Interview with Ross Stevenson and John Burns, 3AW

Source: Australian Treasurer

ROSS STEVENSON:

The one who has to deal, couldn’t see it coming like all of us, is the Federal Treasurer and Member for Kooyong, Josh Frydenberg. Josh, good morning to you.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good morning Ross and good morning John. Ross, how is my local electorate going?

ROSS STEVENSON:

It’s going well. It’s thriving, it’s leafy, it’s green and its beautiful as usual. Hey, can you tell us, for someone who’s listening who has lost their job already, what does the package mean for them?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well it means a flat payment of $1,500 a fortnight. The employer needs to make an application to the Australian Tax Office and register their interest, and the employer will be able to get these payments that they will pass through to employees for employees that were on the books as of the 1st of March. So if you have been stood down, you will still be on the books and the employer will still be able to get that money for you, and eligible businesses will be those that have seen their turnover fall by more than 30 percent as a result of the coronavirus.

ROSS STEVENSON:

Now as far as employees are concerned, as I understand it, it’s not simply those who have been stood down who are eligible for the $1,500 a fortnight is it?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well it’s broader than the UK Scheme. The UK Scheme applies to just stood down workers, our scheme applies to employers who still may have their employees working. So for example, the local cafe that may not be able to have people inside the premises but can still operate as a take-away café, they will continue to need staff and those staff will receive this wage subsidy.

ROSS STEVENSON:

There’s a restaurant just up the way from me that’s had to put all of its staff off, some of them have got jobs elsewhere, some of them have not got jobs. Will they all get $1,500 a fortnight?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

If they were on the books at the 1st of March and they meet the criteria, namely that they’re a casual that have been with the same employer for more than 12 months or in the case of a soul trader, someone who has seen their income fall by about 30 percent or more, or they are a not-for-profit organisation, they will all be eligible under this scheme.

ROSS STEVENSON:

And this scheme goes from what, the 1st of May for six months? Then at the end of six months what happens?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well obviously we don’t know how long the Coronavirus will go for and one of our concerns has been that until a vaccine is found it’s going to be very difficult to get the economy back to normal. So our scheme is for six months, that’s what the $130 billion costing is based on, and we believe around 6 million employees will access this scheme. It compares again to both the New Zealand and the UK Schemes, which are only three months duration and I think that is consistent with the approach the Prime Minister has taken, where he has prepared the nation for the long haul ahead.

ROSS STEVENSON:

And what about the self-employed?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

The soul-traders are eligible for this. So if you’re a sparky, you’re a carpenter, a plumber, you’re going about your daily business but you’ve seen your turnover fall quite dramatically as a result of the health restrictions put in place by the coronavirus, well you will benefit too.

ROSS STEVENSON:

Ok and I guess down the line and at the back of some people’s mind they will have the question, how are we going to pay for all of this?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well we will pay for this for years to come, that’s the harsh reality of the debt burden that’s created by this level of spending and I have to say to you guys that when I became the Treasurer, I was hoping to deliver the first surplus in twelve years, but then events happened beyond my control. A global pandemic has hit and you turn on the TV everyday and you see the tragedies in Spain and Italy and indeed increasingly in the United States and it’s of great concern. So we make no apologies for the tough health restrictions that were put into place based on the Chief Medical Officers advice. But the flow on economic impact is also very severe and that’s why we’ve needed to take these unprecedented spending measures.

JOHN BURNS:

Where does the $130 billion come from in the first place?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well we issue bonds through the Australian Office of Financial Management, people buys those bonds and that’s how we fund spending like this.

ROSS STEVENSON:

I know you’re a proud Melbournian. We’ve adopted the Greg Champion song ‘Don’t let the big V down’, if we all do the right thing, we can get those number of those daily fresh cases down and the last three days in Victoria there have been 111, to 86, to 54, so we’re all in it together trying to do the right thing by ‘the big V’ and waiting for today’s daily figure and hoping it’s fewer than 54 but there will be lumps and bumps. There will be a lot of people who will be very grateful for this package and Josh, we thank you very much.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well thank you, this is very much a Team Australia moment, we are all in this together and that’s why people have to listen to the medical advice and we are fighting a war on two fronts, the health crisis and the economic crisis simultaneously but your listeners Ross and John, need to know that the Government has their back.

ROSS STEVENSON:

Good on you Josh. Josh Frydenberg Federal Treasurer, Member for Kooyong and passionate supporter of the Dynamo Brest Blues.

Interview with Michael Rowland, News Breakfast, ABC

Source: Australian Treasurer

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Let’s take you to Canberra now for more on the changes the Government is bringing in surrounding foreign investment in Australian businesses. We can bring in the Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.  Treasurer, good morning to you.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

How strict is this clamp down?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, obviously, these are very strict and unprecedented measures. We’re abolishing the threshold for foreign investment proposals from $1.2 billion, effectively for countries with whom we have a free trade agreement, to $0. This is a precautionary measure, this is a temporary measure, this reflects the extraordinary times that we’re in, and obviously it’s going to give the Government greater visibility and scrutiny of foreign investment proposals to ensure that they remain in the national interest.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

As a result of this, all foreign investment proposals no matter the value will be weighed against the national interest. Is this, Treasurer, aimed at China?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

This is not aimed at one particular country, in fact, China last year was the fifth largest foreign investor in Australia with investments of around $13 billion. This compares to the United States which was the leading foreign investor with about $58 billion of foreign investment. But what is very clear to us, and also the European Union and other countries around the world, have actually said very clearly that they need in these extraordinary times to more strictly assess the foreign investments that are coming into Australia. Let’s also bear in mind, Michael, that foreign investment has served Australia very well. One in ten Australian jobs are with businesses that have benefitted from foreign investment, so we want to continue to capitalise on those opportunities but we also want to ensure that proper scrutiny is undertaken.  

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

On that front, there is concern in some quarters about two Chinese owned property developers that started this crisis here in Australia buying in bulk hand sanitisers, face masks and the like, and shipping them in bulk back to China, meaning there are fewer of these things available to Australia. It may have been right legally, but what’s your view of that sort of behaviour morally, Josh Frydenberg?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Obviously, I want to see these sort of products used for Australians, there is no doubt about that. But as you say, they didn’t break the law but…

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

But was it morally right?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

It’s not for me to pass moral judgments. What it is for me to do is to enforce the law and right now I’m talking to you about a change to the law, a legislative change, that sees that all foreign investment proposals get scrutinised by the Government to ensure that they’re in the national interest. Now when it comes to assessing the national interest, David Irvine, the Chairman of the Foreign Investment Review Board, has previously spelled out that issues such as the character of the investor, tax implications, competition implications, and of course, national security implications are all being assessed.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay. To the looming announcement about wages help for employers to keep employees on the books in this so-called hibernation period, a figure of $1,500 per fortnight is being bandied about. Is that what Australian workers who lose their jobs can expect?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look, I’m not going to confirm the number but there will be an announcement today, Michael. And what Australians have learnt through this crisis is that the Government has their back. Whether it was yesterday’s announcement of over $1 billion of new measures for telehealth and mental health and domestic violence, whether it’s the $189 billion of measures that the Government has already announced to back small business and keep workers in their jobs, or whether it’s the doubling of the safety net, effectively with the doubling of what was previously known as Newstart and now is known as the JobSeeker payment. What we have always sought to do is to get Australians to the other side of this crisis, recognising how extraordinary it is and that we’re facing two wars at the same time; a health crisis and an economic crisis. So, the announcement today is all about providing additional income support and keeping employees connected to their employer because once we get to the other side of this, we want the recovery to be as speedy as possible.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

How quickly will these wage subsidies flow through to businesses?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

You’ll have to turn on later today.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay. Why hasn’t the Government decided to go down the UK route of subsidising 80 per cent of a workers wages?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well the UK have a system for the UK and their Chancellor of the Exchequer, my equivalent, has made it very clear that he is starting from scratch, he’s building a new system. We’ve consistently sought to use our existing systems, namely the tax and the welfare system, to get support to people as quickly as possible. Today’s announcement will build on our previous announcements which are all about cushioning the blow for Australians who are doing it really tough right now.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Canberra, thank you so much for joining us on News Breakfast.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good to be with you, Michael.

