Mon, 25 May 2020 - 14:18

Q&As from Bradfield Telephone Town Hall (19 May 2020)

Q. What is the Government doing to support the ABC?

A. Over this triennium, the ABC will receive $3.2 billion, and a further $43.7 million to continue the enhanced news gathering measure, supporting local and regional news. This investment by the Government gives the ABC more financial certainty than any other media organisation in the nation. Decisions as to how funding is allocated are a matter for ABC board and management.

Q. What is the Government doing to support those working in the Arts industry through the COVID-19 pandemic?

A. The Government is delivering substantial economic support across the economy, which many workers and organisations in the cultural and creative sector will be able to draw on. Under the JobKeeper payment, the Government is providing $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee for eligible businesses and the self-employed. People who are not eligible for JobKeeper may apply for JobSeeker. JobSeeker with the Coronavirus supplement of $550 per fortnight is around 70 per cent of the national median total income for artists.

The Government estimates that the combined impact of JobKeeper, JobSeeker and other support measures will be to provide an injection of between $4 and $10 billion into the cultural and creative sector.

There is a range of other whole-of-government assistance that may also be accessible to organisations in the cultural and creative sector. This includes:

  • Cash flow assistance for small and medium businesses and not-for-profits,
  • An increase to the instant asset write-off threshold,
  • A temporary increase to the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and the time companies have to respond,
  • The Government may guarantee 50 per cent of new unsecured loans to small and medium businesses
  • Temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent because of COVID-19.
  • Not-for-profit arts organisations may also be eligible for Deductible Gift Recipient status, and those that are registered as charities may be eligible for Income Tax exemptions, Goods and Services Tax concessions, and Fringe Benefits Tax rebates and exemptions.

A $27 million targeted support package is also being provided for areas of the cultural and creative sector identified as being most affected by COVID-19, with financial support immediately available to Indigenous art centres, regional arts and the live music and performance industry.

Additionally, both the Australia Council and the Office for the Arts are being as flexible as possible in providing reporting and other grant condition relief to organisations with existing Australian Government funding arrangements.

Q. I’ve been having trouble with my mobile and internet connection. When will this be fixed?

A. I’m sorry to hear you have been having poor mobile and internet coverage.

In the first instance, it is best for you to contact your telecommunications provider to seek a resolution. If you cannot get a prompt response from them, please get in touch with my office and we will do what we can to help you.

Q. Will the Government boost investment in telecommunications?

A. Most telecommunications companies in Australia are privately owned, and thus capital expenditure is a commercial decision for those companies’ board and management.

NBN Co is the sole government-owned telecommunications company. At the time of releasing the company’s 2019-22 Corporate Plan, the Government said the company was ready to start to fund its future operations through private debt, enabling us to cap the Government’s funding at $49 billion. This move reflected the confidence the Government has that the company is managing its transition from building the network to being a fully operational and self-sustaining telecommunications wholesaler.

Q. Is the NBN network equipped to handle increased service demand like that experienced during the pandemic?

A. The Government is rolling out better broadband across Australia in the fastest and most affordable way, so Australians can get access to fast broadband sooner at a price they can afford.

COVID-19 has been a great test of the NBN – and our entire telecommunications sector. Millions of people are working and studying from home, meaning a lot more traffic over the network. NBN has handled this test well.

NBN Co is publishing weekly updates to its website, comparing the pre COVID-19 baseline period of the week starting 24 February. The largest proportional increase of network traffic compared to pre COVID-19 levels occurred during the working day. On May 1 at 11 am, download traffic was 7.0 Tbps – 67 per cent higher than the pre-COVID-19 baseline of 4.2 Tbps. Additionally, upload traffic was 0.92 Tbps – 129 per cent higher than the pre-COVID-19 baseline of 0.4 Tbps.

NBN rollout is scheduled to be completed in 2020, with more than 99 per cent of Australian premises already able to order an NBN service. Our multi-technology approach has allowed NBN to offer a better wholesale pricing strategy to reduce congestion and increase uptake of 50Mbps or higher plans, tripling from 16 per cent in December 2017 to over 68 per cent today.

