Virtual press conference
- The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister
PRIME MINISTER: I'm very pleased to be joining Foreign Minister Marise Payne in this virtual format to make the most exciting confirmation that Doctor Kylie Moore-Gilbert is coming home. This is a great day for Australia and it is obviously a wonderful day for Kylie and her family. Obviously, her family have asked, as has Kylie, that we respect their privacy as Kylie returns home and makes what will be a very significant adjustment. This has been a consular case that we have been working on now for two years and I particularly want to commend Foreign Minister Marise Payne and all of her team, both within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ambassador on the ground and her team, but also many other agencies and their officials who have supported this incredibly important task. Australians will find themselves in places of great difficulty and I can think of few greater places of difficulty then an Iranian President with a sentence over you of 10 years for a conviction that Australia has always rejected and, of course, Doctor Kylie Moore-Gilbert has always rejected. These arrangements in seeking to secure the release of Australians are very difficult to work through and they are very complex and for the reasons are protecting the safety of all other Australians who potentially can find themselves in difficult situations, the Australian Government's practice, regardless of what side of politics we are from, has always been to deal with those issues with the greatest deal of discretion. But what is true is that Kylie Moore-Gilbert is coming home. She was facing another eight years in an Iranian prison, wrongfully imprisoned there and wrongfully convicted, and it is incredibly essential that we did the work that was done to secure her release and see her coming home.
Now, I'm sure there are many issues that are raised by these events and I'm going to hand over in a minute to Foreign Minister Marise Payne to speak further on this matter. But what I do want to say is that I'm just so thankful, as I know that Kylie Moore-Gilbert is, to all of those who assisted her release. She is an extraordinarily intelligent, strong and courageous woman. She is an amazing Australian who has gone through an ordeal that we can only imagine, and it will be a tough transition for her, as it has been for others in similar experiences in the past. I know she will get tremendous support from her friends and family and she will, of course, get tremendous support from the Australian Government, both in her return home, as well as the counselling and other support and debriefing and health support that she will need as she makes that transition. Both Marise and I spoke to Kylie earlier today and we were in touch with each other, Marise and I, last night when we first got the news. There have been a few false starts on this in the past ,but we have got there now. Particularly over the course of the last few days, we saw how these events were unfolding and we kept up the hope, we kept up the prayers too and as I said on morning television this morning, I have always believed in miracles and I'm just so thankful for this one as well to see Kylie coming home. She seems to be, in our own conversations, in quite good spirits, but I imagine there is a lot of processing of this to go through yet and as she returns home to Australia and adjusts to life here again.
So, finally to you Kylie, you are amazing. Your strength and your courage is an example to all Australians in what has been an enormously difficult year at home but compared to what you have been going through, well, that is a whole another experience entirely. So I am going to handover to Marise now and to you, Marise, congratulations on how you have led this effort, for your passion and commitment to this. It just couldn't have been greater. Your determination to see this happen today is a great testimony to the great work that you do as our Minister of Foreign Affairs. Marise.
SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. I am extremely pleased that Doctor Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released from her unjustified detention in Iran and is safely on her way home. Doctor Moore-Gilbert will soon be able to resume her life with her family and her work colleagues and this is cause for great relief and also great joy today. I have spoken, as the Prime Minister said, to Doctor Moore-Gilbert on the phone this morning. She is healthy and she is in good spirits. On her return, she will enter quarantine, but she will not be alone and she is well supported. I am not able to disclose the location of her quarantine, nor any other private details. We would all understand that Doctor Moore-Gilbert has adjustments to make, some plans to consider, so this will be a period of privacy and one expects, decompression. Doctor Moore-Gilbert and her family have, as the Prime Minister said, asked for privacy at this time.
Her release has been an absolute priority for the Government over more than the last two years. We have consistently rejected the grounds on which the government of Iran arrested and detained Doctor Moore-Gilbert and we continue to do so. These are points I made strongly to Foreign Minister Zarif during multiple meetings on this issue. Of course, every case of this nature is considered individually and the best strategy is carefully considered each and every time and indeed reviewed through that period. We draw on experience, we draw on the professional judgement of DFAT and other officers. Doctor Moore-Gilbert's family agreed with the Government's advice that the best outcome was likely through diplomatic channels. Our officials followed that strategy with professionalism, with diligence, with commitment, and with great care to secure her safe release and return.
