Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet - Australian Government

07/24/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/24/2021 01:07

Virtual Address, Tasmanian State Council

Prime Minister: Well, good morning everyone. I hope you can hear me down there in Launceston this morning. I wish I was there in Launnie with you and, but here I join you from a very chilly Canberra morning.

Can I start, of course, by thanking you, Susie, Susie Bower, for that introduction. Our fantastic candidate for Lyons, and for the work that I know you're already doing and will continue to do to secure the seat of Lyons at the next Federal election. We're very thrilled to have you on our team. How good is Susie Bower? I'm happy to call that very one very early in terms of our great candidate there in Lyons, and thank you for so much becoming part of our team. And, thank you to all of you down there in the electorate of Lyons for your support and getting on with that job of selecting such an excellent candidate.

Can I acknowledge the traditional owners, the Palawa people in Tasmania, but of course, where I'm standing here today, the Ngunnawal people here in Canberra. To all of you down there in Launceston, you know how much I love coming down there, Bridget, and, and being there in Launceston and seeing the many friends I've made there over these past few years. One in particular that deserves a special note, because he passed a particular milestone lately, and apologies to the Premier because I know it's not necessarily your team in the north, but to good old J-Rod from the Bridgenorth Parrots who passed 300 games recently. Well done J-Rod. And, I look forward to seeing people down in north Tasmania very, very soon I hope, once we're able to get past these difficulties we're having up here in the northern states on the mainland.

To all the veterans, can I thank you for your service, and can I acknowledge you and your great contribution to our country. To our State President Rod Scurrah, thank you for your leadership in Tasmania. It's been a terrific year for the Tasmanian Division, and what you've been able to achieve. To Stuart Smith, the State Director. Now, I know this is your last day, Stuart, you leave to become the WA Liberal State Director. So, you're still in the team and I'm very happy about that because you've done such a tremendous job. As a former State Director myself, I know how tough a job that is. And, I want to thank you and all your friends and family for the tremendous support that I know they would have given you in this role - and the role that you're taking on - in the 19 months that you've performed in that role, and that in particular involves being Campaign Director for the recent successful state election.

To, of course, the Premier, to Pete. I refer to him in a familiar way because Pete Gutwein has become a very close colleague, not just around the National Cabinet table, but I've very much enjoyed working with you, Peter, and taking up from the excellent relationship I had with Will. I saw Will recently up in Singapore on my way to the G7. He's doing a great job up there. He misses Tassie, there's no doubt about that. It's always his home. But, he's as proud as of the Tasmanian Division and, and what you're achieving, and particularly what you and your team are achieving, Peter. I think that is great that a former Federal, sorry a former State Premier and State Leader of the Party can just be so, so impressed with how that is following on. So, I think that's great.

To my, to the state colleagues, to volunteers and supporters right across the Tasmania Division who join together today, and especially to my Federal team, the leader of which is up in Tokyo at the moment, Richard Colbeck, Senator Colbeck. And, I want to, I want to congratulate him on the great job that he has done to deliver an Olympic Games for Australia in partnership, of course, with so many. But, I don't want anyone to underestimate the significant role that Richard has played as Sports Minister to secure this for Australia. And, I made the special point the other day when I was talking on radio in Brisbane where, of course, the excitement is very high about winning those games. But, I said, I want this to be a games for all of Australia, and I mentioned Tasmania specifically. I mean, the opportunity for pre-games training and all of those tourism opportunities and so on. This is an important games for all of Australia, and, and so I look forward to Richard working hard along those lines to ensure that Tasmania benefits from that, particularly as well.

While I'm speaking about the Olympics, can I just pass on my great congratulations to the organisers of the Tokyo Games, the International Olympic Committee, but in particular the organising committee there in Tokyo, and my good friend Prime Minister Suga. Yoshi, you've done an extraordinary job to push through and show the perseverance that the world needs to see at this very time. I think that was a triumph of determination last night, to see the Tokyo Olympic Ceremony go ahead. And, to all of our, to all of our athletes represented there, taking, taking to those games in the weeks ahead, and of course, the paralympians that will follow after that, we are bursting with pride for the way that you are representing your country. And, we will be behind you every step of the way - every leap, every stroke, every, every basketball shot, every stroke in the pool - we will be there behind you and cheering you on in the weeks' ahead, and I know that will give Australians a great lift at a time when Australians really do need that lift.

