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The Times


Ensuring a consistent Australian foreign policy - Scott Morrison

  • Written by Scott Morrison

The Morrison Government will introduce new legislation to ensure the arrangements states, territories, councils and universities have with foreign governments are consistent with Australian foreign policy.


The Commonwealth Government has exclusive responsibility for conducting Australia’s foreign affairs. However, state and territory governments and their entities currently also enter into arrangements with foreign governments in a range of areas – from trade and economic cooperation to cultural collaboration and university research partnerships – without having to inform the Commonwealth.


Under the reforms, the Foreign Minister will have the power to review any existing and prospective arrangements between state and territory governments and all foreign governments.


Arrangements that adversely affect Australia’s foreign relations or are inconsistent with our foreign policy could be prevented from proceeding or terminated.


The laws will cover state or territory entities, including departments, agencies, local governments and universities established under state or territory law.


The Commonwealth Government has the policy expertise and comprehensive understanding of the risks and opportunities associated with any arrangements with foreign governments.


This legislation will support state and territory governments to ensure they are acting in a way that serves Australia’s national interests, is consistent with our values and aligned with our foreign policy objectives. This will give states and territories the confidence necessary to enter into arrangements with foreign government entities.


The Morrison Government looks forward to working closely with state and territory governments, councils and universities and providing all Australians with the certainty that all levels of government are aligned to ensure a consistent approach to managing Australia’s foreign relations.

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, everyone. Can I start today, before moving to the reason for today's press conference - and I'm joined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs - to thank Australians, whether they be in the hot spot of Melbourne or they be in regional parts of the country where they're dealing with the incredible frustration of border restrictions. Can I thank the small businesses of this country, the large businesses of this country, keeping people in work? This has been a very difficult time, a very frustrating time, a very anxious time. And Australians have just kept their determination up, their positivity, wherever they can. And I want to thank them. Just simply thank them and ask them to continue to demonstrate the goodwill and the good faith they have, despite the frustrations and the limitations and the anxieties that they have to cope with every day. As we gather here in this Parliament, under different circumstances to usual, the circumstances faced by many Australians, particularly in Victoria and in those border regions, is something quite different and I just want Australians to know that we get that. And we know that. And we very much appreciate what you are doing each and every day. I welcome the fact that we've seen again the continuation of lower numbers than we have seen in Victoria. Nowhere near what we'd like them to be and, of course, the fatalities we continue to see are devastating and particularly for the families directly involved and, of course, we know that we will continue to see that for some time yet as the impacts of the community transmission, as it's worked its way through the Victorian community, will continue to have those impacts. But that said, Victoria has turned the corner and we will continue to invest our efforts in assisting them to ensure that we can continue to get this outbreak under control and return life in Melbourne and across Victoria to as normal as you can in a COVID-safe world, as soon as we can and working with the state and territories to ensure that other restrictions, wherever they can be removed, be removed as soon as possible. The restrictions should be in only for as long as they are absolutely needed and they should only be placed in where they are absolutely needed, based on that medical advice. 


