Statement – National Cabinet

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, recent progress following the Victorian outbreak, easing restrictions (including international border measures), helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment and getting the economy moving again.

National Cabinet continues to work together to address issues and find solutions to the health and economic consequences of COVID-19. Australia has done well on both the health and economic fronts compared to most countries around the world.

The Acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, provided an update on the latest epidemiological data and medical advice in relation to COVID-19.

There have been more than 26,800 confirmed cases in Australia and sadly 837 people have died.

Following Victoria’s second wave, there are now around 1,100 active cases in Australia, a decrease from 2,500 cases two weeks ago. In Victoria, infection rates continue to decline in a positive sign, while daily infection rates have remained low in all other states and territories. Some differences have emerged in testing rates between states and territories, and National Cabinet agreed the importance of enhancing testing. More than 7.2 million tests have been undertaken in Australia.

National Cabinet reaffirmed a suppression strategy for COVID-19 with the goal of no community transmission. Seven of Australia’s eight states and territories are successfully suppressing COVID-19, enabling most Australians in those jurisdictions to live and work in a COVID-safe economy.

National Cabinet recommitted to providing all necessary support to Victoria.

National Cabinet welcomed the Commonwealth’s $2 billion extension of the COVID-19 Health Measures package to support Medicare-subsidised telehealth and pathology services, GP-led respiratory clinics, home medicines delivery, public and private hospital services, as well as further investments in PPE. To date, over 30 million telehealth consultations have been delivered, with mental health telehealth consultations a priority. Telehealth services will be extended to 31 March 2021.

National Cabinet will meet again on Friday 16 October 2020.

ADF Support

National Cabinet welcomed an update from Lieutenant General John Frewen DSC AM, Head of the Defence COVID-19 Taskforce, on the contribution of the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force to the national pandemic response, particularly relating to Defence’s support to the states and territories.

As at 17 September 2020, there were 3,241 Defence personnel directly supporting Operation COVID ASSIST and contributing to the Commonwealth’s whole-of-government efforts. This included 1,306 personnel in Victoria, 736 personnel in New South Wales, 586 personnel in Queensland, 163 personnel in Western Australia, 152 personnel in South Australia and 128 personnel in the Northern Territory.

Full details of Defence’s contribution is provided in the attached chart.

Australians returning home

National Cabinet noted that there are a significant number of Australians wishing to return home from overseas, with the Commonwealth having taken steps recently to provide further support for those facing personal hardship.

National Cabinet agreed that all jurisdictions would continue to work towards enabling more Australians to return home by increasing the current caps on international passenger arrivals.

New South Wales and South Australia will continue to implement existing plans to accommodate more returning Australians by increasing their current international passenger arrival caps by Monday 28 September 2020 by 500 and 100 respectively.

Queensland and Western Australia will adopt a two-stage increase in their international passenger arrival caps over the next three weeks that will see an additional 500 Australians returning through each jurisdiction each week. Queensland will commence with an additional 200 passengers from Monday 28 September 2020, increasing to 500 passengers from Monday 5 October 2020. Western Australia will commence with an additional 200 passengers from Monday 28 September, increasing to 500 passengers from Monday 12 October 2020.

National Cabinet also agreed that any facilitation of special commercial services would be carried out through the jurisdictions of South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory.

Contact tracing by domestic airlines

National Cabinet noted that domestic airlines will progressively implement four mandatory contact tracing data fields (name, email address, mobile phone number and state of residence) from 1 October 2020 on a mandatory basis during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This will be implemented by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications in-conjunction with domestic airlines.

Coordinating contact tracing efforts and quarantine arrangements

National Cabinet welcomed the review by Dr Alan Finkel AO and Commodore Mark Hill CSC on the lessons learned from the visit to Health NSW by Commonwealth and Victorian officials.

National Cabinet agreed to a review of systems and operations in all jurisdictions to strengthen capacity and capability to effectively track, trace and isolate COVID-19. Further, National Cabinet agreed to commission a report by Dr Finkel to enable jurisdictions to exchange case and outbreak management data to enhance the management of outbreaks nationally.

National Cabinet received an update from Jane Halton AO PSM on the review of state and territory hotel quarantine systems. Australia’s hotel quarantine system has performed well across most jurisdictions and Jane Halton’s work will provide useful guidance on improvements for state and territory governments.

Agriculture Workers Code

National Cabinet noted progress with implementation of the Agriculture Workers Code, which is on track to be implemented by Victoria, NSW, ACT and the Northern Territory by at least 25 September 2020 as provided for in the Code.

