Weekly Wrap Up
- The latest Newspoll has the Coalition and Labor tied on a two-party preferred basis, while PM Scott Morrison’s personal approval rating sits at 64 per cent.
- The RBA has held interest rates at 0.25 per cent, where they have been since March.
- Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton released a new code of practice directing the makers of web-connected devices such as smart TVs, watches and fridges to make their systems more secure from hackers.
- Parents of babies who are stillborn or die as infants will be allowed to take up to a year off work to grieve the loss of their child under legislation put to Parliament on Thursday.
- China has launched an investigation into drought subsidies for Australian wine producers – the second investigation into the wine industry in as many weeks.
- Treasurer Josh Frydenberg vowed to progress laws to ensure digital platforms pay for online news content in Australia, despite threats from Facebook that they will not allow Australian users to share local and international news on Facebook and Instagram.
- The Bushfire Royal Commission released its interim report this week, warning Australia increasingly faces “cascading, concurrent and compounding” natural disasters.
- Greens Senator for WA Rachel Siewert announced that she will not contest the next election.
The National Accounts released this week confirmed that Australia has officially fallen into recession, with economic growth crashing by a record 7 per cent in the June quarter, effectively wiping $34 billion from gross domestic product. The contraction marks the end of 29 years of uninterrupted growth in Australia. PM Scott Morrison described the news as a “heartbreaking blow” for Australians, while Treasurer Josh Frydenberg warned that the June quarter did not account for Victoria’s current Stage 4 restrictions, which are expected to impact the September figures. The Treasurer said the Government is considering bringing forward $158 billion in income tax cuts to encourage spending and create jobs.
In Parliament this week, the Government passed the JobKeeper 2.0 legislation through the Senate, paving the way for a six-month extension to the program. PM Scott Morrison said the Government was now transitioning and looking to a day when communities won’t require JobKeeper, while Treasurer Josh Frydenberg welcomed the extended support for impacted businesses. The Government also introduced its Foreign Relations Bill to examine state and territory arrangements with foreign governments. Elsewhere, Senator Andrew Bragg tabled the interim report of the Senate Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology, which endorsed self-regulation in financial services innovation, with the example of the buy now, pay later industry. The report also recommended improving tax incentives for start-ups, and better promoting open banking.
National Cabinet meets
Following National Cabinet on Friday, the PM reminded Australians of the challenges of a Federation, and a change in approach to the workings of the National Cabinet. Instead of aiming to achieve absolute consensus, the National Cabinet decided it will set out to find solutions and get as many jurisdictions as possible to sign up to these solutions. With this in mind, the PM announced seven out of eight jurisdictions have signed up to the goal of removing border restrictions by December. The exception is Western Australia, which the PM explained has a different border and economy to eastern states. These decisions will be guided by the new definition of a virus hotspot, as agreed to by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. The decision reinforces the PM’s comments from earlier in the week, where he called on state and territory leaders to “seek to make Australia whole again by Christmas this year”.
The PM also announced an agricultural workers code has been agreed to by five out of eight jurisdictions, to ensure agricultural workers are not displaced. Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania did not sign up to this agreement. The National Cabinet also agreed to boost capacity for inbound arrivals, and the PM said he has held further conversations with New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern regarding allowing people from NZ into Australia.
Andrews to outline a pathway out of restrictions
On Monday, Premier Daniel Andrews announced the Victorian Government will release its reopening roadmap to ‘COVID Normal’ this Sunday 6 September. Mr Andrews said the roadmap would feature physical distancing in workplaces, people working from home where possible, and people who are unable to work from home wearing a face covering at all times in the workplace. The Premier addressed reports about an alleged leaked version of the Government’s roadmap in the Herald Sun on Thursday, clarifying the proposal was no longer current. Mr Andrews has come under increasing pressure and criticism this week from the Federal Government, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg describing Mr Andrews’ handling of hotel quarantine as the “biggest public policy failure in living memory”.
Next week, Parliament will sit in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia.