pollie pay rises
(Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

ANOTHER WAVE OF STIMULUS

Updates and analyses have poured in overnight after Scott Morrison announced a $130 billion JobKeeper package that will subsidise wages by $1,500 a fortnight for the next six months. To be eligible, businesses must have suffered a 30% revenue loss since March 1 — or a 50% loss if the business’ annual turnover is over $1 billion — with payments to start in early-May through the ATO and backdated to March 30.

The ABC has explained employee and business requirements, including that casuals are only covered if they have worked at a company regularly for 12 months and the only temporary visa holders eligible as yet are New Zealanders on 444 visas.

Academics at The Conversation have unpacked complexities and limitations, asking, for example, could Qantas intentionally limit its revenue for six months to below 50%?

Meanwhile, The Australian Financial Review ($) and The New Daily have tackled business and union concerns, respectively, about casual and migrant workers and the employers that cannot wait until May for subsidies.

STATES TAKE PROPER STEPS TOWARDS AUTHORITARIANISM

New South Wales, Victoria and, since Sunday night, Queensland, have all passed their own versions of frankly terrifying health orders banning both gatherings of over two people and — to quote NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard — leaving the house “without reasonable excuse”.

‘Reasonable reasons’ include obtaining food or other goods and services, travelling for the purposes of work or education if the person cannot do it at home, exercise, and medical or caring reasons.

All three states have maximum fines ranging from $10,000 to $20,000, with NSW even implementing prison sentences. Meanwhile, other states and territories are either on their way, or have gone slightly softer, the ABC reports. The ACT, for example, has gone for “education and warnings” before bringing out the handcuffs.

IT COULD BE VERY, VERY SLIGHTLY WORSE

Not to downplay what Australians are facing, but do note that, as The Guardian reports, Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has just passed effectively unlimited state emergency powers and prison sentences for “spreading misinformation that hinders the government response” to COVID-19.

OF NOTE: Weirdly, none of the countries doing successful communication, testing and self-isolation measures — think Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore — have done so through police states.

REFUGEE COUNCIL CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE REFORM

While Home Affairs has so far rejected calls to release immigration detainees fearful about the spread of coronavirus — and, as one detainee wrote for Crikey yesterday, the only current measures include a total visitor ban — the Refugee Council of Australia has launched a campaign calling on the government to make five changes.
  1. Move people urgently out of crowded immigration detention facilities.
  2. Ensure a financial safety net and Medicare access for people seeking asylum and refugees in Australia.
  3. Simplify processes for visa grants and renewals.
  4. Move refugees and people seeking asylum from PNG and Nauru.
  5. Explore permanency and family reunion for people moving to high-need regional areas.

WA, NT AND SA LAUNCH NEW PROGRAMS

Because things are coming in thick and fast, here are a few positive state highlights to round things out.

  • Western Australia has launched both a $25 million rent relief plan for small businesses and not-for-profit groups in government-owned buildings, effective immediately for six months, and a $159 million COVID-19 relief fund for emergency organisations.
  • The Northern Territory has announced a $5 million worker and wellbeing fund for people looking to navigate wellbeing, counselling, financial, welfare, employment, accommodation and other support services.
  • South Australian residents can now receive free, daily welfare calls from Red Cross’ Telecross REDi service, during which staff can both ask vulnerable people how they are coping and if they need medical or food supplies, and reiterate the latest government health advice.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Have been informed there’s been no actual shoppers turning up by bus at Woolies in Jindabyne, contrary to what I’d been told by multiple locals. Very happy to stand corrected on this. Peace and stay safe all.

Hamish Macdonald

A mere 24 hours after the fact, the Q&A host checks a claim about three tourist coaches he made citing, uh, his dad.

CRIKEY RECAP

Expert, the mob or gifted amateur — who should you listen to in a crisis?

“Who should you listen to in a crisis? Had you asked me this in 2019, I’d have given a simple answer. Listen to the experts, I would have said. But in 2020, the world is much more complicated. The pandemic has fractured a lot of long-held beliefs. Among them is the idea that the right information will come from the establishment sources.”


Virus Watch: war-time measures, ‘virtue signalling’ and there’s an app for that

“Closing Australia’s steel making factories to protect workers would be nothing but a symbolic gesture, Tony Shepherd, former Business Council of Australia president and chair of Tony Abbott’s 2014 commission of audit, has said.”


The conflicted interests of Bridget ‘Beretta’ McKenzie: Exhibit A

“Bridget McKenzie — and the whole sports rort affair — has become a symbol of all that’s wrong with our system of government. This week, Inq’s David Hardaker examines the five “exhibits” in the case against McKenzie. Today, exhibit A…”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Early flu shots a ‘risk worth taking’

The government has made it easier for couples to get the JobSeeker payment, increasing the partner income threshold to $80,000

Coronavirus: Virgin seeking $1.4bn bailout to keep flying

‘Blew us away’: Part-timers in jobs most at risk from pandemic to see wages rise

Calls for retention bonuses, protective equipment for disability workers

West Australians to be forced to wear GPS trackers for ignoring self-isolation orders during COVID-19 pandemic

Australian liquor stores join forces to impose temporary restrictions on alcohol to end stockpiling

Two Melbourne Coles workers test positive to coronavirus, as state enters Stage 3 shutdown

Johnson & Johnson plans one billion doses of coronavirus vaccine

Austria to make basic face masks compulsory in supermarkets

‘I’m absolutely livid’: Van Gogh painting stolen from museum during pandemic

THE COMMENTARIAT

The power of narratives and the risk of surveillance creep in the response to Covid-19Kelsey Munro (The Strategist): “Remember December 2019? That innocent age before our kids knew how to spell ‘Covid’, when all we were worried about was the terrible bushfires and the ongoing climate crisis? In only three months, the novel coronavirus has spread everywhere and all of us are engaged in a continual, rolling recalculation of its mind-boggling implications.”

Coronavirus: Perks and loopholes can’t endure as we run up debtAdam Creighton (The Australian): “The young and poor have little say in society but they are incurring the bulk of the costs from the shutdown. Whether it’s their incomes, their schooling or their ability to enjoy life, the sacrifices that students and so-called generations X and Y are making for the over-75s are very significant. Unlike the Spanish flu 90 years ago, it seems coronavirus is of little threat to the vast majority”

I thought I was safe to walk the beach with my daughter, then the police cameKasey Edwards (The Age): “I’d checked all the information before I left the house and was sure that this walk along the beach was allowed. The City of Port Phillip’s statement explicitly stated that we could access the beaches ‘as a thoroughfare, such as for a run or walking a dog’ and that ‘swimming is allowed at this stage as long as social distancing and mass gathering rules are obeyed’.”

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • The joint standing committee on migration will, via teleconference, conduct a public hearing on migration in regional Australia and how communities and settlement services can better support migrants to gain employment.

United Kingdom

  • As of today, Prince Harry and his wife Megan, the Duchess of Sussex, will no longer be working members of the royal family following their January announcement.