situations. So, I just encourage people in that situation, just register today and then you’ll work through the application process, talk to Services New South Wales, and I'm sure they are going to be able to work through many of those, many of those issues. I can't give an absolute guarantee on that.
HADLEY: Oh, I know that.
PRIME MINISTER: The New South Wales Government are running that program, but I think they'll do it very well. But, I would engage with them. I know the Premier and the Treasurer of New South Wales are already aware there will be situations like that and they’ll need to take that into account.
HADLEY: Now, I heard you yesterday afternoon go live with the conference with Don Perrottet and Gladys Berejiklian and you were at pains to point out that you just go and apply. This is, I'm talking about employees here, for your either, you know, $325, $375 or $600 bucks, and that will automatically flow. I guess there's got to be something, you know what it's like, you and I have spoken about this. It's only a rort if you're not involved - whether it's fire, flood or anything else, there's always someone trying to put their nose in the trough. Will there be some sort of check and balance to make sure people aren't inventing jobs they don't have?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, yeah, at the end of the day, people have got to declare this income, and so they can be assured that when they do this, that the Tax Office is aware of the claims that have been made at the end of the day. And, what has been effective with all of these payments, because it's the same thing we do, as you know, Ray, with floods and fires and and all of that, and the most recent New South Wales floods is a good example. Those payments were being turned around very, very quickly. And, and in those disasters, people, you know, ask for it when they need it. We're talking largely about people here who don't engage with the social security system. You know that. And, if you're already getting a social security payment, you're not eligible for this.
PRIME MINISTER: This is the people who’ve lost hours and haven't been on social security. They're not looking to be on social security. They want to work.
PRIME MINISTER: And, so, what we've found with these nature of payments is that, you know, that the integrity of this tends to be at a higher level and we don't have as many of those issues. That's not to say it doesn't happen. I'm not naive about it. I’ve been an Immigration Minister and a Treasurer, I know what people try and do around systems, and a Social Services Minister. So, I've had the trifecta of those. I'm not naive to those challenges. But in a crisis like this, in a disaster, you have to lean in to try and get things out as quickly as possible. And, there's a great advantage to that, because it boosts confidence. It says to people, it gives them that shot in the arm - not, we need them to get two shots in the arm, one in the arm for the vaccine and and one for their confidence - to push through the weeks ahead. And, that's what this does. So, yes, there is backend compliance on this, just as there will be for the business payments. But, I must say, through the course of the pandemic, that has not proved to be the concern that it might ordinarily be.
HADLEY: Ok, look, I got some good news for you. And, this is on the back of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation meeting on Monday to discuss lowering the recommended age for AstraZeneca below 60. Now, and I won't mention the people for privacy reasons, but I've had two 25-year-olds and a 21-year-old, one of the 25-year-olds had AstraZeneca yesterday, the other 25-year-old will have it today. The 21-year-old will have it on Friday. And, funnily enough, they did this before this announcement, they just figured that, they all work in a high-risk area and they all are essential services. They said, nah, look, we've got to just get it, you know, and I guess run the gauntlet. But, I think the problem for you, as the Prime Minister, is the Australian Technical Advisory of Immunisation have been up and down like a fiddler's elbow in relation to AstraZeneca. And, I think that there was an overreach about, you know, 60 and 50 and 40 and all the rest of it. The simple fact of the matter is there's a risk with any vaccination you get, a very minor risk, a very minor risk.
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, that is true, and that's why some weeks ago I was saying that the Therapeutic Goods Administration that regulate, you know, drugs in Australia, have approved AstraZeneca for persons aged over 18. And, I said that, you know, we made available extra money to the GPs to have consultations through Medicare to talk to people about, you know, their vaccines. It's not banned for people under 60 or 50, never has been, and around 20,000 young people under 40, since I made those comments a few weeks back, have gone and just done exactly as the people you've just mentioned.
