New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
Australian travellers are being evacuated by plane this morning from the central Chinese city of Wuhan for a two-week quarantine stay on Christmas Island. On Sunday a Qantas flight operated by a volunteer crew, left Sydney for Wuhan in Hubei province, source of the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 14,500 people. Federal health minister Greg Hunt said a medical assistance team with a mobile hospital had already arrived at the Christmas Island detention centre ahead of the anticipated 14-day quarantine period for passengers, for which they will not be charged. The Australian ban on foreign arrivals from China has caused significant disruption at airports, with 12 flights cancelled on Sunday and families separated at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith airport. The death toll has risen to at least 305 people, including a 44-year-old Chinese visitor to the Philippines, the first death recorded outside of China. The response to the virus could cost the Australian economy ($) up to $13 billion in the first half of the year, including $6 billion to $8 billion from education fees due to the travel ban.
NSW/ACT Bushfires: Firefighters hope widespread rains across New South Wales fire will help contain 70 bushfires burning across the state. Crews used the favourable conditions to contain the 23,000-hectare Morton fire and the 333,900-hectare Dunns Road blaze. Dangerous conditions on Saturday night pushed the 177,000-hectare Border fire towards Bega Valley, while three blazes burning southwest of the region merged into one. Bega Valley Shire Council mayor Kristy McBain said an unconfirmed number of homes were lost in the blazes. More than 50 per cent of the ACT’s Namadgi National Park has been lost to the Orroral Valley blaze. The news comes as more than 200 scientists have put their names to an open letter calling on Australian politicians to respond to the bushfire crisis by urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions and working diplomatically to achieve global climate action.
Superannuation contributions: The bipartisan plan to increase the amount employers have to contribute towards superannuation should be abandoned, as most of the money would come out of reduced pay increases, according to a new report from the Grattan Institute. The report found about 80 per cent of the cost of increases in super is passed to workers through lower wage rises within the life of an enterprise agreement. According to The Australian Financial Review ($), the Australian Council of Social Service also came out against the plan to increase compulsory superannuation contributions to 12 per cent of wages, urging the Morrison government to first cut superannuation tax breaks for the wealthy. Greg Combet, chairman of Industry Super Australia, argues that the current 9.5% contribution rate is inadequate for a dignified retirement. The Morrison government is currently undertaking a review of the retirement income system.
Australian Open: Novak Djokovic has come back from two-sets-to-one down to secure a record eighth Australian Open men’s tennis title on Sunday, beating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena. In the women’s final on Saturday, American Sofia Kenin had a similiar fightback after losing the first set in her 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Garbine Muguruza.