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.
Labor has accused the Morrison government of using the pandemic to push its ideological industrial relations agenda, as business groups call for taxes and regulations to be slashed. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the federal government signalled it would return to “the old right-wing agenda” after the crisis is over, after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the “first order of business to get through the parliament” would be its union-busting legislation. Frydenberg argued that easing disqualification of union officials will lower construction prices, adding that Australia’s company tax rate for large businesses of 30 per cent is “uncompetitively high”. Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the company tax rate ($) should be reduced to a “ceiling” of 25 per cent. Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson pushed for similar tax cuts, adding the government should reconsider its opposition to capping negative gearing and cash refunds for franking credits.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been lobbying the leaders of the United States, France, Germany and New Zealand to support his plan to give World Health Organisation investigators the same powers as weapons inspectors to forcibly enter a country. The move comes ahead of a call today by Australia for an international review of wildlife markets. Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said Australia needed to do better at building international clout after failing to join 179 countries that co-sponsored a United Nations resolution calling for more international co-ordination in the COVID-19 response.
The special commission of inquiry into the Ruby Princess heard on Wednesday that the doctor aboard the ship marked “no” in response to a question on a Maritime Arrivals Reporting System form about whether there was potential spread of infection. Another question on the form about difficulty breathing and persistent coughing symptoms had been left blank as the ship docked in Sydney on 19 March. Dr Ilse Von Watzdorf told the inquiry via videolink she felt "disadvantaged" because she did not have access to the form during questioning, and added that she disagreed with the decision to let passengers disembark. The Ruby Princess is expected to leave Australia today. Meanwhile the Queensland parliament has passed laws ($) prohibiting evictions for renters who can show their income has either been cut by 25 per cent or more due to COVID-19 or where rent payments make up 30 per cent or more of the reduced household income.
Four police officers were killed when they were hit from behind ($) by a truck after they pulled over a Porsche believed to be speeding on a Melbourne freeway. The sports car’s driver fled the scene, in an incident described as a “crime” by Victorian Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton.