TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
The Morrison government will seek to abolish the “better off overall test” for prospective enterprise agreements under its omnibus industrial relations package, which the ABC reports will be unveiled in full today.
The change would empower the Fair Work Commission to approve agreements in “limited circumstances” that leave a worker worse off if the business has been affected by COVID-19. Agreements would however face an unspecified “public interest” test and have a two-year time limit.
In related news, the Transport Workers Union will launch a Federal Court case today over Qantas’ plan to outsource more than 2000 jobs, while The Sydney Morning Herald explains that the Berejiklian government will be forced to ignore a 2012 credit rating law, passed under Mike Baird to protect NSW’s triple A score, as the state grapples with the pandemic’s economic fallout.
And in other news from parliament’s penultimate sitting day of the year, InQueensland reports Josh Frydenberg will introduce legislation for the controversial mandatory news media bargaining code, which, if passed, would require Google and Facebook to pay for news content and share data collection methods.
PS: Keep in mind as the Morrison government outlines further details of its package today that, as Crikey explained earlier this week, the Productivity Commission’s 2015 review of workplace relations not only found the current system works well and flexibly but did not find any evidence that reform would increase productivity.
TIME TO BUCKLE UP
Following opposition from Labor and the university sector, the Morrison government yesterday passed its Foreign Relations Bill and, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, will immediately examine Victoria’s Belt and Road agreement with China now that it has the power to tear up the (non-binding) memorandum of understanding.
Simultaneously, The Australian ($) reports that Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has accused Beijing of undermining the “letter and spirit” of the 2015 China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and World Trade Organisation obligations amid its slew of trade sanctions against Australian exports.
Which, to be fair, Australia kind of got there first, having launched nearly 170 anti-dumping investigations against China since 2012.
COVID WATCH: VACCINATIONS, A RAID, AND QUARANTINE EVASION
The UK’s mass vaccination program has officially begun, with the ABC reporting that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been administered to 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan.
The injection is the first of its kind in a Western country — although, as Crikey explained yesterday, both Russia and China have begun rolling out drugs that have not passed phase three clinical trials — and a second shot will be required for full immunisation.
In domestic COVID-19 news, The Age reports that Victorian authorities have confirmed that, back in July, a San Fransisco traveller evaded hotel quarantine in Sydney and flew into Melbourne. The leaked incident was not publicly communicated and close contacts were not contacted at the time.
Additionally, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, the Morrison government will extend its biosecurity powers so that restrictions on international travel and cruise ships remain in place until at least March 17.
Finally, while yesterday was a great day for science generally, The Guardian reports that Florida scientist Rebekah Jones — who says she was removed from her job running the state’s COVID-19 database because she refused to censor the data and has since gone on to create a much more detailed website — has had her home raided by armed police who confiscated her computers.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
Sometimes there’s such a thing as tough love. You need people to take responsibility. If you are quite happy with people going to spend their money on alcohol and become inebriated to the point that they have domestic violence…
[Y]ou may have your disagreements with us and say that it’s against human rights, which the Greens have said all along, and that we’re denying people their rights, but the people are on this welfare payment purely because of the grace of the taxpayers of this nation, who have given them the ability to actually access money…
These communities came to the government and put their own hands up for it. They wanted this card.
In a great display of the ideology behind the cashless welfare card, the One Nation senator argues that welfare recipients in four largely-Indigenous towns need to have their spending controlled for their own good, that the $10,000 per card per year system is for the taxpayer, and that unnamed communities want it.
“2020 has not been a good year for thermal coal.
“Trends that were already underway have accelerated as a result of the pandemic. As the energy source with the highest marginal cost of operation, coal has borne the brunt of reductions in electricity demand. As a result, planned closures have been brought forward and new closures have been announced.”
“Australian Financial Review columnist Joe Aston is like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When he’s good — skewering the pretensions of an Australian bizoid — he’s very, very good. But when he’s bad — vindictive bordering on plain nasty — he’s horrid.
“And this week, in a ‘dreams do come true’ Christmas present for half of corporate Australia, he’s in the witness box at the Federal Court in Sydney, copping a flogging. As more than 200 people logged into the live feed of the case, a happy feeling of schadenfreude settled over the city. Joe was finally getting his comeuppance.”
“With an end-of-year reshuffle due after parliament rises this week, public servants will be busily preparing new minister briefing packages so that ministers can get their feet under the desk before the summer break.
“Who’s in and who’s out? We’ll find out in due course, but here’s a form guide to what a reshuffle based on merit and political smarts might scoop up.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Christian Porter goes for not-so-broke ($) — Jennifer Hewett (The Australian Financial Review): “The combination of measures to come into federal Parliament on Wednesday will cautiously increase flexibility in Australian workplaces — especially in industries hardest hit by COVID-19. But they hardly add up to radical change and will no doubt be softened further to ensure passage through the Senate.”
As other states shoot for the stars, Queensland can’t afford business as usual — Dennis Atkins (InQueensland): “While other, comparable state governments have been imaginative and bold, Queensland’s Labor Government offered something that looked more ‘paint by numbers’ than ‘what can we do with a once in a 100-year opportunity?’. New South Wales reformed state taxes, is doing away with stamp duty, and rolled out an imaginative energy and environment policy that leaves other states behind.”
Australian sport offers celebrations of Aboriginal ‘culture’ instead of standing up for Black lives — Chelsea Bond (The Guardian): “On Saturday, the Australian national anthem was sung in an Indigenous language (Dharug, the language of the Eora nation) for the first time at an international rugby fixture. It was only the most recent public performances of Indigenous cultural appreciation by an Australian sporting code and one that highlighted how out of touch they are — not just with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but also with the rest of the world.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Head of ANU’s National Security College Rory Medcalf and CEO of AustCyber, the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network, Michelle Price will present “Securing Australia in the 2020s” at the National Press Club.
Bruce Pascoe and Vicky Shukuroglou will discuss their new book Loving Country: A Guide to Sacred Australia in an online Avid Reader event.
Chief political correspondent for 7.30 Laura Tingle will discuss her new Quarterly Essay, The High Road: What Australia can learn from New Zealand, in a webinar with the Australia Institute.