What we learned this Monday 5 October
That’s where I will leave you tonight. You can continue following our international live blog, including the latest on a certain US president, here.
Here’s what we learned today:
- Victoria’s chief medical officer, Brett Sutton, said the state’s chances of easing Covid-19 restrictions in two weeks were “line ball” after the state recorded nine new cases and no deaths overnight.
- Despite that, Victorian education minister James Merlino announced that Year 7s will return to school from next week, while years 8, 9 and 10 – around 164,000 students – will return to school for face-to-face teaching from 26 October.
- New South Wales and Queensland again recorded no new community cases, and Australia saw its first day with no new Covid-19 deaths for the first time since 15 September.
- Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner announced visitors from regional Victoria could be welcome as early as 2 November.
- The Medical Journal of Australia released a paper saying Australia’s lockdown and other Covid-19 responses may have saved 16,000 lives. While acknowledging the economic and social challenges that the response have brought on, the study found the country’s overall response had been “remarkably successful”.
With a month to go until the kind’ve important US election, we’ve launched a daily newsletter for our Australian readers to round up all the latest. It’s being written by our associate editor Josephine Tovey, a former US-based reporter.
I strongly recommended you sign up here:
Warnings issued for Sydney beaches over crowding
Sydney beaches neared capacity on Monday and warnings were issued by local councils due to overcrowding fears.
Warnings were issued for Bondi and North Cronulla beaches along with others in the eastern and nothern suburbs.
Waverley council had earlier advised that Bondi beach was nearing capacity and access to the sand and water could be restricted to allow for social distancing.
A council spokesperson said:
We do not like having to restrict access to the beach so as a reminder to everyone, if beach access is closed or the sand looks busy, please come back another time or use that time to visit our wonderful cafes and other local businesses.
Randwick council also said many of its beaches were approaching capacity including Clovelly, Coogee and Maroubra.
Wattamolla and Garie beaches within the Royal National Park, in Sydney’s south, were shut when they reached capacity before midday, with roads reopening shortly after 5pm.
If you’re just catching up on today’s Covid-19 news, here’s what Victoria’s top health official, Brett Sutton, had to say about the roll-back of the state’s restrictions earlier:
The treatment being provided to US president Donald Trump could pave the way to fighting Covid-19, one of Australia’s top scientists says.
Prof Peter Doherty, who shared the Nobel prize for medicine in 1996 for his work on how the immune system recognises virus-infected cells, says a vaccine might not be the only answer.
He told the Melbourne Press Club on Monday:
Vaccines will help a lot – they’ll shift the bar, but I don’t think they’re going to end the problem.
Trump is being treated with Remdesivir, an antiviral drug, as well as an eight-gram infusion of monoclonal antibodies.
Doherty said monoclonal antibodies could be made in large quantities and were “highly specific” and “really powerful”.
And in good news for Australians, the country has the ability to manufacture them through Melbourne-based biotechnology company CSL.
We’re hoping these are going to work really well on president Trump ... because that’s our best shot out there at the moment for a specific therapy.
We’re lucky that we’ve retained CSL in Australia and we have the capacity to make large amounts of monoclonal antibodies.
One of the problems with this, as we develop therapies and vaccines come forward, is actually getting the product ... [so] having CSL here is a big plus.
But in potentially bad news for Trump, Doherty said the lack of information regarding the long-term effects of coronavirus was “very concerning”.
Even people who don’t get hospitalised - there are cardiac problems, myocardial damage, kidney damage.
The reason diabetics are so susceptible is probably because they have already got kidney damage.
There’s a whole yet we don’t understand about [the long-term damage] and better understanding would feed into better therapy.
The chair of the delegated legislation committee, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, has moved a disallowance motion challenging social services minister Anne Ruston’s decision to defer the sunsetting of the cashless welfare card without legislation.
Ahead of parliament returning on Tuesday, the Labor caucus has decided to support the motion.
The committee scrutinises ministerial decisions that it believes should be in proper legislation. According to its latest report, the offending instrument extends the end date for the cashless debit card trial in all existing sites and income management in the Cape York region from 30 June 2020 to 31 December 2020.
Ruston explained in a letter on 1 September a bill for the extension was delayed due to drafting of Covid-19 measures receiving priority. The extension provided “certainty” to stakeholders and prevented “significant disruption” to financial arrangements.
The committee responded that it would delay a disallowance motion to 8 October.
Fierravanti-Wells told Guardian Australia:
We have a set of scrutiny principles, as a consequence of the Senate increasing the powers of the committee – we’re very scrupulous in terms of what we do here. If it doesn’t meet the requirements, if it does contravene those principles and the minister doesn’t rectify [it to address] our concerns, the only option open to us is to disallow. We don’t disallow lightly.
I should note that it’s early days – there is still time to withdraw a disallowance and we don’t know the Senate crossbench’s position on this, but it could be one to watch later in the week.
Not sure what to say about this. Seems... not great.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese is speaking to Patricia Karvelas on the ABC.
She asks him about the assumption in the budget that a vaccine will be available next year. He calls it a “bold call”.
Well, it’s bold call, isn’t it, Patricia? I understand that that’s the call the government has made. Now, we will examine the detail of the papers, of course. We don’t get access to them. I’m wary of taking the government’s spin as fact. That’s what we see at this stage in the cycle. But certainly if it is the case that that’s been done in order to make the figures look better in the out years, then that should be called out. But we’ll examine that detail.”
Western Australia has recorded one new Covid-19 case but the infected crew of a ship off the state’s coast are continuing to recover.
The new case is a man in his 30s who returned to Perth from Dubai. He is in hotel quarantine, AAP reports.
WA now has 16 active cases, including 14 among crew of the Patricia Oldendorff bulk carrier anchored off Port Hedland.
Three previously infected crew are no longer considered to be a risk of spreading the disease, WA Health has confirmed.
The vessel, carrying 20 Filipino nationals and the captain, arrived from Manila on September 16 and is anchored eight nautical miles off WA’s northwest coast.
Nine people remain on the ship as essential crew and there are also a dozen crew members in quarantine at the fenced-off Hedland Hotel.
All but four returned positive tests.
None of the crew are seriously unwell and WA Health is confident the ship will have enough healthy crew to set sail in the next week.
Meanwhile, a cargo ship docked at Fremantle port is expected to depart later on Monday after a crew member tested negative to Covid-19.
The crew member aboard the Kota Legit vessel was tested after it emerged they had been unwell while the ship was at sea.
WA Health said:
The crew member is not ill and no other crew members onboard the ship have been reported with illness.
The ship can recommence activities and depart Fremantle to travel to its next port.
The ship arrived in Fremantle after a seven-day voyage from Port Klang in Malaysia. It’s believed to have been in China and Singapore before that.
Here’s cabinet minister Alan Tudge on ABC Radio in Melbourne dismissing as “commentary” a federal court justice’s description of his conduct in an immigration case as “criminal”.
Look, I know this is not Covid-19 content, but my colleague Alyx Gorman has come out against “hedge-hogging” mangoes. This is clearly an insane opinion that threatens to undermine summer as we know it and she must be stopped.
