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  • Written by Scott Morrison and Alan Jones


Prime Minister, good morning. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Alan.

 

JONES: Thank you for your time. Thank you for what you've been doing in the very, very onerous task. Look, I had, as I indicated to you, what we might be talking about. But let's ask you a couple of off field questions. The New South Wales Primary Principals Association President, Phil Seymour, has pleaded with New South Wales parents to keep their children at home. We need parents to hold the line by sending lots of kids in. You're going to send the whole system into chaos. And of the Prime Minister, he said the Prime Minister should butt out. Do you have a comment about that?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've done this all the way through, Alan, and by following the medical advice and the advice from educationalists and the medical advice is very clear. Children are safe at school and the research done by Curtin University, Victoria University and a whole range of universities, University of Tasmania, have all demonstrated quite categorically that the educational needs of children are not served by having at home learning. They're best served by having children in the classroom at school.

 

JONES: That is 100 per cent correct. That is 100 per cent. But what I’m saying to you is…

 

PRIME MINISTER: We'll just follow the expert advice.

 

JONES: That's 100 per cent correct. It’s the educational advice too.

 

PRIME MINISTER: The policy should be based on the expert advice. 

 

JONES: Yeah, but Annastacia Palaszczuk, Gladys Berejiklian, Daniel Andrews are virtually saying to you what this bloke is saying, butt out.

 

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't know if that's what they say. I mean, I expect to see in a lot of these jurisdictions the move towards and particularly here in New South Wales, I mean, the Premier here in New South Wales, has already indicated that path, and I welcome that. And look, all states and territories are going to move at different paces. And in the National Cabinet, we meet again today. We respect each other. They have jurisdiction over state schools in their states and they will make decisions about that. But let's not be unclear about what the expert medical advice is, which is that children are safe at school. What I've said consistently is that the issue relates to teachers and their risk is in the staff room, not the classroom, and at pick up and drop off and there has to be appropriate procedures in place. I've said that consistently all along.

 

JONES: I know. I know you have. But my concern now, as you're the Prime Minister of Australia, is the educational wellbeing of these kids. Now, I've spoken to educational experts on this program. The first aspect of this face to face classroom teaching is that education is relational and learning is facilitated by positive and strong relationships, ideally built on face to face contact. Now, kids preparing for the HSC are being denied that. You can't be educated on one day a week. You can't be educated. In the ACT, they're not even allowed to come to school.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm pleased about what's happening in WA and Northern Territory, South Australia. They'll be up well over 60, well, Northern Territory about 100 per cent.

 

JONES: But what do you say to the mums and dads who are worried about their kids' future via the HSC? They’re saying my child's not being taught, this is going to jeopardise his future.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, these are the points that I've been making. And I'm pleased that in a fortnight's time, year 11 and 12 students at the school that my kids go to, they'll be back full time and years K-6 will be back full time and seven, eight, nine, ten will be back in face to face.

 

JONES: You must be putting your children at risk, mustn't you? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Not at all. Not at all. 

 

JONES: This is terrible stuff.

 

PRIME MINISTER: I think we’ll get there, Alan, I think we'll get there. And, you know, we're a Federation and we've been working constructively within the Federation and the National Cabinet. But the one thing that is not in dispute is that the medical advice is that children are safe and the educationalist’s advice from the research, the evidence is their learning outcomes will not be as good at home.

 

JONES: PM, the one thing you've got is the purse strings. Now, you are giving states money to educate our children five days a week. Now, they're only going to educate them one day a week, why don't they only get one fifth of the money?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't think we're in that territory. I mean, as you know, with Independent and Catholic schools, we fund them 80 per cent. The state governments do 20. And for state schools, it's round the other way. And when it comes to Independent and Catholic schools, we've made it very clear we expect you to be at least 50 per cent attendance within the month and to have a plan to get all your kids back into school. And you do that, we’ll be able to provide some financial incentives by bringing forward your payments. So we're using that leverage unapologetically because we know what the medical advice is. We know what's good for the kids. We know what's good for their education. We know it's good for the economy. And we don't make any apologies for that.