Review of Retail Payments Regulation – Postponement

Source: Reserve Bank of Australia

In light of the current extraordinary circumstances associated with the impact of COVID-19, the Reserve Bank is putting on hold the Review of Retail Payments Regulation that was announced on 29 November 2019.

Whereas the Bank had previously expected that the Review would be completed by late 2020, we now expect that it will be completed in 2021. This decision is intended to reduce the demands on industry stakeholders at a time when they are focused on dealing with the impact of COVID-19. Bank staff will continue to do background work on the Review as resources permit and remain available to speak with stakeholders as required.

Interview with Alan Jones, The Alan Jones Breakfast Show, 2GB

Source: Australian Treasurer

ALAN JONES:

The Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is on the line. Treasurer, good morning.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good morning, Alan. 

ALAN JONES:

Thank you for your time and please be assured there are no trick questions here. These are difficult times. Look, they were extraordinary measures announced last night. Seven people are dead in Australia from coronavirus, one is critical, but you’re now going to close pubs and club, you’ve got to say this slowly, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, places of worship. Will all these people be out of work?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well these are dramatic times and extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. The Prime Minister was very clear last night when he outlined the position of the National Cabinet at 9:00pm. It was based on medical advice, as you say, casinos, cinemas, clubs will be closed from midday today. Cafes and restaurants will move to takeaway only. These are places of social gathering, Alan, and what we are doing here is trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus because if you look around the world, whether it’s in the United States, Italy, parts of Asia, the virus has spread when people have been in close contact. 

ALAN JONES:

That’s true, and, look, I think everybody, well, those that are who are listening, it does appear as though there are some people who aren’t listening, and I think that’s a sociological issue, when people assemble on Bondi Beach as they have and don’t listen to the advice of the Prime Minister. I think they’re most probably listening to other things to get their advice. But nonetheless, we talk about cases, don’t we, but we’ve managed to contain this to seven people dead and one critical. It is important, isn’t it, that we don’t alarm people and I’m just worried about those people who wake up today and wonder how they’re going to put food on the table?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, I’ll be very clear. This is deadly serious. And if people don’t adopt the social distancing arrangements recommended by the medical experts, they will increase the likelihood that their fellow Australian will contact the coronavirus. This is not the normal flu and I think people have to understand, whether you are young or old, you can be affected. Clearly the senior members of our community in age are the most vulnerable, particularly people with comorbidities or other health conditions. People need to make the necessary arrangements in their daily lives to reflect the medical advice. 

ALAN JONES:

Right, but the Prime Minister said last week, and believe me we’re all supportive here, I can assure you, but he did say last week we must keep Australia running. How do you keep Australia running when you look at the aviation industry, the travel industry, the live music industry, the hospitality industry, the entertainment industry, the tourism industry, how do you keep Australia running when they, as I speak to you this morning, are on their knees?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Because ultimately we have to accept the health advice because this is a global pandemic like we’ve never seen before. Now these health restrictions have an impact on the economy and a very severe impact and those industries that you referred to, like aviation, like tourism, like hospitality, are on the front line because these health restrictions have meant that people haven’t been able to travel, whether we’ve closed our borders or whether we’ve reduced interactions locally among people. That is the impact on the economy. But other businesses can remain open and, as you know yesterday, we announced a record $66 billion package of new measures designed to keep Australians in jobs and businesses in business. Now that’s on top of what we had previously announced with the Reserve Bank of $105 billion injecting funds into our financial system and into our banks as well as our first stimulus package which provided a wage subsidy for 117,000 apprentices and which also provided support for small business as well as cash payments to 6.5 million Australians, many of whom will be listening to your program. Pensioners, people on the Carer’s Allowance, the Disability Support Pension, the Commonwealth Senior Health Card, people who are receiving Family Tax Benefits, will all be receiving these cash payments from the Government. 

ALAN JONES:

Part of your education was in America…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

True. 

ALAN JONES:

And you would be very familiar, therefore, with the prestige of the Wall Street Journal. I mean, they have won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished reporting on international affairs. They took, the editorial board, in fact, wrote an editorial on Friday, not a particular journalist, the board, about all of this and they ended by saying, and I’d just like your comment here, “No society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its overall economic health. Even America’s resources to fight a viral plague aren’t limitless and they become more limited by the day as individuals lose jobs, businesses close and American prosperity gives way to poverty. America urgently needs a pandemic strategy that is more economically and socially sustainable than the current national lockdown.” And the editorial recommends, Treasurer, a pandemic strategy two. Do you agree with those sentiments?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well I agree that the economic impact is enormous, but I think it’s a false choice to choose between the health of your nation and the strength of your economy. You cannot have a strong economy without a healthy nation and that is why every step of the way…

ALAN JONES:

Sorry to interrupt you there, I didn’t read the whole thing and I recommend it to you. It does make this point, and if I can share, that’s the point you’re making, “This will surely include,” when it talks about a phase two of the campaign, “This will surely include strict measures to isolate and protect the most vulnerable, our elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions. This should not become a debate over how many lives to sacrifice against how many lost jobs we can tolerate.”

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I agree with that. 

ALAN JONES:

That’s right. “Substantial social distancing and other measures will have to continue for some time in some form, depending on how our knowledge of the virus and its effects evolves.” And that’s when it makes the point that “no society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its overall economic health.”

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well look I think that this is exactly what the Prime Minister has been trying to do, working with the states at the National Cabinet, ensuring that as many Australians can remain in a job, to make sure that our essential services can be maintained while also trying to, what is called, ‘flattening the curve,’ to limit the spread of the coronavirus by these very strong restrictions on social gatherings or interstate or international travel. That is what we’ve been trying to do, Alan, and our measures of providing money to small businesses to keep people employed and our measures to allow people to access their superannuation early, and our measures to ensure that the regulatory regime allows businesses to trade through this crisis is exactly towards that end. 

ALAN JONES:

Ok, well let me just make one point there, if I might, because today is the 23rd of March. It’s a long time, Treasurer, until 28th April. Now one of your announcements was, and I can’t stand the way these bureaucrats write stuff in language that you need a translator, but you’re going to provide employers with a payment equal to 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld. Now for the benefit of our listeners out there, basically if a bloke’s on $500 a week and his tax is $100, the employer hangs on to the $100 and sends it to the tax office. Now am I right in saying that therefore he will send the $100 to the tax office but you will provide an equal amount to the amount he parcels off to the tax office to the employer and that will be maximum of…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

…straight into their bank account and they don’t have to put in one form. 

ALAN JONES:

Right. And that’s a maximum of $50,000 a week?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

$50,000 for that quarter.

ALAN JONES:

Quarter.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

And then another $50,000 for the second quarter. So there will be on April 28th and then on July 28th.

ALAN JONES:

$50,000…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

On each. 

ALAN JONES:

That’s on the 28th April, right.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Up to $50,000, depending on your wages bill, and a good example would be a business, Alan, that employs eight people at average full time earnings. That business will receive the $50,000 and, again, will receive the $50,000 in the next period and that will be really important for that business to be able to keep on their staff, to meet their entitlements, to meet their rent, and other fixed costs…

ALAN JONES:

Can they hang on until the 28th April? This doesn’t come into being until 28th April.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well that’s when the next BAS statement is due and the other point I want to make clear to you, Alan…

ALAN JONES:

…Can you answer my question, do you think they can hang on until the 28th April?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well I do believe that the businesses are receiving very positively this announcement. They understand that the Government is doing everything possible to help them. I’ve heard from the Small Business Association and from the Australian Industry Group and many other big bodies representing millions of Australian employees and employers that these are great initiatives. The other thing I want to point out to you, is I’ve been working hand in glove with the banks to ensure that they reach out to their customers and do not require any interest payments or principal payments on any loan for small businesses for the next six months. Now that is a game changer. That means if you are a small business listening to your program, and you have a loan with the bank, as many do, to fit out their shop, or to have for their motor vehicle, or they even mortgage their own home most small businesses to allow capital for their own small business, they will not have an interest payment for the next six months. That is going to help them get to the other side of the coronavirus. 

