The Hon. Scott Morrison Prime Minister, Multicultural Press Conference – Wednesday 7 October 2020



             The Hon. Scott Morrison MP

Prime Minister




 PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much. And thank you all for joining us today. I’m glad we could do this today. Specifically focusing in on the many communities that make up modern Australia. Australia is the most successful multicultural nation anywhere on Earth. We are the most successful immigration nation anywhere on Earth. Immigration has been one of the key pillars of Australia’s social and economic success over a very long period of time. The composition of our migration changes over the course of our history. But it is it will always be part of our future and it is a very important part of our past. And so I want to thank you for joining us today to focus particularly on the budget we released last night. Australia has been able to absorb and cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic from both the health and economic perspective better than most of the countries around the world today. Our health performance, our health performance, combined together with our economic performance, puts us in a handful of countries that have achieved the same level.

JOURNALIST: Rosa, PM is on mute.

PRIME MINISTER: This is on mute as it? Can anyone hear what I’m saying? Have we got an audio issue. I’m just checking the audio. If people could nod if they are receiving the audio.

Press star six. That’s to mute. Are we receiving the audio now?

JOURNALIST: Yes, we are.

PRIME MINISTER: Excellent. I might start again then, if that’s okay. Well, look, thank you everyone for joining us. What I was just saying was that Australia, as you will appreciate, is the most successful multicultural nation on Earth. We are the most successful immigrant nation on earth. Hundreds and hundreds of different nationalities, cultural and language groups have been brought together into Australia to make us the strong nation we are today. Immigration has been a key pillar of our economic success and social success in the past and will continue to be and is a major part of our future. We lead the world in social cohesion. We lead the world in successful immigration programmes. The COVID-19 crisis has obviously had a very significant impact on how our programme runs, and it is also impacting our connectedness with the rest of the world. With the travel restrictions and other international border restrictions that are in place not just in Australia but all around the world. But what I will say about what Australia has been able to achieve in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic is there is that we are amongst a handful of countries that have had similar success in cushioning the blow, both from the COVID-19 pandemic in the COVID-19 recession that has gone around the world. The world economy is participating forecast of contract by four and a half per cent this year. During the global financial crisis just over a decade ago the global economy contracted by nought point one per cent. So the scale of the economic challenge that we’re facing around the world today is 45 times greater than the global financial crisis. Now, you will know this with the way that this has impacted here in Australia, but you will know it even more so in many of the host countries that the language groups and ethnic groups that you’re representing through your various publications around the world this pandemic has had a devastating impact. And in many countries that impact is worsening, not improving as the case numbers grow and that collapses in on their economies. Now, Australia is not immune to these things. Australia is not immune to the economic or the health consequences of the pandemic. But together with South Korea, with Taiwan as another economy, with Norway and Finland, Australia stands with that group of nations as the best performing on both health and economic terms throughout this pandemic. And we intend to keep it that way by getting the right balance. There are countries that may have had fewer fatalities per million population than Australia, but that has come as a heavy economic cost. New Zealand, for example, has had a 12 point two per cent fall in their economy in the June quarter. Australia was seven per cent in Sweden, for example. They have had not only a more open response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have had 5,000 additional deaths through their economy and through their nation, which would have been absolutely devastating. And still, Australia’s economic performance has been better. Now, I make those points not to be critical of other nations. We are all dealing with this in the way that sovereign governments do, and they make the decisions that we make and the balance the various interests that need to be balanced. But I make the point that Australia is together with just a handful of nations coming through this crisis better than most around the world today. Now, in this budget we are doing three things to address the economic challenges that we face that are on an historic scale. We are cushioning the blow with measures such as the JobKeeper and JobSeeker and cashflow supports and other support payments to get Australians through the worst of this crisis. And those measures continue in this budget. Secondly, we have an economic recovery plan to take back what has been lost. Already we’ve seen 760,000 jobs come back, 760,000 just in the last few month and that is jobs that were lost or jobs that were reduced to zero hours. And so we’re pleased with that progress. But there is still a long way to go. And in this budget we bring forward some important plans. We bring forward Stage two of our tax plan that will put a thousand dollars additional this year in the pockets of those up to earning up to about ninety thousand dollars a year. It brings forward tax cuts that sees those who are paying 19 cents in the dollar to be able to keep their tax rate at that level go from thirty seven to forty five thousand. And to keep only paying thirty two and a half thousand for ninety thousand up to one hundred twenty thousand dollars. This was part of our income tax plan that we outlined some time ago. And we’ve brought those proposals forward. We’re also bringing forward through our investment incentives, investment