Economic reform, global action after virus

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Matt Coughlan
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Scott Morrison is turning his mind to economic reform and overhauling global bodies as Australia’s coronavirus infection rate plummets.

The prime minister and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg are eyeing tax cuts, deregulation and industrial relations reform as part of a business-friendly suite of measures on the other side of the crisis.

Big business is pushing for company tax cuts to be revived after Mr Frydenberg talked to major employer groups about reform options.

“We’ll look at tax reform as an area of interest because we’re always looking for opportunities to cut taxes,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

Industrial relations is shaping as a key political battleground as coronavirus infections fall due to harsh economic and social restrictions.

Australia’s coronavirus death toll has reached 74 but the rate of new infections continues to fall, prompting eased restrictions on elective surgeries.

The latest victims include women aged 92 and 80, along with a 75-year-old man. All three died in NSW.

While there has been more than 6600 cases detected nationally, 4291 people have recovered from the disease.

No state or territory recorded a double-digit increase in cases on Tuesday as the national infection rate grew at just 0.4 per cent.

The prime minister spoke with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday about the need to improve global institutions such as the World Health Organisation.

While Australia hasn’t followed the US in pulling funding for WHO, senior ministers have been critical of the United Nations body’s response to the pandemic.

The leaders also discussed the need for transparency in a clear reference to China, which has reacted angrily to Australia’s calls for an independent review of the origins of the virus.

Mr Morrison pushed the case for the review in phone calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Federal and state leaders have agreed to lift restrictions on category two and some category three elective surgeries from Monday.

IVF, dental work, screening programs, all child surgeries, joint replacements, eye procedures, endoscopies and colonoscopies have been given the green light.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said sustaining economic and social restrictions during the next four weeks could allow further easing of the rules.

He said restarting some retail businesses and allowing visits to single people isolated in their homes were areas to consider.

“So focusing on the high benefit low-risk activities,” he told Seven’s Sunrise.

A 40 per cent take-up of a coronavirus contact tracing app is among the government’s benchmarks for relaxing restrictions.

The program uses Bluetooth connections to track down people’s contact with others carrying the deadly disease.

Mr Hunt said state-based virus tracers would only get access to the data if a coronavirus positive was detected.

Supermarkets are also resuming their home delivery services in another sign that things are slowly returning to normal.

However, RBA government Philip Lowe has warned nearly 850,000 sacked Australian workers are likely to remain unemployed for years after the pandemic subsides.

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