ALAN JONES:

Just take an example, Treasurer, of the wedding industry, for example, because they’re all being cancelled, everywhere crowds of more than 100 are banned, so event venues are closing. Now the wedding industry involves the florist, the person who prints the wedding invitations, who sells the wedding dresses and the suits and the accessories, the person who takes the photos. Now, when these close down, and then the driver, the Uber driver and the hire car driver who take everyone to the wedding and so on, when these close down, how do these people manage?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

This is going to be extremely tough and that’s why more people are going to require this coronavirus supplement that the Prime Minister and I announced yesterday, $550. So if you’re a sole trader, like one of those people that you mentioned, you can still earn up to $1,075 a fortnight and receive the full $550 Alan. And that’s the purpose of what we’re trying to do. Help casuals who may have reduced hours, or sole traders. And I also want all your listeners to understand, that if they have seen the number of hours worked or their income reduced by 20 per cent or more, since the 1st January, they will be able to get up to $10,000 from their superannuation this financial year, and another $10,000 from their superannuation next financial year and that will be tax free. Normally they will pay a tax rate of around 22 per cent on taking money out of superannuation early because of hardship. We are making it tax free. So there are lots of measures that we have introduced in a record package to support the Australian economy, to cushion the blow, and because we were able to balance the Budget, because we were able to get the books back on track, we now have the financial firepower to respond when Australians need it most. 

ALAN JONES:

Why wouldn’t you have just said to employers, that they don’t have to compulsorily deduct 9.5 per cent from the wage of a worker and let that money for six months, suspend the compulsory superannuation payments, and let that money for six months go straight to the worker? That’s money in their pocket, billions of dollars, in fact?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

But they’re people that are still employed. What we have tried to do here is to provide extra support for people who have seen their hours worked or their income…. 

ALAN JONES:

…I know but if you put that money straight into the worker’s pocket he would spend it. And that’s what should be keeping the economy going. What about the face-to-face people, let’s take a solicitor, I know we all sort of think oh well they’re all doing very well. What about the people who are not businesses but they’re just very, they’re face-to-face operators, how do they manage? The courts have closed down. I mean I know this is the upper end of employment but the solicitor, the artisan, the service businessman, the people who we ring up every day, what do they do? Go to Newstart?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well this is what we’ve announced yesterday, about a doubling of what effectively is Newstart. So you will get $1,100 or more a fortnight and if you are…

ALAN JONES:

…so the solicitor goes to Newstart?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, the ideal is to keep the solicitor in a job but the…

ALAN JONES:

…the courts have closed down.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

And, again, these are extraordinary times. I mean what we are seeing right now across the world, I mean look at Italy, Alan, look at California, 40 million people. They’ve closed it down completely.

ALAN JONES:

But look at Australia, there are seven dead and two critical. 

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

But as you know, this is an escalating crisis, not one that’s diminishing. 

ALAN JONES:

Well I hope as a result of all these measures it’s not escalating?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, you know, to quote Winston Churchill, “we’re more likely at the end of the beginning than at the beginning of the end.”  This has got a long way to run…

ALAN JONES:

…thank you for your time but Boris Johnson said, I thought this was very simple. He basically has done exactly on Friday what you then announced last night, closing cinemas and gyms and theatres and cafes and so on but he said for the first time in the country’s history, every employee, the Government will pay the salary of every employee, 80 per cent of the salary. Isn’t that pretty simple?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, let me say two things. Firstly it doesn’t cover sole traders and as you know, there are millions of them across the economy and that’s who we’re trying to help, and that was your florist that you were just talking about. The second thing is, we have used our existing tax and welfare system. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the United Kingdom says they have to start from scratch. They have to build a new system (inaudible) be on the blower to me saying when is that money going to get there? That’s a new system…

ALAN JONES:

Ok, I shouldn’t have asked the question because I’ve got to go to the news. Look, thank you for your time. We will talk again when it’s necessary.

Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, The Today Show, Channel 9

Source: Australian Treasurer

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Treasurer, good morning to you on this Monday morning after a very big 24 hours. Hundreds of thousands of casual workers in bars, restaurants and cafes have effectively just lost their jobs. I can’t imagine, well I can imagine a little bit, but what they’re going through is terrible. How are you going to help them out?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

What we announced yesterday was a $66 billion package to cushion the blow for those casual workers, for those sole traders who have seen their hours worked or their income cut as a result of the coronavirus. It brings to a total of $189 billion, Karl, of various financial measures that we’ve announced just in the last 10 days alone. That’s around 10% of GDP.  So this will include a new Coronavirus Supplement of $550 a fortnight which is available to people whose income falls below $1,075 a fortnight; a new $750 payment to more than 5 million Australians including pensioners, people on Carer’s Payments, people with a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card or people on Family Tax Benefits; we’ve relaxed the deeming rates for pensioners; we’ve relaxed the minimum draw down rates for retirees; and we’re giving people access to their superannuation by allowing them to take out up to $10,000 this financial year and up to $10,000 next financial year, all tax free. So, they’re a very significant package of measures to support Australian sole traders, casuals, retirees, pensioners and others on income support.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Treasurer, how easy or quickly will it be for these individuals, and also for small businesses, to get their hands on the money? Because that’s one of the criticisms that we did see during the bushfires is the delay in getting that money to people who really need it.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

People can contact their Services Australia which is effectively the Centrelink now, they’ll be able to make applications online. Obviously, if they are going to be able to, if they are going to take what used to be called Newstart and now the Jobseeker Payment, that will be made available as quickly as possible. We’ve waived the waiting periods and that’s really important. We’ve also waived the assets test. There is still an income test that needs to be complied with, as you would expect us to have, but what we have done is reduce those waiting periods so people can apply for their Jobseeker payment.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

This is just the start, obviously, and you need to throw everything at it which is what you’re doing right now in a really effective way. We’re hearing all sorts of things about what might happen down the track in terms of a uniform wage for everyone when businesses go out of business and people are unemployed. How close are we moving towards that?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

What you’ve got now for somebody who is unemployed with this new Jobseeker coronavirus Supplement and the traditional Jobseeker payment, is at least $1,100 or more a fortnight that will make its way into peoples’ pockets if they find themselves in that situation. So, we are very conscious that people still need to meet the costs of their groceries and other bills even though they might be stood down or they might have lost their job or their hours worked have been reduced. At the same time, we’re providing unprecedented amounts of incentives to small businesses to actually keep their staff on. What we announced yesterday, Karl, was up to $100,000 for small businesses linked to the size of their wages bill, and I think that’s another important thing that we’re doing, as well as wage subsidies for businesses who have apprentices and that will support 117,000 apprentices. And various other things we’ve done on the regulatory front. So we’re pulling out all stops to support the economy at this time.

ALLISON LANGDON:

And just very, very quickly. Should parents be sending their kids to school this morning? Yes or no?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Parents need to make their own decisions about that. But what the schools will be doing is obviously remaining open and depending on the state or the length of the term. But there was an agreed position at the National Cabinet last night which the Prime Minister clearly stated, which is that the schools after the term break are expected to come back but that will depend on the medical advice at the time. But I know schools are also making provisions for people to learn from home as well.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Josh, we know you have to bounce. Thanks for your time today, appreciate it.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good to be with you.

Supporting Australian workers and business

Source: Australian Treasurer

The Commonwealth Government has today released the second stage of its economic plan to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus and help build a bridge to recovery.

