Australia news live: national cabinet confirms pandemic

Pandemic leave payments to continue while mandatory isolation remains

Anthony Albanese is giving the national cabinet update:

First ministers agreed to extend the pandemic leave disaster payment at current rates beyond 30 September. The payment will remain available for as long as mandatory isolation periods are applied by all states and territories*.

The principle essentially agreed to by all first ministers is that while the government requires mandated isolation, the government has a responsibility to provide support during that period – for the appropriate period which is designated currently, of course, at five days, except for people in aged care, disability care, etc, which remains at seven days.

We remain obviously of the view that if people are sick, whether from Covid or from other health issues, they should not be at work and that is important.

* This is interesting wording – if a state breaks the consensus ranks, is it cancelled?

Key events

The ABS has released its June quarter jobs data:

In seasonally adjusted terms for the June quarter 2022:

  • Filled jobs increased by 2.2% following a 0.5% rise in the March quarter 2022. Filled jobs grew by 3.8% through the year.

  • The number of main jobs increased by 269,100 (or 2.0%).

  • The number of multiple job holders increased by 4.3%.

  • The proportion of vacant jobs increased to 3.1% from the 2.8% recorded in the March quarter 2022.

  • The number of public sector jobs decreased by 2.0%, while the number of private sector jobs increased by 2.7%.

There are now more job vacancies than officially “unemployed” people, according to the ABS.

Where’s the wage growth to match it? It should be a workers paradise right now pic.twitter.com/NpFjyUveM8

— Gareth Hutchens (@grhutchens) September 14, 2022

The national cabinet has released a statement on the national day of mourning:

The National Cabinet has agreed to hold a National Day of Mourning on Thursday 22 September 2022 in honour of the life and service of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The National Day of Mourning will be a one-off national public holiday and an opportunity for all Australians to pay tribute to the life of The Queen, outside of a work and study setting.

The Queen was the only reigning monarch most Australians have known and the only reigning monarch to ever visit Australia. On her first visit in 1954, The Queen travelled around the country, to almost 60 cities and towns, in every state and territory. It was clear from her first trip that she had a special place in the hearts of Australians. The National Day of Mourning will provide time to grieve this collective loss and commemorate our late Queen’s extraordinary life of service, devotion and loyalty.

On the day, a National Memorial Service will be held at Parliament House in Canberra with all state and territory leaders in attendance. The Service will be broadcast live across the nation at 11.00am (AEST) and begin with a minute’s silence. National Cabinet encourages all Australians, wherever you may be, to take time to pause and reflect on The Queen’s faithful service, that will be remembered for centuries to come.

Over the next few weeks, all Australians can also send condolences to the Royal Family and His Majesty King Charles III. Condolence books are available at Parliament House and Government House in Canberra and in various locations around Australia (refer to Government House in your state or territory for further information). An online condolence form has also been established on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website: Condolence form.

At the press conference to announce a new public square will be named for the Queen in Sydney, both the prime minister and NSW premier had to skirt around the last skirmish between their two industrial relations ministers:

Q: Prime Minister, an industrial dispute is still raging on here in New South Wales. What did you make of your Employee Relations Minister weighing into that debate? Did he overstep the mark by writing to the Fair Work Commission?

PM: He didn’t. Minister Burke wrote to the Fair Work Commission, as he has on four separate occasions, to indicate what will likely be policy changes. That’s appropriate. There’s been no intervention. It’s a dispute between New South Wales Government and the RTBU. I would certainly encourage all parties to come to a resolution

Q: Prime Minister, where do you come down on it though? The local business chamber says that the current industrial action we’re seeing is entrenching work from home culture.

PM: I’ve got a big job, and I’ll do my job. That is what I’m focused on.

Q: Premier, your Industrial Relations Minister… [inaudible]

Premier: The Fair Work Commission should be independent to do its job. The concerns that I have particularly raised have been in relation to donations and public sector unions. Now, the actions today by the RTBU – I want to say, firstly, I’m happy in the sense that my concern is the public and I want people to be able to get to work, kids to be able to get to school, and the industrial action which is has hurt that is not acceptable. I’ve made that very clear. Now, today they’ve come out and said they’re going to turn off the Opal machines. The they are turning them off – and I want to thank the people of New South Wales, because they opened them up and 90% of commuters were still tapping on and off. And that just shows that the people of New South Wales just want to get on with it, and that’s what I expect of the union. We are working through those issues with the Fair Work Commission. We have worked with them for a number of years in respect to the resolution of these disputes. And when it comes to issues of pay, we also appreciate that for difficult time for everybody across the state, everybody across the country with higher interest rates and higher inflation. But here in New South Wales, when it comes to public sector pay, we lead the nation. We have always paid above private sector wages. That is a strong track record, and I’d ask the unions to work constructively with the government, appreciate the pressures that we’re all under, not just the government, but people across our state.

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Payphone calls to Triple Zero and Lifeline double since being made free, Telstra says

Telstra says calls to Triple Zero and Lifeline on its payphones nearly doubled in the period since calls from payphones became free.

The company’s commercial manager, Michael Meeve, told the ACCANect conference that since the Telstra made calls at payphones free in August last year, there had been over 250,000 calls to Triple Zero or Lifeline, almost a doubling of calls in the previous 12 months.

As part of its push to improve internet access, the company has also begun trialling switching on a free upgrade to around 100,000 NBN customers who opted to have a voice-only service, so they can use the internet on the service if they so choose.

He said:

We just turned it on for them. They’re running on the network. It was there. And we said “Great news, it’s here if you want it, depends on where you are in your journey.” And that may mean if you’ve got a mobile in your home that you can do Wi Fi calling, it means you’ve got enhanced coverage in your home.

