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PM Scott Morrison’s warning on post-COVID world


Prime Minister Scott Morrison will warn Australians to prepare for a more “dangerous and disorderly” post-COVID world as he announces a $270 billion cash splash today on long-range maritime missiles and land strike capabilities as tensions with China intensify.

The Prime Minister will issue a blunt warning that tensions are rising across the region, citing recent border clashes between India and China and tensions in the South China Sea.

“The risk of miscalculation – and even conflict – is heightening,’’ the Prime Minister warns.

“The simple truth is this. Even as we stare down the COVID pandemic at home, we need to also prepare for a post-COVID world that is poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly.”

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Despite COVID-19 blowing a massive hole in the federal budget, the Prime Minister will reaffirm he will offer a 10-year funding model that goes beyond the current pledge to reach two per cent of GDP this year.

The program includes major upgrades to the Tindal RAAF base in the Northern Territory, that the PM has previously described as “the sharp end of the spear” for Australian & US air operations in the Indo-Pacific.

The Prime Minister will warn the Indo-Pacific region is the epicentre of rising strategic competition, signalling a shift in Australia’s defence focus.

“Our region will not only shape our future – increasingly it is the focus of the dominant global contest of our age,’’ Mr Morrison says.

“Tensions over territorial claims are rising across the Indo-Pacific region – as we have seen recently on the disputed border between India and China, in the South China Sea, and in the East China Sea.

While the 2016 Defence White Paper previously saw an equal weighting across three areas: Australia and its northern approaches; Southeast Asia and the Pacific; and operations in support of the rules-based global order, the new blueprint will call on the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to prioritise its geographical focus on the immediate region – from the northeast Indian Ocean, through maritime and mainland Southeast Asia to Papua New Guinea and the South West Pacific.

ANU Professor Paul Dibbs has previously flagged the $1.1 billion upgrade to the RAAF base at Tindal as pivotal, because it will lengthen the runway so that US B-52 strategic bombers as well as our own KC-30 air-to-air refuelling aircraft can operate from there.

“The second development is the announcement by the US State Department that Australia has been cleared, at a cost of about $1.4 billion, to purchase 200 AGM-158C long-range anti-ship missiles (LRASM), which can be fired from our F/A-18 Super Hornets and the F-35s when they are delivered,’’ Professor Dibb wrote.

“The significance of these two developments occurring at the same time should not be underestimated and certainly not in Beijing. Morrison described the upgrades to Tindal as being ‘the sharp end of the spear’ for Australian and US air operations in the Indo-Pacific.

As the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Peter Jennings observed, the decision to expand the Tindal air base is a giant strategic step forward and could be the basis for a greater leadership role for Australia in the region.

“When the upgrade, including major runway extensions, fuel stockpiles and engineering support, is completed, Tindal will be the most potent military base south of Guam. And — for the time being at least — it is beyond the reach of Chinese conventional ballistic missiles.”

The new defence blueprint will also increase the Australian Defence Force’s ability to influence and deny operations in the ‘grey-zone’ of intelligence and offensive cyber capabilities.

“Disinformation and foreign interference have been enabled by new and emerging technologies,’’ the Prime Minister will say.

“Relations between China and the United States are fractious as they compete for political, economic and technological supremacy.”

However, the Prime Minister will warn it is important to acknowledge that China and the US are not the only actors of consequence.

“Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, the countries of Southeast Asia, and the Pacific all have agency – choices to make and parts to play,’’ he says.

“We must be alert to the full range of current and future threats, including ones in which Australia’s security and sovereignty may be tested.

“We know what we’re about and what we stand for.

“We’re about having the freedom to live our lives as we choose — in an open and democratic society, without coercion or fear.

“We won’t surrender this – ever.”

DEFENCE SPENDING

o Information and cyber ($15 billion) – Bolster offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, enhance electronic warfare and command and control systems and improve intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. Between $1.9 to $3 billion in offence defensive and offensive cyber operations and to counter cyber-attacks on Australia, Defence and deployed forces. Between $3.3 to $5 billion for strengthen Defence’s network resilience from malicious actors. Between $2 to $3 billion in signals intelligence systems and expanding and upgrading systems for delivering top secret information and communications to strengthen Defence’s warfighting capability

o Maritime ($75 billion) – Expanded maritime force to provide greater capability for anti-submarine warfare, sealift, border security, maritime patrol, aerial warfare, area denial and undersea warfare. Between $168 to $183 billion for the acquisition or upgrade of navy and Army maritime vessels out to the 2050s. Between $5 to $7 billion in undersea surveillance systems. Between $400 to $500 million in long range Maritime Strike missiles.

o Air ($65 billion) – Expanded air combat and mobility and new long range weapons and remotely piloted and autonomous systems will be introduced. Between $10 to $17 billion investment in fighter aircraft. Between $700 million to $1 billion for Operational Radar Network expansion. Between $3.4 billion to $5.2 billion to improve air launched strike capability. Between $6.2 to $9.3 billion in research and development in high speed long range strike, including hypersonic research to inform future investments Between $7.4 to $11 billion for remotely-piloted and autonomous combat aircraft, including air teaming vehicles.

o Space ($7 billion) – Investment to improve resilience and self-reliance of Defence’s space capabilities, including to assure access to capabilities, enable situational awareness and deliver real-time communications and position, navigation and timing. Between $4.6 to $6.9 billion in upgrades and future satellite communications systems, including communications satellites and ground control stations under sovereign Australian control. Between $1.3 to $2 billion to build our Space Situational Awareness capabilities.

o Land ($55 billion) – Investment to ensure land forces have more combat power, are better connected, protected and integrated with each other and with our partners. Between $7.4 to $11.1 billion on future autonomous vehicles. Between $7.7 to $11.5 billion for long range rocket fires and artillery systems including two regiments of self-propelled howitzers. Between $1.4 to $2.1 billion for Army watercraft including up to 12 riverine patrol craft and several amphibious vessels of up to 2,000 tonnes to enhance ADF amphibious lift capacity.

o Defence Enterprise ($50 billion) – Investment key infrastructure, ICT, innovation and science and Technology programs critical to the generation of Defence capabilities. Between $6.8 to $10.2 billion in undersea warfare facilities and infrastructure. Between $4.3 to $6.5 billion to enhance Air Force’s operational effectiveness and capacity in the Northern Territory. Between $900 million to $1.3 billion to upgrade key ports and infrastructure to support Australia’s larger fleet of amphibious vessels. Between $20.3 to $30 billion to increase the supply of munitions and between $1 to $1.5 billion to explore expanding industry capacity for domestic guided weapons and explosive ordnance production capability.



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Morrison’s China warning after Shaoquett Moselmane’s home raided


A major investigation into an alleged espionage plot to infiltrate Australian politics is continuing, with ASIO raiding the home of a political staffer.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday warned foreign powers, including China, that he “won’t cop” attempts to influence politics.

“We won’t cop anyone coming and seeking to interfere in our political system, in our energy sector, in any area of perceived opportunity for an outside actor,’’ Mr Morrison said in the wake of searches targeting NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane.

“We won’t cop it. We are a resilient people. We will stand up to it. And we will take action, as what you’ve seen today demonstrates.”

Raids of Moselmane’s house continued into the night, with The Daily Telegraph reporting the MP eventually returned at 8.30pm after spending 12 hours at Parliament House under police guard.

