Australia Post investigation should review enormous executive salaries and bonuses

Greens Spokesperson for Communications Senator Sarah Hanson Young responded to the Morrison Government’s terms of reference for an investigation into Australia Post:

“This investigation is supposed to establish whether this publicly-owned essential service is acting in the best interests of its shareholder – the Australian taxpayer – and yet the enormous pay packets and bonuses pocketed by executives don’t get a mention in the terms of reference.

“No one working in the public service should be taking home multi-million-dollar salaries and paid bonuses.

“It’s not just the Cartier watches that are the problem, it’s Australia Post becoming a quasi-private, quasi-public organisation that is now out of step with community expectations.

“It’s time to wind back the clock and ensure Australia’s postal service is a truly public organisation acting in the best interests of taxpayers, not millionaire executives.

“The Greens will re-introduce our bill to cap executive salaries and end performance-based pay at Australia Post and across the public service.

“Time’s up for those seeking a luxury lifestyle on the public purse whether its executives at Australia Post or ASIC, and the Parliament needs to do its job and rein them in.”

Greens Statement On Kashmir

The Australian Greens stand with the Kashmiri community on 27 October as they commemorate Black Day. Kashmir is a disputed territory and it is now over a year since the Indian Government revoked its special status and further eroded Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

Kashmir remains in lockdown and access to high speed internet is still blocked by the Indian Government. The Indian Government must restore basic human rights in Kashmir, including freedom of speech. The Indian Government must withdraw its troops, end the restrictions placed on political leaders, end arbitrary detentions and disappearances, and allow humanitarian organisations full access to resume their work. The decision to forcefully reduce the autonomy of Kashmiris must be revoked immediately and the campaign to systemically silence and oppress Kashmiris must end.

The Greens have been and will continue to urge the Australian Government to call on the Indian Government to respect the human rights of the people in Kashmir and their right to self-determination. The human rights crisis in Kashmir should not be ignored.

Steps to Victoria’s reopening

The Commonwealth Government welcomes the announcement by the Victorian Premier to ease restrictions from 11.59pm on Tuesday.

Victorians have worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get to this point. We thank them for their patience and perseverance.

Today’s announcement is a reflection of the dedication and effort of Victorians – taking the next step to reopen Victorian society and the state’s economy.

After a long winter, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Victorians.

As we said yesterday – Victorians have made great progress in reducing the rate of COVID-19 infections from the second wave outbreak in Victoria.

The new National Framework to reopen by Christmas is a clear and transparent, three step national plan which provides the Australian community and businesses with a way forward where Australians can live and work in a COVID Normal Australia, ensuring that we maintain strong health protections and minimise job losses and mental health impacts.

Under the new ‘National Framework’ released last week, Victoria is now moving towards Step 1 – an important step on the pathway to COVID Normal.

Australia has been a world leader in fighting the virus to save lives and to save livelihoods and with today’s announcement, we look forward to Victoria continuing to make progress on the path to reopening and joining the rest of the country at Steps 2 and 3 in the national plan.

It will be important for the Victorian Government to provide even more clarity to Victorians in the coming days and where restrictions do not have a health basis that they are removed quickly.

We congratulate Victorians – this was the announcement that they were expecting and one they have worked hard to achieve.

It is important for Victoria to safely open and stay safely open.

The Prime Minister and Premiers Berejiklian, Marshall and Andrews will continue to take advice regarding hard border restrictions.

The Commonwealth Government will continue to support Victoria through this crisis.

New round of Commonwealth VET scholarships open for young Australians

Young Australians who live in 10 selected regions experiencing high youth unemployment can now apply for a Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications scholarship.

Round 3 of the Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians is open in select regions, offering up to $5,000 a year to undertake an approved course of study.

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, said the scholarships offered a life-changing opportunity to study a VET qualification and complete an internship.

“We know that our youth have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” Minister Cash said.

“The Morrison Government is committed to ensuring young Australians can upskill and reskill to secure a job.”

Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships, the Hon Steve Irons MP, said these scholarships are about improving skills to connect young people in areas of high youth unemployment to training pathways and real jobs.

“We want to support young Australians to enter the vocational education and training sector which will help to create strong pathways to jobs in areas of skills needs and real outcomes,” Assistant Minister Irons said.

“Scholarship winners will receive industry-based workplace learning and gain qualifications in growth industries.”

The Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians is part of the Australian Government’s $585 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package.

It will award around 400 young Australians from 10 regional locations with high youth unemployment up to $5,000 a year to study a qualification and an additional $3,000 to complete an internship.

Applications are sought from people who are not in full-time work, who are aged 15 to 24 years or people who have left the Australian Defence Force in the past two years.

