WA exposure sites
Health secretary Murphy says criminal penalties were “built in” not specifically recommended.
The secretary of the heath department, Brendan Murphy, has confirmed the medical advice to the government on pausing travellers from India did not include specific recommendations on criminalising breaches.
But he said the Biosecurity Act had existing legal sanctions “built into it”.
Murphy has been giving evidence to a spillover session of Senate estimates hearings in Canberra today. The big topic so far has been the controversial move by the government to use the Biosecurity Act regulations – announced close to midnight on Friday night – to impose penalties including fines and jail time for anyone who tries to return home from India.
Murphy said the chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, had provided advice to the minister for health, Greg Hunt, on the need to temporarily pause people coming back from India including the use of a determination under the Biosecurity Act. While there was no specific recommendation around criminalisation, the act had existing sanctions for breaches built into it, Murphy added.
The advice, as I said before, was around the use of the Biosecurity Act to protect Australia from people coming back from a high-risk country. There was no specific advice on criminalisation.
Members of the Senate committee have asked the government to table the medical and legal advice provided to Hunt. Murphy has taken the matter on notice. He said the government will consider whether the legal advice may have legal privilege attached to it.
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Retail billionaire Solomon Lew has bowed to political pressure and will return some of the jobkeeper subsidy received by his Premier Investments empire.
In a statement, Premier said its board, where Lew is chair, had decided to “refund the net jobkeeper benefit of $15.6m to the Australian Tax Office”.
But it did not disclose the total amount of jobkeeper the company received – as we’ve previously reported, industry sources estimate it could be as much as $100m.
The company said it had previously “quarantined” the $15.6m “to fund the wages of employees who may be stood down under future state government mandated Covid-19 lockdowns”.
It said it had used the money to pay staff during the snap lockdowns in Queensland and Western Australia:
Critically, following the lockdowns and upon reopening, increased trading from the combined states has fully offset the cost of supporting our teams through these lockdowns …
Therefore, the ‘jobkeeper 1’ funds were ultimately not required to support our teams.
Lew’s empire has been under intense pressure to repay jobkeeper after its profit surged during the pandemic and it paid tens of millions of dollars in dividends to Lew. You can read our previous coverage here: