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(AUSTRALIA) National Press Club 2022 Report: Key moments from Scott Morrison’s first address #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Feb.03: Mr Morrison took a softer tone in his actual speech, admitting that he “hasn’t always got everything right” and that he was prepared to take some of the blame levelled at him during his last three years in the job.

#AceDailyNews NPC Report: As hundreds of anti-vaccine mandate protesters surrounded the building during his address, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was grilled on a range of topics — from the rising cost of petrol and bills, to whether women working in Parliament are any safer now than they were a year ago.

Scott Morrison wearing a suit and tie standing at a podium with the national press club logo behind him
Scott Morrison said he wished he had called in Defence to run the vaccine rollout sooner.(ABC News: Adam Kennedy)

But when asked if he would apologise for some of his decisions — including leaving to go to Hawaii during the 2019/2020 summer bushfires and not securing enough rapid antigen tests ahead of last Christmas — Mr Morrison sidestepped the question.

Instead, he said: “We’re all terribly sorry for what this pandemic has done to the world and to this country.”

Here are some of the other key topics he was asked about.

Defence involved in vaccine rollout

While the Prime Minister didn’t say the “s” word (sorry), he did concede that if he had his time again he’d have done the vaccine rollout differently.

“If I had my time over, I would have put [the rollout] under military operation from the outset, and not later in the year,” he said.

“As we went through those early months and we had the challenges that we had with the Health Department … I took the decision to send in General (John) Frewen and change the way we did it.

“[We] set up a change in the command structure, how logistics were managed, how it was planned.

“And it worked but I wish I’d done that earlier, and that’s a lesson.”

Mr Morrison also said the confusion around whether and when aged care patients could be taken to public hospitals was another issue that proved difficult during the outbreaks in 2020.

Frewen, a bald man, is wearing army military uniform standing behind microphones and in front of an Australian flag.
Lieutenant General John Frewen was brought in to oversee the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.(ABC News: Adam Kennedy)

Treatment of women

Another question directed to the Prime Minister was what changes had been made to make parliament and political offices safer this year than they were last year.

It’s timely given Parliament is set to resume for the first time this year next week, and how the revelations by Brittany Higgins at the beginning of 2021 put the treatment of women in the highest offices front and centre.

Mr Morrison said that to him, the most important difference this time around was the independent complaints body that was in place for anyone who was previously too worried about coming forward.

“That, I think, assists everybody who works in that building,” he said.

“That process that we examined closely, that let down so many a year ago and before, has been significantly changed and for the better.

“We have learnt from those times and I believe it’s safer today than it was a year ago.”

He said he would continue to make sure the processes the government had adopted, including additional counselling support, were working, and that he would tweak them if need be.

Last year, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins was tasked with doing a wide-ranging review into the workplace culture within Parliament and the public service, finding it had a “boys’ club” culture of “bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault”.

Unemployment rate prediction

Mr Morrison took the opportunity to spruik the difference in the unemployment rates between now and when he was last at the National Press Club a year ago.

“Unemployment is at 4.2 per cent. When I stood here a year ago, it was 6.6 per cent,” he said.

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Hospitality staff are in high demand across the country.(ABC News: John Gunn)

He went further, saying the government was predicting unemployment could get below 4 per cent in 2022.

“I believe we can now achieve an unemployment rate with a 3 in front of it this year,” he said.

“Our goal is to achieve this in the second half of 2022.”

The government has acknowledged that getting unemployment below 4 per cent to get enough pressure to have wages begin to rise.

Cost of living

The Prime Minister was also quizzed on what his government would, or could, do to ease the rising cost of living for millions of Australians.

The government did forecast that the cost of things like petrol, house prices and living expenses would outpace wage growth in last year’s forecasts.

Mr Morrison said that was why good economic management “was more important than ever”.

“How you manage inflation, principally, is particularly how you manage the national finances — they are things we have control over,” he said.

“On home ownership, it’s always hard to buy your first home, it’s terribly hard.

“That’s why, at the last election, we came up with, I think, some very effective programs.

“We can’t manage what happens to house prices, but we can help people get into homes.”

When asked whether he could say how much a loaf of bread, a litre of petrol and a rapid antigen test cost, Mr Morrison replied that:

“I’m not going to pretend to you that I go out each day and I buy a loaf of bread and I buy a litre of milk.”

“The point is that I do my job every day to ensure that those things are as affordable as they possibly can be for Australians every single day.”

#AceNewsDesk report ………..Published: Feb.03: 2022:

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