Aussie farmers may be forced to turn away from China
(See Translation in Arabic section)
Canberra - M E Times Int'l: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says farmers may be forced to turn away from the Chinese market as trade tensions continue to escalate.
Mr Birmingham has been trying to get in touch with his Chinese counterpart since Beijing threatened to impose tariffs on Australian barley a week ago.
A final decision on that will be made by Tuesday and if China presses ahead with that threat Mr Birmingham has not ruled out taking the issue to the World Trade Organisation.
PM warns clock is ticking on economic support
Canberra: National cabinet has given the go ahead for elective surgery to resume, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison puts forward a $48 million funding boost for mental health.
The wider economic toll of the crisis remains in firm focus, with the Prime Minister warning the clock was ticking on the amount of support the government could provide.
Miracle PM has the chance for resurrection
Canberra: Standing in front of a massive Australian flag in a hotel ballroom, Scott Morrison declared his surprise election victory a miracle.
The next day, newspaper headlines anointed him the "messiah from the Shire".
The man of faith had always believed victory was possible even when those around him wavered.
The 2019 election win was hailed as handing Morrison an opportunity to stamp his authority on the coalition and government that no prime minister has had for a decade.
Now, the twin crises wrought by the coronavirus have handed him an even bigger opportunity to reshape the nation's economy.
Labor calls for an extension of Medicare mental health plan
Canberra: Shadow Health Minister Chris Bowen has called on the Morrison Government to “consider extending the Medicare mental health plan from 10 consultations to 20”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced yesterday the National Cabinet will commit $48.1 million in mental health funding as part of the government’s wellbeing pandemic response plan.
“The mental health impact of this crisis has a long way to go and for many people 10 consultations simply won’t be enough,” Mr Bowen said.
NSW 'prepared' for second coronavirus wave
Sydney: While restrictions across New South Wales ease today, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged people against becoming complacent. Speaking on Friday morning, the Premier also urged residents to get tested for the coronavirus at the first sign of illness. “As restrictions are eased today, please come forward and get tested. That is the only way in which we’re going to manage easing restrictions and being able to control the virus. Premier Berejiklian said the new freedoms came with heightened personal responsibility, saying “easing restrictions have failed in so many places around the world and I don’t want them to fail in NSW”. The Premier said her government was investing billions in health and cleaning services to keep up with increasing demand and to prepare for the possibility of a second wave.
She announced her government was funding 89 new ambulances across the state, which would be fitted with special equipment to deal with potential COVID-19 cases.
Morrison: Australia’s interests first.
Canberra: The Australian Workers Union has thrown its support behind the prime minister to stand up to China as it threatens harsh economic sanctions on Australian exports.
Although the foreign minister has downplayed talk of a trade war with China, Beijing has been accused of waging a pressure campaign against countries in support of an independent probe into the coronavirus, after it suspended exports from four Australian abattoirs and threatened to impose significant tariffs on barley exports.
AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton has written to Scott Morrison urging him to not capitulate to the communist state’s threats.
Mr Morrison told the parliament he does support trade with China but would put Australia’s interests first.
'This is a tough day for Australia': PM reacts to news 600,000 jobs lost in April
Canberra: Prime Minister Scott Morrison says today is a “tough day” for Australia as it was revealed almost 600,000 people lost their job in April.
The unemployment rate for April rose from 5.2 per cent to 6.2 per. cent, a figure Mr Morrison said was kept much lower than expected due to the government’s JobKeeper scheme.
"This is a tough day for Australia. A very tough day. Almost 600,000 jobs have been lost. Every one of them devastating for those Australians, for their families, for their communities,” he said.
ALP 'petrified' of long-term unemployment
Canberra: Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers is "petrified" the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic will result in long-term unemployment for some, as was the case after the last recession in the early 1990s.
Figures this week showed nearly 600,000 people lost their job in April as restrictions took hold to try and shield Australians from the worst of the COVID-19 crisis.
This was the largest one-month fall on record, and was combined with a spike in the unemployment rate to a five-year high of 6.2 per cent.
The Australian Treasury expects the jobless rate to peak at 10 per cent in the coming months.
"The thing that petrifies me ... people who become disconnected from the labour market in recessions, some of those people never come back," Dr Chalmers told a Guardian Australia podcast on Saturday.
Australia 'caught in US-China crossfire' and 'there will be serious economic implications'
Canberra: The Switzer Report founder Peter Switzer says now is the worst time to be caught up in escalating trade tensions with China.
“Once the economy’s back on its feet, that’s when it’s time to get stuck into China, but at the moment we’re vulnerable,” he said.
“Obviously there’s a simmering, potential trade war and it really didn’t start with us, but we’re being caught in the crossfire because we ganged up and supported Trump in asking for an objective inquiry into China’s behavior in relation to the virus.