decisions that will be made by business through our investment allowance, which allows businesses up to with a turnover of five billion dollars a year to immediately expense their capital investment. On top of that we’re allowing cover losses to be offset against past profits against past tax paid. And so at the end of the year is tax returns are completed businesses can be confident of being able to take back the tax that they paid in previous years, and that can help keep people in work now, hire new people and to support their investment, which is obviously accelerated in terms of the benefits through the incentives on the investment allowance. But it’s also done through bringing forward decisions to hire people through the JobMaker hiring credit. Another incentive, another initiative designed to get particularly young people back to work. The third stage of the budget’s plan is for the longer term, for the medium term to longer term. And in recent weeks and months, we’ve been outlining that plan, whether it’s our plan on energy, lower affordable, lower emissions energy, investing in the technology, some one point nine billion dollars through the CFC and the Arena Finance Corporation. These organisations investing in energy technologies for the future. Our manufacturing plan one and a half billion dollars, prioritising key areas like food and beverage, manufacturing, aerospace and the defence industries, mining sectors and so on, key areas that are going to drive our economy forward. And in addition we have job training initiatives on training incentives, universities, deregulation and work that we’ve done on digital transformation. Industrial relations reforms are also being progressed through our process, led by the Attorney-General. I make those points to make it clear that whether it’s our infrastructure investment or other important medium term reforms, this is what is going to see, pardon me. The Australian economy continue to recover and grow into the future. Why have I spent so much time telling you about those top line issues in the budget? The reason is, is because it benefits all Australians, regardless of what your background is, what regardless of what community, what regardless of what corner of the country you live in. These measures are designed to support everyone right across the country. And I believe that they will be particularly supportive of our ethnic communities who have always demonstrated a level of entrepreneurialism, a level of commitment and a work ethic that will see them best able I think, to take advantage of these opportunities. Australia’s immigrant story is not just about more people creating more demand. It’s about bringing our entrepreneurial spirit to Australia and an entrepreneurial spirit that will see these incentives to employ people to invest and to grow their businesses at a time when others might choose to stand back. And so this is very much a budget, I think, for multicultural Australia because it recognises the enterprise of multicultural Australia. Our multicultural communities and citizens are more likely to start a business. They’re more likely to own a business. They’re more likely to employ other Australians. And we’ve seen that across so many different communities. On the social side in this budget there is important things we’re doing to maintain the social cohesion as we keep our country together. Then our country will be more prosperous and they’re important things we need to do. We need to ensure that language media is available so all Australians, regardless of their background, can understand what is occurring in their country as patriots. They’ll be keen to understand the policies of the government. They’ll be keen to understand the programmes that are available. And we’re investing in more ensuring that Australians of so many different backgrounds can understand what’s available to them and how they can move their own life circumstances forward. But in addition to that, it’s also about giving them the tools. The changes were made to the Australian the Adult Migrant English programme, the AMEP, removing the constraint on hours, removing the constraints on time, being able to learn English in Australia is a vital tool for social and economic inclusion. Doesn’t matter what country you go to, if you’re unable to engage in the first language of that country and in Australia that is English, then you will have your opportunities limited in this country, not by the government or not by anyone else, but by language challenges. And we want to try and remove those barriers. That’s not to deny the other languages that are spoken. We encourage it, it’s part of our multicultural society. But English is a necessity for all Australians who are looking to engage and participate. It’s also very important for people’s safety and particularly for women in our community. We want women in particular through our AMEP. program to ensure that they can learn English and they can be aware of what their opportunities are and what their rights are and what their protections are in this country. And so the changes we’ve made to  AMEP are very important. The last area I wanted to draw attention to was the changes we were making to the partner migration program for this year. Now you will know that the COVID-19 recession means that restrictions are in place on how people can move. That will have an obvious impact on who can come to the country in the short term. Now, the borders will eventually be lifted when we’re in a position to do that and Australia won’t hesitate when it’s safe to be able to do that. But for the foreseeable future that will be a big challenge. I don’t think that comes as any great news. But what we have decided do, given there will be vacancies in the program that will ordinarily go to other visa classes, we’re creating another 30,000 places in the partner program this year. That will be an important opportunity to get through I think what has been a frustrating backlog for many Australians who are seeking to have their partners and to be able to come and get visas and ultimately become Australians. So we see this as an opportunity to ensure that more Australians become Australians, both through the visa program and then ultimately through citizenship. So with that, I think I might leave it there and happy to take questions.

