PRESS CONFERENCE AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT HOUSE, ACT
PRIME MINISTER: The Chief Medical Officer and I thought we should congratulate our Matildas, the bid team, the Trans-Tasman team that has been able to secure the 2023 Women's World Cup. I think it's wonderful. If we could do backflips like Sam Kerr we would, but I’m not going to try that out here in this courtyard. That’s one of the other rules of the courtyard, no backflips, you’ll use that one day again I’m sure, Riley. It is great news, wonderful news, at a time when Australians are doing it so hard, so hard, each and every day, to get that bright spot of news with this wonderful event coming. It'll be the largest and undoubtedly will be the best. We can look forward to a magnificent event and to be part of so many other events as Australia grows out of the COVID crisis, grows out of the COVID recession and this will be an important milestone ahead for us to look forward to and build towards that point. So congratulations to all those who are involved and we thank all of those who supported Australia's bid. I've been in contact with Prime Minister Ardern this morning, as well, to congratulate the Kiwis. It will be great doing this together, when the world comes Down Under.
So on that, we might move to more formal mode, Brendan. On, obviously, a more serious note, there are a million new cases being reported of COVID-19 around the world every week. We are seeing the virus take hold in places like South America now at a level difficult to imagine and we are anticipating similar types of scenarios in Africa and other parts of the world as the virus makes its way. The challenge being faced globally only gets more complicated, more complex, more difficult. And against that backdrop, Australia's performance is remarkable, and that is a tribute to all who are involved. Certainly, of course, we have some challenges in Victoria at the moment but I think that does put it in perspective. We remain on track, the curve remains flat. But where you get bumps and when you get outbreaks, then you need to manage them and you need to respond to them, and that is exactly what is happening. And I commend the Victorian Government and I commend the other state governments who are supporting Victoria, and of course as the Federal Government is, at National Cabinet today there was a great sense of solidarity in supporting Victoria because this could occur in Queensland, it could occur in Western Australia, it could occur in Tasmania, New South Wales, in any other place. And one of the, some of the outbreaks occurred coming out of quarantine, out of hotels. There are hotel quarantines occurring in other states and territories as well. So it is a reminder that outbreaks will happen, but at National Cabinet today they remained firm on sticking with the three-step plan and continuing to make their announcements of easing restrictions that will continue into next month. Premiers will be making their own announcements about those issues either today or in the days that follow. Obviously, there is a challenge for now in Victoria and we had a rather extensive discussion about that outbreak and the response and the support that is being provided and can continue to be provided by other states, whether it's with testing resources and capabilities, or it is with health officers that are available to support the efforts in Victoria. And I have no doubt Victoria will return the favour at another time when another state or another territory is faced with that type of a situation. There was also, I think, a very good understanding that this is a localised outbreak. It is not all of Victoria. It is a part of the suburbs of Melbourne and the response is very much localised. It is also very culturally appropriate. It is a response that is bringing the health system, literally, to people's front door and to their street, to ensure that they can get the maximum rate of testing and be able to isolate those who have been infected by the virus.
And what this should say to Australians should be a message of confidence. There will be outbreaks. What matters is the response. There will be outbreaks and what matters is that we continue to build our capability to deal with those outbreaks. As you see the response on the ground, that is a reassurance to Australians all around the country that we can deal with this, and we will continue to deal with this. And while it may cause concern and anxiety in some parts of the community, please be reassured, states and territories, the Commonwealth, we're all working together to ensure that where these things happen then we can appropriately respond with all the resources that are necessary, with a tailored plan to deal with the very specific nature of any particular event.
So all states committed to continue on with the various plans that they have and they're making those announcements. Today we also agreed, and noted the advice of the Medical Expert Panel, that the two-square metre rule can be moved to for smaller premises. Smaller premises will be determined by the jurisdiction but, as a rule of thumb, that's around about 100 square metres. So that means for much smaller premises that would have otherwise been trying to stick to a four-square metre rule arrangement, this just gives them a bit more room for them to be taking more patrons. That had been considered by the AHPPC and so where jurisdictions choose to do that, it is up to them to make those decisions. In Tasmania and Western Australia they've already moved to that two-square metre arrangement, so other states will be free to consider that. Previously there had been a more formal rule around four-square metres and I think it just shows the flexibility that is now being able to be built into the response, based on the experience that everybody is having and is being shared.
