Thursday, April 09, 2020

Scott Morrison promises relief for struggling tenants amid coronavirus pandemic

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed a new mandatory code of conduct will help protect commercial leases during the pandemic.

In a press conference this afternoon, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the idea behind Australia’s “hibernation strategy” was to allow us to “preserve as much of the foundations and pillars of the economy through this time” to enable us to “rebuild and regrow on the other side”.

“That means keeping jobs, keeping businesses, keeping tenancies in place, keeping loans in place and credit lines open … so on the other side of this crisis, the economy is able to rebound again,” he said.

Mr Morrison said preserving commercial tenancies was an important part of the wider economic strategy, and that as a result, a mandatory code had been agreed upon.

He said it would be “legislated and regulated as appropriate” in each state or territory’s jurisdiction.

The code will apply to either landlords or tenants who have experienced financial hardship of a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and who are eligible for the JobKeeper program.

It will apply to companies with a turnover of $50 million or less, meaning the code is mainly designed to protect small to medium enterprises.

Under the code, “good faith leasing principles” will ensure landlords “must not terminate the lease” for a tenant or draw on securities, and on the flip side, tenants “must honour lease requirements”.

To achieve that, there could be “waivers of rent” or “deferrals of rent” over the course of the pandemic period, and rent must be reduced in proportion to the lost revenue of the business.

A binding mediation process will also be introduced, with landlords and tenants required to “sit down and work it out”.

Mr Morrison said the burden “must be shared” and that banks must also “come to the table”, including “international banks” which must “provide the same levels of support and co-operation we are seeing from Australian banks”.

He said the measures would help to preserve leases and the relationship between landlord and tenant, which would keep tenants in properties.

“This is seen as proactive, constructive co-operation between landlords and tenants – we will see this through together.”

But Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) president Adrian Kelly said it was disappointing that a uniform approach had not been agreed to for all Australians.

“We now face the potential situation where Australians will be treated differently depending on where they reside,” Mr Kelly said.

“This will add to the confusion and most likely there will be the misinterpretation of messaging.”

And Mr Kelly also called for greater clarity for residential tenants who had not been mentioned by the Prime Minister.

“For residential it is a social as well as economic impact – after all we all live in dwellings and not all of us either own or lease commercial property,” Mr Kelly said.

“REIA requests that further consideration be given to a national approach to residential real estate.”


The Morrison government has waived therapeutic goods registration requirements for anti-malarial drugs touted by Donald Trump as a potential cure for Covid-19

On Thursday, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine was exempted from a requirement to be listed on the Australian register of therapeutic goods, which is generally the only way medicine can be lawfully supplied in Australia.

Similar exemptions were also granted to Remdesivir, Lopinavir and Ritonavir, which are all anti-viral drugs currently being investigated for the potential to combat Covid-19.

According to the Therapeutic Goods Act, exemptions can only be granted so that medicines may be stockpiled for a current or future health risk or “can be made available urgently in Australia in order to deal with an actual threat to public health caused by an emergency that has occurred”.

Caroline Edwards, the health department’s acting secretary, made the exemption on the condition the drugs can only be imported, manufactured or supplied by a person with a contract or arrangement with the health department.

“The specified therapeutic goods must only be supplied in Australia for the prevention, treatment or alleviation of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) following advice from the Australian government department of health,” the exemption said.

The Australian government supports two trials involving hydroxychloroquine, which is an anti-malarial drug also used to treat autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

The first, by the University of Queensland, is looking at whether a hydroxychloroquine and an HIV drug used either in combination or on their own can reduce severity and length of Covid-19 if given to patients with the virus early after diagnosis.

The second trial, being conducted by Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and which Hunt said had “the potential for possible prevention” of the virus, will focus on giving 2,250 health workers around Australia given hydroxychloroquine preemptively before and while they are exposed to patients with the virus.

Hunt has said hydroxychloroquine may have potential in minimising the impact of and hasten the recovery from Covid-19.

On 25 March Hunt said there had been “some promising research so far” and on 23 March he said the drug is “associated with the potential to reduce the impact of coronavirus and speed the body’s capacity to recover from it”. However, he also said he was “cautiously” hopeful.

Trump has claimed the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with azithromycin, an antibiotic, could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine” – only to be immediately contradicted by public health experts including his own top infectious diseases adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, who warned that there was only “anecdotal evidence” that the drugs could be helpful.

Dr Gaetan Burgio, from the John Curtin School of Medical research at the Australian National University, had said “recent results from clinical trials indicated a possible improvement in shortening the duration of the infection”.

“However the results are disputed and the clinical trials are inconclusive,” he said. “To date there are no clear indications that chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are a treatment option.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration [TGA], which regulates drugs in Australia, has placed tight new restrictions on doctors who are authorised to write new prescriptions for the drug, limiting it to a small group of clinical specialties.

The TGA warned of increased off-label prescription of medicines containing hydroxychloroquine, citing a “a potential shortage of this product in Australia” and the medicine’s “well-known serious risks to patients including cardiac toxicity (potentially leading to sudden heart attacks), irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar (potentially leading to coma)“.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia wrote to members urging them to “refuse the dispensing of hydroxychloroquine if there is not a genuine need”.

A health department spokesperson said the legislative changes “allow the importation and supply of a medicine including hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to deal with the threat to public health by the Covid-19 emergency without a requirement to be included in the Australian register of therapeutic goods”.

