Release type: Transcript

Date:

Doorstop - Melbourne, Victoria

Ministers:

The Hon Scott Morrison MP
Prime Minister
Senator the Hon Jane Hume
Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy
Minister for Women's Economic Security
The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business

EO&E…

DR DEAN FREESTONE, CEO SEER MEDICAL: 

Thank you all very much for coming in today. Thank you, Prime Minister, for checking out what we’re doing here in Seer. We're certainly very excited about the future of healthcare and what AI can do to drive that journey and the future of the economy here in Australia. We're making big bets on this future and we're really glad to hear that the Australian Government is also backing us and backing the future of the economy in this area. So with that, I'd like to hand over to the Prime Minister. Thank you very much.
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Well, thank you very much, Dean. Thank you, Professor Cook and to everybody here at Seer. Thank you for the amazing job you're doing, not just for this great innovative company, but for Australia, a pioneer in this technology. Not just also, I’ve got to say, for Australia, but for the world more broadly because the applications that we've been witnessing this morning are truly magnificent and they're going to make a big change, I think, right around the world. It's great to have Jane Hume here with me, the Minister for the Digital Economy, amongst other things, and Stuart Robert, who continues to hold responsibility for Digital Agency of Government.
 
Our goal is to ensure that Australia is one of the top ten digital economies in the world. We have been working towards this goal now for many years. From many years ago when we started putting in place major innovations and reforms like the consumer data right, moving towards open banking arrangements. We’re particularly focused on many areas of the fintech sector to really start ramping up what we are doing. The data 61 initiatives from our Government, all designed to ensure that we were getting on the front foot to move forward into the digital economy. In last year's Budget, we put $800 million into supporting our digital transformation strategy. In this year's Budget, we’ll be putting a further $1.2 billion to give effect to that strategy. Now, that strategy is for every Australian, every single Australian. Digital transformation is not just about being able to book an Uber on your phone or to order a pizza. It's about the technology that we've seen here which enables those suffering under conditions such as epilepsy and potentially heart conditions and others, to have wearable technology that enables them to manage their condition. But more importantly, to support those who are treating them and seeking to support them with that treatment. Whether it's in the medical area, whether it's in the mining and resources area, whether it is in the financial services area. There are so many areas of our economy, well in fact, it's all about economy. If you don't think you're a digital business you soon will, because over the course of COVID we saw the rapid escalation of the digital elements of our economy become a reality in this country and we as a Government are seeking to take hold of that and ensuring that continues to propel us forward.
 
The digital economy is central to our Government's economic plan. We are such strong believers in doing the right things for our economy for one very straightforward purpose. With a strong economy, you can fund aged care services. With a strong economy, you can fund the pension. With a strong economy, you can fund pharmaceuticals at affordable prices for people who, if they didn't have access to them, would not live. That is the reason why a strong economy is so important in this country. If you believe in disability services, if you believe in strong health system, school education, child care, you need a strong economy to be able to drive the performance needed to pay for those world class services and we have them here in Australia. A strong economy guarantees the essential services that Australians rely on. One of our biggest challenges as part of our economic plan as we seek to secure Australia's economic recovery is in the area of digital transformation. Energy is another, as is workforce demands and skills development, but particularly digital transformation is central to Australia's economic plan and securing our economic recovery.
 
And so that's why I'm very pleased to be here today with Seer to see what they are doing. Because our job is to enable them. Our job is to put the right platforms in place to ensure we're supporting the incentives, the technology development. We're bringing together the collaboration. We're putting the skills together, whether it's in cybersecurity or in advanced AI technology and seeing that being realised into the future. This is all going to happen here in Australia. It's happening right here where we are in the old Repco warehouse, as I understand or plant. And now it's producing products which are going to change the way that medicine and treatments are delivered all around the world. So that's exciting. Jane, I know you're excited about it in taking on this new role and driving this digital transformation is what this $1.2 billion investment is all about, and I'll ask Jane to take you through the more specifics of that package. I'll then ask Stuart to talk about how, as a Government we're engaged in the digital transformation in how we are delivering our services to Australians and enabling our engagement of Australians so they can propel forward with the digital economy. Jane.
 
