In my last letter I promised to update you regarding the arrangements for schools and kindys when Term 2 kicks off on Monday, April 20.
These were announced yesterday on Easter Monday. They are a little complicated, so I will try and unpack them for you.
Five Weeks of Interim Arrangements
Firstly, this is just an “interim” arrangement. It is only for the first five weeks of Term 2. The arrangements will be in place from the start of Term 2 on Monday, April 20, 2020 until Friday May 22, 2020. An announcement about whether they will be extended will be made closer to the May date.
The Premier has said that from the start of Term 2, all students who can learn from home are to stay at home and learn at home.
The teachers will still be teaching from your child’s school. Your child’s school and teacher will be your point of contact regarding what your child should be learning and what resources you can get to help them.
Will the Schools Still be Open?
Yes. Children of essential workers and vulnerable children can continue to attend school. They will be supervised and will do the same learning activities as their peers at home, set by their same regular classroom teacher.
Whose Parents are “Essential Workers”?
In Queensland, any business which is not restricted is considered an essential business. Their workers are considered essential workers. If their parents cannot do their jobs from home, they are considered essential workers and their children can attend their normal school.
Non-Essential equals Restricted
I can see this use of “essential” and “non-essential” to describe businesses and workers is causing a lot of anxiety. A better way to think of this is that some businesses have had restrictions placed on them, or have even been closed altogether, because their operation is seen to increase the risk of the spread of COVID19 within the community.
These restricted businesses are listed on the Queensland Health webpage covering COVID19 Public Health Directives. This is the link for that webpage https://www.health.qld.gov.au/system-governance/legislation/cho-public-health-directions-under-expanded-public-health-act-powers/non-essential-business-closure-direction
Every Worker Still in a Job is Essential
Every other business is still allowed to operate, as long as social distancing is being followed. Where possible, workers are being encouraged to work from home.
I Can’t Do My Job From Home – What About My Children?
Many jobs require workers to be physically present to do their job. This includes retailers, petrol stations, emergency responders, Australia Post employees, agri-business, mine-workers, tradies and so on.
If we are to avoid totally wiping out our economy, these workers are essential.
If you have to go to work to do your job, you are an essential worker and your child can go to school as normal.
What About Kindy Kids?
The Minister has said that our community kindergartens will also be doing the home-based learning model, except for the children of essential workers and vulnerable children. Your community kindergarten is your best source of information.
Connectivity and Access to a Computer or Tablet
Internet connection may be a barrier for some Gregory families. If you have this problem, please speak to your child’s school. The Education Department has been working with Telstra to obtain SIM cards for such cases.
Schools are also being encouraged to loan devices like laptops or tablets to children who do not have such a device at home.
Helpful Link for Parents
Education Queensland has a range of resources to support parents and students learning from home. Click here to see www.qld.gov.au/learningathome
School Bus Runs
Many Gregory children live on farms or properties and catch a school bus to and from school. I have been unable to find any information on how these services will be affected. I will update you as soon as possible.
Our Year 12’s
I want to reassure our Year 12 students and their parents that Year 12 will not become Year 13. The Minister has said she is considering reducing the number of assessments and that Year 12 will graduate at the end of the school year as normal.
So Much Change
This group of students have experienced so much change in their school life. They were the first preppies, the first to do Year 7 in high school and they are the first group to be doing ATAR instead of OPs. The ATAR was to be assessed over three internal exams and one external exam. It sounds like COVID19 might mean the external exam date is pushed back and one of the internal assessments dropped.
Hang In There
To every Year 12 student I say: Hang in there! Don’t lose sight of the destination because the road is bumpy in unexpected places. This is your future and we need your enthusiasm and skills to keep Gregory prosperous. You are our doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, engineers, tradies, farmers and entrepreneurs of the future.
Scholarships for Uni and TAFE in 2021
Before COVID19, my staff and I began work on a booklet of scholarships for university and TAFE. My hope was to assist more Gregory school graduates achieve their ambitions. It still is, so I have just published the booklet on my website for parents and students to start considering their options next year.
Visit Lachlanmillarmp.com and click on the scholarship button to read it. Alternatively, you can just click on this link https://www.lachlanmillarmp.com/scholarships
If you would prefer a printed copy to be posted to you, just send your name and postal address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is Still Your Year
I want to share with Year 12s and their parents this very kind and practical advice from Professor Nick Klomp, Vice Chancellor of CQ Uni which has a campus right here in Gregory.
I received a copy of the Professor’s letter on the same day I heard the story about a young man who had just bought his first suit to attend his Senior Formal and found out the next day it had been cancelled because of the corona virus bans on public gatherings.