A total of $189 billion is being injected into the economy by all arms of Government in order to keep Australians in work and businesses in business.

This includes $17.6 billion for the Government’s first economic stimulus package, $90 billion from the RBA and $15 billion from the Government to deliver easier access to finance, and $66.1 billion in today’s economic support package.

Our economic support package includes:

  • Support for households including casuals, sole-traders, retirees and those on income support
  • Assistance for businesses to keep people in a job
  • Regulatory protection and financial support for businesses to stay in business

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Government was acting to cushion the blow from the coronavirus for businesses and households to help them get through to the other side of the crisis.

“We want to help businesses keep going as best they can and for as long as they can, or to pause instead of winding up their business. We want to ensure that when this crisis has passed Australian businesses can bounce back,” the Prime Minister said.

“Our focus is on cushioning the blow and providing hope to every Australian that we will get through this and come out the other side together.

“We know this will be temporary.  That’s why all our actions are geared towards building a bridge, keeping more people in work, enhancing the safety net for those that aren’t and keeping businesses alive so they can get to the other side and stand up their workforce as quickly as possible.

“We know Australia’s more than 3 million small and medium businesses are the engine room of our economy. When they hurt, we all hurt.

“The next few months are going to be a difficult journey but we all have a role to play to adapt to the changes we’re facing, to cushion the impact of what is happening and to pull together so we can bounce back when we get to the other side.”

The Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the $189 billion economic support package was the equivalent of 9.7 per cent of GDP.

“The Government is taking unprecedented action to strengthen the safety net available to Australians that are stood down or lose their jobs and increasing support for small businesses that do it tough over the next six months.

“These measures build significantly on what we have already announced.

“These extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.”

Support for workers and households

Coronavirus supplement

The Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight.  This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.

The Coronavirus supplement will be paid for the next 6 months. Eligible income support recipients will receive the full amount of the $550 Coronavirus supplement on top of their payment each fortnight.

This measure is estimated to cost $14.1 billion over the forward estimates period.

An increase of up to 5,000 staff for Services Australia will assist to support delivery of new Government measures.

Payments to support households

In addition to the $750 stimulus payment announced on 12 March 2020, the Government will provide a further $750 payment to social security and veteran income support recipients and eligible concession card holders, except for those who are receiving an income support payment that is eligible to receive the Coronavirus supplement.

This second payment will be made automatically from 13 July 2020 to around 5 million social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. Around half of those that benefit are pensioners.

The first payment will be made from 31 March 2020 to people who will have been on one of the eligible payments any time between 12 March 2020 and 13 April 2020.

This measure is estimated to cost $4 billion over the forward estimates period.

Early release of superannuation

The Government will allow individuals in financial stress as a result of the Coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21.

Eligible individuals will be able to apply online through myGov for access of up to $10,000 of their superannuation before 1 July 2020. They will also be able to access up to a further $10,000 from 1 July 2020 for another three months. They will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.

This measure is estimated to cost $1.2 billion over the forward estimates period.

Temporarily reduce superannuation minimum drawdown rates

The Government is temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account based pensions and similar products by 50 per cent for 2019-20 and 2020-21. This measure will benefit retirees by providing them with more flexibility as to how they manage their superannuation assets.

Reducing social security deeming rates

On top of the deeming rate changes made at the time of the first package, the Government is reducing the deeming rates by a further 0.25 percentage points to reflect the latest rate reductions by the RBA.

As of 1 May 2020, the lower deeming rate will be 0.25 per cent and the upper deeming rate will be 2.25 per cent.

The change will benefit around 900,000 income support recipients, including Age Pensioners.

This measure is estimated to cost $876 million over the forward estimates period.

Assistance to business to keep people in a job

Boosting Cash Flow for Employers

The Government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium sized businesses, and not‑for-profits (including charities) that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000.  These payments will help businesses’ and not-for-profits’ cash flow so they can keep operating, pay their rent, electricity and other bills and retain staff.

Under the enhanced scheme from the first package, employers will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld (up from 50 per cent), with the maximum payment being increased from $25,000 to $50,000. In addition, the minimum payment is being increased from $2,000 to $10,000. The payment will be available from 28 April 2020.

By linking the payments to business to staff wage tax withholdings, businesses will be incentivised to hold on to more of their workers.

The payments are tax free, there will be no new forms and payments will flow automatically through the ATO.

This measure will benefit around 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people, and around 30,000 NFPs (including charities).

Small and medium business entities with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million and that employ workers are eligible. NFPs entities, including charities, with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million and that employ workers will now also be eligible. This will support employment at a time where NFPs are facing increasing demand for services.

An additional payment is also being made from 28 July 2020. Eligible entities will receive an additional payment equal to the total of all of the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payments received.

This measure is estimated to cost $31.9 billion over the forward estimates period, including the value of the measure announced in the first package.

Regulatory protection and financial support for businesses to stay in business

Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme

The Government will establish the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme which will support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to get access to working capital to help them get them through the impact of the coronavirus. 

Under the Scheme, the Government will guarantee 50 per cent of new loans issued by eligible lenders to SMEs.

The Government’s support will enhance lenders’ willingness and ability to provide credit to SMEs with the Scheme able to support $40 billion of lending to SMEs. 

The Scheme will complement the announcement the Government has made to cut red-tape to allow SMEs to get access to credit faster. It also complements announcements made by Australian banks to support small businesses with their existing loans.

This builds on the investment the Government is making to enable smaller lenders to continue supporting Australian consumers and small businesses, through providing the AOFM an investment capacity of $15 billion to invest in wholesale funding markets used by small authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADI) and non-ADI lenders.

It further supports the Reserve Bank of Australia’s announcement of a $90 billion term funding facility for ns ADIs, that will reduce the cost of lending, with particular incentives to lend to small and medium enterprises.

The measures the Government is announcing today, along with the previous announcements, will deliver a total of $125 billion to support Australians get through the impact of the coronavirus.

The Government will guarantee up to $20 billion to support $40 billion in SME loans. 

Providing temporary relief for financially distressed businesses

The Government is temporarily increasing the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and the time companies have to respond to statutory demands they receive. The package also includes temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent.  The Corporations Act 2001 will be amended to provide temporary and targeted relief for companies to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the Coronavirus.

This builds on the support for business and business investment provided in our first economic support package, which included:

  • increasing the instant asset write off
  • backing business investment by providing accelerated depreciation deductions
  • supporting apprentices and trainees
  • targeted support for Coronavirus-affected regions and communities

Support for the aviation industry

As previously announced, the Government is also providing up to $715 million in support for Australian airlines and airports, which will ensure that our aviation sector receives timely cash flow support through an unprecedented period of disruption to international and domestic air travel.

While these are challenging times, Australians can rest assured that the Commonwealth Government will do all that is necessary to support them and build a bridge to ensure that all Australians can get to the other side of this crisis.

Reserve Bank of Australia and US Federal Reserve Announce Swap Arrangement

Source: Reserve Bank of Australia

The Reserve Bank of Australia and the Federal Reserve will establish a temporary reciprocal currency arrangement (swap line) for the provision of US dollar liquidity. The Federal Reserve will also establish temporary arrangements with the Banco Central do Brasil, the Danmarks Nationalbank, the Bank of Korea, the Banco de Mexico, the Norges Bank, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Sveriges Riksbank. These arrangements are designed to help lessen strains in global US dollar funding markets.

The Federal Reserve also has standing US dollar swap lines with the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank.

The Reserve Bank of Australia and the Federal Reserve will establish a US$60 billion swap line to provide US dollars in exchange for Australian dollars. The US dollars will be made available to local market participants by the Reserve Bank in US dollar repurchase agreements (repos) against Australian dollar-denominated securities. The US dollar repos will be allocated through an auction process.