Rural and Regional National Cabinet Reform Committee

National Cabinet commissioned the new Rural and Regional National Cabinet Reform Committee. As a first tranche, the Committee will focus on developing a shared understanding of the quantum, status and impact of existing investments by governments in rural and regional communities and, by the end of 2020 provide advice to National Cabinet on options to improve the delivery of existing investments to support Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery through strong and sustainable rural and regional communities.

Aged Care

National Cabinet noted progress on joint actions underway to meet the commitments it made on 21 August 2020 to boost aged care preparedness at the provider, local, state and national level.

National Cabinet noted that while all states and territories are considered to have good existing emergency response capabilities and are on track with establishing and/or scaling up virtual or physical Response Centres, further practical actions will be undertaken to ensure a high level of preparedness.

The Commonwealth will continue to work with the states and territories, including through the development of resources, to support the operation of response centres.

On 7 September 2020, AHPPC endorsed advice from its Aged Care Advisory Group that each state and territory should establish emergency response centres.

Within each jurisdictions’ public health response structure, a dedicated aged care emergency response team has been established and key personnel identified at the state and Commonwealth level.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is completing an infection control site visit program as part of its COVID-19 regulatory activity. As at 11 September 2020, the Commission has undertaken 673 visits relating to infection control out of a total 2,720 Residential aged care Facilities (RACF) (25 per cent). These visits are sequenced based on a risk assessment such that those visits represent those considered to be highest risk facilities. In total nationally, 2,446 visits to RACFs have been undertaken by the Commission, the Australian Defence Force, AUSMAT and state and territory governments.

Income tax exemption for small and medium business grants

The Commonwealth and Victoria have reached an agreement to make the grants to small and medium business recently announced under Victoria’s Business Resilience Package exempt from income tax. This recognises the exceptional circumstances Victorian businesses face.

The Commonwealth will extend this arrangement to all States and Territories on an application basis. Eligibility would be restricted to future grants program announcements for small and medium businesses facing similar circumstances to Victorian businesses. Any tax exemption would be time limited for grants paid until 30 June 2021.

AHPPC Advice on Boarding School Students

National Cabinet agreed to a new AHPPC Statement on Boarding Students and Students Living in Border Zones, which supports all jurisdictions adopting appropriate risk-based approaches (such as the Queensland approach) to ensure boarding students can cross borders and safely return home to their families during school holidays.

$2 Billion To Extend Critical Health Services Across Australia

Millions of Australians will continue to receive medical care and support in their own homes with the Morrison Government investing more than $2 billion to extend a range of COVID-19 health measures for a further six months, to 31 March 2021.

Medicare-subsidised telehealth and pathology services, GP-led respiratory clinics, home medicines delivery, public and private hospital services will all be extended, as well as further investments in PPE.

These health initiatives play a major role in detecting, preventing and treating COVID-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the $2 billion extension in funding brought the Government’s commitment for the COVID-19 health response to more than $16.5 billion since March 2020.

“We will continue to provide Australians with critical health care and support to protect both lives and livelihoods,” the Prime Minister said.

“By providing telehealth and home delivery medicine services we are reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the community while also supporting people in isolation to get the care they need.

“Importantly this also includes mental health services, delivered over the phone, by trained specialists and GPs.

“As we continue to suppress COVID-19 while continuing to open our economy up, Australians can be reassured that we have the world’s best medical support in place to protect their health.”

Minister for Health Greg Hunt said “Our Governments response to the pandemic brought forward a 10 year plan on telehealth within 10 days.”

“As a consequence, over 30 million consultations protected the health and wellbeing of Australians, and protected our health workers and the viability of their practices.”

Patients will continue to have access to Medicare-subsidised telehealth for general practitioner, nursing, midwifery, allied health and allied mental health services, where and when they need them.

Telehealth is also being extended for essential specialist services, such as consultant physician, geriatrician, and neurosurgery services. Bulk billing will continue to be available and regular billing practices will apply to all of these services.

Up to 150 GP-led respiratory clinics across the country, which complement state run fever clinics, will continue their pivotal role in testing. Patients will continue to have access to bulk-billed COVID-19 tests under Medicare, with aged care residents and staff getting priority access to rapid testing.

Medicare-subsidised pathology and testing at the point of care will continue in 86 rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. This enables early identification of cases and rapid response if COVID-19 is detected in these highly vulnerable communities.

Eligible people will continue to get free home delivery of essential medicines by their local pharmacist. The Home Medicines Service has already delivered more than one million medicines to patients’ homes at no additional cost to patients.

