Transcript - Sky News First Edition

PETER STEFANOVIC

Well, joining me now is Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack. Minister, good morning to you. Thanks so much for joining us.

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

Good morning. 

PETER STEFANOVIC

Before we talk about Virgin, I just want to get your thoughts, a lot of concerns this morning about supply chains and there may be shortages of meat, there might be shortages of food, not just in Victoria but throughout the nation. What's your information about that?  

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

Well, I can assure you that everything is being done to make sure that those supply chains stay open, to make sure that the logistics are right. And only last night I had a hook up with each and every one of the Transport and Roads Ministers right throughout the country. We spoke via teleconference. We made sure that we agreed upon a national protocol for freight. Now, that was agreed upon back on July 24. It's going to National Cabinet tomorrow. But we've made sure, over the past couple of weeks that everything is as it should be and certainly we don't want to see trucks or any other supply carriers stopped at borders. We want one consistency right across the nation and that's what we've achieved together.

PETER STEFANOVIC

So there's going to be exemptions for all truck drivers who are transporting food and what have you?

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

We want to make sure that trucks carry the necessary supplies and whether that's personal protection equipment, medical supplies, respiratory equipment, food, grocery, meat, whatever the case might be, that they can get across those borders consistently.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Isn't the problem though, at the warehouses and with these new restrictions that are in place in Victoria, meaning that the workforce and those particular warehouses and even the abattoirs, have been reduced to such an extent where they just can't get the product out?  

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

Well, I know a lot of work was being done yesterday between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria, between the Treasurer and the Business Council of Australia, the large supermarket chains, indeed everybody involved were in those discussions, JBS Meats, of course, John Berry and his team. We're making sure that no stone has been unturned to ensure that food supplies, that meat supplies will be available.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Is it your expectation that they will get more expensive for people say, buying meat at the supermarkets or at the butcher?  

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

Well, no company should be taking advantage of consumers at this time. And of course, that's why the ACCC is there, if that is actually happening.

PETER STEFANOVIC

I guess, you know, it stands to reason, though, that if there is a lot of demand and it outstrips supply, that the price jacks-up. There is suggestions that the cost of lamb is going to go up considerably.

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

Well, we would also urge people not to start this hoarding again. That's not necessary. What we want to do is for people to be their best selves, to make sure, whether they're in Victoria or anywhere right across Australia, that they not just think of themselves, but they think of others in every aspect to make sure that they think of those members of the community who might not be in the position to be able to get out as frequently as they can. It's a matter of actually thinking of others other than just yourself at this time. Yes, of course you're going to need to provide for yourselves and your families, but think of others. We don't want to see a situation where people are hoarding food again.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Okay, let's go to Virgin now. An announcement yesterday, 3,000 staff have lost their jobs, basically.  They're hoping to hold on to 6,000. Is that the end of the job losses in the industry, do you think or are you expecting more?  

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

The aviation industry was hit first and hit hardest. Tourism is attempting to bounce back. I think there'll be a lot of people taking domestic flights and taking domestic holidays into the future.  International travel of course, is very much a great concern. We're not sure when those international flights will be able to resume. They won't be any time soon. But what we want to make sure is that we continue that sector wide assistance for those airlines. Paul Scurrah told me that but for the assistance that the Federal Government had supplied, had provided on a sector-wide level, that Virgin would not be in the position it is today. Yes, it's tough for those 3,000 people who yesterday have been told and will be told in coming days and weeks, that they've lost their positions. That of course, is very, very tough and of course, Qantas have made changes too, airlines right across the nation have. Yes, they have been given assistance by the Government but, they've had to restructure, they’ve had to refinance and they've had to look at their job numbers.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Will you be increasing support in the form of JobKeeper to the airline industry?  I mean, it's already there, but will you be increasing again?  

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

Yes look, we'll continue to look at what is necessary at the time and that's what we've done right the way through, right since February and March, we've made sure the assistance is available not just for the airline industry, but for the economy. And we'll continue to do that in a responsible and practical and pragmatic way. I'm really pleased that Virgin are going to come out of this stronger, in the sense that they will be more competitive, they will be, as Paul Scurrah, the CEO, said yesterday, profitable. And they are supporting two thirds of their workforce. So that is encouraging, encouraging signs and we've got a second viable airline.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Minister, I am curious just finally, Christmas is only, you know, a touch over four months away. I mean, are we in the situation of no one really being able to travel right up until the Christmas holidays, maybe even beyond?  

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

Well, let's get through this six weeks with Victoria first. Let's see how that pans out. Let's try and get this dreadful, insidious virus contained and minimised as best we can. And let's see what summer brings. We're all in this together. It's not one State versus the rest of the country. We need to get through this situation in Victoria over the next five and a half, six weeks. We will do it and we'll make sure that the mental health is right, that the cyber security is right. I know Peter Dutton and the Prime Minister are making certain announcements about those sorts of things today. We'll make sure that whatever assistance is needed for the economy, that we look at that as we go on and certainly we'll have the health outcomes that we so desperately need.

PETER STEFANOVIC

But I suppose it is possible that some cities or even States, will be in lockdown at Christmas?

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

Let's hope not. Let's see what, as I say, this next six weeks brings and if every Victorian can be their best selves over the next period, then hopefully we'll be able to contain and minimise this. We'll get no more outbreaks, no more clusters. Fingers crossed, no more cases and we'll certainly get through this.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Let's hope so. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, appreciate your time this morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK 

Pleasure. Any time at all.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Thank you for joining us.

Media contact: 

Dean Shachar - 0418 202 860