Friday, 06 March 2020

Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, Today Show, Channel Nine

Subjects: Coronavirus

KARL STEFANOVIC: Well the Government has extended the coronavirus response. Australians are now banned from travelling to South Korea, joining the list of China and Iran, while enhanced screening measures are being introduced in airports for people arriving from Italy.

ALLISON LANGDON: And joining us now is Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles. Good morning to you both.


PETER DUTTON: Morning guys.

ALLISON LANGDON: Well Peter, if we can go firstly to you. This school in Epping that we've just been talking about, 1200 students. I mean, that's such a worry for parents, isn't it?

PETER DUTTON: It sure is Ally. So obviously NSW Health I think have done a great job. And each of the States and Territory Health Departments have pretty tried and tested processes of trying to trace who this individual, who this student may have been in contact with, not just in the school environment, but at home and within the community otherwise. And it's worked pretty effectively so far to try and limit cases. We've got 59 cases in Australia at the moment. So that's a concern, but the expectation is it will grow beyond that. So we've just got to respond and make sure that people listen to the messages and get all of the advice that they can to keep safe.

KARL STEFANOVIC: You're in Washington DC at the moment obviously and we appreciate your being with us today on an important day for information. Is there anything you're seeing there that we could be doing here? Is there more of a strengthening of the borders that we should be seeing over the next couple of days?

PETER DUTTON: Well Karl, we're here for the signing of an agreement with the Internet companies on trying to keep kids safe online, away from child exploitation. But I've had a lot of meetings already where coronavirus has really dominated the conversation. So the Americans are concerned obviously as to what they're seeing elsewhere, including in Korea, Italy etc. They've got similar approaches at their border to what we have in Australia. So they'll monitor that. But they're working through, again, the tracing of people. They've had a case within an aged-care facility as well. And in Washington State they've had some real concerns. So they're essentially, I think, at the same point that we are. Certainly monitoring what's going on and watching what's happening internationally.

ALLISON LANGDON: Richard, do you think the Government's doing a good job managing the crisis and the fear?

RICHARD MARLES: I think they are. And the point to make here is that this is something which is well beyond politics. We just need all to be working together to deal with this and I think there are going to be some pretty big decisions that government is going to have to make over the coming weeks and months and the Attorney-General was right to forecast that. We need to, as we've said a lot, make sure that the medical advice is at the heart of government decision making and I think it is.

And I think we just – people need to be aware that as a country, we are as well placed to deal with this as almost any place in the world. We've got a fantastic health system, we're an island continent, we actually have agency in terms of being able to deal with this in a way that most countries don't. And I'm sure that the Government will be making the decisions that it needs to be making to get us through this.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Okay. There are some estimates Pete, as you would know, that this could wipe $27 billion off the economy. How do we not slip into recession? And at a time like this, I guess surpluses are a thing that we don't even need to worry about. We just need to do what we need to do.

PETER DUTTON: Well Karl, we've all been pretty clear about the fact that the health of Australians is the first priority and the Prime Minister's spoken about not just the extra support into the health system, but all of our agencies.

So in the Department of Home Affairs we're doing a lot of work to look at the impacts and the responses outside of the Health Department. So making sure that we can provide support to the Health Department, but making sure that our law enforcement agencies are well prepared. Making sure that wherever possible we've got supply chains or that we've got the continuity of essential services and support around masks, sanitiser – all those sorts of issues.

So we've been going through all of that planning. But it is a huge issue. It is a big blow to the economy. And as the Prime Minister's pointed out, we want to provide financial support.

But I think it's really important to point out that – as the doctor before has said and as Dr Brendan Murphy has said – we've got to put this into perspective. So going out to a restaurant, supporting local businesses, is incredibly important at the moment. If people are just staying at home, then we are going to see a much bigger impact, a negative impact on the economy than what might otherwise be the case.

ALLISON LANGDON: Richard, do you accept what some economic experts are saying is unavoidable, which is a recession?

RICHARD MARLES: Well, I'm not sure that was the evidence during the week. I think there is obviously going to be a very significant economic impact and it's important that the Government has a well targeted and significant stimulus package. And they've made it clear that they're working on that and we will approach that in a constructive way and give commentary as it occurs. And if we think that there should be more stimulus or if there are other areas that need to be dealt with, we'll be saying that. But the Government has made clear that they'll do a stimulus package in the next couple of weeks.

Yeah there's obviously going to be a very significant impact on the economy and it's important that the Government plays its part in trying to make sure that we get through this in an economic sense as well.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Richard, you can't really – and I don't want to be mean on a Friday, but you can't really bag the Government for not delivering a surplus when Labor hasn't delivered one in nearly 30 years.

RICHARD MARLES: Well Karl, I actually don't think now is a moment for politics so….

KARL STEFANOVIC: ….yeah but that is complete rubbish. I mean, you've made it about politics over the last couple of days. It is what it is. And you've certainly made the economy part of the politics of this situation.

RICHARD MARLES: Sure. I mean, the economy is an area where it's our job to go out there and make commentary about it and where we think that governments can do more or less then we should be saying that.

KARL STEFANOVIC: …that's all I was doing, just pointing out that you haven't delivered a surplus in 30 years.

RICHARD MARLES: And we will make those – we will give that commentary and we'll make those comments as we go along here.

But I think the point to make right now is that this is a very significant issue and that in a very bipartisan way, both sides of politics are going to be working to make sure that our country gets through this.

ALLISON LANGDON: Yeah. I mean, you've both seen the images over the last couple of days of empty supermarket shelves. Richard, can I ask you, have you stocked up on Labor's one ply?

RICHARD MARLES: Our household has a very healthy supply of toilet paper. I wouldn't say we are hoarding just yet. But look, I get the anxiety that people feel out there in relation to this. As far as I'm aware, toilet paper is not the secret antidote to coronavirus. I think wrapping ourselves in it is not going to get us through.

ALLISON LANGDON: …some have tried.

RICHARD MARLES: And I'm pretty sure that you'll be able to buy toilet paper no matter what happens throughout this period.

KARL STEFANOVIC: I know exactly what Peter Dutton's done. You said you're over there on some important mission, but you've just gone to go to Costco over there or to invest in some sort of bidet, haven't you Pete? Be honest.

PETER DUTTON: Yeah. I've got the suit cases packed, ready to bring it back Karl.


PETER DUTTON: Thanks guys. Thank you.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Alright. Appreciate that guys. Thank you Richard and thank you to Peter Dutton there.