 

JONES: Good on you. Andrew Forrest, now, I've been friends with Andrew Forrest most probably longer than you have. Forget the fact that he blindsided Greg Hunt, and he did. He's arguing that the Minister had given approval and my understanding, certain understanding, is that didn't happen. However, you have called all sorts worldwide. You've talked to Trump and Macron and other people about having a worldwide inquiry into the source of this coronavirus, which has devastated the Western world and the economies. At that press conference on Wednesday, Andrew Forrest described China as, quote, “The country which suffered the virus first. It's a moot point where it came from. I don't know if this virus started in China or somewhere else. And I don't care because it just might be Australia. It might be Britain, it might be China.” Can you understand the indignation of Australian people over these comments?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, I appreciate what Andrew has done as well in working on this issue with us. I mean, we've got access to testing kits which have all been tested in Australia to make sure they're up to the mark and they are and we appreciate that and we appreciate what he did with us working to get access to those. And the Minderoo Foundation will be fully reimbursed, as was the transaction to enable that to happen. So we appreciate that. And, you know, the great work that he does obviously with indigenous communities and more broadly, so that that is all acknowledged.

 

JONES: But you’re the Prime Minister, why could you not have picked up the phone and spoken to this BGI mob?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Alan, I'm not going to go into how we get things done. The point is we get things done. And we work with a lot of partners and we get things done to protect Australians and to make sure we have what we need to ensure Australia is as safe as it can be and we've worked with Andrew to that end, and we thank him for that. But when it comes to foreign affairs advice, I'll take my foreign affairs advice from foreign affairs officials. When it comes to business advice, I'll talk to business people. When it comes to health advice, I'll talk to health people. I won’t ask them for history advice either. That's what I'll do. I'll talk to the experts in their field.

 

JONES: Well, one other thing here. The stuff has been acquired from Beijing Genomics Institute. And the president is a chap by the name, was called Chairman Wang and Andrew Forrest praised Chairman Wang a number of times on Wednesday, describing their friendship as running very deep. This is the same Chairman Wang in 2018 who told his staff at China's BGI they’re forbidden to have children with birth defects. His words exactly. If they were born with defects, it would be a disgrace to all our 7,000 staff.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Consul was not invited by the Commonwealth to that press conference. Let's be clear about that. And look, and when it comes to the origin of this virus, which has taken the lives of over 200,000 people around the world at least, and it’s probably many more times that. I mean, I don't think anybody's in any fantasy land about where it started. It started in China and what the world over needs to know - and there's a lot of support for this - is how did it start and what are the lessons that can be learned? That needs to be done independently. I mean, and why do we want to know that? Because it could happen again. It could happen in South America….

 

JONES: All I'm saying is you've got Andrew Forrest saying it could have happened in Australia, could’ve started here.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's obviously not true. That's obviously nonsense. It happened, it started in China, and that is not a statement of accusation or criticism. It's just a statement of fact. And we need to understand how that happened.

 

JONES: I agree with you, everyone agrees with you. That's why you’ve got the highest ratings of any Prime Minister in history, and that's why everyone agrees with you. But I’m saying that you've got these people, in my view, white anting you. What about, sorry, we've got to talk about these things, this Dr Annaliese van Diemen, who's taken to Twitter on Wednesday to mark the  250th anniversary of Captain Cook's landing. And she says - she's from the People's Republic of Victoria - she says, “Sudden arrival of an invader from another land, decimating populations, creating terror, forces the population to make enormous sacrifices and completely changes how they live in order to survive. COVID-19 or Cook 1770.”

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, look, I found that those sort of comments very disappointing. She clearly won't get the job as chief historian, but when it comes to medical advice, I mean, I applaud the work she's doing as a medical officer in Victoria. That's her expertise. I would strongly suggest she keep to that because those sorts of comments don't inspire confidence and people should stick to their day jobs. That's what I really try to say. I mean, a lot of people expressing a lot of opinions about stuff that they're not expert on. And I'm going to listen to the experts in their field rather than their broader opinions on any- we've all got opinions on lots of things and they're terribly interesting. But the ones that matter are the ones where people have that expert background and experience that we can rely on. And in this case, I mean, of course, I'm the member for Cook, for goodness sake, April 29, 250 years, Cook was an amazing navigational scientist. He played such a critical role in the age of enlightenment. And his role in our country's history is incredible. At the same time, we acknowledge the indigenous Australians, the Gweagal people, the Dharawal nation there, and there are some amazing new installations we’ve put out there in Kurnell when COVID is passed and when we're able to move around a bit more I’d encourage people go out there and have a look. It really tells a great story. That meeting of two cultures and we commemorated that this week, we acknowledged it. Both Cook’s place in our history, which is incredibly important. We shouldn't be ashamed of our history. But we should tell it openly and honestly and learn from it.