Sources told the newspaper the investigation is “ongoing” and has widened to include Moselmane’s staffer John Zhang, who was last year revealed to have taken part in a Beijing propaganda course run by the Chinese Communist Party in 2013.

It’s reported Zhang’s business and residence were searched by ASIO officers.

Describing the matters under investigation by ASIO as “serious” Mr Morrison said the ASIO raids targeting Mr Moselmane underlined the threat of foreign influence operations.

The Prime Minister said the investigation was being pursued by the task force the Morrison Government established, which became operational last December.

“The details of that, I’m not at liberty to go into as I’m sure you’d expect but it’s been investigation that has been going on for some time. It’s taken — it’s elevated to a new level today,’’ he said.

“I think — the actions of the Australian Federal Police and ASIO demonstrate that the threats in this area are real. The need to take action is necessary and the Government is absolutely determined to ensure that nobody interferes with Australia’s activities.

“They’re extremely serious. The actions taken by ASIO and the AFP demonstrate that seriousness.

“I was briefed on these matters last night and advised that they would be taking these actions. These are matters that I’m also aware of have been under investigation for some time.”

The Australian Federal Police raided properties on Friday morning linked to Mr Moselmane, who made bizarre comments over China and COVID-19.

In a statement, the spy agency confirmed the AFP raids were part of an ASIO operation.

It is believed the investigation relates to Chinese foreign influence in Australia.

“ASIO can confirm that search warrant activity is occurring in Sydney this morning as part of an ongoing investigation,’’ a spokesman said.

“This activity does not relate to any specific threat to the community. While this activity occurs it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

Mr Moselmane’s Rockdale house in Sydney’s south was searched by AFP officers.

NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay said on Friday the process to suspend his membership of NSW Labor was underway.

She also confirmed that Mr Moselmane would no longer sit in the parliamentary caucus.

“It’s dreadfully concerning, it’s terrible,” she said.

Mr Moselmane in April stood down as assistant president of the NSW upper house after praising Chinese President Xi Jinping’s response to COVID and claiming it had not spread “very far”.

Mr Moselmane has previously praised China’s “tough, unswerving leadership” on COVID-19.

“For the People’s Republic of China, President Xi stepped up and provided that leadership. He mustered the resources of the nation and together with the great people of China – fought it and contained it,” he said.

“Failure to contain the epidemic could mean thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lives would be lost. The combined phenomenal effort of the state and the people in the fight to contain the virus was breathtaking.

Ms McKay said the raids were “a shock” to NSW Labor. She also confirmed a staffer in the office might be a person of interest to the investigation.

“I was advised earlier this morning that there had been search warrants executed on the home and the office of Mr Moselmane,’’ she said.

“I have asked the general secretary of the party to begin suspending his membership of the Labor Party. It is the right thing to do. He will no longer sit in the caucus, he will no longer be a Labor Party member. His membership is being suspended as we speak, that process is now under way.

“I believe there was one other person of interest that was a staff member, but we are trying to work out if he is actually a member of the Labor Party. If he is he will be suspended as well, but as I said this is happening as we speak.”



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Scott Morrison’s new $25,000 renovation handout is slammed as a ‘gift to wealthy homeowners’ 


Scott Morrison’s new home renovation policy is copping heavy criticism from both sides of politics for leaving millions of Australians in the cold.

Under the HomeBuilder scheme announced today, applicants must spend at least $150,000 to qualify for a cash grant of $25,000.

Aussies around the nation became excited by the prospect of government support when the policy was touted this week – but, for many, the threshold is simply too high.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese today slammed the scheme, saying it was ‘not well targeted’. 

‘There’s not many Australian battlers who have a lazy $150,000 to renovate their bathroom or the kitchen,’ he said. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured today) announced his new scheme in Eden-Monaro which is facing a by-election in July

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured today) announced his new scheme in Eden-Monaro which is facing a by-election in July

The announcement sparked fury on social media as critics said the policy will use taxpayer money to make ‘rich people richer’.

‘What about the ordinary people?’ one critic wrote.  

Emma Dawson, director of the left-wing Per Capita think tank, said: ‘This HomeBuilder thing is beyond parody. It’s economically stupid and morally repulsive.’

Others said it was unfair for the government to support tradesmen while considering slimming down the JobKeeper policy in September.

‘So now tax payers are footing part of the bill for rich people to boost the value of their property to support tradies who make more than the average tax payer,’ one critic wrote.

The policy has also been criticised by free-market think tank the IPA, which believes it is a ‘gross waste’ of taxpayer money.

Director of Policy Gideon Rozner told Daily Mail Australia: ‘This is a bank stimulus package by another name. No couple on under $200,000 or single on under $125,000 a year has a spare $150,000 lying around to spend on a home renovation to be even eligible. 

‘So in order to access this Australians are going to be putting more money their mortgage, and will end up paying the free $25,000 in interest payments.’ 

Scott Morrison (right) speaks to a local after announcing the new HomeBuilder stimulus packag, in Googong, New South Wales

Scott Morrison (right) speaks to a local after announcing the new HomeBuilder stimulus packag, in Googong, New South Wales

Under the new HomeBuilder scheme announced today, applicants must spend at least $150,000 to qualify for a cash grant of $25,000

Under the new HomeBuilder scheme announced today, applicants must spend at least $150,000 to qualify for a cash grant of $25,000

Even some tradesman have said the scheme is a waste of money.

Builders Collective president Phil Dwyer told Melbourne radio 3AW: ‘At the moment I think it’s a little bit busier than usual. There’s a heap of renovations in every suburb in this town.

‘I can’t imagine why we would need cash injections to help us. We’re just going to overheat the industry.’  

On the other hand, industry leaders and economists have hailed the plan to help the $100billion construction industry and support one million jobs.

Master Builders Australia chief executive Denita Wawn said the package would save small construction companies from a potential catastrophe. 

‘We were facing death valley in terms of job losses,’ she said today.   

Poll

Do you support the HomeBuilder scheme?

  • Yes 18 votes
  • No 174 votes
  • Undecided 12 votes

Ms Wawn said the inclusion of renovations to the scheme bypasses ‘the red tape’ of requesting planning approvals.

Stockland chief executive communities Andrew Whitson said: ‘A clear stimulus for the housing construction sector is a powerful measure to help restart the Australian economy and support a million jobs.’ 

A government source told Daily Mail Australia the $150,000 threshold is to encourage large projects to provide enough jobs.

Secondly, the high threshold is a deterrent against rorting and stops builders inflating their prices as happened during the Rudd government’s disastrous ‘pink batts’ scheme after the 2008 crash.

‘If we gave everyone a grant then $10,000 projects would mysteriously become $25,000 projects,’ the source said. 

An estimated 27,000 people are expected to apply for the grants to renovate their home or build a new house – but Labor believes the project does not go far enough.

Labor’s housing spokesman Jason Clare said: ‘There’s about a million Australians who work in the home building industry. All were relying on the Prime Minister to deliver today and he’s failed.’

Labor is dismayed that the government has not embarked on projects to build more Housing Commission homes. 

‘During the coronavirus crisis, homeless people had to be put up in hotels because we don’t have enough social housing in this country. At a time when we need urgent stimulus, why would the Government ignore this national priority,’ Mr Albanese said.

Mr Clare added: ‘For six weeks we’ve been telling the Government they need a comprehensive plan to keep Australian tradies working. 

