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Scott Morrison defends watching Sharks football game during pandemic


Scott Morrison has defended his decision to enjoy a beer and watch his beloved Cronulla Sharks at the weekend as Melbourne remains in lockdown after a social media backlash.

The Prime Minister is taking some time with his family this week near Sydney but has not taken formal leave and remains on the job.

Broadcaster Ray Hadley urged the PM to “take the phone off and just absolutely relax” for 24 hours, but Mr Morrison said today it wasn’t the time for that.

“Well, I appreciate that, Ray, but you know there’s a lot going on at the moment so we remain very connected,’’ he said.

“We’ve got great teams. Just because you don’t see me on cameras doesn’t mean I am not hard on the task.”

“The game wasn’t that great to watch but you have got to be loyal to your team. Always.”

Mr Morrison was plagued with a “crook” phone line during the radio interview but insisted he was close to Sydney.

“I am within an hour of the CBD, so anyway,’’ he said.

RELATED: More virus cases linked to Sydney pub

Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews refused to be drawn into the drama on Sunday, declining to criticise the PM for attending a rugby league game in NSW while Victoria is in lockdown.

“I wouldn’t begrudge anyone taking time off with their family, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable thing,” Mr Andrews said.

“And before you give me the footy question, I’ve got better things to worry about than who went to the footy in New South Wales.”

On Friday, the Prime Minister revealed he would be spending some time outside of Sydney with his wife and two daughters during the school holidays but insisted he would not be on holidays “full-time.”

“As you know, it is a school holidays and Jenny and the girls will be taking some time on the outskirts of Sydney but given the changing critical situation we have in Victoria, I will not be joining them for that full-time,” he said.

“I will also not be standing aside from the tasks I have all day.



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PM Scott Morrison drafting a plan to offer additional support to virus-hit Victoria


Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has defended Scott Morrison and said the PM spent the weekend drafting a plan for Victoria after he copped backlash for attending Saturday’s football game between his beloved Cronulla Sharks.

The PM’s wife, Jenny, along with his daughters, will holiday during the school break on the outskirts of Sydney this week but Mr Morrison would not be on formal leave. He is expected to return to Canberra later in the week.

“Given the changing critical situation we have in Victoria, I will not be joining them for that full-time,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.

“As a dad, I will take some time, but at the same time I can assure you we will remain absolutely focused on things we need to focus on next week.”

But when he was spotted at the Sharks game as authorities dealt with containing Victoria’s virus-hit suburbs, Mr Morrison was criticised for “frolicking at the footy”.

RELATED: Greg Hunt admits COVID-19 return ‘greater than expected’

RELATED: PM says JobKeeper support will always be a national program

RELATED: Premier rebuffs question about Scott Morrison attending NRL game

On Sunday night, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Sky News the PM’s appearance at the football adhered to social distancing restrictions and discussed plans to tackle Victoria’s coronavirus rise.

“In terms of around the country it’s appropriate for people to go about new activities and new behaviours, we’re encouraging that,” Mr Hunt said of the Prime Minister’s appearance at the football.

“He was demonstrating exactly what we’re encouraging in an appropriate way.”

It came just hours after Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth issued a stern reminder to anyone becoming complacent about the importance of social distancing, warning the nation’s death toll will rise if people slip back into old habits.

Mr Hunt said he had been working throughout the weekend with the PM to draft a plan for the Commonwealth to offer additional support for Victoria to help the state deal with the surge in infections.

The PM had “worked right through yesterday (Saturday) … on a new level of support for Victoria, over and above every thing that we’ve done”, Mr Hunt said.

“I know because I was working with him. I’ve been working with him throughout today, so this fellow never stops.

“He is one of the reasons, perhaps the fundamental reasons, that we are where we are.

“I have never seen any body work harder in my life and more effectively in protecting a country.”

Mr Hunt did not give detail or outline what support that would be but the government has already deployed more than a thousand Australian Defence Force personnel in Melbourne.

It’s understood that 850 of those will be involved with hotel quarantine, as over 30 cases linked to system have sparked concerns over physical distancing.