Here’s the former prime minister Kevin Rudd arguing that Scott Morrison’s government has used the cover of Covid-19 to weaken laws protecting Australian consumers from “unregulated and often predatory lending practices”.
Ahead of the federal budget tomorrow, senior cabinet ministers have defended the decision to base federal budget forecasts on the availability of a Covid-19 vaccine.
AAP reports that Tuesday’s budget will be built on the assumption a vaccine will be made available next year, despite warnings the drug may not be effective or widespread enough to bring the economy back to normal.
On Monday the finance minister Mathias Cormann defended that decision, saying there was a strong likelihood of a vaccine at some stage in 2021.
“If information changes, assessments change,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“But at any one point in time, estimates are based on the best available information and advice in front of us at that point in time.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the budget “factors in those issues relating to the vaccine”.
“The budget takes into account the possibility that (having a vaccine available in 2021) is the case,” he told Sky News.
I’m now passing over to my colleague Michael McGowan, who will see you through to the evening.
New Zealand is lifting restrictions on Eden Park in Auckland so rugby fans (the ones in NZ anyway) can go watch the game.
Here’s the latest case data from Victoria:
Three of today’s nine new cases have been linked to known outbreaks or are considered complex cases. These are linked to the Butcher’s Club Chadstone Shopping Centre outbreak, with single cases linked to Corrigan Produce Farms Clyde North and Coles Williamstown. The other six cases remain under investigation.
Of today’s nine new cases, there are four cases in Casey and single cases in Greater Dandenong, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Whittlesea and Greater Shepparton.
There are 227 cases are currently active in Victoria, 30 cases of coronavirus are in hospital, including three in intensive care.
There are 29 active cases among healthcare workers, and 77 active cases relating to aged care facilities.
There are now 24 active cases linked to the Butcher Club-Chadstone outbreak.
Anglicare is calling on the federal government to increase jobseeker and fund social housing projects in tomorrow’s budget announcements.
“A permanent boost to jobseeker will add billions of dollars to the economy and at least 145,000 full-time jobs. The benefits would go straight to the areas that need them most,” Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said in a statement.
Social housing will offer relief for the tens of thousands of people who are homeless in Australia. It also boosts GDP, and creates jobs in construction for the regions that need it most.
With the economy reeling in the wake of the coronavirus, we need to invest in projects that are shovel-ready. There is no time to waste. Social housing projects can get off the ground quickly – and they bring long-term benefits.
Chambers said tax cuts wouldn’t work to stimulate the economy.
The fact is that one-off payments and tax cuts won’t help people out of poverty. And they won’t boost the economy. A jobseeker increase and social housing will do both.
The high-risk locations mentioned by Victorian CHO Prof Brett Sutton earlier. Note they are not high risk now, only if you were visiting at the dates and times listed below.
Australia's Covid response may have saved 16,000 lives, says medical journal
The Medical Journal of Australia has said Australia’s lockdown and other Covid-19 responses may have saved 16,000 lives, AAP reports.
The Medical Journal of Australia used mortality data from all causes in England and Wales during the first wave to estimate the consequences for a similar outbreak Down Under.
Researchers say it could have resulted in an extra 16,313 deaths in Australia during that time.
Covid-19 has claimed 894 lives in Australia as of Monday.
All but 88 of those deaths have occurred in Victoria, crippled by a second wave sparked by poor infection control in hotel quarantine.
But the study found the country’s overall response had been “remarkably successful”.
“This enormous difference underlies the importance of Australia’s response using a combination of extensive testing and contact tracing, mandatory quarantine of people returning from overseas, and shutdowns to control community transmission,” it said.
“While acknowledging that these measures carry with them substantial social and economic harms, we wish to highlight the scale of the loss of life avoided.”
The study also said the experience in Melbourne had underscored the importance of not becoming complacent about the virus.
Bondi Beach to be closed
Bondi Beach is set to be closed off this afternoon as thousands of Sydneysiders enjoying the warm public holiday weather bring the beach near its Covid-19 safe capacity.
In what appears to be the first big test of its Covid plan for controlling crowds during summer, Waverley Council are warning people against travelling to the beach for the rest of the day.
Last week, Waverley Council said it would shut off the iconic beach if it neared its capacity of about 6,000 people is reached.
No one on the sand will be asked to leave the beach, but people seeking to enter will be told to visit local shops and cafes until enough people leave the beach for “beach ambassadors” to consider the beach safe to reopen.
As part of New South Wales government measures, people on the sand will be required to keep a 1.5 metre distance between them and anyone else from a different household.
A council spokeswoman said:
If people continue to come to Bondi Beach and crowds grow further, restricted access to the sand is likely to be implemented within the next hour 2-3pm.
If you haven’t left for the beach yet, please rethink your trip and check on capacity later in the day.
For more on Australian beaches during the Covid summer:
I am going to hand over the blog to Josh Taylor for the next little bit while I take care of something.
Tomorrow, you will have the Guardian team of Calla Wahlquist and Chris Knaus drive you through the day, while I am in budget lockup. We’ll have all the news live, as it happens, as always – with the immediate breakdown of the budget as soon as the embargo lifts. In the meantime, take care of you. Ax
Mathias Cormann has also defended the government planning a budget around a Covid vaccine being available next year (medical experts are a little iffy on it – many think second half of next year at the earliest, but also question how quickly it can be distributed).
The indications are that when it comes to a vaccine, there is a strong likelihood a vaccine some time next year. And if information changes, assessments change. But at any one point in time, estimates are based on the best available information and advice in front of us.
Mathias Cormann has some thoughts about the West Australian government handing down a surplus.
You read that right – a Liberal minister is questioning a surplus.
It’s because we are in the middle of a pandemic – and government surpluses is money which is not being spent on its people. Or, a government surplus is a private sector deficit, because someone is spending more.
Cormann thinks the money could be better spent, instead of sitting in government coffers (or in reality, in the saving cell of a spreadsheet, instead of the spending).
As AAP reports:
WA’s state budget will be released this week and a modest surplus is expected.
Mathias Cormann, who lives in Perth, said individuals and businesses were suffering through the worst crisis in 100 years.
“It is the responsibility of government to step up, to support business, to support the economy, to support jobs,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
“I certainly think that across the country, at all levels of government we all need to do what we can to ensure everyone has the best possible opportunity to get safely to the other side.”
Senator Cormann, the most senior Liberal in WA, has been pushing the state Labor government to play a bigger role in the national economic recovery.
WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt argues the state has been pulling its weight in response to the coronavirus pandemic and will commit billions of dollars towards job-creating road and rail projects in Thursday’s state budget.
Federal shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said the WA government was doing an extraordinary job during the pandemic and investing heavily in the local economy.
“My job is not to second guess the decisions made by state governments, my issue is that the federal government gets their budget right,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“We’ll measure whether they get it right or wrong by what it means for jobs.”
WA has fared much better than all other states and territories throughout the coronavirus economic crisis, thanks to its lucrative mining export trade market.
The state government also credits its hard border closures and strong health response for cushioning the economic blow.
Centre Alliance calls for more protections for struggling students
More protections for struggling students and a review of the Coalition’s higher education changes are among new demands Centre Alliance has made in return for their support for the jobs ready graduate bill.
