Scott Morrison coronavirus
(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

TWO’S A CROWD

Scott Morrison last night announced that state and territory governments will — following Tasmania’s lead last week — implement six-month bans on the evictions of both people and businesses unable to pay rent due to the pandemic, the ABC reports.

Morrison also announced state governments will cut existing indoor and outdoor gathering limits to just two people — a move that is not yet legally enforceable and so far has support from NSW but not the NT ($) — while people over 70, anyone over 60 with a chronic illness and Indigenous people over 50 have been urged to completely self-isolate.

PS: Other measures include bans on playgrounds and outdoor gyms, as well as “strong guidance” to stay home unless undertaking essential services, work or study that cannot be done remotely, and to exercise in compliance with the 1.5-metre rule.

WAGE SUBSIDIES AND CORPORATE BAILOUTS

Following pressure from both unions and industry groups for a UK-style 80% wage subsidy, 7News reports the government will this week outline a ‘JobKeeper’ allowance of $1,500 a fortnight per full-time employee for closed or at-risk businesses — with measures for part-time and casual workers to be finalised — through the taxation system over the next six months.

As the Morrison government prepares to announce its third and largest stimulus package, The Australian ($) reports the government has agreed with the major banks on another multibillion-dollar bailout of corporate Australia, to include:

  • an extension on the banks’ six-month deferral of loan ­repayments to 30,000 businesses to bring the overall value of loans for coronavirus support to $250 billion;
  • lifting the 50% loan guarantee offered to small and medium businesses to include big employers; and
  • moving to prevent all foreign companies from raiding Australian-owned businesses by reducing ownership thresholds that trigger government scrutiny to zero (the government has stressed this is not an investment freeze, the ABC reports).

PRIVATE HOSPITALS CLOSE TO A DEAL?

Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed private hospitals are close to a deal with at least two state governments to support both their increase in patients and a looming suspension of non-urgent elective surgeries, according to The Australian ($).

This comes after private hospitals won a one-week reprieve to last Wednesday’s elective surgery ban — which an infuriated Royal Australasian College of Surgeons president described as “putting commercial forces ahead of patient safety and the use of vital resources”, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

HERE’S A THOUGHT: Seeing as how we are already nicking socialist policies from UK Tories, it’s worth noting the Johnson government last week partly nationalised the rail system and eliminated competition laws for essential ferry routes. Just something to consider with private health, is all.

A $1.1 BILLION HEALTH AND SAFETY PACKAGE

During an absolutely packed news weekend, the federal government also outlined a $1.1 billion health and safety package, including:

  • $669 million for telehealth, to ensure subsidised telephone or video-conferencing for GP services, mental health treatment, chronic disease management, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessments, and other specialised services;
  • $150 million for domestic violence support, with support for 1800RESPECT, Mensline Australia, Trafficked People Program, specialised shelter programs and a new ad campaign to target the recorded spike in family, domestic and sexual violence amid the pandemic;
  • $74 million for mental health support to go to the government’s digital mental health portal Head to Health, a new dedicated hotline from Beyond Blue, a new communications campaign, existing mental health providers, and programs for frontline health workers, aged care residents, students, and Indigenous Australians via Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia; and
  • $200 million for a community support package covering emergency and food relief for vulnerable Australians, the National Debt Helpline, and other financial counselling programs.

PS: The federal government has launched a new ‘Coronavirus Australia’ app, available through the Apple App Store, Google Play and as a new WhatsApp chatbot.

PPS: Starting today, Australia Post will offer both customers and pharmacies free delivery on medication and other essential supplies (under 500 grams) through the Pharmacy Home Delivery Scheme.

There, I think that’s the final federal announcement, but prove me wrong, deadline…

PUSH TO RELEASE VULNERABLE AND LOW-RISK PRISONERS

Amid fears of outbreaks across prison populations, 119 frontline Victorian legal and criminal practitioners have written to Attorney-General Jill Hennessy and Minister for Corrections Ben Carroll calling for humane decarceration during the pandemic. Specifically, the group calls to release:

  • elderly or immunosuppressed prisoners;
  • prisoners serving sentence for non-violent offending;
  • female prisoners eligible for release, especially prisoners who are pregnant;
  • young people who have access to accommodation and support in the community;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
  • prisoners who are soon to be or are eligible for parole; and
  • people on remand who are unlikely to serve more than six months in custody.

IN RELATED NEWS: The push comes as New York City — already under unofficial quarantine amid America’s exponential spike in deaths — begins releasing people at the infamous Rikers’ Island prison, where, according to NYC’s Legal Aid Society, the population has the highest infection rate in the world at 3%.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Sorry, Australia, but an executive running a country with no other branches of government checking his/her power, is by definition called a dictator.

Naomi Wolf

The controversial author and former political advisor asks a few Twitter questions about Morrison’s (constitutionally informal) national cabinet meetings that, as nature dictates, are put to rest by Antony Green.

CRIKEY RECAP

It’s time to demand more of the people we elect to lead us

“The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 will no doubt be remembered for many things. I wonder if one of those will be that our political leaders collectively managed to win back the trust and legitimacy they squandered over the past couple of decades. I hope so — because as we are now seeing in this time of crisis, it really matters.”


What’s the state of Australia’s virus testing, and how do we compare with other nations? 

“Widespread coronavirus testing in Germany has been lauded for the country’s low fatality rate, with experts stressing the importance of testing widely early.”


Life is crap. But there are still some reasons to be cheerful…

“Sure, the suspension of parliament until August might seem like an unforgivable abrogation of responsibility during a time of national crisis, but look on the bright side: a lot of dreadful law will be delayed.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Coronavirus: Spain, Italy demand help from European Union as crisis deepens

‘Show us the modelling, give us a time frame’: Experts’ plea to Morrison

Relief and anger as Australian cruise ship passengers stranded in Italy prepare for flight home

Store closures, jobs losses: Retail industry braces for another brutal week

This is what is happening to enforce coronavirus lockdowns around the country

More than 1800 Australians still stranded at sea

Coronavirus survivors’ blood plasma could be used to fight infection

‘We treat them like gold’: Aboriginal community rallies around elders

COVID-19 crisis: Interstate FIFO workers to be quarantined for two weeks before starting work in WA ($)

The perfect virus: two gene tweaks that turned COVID-19 into a killer

Brisbane lord mayor-elect backs ECQ inquiry after council poll troubles

THE COMMENTARIAT

Morrison must give us more detail if we are to trust his judgmentSean Kelly (The Sydney Morning Herald): “But I’ve realised, over the past week, that this is no time for restraint. The government is not being upfront. If the press isn’t willing to hector government into sharing information while a deadly virus spreads through the population, then there really is no point to the press at all.”

Give people and businesses money now they can pay back later (if and when they can) — Linda Botterill, Bruce Chapman Director, Glenn Withers and Warwick McKibbin (The Conversation): “It is likely that once a vaccine is delivered by science, or even before, the economic recovery will begin. Thus the question: what are the most equitable ways to handle this major short-term trauma? There is an instrument that should be used to add to the size and efficacy of the necessary fiscal boost. Income contingent loans provide extra financial support without threatening future fiscal solvency.”

‘Go hard go early’ might work for NZ ($) — Luke Malpass (Australian Financial Review): “On midnight last Wednesday in New Zealand, something unimaginable even three weeks earlier happened: a state of emergency was declared and the country went into a ‘level four’ lockdown, effectively becoming a police state.”

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • The joint select committee on the implementation of the national redress scheme will hold a public hearing reportedly to be conducted via teleconference with NSW witnesses and broadcasted on www.aph.gov.au/live.