Daily Bulletin


Politics

  • Written by Scott Morrison



Good afternoon, everyone. The Australian economy is fighting back. The jobs of Australians depend on that fight. The incomes of Australians depend on that fight and we are in it and we are making progress. It doesn't mean we don't have setbacks. We are currently experiencing some right now. The unemployment figures that were released just within the last hour have been for June. In July, I expect that we will see an impact from what is occurring in Victoria. But what it has demonstrated in June that as Australia has opened up again, as people have gone back into their businesses and opened their doors, as Australians have been endeavouring to live with this virus and to press on, then we've seen Australians get back into work and this has been a core objective of our approach over these past many months and it remains the focus of our approach, together with managing the health situation in Victoria and other states as outbreaks and other challenges emerge. 

 

Of particular importance in the figures that we've seen today is that of the 210,000 jobs added in June, 60 per cent of the jobs regained were for women and 50 per cent of the jobs regained were for youth. Underemployment has fallen and we've seen an improvement in hours. The majority of jobs obviously were in part-time employment, not in full-time employment. That's to be expected in the economic situation that we've seen emerge over these many months. But what I'm encouraged by about that is the flexibility that we've seen in the labour force has meant that it's been able to keep people in jobs, maybe not as many hours as they once had, but they’re still in jobs and even better, the people who are working alongside them are also still in a job because of those flexible arrangements that have been in place for employers to keep more and more people on. Now, these are not ordinary times, still by a long shot and the Government's responses, both in our thinking and the measures that we've delivered, have certainly not been ordinary. We must continue to adopt this approach as we deal with the virus as it impacts us here in Australia as indeed as it impacts around the world. We've got to deal with what is in front of us each and every day as we are with the situation in particular in Victoria but as well as in New South Wales, where I've been in constant contact with the premiers and health officials in recent days as is our normal practice. 

 

But we’ve also got to plan for the way ahead. We have delivered much needed support over these many months through a raft of programs; JobSeeker, JobKeeper, HomeBuilder, the important programs we put in for the entertainment sector most recently, the supports we’ve provided in the childcare sector, the supports provided with the cash flow assistance to businesses. Right across the board, we have been providing the necessary support that has provided a shock absorber for our economy, for people's jobs, for people’s incomes, for people’s businesses which has meant that in Australia, while the blow has been harsh, compared to what has been seen in most other developed economies around the world, we've been able to mitigate a lot of the blow. But there are still difficult challenges ahead, both on the health front and certainly on an economic front. One of the key challenges we've been working through as a Federal Cabinet, our Cabinet, together here with Michaelia Cash, with Senator Cash, but also in the National Cabinet with all the state and territory leaders, has been the need to ensure that as we build back and through the COVID-19 economic recession, that we are not only providing the economic supports for people to get through each day but we’re helping them to make the adjustments for the future. A key part of that will be the training and skills that they will need to re-skill and up-skill and get those initial skills as they are coming out of school to ensure that they can look for and find work both in a COVID and post-COVID economy. Now, we know that there are fewer jobs available for the number of people who are out there and now is not a time to be standing idle. And so what we’re announcing today is ensuring that there will be additional support to ensure that those who are unable to get themselves into a new position, that we are providing the opportunity for them like never before to get greater access to skilling and training in the areas they need to get that training to find those jobs that will be prevalent in the COVID and post-COVID economy. 

 