Scholarships will target occupations identified in projected growth industries and occupations identified as in-demand in 10 regional locations:

State Region
New South Wales Grafton
Gosford
Northern Territory Alice Springs
Queensland Maryborough
Townsville
South Australia Port Pirie
Tasmania Burnie
Victoria Shepparton
Western Australia Wanneroo
Armadale

For more information and eligibility requirements please visit: https://www.employment.gov.au/commonwealth-scholarships-program-young-australians

$28 million to support jobs and protect Queensland’s environment

From turtle protection and feral pig control in Cape York, to cleaning up beaches across the Fitzroy region, the Morrison Government has announced up to $28 million in funding to support regional jobs and empower reef communities to protect Queensland’s coastal environment.

Funding will be provided under the Reef Trust to support six new on ground projects that help protect our iconic species and improve the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystems.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said that these initiatives will be delivered by people who understand their region and have a proven track record of achieving environmental results.

“The projects are being led by six Reef based Natural Resource Management (NRM) groups through the National Landcare Program Regional Land Partnerships Program, ensuring local knowledge and practical outcomes that help protect on shore environments and the Great Barrier Reef,” Minister Ley said.

“In the Burnett Mary area, sea rangers will work with local communities to protect marine turtles by relocating nests, using cages to deter predators and helping to prevent shoreline erosion to improve water quality.

“Across the coastlines of the Mackay-Whitsundays, invasive pests will be controlled and native vegetation will be restored to protect seabirds and shorebirds. Important beach habitats for marine turtles will also be rejuvenated.

“In Cape York, the community will be supported to monitor turtle nesting sites on priority beaches, install egg protection cages, and control weeds and feral pigs to reduce threats to native species.

“The Wet Tropics region will focus on healthy wetlands and fishways, removing weeds and blockages to ensure fish can have a smooth journey from river to the sea.

“Groups in the Burdekin will install fish ladders in important waterways to help reconnect species like barramundi to the freshwater systems they desperately need to complete their life cycle.

“The Fitzroy region will manage numerous activities including a clean-up of marine debris along the coast, improving regional fire management in the lead up to summer, and controlling feral pigs and foxes.”

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef Warren Entsch said that this important work will help improve awareness and volunteer engagement in Landcare activities and strengthen partnerships with local communities and Traditional Owners.

“This is about working with people and backing local communities and the result will be cleaner beaches, thriving habitats, healthier coastal ecosystems and species, and a more resilient Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Entsch said.

“Work is already underway with people from local communities getting out and about to safely protect Queensland’s coastlines despite the challenges of COVID-19.”

The new investment complements many others made by the Australian Government to support regions and the environment such as the $443.3 million Reef Trust Partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the $100 million Environment Restoration Fund and the $1 billion investment under phase two of the National Landcare Program.

PRIVATISATION NOT THE SOLUTION TO AUSPOST DEBACLE

Greens Leader, Adam Bandt, says the Australia Post debacle is symptomatic of corporatisation, a problem that would only be made worse by full privatisation, as the Greens call instead for executive salary caps and a winding-back of privatisation.

At the National Press Club this month, Bandt outlined plans for a major inquiry into the impact of privatisation. This inquiry would include the impact of corporatisation of the public service.

“When the corporate model is exposed to be corrupted and scandal-ridden, some who advocated for the failed experiment will double-down and push for the privatisation of Australia Post,” Bandt said.

“Our corporatised public services have been infected with neoliberal ideology and privatisation would only make the problem worse.”

“Essential services should be run for the public good. By treating Australia Post as just another business, the government has allowed a ‘greed is good’ culture to dominate.

“The Australia Post scandal, made iconic by Cartier watches, is a symptom of a long ideological campaign to corporatise the culture and operations of public services.

“We should be winding back the corporatisation of our public services. Our wide-ranging inquiry will reveal the full impact of privatisation and corporatisation in this country.

“The Greens would also work towards ending so-called ‘performance-based pay’ for executives. This is a failed experiment. It has not improved performance, but it has eroded a sense of teamwork and it is inconsistent with the role and culture of the public service.

The Public Governance Performance and Accountability Amendment Executive Remuneration Bill (2017), which the Greens have already tabled would tie executive pay across the public service, including Australia Post, to 5 times the Australia-wide average wage (approximately $420,000).

“We could have started a culture change years ago, but the bill didn’t get support. We’re looking to put the proposal to cap executive salaries back to Labor and the Crossbench again now,” Bandt said

New research from Ownership Matters, released today, showed a ‘directors club’ in Australia’s biggest corporations.

