The prime minister gave a rousing speech in Parliament this morning as he vowed Australia would win the ‘battle’ against coronavirus.
Scott Morrison echoed British wartime prime minister Sir Winston Churchill and declared: ‘We will never surrender.’
But he warned the fight against the virus may last more than six months.
‘We have bought Australia valuable time to chart a way out over the next six months. But there are no guarantees, and it could well take far longer,’ he said.
Parliament is meeting today to pass the $130billion JobKeeper scheme to pay the wages of six million Australians as coronavirus shut-downs cripple the economy.
The prime minister (pictured today) gave a rousing speech in Parliament this morning as he vowed Australia would win the ‘battle’ against coronavirus
Mr Morrison’s speech was reminiscent of Winston Churchill’s address to the UK Parliament in June 1940 as the Nazis swept through Europe. Pictured: Churchill after victory in Europe in 1945
Mr Morrison said the virus was a threat to Australia’s very existence.
‘Today we act to protect Australia’s sovereignty,’ he said.
‘When Australian lives and livelihoods are threatened, when they are under attack, our nation’s sovereignty is put at risk, and we must respond.’
Sovereignty is a country’s ability to govern itself. Mr Morrison said Australia’s sovereignty depended on a free, open and democratic society, enabled through a vibrant market economy.
‘Above all, our sovereignty is sustained by what we believe as Australians, what we value and hold most dear, our principles, our way of life, a way of doing things,’ he said.
‘We will never surrender this.’
In a message of hope, he added: ‘It will be a fight we will win. But it won’t be a fight without cost, or without loss.
‘Once we have overcome these threats – and we will – we will rebuild, we will restore, whatever the battle ahead takes from us.’
The speech was reminiscent of Winston Churchill’s address to the UK Parliament in June 1940 as the Nazis swept through Europe.
Churchill said: ‘We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.’
Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg bump elbows to avoid shaking hands
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said politicians came to Canberra with open hearts and open minds.
‘But we owe it to all Australians to keep our eyes open, too,’ he told parliament.
The unprecedented scale of the support package set Australia on a path for a trillion-dollar debt, he said.
‘It is a bill that will saddle a generation.’
Mr Morrison noted that when parliament last sat, just over a fortnight ago, the numbers of Australians newly infected with the virus was growing more than 20 per cent a day.
Now that daily increase averages two per cent.
Tough restrictions on people’s movements and social distancing measures have bought the country precious time to prepare its health system.
The daily increase in new cases has dropped but health experts are concerned COVID-19 could be widely transmitted among unwitting community members.
Almost 550 people have been infected with coronavirus by someone who didn’t know they had it.
Nearly 6000 Australians have caught the disease, and 50 people have died so far.
‘Progress can be easily undone, as we have seen in other places around the world,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘We are only a few days away from Easter, a time that should give us great hope, and the message is clear, though: stay home, don’t travel, don’t go away. We can’t let up now.’
Health Minister Greg Hunt warned abandoning social distancing rules over the long weekend would undo everything done to curtail the crisis.
‘The virus doesn’t take a holiday,’ he told the Ten Network.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he understood people were desperate to do the things that were normal for them at Easter time, like visiting relatives.
‘All that will achieve is that we spread the virus and we give back, if you like, all the gains that we’ve made,’ he told reporters.
Restrictions would have to stay in place for the medium term, he warned.
In NSW, leader Gladys Berejiklian said restrictions were being reviewed every month but social distancing would be needed until a vaccine was found.
‘If the advice in a couple of weeks’ time is that there might be a couple of aspects that we can tweak to provide relief to our citizens, well then we’ll take that advice,’ she told reporters.
‘But that comes with risk and I need to be very up-front about that.
‘Every time you relax a restriction, more people will get sick, more people will die, and it’s a horrible situation to be in but they’re the choices.’
Members of Parliament stand at the start of the sitting on Wednesday