And so today we are making a very big commitment of some $2 billion in two particular areas to support the upskilling and reskilling of Australians. The first of those is something I've flagged when I spoke at the Press Club many weeks ago when I spoke about JobMaker plan. It has many components and one of those was the skills Australians need and I flagged we would be seeking to move towards a new way of working with the states and territories to deliver on the skills that Australians who were looking to get a job and be trained for a job and businesses who are looking for people to do those jobs. The way it's been done in the past, we don't believe has been effective. We were prepared and are prepared to invest more but in a better system and what we are announcing today with $500 million for investment this year between now and the end of the financial year, starting at the beginning of September, is to create those places for Australians to get access to that vocational educational training right across the board, but particularly in those skills areas that the National Skills Commissioner has identified where there will be the greatest needs for those skills. It is sad and it is upsetting for many Australians that the industries and the places where they've been working, they will find it very difficult to find new employment in those sectors with those skills, potentially for some time. And so we want to ensure they have the opportunity to make decisions so they can take on new skills and be able to find employment in other sectors, potentially, so they can actually move forward with their own lives. Similarly, for businesses in those sectors, they will need skilled staff and those businesses will need to rely on a system delivering greater levels of training.

 

Now, it's not just for young people. It's worth pointing out that half of VET students are aged above 30. Half of those training in vocational education and training are aged over 30 and over 15 per cent are aged over 50. So this program we are announcing today, $500 million from the Commonwealth matched by the states and territories. This will mean training support for whatever stage of the labour market or your life-cycle you are in. You may have been at a job for many years and you are now having to make a change. You may have been running your own business, you may have been a sole trader. You may have been doing something completely different and one of the things I've been so encouraged by, despite the difficulty of the times, as I've gone around and spoken to people and I've heard their stories about the changes they've been making and the adjustments they've been making, understanding the situation they are in, being honest about the reality of the situation they face and making many difficult decisions about how they are going to make their way forward. Today's decision, today’s announcement, working with the states and territories, is going to make those decisions that little bit more easier for them, knowing they will be getting the training and skills support that they will need. 

 

Now, the other decision we are making today is to extend the arrangements we have for apprentices and that means we’ve already supported some 80,000 apprentices and small businesses at a cost of some $1.3 billion. We are extending that now to small and medium-sized businesses which means 180,000 apprentices, we believe, will be supported between now and the end of March. Now that provides for a wage subsidy of up to $7,000, half of their wage. That would be extended to small and medium-sized businesses. That will come at a cost between now and the end of March of some $1.5 billion. 

 

We are very determined to look ahead and I would say to Australians, as difficult as these times are, let's not look down, let's look up, let's lift our heads. Today's employment figures shows there is hope. Today's employment figures shows that we have done it before and we can do it again. We will continue to apply every resource we have available to ensure we get on top of the health situation with the virus in Victoria and supporting the many needs that are there and across the other states and territories. That is our absolute commitment. But equally, we need to ensure that we don't allow these setbacks to hold us back. Australians are incredibly resilient and even as we go through these difficult times, let's lift our heads, let’s keep looking forward. Today's announcement on these skills supports are about looking forward to the jobs into the future and to ensure Australians can make the choices they need to get into those jobs by getting the training they need right now.

 

Michaelia?

 

SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS: Thank you, Prime Minister. Ladies and gentlemen, skills reform, as the Prime Minister has said, is a fundamental priority for the Morrison Government. At the election in May last year we took to the election a comprehensive agenda for skills reform in Australia. That was endorsed by the Australian people since that time I've been working cooperatively with my state and territory skills counterparts on a roadmap for reform. Earlier this year, you will be aware that both the state, territory and Commonwealth governments announced $80 million in matched funding for a new skill set in infection disease control. Why? Because we understand that as a result of COVID-19, this is a skill set that is now needed and so that was developed and funded in record time and is now already being rolled out to market. We also announced earlier this year as a result of COVID-19  a $1.3 billion wage subsidy for apprentices and trainees. That was for small businesses with less than 20 employees. As the Prime Minister has said, that is currently supporting around 80,000 apprentices. That means those apprentices, despite the impact of COVID-19, are still in training and still in a job. That is a good thing. And what we are announcing today is a further $2 billion investment in Australians and in their skills and training. $1.5 billion is an extension of the original support for apprentice and trainee wage subsidy. We are now extending that to small and medium businesses, businesses now with up to 200 employees. We now expect that apprentice wage subsidy will support around 180,000 apprentices across Australia. That's an opportunity for 180,000 apprentices and trainees to remain in their job and in training, which is exactly where we want them to be. 