To the rest of my team there, of course, Assistant Minister Duniam, Jonno, and to Eric Abetz, Wendy Askew, Claire Chandler, of course, Bridget and Gav, who are doing such a terrific job. At this next election, it is so important not just to take that seat of Lyons with Susie Bower, for the return of our Government, but for that government to continue to be a successful government we need to win those three seats in the Senate there in Tasmania. And, no one is more deserving of that term than Senator Eric Abetz. Eric is a lion of the Liberal Party, particularly in Tasmania, and of our cause, over a, over a lifetime of service. And, I know that he will leave no stone unturned, and nor can it, nor can we in Tasmania, in ensuring we get our whole team back in Tasmania in the Senate at the next election.

To you Peter, the re-election and steering the Party into a historic third consecutive term of majority government. It was a big call, you backed that call, and, and you took it all the way to the line. And, that is an extraordinary achievement in Tasmanian political history and it's an extraordinary achievement for the Tasmanian Liberal Party and what you've been able to achieve. And, you know, it's not surprising in so many respects, because the response that you've led to COVID, Peter, has been extraordinary. And, you were hit with that the second you walked into the job. Your first, your first meeting of the, of the premiers and chief ministers and myself translated into the, into the National Cabinet within days. And, you have been there from the outset, not only forming a new government in your own right, but also taking on the biggest challenge in a state that we've seen all around the country, as we all have met those challenges in the last almost two years. And, I think it was a fitting, a fitting commendation of your leadership on COVID. But, not only that, a thriving economy - unemployment down to 4.5 per cent, below the national average, 2,600 new jobs in a month, and the lowest unemployment in over a decade. Susie's right - Coalition Governments, and in particular Liberal Governments there in Tasmania, they know how to run the economy. And, you know, when you run the economy well, then that means you can put in place the so many other supports and measures that have been necessary, particularly during COVID. But, the many other programs and infrastructure and things that are necessary to lift, lift the wellbeing of Tasmanians. And, so, Peter, congratulations. I'm incredibly proud of what you and all the Tasmanian Division and all of your colleagues have been able to achieve there. It's great to be with you and thank the Division for your efforts over a very challenging 18-months. In the midst of it, an election, an incredible effort to muster your resources. And, as I've said, it's great to see the Government returned there on the 1st of May, and that shows the special fighting qualities of that Division.

A couple of things I want to talk to you about today, and you'll be pleased to note it's pretty chilly here in Canberra and I'm outside, so I won't detain you too long, I hope. But, those two things are about our pandemic response and, of course, the economy. Eleven million doses we will, we will reach today, based on the efforts yesterday. Yesterday was another record day for vaccinations around the country, some almost 200,000 doses delivered in a single day. Sure, we've had our challenges with the program - the non-delivery of those vaccines early from overseas, the challenges regarding the medical advice on ATAGI. There've been challenges, many of them not of our own making, some that clearly in hindsight then we would have liked to be in a better position than we are now, and I've addressed that during the course of the week. But, we've turned the corner. We've got, we've got it sorted. We're hitting the marks that we need to make - a million doses a week are now being delivered every single week. And, that is an incredibly important achievement for the national vaccine program, and it's Australians, it's Australians that are achieving it. The supplies have been increased, Pfizer have come forward, and we're getting a million doses of that a week now. And, together with the AstraZeneca vaccine and 11 million doses, we are well on our way to where we want to be by the end of the year, and potentially sooner than that, where everyone who seeks to have a vaccine will be able to have one.