MP Rebekha Sharkie, the party’s education spokeswoman, revealed the fresh demands to Guardian Australia on Monday ahead of a Senate vote in which its senator Stirling Griff is the crucial swing vote who can sink or pass the package.
In September Centre Alliance revealed it has also asked for extra growth places for South Australian universities but the party’s position has strengthened after a government deal with One Nation and opposition from independent senator Jacqui Lambie leaves it in the box seat to decide the bill’s fate.
Sharkie said discussions with the government are positive but her party is still seeking to “improve some deficiencies” in the bill. The new demands are “only some of many” it has made, she told Guardian Australia.
In response to concerns the bill would cut students off from government funding if they fail more than half their courses in first year, Sharkie revealed Centre Alliance has asked for legislative protection of special circumstances that could excuse a high fail rate. These include illness, death, mental illness, divorce or natural disasters like bushfire.
Centre Alliance also wants the bill to be reviewed within 18 months, a timeframe that would leave one and a half years to make changes before transition funding is phased out by 2024.
Jim Chalmers was asked whether Labor would support bringing the tax cuts forward. Labor had previously called for the second tranche to be brought forward last year, pre-pandemic, but has been against the third round (for the highest income earners) but voted for the entire package.
Chalmers said it was a wait and see:
We haven’t seen what the government is proposing. Clearly it’s difficult to come to a position on Monday on something that we won’t see until Tuesday. We’ve made our views on tax cuts well known for some time now. For some months we’ve said that we’ve got an open mind to tax cuts for workers on low and middle-incomes. We have raised concerns with stage three of the income tax cuts. Stage three is the least responsible, least affordable, least fair, and least likely to be effective because higher income earners aren’t as likely to spend in the economy as workers of more modest means. We’ve made that clear for some time. It’s up to the government how they present that –
Q: Sure, but will you oppose the legislation?
It’s up to the government how they present that legislation to the parliament. We haven’t seen how they intend to do that. We’ll come to a position after we see that.
Asked a little earlier today whether or not the $7.5bn announced in infrastructure spending was new money or not, Catherine King said:
It’s hard to see whether it’s new money. I saw the deputy prime minister this morning unable to answer whether it’s new money. The problem is that the government makes the announcement but isn’t spending the time and the effort on actually delivering. It’s not interested in the projects actually getting there on the ground. It’s interested in the headline. It’s not interested in the jobs that come from them.
Catherine King, who holds the infrastructure portfolio for the opposition, also has the job of deciphering Michael McCormack.
Today’s gems from the deputy prime minister, included this:
Today is a $7.5bn commitment, a $7.5bn tick of approval to our economy, to our workers in our economy, to make sure that we put the right infrastructure in the right places, to build on the connectivity, to build on the strengths of our nation.
Yup. He leads the country whenever the prime minister is overseas, which is at least one reason to be grateful for the international border closure, I suppose.
King says the government’s latest infrastructure announcement needs to be viewed through what has actually been spent from previous announcements:
The Morrison government’s latest infrastructure announcement comes barely a week after figures were released showing that the government spent $1.7bn less on road and rail projects than they promised at last year’s budget.
On average, the Morrison government underspends on their budget promises by over $1.2bn a year.
Australians need jobs now. It is essential that these latest funding promises are delivered now, not years down the line.
Just one program, the government’s signature Urban Congestion Fund (UCF), underspent by $572m last year alone, with only $148m of the promised $720m getting out the door.
Of $207m promised through the UCF for projects in NSW, they spent only $4.5m.
In South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and the Northern Territory, the Morrison government did not spend a cent through the UCF.
With Australia in its deepest recession in a century, we cannot see more of the same.
The Morrison government is always there for the photo op, never there for the follow up.
This year’s budget might be full of big promises, but in the end, it is delivery that matters.
This is good news.
While Canberra is focused on the build up to tomorrow’s budget, we can tell you Marise Payne, the foreign minister, is currently enroute to Japan for a series of meetings, including a “Quad” meeting tomorrow with her direct counterparts from Japan, India and the US.
It’s the second time over the past few months that Payne has travelled overseas for a major diplomatic engagement, the earlier one being the Ausmin talks in Washington in late July.
Word is that the event hosts in Japan have put in place Covid-safe protocols for the series of meetings – but the fact the meeting is happening in person shows the importance the four countries are placing on the Quad as a format for diplomatic talks, despite opposition from China, which sees it as an anti-Beijing initiative.
Like last time, Payne and her small group of accompanying officials will isolate for two weeks upon their return to Australia.
The participants will include Mike Pompeo, who said after Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis late last week that he was feeling well. The State Department announced at the weekend that Pompeo would still head to Japan but would scrap plans to also visit Mongolia and South Korea. Pompeo tweeted a short time ago that he was also on his way:
The agenda for the meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday will include how to support the region’s health and economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, improve the resilience of international supply chains, and push back against state-backed disinformation. Australia wants the discussion to take into account particularly sensitive sectors such as critical minerals and technology.
The three visiting foreign ministers are also due to meet with Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, who took over from long-standing leader and Quad proponent Shinzo Abe who announced in August he would be stepping down for health reasons.
Given that Suga was the daily face of the Abe administration – serving as chief cabinet secretary and fronting regular press briefings – most observers expect Japan’s foreign policy to remain stable after the leadership change.
For more on what’s the agenda, here’s a piece we published over the weekend:
AAP has a bit more on the NT opening its borders to regional Victoria:
The Northern Territory will relax its travel restrictions on regional Victoria from next month.
Residents will be able to travel freely to the NT from 2 November, so long as the region’s coronavirus case numbers remain low, the territory government announced on Monday.
“We can confirm we are now happy enough with the progress made in regional Victoria to flag a future change in their hotspot status, provided things keep progressing the way they are,” chief minister Michael Gunner said.
“We plan to remove the hotspot declaration in four weeks for the all Victorian regional local government areas outside of metropolitan Melbourne, with the exception of Greater Geelong, Mitchell Shire and East Gippsland Shire.”
Michael McCormack held a presser and looked at maps during that Victorian press conference.
My colleague Daniel Hurst* took that hit for me because after nine months of live blogging, my patience is very thin.
He’ll have an update soon.
*Daniel Hurst, not Daniel Andrews: ugh, that typo. Nine months of live blogging, including eight months of live blogging Daniel Andrews has destroyed my brain, obviously.
Daniel Andrews finishes his press conference (about 1.5 hours today) with this:
I want to thank parents and students of course, this has been an academic year like no other. To teachers and staff and all the support staff who make the learning environments possible, they have all done an amazing job.
Today is a really positive day to give parents, teachers, staff, and students some clarity about when they will go back to face-to-face learning. If you have any symptoms whatsoever do not delay getting a test. Please get tested today.
It is arguably the most important thing you can do.
If there is no other questions I’ll see you tomorrow.
Q: Will you be taking into account how the 5km rule could, I suppose, unfairly advantage and disadvantage some hospitality businesses based on their location?
We take into account a multitude of factors, a multitude of factors, when it comes to making decisions about what restrictions need to stay, what restrictions can go, what restrictions can be modified and changed.
Which look at many, many factors. The other side of that coin is of course when you look at the modelling that is underpinned and been refreshed and renewed there were more than 1,000 inputs went into that modelling so we are looking at all the different factors that are important and as I’ve said many types as well, these restrictions will be in place for so long as they serve a proportionate - or deliver a proportionate benefit if terms of the protection of public health and the protection of life and the maintenance of this virus at very, very low levels. We have all come so far.
There’s just this little bit more to go before we can, we hope, take a big step. But that step has to be a safe one. Otherwise everything we have given, everything we have sacrificed willed count for precisely nothing.
So we’re just not going to do it that way. You can’t short cut this thing. You can’t cheat this thing. You have to defeat it properly and then get the numbers low, you can keep them low, you can open up.
There will still be rules, there will be some rules, it is not normal we are going back to, it is Covid normal and I wish it were another way but that is not the nature of this virus.
Proof positive is to look at other par of the world, Asia, North America, Europe, they are not recording nine cases a day, some are recording 9,000, 10,000, 15,000 a day and they are coming into the winter where there is pretty substantial evidence to suggest that this virus is at its peak in some respects when you get that cold, cold weather. We aim to be in a very different place but we have to stay the course in order to get there.
Daniel Andrews can't rule out extending restrictions beyond 19 October
Can Daniel Andrews rule out extending the 5km rule and other restrictions beyond 19 October?
We can’t rule out anything at the moment. The nature of this virus is I cannot with any sense of accuracy tell the Victorian community the exact settings that will be in place once we take the next step. It will all be based on the doctor’s advice, the data and the science of this. It will also be in the context of so many have given so much. These next steps need to be safe and steady. Otherwise, we run the very real risk of frittering away everything that Victorians through their sacrifice have built.
I just won’t do that. I know that is inconvenient because everyone would love to know what is happening next week and the week after and the week after that but that is not the nature of this virus.
That is why for instance today it is really good news to give all parents, teachers, staff and of course students certainty about when they are going back to face-to-face learning. That two-week gap between primary, year 7 and the eight, nine and tens, we’d love not to have to have that but is that is the nature of this virus.
You won’t know the impact of what you’ve decided for two to three weeks after that point and so logic tells you as well we won’t know what we are able to do in two weeks until we get very close to that point. That’s just the nature of this.
Q: If the inquiry requested it would you support them calling your chief of staff and subpoenaing her for communication records?
Anyone can be called by the inquiry and that is entirely a matter for them. Entirely a matter for them. I think we run the risk of getting quite close to a series of hypotheticals and a commentary on an independent process that I don’t believe is appropriate.
They have the opportunity to call anyone they choose. They have done that. Beyond that it is entirely a matter for them and those sorts of questions I think would be best to them.
Q: The inquiry has not been able to identify whose idea it was to hire security guards in the first place. Phone records could possibly lead to that so the opposition will be writing to the inquiry that they try to follow up if they can obtain those phone records. Seeing the inquiry has cost $6m, is that something you would support?
I am not going to be directing the inquiry to do anything. If others choose to write letters like that, that is entirely a matter for them. That is a consistent position they have had from the very moment I established the inquiry. It is at arm’s length, it needs to be at arm’s length. The fact that no evidence has been led with a definitive conclusion doesn’t mean the board won’t come to one.
That is the nature of these things. They will look at all the evidence and information and come up with whatever findings they make.
Those findings will be by them, not by me. I was very clear, we will not be marking our own paper. We will not be sitting in judgement on ourselves, of ourselves. We will have an independent process for that.
Q: Restaurants and pubs are planning to reopen, if all goes to plan, on 18 October so they can open for the AFL grand final but the problem is they just don’t know if they will be able to reopen and so they can’t take bookings, will you be communicating with them before the announcement?
They can take a booking but there is some risk that those bookings would be cancelled and there is a different – there is obviously some days between the 18th and 19th and the 23rd, which is when the grand final is on.
It is one of those things that despite our best efforts we can’t tell people in those sorts of businesses or across the state what the numbers will allow us to do on the 18th or 19th on the 10th or the 11th for instance.
Where we have been able to give people notice we have done our level best to do that. Sadly the nature of this virus is we just won’t know - again, we can’t be certain it will be the 18th or 19th but we have moved those dates forward because the modelling told us we were about a week ahead of schedule.
The trend is with us and the numbers are all coming down but I don’t think we will get to a situation where we can give a cafe, bar or restaurant, those sorts of venue, a full week or two weeks’ notice.
We won’t be able to do that. I know that isn’t ideal but I think that being open even under those circumstances would be highly preferable than not being open but nothing about this is simple or easy. We just won’t know whether we can make that – take that step until quite close to when that step can be safely taken, if that makes sense.
Q: I don’t want to comment on the premier’s clothes but your north face jacket has been a main stay of our lives and it has been missing for a number of weeks and I have been getting a lot of questions about it. Would you like to enlighten the good people of Victoria?
I’m just responding to the cameraman’s laughter. It is OK, it is all right. I haven’t given it a lot of thought. If you are putting in a bid or a pitch for me to wear it some time soon I will give that due thought and we will see what comes of that. We will see what comes of that.
Q: Can I ask on the issue of fines, during the first lockdown Victorians were fined 4.5 times – paid four times more than all other state and territories combined, so were we that badly behaved or are we relying on fines a bit more than other states?
To tell you the truth I haven’t looked at the comparison and analysis with other states. It is probably not appropriate for me to try to draw conclusions on the fly but I will say Victoria police have done a very good job making sure the rules are followed.
I don’t know whether that points to behaviour or any thing beyond that. What it might point to is the fact that this virus has presented in different ways in different states.
We’ve, I think, for instance if you were to compare Victoria with, say, WA, where they’ve had but a fraction of the cases or Victoria with Tassie, say, the types of rule, the duration of those rules have been different. I think everyone’s had a different experience to a certain extent. I haven’t got a report that does a side-by-side with any of those. I would make the point that people can avoid a fine really easily by following the rules.
That is what the vast majority of Victorians are doing and we are very grateful to them. That is the best and easiest way to avoid a fine.
The other thing – this is not an invitation or the anyone to test the goodwill of Victoria police already but Victoria police at a very local level provide that case-by-case basis, there is a degree of discretion that they can use, and I know they have used, there has been many more warnings over the journey that have been issued than fines, I would think, but again if people are just doing the wrong thing because they think that they can make a choice that won’t affect everybody else when we all know that it does, then Victoria police have acted.
I would much prefer if there was not one more fine issued because everyone was doing the right thing. We are not a long way away from that. Whether it is in terms of masks or gathers, following the rules in a broader sense, I think the vast majority of Victorians know that by following those rules we will get those rules off quicker.
Students will also be assessed to see if they have fallen behind during the year of off-site learning.
That assessment in terms of students’ mental health and wellbeing, catch-up requirements, that will be an assessment that schools will make right across the state. So rural and regional Victorian schools will do that from today. Metro schools will do that from next week.
...There’s a number of assessment tools that we have been providing to schools. There was some work done in New South Wales in terms of literacy and numeracy so there’s a range of assessment tools that schools will be able to use and there is some deep engagement from the department to individual schools.
Will Victorian students be allowed to take part in extra curricular activities?
Things like camps obviously won’t be allowed for metropolitan schools but things such as PE, school sports, those activity, yes, they will happen. That is very exciting so it is one of the reasons why we’ve wanted to get kids back to face-to-face as quickly as possible and students and parents, it is not just about getting back in terms of their academic pursuits.
It is just that peer-to-peer engagement with their friends, the number one focus as students return next week will be on health and wellbeing. So schools will immediately engage with kids at an individual level, how they are going in terms of their own mental health and wellbeing.
There will be a lot of individual assessments in terms of catch-up, so kids that are behind that need that extra support but things like music, sports at the school level, there will be a case, one of the other strategies is to really big schools keep the year levels together, not have that engagement. So that’s – there are a number of things that have to be worked around but in terms of that activity that will happen.
Q: The Northern Territory will be opening its borders to regional Victoria soon, do you think other states should be doing the same?
I think they will come to their judgements when they feel it is appropriate for them and every jurisdiction will have its own threshold for what they regard as reasonable but there is no question that regional Victoria is at a point where we’re down to three active cases and it will be fewer and fewer over time, fingers crossed. It would be a very reasonable judgement to say that the risk in regional Victoria going interstate is negligible.
Should parents put their children on public transport to get to school?
I think it is a judgement for those families. There will be some lines where public transport gets pretty crowded but if you can be in those little four-seated areas, maybe with your group of friends from your class that you would normally be socially interacting with it is probably not an issue. If it is a packed public transport setting and you can’t distance appropriately and you have the option to be driven, then I think that’s a reasonable one as well.
Obviously walking and cycling and all of those things are absolutely fantastic.
I think it is for judgements to be made by individual families with the general principle that if you are amongst the group that you are normally in close contact with that is not a risk but if you are packed sardines you might want to look at other options.
Daniel Andrews says hotel inquiry board didn't request a royal commission
Q: You did establish the board of inquiry, a board of inquiry can’t compel ones to give evidence or subpoena evidence such as phone records in the same way that a royal commission can. If you really wanted to get to the bottom of who was responsible for hotel quarantine, why didn’t you establish a royal commission?
I don’t accept that. At no point – at no point have the people who are running the inquiry made that request to me or observed that or made those sort of comments to me. I would have thought that they, as an arm’s length process, if they felt there was a deficiency, then I assume they would have made those points.
So I don’t think that’s a conclusion that you can fairly draw. Again, I’ve made this point many times, because it’s the accurate one and the factual one.
We haven’t seen the report yet. We haven’t seen the report. I don’t know what the inquiry, what the board will find, what they are recommend, what conclusions they will draw. It is open to them to do lots of different things.
That is entirely the nature of these things.
Peta Credlin has begun pushing the line that a royal commission would have had more powers than the commission of inquiry, and the ability to demand more records, including phone records and messages.
Q: I realise the issue of who the hotel quarantine inquiry calls is a matter for them but is there any reason you are aware of why the authority couldn’t or wouldn’t call your chief of staff to give evidence?
I think you answered the question. Who they call is entirely a matter for them. Are you aware of any reason why she couldn’t have been called? It is not a matter for me. It is not a matter for me – the thing is – I don’t want to be anything other than respectful...
Q: I’m not saying they should but are you aware of any reason?
You are asking me to make a judgement on whether they should, shouldn’t, did, didn’t...
Q: I’m not, I’m asking if you are aware of any reason why they wouldn’t have?
No, I’m not. At the same time that is so far from being a matter for me. Who they call is entirely a matter for them – entirely. They have made those decisions completely separate from government and if there were any implication or inference to the contrary, I am saying that would be simply wrong. They have decided who they should call. They decided what they should ask the people that they called both in a written questionnaire in terms of the witness statement and in questions when oral evidence was given. They have called for documents, they have called for witnesses, they’ve had submissions from council assisting, they will have a report in a few weeks’ time. It is a proper, well-away, arms length from government process. Who they call – I literally cannot be clearer – it is not a matter for us, it is entirely a matter for them.
Q: I take it you are not going to comment on the fact that it would appear to be, given her key decision-making role, it would be a little bit strange that they haven’t called her?
No, I don’t think that is accurate at all. I don’t think that is accurate at all. You know, I don’t know that she has – as you put it then a key decision-making role. She supports me and other ministers in the government through the team that she leads. She is not a decision maker. Those decisions are made by people who are not working in a private office. Really significant decisions, not day-to-day stuff. They’re made by people who are sworn and accountable for that.
Q: What sort of innovative ways?
It is all about being on the ground really quickly but also not just engaging on what’s apparent in terms of the kind of epipicture of it, it is about saying how do we reach out the other people, whether it be family member, community members, the Chadstone example is probably not the strongest of those but the Hallam one I think probably is, so it is about trying to reach in and use established community networks that have nothing to do with public health but have everything to do with trusted voices and trying to connect with as many people.
Sometimes through that level of engagement, and a lot of it is just common sense and quite old fashioned really, you get the most complete picture of linkages that might not be apparent just if you are looking at the science of this thing.
So this is, after all, this is all about human behaviour and the many thousands of decisions that each of us make every day. So that’s why those local teams are much more – they are public health teams but not so much contact tracing teams.
They will do contact tracing work but their principal job is to know and understand all those different linkages and see connections that might not be apparent if you were just coming at this from a public health point of view or a disease point of view.
This is much broader than that. I think it is working very well.
Q: Are you confident information about coronavirus payments and support are reaching the people who need it? We have seen that cleaner spark that wave at Frankston after going to work with symptoms?
Yeah, look, I think you can’t ever assume that everyone’s getting all the information they need. You have to keep working hard every single day using every channel and platform, using whether it is translated material, whether it be community leaders, every possible network we can. So we are always looking to try to get more of those messages out in a simple and understandable terms as possible.
That is going to have to be a feature, I think, not just of the tail-end of this second wave but it will have to be a feature right throughout 2021.
Even with big changes in rules – there will be rules into 2021 and we will need people to follow them.
It is not a set and forget and we don’t need to keep trying to evolve those things.
If you look at some of the work, say, just a couple of examples, Latrobe Valley outbreak, Colac outbreak, Hallam and indeed Chadstone, there’s been a depth of engagement and some very localised and quite innovative ways in which we have tried to engage with people and we will have to keep on doing that because until we get a vaccine that sort of communication is going to be really important.
Q: Should airline staff working in hotel quarantine be paid jobkeeper as well?
I think the most important point is to work out whether they are. I don’t pay jobkeeper. That is paid by the commonwealth. I can’t provide you with a definitive answer one way or the other. Their pre-Covid employer and the federal government would be able to answer those questions. I’m not making a judgement one way or the other as to the appropriateness of that but I just don’t have that information as I think I tried to make that point yesterday and it hasn’t changed. That’s, I think where the answer lies.
While it is “line ball” whether Victoria will be able to ease restrictions in two weeks time (19 October – which was brought forward by a week from the original plan, although right now, the original plan is looking more likely) it is refreshing to hear the Victorian premier speak about infrastructure projects and government train contracts – it’s a sign that things are starting to get under control.
NSW reports no locally acquired cases for 10th day
Queensland has reported no new cases.
NSW has reported no new locally acquired cases (there is one in hotel quarantine) for the 10th day – which is its longest stretch without community transmission since the pandemic began.
The press conference is moving into whether Daniel Andrews is happy with the infrastructure funding announced by the federal government.
Andrews says he will wait and see what is in the final budget, but he is “very pleased” to see some projects the state had been focussed on seemingly funded.
You might be able to take the kids and go trick or treating in Melbourne, but it is too early to say.
Q: On balance is the 5km rule going to stay in two weeks or not?
I don’t know, I honestly don’t know. We will examine it at the point when we are there. We will see where the outbreaks transmission is coming from and reflect on the 5km rule with respect to that and the overall picture.
Q: Is there a chance it could be widened out to a 10km rule, for example?
I wouldn’t exclude anything. I don’t think we’re going at all in a direction that would make it tougher but going out to 10km is, yeah, it’s a consideration amongst all options.
Q: Whose idea was it to introduce the 5km rule?
It was all part of the public health advice to cabinet. These are all considerations that are made collectively but the public health advice was there for the 5km rule.
Q: Is there any data and science to prove that it’s, I suppose – that it’s responsible for limiting transmission?
It is very hard to tease apart the individual interventions that are part of a really substantial package that has transformed the transmission through this wave.
To go from 725 cases to single figures has been a success but to take out each and every element and understand what its contribution is a tricky process.
All we can say is that as a package it has clearly been successful. As a 5km rule it’s in the mix with what jurisdictions have done internationally. There have been jurisdictions that have had a 100 metre limit to leaving your house or 150 metre limit to leaving your house. I don’t think that is proportionate and I don’t think that really changes the dynamics of transmission but I think the 5km has absolutely shown itself in terms of how we have seen that shrinkage by post code without really significant reintroduction into new post codes that are adjacent.
Q: What is the likelihood of Melburnians to go to regional Victoria for bushfire prep from 19 October?
There will have to be bushfire prep in advance of the season. That is being worked on at the moment. The communications and allowances for that are being worked through.
What is the thinking behind the 5km rule?
The issue is that we just have a dozen local government areas where cases are active. Movement across the whole of metro Melbourne means that you’re introducing virus into places that have had no transmission where potentially the behaviours are different, where the complacency about having had no cases for weeks on end means that there could be really explosive transmission again and the issues of introducing it into new settings across metro Melbourne.
We are literally shrinking it down incrementally. We are not seeing that postcode-to-post code movement of new cases. So I accept the limitations of the 5km rule, essential work doesn’t get constrained by it, but I think it is constraining some of the transmission by virtue of where you can meet someone in an outdoor setting.
... I think we are capturing the majority [of cases] but clearly not all. We know that on bigger testing days we are finding more positive cases. That is an indication that there are some people who are not testing on a weekend who are cases. We really need to make sure everyone is coming forward for tests whenever they are symptomatic.
What “story” have the last two weeks of cases told health authorities?
What have they learned?
It is really that the individual cases that we are seeing now at a community level have enormous complexity to them.
It is a reflection of the socio-demographic features of those communities.
There are really difficult circumstances that people are in. There are networks and connections that people have across workplaces and households that have enormous complexity and there are really significant supports to enable people to test, to isolate, to quarantine that we need to step in with and we need to understand at a local level and the local public health units are a really critical part of that transmission, understanding what the will enablers are to help people do what they need to do and understanding what is required to achieve does complex circumstances are understand.
How is contact tracing working? Is there an opportunity to shut down infected workplaces sooner?
In a sense that is happening.
So there are new workplace obligations in the public health directions that mean that people who are suspected of having coronavirus, so symptomatic essentially, there is an occupational health and safety obligation on the employer to make sure they are not attending that site.
That is managing a suspected case, in effect.
I wouldn’t go so far as to shut down every place that has someone with a runny nose or a cough.
That would be excessive and disproportionate but there are obligations to make sure that symptomatic people aren’t in the workplace and that is really important both from an employer and employee point of view.
When we’re listing exposure sites and saying people who are casual contacts, in a way that is also going to contacts of contacts if you like.
Some people who might normally not be considered close contacts, just casual contacts are contacts of contacts.
You know, their other family members might be the close contacts, they are not close contacts but we are telling everyone to test, we’re asking those symptomatic people to isolate as well.
Someone who was a close contact of the Chadstone case, but had a work permit to enter regional Victoria, ate at the Kilmore Oddfellows cafe in the Mitchell shire during their infectious period – which is not allowed as part of the work permit.
Authorities are not saying which shire the person lived in though, because they do not wish to identify them.
The Chadstone outbreak now has 24 cases to it, including customers of a butcher’s.
The great majority of people were quarantining. I hope that some of the additional customers were quarantining but they were casual contacts so they wouldn’t have been identified as close contacts. We don’t know everyone who might have turned up to that setting. Obviously, we’ve encouraged people through the testing sites at Chadstone to get tested.
So some of them might have been found through that process. I’m not sure if each and every one of them were isolating at home. But you’d hope so.
The message has always been: if you’ve got symptoms and people who are testing at Chadstone should have had symptoms, should have been going straight home and isolating until they get that result.
Easing Melbourne's restrictions in two weeks 'line-ball'
Professor Brett Sutton says he can’t say where Victoria will be in another two weeks when restrictions are due to ease, but his gut says it could go either way:
My gut feel something that it will be a line-ball. Look, it’s not a certain one way or the other,” he said.
Would he rule out easing restrictions if there is more than five cases a day?
No, I wouldn’t rule it out. We can have more than five mystery cases. We’d have to see exactly where we were at at that time including the trend. Because if all five of the cases are in the first week of that fortnight and we have seven or eight or nine days prior to the 19th that has absolutely no mystery cases, that’s a positive, obviously.
What would Professor Brett Sutton’s advice be if Melbourne meets the five-case-a-day threshold?
We do have to meet the thresholds. The mystery cases in particular is a really important one to meet.
The successful jurisdictions internationally [and] in Australia have gotten to five or fewer cases in a 14-day period when they’ve been able to maintain control into the long-term.
Places that haven’t met that threshold have not been able to do that.
So that’s an important one. With respect to the five average per day, we’ve always said that we need to look at what those cases are.
If the outbreak numbers are part of that 14-day average that we get to on October 18 or 19, we will look at exactly how well that’s controlled.
Are there further spreads? Are there 100 close contacts who are still in quarantine that we don’t know how many of those will become positive? Are there transmissions into really complex setting that we’re unsure about.
They’re questions that we’ll ask ourselves. So it’s absolutely a target, but it does have some consideration of exactly what those cases are and how they’re managed.
Professor Brett Sutton steps up to talk about today’s numbers:
There are a number of our daily cases that are linked to outbreaks, such as the Chadstone outbreak.
We need to consider that we can knock off those cases when those outbreaks come under control. That’s a really important part of getting down to the five-per-day average.
The baseline number also has mystery cases, so cases of unknown source, and the odd aged care case.
They’re really only in single figures already, so that’s encouraging.
One, maybe two sporadic or mystery cases per day, and one or two aged care cases per day now. So that’s a really good trend.
The total number as the premier spoke to of healthcare worker cases has come down by another three.