 

But we are also announcing today a matched funding commitment of $1 billion, $500 million from the Commonwealth and $500 million from the states and territories, to support training in areas of real demand. I am now working constructively, as I have done now since the election, with my state and territory counterparts to put in place bilateral agreements. This funding will support the creation of in excess of 340,000 new training places, and the key to this announcement is that we will work with the National Skills Commission and state and territories to ensure that the training that is being funded is in areas of demand. We want to ensure that Australians, when they put their hands up and say, yes, I want to undertake a vocational education and training qualification, they know they are training for a job. And as part of this reform process, states and territories have agreed to sign on to a new heads of agreement setting out a clear process forward between now and August of next year to completely reform vocational education and training in Australia. You’d be aware that the current funding arrangement is just not getting the outcomes that Australians and employers deserve. Under the agreement that Labor put in place, the Commonwealth merely places $1.5 billion into it each year. There is no line of sight, there is no transparency, there’s no KPIs. There is also no commitment from the states themselves to actually have to put any funding in. So we are now going to work again cooperatively with the states and territories to put in place a new funding agreement that ensures that funding is directly linked to skills, relevance and ultimately jobs. Because that is what we’re all about as a Government. Ensuring that Australians are trained for the jobs of both today and tomorrow.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Phil?

 

JOURNALIST: PM, a couple of months ago in this courtyard when we spoke about or you spoke about lifting the economic restrictions in three steps towards mid-July. You said there would be setbacks and mistakes made. At the time, did you anticipate something of the scale of Victoria in terms of the size of the outbreak and the need to reimpose restrictions to the extent they have been reimposed?

 

PRIME MINISTER: The extent of the outbreak in Victoria is beyond what we would have, hoped would have occurred. I think that's fairly self-evident. And that is why you have seen the scale of the response from the Commonwealth to support Victoria, and that has resulted now in over 1,000 now, ADF personnel now being rolled out. Which we’ve been speaking to the Victorian government about for some time, and we appreciate them accepting that, and that's now been put in place. A key part of that task - the thing that the ADF can often bring is when problems moved to a whole new scale, their logistics and management capabilities are very strong, and we've got to get on top of the tracing challenge in Victoria and ensuring that we have senior level support out of the ADF to support the Chief Health Officer in Victoria and Deputy Chief Health Officer, who is running that task. I think it is very essential. I made a comment yesterday, I think it was, that it's important that we get on top of those regional cases as well, particularly while they are still at relatively quite low levels, and I'm keen to see the statistics improve on that front as well. But the Victorian situation is very concerning. But as I think the Chief Health Officer in Victoria was remarking today, they are, I think, hopeful that what we are seeing is those figures starting to level out. I said yesterday that I thought this would still be at a high level for some time, but as the effects of the lockdown I think kick in, then hopefully we will see those new case numbers fall. And so, yes, it is a big setback in Victoria. In New South Wales, I am encouraged by the information and news that I'm getting from the Premier there and from the Health Minister, who has just been in a meeting - I think is still in a meeting - with all the other health ministers around the country right now looking at how they can further support the situation in Victoria. But in New South Wales they have moved incredibly quickly, I think, to do the detective work on what has happened at the Crossroads Hotel, which will always be known both literally and I think figuratively by its name. That demonstrates I think in New South Wales how effectively the states can respond to this, and the best protection against the virus, to live with the virus, to live alongside the virus, and to open up your economy - you don't protect your economy by continually shutting things down. That's what you have to do when things get to the point they have in Victoria. But you can continue to move forward in the way that New South Wales is demonstrating by building that capability for tracing, for testing and so on, and that's been quite effective in this case, and hopefully we will see that situation continue to improve as well. But as we know there are no guarantees. We are always in uncharted waters.

 

David?

