Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 26 MAY 2020

Good morning, everyone.

It’s very pleasing to note that we’ve now had 10 days of no positive cases of coronavirus, and there are now only eight active cases across the State, and 205 people have now recovered.

The plan we have in place is working, and as we continue to gradually ease restrictions we must also continue to follow the rules and ensure that we say safe and we save lives.

We’re more than one week into Stage One restrictions and with the thousands of students returning to school yesterday, it’s important that we continue to be careful, responsible, to ensure that we balance our economic recovery with any risk of a new wave of infections.

We’ve now tested nearly 25,000 Tasmanians, and I want to continue to encourage anyone even with the mildest of symptoms to turn up and get tested. I am very pleased to have heard this morning that there were cars everywhere at the Mowbray site, and I understand there was quite a line-up at the one that was here in Hobart at the Esplanade earlier this morning as well. So, that’s great, but we need as many people as possible to turn up and get tested.

It’s one of the safeguards that will stand us in very good stead for recovery as we gradually step ourselves out of this and along with the COVID Safe app, again I would encourage people that if you haven’t downloaded it, please do so. The more people that we have on the app the better. It’s going to assist us with our tracking and tracing.

I want to make this point though very clearly. In a football game, you’ve got to play out all four quarters, and if this were a football match, we’re now in the last quarter, we’ve now got the breeze at our back, but it ain’t over til it’s over.

And what we need to do is to ensure that we continue to take the necessary steps that we need to, that we continue to be responsible, sensible and, importantly, if you’ve got a sniffle, if you’ve had a sniffle in the last week, turn up and gets tested. We need to understand very clearly where this virus is, if it is in our community.

Now in terms of the process that we’re going through. We’re in the second week of Stage One restrictions. We’re going very well and, as I said last week, depending on Public Health advice, if we continue to see the stable situation that we have in Tasmania, we will look at easing some of the restrictions, hopefully ahead of the June long weekend.

However, this will depend on all of us ensuring that we continue to follow the plan, ensure that we are responsible, take into account social distancing, ensure that we have good hygiene, wash our hands regularly, do the little things that we know are going to help us through this.

And I want to make this point very clearly as well. Unlike other states, I am not going to change our pathway based on political expediency. We will follow Public Health advice. We have done so every step of the way, and it is important that we continue to ensure that we take this gradually, sensibly and, importantly, responsibly.

This is about making certain that we can open up our economy without the risk of having to shut it down again.

We’ll review the restrictions next week as planned, and we will move on from there. This is the best way, as I’ve said, that we can do it with confidence.

And whilst some may want me to walk away from the plan, I’m certain that the vast majority of Tasmanians do not want me to expose more Tasmanians to the risk of this virus. We need to ensure that we step through this sensibly and responsibly.

I also want to thank all Tasmanians again for the way that they have engaged, for following the rules in the main, for doing the little bits that have been so very important. And, again, I would reiterate, if you have a sniffle, if you’ve had a sniffle in the last week, turn up and get tested. The more people that we can get tested, the better.

Now, I have the Attorney here with me this morning, and she’ll be saying a few more things once I finish, but I want to speak about fuel.

It’s been important, as a Government, in terms of the billion-dollar package that we have provided for economic and social support, that we do everything that we can to caution and cushion the blow that has been felt by people. It’s a time when unnecessary hip pocket costs hurt.

Petrol prices have been falling dramatically around the country in recent weeks. However, we haven’t seen similar price falls to the same extent in Tasmania.

Now, there are some difference in terms of our model here. Obviously, due to additional transportation costs, there will always be the expectation that there will be some additional costs. However, it does appear that through this period, when we’ve had falling global oil prices, that our prices have remained unusually high.

We’ve got an expectation that prices should be reflective of costs and, importantly, they should be fair.

Today, the Attorney will be explaining how we’re going to introduce the establishment of mandatory real-time fuel pricing in Tasmania. The Minister will provide further detail on that in a moment. But it’s one issue that we want to get right on top of.

Competition will help put downward pressure on prices, however, we’ll carefully monitor this, and if fuel prices continue to be out of step and prices remain excessively high, then this Government will consider taking further action, and we’ll consider price capping, if we need to get there.

I want to send a very strong message today on that. The processes that the Attorney will outline, will put downward pressure on fuel prices. But we want to see real action here. We don’t believe that Tasmanians should be paying through the nose, well out of step with the rest of the country.

Yesterday, I joined the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council. The Council’s been established to provide advice on the economic and social recovery both in the short, medium and long term.

I want to again thank Don Challen and the Council for giving up their time and, importantly, bringing their expertise to the table.

They outlined yesterday the process as to how they will engage and, beginning immediately, they’ll start to work with peak bodies, existing recovery networks and Government agencies. But they will be engaging with all Tasmanians. There’ll be a mechanism for all Tasmanians, through Stage Two, to have their say.

I expect to receive the Council’s Stage One report at the end of June, as I’ve said, with a view to looking at what might be some immediate initiatives that we can put in place to ensure that we come out of our restrictions with a strong economy and, importantly, that we rebuild our social fabric as well.

Importantly, as we step through this, next week I’ll be announcing what will be without question the most aggressive construction program in Tasmania’s history. We go back to Parliament next week, and I’m certain that there’ll will be strong interest in this. The work is well advanced, and I expect to announce that program, as I’ve said, next week, when we go back to Parliament.

This will be the first major step in our rebuild program. I have every confidence that by building off this base that we will get through this.

But what is important, very important, and I want to be crystal clear about this, is that we step through this sensibly, responsibly, guided by Public Health advice, that we take the glide path that I’ve spoken about, because the last thing that we want to do as we work to open up our economy is to run the risk of having to shut to down again. That will not work for those businesses that are out there, it will not work for those employees and it would be detrimental to the broader state economy, and we need to be sensible and responsible, as we work through this.

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