Now, I particularly want to give a shout out to Tasmania for what you are achieving on the vaccine program, because Tasmania has the highest rate of vaccination of any state. Now, the territories, they in, on some measures, have a higher level. I admit that. But, of all the states, Tasmania has the highest vaccination rate in the country. For the population over 16, it's a 45 per cent rate already on first doses and over 20 per cent rate on second doses, the highest rate of any state in the country. For over 50s, it's the same is true. Over a quarter, sorry 67 per cent, two thirds of over 50s have had a first dose, and over a quarter, 27 per cent, have had a second dose, and 82 per cent of those aged over 70 in Tasmania have had a first dose, and 42 per cent, 42 per cent have had a second dose. Now, that really encourages me because, as Peter knows more than anyone else, he knows that if outbreaks occur, then it's the most vulnerable in our population who are most at risk. And, the effort that you've put in, working closely together with the Commonwealth Government, Peter, to ensure that 82 per cent of Tasmanians aged over, over the age of 70 have had their first dose, and 42 per cent have had their second dose, that is putting a real protection on the most vulnerable in our community. And, I think that's a tremendous effort from Tasmania to be getting that right.

Now, that will only continue to strengthen, and we need to get those second doses in arms of those who've already had their first doses. Pfizer doses in Tasmania for GPs are tripling from where they were at the start of this month to now. And, as we go into the back end of this month, then that continues. Now, in addition to that, overall, with the increasing Pfizer supplies - I'm particularly talking about Pfizer at the moment - that will see the available supply going into GPs and across the state-based networks in Tasmania almost increasing by 50 per cent from where we were at the start of this month, to where we'll by the end of this month. And, of course, the AstraZeneca supplies continue to flow. So, that is, I think, a great issue to be hopeful about as we go forward into the, into the back end, the second half of this year.

And, you know, as I said, no country gets everything right. No country gets everything right in this COVID response, particularly as we're wrestling now with the new Delta variant, which has changed the rules completely as to how we need to continue to combat this dreadful virus. But, while not every decision any country gets right, in this country we can point to some things which we've absolutely got right. We have saved more than 30,000 lives together in this country. If Australia had the same experience of like countries to us - countries in Europe, United States, United Kingdom, places like Japan, Korea and so on - when you average all that up, if we had had the same experience of those countries, more than 30,000 Australians would have lost their lives in this pandemic. Our response, together with many factors, but particularly our response as Australians, has ensured that we've saved over 30,000 lives.

We've supported over three million Australians through income supports and programs like JobKeeper and the JobSeeker COVID Supplement and the cash flow boost and the many other measures that we have, measures that are going on to this day, where states who are in the middle of outbreaks now, and thankfully Tasmania is not and people are at work and people are able to support themselves, but in my home city of Sydney, for example, my own home city of Sydney, we are seeing some 350,000 Australians in that city now being supported by the COVID, the COVID Disaster Payment, and that is at the tune of almost $300 million - I think it would be even over that now - that is going out, has already gone out the door, and will continue to support people who are impacted by lockdowns.

And, a million people over, right across the country, are back into work, back into work after we hit the pit of that recession last year because of COVID. The way out of lockdowns and to prevent them, the border closures, which are impacting Tasmania again now, visitors returning, is, of course, those vaccinations. And, the four stage plan that Peter and I and the rest of the premiers and chief ministers are working on, and will particularly be working on over the next couple of weeks as we get the advice we've been, we've commissioned from the Doherty Institute and from our treasuries around the country. That program, that four stage plan, has the following elements. We will be setting vaccination targets for us to move to each stage of this plan, and we'll be setting those targets in the weeks ahead based on the best possible medical, scientific and economic evidence and advice.

The first stage, we're in now. It's about suppressing the virus. We're all very used to what that involves, but against the Delta strain it requires even greater vigilance, as we're seeing in the states impacted now. And, this stage is about trialling new ideas and offering every Australian a vaccination to get that done. When we hit the next vaccination mark, which we will be setting shortly, that means we can act with greater confidence because of the vaccine levels being achieved. Shifting our focus from those case numbers, what will matter then is whether we've got serious illness, hospitalisation and fatalities. They will be the numbers that will begin driving our COVID response, not the daily case numbers. Easing restrictions, in particular, for vaccinated residents, and there may be some who might be uncomfortable with that. But, let me be clear about vaccination. If you're vaccinated, you are less likely to contract the virus. You're less likely to pass on the virus to someone else. You are less likely if you contract it to get serious illness, and you're less likely to be hospitalised, and you're less likely to die. If you're vaccinated, you present a lower health risk to the rest of the population. And, so, restrictions should reasonably and only fairly reflect that where people have chosen to make themselves less of a public health risk, then the restrictions should fairly reflect the choices that Australians make.

