Long queues outside a Centrelink office in March 2020. (Image: AAP/Dan Peled)


The government passed its coronavirus economic response package overnight, the ABC reports, and agreed to calls from Labor and the Greens to expand the $550 coronavirus supplement to people on Youth Allowance Student, Austudy and Abstudy payments.

Both Labor and the Greens failed to pass their own amendments — bringing forward the April 27 start date and inclusions for people on disability support pensions, carer allowance and temporary visas, respectively — however, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has been granted new powers to amend the coronavirus supplement. This is likely to come in handy considering parliament will not sit again until August.

IN RELATED NEWS: Queensland will today announce its own $3 billion support package, set to provide an average payroll tax refund of $9000 to 24,000 businesses within the week, and $200 rebates for household electricity bills, The Courier-Mail ($) reports.

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According to The Sydney Morning Herald, unemployment is expected to jump from 5.1% to 15% — or up to two million people — throughout the crisis, while day one of the shutdown yesterday saw Centrelink lines run around multiple blocks.

In other unemployment news.

  • The government is preparing to offer special welfare payments and visa extensions to non-residents trapped in the country and forced out of affected industries, such as tourism and hospitality (The Australian $).
  • Gambling giant Federal Group has both stood down 1500 workers and demanded Tasmanian pub owners forced to close due continue paying rent on leased poker machines (ABC).
  • MyGov crashed in a not-DDoS attack (The Guardian).

FUNEMPLOYMENT POLICE: Here to help, we have both 5000 new Services Australia workers and, um, the cops.


Under pressure from Senator Rex Patrick, the fourth politician to test positive for COVID-19, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly announced on Q+A that new protocols determining who can be tested for the disease will be announced in the coming days. Also, quarantine measures will basically have to remain in place until a vaccine is developed — which will likely be 18 months — or cases will surge.

Additionally, Health Minister Greg Hunt has agreed to expand access to Medicare-funded telehealth, including for mental health, following complaints from practitioners, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

TGA MONDAY: Australia’s Therapeutics Goods Administration has granted expedited approval to two rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests — one testing viral genes over 45 minutes and another that takes 15 minutes but only tests for antibodies, the ABC reports.


In something that partly explains Sunday’s mixed government messages (think: total state shutdowns vs partial federal shutdowns vs state school closures vs no schools are all fine), The Age has revealed how the night went down. It started with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian using a WhatsApp group with Scott Morrison and other state premiers to press for faster, harsher lockdown measures, then saw NSW and Victoria leak their plans to shut down everything but essential services, and after a massive amount of resulting confusing, resulting in the shutdowns we have today.

NEWS CORP TWIST: If you’re wondering how the Coalition’s favourite newspaper handled the night, look no further than Simon Benson‘s account yesterday of “possibly the most irresponsible act since Federation” ($).


The Australian Border Force has bucked demands to release detained asylum seekers and refugees amid the outbreak, and instead banned visitors, according to Buzzfeed.

The move follows a similar ban for prisons, which face similar health risks — 38 people have tested positive in New York City jails, including on the notorious Rikers island centre, according to ABC News.

SOME PRECEDENT: While it’s no prison exodus, a recent ruling in Victoria cited the pandemic as an exceptional circumstance in agreeing to a bail application.


You may be watching 7.30 tonight hoping to learn what can be done to stop coronavirus from here. If you think the answer is more resources for hospitals, you’re wrong. If you think it’s the government, wrong again. And it’s not the scientists working on a vaccine either. The answer is you.

Leigh Sales

The ABC host stresses personal responsibility is the ultimate solution to a global pandemic… just seconds before introducing a report on that giant, contaminated cruise ship which let 2700 people wander out into Sydney.


This is a virus, not a war — we need more information to maintain democracy

“Your correspondent returned from the US on what appears to have been the last Qantas flight out of Los Angeles. I left a place where, well, if film school students aren’t out there guerrilla-filming their zombie apocalypse film, they should probably reconsider their career choice. The place had become the backdrop of 1000 tacky B movies.”

Carnival’s corona-cruising: the Ruby Princess debacle is not an isolated case

“Luxury cruise ships the Ruby Princess, the Diamond Princess, the Grand Princess and the Costa Luminosa have a few things in common: for one, they are all owned by US giant Carnival Cruises; and they have all carried COVID-19 infected passengers.”

Buying groceries and a coffee in the ‘new normal’ of Shanghai

“I recently returned to Shanghai from Sydney; let me share my experience of being out in Shanghai yesterday grocery shopping.  As I was leaving the apartment complex, I was greeted by the building manager at the gate and handed a pass out. Going outside, I see there’s not a single person without a mask on.”


NAB sacks staffer who ‘falsified’ positive COVID-19 diagnosis

Virgin boss seeks ACCC probe into Qantas comments on bailing out airline amid coronavirus pandemic

Courts close, Centrelink queues: How Victoria’s unprecedented virus shutdown is unfolding ($)

Younger people critically ill with coronavirus in Sydney hospitals

Police to monitor cruise ship Magnifica as it refuels in WA to ensure no one disembarks

Britain to follow Australia, Canada on Olympic Games

World reacts as NRL suspend season indefinitely after two rounds as coronavirus crisis ramps up

Julian Assange to apply for bail on coronavirus concerns

Bail refused for third man charged after counter-terrorism operation on NSW South Coast

Cotton farmers Peter and Jane Harris guilty of illegally pumping water from Barwon River ($)


Coronavirus: Time for us to summon the Anzac spirit ($) — Scott Morrison (The Australian): “We gather today at a time of great challenge for our nation, and indeed the world. We are a strong nation and a strong people, but in the months ahead this will put us all to the test like at no time since World War II. But together, Australia, we are up to this challenge.”

Greetings from Australia, the Commonwealth of confusionPeter Hartcher (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Video of angry shoppers brawling over toilet rolls in Sydney supermarket aisles was broadcast around the world. Closely followed by footage of massed crowds cheerfully breaking disease control laws by clustering on Bondi beach.”

Coronavirus: what the latest stimulus measures mean for Australian artists and arts organisationsJo Caust (The Conversation): “Galleries, museums, libraries, theatres, cinemas and art centres have closed. All film production has stopped. Theatre companies, dance companies, opera companies, orchestras, bands, festivals, pub gigs – every kind of cultural activity you can think of has stopped or been cancelled.”


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Peter Fray
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