COVID-19 has been tough for a lot of people, especially those working in hospitals. You can imagine the pleasant surprise felt by the nurses at Goulburn Base Hospital when they received letters from students at Goulburn East Public School. Student Jacob Doggett said their teacher Sue Roberts spoke about the dangerous nature of the nurses’ work. READ ALSO: Youth Off The Street launches Cup of Kindness Day “We wanted to write letters to the nurses thanking them for their work,” Jacob said. “She told us they were putting their lives at risk.” Ms Roberts has an understanding of the tough environment and pressure the front line health care workers have gone through as she has family who works in the health system. Goulburn Base Hospital’s acting director of nursing and midwifery Cheryl Tozer said this was a lovely thing for the students to do. READ ALSO: Take the weekend quiz “We want to thank the school’s staff and students and we’re so grateful,” Ms Tozer said. “It’s not easy work and the nurses are exhausted.” One of the nurses at the hospital, Lisa Clements said she really appreciated the gesture. “The letters are adorable and lovely,” Ms Clements said. “They put in a lot of time. They are all unique and you can see the love.” A total of 47 letters were written. Did you know the Goulburn Post is now offering breaking news alerts and a weekly email newsletter? Keep up-to-date with all the local news: sign up below.
“It took its toll on me mentally and physically. Lucky enough I did get the shot, but it was hard. I’d packed my bags a lot of times to leave.”
Every time he was about to pack it in his mother, Kim Stojanov, talked him around.
“My mum always used to remind me why I’m up here,” he said.
Which is why Stojanov became so emotional watching on at WIN Stadium when Ramsey scored two tries on debut last weekend against Canberra. Footage of Stojanov cheering on her boy, coupled with the half-time interview she granted Fox Sports, has received about as much airtime as Ramsey’s highlights.
“It was a pretty special debut; all my mates and family came up for it,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey scored two tries against the Raiders and would have earned a hat-trick had Zac Lomax not been offside in the lead-up to a potential third. Every try proved costly to the Freemasons Hotel owned by the family in Molong.
“They had free beers every time I went over for a try,” he said. “I got two. I don’t know how many people were there, but I’d say there were a few free beers going around.”
Ramsey used to earn pocket money working at the pub in his teens.
“I was the dish pig at the parents’ pub coming through,” he said. “I used to do the dishes and be a waiter. It wasn’t too bad; you get a few free Cokes and dinner. There were some perks.”
Already Ramsey has earned a cult following. The Gymea Gorillas junior was the leading try-scorer in the nines, but a shoulder injury that required almost five months of rehab delayed his debut. He has been dubbed Bjorn because of his resemblance to tennis legend Bjorn Borg, although teammates have their own monikers for Ramsey: Ben Hunt calls him Praying Mantis, while Korbin Sims prefers Octopus.
Ramsey will get another opportunity to impress when the Dragons take on the Knights at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday. The 20-year-old has made his mark on the wing, but hopes incoming coach Anthony Griffin will one day be calling him his fullback.
“Fullback is my preferred position,” he said.
“Definitely, that’s what I’m working towards right now.
“I’ve looked up to Billy Slater my whole life. He’s a great player and done so much in the game. The way he does things in attack and defence is what I want to be like. That’s who I’ve looked up to in my whole career.”
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.
If we are to achieve economic recovery, we will need to address social infrastructure weaknesses in aged care, health and university education, writes Professor John Quiggin.
WITH THE economy in recession as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and depressed conditions likely to continue for a year or more to come, attention has turned to strategies to promote recovery.
Unsurprisingly, most participants in the policy process have turned to the kinds of strategies they have always favoured.
High on the list for many is increased investment in physical infrastructure projects and particularly transport infrastructure. Such projects, always announced with an impressive-sounding number of associated jobs, lend themselves to images of legions of workers toiling with picks and shovels (the term “shovel-ready” is commonly used for projects ready to be implemented rapidly). And the announcement of such projects gives rise to media-friendly images, mercilessly satirised by the ABC program Utopia, of politicians in hard hats and hi-vis vests, busily engaged in building the nation.
Yet this image has long been out of date. Moreover, the pandemic and its long-term consequences entail the need for a fundamental rethinking of the role of transport in the economy and of the kinds of investments that we will need in the future.