SENATOR THE HON. JANE HUME, MINISTER FOR SUPERANNUATION, FINANCIAL SERVICES AND THE DIGITAL ECONOMY, MINISTER FOR WOMEN’S ECONOMIC SECURITY: 

Thank you, Prime Minister. Is there anybody in this room that hasn't been touched by the digital economy, not just last year during COVID, but even today. Have you used contactless payments. Have you swiped in using a QR code. Have you bought something online. Is your business online? Everybody is touched by the digital economy every day and last year we saw that vaulted forward by five years in the space of just eight weeks, according to McKinsey. So how do we grasp the nettle? How do we leverage our newfound willingness to adopt digital technology and to integrate it into our lives and into our businesses. The digital economy strategy is all about that. Digital economy strategy is not just about economic empowerment for businesses and economic transformation. It is about growing the economy certainly, it is about growing more and better jobs, better and higher paying jobs. But it's also about making Australians lives better.
 
The digital economy strategy essentially gathers together initiatives from right across government, initiatives that we've already begun, initiatives that we want to begin now and paves a roadmap for a way forward. It starts with the infrastructure investments, those foundational investments and things like NBN and 5G and cyber security, getting the settings and the systems right for things like the consumer data right of single touch payroll. And the next step then is building capabilities in new and emerging technologies like AI, quantum computing, Internet of things, exciting things that will essentially allow businesses to leverage those newfound capabilities. And then this third step is establishing our digital growth priorities in areas like small and medium enterprises. How do we get small and medium enterprises to embed digital into their businesses and take that next productivity leap. It's about our existing capabilities in things like construction, mining, agriculture. How do we embed digital technology there to make that next great productivity leap. It's about new and emerging industries like fintech and regtech and of course the gaming industry as well.
 
And finally, it's about digital, I nearly forgot Stuart, it's about digital government services. Sorry, who could forget, Stuart. It's about digital delivery, frictionless government services. Now, the digital economy strategy isn't just a Budget document. It's a living document that will follow us throughout our mission to make Australia a leading digital economy by 2030. It's not just a mission statement, although it is. It's not just a set of initiatives, although those initiatives are so exciting. It's also a living, breathing document that will, like technology itself keep evolving with time. 2020 was a crisis, there's no doubt about that. But 2021 is a precipice. How can we now grasp the digital and improve our lives, make our jobs again more exciting, better and higher paid, and make our economy grow faster and more sustainably? This is the time to make that next great productivity leap. The digital economy strategy is the roadmap to get there.
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Thank you, Jane. Stuart?
 
THE HON. STUART ROBERT MP, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, WORKFORCE, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS:

Yeah, thanks, PM. It's great to be here at Seer. Dr Freestone was telling us that his father started his life as a mechanic with Repco here in the building. How far we've come from servicing machines now to creating wearable tech that is centred around the individual. One of the impressive parts of Seer is the person is at the centre of what they do. It's a person centred design construct that integrates hardware, software, advanced AI, all connected wirelessly through to your phone, into the cloud to actually serve Australians. And it's part of where Government wants to head as well in terms of being a person centred government. We spend $7 billion a year on tech and IT and computing systems in Government. We're now going to spend that money with a consumer focused sentiment. And a core part of today's announcement is where we're going with the enhancement now to MyGov to make it a single front door for Government. The intent is citizens won't go to 30, 40, 50 different websites, portals, vortals, applications to try and get the data they need. They'll go to a single location, not dissimilar to what Services New South Wales has done with their world leading approach to a single front door to Government. And that's where MyGov is going. A single front door for a citizen to provide services at a simple, helpful, transparent and respectful, authenticated by a single digital identity across a federated model so Australians have got options. They can get in, do what they need to do quickly and seamlessly and then get on with their lives. It is a great package and it is taking Government forward. And more importantly, it's taking Government to where it's putting people first and the person, the citizen, at the absolute centre, rather than being Government departments at the centre. I think it’s a great announcement. Thank you.
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Thank you Stuart. Let’s take some questions on this issue and of course, as those from Seer are here with us, taking any questions you like from them as well before we move on to other issues.
 
JOURNALIST: 