I also want to acknowledge Doctor Moore-Gilbert's faith, her steadfast endurance and her resilience. I want to thank her family. I want to thank her family for the trust, the confidence they have shown towards our diplomatic and consular officers. I also thank her employer, Melbourne University, and her academic colleagues for their support and cooperation. I also, especially, thank this morning Australia's diplomats for their assistance to me and to the Government in securing Doctor Moore-Gilbert's release. The Australian people can be absolutely assured that their diplomatic corps has served us all with utmost professionalism and discretion. This has been a long process. Their commitment and their focus has endured every step of the way. As long as I have been engaged on this, they have been engaged on this. This outcome demonstrates, for me, and I think to Australia, the value of professional, determined, discrete work of officials in resolving complex and sensitive consular cases.
As I said, I am very relieved to know that Doctor Moore-Gilbert is safely out of detention and will be returning to Australia and I've very much look forward to hearing the news of her reunion with her family. Thanks, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: OK, let's go to questions. If I could get the vision of the press conference back and I'm going to have to rely on, we might just go around the room, I think is probably easiest, unless you have agreed on some order. So let's take those questions and I will respond and then pass over to Marise as appropriate.
JOURNALIST: Thanks, Prime Minister. Andrew Tillett from the Financial Review. Kylie Moore-Gilbert is not an isolated case. There were two Australians last October that were released in similar circumstances of effectively a prisoner swap. What is your message for the Iranian regime about this hostage diplomacy that they engage in, and is it just unsafe for Australians to travel to Iran when the COVID-19 travel restrictions are ended?
PRIME MINISTER: Australia's warnings about travel to Iran have been consistent, about the risks that present to Australians who are travelling in that area. And you are absolutely right, we did have earlier cases, we were also able to successfully arrange for their release as well, as we have in this case with Doctor Moore-Gilbert. Now, we don't confirm or make any comment on any of the suggestions that surround her release or the others. That practice is there for good reason and that is because Australia works through diplomatic channels to resolve many issues of this nature, so it would not be in Australia's interests or for the safety of other Australians who from time to time may find themselves in this situation. To acknowledge or confirm in any way, shape or form, so you can draw no conclusion from those arrangements. That is how we are able to best work to secure people's release. But our message to the Iranian government is the same one that I wrote to the President about and the Foreign Minister has raised directly with the Iranian Foreign Minister and that is the detention of Australians for no reason that can be substantiated is just not on. It's not lawful, it is not recognised by Australia and we won't accept it and we will do everything to ensure we can, in Australia's interest, to secure the release of people who have been falsely detained. Marise, did you want to add anything to that?
SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Prime Minister, I would remind everybody that our travel advice on Iran is very clear. Firstly, we advise; do not travel to Iran and particularly at this point in time due to the COVID-19 outbreak. That is common across our formal travel advice. But we also add that the security situation remains volatile and there is a high risk that you could be arbitrarily detained or arrested. We are very careful with the application of our travel advice and those warnings are there for good reason.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Chris Uhlmann from Nine News. You would both be aware about how this is being reported in Iran. It says an Iranian businessmen and two Iranian citizens who were detained abroad on baseless charges were exchanged for a dual national spy. I know you can't speak directly to this case, but don't prisoner exchanges encourage rogue states to take hostages?
PRIME MINISTER: Again, I will give the same answer I just gave to the previous question, and the Australian government doesn't acknowledge or confirm any such arrangements, regarding any release of any other persons in any other places. If other people have been released in other places, they are the decisions of the sovereign governments in those places. There are no people who have been held in Australia who have been released and so what is important is that Australians are obviously careful in places where they travel to and comply with the travel advice that has been offered by the Australian Government. But we live in an uncertain world and we live in a world where there are regimes that don't act in relation to people's liberties and rights and with the freedoms that we enjoy here in Australia and that is just a sad reality of the world which we live in. And Australia has to deal in that world, we have to take actions in that world to secure the safety of Australians and we will always seek to do that in a professional way. But I can assure you, we don't do it in a way that compromises Australia's national interest, Australia's national security or the safety of Australians.
