Greens to push bill to extend JobKeeper & JobSeeker, invest in recovery

With JobKeeper set for a $60b underspend, the Greens will introduce legislation to the Senate when Parliament resumes in June to extend JobSeeker and JobKeeper eligibility, as well as pushing for investment in jobs-rich recovery in arts and manufacturing.

Although Labor previously voted against Greens’ amendments to extend JobKeeper eligibility to all casuals and gig workers and to give the coronavirus supplement to Disability Support Pension recipients and carers, the Greens are optimistic that the measures will pass the Senate, given Labor’s recent supportive comments as well as public statements from crossbenchers. Only two government backbenchers would then need to cross the floor for any of the measures to secure a majority in the House. The bill passing the Senate will increase pressure on the government to provide further assistance to those it has left behind. A Royal Commission into the banks was established after a Greens-led push passed the Senate and was due for a vote in the House, with the government ultimately caving in to avoid losing a vote.

The No One Left Behind bill to be introduced in the sittings commencing 10 June will seek:

  • the extension of JobKeeper eligibility to casuals employed less than 12 months, workers with intermittent employment histories, gig workers, university staff and temporary visa holders including international students; and
  • the payment of the full $550/week coronavirus supplement to DSP and carers payment recipients.

The Senate push will also include a redirection of funds from the government’s unused coronavirus stimulus package towards jobs-rich recovery measures, including:

  • a $2.3b fund to rescue the arts and creative sectors;
  • prepare for Australia’s recovery from the crisis by investing $12b to establish the Manufacturing Australia Fund to modernise and expand Australia’s manufacturing, creating clean, green jobs of the future.

Greens Leader Adam Bandt said:

“The $60b in already-budgeted funds should be used to help the people the government has left behind and invest in a jobs-rich recovery package. The Greens will use Parliament to help make it happen.

“Further cuts will make it harder to recover. We must invest to recover.

“Over 2 million workers are needlessly hurting and this bill will help them.

“The government budgeted $130 billion to save jobs. This is their chance to extend the JobKeeper payment to all casuals, temporary visa workers and industries left behind like universities.

“The arts, creative and university sectors are being decimated and there are now clearly funds available to help them get back on their feet.

“This underspend could also set up a new body, Manufacturing Australia, to turbo-charge manufacturing in this country, just like the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has done for clean energy. We can grow industries like green steel and provide decent jobs for coal workers as we phase out coal to deal with the climate emergency.”

Skills ‘Overhaul’ Without Free TAFE & New Funding Just Press Club Hot Air

The Greens have said that the Coalition government can’t be trusted to rebuild our vocational education system or create jobs, ahead of the Prime Minister’s address to the National Press Club today.

Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Australian Greens spokesperson for Education, said:

“Free TAFE and uni for all and new investment to rebuild publicly-delivered training in our TAFEs are the crucial first steps needed for any skills overhaul. That’s the benchmark for the Prime Minister today.

“Scott Morrison has overseen years of cuts and marketisation and now trots out the hollow language of efficiency without a hint of commitment to the public education and training we need to rebuild as a fairer and more equal society after this crisis.

“For Scott Morrison to turn around and criticise the skills system his Government has systematically undermined is hypocrisy of the highest form.

“In real terms, the Liberals have cut more than $2 billion in funding for student places in the last few years, watched training hours collapse, and apprenticeship numbers fall to historic lows.

“At the same time, the federal and state governments have done far too little to protect increasingly insecure jobs in TAFEs.

“I’m deeply concerned this will end up just another windfall for the profit-making private providers at the expense of TAFEs,” she said.

Adam Bandt MP, Leader of the Australian Greens, said:

“The Prime Minister isn’t a job maker, he is a job faker, with no plan to invest to create decent jobs.

“Cutting rights is not a plan to create jobs and nor is skilling people up for jobs that aren’t there.

“We must invest to recover, with nation-building, planet-saving projects and a Jobs and Income Guarantee.

“Depression-era job numbers demand a Depression-era response. That means not shying away from debt, but using it to invest in building a cleaner, fairer Australia. We need a Jobs and Income Guarantee to offer people security and decent work while setting Australia up for the future.

