Josh Frydenberg covid-19
(Image: AAP /Daniel Pockett)

IT’S A (JOB)KEEPER

According to the ABC, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will today announce an easing of post-September 28 JobKeeper eligibility criteria, and that $15 billion will be added to the scheme.

While the extension guidelines as announced July 21 initially required businesses to record a loss in both the June and September quarters, Frydenberg will announce that, amidst Victoria’s hard lockdown, companies will only need to demonstrate their GST turnover has fallen in the June quarter to be eligible for the new $1200 fortnightly rate.

Elsewhere, with JobSeeker set to be slashed from the above-poverty fortnightly rate of $1100 to $800 from September and the Morrison government reintroducing mutual obligations on Wednesday for recipients outside of Victoria, some 1382 people have reportedly applied for a job at Boost Juice in Tarneit, Melbourne.

PS: Following concerns over Chinese Communist Party-linked efforts to police dissent in Australian universities, The Australian ($) reports that Education Minister Dan Tehan has launched a review into the implementation of a free speech code. Which, while absolutely important, is perhaps not the sector’s most pressing concern mid-collapse.

UPDATES FROM VICTORIA’S STAGE FOUR

In another packed morning of stage four news:

  • According to The Age, Melbourne aged care homes St. Basil’s and Epping Gardens face a legal push from devastated families alleging negligence, while the federal government could also be included as a defendant in any litigation given its time in charge of St. Basil’s after expelling workers on July 21 and temporarily taking over management
  • “Senior federal government sources” speaking to the Herald Sun ($) have alleged that concerns over Victoria’s willingness and/or capacity to share testing, tracing and tracking data with other states resulted in the creation of a shared data scheme at the July 24 national cabinet meeting
  • University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely has explored why “batching” of tests is likely behind Victoria’s wild variation in daily figures, how the state saw a dip in “smoothed” averages on July 31, and how, while there’s no way to genuinely predict the next few weeks, the state could expect to see another “bend in the curve, downwards, 10 days or so after Victoria began its stage four restrictions”
  • Following concerns over new capacity rules affecting Victoria’s food supply, The Age reports that Coles and Woolworths have been given several more days to organise their distribution depots as part of a compromise with the Victorian government.

CLARIFICATION: While yesterday’s newsletter referred to modelling The Australian reported as having come from within the Victorian government, Daniel Andrews and Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng have not only denied that the figures came from within government but that, until the report was published, they had even seen the modelling.

The Australian appears to have since reframed the figures — which suggested that daily cases could enter the 1000s by next week — as having come from “government partners“.

I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE…

According to The Guardian, Peter Dutton has confirmed that the Morrison government’s proposed $1.6 billion cyber-strategy would allow Australia’s foreign cybersecurity and intelligence agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), to assist the AFP and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission in targeting Australian citizens.

Dutton — who once dismissed journalist Annika Smethurst’s report on federal plans for the ASD to spy on citizens as “nonsense”, just before the AFP raided her house — has not released specific details over the proposed “dark web” powers, but promised they would be used to target terrorists, paedophiles, and drug traffickers — “and those people only”.

PS: For just one recent example of authoritarian laws originally proposed for “terrorists” being utilised against people other than terrorists, check out how George W. Bush’s Homeland Security Act of 2002 has helped Donald Trump deploy unidentified federal agents against protesters in Portland.

A FEW TRILLION THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

Speaking of America, USA Today reports that Democrats and Republicans are looking to negotiate another multi-trillion dollar package by the end of this week, after the Democratic-controlled House passed a $3 trillion stimulus bill and Senate leader Mitch McConnell unveiled a smaller $1 trillion plan, the latter of which includes “liability shields” for businesses and was criticised not just by Democrats but Republicans who, despite some states sitting at “Depression-era” jobless levels, do not support further aid.

A week after America’s $600 weekly unemployment benefits came to an end, Donald Trump, continues to float an executive order — one he may not have much power to enact — dealing with payroll tax cuts and protections on evictions, unemployment and student loan repayments.

Finally, Common Dreams reports that Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday introduced legislation that would tax the “obscene wealth gains” America’s billionaires have accumulated amidst the pandemic and use the resulting revenue to empower Medicare to cover every American’s out-of-pocket medical expenses for a year.

STATE WRAP: ADELAIDE’S SNAP QUARANTINE

  • According to the ABC, South Australia’s health authorities have announced that 70 close contacts of a new case in Adelaide will be moved to “medi-hotels”, while all 1200 students and staff at the corresponding school will go into quarantine
  • From today, NSW residents returning from Victoria will go into mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days at their own expense
  • Queensland will close its border to all of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory from 1.00am tomorrow, while Queenslanders will similarly be sent to 14-days mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense.
  • Finally, the Western Australian government has continued to release details over its $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan, including by region — i.e. Great Southern and Wheatbelt — and sector — i.e. agriculture and, in an apparent state-first, a feasibility study into manufacturing wind turbine components.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

No I haven’t taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test? C’mon man. That’s like saying you, before you got in this program, you’re taking a test whether you’re taking cocaine or not. What do you think, huh? Are you a junkie?

Joe Biden

The prospective Democratic nominee and likely future US president offers a fittingly unhinged response to questions over Donald Trump’s cognitive tests.

CRIKEY RECAP

Outbreak of bosses behaving badly reveals the ugly side of business

“Why is it that often the contenders for the Bosses Behaving Badly in a Pandemic Award have form in other dubious areas?

“Take this week’s public enemy number one, Jim Penman of Jim’s Mowing, who caused widespread outrage after a television interview where he encouraged his franchisees to keep working in Victoria despite the lockdown. He even offered to pay the fines of mowers caught flouting the rules.”


Crikey Presents: ‘Allo ‘Allo! The stage four lockdown edition

“Scene: a quiet French-style bistro in Melbourne, during the curfew, lockdown, middle of winter, and God knows what comes next. It’s just your average cosy little place where the local paisans and bohemians come to wile away a few hours over bitter black syrup, passed through liquid nitrogen and served in three test-tubes with a slice of almond rocca.”


Dear media: if you won’t speak up for Assange, maybe stop using WikiLeaks’ stuff

“I want to ask my journalist colleagues in Australia: why the silence over Julian Assange? Is it because you don’t think he’s a journalist? Is it the sexual assault allegations? Because he belittles mainstream media? Fear you might lose access to those in power? Fear you might be called an activist? Or have you just forgotten?”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Expansion of Twiggy’s Pilbara mine threatens 60,000-year-old sacred site, inquiry hears

Coronavirus: Labor postpones national conference until 2021 ($)

State dodged 20,000 new COVID cases a day: Deputy Chief Health Officer

Victorian coronavirus briefing sees Daniel Andrews grilled on hotel quarantine failures but few insights emerge

Dutton reacts angrily to Ruby Princess questions as PM again shuts down Andrew

Small business ombudsman awards contracts to Liberal-linked firm without tender

Morrison backflips on move to strike down WA border ban with promise to ‘assist’ state

ABC set to grab rights to Murdoch documentary

Sydney cop ‘procured’ schoolgirl before alleged attempted rape ($)

Macron delivers ‘home truths’ as angry Beirut crowds call for change

New York Attorney-General launches lawsuit to dissolve the NRA

THE COMMENTARIAT

Indigenous prison rates can fall fast: here’s the proof Thalia Anthony (The Sydney Morning Herald): “First Nations Australians are the most imprisoned people in the world. Justice targets for closing the gap were set down for the first time last week, providing a federal measure for reducing the Indigenous imprisonment rate. Yet the new target — to reduce it by just 15% by 2031 — is hugely unambitious.”

Coronavirus Australia: Nation in turmoil over one failed Victorian policy ($) — John Ferguson (The Australian): “Months after the failed hotel quarantine regimen was introduced in Victoria we still don’t know the definitive story of what caused Australia’s second coronavirus wave. Don’t worry, neither does the Victorian Premier. What we do know is that Daniel Andrews has staked his political future on the inquiry into hotel quarantine and that the governance failures were catastrophic.”

A unitary theory of cutsRichard Cooke (The Monthly): “It turns out Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a populist, just not one in the Trump mode, and he is not wasting this crisis. He can let COVID-19 make the cuts for him, and hence devastate the Coalition’s longstanding foes — the public service, the ABC, the arts and the tertiary education sector — through government negligence rather than active measures. A competent response to the pandemic, and a tentative Opposition fearful of being wedged, can both take care of the polling.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Scott Morrison is due to meet with state and territory leaders and health and economic advisers at another national cabinet meeting.

  • Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques will face a Senate inquiry examining the company’s destruction of the 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site in Juukan Gorge, WA.

Sydney

  • Carriageworks will reopen to the public following its recent lift from voluntary administration. In collaboration, the Biennale of Sydney will present NIRIN, curated by Indigenous Australian artist Brook Andrew.

Melbourne

Perth

  • Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will speak at Business News event, The Next Chapter.

Australia

  • RBA Assistant Governor (Economic) Dr Luci Ellis will deliver a webinar address to the Australian Business Economists. The RBA is also due to deliver its quarterly statement on monetary policy.

Peter Fray

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