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  • Written by Scott Morrison


RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, supposed to be on holidays. He's not. He's online. Prime Minister, good morning. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray. Certainly staying very close to everything. Particularly what's happening down there in Victoria. But I'm I'm pleased to see for those businesses up in Queensland where you are today, that they're starting to see an uptick as the border reopens. But it's just important as that happens that everybody continues to, you know, continue following the social distancing. Just because you can come into Queensland doesn't mean all the other rules don't apply. They certainly do. 

 

HADLEY: Well, one of the things I noted on the Gold Coast yesterday, I don't think, and I’ve spent a lot of time here, as you know, I don't think I've seen as many people at Main Beach other than at Christmas. I mean, they've just everywhere. And some of the, some of the cafes and restaurants are adhering to all the rules. Others are not. And we've seen the front page of the Courier Mail, young people queuing up at hotels. We've seen what's happening out there at Crossroads. So I just hope that people think it didn't finish on Friday in terms of Queensland particularly because we've got Victoria hanging over our head and we've got, we’re an inch away from the same thing happening in New South Wales if it goes belly up with Crossroads Hotel.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you know, I've been on briefings this morning since about just about 8:00 this morning going through both of those scenarios in New South Wales at Crossroads, I mean, the Premier obviously will continue to update, and that's for her to do. But the New South Wales health system is responding extremely well. They've had had some good progress over the weekend and in understanding what's happened there. And so that's very good detective work on their part. But it is a reminder how important it is just to continue to observe the social distancing. There's no vaccine that means all the other distancing rules, one and a half meters, all of those…

 

HADLEY: Prime Minister, we've just got a very, very significant problem with the line there and you’re starting to break up, I think it might be the phone he’s on back in his office or at home. So we'll just clear that line and come back to the Prime Minister. Obviously he’s supposed to be on leave, by the sounds of it he just keeps working. And one of the things I've said about all of this all the way along, we have to be apolitical because it doesn't matter whether it's the Premier in New South Wales, the Premier in Queensland, I’ll leave Daniel Andrews out of the wrap at the moment, given what he's been doing. But, and the health officers and the health ministers, as you know Stephen Miles included, and Brad Hazzard, it's been quite incredible what they've actually done. I mean, these people in the main have not taken a break since all this all started late February, early March. They have been on duty the entire time and they're not superhuman, they're people with lives. And I know we expect Prime Ministers and Premiers just to absolutely be available at every opportunity during this rather serious pandemic but it doesn't always happen that way. So we'll we'll hope that we can get the Prime Minister back in a moment or two and continue our conversation. He was right in the middle of discussing where we should be. And he'll be back up in the moment or two and as soon as he's back up we’ll get him back online, there he is right now. Sorry about that, Prime Minister. The crook line did you in but you're back with us now. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, back with us now, I’m within an hour of the CBD. So, anyway.

 

HADLEY: There we go. Don’t talk to me about it or you'll get me off on a tangent about the poor coverage in some parts of the metropolitan area in Sydney and in Brisbane. Now, as you were saying, we can't in any way drop our guard?

 

PRIME MINISTER: No, we can't, I mean what's happened in Victoria and what we've seen more recently in New South Wales I think demonstrates that. And that's why we need to keep up all of those disciplines that have been in place. And, you know, when people are, you know, going round to see friends, which you can do now in obviously New South Wales, Queensland and other places, not in Victoria, then you need to practise that social distancing when you're seeing friends at their houses as well, don’t all cram in together. And no hugs, none of that. You can't do that. Otherwise, there's the very real risk that if something takes off, that it will be very hard to contain. So we've just got to maintain the discipline. That means we can keep businesses open. We can keep life going back to normal as much as it can in a COVID world. And that's where we want to keep going. We don't want to have to go back, but that requires everybody to keep showing that discipline. 

 

HADLEY: Given you are talking to your health officials and those in Victoria on a regular basis. We've seen over the weekend 288 Friday, 216 Saturday, 273 yesterday, new cases. Is there any feeling that it will take another week before these figures come down or start to settle down as opposed to keep going up by that increment? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Dan Andrews, will be better place to say, but the advice I have is that, well, hopefully we don't see it increase. We have been having very significant testing taking place in Victoria. And so obviously they’re picking up a lot of people. I'm advised that it is still predominantly in those areas that were most affected and linked to those original cases, where the, most cases are, but they are going more broadly across Melbourne now. So the lockdown that they've put in place will take its effect, but it won't obviously happen immediately. So we'd be expecting some continued case numbers at those sort of elevated levels for some time yet. But it's just important then when people are identified as having the virus that they isolate immediately and so a lot of work has been put into, over the weekend, we were working on this. We offered a further ADF support to the Victorian Government, up to 1,000 people, as many as they need, frankly, and that's being rolled across, the Premier accepted that yesterday. I wrote to him on Saturday and we were working through that on Saturday. So everyone's working together. And there's a big logistical effort that's needed to trace down all these cases. And there's hundreds of people in New South Wales helping that task, people up in Queensland are helping that task. So it is a real national effort to get on top of this.

 

HADLEY: Okay just away from that, I saw the Treasurer announcing this morning that some Australians much needed money will come their way, another $750 into the bank accounts of people that are on various payments, it won’t be extended to all Australians but it comes at a great economic cost, obviously, to the Federal Government?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are two things happening largely this week. That is the first of those, those $750 dollar payments. We did those back in April as well. So that’s going to pensioners. That's going to those who haven't been getting the JobKeeper and the payments and the JobSeeker payments, but they've been doing it tough as well. And this will be an important boost to the economy when it's doing it tough. On top of that, there's the tax cuts that we legislated just straight after the election, and that has its second round. And people are getting in on that pretty quickly by getting their tax returns in. And so that's about another 4 and a half million people that would benefit from that. So that's a good cash support into the economy at a time when it's doing it tough. And that'll be good news for small businesses who will be the beneficiaries of that. 

 

HADLEY: Now, if there is not enough to deal with domestically, you've got this juggling act with Hong Kong at the moment and the Chinese, I know it's very difficult, you know, to have diplomacy when you know there's one side trying to be diplomatic, the other side are actually not participating. But you've said Hong Kong nationals living in Australia will get relief in terms of their visas being extended for that five year period and then could seek Australian residency. There's a story in the front page of The Australian today that a couple, it's only a couple, I think have connections very serious connections via family members to the Chinese communist government. I mean, is there a fear that, you know, and it's not about bringing people into Australia from Hong Kong, it's about people who are already here. Is there a fear that we have to really check who we're giving residency to? 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Of course we do. And that won't change. And that will be the same test that we do on those things. And that's very important. What we've done here is that we've, for those who are already in Australia and those coming to Australia, on the student visas and temporary work visas. I mean, temporary work visas have to satisfy the labour market test. So if there are more Australians available to do those jobs, we'd expect that demand to dry up a bit, as you'd expect. But for those who are already here, it means that they can stay longer. So let's say you're a, you're a student and you've got a four year study, you'll be able to stay five years on the other side of that in Australia. So that means you'll be here now hopefully things won't deteriorate in Hong Kong. Hopefully they won't. And that's what everybody wants. And we want to see peace and stability there and and you know liberty for those people who live in Hong Kong and hopefully that's where this goes. But if the situation were to deteriorate, then the government is in a position to have people who are already here. And if you're here in Australia, when something goes terribly wrong in your home country, you can immediately apply for a humanitarian visa. And the Government obviously has the option in a very serious circumstances, like we saw with Tiananmen Square all those years ago, to move to convert to permanent residency immediately. So we have all of those options still available to us and we haven't taken the decision to move to that level at this point. But by keeping here and enabling people to be here safely for longer, then it gives us those options. 

 

HADLEY: There are some that would say that, we’re what 22 years into a 50 year deal and all bets are off to use an old Australian expression in relation to the Chinese. I mean, they made all sorts of promises to secure cooperation from Great Britain, who upheld their part of the deal. And now if you go through what they've done and you go through what they promised, they are poles apart. They are poles apart at the moment. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's the point we've made and that's why we've cancelled the extradition- not cancelled I should say, we've suspended the extradition treaty with Hong Kong because the circumstances have changed. They are now materially different to what was understood with the basic law and those declarations that were made at the time. And so Australia and many other countries, Canada, the United Kingdom, many others have made this observation. We haven't done it on our own. Everyone, like-minded countries saying the same thing. And so we've changed our visa laws and our extradition arrangements to reflect the change that has been made in China. 

 

HADLEY: Okay. Do us a favour, will you? At some stage, take at least one day off. Turn the phone off and just absolutely relax. I know you went to the footy and there are people, a minority of people are blowing up about that. But I just think that, you know, the same message for the Premiers in Queensland and New South Wales and the Ministers. Everyone needs a break. A circuit breaker, a 24 hour period where you just don't have to answer any questions or deal with the nonsense we're dealing with at the moment. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well I appreciate that, Ray. But, you know, there's a lot going on at the moment. So we remain very connected and we’ve got great teams. You know, as part of our government, and they're all doing their jobs. I was on the phone with the Health Minister this morning, and the Chief Medical Officer, that will continue and people will see me later on in the week. But just because I'm not in front of a camera doesn't mean I'm not hard on the job. 

 

HADLEY: All right. So in other words, the answer is mind your own business Ray, I’m okay. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well the game wasn’t that great to watch, but you know you’ve got to be loyal to your team. Always.

 

HADLEY: Anyway. You deserve all the best. Thanks for talking to me again this morning. I appreciate it. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot Ray, seeya.

 

HADLEY: Thanks. Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister. 

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