Prime Minister – Transcript – Press Conference at Parliament House
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, should people avoid Black Lives Matter protests over the weekend given the advice, well the pleas of State medical officers, and if they do attend those protests, should they face the same social distancing fines that anyone else would?
PRIME MINISTER: Well look, thank you for the question. I have spoken to Premier Andrews and Premier Berejiklian. The police authorities in both states have made decisions, operational decisions on public order grounds. And I understand the decisions that they have taken, it’s not for me to comment on operational decisions of police forces. And they’re the decisions that they have made. But let me be clear, as I believe Premiers have also, that while those public order decisions have been made, that’s not an invitation or a license for this in those broader, I think, social responsibility terms. Our message is very clear, that the health risks of gathering in such large numbers and the risks of people coming into close proximity are real and Australians have worked incredibly hard in recent months and have undergone great sacrifices to protect the health of the most vulnerable and that has included our Indigenous communities.
One of our greatest fears at the start of this COVID crisis, for Premiers, myself, our Cabinet at a federal level, has been our concern for the potential impact on Indigenous communities of COVID-19. And not just remote communities, but metropolitan communities as well. And so it is important for people to have their right to protest.
I said at the outset of this crisis that we had to deal with this crisis consistent with our values, and who we were as Australians and those liberties, and that is true, but with those liberties, great responsibility, I think, for individuals. And so for all of those Australians who couldn’t attend the funeral of a family member, or couldn’t see a loved one in a nursing home, or a veteran who couldn’t remember their fallen colleagues by attending a war memorial service on Anzac Day, I think all Australians owe all those other Australians agreed duty of responsibility and I say to them don’t go. Not because you shouldn’t express your view, find another way to express your view. We all found a way on Anzac Day to thank those who gave us our liberty, and not gather in large numbers. And we stood on the end of our driveways, or we held up a light on that dawn in our windows or on our balconies and we found a way to celebrate those who gave us our liberty.
Let’s not misuse that liberty. Let’s respect it. Let’s respect other Australians. And let’s say to those who had the absolute agony of not being able to say goodbye to a loved one, let’s thank them by showing responsibility this weekend. The health advice is very clear, that it’s not a good idea to go. And I have asked the AHPPC today to consider this matter and the Chief Medical Officer will be standing up later today and advising you of the AHPPC’s, the medical expert panel’s, advice to Australians about gathering in these numbers, so this isn’t about issues regarding people’s ability to express themselves and engage in protest activity, we all respect that. But let’s respect those other Australians who have gone through such hardship. Let’s respect them. Let’s find a better way and another way to express these sentiments, rather than putting your own health at risk, the health of others at risk, the great gains that we have been able to make as a country in recent months. And let’s not forget the terrible economic consequences of that as well. Let’s not put that at risk. Let’s exercise our liberties responsibly this weekend. I encourage people not to attend for those reasons and those reasons only.
JOURNALIST: On this topic, can I just ask, is it a national shame in Australia that there have been at least 432 Indigenous deaths in custody since the royal commission in 1991 and do you need to do anything more to, given that only two-thirds of the recommendations from that royal commission have been implemented?
PRIME MINISTER: Well of course it is, and that is why the closing the gap initiatives that all states and territories, and the Commonwealth Government, are so focused on delivering and that’s why we’ve gone through the reforms of that process as we have engaged with Indigenous peak groups. I mean in Australia we understand the problems we have, in this area. And I get only cooperation from all levels of government in trying to address these issues. No-one has a mortgage on concern about this issue. I share these concerns, all Australians share these concerns. And so I don’t diminish them for a second. But what I do say is that Australia is not other places. So let’s deal with this as Australians and not appropriate what’s happening in other countries to our country at this time.
and the next day he said,
Prime Minister – Transcript – Doorstop – Googong NSW
JOURNALIST: …What are you reflecting on as the Australian Prime Minister, given the discussion around black lives matter?
…Now in Australia, when I look around the world at the moment, I look at the distressing scenes around the world, again, my first response is just to be grateful for the wonderful country we live in here and the way Australians have responded to the crisis here. Australia has its own challenges when it comes to some of the issues that have been raised, we will continue to work through those. The Closing the Gap initiative, the work we’re doing with states and territories. This is important work. I meet regularly with the peak Indigenous groups in Australia and we’re making good progress on that. Working closely with the states and territories, these are important issues that are taken seriously by my Government, by governments all around the country.
We need to make sure that we progress all of those initiatives. In terms of some of the violence we’re seeing around the world today, and to those Australians who find themselves in situations, I would urge them to show great caution and already we have had to provide support, as you probably know, for those in the media or journalists who found themselves in those situations. And of course, we will continue to provide that support. But I would urge people to be extremely cautious. These are dangerous situations and people schedule exercise great care in where they’re placing themselves.