Source: Prime Minister of Australia
DYLAN RETIF, CEO DISPLAYWISE: So we’d like to thank the Prime Minister for coming out to our business today, DisplayWise, we design and build custom displays for the exhibition and event industry. Today we’ve had the opportunity to talk to the Prime Minister about the effects that COVID has had on the exhibition industry. He has given us his time today to talk through with a few industry bodies, so I’d like to welcome him to chat a bit more.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Dylan. Well it’s tremendous to be back home here in the Shire today. But more importantly to be back here with Dylan and Jason who I have known for some years. I was in this business a couple of years ago, and a couple of years ago it was almost doubling every year in size, it was one of our great thriving small businesses, becoming a medium business, becoming a large business. And COVID-19 really put the shocks on that. But what has been tremendously encouraging about what Dylan and Jason have been able to achieve here at DisplayWise is that they have been able to keep everybody onboard. And you can see them working here behind us. Over 50 staff here have been kept here as a result of the JobKeeper program which has enabled DisplayWise and so many other businesses, almost a million businesses around the country, have been supported through this program. They have adapted, they have innovated, they have survived. And they have changed their product lines, they have reached out, and across their sector they have been creating, using the incredible tools and equipment that they have built up here, the capital they have got here to open new product lines, go online. And that has been one of the most inspiring things I have seen as Prime Minister all around the country, is the way that businesses have sought to adapt and to innovate to see themselves through.
As a government, we have been very pleased to be able to provide that support, whether it has been through JobKeeper, or our business cash flow supports, and indeed, the measures we will be announcing today with the Treasurer extending out those loan guarantees for small and medium-sized businesses. $1 million over a longer period of time, five years, and not just for working capital, but also to extend into new investments and as I have spoken to industry leaders here today, the exhibition and business events sector, not unlike the creative sector, the entertainment sector, significantly hit by COVID-19. But they are looking forward to the time ahead where they can plan and they can get their business moving again.
So it’s been a very good opportunity for me to come along here today, a place I know very well, and just to listen. One of the ways we have been able to be effective as a country, has been because we have been listening to what is happening on the ground and we have been adapting our policies and fine-tuning them over time. COVID-19 has been uncharted waters for the entire world. And here in Australia, we have been very focused on trying to stay head of the game, listening very carefully to what the needs of businesses and employers have been so they can keep people in jobs, and that has been our task and that will continue to be our task. The Treasurer and I will soon be making announcements about JobKeeper and JobSeeker, but we know how important JobKeeper has been. And there will be many businesses who, from when we first put JobKeeper in place, that they have been able to improve their conditions and they’ve been able to lift their turnover, and that is fantastic news and that is welcome and we want them to have continued success. But there are other parts of the economy, and here DisplayWise is no different, for whom their turnover will continue to be down because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because of the restrictions that have been put in place on the economy. And they will need continued support, and they will get continued support. And many businesses like them, as we work through those changes we will be announcing this week. And they will continue to adapt, they will continue to innovate, they will continue to employ and they will continue to look forward. And that’s our way through this.
That is why for Australians, in this matter, even though with the difficult situations we have down in Victoria at the moment, particularly those in Melbourne, and staying and getting on top of the issues here in New South Wales, where they are doing a great job, it is about doing that but it is also about lifting our heads and looking to the future.
So Dylan and Jason, thanks for the opportunity to come today and listen through the issues in the business events and the exhibition sector, this is a sector that can get back on its feet. We can get business events running again, we can get exhibitions running again, they can be done safely, they can be done economically and viably, and so today was a good opportunity to consult with the industry and get a good handle on some of the obstacles they have, some of the challenges that they will have to get across. And I look forward to raising those with the Premiers again this weekend, sorry, this Friday, as the National Cabinet meets, and working through with my own Ministers as we meet as Cabinet this week as well.
So we are going to keep looking forward. It’s not just businesses in the Shire that are continuing to power on, although I am very proud of my Shire businesses here. I know that’s happening all around the country, and that is the sort of attitude and spirit we need. The sort of spirit that is on display here at DisplayWise.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Treasurer says the economy is transitioning away from the original support payments, JobKeeper and JobSeeker. What time period are you aiming to complete that transition?