Scott Morrison's new home renovation scheme is copping heavy criticism for leaving millions of Australians in the cold. Pictured: Mr Morrison with QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deputy PM Michael McCormak in November

Scott Morrison’s new home renovation scheme is copping heavy criticism for leaving millions of Australians in the cold. Pictured: Mr Morrison with QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deputy PM Michael McCormak in November 

Australians can get $25,000 sent directly into their bank account from Thursday under the Morrison government's new 'HomeBuilder' scheme

Labor is dismayed that the government has not embarked on project to build more social housing while the country is in recession

‘That includes building social housing, repairing social housing, building for affordable accommodation for front-line workers, expanding the first home loan deposit scheme to encourage more first home buyers to build their first home, and grants for first home buyers as well. What the Government has announced today is barely one of those measures.’ 

Housing minister Michael Sukkar said the scheme was preferable to investing in social housing because a government investment of $688million will help stimulate $10billion of economic activity. 

The government source said the policy is designed to give people who may have shelved plans to renovate or build their home the confidence to go ahead during uncertain economic times. 

Mr Albanese also slammed the government for not rolling out the project sooner.

‘There is no doubt announcements are being delayed to come up with slick slogans,’ he said.  

The extraordinary scheme is designed to rescue the country from its first recession in 29 years, caused by coronavirus lockdowns.

The grants are available for renovation works that cost between $150,000 and $750,000 and for new homes valued at less than $750,000.

Renovations must improve the 'livibility' of the home, meaning swimming pools, tennis courts, outdoor spas and saunas, and detached sheds or garages do not count (stock image)

Renovations must improve the ‘livibility’ of the home, meaning swimming pools, tennis courts, outdoor spas and saunas, and detached sheds or garages do not count (stock image)

There are a number of restrictions on where the $25,000 can be spent. Those looking to build a new tennis court will be left disappointed (stock)

There are a number of restrictions on where the $25,000 can be spent. Those looking to build a new tennis court will be left disappointed (stock)  

Renovations must improve the ‘livibility’ of the home, meaning swimming pools, tennis courts, outdoor spas and saunas, and detached sheds or garages do not count.

The house being renovated must not be valued at more than $1.5million and must be the applicant’s primary residence, meaning investment properties do not qualify.  

To get the cash, applicants must earn less than $125,000 or be in a couple earning less than $200,000.

The applicant must pay a licensed builder the first installment for starting work and then can apply to their state or territory revenue office for the $25,000. 

After checking all the criteria is met, officials will transfer the cash directly into the applicant’s chosen bank account. 

The grants are available for renovation works that cost between $150,000 and $750,000. Pictured: A house being built in Cobbitty in Sydney

The grants are available for renovation works that cost between $150,000 and $750,000. Pictured: A house being built in Cobbitty in Sydney

In total, the policy is expected to cost $688million and provide work for 140,000 tradies and another 1million workers in the supply chain. 

Announcing the policy today at a construction site in the federal seat of Eden-Monaro, which faces a by-election next month, the Prime Minister said: ‘Australia is in a battle for jobs, and our Government is in that battle for jobs.’

‘If you’ve been putting off that renovation or new build, the extra $25,000 we’re putting on the table along with record low interest rates means now’s the time to get started.’ 

By stimulating private investment, it will generate ten to 15 billion dollars of economic activity. 

‘This investment isn’t just about helping Australians bring their dream home to life, it’s about creating jobs and helping support the more than one million workers in the sector including builders, painters, plumbers and electricians across the country,’ Mr Morrison said.

The scheme lasts from 4 June 2020 until 31 December 2020. 

Mr Morrison said the government was continuing to work with states and territories on social housing, via the national housing and finance and investment co-orporation.

Asked about the strict eligibility criteria, he said: ‘The income tests we’ve applied are the same as for the home loan deposit scheme. The parameters have proved to be right on the money.’

What you need to know about Homebuiler: Who is eligible and what can be built? 

To access HomeBuilder, owner-occupiers must meet the following criteria:

You are an individual, not a company or trust;

You are aged 18 years or older;

You are an Australian citizen

You earn less than $125,000 or in a couple earning less than $200,000  

What can be built? 

A new home as a principal place of residence valued up to $750,000 (including land);

A renovation to an existing home as a principal place of residence, with renovations valued at between $150,000 and $750,000 with the dwelling not valued at more than $1.5 million before the renovation.

The renovation works must be to improve the accessibility, safety and liveability of the dwelling.

Swimming pools, tennis courts, outdoor spas and saunas, and detached sheds or garages do not count 

The renovation can be a combination of works (ie kitchen and bathroom renovation) but must be under the supervision of a registered or licenced builder 

Construction must be contracted to commence within three months of the contract date

Who can do the building? 

Renovations or building work must be undertaken by a registered or licenced building service ‘contractor’. They must have held the building licence or endorsed contractor licence before 4 June.

The contract must be made by two parties freely and independently of each other, and without some special relationship, such as being a relative. 

The terms of the contract should be commercially reasonable and the contract price should not be inflated compared to the fair market price. 

The government has implemented strict criteria on who can do the building work after the Rudd government’s so-called ‘pink batts’ scheme led to disaster.

The scheme, which gave grants for owners to install better home insulation after the financial crash of 2008, saw 10,000 new companies spring up to take advantage of the new work.

Hundreds of subcontractors and employees were doing dangerous work for which they were inadequately trained and four young men died, three from electrocution and one from dehydration.

To stop this happening again, the government has ruled that only building companies who held their license before June 4 can do the work.

To minimise fraud, builders must not be related to the home-owner and must offer the work at market value. This will be enforced by state and territory officials.   

‘You’ve got to try and avoid the rorting and people taking advantage of it,’ Mr Morrison told Sydney radio 2GB on Monday.

‘Even though Australians have been amazing during this crisis, there’s still those that will do the wrong things.’ 

The government has decided to target the construction industry because it has been hammered by the coronavirus downturn. 

Half of new home builds and renovations have been cancelled or postponed as Aussies decide to preserve their cash.   

This far exceeds the 17 per cent reduction seen during the global financial crisis.

And dwelling investment is expected to decline by around 20 per cent through the June quarter. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: ‘The housing and construction industry is vitally important to the Australian economy with dwelling investment worth more than $100 billion or around five per cent of GDP. 

Australians can get their hands on $25,000 to renovate their homes from Thursday

Australians can get their hands on $25,000 to renovate their homes from Thursday

Pictured: A new home under construction in the western suburbs of Sydney

Pictured: A new home under construction in the western suburbs of Sydney

Homebuilder: Winners and losers 

 Winners

Tradies: The scheme will provide 140,000 direct jobs and another 1,000,000 related jobs in the residential construction sector including businesses and sole-trader builders, contractors, property developers, construction materials manufacturers, engineers, designers and architects

Average earners: The policy is available to people earning less than $125,00 or a couple on less than $200,000

New builders: The scheme provides a great incentive to build a new home  

 Losers

Home handymen: The renovations have to be done by registered builders.

The rich: The scheme is not available to anyone earning more than $125,000

City livers: Any home that is worth more than $1.5million does not qualify for the renovation grant and new homes must be valued under $750,000. Even small homes in the country’s biggest cities cost more.

Investors: The scheme only applies to owner-occupiers 

 

Mr Frydenberg added: ‘The HomeBuilder program will support residential construction activity and jobs across the industry at a time when the economy and the sector needs it most.’ 

