Thursday, April 23, 2020

Pandemic cover for ‘right-wing agenda’

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.

 
 

“New analysis by The Saturday Paper reveals massive discrepancies across jurisdictions and raises concerns about racial bias … Liverpool, Canterbury–Bankstown and Fairfield, while responsible for 15 per cent of fines, represent just 5 per cent of recorded Covid-19 cases in the state. Meanwhile the local government areas of Woollahra, Northern Beaches and Waverley, which takes in Bondi Beach, have recorded 15 per cent of NSW cases, but fewer than 1.8 per cent of infringements.”

 

“Payne is right to call for an inquiry into the outbreak of COVID-19 and the way it was handled by China, the WHO and others. China’s cover-up of the origins of the virus has had disastrous consequences and deserves to be scrutinised by the international community. But Payne should not follow the cues of the White House, which was also slow to respond to the outbreak and has its own motives for blaming China. The professed aim of the inquiry should not be to shame Beijing.”

 

“Welcoming Billy into our lives … was not a response to the pandemic per se. We didn’t choose to add a dog to the household as a distraction, although the advantages dawned upon me and Steven. In the lockdown conditions we could bond quicker with a dog; it could be introduced to its surroundings and neighbours sooner. These expectations have proved marvellously correct. Billy also distracts us from our junkie tendency to flick through the TV news ... He wags back our attentions from our coronavirus update compulsiveness.”

 
 

“Private schools who fear they will lose students in droves as the country enters recession have asked Education Mister Dan Tehan for a taxpayer bailout to prevent mass job cuts. Independent school heads had a meeting with federal Education Minister Dan Tehan recently where they made the request. Catholic Education Melbourne is also believed to be pushing for emergency funding to minimise the financial effects of COVID-19.”

 
 

“A $123 million ‘vertical’ school will be built at the centre of a residential and retail hub in north-west Sydney … The commission, which handles some of the state’s most complex and contentious projects, is also in the process of determining a proposal for a $49 million redevelopment of SCEGGS Darlinghurst. Last year, the commission approved The Scots College's $29 million plan to revamp its library to resemble a Scottish castle amid debate over the extent of taxpayer funding for private schools.”

 
 

“Fed up with people breaking virus quarantine rules, one Indonesian politician has decided to scare rulebreakers straight by locking them in a ‘haunted house’. Sragen regency head Kusdinar Untung Yuni Sukowati ... instructed communities to repurpose abandoned houses that were feared to be haunted — tapping widespread beliefs in the supernatural, which play a key role in Indonesian folklore. Five people have been tossed into Sragen's spooky jails so far.”

Max Opray
is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.