JOURNALIST: Mark Riley from the Seven Network, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Working on a bit of a theme here, but the US President-elect Joe Biden's talking about reviving the Iran nuclear deal. In doing that, I'm wondering first whether we agree with that, and secondly, as part of that, could it not be a condition applied by the US that Iran stops this practice of state sanctioned hostage taking for ransom and starts to act responsibly in the international community to have sanctions eased?
PRIME MINISTER: The JCPOA, you will recall, we looked at as a Government. We are not a party to that agreement but we did look at that agreement and we expressed support for that agreement and undertook that review and continued in that position. But in doing so, we have not been uncritical about the effectiveness of that arrangement, and have said openly that we believe there are improvements that can be made to it. So to that extent, Mark, we would welcome any improvements that would lead to the more lawful behaviour of states like Iran, whether it's on those issues that you've just mentioned or more broadly in relation to other activities that Australia obviously does not accept. And so I think there are always opportunities to improve these arrangements. That arrangement has come under a lot of criticism but I think the balance of judgement on that, and Marise will add to this, has been that it is better to have it than not to have it. But it could certainly be a lot better and more effective than it is. Marise?
SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Prime Minister, I think that covers most of the issues. Of course, not being a party to the JCPOA means that others will be engaging in those negotiations and those issues. But we have been consistently clear that we encourage compliance with the provisions of the JCPOA itself. We have been clear in urging Iran to remain within the bounds of the plan of action, which includes workable provisions that deal with disputes and disagreements, so there are mechanisms in that instance. But in terms of rejoining, from the United States' perspective and as the Prime Minister said, there may well be opportunities to consider other issues such as the one you have raised.
JOURNALIST: Tamsin Rose from the Herald Sun here. There are lots of other Australians in prisons overseas, including Melbourne man Karm Gilespie who is currently an China facing the death penalty. Do you have an update on his case and could the same strategies that we used to get this release today be used to get him back home?
PRIME MINISTER: I will ask Marise to give an update on Mr Gilespie's case, but let me just say more broadly that Australians find themselves in situations for a range of different reasons. And whether they be on criminal matters or they be on political charges, effectively, or espionage charges or things of that nature, so I would say and it has been our experience, that every case is unique and you deal with the circumstances of each case on its merits and seek to find a pathway to resolution as best as you possibly can, and that is what we do in each case. Now, it is impossible for the Australian Government to give any guarantees on these cases about resolution. That is why it is with joy that we welcome the fact that Kylie is on her way home, because there are no guarantees in this situation, nor is there in the case that you have mentioned. But we will continue to apply ourselves assiduously to this and I will ask the Minister to comment further.
SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thank you, Prime Minister. It is absolutely the case that every sensitive consular case is different and the facts and the circumstances of each case really guide us and are part of our planning and how each is handled. It is literally a case-by-case strategy. In relation to Mr Gilespie, his matter is still in part of a legal process within China. We continue to seek consular access to him to ensure that we can provide that consular support and, of course, to seek to ensure that he has access to lawyers as well. To be very clear, Australia in all cases, at all times, absolutely opposes the application of the death penalty. That most certainly holds in relation to the cases that you have raised and any other case, in fact. There are many Australians around the world who find themselves in detention for a vast range of reasons. At any one time, Australian consular officials can be dealing with over 200 cases of people in prison globally, and those reasons are as vast as you might imagine. Some are the sorts of circumstances we have seen Doctor Moore-Gilbert deal with. Others, where charges have been made in relation to drugs issues. Others where domestic criminal laws in the countries in which Australians find themselves have been breached and they are dealing with appropriate legal processes there. Every single one of them is a difficult case in its own way. Every single one of them takes considerable consular time to engage on and to provide support for, and we take all of them very, very seriously.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Andrew Probyn from the ABC. You would have noticed that Kylie Moore-Gilbert made a statement outside Evin Prison talking about the Zionist regime, according to one translation. Would you be worried if the making of such statements was a condition of her release and, secondly, and perhaps this is for Senator Payne, have we expressed our thanks to the government of Thailand for their assistance in this matter?