But to the announcement that we're making today, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs has already had the opportunity to make comment on this earlier today in media appearances this morning. But protecting and promoting Australia's national interest is the primary job of the Federal Government. It is what Australians elect federal governments to do. And this has always been our primary focus for our Government. We need to ensure that Australia, not just at a federal level, but across all of our governments, speak with one voice, act in accordance with one plan, consistent with the national interest, as set out in Australia's foreign policy, as determined by the Federal Government. And the new Australian Foreign Relations Bill does just that. Drawing on the powers available to us in the constitution, it enshrines those powers and provides very clear directions to do a number of important things. To establish the power to cancel and prohibit arrangements, memoranda, partnerships, that are not consistent with Australia's foreign relations, that damage our foreign relations. It compels notification across all of those areas to ensure that we are aware when agreements, memoranda and other partnerships have been formed, to provide a transparency around all of those arrangements, which is important to assist the Federal Government to pursue our foreign policy, which is about protecting Australia's national interests and promoting those national interests, and to ensure ultimately a greater awareness of the federal foreign policy settings that we are seeking the alignment of and the support of and the cooperation with, of governments and government-related entities right across Australia. More than 130 agreements, from 30 countries - and that's just states and territories that we know of and that are in the public domain - so the combination of the notification process which, in some cases, could lead to the cancelling of those arrangements, or their prohibition as governments or local governments or, indeed, universities, in those circumstances that apply to them. In those circumstances, it may lead to that, but it also may assist us that, where there are partnerships with other governments at subnational level or otherwise, that can assist Australia in promoting our foreign affairs and national interests, as we pursue those around the word, be it in trade, or people-to-people relationships. Having knowledge of those arrangements can greatly assist us, with our posts overseas and the work we are doing. So this is an important day for sovereignty in Australia. It's an important day for ensuring that Australia's national interest is protected, is promoted. That is our responsibility and that is our pledge to the Australian people to follow through on that pledge. 


Now, I want to turn to one other matter before moving to the Foreign Minister and that is this week we're also introducing landmark legislation that sees Australia take responsibility for our waste and establishes a national industry relationship framework for recycling. The Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill will phase in the end of 645,000 tonnes of processed plastic, paper, glass and tyres that Australia ships overseas every year. The Bill will implement the export ban on waste, plastic, paper, glass and tyres agreed by the then COAG in March of this year, one of its final agreements in that form of COAG. And the ban will commence in phases beginning with waste from the 1st of January next. At the same time, the reforms to the regulation of product stewardship will incentivise companies to take greater environmental responsibility for the products they manufacture and what happens to those products and materials at the end of their life. The Bill complements the recycling modernisation fund and national waste policy action plan, which will create 10,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. That's a 32 percent increase in jobs in the Australian waste and recycling sector and these reforms will drive a billion-dollar transformation of Australia's waste and recycling capacity. It's our waste. It's our responsibility. We've got to deal with it and recycle it and repurpose it and reuse it here to both drive jobs in the recycling sector and improve the quality of our environment. This has been a key issue I've been raising, not just in the Pacific Islands Forum and I only just spoke this morning to the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare but it has also been an issue that I've been raising in the East Asian Summit and with our ASEAN friends and colleagues where waste plastics in oceans is destroying communities, it is destroying their livelihoods, it is destroying their health and this was a pledge that I said we would honour and follow through on. I think this is a great day for demonstrating Australia's leadership when it comes to an export ban on these waste products. When I talk to kids in schools, that's what they talk to me about. They talk to me about those plastic bottles and the things in the oceans, whether it's their rivers and oceans and streams, or those floating around in the Pacific or around the seas of South-East Asia. And so I'm very pleased that the Environment Minister will be introducing that Bill today, as I know the Minister for Foreign Affairs is also.


SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Thank you very much, Prime Minister and you're right, that will be a particularly well received initiative in our region and is one which is a very important step forward. 


If I could just make a few further remarks on the Foreign Relations Bill which, as the Prime Minister said I've already spoken about a couple of times this morning. I think, most importantly, this legislation is about ensuring that we are consistent as a nation with respect to how we deal with the world, that we are taking a national perspective in our national interest and we're all working on the world stage as a team. To date, there hasn't been a requirement, and not even a clear understanding, that the states and territories might consult with the Commonwealth when they make arrangements with foreign governments. And those arrangements often cover a wide range of issues, whether it's sister-city relations to trade and economic cooperation. We recognise the contribution these arrangements can and do make to Australia's international engagement. The Commonwealth, and particularly my Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has a deep and broad expertise to assess whether arrangements with foreign governments are in the national interest. When we don't have a process of consultation, the Commonwealth has no opportunity to review the proposed arrangements, nor to apply that expertise. We risk having an uncoordinated, patchwork approach to contracts or MoUs or relationships and collaborations that could have an adverse effect on our foreign policy. What the legislation will do is to give state and territory governments confidence when entering into arrangements that they are acting in a way that serves Australia's national interests, that it's aligned with our values and consistent with our foreign policy objectives. The legislation, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, will apply to existing and prospective arrangements between a state and territory government and foreign government. We're not looking to impinge on state and territory government’s proper functioning or to micromanage these dealings with the world. But it's appropriate and it’s necessary that the Commonwealth Government manage our foreign relations, protect our national interest, and importantly maintain our values as a nation in doing that. Consistency, consultation and doing the due diligence on undertakings and arrangements is, I think, what the Australian people expect of their national government.


