Lock in the perfect lockdown gift on the NSW Government’s Buy Regional website

With stay-at-home orders currently in place across NSW, shoppers are encouraged to jump online and support regional businesses without leaving their home by checking out the myriad of gifts available on the NSW Government’s Buy Regional website.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said online gift shopping is a great way to support regional businesses during the lockdown, particularly with Father’s Day just around the corner.

“We know that businesses in the bush are doing it tougher than ever with the ongoing COVID-19 situation across the state, so now is the perfect time to support our country communities by buying direct from the producers online,” Mr Barilaro said.

“During this lockdown I’ve taken the opportunity to try out new recipes and I encourage others to do the same. What better way to indulge your taste buds than with a condiment gift pack from The Other Chef, or a carefully curated beer and snack package from the Riverina Hamper Co.

“It’s no secret that Buy Regional has an impressive array of farm-fresh meat, hand-distilled spirits and unique fashion and homeware design pieces, with more than 500,000 online shoppers visiting the website since its launch in 2019.”

Mr Barilaro said Buy Regional is a win-win for Sydney siders who can score a special present for their dad or a father figure this Father’s Day while supporting regional businesses at the same time.

“Buy Regional continues to go from strength to strength and provides critical economic stimulus to hundreds of businesses who have battled through drought, bushfires, floods and the continuing impacts of COVID-19,” Mr Barilaro said.

“Many rural towns are seeing good harvests after much needed rains across the state over the last year, but in the face of the pandemic they still need your support, and there’s no better way to help regional businesses than by giving them your business.”

To register your regional business or to lock in the perfect lockdown gift, head to www.nsw.gov.au/buyregional.

More Free TAFE courses announced

The NSW Government has announced additional fee-free TAFE NSW lockdown learning courses after more than 10,000 NSW residents enrolled to study in less than a month.

Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said the strong interest in the TAFE NSW courses showed that the people of NSW are looking to the future.

“It’s great to see many NSW residents take up the opportunity to boost their employability and gain new skills through TAFE during the lockdown,” Mr Lee said.

“TAFE NSW is offering these courses via online learning or virtual classrooms, which means that students can learn at home and stay safe while upskilling and getting ready for when the economy opens back up.

“Recently added courses include using drones in agriculture, starting a career in hairdressing, barbering or beauty, designing spreadsheets, and food safety supervision.

“All courses link to further training pathways so that students can get a head-start now to a full qualification later.

“There are a variety of courses available to study from different industries. I encourage all NSW residents to take advantage of the high-quality and COVID-safe training available.”

Recently added fee-free short courses include:

  • Statement of Attainment in Start your Career in Hairdressing/Barbering
  • Statement of Attainment in Start your Career in Beauty
  • Statement of Attainment in Drones in Agriculture
  • Statement of Attainment in Create and Design Spreadsheets
  • Statement of Attainment in Food Safety Supervision

For the full list of courses and to view the eligibility criteria, visit www.tafensw.edu.au/fee-free-short-courses or call 131 601.

Keeping Australians Safe Online

The Morrison Government has welcomed the passage through the Senate last night of the new Online Safety Act.

The Act provides stronger powers for the eSafety Commissioner to crack down on cyberbullying of children, toxic online abuse, harmful content and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. It bolsters Australia’s world-leading online safety framework by introducing new and strengthened schemes to assist Australians when things go wrong online.

The Act also provides the eSafety Commissioner with stronger information gathering and investigative powers to unmask anonymous accounts.

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said online safety was a priority for the Morrison Government and passing this new Act was a key commitment at the 2019 election..

“When we established the office of the eSafety Commissioner in 2015, it was the first agency in the world dedicated to protecting citizens from online dangers such as image-based abuse and cyberbullying,” Minister Fletcher said.

“In addition to managing those threats, eSafety has played a key role, along with its international partners, in fighting the scourge of online child sexual abuse material.

“The new Act represents a step-change for eSafety, tightening its powers in existing areas, and creating a new reporting scheme that will allow our eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, to take action to remove toxic cyber-abuse, when online platforms fail to do so.”

In concert with this Act, the Government has delivered its election commitment to strengthen penalties for online abuse and harassment by increasing the maximum penalties in the Criminal Code, including from 3 to 5 years imprisonment for those using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.

