The World Health Assembly has unanimously voted in favour of a resolution calling for an impartial and independent review into the Covid-19 pandemic. The European Union motion was formally adopted at a virtual meeting hosted in Geneva on Tuesday evening, with both China and the United States among the co-sponsors. Australia had lobbied world leaders for an independent probe. Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Health Minister Greg Hunt welcomed the decision as a “mandate to identify the source” of the virus, after lobbying for an independent inquiry. China’s state-run Global Times reported the resolution was a “slap in the face” to Australia. Hours before the motion passed, US President Donald Trump threatened to permanently leave the World Health Organisation, falsely claiming it had ignored reports from The Lancet in late 2019. The medical journal noted it first reported on the virus in late January.
A new report for the United Workers Union has found Australia’s undocumented workers are at elevated risk of catching Covid-19 and creating “new clusters of infection”, due to crowded living conditions and a reluctance to get tested out of fear of deportation. Up to 100,000 workers live in Australia without legal work rights, reports The Age, with many working on farms during picking seasons. The report found multiple workers live in the same poorly ventilated room and are regularly exploited by middlemen. Migrant workers living in substandard conditions were linked to a second wave of infections in Singapore. The union and the Victorian Farmers Federation want an amnesty for them to work legally. Migrant workers with temporary visas also face tenuous circumstances, due to being excluded from JobKeeper.
Santos, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, and the Minerals Council of Australia have welcomed the Morrison government’s plans to reshape the $2.5 billion emissions reduction fund following a review, reports Guardian Australia. Changes include allowing the fund to support carbon capture and storage projects for fossil fuel projects. Richie Merzian, from thinktank the Australia Institute, said the changes would increase fossil fuel industries’ access to limited climate funding, and criticised the lack of process behind the review. Energy Minister Angus Taylor is planning to fasttrack changes to the fund, and will consider putting changes to the parliament. The debate comes ahead of a National Press Club address by industry minister Karen Andrews today on her ambition for more gas production, faster project approvals, and lower company tax to strengthen Australian manufacturing.
In the latest easing of restrictions steadily being implemented around the country, the New South Wales Government will allow regional travel within the state for any reason, including holidays, from June 1. It comes as new data from the Australian Taxation Office revealed that coastal holiday destinations such as the mid-North Coast of NSW and the adjacent Coffs Harbour-Grafton area have economically been hit the hardest, with payroll numbers down 11.8 per cent and 11.2 per cent respectively.