The AHPPC, the medical expert panel, has also been tasked to develop a roadmap for advice to the National Cabinet on entertainment venues to assist with industry planning around major productions and events. At the announcement we made yesterday, one of the key issues that still we knew needed to be addressed was that they need greater certainty about when they can start planning events for. Whether that’s 12 months away or six months away, so the plan will be addressing what may be possible for venues three months from now, six months, nine months, 12 months and so on. And that will assist those producers and other event planners with getting moving now and as a result being able to access and seek support through the entertainment support package that we announced yesterday. For example, South Australia is moving to 50 per cent attendance in theatres. And the Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall, was pleased to report he had been at the theatre the night before. And that was wonderful to see those venues opening up again.
The National Cabinet also adopted the recommendations of the medical expert panel on a public health workforce strategy. This is about continuing to invest and support the development of a public health workforce on testing and tracing and localised outbreak responses. And so we need to remain ever vigilant and keep building up that expertise and the states and territories spoke about how that resource will be able to move around the country. There'll be much of it which is resident within a particular jurisdiction. But as we're seeing now in Victoria, officers and other officials will be able to move into other jurisdictions where there is a need. And there was an absolute commitment from everyone to be able to move those personnel where they needed to be to respond to any particular demand.
National Cabinet also confirmed the advice that the 14-day quarantine period kept at 14 days. But Brendan will talk about some of the testing arrangements that will be a little different going through that. There was also a statement which was adopted on the safe return to entertainment venues, which went into quite granular detail, which I won't make tedious by going through here. Quite specific rules about how they prepare venues and manage access and egress and so on. And we also received a briefing on the economic impacts from Dr Kennedy this afternoon. The Treasurer and I will be meeting with the CEOs of all the major banks. And a couple of issues will be there, particularly the issue of deferral of loans and the issues that are emerging in a few months from now and getting a better understanding of what their proposed practises will be there and we'll be speaking to them about those issues. Also around getting access to finance in relation to new construction and rebuilds, obviously supported by the HomeBuilder programme at a Commonwealth level, but the state governments as well. We want to make sure that those who've decided to go ahead with those plans who don't already have finance are in a position to get access to that finance. And we also raised the issues around getting approvals for HomeBuilder programmes, for particular homes and redevelopments, particularly those affected in bushfire regions and that is most acute in New South Wales and in Victoria.
We also had a cyber security update. You'll remember the statement I made a week ago and it was a good opportunity a week on, after there had been a lot of technical briefings at officials levels with all premiers, chief ministers together for Rachel Noble from ASD to brief all premiers and chief ministers on those issues.
Outside of that, this is the Chief Medical Officer’s last briefing is the Chief Medical Officer. He's been in the living rooms of Australians now for many months. And I know, Brendan, you have been a person of great assurance to Australians with your calm way of explaining what are often very complex things. You've given Australians, I think, a great peace of mind. Brendan is taking up the role of Secretary of the Department of Health, which we delayed because of the seriousness of this issue and his keenness to continue on in that role and until he was in a position to now hand it over to Dr Kelly. And so I want to thank you very much, not just for the way you've reached out to Australians, Professor Murphy, but the outstanding leadership you've shown across the AHPPC, the medical expert panel, and the unfailing advice that you've provided to me and to my ministers and to my Cabinet. And so we thank you very much. He told me a little story before, he bumped into a little boy, was it?
PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: A little girl.
PRIME MINISTER: A little girl who said, how did you get out of the television? I'm sure some of you get that from time to time, but I think it's a sign of endearment. And so thank you very much. And I'll hand over the CMO.
PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Thanks, PM. So as the PM has said, this virus is accelerating around the world. We are in a very fortunate island, but we will remain at risk of importation of cases for the foreseeable future. Every day in Australia we have cases in hotel quarantine, mostly in New South Wales and Victoria, because they're taking the lion's share of that hotel quarantine hotel. Hotel quarantine is never going to be 100 percent perfect and importation our borders, whilst we have done so well with borders, we can't be absolutely sure that there won't be more and continuing imports of cases. We also, as we've said, can't be sure that there isn't small amounts of virus circulating in parts of the country. So the outbreaks, mini outbreak, we've seen in Victoria is what we predicted. What we planned for. When I took to the National Cabinet the plan for reopening, removing restrictions, we assured National Cabinet that the likelihood of outbreaks was high and that we were ready to respond to them. And that is exactly what the Victorian health authorities are doing right now. They have a huge team, they’re contact tracing over a thousand people. They're testing extraordinary numbers of people. And that's a way to bring a localised outbreak under control, to go to where the problem is, engage with the population test, isolate, quarantine, standard public health response. We're seeing some continuing cases, 20 to 30 a day in Victoria over this week. That's what you'd expect. That is absolutely what you'd expect as you bring this outbreak under control. The cases that are detected today were infected five to seven days ago. So the fact that we're not seeing a major escalation in numbers is reassuring. And we are very confident that the Victorian response which is being assisted, as the PM has said, by people from interstate as well. It's good, strong and appropriate and it's focal. So we're dealing with the problem. We may see more such outbreaks. We're very likely to see more such outbreaks, not just in Victoria, could be anywhere in the country. We're prepared. We're responding. And we're very, very comfortable with the way things are going.
As the PM has said, we have to reiterate the importance of 14 days quarantine for returning international travellers. That is because the risk is still very high. The country risk profile is changing all the time. We're seeing important cases in hotel quarantine from a different range of countries now. We are going to start testing people on entry to quarantine and testing people before they leave quarantine to see whether a testing regimen might help in the future to modify that quarantine in certain circumstances. But at the moment, even though we know it's a burden on our returning citizens and permanent residents, it's something that the great majority are very happy to put up with because they know it's protecting their fellow Australians from the importation of this virus.
So I was very confident to be able to reassure National Cabinet on my last day as CMO that we remain on track. We remain on track with our reopening and we remain prepared to respond to outbreaks as and when they occur. I'd like to thank the PM for his kind words. Particularly, I would like to thank my fellow members of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. Any achievements that I might have had as a collective achievement. The wisdom of that group is extraordinary. Every member of the Federation of Australia has responded well. One of the great legacies of this outbreak is how our Federation has worked well. At the health level, we have consensus cooperative assisting each other and we have taken the best expert advice and given it fearlessly to our first ministers who have taken that advice on every occasion. That makes me very proud. I won't be moving away from the COVID response as Secretary of the Health Department. I will still be very much involved. I just won't have to appear in front of too many television cameras. Thank you very much.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.
JOURNALIST: You stood here not too long ago and told Australians to stop it when it came to panic buying. You said it was ridiculous. How disappointed are you to see that today there's been limits introduced again on toilet paper in Coles and Woolworths and what's your message to Australia?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's the same message I gave last time. Stop it. It's ridiculous. But more importantly, those restrictions have been put in place, the coordination commission that works around these issues has been working with the suppliers and the retail outlets to put that in place. I'm sure it will pass, as it did last time, and there's no need for it. And I think today it's important to reassure people the outbreak doesn't mean there's a problem. The response to that outbreak is strong, which means that Australians can have confidence. Of course, there are going to be challenges, as Brendan Murphy has just said, but we're on top of it and we will continue to work together to stay on top of it. As a result, there is no need for the anxiety that would lead to that type of behaviour. Mark.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's a matter that is being pursued by the taskforce, which became operational last December, which we established. The details of that I'm not at liberty to go into, as I'm sure you'd expect. But it's been an investigation that has been going on for some time. It's taken, it's elevated to a new level today. I think the actions of the Australian Federal Police and ASIO demonstrate that the threats in this area are real. The need to take action is necessary. And the Government is absolutely determined to ensure that nobody interferes with Australia's activities. We won't cop anyone coming and seeking to interfere in our political system, in our energy sector, in any area of the perceived area of opportunity for an outside actor. We won't cop it. We are a resilient people. We will stand up to it and we will take action, as what you've seen today demonstrates.