Obviously, telehealth is a really big change last year. What role do you see digital services providing here in the provision of health care, particularly around mental health?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Massive. Absolutely massive. This is, we will have a bit more to say about this soon. But what we did see, particularly during COVID, but I’ve got to say before that. I've just come back from North Queensland where we had the devastating floods that took away about half a million head of cattle. And if you can imagine what it would be like to lose an entire generation of work on one of those stations, and the devastation that hit those communities, not just physically but mentally as well, that is where we once again really understood the value and power of using digital and telephone and other services to reach people in remote places. We saw the same thing during COVID here in Melbourne. And I know that, as we worked through the great challenges of the second wave here in Victoria, it was the reach out that we did by expanding those services. Whether it was telehealth or areas in Headspace or many other programs, we were able to ensure we reached out to Australians in need at that time. So, one of the things you'll see in next week's Budget is we will be demonstrating that we will keep doing what works. The things that we know have worked during COVID, I think, have unleashed new opportunities for how we deliver services in this country, and will enable us to double down in many of these areas. And in mental health, the ability to use these types of facilities and services is significant. And for a big, remote country like Australia, where not everybody can just pop down the road to the local high street and pop in to see someone, in remote parts of this country, that is extremely difficult. So the use of digital services and technology to support whether it's in mental health or physical health, or the most simple of things, you'd think when it comes to remote sensing of water temperatures and crops, or in pastures and places like that. At Beef Week, and it sounds a bit odd to be talking about Beef Week in Rockhampton here in Melbourne, but it isn't really, because you all consume what comes out of Beef Week here in Melbourne at some of the best restaurants in the world, as well as some of the best home kitchens, I'm sure. But the innovation I saw at Beef Week with the agricultural sensing, the capturing of the data, the analytics that went behind that, is transforming our agricultural industries. And it's also helping them to reduce emissions at exactly the same time with how they're reviewing how they're consuming feed and things of that nature. So, every business is a digital business. Every health operation is a digital health operation now. And I think COVID has reinforced that more than any other time that I can recall.
 
JOURNALIST: 

Just on the Government's digital ID being rolled out to private companies, what's the point of that? How would those companies use it in practice. And what sort of privacy protections will be in place.
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Great question. Stuart?
 
THE HON. STUART ROBERT MP, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, WORKFORCE, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS: 

Thanks. The great nirvana when it comes to identity is to have a single digital identity framework. No country in the world has cracked this, but Australia has. A single trusted digital identity framework that all the state and territory Ministers have now agreed to. It's a federated model which means MyGov ID, created by the Commonwealth Government. Australia Post has created Digi ID. Pharmacies are looking at Pharmacy ID. The Australian Payments networks are looking at EFTPOS ID. So any Australian can choose any of those digital identities and you can sign seamlessly into Australian Government computing. With states and territories now on board, it means as they build out their authentication frameworks, with a single digital ID you can sign in to all of Australian Federal Government systems, you’ll be able to sign into state government systems, banks, telcos will all follow to build out a same authentication framework, a 100-point check, no more user ID and passwords, in a perfect world. I've got 320 user IDs and passwords. In fact, I've got an application I use just to store my user IDs and passwords, and I bet everyone here has. But a single digital secure identity can replace all that and with the nation signed up, it’ll be the world's first country as a whole to have a single digital identity. If you do a national police check with Queensland Police right now, you'll use your digital identity. If you go and look at your unique student identifier, you will use your digital identity. If you go to MyGov, you'll use it. Protections are extraordinary. We're up to the fourth issue of it. The Privacy Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, have all been through it. The tightness of it, it's a double blind system, whereby no personal information is being presented when the digital identity is used to ensure the privacy is paramount. This is really world leading, what we're doing here.
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

I'm really pleased you asked that question, because it goes to what is the role of Government in this space. So much of the innovation and the commercialisation rightly takes place in places like Seer. That's where we want it to take place. But for that to occur, that has to be a platform upon which the industry can operate. That means the cyber security framework, the regulatory framework. One of the biggest innovations to enable the digital economy in this country was the new payments platform, where we go to 24/7 instantaneous payments through our banking system that enables the attaching of any amount of information that you want to design, to ensure that that can facilitate the type of transactions that are taking place in the digital economy. Now, that is enabling. And that is our job, to enable. As both Jane and as Stuart have said, having those systems whether it's the digital identity, whether it is the regulatory framework, the fintech support, the consumer data right, all of this means that then the industry that knows what to do with this and gets on and does it, and they develop amazing technology like we see here. And then we kick in again, whether it's through the export market development grants or the work that we do to support our exporters around the world. Right now, we are literally we are paying for flights to take this stuff around the world, whether it's beef or whether it's technology, we're keeping Australia connected to the world through COVID. Ok. I think we might be moving on other items, that was predictable. Ok well, thank you very much, guys. It's really exciting to be here with you, please.
 
