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Politics

Scott Morrison interviewed by Ray Hadley

  • Written by Ray Hadley

RAY HADLEY: Morning.

PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray. Congratulations.

HADLEY: Ah, the India … Thank you very much. I very much appreciate that, it's very kind of you. They said it wouldn't last Prime Minister, it’s now five weeks and three days.

PRIME MINISTER: I'm sure it's got a long way to run mate.

HADLEY: Thank you. Now, India, I've spent the morning and most of late last week defending your position in relation to this. And all I pick up and read over the course of the weekend is you’re racist, your Government's racist and everyone else is racist. Can you elaborate on why you're not racist?

PRIME MINISTER: Because this is about health. I mean, the same accusations were made against the Government over a year ago when we closed the borders to mainland China, and that was one of the most important decisions we made as a Government. I mean there is a raging pandemic and we need to just continue to take decisions that are in the best health interests of Australia. What we've seen in recent weeks is the percentage of cases that are appearing in our quarantine from people who have arrived back, having been in India, go from 10 per cent to 50 per cent. We've seen a sevenfold increase in the rate of infection of those in our Howard Springs facility coming back from India. And so it's important that we ensure that we have a temporary pause here to strengthen those arrangements in those quarantine facilities, get stronger testing arrangements, both when from leaving India but also on people coming from third countries. And that's why we’ve had to put these arrangements in place. People, for example, coming back through third countries, that could be out of Doha or Dubai or other places like this, if they are there for 14 days, they can return home to Australia. But if they haven't, then they have to wait those 14 days. Now the alternative to doing what we've done Ray, was preventing those flights in their entirety, which would have stopped many hundreds, if not thousands, of other Australians coming home from other places. So this is a temporary arrangement. It's being put in place to ensure that we do not get a third wave here in Australia and that our quarantine system can remain strong. I mean the, yes, I understand the measures have strong sanctions with them, but we've had the Biosecurity Act in place now for over a year and no one's gone to jail. There hasn't been any irresponsible use of those powers. They've been used very, very carefully and I can assure people that they will be used appropriately and responsibly in these circumstances. But we've done all the right things to keep Australia safe during this pandemic. This is another very difficult decision. I feel terribly for the Indian community. I want to get those repatriation flights running safely again, and these are the things we have to do to ensure I can do that, so I can. We've already brought home some 20,000 people from India through supported flights and facilitated flights, and they were just those who are registered. And so that has been a big effort to get people home. There are more people who are caught there, and I want to ensure that we ready our facilities and our systems and our testing arrangements to sure we can bring more Indian Australians home.

HADLEY: See, one of the first questions posed by my listeners when you made the original announcement, without the fines and the sanctions imposed on the weekend, was what's the Government going to do to people who rort the system? Because you and I have spoken about it, you know, over and over and over again. You put things in place and I'm talking unrelated to the pandemic, and the first thing that happens is someone rorts the system to usurp what the Government’s doing trying to protect the community, in this particular case. And, and as you say, if someone wants to spend 14 days away from India, they can freely travel to Australia obviously, that's not a problem. But we had 400,000 cases in the last 24 hours, 400,000 Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, and more virulent strains too. I think that's one of the other differences. I mean, a few weeks ago we had to do something very similar in relation to Papua New Guinea. And, and that was a hard decision that we had to stop those direct flights coming into Cairns and places like that to protect North Queensland. And that was very effective. Now, there weren’t third countries Papua New Guineans go to to try and come to Australia. So we didn't have that problem. But in ensuring that we don't put undue strain, that we can take people back in an orderly way through repatriated flights, that's what we're gearing up to do. We discussed it with all the Premiers and Chief Ministers on Friday, about the need to to prepare for that time. And I particularly want to thank Gladys Berejiklian, she's been very supportive working with us. That's where we had direct flights into Sydney from, from India. So we agreed to pause those, and, and we're both quite keen to ensure that we can resume those when it's safe to do so. And we'll get to that as soon as we can.

HADLEY: Well, I know you've had problems at varying stages with, you know, the politics involved with Labor federally, but I note that the West Australian Labor Premier, who you've had problems with as well, Mark McGowan has backed absolutely, absolutely.

PRIME MINISTER: Yes he has, as has the South Australian Premier and as the New South Wales Premier. I mean, we're all just, you know, working to do what's right for the health interests of Australians. We’re deeply, deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis in India and that's why we're sending, you know, 1,000 non-invasive ventilators, we’re, we're sending, you know, a million surgical masks, we're sending 100 oxygen concentrators, we're, you know, providing support. Barry O'Farrell, well-known to your listeners, is over there leading a great consular team, providing support to Australians who are all over the country in India. So we're standing with our, with our Indian friends, as they're great partners of Australia. But Australian citizens and residents who are there, the best way I can effectively get them safely home is by doing what I'm doing right now. I'm disappointed that the Labor Party has chosen to politicise this once again and make those claims. I mean, you know, we've seen that right across the pandemic, and that's very disappointing. I mean, I've had more cooperation out of the state premiers of both political persuasions because we're all leaders of governments who understand our responsibilities. I have clear advice from the Chief Medical Officer that this is a decision that is supported and should take. And, and that's, we've done that all the way through and that's kept Australia safe.