PRIME MINISTER: We will have more to say about the next phase. But we have to look our supports and our programmes as a series of phases. And how many phases there are it is very difficult to say because there are so many uncertainties associated with COVID-19. Australia is faring better than almost any, if not every other developed economy in the world today. And the way we will continue to be able to try and stay ahead and minimise the impacts is by listening carefully. And to ensure that we can support businesses to make investments, to keep their staff together, where that is viable, and to be ready for when things change in their industries. Or to retrain workers, like we said last week with the JobTrainer program, some 340,000 places as well as $1.5 billion dollars of support for apprentices. I met a young apprentice here today, exactly the type of apprentice we are supporting through those programs, 180,000 of them, to stay in jobs and to keep up their skills and keep supporting businesses just like this. So it will be phased, and we will be announcing this week the next phase post September. It will be targeted, it will be temporary, it will be effective as the first round has been, but we do know that this first round has been very important. I mean, almost 1 million businesses, around 3.5 million employees, and there’s still 2 months to go on the current set of arrangements. What the Treasurer and I will announce this week won’t commence the day after we announce it, it will be several months from then. So there will be several months for businesses to adjust to the next phase. But the supports that have been in place since April will be in place until September, and then we’ll move into a new phase. But I can assure you that businesses like the one we are standing in today and employees that depend on that business, will continue to get support.
JOURNALIST: Is it feasible to transition the majority of those 3.5 million JobKeeper recipients off their payments say, by Christmas?
PRIME MINISTER: The way the economy is rebuilding and moving through the COVID recession is where their own turnover is lifted, where their own business is growing then their business is in a stronger position to support people in jobs. And that’s the way it should be. Where businesses have been unable to do that, then that is where we have stepped in with JobKeeper. And there are businesses that are down 90 percent still, there are businesses down even more than that in the most affected sectors. In the business events and the exhibition industry we have seen that and that is the feedback I have had this morning, but the same is true in the aviation sector, in the entertainment sector, many parts of the hospitality and the tourism industries, although it has been encouraging, I was in Queensland on Friday and I was pleased see and hear about the improvements that they have been seeing there with increased visitation. But my message to all Australians is the same. We want to keep moving forward. But to keep moving forward we have to remain disciplined, we have to keep doing the essentials right, we have to stay in the habit when it comes to social distancing and when it comes to downloading the COVIDSafe app, when it comes to ensuring that we wash our hands and sanitise, and that if we are out in the retail sector or out and about in the community, particularly in Victoria where it is mandatory in Melbourne, to wear a mask, and the message in Melbourne is to stay home. If you are having to go outside, that should be an exception. And if you are having to go outside, then you need to be wearing that mask and in New South Wales the recommendation now is that where, if you are not in a position to socially distance, particularly if you are in one of those areas that have been impacted, then the advice is you may wish to use a mask. But it is about staying in habit and staying disciplined, and the more we do that, the more businesses grow, the more certainty we have, the more jobs we have.
JOURNALIST: How much of your economic statement on Thursday requires legislation, and do you have a contingency plan if the medical advice says there should be no sitting of Parliament before the end of September?
PRIME MINISTER: The decision for the parliament not to sit for the next sitting fortnight was done on the basis of medical advice. It was frankly a no-brainer when it came to the medical advice and what was necessary, and I conveyed that to the Leader of the Opposition on Friday night. And he agreed that for that next sitting fortnight that was not good sense to bring people from all over the country, particularly from Victoria, and to create that risk. Not just for the ACT, but more broadly. We will continue to manage these issues carefully and exercise our responsibilities carefully. We know how important it is for the Parliament to meet and to sit. And I think there is also somewhat of a consensus across certainly the major parties that it’s important that it sit in person. That is an important part of how our Parliament functions. And we will be seeking to do that when the Parliament next sits which is on the 24th of August. And I would hope that we will be able to sit on that day, that is certainly my expectation and planning that we will be. And, but I will be consulting with my Manager of Government Business in the House of Representatives and the Leader of the Government in the Senate to work through those options and to make whatever contingency plans that are necessary. And we will consult the other parties in that process, but it is for the Government to determine those things as we have on this occasion and we will continue to consult on those things as we have.
JOURNALIST: Mr Morrison, a million dollars is a lot of money for a small to medium business to borrow, is it wise for them to do so when they have such limited cash flow at this moment in time?
