New Trade Minister Dan Tehan will prioritise securing an Australia-India free trade deal, The Australian reports, as the government seeks alternative trading partners to counter Chinese bans on our exports. Negotiations on a proposed deal between Australia and India have languished for almost a decade, but Tehan says it’s time to get back to the table, with the bilateral relationship elevated to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” in June. The two nations have certainly explored the idea: in a 2018 report former DFAT trade secretary Peter Varghese argued that there was “no market over the next 20 years which offers more growth opportunities for Australian business than India”, while a new report by India’s top business group has identified Australia as an ideal partner, saying the potential of the relationship had “not been fully harnessed”. Elsewhere, a senior Taiwanese politician has called for greater security co-operation with Australia in the face of Chinese aggression, with Liberal Senator and former army general Jim Molan agreeing with the sentiments.
Three new mystery cases of Covid-19 were reported in Greater Sydney yesterday, raising fears that the virus is spreading undetected in pockets of the city. The three cases were found in Wollongong, Sydney’s inner west and northern suburbs, adding to four more mystery cases across the city. The unlinked cases, along with a major drop in testing numbers, have authorities concerned, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian warning that all of Sydney could be in the same boat as the northern beaches if links back to a cluster are not established soon. There are now 46 reported cases in Greater Sydney outside the northern beaches – almost one-third of all cases, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Only 16,329 tests were conducted yesterday, significantly less than the 40,000 daily averages of last week.
Australia has had its biggest ever surge in casual employment following the Covid-19 recession, with more than 400,000 casual jobs created since May, according to analysis by The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work. The 2020 Year-End Labour Market Review found that while casual employees lost work at a much higher rate than permanents early on, casual work has accounted for 60 per cent of jobs created since the recovery, contradicting the idea that current workplace rules are holding back hiring – one of the claims used to justify the government’s industrial relations changes. The review predicts proposed changes will only accelerate the growth of insecure work, allowing part-timers to be treated more like casuals, and making Australia more vulnerable to economic shocks in the future.
There’s some good news for Sydney this morning, with Cricket Australia announcing late last night that the SCG will keep the third Test. Crowds are expected be capped at 50 per cent, and players will be allowed to travel on to Brisbane in a “bubble”, staying in a quarantine hotel and leaving only to train and play the Gabba Test match. It’s good news for the Australian side: the team has only been beaten once at the SCG since 2003. What’s more, they are probably not too keen on the suggestion of remaining at the MCG, after suffering a decisive eight-wicket loss there yesterday. The series sits at 1-1.