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Senate COVID Committee tables interim report into Government's response to pandemic and recession

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 9 Dec 2020

The Australian Greens support the recommendations and the interim findings of the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 majority report and have tabled additional comments and findings.
COVID-19 has exposed the void created by neoliberalism and the damage that it has done to the capacity of our nation to govern in the collective interest. To handle this pandemic and its impacts there was a 180 degree turn required by the government if it was to listen to the scientists rather than the vested interests, and if it was to put the wellbeing of the Australian people ahead of a budget surplus.
Neoliberalism is the doctrine by which this government has lived, and scientists and the public interest are the very things that neoliberalism has systematically and relentlessly attacked for the last forty years.
Now the Government is now rushing to claim that the recession is over to justify the withdrawal of economic support measures. The winding back of support measures is premature and will set back our economic recovery.
Through this pandemic the Government has continued to ignore and deny the evidence that women, young people, older women, disabled people, First Nations peoples, those on income support, people in insecure work, temporary visa holders and the arts and entertainment community have not been adequately supported.
The Government’s decision not to extend the Coronavirus Supplement to Disability Support Payment and Carer Payment recipients is mean-spirited and lacked evidence. 
Both the Royal Commission into the violence abuse and neglect of disabled people and the Aged Care Royal Commission have been scathing in their assessment of the Government's response to assisting disabled and older people in aged care through this pandemic.
The pandemic quickly exposed the perversity of linking income-support payments to conditionality and compliance. The Greens condemn the re-introduction of mutual obligations in August 2020. It was premature and has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Australians having their income support payments suspended. A punitive approach to income support will not support Australia’s economic recovery or help Australians back into jobs.
The Government’s reduction of the Coronavirus Supplement to $250 a fortnight in September 2020 and $150 a fortnight in January 2021 will have devastating consequences for people on income support payments. 
These cuts have been made in an ad-hoc fashion and in the absence of any hard evidence or data.
The Government has now secured multiple deals for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines in Australia. However as a vaccine starts to be rolled out in the UK, Australians have no clarity about what the Government’s plan’s are for the rollout in Australia.
The National Covid-19 Commission Advisory Board is a publicly funded, hand-picked body that has been responsible for coordinating advice to the Government on non-health aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 
It’s no wonder the NCC Advisory Board has recommended a gas-led recovery given it and its advisory bodies (including the Industrial Relations Working Group; Manufacturing Taskforce; and Charity, Philanthropy and Fundraising Advisory Group) have so many representatives from the fossil fuel sector.
The Australian Greens continue to hold serious concerns about the NCC Advisory Board’s transparency, accountability and structures.  Since the NCC Advisory Board became part of cabinet deliberative processes in July, it has been able to avoid proper scrutiny by this committee and other bodies.

Media Contact

Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie: 0418 401 180

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