It comes after Mr Frydenberg on Wednesday became the first federal treasurer in three decades to confirm Australia is in recession – warning COVID-19 remained a threat to prosperity.

Gross domestic product, also known as GDP, fell by 0.3 per cent in the March quarter as a result of COVID-19 and the summer bushfires, official national accounts data showed.

Should the economy shrink again in the June quarter, Australia will officially be in recession for the first time since 1991, ending a world-record run of uninterrupted growth.

Gross domestic product, also known as GDP, fell by 0.3 per cent in the March quarter as a result of COVID-19 and the summer bushfires, official national accounts data showed. Pictured is Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Canberra on June 3, 2020

Gross domestic product, also known as GDP, fell by 0.3 per cent in the March quarter as a result of COVID-19 and the summer bushfires, official national accounts data showed. Pictured is Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Canberra on June 3, 2020

Mr Frydenberg confirmed Australia was likely already in recession.

‘The answer to that is yes,’ he said.  

‘That is on the basis of the advice that I have from the Treasury department about where the June quarter is expected to be.’

Mr Frydenberg is the first Australian treasurer to confirm a recession since Labor’s Paul Keating memorably said in late 1990: ‘This is the recession that Australia had to have.’ 

Official figures won’t confirm a recession until September, when GDP data for the June quarter is released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

How the scheme works for renovations: An example 

Cassidy enters into a contract to substantially renovate her home on 31 December 2020, with renovations valued at $400,000. The value of her home is $900,000 based on an independent valuation. 

Cassidy pays the builder $10,000 to commence renovation of her home on 2 February 2021. Cassidy then applies directly to the revenue office in her state or equivalent body to receive the $25,000 HomeBuilder grant.

The revenue office conducts the eligibility checks and confirms that Cassidy owns the property, is an Australian citizen, over the age of 18 and has a taxable income under $125,000 based on her 2019-20 tax return. 

The revenue office also confirms the value of the renovations is within the HomeBuilder renovations price cap (between $150,000 and $750,000), the valuation of her home is less than $1.5 million and that Cassidy has made the first progress payment on the renovations. 

The revenue office approves the application and releases the $25,000 HomeBuilder grant directly into Cassidy’s nominated bank account.

As Cassidy already owns her own home, she is not eligible for the First Home Owner Grant, the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme or the First Home Super Saver Scheme. However, Cassidy may be eligible for stamp duty concessions or other grants depending on the state or territory she lives in. 

An apprentice carpenter at Holmesglen TAFE Chadstone campus in Melbourne, Monday. The policy will provide more than one million jobs

An apprentice carpenter at Holmesglen TAFE Chadstone campus in Melbourne, Monday. The policy will provide more than one million jobs

How the scheme works for new home building: An example 

Emma and Liam enter into a house and land contract valued at $550,000 on 25 September 2020. Emma and Liam’s bank applies on the couple’s behalf to their state’s revenue office or equivalent body to receive the Federal Government’s $25,000 grant. 

The state revenue office conducts the eligibility checks and reviews the couple’s documentation and confirms that both Emma and Liam are Australian citizens, over the age of 18, have a combined taxable income under $200,000 based on their 2018-19 tax return and the value of the contract is under the $750,000 dwelling price cap. 

The state revenue office approves the application and will provide the $25,000 grant to the couple when they make the first progress payment (noting that construction must be contracted to commence within three months of signing the contract).

Emma and Liam commence construction on their new home and make their first progress payment to the builder on 2 November 2020. The state revenue office releases the $25,000 HomeBuilder grant directly into their nominated bank account once they have verified the couple has made their first progress payment to the builder.

As the couple are both first home buyers, Emma and Liam may also be entitled to their State’s First Home Owner Grant and stamp duty concessions as well as the Commonwealth’s First Home Loan Deposit Scheme and First Home Super Saver Scheme. 



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What you need to know about Scott Morrison’s new scheme


Specific details of the government’s new homebuyer grants are yet to be released – but they’re already causing a frenzy among those keen to get their foot on the property ladder.

The multi-billion dollar stimulus package is being designed to boost the economy amid fears the construction industry was set for a post-coronavirus slump.

RELATED: New homebuyer grants available to all

RELATED: PM’s new cash grant plan

While Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is yet to release details, so far, we know that new home construction and major renovation projects are both being considered for new cash grants, while the construction sector could also be in line for separate stimulus measures.

“We are more interested in the larger projects and new home builds and things like that,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told 2GB on Monday morning.

“We are looking at a bit of drop off in that current home building that’s going on. That’s not good for tradies and not good for jobs.

“A big part of coming out of the COVID-19 crisis is our infrastructure spending.”

While specifics of the grants are still unknown, it is understood to focus on new builds and certain types of home renovations.

And crucially, it won’t be limited to first home buyers only.

Sky News political editor Andrew Clennell revealed yesterday that the plan would be detailed this week, in a bid to prop up the economically crucial home-building sector and save construction jobs.

“This will be across the board – not just for first homebuyers – as the government looks to prevent a 30 to 50 per cent drop in residential construction,” Clennell said on Sky News.

WHAT DO YOU GET NOW?

While the new plan will be welcomed by many would-be property buyers, a number of other grants and concessions are already available across the country.

According to the federal government, The First Home Owner Grant (FHOG) scheme was introduced on July 1, 2000 to offset the effect of the GST on home ownership. It is a national scheme funded by the states and territories and administered under their own legislation.

Under the scheme, a one-off grant is payable to first homeowners that satisfy all the eligibility criteria, although some states also have other initiatives on offer.

ACT

For ACT residents, the FHOG is currently worth $7000 and it provides financial assistance to eligible people buying their first new or substantially renovated home.

To be eligible for the FHOG, you must be buying or building a new home, substantially renovated home or off-the-plan home, with a commencement date on or after January 1 2017, or building a home as an owner-builder, for which building started on or after January 1, 2017

the total value of the property (home plus land) must be $750,000 or less

NSW

As a first homebuyer in NSW, you may be eligible for several benefits.

Under the First Home Buyers Assistance Scheme, you might be offered full or partial exemption on transfer duty on homes of no more than $800,000

There’s also the First Home Owner Grant (New Home) package, which includes a $10,000 grant towards the purchase price, in addition to the First Home Buyers Assistance Scheme benefits.

To access the grant, you must be buying or building your first new home which can’t be worth more than $750,000.

NT

There are a range of government grants, concessions or rebates available to eligible NT locals.

First homeowners may be able to access the $10,000 first homeowner grant to buy or build a new home in the territory, may be eligible for a discount of up to $23,928.60 off stamp duty on an established home, a $10,000 home renovation grant or a $2000 grant to buy household goods.

If you are aged over 60, a pensioner or a carer holding a Northern Territory Pensioner and Carer Concession card, you can apply for $10,000 in stamp duty relief, while low or middle income earners can apply for the Homebuyer Initiative or HomeBuild Access schemes.

Other benefits include the BuildBonus grant, which is worth $20,000 regardless of prior ownership, and the Territory Home Owner Discount which will knock up to $18,601 off stamp duty if you are buying an established home, a new home or land to build a new home in the Northern Territory.

QLD

The Queensland First Home Owners’ Grant is a state government initiative to help first homeowners to get their new first home sooner.

If your contract is dated July 1 2018 or later, you can get $15,000 towards buying or building your new house, unit or townhouse (valued at less than $750,000).

