Australia news LIVE: Omicron cases grow across the nation; unions push for work from home rights

Key posts

  • ‘This is a national crisis,’ deputy Liberal leader says of foot and mouth
  • Unions fight to enshrine work from home rights
  • Authorities war game foot and mouth outbreak
  • This morning’s headlines at glance
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‘This is a national crisis,’ deputy Liberal leader says of foot and mouth

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley has fronted Seven’s Sunrise to lash the Albanese government over foot-and-mouth preparedness.

As some of you may know, Ley is the member for Farrer – a sprawling regional electorate that includes Albury, in southern NSW, stretches north of Griffith and meets the South Australian border in the west.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley alongside Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Here’s what the Coalition frontbencher had to say:

This is a national crisis. It demands a national response. Where is the prime minister? [It appears] he spent more time yesterday cracking jokes on the radio then leading what needs to be a coordinated plan response.

I come from rural Australia. I’m taking calls from members of my community that are absolutely terrified about this. I don’t want to be here in 10 years time looking back asking what … could we do when foot-and-mouth disease has decimated our industry. We need a national plan from the prime minister down.

Co-host David Koch wanted to know: should borders be kept open?

Here’s Ley again:

That is a decision for the government. We all had anecdotes … about people coming in, filling in their cards and doing the right thing, but nothing more.

We need more than a social media campaign and a few mats at the airport. This is a national crisisLet’s lead with this and show prime ministerial leadership. I am not seeing that and that’s why many members of parliament are expressing this alarm.

Unions fight to enshrine work from home rights

Unions are pushing to have the right to work from home included in enterprise bargaining agreements covering tens of thousands of white-collar workers, arguing the measure would help keep workers safe from new COVID variants.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, has called on employers to let staff work from home this winter to control the “significant new threat” posed by the latest Omicron subvariant. However, enshrining the right to stay home in long-term agreements could delay a traditional return to the office for many years to come.

Unions want the right to work from home included in enterprise agreements.Credit:iStock

The Finance Sector Union, which is campaigning for a 6 per cent wage increase for bank staff, is pushing Westpac and NAB to give employees the right to negotiate with their managers over remote working entitlements in a condition to be written in as part of their enterprise agreement.

And almost all branches of the National Tertiary Education Union are pushing for work-from-home rights in agreements being negotiated between universities and some 27,000 professional staff around the country.

More on this issue here.

Authorities war game foot and mouth outbreak

The detection of even a single case of live foot-and-mouth virus in Australia would trigger a COVID-like official response, including contact tracing, lockdowns and interstate border closures for livestock and potentially even people.

Under the nationally agreed response for a foot-and-mouth outbreak, all livestock transport would come to an immediate stop for at least 72 hours and potentially much longer until the source was found.

There is an outbreak of the highly infectious foot and mouth disease in cattle in Indonesia.Credit:Bloomberg

Existing trade deals require a halt of Australian red meat exports if the virus were detected in the country. The government has calculated the cost of a trade ban would be greater than the cost of eradicating the disease, and sick and at-risk livestock would be culled in a bid to restore Australia’s disease-free status as soon as possible.

Read the full story here.

This morning’s headlines at glance

Good morning and thanks for your company.

It’s Friday, July 22. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

Here’s what you need to know before we get started.

  • Politicians are continuing to trade barbs over the Albanese government’s preparedness for foot-and-mouth disease. Mike Foley and Benjamin Preiss write that the detection of even a single case of the live virus in Australia would trigger a COVID-like official response. This would include interstate border closures for livestock and potentially even people.
  • Speaking of coronavirus, the Omicron winter wave continues. Yesterday, Australian states and territories reported 55,602 official cases of COVID-19 and 89 deaths.
  • Meanwhile, Angus Thompson reports that unions want the right to work from home included in new enterprise bargaining agreements.
  • And in international news, United States President Joe Biden has tested positive to COVID-19. Biden, 79, is the oldest person to ever serve as US president. However his symptoms are mild, according to Farrah Tomazin.
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