SPEECH OF FIGURES
On the same day Victoria’s second wave officially ended following the discharge of its last identified case from hospital, The Mandarin reports that the Victorian government has handed down a budget that will grow debt to $154.8 billion in 2023/24 in an effort to boost employment.
The budget included a number of previously-flagged initiatives — i.e. the $5.3 billion public housing plan, insecure workers sick leave scheme, free kinder program, and plan to merge the state’s vocational high school certificate with the VCE — while major new winners include:
- Hospitals: $9 billion over four years, including $2 billion that will go towards building new hospitals and upgrading existing ones
- Rail: $2.2 billion for the Suburban Rail Loop, $2 billion for Geelong Fast Rail, with millions for various other rail lines
- Schools: More than $3 billion in upgrades, including $1.1 billion as part of the previously announced Building Works Package
- Disability support: $1.9 billion, including nearly $1.6 billion to “transform” support for students with disability in state government schools
- Energy: $1.6 billion in clean energy and energy efficiency, including $540 million for six new Renewable Energy Zones and a $797 million commitment for bill relief and energy efficient schemes
- The Arts: $1.46 billion to transform the Melbourne’s Arts Precinct
- Jobs for Victoria: $619 million government employment initiative for those most impacted by the pandemic; includes female wage subsidy and tax credits.
However, as The Age reports, budget papers excluded an explanation of the state’s capital works program — which normally unpacks newly announced capital projects, works under way and those expected to finish that year — with the opposition claiming censorship.
For the treasurer’s part, Tim Pallas said the papers had not been produced because the state’s project pipeline was being reviewed in light of changes to timelines and costs wrought by the pandemic.
According to the ABC, the NSW government is today expected to ease a raft of COVID-19 restrictions from Tuesday December 1, including increasing the number of people allowed to visit a home from 20 up to 30 people.
Next Tuesday will also see NSW residents allowed to enter Queensland without mandatory quarantine, while The Sydney Morning Herald notes that, barring any new cases today, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will today announce Victorians will also be allowed in from December 1.
The news comes after South Australia recorded another case yesterday, which the ABC reports is a close contact of a returned traveller and not linked to the Parafield cluster. Premier Steven Marshall said the state was on track to revert to pre-cluster restriction levels from, again, next Tuesday.
PS: As The Guardian reports, the Spanish pizza worker who failed to honestly declare his work status to South Australian police has expressed his remorse for the lockdown and concern over the public release of his personal information. Gladys Berejiklian has also announced she regretted not isolating after taking a test last week and instead entering the parliamentary chamber for a vote.
STACKS OF SUGGESTIONS
The Age reports that the five-month investigation into Victorian Labor’s branch stacking scandal has found methods used by factional kingpins had become “more sophisticated” and the scale had “brazenly increased” amid an environment of organisational inertia, poor culture, and almost no party governance.
The report, led by former premier Steve Bracks and former federal MP Jenny Macklin, will apparently recommend mandatory photo ID checks for all new members — a move the article notes is likely to face backlash from some factional figures — and that no more than 20 new members of a single branch be given voting rights within a single month.
MOMENT OF TRUTH: BIDEN’S CABINET
Finally, The Guardian reports that overnight Joe Biden began officially announcing his cabinet picks, which include a number of establishment Democrats including Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of homeland security, Janet Yellen as treasury secretary and former presidential candidate John Kerry as special presidential envoy for climate.
The news comes after Pennsylvania’s secretary of state certified the results of its presidential election, confirming Biden’s win over Donald Trump, while the president has come closer than ever to accepting reality by announcing he instructed his team to stop blocking the transition process, while insisting he will continue with unsubstantiated legal challenges.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
The gigantic intervention into the electricity market in NSW — if not tempered with reality in how to operate and manage and regulate a complex open and competitive market — it has to be seen as a massive ‘change of electricity law’, which will have investors seeking legal redress against the government.
Trevor St Baker
The coal baron and Liberal donor who paid the NSW government $1 million for the Vales Point Power Station — which is currently worth $730 million and is about to receive $8.7 million in federal handouts for upgrades — threatens legal action against the same government over a renewable scheme that might devalue his investment ($).
“For years now, the Australian War Memorial (AWM) has been a key component in the Coalition’s attempt to own Australia’s military history and traditions. The AWM is chaired by Liberal supporter Kerry Stokes; Tony Abbott is also a board member, along with Josephine Stone, wife of former Country Liberal leader Shane Stone. Another board member, former SAS commander James McMahon, is an executive for Stokes.”
“As Australia’s political and military leaders express their horror and disgust at alleged war crimes committed by Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers in Afghanistan, Kerry Stokes has vowed to fund the legal fight of those accused.
“But it appears he won’t be bankrolling their defence on his own.”
“Every year, the world is losing over US$427 billion in fiscal resources to international corporate tax abuse. On average countries are losing the equivalent of 9.2% of their health budgets to tax havens every year.
“In Australia’s case, the figure is the equivalent of 4.87% of what the country spends on health, an amount that is the equivalent of the salaries for almost 54,000 nurses.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Sovereign Australia is free to choose both China and America ($) — Scott Morrison (AFR): “We are not and have never been in the economic containment camp on China. No country has pulled more people out of poverty than China. We in Australia are pleased to have played our role in the economic emancipation of millions of Chinese through the development of their nation’s economy.”
Victorian budget: Big problems need bigger solutions — Shaun Carney (The Age): “This is very much a Labor budget in the sense that it focuses on the party’s bedrock constituencies, especially low-income, blue-collar and outer-suburban Victorians. The spending on education is going to state schools and the freshly announced phasing out of the vocational high school certificate in favour of the inclusion of industry-focused subjects in the VCE is an attempt to elevate the standing of those families who don’t aspire to send their kids to university. New spending on TAFE has a similar purpose.”
A new generation of Australian war criminals — Bobuq Sayed (Meanjin): “After almost two decades of the Australian Defence Force’s involvement in Afghanistan, it takes something major for the crisis there to warrant national attention. Streaks of deadly car bombings and rocket strikes rarely register. Most don’t bat an eyelid at the new normalisation of relations with the Taliban and their sinister return to global prominence. Just recently, 22 promising scholars were slain during a shooting at Kabul University, where my own father studied some 40 years ago. Within hours, the news cycle had shifted elsewhere.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Shadow innovation minister Clare O’Neil will present “COVID and The Long View” at the National Press Club.
Journalist Rick Morton will launch On Money in conversation with radio producer Elizabeth McCarthy in an Avid Reader webinar.
Wheeler Centre series Women at the Edge will discuss impacts of COVID-19 in “Economics and Beyond” webinar with Leanne Miller, Angela Jackson, Rowan O’Hagan, and host Gabrielle Chan.
The Australia Institute will host “Snap Webinar: Stop The EV Tax” with chair of the Electric Vehicle Council Tim Washington.
DecrimQLD and Vixen Collective will host online forum “License to fail: Queensland & Victoria’s sex work laws”.