Home >  Taylor >  Transcripts >  Doorstop with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Lobs Hole, NSW

Doorstop with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Lobs Hole, NSW

30 June 2020


Subject: Snowy 2.0, renewable energy, Eden-Monaro by-election, environmental approvals, electricity prices


DR FIONA KOTVOJS, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR EDEN MONARO: Good morning, everybody.  It's absolutely fantastic to be here today at Lobs Hole in Kosciuszko National Park. I'm really pleased to be able to welcome the Prime Minister, Minister for Energy Angus Taylor, and the Minister for Environment, Sussan Ley.

This is an exciting announcement that we have today. It means jobs, jobs for our local communities, from Tumut to Cooma and even down on the coast, this whole area, this means jobs.  And that's what we need. It's good for the environment, absolutely fantastic. It's all about improving our environment here in Kosciuszko National Park and keeping it pristine and helping the environment and the regeneration afterwards. And it's all about energy. 500,000 houses will be able to be supplied with power for a week from this work. So I'm really excited to be able to invite everybody here today to find out what we're doing and to welcome the Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Fiona.  It's wonderful to be here with Fiona Kotvojs, the Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro, and my colleagues Sussan Ley and Angus Taylor, and I want to thank them for the tremendous work that they have been doing to get us to this incredibly important day in our national history.

This is a nation-building day that we have come here together to mark and to Paul Broad and all of his team and the many of them gathered around us here, engineers, those working on site, those making the coffee, those building the roads, the bridges, this is a very significant day and it's a significant day for jobs, particularly in this part of Australia, regional jobs in what is an absolutely barnstorming project, one of 15 very significant major projects that we have accelerated as part of that approvals process that has been designed to ensure that we get these big nation-building projects moving.  Whether it's the Inland Rail, whether it's this project, whether it's building the Western Sydney airport, all of these big projects are game-changing, nation-changing, nation-building projects.  And so it's exciting to be here today to announce the green light, the thumbs-up green light for the Snowy 2.0 project to now move to its full implementation phase.

Back at the end of 2018 I was here with Fiona Kotvojs, I was here with Angus Taylor, not at this site, we were over at the actually Snowy Hydro site and we announced a final investment decision which saw us put $1.4 billion into what is more than a $5 billion project, over 2,000 jobs directly created through this project and those jobs feeding into all the local towns all around the Snowy.  But extending beyond that, we've got people here from Newcastle, we've got people here from Sydney, we've got people who will be coming from Western Australia, it's going to take a nation to build this project because it is a nation-building project, and it's addressing our emissions reductions targets, it's about getting affordable energy into the system and it's about creating these local jobs here.

We will see a ramp-up in the works on this site here over the next two years like we have never seen before on this project since Snowy was built the first time.  These next two years are absolutely vital to the success of this project.  That's why we've always known we've had to get a wriggle on and get this thing approved, taking into account the important environmental mitigations which Sussan Ley will speak to because we know we need to get this up and running to meet our timetable for getting this energy into the system, to getting our emissions reduction targets achieved, and ensuring that the jobs that are so necessary now, even more necessary now than when we first approved the final investment decision for this project at a time as we're building our way out of the COVID recession.

So these next two years will be critical for this project and to have a local Liberal member of Parliament, should that be what the people of Eden-Monaro decide this weekend, there on the ground in this community, making sure the project is delivering for the local community, the local jobs, the local contracts, the local benefits.  You need someone on the ground here.  I need someone here on the ground as a local member of my government to ensure that this project delivers everything we plan it to achieve for the local community.

That's why I'm here with Fiona Kotvojs again and that's why I need her on my team this Saturday.  I need her on this team so she can be on the Snowy 2.0 team to make sure that these jobs, these economic benefits go right through these communities right across this part of New South Wales.

So it's exciting to announce the green light for Snowy 2.0.  It's been a long way coming.  There's already $1 billion, Paul tells me, has already been poured in.  As you can see, this used to be a goat track and now it is of a great standard in terms of the roadworks that have been put in, the bridges and the other things that have been necessary.   Flying in here today you could see the scale of works done.  And I remember, Paul, when we took that trip in the chopper to announce the final investment decision and you were telling me where it was all going to go and it was just barren areas across these places and now look at what's happened in such a short period of time.

So we're on the go at Snowy 2.0, and I'm going to invite now Sussan Ley to speak to the approval of the project and the environmental mitigations supports that have been put in place.  Angus Taylor will then also speak as the minister responsible for the project and I will ask Paul to speak on the specific details of the works.  Thank you.

THE HON. SUSSAN LEY MP, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Thank you very much, Prime Minister, and, Fiona. To my good friend Fiona who knows the communities of Eden-Monaro so well, some that I used to represent in a previous iteration as Member for Farrer, thank you for your advocacy for what we're seeing here today.

As a local member, I absolutely appreciate the jobs that this will bring to the important communities of regional New South Wales.  But importantly today, as Environment Minister, in signing off the final approval, the green light for this project, $100 million of investment by Snowy Hydro into this environment and, Paul, I want to thank you and your team for the work that you did in providing the information that we needed at New South Wales Government and Commonwealth level for the environmental impact study to make sure that the threatened species, the communities, the precious amenity of Kosciuszko National Park will be protected, remediated and even enhanced.

Now remember, the construction footprint for this second stage of this nation-building renewable energy project is just 0.1% of the park.  The actual final operating area is just 0.01%.  So I'm giving a sense of the vastness of Kosciuszko and, yes, it's an intense activity but we will, in remediating, in enhancing, in looking after the species that are so important to making this park special, invest through Snowy Hydro, they will invest $100 million.

And this is an example of the approach that the Morrison Government wants to take to environmental approvals.  We put together a major projects team in February this year, and that meant a task force with New South Wales and the Commonwealth coming together on the same page, removing duplication, streamlining the assessment, we've got it here in under 21 months, which is our target, down from an average of three and a half years.  And the important thing is that we've done this while maintaining the strongest possible environment protection, which is what our determination is as a Commonwealth Government in concert and in consultation with communities and State Governments.

So it's a really good outcome today, PM, and, Paul, again, you and your team and the work that you've done to get us here is much appreciated and I know Angus is pretty excited about the future contribution of this project to our national energy grid.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Sussan.

THE HON. ANGUS TAYLOR MP, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Thanks, PM, Sussan.  Great to be here with Fiona, who I know is absolutely dedicated to this project and to this region.  It's fantastic to be back here at Lobs Hole.  This is an iconic area.  It was iconic for Snowy 1 and it's iconic for Snowy 2.

Now, today is a green light for two really important things.  The first is the biggest renewable energy project in this country since Snowy 1.  Snowy 1, of course, is the biggest renewable energy project in this country and what it will do is provide firm, dispatchable, on-demand power.  That means when you flick the switch you know the power will be there when it is needed.  It will provide about a week's worth of storage, up the hill at Tantangara dam, a week's worth of storage, your typical battery these days maybe one or two hours, and it means we will have power when we need it to keep the lights on and to drive prices down.  That's what Snowy 2 is all about and it will make a substantial difference to our energy system in this country in both bringing down emissions, bringing down prices, and strengthening reliability.

Of course, this is also a green light to what will be 4,000 jobs over the course of the project.  4,000 jobs, most of which will be local jobs around this area.  Just today we had coffees just down the road here from Coffee Peddler from Wynyard Street in Tumut.  A local business, one of 100 businesses that is already supplying and servicing Snowy 2 and there will be many, many more to follow.  This is a jobs boom for this region.  It's a jobs boom that is generating one of the great iconic projects that Australians, for decades to come, will look back on and say that made a real difference to our energy system, thank you.

PAUL BROAD, CEO SNOWY HYDRO: Thank you, Prime Minister.  Thank you, ministers.  Let me assure you, Prime Minister, that we at Snowy, this is our backyard.  This is our environment.  Getting approval for continuing the construction, for building this mighty 2.0 was crucial.  We've gone to extreme lengths with our partners at FutureGen to not damage some of the really high country, really sensitive parts.  I know there's a construction site here in Lobs Hole but it was the most damaged part of the park.  An old mine used to be down the road here.  There used to be a little town down the end there as well.  We will leave this site, it will be better than what it was before we come.

The park is us.  The park is who we are.  High-quality water, a beautiful environment that we enjoy and the community enjoys is at our heart.  This scheme is built about moving water from east to west.  It's about protecting the park.  So getting the environmental approvals through was fundamental.  The enormous amount of work that's gone in behind the scenes to make this happen, has been the driving force behind us from day one.  The dream for this scheme started with Angus' grandfather, Sir William Hudson, back in the '60s.  To sit here now and to see that dream come true because of what we can do within this beautiful area is just fabulous.