HADLEY: The only thing I'd say to you is that my view was you waited a bit long. I mean, you finally did it. But there was no criticism from the federal Labor Party in Australia when Prime Minister Ardern did the same thing a month ago in New Zealand. No criticism or no racism allegations against her.

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, there wasn't. But and she, I mean, she's doing the same thing.

HADLEY: Yeah, exactly.

PRIME MINISTER: She's listening to medical advice. We’ve, we haven't all agreed with all the steps. You know, we've both made decisions which we believe are right for our own countries. But there's no politics or ideology in a pandemic, and I'm constantly taken aback by those who seek to inject it into it. It's got nothing to do with politics. This is a virus. It doesn't care whether you’re Labor, Liberal. It doesn't care, you know, where you're from. It'll get in and it can cause death in a country, like we're seeing in India and, you know, in our country Ray, if we'd had the fatality rate of COVID that the average of all the OECD nations have, and those are the countries which are like-minded to, you know, like economies, strong health systems to us, 30,000 more people would have died in Australia, 30,000. It's a staggering figure, and we prevented that here in Australia by working together. But it's also meant we've had to take some unpopular decisions on occasions, and I know this is one and my heart breaks for the Indian community. But I assure them I'm going to restore those repatriation flights. We will get them running again once we can safely bring people back to Australia. And that's how the Australian community, I know, will continue to support those repatriation flights when they have the confidence that they know we can do it safely.

HADLEY: Well, you talked about those figures, 30,000, less than a thousand is, less than a thousand. USA, 600,000. India approaching, at the moment, 300,000. Brazil, where we also banned 12 months ago, 407,000. I mean, look, I don't care whether you're a Liberal Prime Minister or you're a Labor Prime Minister or a Green Prime Minister. I don't care whether you're a Premier in Queensland from the Labor Party, the Liberal Party. I think all of you, all of you collectively have handled this crisis absolutely magnificently on behalf of our country. And that, I mean, there have been blues made along the way but, you know, we've been in territory, Scott, we've never been in before. We're uncharted, uncharted territory.

 

PRIME MINISTER: This is absolutely true, and we've always been conscious of that. My Cabinet, that is, you know, the Federal Cabinet with Michael McCormack and Josh Frydenberg and Marise Payne and others, we've been conscious of that, Greg Hunt, all the way through, but also the National Cabinet. And it's just about, you know, making sure that we keep Australians safe, but also we keep them in jobs and their livelihoods. Australia is living at the moment like few countries in the world, and I'm not going to put that at risk. And that means taking some hard calls like this. But we will do it compassionately and we will seek, as I say, to restore those flights coming back, chartered flights into Australia, when we can do that safely. I was up in Howard Springs last week, inspected those facilities, talking to the medical officers on the ground there, the nurses, the, those who are involved there, the security people, the local police, and, and they're doing a great job up there. They’re doing a tremendous job for our country, as all those working in quarantine are. And we can't, we've just got to make sure we manage the system and not put too much strain on it. And here in New South Wales they're doing the biggest job, taking 3,000 people in a week. That is an heroic effort out of New South Wales, and I'm very grateful for the New South Wales Government for the responsible, you know, the decisions they've taken on all that.

HADLEY: I might just mention that, you'd be heartened, I've said publicly and I'll repeat it again, I think those people who’ve come from India to settle here are among the best immigrants we've ever had.

PRIME MINISTER: No doubt.

HADLEY: They’re productive, they’re hardworking, they’re decent. And I'll tell you what, they also, they understand. I've had about 12 emails this morning from different parts of the country, people been here for over 10 years, 14 years, 50 years, from India, and they say the same thing, we are doing the right thing. And these are people who have mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and siblings in India, and they understand all of that. The one thing they've asked me, asking me, and I'll ask you now, obviously it's down to the Chief Medical Officer. This is a pause until the middle of the month. Obviously, you'll review it at the middle of the month and see what the step, next step is. Is that the case?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah that’s the case, and Ray I mean, I can, and we’ll be reviewing it before then, too.

HADLEY: Alright.

PRIME MINISTER: With Greg Hunt and the Chief Medical Officer. And we will continue to do that. We'll do it, you know, this week. We'll do it the following week. This only needs to be there in place for as long as it needs to be there to keep Australians safe. And I would just implore all those members of the, Australians and Australian residents as well, with family and friends in India, who have Indian heritage. A) I want to thank them for their patience and their understanding with this decision. I know there'll be plenty of people who will try to tell them all sorts of things about this, about what it means. It only means that we're trying to keep Australians safe. And as Australians, we're all in this together and, and it's very tough for them and I thank them for their patience and their understanding. And we're going to do everything we can to help both our great friends in India as a country, but more specifically, Australian citizens and residents and their families.

HADLEY: Well done. We're lucky to have you. Thanks so much.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot, Ray. All the best.

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