“Is this the club we want Australia Post to join? The corporate model is one of runaway executive salaries and the ‘game of mates’. It’s a broken model stemming from a trickle-down agenda and it’s one that the Greens aim to reign in,” Bandt said.

50th Ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Labor welcomes the 50th nation ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – which will mean it will now come into force.

We congratulate International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and advocates for the significant milestone.

The ambition of a world free of nuclear weapons is one that Labor shares.

Labor has committed to signing and ratifying the treaty after taking account the need to ensure an effective verification and enforcement architecture, interaction of the Treaty with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and achieving universal support.

New medicines for Australians with multiple sclerosis, lymphoma, carcinoma and reproductive cancers

From 1 November, the Morrison Government will invest more than $86 million over the next four years to provide greater access to life saving medicines for Australians living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and various forms of cancer.

MS is the most commonly acquired neurological disease in younger adults with over 25,600 Australians living with multiple sclerosis and over 2.3 million people affected globally.

The average age of diagnosis is only 30 and around 75% of those affected with multiple sclerosis in Australia are female.

There is a high clinical need for effective treatments for patients with progressive forms of relapse onset multiple sclerosis.

Mayzent® (siponimod) will be listed on the PBS for the first time to treat those patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.

Without PBS subsidy, these patients would pay more than $25,000 per year for treatment with approximately 800 patients benefiting from this listing each year.

The PBS subsidy now means patients will only need to pay $41 per prescription, or $6.60 with a concession card.

In addition to this listing, Australians diagnosed with a rare type of lymphoma which affects the skin will receive subsidised access to a new medication and specialised treatment from 1 November 2020 through an investment of over $11.5 million.

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that affects the skin and causes an accumulation of malignant T-cells in the skin, resulting in raised, rash-like or itchy patches of skin, skin lumps or ulcers and swollen lymph nodes.

Uvadex® (methoxsalen) will be listed on the PBS for the first time for treatment of patients with erythrodermic cutaneous T-cell lymphoma who have not responded to other treatments.

Around 75 patients per year may benefit from this listing. Without PBS subsidy, these Australians would pay more than $3,400 per year.

Concurrently, two new items will be introduced on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for the use of extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) in combination with Uvadex® to treat the condition, as recommended by the Medical Services Advisory Committee.

ECP is a type of treatment that involves attaching a patient to a machine that removes some of their blood. The machine separates the white blood cells, and the red blood cells and plasma go back into the body. The white blood cells are mixed with Uvadex®, exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, then put back into the patient. ECP activates the patient’s immune system to fight the cancer.

Other PBS listings from 1 November ­– announced in the Budget 2020-21 – include the expanded listing of:

  • Tecentriq® and Avastin® (atezolizumab and bevacizumab) for use in combination to treat patients with advanced unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of primary liver cancer. An average of 500 patients per year may benefit from this. They would normally pay up to $170,000 for a course of treatment without PBS subsidy
  • Lynparza® (olaparib) for the treatment of newly diagnosed advanced high grade epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancers. An average of 300 patients per year may benefit from this listing and would normally pay around $140,500 per course of treatment for this medicine.

These PBS listings have been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Since 2013, the Australian Government has approved over 2,450 new or amended listings on the PBS.

This represents an average of around 30 listings or amendments per month – or one each day – at an overall investment by the Government of $11.8 billion.

The Morrison Government’s commitment to ensuring that Australians can access affordable medicines, when they need them, remains rock solid.

Victorian Restrictions

Victorians have made great progress in reducing the rate of COVID-19 infections from the second wave outbreak in Victoria.

While the Commonwealth Government welcomes Victoria’s commitment to the national framework agreed at National Cabinet to have Australia open by Christmas, for many Victorian businesses and their workers today’s announcement will mean they will simply not be able to make it.

The new Framework to reopen by Christmas is a clear and transparent, three step plan which provides the Australian community and businesses with a way forward where Australians can live and work in a COVID Normal Australia, ensuring that we maintain strong health protections and minimise job losses and mental health impacts.

Victorians are to be congratulated for meeting and beating the considerable benchmarks that were set by their State Government before restrictions could be eased. They have played their part and sacrificed much in the pursuit of reaching those targets in the belief restrictions would be eased.

Under the Victorian Stage 4 lockdown, Victoria has seen the devastation of more than 1,000 job losses per day. We have also agonisingly witnessed a 31 per cent increase in Medicare funded mental health presentations in Victoria during the lockdown and significant increases in other mental health services.

At some point, you have to move forward and put your public health systems to work in a bid to reclaim the jobs that have been lost, and rescue the livelihoods and peace of mind of so many Victorians who have been affected by the inability to contain the outbreak that led to the second Victorian wave.

