GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

Highlights
  • Australia’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 6,000 as PM Scott Morrison unveiled the theoretical modelling used by the Federal Government and National Cabinet.
  • Federal Parliament sat on Wednesday and passed the Coalition’s JobKeeper stimulus package without amendment.
  • The Senate also voted to establish a select committee to oversee the Government’s coronavirus response.
  • Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced the Government will be allocating 11 million masks to the healthcare sector, including 7 million to hospitals, 2.3 million to the primary health network and 1.7 million for aged care workers.
  • National Cabinet is meeting this morning to discuss arrangements for Year 12 students and the latest health data.
  • Ratings agency S&P has put Australia’s triple A credit rating on negative outlook, warning Australia faces the risk of a deep recession.
  • NSW Police launched a criminal investigation into the Ruby Princess cruise ship to determine whether operators were “transparent” about ill patients on board. There have been 15 deaths linked to the cruise so far.
  • Minister for Energy Angus Taylor will participate in an emergency G20 energy ministers meeting this evening to focus on ensuring energy security throughout the pandemic and recovery period.
  • Leading lawyer Kathrina Lo has been appointed as the NSW Public Service Commissioner.
  • The High Court overturned Cardinal George Pell’s convictions of child sexual abuse.

Federal Parliament Returns

A streamlined Federal Parliament sat on Wednesday and passed the Government’s JobKeeper stimulus package without amendment. The package will provide fortnightly payments of $1500 per employee for businesses and sole traders who have suffered at least a 30 per cent drop in revenue since the economic shutdown in response to coronavirus. In the Upper House, a new Labor-led Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 was established to monitor the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and any related matters. There will be seven senators on the Committee, including three members of the Opposition, two from the Government, one member of the Greens and Senator Jacqui Lambie. Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher will chair the inquiry which has a reporting date of 30 June 2022.

Government releases modelling

Following a meeting of the National Cabinet, the Government this week unveiled its much-anticipated theoretical modelling for COVID-19. Produced by the Doherty Institute, the modelling was used to inform early-stage government decisions, and demonstrated how social distancing measures helped Australia avoid a worst-case scenario in which up to 90 per cent of the population could have been infected. Both the PM and the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, stressed the data was based on international infection rates, and does not reflect Australia’s strong response to coronavirus. The PM and Dr Murphy praised Australians for adapting to the new normal, and said there are positive signs Australia’s curve is flattening. The pair warned against complacency, particularly coming up to the Easter long weekend, saying it could threaten any progress Australia has made.

Education Ministers outline plan

Education ministers met this week through the COAG Education Council to discuss the coronavirus crisis and its impact on schooling. The Council agreed all states and territories would follow national principles and ensure that Year 12 students will graduate this year. Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said ministers had unanimously agreed there would be no Year 13 or mass repeating. Each jurisdiction will decide the end-of-year assessment process, while the Commonwealth will work with the higher education sector on how the ATAR is calculated and assessed. Mr Tehan said the Commonwealth did not want to students learning from home to be disadvantaged, and the Government will consider students who may have limited access to technology. Universities Australia reassured students they will have clear pathways to tertiary education. The Council meeting followed Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement that Victorian students would be asked to stay home and study remotely during Term 2.

High Court quashes George Pell conviction

On Tuesday, the High Court of Australia overturned Cardinal George Pell’s conviction for historic child sex offences. Pell had served one year of his six-year jail sentence after being convicted in December 2018. Seven judges ruled unanimously in Pell’s favour, noting that given the evidence presented, the jury ought to have entertained a doubt as to Pell’s guilt. The PM expressed sympathy for all victims of sexual abuse, however said the decision to acquit Pell “came from the highest court in the land” and as such, “must be respected”. The High Court ruling paves the way for redacted findings from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to be made public. Attorney-General Christian Porter said he strongly supported making the findings public if he could be satisfied their publication would not prejudice any current or future court proceedings.

Looking ahead

Unless the Government needs to pass another piece of emergency legislation, Federal Parliament will not sit again until August 12.

Additional support

GRACosway is now offering twice-daily COVID-19 updates to keep abreast of political and policy developments. Please contact mail@gracosway.com.au for further information on this service.

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