The Reserve Bank of Australia will announce its US dollar repo auctions via the electronic news services (Reuters – RBA37, Bloomberg – RBAO08). Operational details for participants in these auctions will be made available shortly as a Technical Note on US Dollar Repos.

Joint press conference, Australian Parliament House, ACT

Source: Australian Treasurer

PRIME MINISTER:

There is a way through this. We all need to keep going. I need all of you to keep going. And we’re going to keep going to keep Australia running. All Australians have a role to play as we make our way through. And there is a way through. There is a bridge over this. And if we continue to work together in the way we are, all around the country, then Australia will bounce back strongly, you will bounce back strongly, your family, your business, your community. There is a way through. 

Life is continuing to change. And together we’re going to have to continue to adapt to those changes to keep Australia running. Australians, we will all continue to see more information. There will be additional cases. This is something we should be continuing to expect. This is anticipated. The presence of additional cases is not something of itself that should cause alarm, because at the end of the day, you don’t stop this virus, but you can defeat it by slowing it down. And that is how we save lives. Today, the National Cabinet met again on our commitment to work together to keep Australians healthy as we can, to protect them, and to ensure that we keep Australia running together. Today, we made further decisions, many of which we’ve had flagged from our last meeting, that are both scalable and sustainable to ensure that we can continue to implement for the many months ahead. As I’ve said we’re looking at at least six months to be working through over the course of this year. Of course, it could be longer. No one really knows, but we’re taking decisions on the basis that we need to move at least through the next six months. At today’s meeting, we began with this focusing on the the economic issues and with the presentation of the Reserve Bank Governor, Dr. Lowe, who briefed Premiers and Chief Ministers and myself on the measures that were announced yesterday, as well as providing a general overview of how the Reserve Bank was seeing the economy and the impacts. And this was also done by the federal Treasury through Dr. Kennedy, who provided the same advice. 

We were able to share information between states and territories on what we’re each doing to provide support in our economies, the various stimulus initiatives that have already been announced and further work we were doing together to ensure that we could provide further support. Now, as you know, as I said here with the Treasurer yesterday, we are working on a package that will cushion the blow over the next six months and will provide the necessary support so people can get on that bridge to get them to the other side. That is focusing heavily on small, medium sized businesses, sole traders, and it is also providing for the income support that will be necessary for those most directly impacted by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus. I want to particularly welcome the decision which the Treasurer will go into in more detail that was made by the banks today, which showed that they are pulling together with everyone else to ensure that we can get Australians through this. These are important decisions that will provide real and genuine relief. It’s a great start and we will continue to work closely with the banks and all others to ensure we all work together to provide the most support to Australians as we can to get them through this over the next six months at least. States also agreed today, and further work will be done on this, are working to identify how relief can be provided for tenants in both commercial tenancies and residential tenancies to ensure that in hardship conditions there will be relief that will be available and ensuring the tenancy legislation is protecting those tenants over the next six months at least. That work will be done by states and territories as it is a state and territory matter, and that work will be led by Western Australia, together with New South Wales, working with all the other states and territories to bring back some model rules that can be applied in hardship cases. So understanding what the trigger might be and how in those circumstances that tenants would be able to maintain their tenancies. Now I know that will mean something for landlords, just as the decision taken today means something for banks, just like the decisions we have already taken as a Commonwealth Government means things for our balance sheets and as a people for the Commonwealth Government as it does for the states. It will also mean something for those, who sadly, might be stood down from their employment and have to look at their annual leave arrangements and sick leave arrangements. All Australians are going to be making sacrifices obviously, in the months ahead, and everyone does have that role to play and that will include landlords, at the end of the day for people who are enduring real hardship. 

It was also agreed today that putting Budgets together at this time with the great uncertainty that exists is not something that any Commonwealth or State Government should be doing. As a result, we’ve already decided that we will not be now handing down a Budget until the first Tuesday in October, on the 6th of October. The Treasurer will be having a bit more to say about that. All other states and territories will be working to similar timetables. The idea that you can actually put together any sort of forecasts around the economy at this time is simply not sensible. And as a result, we will be putting in place the necessary measures with the support of the Parliament on supply and other continuances to ensure the proper functioning of government services and the continuation of vital programs. On Sunday, I will be meeting with the Leader of the Opposition and the leaderships of both the Government and the Opposition. I spoke to him earlier about this today and we’ll be working through those practical issues around the functioning of the Parliament, both now and over the next six months. And I think the Leader of the Opposition for his support on those arrangements as we work them through.

On health, and I ask you to bear with me as we go through this, and Dr. Murphy will be joining us to answer questions, also make some statements on these matters. The rise in the number of cases means we need to continue to take action to suppress the growth in these cases and to flatten the curve, which is something more Australians are becoming more familiar with. That means we’ve got to work even harder to keep a healthy distance between us all. We agreed to further rules today regarding indoor non-essential gatherings. Earlier, I announced the 100 limit on non-essential indoor gatherings and I went through the list of those things that were essential. I won’t do that again today. It’s the same list. But what we are now moving to is an arrangement for gatherings of less than 100, is that there would be 4 square meters provided per person in an enclosed space in a room. So that’s 2 meters by 2 meters. So for example, if you’ve got a room, you’ve got premise, if you’ve got a meeting room or something like that, that’s 100 square meters then you can have 25 people in that room. Now in addition to that, you should continue to practice wherever possible the meter, meter and a half of healthy distance between each of us to ensure that we are limiting the contact and limiting the potential for the spread of the virus. Now these are quite practical rules. Out there in the community, whether it’s licencing laws or fire laws or anything like this, there are already these types of arrangements. The number of people who can be in outdoors seated areas that relates to noise controls. So these I think are very practical and sensible arrangements that venues and others and commercial premises and in public premises that we can manage. It just simply means understanding how big the room is and then simply advising how many people can be in that room at any one time. And we’d also be seeking the cooperation of patrons and others to ensure that they can do the same thing. If you’re looking after your behaviour, you’re saving lives. You’re helping other people who are more vulnerable. In many cases for the young and the healthy, it is true that the majority of cases, 8 out of 10 people only have a mild illness. But if younger people in particular, and those more generally in the community follows these rules, it won’t be all life saving because you’ll be fine, you’ll be healthy. But by you doing the right thing, you’ll be saving the life of someone who is more vulnerable. So do it for your fellow Australians. I know these rules will take some time for people to get used to, but I’d ask people to move as quickly as they can. I know it means a lot of change for a lot of venues, whether they be cafes or restaurants or clubs or any of these other places of public gathering, including in this building here. We’ll be working to ensure that people know how many people can be in the various meeting rooms in this place. Next week, the Parliament will have less than 100 people in it at any one time in the Chamber. So even in essential areas, it is practical to try and observe these, but that won’t always be possible for… essential gatherings – they have an even higher purpose and in some cases that will be more difficult to implement. But if we do it more broadly, then we’re slowing the rate and we are saving lives. I also want to make the point that self-isolation means self-isolation, and Dr, Murphy will be speaking more about that issue. We are hearing reports of some who are saying they’re in self isolation and they’re out and about. Self-isolation means exactly that. For older residents also, earlier this week, we also provided the advice through the AHPPC, through the medical experts panel, that older residents should be refraining more from public contact than others in the community. That doesn’t mean they need to self-isolate. It just means that they should practise greater caution than those else otherwise in the population. Now on travel, there’ll be further discussion about travel issues before the school holidays. The National Cabinet is now meeting every Tuesday night and every Friday morning. That’s what we’ve done this week and we think that’s a good rhythm of meetings to ensure we can consider all the recommendations that are coming up through our various agencies. The advice is to reconsider the need for unnecessary travel. And if you’re unwell, stay at home, unless seeking medical advice. Further advice has been taken to the National Cabinet next Tuesday night, and that will be available before people go on school holidays. And so we’ll be considering those issues further, and I’m just flagging that for next week when we consider those issues on a broader scale.