PRIME MINISTER: Decisions that businesses take about what capital they need, and how much they borrow, are judgements for them. And they work that out with their banks, and they work it out with their accountants and their financial planners. And they make sound judgements. And what is exciting being here at DisplayWise, as Dylan tells me, is they’ve taken space across the road, because they are looking forward. And we do look forward in our economy, and I think Australians can be optimistic. I’m certainly optimistic, it’s my natural disposition. But it’s important for Australians to be optimistic. They will be looking sensibly at what their commercial opportunities are, and then they will make those judgements. So, see I have a lot of faith in Australian small business people. I have a lot of faith in their judgement about their business, and to make sound judgements about their future. What the Treasurer and I are seeking to do with our entire government is to back them in, to give them the support they need. And it’s a challenging time for them. What I’m excited about with the announcement the Treasurer is making today, is that it’s allowing them to invest. Not just to get by. See, I just don’t want Australia to survive the COVID recession, I want us to emerge strongly from it. We’re not a country that just survives, we are a country that always seeks to thrive. That is what I know to be the culture and attitude of small businesses and medium sized businesses like the one we are in here today. And we want to back them in for that, and to help them lift their heads and look forward.
JOURNALIST: Has the government done it’s own assessment of the numbers who were pushed into poverty, poverty rather, as a result of changes to the economic statement announced Thursday?
PRIME MINISTER: The reason we’ve put in place the record income supports that we have, and provided the record level of fiscal stimulus and other incentives through the economy is to avoid that very outcome. Everything we are doing is seeking to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 recession on Australians, on Australian businesses, on employees, on businesses and employers. That is what we’re doing each and every day. And every decision we are taking is to that end. And that is why Australia has been doing better than most, and many, if not all developed economies around the world. I mean, it is still tough, it is extremely tough out there. But at a time like this, I think all Australians will be pleased they’re in Australia and nowhere else.
JOURNALIST: PM are you comfortable with the tightening of the New South Wales-Victoria border that was announced yesterday and is coming into effect tomorrow, are you comfortable with that policy setting that’s in place?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah I am, and this has been something that has been done cooperatively with Victoria. I spoke to Premier Berejiklian at length this morning about a number of issues. And this was one of them. And I think what we have seen in New South Wales with the cases that have presented, is the government really getting on top of the contact tracing very quickly and the isolation. I understand cases today announced have all known sources, that’s incredibly important. I was on a call as I am pretty much every day, most days, with our Chief Medical Officer and the Secretary of the Health Department, with Lieutenant General Frewen, who is heading up COVID Assist operations, and we’ve got Commodore Hill down there in Victoria, he has been in place for a few days now. He has been able to make a good assessment of the situation and I will be speaking to him later today or early tomorrow morning. I know that they have been making recommendations as to what needs to take place, and I’m sure that will get great support from Premier Andrews and his entire team. I got a text last night from Dan. They very much appreciate the support they are getting, and we’re very pleased to provide it. I mean Victoria has an open account with us, an absolute open account. They will get what they need. I made the same point to New South Wales this morning. Their need is not as great, but we have hundreds of ADF personnel involved in supporting the New South Wales government, particularly around the border operations there with Victoria. And containing it around the border towns is very important. And that we don’t get cases leaping forward out of those border towns and into other parts of New South Wales. So it is a sensitive time, it is an important time. I would ask particularly for those in Melbourne, I thank them for their patience, I thank them for their endurance, and in advance I continue to thank them for their kindness to one another. I think that is something we have to be very mindful of. As we go back into, as we are now back in lockdown in Melbourne, we need to be very careful of each other, we need to be mindful of each other’s mental health and particularly the elderly in the community. There are a lot of services and supports in place, being provided by both the Commonwealth and the state governments there. And everyone who is delivering those services, wants to be as much help as they possibly can be and get that support to people who need it. So keep an eye out for each other, that’s what it means, by getting through these things together, and know once again whether you are in Melbourne or in the border towns along New South Wales, the Victorian border or elsewhere, if you’re going through these difficult times, then the whole country is in behind you.
JOURNALIST: Is there anything more that the federal government can be doing to help with mask distribution in Victoria?
PRIME MINISTER: For some time now we have been aware of what would become a possibility with masks. I have received assurances for months now that there is a retail and wholesale capability to meet consumer needs. It is something we have tracked, but we have also built up mask production capability. The Commonwealth has been doing that, the states have been doing that, and there is the ability, my advice is, to meet that. It might require a bit of patience at the outset, if there’s a bit of a rush on. A rush hour, no matter how big a bridge you build, it will get a bit congested at the start but my advice is, we will keep doing that through the coordinated mechanism, that will ensure those supplies are there, and for the State Government who has decided to make that mandatory, I have no doubt they would have considered the supply issues when they made that decision.
Apart from that, thank you very much. Thanks for being here Dylan and Jason and the rest of the team. It’s great to be back here in the Shire.