Fresh from agreeing with state premiers to reset the nation’s vaccination rollout, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previewed the May 11 budget as “stage two” of his Government’s post-coronavirus recovery plan.
In a speech to the Business Council of Australia on Monday night, Mr Morrison said the pandemic and associated government initiatives such as JobKeeper had not changed his government’s desire for business-led economic growth or dulled his appetite for deregulation.
He said the May 11 budget will retain a “clear focus” on low taxes, deregulation, “sensible” industrial relations policy and open trade.
Mr Morrison’s comments came soon after the end of the resumption of coronavirus ‘war’ cabinet meetings, where he agreed with premiers to reset the vaccination rollout, including accelerating the plan for over 50s and setting up more mass vaccination centres.
Economic bounce back
The Australian economy has recouped some 85 per cent of its losses caused by COVID-19.
“(It’s) a plan that very much puts business and the private sector in the driver’s seat for a durable and strong economic recovery,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison also used the speech to outline a $120 million “deregulation package” which he said would help businesses grow with less friction.
This included the streamlining of business reporting on greenhouse gas and energy activities, assistance to commercial fishing businesses for their data requirements and simpler business communication with the federal treasury department.
The government would also look to help businesses operate with fewer restrictions across state borders by removing the need for multiple occupational licences.
Mr Morrison said deregulation had always been important to his government.
“The benefits to businesses, individuals and not-for-profits in reduced compliance costs under this package are estimated to average $430 million annually,” Mr Morrison said.
It comes as millions of Australians brace for a bigger tax bill, with a tax stimulus measure finishing at the end of this financial year.
Analysts at the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre estimate some 3.4 million taxpayers will lose out from its removal, 50 per cent of whom will be women.
Bankwest Curtin analysts say the removal of the LMITO effectively cancels out the benefit of changes to tax thresholds for $48,000-$90,000 earners, making them no better off than they were in 2019/20.
Simplified plan details due on Thursday
Meanwhile, Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program looks set to be simplified to two phases, as debate rages over its slow pace.
Concerns have been raised that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are not being rolled out quick enough, with state governments keen to get cracking on a faster program.
So far, 1.59 million doses have been administered nationally – well short of the federal government’s initial target.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders on Monday reached an in-principle deal to bring forward the vaccination of over-50s and prepare mass vaccination sites for the rest of the population.
However, the plan – to be outlined in detail on Thursday – will rely on greater supply and distribution of vaccines.
The initial vaccination plan include five phases.
Phase 1a and 1b, currently underway across the country, include aged care, disability, quarantine and health care workers, as well as aged care residents.
Anyone with an underlying medical condition, significant disability, or aged over 70 – older than 55 for Indigenous Australians – are also eligible to receive a jab.
Mr Morrison told a business forum on Monday night it remained a priority to vaccinate “the most vulnerable members of our community”.
The program was initially rocked by a shortfall in supplies from Europe and took a second confidence hit with concerns over links between the AstraZeneca shot and blood clots in under-50s.
Extra vaccines for over 50s
AstraZeneca supplies are expected to be redirected to over-50s under the revised plan, following advice given to national cabinet by medical experts of its safety.
The leaders backed the strategy of using GPs to deliver vaccinations for over-50s, with states and territories to consider options to supplement the rollout through expanded state vaccination centres.
Tasmania has flagged a specific role in the reset, offering to vaccinate aged care and disability workers which were to be covered by the federal program.
Emerging from the meeting, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters in Brisbane there had been a “good discussion” about the vaccine rollout.
“It’s a big reset on the vaccine rollout,” she said.
“Everyone went into that room with the right attitude.”