The Government provided an additional $24.7 million to the eSafety Commissioner over four years in the May 2021 Budget. This brings the Government’s total commitment to keeping Australians safe online over the next four years to more than $125 million.

The Act is expected to pass through the House shortly and will commence six months after receiving Royal Assent.

PBS listings to support patients with mesothelioma

From July 1, thousands of Australians and their families suffering from rare cancers and genetic disorders are set to benefit from expanded listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

We are expanding the listing for Opdivo® and Yervoy® (nivolumab and ipilimumab), for the treatment of patients with unresectable malignant mesothelioma.

Unresectable malignant mesothelioma is an insidious cancer that cannot be treated surgically and can take decades to emerge after initial exposure to asbestos. Symptoms are often mistaken for less serious illnesses, which can complicate early diagnosis.

When used in combination, Opdivo® and Yervoy® helps the immune system to attack and destroy the cancer cells.

More than 700 patients a year will benefit from this listing. Without PBS subsidy, patients might pay more than $130,000 per course of treatment for this medicine.

Our Government is also expanding the listing of Kuvan® (sapropterin) on the PBS to include treatment of maternal phenylketonuria (MPKU).

MPKU is a condition when a woman who has phenylketonuria is pregnant. During pregnancy, the levels of phenylalanine affect both the mother and the developing foetus.

MPKU is a genetic disorder requiring lifelong management that prevents the normal breakdown of a protein found in some foods.

This medicine works in combination with dietary restrictions, to help lower the amount of amino acid phenylalanine in the blood.

Kuvan® reduces phenylalanine in the blood of people with phenylketonuria. Elevated levels can cause abnormal mental and physical development.

Around 30 patients each year will benefit from access to this treatment option. Without PBS subsidy, patients might pay over $215,000 per course of treatment.

Without proper treatment this condition can lead to problems with brain development and cause intellectual disability, difficulties with attention, and psychiatric disorders like anxiety or depression.

These treatments will now be available for as little as $41.30 per script, or just $6.60 for patients with a concession card.

Each of these listings has been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Since 2013, our Government has approved more than 2,600 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 $13.2 billion.

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

Budget 2021-22 swifter justice with eight extra local court magistrates

Victims of crime will benefit from accelerated access to justice in the Local Court, with the 2021-22 State Budget investing $56.1million over the next four years to appoint eight extra magistrates and boost resources for prosecutors and Legal Aid. The number of magistrates will reach a record total of 149.

Attorney General and Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman said the NSW Government’s investment in additional Local Court magistrates will deliver more efficient justice in both regional and metropolitan NSW.

“The extra magistrates will help to reduce the trauma of waiting for hearing dates and attending court on victims, witnesses and families. We’re committed to easing that burden felt particularly by those involved in domestic violence cases,” Mr Speakman said.

Mr Speakman said the increase in magistrates would also enable the Coronial Case Management Unit (CCMU) pilot to become permanent.

“The CCMU helps ensure grieving families can lay their loved ones to rest sooner and receive better and more timely information.  Led by coroners, the unit is a successful collaboration between police, forensic pathologists, medical specialists and counsellors,” Mr Speakman said.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the investment recognises the critical role of the Local Court in the NSW justice system.

“As NSW continues to grow, we need to ensure the local court system is equipped to meet the challenges of the future and deliver justice to victims as quickly and efficiently as possible,”  Mr Perrottet said.

NSW Chief Magistrate Judge Graeme Henson AM said the additional magistrates will further improve Australia’s most efficient court.

“These additions to the Local Court bench will be invaluable for boosting the capacity of NSW’s busiest jurisdiction, particularly in larger regional areas. Increased access to timely justice will benefit all court users and indeed the whole community,” Judge Henson said.

Today’s announcement complements more than $150 million committed in the 2020-21 Budget of November 2020 to digitally transform NSW courts and upgrade regional and metropolitan courthouses.

The vast majority (96 per cent) of all criminal cases in NSW are finalised in the Local Court, with 139 locations across NSW.

