Weekly Wrap Up
- Australia’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 7,019.
- Federal Parliament resumed this week, passing legislation to ensure privacy protections for users of the COVIDSafe app. To date, the app has been downloaded by 5.6 million Australians.
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) this week revealed the unemployment rate has jumped one percentage point to 6.2 per cent for the month of April.
- Sales of new homes in Australia have fallen 23 per cent since February to their lowest levels on record.
- New Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick confirmed the State Government will look to bid for Virgin Australia through the state-owned Queensland Investment Corporation. Former Treasurer and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad stepped down at the weekend over a corruption probe.
- Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has outlined his vision for a post-pandemic Australia, calling for decentralisation, a revitalised manufacturing sector and an increase in social housing.
- Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash has announced that mutual obligation requirements for JobSeeker recipients will be further suspended until June 1.
- National Cabinet is meeting today to discuss progress in tackling coronavirus and the mental health impacts of the pandemic.
Restrictions eased as Parliament resumes
States and territories have this week begun to ease coronavirus restrictions after the PM unveiled the National Cabinet’s three-step framework to reopen Australia last Friday. Under this framework, it is up to the Premiers and Chief Ministers to lift restrictions at their own pace. The PM said new coronavirus cases are inevitable, however stressed that “testing, tracing and trapping” will be key in containing any outbreaks. Meanwhile, politicians returned to Canberra for a trial parliamentary sitting week, marking an end to the bipartisanship demonstrated during the worst of the pandemic. The Opposition criticised the Federal Government for “fumbling” the implementation of the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, under which six million Australians are receiving payments. A further 1.6 million are receiving JobSeeker payments.
“Sobering” economic figures released
On Tuesday – the original date for the 2020-21 Federal Budget – Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivered a “sobering” economic update in Parliament, revealing the underlying cash deficit at the end of March sat at $22.4 billion, almost $10 billion higher than the Government’s previous update in December 2019. ABS figures show the unemployment rate for the month of April jumped one percentage point to 6.2 per cent, which the PM described as “shocking”. Treasury has also forecast the unemployment rate will reach 10 per cent by June, with economic activity expected to decline by approximately 10 per cent.
China blacklists Australian abattoirs
Trade tensions between Australia and China have escalated this week, after China imposed an import ban on meat from four Australian abattoirs, citing labelling and health certificate issues. China has also flagged plans to introduce an 80 per cent tariff on Australian-grown barley. Despite reports suggesting the barriers are retaliation for Australia’s push for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus, Minister for Trade Simon Birmingham said the claims are long-running and highly technical. The PM said the Government would always act in the “national interest” and stand behind Australia’s agriculture producers.
Federal Parliament will next sit June 10. An updated parliamentary sitting calendar is available here. Queensland Parliament will return next Tuesday 19 May.