JOURNALIST: If you’re prepared to assert your power over this, would you consider legislating in order to take over state borders, to prevent border closures where they're not necessary? Something that's really harming the national economy. And how many agreements do you see being cancelled as a result of this? Do those agreements include the Victorian Belt and Road Initiative?


PRIME MINISTER: Well, let me deal with the first part of the question. In relation to the border arrangements that have been put in place at a state level, as I said yesterday and I've said many times, Australia wasn't built to have internal borders. Having internal borders in Australia is an extreme response, which can be necessary in extreme circumstances and based on proper medical advice and a very transparent process for doing that. And we saw in relation to the New South Wales-Victorian border. What occurred there was cooperation between the neighbouring states and, indeed, the Commonwealth. The appointment of a border commissioner to try and resolve the many heart-breaking examples that we continue to work through today, and, you know, when borders get put up within a country like Australia, it is very difficult to try and avoid the sort of circumstances we've seen occur. Very, very difficult to do that. But obviously, when it comes to that particular border, and the very extreme situation we've seen in Melbourne, that it was agreed amongst both premiers and myself that that was a necessary action and one that I hope is one that won't have to remain, hopefully, for much longer. And particularly as the situation in regional Victoria confirms itself, hopefully it won't be needed much longer. But I am confident that in the relationship and the way we're working together within the federation between New South Wales, Victoria and the Commonwealth and those matters, I think, can be properly resolved. I've had similar discussions with the Western Australian Premier about how those arrangements can best operate. The constitutional issues around this are not as clear-cut as the constitutional issues when it comes to the Commonwealth's foreign affairs powers. I think they're very clear. So I think we're talking about a different area of grey and, you know, the National Cabinet has achieved many great things over these last six months and I can understand that Australians are frustrated that the border issues through that process are not being addressed as well as we'd hoped. That has not been through any lack of effort, I can assure you, on the Federal Government's part. But it does demonstrate that the constitutional powers that sit around internal borders are vague when it comes to dealing with specific circumstances. It's all about proportionality and when you're looking at a border between Victoria and New South Wales, that's one set of circumstances. In other places, it's different. So I will continue to work to ensure that we have a transparent process and a fair process, that there are appropriate appeal rights that are in place, for people who are affected by these decisions. Because it does affect their lives. I'll have a bit more to say about this tomorrow at the Bush Summit, not far from here in Cooma. But it is important that we continue to remove barriers where they're not necessary, and where there are barriers, we have the most sensible, practical and time-limited arrangements and people know when they can come off so they can get on with their lives. That's always been my very strong view. National Cabinet has never made one decision that supports the unilateral imposition of borders within Australia. There is no resolution of National Cabinet to that end. Where states have made those decisions, they've made them either, as I've said, with the Commonwealth in the case of the Victoria and New South Wales border, or they've made them unilaterally on their own behalf and they are the ones who have to explain how that works and how it is administered. 


Now, in relation to the many agreements - as I've said, there's 130, I think, Marise, that we're aware of - I'm not going to prejudice the outcome of any decisions the Minister for Foreign Affairs might make. It's important that, A, the legislation is passed. I wrote to Premiers yesterday. I had already flagged with premiers and chief ministers at the national security briefing they had some weeks ago that we would have more to say in this area and flagged that they would be getting advice along these lines, and provided that to them yesterday. Once the legislation has been through our party room, we'll share that with the states and territories and we’ll work through that. But any individual arrangements, well, it's a pretty clear test - if they're inconsistent with federal foreign affairs policy, they'll go.