JOURNALIST: PM, you said you and your Treasurer were talking to the banks later today. What is it you'll be seeking? Specifically on loan deferrals, will you be asking for greater flexibility in terms of avoiding a cliff, for example?
PRIME MINISTER: The discussions are of a broad nature. It is an opportunity for the Treasurer and I to effectively get on each other's page in terms of where we're at and where we're seeing the economy and the impacts, what they're seeing in their own information through their own networks and their own data, we can share similar things. It's to address some of the very real issues you've just noted. The Government has a range of measures in place until September. The banks also. And we do want to ensure there's smooth transitions that occur. As I've said now and on numerous occasions, there are parts of the economy now which are building back up and that's welcome. That's great. And we need to ensure that what we're doing in providing supports is not getting in the way of that or preventing that. But equally, there are parts of our economy, and we had a very heartbreaking example of that yesterday with Qantas, and equally sitting down and working with the entertainment sector. And, of course, there's the tourism sector, particularly in regional and remote parts of the country, that will experience these downturns for much longer and obviously, they will need ongoing support. And so we're looking to make sure that we're integrating all of that and ensuring there is as smooth a transition as possible and that we're all working to the same end.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the economy reopening, is it a reasonable approach for a state to reopen its borders in July, but exclude residents from localised hotspots? Is that a reasonable approach you think could be taken? Are you still expecting that all states will reopen in July except WA?
PRIME MINISTER: That is my expectation. The other point I'd make in response to your first question. Yes, I do think that is a reasonable way to do that. And that's exactly what the Northern Territory government is doing. The Northern Territory government is opening up and I commend the Chief Minister, Michael Gunner, for that approach. If you're, you know, you have to fill out a statutory declaration going into the Northern Territory about where you've come from and if you've come from a hotspot, well, you have to go in quarantine. And that's entirely reasonable because what that does is reinforces that this is about where the hotspot is and these are localised outbreaks. You know, if you live in Wangaratta, as I said yesterday, or Wagga, you're just as affected by what's happening in the hotspots of Melbourne. And so to have those sort of broad-brush type restrictions really, I don't think makes an enormous amount of sense. And so this is part, I think, of a more tailored, more localised response to outbreaks. Of course, people shouldn't be going out of those areas and nor should people be going into those areas. That's how you manage an outbreak. And that's exactly what the Victorian government is doing. That's how the New South Wales government has also responded in terms of the hot zones. And I welcome the approach followed by the Northern Territory.
JOURNALIST: When do you expect international students to start returning to university campuses across Australia?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're still working on those issues with a number of states and territories and we've got some good plans there. But that won't happen until Australian students are back at universities. That won't happen unless Australians can move from one part of the country to where that's happening.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] safe corridor. Sorry to interrupt you.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, they are the prerequisites. Australians have to be back at those universities first and the borders of the states in which those campuses are, need to be opened first. And so there are a range of prerequisites that the states are well aware of. And they'll be applied.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask about the hotel quarantine arrangements for international arrivals. Professor Murphy has mentioned that everyone will be tested now for COVID. We heard this morning that 30 per cent of the people in quarantine in Melbourne are refusing tests. Will Home Affairs be requiring travellers to sign a consent form before they return to Australia? Or do the states need to upgrade their emergency powers to be able to compel people to be tested? And have we seen the same sorts of figures in New South Wales as well?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'll ask the Chief Medical Officer to respond also. But it is a matter for the states in terms of what's done within their borders, within their jurisdictions in complying with health requests.
PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: So, yes, I think that 30 per cent is quite a high rate. Other states haven't seen the same rate of refusal, but the states have the powers and they obviously will work it through locally. But you have powers to say to someone, well, we won't let you out of quarantine until you've been tested and had a clear test. So there... I think most people, when they understand it and particularly we will, as you say, make sure that people understand before they come that this is a requirement. And I think most people will cooperate with that arrangement.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Women's World Cup. Were you surprised by the outcome? And what do you make of our biscuit-loving English friends who want to eat our Tim Tams but don't want us to host the World Cup? Are we going to retaliate with a Tim Tam tariff for Boris?