The spokesperson noted safeguards including that a patient information leaflet must be supplied with the medicine.

Peter Collignon, a professor of infectious diseases, described the move as sensible as long as the drug was only given to approved providers and, in the first instance, used in clinical trials being undertaken by those providers. He gave the example of the antibiotic penicillin, which Australia almost ran out of several years ago due to issues with the supplier. Even though there were equivalent drugs in other countries, Australia was unable to import these to fill the gap because those specific brands had not been approved by the TGA, a process that can take a year or more.

Collignon said the changes to the Therapeutic Goods Act meant bureaucratic red-tape had been removed, which he said was reasonable given shortages of hydroxychloroquine in Australia which meant patients who needed it for severe and painful conditions like rheumatoid arthritis are struggling to get scripts filled.

“This does not mean, however, that any hydroxychloroquine in the stockpile should be given to Australians more widely before clinical trials are done,” he said. “I would hope it is used for the trials being done in Australia first and foremost.


Coronavirus crisis has cut our tolerance for the usual spin

By Neil Mitchell, 3AW Presenter

OPINION: The longer I am in lockdown the more frustrated I become by the parade of experts assessing the virus as anything from an apocalypse to a mild flu. The fact is, they don't where we are headed. Nobody does. It is the nature of what is unfolding. How can anybody predict the unpredictable and intelligently assess the unprecedented?

So, what follows are not the words of an expert, but the thoughts of a person who has professionally observed life and politics for nearly 50 years. These may be perceptive words, or stupid. I don't know. But perhaps they will provoke some discussion behind the locked doors:

In a crisis like this we need direct answers, honest answers, and none of the usual glib self-congratulation we have come to expect and accept

I think and hope that as we emerge from this in a year, or whenever, that Australia will enter a new era of politics.
Because I believe this crisis and focus on our own mortality has cut our tolerance for the usual spin, political salesmanship and self-justification which has previously masqueraded as leadership.

It surfaced in several interviews I did last week. Politicians were dodging and spinning and waffling as is their way. Normally I might tolerate that and then try to bring them to the point. Last week, there was no room for tolerance, and I said so. It was an insult to the audience.

Victorian learner driver fined more than $1600 for "non-essential" travel during COVID-19 shutdown
In a crisis like this we need direct answers, honest answers, and none of the usual glib self-congratulation we have come to expect and accept.

If a politician is not up to that, then get out. If they can't identify that now is the time to treat the public decently and like adults, rather than children to be conned, dump them.

At times, the Prime Minister has struggled with directness. In fairness he is massively tired and must feel almost crushed by the responsibility. He is not only mapping the destiny of the country but his own place in history. He will be remembered kindly or otherwise in the way we view a war time prime minister.

Daniel Andrews, the Victorian premier, has been more direct and blunt in his language. But again, to be fair, he has done that hours after we heard the details of national cabinet decisions from the PM. And he has still found time for a little political one-upmanship.

Perhaps it is lockdown delusion, but I see hope we will emerge with a breed of politicians understanding that the best way to deal with the public is to be yourself, be direct, and don't spin.

Public tolerance for the old methods of political trickery will be very low. And there will be much painful work to be done as we build economic recovery. Budgets will be cut and lobbyists will scream.

I believe the public will require and demand a new political discourse, a new trust and an understanding that they must not be treated as fools.

A politician will eventually identify that and embrace it. And that person may deserve the title "leader"


Schools in term 2 to go online amid coronavirus outbreak

Term two in Victoria will start next Wednesday but Premier Daniel Andrews is urging parents to keep their children at home if possible. “School is going to look very different in term two – if you can learn from home, you must learn from home,” Mr Andrews said. “If you can’t learn from home, then schools will be open, and we will run the same courses. We don’t want kids disadvantaged because of circumstances beyond their own control.”

Mr Andrews says schools will always be open for children of essential workers – from shelf stackers at Coles and Woolies to nurses and police.

“We’ve got about a million students enrolled in government and non-government schools,” he said. “We cannot have a million students moving around the Victorian community every day. All that will do is spread the virus and undermine the really significant progress that we’ve made.”

On the Victorian Certificate of Education, Mr Andrews says the intention is for students to complete it this year. “There are a number of weeks at the end of the year so, it may be a longer year where we need to make up some lost time. We may need to catch up,” he said.

Mr Andrews says state and federal governments are working “very, very hard” in partnership with the university and TAFE sector to come up with a solution for year 12s. “An awful lot of work is being done to get our year 12s through – we’re not about year 13 or people repeating,” he said.

“We think that we can get this done. As soon as we can provide more detail to our year 12 cohort, and indeed all students and their families, of course we will. But the rest of year 12, just like school for every student on day one of term two, is going to be different. It’s going to look different, it’s going to unfold in a different way. That can’t be helped.”

Most Australian students will complete term two online as education ministers thrash out a plan for those in their final year of school.

Medical experts insist schools are still safe but parents are being urged to keep their kids home if they can.  “For the majority of children it will be online learning for term two,” federal Education Minister Dan Tehan told ABC radio.

Year 12 exams are expected to be postponed until at least December and universities will likely be asked to delay the start of the 2021 academic year.

However, Mr Tehan has effectively ruled out an extra year of school for year 12 students. “Every state and territory education minister – and it’s my strong view as well – do not want to see that,” he said. “We want to make sure that we can get as many students through this year as we possibly can.”


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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