Friday, March 06, 2020

Tourism ministers seek virus help

State tourism ministers will lobby federal trade and tourism minister Simon Birmingham for extra funding at a crisis meeting in Canberra today, as the travel sector reels from COVID-19 containment measures. The agenda paper for the meeting, obtained by Guardian Australia, suggests the Morrison government plans to use an existing $76m fund for bushfire relief to also cover the impact of COVID-19 on tourism businesses. State tourism ministers have already discussed their concerns about the lack of extra funding, and will be pushing for an increase at the meeting. On Thursday a complete travel ban on South Korea was added to existing bans for China and Iran, and additional screening measures on passengers were imposed on travellers arriving from Italy. A multibillion-dollar coronavirus stimulus package to be introduced within days could include wage subsidies for small and medium businesses, reports The Australian Financial Review ($). Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said that Labor would engage constructively on legislation targeted to be in place by the end of March at the latest. Greens leader Adam Bandt said he would push to ensure stimulus included a lift to Newstart and support for affected workers without paid sick leave.

School closure: Epping Boys High School in Sydney will be closed today, after a 16-year-old student tested positive for COVID-19. The student is believed to have caught the virus from an infected person already identified by health authorities. Epping Boys High School is less than two kilometres away from Macquarie University's Banksia and Gumnut childcare centre, which cares for 17 children tested for coronavirus on Thursday evening after they visited a nearby nursing home where four residents and an assistant nurse were diagnosed with COVID-19. More than 96,500 people have been infected by COVID-19 globally, with 3300 deaths, largely in China, but 107 fatalities have been recorded in both Italy and Iran.

Charities crackdown: The Morrison government will implement a crackdown on charities, following a regular review of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission. New legislation will allow the agency to collect the personal details of those direct links to charities involved in unlawful activity, reports The Courier Mail ($), in response to the review’s warning of a loophole for money to be laundered through charities and “potential terrorism financing”. The Morrison government will also push for organisations to be forced to disclose the salaries of their highest-paid staff, but ignored a recommendation that extra regulations be placed on religious charities.

US Democratic Primary: Senator Elizabeth Warren has dropped out of the US presidential race following disappointing finishes in primary contests across the country. She said she was not yet ready to endorse another candidate for president.

T20 World Cup: Australia has beaten South Africa by five runs in the women's Twenty20 World Cup semi-final at the SCG. In Thursday night’s rain-affected match, Australia's 5-134 was reduced to a target of 98 from 13 overs for South Africa, which was held to 5-92 to see the host nation advance. Australia’s opponent for the Sunday final at the MCG is India, who on account of their better performance in the group stage advanced instead of England from their washed-out semi-final. Criticism was lobbed at organisers for failing to plan a reserve day for the semi-final matches. 


“Despite all the evidence arrayed in support of a 2050 net zero target – scientific evidence of a climate crisis, economic evidence of the benefits of acting promptly, all the significant forces mentioned above – even this threshold question remains contentious. How is it possible that one side of politics abandoned that target for nine months, while the other side still refuses to adopt it? And that both sides appear to have backslidden when it comes to measures to address emissions reduction?”


“When The Saturday Paper launched, Australia had no climate policy, and it still doesn’t. There was bipartisan support for the mistreatment of refugees, and there still is. A Voice to Parliament had not yet been proposed, and one still hasn’t been offered to the public. Since our launch, privacy has diminished. Inequality has grown ... Old fears about race, gender and sexuality have been sharpened and exploited in new ways.”


“It’s been described as a culture of ‘medals over morals’ – when reports of sexual abuse in sport are ignored, hushed up or written off as fantasy, with eyes firmly remaining on the prize rather than the victims. In the pursuit of sporting glory athletes usually start young. They are keen, impressionable and trusting, making them particularly vulnerable to predators.”


“Professional firefighters in New South Wales will have the option to use more protective P3 face masks, instead of P2 masks, during emergencies like bushfires. Following a successful trial, Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) will give all paid firefighters the option to use P3 ‘combi filter’ masks which offer a higher level of respiratory protection.”


“Doctors are pleading with the federal government to release more protective face masks from the national medical stockpile, as supply shortages force some GPs to turn away patients suspected of having coronavirus ... A desperate GP practice manager in South Australia has closed its doors to Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) patients after running out of masks, saying in an email to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners on Wednesday: ‘As of today, we cannot test anymore.’”


“A delivery truck full of toilet paper not only crashed but burst into flames in Brisbane ... about half of the precious toilet paper was completely burnt. Of all days. OF ALL DAYS. ‘There was quite an interesting fuel load on this particular vehicle as we believe toilet paper is quite precious at the moment, so we’ve been able to save half the load on this particular truck,’ fire officer Justin Francis told the ABC.”