As Vice Chancellor, the Professor has some great advice for Year 12s on how to stay on-track for 2021. I encourage students and their parents to read it here https://www.cqu.edu.au/cquninews/stories/general-category/2020-general/year-12s,-this-is-still-your-year,-heres-why
Extension for Drivers Licence Medical Certificates
Changes were announced on Good Friday (April 10) regarding medical certificate requirements for drivers aged 75 and over during this time of COVID19.
Firstly, medical certificates to drive that expired after 29 January 2020 will be considered valid until 6 months after the COVID-19 emergency ends.
Secondly, during the COVID-19 emergency period, drivers aged 75 or over won’t be committing an offence if they are driving without holding a valid medical certificate.
This is intended to lighten the load for GPs and help seniors avoid exposure to corona virus.
Extension Not Automatic for “M” Condition Licenses
Drivers who are 75 years or older and have an 'M' condition on their driver licence will need to call the Department on 13 23 80 or email email@example.com to have their current medical certificate extended.
New or Worsening Conditions
If you have a condition that worsens, or if you develop a new permanent or long-term condition that is likely to affect your ability to drive safely, you must notify the Department immediately and you must not drive until you are reassessed by a doctor and have a new medical certificate issued.
Parliament has been recalled for a reduced sitting on April 22. As a regional MP, I won’t be attending because of the travel bans. The sitting is solely for the purpose of passing legislation related to COVID19 to make the government’s decisions legal. There will be no opportunities for MPs to speak on non-government business and no question time. This means there will be no opportunity for non-government MPs to question the Palaszczuk Government over COVID19.
Top of the list will be legislation to freeze evictions of renters for unpaid rent during the COVID19 emergency period. I am very concerned that the Minister’s unwise pronouncements on this issue have led to the emergence of the “Rent Strike” movement.
I know there are people who have lost their jobs. They shouldn’t lose their homes too.
But we must remember that (according to the REIQ) some 95 per cent of Queensland “landlords” are working mums and dads who have a rental house as a way of forcing themselves to save.
In these strange days, there is nothing to say that the tenant may still have their job while the landlord has lost their job.
We Are All in this Together
If the Palaszczuk Government is going to make changes in an area of contract law, the first concern must be to ensure both parties are treated fairly.
Renters who have lost their job or income due to COVID19 must be required to offer some proof. We can’t just say “Nobody has to pay rent for the duration”. That would send our little landlords to the wall.
NSW has the right idea. It is encouraging landlords and tenants to negotiate individual agreements that meet their individual situations. If landlords decrease rent due to the impact of COVID19 on their tenant, the NSW government will help the landlord through property tax relief.
As the REIQ has said, “The idea that all property owners have to do is talk to their bank and press pause on their mortgage is too simple. Even if you are able to press pause, interest will continue to capitalize.”
Ergon Energy’s COVID19 Response
Ergon Energy has announced a moratorium on disconnections for the time of the COVID19 emergency. Extra support is also being provided to retail customers who are affected. You can find out more at this link https://www.ergon.com.au/about-us/help-and-support/contact-us-details
Leaving the House, No Cash and Other “Made Up” Rules
I have had people contact me anxious that they are no longer able to take their handbag with them when they leave the house, or that they must carry everything in clear zip lock bags, or that they must wear closed shoes to prevent the spread of corona virus.
These are not actual regulations in Queensland. The best I can pin them down is a graphic that has been running in some newspapers. It is sourced to a doctor in South Australia, and I doubt it is actually part of regulations in that state either. It was just suggestions. It is not true in Queensland and it is not true in Gregory.
People have also been told they can’t use cash to pay for things. Legally they can, but retailers are preferring contactless “touch and go” card payments.
Keep up the social distancing. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often. As soon as you get home from any outing, wash your hands. You need to do it for 20 seconds – one chorus of “Lean on Me” will do it. Here’s the You Tube link -
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If You Need Help
If you need help or advice, please don’t hesitate to ring me and we will do our very best for you. (Emerald Office PH 07 4913 1000; Longreach office PH 07 4521 5700.)
Kindest Regards – and stay safe,
Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.
Federal Government and National Cabinet Measures www.australia.gov.au.
Federal Health Department – Corona Virus Information https://www.health.gov.au/
Queensland Government Public Health Directions https://www.health.qld.gov.au/system-governance/legislation/cho-public-health-directions-under-expanded-public-health-act-powers
Queensland Health Corona Virus Information https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19
Queensland Government Business Assistance www.business.qld.gov.au