Weekly Wrap Up
- The latest Newspoll has the Coalition in front of Labor 52-48 on a two-party preferred basis, while PM Scott Morrison’s personal approval rating remains at 68 per cent.
- Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese revealed changes to his Shadow Cabinet this week, announcing Paterson MP Meryl Swanson as the Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence and Senator Jenny McAllister to the role of Shadow Assistant Minister for Communities and the Prevention of Family Violence.
- The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability released its Second Progress Report.
- A cluster of new coronavirus cases in New Zealand has prompted PM Jacinda Ardern to reimpose Level 3 lockdown in Auckland, while the rest of the country has had its alert raised from 1 to 2.
- Queen Elizabeth II approved the posthumous awarding of the Victoria Cross to WWII hero Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean following PM Scott Morrison’s recommendation earlier this week.
- Australia’s unemployment rate has increased up from 7.4 per cent to 7.5 per cent in July.
As cases in Victoria showed early signs of “flattening the curve” Premier Daniel Andrews fronted Victorian Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC), which is currently scrutinising the Victorian Government’s response to the coronavirus. Mr Andrews faced questions from PAEC concerning the management of the state’s hotel quarantine scheme, which has been blamed for Victoria’s second wave. Mr Andrews was questioned as to why the Victorian Government engaged private security when it set up the quarantine, rather than the police of ADF personnel. Mr Andrews said it is “incorrect” to assume ADF staff were made available, a point which was disputed by Federal Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, who said the PM made an offer to all states in March.
Elsewhere, at the Aged Care Royal Commission this week, former Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy rejected “inaccurate statements” made by counsel assisting Peter Rozen earlier in the week that the Federal Government failed to adequately plan and prepare for coronavirus in the aged care sector.
NSW on “high alert”
With growing numbers of “mystery transmissions” of coronavirus, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned harsher restrictions may be imposed if more people don’t start wearing face masks and businesses do not adhere to restrictions. Ms Berejiklian said it was “strongly recommended” people wear face masks in enclosed spaces such as public transport, when they are employed in a customer facing role, or when they are in a place of worship. Ms Berejiklian also announced a one month “grace period” for NSW residents returning from Victoria who would otherwise be charged for hotel quarantine.
The NSW inquiry into the Ruby Princess cruise ship continued this week. The ship has been tied to over 1,000 coronavirus cases and questions remain as to why passengers were permitted to disembark. The inquiry has encountered difficulty in questioning federal officers, including from the Department of Agriculture, after the Federal Government insisted the inquiry does not have the jurisdiction to question members of the Australian Public Service. In response, Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted his Government is co-operating with the inquiry.
University changes on the horizon
Minister for Education Dan Tehan this week announced university students who fail more than half of their first-year subjects will lose their HECS-HELP support as part of the Government’s Job Ready Graduates reforms. Students with special circumstances will be eligible to apply for exemptions if they fail their subjects, while education providers have discretion to maintain a student’s access to funding if a student’s progress is impacted by external factors. Minister Tehan said the new measures will prevent people taking on study loads they can’t handle, which leaves them without a qualification but a large debt.
Next week, the Tasmanian House of Assembly will sit. National Cabinet will next meet Friday 21 August.