Another 200 ADF members will be involved in logistic and medical support.

The ADF members are expected to stay in Victoria until at least the end of July.

At Sunday’s Victoria coronavirus media briefing, where premier Daniel Andrews reported 273 new cases of the virus, he brushed off questions about Mr Morrison’s decisions to take time off, and to attend the football.

The Premier said he had “better things to worry about”.

Victoria recorded 273 new cases of coronavirus and one death on Sunday, as authorities warn police will no longer issue warnings to people found doing the wrong thing.

A man aged in his 70s is the latest fatality during the state’s second wave.

At least 57 Victorians are in hospital with 16 of those in intensive care.

The new cases bring the state’s total to 3799 cases, with almost 1500 of those active.

Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said there were at least 145 cases linked to public housing towers in North Melbourne and Flemington, and a further 22 in Carlton.

It comes as a cluster of eight coronavirus cases has been recorded among staff at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

The hospital says the cluster includes five cases acquired through community transmission and three cases detected through contact tracing.

Mr Andrews again put Victorians on notice, reminding them to only go out when for the purposes that are lawful – shopping for essentials, work or study, care or medical treatment, exercise.

“This is a dangerous time, this is a very challenging time,” Mr Andrews said.

“Victorian police have issued more warnings than fines last time. That won‘t be the case this time.

“If you are out and about doing the wrong thing, then Victoria Police will have no choice but to issue you with a fine.”



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Jim Chalmers urges Scott Morrison to extend scheme


Labor says JobKeeper needs to be extended so businesses don’t fall of a cliff come September.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers called for the Morrison Government to release its review into the wage subsidy scheme, which is examining whether further support is needed after the September cut-off.

Dr Chalmers slammed Prime Minister Scott Morrison for not making the report public and denying businesses and workers clarity.

“It’s time for him to come clean about the future of JobKeeper,” Dr Chalmers told reporters in Logan, Queensland on Saturday.

“He’s had the JobKeeper review for weeks. It’s time that he released it.”

About 3.3 million Australian workers are receiving the $1500 per fortnight wage subsidy, which was initially implemented to cushion the negative economic effects induced by the pandemic.

Dr Chalmers said businesses and workers risked falling off a cliff as COVID-19 financial support measures are scheduled to end on September 27.

“It’s very clear that the economy won’t just snap back to life in September, or large parts of it won’t, as the Prime Minister has said that it will,” Dr Chalmers said.

Mr Morrison has promised income support will continue after the September cut-off, but has yet to provide specifics.

“The details of our decisions will be set out at the time of releasing the economic statement, as I have been saying for some weeks, and there is no change to that timetable. I do note today, regrettably, that the Labor Party has engaged in fear mongering during a pandemic and I think this is disgraceful,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

“I have made it very clear that there would be a further stage of income support and to make people feel more uncertain in this climate I think is disgraceful and I think it reflects badly on their leadership.”

Dr Chalmers hit back at the PM on Saturday, saying “now is not the time for the Prime Minister’s infamous glass jaw”.

“We released into the public domain some Treasury figures, which show the magnitude of the challenge here, and the size of that rapidly approaching cliff,” the shadow treasurer said.

“The Prime Minister says that that’s disgraceful. Well, let me tell him what’s disgraceful. Disgraceful is sitting on a secret report for weeks in a way that only adds to the uncertainty that businesses and workers feel. Disgraceful is focusing obsessively on the Labor Party, as he does, rather than on the national economic interest. Disgraceful is leaving businesses in the lurch and in the dark, and leaving workers behind.”



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Sam Newman, Don Scott, Mike Sheahan settle dispute with Nicky Winmar over racism protest


Sam Newman, Don Scott and Mike Sheahan have issued a formal apology to St Kilda great Nicky Winmar over comments on their podcast about Winmar’s famous stand against racism.

In 1993, Winmar lifted his St Kilda jersey and pointed to his skin as a gesture of defiance after being subjected to racist abuse by the crowd in a match against Collingwood at Princes Park.

The image, captured by Sunday Age photographer Wayne Ludbey, has been credited as one of the most important images in AFL history.