JOURNALIST: 

I just wanted to know when you are likely to make a decision on the travel ban to India?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

The travel ban is in place until the 15th of May. It was always put in place as a temporary ban. A temporary ban to ensure that we will be able to sustainably bring Australians home safely to Australia, both protecting them and protecting Australians. And so it has always been a temporary pause. The National Security Committee of Cabinet is meeting this afternoon. We will get an update on how that pause is progressing and the information I already have is the pause is working. The pause is putting us in a place to ensure that we'll be able to safely bring people home. And the early evidence indicates that that temporary pause to the 15th of May is on track and that we are very hopeful and confident that on the other side of the 15th of May we will be able to start restoring those repatriation flights. But that decision hasn't yet been taken. We will do it on the basis of the evidence, on the basis of the medical advice. And so as I said, this afternoon the National Security Committee of Cabinet is meeting on these matters, joined by the Health Minister, of course. Tomorrow the National Cabinet is meeting and I will update them on where that is at. In terms of the direct flights, there were only direct flights that come into Sydney, that is a matter that we'll continue to work through with the New South Wales Government. They've got obviously some challenges right at this moment that they're dealing with and we'll work through those issues, as we always do with the New South Wales Government. Equally, if state governments are in a position to want to be able to take repatriation flights back into Australia, whether here in Melbourne or elsewhere, that opportunity will obviously be there for them to take that in. We'll be bringing our repatriation flights when they restore into Howard Springs, where we are already seeing the number of cases fall. And we're on track.
 
JOURNALIST: 

Sorry, just when you are likely make that decision about lifting the travel ban?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Before the 15th of May.
 
JOURNALIST: 

Just some time before then?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

What I've said is there will be a meeting today and there will be a meeting tomorrow and we will further review that evidence and that advice. And when we're in a position to confirm the restart of repatriation flights based on that advice, then I can assure you, as has always been our practice that I will be quick, as will the Health Minister to relay that information. As we always have been.
 
JOURNALIST: 

You spoke this morning about Michael Slater and you understand his frustrations about Australians in India. David Littleproud said Michael Slater was a spoilt brat and should grow up. Is that appropriate?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

I've made my comments regarding what Michael has said. I understand his frustration and I understand his deep concern for the people of India. What I have to say though, is I'm even more understanding of the many, many, many hundreds of thousands, millions of Australians of Indian descent or heritage and have so many family members who are affected, who aren’t Australian citizens, who aren’t Australian residents, and will be remaining in India. That's why I'm pleased that the more than 40 oxygen concentrators, over 1,000 ventilators have already touched down in India and that has been welcomed by the Indian Government. The Foreign Minister of India and our Foreign Minister met yesterday virtually in the UK. That was a very positive meeting and the Indian Government was very appreciative of the great support that Australia is giving to India. They understand the arrangements we have in place and we welcome the very, very strong diplomatic engagement we've had with them.
 
JOURNALIST: 

Prime Minister, we heard overnight that the number of vulnerable Australians in India has now been escalated from 600 to 900. Obviously, we're going to have flights starting at some point again.
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Very soon.
 
JOURNALIST: 

Hopefully in a few weeks, but until then, what is the Australian Government doing to help vulnerable or even sick Australians in India at the moment?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

The same thing we have been doing for over a year. And that's to provide the support through our consular offices. We have a hardship fund that already has extended over $30 million of support to people all around the world, not just in India. We have brought already just 20,000 Australian citizens and residents home from India through repatriation flights, directly arranged repatriation flights, and other facilitated flights. 20,000. And the challenge is, as it is all around the world, that as we bring more people home, there are more people who still want to come home and they get added to those lists. So, through our Consular offices and through the High Commission there, led by High Commissioner Barry O'Farrell, they are providing that support directly to people who are in those situations, as they have done now, and as we have done in many countries, not just in India. In Brazil, in other parts of the world, in Indonesia, in Papua New Guinea. And even in places where there are not as many Australians but we provide support through our network of missions and consular offices all around the world, be it in Africa, in Europe, in the United States. Our diplomatic corps have been doing an extraordinary job, often at great risk to themselves. You'll remember that it was consular officials who got in a car and drove from Shanghai to Wuhan, went themselves, personally, volunteered, went there, supported and set up those first repatriation flights when we took people out of Wuhan at the start of the pandemic. So, our consular staff and diplomatic staff around the world will keep doing the great job supporting Australians that they've been doing not just recently, for a very long time.
 
JOURNALIST: 

Is there much that they can offer, though, if India’s health system is really suffering and Indians themselves are having a really hard time accessing consular support?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Of course it's challenging. It's challenging in many countries. It's challenging in Pakistan. It's challenging in Papua New Guinea. It's challenging in many countries around the world. But they're highly trained, they're highly skilled, and they provide whatever support they can. Australia will be bringing people back home from India soon, as we already have some 20,000 registered Australian citizens and others for travel and we look forward to doing that. Had we not taken the decision that we've taken most recently, we would have been putting at risk our ability to do that on a sustainable basis. We took this decision in the interests of Australians' health and safety and national interests, as well as the health and safety of those we want to be able to bring home.
 