The grant is paid per new home, not to each of the applicants for the same home.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SA residents may be eligible for a range of concessions, including the Housing Construction Grant, First Home Bonus Grant, First Home Owners Boost and the stamp duty First Home Concession schemes.

TASMANIA

A $20,000 first homeowner grant is available to eligible applicants who purchase or build a new home in Tasmania, while first home buyers purchasing an established home may be eligible for the First Home Owner duty concession of 50 per cent discount, on eligible established homes with a dutiable value of $400,000 or less.

VICTORIA

A $10,000 First Home Owner Grant is available when you buy or build your first new home in the state.

The FHOG is $20,000 for new homes built in regional Victoria, for contracts signed from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2021.

Your first home can be a house, townhouse, apartment, unit or similar but it must be valued at $750,000 or less, be the first sale of the property as residential premises and the home must be less than five years old.

WA

The $10,000 first homeowner grant is also available in WA for those buying or building new homes, and if you receive the grant, or would be eligible except that you are purchasing an established home, you may be eligible for the concessional first homeowner rate of duty.



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Key moments from Scott Morrison’s coronavirus press conference after National Cabinet meeting


It’s been two weeks since National Cabinet last met to discuss how Australia has been navigating the coronavirus pandemic.

A lot has happened in that time. Restrictions have eased, recoveries have increased, clusters have emerged and, sadly, more Australians have died from COVID-19.

So, there was no doubt going to be plenty of discussion and decisions made.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy provided an update on what is next in Australia’s recovery process.

Missed the press conference? Here’s a breakdown of the key points.

‘COAG is no more’

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has been meeting since 1992.

Today, the Prime Minister announced it would be scrapped and replaced by the National Cabinet.

Mr Morrison said the new format would promote more regular and simplified communication between state and territory leaders.

“We want to streamline those endless meetings so we can bring it back to one focus: creating jobs out of the back of this crisis,” Mr Morrison said.

“We think that will ensure Australians get better government, more focused government, at a state and federal level.”

The PM said the new National Cabinet system will have a “job-making agenda” with a series of subcommittees focusing on certain areas.

“The National Cabinet will continue to work with a laser-like mission focus on creating jobs as we come out of the COVID crisis and we work into the years into the future,” he said.

Scott reaches to shake Gladys' hand
The National Cabinet will meet face-to-face twice a year.(AAP: David Gray)

“Important task forces will continue that previously worked to COAG in important national agenda issues.

“The final details of which ministerial groups are set in this area, as I said, the consolidation that takes place in the other areas, that will come in time. But we’ve agreed on the new structure.”

The National Cabinet will continue to meet fortnightly during the coronavirus response period and will meet monthly after that. But it will not necessarily be face-to-face, with the PM citing the success of tele-meetings so far.

“When these groups get together, there’s a lot of theatre, a lot of people in the room,” he said.

“That can, I think, restrict the genuine reform discussions that you have to have.

“Having the groups operate like a fair-dinkum cabinet has been really important.”

The National Cabinet is expected to meet in person twice a year.

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Millions committed to hospitals

The National Cabinet also committed more funding to hospitals and healthcare workers.

Mr Morrison said it agreed to a multi-billion-dollar five-year national health reform agreement.

The Commonwealth will invest an estimated $131.4 billion for a “demand-driven public hospital funding model” aimed at improving health outcomes for Australians and ensuring the sustainability of health systems.

“All states and territories have now signed on to that agreement as of today,” Mr Morrison said.

“There is also, as part of our agreement, a funding guarantee to all states and territories to ensure no jurisdiction is left worse off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and guarantees the Commonwealth’s funding contribution for public hospitals over the next five years.”

Restrictions have been tough but essential

While the pandemic has hurt many people and businesses economically, Mr Morrison said the government had been justified in imposing tough restrictions.

He said that the National Cabinet’s three-step plan to balance the health and economic impacts of the pandemic was working.

“The risk remains great, and always has been,” he said.

“Australia’s success can lead some to think that perhaps the risk was never there in the first place, but that is not true.

“We only need to look at countries as sophisticated as ours, as developed as ours, with health systems as strong as ours, who have death rates 100 times of what has occurred in Australia.

“So, we would be foolish to think that we were immune or that we are immune.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stands in front of a projector screen that says Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia
Scott Morrison said National Cabinet’s plan remains to balance the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.(ABC News/Matt Roberts)

With fewer than 500 active cases in Australia at the moment and only two people are on ventilators, and Mr Morrison said there was no expectation to get down to zero cases before things started reopening.

“Eradication? Elimination? These are not the goals that we have,” he said.

“If it’s achieved as a by-product, then well and good.

“But the fact that a case or a group of cases may present is not something that should restrict moving ahead and getting progress on implementing the three-step plan, and bringing Australia’s economy back to a COVID-safe environment in which jobs can be restored and livelihoods can be restored.”

State border closures aren’t up to the Federal Government

Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Western Australia all have various border restrictions in place for non-essential travellers.

The Prime Minister said National Cabinet had a “very candid discussion” about border closures at today’s meeting.

He said National Cabinet never made the decision to implement state border closures, but interstate travel was not expected to be on the cards until July anyway.

“We don’t agree on everything. No-one does. It would be a bit weird if they did in a democracy,” Mr Morrison said.

“We have to bear in mind that in the vast majority of cases, the states and territories have worked very well with the Commonwealth on these issues and I remain optimistic common sense will prevail on the timetable National Cabinet has set out.”

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Still unsure on face masks?

Professor Murphy said broadly, the advice had not changed and people do not have to wear a mask.

But there was no reason you cannot wear one, particularly if you need to travel on public transport.

“The [Australian Health Protection Principal Committee] has recognised in a public transport situation people may choose to wear masks when up close to other people,” he said.

“We recognise that is not an unreasonable thing to do.

“We are not recommending [masks] in the community because of low transmission but we warn that’s not a complete protection.”

Professor Murphy said as restrictions ease, it was crucial that Australians were still careful.

“If I can make one plea to everybody as we get back to normal life, just remember the simple principles, please keep practising the social distancing,” he said.

“Please get tested if you are unwell and stay home and practice the hygiene and distancing measures we talked about.”



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Scott Morrison’s plan to save Australia, Highest number of COVID-19 cases recorded


A leaked draft of the National COVID-19 Commission manufacturing report has detailed the key industries Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been advised to target “immediately” to unlock billions of dollars to save Australia from economic ruin.

The interim taskforce report – obtained by Sky News Political Editor Andrew Clennell – reveals the gas and manufacturing industries will be the Coalition’s major focus.

“We need to be decisive and begin immediately to create an Australian gas market that delivers globally competitive results,” the report said.

The report also calls for the creation of a “competitive domestic gas market”, including removing barriers to supply, building the bridge of supply in the near term, lowering the cost of pipelines, completing then network of pipelines to markets.

Focusing on the energy industry is predicted to create up to 170,000 well paid direct jobs and up to 800,000 indirect jobs which the report predicts could generate between $10-20 billion in direct GDP.

It would also help “support the reskilling of many of those affected by current pandemic” and diversify the economy.

By 2030, up to 412,000 new jobs could be created by boosting gas alone.

The report also mentions the need for a new Manufacturing Board to be set up under the Industry Minister to develop a 10-year policy plan on manufacturing for annual review.

Industry Minister Karen Andrews’s office told Sky News the new taskforce could “stimulate the sector” and grow domestic manufacturing.

