Coronavirus to sports rorts and climate, what you need to know about politics this week

Coronavirus to sports rorts and climate, what you need to know about politics this week

Scott Morrison
It’s been a busy week in federal politics, with new information further embroiling the Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the controversial ‘sports rorts’ affair, while the coronavirus outbreak has spurred the government to take action.

Climate change has also been on the agenda, with Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor set to announce the Coalition’s ‘technology roadmap’ and Labor adopting a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

We’ve summarised all the latest news below.

Sports rorts

Scott Morrison has come under fresh scrutiny for his role in the ‘sports rorts’ saga this week, after it was revealed 136 emails relating to the $100 million grant scheme were exchanged between his own office and Senator Bridget McKenzie’s office.

The Australian National Audit Office told the Senate the 136 emails were sent between October 17, 2018 and April 11, 2019 – the day Morrison called the Federal election. It has also emerged that Senator McKenzie sent a list of grants she intended to approve to Morrison the day before the election was called.

These revelations point to a potentially much larger role the Prime Minister’s Office played in influencing the distribution of grants, a reality that Morrison has continuously denied in recent weeks.

On Wednesday, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese told the parliament: “This rort knows no bounds.”

“Why did the office tell the Senator, and I quote, ‘These are the ones we think should be included in the list of approved projects?” he said.

Coronavirus

On Thursday, Scott Morrison announced Australia is activating an emergency plan to deal with the outbreak of coronavirus.  Morrison said while the World Health Organisation hasn’t yet declared it a pandemic, he already believes the risk is very much upon us.

“The key message that I really want to get across to Australians today is: because of the actions we’ve taken on the coronavirus we’ve got ahead,” he said.

“We’re effectively operating now on the basis that there is a pandemic.”

Earlier on Thursday, World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus condemned premature pushes from individual countries to declare a pandemic.

“Using the word ‘pandemic’ carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralysing systems,” he said.

On top of activating an emergency plan – which covers special wards in hospitals and ensuring key health professionals have access to protective equipment – the government has also extended the China travel ban for a further week.

State and territory health ministers will meet with Greg Hunt on Friday to discuss emergency planning and supply chains of critical medicines and Border Force has been called on to escalate screening at ports of entry.

Morrison has also opened the door to a potential “targeted, modest and scalable” spending boost to offset the economic hit from the coronavirus.

“I said the other day this is a health crisis, not a financial crisis, but it is a health crisis with very significant economic implications,” Morrison said.

Technology roadmap

And today, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor will deliver the bones of the Coalition’s ‘technology investment roadmap’.

In a speech set to be delivered shortly, Taylor will signal a shift in investment – away from renewables like wind and solar, towards other options like hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, lithium and advanced livestock feed supplements. It’s part of the “bottom up” strategy the government intends to use to reduce emissions by 2050. It comes as they continue to reject calls to embrace the widely supported target of net zero emissions by mid-century.

This ‘technology roadmap’ is the cornerstone of the strategy the government will take to the United Nations led climate talks in Glasgow at the end of the year.

Labor announces net zero by 2050

While the government is digging its heels in, refusing to adopt a 2050 emissions reduction target, Labor has taken a different tack in its first major decision regarding climate change since last year’s election.

Labor has announced they will adopt a target of net zero emissions by 2050, also saying they will oppose taxpayer funding of any new coal-fired power plants.

Guardian Australia has also reported that the Opposition intends to oppose using carryover credits from Kyoto to meet reduction targets, although this has not been explicitly stated by the party.

The Morrison government still intends to use carryover credits to meet Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target.

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