Victoria’s public health systems are either up to the task of dealing with future outbreaks or they are not. The decision to keep businesses closed suggests that there is still not sufficient confidence within the Government that their systems can support reopening.

This is a profound disappointment. Of course, Victorians do not want to face another lockdown and of course they don’t want all of this to have been for nothing. That is why ensuring the State Government’s capability to deal with outbreaks through their public health response is so essential. This is what you need for Victoria to open up safely and stay safely open.

Borders and closures are not indicators of public health success. They are the opposite.

Victoria’s infection rate is now below the Victorian Government’s own target of a 14 day rolling average of fewer than 5 cases per day to further reduce restrictions. It is also well below the Commonwealth’s hot spot definition, based on the advice of the acting Chief Medical Officer, of a rolling average of fewer than 10 cases per day over 3 days.

During this time, the Victorian Government has greatly benefitted from the cooperation of the Victorian public and business community who have paid a significant price as a result of the prolonged lockdown measures.

The Commonwealth Government has also provided significant assistance from the ADF, medical and technical experts with the management of the lockdown and boosting Victoria’s contact tracing systems.

The Victorian Government has stated that they have now significantly improved their contact tracing capabilities to deal with any future outbreaks. Such capacity has been critical to enabling NSW to deal with numerous outbreaks, whilst staying open.

If this is the case, then we strongly encourage the Victorian Government to rapidly take the next steps to implement the National Framework and mirror the NSW COVID Safe restrictions for the sake of health, mental health and halting the loss of more than 1,000 jobs per day.

The Australian Government will continue to support Victorians through this crisis through our record economic and income supports. We will also continue to work with the Victorian Government to assist them to strengthen their public health and contact tracing capacity.

National Cabinet

The National Cabinet met again 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 27,000 confirmed cases in Australia and, sadly, 905 people have died. There are now around 220 active cases in Australia, a decrease from around 1,100 cases five weeks ago. There continues to be differences in testing rates between states and territories, and National Cabinet agreed on the importance of enhanced testing. More than 8.4 million tests have been undertaken in Australia.

National Cabinet noted the increase in COVID-19 cases in many countries and the comparative strength of Australia’s effort in addressing COVID compared to most other developed economies.

National Cabinet noted the 2020-21 Budget and the collective work needed across the Federation to facilitate economic recovery measures. National Cabinet thanked the Council on Federal Financial Relations for its work and noted further work is underway to coordinate the federation-wide economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to drive a more productive economic recovery.

National Cabinet will meet again on Friday 13 November 2020.

Framework for National Reopening – A COVID Normal Australia

The Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory agreed in-principle to a new ‘Framework for National Reopening Australia by Christmas’ (document attached), building on and enhancing the 3-Step Framework for a COVID Safe Australia developed in May 2020.

Western Australia did not agree to the National Framework for Reopening, specifically the domestic border and international arrival proposals.

The Framework will provide the Australian community and businesses with a way forward where Australians can live and work in a COVID Normal Australia, recognising that the highly infectious nature of COVID-19 means that it will be present until a COVID-19 vaccine is found. The Framework underscores the need for continued health vigilance while providing a path to easing the physical and mental burden on Australians.

The Framework will establish an updated Common Operating Picture with strengthened criteria to ensure that health systems are prepared and detailed information is publicly available on COVID-19 conditions. The criteria take into account the National Hotel Quarantine Review by Ms Jane Halton AO PSM and will be informed by further work underway by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO on digital contact tracing and public health systems, and advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

The Commonwealth and seven states and territories agreed to finalise the Framework by the next National Cabinet meeting on 13 November 2020 and ensure that a new Common Operating Picture is publicly available by 1 December 2020.

The Commonwealth and seven states and territories agreed that reopening by Christmas under the Framework sets a pathway for the removal of domestic border restrictions where it is safe to do so, and with free movement of people and freight consistent with National Cabinet’s strategy of suppression with a goal of no community transmission.

Improving Quarantine Systems

Ms Jane Halton AO PSM presented the final report of the National Review of Hotel Quarantine (document attached). National Cabinet thanked Ms Halton for the extensive work undertaken to review the hotel quarantine system in seven of eight states and territories.

Ms Halton noted that quarantine constitutes a first line of defence in preventing the importation of COVID-19 into Australia. While the quarantine system should be managed to limit breaches, the robustness of a second line of defence (testing and contact tracing) is essential as it is not possible to manage a quarantine system that is completely error free. There must also be a third line of defence – physical distancing, hygiene and health system capacity.

