Weekly Wrap Up
- The latest Newspoll shows the Coalition has regained its two-party preferred advantage over Labor 51-49. PM Scott Morrison leads Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese as preferred PM 59-27.
- Polling in Victoria also shows 62 per cent of voters agree Premier Daniel Andrews has handled the crisis well, while Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has similar levels of approval, with 67 per cent of voters satisfied with her performance.
- South Australian Premier Steven Marshall announced SA would remove its border with NSW.
- A 2018 purchase of land next to the Western Sydney Airport has come under scrutiny from the National Auditor-General after the Government valued it at $3 million less than a year after buying it for almost $30 million.
- Treasurer Josh Frydenberg today announced an overhaul of responsible lending laws, which will see lenders subjected to less onerous credit rules to encourage loans and boost the economy.
- The $550 a fortnight coronavirus supplement to the JobSeeker payment was reduced to $250 on Thursday.
- RBA Deputy Governor Guy Debelle this week warned Australia will not recover from the recession quickly and indicated the reserve bank may buy more government debt to lower interest rates.
This week, Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher announced a $4.5 billion investment in the National Broadband Network (NBN) which will facilitate access to faster broadband speeds for a further eight million Australians. The Government said the investment will support as many as 25,000 jobs over the next two years as the fibre-to-node rollout is extended along streets. NBN Co will finance the project through borrowing from private debt markets. Minister Fletcher, who unveiled the upgrade during an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, said new fibre-to-home connections would only be built if a customer ordered a high speed plan, and there would be no upfront connection charge. The plan is a significant shift in policy for the Government, and the announcement was criticised by some, notably by ex-PM Kevin Rudd.
Changes to fiscal strategy
On Thursday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivered a fiscal strategy update to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and confirmed the Federal Government would not pursue a budget surplus over the forward estimates, and also would not seek to pay down debt until Australia’s unemployment rate is below six per cent. Mr Frydenberg said it would be “damaging” and “unrealistic” to target surpluses given it would require significant increases in taxes as well as cuts to essential services, and would risk undermining Australia’s economic recovery. Mr Frydenberg and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar also announced significant reforms to Australia’s insolvency framework, to enable more businesses to restructure and survive the economic impact of the pandemic.
Technology Investment Roadmap unveiled
The Morrison Government’s much-anticipated Low Emissions Technology Investment Roadmap was released by Minister for Energy Angus Taylor on Wednesday during an address to the National Press Club. The Roadmap continues the Government’s focus on technology over targets and emphasises both reducing electricity prices and reducing emissions. The roadmap identifies five low-emissions technologies as priorities for Government investment, which will see the Government prioritise investment in hydrogen, energy storage, low emissions steel and aluminium, carbon capture and storage and soil carbon. The implementation of the strategy will be overseen by a Technology Investment Advisory Council which will include the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel. Minister Taylor said the Government’s plan would strengthen the economy and create jobs.
Ministers appear at hotel quarantine inquiry
As case numbers continued to rapidly decline in Victoria, senior ministers from the Andrews’ appeared before the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry to give evidence about the system which is estimated to account for a significant proportion of Victoria’s “second wave” coronavirus cases. However, the ministers have faced criticism for not knowing who was ultimately responsible for selecting private security guards to police quarantine hotels, with both Police Minister Lisa Neville and Jobs Minister Martin Pakula placing the blame at the Department of Health and Human Services. On Thursday, Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos said she was “unaware” of the use of private security guards until May, and that she was not consulted on the program’s establishment. Premier Daniel Andrews is scheduled to appear before the inquiry today.
Federal Parliament will return on Tuesday 6 October for the Federal Budget.