However, on an episode of the controversial podcast, You Cannot Be Serious, Newman, Scott and Sheahan questioned whether Winmar was taking a stand over racism or simply pointing to his “guts”.

That suggestion was angrily opposed by Winmar and Ludbey, who began legal proceedings against the trio.

The parties met for mediation in Melbourne yesterday, after which Winmar was offered a public apology.

“During our 23 June 2020 podcast, we talked about Nicky lifting his jumper and pointing to his skin at the end of the 1993 Collingwood and St Kilda match during which he had been racially abused,” a statement from Newman, Scott and Sheahan read.

“We acknowledge what Nicky did was an act of Indigenous pride and defiance.

An Indigenous AFL player lifts his shirt and points to the colour of his skin in response to racial vilification by the crowd.
Nicky Winmar’s famous protest against racial vilification at the hands of Collingwood supporters during a match at Victoria Park in 1993.(Supplied: Wayne Ludbey)

“It was also a powerful statement of solidarity for Indigenous Australians who are subjected to racism and vilification.

“Any suggestion otherwise was wrong. We have reflected deeply on the issues.

“We understand many people would regard what we said as racially discriminatory of Nicky and Indigenous Australians.

“For all these reasons, we sincerely apologise to Nicky Winmar and to Indigenous Australians generally.”

Winmar said the apology was “good for our people”.

It is not the first time Newman has got into hot water in recent weeks based on comments he has made on his podcast.

Sam Newman stands with his mouth open
Sam Newman has courted controversy on his You Cannot Be Serious podcast.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

Last month Newman resigned from Channel Nine after attracting criticism for making comments about George Floyd, the man who was killed when a police officer in Minneapolis kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, sparking protests about the treatment of black people by police around the world.

The 74-year-old was immediately subject to a petition calling for him to be sacked, although Channel Nine said the network had “mutually and amicably” decided to part ways.

Sheahan had earlier this week quit the podcast after being called out for agreeing with Newman’s comments on Winmar.

Sheahan told the podcast in his final episode that Adam Goodes called him to express his disappointment.

“When Goodesy rang me, and he’s almost the elder statesman of the Indigenous players, he wasn’t angry and he wasn’t nasty, but he certainly was decisive and said a couple of things to me that really cut deeply,” Sheahan said.

“The one thing it reminded me of, was unless you walk in their shoes, in the shoes of the Indigenous boys, you don’t understand, we don’t comprehend what it means to them and the impact it has on them.”



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Mathias Cormann set to quit after calling Scott Morrison ‘control freak’


Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, the man who revived Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “economic girly man’’ insult in the Australian political lexicon and privately called Scott Morrison “narcissistic” is set to quit politics sparking a cabinet reshuffle.

Australia’s longest serving Finance Minister has denied growing speculation he will quit politics for months, but has responded with notable silence to three reports in the last month that he plans to resign.

But his departure also is set to remind voters of the ongoing leadership fallout within the Coalition over the ascension of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his increasing popularity, dominance and control of the government in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, there was even speculation that he might return to Europe in a diplomatic posting for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But the Belgian-born Liberal senator told friends he is more attracted to making some money in the corporate sector.

RELATED: Visa deal after China’s brutal crackdown

RELATED: Casuals accused of ‘biggest piss take’

Much-loved in some quarters of the Coalition for his calm and steady disposition and work ethic, he has come under sustained attack from former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as “weak and treacherous” over his role in the coup that elevated Scott Morrison.

Mr Turnbull’s memoir, A Bigger Picture, also revealed he privately criticised Mr Morrison as “a control freak” who spent too much time briefing the media of the government’s plans.

“Mathias regarded Scott as emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy and told me so regularly,” Mr Turnbull wrote.

“Of course, if Mathias had a poor opinion of Scott, (Peter) Dutton’s dislike of him was even stronger,” he says.

According to his book, Mr Turnbull and Senator Cormann were at times “at our wits’ end as to how to manage Scott” and that the Finance Minister said the government had “a treasurer problem”.

