Transcript - Parliament House Press Conference

1:30PM

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, good afternoon and the Australian Government is committed to opening up both domestic travel within Australia and travel with low risk countries as soon as practicable and we've said that all the way through. The establishment of a travel zone between Australia and New Zealand has been finalised.

Today, I'm announcing the first stage of this arrangement, under which quarantine-free travel will be possible from New Zealand to New South Wales and the Northern Territory from Friday 16 October 12:01am to be precise. This will allow New Zealanders and other residents in New Zealand who have not been in an area designated as a COVID-19 hotspot in New Zealand in the preceding 14 days to travel quarantine-free to Australia. So there's a three-by-three definition. It is three days with less than three cases.

We're making sure that for those people, if they've been in New Zealand in that 14 day period, then they are welcome to come to the Northern Territory. They are welcome to come to New South Wales. This is the first stage in what we hope to see as a Trans-Tasman bubble between the two countries, not just that State and that Territory. I know that New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and I know that the Chief Minister in the Northern Territory, Michael Gunner, welcome this indeed. I've just got off the phone from Chief Minister Gunner, who says that the fish are biting and the beers are cold and he wants to see as many of his New Zealand cousins and friends as possible – his words and they’re certainly being echoed right across the Northern Territory. And I know that New South Wales is certainly going to welcome this announcement.

Any State or Territory that imposes travel restrictions consistent with the Commonwealth-based definition hotspot will be able to participate and that's an important note. The Commonwealth hotspot definition has been developed by the Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly and is robust and proportionate. And of course, everything that we've done, right the way through, we've done on the best medical advice. Everything that we've done, we've taken, we’ve heeded that advice and we do so again today on the basis that the hotspot definition is robust and proportionate as it needs to be of course – it has to be. The Commonwealth is comfortable in recommending that these people not be placed in mandatory quarantine. The Department of Health has undertaken a public health risk assessment of COVID-19 in New Zealand, which indicated that New Zealand posed a low risk of COVID-19 transmission to Australia. The Australian Government will provide increased Australian Border Force support at airports to support the establishment of green lanes and we will have the ADF helping as required, as need be for travel for New Zealanders and collecting information on arrivals to assist with contact tracing if required. The establishment of quarantine-free travel to Australia from New Zealand will free up space and this is a really important point for around an additional 325 passengers a week to enter quarantine in Sydney. So that by freeing up those 325 places, that means that more Australians from more destinations overseas can indeed then fill that 325 vacancies

So, this Trans-Tasman bubble means that there are going to be more places open for more Australians to come home from abroad. Importantly, safe travel of New Zealanders to Australia will enable spacing in the quarantine system to be freed up for Australians returning, as I say, from other countries. If Queensland were to agree to this definition, around an additional 250 quarantine places could be freed up allowing Australians on flights from other world locations to arrive in Brisbane along with uncapped flights from New Zealand. As I say, these arrangements will take effect from 16 October – a minute after midnight. More information on the details of this arrangement will be available on the smartraveller website upon commencement and we certainly encourage people to avail themselves of that information. So as I say, the ADF will support as required. This is a good initiative. I'm very pleased that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been able to arrange this. I know it will be welcomed with our New Zealand friends. And I know that it's certainly being welcomed by those people in New South Wales and in the Northern Territory, particularly the two leaders of those jurisdictions.

JOURNALIST

[Inaudible] The Prime Minister said yesterday that he thought that it would be New South Wales and South Australia to be first have this travel with New Zealand [inaudible]. Is South Australia not part of today’s announcement because it doesn’t accept the definition of a hotspot?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

South Australia stands ready to participate as well. I've spoken to Steven Marshall in the last half hour, they will certainly probably be the next cab off the rank.

JOURNALIST

They stand ready – [Is it just the hot spot definition]

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, that’s all it is and I would say, South Australia are very close to agreeing to these terms and to agreeing to be the next jurisdiction to come on board. Steven Marshall of course, having eased restrictions earlier in the week, he will also –

JOURNALIST

But they are not three by three, they do not recognise three by three hotspot definition –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, again I say, they will probably be the next cab off the rank. So Steven Marshall is excited by the fact that this has been achieved for the Northern Territory and for New South Wales. Of course, he too wants to see New Zealanders traveling to South Australia, there is plenty to offer in South Australia.

JOURNALIST

Why only one way?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it's because we've agreed and we've put in place. Certainly, I know if Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister in New Zealand, wants to have Australians going to New Zealand, then that will be up to her and New Zealand as to how those arrangements can be put into place and under what conditions they can be put into place. But as I say, Northern Territory and New South Wales are very much open. We welcome those New Zealanders coming here and it could well be that indeed, shearers may well avail themselves of this because we've got a wool clip that is needed to be shorn. We've got work to be done in agriculture, if that opportunity is there too. And as I said the other day, they may even come over here and find love.

JOURNALIST

So would you like some people come here to do the fruit crop?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Absolutely, absolutely, Michelle. Yes, absolutely indeed. Indeed we are and the two Foreign Ministers have spoken. The two Prime Ministers have spoken today in relation to the arrangements and to what else might indeed be possible under these arrangements. And we want to see as many New Zealanders, as many Pacific Islanders, being able to come here. We've got work to be done here in Australia and we can't do it all ourselves, as I've said consistently this week.

JOURNALIST

So will there be negotiations on that specifically?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Yes.

JOURNALIST

Is this a matter of WA lifting its hard border before anything like this can happen?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

The offer was put on the table at the last National Cabinet, which was a fortnight ago today for these very arrangements, for the Trans-Tasman bubble. New South Wales and the Northern Territory have availed themselves of this opportunity. I'm sure that South Australia will, no doubt, as I said just a moment ago, they’ll probably be next. But the opportunity is there and I know there's plenty of businesses, plenty of tourism operators in Western Australia, very much wanting business, they can only have business between West Australians for so long. They need that custom, they need that business and Western Australia is a great place to visit.

JOURNALIST

So has there been any interest from WA [Inaudible] –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It was the National Cabinet table two weeks ago. Those discussions, I know are taking place. I know that Prime Minister Morrison and Mark McGowan have a good relationship – may that long continue. And if Western Australia wants to avail themselves of this, then they only have to say the word and I'm sure it'll be possible.

JOURNALIST

Pacific Islands, they have got places that haven’t had any COVID at all, what about extending the travel bubble to [inaudible].

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, at the moment it is between Australia and New Zealand. So at the moment, if they've been in New Zealand for 14 days – that low risk has been certainly determined by these arrangements – So if they have been in New Zealand for 14 days, they are welcome to come into Sydney or into Darwin. So these are the arrangements. We may well extend this. We want to open up Australia to the world. This is the first part of it. We want to make sure that we get as many Australians home, we want to make sure we get as many visitors.

JOURNALIST

What will be the third country? What is likely to be the third country?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we'll wait and see how this unfolds. We'll wait and see the success of this – and I'm sure it will be a success – before we start defining and determining which will be the next country. And of course, those discussions are taking place. I know Foreign Minister Marise Payne is working with many of our Pacific Island friends at the moment. But for the Pacific Islands, they want to go to New Zealand and be there for a fortnight, they can avail themselves of this opportunity. They can come. They can pick fruit, shear our sheep and fall in love.

JOURNALIST

Have you had any indication at all from New Zealand as to when they might allow Australians to go there?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I know Prime Ministers, Morrison and Ardern have had those discussions. It’s very much in Prime Minister Ardern’s court at the moment and we want to make sure that there's two-way travel.

