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Border opening for skilled workers, students delayed a fortnight

The Morrison government postponed its plan to open international borders on Wednesday to skilled workers and students, as it awaits more information about the Omicron variant of COVID.

The Cabinet’s National Security Committee on Monday evening held the reopening — which also included humanitarian workers, holiday workers and temporary family visa holders — until December 15.

The reopening of the door to travelers from Japan and South Korea will also be delayed.

The National Cabinet is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments in the pandemic.

By delaying the border opening, the government said it was acting on advice given by Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly. The pause will ensure time to gather the information needed to “better understand the Omicron variant,” including how effective vaccines against it are.

Currently, borders are closed to all vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents and their families, and ‘Green Corridor’ travelers from Singapore and New Zealand have been vaccinated.

The postponement is a blow to companies facing a serious shortage of workers. Commenting in anticipation of the delay, Ennis Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, said, “We need to avoid jumping into the shadows as each new variant of COVID emerges.

“COVID is in the community whether it’s delta or omicron or whatever the next alternative is. Instead of more stimulus, the best business support will come from sticking to the plan to live with COVID and keep our country and international borders open.”

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On Wednesday, the National Account numbers for the September quarter will be released which will show that the economy is declining in that quarter due to the shutdown. But based on all the evidence it has been recovering strongly since then.

With cases of the Omicron variant now being treated in Australia, the government is cautiously optimistic that it may be a mild but risk-free disease.

Health Secretary Greg Hunt said: “This could be a mild version of the disease. It’s still COVID, it’s still serious, but there may be some quiet positive hope in what’s emerging, but it’s too early to make a definitive call.”

The Technical Advisory Group on Immunization was asked to review the current period between the second vaccine dose and the booster injection, which is six months. The government has plenty of reinforcements available and will offer them if that is the advice.

Budget on March 29

Meanwhile, the government has released the parliament’s session schedule for next year, which sets the budget on March 29, which means the May elections.

The government has been recently indicating that it wants another budget before the elections, although some believe it would be wise to go to the polls in March, thus avoiding convening Parliament again after this week.

When an interviewer on Monday referred to the March election, Morrison said, “The election is scheduled for the third week in May.”

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese told ABC that the calendar showed “that it is likely, even if there is a budget, that we will sit for 10 days in the House and five days in the Senate in the first six months of next year.”


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