“The National Covid Coordination Commission established a manufacturing taskforce to develop ideas that could stimulate the sector,” she said.

“Any suggestions made by this Taskforce are to the NCCC for consideration and not from the government. Any final suggestions from the Taskforce may feed into the work being done across a range of portfolios, led by the Industry Minister, to grow Australian manufacturing.”

WORST DAY ON RECORD AS CASES GROW TO 5 MILLION

The World Health Organisation has expressed concern about the rising number of new coronavirus cases in poor countries, even as many rich countries have begun emerging from lockdown.

The global health body said on Wednesday that 106,000 new cases of infections of the coronavirus had been recorded in the past 24 hours, the most in a single day since the outbreak began.

“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.

“We are very concerned about rising cases in low and middle income countries.”

Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, said: “We will soon reach the tragic milestone of 5 million cases”.

Many countries around the world are loosening their coronavirus restrictions but people are discovering that what a return to normal looks like varies widely. In Spain, it’s a new government order to wear masks outside even as some businesses reopen.

In Italy, where good food is an essential part of life, once-packed restaurants and cafes are facing a huge financial hit as they reopen with strict social distancing rules after a 10-week shutdown. Experts warn that as many as one- third of the country’s restaurants and bars could go out of business, up to 300,000 jobs in the sector could vanish and losses could reach 30 billion euros ($A49 billion) this year.

The head of the Dutch hospitality industry welcomed a decision to allow bars and restaurants to reopen on June 1 but warned about the impact of mandatory social distancing rules.

“The restrictions are unfortunately unworkable” for many businesses, said Rober Willemsen of Royal Hospitality Netherlands, adding that more government support is needed to ensure the survival of many bars and restaurants.

Education, in many places, is facing radical changes.

Cambridge became the first university in Britain to cancel all face-to-face lectures for the upcoming school year, saying they will be held virtually and streamed online until the summer of 2021.

In South Korea, hundreds of thousands of high school seniors had their temperatures checked and used hand sanitisers as they returned on Wednesday, many for the first time since late last year. Students and teachers were required to wear masks and some schools installed plastic partitions around desks.

France is limiting spaces in its primary schools, giving priority to the children of essential workers and those in need. Some younger students even go on alternating days while high schools remain closed.

While infection rates have been falling in Asia and much of Europe, the pandemic is still spiking in Latin America.

Brazil this week became the world’s third worst-hit country with more than 250,000 confirmed cases despite limited testing.

In Lima, the capital of Peru, coronavirus patients are filling up the city’s intensive care beds.

More than 4.9 million people worldwide have been confirmed infected by the virus, and more than 320,000 deaths have been recorded, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Russia and Brazil are now behind only the United States in the number of reported infections, and cases are also spiking in India, South Africa and Mexico.

‘TIME FOR A REALITY CHECK’: WARNING ON EASING LOCKDOWNS

Western Australia Health Minister Roger Cook has called for a reality check on any further loosening of coronavirus restrictions, saying it will take about two weeks to see the effects of the latest changes.

“I think it’s time for a reality check. We’ve had phase two openings now for just three days,” Mr Cook said.

“We are dealing with a killer disease and we must do these things gradually.”

Mr Cook reiterated WA needed to see consistently low infection numbers in other states before the McGowan Government would allow interstate travel to resume.

“We really need to undertake an all or nothing approach to this,” he said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan likened NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to a bully for calling on states to scrap travel restrictions.

“It’s odd. NSW is saying don’t catch public transport in Sydney yet they’re saying why can’t NSW people fly to WA? The message is totally inconsistent,” Mr McGowan said.

“We’re not going to give in to that sort of bullying by the NSW premier or anyone else.”

SPAIN’S LOCKDOWN EASES

Spain has made it compulsory for all citizens, including children over six, to wear masks in public spaces as one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns gradually unwinds.

The Health Ministry order said the masks – whose efficiency in curbing the coronavirus is hotly debated globally – would be needed from Thursday for indoor public spaces and outdoors when impossible to keep a two-metre distance.

Spain has suffered 27,778 deaths and had 232,037 cases of the COVID-19 disease, according to latest data, while the tourism-dependent economy is forecast to contract up to 12.4 per cent in 2020 due its virtual paralysis since mid-March.

But the pace of new fatalities has slowed to under 100 a day, and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s left-wing coalition is aiming to lift most of the lockdown by the end of June unless there is a second wave.

To keep control of the gradual phase-out of restrictions, which vary from region to region, the government is requesting a two-week extension of the state of emergency.

The lower house of the Spanish parliament, where Mr Sanchez needs some opposition support for a majority, was due to vote on that on Wednesday.

Some are getting weary of the restrictions: demonstrators of up to a few hundred have been gathering daily at 9pm to bang pots and pans and call for the government’s resignation. Mainly in wealthy, conservative neighbourhoods, the protesters have often ignored social-distancing rules.

Madrid has eased restrictions to allow children outdoors, and shops and beaches to reopen. But it is keeping a quarantine for overseas travellers for another two weeks.

“We have not got this far by inertia, but by the work of the health workers. The citizens, united, have bent the curve. No one has the right to waste what we have achieved together,” Mr Sanchez told congress, as his minority government tackled the increasingly hard task of getting support from other parties to extend the state of emergency.

FRENCH VIRUS DEATHS ON RISE AGAIN

French health authorities have reported 110 new coronavirus deaths, an increase of 0.4 per cent, bringing the total to 28,132 – still the fourth-highest in the world behind the US, Britain and Italy.

The new figures on Wednesday local time followed a decline in the death toll on Tuesday due to adjustments reported by regional health centres in nursing homes.

The number of confirmed cases increased by 418 to 143,845, an increase of 0.3 per cent, in line with the average rise per day seen since the end of a lockdown on May 11.

On Tuesday, the number of cases rose by 524.

NATIONS REOPEN BUT STRUGGLE WITH ‘NEW NORMAL’

As nations around the world loosen coronavirus restrictions, people are discovering that “the new normal” is anything but.

Yet some realities have emerged: schools, offices, public transport, bars and restaurants are now on the front lines of post-lockdown life. How each of those key sectors manages social distancing and tamps down on expected new outbreaks will determine the shape of daily life for millions as researchers race to develop a vaccine that is still likely months, if not years, away from being available to all.

What a return to normal looks like varies widely. For hungry migrant workers in India, it was finally being able to catch trains back to their home villages to farm while city jobs dried up. For hundreds of cruise ship workers stranded at sea for months, it was finally reaching shore Wednesday in Croatia.

In Italy, where good food is an essential part of life itself, once-packed restaurants and cafes are facing a huge financial hit as they reopen with strict social distancing rules. The losses are forecast to pile up to 30 billion euros ($A60 billion) this year.

“We have to turn upside down all the activity that we did before,” lamented chef Raffaele di Cristo, who now must wear a mask and latex gloves as he prepares food at the popular Corsi Trattoria in Rome. “Everything is changed. Slowly, slowly, we will try to understand and to adapt to this coronavirus.”

Corsi reopened for business Monday with half its tables removed to ensure the mandated 1-meter spacing between tables.

Hand sanitising gel was placed at the entrance and a new ordering system was installed so customers can read the menu on their phones.

Some shops in Italy have complained about a shortage of gloves keeping away customers. Veneto Gov. Luca Zaia said on Wednesday he would change the rules on wearing gloves in clothing stores and shoe shops and substitute sanitising gel instead.

