That is where we will leave the Australian coronavirus live blog for today. For all the latest world news, you can follow that live blog here.
Here’s what we learned today:
- Victoria recorded 15 deaths from Covid-19, but its lowest daily case rate in almost two months with 116 new cases
- The Victorian government wants to pass legislation to extend the state of emergency by 12 months. It is due to expire on 13 September
- The AFL grand final will be played outside Melbourne for the first time
- The federal parliament has sat under new rules which have allowed parliamentarians unable to get to the capital to debate and ask questions remotely via video link
- NSW recorded three new cases of Covid-19. Queensland recorded one
- A security guard working in a NSW quarantine hotel who later tested positive for Covid-19 has been fined twice for failing to self-isolate after his test
- The Labor party is forecast to secure a majority in the Northern Territory after Saturday’s election
- The jobkeeper extension bill will leave employers claiming jobkeeper - and those with a revenue downturn of 10% - with the power to reduce hours, adjust workers’ duties and location of work for the next extension period
- Labor has called for assistant treasurer and housing minister Michael Sukkar to be sacked amid allegations of branch-stacking.
On whether the Victorian government will get the 12-month state of emergency extension through the parliament.
A former Victorian Liberal premier, Jeff Kennett, is opposed to the Daniel Andrews’ proposal to extend the state of emergency for a year (it is due to expire on 13 September).
The latest on the NT election, via AAP:
The most recent figures from the Northern Territory Electoral Commission show Labor ahead in 16 seats, with the Country Liberals leading in six, independents in two and the Territory Alliance in one.
A formal declaration of the poll is not scheduled until 7 September as postal votes are still coming in.
Counting in the crucial seat of Fong Lim swung Labor’s way on Monday afternoon, with Mark Monaghan ahead of his CLP rival, Kylie Bonanni, by 137 votes.
The seat of Namatjira also dropped out of the CLP’s column, with Labor’s Sheralee Taylor leading the CLP’s Bill Yan by 20 votes on a two-candidate preferred basis.
Thank you for joining me today for today’s blog.
I am going to hand over to Josh Taylor for the next little bit, but I will be back tomorrow morning for the resumption of parliament. We’ll bring you all the Covid news, as well as everything else which happens, including the partyroom meetings. And no doubt there will be some more on the Victorian Liberal story from today as well.
In the meantime – take care of you. Ax
Antony Green gives Labor a win in NT
Antony Green has called it.
Patricia Karvelas asks David Littleproud when was the last time he spoke to his Chinese counterpart.
Given that he is the agricultural minister, you would think there would need to be some chats.
But it seems that the CCP is still screening calls.
I haven’t had a conversation since I became agriculture minister. I tried on a number of occasions and only wrote again last week, trying to engage with my counterpart about not only wine, but other agricultural issues.
They haven’t responded as of yet.
But my door is always open and my phone is always on.
Not only with China, but any other trading partner that would want to engage around agricultural trade and production systems.
Mike Bowers was in the chamber for question time. Here is some of what he saw:
I guess he has the antibodies?
Patricia Karvelas asks Nobel medicine prize laureate and infection expert Peter Doherty about his “Dan Murphy’s opening hours” viral tweet (after a very serious interview on vaccines).
He must be protected at all costs.
I’ll be remembered for that and nothing else. I made a fool of myself!
Einstein is remembered for his hair; even if I give up drinking, I will be remembered for Dan Murphy’s.
I ended up with many more Twitter followers.
There’s an interesting development in the university sector – a growing backlash against lack of government support and failure of management to prevent job cuts.
On Monday, the National University Staff Assembly met to discuss a way forward to fight back – including developing a roadmap towards taking unprotected industrial action.
It’s an initiative of the National Higher Education Action Network, a grassroots movement, not a union but endorsed by many National Tertiary Education Union branches, that wants academics and other university staff to consider strikes to call for more government support and secure employment in the sector.
The assembly met today (with 460 present) and passed a motion with 96% of the vote, the key points of which are to:
Oppose cuts to university funding proposed by the minister for education, Dan Tehan.
- The National Union of Students (NUS) rally against fee hikes this Friday 28 August.
- The School Strike for Climate day of action on 25 September.
And commit to:
- Building a diverse national network of university workers across state, institutional, and employment divisions that aims to strengthen every campaign and resist austerity in the sector.
- Mounting a vigorous campaign of coordinated actions with the goal of making democratically planned unprotected industrial action possible so as to defend universities from funding cuts and protect all university jobs.
- Building a major demonstration involving NTEU, NUS, and secondary school student groups before the government’s budget in October and calls on the NTEU and other unions to support these rank-and-file actions in order to help mobilise branches for them.
It’s still early days – but the network plans to hold local meetings to develop a strike pledge, essentially committing university staff to go on strike if enough others take the same pledge.
Tony Burke has responded to the government’s jobkeeper extension bill:
We welcome the news the government has backed down on the most extreme part of this plan.
It was ridiculous for the government to suggest that businesses that had fully recovered – and are in some cases doing better than they were before the pandemic – should get to keep emergency powers to cut their workers’ hours, pay and rights.
Labor will look at the detail of the government’s legislation – but we won’t allow them to use this pandemic as an excuse to undermine workers’ pay and conditions.
Jim Chalmers is also asked about Anthony Fisher’s comments:
When a vaccine is available and it’s rolled out, as many people as possible should get vaccinated. That’s my personal view. I say that as a Catholic. That’s the best outcome for Australia. The vaccine is what will get us to the other side of this diabolical health problem with all the economic consequences it brings.
Deputy chief medical officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth was asked about the Catholic archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, criticising one of the Covid vaccines under development because it uses a cell line from an electively aborted foetus.
I am aware of those concerns being raised this morning that the particular cell line produced for the vaccine was from an ethically aborted human foetus, that was the concern raised by the Archbishop.
The reality for the vaccines is that they need cell cultures in order for us to grow them. Human cells are really important part of their development. Clearly in the process for the vaccine, which is one of the leading candidates for COVID-19 vaccines, that was an important part of our process.
There are strong ethical regulations surrounding the use of any human cell, particularly foetal human cells. This is a very professional, highly [held] research unit at Oxford University, one of the well’s leading universities, so I think we can have every faith that they have manufactured the vaccine, against the highest of ethical standards internationally.
Asked about the border closures Jim Chalmers says:
The states have those arrangements under constant review, as they should. They should be listening to the best medical advice as it evolves.
That’s what they’ve been done. When it comes to Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mark McGowan, that’s been the success of them as leaders during this crisis. To do the right and responsible thing by their people.
That’s what - that’s the approach that we think should be supported. If, for example, in my home state of Queensland, months ago Josh Frydenberg was calling for the borders to be opened, that could’ve been a recipe for disaster when it comes to jobs lost and lives lost. We need to make sure we’re backing in the premiers when they’re making good decisions based on the right advice.
Even if it hurts the economy?
My position is the absolute worst thing for the economy would be another outbreak of the virus.
We’ve seen that in Victoria. And so our priority needs to be doing the safe, the cautious, the right and responsible things.
Because that at the end of the day will do more to protect the economy than opening the borders too early.
Nobody wants these lockdowns and these border closures to exist any longer than is absolute necessary. But what’s been proven is they have been necessary. When you spend as much time with the business community, what people are nervous about is another outbreak of the virus. The leaders have doing the responsible thing in making that their priority. If we can limit the spread, we can get the economy back on track.
Victoria Health has put out its data for the day:
- 4,028 cases may indicate community transmission.
- 3,731 cases are currently active in Victoria.
- 629 cases of coronavirus are in hospital, including 31 in intensive care.
- 14,077 people have recovered from the virus
- A total of 2,106,139 test results have been received which is an increase of 14,811 since yesterday.
Of the 3,731 current active cases in Victoria:
- 3,332 are in metropolitan Melbourne under stage 4 restrictions.
- 232 are in regional local government areas under stage 3 restrictions.
- 158 are either unknown or subject to further investigation.
- 9 are interstate residents.
- Greater Geelong has 88 active cases, Bendigo has 24 active cases and Ballarat has six active cases.
Of the total cases:
- 16,744 cases are from metropolitan Melbourne, while 1,104 are from regional Victoria.
- Total cases include 8,776 men and 9,511 women.
- Total number of healthcare workers: 2,744 active cases: 476.
- There are 1,568 active cases relating to aged care facilities.
Active aged care outbreaks with the highest cumulative case numbers are as follows:
- 211 cases have been linked to Epping Gardens Aged Care in Epping.
- 195 cases have been linked to St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner.
- 160 cases have been linked to BaptCare Wyndham Lodge Community in Werribee.
- 159 cases have been linked to Estia Aged Care Facility in Ardeer.
- 138 cases have been linked to Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth.
- 119 cases have been linked to Cumberland Manor Aged Care Facility in Sunshine North.
- 118 cases have been linked to Twin Parks Aged Care in Reservoir.
- 114 cases have been linked to Outlook Gardens Aged Care Facility in Dandenong North.
- 110 cases have been linked to Japara Goonawarra Aged Care Facility in Sunbury.
- 109 cases have been linked to Estia Aged Care Facility in Heidelberg.
In Victoria there are currently 57 active cases in residential disability accommodation:
- Total resident cases: 13; Total Staff cases: 44.
- Active cases in NDIS homes: 42 (13 residents).
- Active cases in ‘transfer’ homes (state regulated/funded): 15 (0 residents).
- Active cases in state government delivered and funded homes: 0.
Key outbreaks with new cases include:
- 54 cases have been linked to Peninsula Health.
- 31 cases have been linked to the Vawdrey Australia in Dandenong South.
The department is also investigating cases linked to the Melbourne Safe Injecting Room and the Best Western in Melbourne.
Jim Chalmers is on Patricia Karvelas’s Afternoon Briefing on the aged care response:
I don’t think any objective observer of what happened in aged care in the last few months could say A, there’s been a plan, or B, it’s been successful. We lost 328 lives. The Prime Minister on some days takes responsibility, other days tries to engage in these weasel words pretending it’s someone else’s fault.
The Commonwealth is responsible for aged care, they didn’t have a workable plan, they didn’t act swiftly enough to learn some of the lessons what had happened in earlier months, and as a consequence of that, aged care has become one of the defining debacles.
...This is a government has been in office for seven years. They put in place a royal commission, which has come out with some interim recommendations around the use of physical and chemical restraints, around the home care waiting list, around all kinds of issues like that, getting people under 65 out of homes.
It’s made some interim recommendations and the rest of the recommendations we get the February next year.
There will be a lot we can learn from the conclusions of the royal commission. I think in the near term, one of the clear conclusions is the government didn’t have a plan for what has unfolded here. There’s a crisis in aged care, it did exist before, but it’s been turbo charged now by this diabolical virus.
The point we’re entitled to make, when the Commonwealth is 100% responsible for aged care, the royal commission says there wasn’t a plan, why wasn’t there a plan and how many lives has it cost?
Jobkeeper extension bill released
The attorney general, Christian Porter, has just released the jobkeeper bill, which sets out what industrial relations powers employers claiming jobkeeper will have from late September until March 2021. He will introduce the bill on Wednesday.
Existing employer powers to reduce hours, adjust workers’ duties and location of work will continue for those still claiming jobkeeper.
Employers who previously claimed jobkeeper but no longer qualify (legacy employers) will be subject to a new turnover test - so if they can show a 10% decline in relevant quarters this year, they will also keep the industrial relations flexibilities.
This addresses Labor’s complaint that companies which have returned to the same level of revenue as last year could nevertheless cut workers’ hours.
There are some protections on this, legacy employers cannot reduce a worker’s hours below 60% of their ordinary hours, must give workers 7 days’ notice of changes and can’t ask them to work less than two hours a day.
Another significant change: The previous arrangements allowing employers, by agreement with staff, to use available leave (subject to having two weeks’ annual leave remaining) will not be a feature of the reforms for JobKeeper 2.0.
“Whilst most of the country is moving out of the economic impacts of COVID, Victoria being the obvious exception, we are far from a situation where it is back to normal for many businesses and industries. Indeed, COVID will remain a part of our lives until a vaccine is widely available and so, continuing flexibility to help businesses and their staff adapt to the new normal is critical.
“It is important that the flexibility which has allowed many businesses to survive the crisis to date, continue to be provided to businesses which are on the road to recovery but which haven’t made it out yet, to ensure they can continue to trade, keep people in jobs and continue to rebuild as we emerge from the pandemic.
“A 10 per cent threshold for businesses that were on JobKeeper, but which will no longer qualify for the wages subsidy, will mean they can continue to adapt their workplaces to keep operating in the post-COVID world.
“These changes are time-limited. They are not permanent changes. They are linked to the extension of JobKeeper until the end of March 2021.