PRIME MINISTER: On the second point you have raised, you are making assumptions, Andrew, that the government does not confirm. So that would be wrong for us to make any comment on that matter, one way or the other. So I think that rests at that point. In relation to the debriefing of Doctor Kylie Moore-Gilbert, that will be done when she returns and goes through quarantine and receives the health support that will be necessary for her to make this difficult adjustment and we will work through these issues, I'm sure, in due course, Marise?
SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thank you Prime Minister, I think that covers off those issues.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Pablo Vinales, SBS news. Can I just ask you on stranded Australians, some of them have told the COVID committee this morning that at the current rate it is going to take seven years get some of those 36,000 stranded Australians back home. You said you want them home by Christmas. What needs to change for that to happen? Are you still confident that will happen and to Minister Payne, can you assure those Australians that you are doing everything possible to get them home by Christmas?
PRIME MINISTER: A couple of things. Of course we want to see Australians get home and we are very aware, as we have been all year. Over 400,000 Australians have returned home over the course of this pandemic coming back into Australia. When I made the statement, I was making reference to the 26,800 I think it was, Marise, the numbers that we currently had registered at that time seeking to come home. That was in the mid to late September, about 35,000 have arrived back in Australia by now. And there will be more who will arrive home in Australia by the end of the year. So in relation to the commitment I made at the time, I think we have been making good progress against that.
Obviously, the ability to get people home to Australia depends on the available quarantine capacity here in Australia. As you know, the state governments have requested to have caps on the number of Australians and number of arrivals who can come back into Australia, particularly in this time where quarantine is under pressure and that is the greatest risk of transmission of the virus into Australia. So we understand that. I appreciate, particularly in New South Wales, who have carried the lion's share of the load of people coming back to Australia every week, about 3,000. But on top of that, we have had increase in the caps out of Perth and out of Queensland and I thank them for their cooperation. Tasmania also is doing its bit and South Australia, they will return to taking people back on Monday and we welcome that and in Victoria, they will commence again on the 7th of December and there will be about 1,120 who will be coming in, I think it is, a week out of there, and Victoria obviously will be able to take a lot more but they are coming back into the process gently to ensure that their quarantine systems are not breached.
This is why I made it clear to states and territories and particularly those that were saying they would like to bring international students in and that they wanted to have a share of their international arrivals to be dedicated to students. We simply cannot do that because our priority is to get Australians home. I will ask Marise to go through the many flights and we have got some happening even as we speak. The setting up of the facilities up there in the Northern Territory, and the number of flights, I think there are almost 70 flights, assisted flights, that the Australian Government has been involved in getting Australians home this year. Should almost be about 40,000 specifically have been directly facilitated through that process, over the course of this year. So I can assure you, Australia is moving everything we possibly can to get as many Australians home. But there are obviously understandable constraints to that because of the caps on quarantine capacity. We provided Defence Force support for that, the AUSMAT teams have also provided support for that and it is not just the physical space in hotels but it is also then the police resources that need to be dedicated for those tasks and ADF resources that have been made available, as well as medical support provided by the state governments. So there are constraints. But so far, there are just under 27,000 we wanted to get home. 35,000 have already come home but more and more Australians are looking to get home. We're also, through Services Australia, directly contacting all of those who have registered with our missions overseas to get updated status on their situation. Many of those have recently told us, well no, we can come back next year. But many are saying no, our situation has become more vulnerable and urgent and they have been prioritised in the way we deal with those sensitive cases. But Marise?
SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Pablo, I can absolutely assure you we are doing everything we can through the consular crisis division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. As the Prime Minister said, currently with the support of Services Australia to do everything we can to return as many Australians as possible, as soon as possible. That includes having run 24-hour consular teams for months and months now. Using very significant DFAT resources to do that, connecting with and contacting as many of those Australians who are overseas as we can to determine the best support we can provide them to determine how we can assist with access to flights, which in the context of the current international aviation environment, is of course challenging in itself. Then, of course, to determine if they need support in place and we have announced and are administering a hardship program through DFAT, which has so far distributed about $9 million to over 1,700 applicants that can assist in covering the cost of accommodation, of subsistence and of flights. We have been organising facilitated commercial flights from Europe and India during the last month or so, seven of those have arrived in Darwin and Perth, carrying over 1,000 passengers. They obviously have to be staggered through the quarantine and the caps process as well. But there are more to follow over the coming weeks from both New Delhi and London and other locations. We have a flight arriving in Canberra today, for example, which will fly from Singapore, bringing an extra 120 passengers going into hotel quarantine in the ACT, which is my understanding that is the first time the ACT has participated in the quarantine process for returning Australians. So, it is a complex process. We are contacting all of those Australians, family by family, to determine the best processes for them to work with them on that. As the Prime Minister said, some are keener than ever to return because of their family circumstances. Others are changing their positions and views. We will work with all of them on that and our role is in providing that support. What effect the consular officials who are doing this work, both in Canberra but also at countless posts around the world where they have been working on helping Australians who have been impacted by COVID-19 since March and April this year. It has been an enormous undertaking. We have seen 426,000 Australians returned from overseas since the Government first recommended that people reconsider the need to travel overseas on March 13. Many of those have been supported and assisted by the consular officials at DFAT.
JOURNALIST: Daniel Hurst from Guardian Australia. Prime Minister, you have not acknowledged any linkages and he said release of prisoners as a matter for those sovereign states. So let me put this another way. Why should these Australian people not be concerned or have any security concerns about the release of at least two Iranian men in Thailand who are convicted of terrorism charges and given that those men were part of an attempt to assassinate Israeli diplomats in Bangkok, have there been any consultations with the government of Israel about this matter and have any concerns been expressed by the government of Israel to Australia about the release of these men?
PRIME MINISTER: I will leave it to the Foreign Minister, whether she has received any information from Israel on that matter. I'm not aware of any that has come to Australia in my capacity. My answer is the same as to what I said to you, where another sovereign state has made a decision about the release of prisoners, that is a matter for them. Again, as Australia manages these sensitive issues, the reason we do it so sensitively and ensuring that Australia's, the safety of Australians and Australia's national interest are not compromised. They are clear guardrails for Australia in how we manage these matters and this is important for other Australians who can find themselves in difficult situations. I do understand the interest. I do understand the reasons why, rightly, these questions will be raised. I totally understand that and I know the Foreign Minister would as well. Equally, in our responsibilities, we need to keep Australians safe in a whole manner of very complex and difficult arrangements and that is the reason why we are so discreet about the handling of these matters because it can put other Australians at risk. Potentially in the future. So, it would not be responsible for us, I believe, to engage in that level of detail. Marise, did you have anything to add on Israel?
SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN: No, Prime Minister, I'm not going to comment on diplomatic discussions with other governments in the context of the return of Doctor Moore-Gilbert. What I will say is my absolute focus in this entire process for such a long time has always been to endeavour to secure the release of Doctor Moore-Gilbert and to protect the rights, freedoms, safety of all citizens and to consistently act in Australia's interests. I can absolutely assure you that is the premise from which we start every day.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Sarah Ison from the West Australian. Just turning to the Chinese relationship, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday that Australia was solely to blame for the current rift, that Australia has caused difficulties in the bilateral relations and urged Australia to face up to problems and correct mistakes. What problems could they be speaking about and what mistakes have been made? Senator Payne, is it to do with the international inquiry you called into the origins of COVID-19, could this be classed as the mistake they refer to?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the other day the Chinese Embassy here in Australia outlined a list of 14 points and those 14 points go to the way that Australia makes its own laws in its own interests. That it engages on issues of global concern, consistent with Australia's values about transparency and human rights and issues of that nature and it also goes to the fact that Australia has a free press and a democratically elected Parliament of members who can freely speak their minds. I mean, these are fundamental sovereign interests of Australia. And so I can assure Australians that all of our views on those issues remain and are absolute. The other evening I gave a presentation to the Policy Exchange where I outlined I think fairly clearly what Australia's ambitions are here. We acknowledge, of course, the great economic success of China. I mean, no country in the world has pulled more people out of poverty than China has. That is a remarkable modern achievement of which they should be rightly proud and of which Australia has played a key role in. Not unlike the dramatic transformation of Japan during the post-war period. And indeed of the war-torn countries of Europe, who were able to reconstruct and rebuild on the basis of free market trading principles that make them the strong nations they are today. That said, that is why we want to have a happy coexistence, a good positive relationship under our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, one that is mutually beneficial. So the relationship between Australia and China is not one way. It is not just Australia who benefits. China greatly benefits. We greatly participated in their economic success. There is a wonderful people-to-people relationship between Australia and China and we share a passionate, deep and abiding interest in the success of south-eastern Asian nations pulling their nations and their people out of poverty. Particularly some nations that are newly developing, like in Myanmar and places like that, so we share those objectives for the region and want to work together on those things. That interest sits alongside our interest in maintaining the healthy and wonderful alliance we have with our friends, the United States, and we will make our decisions based on our interest. They will not be determined by countries outside of Australia. It is in our interest to seek to manage each of these relationships to the best possible way we can because that is what is in our national interest. I think Australia's position has been clear and consistent. Both Prime Minister Howard and indeed the former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer made it pretty clear after my presentation the other night. Australia's position has not changed. The policies are the same. And they continue to be worked out and the actions we have taken consistent with those positions. So I think there has been a very clear and very consistent position from Australia and we would happily welcome a dialogue again, at a leader level and at a ministerial level. Australia has always been open to that and remain open to it now.
JOURNALIST: Anthony Galloway from the Sydney Morning Herald. This is probably one for the Foreign Minister. But now that Doctor Moore-Gilbert is coming home and is safe, are you able to confirm any more details about what were Iran's actual baseless allegations? Are you able to confirm that central to the allegations were an alleged connection to Israel?
PRIME MINISTER: Marise? Well, it seems like we might have had a technical problem with the Foreign Minister's feed into the media conference. And, again, on these issues, they are not really things that we are going to get drawn into at this point. I mean, there were the issues that were publicly reported at the time. The bottom line is, is they were false. They were false allegations. She was not being detained for any, in our view, any legally appropriate reason. It was appropriate that she be released because she had done nothing wrong and she should not have been detained the way that she was. So that is why we couldn't be happier that this period has ended. But, Marise, do we have you back? If not, we might go to the next question.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Chloe Bouras from Network Ten. Just on another matter, bushfire season is upon us again. The Bureau of Meteorology is about to give its outlook for bushfires. Has the Federal Government implemented or actioned any of the recommendations that were made by the Royal Commission and if so, which ones?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Royal Commission brought down a range of overarching governance-type arrangements and we will continue to work through the implementation of that and you have our response to that. We released that a week and a half ago. Much of the operational preparations have been ongoing now for some time. I mean, I had the National Cabinet briefed on the Bureau of Meteorology's forecast for the upcoming disaster season. That doesn't only deal with bushfires, but particularly because of the risk with La Nina, the risk particularly on the east coast is around flooding and cyclone events. That is one of the reasons we had to redeploy ADF to ensure they were preparing for any role they may need to play in the upcoming season, regardless of what type of a disaster may befall us.