It may mean today’s the day that you want to start doing a zoom call because the family and friends you can’t reach to or it might mean an another popular one is people start researching family histories things like that it becomes the day that they want to do it.

Before the election, Labor promised to trial free internet for 30,000 disadvantaged families with school-aged children, and NBN Co’s general manager of stakeholder relations, Sam Dimarco, said the company was working to implement the policy.

He said it would inform further work on providing affordable services to disadvantaged communities.

Albanese says Nationals ‘committed to porkbarrelling’ after criticism of Labor’s commitment to regions

Anthony Albanese also responded to the Nationals who questioned Labor’s commitment to regional Australia as infrastructure programs face funding cuts.

Albanese:

Can I say this – that the National party are committed to porkbarrelling. They are not necessarily committed to good infrastructure projects. And where projects are good, we are very positive about them.

… The National party in terms of the way that they view taxpayer funds as being the same as Liberal and National party funds is not the moral that the Labor government will follow.

We will find projects including in regional Australia that stack up, that represent good investment for taxpayers. The Nats were obsessed with looking after their mates.

Sometimes looking private interest and is not a model for every government to follow. I just answered the question, I can’t be more clear than that.

Albanese hopes Xi Jinping reminds Putin of obligation to uphold international laws

On Xi Jinping’s meeting with Vladimir Putin, Anthony Albanese says:

When it comes to Russia, what I would like to see is that anyone who meets with Vladimir Putin remind them of the obligation that international leaders have to uphold the international rules of law.

And what we’ve seen with the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a breach of that. It’s the invasion of a sovereign state in contravention of international laws and in contravention of something that we have regarded – the idea that there would be a land war in Europe of the type that we are seeing is something that we had hoped we had consigned to the past.

[We] reiterate our support for the sovereign state of Ukraine, reiterate my praise for president Zelenskiy and the people of Ukraine in a courageous struggle against Russia.

Albanese implores dairy giant Norco to ‘look after’ staff, citing $30m grant

On Norco’s announcement it will be laying off 170 staff, Anthony Albanese says:

They have received in excess of $30 million of taxpayers money shared between the commonwealth and the state. And I would hope that Norco look after their employees, are continue to work with premier Dominic Perrottet on these issues.

I realise that the northern rivers has suffered greatly including businesses but we have provided substantial support.

Pacific leaders accept Australia’s help with transport to Queen’s funeral

The leaders of Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Samoa and PNG have accepted Australia’s offer of help with transportation to the Queen’s funeral.

Anthony Albanese still has no time for currency discussions:

My view is that Queen Elizabeth’s funeral is next Monday – my focus isn’t on who is on the $5.

Should there be a federal casino regulator?

Anthony Albanese:

It’s pretty obvious that the state regulators are doing it pretty good job of holding the casino operators to account, that’s my observations. I’m not in favour of regulation for the sake of it. And I think it’s pretty hard for anyone to argue that either Crown or Star are not been held to account at the moment.

Albanese asked about scrutiny on Sophie Scamps over electric vehicle support

The Independent MP Sophie Scamps has come under the News Corp lens for speaking in favour of electric vehicles, while her family has declared shares in Tesla.

Anthony Albanese is asked whether or not Scamps should be able to speak on electric vehicles:

Well for all those who drive a petrol car, they are allowed to vote on those issues as well. I think we need a bit of serious analysis in my view.

There is a financial interest in people who have a petrol car or what have you, as long as these issues are declared – that’s the issue … transparency.

But, you know, it’s a matter for her. She is not a member of my government, she has a responsibility to declare any interest that she has and people will make their own judgement. But from my perspective, the idea that people only support electric vehicles because of a financial interest is, in my view, a misread of what is actually happening globally.

Albanese cites global shift towards ‘treating Covid like other health issues’

Next month, the national cabinet will start talking about whether or not there needs to be a “reduction” in the isolation period for Covid-positive people.

Albanese:

We will have a discussion about future arrangements on the 30 September when the national cabinet will meet in person.

We will take advice at that time because there are different arrangements in place in countries, but what we are seeing is gradually a move towards Covid being treated like other health issues.

And clearly we saw with the reduction that we made last time from seven days to five days, we are making some preparations as well over a potential outbreak during the northern winter … and how will respond.

Passengers wearing face masks at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.
Passengers wearing face masks at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

There have been 130 cases of monkeypox in Australia, and infections globally are starting to drop, Albanese says.

About 2.6% of pandemic payment claims since July triggered fraud checks

The pandemic leave payment will continue to be a split between the federal government and the states and territories.

Albanese also gave an update on fraudulent claims of the payment:

There is some evidence that Services Australia identified that since the 20 July 2022, 2.6% of all claims received triggered real-time fraud checks in the system, and of those, more than 50% were subsequently rejected and some 15% were subsequently withdrawn by the claimant.

Services Australia data indicates also that over the six months to the June 2022, [for] claims made by individuals who claimed more than once, of these, about 13% were claimed four or more times – that is a claim every 6.5 weeks or more.

Pandemic leave payments to continue while mandatory isolation remains

Anthony Albanese is giving the national cabinet update:

First ministers agreed to extend the pandemic leave disaster payment at current rates beyond 30 September. The payment will remain available for as long as mandatory isolation periods are applied by all states and territories*.

The principle essentially agreed to by all first ministers is that while the government requires mandated isolation, the government has a responsibility to provide support during that period – for the appropriate period which is designated currently, of course, at five days, except for people in aged care, disability care, etc, which remains at seven days.

We remain obviously of the view that if people are sick, whether from Covid or from other health issues, they should not be at work and that is important.

* This is interesting wording – if a state breaks the consensus ranks, is it cancelled?