“We desperately need a plan to create decent work while tackling the climate crisis, but the only jobs this government is creating are for gas lobbyists.”

US Marine Rotational Force must not go ahead in order to protect Territorians

Australian Greens Peace and Disarmament spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John has expressed deep concern that the United States Marine Rotational Force will be going ahead in Darwin in early June.

“All military cooperation with the United States in Australia must cease while the threat of COVID-19 remains high to protect people in the the Northern Territory, including First Nations Communities and Australian Forces who would ordinarily be undertaking shared activities with US Troops based in the Top End,” Steele-John said.

“The Northern Territory has worked hard to ensure that COVID-19 is contained, including strict border controls and placing restrictions on movement into remote communities. So far, these measures have been extremely successful at keeping Territorians safe.

“Conversely, the United States has more than 1.2 million active cases of COVID-19 and President Trump’s handling of the crisis has been nothing short of a disaster.

“There have also been serious COVID-19 outbreaks on the USS Kidd, USS Theodore and many others.  This risk is further amplified by a decision by the US military to clamp down on publicising the number of cases there are amongst deployed forces due to security concerns.

“Noting that Darwin has already had returning Australian troops come in with COVID-19 from overseas deployments, I urge you to reconsider the allowing  Marine Rotational Force to go ahead over the next couple of week.

“There is absolutely no reason to put communities or the health system in the Top End at risk.”

Additional $20 million for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Research

The Australian Government is providing more than $20 million additional funding for research to improve mental health care and reduce suicide rates in Australia.

Mental health and suicide prevention remains one of the Government’s highest priorities.

Almost half of Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetimes and as we battle COVID-19 it’s more important than ever that we prioritise mental health.

Call for Rapid Research on the Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19

The disruption to normal life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the required restrictions has had profound impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of many Australians.

The Government will therefore be providing $3 million for a new grants round under the $125 million MRFF Million Minds Mission, for rapid research to improve the national mental health system response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This funding is for new research that will help better position our mental health system to be more effective in supporting Australians to manage their mental health and wellbeing, during and following the pandemic.

Applications for grants of up to $1 million will open on 1 June, with the research projects expected to deliver results within 12 to 18 months.

These grants may support work consolidating data systems, and help design and deliver new treatments, services, and policies. The research is expected to also be relevant in future times of hardship, such as natural disasters.

These research projects and the grant opportunity complement the Government’s broader efforts around mental health and suicide prevention, including the recently announced National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan.

Since 30th January, the Government has provided an additional approximately $500 million for mental health services and support, including $64 million for suicide prevention, $74 million for preventative mental health services, $48 million to support the pandemic response plan.

It also includes a significant proportion of the $669 million telehealth package to support MBS-subsidised treatments provided by GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.

$10.3 Million for Suicide Prevention Research

The Government is also investing $10.3 million to support three research projects to help reduce the rate of suicide in Australia.

In 2018, suicide was responsible for 12.1 deaths per 100,000 people in Australia, with 3,048 suicides recorded in that year.

Every suicide is a tragedy and devastates families, friends and loved ones.

Through the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission, the Government is investing in projects to better understand suicide and provide the right services, in the right place, at the right time.

The three successful projects to receive grants through the Mission are:

  • University of Melbourne (Professor Jane Pirkis): will receive $5.6 million to research the prevention of suicide in boys and men. Men account for 75 per cent of all suicides. This research will trial five interventions designed to encourage men to seek help. It will also trial two interventions designed to ensure that if men and boys seek help from telephone crisis support workers and psychologists, these providers can offer services that meet their needs.
  • University of New South Wales (Scientia Professor Helen Christensen AO): will receive $3.7 million for the Under the Radar Project. As many as 60 per cent of those who die by suicide are not in care. Many will only use the internet. This project will investigate the use of the internet as the first point of contact and develop a collaborative, consumer-led, comprehensive care model using digital, peer support and face-to-face services.
  • Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (Associate Professor Rebecca Giallo): will receive $951,000 to research suicide prevention among men in early fatherhood. One of the highest rates of suicide among men coincides with becoming fathers and raising young children. This project will develop effective interventions to improve men’s mental health during early fatherhood.

$6.75 Million to Improve Treatment Using Pharmacogenomics

In addition, the Government is investing $6.725 million to support research on the use of pharmacogenomics in providing more effective treatment options for Australians requiring medication for mental health challenges.

Pharmacogenomics looks at how genetics can affect a person’s response to certain drugs.

While psychological strategies are usually the first-line in treatment of mental illness, medications can be an important part of a treatment plan, with almost 10 per cent of Australians now regularly taking antidepressants.

However, a significant number of people do not respond positively to their first prescription, causing delays in improvements to their symptoms and sometimes exacerbating anxiety.

Studies suggest that antidepressant treatment response is significantly influenced by each person’s specific genetic profile, and delays in improvement of symptoms can potentially be reduced through predictive pharmacogenomics testing.

This $6.75 million in funding, under the Medical Research Future Fund’s Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research initiative, will allow four leading researchers to investigate how pharmacogenomics can be used to tailor mental health prescriptions to the needs of each individual and improve health outcomes.

The successful recipients are:

  • Professor Jon Emery (University of Melbourne) who will receive $1.39 million to investigate the effects of using pharmacogenomics to prescribe antidepressants on depression outcomes in patients with major depressive disorder in primary care.
  • Professor Sarah Medland (The Council of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research) who will receive $1.37 million to examine how we can improve the performance of pharmacogenomics in Australia.
  • Associate Professor Janice Fullerton (Neuroscience Research Australia) who will receive $1 million to investigate the pharmacogenomic signatures of bipolar disorder for improving treatment outcomes.
  • Doctor Kathy Wu (St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney) who will receive $2.95 million to conduct trial of genotype-guided versus standard psychotropic therapy in moderately-to-severely depressed patients.

These new research grants will help more effectively treat those who might need medication with options that are best suited to them, and will ensure that we continue to provide the best possible mental health care for all Australians, now and in the future.

Through record investments in mental health services and support, with expenditure estimated to be $5.2 billion this year alone, the Australian Government continues to demonstrate its firm commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians

Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Beyond Blue (1300 224 636), Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health (www.headtohealth.gov.au).

20-05-25 Hunt – Media Release – Additional $20 million for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Research

Reconciliation Australia Funding Confirmed For Three Years

The Morrison Government has committed $10.8 million over three years for Reconciliation Australia to continue their valuable work in shaping Australia’s journey towards reconciliation.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, said the funding will enable Reconciliation Australia to continue to help all Australians turn good intentions into meaningful action and deliver positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“For two decades, Reconciliation Australia has worked to improve relationships between Indigenous and other Australians, by building respect, trust and opportunities among individuals, organisations, schools and communities,” Minister Wyatt said.

“Through its Australian Reconciliation Barometer and Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) program, Reconciliation Australia has provided significant momentum to empower people to build a better future for all of us.”

“Tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are benefiting from job creation, education opportunities and business transactions created through RAP actions.”

“Reconciliation Australia is also helping to improve Australians’ attitudes and perceptions of Indigenous peoples and cultures by supporting national campaigns that positively impact reconciliation, most notably the annual National Reconciliation Week which starts on 27 May.”

“The Morrison Government is proud to continue its support of Reconciliation Australia so that all Australians are supported in our collective journey towards a more reconciled country.”

Chief Executive Officer of Reconciliation Australia, Karen Mundine, said the funding will support the advancement of reconciliation nationally.

“Since we began Reconciliation Australia 20 years ago, we have assisted Australians to imagine a better country, a future based on mutual respect and understanding, and a shared appreciation of Australia’s history,” Ms Mundine said.

“Australians are informing themselves and, in turn, informing their own families and friends about the truth of our history and the critical importance of reconciliation.”

“These conversations will ultimately make us a better country that truly values Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures as fundamental to who we are as Australians.”

Council update: Ordinary Council Meeting Tuesday 26 May 2020

Following is a summary of resolutions from the Ordinary Council meeting of Tuesday 26 May 2020. NB: it is not a full record of resolutions.