 

JOURNALIST: The package today offers the wage subsidy for apprentices who are in work today, but it doesn't have an incentive for employers to take on new apprentices in the months ahead. But are we going to see school leavers who leave who don't want to go to university who might otherwise be jobless if they didn't have the chance to take up an apprenticeship? So are you looking at further help for those who are going to be leaving school at the end of this year who will need more options?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there’s 340,000 training places in this package that runs from September through to the end of June. That doesn't just support those who have left the workforce through no fault of their own, but that also is supporting school leavers as well at the end of this year. It's important for people if they want to take on new apprentices that they are able to hold their current apprentices, and that is the most urgent need as we speak right now. But Michaelia, do you want to add to that?

 

SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS: David, certainly in terms of the types of courses that will be funded, we will be working with the individual states and territories, depending on what their labour market needs are. You may find some states would prefer to fund pre-apprenticeships and short courses, whereas others states I’ve been talking to have said we would like to fund full qualifications. So certainly there is the spread of courses depending on what your particular state or territory has in demand, and in particular, as the Prime Minister has said, for young school leavers at the end of this year, doing a pre-apprenticeship, what a great way, what a great entre into what could potentially be an apprenticeship.

 

PRIME MINISTER: I can confirm that so far New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory and the ACT have all either fully signed up - completed the paperwork - or the pen is heading to the paper as we speak. Victoria, obviously, is dealing with many other issues at the moment, and Dan and I have had quite a few very good discussions about this. In fact, it was Premier Andrews very early on in the piece in the National Cabinet together with myself who was really pushing this as an item that really had to be firm on the National Cabinet’s agenda. So we are having very positive discussions with Victoria, but we appreciate they’ve got some other challenges.

 

JOURNALIST: What evidence has there been in recent months that apprentices have been laid off? And, PM, what would you say to someone who is approaching the end of school, what sort of job they should be looking for, given what you know about the challenges ahead in the years ahead?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Michaelia, do you want to cover those?

 

SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS: In relation to apprentices, the data, the most recent data that the Commonwealth has shows that just under 6 per cent of apprentices - and there are around 260,000 currently in training, apprentices and trainees, in training in Australia - have either been suspended or cancelled. So that's around 16,000. But that is why the wage subsidy, the support for apprentices and training wage subsidy was so important, because it is currently supporting around 80,000 of those apprentices - bearing in mind some will also be on JobKeeper. But it also shows why the decision, the announcement today to extend the wage subsidy will ensure that up to 180,000 are kept in their job or in training. But it is around 16,000 or just under 6 per cent have been suspended or cancelled. 

 

PRIME MINISTER: 80,000 supported by the programme -

 

SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS:  Absolutely, 8,000 supported by the programme, we also obviously have the rural and regional wage subsidy, that was snapped up overnight when it was announced. That created in excess of 3,300 places. We obviously had the incentive in terms of our election commitment last year to create an additional 80,000 places. So the figures are looking OK.

 

PRIME MINISTER: JobTrainer works hand in glove with JobKeeper, JobSeeker they all work together to deal with those who are either in a business that is able to keep them connected to that business, to those that have to go onto JobSeeker. This provides both two pathways, one into training through JobTrainer, one into hopefully new employment in those sectors which are in a position to take on new staff. In relation to your second question, my advice to young people is to look forward, not to look back, and that's what the National Skills Commissioner initiative and the National Careers Institute initiative is all about. These were reforms that came out of the Joyce review that was done before the last election and that we have been implementing since that election and having the National Skills Commissioner legislated and come through the Parliament in our last sitting, what we knew was absent, particularly for young school leavers and those going through career transition over the course of their lives, was the lack of helpful information for them to make the exact decision that you are talking about and too much of our skills identification which has been done both through the migration program and through the employment programs has been looking in the rear vision mirror, and it looks like what has been needed in the past rather than what is needed in the future and so the research and economic work which has been done by Adam Boyton as the Skills Commissioner is to actually give young people the answer to that very question. And there are a whole range of new opportunities. If you are down in South Australia Premier Marshall is building that state and particularly Adelaide as a cybersecurity hub. There's also the National Space Agency there, and I could talk a lot more about Lot 14 it’s an exciting project. But premiers are pursuing a different focus in each of their states, and the skills that will be identified as part of this process will match that process that the states are doing. But the problem in the past has been that it's looking too much in the rear vision mirror rather than through the front windscreen. As we come out of this COVID crisis and work through the COVID crisis and the COVID recession we must keep looking forward. 