In relation to schools and preschools, the situation has not changed. It is in the national interest to ensure that we keep schools open. I want to thank all of those schools who have been putting those arrangements in place. For those schools who have moved to distance learning for their students, I want to thank those schools who have ensured that even in those circumstances, they have arranged for students of parents who have essential responsibilities, they may be nurses or doctors, child care workers, they may be teachers themselves. They are providing for the students to be able to continue to receive lessons in that facility, and that is what we want to see happen.

On aged care, the Government, the Commonwealth Government, made a number of decisions yesterday and to further support the workforce in aged care. We are providing $444.6 million. I’ll say that again, we’re providing $444.6 million of additional funding from the Commonwealth to support aged care facilities. Now, that is on top of the more than $100 million that I announced last week in relation to workforce support across the country for aged care. That includes $234.9 million for a retention bonus to ensure the continuity of the workforce for staff in both residential and home care. There’s $78.3 in additional funding for residential care to support continuity of works or supply. There is $26.9 million to supplement the viability of residential aged care facilities, including in the national Torres Strait Islander aged care program, and the multi-purpose services and homeless providers. There’s $92.2 million being provided in additional support for home care providers and organisations which delivered the Commonwealth home support program, including for services such as Meals on Wheels and $12.3 million to support the My Aged Care Service to respond to the needs of older Australians. National Cabinet agreed that states and territories will also issue nationally consistent public health directions on visitor restrictions for aged care facilities to complement the regulatory standards adopted by the Commonwealth. This additional funding is being focussed on those who are most vulnerable, to get them the additional support so they can get access to the essential things they need, particularly through things like Meals on Wheels and home care support and the other things older Australians will need going through this time. 

Another very significant issue, which I flagged earlier in the week that we’ve been considering is in relation to remote Indigenous Australian areas. Under Biosecurity Act, we’ll be using the Health Minister’s powers to ensure that we’ve taken action to restrict travel into remote Indigenous communities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The way this will work is states and territories will nominate prescribed areas, that is communities in consultation with Indigenous communities as an emergency requirement as determined under BioSecurity Act that will restrict persons from entering or leaving those prescribed areas. Now there will be a number of exemptions that will apply for the purposes of obtaining medical care or medical supplies into those communities, in the event of an emergency, including the purposes of providing medical care. That would include things like medivac, of cases or others who are seriously ill from those communities, for the purposes of applying or undertaking critical services, such as medical care for mental health or domestic violence support, police and emergency services, food and medical supplies, educational and maintenance and repairs of essential services. And there are a range of other measures there which are done at the discretion also of the relevant exempting authority in those states and territories. So that will be a further important set of measures, and I particularly want to commend Minister Wyatt and Chief Minister Gunner up in the Northern Territory, working together. They’ve done an outstanding job and working through those issues, consulting with Indigenous leaders where they can, but you’d understand, given the urgency of this issue, that that consultation has had to be quite short circuited. Now, I thank people like Pat Turner and others who’ve been very helpful in working with Ministers to come to these appropriate arrangements. 

As you can see, again another long list of issues discussed today. There are also issues discussed relating to prison populations, as well as coordinating action in relation to supermarket supplies, food chains and supply chains across the community. And that is everything from a consistency of tracking laws to enable deliveries at any time of the day. I appreciate all the states and territories moving on those issues, on trading hours arrangements, and again, the states being very constructive when it comes to those matters. 

What’s next? Where do we go next? What are we considering? Well as I said on Tuesday night, we’ll be considering further decisions on travel advice prior to the school holidays and there’ll be further advice on managing critical hospital resources – an enormous amount of work has been done there. There is work we’ve tasked to the medical expert panel about what we would call localised responses. Now bear with me as I just make this point. There will be, as we have already seen, parts of cities or places that will be more susceptible because of quite localised outbreaks. What we’ve asked for advice on is the density of those cases, how many cases in a particular area that triggers actions over and above what these general rules are that apply to those areas, and that would be staged up according to the level of that outbreak and what needs to be done wherever possible to shut that down. Now, the reason I say that is we need a consistent approach to how this would scale up in the event of outbreaks in particular parts of particular areas, because that means just because you might see under those rules something being done in Tuggeranong or in Tamarama, or anywhere else, that doesn’t mean those rules need to necessarily apply in Gymea Bay or down in Hawthorne or anywhere else. Where there are more specific outbreaks, there will be more advanced measures that would need to be put in place. And we want a clear set of rules across the country to support states and territories to make those rules and that advice will be coming forward on Tuesday evening. We’ll also be considering the needs of other vulnerable groups. We’ve been focussed on aged care and remote Indigenous populations, but the Minister for the NDIS has been doing an extraordinary amount of work with the disability community and we’re expecting further work to come forward on that, as well as more general discussions about maintaining continuity of supply and essential services in areas like telecommunications and energy and so on. But I must say at this point, the reports and advice that I’ve been receiving on these issues is at a reasonable level. And better than that, I’d have to say. But as time goes on, we’ll keep a close watch on that. So I thank you for your patience again. I’m gonna pass you over to the Treasurer to make some comments on the measures put in place by the banks and then Brendan, Dr. Murphy, will speak on the matters I’ve raised and they’re happy to take questions and I’ll get round everybody as best as possible. 

THE HON JOSH FRYDENBERG MP, TREASURER:

Well, thank you, Prime Minister. 

Yesterday, the Reserve Bank and the Australian Government injected $105 billion of new funding into our financial system in a move that Standard & Poor’s described as decisive and coordinated action. The Australian people can be reassured that our financial system remains strong and our actions have made the system even stronger. 

Today, the Australian banks have stepped up to the plate and are playing their part in Team Australia. Their decision to defer payments by small businesses for six months will be a substantial boost to confidence and the spirit of millions of Australian small businesses. It’s a game changer and it’s part of our efforts with industry, with the states to build a bridge to the recovery, to the time after the global pandemic, the coronavirus, has hit. We have also seen a need to make some changes around regulation of lending to business. And we’ll be cutting some red tape because it’s critical that businesses not just have access to capital, but the speed at which that capital is delivered by the banks is as fast as possible. 

Finally, the Prime Minister referred to a new date for the Budget. Forecasting for Budgets is difficult at the best of times, let alone when we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. And I understand the states are making similar arrangements and it’s important that we are able to deliver a Budget at a time where there is more certainty about the economic environment and that is planned for the first Tuesday in October. 

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, Josh. Congratulations on the work you’ve done with the banks. They’ve worked closely with you. And I appreciate your rather determined approach to ensure the outcome. And I think the banks also for stepping up. Brendan?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER:

Thanks very much, Prime Minister. 

So as the Prime Minister said, we’ve seen significant further growth in cases of coronavirus in Australia. We expected to see that. That’s why we’ve been taking and announcing measures over the last week. And before that, it’s important to note that we are still seeing a large number of imported cases from other countries. We’ve now stopped foreign nationals coming into the country, but there are still a lot of Australians coming home, some of them coming from countries with a high risk and outbreaks that we think are probably higher than reported and a high risk of importing the virus into the country, as we have seen in the last few days in every state, pretty much, in this country. So this issue of quarantining when you come home is serious. This is not an advisory. This is your civic duty to your fellow Australians to stay home for that entire 14 days if you’ve come back to Australia, no exceptions. And if you see anyone who is not abiding by that, a recent traveller, make sure they do, because we are really serious about that. Is it such a big impact on our outbreaks in the last few days? But we have also seen community outbreaks in a number of states. Again, we expected them. That’s why we put in the social distancing measures first announced late last week and progressively further announced this week. They are expected to start hitting in about a week, a week after they were first announced. We always expected a bit of a delay. But as the Prime Minister’s announced, we have to make sure that people are very clear about what they mean. What we mean is that you should be distancing yourself from every fellow Australian where possible. That’s why we have guidelines for people in gatherings of less than 100. It’s no point having a gathering of 20 people if it’s in a tiny room and you’re all together, you’ve got to practise social distancing. Keep that metre and a half away from each other. Practise good hand hygiene all the time and stay away from work or the community if you’re unwell. This is also incredibly important. Whilst people who are high risk of contacts and return travellers if they get symptoms must be tested there will be cases of community contact where it’s not suspected and they might just get a sniffle or a cold. The sort of thing that many of us have soldiered through and gone to work in recent years. We can’t do that anymore. Nobody should be going to work or mixing with society or friends or going out if they’re unwell at all. Stay at home if you’re unwell, only go out when you’re feeling well. Go to work when you’re feeling well. Practise good hand hygiene and practise that social distancing at all times. 

