Another week of COVID-19 and as has been the case every week, a raft of new information to share with you.
There is encouraging news coming through regarding the rate of new infections both here in SA and across Australia. However, now is not the time to relax, while we appear to be “Flattening the Curve” we are concerned about the rising number of infections where we are unable to identify the source. This is likely to mean there are those in our midst who have the virus, are possibly passing it on and may not even know they have it. That is why it is so important we continue to follow the advice. It’s taken a while, but Australians are really getting the message and are now very focussed on following the rules.
Please stay safe this Easter and most importantly stay home.
This email update will cover:
- Reminder about measures to stop the spread + Easter travel
- Childcare assistance for families and providers
- Mandatory Code of Conduct for commercial tenancies
- Measures to prevent essential goods being exported and price gouging
- CSIRO funding – Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness
- Energy bill help
- Support for visa holders
- Reminder of key resources
- PROTECTING YOURSELF AND OTHERS + TRAVEL
As the spread of coronavirus increases in the community it’s important each Australian knows the practical things they can do to protect their own health, the health of their families and the health of the whole community. This is not new information and we should all still be following these basic measures.
The Chief Medical Officer advises these simple five actions:
- Be at least 1.5 metres away from everyone, whenever this is possible.
- Wash your hands, do it often and do it properly for at least 20 seconds.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow and not your hands.
- Don’t touch your face at all, even if it itches.
- If you’re sick, stay at home
As the medical experts and the National Cabinet have advised, all Australians should stay at home, unless shopping for essentials, travelling to and from work – where they cannot work from home, going to school and exercising.
Many people have contacted me and my offices about banning travel to the regions, especially with the Easter long weekend coming up. Any such decision would lie with the State Government and I have been passing these views along to my state colleagues. It is very clear that people are being asked to stay home and non-essential travel should not be undertaken – clear directions are on television, in newspapers, on billboards in Adelaide, all over social media and now through text messages from the government, but enforcement is not within the scope of Federal Government powers.
- ASSISTANCE FOR FAMILIES AND THE CHILDCARE SECTOR
Relief is on its way for around a million Australian families and thousands of early learning educators and carers:
- The Australian Government will allow early childhood education and care services to waive out-of-pocket fees for children that are absent from care, where the centre is open, retrospectively from 23 March 2020 up to and including 5 April 2020.
- From 6 April 2020, the Government will provide direct funding to services if they remain open and do not charge families fees for care. This payment will complement the Government’s $130 billion JobKeeper Payment, which will provide eligible businesses with a payment of $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee to keep them in their job.
- Under these arrangements starting on 6 April, services will not be charging fees. This means around one million families are set to receive free child care during the coronavirus pandemic.
Families who have terminated their enrolment since 17 February are encouraged to get back in contact with their centre and re-start their arrangements.
Re-starting enrolment will not require them to send their child to child care and it certainly won’t require them to pay a gap fee. Re-starting their enrolment will, however, hold their place for that point in time when things start to normalise, and they are ready to take their child back to their centre.
There has been some concern about how the arrangements will affect Family Day Care – I can assure you all that Family Day Care will be treated in exactly the same way as Day Care Centres. They will receive the same government subsidy as they were receiving prior to the coronavirus directly from the government rather than through the parents. The parents will pay no fees but the shortfall in income for the provider will be filled by them qualifying for the $1500 per fortnight JobKeeper Program. There have been some issues raised about their eligibility because some providers do not have ABNs. I expect this small anomaly to be addressed within the next couple of days.
I would encourage you to read more about what these measures will mean for you. Further information about the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package is available online at https://www.dese.gov.au/news/coronavirus-covid-19.
- NATIONAL CABINET MANDATORY CODE OF CONDUCT
Yesterday the Prime Minister announced the National Cabinet has agreed that states and territories will implement a mandatory Code of Conduct for commercial tenancies.
The purpose of this Code of Conduct (“the Code”) is to impose a set of good faith leasing principles for application to commercial tenancies (including retail, office and industrial) between owners/operators/other landlords and tenants, where the tenant is an eligible business for the purpose of the Commonwealth Government’s JobKeeper Program. This information will not interest all readers so I have summarised briefly below.
The Code will be given effect through relevant state and territory legislation or regulation as appropriate. The Code is not intended to supersede such legislation, but aims to complement it during the COVID-19 crisis period.
To read the full 7 page document click on this link – https://www.pm.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/national-cabinet-mandatory-code-ofconduct-sme-commercial-leasing-principles.pdf
The objective of the Code is to share, in a proportionate, measured manner, the financial risk and cash flow impact during the COVID-19 period, whilst seeking to appropriately balance the interests of tenants and landlords.
It is intended that landlords will agree tailored, bespoke and appropriate temporary arrangements for each SME tenant, taking into account their particular circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
The following overarching principles of this Code will apply in guiding such arrangements:
- Landlords and tenants share a common interest in working together and they will be required to discuss relevant issues and to negotiate appropriate temporary leasing arrangements. Landlords and tenants will negotiate in good faith.
- Any agreed arrangements will take into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tenant, with specific regard to its revenue, expenses and profitability. Such arrangements will be proportionate and appropriate based on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic plus a reasonable recovery period.
- All premises are different, as are their commercial arrangements; it is therefore not possible to form a collective industry position which is why all parties will be required to sit down and negotiate in good faith.
There are 14 different Leasing Principles listed in the Mandatory Code of Conduct document covering such things as tenants honouring current agreements within the terms of this Code and there is a “no eviction policy”. Leasing principle no. 4 provides a calculation method regarding the amount of rent payable.