 

JOURNALIST: Just on the JobTrainer, even prior to the pandemic there was a fairly large decline in the number of businesses taking on apprenticeships and internships. One of the many reasons they gave for that was that there weren’t jobs on the outside of that. Once they finished, there just were not the jobs there and they were concerned that if they took on apprentices there would not be anywhere for them to go once they finish their training. How confident are you that this program will reverse that decline first of all but second of all actually create those jobs on the outset?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Jobs are created by businesses and an economy that is growing. They are not created by training programs. They are created by businesses opening their doors, employing people and doing better than they are today. Certainly before we went into the COVID crisis and the COVID recession we had seen 1.5 million jobs and more created since we were first elected, and a large number of those jobs were for young people. So we were seeing employment created in our economy. It was one of the biggest successes of the economy at that time. What we've seen in today's job numbers is the ability of the economy to restore those losses. We have seen a restoration of, there’s 210,000 jobs. We’ve returned about a third of the jobs lost by youth by June and around a quarter of the jobs that were lost by women. Now that was after, of those 874,000 jobs that were lost overall. We have seen the biggest return of those jobs in June in those sectors most affected, and you would have seen that in the payroll data that came out earlier in the week, where you saw the strongest surge being back, among young people. Now this something we thought would happen, and I'm very pleased to see that it has happened, but it could just as easily be impacted by more recent events, and we will keep monitoring that closely. But where there is a need to further invest to support young people or people of any age as they are looking to transition as a result of the economic shocks that we've experienced in recent months, then as a Government I think we've demonstrated time and again that we have been prepared to do what it takes. We have not been locked in thinking of the past or constrained in any way. We are just solving practical problems with practical solutions.

 

Kath?

 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister does, you've said that the unemployment numbers or the employment numbers today give cause for hope and just picking up the analysis you’ve just made about the recovery in the jobs market, do they also underscore the importance of having income support that ties workers to jobs in the way that JobKeeper does.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Income supports I've said now for months, they've been very necessary over the course of this COVID recession and they will continue to be necessary and I've flagged now for months that there would be a further phase of this but it will be targeted it will be demand driven it will go to those most in need and the Treasurer and I will have more to say about that next week. We have been putting further touches on that just over the last few days to ensure that the decisions we've made are as timely and targeted as possible. One of the great challenges as we manage through this crisis is there are so many unknowns, there are so many uncertainties and to have a very clear eye view about what the world will look like in a few months from now is not an easy task but we believe we've been able to fine tune those decisions well over recent weeks, taking into account the advice that we've received from the review and I look forward to making those announcements next week.

 

JOURNALIST: Victoria's Chief Health Officer has said that he would love to have a debate about elimination versus suppression. Is that up for debate? What is National Cabinet's position?

 

PRIME MINISTER: National Cabinet’s position has always been an aggressive suppression strategy and that remains our view and it's certainly the view of my Government. I’d refer people to the Deputy Chief Health Officer's article today which I think sets out the arguments very well. If you're looking at an eradication strategy, not just the economic impacts, and let’s note that those countries that have pursued that have suffered far greater economic hits than Australia has, so you're talking about hundreds of thousands of more people unemployed for a start and other businesses closed and livelihoods destroyed and then you got to weigh that up against what it actually achieves. Let’s not forget that in Victoria they had the hardest lockdowns of everybody and theirs is the state that has succumbed to that outbreak and the outbreak was initiated by a failure in hotel quarantine by returning Australians. Now the idea that people wouldn't be allowed to return to Australia or exporters can't sell their products overseas or we halt all shipping to Australia, that's where the risk comes from and the great risk of an eradication strategy is, if you pretend to it, and you are overwhelmed by any confidence that comes for it, all you need is one break and it rushes through your community very quickly because people become even more complacent and so it is a very risky strategy and one that can be very illusory and it's one that the AHPPC and particularly the Chief Medical Officers both prior, and acting now have been very consistent on and the discussions we have had around the National Cabinet table have been very supportive of that approach and I’ve got to say that the states that have been most supportive of it particularly have been New South Wales and Victoria and so that’s the path we are on. If you get to elimination as a result of this process, well, well and good. If that's the byproduct, well and good but you can't mortgage off your economy for what would prove to be a very illusory goal by that process. That is certainly the health advice that I have and it’s certainly also the economic advice I have.