In one exchange of messages between the pair, he wrote that Senator Cormann replied: “[Morrison] operates completely differently from us. We prefer to stay absolutely resolute on course until we decide to change. He wants to flag possible changes way in advance (why?) which reduces optionality and makes us look undecided. I can’t work it out because it’s so counter productive.”

RELATED: 500,000 Aussies wipe out super funds

Senator Cormann played a central role in the leadership coup that destroyed Mr Turnbull’s prime ministership, switching his allegiance to Peter Dutton.

His decision to pull his support – along with fellow senators Michaelia Cash and Mitch Fifield – was regarded as critical but his own candidate Peter Dutton lost out to Mr Morrison.

In the hours after the leadership coup, Senator Cormann texted Mr Turnbull to apologise for what had happened and deny being part of an “insurgency”.

“I genuinely backed you until events developed, sadly, which in my judgment made our position irretrievable,” he wrote.

“All this has been very painful – yes, I know, first and foremost for you, and for that I am very sorry.”

But Mr Turnbull replied that Senator Cormann should be “ashamed”.

“At a time when strength and loyalty were called for, you were weak and treacherous. You should be ashamed of yourself,” he wrote.

Famously, Senator Cormann also made headlines after he took to the stage with German performer Nena, for a rendition of the pop song 99 Luftballoons at the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference.

RELATED: Call to kick protesters off JobSeeker

He also compared the former Labor leader Bill Shorten to jelly.

“Will Bill Shorten step up to the plate on budget repair in this Parliament, or will he continue to be like a jelly on that plate?” he said.

“Wibble wobble, wibble wobble jelly on a plate. First opposing, then supporting then not knowing what to do.”

After the election, Senator Cormann has been dogged by speculation that he was no longer in Mr Morrison’s inner circle, despite his senior role as Senate leader and Finance Minister.

Senator Cormann repeatedly denied he planned to quit politics in the lead up to the last election.

“I’m absolutely in it for the long haul,” he said.

But he has failed to deny recent reports in The Age, The Daily Telegraph and today in The Australian Financial Review that he plans to resign sparking a cabinet reshuffle.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, the deputy Senate leader, is tipped to take on the position of Senate leader and potentially the finance portfolio.

There’s also speculation that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton could be moved from the Home Affairs portfolio to Defence, a senior portfolio that is nonetheless regarded as something of a poisoned chalice as it is frequently the last stop before MPs depart the ministry and politics.



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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.”

RELATED: Scott Morrison wants Victoria to shutdown hot spots

RELATED: What China got wrong about Australia

RELATED: 155-year-old map fuelling China-India dispute

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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Scott Morrison says ‘there is hope’ for Australia despite economic downturn and coronavirus crisis


The prime minister has addressed the ongoing coronavirus crisis in Victoria, reminding Australians that spikes in cases should not come as a shock to Australians.

Victoria recorded 33 new coronavirus cases today, its highest daily case report in months.

Speaking on A Current Affair, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while he probably wouldn’t take his family to the hotspots in Victoria, the occasional outbreak should be expected.

“We have always said as we continue to move forward and the economy opens up, there will be outbreaks and cases and what matters is how we respond to them. They are inevitable,” Mr Morrison said.

“We can‘t expect there to be no cases. That is not success. What success is, is that we live alongside the virus, deal with the challenges that come along, keep opening up the economy, we keep getting people back into jobs.

“I‘d go to Victoria, but I wouldn’t go to the hotspots. That’s the point. There’s a localised outbreak and they’re containing that and that’s what’s important.

“If you are living in Wangaratta, you are as exposed as you are if you live in Wagga. I think we need to keep this in perspective.

“There is an outbreak in Victoria, and what would be described internationally as a modest level, but it requires a very swift and very comprehensive response and the Victorian government is leading that and they are getting strong support from other states and they are getting strong support from the federal government.”

Mr Morrison said Australians were living through “the hardest time we have seen since the Great Depression”.

“These are very hard times. Those hard times are showing themselves with people losing their work, they’re showing themselves with people losing businesses, showing themselves with people unable to connect in the way they have in times past with big family gatherings and those sorts of things,” he said.