National Cabinet agreed to publish the National Review of Hotel Quarantine and to implement recommendations, noting that the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory had already established an emergency-surge quarantine capacity supported by the Northern Territory at Howard Springs.

National Cabinet agreed to keep working on risk stratification as an appropriate approach to progressively increasing the number of international arrivals to Australia in a COVID-safe manner, including Australians returning home. Potential alternative approaches could include quarantine such as home quarantine, on farm quarantine, quarantine by universities and private providers, and use of technology and expanding international travel arrangements with very low risk countries and cohorts.

As noted by Ms Halton and AHPPC, alternatives to hotel quarantine for low risk cohorts can also free up significant capacity in Australia’s hotel quarantine system for returning Australians.

National Cabinet noted that any changes to quarantine settings for international arrivals must be done in a way that maintains health considerations as an absolute priority.

Australians returning home

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

National Cabinet agreed that all jurisdictions would continue to work towards enabling more Australians to return home. Existing international air passenger arrival caps will continue until 21 November 2020, with ongoing review by National Cabinet.

National Cabinet noted that a number of the states and territories will support the Commonwealth in increasing the number of vulnerable Australians returning home. This includes the Commonwealth-Northern Territory arrangement to provide 500 beds at Howard Springs, with the first flight dedicated to vulnerable Australians arriving in Darwin today.

A further arrangement, soon to be finalised with the Australian Capital Territory, will support 150 returning Australians every 16-18 days. In addition, a limited and dedicated number of spaces will be provided on existing international commercial services for vulnerable Australians where possible. This includes an additional:

  • 140 arrivals per week into Perth;
  • 100 arrivals every 14-16 days into Adelaide;
  • 150 arrivals per week into Queensland(to be finalised once a new Government is formally sworn in).

Tasmania has also offered further support where required.

The Commonwealth thanks the states and territories for their support in helping more Australians return home for Christmas.

Mental Health National Cabinet Reform Committee

National Cabinet noted 3,318 Australians died by suicide in 2019, equivalent to nine Australians each and every day. This represents a significant loss to our communities, our families and our nation.

Today, National Cabinet commissioned the new Mental Health National Cabinet Reform Committee. The Committee will:

  • deliver a new National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement by November 2021; and
  • oversee, and provide advice to National Cabinet on, the implementation of the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan which guides jurisdictions’ responses to COVID-19.

This work builds on all jurisdictions’ efforts to scale resources and investment to support Australians’ mental health and prevent suicide during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Aged Care Emergency Response Centres

National Cabinet again noted the critical importance of minimising the COVID-19 pandemic risk in aged care, cementing preparedness arrangements based on the three previously agreed actions of 21 August.

The Department of Health continues weekly engagement with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and states and territories. Weekly jurisdictional reporting is now established.

All jurisdictions have provided assurances that their Aged Care Emergency Response Centres can be stood up within 48 hours. Jurisdictions have completed the Response Centre Preparedness Assessment which has provided additional clarity about where further focus is needed.

National Cabinet expressed its thanks to the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre which has supplied to all jurisdictions—through the Department of Health—with its extensive suite of resources for use or adaption as required.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission continues its program of infection control site visits to residential aged care facilities in all jurisdictions to monitor and assess aged care preparedness. The Commission is distributing summary reports of its spot check visits to each jurisdiction to enable targeted focus on areas for improvement.

States and territories are supporting the Commission’s preparedness visits through sharing of public health intelligence, conducting supplementary visits to residential aged care facilities and prioritising face to face infection prevention and control training. Across jurisdictions a range of training models are in place. States and territories continue to consider how best to tailor this training to their jurisdictional requirements.

National Federation Reform Council

National Cabinet agreed to establish a Taskforce on Veterans’ Wellbeing in recognition of the challenges faced by our current and ex-service personnel. The Taskforce will meet at the first meeting of the National Federation Reform Council on 11 December.

On 26 June 2020, National Cabinet agreed that Mr Peter Conran AM would conduct a review of the former COAG Councils and Ministerial Forums with a view to rationalising and resetting the structure and work programs.

Today, National Cabinet accepted the Review’s recommendations that include reducing the number of ministerial forums and ensuring that those that remain are more agile and responsive, with direct responsibility for decision-making resting with Ministers. Consistent with the direction set by National Cabinet, ministers’ meetings will not report to National Cabinet (or the National Federation Reform Council) unless tasked.

This represents a significant reform to Commonwealth-State relations and will significantly reduce bureaucracy and red tape. National Cabinet also noted that the range of significant reforms agreed today have come about directly through the collaboration of National Cabinet, as the country comes together to continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further information is available here: https://www.pmc.gov.au/domestic-policy/effective-commonwealth-state-relations