It is a choice. There is no mandate on vaccinations in this country and nor will there be one. But, there will be common sense in public policy and public health policy. And, that common sense is that if people have taken the step and chosen to protect themselves and their families and their communities, then they will be able to go forward with lesser restrictions than others who have made a different choice, because they're more vulnerable, as we're seeing particularly overseas at the moment. Sadly the loss of life that we've seen in New South Wales from this most recent outbreak, those who have lost their lives have not had those vaccinations. Those who are sitting in hospitals, in particularly in respirators and situations like that, they are not those who have made those choices. And, as a result, that is heartbreaking to see. I don't want to see that happen to other Australians. And, that's why I particularly urge those in those older age groups especially, please, book your vaccination, have the conversation amongst your family. Talk to your parents. Talk to your friends if you're in those age groups. Talk to Nanna and Pop. Make sure you're having the conversation. I've had it with my mum and my mother-in-law some time ago, and they were willing participants and they're both double vaccinated now. We've had the conversation in our own family, in Sydney in particular, where the advice is that you can have your AstraZeneca second dose brought forward from 12 weeks to four weeks. Jenny had her second vaccination very recently. So, this is the conversations we need to have as Australians to meet this mark.

The third step is where we move to a much more liberated environment. In the third step, just like in the second where lockdowns would only be in extreme circumstances, in third stage, there are no lockdowns. In the third stage, we treat COVID like any other infectious disease. Why? Because the vaccination rates mean it doesn't result in the hospitalisations, the serious illness and the fatalities that we're seeing now. It would be commensurate with what we'd see with other infectious diseases in the community. We will still need to have cautious arrangements in that phase to ensure that we are careful that in, when we move to the fourth stage of the plan, then that's when we return to normal life.

So, my advice to everyone is to play their part and help that national effort, particularly like you're doing down there in Tasmania. We've not only saved lives, but we have saved livelihoods. Our governments, whether they're Liberal Governments in Tasmania or a Federal Government here, around the country at a Commonwealth level or indeed in other states where we have those governments, we're about jobs, and 1.5 million new jobs pre-COVID we've been able to have established through the hard work of Australians. And, we've pulled back now a million jobs since the pit of that recession last year. Our economic plan, tax relief, infrastructure, getting energy prices down, getting the training in place and getting people trained for the jobs of now that are needed in the future, supporting a stronger Budget that enabled us, going into this COVID pandemic, to be able to put the response in place, that 28 years of growth, all of that has enabled us to weather this storm.

And, so, in 2020, when the UK economy contracted by almost 10 per cent, Italy 8.9 per cent, France 8.2, Canada five per cent, Japan just under five, and even the US, even the US - 3.3 per cent, Australia weathered the storm better than all of them, reducing the size of our economy by just 2.5 per cent. Now, in any other year, that would be something that was just unimaginably, unimaginably as a blow. And, of course, we still feel that blow. But, to be able to withstand the storm the way we have economically has been a credit to business owners and employers and hardworking Australians pushing through and adapting to what has been a very difficult circumstance, and the level of help and economic support that we've carried - well over $300 billion, well over $300 billion - it has been at historic levels to see Australia through. And, that's been complemented by so many of the actions of the states and territories. And, I again, thank the Tasmanian Government for the work they've done to achieve just that.

The actions, JobKeeper, well, you know, it's kept a million businesses in business and 3.8 million Australians in a job - around 17,000 of those were businesses in Tasmania. The HomeBuilder program, already more than 100,000 homes have been built because of that scheme. More than 120,000 Australians have applied for the grant, including 3,000 Tasmanians, smashing expectations and supporting over $30 billion in residential construction activity nationwide. There've been income supports for vulnerable Australians, child care support to keep child care operational, cash flow support for small businesses, targeted packages for local government, tourism, aviation, travel agents, charities, not for profit sector and the arts. We have had Australians back and we've had the back of Australian businesses to keep Australians in work as best as they possibly can to see themselves through.