Lord Mayoral Minutes

A Lord Mayoral Minute to extend condolences to the wife and family of former Newcastle Deputy Lord Mayor and union leader Denis Nichols upon his passing was supported.

Another Lord Mayoral Minute endorsing the formation of the Climate Emergency Australia Council and continued advocacy and collaboration on climate change was supported.

A Lord Mayoral for City of Newcastle to make a submission to draft determination on prices for Hunter Water Corporation from 1 July 2020 was supported.

Ordinary business

Adoption of Local Strategic Planning Statement

Council resolved to adopt the Local Strategic Planning Statement.

Exhibition of draft heritage strategy

Council voted to place the draft Heritage Strategy 2020-30 on public exhibition for 28 days.

Amendment to Newcastle LEP 2012 – Create new heritage item for Parkway Avenue, Newcastle

Council has endorsed a proposal to amend the Newcastle LEP 2012 to create a new heritage item for Parkway Avenue and will have the  proposal forwarded to the Department of Planning for formal recognition.

Adoption of the updated East End Stage One Streetscape Plan

Council has adopted traffic changes to the Hunter Street Newcastle East End Stage One Streetscape Plan, which now includes works between Perkins Street and Brown Street after the block wasn’t upgraded during the Light Rail project.

Crown Reserves Management – devolved land

Council has endorsed an application to Crown Lands to change the status of three Crown Reserves -Federal Park, Wallsend, Waratah Park and West Park Adamstown – to ensure their ongoing use for sport and recreation Plans of Managements.

March quarterly review budget review statement

Council received the March Quarterly Budget Review Statement.

Executive monthly performance report

Council received the Executive Monthly Performance Report.

Notices of Motions

City of Newcastle rating policy

Council supported a Notice of Motion to apply $2.6 million from a standard rate peg in 2020/21 to hardship measures targeted at individual rate payers experiencing financial hardship, including due to COVID-19 pandemic. 

Skilled work regional visa (491) and changes impacting City of Newcastle

Another NOM was supported to write to the Premier, Deputy Premier and NSW Ministers requesting Newcastle and Wollongong be considered ‘regional’ for the purposes of the 491 Skilled Work Regional Visa, as per the Commonwealth definition.

No.1 Sportsground set for major revamp

Newcastle sporting fans craving top-class cricket and AFL matches will soon have it delivered on their doorstep as the City prepares for a major redevelopment of No.1 Sportsground.

The multi-million-dollar refurbishment will commence in September this year and deliver a major economic boost for the city. The extent of the works, which include an increase to the field size and additional seating, will ensure the ground is capable of hosting pre-season AFL matches and ‘Big Bash’-style cricket fixtures right in the heart of the city.

“This important redevelopment will now give our City the opportunity to extend our sporting reach on the main stage beyond NRL, Super Rugby and Supercars to also include elite-level cricket and AFL,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

No-1-Sports-Gnd.JPGNo.1 Sportsground could again host first-class cricket and AFL matches 

“No.1 Sportsground has not seen a significant redevelopment such as this since it was constructed in 1922. The upgrades include an upsized playing field, seven new cricket wickets, a new sight screen and an additional 390 new seats.

“Not only will our investment in this project attract top-class sporting codes, it will also benefit those playing at regional and grassroots levels who use No.1 Sportsground year-in, year-out.”

City of Newcastle is now inviting tenders for the multi-million reconstruction of the ground, expected to take up to 12 months to complete.

Plans to relocate clubs affected by the ground’s closure throughout the 2020/21 summer and 2021 winter sporting seasons have already been prearranged.

Cricket NSW CEO Lee Germon welcomed the upgrade and said it was a step in the right direction for both regional and high-level cricket codes.

“We have received advice from Council on their plans to upgrade the playing surface of No. 1 Sportsground and are pleased they intend to upgrade it to a top tier standard,” Mr Germon said.

“It should provide excellent quality for Newcastle cricketers and is an important step towards meeting the required standards for high level cricket.”

Chairman of Newcastle Cricket District Association Paul Marjoribanks said the renovations would help meet the day-night scheduling demands of the modern cricket era.