Our support for states and territories continues, with the historic National Partnership Agreement ensuring the public health system is prepared and the public and private hospital systems are fully resourced and able to respond rapidly to any outbreak.

As an example, this agreement has enabled the transfer of more than 480 aged care residents to private hospitals and deployed clinical and nursing staff to assist in aged care during Victoria’s second wave.

The National Coronavirus Helpline will continue to operate around the clock providing important advice.

The expert Australian Health Protection Principal Committee recognises that future outbreaks will occur. The ongoing health response must be maintained to protect the health of Australians.

Re-appeal after fatal collision between truck and cyclist – Newcastle

Police are re-appealing for information after the death of a cyclist in a collision with a truck in Newcastle last year.

About 9.20am on Wednesday 20 March 2019, emergency services were called to the intersection of King and Perkins streets, Newcastle East, after a cyclist and a truck collided.

Police were told the truck was turning left from King Street into Perkins Street, when the collision occurred.

The cyclist, a 56-year-old woman, was treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics; however, she died at the scene.

The truck driver was uninjured and taken to the Mater Hospital for mandatory testing.

Officers from Newcastle City Police District attended and commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash

As inquiries continue, investigators would like to speak to witnesses who have not yet spoken to police. In particular, a female pedestrian who was crossing the King Street pedestrian crossing immediately prior to the collision to contact Police.

Police are also appealing for anyone who may have seen the cyclist or truck prior to the collision, witnessed the collision or has dash cam footage, to contact Newcastle Police on (02) 4929 0999.

28 PINs issued following Bondi Junction house party

Police will issue 28 Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) following a house party allegedly breaching the Public Health Order in Sydney’s east overnight.

About 1.20am (Saturday 19 September 2020), officers from Eastern Suburbs Police Area Command were called to a home on Oxford Street, near York Road, Bondi Junction, following noise complaints and reports of a party.

Police attended and observed a large group in the home.

After speaking with a 26-year-old man, it was established he was one of four occupants and there were 24 guests inside, which exceeded the allowable 20-person limit for private gatherings.

The guests were told to leave the premises and given a move on direction from the area.

Under recent changes to the Public Health Order, the occupants and attendees will all be issued $1000 PINs.

Anyone who has information regarding individuals or businesses in contravention of a COVID-19-related Public Health Order is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au.

Concerns held for teen missing from Charlestown

Police are appealing for the public’s help to find a teenage boy who has been missing from his Lake Macquarie home since Tuesday.

14-year-old Cooper Hazlewood was noticed missing about 1.00pm on Tuesday 15 September 2020.

Officers from Lake Macquarie Police District and Cooper’s family have concerns for his welfare as this behaviour is considered out of character.

Cooper is described as being of Caucasian appearance, about 140-145cm tall, thin build, light brown hair and green eyes.

Cooper is known as a user of the bus network in the Lake Macquarie area and is known to frequent the shops at Whitebridge and Hudson Park in Kotara.

Police are appealing for anyone with information about Cooper’s whereabouts, or who may have seen him since Tuesday, to contact Lake Macquarie Police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.

Appeal to locate missing teen – Lake Macquarie

Police are appealing for public assistance to find a teenage boy missing from the Lake Macquarie area.

Chase Scorey, aged 14, was last seen leaving a home on Buller Street, Charlestown, just after 8.15am today (Friday 18 September 2020).

When he failed to return home, officers from Lake Macquarie Police District were notified and have commenced inquiries to locate him.

Police and family have concerns for Chase’s welfare due to his age.

Chase is described as being Caucasian appearance, about 170cm tall, of thin build and with brown hair.

He was last seen wearing a dark coloured hooded jumper with a thick grey stripe across the chest and arms, and blue dual tone boardshorts. He is believed to be wearing a grey helmet while riding a black mountain bike and carrying a grey and white backpack.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.

$2 Billion To Extend Critical Health Services Across Australia

Millions of Australians will continue to receive medical care and support in their own homes with the Morrison Government investing more than $2 billion to extend a range of COVID-19 health measures for a further six months, to 31 March 2021.

Medicare-subsidised telehealth and pathology services, GP-led respiratory clinics, home medicines delivery, public and private hospital services will all be extended, as well as further investments in PPE.

These health initiatives play a major role in detecting, preventing and treating COVID-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the $2 billion extension in funding brought the Government’s commitment for the COVID-19 health response to more than $16.5 billion since March 2020.

