Weekly Wrap Up
- The RBA kept interest rates at 0.25 per cent. Governor Philip Lowe said the economy is going through a “very difficult period”.
- Labor candidate Kristy McBain has claimed a narrow victory in the Eden-Monaro by-election after Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs conceded defeat last night.
- Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann announced over the weekend that he will retire from politics at the end of 2020.
- The Government has updated its travel advice for China and Hong Kong, warning of the risk of “arbitrary detention” for Australians.
- PM Scott Morrison and Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck this week announced 6,100 home care packages for senior Australians, to be allocated based on a “national priority list”.
- The Australian Government has announced people from Hong Kong who currently reside in Australia will be allowed to stay for five more years, and offered a pathway to permanent residency, after China imposed a controversial security law on the city.
- The Government has announced childcare centres across locked down regions in Victoria will now have the option to waive the parent gap fee on the same day the national emergency childcare package ends on July 13.
Victoria locks down for six weeks
As case numbers continued to climb in Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday announced a return to Stage 3 stay-at-home restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. The restrictions came into effect from midnight Wednesday 8 July and will last for a period of six weeks. Under the new rules, residents are once again required to stay at home, with four exceptions: work and study; to give or receive care; exercise; or shopping. Tuesday’s announcement followed further restrictions imposed on specific suburbs over the weekend, including the complete lockdown of residents in nine public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne. Eight of the nine towers have now moved to Stage 3 restrictions in line with the rest of Melbourne, while residents in one North Melbourne tower will quarantine for another nine days after 55 cases of coronavirus were recorded in the building.
PM Scott Morrison said he supported the move to lock down Melbourne, and offered solidarity with Victorians, saying “we’re all Melburnians now”. The PM also defended the closure of the NSW and Victoria border, and described the move as “isolating” Victoria from the rest of the country. This week has also seen South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT and the NT announce stricter border controls, leading to lengthy delays for motorists trying to leave Victoria. Meanwhile, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has come under pressure over the deteriorating situation after blaming “complacency” among Melburnians for the resurgence of the virus.
National Cabinet meets
Following today’s National Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister warned Australians against becoming complacent with social distancing and hygiene measures, particularly in household settings. The PM urged Australians to make social distancing the norm, and warned that social distancing measures will be in place until a vaccine can be found. The PM also announced the National Cabinet has agreed to a 50 per cent reduction in the number of inbound arrivals into Australia from Monday, while most jurisdictions will move to charge return travellers for the cost of their quarantine. Details will be announced by the states and territories over coming days. Further, following allegations of breaches in hotel quarantine protocol in Victoria, the PM announced a nation-wide review of hotel quarantine arrangements, to be led by former Secretary of the Department of Health, Jane Halton. National Cabinet also received an update from the Productivity Commission, which advised there is a need for a “flexible economy”, and flagged that temporary deregulation measures may stay in place indefinitely.
Morrison flags an extension of JobKeeper
The PM and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have committed to assisting Victoria as the state goes through further economic uncertainty due to the spike in cases. Following an announcement by the major banks on Wednesday to extend $260 billion in repayment holidays, the PM flagged a “further phase” of income support after the JobKeeper subsidy expires in September. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has also confirmed that the Government is considering bringing forward income tax cuts. The Treasurer and Minister for Finance are set to release an updated economic statement on July 23, which will include detail on the future of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs.
National Cabinet will next meet on Friday, 24 July.