PRIME MINISTER: No, there'll be no Tim Tam tariffs. But look, my reaction to the result is one of being thrilled. And I got the news through the evening last night, in the middle of the night, and was really pleased. I mean, the Commonwealth obviously put $5 million into this bid and because we believed in it, so I wasn't surprised. But I was thrilled. And there will be the opportunity, I'm sure, for me to have a chat with Boris at some point and I'm sure he'll make it up to me some other way.
JOURNALIST: Just on that ASIO activity up in Sydney. From the briefings that you've had, how concerning or how serious are the matters that are under investigation in this matter?
PRIME MINISTER: They're extremely serious. The actions that have been taken by ASIO and the AFP demonstrate that seriousness. The careful nature of the way they're undertaking these investigations. I was briefed on these matters last night and advised that they would be taking these actions. These are matters that I am also aware have been under investigation for some time. They’re operational matters, they are decisions taken by those agencies rightly. But the reason they could go and do that in the way they have done it is because our Government a) put the laws in place to ensure that doing things that are under investigation here are contrary to laws in Australia. And secondly, to set up and give the capacity to ASIO and the AFP to go and enforce it. So our Government made the laws to counter foreign interference, and we've provided the resources and the enforcement resources in particular to go and make those laws a reality.
JOURNALIST: On the entertainment package, do you anticipate that young Australians will be able to enjoy outdoor music festivals this summer? And if I may, just on the smaller music venues, what do you say to some smaller venues who might not be eligible for direct support and feel frustrated that their support comes from them taking out further debt through concessional loans?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the grants and the loans apply across a vast array of business sizes, so they wouldn't be discounted for that reason at all. This can be from quite small events through to quite large events. So they would not be excluded from that. And I would hope that they would think through how they might approach the Minister's programme to be able to access that support, to get those projects up and away. The arts and entertainment sector already is benefiting as they constantly, when I meet with them, show their appreciation for through the JobKeeper programme, but also the JobSeeker programme, which for many that is the programme which they've used. But for many others it has been the JobKeeper programme. So in terms of the outdoor venues, well, that's a matter more in the hands of the states and territories, but we are already seeing an easing of those restrictions. I think there is an appetite to get back to something. But it would sort of, I would assume, and Brendan I'm sure you'd comment, have to be under quite controlled circumstances. And this is one of the reasons why we've asked the medical expert panel to look at what a road map would be for the entertainment sector so they can actually make some decisions about what is possible. But the key things that the expert advice has been focusing on is the ability to know who's there, where they are when they're there and who they're coming in contact with and how those social distancing measures are being... enforced is the wrong word, but practised. And so as time goes on, we're finding that states and territories, as well as operators, are finding more innovative ways to respect the social distancing and conduct their business. And so I would hope that it would not be beyond their imagination to be able to overcome those issues and I would hope that we would see that happen as soon as it can be practically arranged. But Brendan?
PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: So, Prime Minister, I couldn't do more expert advice than you did. But the principle really is exactly as the PM has said, to make sure who's there so that there are tickets with you can contact people. And at least initially, whilst we're getting confidence that people are seated and are able to distance. So at the moment, many states are already planning to have music, live music events in outdoor stadiums where you can put people in seats. The sort of festivals where people crowded together in an uncontrolled fashion are more risky and they're probably a bit later down the track. But in some states, as they get more confident, they may look at those in increasing size.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Bain Capital has agreed to buy Virgin. Have you received any assurances that jobs and routes will be saved?
