Politician profiling Australia
Former prime minister Julia Gillard

HAWKS GROW THEIR FLOCK

Julia Gillard has been appointed the next chair of UK-based research investment giant Wellcome Trust, the ABC reports, and will use the role to join calls for an investigation into China’s original coronavirus outbreak, “not so that fingers can be pointed, but so that lessons can be learned”.

While the UK is still in the thick of its own pandemic, Tories have told The Australian ($) that a growing number of backbenchers and intelligence officials are becoming hawkish on China’s handling of the virus and potential to take over high-tech companies amid the looming recession.

PS: Former treasurer Joe Hockey has been hired by Macquarie Group NY to hunt down infrastructure deals in tech and renewables, The Australian Financial Review ($) reports.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JOBKEEPER?

Following a record unemployment spike to 823,000 in April — with, as Crikey noted yesterday, 2.7 million people undergoing some kind of negative employment change — The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a review of JobKeeper next month will consider extending the September 27 cut-off date with tightened eligibility.

Amid debate over how JobKeeper could evolve, the Fair Work Commission is considering deferring minimum wage increases for stressed companies operating under the scheme, The Australian ($) reports.

WHAT OF JOBSEEKER? Mutual obligations have been paused until June, SBS reports. Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has, however, used emergency regulatory powers to extend cashless welfare card trials until December.

US STIMULUS 4.0

House Democrats have proposed a new US$3 trillion aid package — called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, to potentially be tabled today — that includes further one-off payments, extended unemployment benefits, hazard pay for frontline workers, increased testing and rent assistance, Forbes reports.

Republicans largely laughed off the proposal, and are expected to push for a litigation shield for businesses that reopen during the pandemic and a reduction of new unemployment benefits, according to NY Intelligencer. And while the devil will be in the detail, earlier this month The Intercept reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports bailouts for the lobbying industry.

THE NEW ZEALAND MODEL

Under its 2020 budget, the New Zealand government has unveiled a NZD$50 billion COVID response and recovery fund. It includes an extension to NZ’s wage subsidy scheme, free training and apprenticeships, an 8,000 public housing build programme, NZD$3 billion in infrastructure support, 11,000 new environmental jobs, and more.

STATE WRAP

From midnight tonight, the ACT will begin the first phase of gradually easing restrictions on sport and recreation, with the relaunching of informal outdoor, non-contact sport and commercial pools.

From today, the Queensland government will allow digital prescriptions, so that vulnerable people can get medicines prescribed by their usual doctor and delivered by their pharmacy without having to leave the home.

The WA government has announced that all students will be required to return to school from next Monday, May 18. Separately, the government welcomed Rio Tinto Iron Ore’s $50,000 commitment to fund the upskilling of apprentices displaced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Australia has launched a new campaign and website — “Seasonal Jobs SA” — to help connect job-seekers with agricultural jobs and provide information about roles and requirements, places to stay and coronavirus restrictions.

With libraries set to slowly reopen across Tasmania on Monday, May 18, the government has announced a trial “click and collect” approach to borrowing at the Launceston Library that, subject to success, will be extended as quickly as possible to other libraries.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

When you have what are effectively unemployment benefits through JobSeeker at the levels that they are … that can provide, in normal circumstances, a disincentive … for people to go and seek work.

Scott Morrison

The prime minister once again confirms that above-poverty-line JobSeeker rates will expire later this year, although one wonders how much incentive anyone trapped inside for two, let alone six months, will need to find work.

CRIKEY RECAP

Picnic day for spies: Dutton plan would have Coalition mates sign off on foreign wiretap requests

“Applications by US and other foreign intelligence agencies to wiretap Australian citizens will be signed off by former Coalition MPs and staffers under a draconian Peter Dutton bill currently being examined by parliament.

“The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Production Orders) Bill 2020 was introduced by Dutton in March and is currently being examined by the joint standing committee on intelligence and security.”


Seven reasons why BuzzFeed’s passing means a sad day for Australian media

“Overnight, BuzzFeed announced it was closing its Australian and UK news operations, retreating to the US to refocus on ‘big hit’ US stories. It ends a six year experiment in building alternate voices via a local, Australian franchise of a global organisation.

“Using a listicle as homage, here’s seven reasons why the BuzzFeed experiment was so valuable, and why its closing is a terrible outcome for Australian journalism and Australian democracy.”


Stop the bats — all the ways Australia and its allies are blaming China for COVID-19

“Inq has been at work deciphering Australia’s new and evolving China policy and we’ve come up with five variations.

“Here’s how wedge politics works when it comes to a new threat from afar. We’re calling it ‘Stop the Bats’. After all, it worked before.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Alarm raised over pandemic-linked mental health crisis

Canberra spent $10 million on inaccurate antibody tests

Australia’s Reserve Bank fuels call for post-pandemic renewables push

Territorians expected to spend $4 million as NT pubs, restaurants reopen ($)

Limits on train commuters, more CBD parking and bike lanes as Sydney returns to work

Union slams Premier’s claim that public servants have not sacrificed during coronavirus ($)

WorkSafe investigates after Maccas’ staff told to stay at Fawkner

Albanese dismisses calls from AWU boss Daniel Walton to stand up to China ($)

US senator steps aside amid FBI probe into pandemic stock sales

Russia calls on New York Times, Financial Times to retract stories about coronavirus toll

Taiwan Vice-President says the WHO has ‘forgotten’ neutrality by barring island

THE COMMENTARIAT

Australia has dug itself into a hole in its relationship with China. It’s time to find a way out Tony Walker (The Conversation): “In diplomacy, as in life, if you find yourself in a hole it is better to stop digging. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has excavated a diplomatic cavity for himself and his country as a consequence of an unwise intervention in the debate about China’s responsibility for a coronavirus pandemic.”

Recovery road map essential to help NT find its way out of economic hole ($) — Ashley Manicaros (The NT News): “The Northern Territory has to be able to walk and chew gum if it is to climb out of the economic hole created over the past four years which is now deeper following the COVID-19 pandemic. No one should be satisfied if out of the 21,400 people, who will have lost their jobs during the pandemic, on top of the many hundreds who have lost their jobs in the past four years, we only manage to get less than half of them back to work.”

As pandemic plays out, Labor struggles for tractionDavid Crowe (The Sydney Morning Herald):Anthony Albanese found a new way to offer old advice when the Labor caucus met in Parliament House on Tuesday morning to prepare for a week when the usual political tactics could not possibly work. The Opposition Leader told the assembled MPs they could not respond to the coronavirus pandemic by trying to fight every battle that came their way. Like swimmers in a rolling surf, he said, they would have to dive under some of the waves.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • National cabinet will meet today.

NSW and the ACT

  • New restrictions will allow outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, cafes and restaurants to seat 10 patrons at any one time, up to five visitors at a household at any one time, and more.

Hobart

  • The joint standing committee on electoral matters will hold a public inquiry into the 2019 federal election.

Northern Territory

  • Pubs, cafes, restaurants, gyms and beauticians will be able to reopen at noon with some restrictions.