“I would like to thank all the stakeholders that have been engaged in detailed and constructive discussions on this legislation over recent weeks. The collaborative efforts of employer groups, unions and the Coalition government are all centred on ensuring we keep as many businesses going and people in jobs.”
Over in the Senate, Kristina Keneally has given a speech in response to Richard Colbeck’s answers on aged care:
“Nothing worked well from the outbreak.”
“I thought we were prepared. Nothing prepared us for what was to come.”
“I couldn’t believe this was happening in my country.”
These are just some of the words from the commonwealth’s review into the Newmarch House Covid-19 outbreak released today. That outbreak happened in April, some four months ago, and 19 older Australians died. Before that, there were warnings from overseas about the devastating impact of Covid in aged care.
The alarm bells were ringing but the Morrison government was not listening. Today’s report on Newmarch House confirms that, as do the answers we heard from Senator Colbeck, the aged care minister, and the Morrison government did not have a plan in place to manage the Covid outbreak in aged care in Australia.
As we heard in question time today, 335 aged care recipients have passed away from Covid-19. There’s been 1,761 Covid-19 cases in aged care. Each one of these numbers is a real person.
It is somebody’s mother or father. It is somebody’s grandmother or grandfather. It is somebody’s spouse, someone’s life partner. These are some of Australia’s most precious citizens. These are people who helped build the nation who fought for it in several wars. Who worked and built communities, raised families, created jobs, were part of their church, or their local service organisations. And these older Australians are dying at home alone. They died in residential aged care homes alone. They are lucky if they get to hold the hand of a staff member in aged care. I mean, let’s just imagine what kind of death we are talking about because I sometimes think there is a perception that old people simply pass away. And perhaps that is a perception you could take from the lack of a response and a lack of a plan from the Morrison government.
But old people don’t just simply die. This is a highly contagious disease that attacks older Australians in residential aged care. When there was not a plan in place to manage infection control. When there was not a plan in place to replace workforce when they got sick. When there was not a plan in place for protective equipment. And these older Australians who are vulnerable to this disease got sick, and they’re dying alone and let’s understand what kind of death that is.
I heard one of the adult children of a woman who died in St Basil’s describe on radio that experience of having to watch his mother’s death at a distance, of not being able to hold her hand or touch her. Can you imagine being in the last moments of your life and not being able to touch your children? Can you imagine watching your mother or father die just feet from you? Maybe through a window?
Through a mask and not being able to hug them in the last moments of their existence? Can you imagine your husband or your wife on their deathbed and you can’t even hold their hand in comfort?
That’s what kind of death this. And we should not be surprised that our age care homes were unable to cope with this because if you look at the report handed down by – the interim report – handed down by the royal commission into aged care.
That report is called “Neglect”. It’s not called “compassionate care”. It’s not called “preparedness”. It’s not called “living with dignity in your old age”; it is called “Neglect”. Neglect. It talks about our senior citizens, our moms and dads, our grandparents and grandparents, and aunts and uncles, in aged care homes with open sores and physical abuse and malnourishment. Lack of infection control, whether we’re talking about diarrhoea or Covid-19. And I just want to pay tribute right here to the aged care frontline workers. I have met many of them.
Many of them, I’ve met them and they’re in tears some of them, because they know they don’t have the time or the resources or the support to give the care that they know that their residents need. And they’re distressed too. They’re on the frontline of this outbreak too.
The fact that we have a minister who hasn’t engaged fully enough with this crisis in aged care. From the handing down of a report called “Neglect” through to last Friday when he didn’t know the answers to basic questions through to question time today.
We need a plan and we need it today. We needed it yesterday. We need it tomorrow. We need it right now to look after our senior citizens in aged care.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth says he was unaware of Terri Butler getting a Covid test, but doesn’t go into what a positive result (which in this case, would be an outside chance as Butler has no symptoms and is just getting tested to be cautious) would mean for the parliament:
I think it’s probably important to wait for the test result before we speculate on what might happen.
So overall, there have been 121 new cases of Covid-19 recorded in Australia in the last 24 hours.
Scott Morrison makes a point of saying he extended question time by 25 minutes, but now would like to call an end to question time.
Question time was extended because he asked to do a speech at the beginning of it (which Anthony Albanese then followed) not because he suddenly decided to do another 25 minutes out of his enduring love of democracy.
Scott Morrison is asked to explain his comments from last week, which sought to put responsibility back on the states for aged care (in Victoria):
The point that was being made, the commonwealth is responsible for the regulation and funding of aged care and its clinical practices, Mr Speaker.
It is true, that is what happens in aged care facilities.
What I was referring to was the broader responsibilities of state governments comes to the management of public health and pandemics.
Now, when a state government is responsible for public health and pandemics, and they are responsible for how that applies on all aspects of what occurs in that state and that includes shopping centres and that includes public health issues related also to aged care facilities, hospitals, schools, any type of facility that occur, community sporting facilities, public health is the responsibility of state governments.
Now, when there is a pandemic that is reaching into the aged care facilities, then there is of course an overlap of those responsibilities.
The commonwealth has responsibilities, the state government has responsibilities, and so what we have done is we are working together!
We have established the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre...bringing together a series of professionals, whether it be in the health sector or other sectors, responsible for ensuring we get the right outcome and I remind people despite the fact that we have had unacceptable outcomes in less than half a dozen and that our total of 16 have been considered to have a significant impact.
97% of aged care facilities in this country had no Covid infection. 97 %. ... More than 90% of not had a Covid infection.
I want to thank the premier of Victoria is cooperation working with me in the minister for health, working with his counterpart. In the minister for a careful stop working together to ensure that we can protect lives in aged care facilities and throughout Victoria by working together.
(There were outbreaks in NSW aged care centres before Victoria)
Julie Collins to Scott Morrison:
Can the prime minister confirm the government’s own report into Covid-19 are back at Dorothy Henderson Lodge show that even well managed providers need help to provide a response on day one and Kenny confirm he received this report in April but was kept secret until the royal commission published this month and why didn’t his government do the things it was told was necessary to keep aged care residents safe?
Mr Speaker, the matters raised in the report, as the member has said, but the assertion that she has made following on from that is not correct.
Because the myriad of preparations, plans and advisors that were provided to the aged care sector from the government and from its various agencies have gone to the matters that she has raised. In particular, but has gone to the issue of workforce preparation that was the subject of quite specific advice and letters and even webinars and projects within the sector to go to that effect, Mr Speaker, so I am detecting, through the course of these questions, that the opposition is of course going to raise issues, as is appropriate in this parliament.
But the assertions they are making simply are not stacking up. What we have sought to do, what we have been doing from the outset...is to ensure that we have a plan in place, the plan has been pulled together by the expert professionals here in Australia to ensure that we can be as best prepared as we possibly can be.
That plan has been continually informed and refreshed, indeed, by the reports, whether Dorothy Henderson Lodge or new march or the other inquiries, that we have now also instigated at some battles by the same people who have done the report into Newmarch to ensure that the continued response we provide and deliver on the ground addresses the learnings that come from dealing with a one in 100 year pandemic as it impacts on our aged care sector, as the minister for Health has noted.
In all other states and territories other than Victoria there are no cases.
There are significant cases and have been significant cases in Victoria, and the key distinguishing feature between Victoria and other states and territories has been the scale of the community outbreak that has occurred. And to that end, I commend the New South Wales government.
And I commend premier Gladys Berejiklian Mr Speaker, who through their procedures and plans and protections, despite many challenges and many outbreaks that have occurred, they have been able to keep it under control.
It is saved hundreds of lives if not thousands in New South Wales and New South Wales has been able to do that while continuing with a plan of keeping its economy open and keeping people in jobs.
New South Wales are proving to be the gold standard here, Mr Speaker, and I commend them for the great work.
Greg Hunt is asked about the government’s Covid vaccine strategy.
The strategy appears to be to get one.
The aged care minister has once again fumbled the number of aged care deaths, just an hour after apologising for doing it on Friday.
“Every single one of those 385… 35… Every one of those 335 deaths is an absolutely, absolute tragedy. Every single one of those deaths is a tragedy.”
Susan Templeton to Scott Morrison:
Why did the prime minister say in July the complete withdrawal of an aged care workforce could not be anticipated or foreshadowed when that is precisely what happened at Dorothy Henderson Lodge in March and Newmarch House in April?
I thank the member for her question. The context of the comment is what the questioner has failed to draw attention to.
As the acting chief medical officer pointed out, in a joint press conference last Friday, when he was asked the same question, Mr Speaker, what we were referring to at the time was the immediate withdrawal of that workforce.
That is what has occurred at the facilities you referred to in Victoria, Mr Speaker.
This was completed in a matter of hours when that workforce was withdrawn. That was the issue that resented the most critical challenge. It actually is the case. Like St Basil’s and ... other critical facilities that were affected? No notice effectively, those plans were swung into action and many aged care workers were put in that facility. We are arranging ADF facilities at around 11 o’clock at night.
What happened in Newmarch ... and Dorothy Henderson was the need to ensure that when facilities were dealt with this way, there wasn’t a complete withdrawal of the workforce and that is why following the incidents that occurred at St Basil’s and other cases, we were able to get an agreement out of the Victorian government to make sure that process of complete and immediate withdrawal was not repeated.
That is an example of how the aged care response centre has been working each and every day to deal with blooms and issues about as they have arisen in what has been an extraordinary set of circumstances in Victorian aged care.
As the minister of health reminded the house, in every country where there has been extensive community transmission of the virus, it has gone and had devastating effect in aged care facilities.
In Australia, 97% of facilities in this country and just over 90% in Victoria have had no cases of Covid. Mr Speaker, that compared to the international experience, is a testament to the great work being done by those officials and those working on the ground to prevent the impacts of this virus when it moves through the community. Mr Speaker, so many aged care workers and health workers in Victoria more broadly, were briefed on this morning. When there is community transmission, it affects all workforces and that includes the health workforce is. It is impacting hospitals.
There has been an outbreak in the Frankston Hospital and we are dealing with the transfer of residents have been transferred to that hospital so we will continue to deal with those issues as they arise and work with the Victorian government to achieve the best results for residents in our care.
It has taken one interjection during a dixer for Greg Hunt to lose control of the carefully curated ‘quiet, statesman like, we will fight them on the beaches, Covid-calm’ voice he has been deploying in press conferences lately.
Nature is healing.
Julie Collins to Scott Morrison:
Why did the prime minister wait until now, six months into the pandemic, after hundreds of aged care residents have died, to announce the aged care advisory group.
The announcement that was made was to add to an existing group that has already been established, Mr Speaker, and to expand its role and expand its membership.
There’s been consistent expert advice from an infections control expert, geriatricians, and a vast array of clinical experience that’s been advising the government’s plans on the response to the aged care needs as a result of the pandemic, Mr Speaker.
That’s been occurring since early this year in both the preparation of the plans I have outlined to the House today, the refreshing of the plans and the communication of the plans throughout the country and to aged care service providers. We have added to an arrangement that was already in place.
We have expanded that, we welcome that added facility that we have put in place for those arrangements and they’ll continue to assist us as we respond to this pandemic.
So there are arrangements and plans and plans and arrangements and it is so, because arrangements and plans have been mentioned as words.
Just as a reminder – it was the Howard government which privatised aged care.
Bronwyn Bishop was the minister when the kerosene baths scandal broke.
Ken Wyatt was the minister when the Oakden scandal broke.
Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:
The commissioners presiding over the Aged Care Royal Commission said today, quote, “Had the Australian government acted upon previous reviews of aged care, the persistent problems would have been known much earlier and the suffering of so many people could’ve been avoided.” Are the commissioners correct, what Australians are seeing the aged care could’ve been avoided, why didn’t the government and you act?
I will await the findings of the royal commission. And the recommendations of the royal commission before the government responds to the royal commission, Mr Speaker.
Just as we have already responded, Mr Speaker, to the interim report of the royal commission, which has dealt with particularly in-home aged care places, Mr Speaker, and we’ll have the opportunity to provide further responses to the items raised in the interim report of the royal commission in this year’s budget, and if need be, the midyear statement as well.
The royal commission should be allowed to continue to do their work. Having commissioned it, Mr Speaker, I’m keen for them to deal with all the issues that need to be addressed and for those to be sifted through and the royal commission to come to its set of findings and to provide its recommendations, Mr Speaker.
I don’t propose to undertake a running commentary on the commission’s hearings and commentary that is passed along the way. I think it’s important we just let the royal commission do its job. I will ask, Mr Speaker, that all members of this place would join me in supporting the royal commission to get on with its work, Mr Speaker.
And to not seek to partisanise its activities and to adopt positions, Mr Speaker, that would only seek to undermine, but Mr Speaker, what I would encourage people to do, just as our party did when we were in opposition and dealing with difficult issues in aged care, we supported the then government, Mr Speaker.
The reason I called the royal commission is because there has been failings in aged care, Mr Speaker, going back over decades.