So thank you very much, Prime Minister and Ministers, for coming down here.  We very much appreciate it and your direction and involvement allows this to happen. Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER: Before we go to questions, also today, you will have noted that the Government is committing $1.3 billion to our cybersecurity program.  I'll be having more to say about that tomorrow when I make some important remarks over at ADFA in Canberra.  It's an important part of our Defence strategy.  It's an important part of keeping Australia safe.  It's an important part of ensuring we're skilling up and we're equipping all of our agencies that are responsible in these areas and supporting industry to ensure that we understand the threats, we are equipped to deal with those threats and we can keep Australia's industry safe.

And keeping Australia's industry safe includes projects such as this.  Here we are, one of the biggest infrastructure and energy projects that you can imagine and these are the sorts of projects, these are the sorts of pieces of infrastructure, as well as other commercial infrastructure, which can be the target of cybersecurity attacks and so it's important that we invest in protecting these assets and protecting Australians' livelihoods and protecting Australia's interests and our cybersecurity strategy, which was launched back in 2016, with around $150 million - sorry, $260 million put in in the initial investment, a further $150 million about 18 months or so ago and now putting in another $1.3 billion over the next 10 years to ensure that we've got the people, we've got the technology, we've got the research and we've got the platforms to be able to combat these very serious and growing threats.

We're totally aware of those threats, we're totally onto the risk that these threats present and this is all part of protecting and building and securing Australia's future, whether it's building Snowy 2.0, or protecting Australia from the many risks and threat that prevent in today's world.  Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, now that Snowy 2.0 has environmental approval from both the State and Commonwealth Government levels, yet there's still plenty of people with concern about the environmental impact.  We've even seen the likes of the chair of the New South Wales Fishery Scientific Committee resigning his position over his concerns about the impact on fish species.  If the two pro-environmental processes haven't been able to convince expert scientific advisers to government, how are you going to reassure the public that proper care is being taken of the environment in this project?

PRIME MINISTER: I will ask Sussan to comment on this.  This has gone through -

THE HON. SUSSAN LEY MP, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Look, absolutely, and I know Associate Professor Mark Lintermans was concerned with the New South Wales EIS.  I asked my department to speak to him.  I know he contacted them.  I've also spoken to Paul Broad about his concerns about the Stocky Galaxias, which is a native fish.  It's really important to understand that Snowy will be investing $25 million in effectively netting the tunnels that lead from Tantangara Reservoir in the incredibly unlikely event that this fish could - or not this fish, that a pest fish could manage to come up the tunnel into Tantangara and damage the natural environment for the Stocky Galaxias.

So we have got it covered.  We've also got a $5 million captive breeding program for the particular native fish that the professor is concerned about and that will be happening in a separately built weir.  So following his concerns, which were not with my environmental assessment but with New South Wales' environmental assessment, we've got it covered.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there's also a big question about the transmission costs that will be needed to ensure that this project is fully integrated with the network.  Who's going to pay for those transmission programs?

PRIME MINISTER: Our transmission program is a big part of our energy strategy and Angus can bring you up to date on that.

THE HON. ANGUS TAYLOR MP, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: So infrastructure costs, transmission costs are a natural part of projects that are happening all over the country at the moment, they're common assets, they're regulated assets, and they're treated as such and they will go through the normal process, the RIT-T process, as it's now called, and we're very confident that the economics of transmission stacks up on a range of different projects including projects to the north and south.

JOURNALIST: Who's going to fund -

THE HON. ANGUS TAYLOR MP, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: So it's the same as all transmission projects.  Customers pay for them but customers only get them if they're going to bring down the power price and make sure there's reliability. And the regulatory process is designed to ensure that investments don't happen unless they're good for customers. That's how it's set up. And, of course, the good news about Snowy is it is good for customers, it will bring down prices, it will strengthen reliability and that means the net impact on customers' prices will be down.

JOURNALIST: So customers will pay for it but customers will be better off?

THE HON. ANGUS TAYLOR MP, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Customers will be better off because the power prices will be lower. We're already seeing the benefits of government policies on bringing down power prices now. We've seen reductions of around 40% before COVID and substantially more since then. We need to keep that downward pressure on prices. Of course, we need good projects like Snowy to do exactly that.

PRIME MINISTER: The point Angus is also making is there is an established process for actually providing and supporting the development of transmission lines and that is applying to this project, as it's applying in so many other projects.