Australia's economic recovery is leading the world. Pre-pandemic - 30 million people employed nationwide. And, within the next two months, we will see that those rates of employment increased. Today, some 160,000 more people in work than before the pandemic struck. That's extraordinary. It meant that Australia became the first advanced economy to have more people employed than pre-COVID than anywhere else in the world. And, since then, the recovery has continued strongly. In June, unemployment fell from 5.1 to 4.9 per cent, the eighth consecutive monthly fall. And, so importantly, so importantly, youth unemployment fell to 10.2 per cent in June. That's the lowest rate recorded since January of 2009.

Now, of course, these recent events that we've seen in the, in the mainland states, particularly in New South Wales, that will have a, that will have a significant impact on national economic growth, and that will have an impact and a flow on to other states as well because of the significance, especially of the New South Wales economy but also the Victorian economy has been impacted in a similar way, but not to the same scale. And, we know that will have an impact. We know it'll have an impact on the employment levels nationally over the next few months, and particularly in the September quarter. But, we know from our experience that that recovery will come on strong once we lift those lockdowns and the Australian business community and those states roars back to life.

Now, the Budget is the next part of our plan to secure Australia's recovery - jobs, lower taxes, investing in the future, encouraging investment and spreading more than 450,000 new training prices and 170,000 new apprenticeships. Modern manufacturing - those grants are now rolling out, making science and industry and technology work together in the digital space, focusing on areas of advantage, backing projects. We're building resilience through the supply chain and diversifying our markets. The Trade Minister is overseas doing that right as we speak. We're cutting red tape, we're guaranteeing essential services that Australians rely on, particularly in aged care and the NDIS. And, I again want to commend Richard Colbeck on the work that he has done with the massive aged care package of over $17 billion to address the very serious issues that were identified in the Royal Commission.

We are building a safer, more resilient Australia in a very challenging world, and particularly in the Indo-Pacific. We're standing up for Australia. We're standing up for Australia in our region, for what we believe in, what we value, and the free and open Indo-Pacific that all people who live in this region deserve. Australia is taking a leading role, together with our allies and partners, for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

And, lastly, we're working, of course, closely with the Gutwein Government to deliver the Battery of the Nation. Peter and I have been in very regular conversations and discussions about bringing some important projects to a conclusion there in terms of our financial arrangements. The Marinus Link to better connect Tasmania with the mainland, and the National Electricity Market, while improving energy security, keeping prices lower and reducing emissions. We're securing our future energy needs with clean, flexible, storable and safe fuels, and prioritising hydrogen to reduce emissions. And, I know down in Bell Bay we're doing a great job there, and I can see, I know that Bell Bay will play a very important role in our future hydrogen strategy.

And, building the transport infrastructure vital to our success. A 10-year infrastructure pipeline with an extra $377 million commitment to Tasmania. From continuing upgrades on the Bass and Midland Highways to delivering a better Port of Burnie, a shiploader, major new projects will support more than a thousand direct and indirect jobs in Tassie. There's $10.5 million over the next two years, subject to funding together with the State Government, to expand the JobTrainer Fund. Health funding in Tasmania will increase by $39.5 million, including $9 million for community health, hospitals and other infrastructure projects. And, there's $556 million in 2021-22 for Quality Schools, including the recurrent funding.

Our economic plan, friends, is working. It's a plan based on believing in each and every Australian, backing them in to get the country through. We must stick to that plan. We cannot put that plan at risk. And, I'm relying on all of you in the Tasmanian Division, as Tasmania will play such an important role in the next election, not only in returning the seats there, but taking the seat of Lyons. And, not only that, but ensuring that we get a strong return of our three senators there in Tasmania to be part of our Government that we're seeking to have re-elected at the next election.

I thank you very much for your attention and allowing me to participate in this way. I very much wanted to be with you. I have a great fondness for Tasmania. I have a special fondness, particularly after the last election. I was the first Prime Minister to be in Tasmania on election day since the great Joe Lyons. And, you can be sure that I'll be making that a habit into the future. So, I look forward, I look forward to seeing you again as soon as we can. Thank you for the great job you're doing there to keep everybody safe and to all, and keeping the economy moving. I'm very pleased to be able to join you today. All the best.

[Ends]