Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

CLOSED FOR BUSINESS

Last night, Scott Morrison announced that federal and state governments have agreed to shut down the following facilities from midday local time today for at least six months.

  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues) and hotels (excluding accommodation).
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues.
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and nightclubs.
  • Restaurants and cafes, although takeaway and/or home delivery will be permitted.
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship and funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the one person per 4 square metre rule applies).

Isolated remote community hubs are not included in these restrictions, and neither, as the ABC explains, are supermarkets, banks, petrol stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, freight and logistics, food delivery, bottle shops, hairdressers and beauticians.

SECOND STIMULUS PACKAGE

The government has outlined a second economic stimulus package that, combined with earlier announcements and the RBA’s $90 billion banking pledge, Treasury says will cover a total $189 billion across forward estimates or 9.7% of annual GDP.

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Below are some of the major initiatives, along with timeframes, cost breakdowns and links to fact-sheets.

  • A new coronavirus supplement at a rate of $550 per fortnight for those receiving the following benefits: JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit. (From April 27; cost: $14.1 billion.)
  • Income support recipients not eligible for the coronavirus supplement — for example, Youth Allowance Student, Austudy and Disability Support Pension — will receive a second $750 payment from July 13 on top of the previously announced $750 payment to be made available for all welfare recipients from March 31. (Cost: $8.8 billion for both payments.)
  • Affected individuals will be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation tax-free in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. (Cost: $1.15 billion.)
  • The previously announced boosting cash flow for employers package will now cover up to $100,000 across two financial years for eligible small and medium businesses — and now not-for-profits and charities that employ people too — on turnovers of below $50 million. Payments will be based on PAYG payments with a floor of $20,000. (Cost: $32 billion, up from $7 billion.)
  • A coronavirus SME guarantee scheme covering 50% of new loans to small and medium enterprises of up to $250,000. (Cost: up to $20 billion.)

ANDREWS SPLITS FROM MORRISON ON SCHOOLS

Although Morrison also announced last night that schools will be open today, the ABC reports that Victoria has gone its own way by bringing school holidays forward a week (to start tomorrow) while the ACT will pursue a shift to online education.

The Guardian has a rundown of conflicting federal-state views, including a hint from NSW about education announcements today.

STATE QUARANTINES: Western Australia and South Australia have joined Tasmania and the Northern Territory by announcing border closures and 14-day self-quarantine measures for travellers, starting tomorrow, the ABC reports.

A LOT CAN CHANGE OVERNIGHT

Because it was a big news weekend, here are a couple more major announcements.

  • The Victorian government announced its own $1.7 billion economic survival package — to include, uniquely, a $500 million working for Victoria fund to help workers who have lost their jobs find new employment opportunities, as well as emergency relief packages of both food and essential supplies for people self-isolating.
  • NDIS Minister Stuart Robert announced new measures for NDIS participants, workers and providers, including an extension of plans by up to 24 months, face-to-face planning shifted to telephone meetings where possible, and an action plan to ensure NDIS participants and their families continue to receive the essential disability supports they need throughout the crisis.
  • Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has suspended Work for the Dole and other Community Development Programme group requirements, with online activities to be made voluntary.

GOODBYE, RUBY PRINCESS

And finally, 2700 passengers aboard the Ruby Princess cruise ship were — despite multiple presentations of COVID-19 symptoms and subsequently confirmed cases — allowed to disembark in Sydney last Thursday, The Australian ($) reports.

Reportedly, NSW Health deemed the ship “low risk” when it docked with four confirmed cases on board, but federal government-run biosecurity portal MARS listed it as “medium risk” only a week earlier.

NOT SO FUN FACT: According to the ABC, Sydney beaches have been cancelled (like, more than usual) — although some tourists have ignored the signs and/or that little bit of empathy for fellow human beings.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

You know, this is an opportunity. Our sales are up in Harvey Norman in Australia by 9% on last year. Our sales in freezers are up 300%. And what about air purifiers? Up 100%.

Gerry Harvey

In case you ever start to feel nostalgic for capitalism, here’s an 80-year-old billionaire retailer telling 60 Minutes “there’s pretty much nothing to get scared of” while crowing about a panic-buying-induced windfall.

CRIKEY RECAP

Government announces second rescue package — but is it too little, too late?

“Despite efforts by the government, and some journalists, to hype a ‘$189 billion injection’ (including the RBA’s $90 billion intervention on Thursday), today’s package looks too small to make a major difference in the face of an economic catastrophe.”


Here’s a mad thought: let’s save the real things like, er, the people

“Yet even as we start to hear that distancing may have to continue for months and that the virus may be with us for a year, going through several waves, we are still talking stimulus, backstop to an entity — ‘the economy’ — that is dependent on a whole range of activities that no longer exist.”


A recession could mean big business for ‘exploitative lenders’

“Last Friday consumer rights advocate Gerard Brody was sitting in a Senate estimates hearing, arguing for tougher rules for predatory lenders. It’s a battle he’s been fighting on and off for years. Now, with a pandemic threatening to upend the economy, it’s a battle that’s taken on new urgency.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Coronavirus pandemic shows government must fix Australia’s NBN, telco experts say

Travel ban would prevent Australian athletes competing in Tokyo: PM

What consumers can do if the coronavirus affects their plans

Fears of ventilator shortage if coronavirus cases surge in Australia ($)

Italian PM warns of worst crisis since WW2 as coronavirus deaths leap by almost 800

Coronavirus lockdown in Croatia’s capital of Zagreb hampered by magnitude-5.3 earthquake

Fears coronavirus could spread to asylum seekers in Australian immigration detention

38 test positive in New York City jails, including Rikers Island

COVID-19 fears dampen Sydney Metro breakthrough

Five quick questions on the AFL suspending the 2020 season

THE COMMENTARIAT

Morrison must protect the most vulnerable Australians to combat the coronavirus crisisRoss Gittins (The Sydney Morning Herald): “There are two ways Scott Morrison can play this coronacession: he can spread the pain as fairly as possible, or he can yield to all his political instincts and play favourites. You know: lifters get looked after, leaners take their chances. Those my tribe judge to be not “having a go” won’t be given a go.”

Wrong time for Greens to be playing games ($) — Jacqui Lambie (The Australian): “I have learned one thing about wielding power in the Senate: it’s important to pick your moment. When you do it right, you can do a world of good. If you get it wrong, you can do enormous damage. So, I was so disappointed to read of the Greens’ plan to hold up the government’s stimulus package this week. They want to add a pay increase for Newstart recipients, and coronavirus leave for workers. Both those ideas make sense.”

How Australia’s response to the Spanish flu of 1919 sounds warnings on dealing with coronavirus Frank Bongiorno (The Conversation): “Most Australians – Indigenous people under the protection acts were an exception – have long taken for granted their right to cross state borders. They have treated them much as they do the often unmarked boundaries dividing their suburbs. Not any more.”

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  • Federal parliament will sit in a reduced format to push through the coronavirus stimulus packages.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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