Large-scale infrastructure projects generate relatively little employment compared to their huge costs. Much of the cost goes on heavy equipment, most of which is imported. Meanwhile, physical transport has become relatively less important as the 20th Century economy, based almost entirely on physical goods, is replaced by a service and information economy, where the core infrastructure is that associated with the internet.
The pandemic has rapidly accelerated this transition. While some of the decline in transport we have seen will be reversed when the virus is controlled – or when, as elsewhere, we decide to put up with the steady toll it exacts – much of it will not be.
Business travel is unlikely ever to return to its previous levels. As experience with online meetings has been forced upon us, their advantages have become obvious and have grown over time.
In the pre-pandemic era, organising a meeting with virtual participants was more difficult and complex than the alternative of providing everyone with transport to a physical venue. Now, it’s just a matter of sending out invitations from Zoom or Microsoft Teams. It’s easy to schedule multiple meetings, with different participants in quick succession or even, at a pinch, in parallel. In the light of these advantages – and the likelihood that some level of social distancing will be needed for years to come – it’s highly likely that online meetings will remain the norm even after constraints on travel are removed.
The biggest impacts will be on air travel. In the pre-pandemic era, it was common for business meetings to be organised in a conference room located in or near to an airport, with the participants driving to the airport in their home city, flying to the meeting, then returning home. It seems unlikely that this nonsensical practice will ever return. But business travel of all kinds will raise the question (asked in British posters during WWII), Is your journey really necessary?
The effect on commuting to work will not be as great. Some employers are already trying to reverse the shift towards working from home. But the obvious efficiency gains and the cost of providing enough office space to maintain a safe workplace mean that these efforts are unlikely to be more than partially successful. So, the total demand for work travel is likely to decline.
Some other kinds of private travel are likely to fall. The pandemic forced many households to rely on home delivery of groceries. A single delivery truck needs much less road space than a couple of dozen households, each driving to the grocery store and back.
The big problem raised by the pandemic has been the decline in public transport usage. Travellers understandably prefer using their own cars to sharing a bus or carriage with a crowd of strangers. Fixing this problem is an urgent task if congestion is to be controlled. The first step must be making masks compulsory. As most people now understand, the main point of masks is not to protect the wearer against infection but to protect others — in this case, fellow travellers. A mask mandate might discourage some who are opposed to such precautions from using public transport, but these are the people most likely to engage in high-risk behaviour of all kinds.
If transport infrastructure investments are not the right way to stimulate the economy, what kinds of investment do we need? The most important single physical investment we can make is to fix the National Broadband Network, replacing Malcolm Turnbull’s hodgepodge with high-speed fibre to the premises everywhere. This investment would create more jobs for a given budget than a big road project. Even better in this respect would be an expansion of social housing.
But the biggest investments we need to make are in people, not concrete. The pandemic has exposed huge weaknesses in our social infrastructure, from aged care and public health to university education. These are the areas that desperately need more investment if we are to make the economic transformation we need.
John Quiggin is Professor of Economics at the University of Queensland and the author of ‘Zombie Economics and Economics in Two Lessons’. You can follow John on Twitter @JohnQuiggin.
All job advertisements will stipulate the requirement that candidates must live in or be willing to move to WA for the duration of their employment.
The company has offered financial assistance for interstate employees to temporarily relocate to WA, which has resulted in over 800 employees moving to the state.
The resources giant also offered incentives for employees already on the books willing to move to WA permanently.
Premier Mark McGowan has been on record urging resources companies to do more to move workers to WA or to employ WA workers first.
He said BHP had set a new benchmark for the rest of the industry, and encouraged other mining companies to follow.
Mr McGowan said the move would have a positive impact across the state’s economy, with more income generated from mining staying in WA.
“It means more West Australians will be employed in our resources industry,” he said.
“I look forward to more people making WA their home, just like I did when I was in the Navy and relocated to WA.
“We don’t believe flying in workers from over east is sustainable any longer.”
After the state closed its borders in April, the industry was forced to negotiate travel exemptions and strict quarantines for its interstate workers.
“This is the time for the resources industry to rethink the way it employs workers in WA and move interstate workers here,” Mr McGowan said.