JOURNALIST: You talk about the accelerated timeline, can you talk us through what that will mean in terms of delivery of projects?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we commenced the acceleration of the approvals back in February of this year and Paul is probably better placed to take you through what's happening now.  But if you look behind us, that's where the digging starts and this is really - the really exciting next phase of this project.  There's been a lot of staging going on up until this point, in getting ourselves ready, if you like, at base camp, I suppose, and now the climb begins and, Paul, you might want to speak to the timetable of works.

PAUL BROAD: Very briefly.  Three years ago my chief engineer and I were standing at a creek about 400 metres down the road there, it was a bush track, and we've gone from that approval processes and construction within three years.  We did that, not because everyone thought it was a great idea.  We did that because we invested in the gathering information on the park and if you're really interested in the environment of this park, I suggest you have a good look at some of the details in the EIS.  We've discovered species that we didn't know about before.  We've discovered the extent of those species now appear in a variety of parks in the park.  So the timeframe with his tight, the amount of work we put in was enormous, and I think the park and information bank we have on the park is all the better for it.

PRIME MINISTER: As we work through all these processes, again, this is another one of the reasons why I'm so keen to have a local Liberal member working here with Senator Molan who knows this area extremely well to ensure that this timetable of works and how it's worked through into the community is going as we intended to be and should Fiona be successful this weekend in the Eden-Monaro by-election then she can hit the ground running on this project, working closely with Snowy 2.0 and working closely with the Government to ensure that the two are coming together.  The community benefits, the environmental mitigations and the jobs that will come and, of course, the success of the project etc.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you've received Treasury's recommendations on the Job-Keeper program but you've ruled out making a decision on the future of the program until of polls close on Saturday.  So is the Government concerned about voter backlash in terms of what it does with JobKeeper?

PRIME MINISTER: We didn't cause the by-election.  The by-election has been caused by the retirement of the former member, Labor member, for health reasons and he's gone on to other employment now.  We have set out a process for making decisions that is about getting the right decision and taking all the right advice and considering those carefully and we said that that would be done for the economic statement which would be done in late July.

Now, I noticed the criticisms that Labor have made.  This is the same Labor Party who sat on the Ken Henry review for six months. Jim Chalmers was the principal adviser to the Treasurer at the time and he wants us to release a report within six days and he couldn't release a report in six months. I mean that is just bold hypocrisy from the Labor Party.

We have just received the report. It requires a lot of integration with other parts of the social security system, the other supports that are in place, we are also working through a lot of the issues relating to insolvency protections that we put in place.

These are not linear and simple things that we're seeking to resolve at this point. I mean, we have spent already, rightly, just shy of $50 billion in the last couple of months. That includes JobKeeper, it includes an extra $8 billion already on JobSeeker payments. It includes the cash flow support, it includes the one-off payment that was made to beneficiaries of the welfare system of over $5 billion. So we are talking about significant expenditure of taxpayers’ money here and we need to make sure we get it well targeted and it does the job.

I've already flagged very clearly there will be a next phase and we are calibrating that next phase and targeting it to ensure that the support is there for those businesses and those employees who will continue to need it because of the ongoing restrictions that we see in place. But for many other businesses, we're pleased to see that there has been some improvement and so these are decisions that you don't rush to meet Labor's timetable. They made a lot of hurried and rushed decisions during the course of the last GFC and they bungled most of them, and we saw terrible consequences of ill-considered decisions, financial decisions by the Labor Party during the last GFC.

We are not making those mistakes. What we are doing is carefully considering the information we have, ensuring that it's well-targeted, and that it is well-considered and integrates well with the other parts of the social security system. Thank goodness Labor isn't making this decision because they'd do it in a hurried and rushed way and they'd completely bungle it like they did last time.

JOURNALIST: But are you worried voters will be disappointed with that next phase?


JOURNALIST: Are you worried that voters will be worried - disappointed in that next phase of JobKeeper?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I'm not, because the next phase will be like the first phase.  It will be well considered, it will be well-targeted, it will do the job that it's intended to do and will be designed by a Government that knows what it's doing and is carefully weighing up all the important issues that have to be weighed up.

When you're going through more than $10 billion a month in supports, you don't rush those decisions.  You make them carefully and that is exactly what we're doing.  That's exactly what the Treasurer and I are doing, together with the Finance Minister and the other members of Cabinet.  I'll be returning again, for meetings again, this week and next week to work through these issues to ensure we can make decisions in time for the economic statement which will be in late July which I have always flagged. That's the plan, that's the timetable, that's what we set out and that's what we will stick to.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned the $1.3 billion for the cybersecurity announcement. I understand that comes from the Defence budget. Can you explain where that money is coming from within the Defence portfolio?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they have an overall portfolio allocation across the Defence budget and one of the tasks with the way the Defence budget works is it's constantly targeted and reprioritised to meet what the key demands are and that's what my speech tomorrow to ADFA will go into, about the priorities that we have as a nation in mounting our Defence and those priorities have been adopted and are now being implemented by Defence to ensure that that investment goes to the place which is needed to keep Australians safe.