We’ll just do one at a time, I think, Andrew. Rosie?


JOURNALIST: On that, have you received any advice, or have you personally formed the view that the Victorian BRI deal is inconsistent with the national interest? And just on the borders, are you suggesting you will introduce a national appeal process so people can actually  appeal when they get knocked back from exemptions?


PRIME MINISTER: It's important that, when you act in accordance with powers that are yet to be established, that you do not prejudice decisions and so I'm not going to say anything here and the Foreign Affairs Minister wouldn't be saying anything here that could potentially prejudice any decisions that we might make after properly reviewing any agreements that are currently in place, because if we were to take decisions that were to cancel those, they should be done according to the proper process set up under the legislation so it would be irresponsible of me or the Foreign Affairs Minister, I think, to go into the specifics of any one agreement at this point. There's been plenty of commentary on the ones that you referred to. There's plenty of commentary on that. And matters have been raised on those directly with Premiers where that's been necessary, but we will act in accordance with powers that are established by the Parliament and my job right now, and the Foreign Affairs Minister, is to get the support of this, of these powers through the Parliament and then we'll deal with individual instances. In relation to how any sort of a proper appeal mechanism works, well, in some states they do have them and what I'd be seeking is more of a harmonisation and a consistency in how states apply those. It is not, they're not federal borders. They are state borders, for states to administer, and they need to do so in a way which minimises the pain and the hardship and the inconvenience that is not necessary and that Australians, wherever they live, have the appropriate review mechanisms in place for any administrative decision that can impact on them and their livelihoods and, indeed, their health. 




JOURNALIST: To the Foreign Minister first of all, this is a pretty big constitutional flex. Are you expecting any pushback from states and territories who are worried about their sovereignty when it comes to making these agreements? And, Prime Minister, there's been some comments in New Zealand about the Christchurch mosque terrorist potentially serving any sentence here in Australia. Are you open to some sort of an arrangement about that sentencing with New Zealand?


PRIME MINISTER: Well, I might deal with that one first, Marise, and pass to you on the other matter. This is not a matter which the Prime Minister Ardern has raised with me. It's normal practice that criminals convicted of these offences serve their sentences in that jurisdiction, and that's my understanding of what the arrangements are and no request has been made to Australia for that to be any different. And I remember these events, as we all do, terribly and, once again, as New Zealanders in particular are brought to remembrance of that, just, unthinkable day, my heart goes out to them and, it brings it all back, even as we stand here, it's bringing it back for me. Jenny and I were incredibly touched by meeting the survivors of that attack, and the incredible grace that they showed afterwards was astounding, and inspiring. And so, to all those affected by that, including the Muslim community here in Australia, for whom it's brought remembrance, still thinking, still thinking of you. 

On the other matter, there is only one sovereignty in Australia and it's Australian. I mean we are sovereign Australians. We are all Australians and that's where our sovereignty rests, and that's how I’d respond.


MINISTER PAYNE: I don't have anything to add to that.


JOURNALIST: The legislation includes the formation of a public register for all of the deals to have more transparency. Will you also be making it public every time a deal is vetoed or removed? What's the process for transparency for the details that don’t make that register?


MINISTER PAYNE: We’ll establish the register, the details of those will be covered under the legislation and that will all be public as the legislation comes forward in the next week, but the intention is to make the arrangements transparent.


JOURNALIST: Just on federal borders, earlier this week, the Federal Court ruled that WA's hard border was protecting the public health of the state. Do you now accept that WA's border has protected the state's public health and do you accept that the court decision has vindicated the WA Government's decision on the hard border?