“We will continue to provide Australians with critical health care and support to protect both lives and livelihoods,” the Prime Minister said.

“By providing telehealth and home delivery medicine services we are reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the community while also supporting people in isolation to get the care they need.

“Importantly this also includes mental health services, delivered over the phone, by trained specialists and GPs.

“As we continue to suppress COVID-19 while continuing to open our economy up, Australians can be reassured that we have the world’s best medical support in place to protect their health.”

Minister for Health Greg Hunt said “Our Governments response to the pandemic brought forward a 10 year plan on telehealth within 10 days.”

“As a consequence, over 30 million consultations protected the health and wellbeing of Australians, and protected our health workers and the viability of their practices.”

Patients will continue to have access to Medicare-subsidised telehealth for general practitioner, nursing, midwifery, allied health and allied mental health services, where and when they need them.

Telehealth is also being extended for essential specialist services, such as consultant physician, geriatrician, and neurosurgery services. Bulk billing will continue to be available and regular billing practices will apply to all of these services.

Up to 150 GP-led respiratory clinics across the country, which complement state run fever clinics, will continue their pivotal role in testing. Patients will continue to have access to bulk-billed COVID-19 tests under Medicare, with aged care residents and staff getting priority access to rapid testing.

Medicare-subsidised pathology and testing at the point of care will continue in 86 rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. This enables early identification of cases and rapid response if COVID-19 is detected in these highly vulnerable communities.

Eligible people will continue to get free home delivery of essential medicines by their local pharmacist. The Home Medicines Service has already delivered more than one million medicines to patients’ homes at no additional cost to patients.

Our support for states and territories continues, with the historic National Partnership Agreement ensuring the public health system is prepared and the public and private hospital systems are fully resourced and able to respond rapidly to any outbreak.

As an example, this agreement has enabled the transfer of more than 480 aged care residents to private hospitals and deployed clinical and nursing staff to assist in aged care during Victoria’s second wave.

The National Coronavirus Helpline will continue to operate around the clock providing important advice.

The expert Australian Health Protection Principal Committee recognises that future outbreaks will occur. The ongoing health response must be maintained to protect the health of Australians.

$630,000 boost for Newcastle Museum and Art Gallery

Local stories will take centre stage at Newcastle Museum thanks to a multiyear funding allocation from the NSW Government that will allow it to expand its program of self-curated exhibitions.

The museum will receive $135,000 each year for three years under the Create NSW Local Government Authorities (LGA) Arts and Cultural Programs funding, after being recognised by the assessment panel for its excellence in programming and strategy.

Newcastle Art Gallery has also received a welcome boost from the NSW Government after being granted $75,000 a year for three years in recognition of the Gallery’s ambitious programming and development of major exhibitions.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes welcomed the funding from the NSW Government and said it was testament to the quality of exhibitions, collections and programming produced by both the Museum and Art Gallery.

“Newcastle Museum and Newcastle Art Gallery are vibrant, award-winning cultural attractions, which play an important role in interpreting and preserving our city’s fascinating history and providing a time capsule of Australian art dating back to the earliest days of Newcastle,” Cr Nelmes said.

“Their respective collections and exhibitions also add to the rich diversity of experiences that help attract visitors to our city.”

Newcastle Museum Director Julie Baird said the grant will allow them to undertake several new self-curated exhibitions, while also delivering programming under the three yearly themes of Seeing Differently, Neighbours and Fluidity.

“Our vast collection, which includes more than 12,500 objects and stories, allows visitors to gain a sense of Newcastle’s unique identity by exploring the city’s past, present and future, while our exciting annual program of self-curated and touring exhibitions are on the cutting edge of contemporary museum practice,” Ms Baird said.

“The Museum and History Artform Advisory Board, which assessed our funding application, supports projects based on the program’s vision, quality and engagement with the community and I’m proud to say that Newcastle Museum was the only local government museum to receive the full three years of funding.

“This grant will allow Newcastle Museum to undertake some new, free-of-charge self-curated exhibitions such as 1X4, an innovative social history exhibition, designed to tour through regional NSW, that challenges visitors to see things through different perspectives.”

Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton said the funding will allow the Gallery to host an ambitious mix of exhibitions and events engaging local, national and international artists and practitioners.

“The three-year funding commitment recognises the Gallery’s continuing commitment to developing and delivering nationally significant exhibitions, events and programs for our city and community,” Ms Morton said.

“It also reflects our continued commitment to local and indigenous artists, including our landmark exhibition WARWAR: The Art of Torres Strait, which showcases the evolution and strength of Torres Strait Islander tradition and society through arts practitioners from the 19th Century through to today.