“WA workers should be first in line for WA jobs. There are many West Australians that can perform the roles needed in the sector.”
Mr McGowan has asked the federal government to assist in helping it fill jobs in regional areas while the WA border is closed, calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to allow West Australians to keep their JobKeeper payments if they take up employment outside of major population centres.
Nathan is WAtoday’s political reporter and the winner of the 2019 Arthur Lovekin Prize for Excellence in Journalism.
That old adage “never get between a premier and a bucket of money” has become ‘never get between a premier and a COVID election’.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, two months from polling day, has been acting with the sort of single-minded political determination and ruthlessness that Scott Morrison might identify with in more normal circumstances.
As the national accounts this week confirmed, Australia is in the deepest recession since the 1930s Great Depression, the Prime Minister, desperate to speed the economy’s reopening, struggled to bring maximum pressure on premiers on matters over which he has no formal power.
At the start of the week, the Federal Government had two immediate aims for the following days: to force Victoria to provide a roadmap out of its lockdown, and to have the states at Friday’s National Cabinet agree to a COVID “hotspot” definition to pave the way for borders to re-open. (At present Queensland, which excludes people from hotspots, defines all of NSW and the ACT as hotspots, as well as Victoria.)
In the wake of a work over from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced he’d outline a map this Sunday. How encouraging it is remains to be seen.
While several premiers have been recalcitrant about their borders, Palaszczuk has been in the Morrison Government’s particular sights — as well as those of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Medical and other hardship cases, exacerbated by confusion and delays, have brought sharp attacks on the Queensland Government, including from the PM. Queensland reacted by saying it would set up a unit in its health department to smooth the processes.
But Palaszczuk will campaign on keeping Queenslanders safe and in general her border toughness has served her well politically, according to polling on the issue. Her defence of it this week was defiant.
It’s a different story in Victoria
Paradoxically, Morrison finds Andrews personally easier than Palaszczuk to deal with. That’s despite the fact the Victorian Government’s bungling on quarantine and inadequacies in contact tracing have caused much more damage nationally than has Queensland’s border policy.
The relationship seems to endure the regular touch-ups the Federal Government gives Victoria. Berejiklian has also found Palaszczuk difficult.
Maybe this is a personality thing, but it’s also likely driven by the tensions around Queensland’s imminent election. Palaszczuk is totally focused on survival.
As Morrison prepared to take the hotspot proposal to the national cabinet, the Federal Government wound back its ambition.
The hotspot discussion was just the beginning of a process, was the official word. Morrison called Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan on Thursday morning and indicated the Federal Government was not seeking to take down the WA border — the feds are now saying WA is different in that it has no border towns.
By Thursday, Queensland and Western Australia had already pre-empted the meeting.
McGowan, with an election in March, declared, “We’re not going agree to bring down the border”, saying the hotspot approach was not as effective. Queensland suggested it would want to see 28 days of no community transmission before it rethought its position on NSW.
It was of no political use but the Government did receive support on the issue from an unexpected source. Paul Keating, asked about borders in an interview on the ABC, said: “I basically don’t agree with border closures anywhere. It is a national economy and the economy’s going to be stronger if people can move. Unless you had big emergencies — and we had an emergency on the NSW-Victorian border which is now abated broadly I think — the case for keeping border closures … is a very poor case.”
AFL triumph for Palaszczuk
Palaszczuk has used her border policy in a campaign to secure the AFL grand final for Brisbane, an effort that paid off this week.
The big match will be at Brisbane’s Gabba ground before a crowd of 30,000 — a week before polling day.
It is not just those in Melbourne who are upset. Palaszczuk’s critics, including the federal Nationals, piled on to accuse her of according the footballers and their executives privileges in their “hub” while ordinary people suffered.
Regardless, Palaszczuk will do everything to protect this AFL triumph. Her worst nightmare would be having to cancel the crowd because of a serious COVID outbreak.
Parliament done until October
Meanwhile the federal MPs from Queensland who attended the just-ended fortnight parliamentary sitting are headed into 14 days of home quarantine (at least they escape being confined in hotels).
The sitting (the first with a “virtual” component) concluded with a distinctly fractious final couple of days.