PRIME MINISTER: Well, I haven't disputed the first point that you've made. I didn't dispute it at the time the Premier put it in place and didn't oppose it then. So that's been our position. The Federal Court has found on facts, the High Court will now consider those facts and make a decision on the broader issues, so we'll just have to wait to see what the High Court says on the other matter. As you know, we withdrew from the case at the request of the Premier in full compliance with his request, and we undertook to work with him to find a constitutionally effective way of continuing to protect the health of Western Australians and that's exactly what I've been doing, and I’ve been in engagements with the Premier on that over the past week. And so we continue to work together on that.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, without going to any individual agreements, is it your concern, then, that foreign governments have been seeking to divide Australia by using the states and territories against the Commonwealth?


PRIME MINISTER: Let me answer this way - where any foreign government seeks to undermine the sovereignty of Australia's foreign policy by seeking to do deals with subnational governments, Australia needs to protect itself from that. And importantly, that's why, probably, I'd argue, more than anyone previously, although I know there were briefings provided, but not at this level of detail - I arranged for all premiers and chief ministers to know what I know - about Australia's national security issues and interests. And that was a useful briefing we held some weeks ago and I think what we've announced today is therefore not unsurprising or unexpected on their part and I particularly welcome the comments by the South Australian Premier today. We need to all work together to protect Australia's national interests and I think this bill, these laws, will aid us in doing that.




JOURNALIST: A few years ago, you changed…


PRIME MINISTER: Katherine always gets a question.


JOURNALIST: In terms of speaking with one voice…


PRIME MINISTER: I'm not sure about Andrew. Not you.


JOURNALIST: Back to speaking with one voice, a few years ago, you changed the FIRB regime to include state asset sales after the Port of Darwin lease and now you've done this, this measure you're announcing today. Are there any other areas of leakage in terms of foreign interference through the states or the territories that, beyond this measure, that you're looking at?


PRIME MINISTER: You're right to say, Phil, as I think you wrote today, after the Port of Darwin issue which, as you know, was a problem in that that was not a matter which the federal laws enabled to be brought for Federal Government approval, and that's why I had those fixed with the cooperation, full cooperation of the states and territories, which I very much welcomed at the time, to ensure that that was dealt with, so that those circumstances wouldn't be repeated and, of course, you're aware of the very significant announcements the Treasurer has made, here with me, about a month or so ago, which has further addressed issues that particularly were raised by the FIRB board, to ensure that we address those and here we have, again, today, some further announcements. So this is a pretty comprehensive response I think is the best way to answer that, Phil. But obviously if we identify other things that are necessary to protect Australia's national interest, you'll never find me hesitating. 




JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, traditionally the Liberal Party is the party of state rights. That's your history. How does what you're announcing today in terms of the unilateral termination of state agreements sit with the party's history? And also, if I may, is it the advice - is it the Commonwealth's advice that the external affairs power provides absolute coverage for you to do this, down to the termination of contracts?


PRIME MINISTER: Well, one, these contracts don't deal with private companies and those issues. It involves government-to-government, government entity to government entity type arrangements. In terms of our history of federalism, well I'm a passionate federalist. That's why I moved to establish the National Cabinet. Because I know we get a lot more done together and the responsibilities of the states are very significant, whether it be on health care or on schools or on planning approvals and all of these sorts of things - there are many things that we can't achieve in protecting the lives of Australians and the livelihoods of Australians if we don't work together. And I'm not seeking to change any of the powers here. I'm seeking to ensure that the powers that we have, and we're responsible for, that we deal to, and that is external affairs, that is foreign affairs. That's what the constitution invests in the Federal Government. So I think honouring the constitution sits very much alongside the federalist tradition of certainly our party and I think this is a very important affirmation of that. I mean, I remember - I said this in my maiden speech in the Parliament - you know, states are responsible for some things, federal governments are responsible for others and the best way to get along is for everyone to do their job and to do it as well as possible and not try and do others' jobs and that's what is certainly the way I've sought to approach this pandemic and the many other issues that are there. We all just need to do our jobs and that's certainly what we're doing and, in many cases, those jobs combined, as we've seen around aged care - we have very clear responsibilities in relation to aged care, and the state governments have very clear responsibilities for public health, and in a pandemic, they come together and they overlap, so you have to work together.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the report that was released this week into the Newmarch House outbreak, earlier this year, revealed that there were mistakes that was made in that house that were repeated, repeatedly, in Victoria, especially at St Basil's, issues with food, issues with staff being furloughed - given that this was months later and you've repeatedly said, and Richard Colbeck has repeatedly said lesson would be learned, given that we are now seeing dozens of people dying in Victorian aged care facilities, why weren't these lessons learned? Why were these mistakes repeated? And who is to be held accountable?