Australia’s Olympic athletes granted access to COVID-19 vaccines

National Cabinet has today agreed to vaccinate athletes and support staff headed to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games under priority group 1b.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services and Minister for Sport, Richard Colbeck said it offers an assurance to athletes preparing to represent Australia on the world stage.

Supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine will be made available to approximately 2050 Australians identified by the AOC and Paralympics Australia.

“We want to see our athletes head to Tokyo to compete and then return to Australia safely,” Minister Hunt said.

The vaccinations will comprise both Pfizer and AstraZeneca (for team members aged over 50 years).

Minister Colbeck said it marked an important step as Olympians readied for their campaigns.

“While vulnerable Australians remain an absolute priority as the vaccine rollout continues, National Cabinet understands the pressure our high-performance athletes have been facing as the Tokyo Games draw closer,” Minister Colbeck said.

“This will be a very different Olympics and Paralympics, but our athletes deserve the opportunity to compete.”


As the Prime Minister pins all his hopes on technology to save his government’s complete lack of any climate policy, his financial commitment doesn’t match up to his marketing.

In the wake of President Biden’s announcement of a $2 trillion climate infrastructure package, Scott Morrison has proposed a $539 million hydrogen and CCS hub spend to spruik his low emissions technology strategy, 3700x less in total and 290x less per capita than the Biden administration.

Most of this funding will go to coal, oil and gas, the leading causes of climate change. Further, Morrison’s proposed spending still sees Australia fall well behind the rest of the world.

The Greens are also concerned that Morrison still doesn’t understand the key difference between dirty ‘blue’ and ‘brown’ hydrogen which has very limited demand from export destinations with net-zero targets and zero-emissions green hydrogen with enormous potential.

Green Hydrogen will deliver a massive jobs and export boom to Australia if we invest now, but on current spending commitments, Australia is set to lose out on what is tipped to be a $15 trillion dollar ($12tUSD) industry as rivals investments in green hydrogen development dwarf paltry efforts by the Morrison government.

International comparison of government-led investments in Hydrogen:

Rank Country Commitment AUD conversion ($m)
1 South Korea $114 trillion won $141,000
2 Germany 9 billion Euro $14,310
3 Spain 8.9 billion Euro $14,150
4 France 7 billion Euro $11,130
5 Japan $830 billion yen $10,400
6 Saudi Arabia $5 billion (USD) $6,500
7 Australia $346 million* $346

*$346m includes $70.2m from 2020-21 Budget and today’s pre-announced $275.5m for hydrogen (including fossil-fuel based hydrogen) for the 2021-22 Budget

“Under Scott Morrison, Australia is set to lose the green hydrogen race and miss out on jobs and billions of dollars in exports,” said Mr Bandt.

”Scott Morrison is using public money to turn coal and gas into hydrogen. That’s not supporting green hydrogen, it’s a fossil fuel handout.

“As Joe Biden demands countries including Australia lift their 2030 targets and phase out coal, this kind of spin won’t cut it and Australia will face international pressure.

“This government’s obsession with coal and gas is about to cost Australia as other countries invest heavily in green hydrogen, giving them the edge as future markets open up.

“With all our wind and sunshine, this is Australia’s competitive advantage to seize, but it is being lost.”

“As our competitors and customers invest billions into the future, Australia is putting all its chips on yesterday’s technology while simultaneously saying technology will save us.’

The Greens have also called on the government to support green metal production in Australia.

“South Korea and Japan are in the top 3 of Australia’s export gas customers. Their green hydrogen development, together with their net-zero targets pose a direct challenge to ongoing gas sales. We’re backing the wrong horse.”

“Our big export destinations will want green steel and aluminium, and Scott Morrison is locking us into coal and gas manufacturing. It’s economic vandalism that will kill thousands of jobs,” Bandt said.

Community Pharmacy to join COVID-19 vaccine workforce

Community pharmacies around Australia are being invited to join the nation-wide effort to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to millions of Australians over the coming months, as work continues to protect more people from the deadly pandemic.

The Australian Government is committed to providing access to safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19, and the distribution effort will be one of the largest logistical operations in our country’s history.

An expression of interest (EOI) process will commence on 1 February 2021 for community pharmacies around Australia to participate in the, “Community Pharmacy COVID‑19 Vaccination Program,” to immunise priority populations from Phase 2a (expected from May 2021) onwards of the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination rollout strategy.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said, “Community pharmacy will be an important partner in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.”