JOURNALIST

[Inaudible]

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, that would be something that I'll leave for those negotiations between the two Prime Ministers. But I know having spoken to both Alan Joyce and Paul Scurrah, the Chief Executive Officers of Qantas and Virgin respectively, this morning, they are also very, very pleased with these arrangements, with what’s been put in place. I know they want to see planes back in the air across the Tasman because, as I have said all along, planes in the air means jobs on the ground. And we want to get as many of those jobs back happening with Qantas, with Virgin, with all the airlines, as soon as possible and to get international travel arrangements put in place.

JOURNALIST

The Finance Minister says that WA is [inaudible], do you agree with that, what are your thoughts?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I do agree with him, yes.

JOURNALIST

How important is it that pensioners get more cash before Christmas?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Our pensioners have done it tough, just like everybody has done it tough through COVID-19 and that's why next week's budget has a whole range of measures for a whole range of sectors. We have made sure that we've put in place the arrangements to support the economy. Of course, we had a health issue – a global pandemic – to address first and foremost and we've as best as we could have addressed that. We mourn for the 890 Australians who've lost their lives – we do – and it's very, very sad for those families who this Christmas will have an empty seat at the Christmas table. And that is so, so very sad. But when you compare our record on a health rate and certainly on an economic rate with just about anywhere in the world, it has been very, very good. Albeit, yes, it's been sad that we've lost so many Australians, good Australians and we mourn for those. But we've done a lot for every sector of the economy, pensioners, those in work, those out of work, those who found themselves in the welfare queues for the very first time. We've put $314 billion of assistance on the table to support those measures that are going to cushion the economy from the effects of what has been a global pandemic. We will continue to make sure that we support our economy and support our health outcomes and next Tuesday's budget, to be announced by Josh Frydenberg, I'm sure will have other measures as to provide more support and  more assistance to sectors right across the economy.

JOURNALIST

Your portfolio is going to be key to generating [inaudible] – how much extra is going to be needed [inaudible]

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I'm not going to divulge the amount because I'm not going to pre-empt anything that Josh Frydenberg needs and will say because after all, it is his budget for it on behalf of the Government, for and on behalf of the Australian people who need a good budget and they're going to get a good budget. They're going to get a good jobs and infrastructure budget. They're going to get a budget that yes, is being delivered in October, very strange, normally it's May but it's going to be a budget to make sure that we provide the support mechanisms and continue to do that.

JOURNALIST

[Inaudible]

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Absolutely and certainly in the infrastructure space, I want to see those workers out and we already have seen that through the half a billion dollars that we announced some months ago, back in July, for the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure, working with the 537 councils across Australia. Those workers are on the ground right now. Those workers are doing more than 1,000 projects which have already been approved and ticked off on and are already starting. And there'll be more to say about that on Tuesday as far as getting that money out door as quick as we can and those workers on the ground because if there's one thing that we need to do and that is get more people into jobs. The best form of welfare is a job. There are 45,600 jobs in regional Australia at the moment. And there are plenty of jobs and they're not just in the space of picking fruit, in the orchards, in the vines and in shearing sheds, there are many, many more jobs besides. They'll have to give a big tick of approval to regional Australia, because it has led the way through COVID and it certainly will lead the way through the COVID recovery both in the agricultural and resources, but in so many other ways – big enough in which to get a good cup of coffee, small enough to still care.

JOURNALIST

I understand though that a lot of your investment will be dependent on the States and Territories chipping in, is that only fair?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It is only fair. There has to be co-investment. There has to be co-funding not every measure will be reliant on States and Territories to chip in but a lot will and so they should. I mean, we've provided 314-thousand-million dollars of assistance and the combined total of the States and Territories was just a couple of weeks ago, about $48 billion. So they need to play their part too and I know that through the National Cabinet process, which has worked reasonably well, there has been that commitment shown but there needs to be more commitment shown. We can't do all the heavy lifting ourselves and I'm sure that's going to be understood.

Thank you very much.

ENDS 1:46PM

Media contacts:

Jo Williamson, 0418 475 668

Dean Shachar, 0418 202 860