And in the interim report, Mr Speaker, that was made clear. That the failings they are dealing with go back over many, many years. And all governments, Mr Speaker, have failed to measure up to the mark, including those who have members of governments previously who now sit opposite. So we’re quite prepared to get the recommendations of that report and its findings and to respond to those at the appropriate time.
Michael McCormack is at the despatch box, which is making me rethink every plan that has ever led to me standing here, in this moment, and where it all went wrong.
You know, it is possible to repeatedly say the word ‘plan’ (eight times in those few minutes at my rough count) – and even have a document with the word ‘plan’ on it, and there still not actually be a plan.
For example, I had a plan to marry rich and retire by the time I was 30. That did not happen. It was written down and everything. Under the headline ‘life plan’ and yet – here I am. Blogging question time.
Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:
I refer to this answer to my previous question. In which the prime minister claimed there was really an aged care plan for Covid-19, even though his own royal commission, with all its resources, days of expert evidence, and access to documents find it. After 328 aged care residents have died, why should Australians believe the prime minister instead of his own royal commission?
Mr Speaker, I set out very clearly before this House the plan, its updating of the plan, the communication of that plan, and the implementation of that plan.
And I’m invited to outline the time timetable, Mr Speaker, again. If the members would like me to do that, I will go through it all again.
If it would be of assistance to the House. We have set out that plan. That plan has been available since March of this year, and has continued to be refreshed and reported to the aged care sector and worked through in webinars and other information, including with support by the aged care quality commissioner as well.
Mr Speaker, assertions have been made before the royal commission. And we have rejected assertions.
And we have set that out in evidence to the royal commission. Mr Speaker, I welcome the royal commission investigating these issues.
I welcome the royal commission undertaking its inquiries into these matters. In fact, I wrote to the royal commission and asked them to do that very thing, but Mr Speaker, we’re all in a position where we have to back up the assertions that are made.
Whether there’s an assertion made before the royal commission or any other place that asserts something the government has not done, when when believe it’s not correct, we’ll correct the record and I have done so here today, Mr Speaker.
What has occurred when we reflect again, that Mr Speaker, 97% of the aged care facilities in this country, have had no Covid cases amongst residents. 97%.
Now, Mr Speaker, as I said before, there has been 16... Where there have been a significant impact, and there’s been an even smaller number where there’s been an unacceptable outcome.
In the 97% of facilities, I know that residents and families and others know that even, Mr Speaker, in those facilities where there have been some Covid-19 cases, they’ve been extremely well managed and that’s a tribute to those aged care workers, and all of those who are working to keep those facilities safe in terms of transferring of residents and providing the care that’s needed in those facilities and getting those arrangements in place.
We’ll continue to implement that plan.
That plan is supported by more than $1 billion of additional investment in aged care supports, Mr Speaker.
And what a great screenshot to honour this milestone.
Good to see the front facing camera continues to hate all humans, even when making history. Can’t beat that programming.
WA Liberal Vince Connelly still manages to deliver his dixer like he has studied humans for decades and now feels confident enough to present as one.
Richard Marles gets the next question – over video link from his office in Victoria.
It gives question time a very Q&A vibe.
The health department says 328 aged care residents have died from Covid-19. How many more aged care residents have to die before the prime minister accepts full responsibility for keeping them safe?
Scott Morrison (spoiler – we are back to binary):
I join with him and I’m sure all members in this place as we grieve the deaths of so many Australians who have succumbed to this virus, not just those who are older, but all those affected, either with serious illness or those who have ultimately succumbed to this virus.
The commonwealth is responsible, as I set out in the statement the leader of the opposition referred to earlier, for all the issues he referred to, in this statement. And I stand by that statement, Mr Speaker.
The commonwealth is responsible for the funding and the regulation of aged care services in this country.
But it is also true, in the course of a pandemic, Mr Speaker, that there are responsibilities that are held by other agencies of the federation.
In particular, the state governments. And so, Mr Speaker, when it comes to managing the crisis in aged care, we must work together with state governments and that is exactly what we’re doing.
Mr Speaker, we are combining our responsibilities to together work to the plan that I set out, and that was set out by the government over many months, and restored by its refreshing and its updating based on the best available evidence.
We’re working together with the Victorian government on that plan, Mr Speaker. We both have responsibilities here.
The commonwealth is responsible for aged care facilities when it comes to their funding and their regulation, and their clinical practices, Mr Speaker, and that’s what we’re overseeing.
But we’re working together with the state government of Victoria to ensure that the broader public health issues when you have a pandemic of this scale we have experienced in Victoria, we ensure the two systems work together to get the best responsibility. We share those responsibilities, that’s why I speak regularly with the Victorian premier about these issues.
That’s why the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre is led by the commonwealth, and is staffed by both representatives of both the state government and the federal government, to ensure we get the best possible response, that involves the transfer of residence to public and private hospitals, and the notification of federal officials and federal agencies when testing is done in those facilities.
It’s simplistic to seek to apply such a binary representation. The responsibilities are clear and we’ll meet with our responsibilities and we’ll work with anyone in this country who wants to work with us.
Tim Wilson gets the first dixer and he apparently did not use the last two weeks in isolation to improve his question delivery technique.
Question time begins
It’s Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:
The counsel assisting the Aged Care Royal Commission said and I quote, “Neither the Commonwealth Department of Health nor the aged care regulator developed a COVID-19 plan specifically for the aged care sector. Why didn’t the Prime Minister have a plan to protect aged care residents from COVID-19?
Because we had a plan, Mr Speaker. And we reject the assertion that has been made and have done so in evidence to the royal commission, Mr Speaker.
By the secretary of the Department of Health. On 18 February, the over arching plan for management of COVID-19, the Australian health sector emergency response plans for novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was released.
On 27 February, the response plan was activated. On 2 March, the aged care quality and safety commissioner wrote a letter regarding planning and preparing for COVID-19.
On 6 March, the aged care preparedness forum was held by minister Colbeck.
The Communicable Diseases Network published the national guidelines for the prevention and control and public health management of COVID-19 outbreaks in residential aged care facilities.
On 17 March, the medical expert panel, the AHPPC, released recommendations ensuring they are prepared to manage outbreaks for COVID-19.
On 28 March, they published an updated guidelines, focuses on clinical presentation and older people, and infection control guidance.
On 2 April, there was an alert about confirmed COVID-19 cases in aged care. On 2 April, the infection control expert group released guidelines for infection prevention and control in residential aged care.
On 22 April, Mr Speaker, the AHPPC updated advice to the residential aged care facilities about minimising the impact of COVID-19 and that was released on that day.
On 19 May, they released guidance for residential aged care settings on monitoring workers for COVID-19.
On 19 July, minister Colbeck wrote to aged care providers to have an updated management plan.
On 14 July, they published updated COVID-19 guidelines for outbreaks. It forced on outbreak identification and management guidance, roles and responsibilities of government agencies and additional members for the outbreak management team. There was a plan.
The plan was regularly updated and the plan continues to be implemented with over $1 billion of funding from this government.
I missed this – it was just before question time on the ABC – Liberal MP Jason Falinski seems to have a few things to say about the royal commission into aged care, which Scott Morrison is very happy to acknowledge as his idea – primarily about it coming up with solutions.
Which is the point of a royal commission – to examine failings – and then offer recommendations. That is the whole job.
Falinski though, doesn’t think that is a good idea:
I’ve got to say, that royal commission though, what they did the other week where they basically called the chief medical officer a liar, going on and on, they have little proof, I’m not entirely sure a royal commission coming up with policy solutions to aged care was a good idea in the first place.
And last Friday, we saw, frankly, a minister appear before the Covid-19 committee, who is just not up to this task. Just not up to it. I don’t know what it takes to lose your job on the frontbench of this government.
Whether it’s, you know, the minister for so-called emissions reductions, one of the great ironical titles of modern politics, whether it be the assistant treasurer or the minister for aged care, there is nothing, there is nothing, nothing, that any minister can do, which is a dismissible offence.
I would have thought, I would have thought, that last Friday’s performance just underlined that.
So we are concerned and it’s legitimate and indeed we have a responsibility to raise these issues and we’ll be raising them in this parliament as it should be this week.
For this government, you know, the buck never stops.
No one is responsible. No one is responsible.
The motto that was used last year, “I don’t hold a hose, mate” is a flexible one for all occasions.
But very clear for this prime minister, this prime minister and this government is responsible for aged care. Very clearly, very clearly.
But on 19 August, the prime minister said, “We regulate aged care, but when there’s a public health pandemic, then they are the things that are managed from Victoria.”
In the same statement, he says, “when there’s a public health pandemic, public health whether it gets into aged care, schools, hospitals and anything else, those are things that are matters for Victoria.”
There’s a big difference between aged care and shopping centres.
No one is arguing that shopping centres are responsible, there’s a federal regulator, it’s federally funded, but aged care is, and that’s why there needs to be responsibility.
It took until today, believe it or not, there was a media release, established as a result of a decision just last Friday to set up an aged care advisory group.
That’s a positive thing. But why did it take until now? And just today, the royal commissioners themselves, not a lawyer appearing before the royal commission, not a submission to the royal commission, the royal commissioners themselves said this, “Had the Australian government acted upon previous reviews of aged care, the persistent problems in aged care would have been known much earlier and the suffering of many people could’ve been avoided.”
There it is. The royal commissioners.
On 27 February, after Question Time was over, after a parliamentary week on a Thursday afternoon in the prime minister’s court yard.
Where the document was waved around that said this, the Australian government will also be responsible for residential aged care facilities.
They were responsible for establishing and maintaining, I quote, “Infection control guidelines, healthcare safety, and quality standards.”
What we know was that no plan was put in place. We know this from the royal commission opening statement by the counsel assisting. Who said this, “The evidence will reveal that neither the Commonwealth government of health, nor the aged care regulator developed a Covid-19 plan specifically for the aged care sector.
The fact there wasn’t a plan. And there wasn’t the action that was required.
If actions speak than words, then the Morrison government is truly the quiet Australian.
Anthony Albanese responds to Scott Morrison’s speech with one of his own:
Where we think the government has got it right, we have said so and praised the government for doing so.
But it’s also the job of the opposition to call things as they see it in a democracy. It’s the job of the opposition to hold a government to account. To make sure that each and every day the outcome is as good as it can be.
To do otherwise is not to be responsible. To do otherwise is to abandon the democratic principles that are the fundamental difference between us and other regimes around the world.
And there are no areas that have been as critical for this than the area of aged care. The fact is, that whilst throughout the country there are some 517 people, at least, who have lost loved ones during the crisis, there’s been some 328 of them were aged care residents and another seven were in supporting home care.
Every one of those Australians is valued. It’s a source of heartache. My sincere condolences to all of the families and friends of those who lost loved ones during this pandemic.
Too many of them have had to farewell those loved ones over FaceTime. Too many aged care workers have had to hold the hands of older Australians as they pass.
Older Australians who have helped make this great country what it is today. Older Australians who are deserving of our respect and our support. Older Australians who are entitled to dignity in their later years.
Aged care residents are vulnerable. They depend on the dedicated nurses, carers, and staff in facilities.
And I pay tribute to every one of those workers. Putting themselves at risk in order to provide support to these vulnerable Australians.
They also depend upon the federal government. Because it’s the federal government that funds and regulates these facilities.
And indeed, the prime minister told us so.
Scott Morrison on the agreement to have an agreement for a Covid vaccine:
There’s still a long road ahead when it comes to these Covid-19 crisis, but the key to a post-Covid world has always been a vaccine.
And there’s hope. Our arrangements towards AstraZeneca are working to secure a vaccine.
The vaccine is being developed by the university of Oxford is in currently in an advanced stage of development.
If trials prove successful, safe, and effective it, could be available next year. We welcome that development, Mr Speaker. Every single Australian would be able to receive the vaccine for free. And it will be rolled out in accordance with expert medical advice.
Labor’s Kristina Keneally is now conducting a pop quiz of Colbeck, asking how many aged care facilities have Covid-19 outbreaks and whether any have more than 100 residents who have tested positive.
- There are 126 aged care providers in Victoria with active cases.
- He didn’t have a “detailed breakdown of every facility” in terms of the date of the outbreak and total number of residents and staff who tested positive, but he committed to provide it after Question Time.
- “I don’t believe” any facilities have more than 100 positive residents.
Keneally rises to make a point of order that there are 210 cases at Epping. Mathias Cormann says this is “not a point of order” but rather the opposition “playing politics”, telling Keneally she should “be ashamed” of herself.
Penny Wong says it’s a very serious issue and an “entirely appropriate” question to ask.
There’s 2,706 residential aged care facilities in Australia.
In 92% of these facilities, there’s been no infections among residents. This compares sharply to many countries around the world, such as the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.