PRIME MINISTER: Well I don't share your analysis completely on that. And I responded to a question on this in the House yesterday, where I set out the key findings and learnings of the Newmarch report, and how they had been specifically applied, including in the case of St Basil's, as well as Kalyna and a whole range of other facilities, and the events that unfolded with the COVID pandemic in Victoria, which had moved to a level we had not yet seen in Australia, and, as we know, have impacted health care facilities in Victoria and many other facilities in Victoria, that all of, whether it's the aged care providers themselves who had been made aware of what was necessary in these circumstances, or the responsibilities of the Federal Government and the actions of the public health agencies, these lessons were certainly sought to be implemented in all of these cases, and the fact that, as I've reminded you all on a number of occasions now, in the UK, 56 per cent of aged care facilities have had resident and staff infections. That figure in Australia is 8 per cent. 8 per cent. And the number of facilities that have been acutely affected in Victoria has been 4, out of over 700 facilities in that state. Now, those 4 circumstances were unacceptable outcomes. And we've been very clear about that. My fear when the COVID pandemic hit in Victoria was that we could have potentially seen far more. Because of the scale of that outbreak. And as horrific as those four cases were, I'm so pleased that it did not extend to so many more and the fact that we've reduced it down from 13 that we were watching very carefully, that didn't all escalate to the levels we saw at Epping Gardens and St Basil's and others. That has come down to 3 again, and has remained at 3, but there are still real issues in those 3 facilities and we're monitoring them closely every single day. So we will continue to apply those lessons. We are dealing with a global pandemic where there's no guarantees. The only guarantee we can give you is of our complete effort in dealing with every situation that presents.


JOURNALIST: On the BRI, what's the nature of the 2017 MoU between the Australian and Chinese governments, and secondly, on the Mengniu decision from Josh Frydenberg, what were the reasons… the Mengniu decision, not to allow the sale to proceed? If national security, I understand. But what were the reasons - or national interest - given that the ACCC, Treasury, and we read the FIRB also said - or cleared the sale?


PRIME MINISTER: Well, the first question in relation to the arrangement with Minister Ciobo in 2017 was about cooperating in third party markets. It did not sign up to or endorse BRI. So that was not an arrangement that endorsed the BRI. It's not, it’s never been our government's policy, under either myself or the previous Prime Minister, that we signed up to or endorsed the BRI. So that was not such an agreement in those terms. In relation to the other matter, well, decisions on foreign investment are matters entirely and solely for the Treasurer, having served as a Treasurer, I understand that. They're done on a national interest basis and he's made that decision in accordance with the national interest as he's seen it, in relation to the advice he has received.


JOURNALIST: … in the June quarter it collapsed - business investment fell in the June quarter as largely forecast. How do you think all these issues and changes with China on trade, on foreign investment, how do you think that chips away at business confidence to re-invest?


PRIME MINISTER: What is important in relations with any country and our trade with China, as we speak, has never been at a higher level in terms of volumes or value. And I think that demonstrates, I think, the resilience of the mutual benefit that exists in the relationship between China and Australia. They make things and sell things that we want and we make things and sell things that they want. We've got a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that enables that trade to take place and to reach the record levels it has. But what is also important in that relationship is that we're all very clear about what our interests are and that we're consistent about it. And Australia has always been, under our Government, very clear and very consistent about where we stand on important issues regarding our interests and our sovereignty, as have China, and I think that clarity creates certainty.


JOURNALIST: You’ve made five or six announcements or speeches this year which could be seen as attacking China.