ROSA STATHIS: Thank you PM. The first question this morning is from Eunjin Suasna Park from Korean Today, please go ahead Susana.

EUNJIN SUSANA PARK: Good morning PM. Thanks for the time this morning. I’m just wondering, you know, that it’s quite the kind of uncertainty but do you have in mind any in what time do you think the government could open the border to these safe countries? And what are the definitions of the safe countries?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s a good question, and it’s one that is vexing the minds of leaders all around the world and I made an announcement, well the Deputy Prime Minister did last week that our first step into this area will be with New Zealand and New Zealanders will be able to come across the Tasman and enter New South Wales and the Northern Territory and I suspect South Australia will soon follow. And that means Australians will be able to return from New Zealand as well. And that will be our first step. Now, New Zealand’s COVID record is a very, very strong on the health side of things, and that will be our first step in that direction. But I have had discussions with President Moon and and former Prime Minister Abe about how Australia might be able to move forward together with other countries. I mean, other countries where this is possible. Countries like Singapore, where it could be done as we move into next year. And seek to try and normalise as best we can,  student entries into Australia for the start of next year’s university year, we’re still working on that. But the reality is we must be very careful. I mean, Australia is an open country. We’ve always looked outside ourselves, not just for our economic opportunities, but for our social connection with the rest of the world and through our many migrant communities and ethnic communities in Australia maintaining that link we know, is incredibly important and the migration programme that supports our economy that I said before. So, look, I won’t say we’ll be rushing here, we’ll be proceeding carefully. The impacts of further waves of COVID coming through our country would be devastating. We’ve seen what that has meant in Melbourne. We don’t want to see that happen again and so we will be cautious, but we are open to those opportunities and I am working with other leaders around the world to see what can be achieved. Technology will be a key factor in this, testing technologies in particular moving to alternative types of quarantine arrangements, trialling those and making sure that we can have confidence about them, and ensuring we get even more enhanced tracing capabilities in Australia to deal with any potential outbreaks which may come from a relaxation of those arrangements but I don’t anticipate them happening anytime soon, but New Zealand step will be the first one and then we’ll we’ll go from there.

ROSA STATHIS: Thank you. The next question is from SBS Hindi program, Mosiqi Acharya please go ahead.

MOSIQI ACHARYA: Thank you Prime Minister for joining us today, my question is what was the thought behind introducing the English language requirement for partner visas?

PRIME MINISTER: Which, as I said in my opening remarks, English is the vital tool for social and economic inclusion in Australia. Now, I used to be an Immigration Minister and I used to be a Social Services Minister and I am very aware that the lack of English language skills, particularly amongst partners, has put many of those partners at risk in Australia, at risk of domestic violence, at risk of being abused in the workplace and having their rights overtaken. And English language is absolutely critical to help people when they come to Australia to take the greatest opportunity of what life in Australia can mean and English is the passport for that to occur in Australia. And we feel very strongly about this as a Government. English unifies the country and it enables us all to connect both economically and socially and so that’s why we believe that’s an important step that needs to be taken. I don’t want to see people who come to Australia be vulnerable and if your English language skills are not strong or even non-existent, then you will be more vulnerable in Australia. From a negative point of view and from a positive point of view, you, you won’t be able to maximise life in Australia for you and your family. And so that’s why we’re encouraging that process.

MOSIQI ACHARYA: Have you got a minimum requirement set out?

PRIME MINISTER: Well it isn’t what you’d expect for economic migration. It’s a much more basic level of English language competency and we think this is important to just enable people to engage, to access government services for example, to engage with those who are seeking to assist, to access and get the best possible medical treatment to understand what teachers are saying at school, at parent teacher conferences or to understand their rights work and all of these types of things. It’s a basic English language requirement, but we think a very necessary skill and ability that people will need to get the best out of life in Australia and to be protected.

ROSA STATHIS: The next question is from Cecil Huang, 1688 Group.

CECIL HUANG: Hi, Prime Minister. Thank you for the opportunity. The Budget has a strong focus on youth with the JobMaker program which benefits people in the age of 35, which is fantastic. But would it make it harder for older people to find jobs?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the good news is, is that several budgets ago when I was Treasurer, I introduced a programme called the Job Restart Program and that provides incentives for older workers to be able to go into the workforce and for employers to have subsidies to support their employment so that’s an ongoing program. That was several years ago when we were actually aware of the challenges faced by older Australians getting into work. So that program continues. But what we do know from the COVID-19 recession is that the biggest impact on people’s employment has occurred with younger people and has occurred with women. And so in this budget, you see the incentives for those under the age of 35 to be able to have that access to the hiring credit through their employers. In addition to that, we are also supporting women through the Women’s Economic Security Statement. And that statement encourages women to be able to access entrepreneurial opportunities, skills training particularly in the STEM subjects and areas where there will be great opportunities going into the future. I mean, the jobs in this budget aren’t just hard hat jobs. They are tech jobs there,  they’re high, high wage earning skill jobs. There are so many different jobs, particularly in the advanced manufacturing sector. The Industry Minister herself was an accomplished engineer before she came into Parliament. And so the opportunities for women through the Enterprising Girls program and so many other women support and enterprise initiatives I think will support women as well as young people. 60 per cent of the jobs that have come back since the pit of the recession have been for women. And so there has been a need to ensure we get women and young people back into jobs. Our experience in this country, and I’m sure to be true in other places, that if young people lose a job or don’t get into a job and they remain in that situation until their early 20s by about 24 to 25, then their likelihood of remaining on welfare well beyond that and potentially over their lifetime is greatly increased and that would be a great tragedy if young Australians were to live a life dependent on welfare. So we want to get them back into work as quickly as we can.

ROSA STATHIS: The next question is from Anwar Harb, Annahar.

ANWAR HARB: [Inaudible]…we also know that you are very capable of overcoming all the damage it has caused. Your achievements are superb. Could you give us an idea about the long term effect of this virus on the Australian economy?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you, Anwar my good friend. It’s good to see you. Good to see you looking well as well. Thank you. Anwar, the COVID-19 virus most lasting impact on Australia I anticipate will come through the impact on the global economy, how the global economy ultimately recovers. We’ll put a lag on and limit on everything that Australia can achieve. And what we are doing is to get our economy moving again and open up our economy again safely and try and restore as much as what has been lost and as I said, set us up for the future. This recession caused by this pandemic will be very different to other recessions. In previous times countries move into recession over a much longer period. And they also come out of it over a much longer period because it is the result of structural issues or policy decisions that have occurred in those countries. And as a result you expect a different profile of the recovery particularly for jobs. Now, with this recession, it has been caused by the necessity to close our economies down for a period of time. And so the greatest thing we have to overcome first is to be able to open up again. And once we can do that, I think we’ve been somewhat successful in preserving the fabric and structure of our economy. So it hasn’t scarred to the extent that it may have occurred otherwise. And so businesses will be able to re-establish. Now, regrettably and sadly, there are some businesses that will not reopen, but the dynamism in our economy, hopefully we’ll see opportunities present in other parts of the economy for those businesses and those individuals to find new opportunities. The flip side of that though Anwar, is that the global economy. Let’s say, for example, when we came out of the early 90s recession, while there was still very difficult times globally, nothing like what we’re seeing here in around the world today. And the global sector, just like during the GFC, with the Chinese economy being so strong, the single most important thing that actually took Australia through the GFC was actually the Chinese economy. Now, that’s not happening to the same degree as it did on that occasion. While China remains in growth and that’s welcome the level of growth, it will not be what we saw from China during the GFC. And so Australia will have to come back at some very strong global headwinds. I think even once we’re able to get our economy back into a growth phase and that will that will limit it. But importantly, Anwar, there won’t be the corrosion of our business infrastructure. There won’t be the corrosion of skills. There won’t be the scarring that can occur in the labour market. And so I think the way we’ve been able to manage this has meant that our economy can come through in a stronger position to restore and to grow again. But we will be limited by how well the rest of the world does and how we open up to it again, both in a trade in goods and services again, and tourism and education and all of these other service areas which are very important to our economy. Our challenge will be to see those grow again in international context. So there are there are pluses and minuses compared to previous recessions. Our business infrastructure, I think, will be stronger and more resilient as a result of what we’ve done over the last six months. But we will still face some very stiff headwinds for some time to come because the rest of the world is not faring as well as Australia.

