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.
Employers are shutting retrenched workers out of the federal government’s $1500 wage subsidy scheme, as legal analysis reveals businesses are not required to nominate all eligible staff. Workers say employers are refusing to rehire them so they can access the JobKeeper payments, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, including two who suspect COVID-19 was used as cover to force redundancies. Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie called for a support hotline to be set up, claiming one sacked worker had been contacted by their former boss offering the payment provided they paid a $600 cut to the employer. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged businesses to look into JobKeeper, but to “seek advice” before considering whether to reverse redundancies. The Australian Financial Review reports that employers ($) may be able to select which employees receive JobKeeper payments, experts say, despite the government claiming this would not be possible.
United States President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend $631 million in payments to the World Health Organisation during the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a wave of international criticism. The United Nations, European Union, and China were among those condemning the suspension, which major WHO donor Bill Gates described was “as dangerous as it sounds”. US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi Nancy Pelosi says the decision will face a challenge. There are fears the move will impact the WHO’s work in co-ordinating vaccine research, procurement of protective equipment, and provision of assistance to help middle and lower-income countries. Meanwhile, the Group of 20 major economies have agreed to suspend debt payments for the world's poorest countries until the end of the year as the world grapples with the crisis. Aid and development organisations argued for the debt to be cancelled, not suspended. There are now more than two million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, the number doubling in just a fortnight.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will push for schools to resume face-to-face learning for the second term at a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders today. State and territory governments are resisting the move, with Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton arguing schools should stick with remote learning for term two. Federal deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth says the cabinet will consider how to make schools safer, but this won't include teachers being made to wear personal protective equipment, with only 2 per cent of all cases in Australia affecting those under 18. State School Teachers Union of WA president Pat Byrne said educators were concerned about a lack of access to protective equipment.
COVID-19 has caused Australia’s biggest-ever population decline, with 300,000 tourists, temporary workers and students leaving the country so far in 2020 ($), reports The Australian. Research finds a further 300,000 people could leave the country by the end of the year, which economists warn could erode consumer demand and cause a housing slump.