 

JOURNALIST: ...Industrial relations working party meetings, what do you hope comes out of that to add momentum to the jobs recovery and just to clarify, you said before that you expected full-time jobs to go down in June, that doesn't quite sound right when June was meant to be the month where restrictions were easing people were rehiring, why would full-time jobs go down then?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Because there are still going to be, I mean we are still living in a COVID economy and what I’m pleased about is when the choices were made about people staying in jobs or there being more full-time jobs, that employers decided for more jobs and what we are seeing is if you like is a sharing of hours across existing employees and there will be many employees who are, who have been on JobKeeper and on JobKeeper, their hours have been able to be reduced as a result of the industrial relations changes that were part of that programme and that as much as anything else, including the income support payments, has kept people in jobs. We've got to be very clear about this, if we return to the inflexibility during the course of this crisis of the industrial relations arrangements that existed prior to the introduction of JobKeeper, then Australians will lose their jobs. It will put people on the unemployment queues because businesses will not have the ability to ensure that that work is able to be provided to more Australians to keep them in their jobs. Now we are working constructively to that end and as economies particularly, sorry businesses particularly those who are rebuilding, and they would have seen their turnover improved, they will still, I think, benefit from having those flexible arrangements which will keep more and more people in jobs. There are two parts to what we've been doing on income supports, there’s the fiscal side of it, there’s the cheque, but there is also the flexibility that has been provided to employers that has enabled them to keep people in jobs and I think what you've seen today in today’s employment numbers is exactly that outcome, it’s the combination. Now, as we know, the effective rate of unemployment is likely to be far higher than what is illustrated here in these numbers and the Treasurer and I and the Employment Minister have not been shy about pointing to that fact, we’re not seeking to understate that. Of course, that is disappointing but another fact that is important in today’s numbers is the lift in the participation rate. That is very welcome. That means that more people went back out there and we want to keep seeing more people going back out there and that's why it's important to keep going forward and to not put our heads down and not to adopt a defeatist attitude in relation to the virus. That is not the Australian way and it’s certainly not my Government's way.

 

Yep, Rosie.

 

JOURNALIST: Does Australia back the US in saying China has no legal grounds to its nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea which it's using to impose its will on the region and what will Australia do to safeguard the rules-based order in the South China Sea and the territorial rights of Southeast Asian nations?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Australia has played a very constructive role in relation to the South China Sea. We had an observer status when the matter was being considered and we have continued to advocate very strongly for freedom of navigation through those waters and we've been very supportive, whether it's been of Indonesia or I remember standing next to Prime Minister Phuc in Vietnam and commending him on the strong position that he has taken in relation to their interests being compromised in relation to the South China Sea. So look, Australia will continue to adopt a very supportive position of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. We back that up with our own actions and our own initiatives and our own statements. But we will say it the Australian way and we will say it in the way that’s in our interest to make those statements and will continue to adopt a very consistent position. It is a matter that is frequently raised when we have dialogue with our colleagues, whether it's been at several East Asia Summits or other opportunities I have in bilaterals with my counterparts in the region. It is an issue of keen interest, and it is one that Australia has taken a keen interest in. But we've engaged respectfully and we've engaged proactively and we've engaged practically.