JOURNALIST: 

The Biden Administration said overnight said it would support waiving intellectual property rights on the development of COVID-19 vaccines. Will your Government support that as well?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

It's great news. It's tremendous news. You've heard what the New South Wales Government has said about mRNA vaccines. You've heard what we’ve said about it. It was last night I was on one of my regular calls with many of the European leaders, as well as from Israel and New Zealand and a few others, and we regularly discuss these issues and setting up our own manufacturing capabilities. As you know, here in Melbourne, we've done that with the AstraZeneca vaccine already, which is a very good vaccine, and I would encourage Australians, over 50s now, you can go and get that vaccine. Jenny had hers yesterday. And what's important is you can do that through your GPs. In Victoria, there's almost 600,000 Victorians in aged care and right across the state who have already been vaccinated. More than half of those have been done by Victorian GPs. And I want to send a special shout out to all those Australians of Indian heritage and Indian ancestry who are working in our health system. While they're worried about family members back in India, they're there supporting Australians in their GP clinics, in our health system, and I want to say a special thank you to you, alongside all of the other health workers. More than half the vaccinations now, over 300,000 here in Victoria, have been done by Victorian GPs. And right across the country now we'll soon approach 2.5 million. And that vaccination program, yesterday we had figures approaching just shy of 80,000. And so I want to thank Australians for coming out and getting vaccinated. It's important that you do. We are doing everything we can to prevent a third wave here in Australia. And it's very important that we vaccinate, particularly the most vulnerable of Australians, and we're making great progress on that with our aged care population. But if you're over 70 in particular, please book your vaccination. Please get there for your vaccination, go and see your GP, and ensure you will be given priority as someone aged over 70 in that priority group, to ensure that you are safely vaccinated. Anyway, well it's great to be here.
 
JOURNALIST: 

One more question for you, Prime Minister. Victorians who are very keen to see hotel quarantine or quarantining of overseas arrivals moved out of hotels. What can you tell Victorians about the likelihood of the Federal Government taking up the Victorian Government on their offer about a new facility?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Well, I can understand the anxiety, given the second wave. But let's not forget here in Victoria, while there was absolutely the breach of quarantine that occurred here and the reports of that and the reviews that have been done set that out, but that is not the only protection. Even more importantly, because there will be occasionally outbreaks from quarantine, is the further ring of containment, which is the testing and the tracing. There have been outbreaks in New South Wales, there have been outbreaks in Western Australia, in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, but it didn't progress to the second wave proportions that we saw here in Victoria. Quarantine is one link in the chain. It's not every link in the chain. And Australia's hotel quarantine has a 99.99 per cent success rate. If you'd asked me to put in place with the states and territories a year ago a system that I could tell you would have a 99.99 per cent success rate in Australia for breaches from quarantine, you would have said that I was over promising. But that's what this country has achieved in the past more than 12 months. That's what's been achieved. So, there can be outbreaks that occur from any quarantine system anywhere in the world. Fortunately, in Howard Springs we still have 100 per cent success rate there, but no one's complacent about that. It's not just about quarantine, it's about the testing and it's about the contact tracing. And there were serious issues that had to be addressed there during the course of that second wave as well. We're looking very seriously at what is a comprehensive proposal that's been put forward. As always, any proposal that comes from a state government comes with a big request for a large amount of funding. I welcome the fact though, the Victorian Government is putting this forward and saying, No, we'll run it. We'll put our people there to run this system. I welcome that. I think that's a very good move, because it understands that they are enforcing a Victorian State Government public health order. That's what quarantine does, I should stress. Quarantine is enforcing state public health orders. That's why state governments are the ones actually delivering it. That's what we agreed at National Cabinet in March of last year. So, we will look at this proposal. We'll look at it carefully. But I do remind, when it comes to the investment the Commonwealth Government has made in COVID, if you add up every single dollar every single state and territory has spent, both in economic supports and health supports, double it, go a bit further, and that's what the Commonwealth has invested in COVID, some $267 billion. In Victoria, I think it's around $44 billion. So, I think there is room for all states and territories to do more, just like there is room for the Commonwealth to keep doing our bit. We've invested half a billion dollars in the Howard Springs facility, which this month goes to 2,000 capacity. And that's where we'll be bringing Australians from India home. Thanks very much.
 
[ENDS]