“These are really hard times. The thing is about where we are as Australia, there is hope.

“Today the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, handed down the outlook for the local economy and they handed out an improved outlook for Australia from what they said from April to May.”

“This is the hardest time we have seen since the Great Depression but Australia is doing better than almost every other country in the world, both on the economy and on the health front we are working together to get through this.”

Mr Morrison said despite massive job cuts since the coronavirus crisis hit – the latest being at the ABC and Qantas – the PM was proud of how the country had handled it.

“I have been so proud of how Australians, despite setbacks, have clung together.

“I know what happened in my own community with what has happened with Qantas we are going to get support from each other. I think we will continue to do that.”

The PM was also questioned about how the Qantas job cuts would affect the country – especially his own electorate of Cook where most of the job cuts are expected to occur.

“These jobs have been lost because of the coronavirus. This is the COVID-19 recession. And for a business, Qantas, that needs to fly planes around the world, when you can’t do that, that has an obvious impact,” Mr Morrison said.

“I have had a long association with the company, even before I went into parliament, and I know how just absolutely devastating it would be.

“Qantas is a family and there is such a level of pride in people working there and putting that uniform on regardless of what role you play.

“I was at Qantas just as COVID-19 was escalating and I went down there to thank the staff for the amazing work they did in getting Australians out of Wuhan in China. That is their nature, they always turn up.

“For my own community in the Shire in southern Sydney, they will be gutted because everyone will know someone who will ultimately be affected by this but at the same time they will, I’m sure know that this would not be completely unexpected but it won’t make it any easier.”



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Scott Morrison doesn’t get the value of arts and culture


For the 600,000 Australians working in the arts and cultural sectors, the announcement of a $250 million support package will be great relief.

But, as many commentators and industry workers have pointed out, it’s too little, too late, and it’s proof that Prime Minister Scott Morrison just doesn’t get it.

While a sector struck hardest by the coronavirus pandemic will take any form of financial lifeline, the announcement from Scott Morrison’s government symbolises exactly the value it places on culture, entertainment and the arts in Australia.

Take, for example, the language Mr Morrison used in his announcement: “This package is as much about supporting the tradies who build stage sets or computer specialists who create the latest special effects, as it is about supporting actors and performers in major productions.”

Ah, yes, the tradies. We must never forget about the tradies who, by the way, have their own $688 million relief package announced weeks earlier.

It’s almost as if the arts and entertainment sectors are only worthy of support now that Mr Morrison knows movie and TV productions employ carpenters and electricians.

Why is it not enough to support ballet dancers, cellists, actors, caterers, gallery curators, lighting technicians and make-up artists?

Do these Australians not also have families and responsibilities? Did these Australians not spend years training and building a career they can be proud of?

Were these Australians not financially crippled when the pandemic shut down their workplaces immediately and comprehensively?

Do these Australians not work in industries that rely on consumers’ discretionary spending at a time of economic recession which sees household budgets tightened – and therefore are facing lean years ahead?

Have these Australians, working in a sector with a high amount of casual and contract employment and therefore not eligible for JobKeeper, not been crying out for help since the start of the pandemic?

RELATED: Guy Sebastian under fire for Morrison announcement

For every Nicole Kidman or Guy Sebastian, there are about 50 actors or musicians barely eking out a living doing what they love, and bringing joy and comfort to millions more.

And as much as you could argue that you can’t measure the value of adding “joy” to Australians’ lives through enriching experiences whether that be a live concert or theatre or television, you can measure how much arts and entertainment add to the economy: $117 billion in 2017, by the government’s own measure.

That was billion, not million. It’s the equivalent of 6.4 per cent of our GDP.

Australia is a small country. We may have outsized global impact but we are a country of 25 million people, which is a small consumer market. That’s why the arts need government funding, which isn’t just a handout but an investment.

So why is there such disdain for arts, culture and entertainment from Mr Morrison, who also accidentally said “stadium” when he meant to say “theatre”? That little Freudian slip screams volumes about what he values.