Q. Can the Government make telecommunications companies operate 24/7 call centres in Australia?

A. As telecommunications companies are private businesses, the terms and conditions of their goods and services, including the opening hours and location of customer call centres, are commercial decisions for each company. The Government does not intervene in their day-to-day commercial operations or direct them on such matters.

The Government’s role in the telecommunications regime is to establish the legislative and regulatory framework within which service providers operate. This includes protections to enable consumers to access reliable and affordable services.

If being able to call your Telco provider outside of business hours is important to you, I encourage you to shop around to find the Telco provider with the longest business hours for their call centre.

Q. Why doesn’t the tourism industry have a timeline to re-open? When will travel within the states be allowed again?

A. The feasibility of interstate and international travel relies largely on the lifting of border restrictions. These restrictions are continually being re-assessed. However, border restrictions will remain in place until the respective state and territory governments determine that it is safe to remove them.

For interstate travel, the reopening of borders is a matter for the respective Premiers of each state. NSW, Victoria and ACT are currently open for regional travel.

Interstate travel is to be allowed under Step 3 of the 3 Step Framework for a COVIDSafe Australia.

Q. When will international travel be allowed again?

A. Individual countries will each open their borders as the risks associated with the spread of COVID-19 diminish. Each country will have their own approach to reopening their borders.

The current travel ban for all overseas travel will remain in place until the Australian Government is advised by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) that they are no longer necessary.

Q. How will the spread of COVID19 amongst children on packed school buses be mitigated? Will special arrangements be made?

A. The NSW Government has implemented stringent physical distancing policies for all forms of public transport, including its ‘No dot, no spot’ rule. No dot, no spot will see distinctive green dots used on trains, buses and ferries to show passengers where it is safest to sit and stand.

Q. Is public transport safe to use? Is the state government cleaning it regularly?

A. Transport for NSW has been working closely with NSW Health to stop the spread of COVID-19. This includes increased cleaning on trains, buses, ferries, light rail and the metro, with a daily focus on hard surfaces in high-traffic areas. Further information can be found here.

Q. Is social distancing feasible in classrooms?

A. The advice of National Cabinet, in line with the medical advice of the AHPPC, is that schools can be open and that it is safe for children to be learning from the classroom. It is expected that the 1.5 metre rule is still followed.

Q. What is Australia doing to diversify its trading partnerships?

A. Recognising the importance of trade diversification, the Australian Government has been working hard to increase our trade opportunities with other countries. Since 2013, Australia’s two-way trade covered by trade agreements has increased from 26 per cent to over 70 per cent. The end of 2019 saw Australia ratify trade agreements with Indonesia, Peru, Hong Kong and Pacific Island countries. Australia is currently working towards trade agreements with the European Union and the United Kingdom and is implementing an India Economic Strategy.

Q. How is social distancing being enforced?

A. Penalties for breaching orders differ from state to state. In NSW, breach of orders made under the Public Health Act 2010 is a criminal offence and attracts heavy penalties. NSW Police are issuing on-the-spot fines of $1,000 for an offence, with a maximum penalty of $11,000 or imprisonment for 6 months.

Q. Why is the Government asking people get tested for COVID-19, even if they don’t have symptoms?

A. The criteria for having a test for COVID-19 are updated regularly as new evidence becomes available.

You do not need to get tested if you do not have symptoms. However, the appearance of mild symptoms such as fever, coughing, sore throat or shortness of breath should be treated seriously.

Q. Does the Federal Government plan on continuing the cooperative relationship between State and Federal Governments that has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A. The Morrison Government remains committed to cooperation between the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments in order to deliver the best policy outcomes for Australia

While National Cabinet has been set up to allow Governments to collaboratively address the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) – around which the National Cabinet has been structured – exists to allow governments of all levels in Australia to manage matters of national significance in a cooperative manner.

The Council is comprised of the Prime Minister, the Chief Ministers and Premiers of the State and Territory Governments, and the President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA). In addition to this peak-body for the relevant Heads of Government on each level, COAG has also established several inter jurisdictional Councils on a ministerial level.