ROSA STATHIS: The next question is from Shivendra Singh, Punjab Times.

SHIVENDRA SINGH: Yes, hi. Although you were announced 18 billion in funding higher education institutions, to support universities and higher education providers,  It doesn’t seem like it’s enough to offset the 40 billion brought in by international students each year. So when do you forsee the return of international students to Australia, perhaps through a quarantine arrangement?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s something we’re working on right now. There are two pilots, the state governments and territory governments are running in the Northern Territory and South Australia now. I think that will give us a good guide as to what can be achieved between now and the start of next year’s university year. And I think there are a lot of practical options that can be put in place between now and then that would hopefully see us take the opportunities that we can. We’ll be careful about it. We obviously want to see that element of our our economy returned to growth. And I think much of that is possible. Universities have taken decisions about international students now for some time, and there’s always been business risk attached to that and the government doesn’t self insure the university sector for the business decisions that they make. But what we have done in this budget, for example, is to ensure that where that that revenue most supported research activities, we put an extra billion dollars into research in universities in this budget are to ensure that core research and other important research continues as almost 450 million dollars were put into the CSIRO as well to mitigate the impact of corporate revenues that go into the CSIRO to ensure that that research capacity continues. This is necessary because it feeds into things like our advanced manufacturing and modern manufacturing initiatives. And we want to see that that graduate intake and the undergraduate intake, which can feed these dynamic sectors of our economy, continue into the future. Now, that will be from Australians who are born resident here, but it will also come from those who have studied in Australia and with the additional work rights that apply after the completion of their degrees. That will continue to be an important part of how our economy works and we access the skills that we need. So it will take some time, I think, to get back to some form of COVID normal with international students. And we are not going to put the recovery at risk by being acting with an undue haste in those areas and not protecting against the potential health impacts that could come. We would have to make sure that those arrangements are effective, but there is no lack of willingness on the Government’s part to see that that occurs. That also has to be balanced up with the fact that we need to get existing Australian residents into jobs and that means that when students come, they obviously have work rights that are attached to while they’re studying and that needs to be weighed up with high levels of unemployment that we’re seeing at the moment. And we need to see those Australian residents getting back and jobs as well. But I’m optimistic, but cautious.



ROSA STATHIS: Hi Rajni, sorry, Rajni Luthra Indian Link.

RAJNI LUTHRA: Mr. Morrison, you’ve sort of touched upon the issue that I wanted to ask, but only partially. It has been said of the budget last night that it is the most important since the Second World War. One of the growth factors for Australia post the Second World War was the strong migration to this country. Yet the net numbers of migration are negative and it will take them time to get back to the pre COVID numbers of 240,000. Should they have been stronger measures in this budget to build up the migration numbers?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are. As I said, there’s 30,000 places that will be put into the partner program. But with the borders shut to international travel, there is a limited scope for what the Government can do when it comes to those migration intakes and that’s not a permanent scenario. That is a temporary scenario. And once we can get more flexible and effective quarantine arrangements in place then we’ll see what opportunities open up for us. Of course, we know that the reduced migration intake will have an impact on the Australian economy. It does factor into, for example, new home building starts and things like that, that’s why we’ve provided additional stimulus into the home building sector. So we do want to see ultimately a return to the controlled migration and effective migration that we’ve had. And as you know, there’s 160,000 cap on intakes through the permanent program and we have no plans to change that. We made that commitment at the last election. And over this term and we’ll keep to that. But obviously, in the course of this year and arguably next year, we’re unlikely to see anything like that. But there are areas of opportunity, like in international students area, like in the Pacific worker and seasonal worker programs, potentially in backpacker areas and things like that. But it requires effective border management and quarantine management to make that a reality. So we’ll keep investing in that technology and those processes to try and open those opportunities up as soon as we can.

RAJNI LUTHRA: Thank you.

ROSA STATHIS: Thanks PM. The next question is from Rajesh Sharma, Indus Age. Go ahead Rajesh.

RAJESH SHARMA: Uncertainties in the stock market, self-funded retirees are facing significant [inaudible] reduction in their retirement income over a prolonged period. How does this affect [inaudible]? How can you reassure the self-funded Australians and their life after retirement is secure?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have a pension in this country is, as you know, and their eligibility requirements for that fee for self-funded retirees incomes for and they can get access to the pension. They can get access to the pension loan scheme, which was a new initiative that we introduced in last year before, sorry the year before’s budget, which gave people access to that scheme, which previously was only available to pensioners, which provides a in in many people’s views and more secure access to using people’s own assets to supplement their incomes. Now, in addition to that, the most effective thing we can do to support those who live off their investments and who have provided for their own retirement is to ensure that their economy that they’re investing in is stronger and for the businesses that they’ve put their savings into to be able to be more profitable and more successful. And so whether it’s the, the ability to write off COVID losses this year against previous incomes or the investment allowances which are significant over these next two years, these things will support better returns from their portfolios. And growing our economy will be a key part of supporting them in their retirement. The pension is there is a safety net in Australia and that will be there for those who need it. But for those who don’t qualify for the pension because their income is greater than that, we will continue to do all we can to ensure that their incomes are stronger in the future because of the economy that they’re investing in. We’ve also changed the deeming rates and updated those to reflect current conditions. We’ve changed the minimum drawdown requirements for those who are concerned about eroding their capital base during a time of recession like this as well. So we’ve sought to give greater flexibility to those who are self-funded retirees and then just work to strengthen the economy to ensure that they’re able to achieve the returns that they would hope to.

ROSA STATHIS: The next question is from Suzan Horani, Radio 2Moro. Go ahead, Suzan.

SUZAN HORANI: [inaudible]and commercial foreign language media in Australia, does ACMA have a road map for how our radio service and others like us will be granted access to digital radio spectrum? We are stuck between regulations and legislations. We are ready to employ. We’ll be really happy to train more young people but ACMA needs to move with the times with this example.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I might take that one on notice and ask Rosa to connect you up with the Minister for Communications on those issues, which I suspect you’ve already had some engagement with when it comes to that spectrum issue. Now, there are quite a number of reforms going on in the media space at the moment. It’s a very difficult time for media, not just with the COVID-19 recession, but also the significant impacts that are being felt in the media industry when it comes to the activities of large internet based platforms and social media platforms and the like, which have been eroding the advertising base for media, small and large now for some period of time. The Minister for Communications, Paul Fletcher is very aware of that, and he’s leading some important reforms in that area now, and that relates to spectrum and various other matters so I might leave that for you to follow up with Paul.

SUZAN HORANI: Thank you. Prime Minister.

ROSA STAHIS: P.M we’ve come to time now. Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you all very much. And I appreciate you spending the time with me today and I look forward to us to be able to do this on other occasions. 


The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Sydney




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