Now, they shouldn't do it without talking to their doctor. That's all I said. Go and talk to your doctor. And, that's, you know, informed consent. It's a free country. They can decide to have it or not to have it when it comes to these things. And, so, people should be sensible about it. And, now, I know people, younger people who’ve done exactly the same thing. They're smart enough to make decisions about their own health and listen to good advice. And, some will say no, some will say yes. In the UK, of course, you know, people have been doing that and they've just clocked over 65 per cent of their, of their vaccination of their population there. But, I still note, 200, over 200 people died in the UK last week, and I think 50 yesterday, and their case numbers are running at over 30,000 a day. So, I know there's been a lot of references to the United Kingdom, but in Australia, you know, they've had more cases in a day than we've had in 18 months. So, I wish them well, particularly as they go into this next phase. But, it will be quite an experiment.
HADLEY: See, I know Craig Kelly’s not your problem anymore, but I identified two nights’ ago on Sky News, he said you're more likely to die by getting the vaccination than being unvaccinated. Now, I think …
PRIME MINISTER: That’s rubbish.
HADLEY: Well, I know it is, but a responsible Member of Parliament - he's not your problem - but I just think that he has to be called out every day of the week because it is rubbish. And, he's ably supported by Alan Jones who’s saying the same thing, my former colleague, and I'm getting criticised for identifying him as being basically an anti-vaxxer because he’s getting people on his program saying, ‘Don't get it because you're more likely’ - this is Kelly - ‘you're more likely to die with the vaccination than being unvaccinated.’ It's just, it's just ridiculous.
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. Look, the extremes of every debate, Ray, are completely unhelpful. There's no doubt about that. But, you know, most Australians are middle ground and sensible. Certainly those quiet ones, they understand these things. And, you know, Australians have one of the highest rates of vaccination, particularly child immunisation, in the world. We understand vaccinations. We have a very good regulatory system for vaccines. And, yes, I know ATAGI has been very cautious and that had a massive impact on the rollout of the vaccine program. It really did. It slowed it considerably and it put us behind, and we wish that wasn't the result but it was. Those decisions are made independent of Government, and should be.
And so, you know, if we want a system where drug control in Australia is not run by politicians but by the professional medicos, well, sometimes that means they'll be very cautious in circumstances like this. They didn't go down the emergency approval and advice path that they did in the United Kingdom. Why? Because people weren't dying every day as they were in the United Kingdom. So, you know, it's a two-way street. We want those independent medical advisers, then that can sometimes mean a very conservative, cautious approach, which is what has occurred here. But, for those saying that, you know, there's [inaudible], there's, you know, there’s the whole COVID thing's a conspiracy and it'll turn your arm into magnets and all this sort of stuff, this is just, this is just crazy nonsense, and it does put people's lives at risk. And equally at the other end, which says that, you know, we all just have to do nothing forever and that you can eliminate this thing. That's rubbish, too. And, we've always been in the centre ground on this, and I think that's where Australians have been as well.
HADLEY: Ok, I'll leave it this way. I’m just seeing a report on Sky News now, record numbers in Indonesia, which is a terribly troubling thing, but our neighbours in Fiji, I mean, the poor buggers. It started with one in April and now they're getting five and 600 a day. And, the Kiwis have lobbed over and said, ‘We'll try and help you.’ But, an island, you know, a group of islands like Fiji with limited resources, you feel dreadfully sorry for them, I mean …
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we do, and we're piling in the vaccines, all their vaccines they're getting from us. And, we’re piling the AstraZeneca vaccines into Fiji, and they continue to get more. We've had medical teams over there for months. I've been speaking with Prime Minister Bainimarama now for months about this. I've also been talking to President Widodo. We're sending further vaccines up to support them. You know, Australia, yes, I know, and particularly in Sydney, going through a tough time at the moment. But, if we just reflect for a second, we’ve saved over 30,000 lives. We've got a million people back in work. We’ve got a vaccination program that's now running at almost a million doses administered a week. We're going to get there, and we, and we're going to try and help those in our neighbourhood as best as we can. But, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but in Australia.
HADLEY: Ok. As always, thanks for your time. I appreciate it.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Ray.