These Council s are made up of the relevant Ministers from the State, Territory and Federal Governments – and when appropriate, the President of ALGA. The existing COAG councils are listed below:

  • Federal Financial Relations Council
  • Disability Reform Council
  • Transport and Infrastructure Council
  • Energy Council
  • Skills Council
  • Council of Attorneys-General
  • Education Council
  • Health Council
  • Joint Council on Closing the Gap
  • Indigenous Affairs Council
  • Australian Data and Digital Council
  • Women’s Safety Council

More information on COAG can be found here.

Q. What sacrifices are those in the public sector making to ensure the economic burden from COVID-19 is shared across the private and public sectors?

A. The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Cabinet, the Hon Ben Morton MP, announced on 9 April that the Commonwealth Government would be implementing a six-month deferral on general wage increases for Australian Public Servants. This comes after the Assistant Minister announced a stay on salary increases for senior Public Servants, Ministers, Parliamentarians and Parliamentary office holders in March.

The Decision to freeze increases in pay for public sector employees on a Commonwealth level reflects the Government’s commitment to ensuring the economic burden of COVID-19 is shared by those in Government. This decision will also allow the Government to have more resources available to use for Australia’s economic recovery as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further details of this announcement can be found on the Assistant Minister’s website.

I understand that a number of State and Territory Governments have adopted similar policies with respect to public service employees in their jurisdictions. I would encourage you to contact your local State or Territory representative to find out more about the measures taken by your State or Territory Government.

Q. What is the Government doing to address that some mobiles cannot download the COVIDSafe app?

A. The app has been tested to work with iPhone models back to the iPhone 5S, which was released in September 2013. The app should work on all iPhone models since then, provided iOS10 or higher is installed. For Android devices, you will need Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) or higher to operate the COVIDSafe app.

Other mobile operating systems are currently not supported. However, it is important to note that the COVIDSafe app is just one of a suite of tools released by the Australian Government in fighting the spread of COVID-19. The app is complemented by the Australian Government Coronavirus App and WhatsApp services, which are information services that were developed to ensure the community has access to timely and accurate information about coronavirus.

Q. What is the future of nursing homes? Will they remain safe?

A. As we move towards a COVIDSafe Australia and physical distancing measures are eased around the country, special restrictions will remain in placed for residential aged care facilities. This is because the elderly are particularly vulnerable to catching COVID-19.

Residential aged care facilities will continue to restrict visits in line with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advice for residential aged care facilities.

These restrictions will be reconsidered as case numbers decline.

Q. Is the North Connex still due to open in the middle of the year?

A. NorthConnex is currently expected to open in the third quarter of 2020.

For further information on the construction of NorthConnex, click here.

Q. Is the intention of Government for everyone to be screened? Where can we go to get tested for COVID-19? How quickly do we get the results? Is there a need for people to get re-tested?

A. Only those who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, or those who have come into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, should be tested.

For a complete map of COVID-19 clinics in NSW visit or click
here. Results will typically be available 24 to 72 hours after testing. You may also visit your local GP to be tested.

A negative test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing. However, that does not mean you will not get COVID-19. If you are exhibiting symptoms, even if they are mild, get tested.

Q. Will COVIDSafe be affected if I use other Bluetooth devices with my phone (e.g. Bluetooth headphones, fitness watches)?

A. The COVIDSafe app may interfere with other Bluetooth devices.

If you find that the app is interfering with a medical device, please stop using COVIDSafe. Management of your ongoing chronic health condition should take priority.

If you have experienced this issue, contact [email protected] or use the ‘Report an Issue’ function within the app.

The Department of Health is actively monitoring feedback channels for compatibility issues as they arise, so that they can be solved as quickly as possible.

Q. Will the COVIDSafe app work for interactions less than 15 minutes long? What if I came into contact with a COVID-19 case for less than 15 minutes?

A. The COVIDSafe app registers ‘close-contacts’ with other app users, based on a series of Bluetooth “handshakes” that the app will make with other devices within a proximity of 1.5 metres. These “handshakes” will only be registered for interactions of 15 minutes or more.

It is important to note that the COVIDSafe app is just one tool that the Government is using to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It works with existing approaches, including manual contact tracing, social distancing and good personal hygiene.

For additional information on measures that you can take to protect yourself against COVID-19, visit

Q. What consideration is being given to immune-compromised people in COVID related policies?

A. People with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems are at greater risk of more serious illness if they are infected with COVID-19.