In the west, the risk was greater on issues like bushfires, as they were in the north and so we have been working with state governments in readiness for those events as well. In terms of the firefighting fleet, aerial fleet, the planes, the same process with the additional financial support of the Commonwealth continues. It is the fire chiefs who make the recommendations about what they need and that is what has been provided and we will continue to take their advice. That was an area of difference between the Royal Commission and both the state and territory governments and the Commonwealth, that the system they had of the fire chiefs from the state whose have operational responsibilities making the recommendations about how their state fleets need to be supplemented with additional resources. That is why we put the additional funding in for and made that permanent to ensure they can reliably access those resources. So the work continues, as it does every year. There have been many learnings from last year's bushfire season. Some are longer-term changes. A big part of the change that was recommended to the Royal Commission is that we have to look more on the recovery side of things and on the climate resilience side of things. It is very important, of course, that we reduce our emissions and Australia is, and successfully, and meeting our commitments and our targets and in fact we are exceeding them. But on top of that, dealing with climate change is also about building climate resilience for locked-in impacts and regardless of what happens in the missions in the next 10 or 20 years, the existing impacts that are locked in to the system rely increased effort on climate resilience. Not just here in Australia too, by the way, but Pacific countries and that is where a big part of our support effort, some half a billion dollars, goes into that assistance.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Josh Butler from The New Daily. Thank you for sticking around until the end. On hotel quarantine, South Australia and Victoria both this week announced they are strengthening their systems. New rules around restrictions on workers and medical guidelines. The Chief Medical Officer said last week that hotel quarantine was Australia's major risk of reintroducing COVID to the country. Especially considering more Australians are coming home now and the surge in cases overseas, do you believe the broader system of hotel quarantine would be strengthened in other states? And just a quick related one to follow up on Pablo's earlier question, is that goal of getting all Australians home by Christmas a bit too difficult?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, let me deal with that one first. The goal was to deal with the caseload that we had back in September and that was around 26,700 people. And we've already got 35,000 home. So we are well on the track to deal with the scale of demand that we had at the time. In fact, we have exceeded it in many respects with the number of people that have come back. There have been more who have joined that queue and so having effectively, really achieved the scale of movement that we were hoping to achieve over this time, there are more people who want to come and we just need to get as many people home as quickly as we possibly can using the methods that the Foreign Minister has indicated. Now, the biggest constraint on that is the scale of quarantine resources that are available for people to come back and it is logical that the area of greatest risk of COVID coming into Australia is from those returning Australians. Now, that was the case back in March. It is true today and the quarantine system, which was introduced in late March, has been incredibly successful. Yes, there have been a number of outbreaks that are caused from quarantine, but when you think of hundreds of thousands of people who have come back through this system over the many months, that is why your back-up system of tracing and isolating and testing are so important. There is no one solve to this. All of these things work together. That has been the consistent advice provided to National Cabinet and that is why, whether it is was Jane Holton's review of the quarantine system that I think has informed many of the changes that you are seeing and the assessment that she did across all of the state and territory jurisdictions and gave them a pretty good score, I have got to say. But there is always room for improvement and that report was released publicly. That has been provided to the states, so they can make further improvements in their quarantine arrangements. But on top of that, Dr Finkel and his report that I released after National Cabinet - where the recommendations of that report were adopted by all members, all premiers and chief ministers - that also goes to the further strengthening of our tracing system. We did see that in place and working in South Australia. I mean, 4,000 people were identified and isolated in the space of less than 48 hours. The tracing system swarmed and kicked in very quickly in South Australia and they were able to avoid a much more serious situation. I can appreciate that people were concerned about the level of lockdown that occurred, based on the information they had at the time, but the fact that it could be removed so quickly and that outbreak contained so fast and the isolation testing and tracing that was done shows the significant improvement, I think, in the systems that are there. When you look at Australia compared to the rest of the world, well, frankly, there is no comparison. Australia is in a handful of countries that stand out, not just for how we've suppressed the virus, but how we have mediated, mitigated I should say, the economic impact on Australia. I mean, Australia's economy has withstood this better than almost any other advanced economy in the world. That is a great credit to the perseverance and the determination of Australians to see through one of the most difficult years in their lived experience. But, Marise, did you want to add anything further to that or on the other matter before we lost you?
SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN: No, Prime Minister, I think that is very clear in terms of the returning Australians and the endeavours that we are making to assist wherever possible through the airlines, through the worker's consular and crisis team, through so many other ways at posts and ultimately to have as many Australians back in Australia before Christmas as we can.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, everyone. I appreciate you joining us for this virtual media conference and the key thing is Kylie is coming home. How good is that?
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