“The proposed upgrades will provide significant benefits to both local and regional cricket and also give Newcastle the opportunity to again host first-class cricket matches,” Mr Marjoribanks said.

“In particular the upgrades to the lighting will allow cricket to be played at night – which will bring it into line with modern-day cricket scheduling.”

As well as an increase in the size of the playing surface, improvements will be made to the drainage, irrigation, sub soil material and the turf.

A new perimeter fence will also be installed with new access gates, and the ground’s lighting will also be upgraded to support elite level sport.

Bleacher-style seating will also be installed, which will almost double the seating capacity of the ground from 400 to 790 people.

PREMIUM RELIEF DELIVERED FOR NSW BUSINESSES

The NSW Government is providing more than $420 million in financial relief this year to help keep businesses in business and people in jobs by reducing insurance premiums for businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and maintaining current premium levels.

The NSW Government has requested that workers insurance premiums remain unchanged in another move to cushion the impacts of COVID-19 and stimulate the economy.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet today confirmed premium rates for the Nominal Insurer, which protects more than 325,000 businesses and their 3.2 million workers, will remain unchanged from 30 June 2020, saving businesses across the State more than $325 million.

“The Government has deferred or waived a number of taxes, fees, and levies and I have asked icare to do the same despite the scheme being heavily impacted by market volatility associated with coronavirus,” Mr Perrottet said.

“This is another example of our ongoing support for NSW businesses as they deal with the impacts of COVID-19 with icare contacting around 3,000 customers to assist in premium adjustments, payment deferrals and offer advice.

“Employers across the State should have confidence the NSW Government is considering all options available to keep people in jobs and businesses in business.”

icare has already reduced premiums by $52 million for more than 10,000 businesses who have adjusted their estimated wages as a result of challenges related to COVID-19.

In addition, icare has paused more than $43 million in premiums for 2,000 customers facing financial hardship.

Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said there was no doubt businesses had been hit hard during this challenging time.

“We’re taking action to ensure a higher insurance premium is one less thing businesses have to worry about,” Mr Tudehope said.

“The NSW Government is doing what it can to support our businesses – we have already cut payroll tax, waived licencing fees and provided grants to pay for unavoidable expenses.”

icare NSW CEO John Nagle said despite economic pressures on the workers compensation scheme, premiums would be maintained at 1.4 per cent of average base wages.

“We are working hard to keep premiums as low as possible for NSW businesses and despite the recent volatile economic conditions which have impacted our investment returns and our funding ratio, we are able to absorb the initial impacts and rebalance the funding gradually in coming years as the economy recovers,” Mr Nagle said.

“We are doing everything we can to support our customers in their recovery during this difficult time.

“We recognise there is still ongoing change for many businesses across the State and customers are encouraged to get in contact to discuss their individual needs.”

Customers can contact icare on 13 44 22 to discuss their individual business circumstances. Further details on COVID-19 measures and impacts are available on the icare website.

In 2015, the NSW Government undertook the biggest transformation of the workers compensation scheme in 30 years improving outcomes for injured motorists and workers and icare continues to drive change to provide excellent care and support.

COVID-19: FUNDING TO BOOST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SUPPORT

Domestic violence victim-survivors will have more vital help available during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the NSW and Federal Governments today investing more than $21 million to boost frontline services and other supports.

The investment comprises $12.8 million from the NSW Government and $8.8 million from the Commonwealth Government.

NSW Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman said the pandemic has potentially increased the risk of abuse in already violent homes.

“Strict health orders in recent weeks have told people to stay home to help slow the spread of COVID-19. But domestic violence victims don’t have a safe home to begin with, so more have sought assistance and are presenting with more complex needs,” Mr Speakman said.

“Today’s package responds to a range of issues raised with the Government to help protect women and children and ultimately to save lives.”

Federal Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said the Australian Government moved quickly to commit $150 million to support states and territories and ensure services had the capacity to manage the fallout of the pandemic.

“Programs that provide safer housing, emergency accommodation, counselling, crisis support, helpline support, behaviour change programs and interventions, as well as responding to challenges in rural and remote locations are the priority,” Minister Ruston said.