Slovakia reopened theatres, cinemas and shopping malls on Wednesday, all with new restrictions on visitor numbers, even though it has had only 28 deaths from COVID-19.

The head of the Dutch hospitality industry welcomed a decision to allow bars and restaurants to reopen on June 1, but warned about the impact of mandatory social distancing rules.

“The restrictions are unfortunately unworkable” for many businesses, said Rober Willemsen of Royal Hospitality Netherlands, adding that more government support is needed to ensure the survival of many bars and restaurants. Education is also facing a radical rethink.

Cambridge became the first university in Britain to cancel all face-to-face lectures for the upcoming school year, saying they will be held virtually and streamed online until summer 2021.

Other institutions have taken different tacks: the California State University system has announced that most classes will be online for the fall.

The University of Notre Dame in Indiana will bring students back to campus but redesigned its calendar to start the semester early in August and end before the Thanksgiving holiday, along with ordering masks, testing and contact tracing.

In South Korea, hundreds of thousands of high school seniors had their temperatures checked and used hand sanitisers as they returned Wednesday, many for the first time since late last year after their new term was repeatedly pushed back. Students and teachers were required wear masks and some schools installed plastic partitions around desks.

France is limiting spaces in its primary schools, giving priority to the children of essential workers and those in need. Some younger students even go on alternating days, while high schools remain closed.

In the new normal, people’s gratitude at being able to shop or eat out again is mingling with worries about job security.

Business was slow Wednesday at a Paris farmer’s market with a mixed mood among the masked, gloved vendors. A man selling peonies and petunias said he was glad to get out and see shoppers again, while a woman selling asparagus and tomatoes behind a makeshift plastic screen grumbled that her customers were buying less than usual.

Fears about job security are not unwarranted.

Airline engine maker Rolls-Royce announced plans Wednesday to cut 9,000 workers as it grapples with the collapse in air travel due to the pandemic.

In general, those jobs come with good pay and benefits, and losing them is a sharp blow to local communities. Some businesses are adapting quickly to new realities. In Kenya, safari operators have resorted to sharing live broadcasts on social media in hopes that attention to endangered and other species doesn’t fade.

Many governments, including those in scores of U.S. states, are in fierce disagreement over what the new normal should even be.

More than 4.9 million people worldwide have been confirmed infected by the virus, and over 323,000 deaths have been recorded, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts believe is too low for reasons that differ country by country. The United States has seen nearly 92,000 deaths and Europe has had nearly 165,000.

CORONAVIRUS STILL SPIKING IN SOME COUNTRIES

While infection rates have been falling in much of Europe, the pandemic is still spiking in Latin America.

Brazil this week became the world’s third worst-hit country with more than 250,000 confirmed cases despite limited testing.

In Lima, the capital of Peru, coronavirus patients are filling up the city’s intensive care beds.

“We’re in bad shape,” said Pilar Mazzetti, head of the Peruvian government’s COVID-19 task force. “This is war.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Wednesday that the pandemic could push millions into extreme poverty in Africa, where the virus has reached every country.

Guterres said Africa needs more than $200 billion ($A303bn) and “an across-the- board debt standstill” for struggling nations.

“(This must be) followed by targeted debt relief and a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture to prevent defaults,” he added.

Russia and Brazil are now behind only the United States in the number of reported infections, and cases are also spiking in India, South Africa and Mexico.

Russia announced Wednesday that its coronavirus caseload has surpassed 300,000, with the death toll almost reaching 3000.

Indonesia has recorded its highest single-day rise in COVID-19 cases as the government is preparing for a “new normal” by July.

A health ministry official says infections rose by 693 cases, raising the total to more than 19,000.

Some Indonesians believe there’s little commitment from the government and citizens to fight the virus.

The country has carried out about 154,000 tests among the population of about 270 million.

All 50 of the United States are poised to reopen but Florida and Georgia are under scrutiny for their reporting on COVID-19 cases.

A Florida official working on tracking coronavirus case numbers says she was removed from the project for wanting to track numbers accurately and she has questioned the state’s commitment to transparency.

In the Southern state of Georgia, a misleading chart was posted on the state Department of Public Health’s web page, leading some to suspect that data tracking is not accurate there either.

The two states are among the first to announce the reopening of businesses and public spaces amid the pandemic.

All 50 states have at least partially reopened, although on Tuesday local time those measures had corresponded directly with an increase in daily cases of the virus.

And even though the CDC released a 60-page document of recommended reopening guidelines, the White House last week shelved the guidance over concerns it was too specific.



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Key moments from Scott Morrison’s coronavirus press conference unveiling National Cabinet’s mental health plan


The Prime Minister today unveiled the details of National Cabinet’s nationwide mental health and wellbeing pandemic plan, which aims to help people through the coronavirus crisis.

But that wasn’t all — information about the elective surgeries freeze lift, what we know about the Kawasaki disease-like illness linked to COVID-19 and the resumption of domestic travel were among the other topics on the agenda.

Here are all the key points from today’s press conference following the Government’s National Cabinet meeting.

What we know about the national mental health and wellbeing pandemic plan

The Government today announced it would commit $48.1 million in additional support for the implementation of its new mental health and wellbeing plan.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said $7.3 million had been allocated for research, $29.5 million for outreach to vulnerable communities and $11.3 million for communication and other outreach programs.

The plan was put together by Christine Morgan from the National Mental Health Commission, working closely with the states and territories.

Ms Morgan said 957,000 mental health services were delivered in the last four weeks, which is up on last year.

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The National Mental Health Commission’s Christine Morgan outlines the Government’s pandemic mental health plan

But she said there are still gaps — which is where the mental health and wellbeing pandemic plan comes in.

“The first gap is data collection. The second is, we have had people disconnect from services.

A quick cases update

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy was on deck to give a brief coronavirus cases update.

He said Australia currently has 7,017 confirmed cases.

About 20 new cases a day have been confirmed in recent days.

Professor Murphy said there are only about 50 COVID-19-related patients in Australian hospitals.

And there are only 12 people still on ventilators.

He said it would be important for Australians to remember the virus is still out there, particularly as people resume normal activities.

Meanwhile, Mr Hunt said national vaccination levels were almost at 95 per cent for the first quarter, which is at or about record level.

How are we going with step one?

The Prime Minister said he was pleased that the states and territories were “overwhelmingly moving through step one” a week on from National Cabinet announcing the three-step process that would be followed to ease COVID-19-related restrictions.

“And while there’s not too much to celebrate more broadly as a country … it is a welcome sign that we are on the road back,” Mr Morrison said.

Scott Morrison looks to the right as he stands at a podium mid-speech. He wears a light blue tie, a dark blue suit and glasses.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speak to the media at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Friday, May 15, 2020.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

“And as businesses and cafes and others are opened up this weekend, those businesses … they’re backing themselves, they’re backing their staff, they’re backing their communities, and they’re backing their country.

Elective surgeries and how they’re set to resume

The Prime Minister and National Cabinet have agreed to resume all elective surgeries, but the speed at which this happens will depend on the states and territories.

“That will be welcome, particularly to the private health industry and the jobs that are supported throughout that sector.”

Professor Murphy said: “Clearly, in those states that are having essentially no cases, they want to go fairly quickly back to full elective activity.

“Those states that still have some transmission are probably going to take it a bit more gently.”

