Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 19 MAY 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

Good morning.

With us today is the Attorney-General Elise Archer. She’ll be making some comments about the rent relief that we’ll be providing for residential tenants and the work that we’ve undertaken with the landlords and tenants in that space to arrive at an outcome.

I just want to say to Tasmanians firstly that the actions that we’ve been taking are making a difference.

With Stage One restrictions now eased, it’s important that we continue to adhere to the rules and that we don’t become complacent.

Yesterday, two people in the North West of Tasmania who had serious underlying health conditions and had previously tested positive for coronavirus passed away in the past two days. The coroner’s report is currently being undertaken to determine the exact cause of death. I understand this would be an extremely difficult time and sad time for the families and friends of those two people who were both in their sixties, and I extend my deepest sympathies to them.

It was also confirmed yesterday that we have had another day with no further positive cases of coronavirus. We now have 15 active cases in the State. This is very encouraging, but as Stage One restrictions eased yesterday, I remind everyone to follow the rules that are still in place.

Practice good hygiene, wash your hands regularly, maintain social distancing, stay 1½ metres apart from people. Importantly, download the COVID Safe app to help health authorities with tracing efforts, should they need to. And get tested, if you’re unwell and, please, observe the restrictions that are in place.

If we work together, we’ll get through this and, importantly, we’ll be able to look forward to Stage Two and then Stage Three. But, importantly, we need to walk through this sensibly and responsibly.

I want to just touch on border control. In the last 24 hours, there’s been a flurry of public discourse in terms of our borders and the situation across the country and calls for a definite date on when the borders can be lifted. Now, I understand that business wants a date. They want to be able to plan for the future. I understand that. However, we must step through this carefully.

That’s why we’ve laid out a plan that has a number of preconditions in it.

We need to increase testing capability, which we have done so. And, again, I encourage more Tasmanians to come forward, if they have the slightest sniffle, a snotty nose, ring the Public Health line, see a GP and get tested.

We’re increasing our tracing capacity and the rapid response capabilities and, importantly, download the COVID Safe app. That will assist, should we need to trace and track. And we’re working with businesses to ensure that they are COVID-ready.

If we can move through these next stages with minimal impact or spread of the virus, then we give ourselves the best chance of reopening sooner rather than later.

And I do want to stress though that all Tasmanians have a role here.

Our lifestyles need to change. They have changed and, importantly, we need to remain vigilant and we need to remain disciplined. We all need to follow the rules that have been laid out, and we need to keep each other safe.

Practice good hygiene, practice social distancing, remain 1½ metres apart.

Don’t go out to work, if you are unwell. Simply don’t do it.

Importantly, stay home, unless it’s for essential supplies, medical services, or to work or to volunteer, to go to school or to take on one of the activities that are now allowed, such as visiting a national park within 30 km of your home or attending a cafĂ© or a restaurant as a group of 10 people.

But, importantly, follow the rules.

We haven’t green-lighted launching into life as it once was. Unfortunately, we need to continue to follow the rules and we need to be COVID-ready and we need to be safe.

Now, importantly, in terms of other states and the dates that they’ve been setting. It is far too early to set a date, to be frank. What we need to do is we need to work through this sensibly and responsibly, because what we don’t want to have is the devastating consequences that would occur if we had a second wave.

And if a business has to recapitalise, once to restart, but then there’s a second wave and they need to be shut down, ‘cause as I’ve said, we don’t want that saw-tooth arrangement in terms of the restrictions. We don’t want to take them off, only to put them back on. We’ve got to work through this carefully, and we’ve laid out the stages.

Now, if we can continue to follow the rules, step carefully through Stage One, through Stage Two, I would expect that in July we would be able to set a date for when our borders could come down. But that will depend on Public Health advice at the time and, importantly, will depend on the steps that we are taking and how well we are controlling the virus through those first two stages.

It is so important that all Tasmanians follow the rules and we step through this carefully.

