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Doorstop, Gold Coast

14 July 2020

Subject: CRC-P Round 9 recipients, Palace letters and COVID-Safe app.


Karen Andrews: Research and development is incredibly important for Australians and for the Australian economy. One of the ways that the Government can actually support research and development and engagement between industry and researchers is through the Cooperative Research Centre Projects, CRCPs. So today, we're announcing that the Government is providing $25 million to support 10 projects to engage industry and research in problem solving for issues that are relevant to us today. 

So one of the projects relates to wine that has been tainted by bushfire smoke. So we know that the wine industry is very important to Australia. It's worth about $45.5 billion to our economy, so it's certainly very, very big business for us. But our wine makers have been significantly hit, firstly by drought, and then by bushfires. And what they were finding is that a lot of their grapes had been tainted by bush fire smoke, which meant that they were unable to use those grapes to make the wine. So what this project does is support industry and researchers engaging to find a solution, to future proof Australia's winemaking industry, so that issues such as the smell of smoke from our bushfires is not going to have the impact that it currently is having on Australian winemaking. So it's a real opportunity for businesses, so industry and researchers to work together to solve the real problems that industry, such as winemaking, are facing. 

Question: Any projects based here on the Gold Coast?

Karen Andrews: The projects will have reach all across Australia, and they're really quite diverse. So certainly, there is the winemaking project. There's also projects that look at how we can upcycle PV cells. We know that that's a big issue. We will certainly be working to make sure that the impacts and the outcomes of these projects are certainly felt and experienced right across Australia.

Question: Are any of those projects, I guess, employing people here on the Gold Coast, or will this money propel any projects on the Gold Coast?

Karen Andrews: I'm not aware of any specifically based here on the Gold Coast, but we certainly do have many industries that would be very interested in some of the work that is going to be happening. And of course, we certainly have retailers here that are associated with the wine industry. So yes, we will be looking at all that we can do to make sure that the impacts of these projects, particularly the winemaking one, are felt all across Australia. We will certainly be looking at what the outcomes of those are, because we know that we do need to grow the economy in Australia and we do need to increase the number of jobs. So, as these projects are undertaken and they are then assessed, we will be looking at how we can use that that information, that research information to grow our industries.

Question: How is this going to help with the COVID-19 economic recovery?

Karen Andrews: So we know that many businesses, many industries right across Australia are certainly feeling the impacts of COVID-19. We have always been very conscious, and I've always made a point of saying that there certainly are the health impacts of this virus which we are all well aware of. But we also need to make sure that we are looking after our economy. So what these projects will do, as well as many of the other initiatives that are taken by Government, they are aimed to make sure that we are further growing our economy, but dealing with the real world issues. So, yes, we do need to focus. That as we come through the coronavirus pandemic, that we do need to make sure that we have businesses that are able to grow and to develop, and that they are in a position that they can employ more people.

Question: Minister, more than 200 letters have been released today; the Palace letters. What do you make of them? Have you had a look?

Karen Andrews: Look, I've really only read a couple of reports. And look, many people over the coming days, months, years probably, will look very critically at the contents of that correspondence. I probably won't be one of them, because I'll be focusing on things such as how we're going to grow our economy and create jobs. There's bound to be a lot of commentary. The letters are what they are, they have now been released. We support and understand quite clearly the High Court's view on these so I think that over the next few days in particular it's going to be looked at by a number of people. But quite frankly, there's a lot of people right around Australia that are focused on how they can get back into work.

Question: Obviously quite a murky little period of Australian history there. Are you happy that we have a bit more transparency today?

Karen Andrews: Look, the letters were released maybe an hour and a half, a maximum of two hours ago. They still are very new. Very few people have had the opportunity to look at them in any particular detail. It will provide some value for some people but quite frankly I believe that will be in the minority.

Question: And it looks as though Sir John Kerr sacked the Whitlam Government without giving advance notice to the Queen. I guess, you know, knowing that now, what do you make of that?

Karen Andrews: Look, quite frankly, I am way more focused on the COVID pandemic. We are in a serious crisis here in Australia and many people, particularly those in Victoria and now in New South Wales, are on the frontline at the moment. So my focus absolutely is what we can do federally to support those people in Victoria and New South Wales, but right across the country who are feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

Question: The dispute has cost them, the National Archives, at least two million dollars. Do you think the Federal Government should increase the agency's funding to cover that cost?

Karen Andrews: The decisions that were taken were taken by the Director-General, and it's up to the Director-General of the National Archives to be answering those sorts of questions. As I've said, I'm really very focused on COVID-19 and how we deal with the serious impacts of that right now, not something that happened many, many years ago.

Question: Just some questions about the COVIDSafe app. The Federal Government has labelled the government app as an expensive dud. Is it still the case that it hasn't found any close contacts, or a person with the virus who weren’t identified manually? If so, is it a failure?

Karen Andrews: I wouldn't call it a failure at all. Many, many people actually did download and are using the COVID app, and I would encourage them to keep doing that. It is one of the tools that is used for contact tracing. And it is a very important mechanism as well. So, now is not the time to delete the app or stop using it. We need to make sure that we remain vigilant. One of the biggest risks is that we will become complacent. So, we need to be taking the health advice, we need to make sure that we're doing social distancing. We need to make sure that we're washing our hands, we need to make sure that we do download and use the COVIDSafe app. These are all important measures for us and we've seen that there have been various waves of this, not just in Australia but around the world. And we cannot be complacent.

Question: Bill Shorten said this morning that there was a problem with encouraging older people and culturally and linguistically diverse communities that download the app. Do you agree, and how will you get past that?

Karen Andrews: Look, I think a lot of action has been taken to communicate as broadly as we possibly can the benefits and the need for people to download the app. Obviously as a government we want to make it readily available to people, we want to make it easy to use and we want to encourage people. So, we will continue to promote the use of the COVIDSafe app. I’ll continue to use it, many of my colleagues, many people that I know. In fact, everyone that I have spoken to has downloaded the app and I congratulate them and thank them for doing that.

Question: One last question from me. Has the Government overpromised and underdelivered on the COVIDSafe app?

Karen Andrews: No.

Question: Would you support the National Archives perhaps being able to release any more royal correspondence?

Karen Andrews: Look, as I've said, I'm sure over the coming days and weeks there's going to be a lot of scrutiny, there's going to be a lot of commentary about those letters, about the processes. Quite frankly it is what it is. It's something that happened many, many years ago now. And yes, it's of historic significance. But the Government is very, very focused on the issues that we're facing today which is primarily the COVID-19 pandemic.

Question: And just one more quick one on the funding. So, you've mentioned the winemaking one. Are there any other standout projects that people watching tonight might be interested in?

Karen Andrews: Well, there's the PV cells and the upcycling of those, and I guess the other one is what we might be able to do with flu vaccines. Vaccines are front of mind for everyone at the moment, and we know that across Australia and across the world a lot of research is being done on a vaccine for the coronavirus. But we do still need to continue to do work on a flu vaccine and that will be covered in one of the projects as well.