PRIME MINISTER: I have been in the National Cabinet meeting all this morning, I've just only received the news while we were there earlier today about the success of that programme. I am pleased that a successful bidder has emerged from that process. That's what we anticipated would happen and I look forward to Virgin going forward and more importantly, for the jobs that are in Virgin to be being able to be secured. It is a sector, though, as we saw with Qantas yesterday, that faces very, very significant difficulties. Virgin is now focusing, obviously, on the domestic operations and the domestic operations have a much more positive outlook than the international operations. And so, therefore, you would hope that they would be able to move to a more profitable situation, at least for those operations, given they're keen to focus on those things, but it's a good next step. There's still a long way to go and the Government will continue to provide the broader support that it has been providing.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister yesterday an audit found a massive failure in the Environment Department's management of the EPBC Act. You've spoken about the need to cut green tape before. This showed that there's been massive blow-outs in approval times. A former Environment Department official has linked those blow-outs to declining budget over the last seven years. Will you commit to giving the Department the resources it needs to manage the environmental legislation effectively?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we did, and that's why they've been able to reduce the backlog of those environmental approvals, which postdate that report down to just a handful now. And that's why we have had the review of the EPBC Act, which we're expecting very soon, and there will be some options we would hope that would seek to streamline those approval processes to ensure that resources can be applied where they can be most effectively used and to do that work in concert with states and territories. It's been a matter that we were to have looked at more closely today in the National Cabinet. But given the need to address the issues in Victoria, we've delayed that discussion for a further fortnight. So the short answer to your question is, we're already doing it.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just again on state borders. What assurances did Queensland give you about opening their borders by July 10? And were you surprised on Victoria's decision to walk away from the offer of a thousand or the request for 1,000 troops to 150?
PRIME MINISTER: On the first one, I understand the Premier of Queensland, there is the existing date of July 10. And I understand that they are reviewing that and they'll be making further announcements about that date in coming days. And they have a review and they'll take that advice and they'll make a further decision. But as far as I'm aware, the date is July 10 and if there's any change to that, then that is something the Premier would advise. On the issue of the Defence Force deployment to Victoria, I had a discussion on, well, several discussions, many discussions with the Premier over the course of this week going back to last Saturday and talking of what the issues were. The medical expert panel met on the Sunday. There was a review of where there may be gaps that we might have to assist with and they were then operationalised. I spoke to the Premier on Tuesday night and he set out a number of areas where they would need support. That actually didn't include the issues around that large number of 1,000 for the quarantine. That was a further request that came the following day, as I understand from officials, and that was a request that was subsequently withdrawn, I assume as a result of further discussions by officials in Victoria. But the point is this. Where any state needs some support here, then we will provide it. And these situations can be quite fluid and the needs can change in a short period of time if they didn't end up needing that additional support and that can be done by their police service, well, good. But if they needed additional support from the Federal Government, then it would have been there. And I spoke to General Campbell late on Tuesday night, and he had the show ready to go the next day. And that's what the states can expect. But I've got to say, I was very pleased by the solidarity of the Premiers today in supporting Victoria. As I said, it could be them on another occasion and I think it showed us, as Brendan Murphy was saying, the way the federation is working. Sure, they have their odd words about each other from time to time, about which state they should visit, which borders they want to shut to each other from time to time. I'm for all the borders to go and for the jobs to open. But what is important is that they are all supporting each other with their resources and with their learnings. Sam?
JOURNALIST: A question on jobKeeper and providing certainty with businesses going forward, the turnover test currently operates that you qualify once and that's it but you have to put in our data monthly. Obviously, that could be switched over to a monthly qualifying period. Now, that's something the Treasury review has looked at. Is that something that you see applying before September potentially or only after September if you were to extend JobKeeper for some specific industries?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I've said consistently that the scheme will run as it was intended to run until the end of September and there are no changes to that.