If you are working and have a chronic condition or your immune system is compromised, talk to your employer or workplace about having a risk assessment.

It is vital that everyone, particularly those with compromised immune systems, do everything they can to protect themselves and others. This includes through maintaining good hygiene, practising social distancing, avoiding public gatherings and practising self isolation.

For those with a chronic condition or a weakened immune system, you should consider:

  • staying at home, including working from home where possible
  • avoiding non-essential travel
  • avoiding contact with others
  • organising medication to be delivered to you by your chemist
  • making use of telehealth services for routine or non-urgent medical help

Q. As an earlier childhood teacher who has been stood down since early April, is it safe for me to go back to work, given that I am substantially older than my colleagues?

A. Your decision to return to the workplace will depend on the risks associated with each individual scenario.

Your risk of serious illness from coronavirus increases if you are:

  • aged 70 years or over
  • aged 65 years or over and have a chronic medical condition
  • an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person aged 50 years and over who has a chronic medical condition
  • immune suppressed

There is currently no cure or vaccine for coronavirus, or immunity in the community, so you need to protect yourself. You can learn more about how best to protect yourself, and others here.

Q. Does the government consider pathology and pathological testing as a means of returning people to work?

A. The Pandemic Health Intelligence Plan has been designed to inform decisions on adjusting the measures in place, to suppress the spread of COVID-19 in Australia.

By using intelligence and surveillance we can consider both our readiness to adjust restrictions and the outcome of changes we have already made.

Testing has now been expanded to encourage all people with respiratory symptoms, irrespective of exposure to risk, to present for testing. The greater amount of testing that is conducted, the more intelligence can be provided to inform policy moving forward.

The effectiveness of measures outlined in the Pandemic Health Intelligence Plan depends on the community understanding, accepting and following public health advice.

Q. Will restrictions placed within the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) (i.e. PBS restriction requirement exemptions) be extended beyond the end of the financial year?

A. To ensure continued treatment for patients, from 1 May 2020 the Government introduced exemptions for some medicines on the PBS during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under these exemptions, where a treating medical professional considers that a patient taking an eligible PBS medicine should be exempt from any specific Authority Required PBS restriction requirement, they may lodge a request for exemption for that PBS restriction requirement, with Services Australia (Medicare).

This measure is being implemented based on the advice of the expert Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The measure will be repealed by 30 September 2020.

For further information on the PBS restriction requirement exemptions , including eligible PBS medicines, click here.

Q. Will the decreased capacity of public transport increase traffic congestion? What is the government doing to reduce stress on road infrastructure?

A. In NSW, the NSW Government has worked closely with the City of Sydney to develop a number of temporary initiatives that give people more options to commute.

These include six new pop-up cycleways in key commuter areas across the city and new temporary safe speed limits to promote walking and cycling.

As part of the COVIDSafe Transport Plan, Transport for NSW is supporting people returning to their commute to the Sydney CBD through the establishment of a pop-up ‘parking hub’ in Moore Park.

Initiatives such as these will encourage people to adopt different means of commuting so that they may adhere to social distancing requirements. 

Further information on travel in NSW can be found here.

Q. Why is the JobSeeker allowance considered sufficient during a pandemic, but it is not considered sufficient during normal times?

A. For a six month period, the government will establish a new coronavirus supplement worth $550 per fortnight. This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit, doubling the payment for those currently on these benefits to $1,100 per fortnight. Students receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy will also be eligible. These payments will begin from 27 April 2020.

Q. Why is JobKeeper not available to casual employees?

A. JobKeeper is a temporary subsidy for businesses affected by coronavirus.

The subsidy covers full-time, part-time and casual workers (providing casuals have been with the business for more than a year) including stood-down employees.

Payments will be made in the first week of May 2020 but will be backdated to 30 March 2020.

Q. What is the criteria for receiving JobKeeper?

A. As with any government program, there need to be some definitions and lines drawn on eligibility. Eligibility has focused on maximising the reach of the JobKeeper Program while ensuring that the Program is able to be implemented as quickly and efficiently as possible.

If you are not eligible to participate in the JobKeeper Program, you may still be eligible for assistance under the other measures that the Government has announced as part of its economic response to the coronavirus such as the JobSeeker.

You can check your eligibility here.

Q. Is the JobKeeper payment means tested?

A. The JobKeeper Payment is not income-tested, so you may earn additional income without your payment being affected, as long as you are eligible and maintain your employment (including being stood down) with your JobKeeper-eligible employer. You may also need to cancel your JobSeeker Payment to be eligible to receive the JobKeeper payment.

Q. Why are temporary visa holders not eligible for the JobKeeper when they work long hours?

A. In line with changes being made for Australian citizens and permanent residents, most temporary visa holders with work rights will now be able to access their Australian superannuation to help support themselves during this crisis. Changes are also geared toward enabling temporary visa holders to remain in key industries, such as health, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing. Importantly, they can help boost front line health numbers, get food from farms to our shops and ensure critical services continue.

Temporary visa holders are extremely valuable to the Australian economy and way of life, but the reality is that many Australians will find themselves out of work due to the dual health and economic crises we're currently facing, and these Australians and permanent residents must be the Government's number one focus.

Q. What is the government doing to assist the disabled and the elderly and their carers?

A. The Economic Support Payment is an extra payment as part of the government’s response to coronavirus. Those receiving disability support pension and carer’s allowance were eligible to receive the $750 payment paid in March/April and again in July 2020.

Seniors who receive the pension or hold a senior’s concession card are also eligible to receive both Economic Support Payments of $750 in addition to their regular payment.

Q. How is the government going to tackle unemployment?

A. In addition to the JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments assisting those impacted for the pandemic, the Prime Minister has unveiled the government’s latest economic plan under the JobMaker plan.

The plan will see the government reform the vocational education training sector by carrying out Skills Organisation Pilots designed to help the industry have a greater say in the training system. Three pilots have already been established in the human services, digital technology and mining sector with more to follow.

Q. How is the government supporting self-funded retirees and those with a self-managed super fund?

A. Self-funded retirees affected by the coronavirus can access up to $10,000 of their super between now and 30 June 2020, and a further $10,000 between 1 July and 24 September 2020, tax free.

To assist those in retirement, the government is temporarily reducing minimum super drawdown requirements for account-based or allocated pensions, annuities and similar products by 50% for the current financial year and the 2020-21 financial year. This should reduce the need for retirees to sell investment assets in the current soft share market conditions to fund their minimum drawdown requirements.

In addition, the upper and lower social security deeming rates will also be reduced by 0.25% from 1 May in recognition of the impact of persistent low interest rates on retirees’ savings. This comes on top of a 0.5% reduction announced earlier in March.

Q. What assistance is available for small businesses like those in tourism?

A. The Government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium sized businesses, and not‑for-profits (including charities) that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000. These payments will help the cash flow of businesses and not-for-profits so they can keep operating and pay their rent, electricity and other bills and retain staff. For most businesses the cash flow boost will automatically be credited to your account when you lodge your activity statement.

Service NSW can help businesses and organisations impacted by COVID-19. They’re working with federal, state and local government and the private sector to bring together all the support and services available to assist small business. This includes free legal advice, a business concierge service, grants, as well as other resources and support.

Q. What is the government doing to protect current and future generations from foreign investment?

A. The Treasurer has announced temporary changes to the foreign investment review framework. These are designed to protect Australia’s national interest as we deal with the economic implications of COVID-19.

Effective 30 March 2020, all proposed foreign investments in Australia will require approval, regardless of value or the nature of the foreign investor.

This is not an investment freeze. Australia is open for business and recognises investment at this time can be beneficial if in the national interest. 

The temporary change will be achieved by reducing to $0 the monetary screening thresholds for all foreign investments under the Act.

By temporarily reducing the foreign investment thresholds, the Government will ensure appropriate oversight of all proposed foreign investment during this time.

Q. What support is being provided to universities during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A. The Morrison Government had already committed to providing universities with more than $18 billion this year. The Government will guarantee Commonwealth Grants Scheme (CGS) and HELP funding streams for higher education providers at their current levels for the rest of 2020. For public universities, their 2020 performance-based funding amounts will also be guaranteed.

In addition to these guarantees the Government is waiving or refunding the fees charged by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) – this will return $100 million to the cash flow of Australian education and training businesses.

New cost recovery arrangements for TEQSA, ASQA and for the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) will all be deferred by 12 months to 1 July 2021.

Q. What is the Commonwealth Government’s plan for the lifting of restrictions?

A. The Government’s “3 Step Framework for a COVIDSafe Australia” provides the outline for the recommended easing of restrictions. A copy of the 3 Step Framework with further explanation for specific sectors can be found here.

The implementation of these steps is the responsibility of State and Territory Governments, and I would encourage you to contact your State or Territory Government representative to inquire about your specific circumstances.

Q. When will community sports teams be permitted to begin training?

A. While this is a decision that is made by State and Territory governments, I can confirm that as of 22 May 2020 the following information has been published on the NSW Sport website:

“The current Public Health Orders do not prevent any sporting organisation from resuming training.

NSW State Sporting Organisations can start training immediately as long as they comply with the current Public Health Orders, including training in maximum groups of 10 people and following the recommended physical distancing measures of 1.5 metres.

It is up to the sporting organisation to adapt or modify their sport, to be in line with the Public Health Orders.”

For further information regarding the reopening of specific training venues or organisations in NSW I would encourage you to view the NSW Sport website here.

Q. How is the government supporting local sporting clubs?

A. The Government has welcomed the launch of a toolkit aimed at ensuring community sporting clubs and associations have a clear path to competition as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
The suite of practical resources, provided by Sport Australia, focus on giving grassroots organisations a roadmap for the safe return to sport at all levels.

It will complement the National Principles for the Resumption of Sport and Recreation Activities, endorsed by the National Cabinet on 1 May. 

The Return to Sport Toolkit guides clubs and associations at every level to document their own COVID-19 Safety Plan and appoint a COVID Safety Co-ordinator to implement and oversee it.  

As part of the Toolkit, checklists provide practical and progressive steps such as relevant government and national sporting organisation approvals, facility management, training behaviours, hygiene protocols and appropriate communication with members. 

Sport Australia’s Return to Sport Toolkit can be found here.

The AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment can be found here.

Q. When will I be able to conduct extracurricular and hobby classes (painting, dance, debating etc.)?

A. As with community sport, the decisions regarding the operation of extracurricular and hobby classes are taken by State and Territory Governments. With regard to NSW, the current stage of restrictions would permit classes consisting of up to 10 people in an outdoor setting and up to 5 visitors to a household at any one time, however, the ability to conduct specific classes would depend on the facilities required.

If you are operating classes, it is important that you and your students follow recommended social distancing practices. For further information on restrictions on gatherings and which facilities are permitted to operate in NSW I would encourage you to view the NSW Government’s “What you can and can't do under the rules” website.

Q. When will entertainment and cultural venues be permitted to re-open?

A. Under Step 2 of the “3 Step Framework for a COVIDSafe Australia” entertainment and cultural venues such as, theatres, art galleries, museums and libraries, will be permitted to cater to up to 20 patrons at any one time. However, the implementation of specific measures and restrictions is a responsibility of State and Territory Governments.

With regard to NSW, further information on which entertainment and cultural venues are permitted to operate can be found the NSW Government’s “What you can and can't do under the rules” website.

Q. What is the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission and what is it for?

A. The Prime Minister announced the establishment of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission on 25 March 2020.  The role of the Commission is to coordinate advice to the Australian Government on actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Commission is being led by Mr Neville Power and supported by an Executive Board of Directors drawn from across the business and not-for-profit sectors comprising, Mr Greg Combet AM, Ms Jane Halton AO PSM FAICD FIPPA, Mr Paul Little AO, Ms Catherine Tanna, and Mr David Thodey.

The chair and members of the Commission’s Executive Board are each leading the development of strategies and engagement within a specific stream or sector relevant to their expertise, with a focus on mobilising and coordinating public, private and not-for-profit actions.

The Terms of Reference for the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission can be found here.

Q. What is the Government doing to ensure Australian water security?

A. State and territory governments are responsible for planning, allocating and managing water resources and making decisions regarding new infrastructure to ensure communities have access to secure and affordable water. To support state and territory governments to fulfil this responsibility, federal funding of $3.3 billion has been made available through the $1.3 billion National Water Infrastructure Development Fund (the Fund) and the $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility to help identify and build water infrastructure that will deliver affordable water to underpin regional economic development through greater water supply and security for farmers, businesses and regional communities.

The Fund is designed to accelerate the detailed planning necessary to inform water infrastructure investment decisions and provide capital contributions to co‐fund the construction of water infrastructure in collaboration with the states.

Q. Are people working from home permitted to tax deduct expenses?

A. Yes, they can and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has enabled a simplified method of reporting these expenses for the period of 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 (the ATO has indicated this period may be extended as the situation progresses). Further information on how to deduct working-from-home expenses can be found on the ATO website.

Q. What is the Government doing to address climate change?

A. The Morrison Government has a strong action plan for Australia’s response to climate change. The plan sets out how we will meet our commitment, made at the 2015 international conference in Paris, to reduce Australia’s emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Emissions are already 12 per cent lower than in 2005.

A central element of our plan is the $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package. We made this commitment as part of the 2018-19 budget. It is Australia’s biggest ever direct investment in emissions reduction. The centrepiece of the Package is the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund, which is expected to deliver more than 100 million tonnes of additional greenhouse gas reductions by 2030. This is over and above the $2.55 billion already invested in emissions reduction projects through the Emissions Reduction Fund (established since we came to Government in 2013).

The Climate Solutions Package also includes significant investments in renewable energy to reduce emissions. These investments include:

  • Almost $1.4 billion for Snowy 2.0 ensuring clean, reliable and affordable power.
  • $56 million for a new electricity interconnector to support Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation project.
  • Support for households and businesses to improve energy efficiency and lower their power bills.

Since our Liberal National Government commenced in 2013, we have invested heavily in measures to reduce emissions and strengthen our environment. These measures include:

  • $2.55 billion in the Emissions Reduction Fund.
  • More than $1.4 billion in grant funding to 512 renewable energy projects through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
  • Nearly $7.5 billion funding through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation in projects with a total value of more than $25 billion.

Our emissions reduction target is ambitious, particularly because our economy and population are growing strongly. When you put all the numbers together, the effect of what we have promised to do is to cut half the amount of emissions per person which Australia is generating. To achieve this target, we have work to do across the many sectors of our economy. The biggest single sector is electricity, which generates about one third of total emissions. Here, we are making very good progress, as the percentage of electricity generation which comes from renewables is rising strongly.

The Clean Energy Regulator estimates that a record 6.3 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable capacity was installed in 2019, 24 per cent above the previous record set in 2018. Electricity generated from renewables is also estimated to have increased to a record 44 terawatt hours (TWh), 20 per cent above the previous year. The Clean Energy Regulator expects that 2020 will be the biggest year yet for electricity generation from renewables with a forecast 26 per cent increase.

Based on Bloomberg New Energy Finance data, Australia invested $7.7 billion or $308 per person in renewable energy in 2019. This places us ahead of countries like the United States ($233 per person), Japan ($179 per person) and the United Kingdom ($109 per person) on a per capita basis and is more than triple the per capita investment of countries like Denmark ($95 per person), France ($90 per person) and Germany ($73 per person).

Q. What is being done to mitigate the risk of future bushfires?

A. The evidence shows that climate change is bringing longer, hotter and drier summer seasons. That is why we are implementing plans to increase Australia’s bushfire resilience.

Most of the actions to protect Australians from bushfires are undertaken at a State level. However, all Australian governments share the goal of protecting people, property and wildlife.

A national Royal Commission into Australia’s recent bushfire season is being established. This will help us to learn from the devastating recent bushfires and to consider the practical action required to tackle the new challenges being presented by climate change. This includes actions to enhance bushfire preparedness, resilience and recovery.

The Royal Commission will also review the powers of the Federal Government to declare a national state of emergency, which triggers a direct Federal Government response to natural disasters, including the deployment of the Australian Defence Force.

The inquiry will focus on three key areas:

  • Improving natural disaster management coordination across all levels of government;
  • Improving Australia’s preparedness, resilience, and response to natural disasters, across all levels of government;
  • The legal framework for the Commonwealth’s involvement in responding to national emergencies and how that works with state and territory legal frameworks.

The Prime Minister has also written to all State Premiers inviting them to issue concurrent commissions under their respective legal frameworks for Royal Commissions.