“The Visual Arts Advisory Board receives the highest amount of applications across the Arts Minister’s 10 Arts Advisory Boards. As first-time applicants in an extremely competitive field, the Gallery has not only been successful in securing multiyear funding, but also achieved an increase in annual funding compared to previous years.”

SUMMER SUMMIT PLANS TO BOOST FESTIVE SYDNEY

Sydney cafes, bars, restaurants and business operators are set for a summer revival with the NSW Government’s Summer Summit paving the way for business to capitalise on Sydney’s transformation into a COVID safe alfresco city.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes, Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello and Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope hosted dozens of key business leaders and operators at the Museum of Contemporary Art, where a raft of ideas were discussed to re-ignite Sydney’s economy as the countdown to summer begins.

“We have heard loud and clear from those on the front lines about what is needed to restore public confidence and get the city buzzing again to ensure businesses have a bumper summer while keeping the people safe,” Mr Perrottet said.

“Our health response has been strong and that will allow us to have a strong economic response to ensure Sydney is ready for summer, which is just 73 days away.”

Mr Perrottet said the Government was already working with City of Sydney Council to ensure retailers, cafes, bars and restaurants had the best opportunities possible across the Christmas and summer trading period.

“We are exploring a range of options and ideas and are willing to invest in the right projects that support businesses and jobs.”

At the Summit the NSW Government and City of Sydney Council agreed to explore a range of possible measures, including:

  • Allowing more flexible outdoor dining and seating arrangements;
  • Establish outdoor entertainment stages throughout the CBD, in areas such as Martin Place;
  • Enhance promotion of cultural institutions and allow them to stay open later;
  • Increase promotion and advertising to attract people into the Sydney CBD;
  • Explore COVID safe creative ideas such as hosting outdoor cultural events;
  • Recruiting renowned local artists to perform in dining areas and entertainment precincts throughout the CBD;
  • Longer retail trading hours;
  • More flexible public transport options;

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said we must work together to get life back into our city centre while ensuring the safety of residents, workers and visitors.

“We need to allow and encourage businesses to operate outdoors, and we need to support our creative and cultural life to activate and draw people back to our city, safely,” the Lord Mayor said.

“We want to ensure our city businesses survive, and create new opportunities to thrive in the long term.”

Mr Stokes said people would be keen to get out and enjoy the harbour city with the return of warmer weather and daylight savings.

“As we strip off our winter layers, let’s look at how we can also strip away red tape and get this city sizzling,” Mr Stokes said.

“We’re going to look at how we can make it easier for local governments and businesses to use outdoor spaces.”

Mr Dominello said it was time to redouble our efforts and take advantage of Sydney’s summer climate.

“We want people to get out and enjoy everything our great city has to offer and to do that we need to make better use of the natural elements Sydney is blessed with,” Mr Dominello said.

“This week we established a special taskforce, declared red tape enemy number one, and are determined to get the Alfresco job done.”

Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said the NSW Government was keen to hear first-hand from those on the ground who could share ideas on how the city could be re-ignited.

“We want to do all we can to ensure Sydney’s small businesses prosper and thrive and this summit has uncovered a variety of suggestions and options on how that can best happen so our city can flourish once again,” Mr Tudehope said.

The relevant ideas, issues and options raised at the Summit today will help shape policy, inform the upcoming NSW State Budget and be channelled through to work already underway such as the outdoor dining taskforce headed by Minister Victor Dominello.

Leeton venue fined over breach of COVID-19 Public Health Orders

A licensed premises in Leeton has been issued a $5,000 fine following non-compliance with COVID-19 Public Health Orders.

About 11.30pm on Friday 30 August 2020, police conducted a business inspection at a licensed premises in Leeton.

Police observed that the front bar area was crowded and the layout of the room did not provide sufficient room for patrons to be physically distanced.

Police also observed a number of patrons standing and moving between tables, without physically distancing.

Licensing officers from Murrumbidgee Police District commenced inquiries into potential breaches of the current COVID-19 Public Health Orders.

As a result of inquiries, the 31-year-old female licensee was issued with a Penalty Infringement Notices for not comply with noticed direction re s 7/8/9 – COVID 19 – Corporation – $5,000.

Licencing police will continue to enforce compliance checks at licensed premises and other venues across the Murrumbidgee area, to ensure the Public Health Orders are being adhered to.

Anyone who has information regarding individuals or businesses in contravention of a COVID-19-related ministerial direction is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au.

Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.