After the Government gagged debate on its tertiary fees legislation in the House of Representatives, Labor engaged in retributive disruption on a range of issues. The Government had wanted to ram the education legislation through this week but the Senate has forced a short inquiry, reporting later in the month.
Morrison will be glad to see the back of the Parliament, which doesn’t meet again until the October 6 budget. The Government secured the extension of its JobKeeper program for six months until the end of March, but the parliamentary setting gave Labor a platform to prosecute its argument that the rate should not be phased back.
Labor also used the sitting for a sustained attack over aged care, which culminated in the Senate censuring the hapless minister, Richard Colbeck. Morrison dismissed the motion by pointing out this had happened quite often to ministers over the years.
As the Government hunkers down to drafting its budget, it’s hard to recall a more difficult one to frame, even in the global financial crisis.
The national accounts told us growth was a negative 7 per cent in the June quarter (6.3 per cent annually) but that’s a snapshot of the past. The present and the future involve real time measurements and judgements that have to be made on inadequate information. The Victorian situation is a wildcard.
The scale-down of JobKeeper after September will see some struggling businesses decide their future, but the Government won’t have a full picture when it signs off on the budget.
But there’s a trickier challenge
The most elusive challenge is how to generate confidence.
The national accounts showed household income actually rose in the quarter, thanks to the huge amount of government cushioning, but consumption plunged.
This is hardly surprising. Apart from shutdowns and travel restrictions reducing the opportunity to spend, when huge numbers of workers are unemployed or at risk of losing their jobs, many retirees are finding their income squeezed, and the future is unclear, people will be conservative with their money. Savings rose in the quarter.
The budget is expected to bring forward already legislated tax cuts as one incentive to get spending going — although quite a lot of this money could be saved.
Anxious to fan the weak flames of hope, Morrison this week talked repeatedly about the country reaching some sort of COVID-safe normality by Christmas. Ahead of Friday’s meeting, his message to fellow leaders was, “We need to come together, we need to ensure that we are clear with Australians, that we will seek to make Australia whole again by Christmas.”
We’ll see whether that’s optimistic. But Palaszczuk, if she is returned at the election, may become more amenable after October to southerners travelling to Queensland for the festive season. At least, that’s the theory.
Michelle Grattan is a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra and chief political correspondent at The Conversation, where this article first appeared.
He said that result was a testament to the ‘hard border’ and he took aim at “eastern states commentators” who claimed the state was a drag on the national economy.
“What today’s data highlights in particular in respect of the June quarter is that Western Australia, and indeed those states with hard borders or strong borders like South Australia and Queensland are certainly no drag on the national economy,” he said.
“We all had the strongest results for the June quarter compared to those states that have been more liberal with their borders.
“I want to put to bed this idea that Western Australia is a drag on the national economy, it has been an important contributor, not just to the economy of Australia but to the finances of every single treasury in our federation.”
Both Mr Wyatt and Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenburg noted the mining sector’s role in propping up state and federal economies.
“As always I’m thankful to Western Australia and its strong mining sector and Queensland’s mining sector, and indeed mining right around the country,” Mr Wyatt said.
“It is a highly productive sector, it’s a big export earner and it is a big employer.”
Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief economist Aaron Morey said WA businesses reliant on discretionary spending felt the biggest impacts.
“Significant losses of activity were recorded in hotels, cafes, restaurants and transport businesses, with their high proportion of young workers,” he said.
“Outside machinery and equipment investment by the mining sector, the few items Western Australians spent more on were rent, insurance and alcohol.”
Mr Morey said another economic storm was approaching when supports such as JobKeeper eventually expired.
“To recover from this crisis, WA must foster better conditions to support business growth, investment and confidence,” he said.
“Today’s result illustrates the urgency for national cabinet to work towards creating a more competitive business environment by reducing or eliminating uncompetitive taxes.”
United Workers Union National Secretary Tim Kennedy called on the federal government to stop plans to reduce the JobKeeper payment.
“This government needed to expand JobKeeper not strip it back while we’re still in the middle of this crisis,” he said.
“Now we have workers facing a reduced rate that’s below the minimum wage or who will be removed from the scheme all together.”
Business groups pressuring politicians to reopen state borders quickly should not ignore the health and economic benefits of the coronavirus lockdowns, two leading economists say.