“We are working closely with all states and territories to identify funding priorities and to find the best way forward to improve support for those at-risk of violence.”

NSW Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor said every person has the right to live a life free from violence and these funds will benefit all victims seeking support.

“This investment will help highly vulnerable people right across NSW, particularly Aboriginal, multicultural and regional and remote women, who face extra barriers when they take the courageous step of reporting their abuse,” Mrs Taylor said.

Helen Silvia, Chairperson of Domestic Violence NSW (DVNSW) the state’s peak body for specialist domestic violence services, welcomed the Government’s funding and said it would help support victim-survivors during the pandemic and recovery period.

“Our members have reported increased complexity working with women experiencing domestic violence, while our workforce and services are also facing more pressures due to COVID-19, so these funds will certainly help to alleviate that,” Ms Silvia said.

Today’s announcement will deliver the following additional supports:

Frontline support services

  • Funding for frontline specialist domestic violence services to respond to increasing demand and complexity of cases;
  • A boost for the 24/7 NSW Domestic Violence Line that provides crisis counselling and support referrals;
  • Increasing staff at Legal Aid’s NSW Domestic Violence hotline, while bolstering legal information available online;
  • More service capacity at the State’s Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services; and
  • Resources for targeted responses to especially vulnerable groups like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, people with disability, multicultural communities, LGBTIQ communities and women living in rural and remote areas.

Escaping violent homes

  • Access to more funding for the State’s 84 women’s refuges for additional staff, more training, and basic supports like food vouchers or safe phones for victims;
  • Funding to allow companion animals to be accommodated in women’s refuges or animal shelters so women can leave violent homes without worrying their pet will be harmed; and
  • A six-month ‘pop-up’ safe house in the Manly area to give highly vulnerable women and their children temporary and emergency accommodation.

Staying safe at home

  • More duress alarm devices for victims to access if they’re remaining in their home as part of the Staying Home Leaving Violence (SHLV) program;
  • Improved access to services for SHLV clients; and
  • Temporary accommodation for perpetrators if they’re removed from a property by police and have nowhere else to stay (or based on protection orders) so that victims can remain safely at home.

Holding perpetrators to account

  • A boost in funding for men’s behaviour change programs to respond to heightened demand while adjusting their service delivery to work remotely, if required;
  • More support for No To Violence to expand their training and support for frontline staff who deliver perpetrator programs across NSW; and
  • Funding for an app that helps perpetrators understand and therefore comply with Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs).

Raising awareness

  • Extension of Toolbox Talks – a program that educates and empowers thousands of workers in the construction and mining industries to identify and report abuse; and
  • A digital campaign to support victims and encourage the community to report domestic violence.

NEW SYDNEY TRAINS TEAM TO COMBAT CROWDING

Thousands of passengers are set to benefit from a new Customer Management Team to help keep people safe on the Sydney Trains network.

Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance today joined Transport Secretary Rodd Staples and Sydney Trains Chief Customer Officer Suzanne Holden at the new Rail Operations Centre to launch the latest initiative as part of the NSW Government’s COVIDSafe Transport Plan.

“This dedicated team of 80 people will be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Sydney Trains network. Every day teams will monitor 11,000 CCTV cameras and utilise new real time app technology to monitor patronage numbers and help facilitate physical distancing across the rail network,” Mr Constance said.

“We are trying to save lives. We are trying to avoid an outbreak, the likes of which we have seen overseas where social distancing was not maintained on large public transport systems.”

Transport Secretary Rodd Staples said this is the latest in a raft of measures.

“Last week we launched the ‘No Dot, No Spot’ campaign to help customers physically distance and there has been an extra 132,000 hours of cleaning since March, with regular deep cleans and hand sanitiser units being rolled at 163 staffed stations,” Mr Staples said.

“Our customers trust us to keep them safe, and that’s something we do not take lightly,” Ms Holden said.

“I could not be more proud to lead a team of people who have spent long hours innovating and finding solutions to transport problems we have never experienced in our lifetimes. New features we have created for loading data technology and this new pilot program is setting the standard for the rest of the country.”