GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Government activates coronavirus response plan
- The Government has initiated an emergency response plan to prepare for a potential Coronavirus pandemic, while the China travel ban will continue for another week.
- The Coalition continues to trail Labor in the latest Newspoll, 49-51 on a two-party preferred basis.
- New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern is meeting with PM Scott Morrison in Sydney today.
- The Parliament has passed legislation to establish an amnesty for superannuation.
- 2019 NAPLAN results released this week show slight improvements in the performance of Australian students in year 5 numeracy, years 3 and 5 reading and spelling, and year 3 grammar.
- Oil giant Equinor has pulled out of proposed plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight, stating the project’s potential is not “commercially competitive”.
- The Australian Government has reached an “in principle” settlement with three communities where groundwater was contaminated by toxic firefighting foam PFAS.
‘Sports rorts’ back in the spotlight
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s involvement in the ‘sports rorts’ controversy has come under scrutiny this week, amid new information that the PM’s office sent 136 emails about the program to then-Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie. Labor seized on the information, saying it was “inconceivable” the PM did not influence the allocation of grants for political purposes, however Mr Morrison again rejected any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, a Senate inquiry into the sports grants program found that Bridget McKenzie’s office sent Sport Australia an approved list of grants just minutes after the Parliament went into caretaker mode ahead of last year’s election.
As Coronavirus continues to spread rapidly outside of China, the Australian Government has initiated and released its emergency response plan to deal with a possible pandemic. The plan outlines three possible scenarios for the Australian healthcare system based on the severity of the disease and flags emergency pandemic legislation, as well as powers for the PM to take control over efforts to contain the disease. The PM moved to quell anxiety about the virus, referring to current containment measures which have so far proven effective. However, the virus has already had a devastating effect on the tourism and education sectors, and the Government has been unable to confirm its much-anticipated budget surplus in May. Amid warnings the health crisis will continue and potentially worsen over coming months, the Government has softened its position on potential economic stimulus. The PM told reporters that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is working with the Treasury to determine what action may be necessary, while confirming any measures would need to be “targeted, modest and scalable”.
Net zero emissions debate continues
Labor has come under scrutiny from the Coalition following Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s announcement last Friday that Labor will commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann labelled Labor’s target “reckless and irresponsible”, criticising the lack of detail and costings for the policy. The PM has, however, embraced the NSW Government’s ambition to achieve the same target on the basis that Premier Gladys Berejiklian “has a plan”. Reports suggest the Government is set to release its technology road map over coming days, outlining the path to lower emissions in Australia. Elsewhere, the Government has avoided publicly committing further funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) beyond 2022, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg saying investment will continue “in the areas that need it”.
Parliament unites against DV
The three major parties have backed a Labor-led motion in the Senate to strip controversial commentator Bettina Arndt of her Order of Australia following “abhorrent” comments she made in the aftermath of the recent murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children. Figures across the political divide have publicly condemned Ms Arndt’s comments, including Liberal Senators Sarah Henderson and James Paterson, Labor frontbencher Catherine King and Victorian MPs Tim Smith and Jill Hennessy. On Wednesday evening, federal politicians held a vigil for Ms Clarke and her three children. Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Morrison told Parliament that the “system failed Hannah and her children” and committed to raising domestic violence at next month’s COAG meeting.