Canberra (Tribune International, National Cabinet Release, 24 July 2020): The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment and getting the economy moving again.
The Acting Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, provided an update on the measures underway, the latest data and medical advice in relation to COVID-19.
There have been over 13,000 confirmed cases in Australia and sadly 139 people have died.
The Victorian outbreak has meant that there are now around 4,000 active cases in Australia. Daily infection rates have remained low in all states and territories, other than Victoria. Testing remains high, with more than 3.7 million tests undertaken in Australia.
National Cabinet discussed the Victorian outbreak, the health response underway and recommitted to providing as much support as necessary to Victoria. All states and territories welcomed the support that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is providing, with more than 3,100 personnel assisting with planning and logistics, testing, quarantine and control points across the country. The ADF is there to work with state and territory health responses as needed.
National Cabinet agreed to a new set of data and metrics to ensure that the Commonwealth, states and territories all have access to transparent up-to-date jurisdictional data on contact tracing, tracking and other metrics to ensure health system capacity. This will better help guide the public health response and support the coordination of efforts by the Commonwealth, states and territories.
National Cabinet recommitted to the suppression strategy for COVID-19, with the goal of no community transmission, and to the Three-Step Framework to a COVID-safe Australia. National Cabinet further recommitted to the need to adequately integrate the emergency and the health response.
We need to continue to have the right controls in place to test more people, trace those who test positive and respond to local outbreaks when they occur. These are Precedent Conditions to enable Australia to relax baseline restrictions and enable Australians to live and work in a COVID-safe economy.
Treasury Secretary Dr Steven Kennedy addressed National Cabinet and provided an economic update, including the economic and fiscal update delivered by the Treasurer this week, and the extension of the JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs. Combined with the health response, the Commonwealth economic and balance sheet measures total around $300 billion and along with the response from the state and territories of $42 billion, significant economic support is flowing into the economy. The national goal of job creation was reaffirmed with a discussion on the positive reduction in the effective unemployment rate seen from April to June.
National Cabinet will meet again on 7 August 2020.
National Cabinet recommitted to the suppression strategy to address COVID-19. The goal remains suppression of COVID-19 until a point in time a vaccine or effective treatments are available, with the goal of no local community transmission.
National Cabinet further reaffirmed the need to adequately integrate the emergency and the health response is vitally important that the coordination of efforts continues. While this is largely occurring, National Cabinet agreed to work to strengthen these efforts, noting the support the ADF is able to provide and the need to coordinate emergency management, policing and health responses.
Streamlining environmental approvals for job-creating projects
The National Cabinet agreed to move to single-touch environmental approvals underpinned by national environmental standards for Commonwealth environmental matters.
Some states are able to transition to this system faster than others. The Commonwealth will move immediately to enter into bilateral approval agreements and interim standards with the states that are able to progress now.
We will simultaneously be developing formal national standards through further public consultation.
The National Cabinet also endorsed the list of 15 major projects for which Commonwealth environmental approvals will be fast-tracked.
For major projects at the start of the approvals process, we will target a 50 per cent reduction in Commonwealth assessment and approval times for major projects, from an average of 3.5 years to 21 months.
For major projects which are already at an advanced stage of assessment, governments will seek to progress them through the process as fast as possible and within statutory timeframes.
Joint assessment teams will work on accelerating these projects, which are worth more than $72 billion in public and private investment and will support over 66,000 direct and indirect jobs.
National Cabinet considered and agreed a Domestic Border Control Freight Movement Protocol to allow freight to move safely and efficiently across borders, and to upgrade the Protocol to an Enforceable Code by state and territory jurisdictions.
The Protocol was developed between all jurisdictions with the involvement of members of the Transport and Infrastructure Council and had previously been endorsed by the AHPPC.
National Cabinet also agreed that further work be carried out by jurisdictions on the implementation and enforcement of an industry code which, in-conjunction with the Protocol, will minimise risks and exposure to workers and the community from COVID-19.