Weekly Wrap Up
- Federal Parliament returned this week and will sit again next week.
- National Cabinet met again today to discuss border closures.
- The World Bank has warned the global economy will shrink by 5.2 per cent due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
- The OECD issued forecasts on Wednesday evening showing Australia will lead the developed world out of the coronavirus-induced recession.
- Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said public consultation will commence in July to reach a consensus on measures to put an Indigenous “voice” in Parliament.
Federal MPs and Senators have kicked off a fortnight of parliamentary sittings this week, with the focus on the Government’s JobKeeper scheme and the fallout of the weekend’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests. Four Labor MPs who attended the protests were asked to leave Parliament to be tested for coronavirus, however all returned a negative result. In response to planned protests for this weekend, PM Scott Morrison criticised the “double standards” of protestors and agreed that people attending future protests should be charged by police.
Meanwhile, during his appearance before the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 this week, Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann described the $60 billion error relating to the JobKeeper program as an “estimates variation” rather than an “accounting error”, while Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy told the Committee he took full responsibility for the error. Dr Kennedy also revealed the economic impact of the pandemic will not be as bad as first forecast.
Free childcare to end in July
Minister for Education Dan Tehan announced on Monday that the temporary Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package will end on 12 July. The Government will resume the previous Child Care Subsidy (CCS), while the JobKeeper program will cease on 20 July for employees of a CCS-approved service and sole traders operating a child care service. Mr Tehan said the scheme had “done its job” and the sector had to start responding to increased demand. Childcare advocates have warned the move may mean childcare will be out of reach for many families, while Labor Early Childhood Education spokesperson Amanda Rishworth said the move could act as a “handbrake” on the economy.
China relations fray
China’s Ministry of Education this week warned Chinese students against studying in Australia, citing increased incidents of racism against Asian people. The warning has further strained the relationship between Canberra and Beijing, which was already under pressure following Australia’s role in the COVID-19 probe and resulting trade disagreements. Minister for Trade Simon Birmingham said a withdrawal of Chinese students would be a loss to both economies. Meanwhile, PM Scott Morrison has urged the Victorian Government to scrap its Belt and Road Initiative agreement with China, saying it is against Australia’s national interest, and inconsistent with Federal Government policy.
Federal Parliament will sit again next week along with NSW, Victoria, SA, Queensland, and the ACT.