What you need to know about the Kawasaki disease-like illness linked to COVID-19

Professor Murphy said National Cabinet today discussed the potentially inflammatory disease that’s been noted in a small number of children with COVID-19.

He said the risk of this happening is “extremely rare”.

“I was able to brief [National Cabinet] on the fact that this is extremely rare and probably unlikely to be seen in Australia, given our very, very low number of infections in children,” he said.

“It’s still not clear what the association with the virus is, for this condition, but it is extremely rare.”

No instances of the illness have been recorded in children in Australia.

Will free child care and JobKeeper be extended?

Mr Morrison was asked whether free child care would be extended beyond its June 30 end date, as well as whether a similar extension for the JobKeeper benefit, due to end in late September, could be on the cards.

The Prime Minister said the Education Minister was in the process of considering the former.

But he reiterated free child care was put in place as a temporary measure because it is not viable long-term.

Mr Morrison said no final decisions on free child care had been made, but added: “The intention was always to return to the payment arrangements and subsidy arrangements that had been put in place prior to those things coming into effect.”

A line stretches back as far as the eye can see outside Centrelink.
About 6.1 million Australians have been approved for JobKeeper.(ABC News: Chris Taylor)

On the same issue for JobKeeper, Mr Morrison said his Government had initially estimated about six million Australians would be supported by the program, though it’s now closer to 6.1 million.

“And so we’ve already exceeded what those estimates are,” he said.

When will we be able to travel domestically?

Good news for those hankering for a return to the days of freedom of movement.

The Prime Minister today said Australians would “hopefully” be able to travel domestically and move around the country more widely as early as July.

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PM spruiks domestic tourism as economy reopens (Photo – ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

This means that after we take account of the number of international tourists visiting and Australians travelling abroad, there is a net import factor of just over $20 billion.

“Now, that’s up for grabs for Australian domestic tourism operators. Australians who might otherwise go elsewhere, that is a very large market, and that will be targeted,” Mr Morrison said.

The Prime Minister added he had had “that discussion” with the Minister for Tourism this week, and that plans were in the works to work with Tourism Australia and the other state and territory tourism agencies to focus on bringing the domestic tourism industry back on its feet.

Unemployment figures and how they’re impacting the country

Mr Morrison said the Government was focussing on Australia’s unemployment curve in the wake of unemployment figures released yesterday.

National Cabinet was today briefed by Steven Kennedy, the head of the Treasury, Philip Lowe, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, and Wayne Byrnes, the head of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) on the matter.

The Prime Minister said that in the coming months, he would be working with premiers and chief ministers to get newly unemployed Australians back into jobs.

Mr Morrison added that while our financial markets are fragile at the moment, they’re still “very functional”.

He said National Cabinet noted that our banking system had stood up well so far, but that the system — and the Federal supports behind it — have capacities.



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World reacts to Scott Morrison’s bold plan


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed the three-step plan to end coronavirus restrictions and create a “COVID-safe society and economy” by July.

The framework was agreed to by state and territory leaders at today’s national cabinet meeting, but each will get the final say on how quickly they move through the stages based on the status of the disease.

“We know we need to be careful to preserve our gains, (but) if we wish to reclaim the ground we lost, we cannot be too timid,” Mr Morrison told reporters.

RELATED: Follow more coronavirus news

Around the world, news networks covered the announcement. CNN wrote that “local transmission has been curbed” and the “outbreak (is) now considered broadly under control”.

Newspapers around the world also reacted to Australia’s bold three-point plan to reopen.

“The country has now tested over 730,000 people for the virus, with 6,900 confirmed cases and 97 deaths,” read a story in today’s edition of The New York Times.

“The slow reopening was met with cautious support by many Australians.”

And Bloomberg reported that Australia’s “success in flattening the curve of new coronavirus infections allows it to relax lockdown restrictions”.

In the UK, The Independent wrote that: “While the country has been hailed for successfully containing the disease and preventing local hospitals being swamped by coronavirus patients, the lockdown measures have still taken a devastating toll on the economy.”



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Scott Morrison’s reaction to ‘Andrew’ viral TikTok trend


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed his thoughts on a TikTok trend sparked by one of his press conferences.

The “Andrew not running press conferences” line became a viral meme after Mr Morrison told ABC political editor Andrew Probyn he wasn’t going to take his question.

During a Facebook Live with news.com.au on Tuesday night, Mr Morrison was shown a clip that mocks his response, by Melbournian Jeff van de Zandt.

“I have seen that one, it’s pretty good, that music has been used on a few others,” Mr Morrison said with a laugh.

“I’m glad people are enjoying those press conferences, I mean not many people watch press conferences as you know.

“I think people have been surprised at some of the interaction that regularly occurs between politicians and journalists at these pressers.

“I think they’ve found that all a bit fascinating, but if it’s entertained people, you know, happy to be doing that.”

Elsewhere in the discussion, Mr Morrison told Aussies not to expect the virus to be eradicated from Australia.

“There obviously will be cases in a whole bunch of workplaces,” Mr Morrison said.

“When we get back to what I’d call a ‘COVID-safe Australia’ – which is what we’re aiming to get back to, when a lot of the restrictions will be able to be pared away – there will still be cases.

“I mean, it won’t be eradicated. There will still be outbreaks.

“The goal is not to bring it down to zero. That’s not a practical expectation. It is to ensure that we can keep on top if, that if there are outbreaks we can shut them down, that when people contract it we can isolate them, and we can ensure that the health system remains in a position to be able to respond.

“That way we can get the economy open and we can stay on top of the coronavirus.”

Asked when the Bunnings sausage sizzle would reopen, he jokingly acknowledged its status as an “essential service”, and said it was “certainly be on my list” of things he’s looking forward to.



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Australian News

Victorians confused by Scott Morrison’s promise of an “early mark” for Australia’s lockdown


Strict coronavirus restrictions will be relaxed in a week with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying yesterday that Australians “have earned an early mark”, but some Victorians are confused about the comment.

Associate Professor Patrick Stokes, from Melbourne, Victoria, queried what “an early mark” actually meant.

“Is ‘early mark’ actually an expression? Not mocking Morrison, I’ve just genuinely never heard it before,” he said on social media.

Others in Victoria have never heard it before, causing some people to claim the expression is unique to NSW.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia’s coronavirus restrictions would be eased from next week, saying the country has earned an early mark.

Speaking to reporters after yesterday’s National Cabinet, Mr Morrison said Australia had flattened its coronavirus curve, allowing the government to drop restrictions earlier than expected.

“Australians have earned an early mark,” he said.

Mr Morrison said the National Cabinet would meet twice over the next week before announcing relaxed restrictions next Friday.

He said health experts had provided 15 conditions that Australia should meet before restrictions could be relaxed. The country has already met 11 of the 15.

Mr Morrison’s comments have caused quite a stir between NSW and Victoria Twitter users.

Some NSW residents were shocked that Victorians hadn’t heard the expression before.

“I’m stunned people haven’t heard this! Is it a NSW thing?” said one Twitter user.

“I thought this was a universal thing?” said another.

Other Victorians jumped onto Twitter and clarified that they’d heard the expression.

People have also tried to come up with the definition of an early mark, though no-one appeared to be in full agreement.

A quick Google search cleared up the issue. Google described the expression as coming “Chiefly (from) New South Wales in Australia” and defined it as “The permission to leave early (from class, school, workplace, etc.) before the scheduled end time; an early finish.”



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