PRIME MINISTER: I reject that.


JOURNALIST: You reject it?




JOURNALIST: Well, all these laws are about China, are they not?


PRIME MINISTER: No. These laws are about Australia's national sovereign interests.


JOURNALIST: Yet your biggest concern is China, is it not?


PRIME MINISTER: My biggest concern is Australia's national sovereign interest.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Dan Andrews, it looks like Daniel Andrews will extend his emergency powers for six months, not a year as initially flagged. Is six months still too long? What do you think the ultimate timeframe is?


PRIME MINISTER: Ultimately, it's a call he has to make. And the nature of those laws in Victoria are different to how the laws work in New South Wales, which I understand are sort of open ended arrangements to how their legislation is set up. I think the concern the other day was the shock and the surprise to Victorians who were already in a pretty fragile and sensitive state. And I'm pleased there's been greater clarity that has been put around what the Premier announced. I wasn't the only person asking for that. I certainly communicated that to him as a concern, as I indicated to you yesterday. So I'm sure Victorians are relieved and pleased to know that there's not just not another 12 months of lockdown, but there's not enough six months of lockdown. And that's a matter for the Premier to deal with through his Parliament and what they agreed to provide. We have had our arrangements on a rolling three month review and we deal with that and review it regularly. This is why I was pleased to come to an agreement with the New South Wales Premier that, particularly when it comes on the issue the Foreign Minister and I have been working on, in terms of residents returning to Australia, that the Premier and I are reviewing those caps on a fortnightly basis, based on the most recent information. I think one of the key lessons in the pandemic is you’ve got to take things as they come. You’ve got to deal with the information in front of you, because it changes rapidly. Lock yourself in too far out and you can find circumstances change. Sure, you've got to give as much certainty as you can, and you've got to show the direction, and that’s why the direction I want to clearly set is to reopen Australia again, just like we did back in June, and we were on a great track. And sure, we've had a huge setback in Victoria, but we need to get back on that horse and we’ve got to go forward.


JOURNALIST: How will a National Commissioner prevent veterans from committing suicide and when will you appoint that person?


PRIME MINISTER: We're getting very close on that. The legislation, as you know, is coming through this week. And it has been a difficult task to find someone to take on those responsibilities because it needs to carefully combine the empathy, the sensitivity, the professional skills, to deal with looking at every single occasion where this has occurred and, regrettably, fear will occur in the future. The role of this Commissioner is to ensure that in each of these cases and the legislation that supports it is that in every case, we understand fully what has occurred. And so that can constantly inform the policies and supports that we put in place to support veterans. This has been a consistent area of action for my government. It's an area that I'm pleased to see us getting this in place, but you need to get the right people to implement it so it works effectively and that's what we've been working hard to try to achieve. I wish there was something that could be done that you could give a guarantee it prevents these things happening. I know people like Phil Thompson, the Member for Herbert, would love to see that happen. We all would. And we'll strive to find what it is. But I think this quite unique power, which treats these circumstances, these particular cases, with such personal attention, to understand every case, and why, because there are many factors. There are many factors when it comes to suicide in this country and it's not a simple linear process that has led people to take their own lives. Whether it's a young person, and this morning on the daily call that we have, Ruth Vine and Christine Morgan, each and every day, give me an update on the work they're doing, particularly at the moment to help young people in school and in university and other places of training, who are very anxious about their future. So whether it's young people dealing with that, and I know parents are worried about that. Whether it's our veterans, those who are going under quite significant economic hardship, particularly those suffering through the lockdown in Melbourne. I want to assure Australians that mental health was, from memory, the first thing we announced funding for, when it came to addressing the pandemic and we've continued to act on that all the way through. As important as it is for the pandemic, my mind has not also not left the plight of veterans. As you know, I acknowledge them every opportunity I have. And in acknowledging them, I hope that is a reminder to them that when it comes to their mental health, the supports that they need, that is something this Government considers each and every day. Thank you very much.

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