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RENT MORATORIUM

Tasmania’s House of Assembly overnight passed the Liberal government’s COVID-19 legislative package, which — on top of granting previously announced emergency powers to the premier, treasurer and attorney-general — also introduced a 120-day moratorium on evictions.

Agreeing to amendments first proposed by the Greens, Building Minister Elise Archer yesterday announced new measures that mean tenants cannot be evicted if they are unable to pay rent throughout the pandemic, as well as “common-sense amendments” to limit third entrances — i.e. only urgent repairs and inspections — so as to maintain social distancing.

WHAT ABOUT THE MAINLAND? The national cabinet discussed commercial rates last night and is preparing to sign off on new residential measures on Friday, while the Tenants’ Union of NSW has called for other governments to replicate Tasmania’s measures, the ABC reports.

TESTING CRITERIA EXPANDED

As Australia records over 2400 cases and our ninth death — a 68-year-old Queensland man — the national cabinet has announced an extension of testing eligibility that covers anyone who has a fever or acute respiratory infection and meets one of the following criteria.

  • All health workers.
  • All aged/residential care workers.
  • In a geographically localised area where there is elevated risk of community transmission as defined by the local public health unit.
  • Located either where no community transmission is occurring, or in high-risk settings where there are two or more plausibly linked cases, such as:
    • Aged and residential care;
    • Rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities;
    • Detention centres or correctional facilities;
    • Boarding schools; and
    • Military bases (including navy ships) that have live-in accommodation.
  • Hospitalised patients with fever and acute respiratory symptoms of unknown cause, at at the discretion of the treating clinicians.

The cabinet also agreed to suspend all non-urgent elective surgery.

IN RELATED NEWS: According to The Age, new University of Sydney modelling suggests Australia can flatten the curve if 80% of people stay home for three months.

OH ALSO: We need to stop calling 000 for non-emergencies, such as bat break-ins.

IS FUN REALLY WORTH $1000?

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW Police will be able to hand out $1000 on-the-spot fines to people — and $5000 fines to corporations — that defy public health orders about gatherings and places. These cover wedding and funeral restrictions, mass gathering rules and the ban on specific businesses and venues, such as casinos, bars and clubs.

PS: Victoria Police has launched its own 500-strong dedicated taskforce too.

PPS: The residents who can’t leave their driveaways without ‘state hopping’ have voiced concern about the Queensland border ban — however, as The Guardian reports, the ban is apparently not directed at people who need to cross the border to work, shop or attend medical appointments.

ASSANGE DENIED BAIL

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been denied bail after arguing a release on remand would lower his risk of catching the coronavirus. A UK judge ruled that “as matters stand today this global pandemic does not, of itself, yet provide grounds for Mr Assange’s release”, AAP reports.

His lawyer, Edward Fitzpatrick, has since argued that a May 18 hearing will need to be postponed as witnesses remain quarantined overseas and counsel may not be able to visit Assange in prison.

A REAL HELP: According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK George Brandis has overnight urged all Australians living in the country to return home before commercial flights dry-up. Would that they could, we guess?

US TO PASS $2 TRILLION STIMULUS

Across the pond, Republicans and Democrats have agreed on a $2 trillion stimulus deal that, after round-the-clock negotiations, will be passed through the Senate Wednesday local time.

While full measures are yet to be announced, CNN reports the following were announced prior:

  • $250 billion for direct payments to individuals and families;
  • $350 billion in small business loans;
  • $250 billion in unemployment insurance benefits; and
  • $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.

SWINGS AND ROUNDABOUTS: While yes, it’s a historic day for the US Senate, the news comes only a week after The Daily Beast revealed that Republican Kelly Loeffler, a former CEO of Bitcoin exchange Bakkt, was the second senator after Richard Burr to dump millions of dollars in stock following a White House coronavirus briefing on January 24.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

[On when to end shutdown measures:] So, I think Easter Sunday, and you’ll have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time. And it’s just about the timeline that I think is right.

Donald Trump

Choosing a Trump quote is like picking fruit so low hanging it’s rotten off the tree… however, him proposing to end America’s lockdown measures by April 12 — for the sake of the economy, by the way, the Easter thing is incidental — is notable in that his timeline would absolutely kill people.

CRIKEY RECAP

Politicians can’t have compliance and trust without accountability

“Last Thursday, in an act of negligence bordering on the criminal, 2700 passengers were waved off a cruise ship — despite their status as floating incubators of disease — and onto the streets of Sydney.”


Forget flattening, this is the curve we really need to watch

“We are hearing a lot about the curve these days. ‘Flatten the curve’ has become the catchcry of the coronavirus pandemic. Which curve are we aiming to flatten? We’re all familiar with that hockeystick line that shows confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia rising into the sky.”


Ruby Princess debacle: just why were infected passengers allowed home?

“As the scale of the Ruby Princess COVID-19 outbreak was dawning on NSW health authorities over the weekend, one Australian woman was blissfully unaware on a long-haul flight from Sydney to London. Her story, told in a series of tweets makes alarming reading”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Coronavirus: The world must stick together, says Scott Morrison ($)

‘No perfect answer to COVID-19’, says chair of panel which had advice rejected

Prince Charles tests positive for coronavirus, but ‘remains in good health’

Cruise ship passengers to be quarantined on Rottnest Island in Western Australia

Coronavirus jobs fallout: at least 35,000 workers stood down in three days as businesses reel

Labor ramps up criticism of govt’s handling of COVID-19

Kidney transplants halted due to coronavirus, organs to be discarded

‘Convoluted waffle’: Prime Minister lambasted over mixed messaging

Coronavirus restrictions tipped to send Australian house prices tumbling

Why Australia won’t follow UK on coronavirus wage subsidy

‘Game-changer’: Britain days away from releasing millions of coronavirus finger prick tests

THE COMMENTARIAT

Coronavirus: More than ever we’re seeking signposts to safety ($) — Niki Savva (The Australian): “History has mixed lessons for leaders who steer their countries through wars or times of great national­ trauma. They are not alway­s rewarded in the recovery phase. In 1945, war-weary Britons turfed out Winston Churchill, ­voting Labor’s Clement Attlee into office in a landslide, partly out of fear the country would return to Depression-era conditions.”

The Australian welfare system has always been needlessly cruel. Now it’s punishing half the countryTom Hawking (The Guardian): “Like a lot of people, I called Centrelink on Monday. After 11 attempts to get through, I was greeted with a message directing me to the MyGov website. Navigating that site eventually revealed that to register, I’d need a customer reference number, which could only be obtained … by phone. Welcome to the 12 Tasks of Centrelink.”

Can we put a price tag on a life? COVID-19 shutdown forces a new lookEduardo Porter and Jim Tankersley (The New York Times): “Can we measure the cost of hundreds of thousands of dead? President Donald Trump and leading business figures are increasingly questioning the wisdom of a prolonged shutdown of the US economy — already putting millions out of work — to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Earth

  • Scott Morrison will connect with all G20 leaders tonight to discuss the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and, reportedly, urge countries to keep their supply chains functioning.

Peter Fray

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