That’s 15 aged care staff, 13 nursing staff and one medical practitioner in that total. So that is trending down slowly as well.
Whether we get to exactly five on October 18 or 19 is obviously still to be determined.
There is that 14-day period that needs to be taken into consideration.
But getting there will happen through the control of those outbreaks and the continued trend down for those other sporadic cases and for the aged care cases in particular.
But they are also moving slowly but surely in the right direction.
So that is Year 7 returning to school from 12 October and Years 8-10 returning from 26 October.
James Merlino says this is the “light at the end of the tunnel” for Victorian students and their parents:
As we have always said, the advice has always been a gradual return to face-to-face teaching. It was always going to be in a stepped way.
We were never going to have a million students at the same day, same time, returning to school and seeing that movement of all of those students, all of their parents and carer and teachers and staff.
So the decision-making, the advice from public health team has always been about the movement of people.
But there are a number of other reasons why this two weeks works for us.
The two weeks gives us time to monitor the impact as we bring back 50,000 year 7 students alongside all the years 11 and 12.
We have this two-week period to monitor the impact both for the return of those students, the increased movement of people as well as all of the strategies in place at a school level.
It is also, obviously, a full incubation period, so that was part of the advice and the consideration.
And lastly, and this is important – as Years 8, 9 and 10 return to face-to-face teaching, from the week of October 26, so the last week in October, 8, 9 and 10s come to school.
From early November, many, many senior students are preparing for their exams. So there will be the capacity at secondary schools to spread the students out across the campus.
So for a whole range of reasons, that two weeks works. And at the school level, there are a number of strategies in place. So at secondary schools, everyone is wearing a mask.
There will be staggered pick-up and drop-off times where appropriate.
So particularly in our larger primary and secondary schools. There will be physical distancing at the school gate. There will be a very strong message to parents – this is pick-up and drop-off. It’s not dropping off the kids and having a chat at the school gate.
As much as you would like to. It’s pick-up and drop-off. There’s restrictions on adults coming on to the school sites. So we’ll have all of the strategies in place at the school level. But today is a really, really great day.
The Victorian education minister and deputy premier, James Merlino, has announced that Year 7s will be back along side all primary next week.
Years 8, 9 and 10 – around 164,000 students, will return to school for face-to-face teaching from 26 October.
Victoria to return to staged face-to-face teaching for all students
Year 7 students in Melbourne will return to on-site teaching on October 12 – that is next week.
Authorities plan on extending the call-to-test program (where health authorities come to you to administer a covid test) further into regional Victoria.
There has been a high demand for the service
Daniel Andrews press conference
The Victorian premier has stepped up for what I think is his 95th consecutive press conference.
In terms of today’s nine new reported cases, one is in in regional Victoria – in Shepparton.
While nine new cases in Victoria and no deaths is excellent news for Victoria, looking at the numbers, you would hope that in the next couple of days or so, the numbers of infections drops to five cases a day, and stays around there.
That’s because five cases on average (community transmission mostly) is the number earmarked on the roadmap to ease restrictions. So for Melbourne to be in a position to see some normality return to life – like we have seen in regional Victoria and then more broadly, in the rest of the country – we need to see those case numbers drop to bring down the 14-day average.
It is sitting at 11.6 today. That would be too high under the roadmap to take the next steps.
You can follow all the international Covid news, including the instant response to Donald Trump’s Covid drive-by, here, with Helen Sullivan.
Speaking of Victoria, I know there was some footage of beachgoers which raised concerns about social distancing over the weekend – but we should also balance that out with how other areas looked. It is not all doom and gloom:
There have been a lot of questions about Melbourne’s mystery cases – health authorities are now providing updates on how those numbers are going.
Northern Territory may welcome visitors from regional Victoria as early as 2 November
The Northern Territory is looking at welcoming visitors from regional Victoria as early as 2 November.
Ahead of the election, Michael Gunner said the NT’s borders could be closed into 2022.
Now Gunner says Victoria is “on the cusp” of controlling its second wave, and regional Victorians should be welcome to visit the NT from next month, if all goes well.
Daniel Andrews is standing up at 10.30am
Here are some of the projects being fast-tracked in the budget:
- $560 million for the Singleton Bypass on the New England Highway in New South Wales;
- $528 million for the Shepparton and Warrnambool Rail Line Upgrades in Victoria;
- $750 million for Stage 1 of the Coomera Connector (Coomera to Nerang) in Queensland;
- $88 million for the Reid Highway Interchange with West Swan Road in Western Australia;
- $200 million for the Hahndorf Township Improvements and Access Upgrade in South Australia;
- $150 million for the Midway Point Causeway (including McGees Bridge) and Sorell Causeway as part of the Hobart to Sorell Roads of Strategic Importance corridor in Tasmania;
- $120 million to upgrade the Carpentaria Highway in the Northern Territory; and
- $88 million for the Molonglo River Bridge in the ACT.
The government is getting rid of capital gains tax for granny flats.
From Michael Sukkar’s release:
The measure will commence as early as 1 July 2021 subject to the passing of legislation.
This change will only apply to agreements that are entered into because of family relationships or other personal ties and will not apply to commercial rental arrangements.
Currently there are around 3.9 million pensioners and around 4 million Australians with a disability who would be eligible for this exemption under this change.
The measure is consistent with the Government’s National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians announced on 19 March 2019, the Board of Taxation’s Review of Granny Flat Arrangements, and the 2017 Australian Law Reform Commissions Report: Elder Abuse a National Legal Response.
As part of the 2020-21 Budget, this will boost the construction industry, stimulate demand for new housing and support tradies’ jobs at a time when the economy needs it most.
The rolling 14-day average for Melbourne is now 11.6.
Victoria reports nine new Covid cases and NO deaths
Wonderful news in Victoria today.
Politics, politics, politics
AAP has an update on the construction industry – as an aside, the first homeowner grant is expected to be extended in the next budget:
Construction is showing signs of improving across the country with the exception of Victoria, where activity has sunk to the levels seen when the coronavirus pandemic first hit.
Overall, the Australian Industry Group-Housing Industry Association performance of construction index rose 7.3 points to 45.2 in September.
It indicates the industry is contracting at a slower pace compared to August with the index remaining below the 50 points.
Even so, conditions improved in September in all states except Victoria, where its index sank to extremely low levels similar to April and May’s record lows.
Ai Group head of policy Peter Burn said there are gathering signs of a tentative construction turnaround.
“Outside of Victoria, construction conditions improved marginally in September with more distinct gains in South Australia and Western Australia,” he said.
“In contrast, Victorian construction remained in a deep trough.”
Notably, house building activity entered into positive territory for the first time since February.
Wayne Swan has thoughts, the day before the budget:
In that video, Donald Trump says he will be making a surprise visit to his supporters.
This was the visit:
There are public employees in that car with him. Who are forced to drive and protect him, knowing he has Covid.
Donald Trump has sent out a new video.
He thinks Covid is a “very interesting thing” and he is “letting you know about it” because he has now been to the “real” Covid school. (None of that is editorial – this is what the president of the United States has actually said, nine months and 200,000+ US deaths into the pandemic.)