 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister and Minister Cash, WA is struggling with one of the worst unemployment rates around the country at 8.7 per cent, the second highest. It's a state that contributes a significant amount to the Federal bottom line through resource exports. Why do you think its unemployment rate is so high? Has the state's border policy contributed to it? And what are you doing to help WA specifically?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m going to defer to my Western Australian colleague first I think, given that question.

 

SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS: Look, obviously it’s disappointing as a Western Australian Senator that Western Australia's unemployment figure is so high. And certainly, I think the Federal Government's been very clear that there are no health reasons to keep the borders closed. However, that is a decision the McGowan Government has made and they are entitled to make that decision. Certainly, in terms of what we're doing as a Federal Government to assist Western Australia in creating jobs, you only have to look at the infrastructure spend that we are bringing forward. When you spend money on infrastructure, you create jobs, and certainly that is something that we've been working very well I would say, Prime Minister, with the McGowan Government to bring forward projects.

 

PRIME MINISTER: The HomeBuilder program, for example, Western Australia was the first out of the blocks in backing up that program, and the Western Australian construction industry has had some of the more difficult times and that was pre-COVID. And so they are very quick to do that. I welcome the fact that the Western Australian Government is particularly moving on the deregulation agenda on planning and approvals. I also welcome the statements today and the action being taken by the New South Wales Government. At National Cabinet last week the Productivity Commissioner joined us and spoke of the priority of having a flexible arrangement when it comes to deregulation, to aid the recovery and aid the generation of jobs. So every state and territory has its challenges. As you know, I've been very consistent in my view when it comes to the Federation and what was agreed over 100 years ago when it came to the free movement of Australians across our nation and where there are needs to take precautions for health reasons and that should be done on health advice. But we're one country and will succeed by being one country, and that's the way forward for Australia.

 

Got time for one more.

 

JOURNALIST: Can I question about interstate freight…

 

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, you might start that again.

 

JOURNALIST: Sorry, just a question about interstate freight, which is important to our economy. We've learned that a truck driver from Melbourne brought the virus to the Crossroads Hotel. Now, truck drivers are exempt from border closures. Should they be subject to a new public health order to stop them from going to pubs and interacting with lots of people?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, there's a couple of issues here. One is how an initial outbreak is first identified and where individuals are appropriately traced on contacts then that is your first defence against the very things that you're talking about, that people don't get in the truck in the first place because they've been a known contact of someone with a case, then that is your defence against that. And that wouldn't just apply to truck drivers, it applies to pharmacists, it applies to doctors, to nurses, to police officers, Members of Parliament, everybody. This is why the tracing is so important. And to have the capability not just to make the calls and to trace the calls and but it is also to ensure that the way that workload is managed is appropriately tasking all the resources there to make sure you keep up to date with it. And so the key defence as we move forward is to ensure that you have the testing and the isolation of those cases that are positive and the prompt tracing of all those cases. New South Wales has done incredibly well on that on the Crossroads case in recent days and I think that will have prevented the flow on, potentially, of other cases that could arise in the type of circumstances that you're talking about. But the industry, I'm sure, will continue to look at that, as will the chief health officers, as will our Chief Medical Officer and if there is a need for any further measures along the lines that you said, I have no doubt that they will make that recommendation to the premiers and I and we would act on their advice, as we have been very consistent in doing all the time. 

 

But for now, we will leave it at that. And for all those young people, for all those older people, for whatever age you are in our workforce, we know that this is one of the hardest times, if not the hardest time, in your life you've experienced out there in the labour market. And we want you to know that through JobTrainer, through JobSeeker, through JobKeeper, the Australian Government is right there. We’re there quickly, we’re there with the sort of support that you need to enable you to hopefully get back into a job. But if not, to give you the skills you need to get into that job, that will be there. But most of all, Australia, let's keep our heads up. Let's not allow our heads to go down. Let's keep our heads up. Let's keep going forward. Thank you all very much. 

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