Weekly Wrap Up
- The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission will be re-formed into an advisory board for the JobMaker Plan.
- Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar called for pre-Budget submissions ahead of the delayed October 2020 Budget.
- SA Premier Steven Marshall announced a Cabinet reshuffle, with the new inclusions of David Basham, Stephen Patterson and Vincent Tarzia.
- Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a new mandatory code of conduct to address the imbalance of bargaining power between digital platforms and Australian media companies.
- Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week revealed Australia’s consumer price index (CPI) has fallen by 1.9 per cent, putting the nation into deflation for the first time in 22 years.
- The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission launched court proceedings against tech giant Google for allegedly misleading consumers into signing away their privacy.
This week was Australia’s deadliest week of the pandemic to date, with Victoria recording 13 deaths and 723 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday alone, many of which are being driven by the growing clusters in Victoria’s nursing homes. The alarming numbers prompted PM Scott Morrison to cut short a visit to Queensland to focus on the growing crisis. The Federal Government and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission have intervened and taken over several facilities in Melbourne, while the Victorian Government commenced moving residents from facilities with insufficient infection controls and care standards into hospitals, and restricted non-urgent elective surgeries to free up beds and staff. Tensions flared on Tuesday after Premier Daniel Andrews raised concerns over the management of the homes, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government, however both the PM and the Premier sought to downplay any tension, claiming the pair have a “very good working relationship” together.
Rising cases reignite border jitters
Elsewhere, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this week declared all of Greater Sydney a hotspot after several new cases linked to interstate travel were recorded in Queensland, and cases continued to rise in NSW. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she received no prior notice of the decision, and warned the economic consequences would cause more harm in Queensland than in NSW. Queensland residents returning from Sydney will now have to isolate in mandated hotel quarantine for 14 days at their own expense. This week also saw South Australia close its borders to any non-essential travellers from Victoria, including South Australian residents. Meanwhile, WA Premier Mark McGowan criticised the Federal Government for joining billionaire Clive Palmer’s legal action against WA’s hard border.
PM outlines Closing the Gap targets
On Thursday, PM Scott Morrison and Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt announced the Closing the Gap agreement would be reset, with all Australian governments committing to 16 targets and four priority reforms to tackle indigenous disadvantage, focusing on education, employment, health, incarceration and housing. The Coalition of Peaks, a network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, also helped to develop the plan. The PM said the new agreement is built on “mutual trust, shared responsibility, dignity and respect”. Minister Wyatt said the targets will underpin a new 10-year national agreement that will hold governments accountable. The new targets follow last year’s Closing the Gap report card, which revealed only two of seven targets were on track to be met.
Senior ministers fly to US for talks on China
As Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds travelled to Washington this week for high-level talks with their US counterparts, Australia pledged to increase defence cooperation with the US in the South China Sea. While US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper praised Australia for standing up to pressure from China, Foreign Minister Marise Payne stressed Australia has “no intention of injuring” its relationship with Beijing.
The Victorian Parliament will sit next week. National Cabinet will next meet Friday 7 August.