Weekly Wrap Up
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Australia will suffer a GDP contraction of 4.5 per cent, down from an April prediction of 6.7 per cent.
- Moody’s Investors Service announced Australia is one of only 10 countries to retain its AAA credit rating through the coronavirus crisis.
- Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled his new Cabinet on Monday following the departure of three ministers in the wake of last week’s branch-stacking allegations.
- The ABC will cut 250 jobs and reduce programming in a bid to save more than $40 million per year from 2021-22.
- Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the company will cut at least 6,000 staff across all parts of the business in response to coronavirus.
- One of the two final bidders for Virgin Australia, Cyrus Capital Partners, has withdrawn its bid for the airline, citing a “lack of engagement” by Virgin Australia administrators.
- On Monday, the High Court released a statement confirming that an investigation it commissioned found that six former Judge’s Associates were sexually harassed by former High Court Judge Dyson Heydon. The matter has now been referred to police.
- Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy will today leave his role to become the Secretary of the Department of Health next month. His Deputy, Paul Kelly, will take over the role as Acting Chief Medical Officer.
- The Federal Government has announced a $250 million funding package for the arts industry.
Victoria reimposes restrictions
Amid an increase in the number of coronavirus cases and growing levels of community transmission in Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews announced a return to stricter physical distancing measures, including limiting gatherings in homes to five people and delaying plans to increase the number of patrons in restaurants, libraries and places of worship by at least three weeks. Mr Andrews said on Thursday that the Australian Defence Force will send 1,000 additional officers to Victoria to assist with the outbreak, although there has been some speculation this number has been scaled back. Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged other states to forge ahead with lifting restrictions despite Melbourne’s increase in cases, saying Australia is well equipped to deal with spikes in the number of infections. Meanwhile, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the NSW/Victoria border will remain open, however has urged Victorians living in coronavirus hotspots to avoid travelling to NSW.
National Cabinet meets
The National Cabinet met once again today to discuss the current outbreak in Victoria and the easing of further restrictions for other parts of the country. PM Scott Morrison said the National Cabinet has remained “firm” on sticking with the three-step plan, and said that some jurisdictions may now move to a two-square metre per person rule for small venues. Mr Morrison also confirmed that the 14-day mandatory hotel quarantine period will remain in place and people will be tested upon entry and exit. Meanwhile, the AHPPC has been tasked with developing a roadmap for entertainment venues to assist with industry planning around major productions and events. The PM also revealed he and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg would be meeting with the CEOs of the major banks this afternoon to discuss the deferral of loans and allowing people to access funding for construction and rebuilds.
University degree funding overhaul
Late last week, Minister for Education Dan Tehan announced plans to increase university fees for arts, commerce and law degrees to fund an additional 39,000 university places by 2023 and deliver cheaper degrees for in-demand courses such as teaching, nursing, maths, science and engineering. Mr Tehan said the changes would address the “misalignment between the cost of teaching a degree and the revenue universities receive”, while encouraging students to “make more job-relevant choices”. The fee changes will come into effect from 2021, subject to the legislation passing Parliament. Current students will not pay increased fees as their fee contributions will be grandfathered.
Albanese aims for bipartisan energy support
On Wednesday, Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese used a speech at the National Press Club to endorse the Coalition’s Technology Road Map, and call for a bipartisan solution to establish a national energy policy. Mr Albanese said he had written to the PM, suggesting a meeting to reach an agreement on a scalable energy investment framework, while acknowledging there remains a difference between the two major parties in relation to an appropriate emissions reduction target. Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor welcomed Labor’s support of the Government’s Technology Road Map, however criticised Mr Albanese for not ruling out imposing a carbon price in the future.
National Cabinet will next meet on Friday, 10 July.