“Utilising the existing network of thousands of community pharmacies will ensure the general population have broader access to COVID-19 vaccinations, provide choice in where the community receive a vaccine, and address barriers to access some parts of rural and regional Australia,” Minister Hunt said.

“Participation in the program will be voluntary and pharmacies will need to demonstrate they meet the highest safety standards and have capacity and capability to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, as well as ensuring they continue to provide important services to their local communities. These standards have been informed by the expert medical advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).”

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, George Tambassis, said community pharmacists across Australia welcomed the opportunity to be part of the healthcare sector’s commitment to ensuring the maximum possible uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Some 94 per cent of pharmacies are members of the pharmacy profession’s quality assurance program, QCPP, and the robustness of this program underpins the sector’s ability to meet the challenges of the pandemic and the delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations, while maintaining the levels of service and medicine delivery critical to their role as frontline healthcare professionals,” Mr Tambassis said.

“With a network of some 5.800 pharmacies across Australia, appropriately trained pharmacists are ideally placed to provide the opportunities and access for Australians to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

“Our members are committed to helping protect communities in all areas of the country and, as has been shown during all phases of this pandemic, will continue to go above and beyond for their patients.

“The Guild looks forward to helping ensure the resources and skills of pharmacists are recognised and quickly utilised in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.”

An EOI process commenced recently for general practices to assist in the delivery of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, and community pharmacies will be another important vaccination point for many communities.

Community pharmacies will be incentivised to provide both doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Australians wishing to be vaccinated, to ensure maximum uptake of the vaccine.

The Australian Government will continue to work with state and territory health authorities and the health sector to finalise the locations for vaccine distribution.

All health professionals involved in the vaccination program will have undertaken specialised training, which is currently in development. This training is expected to be rolled out from early February.

Many of Australia’s community pharmacies are already critical in the delivery of the seasonal influenza vaccines across the entire population, and their efforts in stepping up to support the COVID‑19 vaccine program will be important in ensuring wide accessibility and take up.

This will be the first time a national community pharmacy vaccination program will be rolled out funded by the Commonwealth Government.

More information about the Governments COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy is available at health.gov.au and the EOI will be issued from 1 February 2021.

The Government thanks the community pharmacy sector for their constructive engagement and collaboration over recent months, in particular the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

2021 Senior Australian of the Year

Congratulations Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM from the Northern Territory, who has been named the Senior Australian of the year for 2021.

Dr Ungunmerr Baumann was recognised for her contribution to children’s education, demonstrating an admirable commitment to making Australia a better place.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said Dr Ungunmerr Baumann had gone above and beyond in her service to education in the Top End.

“Miriam-Rose became the first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher in the Northern Territory in 1975, and later served as the principal of the Catholic school in her home community,” Minister Colbeck said.

“She is a renowned artist and a strong advocate for visual art to be a part of every child’s education.

“The Miriam Rose Foundation, which she began, is driving reconciliation at the grassroots level by bridging the divide between Aboriginal culture and wider Australian society.

“The Senior Australian of the Year award is recognition of significant achievement over many years, but it also highlights that dedicated Australians working for their communities come from all walks of life and background.”

Minister Colbeck also paid tribute to the other nominees from across Australia and the winners in each state and territory.

“It must be a difficult task narrowing down the nominees each year, looking through those shortlisted for this honour shows that you can always make a difference.

“While there is only one Senior Australian of the Year, I am continually impressed by all of those Australians who are nominated – they should all be rightly proud of their achievements.”

Congratulations to each of the 2021 Senior Australian of the Year finalists, who continue to inspire and contribute to their communities.

New South Wales Aunty Isabel Reid Elder, survivor and advocate for the Stolen Generation
Victoria Bich Cam Nguyen Refugee and migrant advocate, multicultural leader, CEO of the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association
Queensland Aunty McRose Elu Advocate for Torres Strait communities and climate change
Tasmania Brian Williams Scout leader and mentor
South Australia Professor Richard Bruggemann Disability advocate
Western Australia Dr Richard Walley OAM Aboriginal cultural champion, musician, performer and artist
Australian Capital Territory Patricia Anderson AO Writer and advocate for the health of Australia’s First Peoples

$311 million for dementia, cancer and additional medical research

Twelve grant opportunities from the Morrison Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), with a total value of almost $311 million, will launch today.