But as we move through Stage One and into Stage Two, I would hope, as I’ve said, that in July we would be able to be quite clear in terms of when our borders might come down and what the date of that would be into the future, but to set a date now, on the basis of where we are, just would not make common sense. It just would not be sensible.

So, I’d ask businesses to continue to work with us, open gradually as we’re allowing you to. I’d ask the Tasmanian public to step back into this carefully and responsibly, follow the rules, ensure that you practice good hygiene, ensure that you wash your hands regularly, ensure that you appropriately socially distance.

That is how we will get through this. That is how we will get our economy back.

In terms of the support that we’ve been providing to Tasmanians throughout this. Obviously, we provided a billion-dollar support package, and we’ve made announcements since then in terms of supporting the overseas visa holders to providing additional support to the homeless, and we’ll continue to ensure that where we find that there are gaps that we do our very best to provide support.

One area that we’ve been particularly mindful of is the impact of COVID-19 on residential tenants and landlords. I, along with the Attorney-General, recently met with the Tenants Union and the Residential Tenancy Commission to have a discussion about this in terms of the commitment that I provided in Parliament that we would find a way to provide some support in this area.

I’m pleased that we will be putting a funding program in place, and the Attorney-General will run through the details of that shortly.

The other thing I want to touch on briefly today is the COVID-safe workplaces. This is a very important part of our plan back. It will support workplaces as they reopen or workplaces as they continue to conduct their business and expand their business activities, if they haven’t been shut.

The framework encompasses safe workplaces, safe workplace guidelines and minimum standards that will be part of new work health and safety requirement.

Guidelines have already been published for the funeral services, hospitality sector, weddings and religious services, and they can be found on the WorkSafe website.

But there is a wealth of material there for all businesses on the WorkSafe website, and I would encourage you to engage, to work your way through it, and as we move to towards Stage Two, there will be a requirement that all businesses will have a plan in place.

It’s important that you take the steps now and if you need assistance, contact WorkSafe, contact the Public Health Hotline and ask the questions. We’ll do what we can to ensure that you’ve got the support to become COVID safe.

I announced last week that we’d be rolling out an aggressive construction program. We’re working through that with Treasury at the moment, looking at what the options are and what we might do to restructure our $3.7 billion program.

It’s going to be important that the construction sector is kept strong and, importantly, if we’ve got construction underway, we’ve got people employed in that industry, then the industry will rise and, importantly, that will flow on to the retail sector, to cafes and to restaurants, and everybody will share in the benefits of that industry being strong. And I’ll have more to say about that, as I said on Friday, in the coming weeks.

Importantly, today, Minister Guy Barnett, the Minister for Energy, and Minister Ferguson, Minister for State Growth, announced that we’ve opened the EOI in terms of our renewable hydrogen plan.

We’ve set aside $50 million over a 10-year period. $50 million for the support over a 10-year period, and Expressions of Interest are now open for businesses to come forward to partner with Government to start to look at those types of projects that we might be able to take forward to ensure that we have a hydrogen industry here in Tasmania.

With our green energy, importantly, and with our water resource, here in Tasmania we have 1% of the landmass and we have about 12% of the fresh water supply in the country, and so we have the two key ingredients to ensure that we can have a hydrogen industry, and that Expressions of Interest process is open today, and I’d encourage businesses to come forward and put their hand up to work with Government to ensure that we can progress that very exciting opportunity.

In finishing, before I hand over to Dr Veitch and then the Attorney will speak about the Residential Landlords And Tenants Fund, I just want to again remind Tasmanians that as we work through this, if we are sensible, if we step into Stage One, follow the rules, continue to do all the things that we know are going to limit the spread of this virus, wash our hands, practice good hygiene, practice social distancing, ensure that we only leave our home if it’s to go to work or to school or for essential supplies, medical services, to volunteer, to exercise or for one of the now allowed activities, we will limit the spread of this virus, we will ensure that we can continue to suppress it and, hopefully, we can eradicate it.

But we need to step into this sensibly and cautiously, and I’d encourage all Tasmanians to follow the rules and do the right thing, because to date the vast majority have been, but it’s important that we keep doing that.

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