Weekly Wrap Up
- Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will deliver a ministerial statement on the economic impact of coronavirus when Federal Parliament sits from 12-14 May.
- Australia’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 6,760.
- More than 500,000 businesses have signed up to the JobKeeper scheme.
- Labor MP Dr Mike Kelly has resigned as the Member for Eden-Monaro, triggering the Morrison Government’s first by-election.
- Australia has been recognised by Washington’s Brookings Institution as one of the most successful countries in containing coronavirus and preserving the country’s economy.
- National Cabinet will sit again today, and is reportedly discussing plans to aggressively test, trace and contain coronavirus, with principles for sport and recreation also on the agenda.
- The latest Newspoll has the Coalition and Labor locked at 50-50 on a two-party preferred basis. PM Scott Morrison has seen a surge in his approval rating and leads Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese as preferred PM 56-28.
States begin to ease restrictions
More than 3.3 million Australians downloaded the Government’s COVIDSafe phone application this week. The app records the Bluetooth connections that a phone makes with others and is designed to streamline the contact tracing process. In response to privacy concerns about the app, Health Minister Greg Hunt has written a direction – which will eventually be backed up by legislation – stipulating that only health authorities or those maintaining the app may access the data. Several states including NSW, WA and Queensland have already started to ease social distancing restrictions and PM Scott Morrison said Australia is “on the road back” from coronavirus. Mr Morrison also called on Australians to download the COVIDSafe app to facilitate the “return to a more liberated economy and society”.
Australia-China relations fray
The Federal Government has continued to push for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, amid rising political tensions between Australia and China. China’s Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye this week foreshadowed consumer boycotts of Australian products as retaliation for the inquiry. In response, Foreign Minister Marise Payne cautioned China against attempts at “economic coercion” and reiterated calls for a “transparent and honest assessment of events” to help with future planning. As the tensions escalated, Australian businessman Andrew Forrest came under fire for unexpectedly inviting a Chinese diplomat to a federal government press conference with Health Minister Greg Hunt on Wednesday. The move sparked criticism from Government MPs and caused a delay to a scheduled cancer funding announcement with Minister Hunt and Mr Forrest.
Debate over schools continues
School students across Australia returned to the classroom in some capacity this week, with both South Australia and Western Australia reporting attendance levels above 60 per cent. This has placed pressure on the Victorian Government, which is holding firm in its decision to deliver the entirety of term two online. In an effort to lure Victorian independent and catholic schools into reopening, the Federal Government this week offered to bring forward $13 billion in annual funding if schools return to in-person learning. However, Independent Schools Victoria criticised the move, saying it placed schools in an “extraordinarily difficult and unfair position”. Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said the Federal Government’s offer was “completely inappropriate”.