The funding aims to generate improved health care and outcomes by supporting health and medical research and innovation projects in key areas such as dementia, aged care, and applied research led by clinicians.

A total of $17.5 million is on offer for research into dementia and aged care. Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia, and the number one cause of death for women.

Almost half a million people are currently living with dementia in Australia, with this number expected to reach around 1.1 million in less than 30 years.

The 2020 MRFF grant opportunity from the Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Mission targets large scale, interdisciplinary research into dementia and aged care in four streams.

  • $1 million to develop measures to assess dementia care at a local organisational level and improve its quality
  • $6 million to develop interventions for holistic and multidisciplinary care, including new digital technologies to support care, managing transitions between care types, and managing the progression of dementia
  • $8 million for research to develop better diagnostic and prognostic tools for dementia, including biological markers of disease onset and progression
  • $2.5 million for research into effective infection control practices in aged care settings and during transitions.

Through the Clinician Researchers Initiative, the Government will make $25 million available to support clinician’s research health issues of significance to their patients.

Historically, clinician researchers have faced multiple challenges to effectively combine their patient care and research roles.

Grants of up to $3 million are available for research teams comprising a mix of senior and early- to mid-career clinician researchers, and supported by academic researchers.

The research will have potential to improve outcomes for patients, address an area of high need, improve the safety, quality and effectiveness of health services, and/or improve the efficiency of health services.

Funding will be allocated across three streams—teams led by general practitioners (GPs), medical specialists, or allied health professionals.

The chosen research projects will be embedded within a health service, such as hospitals or general practices, or health networks (Primary Health Networks or Local Health Networks).

The $190.8 million MRFF Clinician Researchers initiative will build research capacity in our health system, to ensure research is matched to clinical practice and leads to improved safety and quality in health services.

The MRFF is a capital preserved fund which matured at $20 billion in July 2020. It is long-term, sustainable investment in Australian health and medical research and innovation to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to health system sustainability.

In total, our Government directly invested a record $1.28 billion in health and medical research in 2019-20, which represented 13.6 per cent of Australian Government investment in Australian research.

The Morrison Government will invest a record $6.6 billion in health and medical research between 2020-21 and 2023-24.

Details of the 2020 MRFF grant opportunities are below.

Grant opportunity MRFF stream Funding
2020 Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Mission 2020 Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Mission $17.5 million
2020 Clinician Researchers: Applied Research in Health Clinician Researchers $25 million
2020 Paediatric Cancer Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research (EPCDR) $9.6 million
2020 Improving Diagnosis in Cancers with Low Survival EPCDR $25 million
2020 Rapid Applied Research Translation Rapid Applied Research Translation $55 million
2020 Early Stage Translation and Commercialisation Support Medical Research Commercialisation $79 million
2020 Genomics Health Futures Mission Genomics Health Futures Mission $45 million
2020 Stem Cell Therapies Mission Stem Cell Therapies Mission $19 million
2020 Cardiovascular Health Mission Cardiovascular Health Mission $20.3 million
2020 Traumatic Brain Injury Mission 2020 Traumatic Brain Injury Mission $4.3 million
2020 Indigenous Health Research Fund Indigenous Health Research Fund $11.1 million
Total   $310.8 million

Further to the launch to the 12 MRFF grant opportunities, public consultation opened today on the Roadmaps and Implementation Plans for six MRFF Missions: Cardiovascular Health Mission; Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Mission; Genomics Health Futures Mission; Indigenous Health Research Fund; Stem Cell Therapies Mission; and Traumatic Brain Injury Mission.

The Roadmaps and Implementation Plans set the strategic direction for the Missions, including identifying the research questions and priorities MRFF funding will focus on. Written submissions can be made at any time via www.consultations.health.gov.au, and webinars will be held in February and/or March 2021.

Further information on the MRFF is available at www.health.gov.au/mrff and on the grant opportunities is at www.grants.gov.au.