In Victoria, where there’s been high levels of transmission, 126 of the 766 facilities have outbreaks among residents and staff. Those facilities who have experienced infections, the impact has been significant in 16 cases.
And in four cases, the impact has been severe. And completely unacceptable. Again, I offer my apologies to the residents and families of those affected in those facilities. It was not good enough.
Investigations and reviews are under way as appropriate, including by the royal commission into aged care that I established.
As of this morning, the number of significantly impacted facilities has been reduced to three. The situation in these facilities remains fragile as I’m advised early this morning, but stable.
We will continue on with the task, having so far committed more than $1 billion in aged care supports. We’ll continue working to address the many challenging issues in aged care, from waste management, to infection control, staff support, communications with families, the issues are many.
We are learning and applying the lessons of our experiences. We are continually updating our plans, working with our partners, the state and territory health systems and aged care providers, such as through the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre.
We’re on the ground, not just in Victoria, but across other states and territories, bolstering preparedness and to put in place even stronger arrangements in the event our response needs to be scaled up to counter any new threat that presents.
Every day and all day we keep Australians safe, we do so in an environment unprecedented in our lifetimes.
We do not claim infallibility.
We don’t pretend to perfect information, foresight or results in this pandemic, nor do we deny the high expectations that are rightly set for us as Australians. But we recognise the honest truth that the virus will get the better of us on some days and we fall short.
On those days, we’re asked for patience and understanding, and I have been overwhelmed by the encouragement received from a generous Australian people, who quietly understand the challenges and difficulties of these times.
And I’m thankful to all of them, for their messages of support.
Indeed, for their prayers, for many the youngest to the most senior in our communities.
All who are engaged in this great effort in government are giving it their all. Whether they be Prime Ministers, Premiers, or ministers, making decisions, or public officials giving the best advice they possibly can in a constantly changing and challenging environment.
Our efforts seek to match those being made by the Australian people, impacted by these twin crises of the pandemic and its recession. On those days, when our efforts fall short, none are more sorry than I as Prime Minister.
We do not let those days dampen our hope, nor distract or discourage us from the task that remains at hand.
We learn from those days, we lift our heads, and we get back at it the next morning, and each and every day.
Scott Morrison is detailing everything the federal government has done for Victoria since the Covid outbreak.
He is now in the thank you stage.
We are going to be here for a while.
Victoria police have put out their fine statistics for the past 24 hours:
- Issued a total of 197 fines to individuals for breaching the Chief Health Officer directions, including:
- 31 for failing to wear a face covering when leaving home for one of the four approved reasons.
- 20 at vehicle checkpoints.
- 66 for curfew breaches.
- 6,960 vehicles checked at the vehicle checkpoints.
- Conducted 2,204 spot checks on people at homes, businesses and public places across the state (total of 318,787 spot checks conducted since 21 March).
Please find below examples from the last 24 hours of breaches:
- Police attended an address in the Mornington Peninsula where they found two men and two women in the garage eating and drinking. Three of the four people did not reside at the address.
- Two women who were spoken to by police at the Dandenong Railway Station said they had travelled from Hastings to Dandenong on the bus. They then told police they were planning to travel to Drouin which was a further 67km away. When asked by police for their reason for travel they said they knew what they were doing was wrong but decided to travel anyway.
- A number of people located at train stations throughout metropolitan Melbourne during curfew hours without valid reasons for travel.
Aged care minister apologises for not knowing how many aged care residents had died
Senate question time has started with Labor questions to aged care minister Richard Colbeck about his failure to remember how many people had died of Covid-19 in aged care.
I offer my sincerest condolences and that of the government. It’s tragic – every single life that’s been lost is a tragedy ... And I offer my apologies to them for not knowing the number.
And Kristy McBain is now officially a MP.
Kristy McBain is also about to be sworn into the House.
Question time is going to be a bit later than usual today – there will be some speeches on what is happening in Victoria (and what has happened since June) before the questions begin.
Sky News is reporting John Howard has “gone to hospital” but the former prime minister has told the network he is “fine”.
It is the downhill slide to question time.
The first since June.
Childcare is another issue bubbling along under the surface.
And Tasmanians are the most proficient hand washers
This is going to be a tough week for many for so many reasons.
David Littleproud has been doing media on this since Friday, but the Victorian Nationals have decided to take matters into their own hands:
A nationally consistent approach to border closures and quarantine processes is vital in allowing regional and rural communities to function, as we continue to navigate our way through the Covid-19 pandemic.
The call comes on the back of an announcement by the Queensland government that will see exemptions for farmers and agriculture workers to cross the NSW/Queensland border.
Leader of The Nationals in the Senate Bridget McKenzie, NSW Senator Perin Davey, Member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster and Member for Nicholls Damian Drum are calling on the NSW and Victorian governments to urgently replicate the move.
Senator McKenzie said if Queensland can introduce an exemption system, other states should be able to do the same.
Protecting the health of the Australian community is the number one priority but because of city-centric parochialism many of our farms are at a standstill and businesses are being forced to shut without the medical evidence to justify border closures.
What has been announced in Queensland is the practical and realistic approach we have been pushing for. There now needs to be a standard approach to inbound quarantine with stringent checks, and equivalent processing systems that will give confidence as we learn to live with the virus.
After months of immense emotional pressure and unfair economic restrictions, Covid-19 free regional Australians need a plan.
Senator Davey said with Victoria’s daily infection numbers easing, there is no reason for border communities to not be given exemptions to cross the border.
It is extremely important to follow the advice of health officials, in order to keep the virus out of regional communities, but we need to make sure the rules and regulations are practical and balanced.
Residents in cross-border communities have borne the brunt of the border closures, livelihoods and the education of our students is suffering because of these unrealistic border permit rules.
National cabinet, along with the states, need to develop a common-sense national border-closure strategy.
Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum has called for critical workers to undergo Covid-19 tests so they can go about their daily work.
State health authorities need to implement an extensive testing regime to bring about greater freedom of movement for workers, by having them continually tested.
Thousands of workers are willing to get tested and isolate until their results come back negative, if it means they can then travel across the border to their place of employment.
We urgently need to create a workable solution for our residents in border communities.
Federal Member for Mallee, Anne Webster has called for national codes for Agriculture, Health and Education to be implemented without delay.
We need national cross border codes which provide clear and consistent treatment to all Australians. The National Freight Code is proof we can achieve this. We now need an Agriculture Code, a Health Code and an Education Code but they must be expedited – two weeks from now is too far away.
Genuine human emergencies could be avoided if these codes were put in place, saving a lot of heartache. Until then, communities are having to suffer the consequences of unconstrained belligerence of rival State governments, with cross border permits repeatedly expiring and rules changing regularly, causing unneeded stress in peoples lives.
Labor is still calling for aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, to be sacked.
A hearing of the faunal extinctions committee has had to be postponed after the Liberal senator David Fawcett was a no show.
Senators were due to grill department officials about the Australian National Audit Office’s scathing review of the government and bureaucracy’s administration of Australia’s national environmental laws.
That review, published in June, found the government had failed in its duty to protect the environment, the department had been ineffective in managing risks to the environment, that its management of assessments and approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was not effective, and that the department had failed to properly manage potential conflicts of interest in its work.
The committee’s chair, the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, said she was concerned today’s hearing had not gone ahead and senators had not had the opportunity to ask officials questions, given the report’s findings.
This is an important hearing and as chair I’ll be making sure we have the witnesses from the department in front of the committee this week.
The minister’s department has serious questions to answer not just about the significant failings within it but the government’s plans to slash environmental protections even further.
Hanson-Young also asked after the whereabouts of legislation the government said it would introduce this week as part of its plan to devolve environmental approval powers to state and territory governments.
The committee was previously told legislation to amend our environment laws would be tabled in this sitting fortnight and it’s not on the list.
Fawcett’s office would not comment on why the senator missed the hearing.
And from the member herself:
The Conservative Political Action Conference has booked a new speaker.
Here is their announcement:
Cousens included this quote: “A lot has changed since 2018. The culture war has escalated from the classroom, to the internet, to politics, and the media, and most worryingly, to the streets.”
I mean there is also a global pandemic, but yes, it is very hard to concentrate on that when you are so busy inventing culture wars to trip over on every corner.
Queensland has declared several areas of greater Brisbane as restricted areas, and urged residents if they show any symptoms to get a Covid test after an outbreak of Covid.
So Terri Butler is following the advice.
There were no travel restrictions in place – Queensland MPs have to isolate for two weeks on their return.
Queensland MP leaves for Covid test
Terri Butler has left parliament to get a Covid test, my spies tell me.
We hope she is OK.
AAP has an update on tracing back Covid conspiracies:
An Australian Facebook page became a powerful tool in a pro-Russia disinformation campaign about a non-existent Covid-19 vaccine trial, a think tank has discovered.
The anti-vaccination page, boasting 21,000 followers, attracted the most interactions of any English-language post about the debunked conspiracy theory that US researchers had run a trial in Ukraine.
The discredited theory claiming up to a third of 15 Ukrainian volunteers recruited for the American-led trial had died was posted to the propaganda sites of a pro-Russian separatist proto-state in eastern Ukraine, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said in a report published on Monday.
ASPI researchers tracked the false narrative through Russian language media and then into more than a dozen languages including English and Spanish.
“The success of this completely fictional narrative reflects a broader shift across the disinformation space,” the ASPI report said.
The theory, contained in press releases on Luhansk People’s Republic websites on 17 July, came a day after Russia announced plans to mass-produce its own vaccine within weeks.
By 3 August, an administrator of Australian Vaccination-risks Network Inc identified as “Meryl” posted a link to the conspiracy theory saying “there is evidence” a Covid-19 vaccine may be the most dangerous of all and “this story takes the cake”.
“The fact that it is not front-page news worldwide shows how bought the mainstream media is (sic),” she said.
The post had been shared 112 times, received 56 comments and attracted 164 reactions as of Monday morning
Since the link was posted, Facebook has placed a misinformation warning on it and displayed a fact-check article showing news agency Agence France-Presse had debunked the claim.
AVN on Sunday promoted a public rally in Brisbane for “freedom-loving people” concerned about “5G safety (and) vaccine mandates” and “in opposition to government tyranny”.
Co-author of the ASPI report Elise Thomas said she was not surprised to see AVN ranking prominently in the spread of the debunked Covid theory.
“It has come up repeatedly in other Covid-19 disinfo research we’ve done,” she told AAP.
She says it’s very likely more disinformation linked to the race to find a Covid-19 vaccine will be published in coming weeks.
“The stakes are very high, and in some ways chipping away at public trust may be the weakest link for actors seeking to undermine their competition,” she said.
Covid-19 has been fertile ground for misinformation, leading to repeated efforts by fact-check agencies to correct the record.
AAP FactCheck on 14 August showed there was no evidence backing a claim that flu vaccinations would increase a person’s susceptibility to Covid-19.
In July, AAP FactCheck showed Australians were spreading a false claim that the inventor of the PCR test – one of the main methods used to detect Covid-19 – had said the tests do not work to properly diagnose Covid-19 infections.
The inventor, Nobel Prize-winning American biochemist Dr Kary B. Mullis, died in August 2019.
Virtual parliament has so far gone off without a hitch.
Malcolm Roberts has been spotted on a screen – which means that no, he is not in Canberra. No sighting of Pauline Hanson either.
The ACT has reported no new cases of Covid in the last 24 hours.
Labor’s Julie Collins has responded to the Newmarch House report released by Richard Colbeck (which Dan has updated you on just below):
The report notes the impact of ‘severely depleted’ staffing because of Covid-19 infections and quarantine and the significant challenge this posed to Newmarch House.
But despite this, Scott Morrison and his failed minister for aged care have continued to say this very issue could not have been ‘anticipated’ in Victoria.
The report calls for an expansion of the surge capacities but just last week it was revealed even now the Morrison government has only spent half of the funding it committed to addressing this problem.
The report also notes that infection prevention and control was a ‘significant concern’ but it is clear the Morrison government did nothing to fix this issue before the Victorian outbreaks.
On the eve of outbreaks in Victorian aged care homes just one in five aged care workers had completed the Morrison Government’s training modules on how to use PPE.
The Newmarch House report notes serious ‘PPE shortages’ contributed to outbreaks but again the Morrison government did nothing to fix this.
In the critical weeks before the Victorian outbreak the Morrison government did no audit of nursing homes’ stock of PPE, despite more than 1,300 providers requesting access to the national stockpile.
Communication failures at Newmarch House is also identified as a major issue.
With report after report in Victoria of loved ones being kept in the dark and receiving inconsistent information about aged care homes with Covid-19 outbreaks it is clear the Morrison government did not learn from the Newmarch House tragedy.
The Prime Minister and his Minister for Aged Care must be held to account for not better preparing Australia’s aged care system for Covid-19.
Australians who have tragically been let down by Scott Morrison and his minister for aged care deserve answers.
The public needs to know that Mr Morrison has learnt from previous outbreaks and everything possible is now being done.
Deputy chief medical officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, will give a national Covid update at 3.30pm.
There have been seven new cases of Covid recorded in the NDIS – all participants and all in Victoria.
'Lack of clarity' in aged care response
A review has found a lack of clarity about the roles and hierarchy of government agencies in responding to the coronavirus outbreak at Sydney’s Newmarch House “added confusion to the burden of an already stressed situation”.
The report, released by the federal government today, also noted that the first stages of the response to Covid-19 infections were “characterised by turmoil and upheaval”.
As the opposition prepares to use parliamentary question time today to challenge the federal government over its handling of the Covid-19 risk in aged care facilities, the report shines a light of the challenging situation experienced in Newmarch House, where 37 residents and 34 staff members tested positive. Nineteen residents passed away, 17 of them directly attributed to Covid-19, the report said.
Throughout April 2020, Covid-19 cases among residents and staff continued to increase, fuelling a vicious cycle of staff and PPE shortages, suboptimal [infection prevention and control] practice, infection source-control and the resulting increase in workload and Covid-19 transmission.
Given political pressure has been building on the federal government over aged care outbreaks, there will be intense focus on what the report has to say about governance arrangements.
The report says daily teleconferences that began on 15 April to share information and monitor the course of the outbreak at Newmarch House included representatives of the national Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, the federal department of health, Nepean Blue Mountains public health unit, NSW State Health Operations Centre, Nepean Hospital specialists and Anglicare.
The very first teleconference began with disagreements about relocating Covid-19 infected residents to another facility, and on occasions “there were open and frank disagreements with varying opinions on how to proceed” which “added to rising tensions”.
Anglicare managers reported “frustration about conflicting advice from different agencies and the lack of clarity about the hierarchy of authority”, says the report, written by Professor Lyn Gilbert and Adjunct Professor Alan Lilly.
Teleconference participants failed to identify themselves or the agency they represented and no minutes or action items were distributed to confirm or clarify the information or actions required. On the other hand, multiple changes in management roles, the absence of senior managers on-site and the paucity of information about resident status and failures of communication at Newmarch House engendered an impression of chaos and lack of control.
Indi independent MP Helen Haines wants to know where all the bushfire relief that was promised for her electorate is.
The promised relief was mentioned again in the lead up to the Eden-Monaro byelection, but has dropped off the agenda again. Which is a travesty for communities who have been doubly hit by the cluster that is 2020.
A second Sydney security guard who tested positive to Covid-19 has now been fined by NSW police for breaching self-isolation restrictions.
The guard, who worked at the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel, was tested for Covid-19 last Thursday and told to go directly home and self-isolate for 14 days.
However, police allege he instead visited a shopping centre on Burwood Road and also went to a government services building on Friday on Elsie Street, Burwood.
The man was told on Saturday that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and has been transferred to a NSW Health quarantine facility.
The 22-year old has now been issued with two fines.
This comes after another security guard who worked at the same hotel tested positive for Covid-19 last week.
Daniel Andrews is asked about the north Richmond injecting room remaining open during the stage 4 restrictions (it is a health facility, so it should be, but anyways)
It is a health facility. If we closed every hospital or health facility that had a positive case, then people would not get the care they needed, mental health support, alcohol support, trauma, obstetrics, emergency care, right across the board.
This is a health facility. We’re not back to the days, we’re going to do everything we can to not go back to the days when dozens and dozens of people in that part of Melbourne were dying alone in laneways.
That facility works, is it universally popular? No.
Do I really care?
This is saving lives. We are going to keep it open and build a second one, because it saves lives. We can always debate about how that is done, and whether it can be improved, but this is about saving lives.
Q: What would hurt less, Perth or Brisbane?
There is a long pause.
I’m focused on what is happening in Melbourne and every community in Victoria. I’m not focused on what is happening in Brisbane or Perth.
Q: I meant in terms of the grand final
I know what you meant. I’m not going to run a commentary on those two capitals.
Melbourne AFL hopes are dashed.
This really shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone.
But there is no chance the AFL will be able to hold its grand final in Melbourne.
It is just a matter of dealing with the facts …
And for the sake of one event as important, as religious almost as it is, the nation that you would take a holiday from the coronavirus for the day so we could have the grand final for a day and a dose of normal, that doesn’t make any sense.
That would only spread the virus. It hurts, but not as much as potentially spreading the virus more. That notion is not on the table.
The AFL will have more to say about this during the week.
NSW police have released their update on social distancing fines – including the two issued to a security guard who has tested positive for Covid but was caught outside his home – twice:
Seven Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) have been issued since the last Covid update, including two to a security guard performing duties at quarantine hotels in Sydney who allegedly breached the Public Health Act by failing to adhere to self-isolation restrictions.
About 5pm on Thursday 20 August 2020, the guard, a man aged 22, underwent a COVID-19 test and was informed to go directly home and commence a 14-day self-isolation in accordance with current Ministerial Directions.
It is believed the man instead travelled to a shopping centre on Burwood Road, where he allegedly attended a number of stores in a two-hour visit.
On Friday 21 August 2020, the man allegedly left home and attended a government services building on Elsie Street, Burwood.
The man underwent a secondary test at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on the Friday and about 8am on Saturday 22 August, was informed he had returned a positive test result for COVID-19. He was transferred to a NSW Health COVID-19 quarantine facility where he will stay for the remainder of his quarantine period.
About 10pm yesterday (Sunday 23 August 2020), police issued the 22-year-old Campsie man with two PINs for not complying with Noticed Direction re: section 7/8/9 COVID-19.
Other examples include:
– About 1pm on Saturday (22 September 2020), police attended an Eden home and spoke to the resident, a 46-year-old man. Officers established the man had travelled to Victoria on a permit that he did not meet the requirements for. He was issued a $1000 PIN.
– About 10.30pm on (Saturday 22 August 2020), officers attached to Kings Cross Police Area Command attended a licensed premise on Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point. Officers observed multiple breaches of the Public Health Order, including an incorrect COVID-19 safety plan, no marshal, and mingling patrons with no physical distancing. The business was issued a $5,000 PIN for failing to comply with a noticed direction under the Public Health Act 2010.
The independent MP Zali Steggall is urging the government not to rush through a plan to devolve environmental approval powers to state and territory governments.
In July the government announced it would introduce environmental reforms that set up a “single touch” system for approvals under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act
This would be done by establishing bilateral approval agreements with the states and territories – if they agree to sign up. The environment minister, Sussan Ley, said at the time legislation would be introduced to parliament in late August.
In a letter to Ley, Steggall says the rushed proposal is “of great concern”. She says while it might be possible to make the system more efficient by removing duplication of processes at state and federal level, “it must be acknowledged that a large proportion of the current delays come as (a) result of staffing cuts to the Department for Agriculture, Water and the Environment”.
“The state governments have approved controversial projects resulting in environmental and heritage destruction. A recent example is the destruction of aboriginal heritage sites by mining companies under Western Australian law,” the letter says.
“Speeding up approvals must be sensitive to the acceleration in recent decades of environmental and heritage destruction. Strong safeguards are needed to prevent further destruction.”
Steggall notes Graeme Samuel’s interim report from the statutory review of the EPBC Act found Australian governments had failed to protect the country’s environment and heritage.
“The Report also made clear that restoring trust in the environmental law is essential and that stakeholders’ trust could be restored with an independent regulator. Why is it that the Government has ruled this out so quickly given the states themselves are supportive of this recommendation?” Steggall writes.
You can read the full letter here.
Ley announced the proposed reforms on the same day Samuel released the report in July. The report found governments had failed to protect Australia’s environment and important habitats and species were in an unsustainable state of decline.
Samuel recommended handover of approval powers occur under a yet to be created, legally enforceable set of national environmental standards.
The review also called for an independent regulator responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with national environmental law.
Daniel Andrews is asked about reports police are patrolling cemeteries to make sure that mourners are obeying restrictions:
I am not disputing – I haven’t heard those reports. So I can’t really comment on it. Other than to say this.
The police have a very difficult job. It has been a very difficult year for Victorian police, and we all know why, a very, very difficult year.
And I are very proud of the work our police are doing, because the officers, the whole team [are doing a tough job]
And we have seen some shocking incidents. Terrible, terrible incidents. That young constable down in Frankston, I am told she is getting better. [The officer suffered a concussion after she was allegedly assaulted by a woman she had asked to put on a mask.]
But it was a terrible incident, a terrible, terrible incident. So Victoria police are out there not just fighting crime and keeping us safe. That is their normal work.
They do that very well. But they are also out there having to engage with people and with all these Covid rules it is challenging, very, very challenging work. But in my judgment, not a specific issue, but in broad terms, I’m very grateful to police stop are not just to police members, but to their partners, their kids, their families. They do the best of work and they do us proud.
Daniel Andrews has “no comment” to make on the Victorian Liberal branch-stacking allegations.
“That is entirely a mater for the Victorian Liberals,” he says.
Daniel Andrews on asking the parliament to extend the state of emergency provisions beyond six months:
It is very logical, it makes sense. And I’m asking, respectfully, people of all political persuasions to support those changes so we have the rules to keep us safe in place beyond challenge, legally certain, for another 12 months.
To be clear, this is not the state of disaster, not the curfew, for instance, but the other very simple rules that I think I become part of our daily life.
For instance, if someone has got this virus it is not unreasonable and, in fact, it is absolutely critical that they stay at home and they stay away from other people. That, as logical as it seems, that is not on some honesty policy, there is a legal framework that sits behind it.
The legal framework expires on the 13th of next month. The need to keep those individuals isolating, that won’t expire on the 13 September.
So, again, it will be for members of parliament to make their own judgments, but I think this is a logical and absolutely proportionate response to the challenge we face. I will make the point again.
It would be great if we didn’t have to make these changes because this matter was all done and dusted on the 13 September.
It’s not going to be. Therefore we need to have a legal framework to sit behind the good work public health team is doing and, can I say, the amazing work that Victorians and a growing number of Victorians are doing right across the state following these rules, sticking together, looking out for each other, making sure that we get past this second wave and then we can start opening up.
And it is at the point that many of these rules become even more important, because we have more movement, we have people coming into contact with others, venues open, travel, all sorts of things that these rules are going to be with us for a period of time. Until we get a vaccine, there is going to be a Covid normal, not a normal, it will be something that is mindful of the fact that the global pandemic at that point, will not yet be over.
And in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, in NSW:
What if the parliament doesn’t give Daniel Andrews his request to extend the state of emergency declaration time period?
We don’t have to be as negative as that. We will mount a well-argued case, and logic tells you that if you want to keep on with people staying home for their 14 days, if you want to continue, because the public health advice tells you it is working, if you want to continue the advice around wearing masks, if you want to continue to have workplaces having their own bespoke, specific Covid-safe plan, and the list goes on and on, many of the things that have become normal, and certainly a big feature of Covid normal, if you want those things to continue beyond September 13, you have to have a legal framework.
The data which was going to show where health workers were infected – in the community, or at work – has been delayed. Daniel Andrews says it has been a more complicated job than first thought:
This is a considerably bigger piece of work than what people thought at the time. That is not a criticism, there is a degree of complexity, and a small margin for error. We wanted to be done properly.
I hope over the next few days I will be able to speak in more detail. Not just the analysis of the data, when you think about it, there is a very complex setting, a significant portion from aged care, that is many different circumstances. And lots of different workers.
You have hospital environments as well. Not exactly simple, there is a lot of complexity there also. Every healthcare worker is part of a local community, a local family.
We have a big job to try with a degree of certainty to try to work out whether the infection was a product of work, it could be part of a clinical relationship of the work environment or beyond that. That work is very close to being finalised.
Back to Daniel Andrews’ press conference, the health minister, Jenny Mikakos, says there will be some new data reported by Victoria:
From today, we are creating a new dashboard on the DHHS website that will make even more information available to Victorians for the first time. This will include not only active case numbers, and a number of deaths, it will have details around outbreaks it will have details around aged care setting, hospitalisations, high risk locations for the first time, so for example, as we go on the journey in the coming weeks to start to lift some of those restrictions, this information will be critically important. People will be able to see in their local area, whether there has been an exposure in a particular location from a known case, a confirmed case in the community.
For example, people will be able to search and see if a known case has been in the local shopping centre, local cafe, workplace or another location.
That means people can be armed with that information in terms of making an assessment themselves about any exposures they might have had visiting that same location on that day, and at that time.
But of course there is no substitute for being aware that we can develop the symptoms as we move around into the community, we might not always be aware how we acquired that virus, we know this is a highly contagious virus, very easy for people to pick up, and therefore it is important that we armed the community with this information by local government area, but also that people remain vigilant and go and get tested at the earliest opportunity if they develop any symptoms at all.
This is just the start, we are going to be working very closely with local councils, health services, community organisations to make this information available on the website, but also looking to provide more information, more data, as time goes on.
Marcus Bastiaan has released a statement on his resignation from the Victorian Liberal party:
I reject allegations of branch stacking. As the voluntary chair of the Party’s Membership and Training Committee between 2015 and 2018 [my role] was to recruit and train new members.
Two years ago, I stepped down from the party’s Administrative Committee to focus on my family and business. These priorities have not changed.
Clearly, I have said foolish and stupid things in my twenties. I apologise without reservation to those I have offended, and hope I’ll be wiser and kinder in my thirties.
The ongoing leaking of years old historic material is an unnecessary distraction for the Liberal party and it with that in mind that I have resigned.
Daniel Andrews gives a very big thank you to Victorians, as reports of lockdown fatigue start to drip in.
Can I thank every single Victorian who through making that profound contribution, the right choices, knowing and accepting that we are all in this together, knowing and accepting that while we will love it to end tomorrow, it won’t end tomorrow, we have to stay the course, don’t let frustration get the better of us, the only thing that wins if we let that happen is this wicked virus.
We can’t let that happen.
We have to see this through.
I’m so proud and so grateful, not just as the premier, but as a father, as a son, I am absolutely proud and grateful that so many families, my street, my postcode, my suburb in our state, are doing the right thing.
That is a growing number of people.
And every single Victorian doing the right thing, coming forward getting tested is as soon as they get symptoms, staying home, observing the curfew, all of those rules, so many people are following them, and I’m grateful to each of them, each of you, and I’m proud of each of you.
That is what is driving these numbers down.
That is why we have a one in front of these numbers, and we are on the verge of getting into double digits.
It wasn’t that long ago that we had more than 700 cases on a given day. This is a very difficult day for those 15 families that I have just alluded to, it is a very difficult day for many other Victorians out of work, who have a sense of uncertainty, and indeed a fatigue, but if we don’t see this through, if we don’t stay the course, then all of that sacrifice, all of that pain and loss, will be for nothing.
Because we won’t have defeated the second wave, we will be entering a third wave. And that is not something we want to do.
It is working, it is having a big difference. It is having a real impact. And I’m proud and grateful to every single Victorian who is playing their part in delivering a successful strategy.
Daniel Andrews will ask the parliament to extend how long a state of emergency can be called.
It is now allowed to be called for a maximum of six months. The government wants to extend that maximum to a year, because the current one would end on 13 December – and will need to go for longer.
Daniel Andrews is giving an individual update on the funeral arrangements for the family of the 37-year-old electrician who died while working underneath a house last week:
As many of you would know, last week, tragically, an electrician was killed at work.
He and his partner have two young children, a two-year-old and a five-week-old. His funeral will be on Friday.
First things first, I want to send on behalf of all Victorians, I want to send my heartfelt condolences to the family.
This will be a terrible time for them. They know they have been receiving a lot of support from friends, from family, from other traders.
I know there has been some very generous donations, large and small, made by many, many people who worked with this young gentleman and knew him.
I just want to confirm that when it comes to the calculation of the 10 mourners for the funeral this Friday, the five-week-old baby, who is a dependant, will not be counted as part of the 10 and we will have some more to say about trying to broaden that rule out for all funerals for babies under one year.
I think we are going to be able to land that and as soon as we can we will confirm that for you. But just for that family, I know it is some small comfort at a really, really tough time. But they can confirm that that particular family, and hopefully all families who find themselves in that terrible position, that five-week-old baby will not be counted towards the 10 mourners.
And we do hope that is some small comfort at a very difficult time. We send our best wishes to the family and anything we can do, of course, we stand ready to do that.
A returned traveller who stayed in hotel quarantine at Melbourne’s Pan Pacific learned on day 10 of his detention that he was not on authorities’ list of guests, an inquiry has been told.
Kaan Ofli, a professional MMA fighter, said at a hearing on Monday he had been made aware of the mistake by a nurse who had called the room he was sharing with his partner.
Ofli said: “It was my partner that had answered the call, and she said, ‘No, we don’t have any symptoms.’ And the lady said, “What do you mean by ‘we’ve?’ And she said, ‘Well, there’s two of us in here.”
The calls occurred daily but no one had queried why sometimes he was answering the phone rather than his female partner, the inquiry heard.
“I guess for the whole 10 days, I wasn’t actually in the system,” he said.
Ofli and his partner had been given fresh air breaks where they had been accompanied by staff who had also apparently not noticed the mistake.
During these breaks in a hotel courtyard, the couple and other guests would take their masks off once outside, Ofli said. “We were social distancing somewhat outside,” he said. “People were still getting quite close to each other and chatting and talking.”
He said security guards had ensured the guests were kept away from the public.But Ofli also said when he saw the guards at the hotel, generally they would have their masks off. “I guess once we were walking towards them, they would put their masks on,” he said.
Ofli had also requested Halal food but was shocked to learn 10 days into his stay that the meat he had been eating did not meet these requirements. “It hurt me,” he said.
Often, the couple were often left without enough food, Ofli said. “We found it humiliating to have to call and plead for the basics.”
The couple had also asked to be tested but had their requests denied because they did not have any symptoms. They left hotel quarantine without being tested.
The inquiry will hear from two security guards later today.
There have been 3,743 cases of coronavirus in aged care in Victoria since the beginning of the pandemic, of which 1,568 are active.
There are 3,701 active cases of Covid in Victoria.
Just 232 active cases are in regional Victoria.
Daniel Andrews press conference
As we have for the last few weeks, the press conference starts with a breakdown of the latest case numbers and deaths:
The group of 15 is made up of three females and five males in their 80s, four females and two males in their 90s, and one female in her 100s.
All 15 of these fatalities are linked to aged care outbreaks.
There are 629 Victorians in hospital, 31 of those receiving intensive care and 17 of those 31 are on a ventilator. A total of 2,000,160 test results have been received. An increase of 14,811 since yesterday. There are 4,028 cases with an unknown source. There is an increase of 100 since we last updated you. So 108 cases have been closed out following the coronavirus detective work.
There are 406 healthcare workers who are active cases. So those numbers, while everyone of those is very significant and this is an opportunity to again thank our health heroes for the amazing job, that care and courage and compassion is something that we all value and we are very proud of them and very grateful to them, but those numbers have first stabilised and are now steadily falling.
Scott Morrison has responded to the Victorian Liberal branch stacking allegations:
The NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, has an update on a security guard who was working hotel quarantine who tested positive for Covid:
The second security guard who worked at Sydney Harbour Marriott hotel who has tested positive, we have indicated a number of venues that that security guard attended, potentially in his infectious period, however, further testing has indicated his level of infectiousness at that time was very low and it is unlikely we are going to be able to isolate any virus from his samples given that low level of infectiousness.
NSW records three new cases
Of those three new cases, two are in hotel quarantine and one is a close contact of a known case (who had been in self-isolation).
On raising the jobseeker rate permanently, David Littleproud says:
As we said from the start we will continue to be agile and work through that. This is an evolving crisis.
The data continues to come through as we get this lagging data from the economy and how it’s been affected by we will make the appropriate decisions and tweaks to all the programs we have. None of these programs can go on forever.
We have to make sure we understand where the economy is, what’s driving the economy, what’s going to drive the jobs and get us out of this recession.
Those are the decisions that we make calmly with the data and I know the treasurer and finance minister and whole cabinet will work through that making sure it is predicated off fact, not emotion, not about hearsay, but get the data and make calm decisive decisions appropriately.
David Littleproud is invoking “forgotten Australians” in his press conference on border issues (which is being held an hour ahead of his National colleagues’ scheduled press conference) and then seems to call for the end of all borders.
Just for regional Australians though, who have apparently “outgrown and evolved” past the “arbitrary lines” on maps.
Queensland has just proven through their chief medical officer that this can be achieved if we work together, if you understand, if you come out and listen to the forgotten Australians, understand our lifestyle, understand what we do and how we feed and clothe you then you can get a practical solution that will keep Australians safe, that will keep Queenslanders safe.
While this is a great first step from Queensland, and it’s a great step for agricultural production system, it doesn’t go far enough with respect to health.
This is still silent with respect to health issues, about those particularly in northern New South Wales that rely on Queensland medical services to be able to get those when they require them.
I just say to the Queensland government, I congratulate you but you’ve still forgotten one very important aspect of this – your fellow Australian. This is about your fellow Australians.
This isn’t about your parochial borders that were put in place over 100 years ago, an arbitrary line that regional Australia have outgrown and evolved past, this is about understanding where all Australian, and you have a right to medical treatment no matter where you live in this country, but this just goes to show that if we can do it for production systems we can do it on health and we with work together.
It was a flashpoint for federation to make sure that we work together. Queensland has led the way with respect to this.
There is still more work to do and I just hope that now that Queensland’s given some leniency to New South Wales that the New South Wales government will look within themselves and look to those that are south of them, particularly in Victoria, and show them the same respect and decency that the Queensland government is trying to show New South Wales.
Daniel Andrews will hold his press conference at 11am.
Don’t expect to hear a lot about this *in* parliament –but you’ll be hearing a lot about it *outside* parliament.
The federal government’s aged care response will most likely be the target of question time today, but that doesn’t mean Labor is going to let the Victorian Liberal branch-stacking story drop – or what it sees as Scott Morrison’s leadership responsibilities.
Mark Dreyfus has released this statement:
The Prime Minister must take immediate action against senior members of his own Government involved in branch stacking and abuse of Commonwealth resources.
This is a test for Scott Morrison. This is the test that he himself set when there were allegations about Victorian Labor.
Anthony Albanese showed leadership by moving immediately to expel from the party the senior Labor figure accused of branch stacking.
Daniel Andrews showed leadership by removing from his front bench those implicated in the scandal.
The test for Mr Morrison is what leadership will he demonstrate when it comes to the Victorian Branch of the Liberal Party?
The determination published by his own government makes clear “Electorate Officers … are employed to assist the Senator or Member to carry out duties as a Member of Parliament, and not for party political purposes.”
Instead, as 60 Minutes and Nine Newspapers have revealed, taxpayer-funded electorate officers were employed within the offices of Federal Liberal MPs for the sole purpose of branch-stacking.
And, it’s clear from the evidence provided by 60 Minutes, Mr Sukkar was aware of, and endorsed this clear abuse of Commonwealth resources.
As former counsel to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption Geoffrey Watson SC declared “I very much doubt that Sukkar can or should remain a minister of the Crown. A minister is a position of real power and thus real trust and you cannot have it in the hands of people who abuse it.”
This is a clear test for Mr Morrison – will he follow Anthony Albanese’s lead and act decisively against senior figures within his own party?
It’s time for Scott Morrison to demonstrate leadership and character and expel all those involved in this scandal, and immediately establish a powerful, independent and transparent National Integrity Commission.
This is also a pretty big issue which has been ticking away.
Labor calls for 'independent advice' before any attempt to cancel future parliament sittings
Penny Wong, Labor’s leader in the Senate, rises to thank Scott Ryan for his “guardianship” of the Senate.
It was a pretty ballsy five-minute statement from Ryan there – he effectively gave the government a public slap for cancelling parliament. Ryan announced he would not be contesting the next election, which gives him some freedom, but he seems more incensed that the Senate’s autonomy has been overridden by the decision to cancel parliament.
It is Wong, not Mathias Cormann, her government counterpart, who gives Ryan support here. She suggests Ryan and Speaker of the House, Tony Smith, seek independent advice if there is another attempt to cancel a parliament sitting:
Can I start at the outset by indicating that we appreciate that you have taken your responsibilities in this office as encompassing some guardianship of this institution, and we we respect that.
And we value it, we endorse in particular, the point you make that the ability to scrutinise the executive and participant legislative activity is arguably even more critical in times of crisis due to the extraordinary powers being delegated granted and exercised by officials and the executive.
Put simply, Mr President, parliamentary democracy needs a parliament.
It’s not an optional extra and ceding or untrammelled power to the executive is not who we are. And it is also risky.
So I place on record our disappointment and concern as to some of how we have got here.
And in particular, the way in which, Mr Morrison sidelined a working group which was working towards resolving how it would be that this parliament could meet safely.
As you might recall the presiding officers government and opposition managers of business, chief medical officers were meeting to ensure this was done collaboratively and regrettably, the prime minister unilaterally commissioned advice and sought on the working group.
The parliament and the executive are separate institutions and we each have a separate and unique responsibility within our system of government, the executive order and cannot interfere with the parliament.
Given this, then in light of your statement, the opposition invites the presiding officers to consider for the purposes of future sittings the merit of obtaining independent medical advice to enable the parliament to do its job.
And we again reiterate that the procedure committee process by which the virtual parliament aspects of the parliament for remote attendance has been agreed demonstrates the capacity of this parliament to work collaboratively. In response to that advice.