“Clearly China’s cheesed off in the fact that we’re supporting Donald Trump and there will be serious economic implications." Mr Switzer told reporters “this is not the time” because Australia was staring down the possibility of a great depression, which he said the government was so far managing to avoid through stimulus measures.
Govt backbenchers must be brought into line on China: Albanese
Canberra: Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been urged to bring the backbench into line on China after Nationals MP George Christensen labelled a suspension on Australia meat exports a “bastard act”.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese criticised the government’s handling of China while campaigning in Eden-Monaro, taking aim at the optics backbenchers have been more vocal on the issue than the foreign minister.
“It’d be pretty handy if we heard more from the Foreign Minister instead of people like George Christensen,” he said while campaigning in Eden-Monaro.
“The Foreign Minister and the government need to take control of this and exercise a little bit of discipline because that is clearly in Australia’s national interests.”
Mr Albanese said he backed the call for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 but lashed the government for not putting in the groundwork before it announced the push.
“Australia must always stand up for its national interests,” he said.
Mr Birmingham: "Australian government stood firm in its position."
Canberra: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has refused to be drawn on whether he believes Beijing's import ban on Australian abattoirs is connected to Australia’s push for a COVID-19 investigation.
The Australian government was blindsided on Tuesday when Beijing imposed an import ban on four abattoirs - three in Queensland and one in New South Wales - which Beijing alleged violated inspection and quarantine requirements.
“These are issues they say are unconnected, so it’s in the best interests of Australia’s farmers and exporters to approach these issues on their merits,” Mr Birmingham said.
When asked whether China’s trade suspensions would derail Australia’s push for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Birmingham said the Australian government stood firm in its position.
Tony Abbott praises Alan Jones
Sydney: Former prime minister Tony Abbott says Alan Jones “was Australia’s greatest public advocate” and the country “will be a very different place” following the broadcasting legend’s resignation from radio.
Alan Jones had a “mighty presence” on the radio, Mr Abbott told News host Peta Credlin.
“It will be a different political world without having Alan on the airways every morning”. Mr Abbott said Alan Jones brought “great characteristics” to the airways and conducted himself with “profound decency and humanity”.
The NSW Labor Opposition has criticised the Berejiklian Government
Sydney: The NSW Labor Opposition has criticised the Berejiklian Government and Liberal Planning Minister Rob Stokes for failing to provide necessary public infrastructure and services needed to support the plan to build 2800 new dwellings around Mount Druitt CBD.
Despite the need for long term planning to provide sustainable growth, public services and public infrastructure to the Blacktown Local Government Area, the NSW Liberal Government has spent 5 years allowing the Blacktown and Riverstone CBD Local Environmental Plans to languish.
NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay said, “Labor understands that communities are more than just bricks and mortar. The Berejiklian Government clearly has no plan to deliver the services that growing communities so desperately need.”
Julia Finn: “The removal of lease break fees and the addition of Labor’s rental hardship fund will be a welcome relief..."
Sydney: Labor has won a major victory for tenants and landlords across NSW with amendments to emergency legislation to create a hardship fund helping them stay afloat.
The changes will also allow lease break fees to be capped at two weeks, with the capacity for these fees to be waived altogether.
“The removal of lease break fees and the addition of Labor’s rental hardship fund will be a welcome relief to the many landlords and tenants who are struggling amid this health crisis,” Labor Shadow Minister for Consumer Protection Julia Finn said.
“So far the Government’s main measure to help landlords and tenants had been a land tax rebate for the wealthiest 16 per cent of landlords. It’s absolutely abhorrent they think this is enough.
“Under the Berejiklian Government, the vast majority are missing out on any kind of financial assistance, whereas Labor has proposed a clear and fair plan that supports all financially affected tenants and landlords.”
‘Close to the bone’ for China: Pauline Hanson
Canberra: One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has urged all Australians to “please buy other than Chinese made” products as trade becomes the latest hotbed issue between the two countries. On Monday, China gave Australia an ultimatum, threatening tariffs up to 80 per cent on grain if the federal government does not respond to allegations of "barley dumping" in 10 days.
The comments come after Chinese ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye warned Chinese consumers may boycott Australian products if the federal government goes ahead with its push for an independent, global investigations into the origins of COVID-19.
Ms Hanson told reporters Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus and Bejing's mishandling of it quite clearly cuts “close to the bone for China”. The Senator said Australia’s recent free trade deal – brokered in 2015 for a four year period – was “all in China’s interest”.
Labor accused NSW Govt of trying to hide state of finances
Sydney: The NSW treasurer is pushing to cease monthly updates of the state's finances during the pandemic.
Under NSW law the treasurer is required to publish monthly updates, but state Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is pushing against this during the coronavirus crisis.
The proposed change will form part of emergency legislation set to be debated in state parliament today.
The NSW Opposition has accused the government of deliberately trying to hide the state of NSW finances.
Trade tensions escalate as China delists Australian abattoirs
Canberra: Trade tensions with China are ramping up, with Beijing reportedly delisting four Australian abattoirs.
The regime imposed an import ban on four Australian abattoirs including three in Queensland and one in New South Wales - accounting for about 35 per cent of beef exports to China.
The move comes days after China threatened to impose significant tariffs on Australian barley.
The trade block is believed to be in retaliation to Australia’s push for an independent investigation into the origin of the coronavirus outbreak.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has expressed Australia's concern over China's decision to suspend imports from four Australian abattoirs in an escalation of trade tensions between the two nations.
Meanwhile, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is set to lay down Australia’s financial road back from the coronavirus crisis in parliament today.
$650 million recovery package for fire affected communities
Canberra: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has unveiled the distribution plan for the government’s $650 million recovery package for fire affected communities.
Speaking to the media, Mr Littleproud announced the “centrepiece” of the package comprised of close to $450 million directed toward “local economic recovery plans”.
Almost $150 million of the package would also be put toward rebuilding the habitat of local wildlife, whose homes were destroyed in Australia’s devastating bushfire season, in an effort to help them recover “along with the communities that support them”.
He said one of the most important aspects of the package was the $13 million put aside to provide mental health support for members of affected communities, and at least another $27 million to rebuild and improve telecommunications.
MR Hunt: Australia’s capacity has now been tripled.
Canberra: Australia is well placed to deal with any future COVID-19 outbreaks with Health Minister Greg Hunt confirming the benchmark ventilator capacity has been reached.
Health authorities had been hoping to boost Australia’s capacity to 7,500 ventilators to assist the nation in the fight against the virus. Mr Hunt said it means Australia’s capacity has now been tripled.
"One of the things that the PM focused on from the earliest time in the discussions with Brendan Murphy, the Chief Medical Officer, and Paul Kelly, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, was that ventilator capacity, that absolute passion that every Australian life mattered, that every Australian life would be given the shot at the best possible treatment,” he told reporters.
"So we’ve more than tripled our ventilator capacity at the same time as reducing the cases and flattening that curve."
The federal govt is seriously considering unwinding JobKeeper and JobSeeker
Canberra: The federal government is “seriously considering” winding back the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments from as early as July, Political Editor Andrew Clennell says.
Treasury is expected to review the programs in June and could see the payments scaled back in line with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s target to get Australians back to work by July. Mr Clennell said the decision could place more pressure on state governments to ease lockdown measures sooner.
“The federal govt is seriously considering unwinding JobKeeper and JobSeeker from as early as July when the target for lifting the COVID-19 restrictions.
"As I understand it, the Treasurer wouldn’t even need legislation to truncate the JobKeeper scheme, it could be done through the rules.”
It’s also understood the JobSeeker payment — which was doubled to aid unemployed workers during the pandemic — could see the rate gradually reduced instead of being halved overnight.
Albanese accused government of lacking an economic plan
Canberra: A road map to lift coronavirus-related restrictions may be in place, but Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has accused the federal government of lacking an economic plan to go with it.
On Tuesday when Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was due to release the federal budget, he will instead be delivering an economic statement to parliament.
The budget was put back to October when COVID-19 outbreak took hold.
That statement will come against the backdrop of the US reporting a massive spike in its unemployment rate to nearly 15 per cent in reaction to COVID-19 pandemic, the worst result since the Great Depression.
The Australian Treasury is predicting unemployment here will peak at 10 per cent, restrained by the $130 billion JobKeeper initiative.
'Just terrific' if students returned to school by late May, early June: Tehan
Canberra: Education Minister Dan Tehan says “it would just be terrific” if all students were able to return to face-to-face learning in schools by the end of May or beginning of June.
The first step of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s framework for easing restrictions across Australia included the return of all students to school. Mr Tehan told reporters after the prime minister’s announcement on Friday, “we have every state and territory committed to a plan to getting those students back into the classroom, except for Victoria”.
“As we have seen from all the studies and all the research the longer that, especially disadvantaged students, are away from the classroom sadly the bigger the harm to them in terms of their education and other welfare outcomes,” he said.
“The federal line has been consistent right the way through and that is that it is safe for children to be at school and it is safe for teachers to be at school with the right protocols in place.”
On-site auctions return to NSW
Sydney: In New South Wales, COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted on real estate, with house hunters finally given the green light to attend inspections in person.
Crowds of buyers have returned to auctions for the first time in weeks, snapping up Sydney properties against tough competition.