Coronavirus Australia live updates: more than 10,000 in Victoria refuse testing as state records 66 new Covid-19 cases

By Calla Wahlquist (now) and Luke Henriques-Gomes and Amy Remeikis (earlier)












Labor has criticised the federal government for “confusing small businesses” with “inconsistent advice” after a jobkeeper compliance crackdown led to 8,000 sole traders who have been receiving jobkeeper payments being warned they may have to pay the money back.

The criticism of the “bungled” scheme comes in response to a Guardian Australia report on Thursday about the compliance checking procedure, which has been dubbed “robodebt 2.0” by affected businesses – mainly sole traders who were previously told they were eligible and already received payments.

The businesses targeted by the crackdown mostly began operating recently and therefore have not been reporting their income for a full financial year, and have been told they are not eligible and may have to pay back the $1,500 a fortnight wage subsidies received, despite the ATO website outlining how new businesses that prove a 30% reduction in income can qualify for the scheme.

Brendan O’Connor, the opposition spokesman for employment and industry and for small business, and Stephen Jones, the opposition assistant treasurer, said in a statement:

Concerning reports have emerged that thousands of small businesses who applied for jobkeeper, were approved by the ATO and subsequently paid their employees at the jobkeeper rate may be forced to repay the wage subsidies, highlighting ongoing issues with the design and bungled rollout of the scheme.

The Morrison government should be doing everything it possibly can to support small businesses and ensure as many Australians remain connected to the labour market as possible, rather than confusing small businesses with inconsistent advice on jobkeeper eligibility.

Australians have worked together to combat the virus, but more work must be done by the Morrison government to ensure the hardest-hit Australians are not left out and left behind in the first recession in three decades.





Pat Turner, the co-chair of the joint council on closing the gap, said the version of the draft national agreement that was finalised in a marathon meeting today did not include all that Indigenous people wanted, but was a significant step forward.

The draft national agreement does not include everything that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want, but I know that we have pushed governments in their commitments because the Coalition of Peaks have been at the table.

There is a significant difference from what governments alone were prepared to commit to in December 2018 and where we are now. That change has come about because of the work of the Coalition of Peaks.

Turner said the strategy set out in the draft agreement was underpinned by the priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and based around the four priority reform areas, mentioned earlier, which she said were “overwhelmingly supported” by the 51 peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations involved in the process.

The Coalition of Peaks have always said that targets alone do not drive change. We have seen this from the past 10 years. It is the full implementation of the priority reforms that will make the difference to our peoples’ lives. This is where we need to focus governments to focus and this is exactly what the new national agreement will do.”

Turner repeated the line from the official communique that “expected parity dates are not fixed dates”.

Ken Wyatt and Pat Turner in Canberra today

Pat Turner (right), pictured with Ken Wyatt in Canberra today, says: ‘I know that we have pushed governments in their commitments because the Coalition of Peaks have been at the table.’ Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP



The joint council on Closing the Gap has finalised a draft agreement on the new closing the gap strategy, which will be considered by the national cabinet later this month.

In a communique issued a short time ago, the joint council, which is co-chaired by the Indigenous affairs minister, Ken Wyatt, and Pat Turner, the chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, said the agreement would establish four priority reform areas and 16 national socioeconomic targets, including justice targets. The targets themselves will not be announced until after they have national cabinet approval.

They also addressed the issue of target dates for achieving parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, after a leaked draft report anticipated Australia would not achieve parity in incarceration rates until 2093. Wyatt said yesterday that date was too far away, and suggested that figure was always going to be removed from the report.

It is understood the Coalition of the Peaks, a group of 51 peak Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, had already listed the unsatisfactory parity dates as a key issue for discussion at today’s meeting.

The communique said:

It is our collective ambition to reach parity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. The ambition of the targets take all governments beyond a business-as-usual approach and will require an increased effort by all parties. Expected parity dates are not fixed dates. With the full implementation of the priority reforms and a significant joint focus on the outcome areas, parity will be achieved earlier.

The four priority reform areas are giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a shared role in decision-making at a national, state and local level; building on the Indigenous community-controlled sector; structural reform of mainstream agencies to address systemic racism; and better data collection and sharing.