Scott Morrison to take part in ‘extraordinary’ G20 summit next week


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison will participate in an Extraordinary Leaders’ Summit of the G20 called for next week to discuss the international coronavirus crisis.

The teleconference has been convened by the Saudi G20 Presidency.

A statement from the presidency on Wednesday said the virtual G20 leaders summit aimed to “advance a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its human and economic implications.”

“The G20 will act, alongside international organisations, in any way deemed necessary to alleviate the impact of the pandemic.”

“G20 leaders will put forward a coordinated set of policies to protect people and safeguard the global economy,” the statement said.

It said the summit would build on the work of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, and health, trade, and foreign affairs officials to develop detailed actions needed.

Earlier Report:

Morrison government bans indoor gatherings of 100 people, and tells Australians ‘don’t go overseas’

The federal government’s new sweeping measures in the coronavirus crisis include a ban on non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 people or more, advice that no Australian should travel abroad, and strict restrictions on visitor access to aged care facilities.

The measures, announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison early Wednesday, take the battle to contain the spread of the virus to a new level but do not include the closure of the nation’s schools, or foreshadow a general community shutdown.

Morrison said the second stage economic package the government is now working on would be to “cushion” the impact of the measures put in place – it would focus on strengthening the “safety net” for individuals and small businesses.

He said there had been a big “gear change” at the weekend “when we were moving to far more widespread social distancing and bans on gatherings”.

Morrison berated hoarders in the strongest language. “Stop doing it. It’s ridiculous. It’s un-Australian[…]also, do not abuse staff. We’re all in this together. People are doing their jobs.”

“They’re doing their best, whether they’re at a testing clinic this morning, whether they’re at a shopping centre.”

Travel advice has been lifted to the highest level – which is unprecedented – with Australians, regardless of their destination, age or health, being told they should not travel overseas.

The new measures, which were approved late Tuesday night by the federal-state “national cabinet”, also include the cancellation of ANZAC Day events, which was mostly an endorsement of action already taken by the RSL. There will be a national service, but without a crowd. Small streamed ceremonies involving officials at state level may be held

“Life is changing in Australia, as it is changing all around the world,” Morrison told a Canberra news conference in which he and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy stood the required social distance apart.

“Life is going to continue to change,” he said, but he also stressed the need to keep the country operating.

Morrison emphasised that measures had to be for the long term because the crisis was set to last at least six months.

Murphy said “a short-term two to four week shut down of society is not recommended by any of our experts. It does not achieve anything. We have to be in this for the long haul.”

On the sensitive issue of the schools, on which there’s been a lot of pressure for closure, Morrison highlighted his own family.

“I am telling you that, as a father, I’m happy for my kids to go to school. There’s only one reason your kids shouldn’t be going to school and that is if they are unwell.”

The advice from health experts, and the view of the premiers and chief ministers has been that schools should be kept open. Morrison said that closure would mean a “30% impact on the availability of health workers.”

The government has also decided that 20,000 international student nurses who are in Australia will be able to stay to help with the local crisis.

Aged cared facilities will not ban visits but will put in place restrictions to protect residents, who form the most high risk portion of the population. Morrison, who recently lost his own father, said he knew these would be difficult for families.

Visits will be restricted to a maximum of two people at any one time a day and no large group visits or social activities will be allowed

There will be special arrangements for the families of end-of-life patients.

The human biosecurity emergency provision of the Biosecurity Act was put into force early Wednesday. This gives draconian powers to the federal government, and the action matches the state governments’ emergency declarations.

Morrison said the advice was that plane travel within the country did not present a high risk – the risk was where people had come from and were going to. People are told not to visit remote communities, to protect vulnerable indigenous citizens.

The ban on non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 excludes a range of places such as shopping centres; public transport; medical and healthcare facilities; office buildings; factories; construction sites, and mining sites.

States and territories are looking at rules for non-essential indoor gatherings of fewer than 100 people, such as cinemas, restaurants, clubs, weddings, and funerals. This will be considered when the national cabinet meets on Friday. There may be significant changes to the operation of these facilities, such as decreasing maximum capacity, or increasing space available.

The beleaguered aviation industry is being promised relief, with a waiver of fees and charges.

Both Morrison and Murphy strongly reinforced the need for “social distancing”

Murphy said “it is every individual Australian’s responsibility to practice good social distancing. Keep away from each other where possible. Practice really good hand hygiene.”

“No more handshaking. No more hugging – except in your family.”

So far, 80,000 tests have been conducted, and the government is sourcing further testing kits.

Full press release from The Prime Minister’s office can be read below

The focus for the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments is the health and wellbeing of Australians and their livelihoods, ensuring that Australia is positioned to emerge strong and resilient from this global pandemic crisis.

Leaders met last night for the second National Cabinet meeting and agreed to further actions to protect the Australian community from the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

General Population – Indoor Gatherings

As part of our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Australia, the National Cabinet has accepted further restrictions on gatherings.

The National Cabinet has accepted the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advice that non-essential indoor gatherings of greater than 100 people (including staff) will no longer be permitted from Wednesday 18 March 2020.

An indoor gathering refers to a gathering within a single enclosed area (i.e. an area, room or premises that is or are substantially enclosed by a roof and walls, regardless of whether the roof or walls or any part of them are permanent, temporary, open or closed).

This does not apply to essential activities such as public transportation facilities, medical and health care facilities, pharmacies, emergency service facilities, correctional facilities, youth justice centres or other places of custody, courts or tribunals, Parliaments, food markets, supermarkets and grocery stores, shopping centres, office buildings, factories, construction sites, and mining sites, where it is necessary for their normal operation (although other social distancing and hygiene practices may be required in these settings).
The states and territories will give further consideration to practical guidance and rules for non-essential indoor gatherings of fewer than 100 people (including staff) such as cinemas, theatres, restaurants/cafes, pubs, clubs, weddings and funerals. This will be considered at the next National Cabinet meeting on Friday 20 March 2020. In the meantime these venues should continue to apply social distancing and hygiene practices.

This includes being able to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres between patrons.
Hand hygiene products and suitable waste receptacles need to be available, with frequent cleaning and waste disposal.

This may require significant changes to the operation of some venues, such as reducing the maximum capacity or increasing the space available.

Settings like gyms, indoor fitness centres and swimming pools are not required to close at this time providing they meet these requirements for social distancing and hand hygiene. Such venues should take actions to ensure regular high standards of environmental cleaning take place.

General Population – Outdoor Gatherings

Outdoor events of fewer than 500 attendees may proceed. There are general measures that all events should follow, including:

In a given occupied space, there must be no more than one person per four square metres of ground space.

Availability of hand hygiene products and suitable waste receptacles, with frequent cleaning and waste disposal.

Food markets are exempt from the 500 person limit, however must undertake additional measures, such as control of patronage level numbers or stall density reduction to decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

There may be other gatherings that are considered essential and it is at the discretion of the individual state and territory Chief Medical Officers or equivalent to assess each on their merits, and determine whether they can continue if mitigated by social distancing measures.

Domestic Transport

National Cabinet agreed that all Australians should only consider travelling when it is essential. If unwell, people must stay at home, unless seeking medical care.

National Cabinet agreed that public transport is essential and that AHPPC advice should apply in relation to public transport (trains, trams, buses, ferries), taxi and ride share vehicles and transport of vulnerable populations, with particular attention given to cleaning and hygiene.

National Cabinet agreed that domestic air travel is low risk. The issue of where people are travelling to and sensitive locations where travel should be restricted, will be developed with advice of states and territories.

The National Cabinet will further consider social distancing arrangements for domestic transport at its next meeting on Friday 20 March 2020.

In all cases, appropriate social distancing and hygiene practices should be applied.

Anzac Day

Anzac Day is an important commemoration where we demonstrate our respect and admiration for Anzacs past and present. But the way we commemorate Anzac Day this year will need to change.

The National Cabinet has agreed that Anzac Day ceremonies and events should be cancelled due to the high proportion of older Australians who attend such events and the increased risk posed to such individuals. A small streamed/filmed ceremony involving officials at a state level may be acceptable. There should be no marches.

All Australian-led international Anzac Day Services will be cancelled for 2020 given international travel restrictions and restrictions on public gatherings.

The Australian War Memorial will aim to conduct a national televised Dawn Service with no general public attendance.

State and Territory Governments and the RSLs will work together on local community arrangements to commemorate Anzac Day.

Recommendation on bulk purchase of supplies

The National Cabinet has strongly endorsed the AHPPC advice against the bulk purchase of foods, medicines and other goods.

We strongly discourage the panic purchase of food and other supplies. While some advice has been provided to have a small addition of long shelf life products in the case of illness there are a range of mechanisms in place to support people in self-isolation, including food and other deliveries. AHPPC notes that the risk of individual Australians being asked to quarantine in coming weeks is low, and encourages individuals to plan with friends and family in the event of the need to isolate. We recognise the importance of supply lines to remote communities.

Aged Care and Older Australians

As the transmission of COVID-19 increases rapidly, it is our priority to protect and support elderly and vulnerable Australians. Aged care is a critical sector that faces staffing challenges as existing staff are either subject to self-isolation requirements due to COVID-19 or are unable to attend work.

The National Cabinet has agreed to the recommendations by the AHPPC to enhanced arrangements to protect older Australians in Residential Aged Care Facilities and in the community

Restrictions on entry into aged care facilities

The following visitors and staff (including visiting workers) should not be permitted to enter the facility:

Those who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days;
Those who have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days;
Those with fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath); and
Those who have not been vaccinated against influenza (after 1 May)
Visitors

Aged care facilities should implement the following measures for restricting visits and visitors to reduce the risk of transmission to residents, including:

Limiting visits to a short duration;
Limiting visits to a maximum of two immediate social supports (family members, close friends) or professional service or advocacy at one time, per day;
Visits should be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors, or in a specific area designated by the aged care facility, rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission to residents is greater;
No large group visits or gatherings, including social activities or entertainment, should be permitted at this time;
No school groups of any size should be allowed to visit aged care facilities.
Visitors should also be encouraged to practise social distancing practices where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.
Children aged 16 years or less must be permitted only by exception, as they are generally unable to comply with hygiene measures. Exemptions can be assessed on a case-by-case basis, for example, where the resident is in a palliative care scenario.
Measures such as phone or video calls must be accessible to all residents to enable more regular communication with family members. Family and friends should be encouraged to maintain contact with residents by phone and other social communication apps, as appropriate.
Managing illness in visitors and staff

Aged care facilities should advise all regular visitors and staff to be vigilant for illness and use hygiene measures including social distancing, and to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, specifically fever and acute respiratory illness. They should be instructed to stay away when unwell, for their own and residents’ protection.

Given the high vulnerability of this particular group, aged care facilities should request that staff and visitors provide details on their current health status, particularly presentation of symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Screening for fever could also be considered upon entry.

These additional measures should be implemented in order to better protect residents and prompt individuals entering the aged care facility to consider their current state of health prior to entry. Both individuals and management need to take responsibility for the health of visitors and staff at facilities to protect our most vulnerable community members.

These are the recommendations of the AHPPC, individual facilities may choose to implement additional measures as they see fit for their circumstances.

Symptomatic staff

Staff should be made aware of early signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Any staff with fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath) should be excluded from the workplace and tested for COVID-19. Staff must report their symptoms to the aged care facility.

Further information is available at: https://www.health.gov.au/committees-and-groups/australian-health-protection-principal-committee-ahppc

Schools

The National Cabinet has accepted the advice of the AHPPC that schools should remain open at this time.

Specifically the National Cabinet has agreed that “pre-emptive closures are not proportionate or effective as a public health intervention to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 at this time.”

National Cabinet also noted AHPPC advice that “More than 70 countries around the world have implemented either nationwide or localised school closures, at different times in the evolution of the local COVID-19 epidemic, however it should be noted the majority of these have not been successful in controlling the outbreak. Some of these countries are now considering their position in relation to re-opening schools.”

Boarding schools

The National Cabinet noted that boarding schools are “at high risk of transmission” and encouraged boarding schools and parents to “consider the risks versus the benefits of a student remaining in boarding school”.

Universities and other higher education centres

_The National Cabinet accepted the advice that university and higher education “should continue at this time” with risk mitigation measures, including working from home arrangements where effective. As with boarding schools, group student accommodation “presents a higher risk” that warrants consideration of “closing or reducing accommodation densities” if risk mitigation is not possible. _

Community Sport

The National Cabinet accepted advice from the AHPPC that community sporting activities could continue with involvement from essential participants (players, coaches, match officials, staff and volunteers involved in operations, and parents and guardians of participants).

This advice follows ongoing consultation with sporting organisations which has resulted in guidelines being prepared for community sporting organisations. The guidelines provide relevant advice on change room access, physical contact, travel, and social distancing and hygiene practices.

Furthermore, it has been acknowledged that contact sports have a greater risk of transmission than other sports, and as such, should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

All sporting codes should seek public health advice applicable to their codes, and take into account outdoor mass gathering issues.

Further work on Indigenous and NDIS Australia

Further work will be progressed by Friday 20 March 2020 and will include additional support for vulnerable Australians including indigenous communities and NDIS participants.

The Department of Social Services (DSS), National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission) are working together in preparation to respond to COVID-19 and its impact on the NDIS.

Additional measures

Commonwealth emergency powers

The National Cabinet noted that Commonwealth, States and Territories were implementing emergency powers under respective legislation in order to be able to deal with the spread of COVID-19 as quickly and flexibly as possible.

The Governor-General has accepted the Commonwealth Government’s recommendation that he declare a “human biosecurity emergency” under the Biosecurity Act 2015 given the risks COVID-19 poses to human health and the need to control its spread in Australia.

That declaration would allow the Health Minister to issue targeted, legally enforceable directions and requirements to combat the virus.

The declaration was recommended by the Chief Medical Officer in his capacity as the Director of Human Biosecurity.

The first emergency requirement that will be made under the declaration is to formally prohibit international cruise ships from entering Australian ports for an initial 30 days, which provides additional legal support for the decision announced on Sunday 15 March 2020.

Additional Support for International Student Nurses

The Commonwealth Government will relax international student nurse visa work conditions to provide workforce continuity for aged care facilities, home care providers and other health care workers. This will allow international student nurses and other aged care workers to work more than the 40 hours a fortnight that they are currently. This measure will be examined on an ongoing basis. There are currently around 900 approved providers of residential aged care employers and around 1,000 approved providers of Home Care Packages. There are currently around 20,000 international student nurses studying in Australia.

Level 4 Travel restrictions – Do Not Travel

The National Security Committee of Cabinet has decided to raise the advice for all overseas travel to the highest level. Our advice to all Australians – regardless of your destination, age or health – is do not travel overseas at this time.

This our highest travel advice setting – Level 4 of 4.

The decision reflects the gravity of the international situation arising from the COVID-19 outbreak, the risks to health and the high likelihood of major travel disruptions.

We also now advise Australians who are overseas who wish to return to Australia, to do so as soon as possible by commercial means. Commercial options may quickly become limited.

Anyone arriving in Australia from overseas, including Australians citizens and permanent residents, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days from the date of arrival.

We have issued this advice for several reasons:

There may be a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 overseas.
Health care systems in some countries may come under strain and may not be as well-equipped as Australia’s or have the capacity to support foreigners.
Overseas travel has become complex and unpredictable. Many countries are introducing entry or movement restrictions. These are changing often and quickly, and your travel plans could be disrupted.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will do what it can to provide consular advice and assistance, but DFAT’s capacity to do so may be limited by local restrictions on movement, and the scale of the challenges posed by COVID-19. These challenges vary and the situation is changing rapidly.

Australians who cannot, or do not want to, return home should follow the advice of local authorities and minimise their risk of COVID-19 exposure by self-isolating.

Aviation Industry Support

The Commonwealth Government has announced an aviation package for the refunding and ongoing waiving of a range Government charges on the industry including aviation fuel excise, Airservices charges on domestic airline operations and domestic and regional aviation security charges.

These measures are in response to unprecedented and likely sustained period of falling international and domestic aviation demand related to the impact of COVID-19.

The total cost of the measures are estimated to be $715 million, with an upfront estimated benefit of $159 million to our airlines for reimbursement of applicable charges paid by domestic airlines since 1 February 2020.

The National Cabinet expressed their thanks to Australia’s world-class health professionals for their continued efforts in restricting the spread of the virus and saving lives.

Leaders also thanked all Australians for playing their part in following the health guidance and complying with the strong measures in place to respond to COVID-19.

Leaders called on the community to remain calm. While there have been some temporary, localised food and grocery distribution delays, there are sufficient stocks in Australia. Violent or anti-social behaviour would not be tolerated.

As a National Cabinet, we will continue to come together as a united team to ensure our collective response remains proactive and targeted, but we all have a responsibility to each other in protecting our community.

All Australians must continue to be vigilant and play their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect vulnerable members of our community, including the elderly.

The National Cabinet urged Australians to continue to adhere to the health guidance on hygiene and personal social distancing, including avoiding any non-essential travel. Leaders also acknowledged the many businesses that have stepped up and allowed staff to work from home where practical. These early actions are critical in delaying the peak of the outbreak and ensuring our health system response remains strong.

The Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, provided the National Cabinet with an overview of the current situation in Australia and overseas. The National Cabinet noted the continued development of international responses. Australia, like many other nations, is seeing an increase in community transmission. We are one of the best prepared nations and we remain united, focussed and ready to respond to any sustained escalation.

The National Cabinet also considered the Chief Medical Officer’s advice on rates of community testing. More than 80,000 tests have already been undertaken in Australia. Further testing stocks have been secured and the Doherty Institute in Melbourne has developed an alternative testing process. This ensures Australia has a diverse range of tests and can protect supply of testing in the event there is a shortage in materials or components of some testing kits.

All Australians should continue to closely follow the expert medical advice – and ensure testing is only sought for COVID-19 where it meets the relevant clinical criteria. As we enter the colder months there may be a number of other viruses that enter our community, so there is a need to prioritise testing of people.

The National Cabinet noted that in order to protect older Australians and vulnerable communities in the weeks and months ahead, Australia may see even more restrictions put on social movements. We need all Australians to please look out for each other and to follow the medical advice.

The National Cabinet will be meeting again on Friday 20 March 2020 to discuss implementation arrangements for indoor gatherings and domestic transport.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Morrison, compassion and coronavirus: when crisis refines leadership


Sen Sendjaya, Swinburne University of Technology; Mulyadi Robin, Alphacrucis College, and Nathan Eva, Monash University

News that the Morrison government paid A$190,000 last year for advice on how to empathise with the Australian people was met with ridicule.

Yet it might be worth the money.

In late January, Morrison was continually criticised for appearing to lack compassion over the bushfires.

He himself said, “there are things I could have handed on the ground much better”.

There are signs he has taken that to heart during the coronavirus outbreak.




Read more:
Mr Morrison, I lost my home to bushfire. Your thoughts and prayers are not enough


He has acknowledged unknowns and people’s fear of the unknown, and used inclusive language along the lines of, “together we will get through this”.

It’s been more than getting the narrative right. We’ve seen capable and compassionate leadership, even “servant leadership”.

Problems, not projects, make leaders. Real leaders faced with real problems put their followers before themselves.

Servant leadership works

Research shows that “servant leaders” make good leaders.

Their stories explain the success of many of the Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, including Zappos.com, Marriot International, and TDIndustries.

In a recently published state-of-the-art review of servant leadership, we argue that servant leadership makes sense empirically, financially and psychologically.

Our review of 285 studies on servant leadership in 39 countries finds the approach creates better leader-follower relationships, in turn boosting performance metrics including employee satisfaction and well being, commitment, and innovation.

It can help in the polls

It is probably why we react positively in the polls when our political leaders show compassion.

The latest Newspoll suggests his approach to the coronavirus has done him no harm.

Financially, servant leadership is a worthwhile investment because it is correlated with individual, team, and organisational performance better than other forms of leadership.

Psychologically, it helps individuals shift from a concern for themselves towards a concern for others, creating a culture of service.

Servant leadership is made up of six dimensions that can be applied on a daily basis:

It is a common misconception that in times of crisis we need leaders with a command-and-control and domineering approach, and those who demonstrate compassion will be seen as weak.

Compassion needs genuine strength

The truth is that being compassionate does not signal weakness, inferiority, or a lack of self-respect.

On the contrary, only those with a secure sense of self, strength of character, and psychological maturity are able to put aside themselves and instead serve others in times of crisis.

Being compassionate isn’t easy, as Morrison knows.

But it’s never too late to start.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Morrison looks to his messaging on coronavirus and climate


The Conversation


Sen Sendjaya, Professor of Leadership, Swinburne University of Technology; Mulyadi Robin, Senior Lecturer, Alphacrucis College, and Nathan Eva, Senior Lecturer, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Scott Morrison announces mandatory self-isolation for all overseas arrivals and gives up shaking hands


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy was still shaking hands on Sunday morning. But when that afternoon Scott Morrison announced the latest coronavirus measures, including compulsory self-isolation for overseas arrivals, the Prime Minister said he and other cabinet members wouldn’t be shaking hands anymore.

Only on Friday Morrison had been thrusting his hand at a notably wary Gladys Berejiklian.

Confusing signals.

On the other hand, this isn’t just a fast-moving situation, but one in which even experts have differing takes (the advice from the federal-state medical officers panel may be unanimous but it’s understood there are disputes in their deliberations), and politicians struggle with responses, even as they follow the medical recommendations. For example, the NSW government has appeared more forward-leaning than the feds.

While members of the public understandably seek certainty, on some fronts there will be no absolutes, just scales of assessment, probability, and risk.

That’s not to say the federal government should not have been clearer at times, and its mass media advertising campaign, which started at the weekend, was inexplicably slow to materialise.

The Australian tally of cases approached 300 and the death toll rose to five at the weekend. Only history will show definitely whether Murphy and the government are right in their claims Australia is keeping “ahead of the curve”, or the critics vindicated in arguing it is behind it.

Morrison in particular has wanted to put the most optimistic gloss on things, not least because he hoped to minimise economic disruption. Despite the constant flow of news conferences over recent weeks, the government avoided dwelling on how bad things could get.




Read more:
Morrison’s coronavirus package is a good start, but he’ll probably have to spend more


By Sunday Morrison’s tone had changed. He had a graph to illustrate the need to flatten the curve of infection to enable the health system (notably the intensive care facilities) to cope. “Slowing the spread, you free up the beds,” he said.


Federal Department of Health

Stark and unfolding realities were starting to prevail – though not entirely – over the prime ministerial desire to keep the lines upbeat.

And compulsion and the law were replacing choice and advice, in the measures Morrison outlined following Sunday’s meetings of cabinet’s national security committee and the new “national cabinet” of federal and state leaders (and after Morrison spoke at the weekend with Britain’s Boris Johnson and New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern).

Like New Zealand, Australia will now insist all arrivals self-isolate for a fortnight. The only exceptions will be Pacific Islanders who are transiting to their home countries. Morrison said this measure would be effective in “flattening the curve”.

As foreign travellers dry up, most incoming traffic will be Australians returning home.

Foreign cruise ships are to be stopped from arriving for 30 days in what will be a rolling ban.

The cessation of non-essential gatherings of 500 or more has moved from advice on Friday to a formal prohibition, which will be backed by state law. Morrison flagged the threshold could soon be lowered.

On the enforcement side he said: “the states and territories wisely are not going to create event police or social distancing police … But the legislation impact would mean that if a person did fail to observe the 14 day self-isolation or if an event was organised, that would be contrary, once those provisions are put in place, to state law”.

Berejiklian was quick to say NSW already had the powers to enforce self-isolation, emphasising what was involved “is a matter of life and death”. This recalled her strong language of a few days ago when she said the situation was “not business as usual”.

Work is underway on restrictions on visits to nursing homes and arrangements for indigenous communities as well as further restrictions on enclosed gatherings, which is likely to cut the 500 number. The “national cabinet” will review the position on Tuesday night.




Read more:
VIDEO: your coronavirus and COVID-19 questions answered by experts


As for federal cabinet, it will be “social distancing” with “no more handshakes”, more meetings by video conferences, and less travelling. Morrison has already cancelled some engagements.

So far schools generally are not being closed (though some individual schools are shutting down). It’s said closing schools could promote community transmission, with children out and about. Many would be left with grandparents who would be in the most vulnerable age group. Also, if parents had to stay at home to care for their kids, this could deplete the health work force.

But the question of schools remains in the frame.

Arrangements for next week’s parliament are still being worked on, and the presiding officers have had talks with Murphy. The sitting is likely to be kept as short as needed to get through the legislation necessary for last week’s $17.6 billion stimulus package.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese in his Sunday night national address promised “a spirit of bipartisanship. We will be constructive. We will support the government to protect the health of Australians, but also to protect their jobs and our economy.”

The package was all about trying to head off a recession by keeping growth positive in the June quarter. As things are going, that looks like it could require a miracle as well as the package. Many small businesses will collapse, despite the help the government is offering.

Almost certainly, a lot more stimulus will be needed, with the question only the amount.

But a measure of how deep the crisis is becoming is that at the moment, the national conversation is mostly about health, not economics.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Coronavirus hits at the heart of Morrison’s government, with Peter Dutton infected



David Gray/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It was a sensational day in the ever-escalating coronavirus story, with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Friday testing positive for COVID-19 and admitted to hospital.

Meanwhile, sporting and other organisations prepared for massive changes, after the government’s announcement of the latest moves to try to contain the spread of the virus.

In a sweeping set of measures, based on medical advice and unveiled by Prime Minister Scott Morrison following a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), organisations have been advised against mass gatherings of 500 people or more, a national cabinet of federal and state leaders is being formed, and Australians are being told not to travel abroad unless they really need to.

The revelation about Dutton – who recently visited the United States – threw the Prime Minister’s Office into a spin. Dutton had attended cabinet on Tuesday. Did this mean he could have infected the whole upper echelon of the government as a job lot?

Well, no, came the word from the PMO. The medical advice was that only people who’d had close contact with Dutton in the 24 hours before he showed symptoms needed to self-isolate.

The latest indication is the Prime Minister doesn’t plan to be tested, because he doesn’t need to be. But don’t take that for gospel. Everything can change in a few hours. For example, on Friday afternoon Morrison was proposing to go to the football on Saturday; on Friday night he wasn’t.

The coronavirus crisis is moving so fast that by Friday, the government’s $17.6 billion stimulus package, critically important though it is, seemed very much Thursday’s news.




Read more:
Viral spiral: the federal government is playing a risky game with mixed messages on coronavirus


On Friday morning, praise for the government’s handling of the crisis suddenly seemed to be changing into criticism, with attention shifting sharply from economics to health and questions mounting. Why was it so tardy with its advertising campaign? Where was the “clear plan” it said it had to deal with the virus and was it adequate?

By mid-afternoon Friday – and a few hours after the Melbourne Grand Prix was cancelled – the dramatic new stage of the fight against COVID-19 started to unfold.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the “national cabinet” – a sort of health war cabinet – has no precedent in Australian history. To meet weekly from Sunday, it is a too-rare example of the federation working at its best, across state boundaries and party lines. In this highly complex situation, maximum co-ordination of effort and resources is vital.

The advice on mass gatherings – to apply from Monday – had seemed inevitable sooner or later. Critics were saying it should have been already in place. It is not a formal ban, but that’s unlikely to be necessary. What organisation would fly in the face of the recommendation?

Both Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy were at pains to say this action was being taken early, to keep ahead of the rapidly evolving situation.

“This is a scalable response,” said Morrison. “What we’re doing here is taking an abundance-of-caution approach”.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy on COVID-19


“What we’re seeking to do is lower the level of overall risk and at the same time ensure that we minimise any broader disruption that is not necessary at this stage.”

“There is every reason for calm,” he insisted, even as the general community becomes, understandably, increasingly alarmed.

Earlier Morrison told Alan Jones: “I think it’s important for our economy and just our general well-being … that people sort of get on about their lives, you know, ‘keep calm and carry on’ is the saying.”

The government cannot avoid the inherent conflict between the duelling imperatives of health considerations and economic ones.

The greater the restrictions, even voluntary ones, on activity, the worse for the economy.

Some people might have spent at least part of their $750 cash handout from the stimulus on attending sporting events and the like.

More generally, while ramping up the protection measures is designed to make people not just safer but also feel safer, it equally could make them more anxious.

That could not just be a disincentive for individuals to spend their handouts, but also discourage businesses from buying new equipment, or even hanging onto workers, despite the encouragement they are being given.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Will many people be too worried to spend the cash splashed their way?


The attempt to contain the spread of the virus for as long as possible is vital for the health system. An early big surge could overwhelm the intensive care facilities, which will cope much better if admissions are stretched over an extended period.

But for the economy, extending the duration in this manner worsens the impact.

This is an indication of the “wicked problem” the coronavirus is. Every policy response may produce some negative reactions, as well as the desired ones.

On some fronts the governments are trying to hold the line. They are not, for example, recommending schools or universities shut. A distinction is being made between “non-essential” gatherings and essential activities, like going to school or work.

In practice schools – which come under state responsibility – are shutting down on an individual basis for varying lengths of time when cases of the virus are discovered.

The Dutton diagnosis has raised the question the government hasn’t wanted to confront – how the parliament handles the outbreak when it spreads to one of its own.

Parliament resumes the week after next, with the priority to pass the legislation for the stimulus. It then adjourns until the May budget.

Asked on Friday about the implications of the “mass gatherings” edict for parliament, Morrison said parliament fell into the “essential” category but he flagged that visitors to the public galleries might be banned.

At that stage, Dutton’s illness had not become public.

It should be remembered that parliament doesn’t just belong to the government – making the question of its coming sittings still a live issue.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The coronavirus stimulus program is Labor’s in disguise, as it should be


John Quiggin, The University of Queensland

The spread of the coronavirus has brought us all face to face with the remorseless logic of exponential growth. A handful of cases has turned into dozens, then hundreds, then thousands.

If current attempts at containment fail, we can expect many millions of cases around the world.




Read more:
One word repeated 9 times explains why the Reserve Bank cut: it’s ‘coronavirus’


The government’s economic policy response reflects this dawning reality. The exponential growth of the virus has been matched by growth in the magnitude and scope of the required response.

While the virus was developing in China, and even in the midst of the bushfire crisis, the government was insisting that its wafer-thin surplus would be delivered as promised.

Denial for a while…

Even after it became evident that the budget would be in deficit and the economy close to recession (at least in terms of the widely-used “two quarters of negative growth” criterion), the government’s primary concern was to avoid validating the Rudd government’s response to the global financial crisis.

Estimates of a package of A$2 to $5 billion were leaked, with a strong emphasis on a modest and targeted response, confined to specific sectors such as tourism. The universities, seen as tribal enemies by many in the government, got no sympathy.




Read more:
Morrison’s coronavirus package is a good start, but he’ll probably have to spend more


Rather than being treated an export earner in trouble, universities were blamed for relying too much on the Chinese market. The idea of boosting Newstart and other welfare payments was dismissed out of hand.

As the package developed, the power of the “go hard, go early, go household” logic that drove the 2008 response of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasury Secretary Ken Henry became evident.

…then a focus on what might work

The figure being bandied about rose to $10 billion, and the government’s attempts at product differentiation became ever feebler.

This stimulus, it was claimed, would rely on existing programs (an attempt to keep faith with the spurious attacks on Rudd programs like the school-hall focused Building the Education Revolution).

It would be wound down as soon as the crisis was over (something Rudd’s treasurer Wayne Swan spent years trying and failing to do).

Now we have the announcement of a nearly $18 billion package which is virtually a repeat of Labor’s response to the global financial crisis.

The central elements are a cash handout aimed at sustaining consumer demand, and broad measures to stimulate investment.

Allowing for inflation and population growth, the almost $18 billion cost of this package is very similar to the $10 billion cost of the Rudd government’s first stimulus. It’s highly likely that, as in the GFC, more will be needed in future.

Those numbers doesn’t take account of the impact of the crisis on tax revenues and unemployment benefits.

It is highly likely that the economic aftershocks will be felt for years to come, and to me, it seems possible the impact on the budget may be well over $100 billion by the time Australia recovers.

There’ll be lessons when this is over

The remaining targeted measures to assist specific sectors like tourism have their parallel in the Rudd government’s rescue of the car finance industry through the Ozcar scheme, which gave rise to the (then) infamous “Utegate” scandal.

Looking ahead, the crisis response should kill off not only the idea that a surplus is the hallmark of responsible economic management, but also the absurdity of extending the standard four-year forward estimates period to ten-year projections, which formed the basis of tax cuts legislated years ahead of time.




Read more:
When it comes to sick leave, we’re not much better prepared for coronavirus than the US


As the current crisis and the global financial crisis have shown, even an annual budget can be derailed by an unforeseen shock. Attempting to fix policies ten years in advance is a fools’ errand.

More broadly, this is yet another instance in which policies influenced by the market ideology that took hold in the 1970s has damaged us.

The economic impacts of coronavirus will be made worse by the casualisation of the workforce and the decades-long freeze on Newstart and other welfare payments.

A modern society can only function properly with a strong government and a commitment to looking after everybody. Perhaps the enforced isolation we are likely to face in the coming months will give us time to rethink.The Conversation

John Quiggin, Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

More ‘sports rort’ questions for Morrison after Bridget McKenzie speaks out


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison is facing new questioning over the sports rorts affair, after former cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie issued a statement denying she had made last-minute changes to a list of grants.

Evidence to a Senate estimate committee from the Audit Office this week reinforced allegations the Prime Minister’s Office – which exchanged numerous emails with McKenzie’s office during the $100 million grants process – was more deeply involved than Morrison has admitted. He has sought to portray its role as just passing on representations.

McKenzie, then sports minister and the decision-maker for the program, signed off on a list of grants on April 4 2019, and she sent this to the Prime Minister’s Office on April 10.

But in an email from McKenzie’s office to Sport Australia early on April 11, the day the election was called, one project was taken off the list and one added. According to the Audit Office’s evidence, this change was at the request of the PMO. This email was sent minutes after the parliament was dissolved.

Several hours later, with the government in caretaker mode, one project was removed and nine added, in another email from McKenzie’s office to Sport Australia. The Audit evidence about these was that “none were evident as being at the request of the Prime Minister’s Office rather than the minister’s office”.

In her statement, McKenzie said she had “become aware” through the Senate estimates process this week “of changes made to a Ministerial decision brief that I signed in Canberra on 4 April 2019” for the final round of the program.

“The brief authorised approved projects for the third round – this included nine new and emerging projects which, it must be emphasised, had been identified and sent to Sport Australia in March for assessment in line with program guidelines.

“I did not make any changes or annotations to this brief or its attachments after 4 April 2019. My expectation was that the brief would be processed in a timely and appropriate manner,” she said.

“Nevertheless, changes were made and administrative errors occurred in processing the brief.

“I have always taken responsibility for my actions and decisions as a Minister, and this includes actions by my office.

“I was the Minister for Sport and therefore ultimately and entirely responsible for funding decisions that were signed off under my name, including and regrettably, any changes that were made unbeknown to me.”

When a reporter tried to ask Morrison about the McKenzie statement at his Friday news conference, which was about the coronavirus, he cut her off before she could get her words out. He finished the news conference without taking questions on general issues.

McKenzie is due to appear before the Senate committee that is examining the sports rorts affair.

The Audit Office found she had allocated grants on a politically skewed basis, but she and Morrison have always defended the substance of the decisions made.

She was forced to resign from cabinet on the more technical ground she did not declare her membership of sporting organisations that benefited from the scheme. It is well known she feels badly done by, because it was clear Morrison wanted her resignation to try to limit the political damage of the affair.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Gaetjens criticises McKenzie’s handling of grants decisions, but defends his finding funding wasn’t politically biased


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The secretary of the Prime Minister’s department, Phil Gaetjens, has criticised “significant shortcomings” in Bridget McKenzie’s decision-making in the sports rorts affair, while outlining his argument that her allocation of grants was not politically biased.

Gaetjens has made his first public comments in a submission to the Senate inquiry set up to investigate the affair, which cost McKenzie her cabinet job and the deputy leadership of the Nationals.

The government has been under intense pressure to release his report, commissioned by Scott Morrison, which was used to determine McKenzie’s fate. Gaetjens, a one-time chief of staff to Morrison, exonerated her from any breach of ministerial standards on the substance of her decisions but found she had breached them by not disclosing membership of gun organisations.

While his report remains confidential Gaetjens has set out his findings in detail, which were at odds with the Audit Office conclusion the allocation of grants had a political bias.

At a bureaucratic level, the sports affair has become something of a head-to-head between the Auditor-General and the country’s most senior bureaucrat.

Gaetjens says in his submission his advice to Morrison was based on information from Sport Australia, McKenzie, and her staff.

He says there were “some significant shortcomings” in McKenzie’s decision-making role, as well as in the way Sport Australia administered the assessment process.

These included “the lack of transparency for applicants around the other factors being considered, and the disconnect between the assessment process run by Sport Australia and the assessment and decision-making process in the Minister’s Office”.

“This lack of transparency, coupled with the significant divergences between projects recommended by Sport Australia and those approved by the Minister have given rise to concerns about the funding decision-making,” he says.

“The discrepancy between the number of applications recommended by Sport Australia and the final list of approved applications clearly shows the Minister’s Office undertook a separate and non-transparent process in addition to the assessment by Sport Australia”.

Gaetjens says McKenzie informed him her approvals were designed to get “a fair spread of grants according to state, region, party, funding stream and sport, in addition to the criteria assessed by Sport Australia”.

He rejects the Audit claim McKenzie’s approach was based on the much talked about spreadsheet of November 2018 that was colour coded according to party, and says she told him she had never seen that spreadsheet.

“The ANAO Report … asserts that the Adviser’s spreadsheet is evidence that ‘the Minister’s Office had documented the approach that would be adopted to selecting successful applicants’ before funding decisions were made. However, there is persuasive data that backs up the conclusion that the Minister’s decisions to approve grants were not based on the Adviser’s spreadsheet,” Gaetjens writes.

The evidence included the significant length of time between the spreadsheet and the approvals. Also, 30% of the applications listed as successful on the adviser’s spreadsheet did not get funding approval .

“So, on the evidence available to me, there is a material divergence between actual outcomes of all funded projects and the approach identified in the Adviser’s spreadsheet. This does not accord with the ANAO Report”, which found funding reflected the political approach documented by McKenzie’s office.

Gaetjens says had McKenzie just followed Sport Australia’s initial list, 30 electorates would have got no grants. In the final wash up only five missed out (no applications had come from three of them).

“I did not find evidence that the separate funding approval process conducted in the Minister’s office was unduly influenced by reference to ‘marginal’ or ‘targeted’ electorates. Evidence provided to me indicated that the Adviser’s spreadsheet was developed by one member of staff in the Minister’s Office, using information provided by Sport Australia in September 2018, as a worksheet to support an increase in funding for the Program.

“Senator McKenzie advised me in response to a direct question that she had never seen the Adviser’s spreadsheet and that neither she nor her staff based their assessments on it.

“Her Chief of Staff also told the Department of the Prime Minster and Cabinet that the Adviser had categorically stated she had not shown the spreadsheet to the Minister.”

Rejecting the Audit Office conclusion of a bias to marginal and targeted seats, Gaetjens says “180 ‘marginal’ and ‘targeted’ projects were recommended by Sport Australia, and 229 were ultimately approved by the Minister, representing a 27 per cent increase. This is smaller than the percentage increase of projects recommended (325) to projects funded (451) in non-marginal or non-targeted seats which was 39 per cent.”

“The evidence I have reviewed does not support the suggestion that political considerations were the primary determining factor in the Minister’s decisions to approve the grants”. So he had concluded she did not breach the section of the ministerial standard requiring fairness, Gaetjens writes.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.