Weekly Wrap Up
- ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr was victorious in last Saturday’s territory election.
- Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed Australia has maintained its AAA credit rating and stable outlook by ratings agency Standard & Poor (S&P).
- PM Scott Morrison commemorated the two-year anniversary of the National Apology to survivors and victims of institutional child sexual abuse in Parliament.
- The ABS revealed that over the past fortnight payroll jobs decreased by 0.9 per cent.
- SA Premier Steven Marshall announced all travellers from New Zealand will be able to enter SA as long as they have not transited through Victoria.
- PM Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced the Government has finalised an initial program of Qantas flights over coming weeks from London, New Dehli and Johannesburg to help more Australians return home.
- Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and WA Premier Mark McGowan have asked for further federal assistance to ensure arrivals from New Zealand do not enter states outside the established travel bubble.
- PM Scott Morrison addressed the Australian E-Commerce Virtual Summit on Wednesday and urged businesses to “keep the foot on the digital accelerator” and adapt new technologies.
National Cabinet met today for the first time in over a month to discuss reopening of Australia by Christmas, as well as to discuss lifting international arrival caps to bring more overseas Australians home. PM Scott Morrison advised all states and territories, with the exception of WA, agreed to a revised reopening framework by the end of the year. The framework includes necessary public health actions to support the reopening plan such as tracing mechanisms and improvements to hotel quarantine measures arising from Jane Halton’s review into hotel quarantine arrangements, which will be released to the public later today.
The PM also advised all states and territories agreed to be flexible on lifting international arrival caps to assist Australians coming from overseas. National Cabinet agreed to develop a risk stratification approach to international arrivals and quarantine arrangements in the future for other types of arrivals such as international students or migrants. Elsewhere, the National Cabinet agreed to all 33 recommendations arising from the Conran Review of the Former COAG Councils and Ministerial Forums, which will streamline previous COAG processes.
Australia Post grilled at Senate Estimates
As week one of Senate Estimates wrapped up on Thursday, it was revealed four senior employees at Australia Post were given $3,000 Cartier watches as a “thank-you” present on behalf of CEO Christine Holgate and the Chair of the AusPost Board Lucio Di Bartolomeo. Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher and outgoing Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann on Thursday afternoon ordered an investigation into Australia Post and asked Ms Holgate to step aside while the investigation is conducted. During Question Time, PM Scott Morrison said he was “appalled” by the revelations and described the gifts as “disgraceful”, and warned Ms Holgate could lose her position if she did not agree to step aside during the investigation.
Elsewhere, revelations from the Attorney-General’s Department hearings have increased calls from the Federal Opposition and Crossbench for the Coalition to establish a federal anti-corruption body. It was revealed on Wednesday the Government had received draft legislation in December 2019 on the structure of an anti-corruption body, but this had not yet advanced due to bushfires and the following pandemic. Attorney-General Christian Porter said extensive consultation would need to occur on the legislation before further steps are taken. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the body should be established to improve accountability.
Premier faces criticism for cautious opening
On Sunday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a series of changes to social restrictions including expanding the five-kilometre rule to 25-kilometres; abolishing the two-hour limit to be outside; increasing the limit of outdoor gatherings up to 10 people from two households; and permitting hairdressers and some outdoor staff to recommence work. The Premier set a reopening date for retail, hospitality and personal care services in metropolitan Melbourne for 1 November. However throughout the week Mr Andrews has hinted this date could be brought forward pending on low numbers of COVID-19 cases.
However, the cautious re-opening of Victoria’s economy has led to frustration from Federal politicians and key business leaders. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg criticised Mr Andrews as having a “callous indifference” to the loss of jobs and plight of small business, while CEOs of major businesses including Wesfarmers, Coca-Cola Amatil, BHP, the Commonwealth Bank, Orica, Newcrest Mining and Incitec Pivot also called on the Premier to ease restrictions on businesses sooner, describing the current situation as unsustainable. The Premier also faced widespread criticism from the public this week, after the Government announced 500 horse-owners would be permitted to attend the Cox Plate this weekend. This decision was reversed five hours after its announcement by Racing Minister Martin Pakula, who said it was a “mistake”.
Federal Parliament will sit next week, with Senate Estimates to continue. Elsewhere, Parliament will return in Victoria and Tasmania.