Queensland has one more day until its government goes into caretaker mode. The Labor government is using it to sign an agreement to keep Virgin’s headquarters in Brisbane. It’s a $200m deal the opposition has said it would scrap and redirect the money into tourism programs.
Why not both?
The public service commissioner has said it is OK for public servants to get back to work in offices. Scott Morrison wants to see people back to work in offices. And now, Gladys Berejiklian is determined NSW will be first.
As AAP reports:
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian wants public servants back to work in the city as the government looks to fire up the Covid-19 disrupted economy.
The state on Sunday recorded its ninth consecutive day without any community transmission of the virus.
Two cases in returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine were diagnosed in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday night, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 4045.
The premier said NSW’s public sector workers would be urged to return to offices in coming weeks in a move considered to be a significant step in the virus recovery.
“The health and safety of the people of NSW has always been our number one priority, however we are also focused on firing up the economy,” she said.
“We are now encouraging public servants to physically return to work in their offices in a Covid-safe way, which will help stimulate city-based businesses and create more jobs across the state.”
Managers will be encouraged to use flexible rostering and workers are asked to avoid using public transport during peak periods whenever possible.
The border between Queensland and NSW is set to reopen on 1 November provided NSW has no mystery cases of Covid-19 in the preceding 28 days.
But the recent low virus transmission rate could be at risk after almost 50 people shared a flight to Sydney with an infected Victorian traveller.
The potentially infectious passenger travelled on Jetstar JQ510, which left Melbourne at 11am last Sunday and tested positive on their second day in quarantine.
The Parenthood, a group formed to address issues for parents, including childcare, has sent out its wishlist for the budget.
Its executive director, Georgie Dent, said something needed to be done to help women who had been adversely impacted by the pandemic:
We are in the throes of a pink recession and these circumstances call for concerted, targeted policies designed to limit – not exacerbate – gender inequality.
Investing in Australia’s broken early learning system is one of the most effective measures to ensure families, women and the economy emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in better shape.
In June a survey of 2,200 families by The Parenthood revealed the extent to which COVID19 had adversely impacted finances in Australian households and confirmed the flow on effect for women would be particularly pronounced.
“Almost half (42%) of families reported at least one parent was earning less as a result of COVID, with 16% of respondents reporting both parents had seen their income reduced,” Dent said.
“A third of parents (34%) reported that they would need to reduce days or remove their children from early learning altogether when out-of-pocket fees returned, and reduce their work as a result.
In 68% of those households the parent who would stop or reduce work would be a woman.”
Despite this very few measures have been introduced to combat the disproportionate burden being carried by women.
I mean ...
Q: It is interesting that you praise the work of Australia’s universities there, Michael McCormack, given the thousands of university job losses around Australia, has the government looked at extending it to the tertiary sector?
It has been tough for the university sector because they haven’t had the international students.
Q: And also, no great help from the federal government, it has to be said?
We’ve certainly made sure that for those going to university, that when they come out, they’re jobready graduate program that we put in place, that they in turn work so hard with in collaboration with universities, that there are jobs for those university students.
That they are ready to take on the world. Our university students are amongst the best in the world.
Our universities are among the best in the world. We want them, of course, to be even better. And we’re certainly backing them.
We’re making sure that no sector of the economy gets left behind, whether it is the tertiary sector.
Whether it is somebody in a job, or indeed, look someone looking for a job.
I don’t think having been locked out of jobkeeper, having had international students locked out of their campuses and having legislation which will lock students out of degrees is “backing” Australian universities. There have been thousands of jobs lost in Australian universities this year – and that isn’t taking into account all the casual and contract workers.
Listening to the deputy prime minister speak is like putting something into Google translate then just hoping for the best.
It’s just a bunch of words strung together in the semblance of order – but it never actually makes sense.
Q: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says that the budget assumptions are based on a vaccine being available to Australians next year. That is a bit of a gamble, isn’t it?
Well, we know that right across the world, they’re in the late developmental stage for the vaccine.
We know how hard our Australian universities are working with other universities and other institutions around the world. The best medical advice and experts are taking part in this process of getting a vaccine, and we need it, we so desperately need it.
And of course, when it does become available, hopefully early next year, that it will be very much freely available to each and every Australian, and indeed, our Pacific Island friends.
We’re a good neighbour. We want the Pacific to be its best self.
We’re looking out for our Tongan and all our friends in Fiji and right across the Pacific, and we’ll do that.
But we will also put Australians first and make sure that when a vaccine does become available, it is free and accessible and available to each and every Australian.
Michael McCormack is doing the media rounds this morning, spruiking the government’s coming infrastructure spend.
Other than telling people to go pick fruit and take selfies and find love, that seems to be his main job.
Asked on ABC Breakfast News about how much of the latest $7bn infrastructure spend announcement was “new” money, the deputy PM says:
Well, it’s all new money in as much as we are investing heavily into infrastructure. Of course, we had a 10-year rolling plan of $100bn. We want to add jobs to this sector.
This is the recession we didn’t need to have.
We want to build and construct our way out of it. I know that agriculture and resources has been largely carrying the country. Indeed, as has regional areas through Covid-19.
We want infrastructure, we need infrastructure. Our Australian people deserve the very best infrastructure and tomorrow’s budget will deliver just that.
Except it is not new money. It’s part of the $100bn over 10 years the government has previously announced – it has just been fast tracked. And $100bn has always sounded like a great headline figure but it has only been $10bn a year. Which, when upgrading a stretch of road can cost $500m, is not a lot of money each year, when you consider it is for the entire country.
In just over 24 hours, the government will hand down what it is calling the “most important budget since world war two” as it attempts to guide the Australian economy through the pandemic.
The forwards are never that trustworthy – in 2007 the global financial crisis could not have been predicted. And trying to guess what’s going to happen over the next four years now seems nigh on impossible.
Josh Frydenberg has completed the journalistic speed dating aspect of his pre-budget duties – where every organisation gets a short interview – and from that we know the legislated tax cuts are coming forward, there should be extra assistance for low income earners and pensioners and the government is anticipating a vaccine sometime in 2021.
Australia’s health experts are cooler on the 2021 vaccine hopes – at least a widespread vaccine – but no one can really guess when an effective vaccine will be available.
Or how long it will take to distribute. Or how the roll-out will go in each country. Or what that will mean to the global economy. I mean, Donald Trump being diagnosed with Covid-19 only happened on Friday but it may have been a year ago, given the hyper-inflation of news and events lately.
So, the short version is – don’t put too much stock in the forwards, because trying to predict what will happen four years from now is like trying to predict a cat’s behaviour – you think you have an idea but, suddenly, scratching that one place is the worst thing to ever happen.
Parliament won’t sit today but the MPs are all here preparing for the budget, as well as the other pieces of legislation the government is trying to push through, including its changes to tertiary education. With Jacqui Lambie voting no, that bill is now down to Centre Alliance, which is being lobbied by all sides.
Meanwhile New South Wales has started the push to have everyone return to work, in a physical office. Queensland is officially in election campaign mode, with the government being dissolved tomorrow (today is a public holiday). Western Australia is holding firm on its border closures and Victoria is waiting on the numbers.
We’ll have all that and more as we cover politics and the pandemic live, across all the timezones, for the 1,567th day of 2020.