Prime Minister Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Today Show
- Written by Scott Morrison
KARL STEFANOVIC: Good morning, PM. Thanks for your time this morning. People are really stinging out there and they are desperate. Why couldn't you roll this out a month ago or at least have a plan to do so?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've already rolled out $411 million to 450,000 people across Sydney up until now and so that support is, that help has been there and more help is coming next week as those payments lift from $600 to $750 and from $375 to $450. And from next Tuesday you can make an application on your welfare payment to access that $200, that goes on top of your pension or your JobSeeker payment, parenting payment or Youth Allowance. And that just gives further support as we go into a second month of these lockdowns in Sydney. But $400 million and more already in people's bank accounts, giving support to more than 400,000 people across New South Wales.
STEFANOVIC: This one just got big on everyone, didn't it? How long will the payments go for?
PRIME MINISTER: As long as the lockdown goes.
STEFANOVIC: So if this lockdown in Sydney goes until Christmas, you'll keep the payments coming?
PRIME MINISTER: Those payments will keep coming. Just like we were providing that support last year, because what that does, what these payments done and the increase in the payments for the businesses that we're doing 50/50 with the New South Wales Government, what it does is it helps people get through. It's not supposed to replace every dollar they were earning before. But just like with the supports we gave last year and JobSeeker and JobKeeper and the cash flow support, it keeps the businesses as whole as possible because on the other side, because we've got a million jobs back in to Australia after the pandemic recession last year. And that's what I foresee this time. We keep them together. When the lockdown lifts, the jobs come back.
STEFANOVIC: That's the point isn't it, though, that you have no control over the states imposing lockdown so how can you guarantee there won't be more?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I can't guarantee there won't be more lockdowns. The Delta variant is the one that is most punishing here. I think the lesson of these last six weeks or so is that under the Delta strain, going quickly and early is clearly the new mode of operation. And we've seen, we've seen Victoria and South Australia come out quickly. And that's great news in those states. But we have to press on in New South Wales, in Sydney we've got to make sure this lockdown is effective. When the lockdown works then the lockdown will end. And that's why staying at home, getting tested, getting vaccinated, these are the things that we need to do in Sydney to make sure that this works.
STEFANOVIC: So the States will what sign an agreement tomorrow, with no more lockdowns when vaccinations reach an agreed target, and what might be that target?
PRIME MINISTER: I don't think we'll reach an outcome tomorrow. I didn't suggest we would. Tomorrow is the first time we'll get together to look at this new scientific evidence and research that we've got from the Doherty Institute, which will give us a good indication of what the vaccination levels you have to achieve to move to the next phase and the phase beyond that. But the vaccination rates, about 40 per cent of those in Australia who are eligible have now had their first dose. Obviously, for those much older and the over 70s group that's approaching almost 80 per cent now. And our double dose vaccination rates across the country are lifting sharply. So more than a million doses a week. And that means that, yeah we've had our problems earlier in the programme, as I've discussed and been pretty clear about. But we've turned that corner and it's really hitting its marks and that's what we need. And we keep doing that, that's what enables us to get where we want to be.
STEFANOVIC: But to say that vaccinations will bring about an end to lockdowns, that's not entirely accurate is it?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't think so. I mean, it can certainly help. And that's why I think the boosting of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the new advice from the immunisation advisory body is very important. It's a strong vaccine. It's an effective vaccine. It's the most recognised COVID-19 vaccine in the world. And it's saved millions of lives. And it can do the same here in New South Wales and across the country. So lifting those AstraZeneca vaccine rates in New South Wales will be incredibly helpful. There are more Pfizer vaccines, of course, but the AstraZeneca vaccine and the low rates we've had there need to lift and and that will certainly help the efforts with the lockdown. But on its own, it won't stop the lockdown.
STEFANOVIC: Definitively, will everyone who wants a vaccine in Australia have one by Christmas?
PRIME MINISTER: I believe that will be the case, yes. And that's what Lieutenant General Frewen tells me as well. There'll be the supply. And as I said, we're hitting more than a million a week now. We're really turning it around. We've caught up a lot of ground on this programme and Australians are responding really well. And we need that to continue, not just in New South Wales, but right around the country. The Delta strain is incredibly virulent and there's no country in the world that is not struggling with this. All around the world, countries are really wrestling with this and we've learnt a lot in recent weeks and we'll be talking about that tomorrow. But you know where the Delta strain hits, you've got to act on it quick. And we've seen that. I think that's the clear lesson. And we need to take that and we need to move forward as quickly as we can.