JOURNALIST: But does that preclude changing the turnover test?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, that would be a change to the scheme. And so I've said I mean, that the point about JobKeeper and putting it in for six months when other countries only put it in for three months was to give stability and a platform for employees and employers alike so they could operate with confidence about what that set of arrangements were. And I have no doubt that there are many businesses now, fortunately, who have moved back above that threshold. I suspect that's absolutely the case and I certainly hope it is for their sake and their employees. But we are working under the arrangements we put in the legislation and will continue to do that for the current phase of that programme. In relation to future phases of what we will need to do in terms of aggregate demand stimulus, well, as I've said on numerous occasions, we'll be announcing that in time for the economic statement. And these are considerations that the Government is still working through. But as I've assured, whether it be Qantas or those in the entertainment sector or the tourism and hospitality sector or regions like North Queensland, we get it. We understand that they are going to be hurting more for longer than other parts of the economy. And so we will continue to tailor our fiscal supports to those areas that will continue to need them. Our hope is more and more parts of the economy won't need them and they'll be able to move forward. But on this point in particular, the income support side of it is really important, but so is the industrial relations flexibility, and that is the constant feedback we have as well. I mean, if we were to go to a situation where the industrial relations flexibility was withdrawn post September, what that would mean is, the rigid rules around full time employment and part time employment, which employers are now managing to keep people in jobs and to manage and share hours and doing things like that. If those rigid rules were reinforced, and we talked about this at National Cabinet today, then those who are on part time hours would be most at risk because in order to fulfil the requirement of the full time hours at the full rates, then I fear that that could lead to part time employment being lost unnecessarily. And we know that and particularly women are affected, would be affected if part time jobs were to go as well as, you know, more than 12-month casual employees who have more casual hours. That's where businesses may have to regrettably move, if that were the case. So it's important in talking about ongoing fiscal support that we also talk about ongoing industrial relations flexibility. Industrial relations inflexibility in this environment will cost jobs. And there are obviously issues that we're talking through. Last one. Two more.
JOURNALIST: What was the feedback you got from premiers and chief ministers about that issue and how long…. What's your sense of how long that extra flexibility will be needed for?
PRIME MINISTER: They’re all matters under discussion. I'm not going to go into the comments of individual premiers and chief ministers, only to say that there is a great unity of purpose about keeping as many people in jobs as possible. We all want to see that and I'm very appreciative of all the premiers and chief ministers commitment to the practical goal of that. And that often means we're all doing things that some might find a little different. But we're all focusing on the same task.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the international border, yesterday Qantas, the boss, said basically he doesn't think it's going to open until late next year at the very earliest. Do you share that pessimism? Is there no chance of travelling overseas in the next at least 12 months?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we hope that we might be able to come to an arrangement with New Zealand far earlier than that. Whether we do that with other Pacific nations, I know there's interest from that perspective as well. There've been a number of other countries that have expressed an interest, given our health success in Australia. That doesn't necessarily mean that they would be invitations we would take up. So as you look around the world and you see the intensity of the virus escalating, not decelerating, then I think it is not unreasonable for Alan Joyce to form the view that he has. But no one really knows. And that's the problem. And that's just the uncertainty we have to deal with. And as we make so many decisions, you can't always do it on full information and you have to make judgements based on the best possible advice on where you think things are going and whether it's our health advisers or our economic advisers, Treasury or others, that's what we're seeking to do. And that's why it is good to know what the next step will be three months from now or six months. But the earlier you try and make those decisions, the greater uncertainty there is about the environment you're making decisions about. And so we will continue to just scrutinise those things very diligently. This has been an incredibly busy week with meetings of the Expenditure Review Committee and Cabinets and there've been numerous meetings and the Treasurer and I, we spend a lot of time together at the best of times, but at the moment, we are as inseparable as any two people could be. And there is a lot more work to do. Okay. Thank you. Yes, I'm sorry, John, then we’ll have to go.
JOURNALIST: IR flexibility beyond September. Is that sort of a separate thing you're talking about, but related to the Christian Porter five-group process…
PRIME MINISTER: Yes, separate thing.
JOURNALIST: And is it... would it require legislation or could employers and employees get together and do it themselves, or would it require legislation?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it worked far more effectively when it was done by legislation earlier this year. But we are talking about another phase. That's the point I've been trying to make now for some time. We've had this phase of six months. There'll be another phase beyond that and there'll be a separate set of challenges that we have to deal with there. And we also have to be mindful of the resources that are available to do this task. Today, the financial statements for May have been released today and you'll see there's a lot of red ink on those statements. And you'll see there the significant change in the fiscal position that has occurred as a result of the last few months. Now, we don't step back from the decisions we've taken. They've been absolutely necessary to ensure that Australia has not only had one of the best health responses to the COVID crisis and that continues, but also one of the best economic responses. Last night I had a call with Chancellor Merkel and we were talking about these issues and Australia's success in this area is well appreciated and understood. But it was another good opportunity to swap notes. Thanks, everyone.