This is critical now, we have to slow the curve, as the Prime Minister said. We are well prepared. We’ve had very few deaths so far, they’re tragic, and we’ve had very few people in intensive care. But there is there’s a risk that if we don’t do what every one of us has to do as our civic duty to control this spread it will grow significantly greater. Thanks, Prime Minister. 

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you Brendan, remain there, if you would mind. David?

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister there are, [inaudible] Australians who are very worried about their job, and have to face the prospect of being unemployed, what’s your position on whether you could increase the Newstart allowance by something like $95 which is what some people have called for? But also really to make it easier for people to get it, because there will be so many people who won’t have navigated the Centrelink system before, can it be easier for them to get it? Can it be increased? And can the mutual obligation requirements be waived? 

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, David, these are exactly the issues that the Expenditure Review Committee, together with the Treasurer and I, that we have been addressing in a great amount of detail as we’ve worked through those. And indeed, we’ll be meeting again this afternoon, be putting the final touches on the package of measures that are designed to provide, to cushion the blow for exactly the blow that you’re talking about. 

There will be Australians over the next six months who, through no fault of their own, will find themselves with less work, with less income. And in the worst case, without a job, that is that is going to happen. And that’s going to happen to quite a number of people. And it’s our job to ensure that we do as much as we possibly can to cushion that blow and to put the other arrangements in place, like what has happened today with banks and others and what we’ll seek to do working through the states and territories for landlords and so on, to ensure that we can provide that support to people through these difficult next six months, through this transitional period, through this temporary period. And I can assure you, David, we are giving very close attention to the very things you’re talking about, because it will be a difficult time. People who have never known themselves to be out of work will be confronted in some cases with that prospect. And we want to make sure that we can help them as best as we can through what will be a difficult period for them and their family. 

Chris?

JOURNALIST:

PM there’s the Ruby Princess off the coast of New South Wales at the moment. It had confirmed cases of coronavirus, it let some people off in Sydney. This is the same liner that had the Diamond Princess experience before. So a couple of questions. What are the plans? What do you do with the Ruby Princess? Is there anything that we can do about this company? Has it behaved in an irrational way in continuing to run cruises? And of course, we, like you, are hearing stories from Australians who are now around the world demanding that the Australian government get them home. What’s your message to those?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, first of all, I mean, we will apply the same rules in relation to this vessel that have been applied to people getting off planes and things like this. There’s the 14 day isolation. There are a small number of cases, my advice is, that were identified on that ship, four I understand. Three individuals and one crew, where there are Australians on that ship were disembarking well they will be going into self isolation, which means self isolation. Just do it. Would be my message on that, to support what the Chief Medical Officer is saying and those who are internationals will face different rules. 

So we have got the international ban now coming into place around the country in relation to cruise vessels, and that will be enforced. In relation to those Australians who are in other places, as I said earlier this week, Qantas will continue to be maintaining flights out of a number of key hubs – and that’s Los Angeles, and London, and Hong Kong I understand, and Auckland and a few other places around the world. And we thank them for continuing to do that. And we are encouraging Australians to make their way home. Air New Zealand I understand, will continue to operate and the arrangement that Prime Minister Ardern and I came to yesterday means that Australians can transit through Auckland from other places and across to Australia, and likewise Kiwis can make their way home through Australia on the same basis. So we will just continue to respond to each challenge as it comes is my response. 

We have a good framework for dealing with it, a clear set of rules and we’ll seek to apply them. There’ll be some exceptional circumstances and cases here and there, but for those Australians who are finding themselves isolated in parts of the world, well the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, I’m particularly aware of the issue that was raised with me yesterday around Lima, where there are Australians who are in places which have already been cut off and you can’t get a flight up to L.A.X. or something like that, then the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Foreign Minister are bringing forward some matters for consideration by the National Security Committee. 

We’ll just go around, so I’ll go to Phil and then I’ll come back here and then over to you Mark, we’ll get around to everybody.

JOURNALIST:

You’re sort of flagged further restrictions if you like on travel pending the school holidays. Should people who have flights booked, domestic flights booked now start seeking refunds in anticipation of what you might announce next week? And just sorry, if I may. Secondly, on the potential lockdown of some neighbourhoods and so forth that you flagged, would that be confining people to their homes, closing businesses, that sort of thing? 

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, let me deal with the first one. If there were further advice for me to provide on travel today based on the National Cabinet, I would have certainly done that. We are saying that people should reconsider any unnecessary travel. That’s what, that is the clear advice. And that comes also with the backing of the medical experts panel but we will consider further advice on that and we know that is necessary in, to do so in time for the school holidays. And we agreed today that we need to do a bit more work on that and we’ll be getting that back on Tuesday. 

I should stress a couple of things around travel, as I did earlier in the week, as Dr. Murphy has said, the risk of being on a plane is very low. It is very low. The issue is not being on the plane, the issue is moving to different parts of the country and potentially large volumes of populations moving around the country. Now, states and territories are, as you’ve seen, the, Tasmania has already made their decision about how that will be treated. Other states may take those decisions for particular parts of their states, and that is entirely appropriate that they may consider doing that. And that’s why as we work through some of those issues, we’ll have further advice after the meeting on Tuesday night.

JOURNALIST:

Just on schools, a year 8 student in Adelaide got the virus from a teacher. How can you leave schools open when this sort of transmission is occurring? And what’s your concern- what’s your response to concerns from teachers, particularly, 40 per cent of which are over 50, that their well-being maybe isn’t being considered? 

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I might let the Chief Medical Officer respond to that question. But in terms of the decision of Premiers, Chief Ministers and myself in taking that advice, that outcome that you mentioned with a single transference, that would not be unexpected when you’ve got the number of cases increasing. But it still remains the case that the facts are that the incidence of cases amongst younger people is much lower than for the rest of the population. And it is still very much the case that 30 per cent of our health workforce would be compromised if schools were to be shut around the country. Now, we will continue to take advice and we’ll continue to monitor the situation closely. But the very clear decision of premiers, chief ministers and myself is that schools should remain open. Did you want to add to that, Brendan?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER:

So I think it’s really important to recognise that, as we said before, we think the risks to children with this virus is very low. Only 2.4 per cent of all the cases in China in Hubei Province were under 19. And there have been very, very, very few significant cases. Obviously, we do have some concerns that children may have a role in transmission, but most children who get the virus seem to have got it from adults, as you’ve seen in this case. We think that keeping children at home when there’s relatively low community spread is probably disproportionate, given that they probably won’t stay at home anyway. They may be cared for by elderly grandparents. There may be circumstances where outbreaks in an area are such that we do need to close schools for a period of time. Our view at the moment that this long haul strategy for the next six months, it is in the best interests of everybody to keep schools open and we think that risk is proportionate. 

PRIME MINISTER:

I think Mark was next.

JOURNALIST:

Dr. Murphy, can I just ask you, and I have a second question, a few cheeky one. But Dr Murphy, what is the latest advice on whether once you’ve recovered from COVID-19 that you can contract it again and my second question is you talk about indigenous communities being particularly susceptible. What arrangements, if any, are being made in Alice Springs where you do have a particular arrangement with the Americans where they can, Americans can fly in without quarantine or customs to service Pine Gap? What are we doing there? Are we expecting more of the Americans, given that the United States has been a big cause of infection around the world? 