STEFANOVIC: OK, we spoke to a construction business earlier in the show and those in those lockdown, local government areas are really struggling. Banks are predicting, some of the key banks in this country predicting Sydney could lose 300,000 jobs over the next month. That is a huge number. How worried are you about that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course I am. That's why we put those support payments in to help people to get through this. But on top of that, that's why we've increased the business support that's being delivered through the New South Wales Government to help get those businesses through the lockdown. I'm pleased, I think there has been some changes to how they're going to work the construction side of this. But of course, there will be that impact. But there is hope and that is just in the same way a million jobs came back after we came out of the COVID-19 recession last year, then what we're seeing here is the economy strong, very strong. The labour market, the employment market before this hit Sydney, people were concerned about not being able to get staff. And so I expect that we'll see the New South Wales economy turn around quickly, provided, and that's why the payments are so important Karl, because it keeps those businesses as a whole as possible. So when the restrictions lift they can get back to work and the jobs can come back. So, yes, there is that risk, but there's also the hope that the economy turns around very quickly. And we're not seeing that big rise in JobSeeker applications, because our disaster payments are working.
STEFANOVIC: We're not really seeing the numbers come down though at the moment in New South Wales. I mean, it's that bleak. Have you asked any serious questions of the New South Wales Government and what they're doing?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course I do. The Premier and I, we speak very regularly and we're in constant contact about how they're dealing with this and we give them every support we can. But I would note what we haven't seen in New South Wales, if there's some comfort in this, is we haven't seen those infectious in the community cases exponentially growing. So, I mean the lockdowns keeping somewhat of a lid on it.
PRIME MINISTER: But we need to do better than keep a lid on it. We need to drive it down and for that to happen, Karl, this lockdown just has to work. It has to have all the features that ensures that we drive this down, because there's no shortcuts.
STEFANOVIC: OK, I've seen Year 12's in Sydney are going to receive the vaccinations, I'm interested in your thoughts on this, taking some of those jabs off country areas. Will your kids get a vaccination?
PRIME MINISTER: Well neither of them are in Year 12, so they're not part of that programme. They're much younger than that. We gave New South Wales 50,000 vaccines last week and there's 47,00 Year 12 students. So that’s, how New South Wales provides those vaccines, really is a matter for them. But I welcome the fact that Year 12's can go back. I know how much stress this must be on those Year 12 students and on their families, on their parents. I know how worried they are about them. It's hard enough doing your HSC, but have to do it in this environment. So, look, I think that's a good call. And I welcome that very much on their behalf and also their parents. Can I remind everyone across New South Wales in particular, that those lifeline supports for mental health support, Beyond Blue, Kids Helpline, the Butterfly Foundation, we've increased funding for all of those organisations to provide support to people and so they can get that assistance.
STEFANOVIC: OK, just to clarify though, you'd have no problem with your kids getting a vaccine?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I wouldn't. Just in the same way, I mean, Jen brought forward her AstraZeneca second dose, both my mother and mother in law, have both had their second doses. Absolutely. It's a safe, very important vaccine that's going to help protect Australia. If you have a vaccine, you're less likely to get it. You're less likely to pass it on. You're less likely to get a serious illness and you're less likely to die, all for very good reasons.
STEFANOVIC: How are your kids going at home schooling, more importantly how is Jen going? She's carrying the load.
PRIME MINISTER: She is. And she's been carrying the load all of our married life and particularly with the family. She's long-suffering and she's amazing and hi Jen, and she's supporting them through home schooling. Sadly, I won't get to see them for quite some time because of the lockdown. I was with them until I had to come here to quarantine. But all families mate, are going through stuff. We've all got to get through this stuff. And you know, we'll do our bit. But it's much harder for families right across Sydney. I know that, particularly if you're in an apartment or something like that. I know it's really tough. But, you know, that’s when I think of Ariarne Titmus and our rowers and all of our Olympians, I think they're really showing us the way about how to just head down, go forward and get this done.
STEFANOVIC: I'm sure glad the first lady wakes up with Today. Thanks for your time, Prime Minister today we appreciate it. Good on you.