 

JONES: Good on you. Just on the experts, everyone is pushing for a vaccine because we can't stop any virus infecting people. There are two ways of immunizing the population. One is to allow people in a regulated way, as Sweden is doing, in a controlled way to get the virus and given that there's a certain demographic cohort. They say those under 65. You said that in your original state. You said, well, many will just have symptoms no worse than the common flu. If they contracted the virus, we would build an immunity. Short of a vaccine. And that's called his herd immunity. Is there a concern from the experts that are advising you that having people locked up and then we open up, which everyone wants you to do, open up the economy, when we then enter society again, the population basically won't have any immunity?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, no one's going to hit herd immunity. Sweden is not going to hit herd immunity. I mean, Sweden has a death rate, 70 times Australia's at the moment, 70 times. So, and even the countries that have been most devastated, they're nowhere near herd immunity. And so the idea that a country can hit herd immunity without wiping out hundreds of thousands of people is just not based on evidence. 

 

JONES: No, well, I’m only raising it because people don't have the immunity and they move out, is there a risk, therefore, of perhaps you have to start again with all of this if there's a quote unquote second wave?

 

PRIME MINISTER: This is a key point. This is a very important point. And this is why, yes, look there is the curve that we had to flatten on health. But the curve I want to flatten is on unemployment as well. The curve I want to flatten is business closures, the curve I want to flatten, is the rising number of people are on income support, whether it's on JobKeeper or JobSeeker. We've got to flatten all of these curves, not just one of them. Success is not just turning up each day and saying we have no cases or a few. If there's no jobs and there's no businesses and no income, well, that's not success. And we've got to deal with both of these challenges. But when we do it and I agree with Gladys, we've got to do it in a way that it's not stop and start where you sort of open a whole bunch of things and then you’ve got to close them all again. So you've got to just move constantly through each step. And that's what we're seeking to do. That's what National Cabinet's talking about today. We want to keep taking steps to get our economy up and running again as much as it can be in a COVID safe environment. And speaking of COVID safe, the most important thing anyone can do to help us get this economy open again is download the COVIDSafe app, we’re at about 3 and a half million, that's still not enough. And we will be sitting around the National Cabinet table looking at those numbers on the COVIDSafe application download. And if we're not getting, we've got we had a really good success this week, but we've got to keep that up. If people want to get back to normal, then you've got to download the COVIDSafe app.

 

JONES: I bet you didn't download the app, but someone did it for you. I have to confess, I downloaded it,

 

PRIME MINISTER: I did too! I helped my mum with it.

 

JONES: Did you do it yourself? I didn’t, I’ve downloaded it, but someone had to show me how to do it.

 

PRIME MINISTER: The kids have done it, Jen’s done it, we’ve all done it.

 

JONES: Did you do it yourself or did the kids show you how to do it? Come on, fess up!

 

PRIME MINISTER: I promise it was me, hand on heart.

 

JONES: All right. Good to talk to you. Keep going. Yes. What you say, that the whole purpose of the app, of course, is to be able to identify if someone's been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, and it’s like a slip slop and slap on the app, Alan. That's just what we’ve got to do it because it's like going out in the sun. You've got to put your sunscreen on. And when we go back out into the economy, we need that protection because that tells us who's been in contact. And we can track people down quickly, isolate them so they don't spread it to more, when that's happening. We can open up our economy more.

 

JONES: Great to hear you talking about flattening the other curves. That really gives people a lot of hope. Good to talk to you. Talk to you next week. Thank you for your time. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Alan.

 

JONES: Righto there he is the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

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