SA Govt must rule out cut to River Murray water allocation

The Greens are calling on the South Australian Government to guarantee the state won’t lose a single gigalitre of water allocated to it under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan after a feasibility study into SA’s desalination plant showed the Liberal Party was gearing up to cut SA’s allocation.

Greens Spokesperson for Water Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:

“The feasibility study – released more than a year after it was conducted – shows the Liberals have been gearing up to cut SA’s River Murray allocation permanently.

“Cutting SA’s water would be devastating for our river system, environment and our community’s water supply. The South Australian Government must rule out any moves in this direction, immediately.
“A reduction in water flowing over the border risks the health of the entire river system. Cuts to South Australia’s allocation is bad news for the environmental health of the Murray-Darling from top to bottom.

“Has Minister Speirs forgotten he is the representative for South Australia’s water and environment, not big upstream irrigators?

“The study shows the desal plant is not effective, not good for South Australia, not good for taxpayers and not good for the environment.

“Not only will it never be a substitute for water flowing down the river, it is outrageously expensive to run. The desal plant will cost taxpayers in the vicinity of 40 times the market value of water.
“This would make Adelaide’s water the most expensive in the country, and we’d still have a dead river.

“The Federal Water Minister finally released the review in the Water for Fodder program today too and together with the feasibility study it’s clear a second round of this program should be ruled out.

“The Greens will move to disallow the Water for Fodder Program in the Senate when the Parliament sits later this month. SA’s water supply needs to be protected, and we cannot afford to lose 60GL more, so upstream farmers can get some water. It puts the whole river system in jeopardy and will cost taxpayers an absolute fortune.”

JOBKEEPER EXPANSION STILL LEAVES MILLIONS OF WORKERS MISSING OUT

Greens Leader Adam Bandt says today’s announcement that the government will expand JobKeeper suggests lessons have not been learned from the first round of JobKeeper, meaning millions in need will continue to miss out.

“The Government has shown today how easy it is to expand eligibility,” Greens Leader, Adam Bandt, said today.

“While we welcome an expansion, this was surely an opportunity to fill the gaps that see millions of workers unfairly missing out on JobKeeper.

“The biggest lesson we’re learning from COVID-19 is that you can’t leave anyone behind. It’s important that we provide everyone with the support they need to be able to cope with this pandemic and ensure restrictions have the best chance of working.

“JobKeeper must be expanded to include childcare workers, casuals, university staff and workers on temporary visas.

Don’t cut the rate

“It’s also very concerning that the Liberal/Labor agreement to cut JobSeeker continues unabated. We can never return to supports below the poverty line, and the Greens are the only party pushing for it to be retained at $1,100 a fortnight,” Bandt said.

More support for more businesses and workers

Following the introduction of stage four restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and stage three restrictions across regional Victoria, the Morrison Government will help more businesses qualify for JobKeeper.

Key adjustments include:

  • A change to the employee reference date – from 3 August 2020 the relevant date of employment for an eligible employee will move from 1 March to 1 July 2020, expanding employee eligibility.
  • A change to the turnover reference period – to be eligible for JobKeeper post 28 September 2020, organisations will only have to demonstrate that their actual turnovers have significantly declined in the previous quarter.

As a result, organisations that are able to demonstrate a significant decline in turnover in the September 2020 quarter will be able to access the JobKeeper extension in the December quarter. An organisation able to demonstrate the requisite decline in turnover in the December 2020 quarter would be able to access the JobKeeper extension in the March 2021 quarter.

The combined effect of the economic deterioration in Victoria which will see more firms needing to rely on JobKeeper and the eligibility changes being made to the program will see the cost of JobKeeper increase by around $15.6 billion in 2020-21.

While these changes will apply nation-wide, it is expected that more than 80 per cent of the increased payments will flow to Victorian businesses and employees.

These changes, combined with a deterioration in the economy as a result of the stricter restrictions imposed in Victoria will see the total cost of the JobKeeper program increase to $101.3 billion.

It is now expected that around 4 million Australians will be benefiting from JobKeeper Payments at the end of the September quarter, falling to around 2.24 million in the December quarter and 1.75 million in the March 2021 quarter.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Government was doing whatever it took to save lives and save livelihoods.

“Australia is facing a situation that is constantly changing. Our response is to get the right support to all those Australian families, workers and businesses that need us, as these circumstances change,” the Prime Minister said.

“This means more support for more workers and more businesses for longer, as we battle this latest Victorian wave.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the introduction of stage four restrictions by the Victorian Government will have a severe economic impact on the Victorian and Australian economy.

“Already more than 270,000 businesses covering around 975,000 employees in Victoria are being supported by the Morrison Government’s JobKeeper Payment.”

“To help keep more businesses in business and Australians in jobs through this incredibly challenging period, the Government will ease the eligibility criteria to make it easier for organisations to qualify for the JobKeeper extension from 28 September 2020.”

“These change will add to the $15 billion the Morrison Government has already contributed to the Victorian economy through JobKeeper and small business CashFlow boost payments.”

Every arm of government is working to keep Australians in jobs and businesses in business.

The Morrison Government will continue to do what it takes to cushion the blow and help Australians get to the other side of the coronavirus crisis.

Govt claims $10m for Fox Sports is a Covid Response Measure but no extra funding for ABC

The Morrison Government’s $10million for Fox Sports to broadcast women’s and niche sports is part of its Covid Response Package, yet no extra funding has been given to the ABC or SBS during the pandemic, the Senate’s Covid Select Committee has heard today.
Under questioning from Greens Spokesperson for Media and Communications, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the Department of Communications told the Committee the program which has already seen $30m given to Murdoch, was extended to help get women’s and niche sports broadcast once they’re back up and running.
“It’s extraordinary the government has tried to justify this corporate welfare by calling it a Covid response measure,” Senator Hanson-Young said.
“This is just another example of the Morrison Government using the pandemic to justify giving public money and free passes to their corporate donor mates.
“The public broadcasters should’ve been given this money so that taxpayers who can barely afford to eat and pay rent let alone subscribe to Fox Sports, could watch women’s and niche sports for free.
“The Department officials confirmed to me despite the enormous increase in traffic to the public broadcasters, no additional funding has been given to the ABC or SBS during Covid19.
“Giving $40m to Murdoch when the ABC is laying off staff and small and regional publishers across the country are closing up is a kick in the guts. The ABC, SBS and small and regional publishers have played a vital role in getting life-saving information into our communities during this pandemic.
“This program makes a mockery of the Morrison Government’s Covid response measures and should be cancelled or redirected to ABC and SBS.”

Pandemic Leave desperately needed with a quarter of South Aussie workers having no leave entitlement

Greens Senator for South Australia Sarah Hanson-Young has called for South Australia to be included in the Federal Government’s Paid Pandemic Leave scheme, with ABS data revealing 186,000 South Australian workers have no leave entitlements.
Senator Hanson-Young has written to SA Premier Steven Marshall asking him to make the request to the PM to add the tool of paid pandemic leave to SA’s arsenal in the fight against Covid19.
“Prevention is always better than cure. Paid Pandemic Leave would help prevent a further health crisis, like that engulfing Victoria, from happening here in SA. Steven Marshall shouldn’t wait till SA is in a state of disaster, we need to act now,” Senator Hanson-Young said.
“Insecure work is spreading the coronavirus and with more than a quarter of the South Australian workforce having no paid leave entitlements, we are at risk of a second wave here.
“If people are sick, have symptoms or are waiting for the test results they must be able to afford to stay at home and take time off work. Paid leave for workers who is sick will help protect the rest of the community from further infection.
“80% of transmissions in Victoria occurred through the workplace. Paid leave could be the difference between South Australia continuing it’s relatively good run or a new outbreak.
“The PM should not be requiring states to wait until there’s thousands of infections like in Victoria before granting other states paid pandemic leave.
“Waiting until a state of disaster is declared in other states and territories is negligent. The PM should be offering support right now to help prevent the disaster from happening in the first place.
“These figures show that Scott Morrison’s unwillingness to grant paid pandemic leave across the board lifts the risk of another Victorian-style outbreak.
“Nationwide more than a million people are going to be pushed back to work without sick leave, which puts them at risk and jeopardises our nation’s social and economic recovery.
“Each one of those people risks having to decide whether that sore throat is worth cancelling the one shift they have that week. They’ll need to decide between following the health advice and keeping a roof over their heads, and we’ve seen in Victoria how that difficult decision leaves everyone worse off.
“The Greens were the first party to call for paid pandemic leave and we have a bill in Parliament to make it happen. Given the scale of the risk in virus-prone states and Scott Morrison’s unwillingness to act, the Greens will press ahead with our bill when Parliament resumes.”

SA Govt must rule out cut to River Murray water allocation

The Greens are calling on the South Australian Government to guarantee the state won’t lose a single gigalitre of water allocated to it under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan after a feasibility study into SA’s desalination plant showed the Liberal Party was gearing up to cut SA’s allocation.

Greens Spokesperson for Water Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:

“The feasibility study – released more than a year after it was conducted – shows the Liberals have been gearing up to cut SA’s River Murray allocation permanently.

“Cutting SA’s water would be devastating for our river system, environment and our community’s water supply. The South Australian Government must rule out any moves in this direction, immediately.
“A reduction in water flowing over the border risks the health of the entire river system. Cuts to South Australia’s allocation is bad news for the environmental health of the Murray-Darling from top to bottom.

“Has Minister Speirs forgotten he is the representative for South Australia’s water and environment, not big upstream irrigators?

“The study shows the desal plant is not effective, not good for South Australia, not good for taxpayers and not good for the environment.

“Not only will it never be a substitute for water flowing down the river, it is outrageously expensive to run. The desal plant will cost taxpayers in the vicinity of 40 times the market value of water.
“This would make Adelaide’s water the most expensive in the country, and we’d still have a dead river.

“The Federal Water Minister finally released the review in the Water for Fodder program today too and together with the feasibility study it’s clear a second round of this program should be ruled out.

“The Greens will move to disallow the Water for Fodder Program in the Senate when the Parliament sits later this month. SA’s water supply needs to be protected, and we cannot afford to lose 60GL more, so upstream farmers can get some water. It puts the whole river system in jeopardy and will cost taxpayers an absolute fortune.”

Further mental health support for Victorians during COVID-19 pandemic

The Australian Government is providing an additional $12 million to ensure people in Victoria can access 24/7 mental health support through digital and telephone counselling services during this difficult time.

Our Government recognises the mental health impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on individuals and communities, particularly those in Victoria, where regrettable but necessary measures are needed to stop the spread of the virus.

The loss of freedom gained after the first lockdown, the challenges of isolation, fear for loved ones, and concerns about employment can all take a significant mental health toll.

The Government is making this additional investment to ensure that existing helplines can meet increased demand, and can connect clients to ongoing and more intensive support when needed.

This funding includes:

  • $5 million for headspace to increase outreach services to young people in the community who are in severe distress.
  • This will particularly focus on Year 11 and 12 students, young people who have lost their jobs, and tertiary students.
  • This funding will be also used to recruit and train outreach workers who will connect with young people in the community under supervision of headspace staff.
  • $2.5 million for Beyond Blue to expand capacity, extend counsellor webchat hours to operate 24/7, and boost the ability to refer people with severe and complex needs for five additional sessions.
  • $2.5 million for Lifeline to deal with increased call volumes from Victoria.
  • $2 million for Kids Helpline to increase its call answer rate and service responsiveness, deal with additional demand for services, and link to further support.

The latest boost for mental health services is addition to the 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, announced on Sunday 2nd August.

The additional Medicare support will allow people in eligible areas who have used their 10 sessions to continue to receive mental health care from their psychologist, psychiatrist, GP or other eligible allied health worker.

Our Government continues to work closely with the Victorian Government to ensure Victorians have access to mental health supports in these difficult times.

We have asked the Chief Executive Officer of the National Mental Health Commission, Christine Morgan, and Deputy Chief Medical Officer (Mental Health), Dr Ruth Vine, to work closely with our Victorian counterparts on any additional measures needed to support people living in Victoria.

This builds on our Government’s earlier commitments, totalling more than $500 million, to support the mental health and wellbeing of Australians through the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes:

  • $74 million to boost preventative mental health services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of a broader $1.1 billion package that included increased domestic violence support, telehealth services and emergency food relief;
  • $48.1 million to support the implementation of the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan;
  • $20 million from the MRFF for research to improve mental health care and reduce suicide rates in Australia; and
  • $7.3 million providing an additional ten Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people who are affected by the further restrictions or who are in quarantine or required to self-isolate, and have used their existing 10 sessions. This applies across the whole of Victoria.

With expenditure for mental health services and suicide prevention estimated to be in excess of $5.2 billion in 2019-20, the Government continues to demonstrate its firm commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians.

The Beyond Blue Coronavirus Wellbeing Support Service is available to all Australians needing support through the COVID-19 pandemic and can be accessed via telephone at 1800 512 348 or online.

Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.

If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone who is considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available  at 1300 659 467 or on their website.

PM MUST BRING PAID PANDEMIC LEAVE TO NATIONAL CABINET

Scott Morrison must use tomorrow’s national cabinet meeting to extend pandemic leave payments to all other states and territories, ensuring all Australian workers can stay home if they’re sick.

Australia needs a universal paid pandemic leave scheme to protect workers, public health and the national economy.

Labor and the unions have been calling for paid pandemic leave since the start of this pandemic five months ago.

After nearly half a year of dithering Scott Morrison finally conceded this week that paid pandemic leave is necessary, when he announced funding for Victoria.

What he did not seem to understand is paid pandemic leave is meant to prevent outbreaks. We need a national scheme now to prevent a repeat of the Victorian outbreak in other states.

A national scheme also needs to ensure that workers do not face financial barriers to getting tested – something the Victorian scheme fails to do, because it only kicks in after someone has been told to self-isolate or quarantine.

Mr Morrison should have acted on this months ago. But it is surely clear by now that any further delay could be deadly.

A Victorian disaster payment will not stop a worker in New South Wales or Queensland turning up to work sick and potentially infecting their colleagues, customers or patients.

With 80 per cent of new coronavirus infections in Victoria linked to workplaces it is obvious we need financial incentives to keep people at home when they’re sick or have been exposed to the virus.

Workers cannot be forced to choose between paying their bills and protecting their colleagues, customers and patients. Whenever we force that choice on people the community is put at risk.

Unless we get a universal scheme we will have more community transmission, leading to more outbreaks and economy-smashing lockdowns.

We cannot afford not to do this.

Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy

Keeping Australians secure online is key to protecting our economy, national security and sovereignty.

The Morrison Government’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy outlines how we will keep Australian families and businesses secure online, protect and strengthen the security and resilience of Australia’s critical infrastructure and ensure law enforcement agencies have the powers and technical capabilities to detect, target, investigate and disrupt cybercrime, including on the dark web.

The 2020 Cyber Security Strategy is the largest ever Australian Government financial commitment to cyber security and builds on the strong foundations established by its predecessor.

The Strategy invests $1.67 billion to build new cybersecurity and law enforcement capabilities, protect the essential services upon which we all depend, assist businesses to protect themselves and raise the community’s understanding of how to be secure online.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the role of the Australian Government is to keep Australian’s safe, and it is important now, more than ever to protect Australians online from those who seek to do us harm.

“The 2020 Strategy means that cyber security is a fundamental part of everyday life, so Australians can reap the benefits of the internet and the digital economy safely, and with confidence,” the Prime Minister said.

“The digital economy is the future of Australia’s economy. This has been demonstrated by the coronavirus pandemic. We are seeing how much Australian’s are interacting online – for work, healthcare, education, entertainment and shopping.

“We want to enlist all Australians in the fight to create a more cyber safe Australia – you are our secret weapon in our cyber security strategy. And we want to give you the tools to protect your family and your business.

“We will protect our vital infrastructure and services from cyber attacks. We will support businesses to protect themselves so they can succeed in the digital economy.

We will track criminals in the darkest corners of the internet to protect our families and children.”

The Government is determined to disrupt the serious criminal activity saturating the dark web.

The Government will introduce legislation to bolster the powers of the Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to identify individuals and their networks engaging in serious criminal activity on the dark web.

Powers that allow offensive disruption capabilities will allow law enforcement to take the fight to the digital frontdoor of those using anonymising technology for evil purposes.

The Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said the protection of children and the Australian community from reprehensible criminal activity remains the Government’s highest priority.

“Pedophiles are targeting kids on line in chat groups. Cyber criminals are scamming money off our elderly by stealing their internet banking details and businesses are being locked out of their systems by ransomware attacks,” Mr Dutton said.

“Families and businesses are all spending more time working and studying online and we need to make it safer. They are stealing the identities and data from unsuspecting Australians.

“We will continue to ensure agencies have the powers and capabilities they need to identify and disrupt threats to the safety of Australians – particularly children, the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Not all cyber security risks can be addressed by government. The strategy outlines steps businesses of all sizes can take to protect themselves and their customers.

To support improved cyber security in the community, the Government will:

  • Expand our efforts to raise awareness of cyber security threats and drive uptake of safe and secure online behaviours across the community;
  • Expand our 24/7 cyber security advice hotline for families and older Australians;
  • Increase funding for victim support; and
  • Introduce a voluntary Internet of Things Code of Practice to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions.

Improving the security and resilience of critical infrastructure entities is crucial to protecting our economy, security, and sovereignty.

We are introducing a security framework to bolster the nation’s resilience and ensure we can act quickly in an emergency. The framework includes security obligations for critical infrastructure providers and Government assistance to industry in response to immediate and serious cyber attacks on Australia’s most critical systems.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said reforms to strengthen the security and resilience of Australia’s critical infrastructure would significantly boost Australia’s ability to deter, prevent and respond to the most significant cyber attacks.

“The Government will work with owners and operators of critical infrastructure to update legislation to ensure that critical infrastructure sectors deliver their essential services with security front of mind,” Mr Dutton said.

“Agencies will be equipped to help address sophisticated threats, particularly to the essential services all Australian’s rely on – everything from electricity and water, to healthcare and groceries.

The Strategy has been informed by extensive community consultation and expert advice from Government’s Industry Advisory Panel, chaired by Telstra CEO Andy Penn.

Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy is available at www.homeaffairs.gov.au/cybersecurity.

No More Band-Aids: Reinstate Free Childcare and Fund ECEC Properly

The Greens have responded to the government’s package for childcare in Victoria, saying that it is unnecessarily complicated and austere. The government should guarantee free childcare permanently and extend JobKeeper for all early learning workers.

Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Australian Greens Education spokesperson, said:

“This package doesn’t work for families, who may still have to pay gap fees. It doesn’t work for educators, who don’t have a wage guarantee. And it doesn’t work for centres, who won’t get the funding they need.

“The time is up for impromptu band-aids and ad-hoc fixes. We need to extend the wider JobKeeper scheme to all early learning workers and guarantee proper relief payments for centres.

“The government must recognise that our early learning system is completely broken. It needs an overhaul and childcare needs to be made free permanently.

“We would not be in this situation if early childhood education were properly funded and fee-free to begin with.

“This saga of stop-gap payments and packages through Covid-19 can be resolved through investing in early education, making it fee-free for families, and considering it an essential service with a properly compensated workforce. This is good for families, good for women, good for children and for our society and economy.

“I want to particularly acknowledge ECEC workers. They have been on the frontline and they should be commended for what they continue to do,” she said.