And as I said, Mr President, we thank you for your statement and acknowledge, again, your guardianship of this institution at these times.
Scott Ryan would also like some uniformity in restrictions – to allow MPs to come to Canberra and do their job, unhindered.
He also has some strong words on parliament being cancelled:
In my view, simple acquiescence to these new assertions of control by officials of the executive of commonwealth state or territories, including somewhat extraordinarily the territory established as the state of government and that we are constitutionally required to assemble and poses a risk in that we cannot envisage how it may be used or potentially even misused at a future time in circumstances we cannot imagine.
I doubt any of us imagined the current circumstances, only a year ago.
Principles not defended in difficult times are in effect mere customs or conveniences.
As I said earlier, this issue does not need to be addressed immediately.
But in my view as your president, I must bring this issue to your attention, so as not to inadvertently allow a precedent to be established by default.
Scott Ryan, the president of the Senate, is giving a bit of a nudge to the government – of which he is a member – to remind it it does not have the power to cancel Senate sittings:
[In relation] to the sittings scheduled for earlier this month on 18 July I made a statement advising that the sittings scheduled for the weeks of four and 11 August would not take place.
This follows my receipt of a request to that effect, made by Senate leaders representing more than three-quarters of senators that request reflected the health situation now unfolding in Victoria and advice from the commonwealth acting chief medical officer, I wrote to all senators on 20 July confirming my statement.
This is the first time scheduled seating settings have been set aside in this way.
After seeking advice, I took the view that the principles that had been applied by my predecessors in taking action to delay the commencement of sittings will also relevant here.
There are numerous precedents for presidents altering the commencement of sittings in light of extraordinary circumstances, or as occurred on June 12 this year, for reasons connected to the conduct of Senate business.
These have occurred with the concurrence of senators demonstrating the principle that the Senate controls its own meetings, a key factor in my decision on this occasion, was that the request was effectively made on behalf of more than three-quarters of senators, so that if the scheduled sitting had gone ahead it would not be possible to establish or maintain a quorum.
This particular point is critical.
As despite different arrangements and the other place occasionally attracting disproportionate attention, it remains the case that the government cannot unilaterally cancel a sitting of the Senate, in my view this high threshold of such action being taken only when a quorum would not be possible protects the autonomy of the Senate to determine its own meetings.
Scott Ryan has welcomed the senators who are attending the Senate remotely.
There were three smiling faces, and one torso/pelvis region, so things are going really well so far.
The Masked Singer has had production scrapped because it turns out there might not have been enough masks – a dancer on the show has been diagnosed with Covid.
AAP reports that also impacts another show (and one I had no idea was still on, so there you go), Millionaire Hotseat:
A television show that shared studio facilities in Melbourne with 10’s The Masked Singer has halted production after a dancer on the celebrity singing program caught the coronavirus.
Channel Nine confirmed its quiz show Millionaire Hotseat is the second show to go into hiatus in the Victorian capital after TMS temporarily pulled the plug when more crew members tested positive for COVID-19.
The dancer on the set of TMS in Melbourne’s Docklands has been hailed for raising the alarm just hours before the filming of the finale.
The entire production team, including host Osher Gunsberg and celebrity judges Dannii Minogue and Dave Hughes, are in self-isolation.
Gunsberg revealed the Network Ten show, in which masked celebrities compete against each other in a singing competition, was two hours away from recording its grand finale.
“We are ready to go and ... this young person put their hand up and said, ‘Hang on, guys, I’m not feeling so great, I should probably let you know this,’” he told The Project on Sunday.
“They were brave enough to pull the emergency brake on this freight train. We hit stop and everything shut down.”
Gunsberg, who is awaiting his test result, hoped their courage would serve as an example to others.
“Nothing is as important as everyone’s safety,” he said.
The show was granted an exemption to keep filming in Melbourne despite the city’s strict stage-four lockdown restrictions.
“There are some productions if they weren’t to continue then they would be lost to Victoria,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Sunday.
“It’s done on a case-by-case basis and it’s always accompanied by a COVIDSafe Plan.”
Chief health officer Brett Sutton said some crew had tested positive but insisted it did not necessarily mean there had been a breach of any guidelines.
Gunsberg said the show’s producers had been working “hand in glove” with the Department of Health and Human Services to prove production was safe.
“I’m really militant about this stuff [COVID-19[,” he said. “I’ve never been on a stricter set, on a more segregated set.
“Everyone was working in little pods. No people crossed over.”
The Victorian health department is continuing to investigate the outbreak.
David Littleproud will be getting ahead of colleagues Bridget McKenzie, Perin Davey and Dr Anne Webster and their border press conference at 11.45am by holding one of his own at 10.45pm.
Parliament has started with an allowance to allow the remote participation of parliament for MPs in isolation.
Welcome to 2020, Australian parliament. We’ve been waiting for you.
The bells are ringing – the winter break, such as it was, is officially over.
Related: my eye twitch is back.
Things seem to be going really well for the LNP in Queensland.
“Alibi of coronavirus” is a totally normal thing to say.
AAP has some more on the AMP news from this morning:
David Murray has resigned as chairman of AMP as part of a major shake-up after some major shareholders raised accountability concerns in the aftermath of a sexual harassment complaint against an executive.
Executives John Fraser and Boe Pahari have also stepped away from their current positions at the wealth manager.
Debra Hazelton has been appointed as Murray’s replacement.
Pahari stepped down at AMP Capital chief executive and will return to his previous role within the firm’s infrastructure equity branch.
“These changes respond to feedback expressed by some major shareholders regarding the appointment of Mr Pahari as AMP Capital CEO,” the company said in a statement on Monday.
Murray said AMP needed to move beyond the “distraction” of the case, which has been settled.
“The board has made it clear that it has always treated the complaint against Mr Pahari seriously,” he said.
“My view remains that it was dealt with appropriately in 2017 and Mr Pahari was penalised accordingly.
“However, it is clear to me that, although there is considerable support for our strategy, some shareholders did not consider Mr Pahari’s promotion to AMP Capital CEO to be appropriate.”
De Ferrari will assume direct leadership of AMP Capital while a replacement chief executive is found.
Hazelton thanked Murray’ for his leadership over the past two years.
“I am determined to restore the trust and confidence of our clients, shareholders and employees,” she said.
Fraser, a former Treasury secretary, has resigned as a non-executive director on the AMP Limited board and as chairman and non-executive director on the AMP Capital Holdings Limited board.
It looks like Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts have decided not to travel to Canberra for the sitting (Queensland MPs could also get an exemption, as the state has declared the ACT a Covid hotspot, meaning MPs would have to self-isolate on their return) which might make the Senate a little easier this sitting.
We’ll keep you posted.
That interview continued:
Fran Kelly: So, are you happy for the Department of Finance to play out this inquiry and to let that go ahead? And the minister involved to stay in his position while that happens? Is that the right course of action?
Anthony Albanese: I’m happy for Scott Morrison to be judged on his own words. And if Michael Sukkar is still sitting there at two o’clock as a minister, then that is a failure of Scott Morrison’s leadership.
Kelly: But why would he go before the Department of Finance runs its inquiry? Is that the proper way to do it?
This is in his own words. This is an internal matter for the Liberal party in which a Liberal party powerbroker, in similar terms to the Labor party person involved, speaks about basically taking over the Liberal party, speaks about four state MPs being taken out, six federal MPs, six members of Scott Morrison’s caucus spoken about on this show about being taken out by these Liberal party powerbrokers as a result of branch-stacking, including people who have no real allegiance to the Liberal pParty.
This is a manipulation of democratic processes. And Scott Morrison deserves to be judged by his words. Go back and have a look at what he was saying at this time on a Monday morning, after there were allegations raised against the Labor party.
Well, the Labor party leadership, both Premier Andrews and myself, acted. We’ll wait and see what Scott Morrison does. But it is reasonable that he be judged by his own words.
Anthony Albanese was asked about the Victorian Liberal branch-stacking story while on ABC radio RN with Fran Kelly this morning:
Well, they stand accused by themselves. This is in their own words, recorded conversations, memos that Michael Sukkar has responded to and endorsed. And this is a test for Scott Morrison. This is the test that he himself set when there were allegations into Victoria. And what happened there, Fran?
Kelly: Very similar allegations against Labor in Victoria.
Albanese: Yes. And a minister was gone by the morning. A minister was expelled from the Labor party the very next day, the equivalent of the Monday. And by Tuesday, the branch had been intervened in, Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin appointed to administer the branch, and widespread action from myself and Daniel Andrews. Now at the time, what happened was Scott Morrison said this was a test for me. Now, once again, a bit like aged care, he’s saying it’s not his responsibility. That “it is a matter for the organisational wing”. Well, someone needs to tell Scott Morrison that he’s actually in charge of the Liberal party. That this is a scandal. That his assistant treasurer is in it up to his neck in his own words here. And that his position is untenable.
Kelly: The assistant treasurer, Michael Sukkar, allegedly according to these reports, endorsed a plan to give a taxpayer-funded job in Kevin Andrews’ office to an operative working for the then-Liberal powerbroker Marcus Bastiaan, he’s not so any more. But both Michael Sukkar and Kevin Andrews say the claims are false. They’ve referred the matter to the Department of Finance. I mean, just as Anthony Byrne remains in the committee position he had for Labor.
Albanese: There are no allegations against Anthony Byrne. None.
Kelly: Well, the allegations confirm concern being filmed in his office.
Albanese: There are no allegations against Anthony Byrne, Fran. The people who there were allegations against have been removed from their positions.
Richard Colbeck has released a statement – the Newmarch House aged care report into the how Covid spread through the facility is out today.
You can find it here:
In offering further condolences to the families of the 19 residents who died as a result of the outbreak between April and June, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck said lessons learned are being implemented to offer greater protections as we continue to combat the pandemic.
“The outbreak at Anglicare’s Newmarch House was incredibly challenging and underlined the impact this infection can have within an aged care facility,” Minister Colbeck said.
“The Australian Government is committed to learning from the experience at Newmarch House and to doing all we can to ensure aged care providers are prepared to address future outbreaks so that residents receive safe and quality care.”
In June 2020, the Chief Medical Officer and now Secretary of the Department of Health, Professor Brendan Murphy, commissioned Professor Lyn Gilbert and Adjunct Professor Alan Lilly undertook the independent review.
They consulted with stakeholders, including family members of residents, to provide a comprehensive break down of what led to the outbreak and how authorities responded to it.
Minister Colbeck said the review is an important resource for all levels of government which would improve the management of potential future outbreaks and inform advice and guidance to support the aged care sector.
“We continue to integrate the learnings from Newmarch and infections in Victoria into the national response as outbreaks occur,” Minister Colbeck said.
Changes already implemented include:
· Ensuring early identification of all COVID-19 cases via immediate and repeated testing of all residents and staff as soon as the first case is identified;
· Actions to reinforce compromised management;
· Immediate engagement of advocacy group Older People’s Advocacy Network (OPAN) to ensure services and information are available to providers, residents and their families;
· The provision of support from the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (in Victoria) to improve communication, staff and management support;
· Expansion of surge workforce providers for facilities affected by outbreaks; and
· Practical additional infection control training, including support from AUSMAT.
Additionally, the Australian Government is supporting the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in its monitoring efforts.
It is fair to say 2020 has not been Josh Frydenberg’s favourite year.
Not only does the black and white “back in black” photoshoot have to be scrapped, the mugs boxed up and the budget in surplus speech scrapped, he also has to deal with his branch of the Liberals making news for all the wrong reasons.
On the branch-stacking story he said:
Many Liberals will be shocked and very concerned by the behaviour and by the language that was used and I have spoken since that program with the President of the Victorian division, with the state director in Victoria as well as with the opposition leader in Victoria and the Liberal Party will be dealing with those matters internally.
Frydenberg has been in self-isolation for two weeks, as a Victorian MP who came to Canberra, so he is emerging to quite the shitstorm.
Kristy McBain, who won the Eden-Monaro byelection for Labor, will be sworn into the parliament just before question time, at 2pm.
Lidia Thorpe, who will replace Richard Di Natale for the Greens, won’t be joining the Senate this sitting (she has to wait for the Victorian parliament to confirm her appointment, which has been delayed by the Covid outbreak) but the Greens are hopeful their new senator will be in place by the next sitting, in October.
Queensland is also instituting farmer border exemptions, which has made David Littleproud very happy.
Littleproud has been using the term “common sense” as often as I have been using hand sanitiser lately – and the skin on my hands is beginning to flake off, if that gives you any indication of how often I am popping that bottle lid – and he uses it again here:
This is a common sense outcome that shows the voice of regional Queensland was finally heard in Brisbane.
I called on the chief medical officers in each state to listen to local leaders and finally they’ve done it. Lawrence Springborg, the mayor of Goondiwindi was pivotal in advocating an effective solution on behalf of his community and many others across rural Queensland.
My message to other states is there is no need to wait.
The Queensland Government’s sensible, evidence-based and locally driven decision can be replicated by other states immediately.
I urge other jurisdictions to provide their regional communities with similar arrangements to Queensland.
Our time critical agricultural supply chains, regional economies and livelihoods depend on urgent resolution of these border issues.
Queensland authorities are waiting on the genomic testing of the new virus infection to return, in an attempt to trace back where the woman was infected.
All of greater Brisbane and Ipswich are considered “restricted” areas, which means people need to be more alert in terms of testing and social distancing, as well as restrictions on gatherings, but there are no travel restrictions as yet.
Dr Jeannette Young:
I think that this is the time because we know we have got the masks out, that everyone should consider, if they can’t maintain social distancing, that it’s time to use a mask.
So if you’re in a crowded situation that you can’t get out of, put a mask on. So I think as I have been suggesting for some time, bit of hand sanitiser in your back pocket or your handbag, and a mask with it and if you get yourself into a situation where your – you cannot socially distance, it’s time to consider using a mask.
I’m not going to mandate it because I don’t believe we have broad spread community transmission, but certainly we’re in a risky period at this time.
So within greater Brisbane and Ipswich, within those areas, it’s time to think about if you cannot maintain social distancing, wear a mask.
Always remember: social distancing, that 1.5m is far more effective than masks. Masks are not totally fool-proof, they will not protect you totally.
Whereas maintaining social distancing and washing your hands will protect the vast majority of people and the vast majority of situations.
Queensland records one new case
Queensland’s chief medical officer, Dr Jeannette Young, says there has been just one new case of Covid in the last 24 hours – a relative of the woman who worked at the Wacol youth detention centre who has been in self-isolation.
Anyone with symptoms is asked to get tested, so authorities can “track” any further infections.
Hospital staff in greater Brisbane have been asked to wear masks, and people who can’t socially distance are also asked to wear a mask – but it is not yet mandated:
We have seen with this cluster, we now have five workers at the centre and five of their relatives have already been infected.
We know that spread within households is what you always will see at the start of an – of a new cluster which is why we put in place that requirement to limit gatherings to 10.
It is really important that within households, within private gatherings, maximum of 10 people because it’s that closeness that we know will lead to spread of the virus.
That’s extremely important. Outside this immediate area of concern of Brisbane and Ipswich, gatherings have been limited to 30.
Now, for the rest of our society, as long as people follow those Covid-safe plans, I have been through all of them, I know how good and solid they are, then I think they are fine. If people don’t follow the Covid-safe plans, that’s when we’ll have to consider what else might need to be done but at this point in time, I’m very confident that with those plans rolled out, they have all been in place for quite a while now so people know what they’re doing, that we don’t need any further restrictions.
The daily parliament program is out, if you are into that kind of thing.
Well, it is Australia’s biggest state, so it probably makes sense it has had the strongest recovery once the borders opened up?
But hey – whatever floats your boat. We are all, after all, meant to be in this together.
It is two years since Peter Dutton’s failed leadership coup, which led to Scott Morrison becoming prime minister.
Michael McCormack was asked whether or not $40 a day (the former jobseeker rate, without the Covid supplement) was enough to live on, while he was on the ABC.
The man who makes $416,212 a year – or $1,140.30 a day (before tax) – to say things like caring about climate change is for “pure, enlightened and woke capital-city greenies” said:
It’s tough. I appreciate that. It must be very, very tough. But then again, I say that the best form of welfare is a job.
And as we come out of Covid-19, we will get through it. We will certainly get through it. There’s hope on the horizon.
We want to see as many people as possible re-engage with the workforce.
We want to see those people who through no fault of their own have lost their job.
And have had to go on to the welfare measures, the support that the federal government has provided as part of the overall $314bn of measures to back in the economy. But we do want to see people to be able to take those jobs where they are available.”
Again: there are now 13 applicants for each job ad. More than 1 million Australians are out of work. Treasury predicts unemployment will hit 13% in real terms by the end of the year.
But hey. Just move to the country. Everything will be sweet.
The National MPs Bridget McKenzie, Perin Davey and Anne Webster will be holding a press conference on the border closures at 11.45pm.
There is a lot of angst for Victorian border communities, who have found themselves locked out of NSW and South Australia. Both of which have Coalition governments.
It’s almost like Queensland isn’t the only state with closed borders worth paying attention to any more.
Victoria records 116 new cases and 15 deaths
Victoria Health has released the latest Covid data.
This is a test for Scott Morrison, Anthony Albanese says
The Labor leader has responded to the Victorian Liberals branch-stacking story by repeating Scott Morrison’s own words back to him.
When Victoria Labor’s branch-stacking allegations were revealed in June, Morrison said it was a “test” of Anthony Albanese’s leadership. He told the Sydney radio station 2GB:
Anthony Albanese has been totally burned by this scandal.
We’re fighting for jobs, they’re fighting each other.
Anthony Albanese is leading a party in absolute chaos and disarray.
So far, the prime minister’s office has referred inquiries to the Victorian Liberal branch, which had launched an investigation into branch-stacking allegations before the 60 Minutes and the Age story was launched.
Albanese said he and the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, had acted almost immediately, sacking Adem Somyurek as a minister the next day and then moving to remove him from the Labor party (he resigned from the ALP before his forced removal):
By the second day, Tuesday at 5 o’clock, we had intervened into the Victorian branch, appointed Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin, as the administrators of the branch, a comprehensive action.
What is Scott Morrison saying now? Scott Morrison says it is a matter for the organisational wing, nothing to do with me. It’s a bit like aged care. Is there anything this prime minister is responsible for?
It’s a bit like the so-called national cabinet, where state governments do whatever they like and then he gets a press conference announcing what the state governments have told the federal government they will do.
This is a test for Scott Morrison and it is a test based upon his own words. Will he fulfil what he said, when it was a matter for the Victorian branch of the Labor party,
The Labor leadership acted, both federal and state, what will Scott Morrison and Michael O’Brien do? We’ll see today.
Acoss calls for urgent increase to jobseeker support
The Australian Council of Social Service is ramping up its campaign to have the unemployment benefit permanently increased.
Its chief executive, Cassandra Goldie, said with unemployment in real terms predicted to reach 13% in the next few months, people cannot afford for the welfare payment to drop below the poverty line again:
Instead of cutting $300 per fortnight from millions of people’s already sparse incomes next month, we need parliament to put in place a permanent, adequate jobseeker rate, which before the temporary Covid increase, [had] not been increased in over 25 years.
There are 2.3 million people facing the $300 per fortnight cut on September 25 unless parliament acts in these two weeks. Troublingly, more than 1.1 million children are living in households that stand to have their incomes cut on 25 September.
At the same time, there is only one job for every 12 people on jobseeker or youth allowance, borders continue to be closed, and Victoria continues to endure a long, necessary lockdown that is really tough on people and taking a toll on jobs.
As well as being a health crisis, this is an unemployment crisis.
People are in an impossible situation and we’re hearing from many who are only just able to cover the basics now with the current jobseeker rate and are worried about how they will pay for housing, food, and the costs of their children.
As parliament resumes today, many people are distressed by the prospect of the planned dramatic cut in their incomes. In this parliamentary sitting, the government must urgently deliver a permanent, adequate increase to jobseeker and other income supports so that people can have security to cover the basics whilst they rebuild their lives.
The federal government’s aged care response during the pandemic is going to be one of the big issues in this parliament sitting.
Last week the government announced a further $171m in funding to address some of the issues.
But lobby groups such as Aged and Community Services Australia, which represents non-profit aged care providers, says it is not enough:
“Any additional investment is obviously very welcome but we need to see big changes to prevent outbreaks,” Acsa’s chief executive Patricia Sparrow, said in a statement.
“While there is community transmission we can’t guarantee cases won’t get into aged care but our policies should aim for this and support early intervention.
“The better alternative is the kind of investment that will save lives and health budgets.
“The latest announcement of funds is just another stopgap. It is not enough to act as a prevention measure. It’s just more of the same drip-feed that’s kept aged care on life support even prior to the pandemic.
“A national aged care advisory group could be another step forward but only if it ensures resources like infection control experts as they have in hospitals and increases staff. Undertaking audits and reviews is not an end in itself.
“Community transmission is the enemy of aged care and it is going to continue for some time. Once a single case gets into a facility it can be impossible to contain.
“All states and the federal government must implement specific aged care policies that are about prevention instead of just responding to disaster when it has already occurred.
“Many state governments are maintaining a failed policy to keep first cases of Covid-19 within the aged care setting.
“Aged care homes are not hospitals. They aren’t staffed like hospitals. They are not funded like hospitals. They are homes.”
Also, it snowed in Canberra at the weekend. Including a few flurries that hit the city.
But don’t worry – hell hasn’t frozen over quite yet.
Meanwhile, parliament is getting ready to sit.
When branch-stacking allegations were levelled at Victorian Labor, Scott Morrison said it was a test for federal leader and NSW MP Anthony Albanese’s leadership.
The man at the centre of last night’s story has also responded:
For some context on what has been happening in AMP, you might want to read this story from Michael McGowan last week.
The Age and the AFR have been doing extensive reporting on AMP for quite a while as well.
AMP chair David Murray resigns
There have been some BIG changes at AMP this morning.
The Victorian Liberal Tim Wilson was mentioned in a recorded conversation powerbroker Marcus Bastiaan had where 60 Minutes reported him as saying in 2018: “We’re going to have to fight very hard to beat [Tim] Wilson and we can’t get rid of [Kelly] O’Dwyer because if we do we’ll be blamed for losing the election.”
Wilson also responded to the story last night:
Michael Sukkar has responded to last night’s 60 Minutes and the Age story:
I completely reject the allegations made in tonight’s episode of 60 Minutes aired on the Nine Network.
Since being elected to parliament, every member of my team has been directed to, and expected to, obey all applicable parliamentary policies and guidelines and workplace laws.
I have never authorised taxpayer funded staff to undertake party-political activity outside of these policies and guidelines when they are being paid to serve the constituents of the Deakin electorate.
I cannot speak to the operations of other electorate offices.
Matters pertaining to the activities of staff members employed by other members of parliament and senators are matters for them.
In the interests of transparency and to remove any doubt, I have asked the secretary of the Department of Finance to undertake an independent review of the staffing arrangements in the Deakin electorate office since my election in 2013.
For the first time, more than 1 million Australians are out of work.
That’s 1 million people.
Which means there is renewed focus on raising the jobseeker rate permanently – because when there are 13 job-hunters for each job ad, all of a sudden the usual Coalition government “best form of welfare is a job” lines don’t sit so great.
Unless you are Michael McCormack. Asked about raising the rate, the deputy prime minister responded:
I’ve always said that the best form of welfare is a job. And I appreciate that many, many people have lost their jobs.
The figures today that treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced with 700,000 of those who did lose their jobs initially are now re-engaged with the workforce. But there are jobs in regional Australia.
And what we do need more of in this sector and this area is more mobility.
What we do need is people being able to perhaps move to a regional area. Something that they might not have otherwise thought of.
There are many, many jobs in agriculture, in the resource sector. Indeed, crying out for chefs, crying out for people to do all sorts of work.
And if Covid-19 has taught us anything, you can live in regional Australia and you can work, have a job, you might as well be in a boardroom in Sydney for the connectivity being able to Zoom into meetings.
Regional Australia has led the way as far as the relief and recovery efforts are concerned because mining and resources and agriculture and construction has continued at a pace through the situation, through the downturn, and there are many, many jobs in regional Australia.
Well that has been quite the 24 hours in Australian politics, hasn’t it?
The 60 Minutes and the Age story into branch stacking in the Victorian Liberals has started parliament off with a bang.
And in Victoria the hotel quarantine inquiry continues.
In the Northern Territory Michael Gunner and Labor look to be holding on, but with a reduced majority. Which means the plan to keep the borders closed for up to another year and a half looks like a goer. Over in the west the borders don’t look like opening any time soon and in South Australia the borders have tightened with Victoria.
All in all, there is a lot of work for the MPs to do but the government has started the day by sending Michael McCormack out to quell the branch-stacking allegation story. Perhaps not the best plan, but here we are.
There will also be quite a few MPs who will be screen only, with the parliament allowing virtual attendance for the first time. So that should be fun.
And while passing the legislation which will extend jobkeeper for six more months is the headline bill for this sitting, there is also the economy to keep an eye on (spoiler – it is not looking fantastic) and also Angus Taylor wants to wedge Labor over coal (obviously the most important issue facing the parliament right now).
We’ll cover off all the parliament and Covid news as the day goes on – you have Amy Remeikis with you for the day, as well as Mike Bowers and the entire Guardian brains trust.