His government, just days ago, stripped almost all funding from arts and humanities university courses – degrees it argues doesn’t produce “jobs”.

(Never mind the fact that this Coalition government, since Tony Abbott’s election in 2013, has cut billions out of TAFE and vocational training funding.)

Arts and humanities degrees, like creative and cultural experiences, encourage critical thinking and deeper engagement with the world we live in. It encourages you to ask questions, not nod along compliantly.

Mr Morrison’s actions are of a man who doesn’t get it. Or, hey, maybe he does and is of the view that the people most likely to lose out – “creative types” – aren’t going to vote for him anyway.

But that would be too cynical, wouldn’t it?

Wenlei Ma is news.com.au’s TV and film critic and homepage editor



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Guy Sebastian stands with Scott Morrison at arts funding announcement


The Voice coach Guy Sebastian made a controversial appearance at the Prime Minister’s press conference in Rooty Hill this morning.

Sebastian, who rose to fame as the winner of the first season of Australian Idol and now serves as a coach on prominent talent show The Voice, stood behind the PM as he announced a $250 million package to boost the struggling arts sector.

The singer was seen nodding throughout the press conference and as Mr Morrison sang his praises for joining the consultation, before delivering a gush of praise of his own for the funding.

“Firstly, I would like to thank you guys, especially you Prime Minister, for listening … you really were, and that was evident the other day when we jumped on that Zoom call,” he said.

“You really did hear us out, you heard all the challenges we were facing.”

Mr Sebastian said the funding would help many get back to work, and that the funding showed the industry had not been forgotten.

While his presence was clearly welcomed by the Prime Minister, others took to social media to register their disgust, labelling the reality star a “scab”.



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Scott Morrison announces $250 million in arts funding, grants, loans after coronavirus


The Federal Government has announced a $250 million “JobMaker” funding package for Australia’s arts sector today, in a bid to help it recover from crippling coronavirus restrictions.

Under the plan, artists and entertainers will be able to apply for $90 million worth of concessional loans to fund new productions, provided through commercial banks with a 100 per cent Commonwealth guarantee.

Another $75 million will be made available in grants from the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund to produce new concerts, tours, festivals and events. The grants range from $75,000 to $2 million.

Commonwealth-funded arts organisations across music, circus, dance and arts will be eligible for a slice of $35 million in direct grants, and $50 million will go towards helping film and television projects secure funding and resume production.

The package will be rolled out over the next 12 months, with more details on eligibility and applications to be released in the coming weeks.

The Prime Minister will also approach state and territory leaders about a timetable to reopen theatres and productions during Friday’s National Cabinet meeting.

Mr Morrison said the arts and entertainment sector was one of the first areas impacted by coronavirus, and would be one of the last to return to normality.

“Our JobMaker plan is getting their show back on the road, to get their workers back in jobs,” he said.

“We’re delivering the capital these businesses need so they can start working again and support the hundreds of thousands of Australians who make their living in the creative economy.”

He added the measures would support not only performers and artists, but also crew members, front of house staff, and would give a flow-on boost to the tourism and hospitality industries.

While the Coalition expects the package to serve as a big boost for workers, Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance chief executive Paul Murphy described the announcement as a “slap in the face”.

Mr Murphy said while the money was welcome, it would do more for organisations than for workers, who had gone months without a pay cheque.

“The grants and loans will help arts organisations begin to recover from the coronavirus shutdown, but there is absolutely no relief for freelance and casual workers who have lost their jobs and suffered significant reductions in income,” he said.

“These workers are the backbone of the industry.

“It is essential to provide capital injections and financing and investment incentives to the bodies that provide employment in the industry, but there is no point in doing that if you don’t have a workforce.”

Mr Murphy said creative workers would benefit more from a change to the eligibility criteria for JobKeeper, which would allow them to claim the income subsidy.

“The stark reality is that we are in danger of losing a generation of creative professionals in this country without an adequate income support scheme,” he said.

The Government has responded to MEAA’s statement, claiming arts workers receive about $100 million each month in wage subsidy payments, in addition to numerous state government bailout measures.



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