JOURNALIST: So what's been deprioritised?

PRIME MINISTER: I'll go into all of these issues tomorrow. What's important is what we need to prioritise and what we need to prioritise is Australian's safety, their cybersecurity, the challenges that we're facing in our own region, in particular. I mean we are living in a time of increasing uncertainty and complexity and COVID-19 has only accelerated all of those issues and so we are facing a much more uncertain world and we have to target our resources. But I can assure you of this, we're going to hit our two-percent of GDP target on Defence spending. We are one of the largest Defence spenders in our nation's history other than in wartime, and as Senator Molan will know, because he was the champion of the two-percent target before we came to government in 2013, not only are we going to hit that target, we're going to hit it in the next financial year and we're going to hit it well ahead of time and that means that by allocating such high levels of investment to our Defence, then we can meet these threats that Australia is facing.

JOURNALIST: So will you set out what's deprioritised in your speech tomorrow?

PRIME MINISTER: What I will set out is where we're spending a money.

JOURNALIST: Just a question to Dr. Kotvojs if that's possible.


JOURNALIST: In your submission to the Royal Commission on bushfires, you mentioned a lot about hazard reduction and reduction strategies, but you made no mention of climate change or reducing carbon emissions, why's that?

DR FIONA KOTVOJS, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR EDEN MONARO: So I believe that the climate is changing and I believe that humans are contributing to that change and in my experience where I live, the fires came through our farm and we watched them coming at Cobargo, into Dignams Creek, and the areas where there's been hazard reduction already occurring, the fire came through low intensity and much slower.  It caused much less damage.  The area where the hazard reduction hadn't occurred, the fire was just so intense.  It's caused so much damage.

You look at the bush now and it just looks like an atomic bomb went off there, it's terrible.  The regeneration is slow, it's still silent, the animals haven't come back.  So in the area where I live, the key thing is hazard reduction and that's a critical factor.

The submission I made is about my experience in my area and I really welcome the fact that we have a royal commission and that the royal commission is looking at the reasons for the fires from Queensland through to South Australia, and they will differ across that area.  So for me, I'm really pleased that that's the way we're doing.

JOURNALIST: But do you believe that climate change had an impact on the intensity of this year's fires?

DR FIONA KOTVOJS, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR EDEN MONARO: I'm looking forward to the outcomes from the royal commission because that is looking at all of those reasons and I'm really pleased that the terms of reference specifically identified that the royal commission would look at the impact of climate change.

JOURNALIST: But do you personally believe that climate change was a factor in the black summer bushfires in this region?

DR FIONA KOTVOJS, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR EDEN MONARO: I can speak about our area because that's where I was fighting the fires with the RFS, that's where I was defending our home and our property.  That's where the fires actually rolled through our farm and I know what happened.  I can't speak about other places.  I wasn't there.  But in our place, our farm, my community, the key thing, and the key thing that caused a difference in different places that I could see was hazard reduction and, as I said, I am really pleased that the royal commission is looking at all of the factors across the whole area that caused the bushfires and contributed to them and then I look forward to those recommendations being implemented.

PRIME MINISTER: We'll move it around.

JOURNALIST: Are there any measures in place to make sure that the jobs do stay local, especially for those who were displaced from the forestry industry from the fires?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, well as you probably know, we just put in a very significant package of support to the timber industry right across - not just here but right across the country, supporting that sector and particularly those that were obviously impacted by the bushfires down at Eden or other parts of the country. And one of the tasks is always, with any of these big projects, is to make sure we're getting as many local contractors and employers involved and particularly employees and it's great to see so many here today.  It's great to see even things like, you know, where the coffee cart comes from is coming locally. But I do know that is a policy of Snowy to be able to be using local jobs and local contractors wherever they can and perhaps, Paul, you might want to talk about your success in that regard.

PAUL BROAD: Thank you, Prime Minister. It's a pleasure to offer so many jobs to local communities particularly those in the Tumut side which were destroyed in the fires.  The timber industry has been destroyed. Hundreds and hundreds of jobs have gone. And to go over there and offer jobs with our future generation, to see the young people lining up and asking for jobs and asking for training, is a real pleasure. It's one of the real benefits of this massive project is to create opportunity for young people in the bush that they would not have had.

PRIME MINISTER: One of the things that a lot of my colleagues do on the local level, particularly when it's on infrastructure projects, and I think of people like Luke Howarth or Melissa McIntosh, they get involved in local job fairs and they run those local job fairs to connect locals to the employment opportunities that are coming from these major projects.  Same occurs up in North Queensland and other parts of the country.

This is why it's so important to have a local Liberal member as part of the Government that can ensure that we can get the best possible integration and connection with the jobs that are here for local businesses and locals to get the jobs that flow from this big project.  And this is why on Saturday, there are many reasons to support Fiona Kotvojs, whose experience has been built up over a lifetime of achievement which few can emulate, to be honest, but importantly, this project is the biggest thing that this part of the country has ever seen since Snowy 1 and to make sure that lands as best as it possibly can by voting for Fiona Kotvojs, you're voting for jobs with Snowy 2.0 reaching your community.  Last question.

JOURNALIST: One last question on COVID-19 and borders, if that's okay.  We're obviously seeing a significant uptick in outbreaks in Victoria.  Some States are wanting to continue closing their borders to Victoria for longer, which I'm sure is not the best news. Victoria's considering local isolations. How would you like to see Victoria deal with this?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm working closely with Premier Andrews. I've been in contact with him again this morning.  I was in contact with him yesterday and the night before. We are speaking regularly. The health ministers are engaged, as is the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Health Officer in Victoria. All the other States, as I indicated at last Friday's National Cabinet, are focussing how they can provide support and we've got people coming from South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, of course, federal public servants in Melbourne are being deployed out of Services Australia. Some 600 specifically out of that source as well as another, we're hoping to get up to 200 further ADF and if not out of the ADF then out of other areas, depending on what the skills need is for the jobs they need to do. I want to commend the Northern Territory Government with how they're dealing with this. The Northern Territory Government has kept their borders open but they've said if you're coming from one of those hot spots, then you have to declare it and you have to go into quarantine in the Northern Territory. That's how this should be done. That's the right way to do it. There will be outbreaks. There will be hot spots, and you can't just shut Australia up every time there's an outbreak. We need to ensure our economy builds back with confidence and with resilience. So I think it's important that the borders are open. I've always said that. There's nothing new about my view on that topic. What you have to focus on is the hot spots where they occur and if, indeed, a full local lockdown is required in those hot spots then that's the decision the Premier will take and they will take that decision with the full support and backing through resource from the Commonwealth Government as well as from other States and Territories where that is necessary.

But Australia has to go forward. Going forward here with this project, and we have to go forward despite COVID-19.  We can't let it hold us back and we can't go stop/start when it comes to these things. There are ways to mitigate the risks that are coming out of Victoria, and, frankly, to resist all of Victoria makes little sense.  There is a hot spot in one part of Melbourne.  Admittedly, it's very serious, it has our total focus, and it is of great concern.  But if you're living in Wangaratta then you're no more affected by what's going on in those suburbs of Melbourne than if you're living in Whyalla. So we've got to get some perspective and that's why I commend the Northern Territory Government on the approach they're taking. They have very sensitive communities in the Northern Territory and I think they've made this call absolutely right and are showing leadership that I think the other States should follow.

JOURNALIST: Just on international news. Overnight some strong words from the British Foreign Secretary and the US Secretary of State regarding reports out of China that Uighurs are being forced to take birth control.  Have you seen those reports and are you equally as horrified by them as our allies have been?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, I haven't seen those reports, Brett, and I'm sure later today I will be briefed on them, given my transit this morning and dealing with the Victorian outbreak issues earlier today. We have meetings this afternoon where I'm sure that will be raised. So it's difficult for me to comment on them without having that first-hand report or that direct report, I should say, from my own agencies.

The Australian Government has always taken a very consistent position on the treatment of Uighurs and we've expressed our concern, both privately and publicly, about the treatment of such minority groups and we have done that consistent with our values and we've sought to do that in a respectful and in a direct way. And so, you know, we would do nothing other than be consistent in our approach on these issues and always will be. I mean, in relationships, in good relationships, you raise these issues, as we have.  You do it in a respectful way and we would hope that all minorities would be treated with the proper respect and human dignity that we would expect of our own families. Thanks very much.