Tourism executives sign open letter calling on state leaders to reopen borders quickly
They claim the latest border closures have permanently damaged the domestic tourism industry
Economists say calls for state borders to reopen must not ignore the health and economic benefits of some restrictions
But calls for a more nationally coherent approach to state border closures and reopenings do have merit, they added.
High-profile executives in the tourism industry have become the latest group of employers to call on state and territory political leaders to reopen state borders to allow interstate travel to resume.
In an open letter on Thursday, hundreds of tourism representatives, including Flight Centre Travel Group chief executive Graham Turner and Helloworld Travel executive director and chief executive Cinzia and Andrew Burnes, implored state political leaders to stop making ad hoc policy changes around border crossings, saying the uncertainty it was creating was having a devastating effect on the domestic tourism industry.
They have asked state and territory governments to work together quickly to install efficient screening protocols for travellers on borders so interstate travel can resume “in a safe and sustainable manner”.
“The events of recent weeks, in particular the ongoing changes to policies around borders and access to interstate travellers, have resulted in crippling uncertainty among tourism operators and would-be travellers alike,” the open letter said.
“Guests who had previously been prepared to postpone travel have now cancelled in light of the latest announcements on long-term border closures.
“We need interstate borders to remain open. We need certainty that domestic travel is accessible so that Australians can recommence making travel plans and so we can get employees and businesses back to work.”
Complaint follows Business Council push
The complaint from tourism operators comes days after the Business Council of Australia — and more than 20 other business lobby groups — called for a national framework to govern how state border controls were being applied.
“What has emerged is a patchwork of inconsistent state and territory-based rules that ignore the reality of the way small and large businesses operate across borders and Australians live their lives,” the groups said in a joint statement this week.
“The administration of domestic border controls varies significantly across the country with massive differences in processes for border pass applications, quarantine requirements, and essential worker/traveller exemptions.
“This has caused unintended consequences and exposed Australians to unnecessary risk. It has also significantly impacted on health services, local communities, supply chains, and the ability of businesses to safeguard and create jobs.”
The National Farmers Federation (NFF) also applauded the recent decision by National Cabinet to develop a national Agricultural Worker Movement Code to facilitate the safe interstate movement of agricultural workers during the COVID-19 lockdowns, so farmers could still get workers when they needed them.
The BCA and the NFF have been warning that much economic damage has resulted from piecemeal state border closures, though neither organisation has supplied data to support their arguments.
They said they had been relying on what they were hearing from their members.
Coherent approach over ‘political grandstanding’
Chris Richardson, a director of Deloitte Access Economics, said it was a complicated situation because the push to reopen state borders should not ignore the economic importance of healthy consumer confidence.
He said private consumption accounted for 55 per cent of Australia’s nominal gross domestic product, so it was vital to protect the confidence of households by keeping the virus under control nationally.
“There are positives coming from the closures because the virus generates economic and health negatives, but it’s a genuine trade-off,” he said.
“I was struck by the August consumer confidence data, which saw consumer confidence in New South Wales fall twice as much as in Victoria.
“But it’s a tricky line to walk. Some of the more recent stuff, with some of the stranger demands coming from state premiers about the need for federal MPs to quarantine upon their return from Canberra, there does appear to be some political grandstanding.”
Saul Eslake, an independent economist, said during this crisis he had deliberately tried not to second-guess the health advice on which governments were making decisions.
However, he said it would be beneficial to have a more coherent plan for state borders, especially for border communities, because there appeared to be very few COVID cases or deaths along state borders and he was struggling to understand the logic behind some of the tougher border restrictions.
“I know there are farming properties that straddle borders, and there are people in little towns for whom the major service centre is on the other side of a state border, particularly in western Victoria,” Mr Eslake said.
Mr Eslake said it was reasonable for small town mayors and the NFF to ask for more flexibility.
“But that’s not the same as saying that someone who works for a company that’s a member of the BCA ought to be able to fly to Perth as much as he would want to,” he said.
“I wouldn’t support that at all.”
Mining industry faring well despite COVID lockdowns
Mr Eslake said the mining industry appeared to be the least affected of private sector industries by the COVID shutdowns, and it was still faring relatively well.