Weekly Wrap Up
- The Michael Gunner-led Northern Territory Labor Party retained majority government in the NT Election on Saturday, winning at least 13 seats with 71.5 per cent of the vote counted.
- The ACCC will launch an inquiry into domestic fresh food and dairy supply chains, including examining the treatment of farmers in the marketplace.
- PM Scott Morrison and Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein announced Tasmania will offer $1500 pandemic leave disaster payments for people who are required to self-isolate or quarantine.
- Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds announced a $1 billion investment package to boost Australia’s defence industry in COVID-19 recovery.
- Findings from the independent review into the management of COVID-19 at aged care facility Newmarch House in NSW were released this week.
- Minister for Arts Paul Fletcher established a Creative Economy Taskforce to advise the Government on the rollout of the previously announced $250 million in support for the arts sector.
- The proposed sale of Lion Dairy to China’s Mengniu Dairy has fallen through after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg labelled the sale “contrary to the national interest”.
Federal Parliament resumed this week following a 10-week break due to coronavirus. Victorian MPs who chose to travel to Canberra were required to quarantine for 14 days on their arrival into the ACT, while those who stayed in Victoria joined Parliament via video call, however were unable to vote on bills, second motions or make amendments. On the agenda for the Government this week was the extension to the JobKeeper wage subsidy and the JobKeeper supplement, which officially passed through Parliament on Wednesday. Elsewhere, Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley introduced the Streamlining Environmental Approvals Bill on Thursday. If passed, the legislation will deliver substantial changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act and devolve major project assessments to state governments.
Coronavirus cases decline in Victoria
Coronavirus cases continued to decline in Victoria this week as Premier Daniel Andrews revealed over 80 Victorian workplaces have been fined for breaching coronavirus safety guidelines since Stage 4 restrictions were introduced in July. Mr Andrews also announced plans to introduce legislation to extend the public health directions under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 for a further 12 months from September 2020. The Premier’s announcement was met with mixed reactions, with the Opposition and crossbenchers flagging they will oppose the legislation if introduced in its current form, and will push for a shorter extension. Reports suggest the Government may accept a six-month extension of its powers.
Elsewhere, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall announced the 40-kilometre buffer zone for border communities will be reinstated only days after tough border restrictions were imposed, following backlash from communities who were concerned over their access to medical treatment and the impact on their everyday life. PM Scott Morrison said he would continue to work with premiers across Australia to work towards nationally consistent and properly resourced arrangements to minimise disruption to communities.
Foreign deals under scrutiny
On Thursday, PM Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced the Government will introduce legislation to ensure arrangements that states, territories, councils and public universities have with foreign governments are consistent with Australian foreign policy. The proposed powers seek to give the Government the authority to terminate agreements if the Commonwealth believes they are against the national interest. Under the proposed laws, 130 deals with 30 different countries would come under review. Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesperson Penny Wong said Labor will review the legislation before deciding on its position. The PM said that Australia needs to protect the sovereignty of its foreign policy where a foreign government may seek a deal with subnational governments, alluding to the Belt and Road Initiative signed by the Victorian and Chinese Governments.
Next week, Federal Parliament and the Victorian Parliament will sit.