Where landlords and tenants cannot reach agreement on leasing arrangements (as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic), the matter should be referred and subjected (by either party) to applicable state or territory retail/commercial leasing dispute resolution processes for binding mediation, including Small Business Commissioners/Champions/Ombudsmen.
Landlords and tenants must not use mediation processes to prolong or frustrate the facilitation of amicable resolution outcomes.
Landlords who are significantly affected by this Code through an income shortfall of 30 per cent can seek assistance via the JobKeeper Program – to register visit the ATO website –https://www.ato.gov.au/
The National Cabinet agreed to a moratorium on evictions over the next six months for residential tenancies in financial distress who are unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of coronavirus.
Residential tenancies will now be dealt with directly by each of the state and territory jurisdictions.
- MEASURES TO PREVENT ESSENTIAL GOODS BEING EXPORTED AND PRICE GOUGED DURING THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19
The Coalition Government’s first priority is the safety and welfare of the Australian community, and never more so than when facing a global pandemic like COVID-19. We have acted decisively to address concerns about the hoarding and profiteering of essential goods, such as personal protective gear, disinfectants and other medical products and have introduced tough penalties for price gouging.
The Minister for Health has now made a determination under the Biosecurity Act 2015 to enable the Australian Border Force to require that goods already in their custody be surrendered for provision to the National Medical Stockpile, or destruction if the goods are defective.
As a further step to address exploitative practices, the Health Minister has also determined a requirement that stops price gouging, by preventing people who have purchased essential goods at retail to on-sell them at extortionate prices. The requirement prevents a person who has purchased essential goods at retail on or after 30 January 2020, and for the duration of the human biosecurity emergency period, from selling or offering to sell these goods for more than 120 per cent of the price for which they were purchased.
This measure will not apply to manufacturers or legitimate business activities, ensuring that it does not apply to key suppliers that are vital to maintaining Australia’s supply chains.
These measures have become necessary because we have seen a small number of individuals engaging in the bulk purchasing of essential goods from retail outlets in Australia, with the intent of profiteering from exploitative exporting and price gouging. These goods are essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
If consumers are concerned about price gouging, they should contact the ACCC on 1300 305 502 or visit www.accc.gov.au.
- CSIRO UPGRADING WORLD CLASS FACILITY TO FIGHT DISEASES LIKE CORONAVIRUS
CSIRO’s work to better understand the virus that leads to COVID-19 and test potential vaccines is being given a substantial boost with a $220 million upgrade of its high containment biosecurity research facility in Geelong.
The facility, formerly known as the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), has also been renamed the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) to better reflect its national role in identifying, preventing and responding to the increasing threat of diseases, including those spreading from animals to humans.
The centre has already made rapid progress in work that will fast-track securing a vaccine for COVID-19. The Government has also committed up to $10 million to support this specific work as required, on top of the $220 million upgrade.
- ENERGY RETAILERS AND NETWORKS MUST PROTECT HOUSEHOLDS AND BUSINESSES THAT HAVE GONE INTO HIBERNATION
The Australian Government has set reasonable expectations of energy companies to protect householders and small business customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, outlined recently by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).
The AER’s Statement of Expectations sets out a range measures, including:
- Waiving any disconnection, re-connection and/or contract break fees for small businesses which have gone into hibernation, along with daily supply charges to retailers, during any period of disconnection until at least 31 July 2020;
- Offering all households and small businesses who indicate they may be in financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement;
- Not disconnecting customers who may be in financial stress, without their agreement before 31 July 2020 and potentially beyond;
- Deferring referral of any customer to a debt collection agency for recovery actions, or credit default listing until at least 31 July 2020 and potentially beyond; and
- Minimising the frequency and duration of planned outages for critical works, and providing as much notice as possible to assist households and businesses to manage during any outage.
The Australian Government will be closely monitoring retailer and network compliance with these measures.
7. CORONAVIRUS AND TEMPORARY VISA HOLDERS
The Government is making a number of changes to temporary visa holder arrangements during the coronavirus crisis in order to protect the health and livelihoods of Australians, support critical industries, and assist with the rapid recovery post the virus.
There are 2.17 million people presently in Australia on a temporary visa. All were welcomed to Australia on a temporary basis for different reasons including to fill skills shortages; to study as full fee-paying international students; to visit family and friends; or to work and holiday.
They are an important part of our economy and society. For example, there are over 8,000 skilled medical professionals on temporary visas supporting our health system right now.
While citizens, permanent residents and many New Zealanders have access to unconditional work rights and government payments (including the new JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments), temporary visa holders do not.
There has always been an expectation that temporary visa holders are able to support themselves while in Australia. The changes announced will help facilitate this for those who may be stood down or lose work hours as a result of the coronavirus.
In line with changes being made for Australian citizens and permanent residents, most temporary visa holders with work rights will now be able to access their Australian superannuation to help support themselves during this crisis.
Temporary visa holders who are unable to support themselves under these arrangements over the next six months are strongly encouraged to return home. For these individuals it’s time to go home, and they should make arrangements as quickly as possible.
Changes are also geared toward enabling temporary visa holders to remain in key industries, such as health, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing.
For details on measures see full media release here https://minister.homeaffairs.gov.au/davidcoleman/Pages/Coronavirus-and-Temporary-Visa-holders.aspx
- KEY RESOURCES
Coronavirus Australia app.
Visit the App store to download it for free.
www.Treasury.gov.au – all the fact sheets on economic measures are here.
This is a useful one on Job Keeper that both employers and employees may wish to look at:
If you have any feedback or questions please don’t hesitate to reply to this email or give one of my offices a call on the phone numbers listed below. I always welcome residents’ feedback.
Rowan Ramsey MP
Federal Member for Grey