News Coronavirus On the road back: Scott Morrison strives for ‘COVID-safe’ economy

On the road back: Scott Morrison strives for ‘COVID-safe’ economy

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the domestic coronavirus response is tracking well compared to other developed nations around the world, declaring Australia on the road to a coronavirus-safe economy.

Major economic reform looms large, as the federal government eyes tax, industrial relations and deregulation as key reform areas for a business-led recovery after widespread economic destruction.

Mr Morrison said $320 billion of already announced stimulus was about preparing for the road back to growth.

“We are on the way back to a COVID-safe economy,” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

“We are building the protections for this COVID-safe economy.”

The Prime Minister said a range of reform options raised over the past decade would be considered along with any new proposals.

“What I’m honestly saying to Australians is we’re looking at all options with fresh eyes,” he said.

“That’s in a good-faith way and I would be encouraging everyone else with a stake in this and that includes the union movement.”

He said the government had developed an excellent working relationship with the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

CMO’s word of warning to Senate committee

Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy struck a note of caution, saying restrictions on international travel will remain for at least another three to four months, even if other social-distancing measures are relaxed.

Professor Murphy said that the restrictions at the border would likely be the last measure to be relaxed by the government.

“The international situation at the moment is such that any relaxation of border measures would be very risky,” he said.

“We’ve just recommended to the national cabinet that we continue the very restrictive bans on Australians basically leaving the country unless there are exceptional circumstances, or anyone except Australian citizens coming back.

“The international spread of this virus is huge.”

Bank hotline to assist bosses

The big four banks will set up a hotline to help bosses pay workers while they wait for the JobKeeper payment to land in their account.

More than 960,000 businesses and sole traders have registered interest in the $130 billion wage subsidy scheme, which gives employers $1500 a fortnight to give to each employee.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said his focus was on ways to increase wages and job security.

He said the economy would not “snap back” to what it was before the virus swept the world.

“We won’t wake up one morning and be through this crisis and be back to where we were,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Canberra.

“It needs government support and we’ve been reminded during this crisis that government intervention is an essential component of how we deal with our economy.”

Consensus has evaporated in recent days, with Labor and unions angry with the government slashing notice periods for worker votes on changes to pay and conditions.

The Coalition has also revived plans to pass its “ensuring integrity” legislation which makes it easier to ban officials and de-register unions.

Mr Morrison said he wouldn’t horse trade in public in response to suggestions dropping the bill would foster greater cooperation with unions.

Employer groups are pushing for company tax cuts and a workplace law overhaul, while the ACTU wants more employee rights.

Tax reform guru Ken Henry has called for a new levy on business cash flow to replace the GST, payroll tax and state insurance duties.

He also wants stamp duties and fuel excise replaced with land tax and road user charges.

The tax office has approved 456,000 applications worth $3.8 billion for Australians to get early access to superannuation.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the figures on Thursday, with people taking on average $8000 of the $10,000 limit.

The federal government is allowing people struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic to access up to $20,000 of their retirement savings in two rounds.

-with AAP