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me deal with the second question – no, is the short answer to that question. The rules we are applying, we are applying across the board. But in terms of going into more detail about that facility, you wouldn’t expect me to do that. Brendan?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER:

So in terms of re-infection, we can’t be absolutely sure, but we think it’s very unlikely. There have been a couple of cases of people who have supposedly tested negative and then tested positive, been reported around the world, including one in Japan. But they are very isolated cases. We think it’s unlikely that a virus like this that isn’t mutating a lot, you would be susceptible to re-infection. But we don’t know for sure. Our assumption is that once people have had the infection, that it’s unlikely they will get it again. 

JOURNALIST:

What is sort of a tenants relief are you looking at? Would it be rent deferrals? Would it only apply to people who lose their jobs or the businesses are in distress? And when you want the states to have a decision on this, so it can be enacted? 

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’m not going to go into too much detail there because the states are only just commencing the work. New South Wales has been doing already quite a bit of work on this and so I’m going to allow them appropriately to take the lead on that and to define, I think, a lot of the issues you’re sitting out there, Mark, and in what circumstances, what would be the hardship triggers? Would this relate to waivers or deferrals? Would it relate to deductions or there are a range of different issues, remembering also that those who become eligible, I should note, this sort of I think goes to a point I think one of you were asking, I think it was you, David, that in those circumstances you would also trigger if you were to go on a Newstart payment or this jobseeker payment, that you also trigger eligibility for a range of other things like the family tax benefit for rental assistance and things like this. So it’s not just the Newstart payment, as important as that would be, it is also a range of other payments that you become eligible for. Even if under the Newstart taper rates, your eligibility for the actual Newstart payment is relatively low. You still trigger all the other eligibility to a range of other payments, which can be quite helpful. Michelle, Michelle and then I will keep going. 

JOURNALIST:

There’s been speculation running that the government might be willing to take over, to nationalise large companies if the crisis reaches that point, like Virgin for example. What’s your comment on that? 

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we have no plans along those lines, Michelle. I mean, what we are seeking to do and in a number of cases where we’ve provided great assistance to private companies to support important supply production in Australia, it is essential. And the Minister for Industry, Karen Andrews, has just been doing an outstanding job and in progressing a number of those issues. Those broader questions, Michelle, at this stage, there are no plans from the government. I wouldn’t want that to be misinterpreted. I mean, we are in unprecedented times, but we have no plans to be involved in those sort of nationalisation programs. That is a response that is not justified by what we’re seeing or anticipating at present. Kath? Make way, clear some healthy space.

JOURNALIST:

Will workers be able to access their superannuation savings as an income support measure during this crisis?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, we’ll be making further announcements on the next round of measures to cushion the blow for those who are directly impacted, whether they be small businesses or individuals soon. We continue to consider the composition of that package and when we’re in a position to make those announcements, we will. Sorry, over here, we haven’t had questions over here.

JOURNALIST:

Dr. Murphy, do you mind if I ask a slightly personal question, you’ve been working on this coronavirus since January. Are you finding the pace of the job exhausting?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER:

It is very intense, but it’s such an important job to provide advice to our governments collectively. And all of the state’s chief health officers, all of the experts we have have been very consistent and unanimous in their advice. So it’s a cause that’s worth pursuing, but it is pretty intense.

PRIME MINISTER:

We’re working hard to keep up with him, that’s what we’re doing. But also, I want to say this. I want to thank all of those members of the medical expert panel and Dr. Murphy and Dr. Kelly. There’s been quite a lot of commentary about them, but by all means, have a crack at politicians. We’re used to it, we’ve got broad shoulders. These guys have got a very important job to do and I would ask you to support them very strongly. We’re relying on them so you can rely on the decisions we’re making. The medical experts are giving us incredible advice, very timely. They’re working very hard and they are carrying great responsibilities. They deserve our great respect and our support. 

JOURNALIST:

On the charity sector, so the charities and non-profit sector employs around 10 per cent of Australian workers at the moment. They’re estimating that their donations and income streams are going to go down by about a third, which translates to potential job losses of around 300,000 people. Is your government going to be doing anything to support them, given that at the moment they’re saying that they can’t access business grants?

PRIME MINISTER:

I understand. A job is a job and we’re going to support people in jobs and if people find themselves out of work, regardless of where they’ve been working, then obviously we’re seeking to support them. But we’re taking a very broad view of the economy. I mean, these are not ordinary times. That means the ordinary rules and the ordinary measures that would apply in these circumstances will need to be changed to reflect that. And so that is very much in our thinking here.

JOURNALIST:

Just to get a sense of the scale in terms of the indoor bans, this courtyard would be less than 100 metres long and it’s certainly less than 100 metres wide. Are you saying if we put a roof over it, there are too many people in here at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER:

Not right now, I wouldn’t have thought, on quick maths, but this is an outdoor gathering, so 500 people could technically be here. But let me but let me say this. These are rules that we’re putting in place, I think, to support people making good decisions and enforce appropriate healthy distancing, social distancing to slow the rate. But you have a role to play, too, as does everybody in how they congregate together and ensuring that appropriate distance is being maintained between people. Sure, governments have got to put rules in place and we want to see that enforcement in place. But equally, every Australian has a role to play to slow this virus. Don’t wait to see a sign. Don’t wait for any other specific instruction, do the right thing, do the common sense thing and support each other and you will save lives. Over here. 

JOURNALIST:

On the testing criteria, is there going to be any discussion around relaxing them? It’s still a set of people overseas….

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER:

So we are looking actively at relaxing the testing criteria. We are now testing all aged care workers because aged care is such a crucial area. We will be testing healthcare workers with influenza like illnesses, all people presenting to hospital with pneumonia, in addition to the usual criteria of return travellers and contacts. And we will look at all, as this pandemic develops, we will be continually reviewing the testing criteria.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m going to leave it there because we have some other meetings to get to this afternoon. The key thing we’re saying today is we’re going to keep Australia running. There is a way through this and we need everybody to keep going forward. We need every single Australian to do what they can, whether they’re a parent, whether they’re a teacher, whether a nurse, whether a member of parliament, whether a journalist, whatever your job is or whatever you’re doing. I need you to keep doing it as much as you can, because if we keep doing it, if we keep holding together, then we will continue to make our way through this. We will get to the other side and on the other side, Australia will be stronger. Thank you all very much.

Helping small businesses get access to credit

Source: Australian Treasurer

To help small businesses get access to credit quickly and efficiently, the Government is providing greater certainty by ensuring that responsible lending obligations do not apply to the provision of credit to small businesses.

Currently, responsible lending obligations do not apply to lending which is predominantly for business purposes. To fall within this exemption, a lender must undertake due diligence to confirm that the money borrowed meets this test.

To allow lenders the ability to move quickly to support small businesses, the Government will provide an exemption from responsible lending obligations for a period of six months in relation to the credit they extend to their existing small business customers, provided there is an existing borrowing relationship and some proportion of that credit is used for business purposes.

The exemption will apply to new credit, credit limit increases and credit variations and restructures.

Credit providers regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) will remain subject to APRA’s prudential standards while the exemption applies, and providers who subscribe to an industry code will remain obliged to abide by that code. The Australian Financial Complaints Authority will retain its current jurisdiction to resolve complaints relating to lending.

The Government recognises that the environment for small business has changed and continues to evolve with the rapidly-evolving challenges posed by the coronavirus. This exemption represents a deliberate, measured and targeted adjustment of regulatory settings to provide the certainty and confidence necessary to allow small businesses access to credit in a timely and efficient manner.

These changes complement the Government and Reserve Bank of Australia’s coordinated actions yesterday to inject $105 billion into the financial system to support small and medium businesses to deal with the economic challenges that are being caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

The Morrison Government will continue to work closely with the banking industry and our financial regulators to support Australian jobs and businesses during this challenging time.