Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Cabinet scrambles to finalise stimulus

Federal cabinet is today expected to sign off on a stimulus package worth up to $10 billion, in the wake of the worst day for the Australian sharemarket since the global financial crisis. The Morrison government will consider ($) reversing its opposition to one-off cash payments for pensioners, Newstart recipients and small business owners as part of its stimulus measures, which may see it break its self-imposed $600 billion debt ceiling. In a speech at a business summit in Sydney, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will call on big business to display “patriotism” in the face of the economic crisis, through measures such as fast-tracking bill payments to small business suppliers. Opposition Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers expressed concern Morrison’s response would be “hemmed in” by past rhetoric on Labor’s response to the global financial crisis in 2008. The continuing spread of COVID-19 and a collapse in oil prices saw the ASX shed $140 billion ($) to drop 7.4 per cent on Monday, with stock markets in Europe and the United States also dropping sharply overnight

COVID-19: A letter to all doctors in Australia from chief medical officer Brendan Murphy proposes the national deployment of respiratory clinics attached to GP surgeries to treat COVID-19 patients. An outbreak in Sydney will see the closure of St Patrick’s Marist College and Willoughby Girls High School on Tuesday as a precautionary measure. In Europe, fatal riots at prisons across Italy have been sparked by restrictions to control the country’s worsening outbreak, while Ireland has cancelled all St Patrick’s Day parades.

Dipole climate link: New research published today in Nature ($) finds the Indian Ocean Dipole that drove Australia's summer bushfires is becoming more common and intense because of climate change. Researchers examined coral samples representing a 500-year period to find that of 10 extreme Dipole events, four occurred in the past 60 years. 

MH17 trial begins: The trial in absentia of four men suspected in the downing of flight MH17 started on Monday in the Netherlands. The court heard that Ukranian Leonid Kharchenko, and Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, and Oleg Pulatov, brought a “deadly weapon” into Ukraine where it was fired at a Boeing 777 airliner operated by Malaysian Airlines on July 17, 2014 and killed all 298 people aboard, including 38 Australian citizens and residents. All four suspects are believed to be in Russia. The judge predicted the trial would stretch into next year, with the case file containing 36,000 documents.


“Traditional owners call it kalatha and toolangi, words describing the forest’s towering trees, among the biggest in the world. During the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, this heart of Victoria’s central highlands was called ‘the hole in the doughnut’. A pitiless firestorm surrounded the region, spanning Kinglake to Marysville, but spared Toolangi, the most carbon-dense forest on the planet. Then this week, the Victorian government’s position on protecting Toolangi’s rainforest shifted dramatically, a decision that ‘is senseless’, according to Black Saturday survivor Steve Meacher.”


“Experts point out that the Identity-matching Services Bill says nothing at all about prohibiting a live mass surveillance system. The Human Rights Law Centre has called the bill ‘manifestly and dangerously insufficient’ … At one point, Victoria threatened to pull out of the agreement, claiming the bill gives powers to the home affairs minister – currently Peter Dutton – to expand the Capability in the future in ways to which the states didn’t agree.”


“I was based at Parliament House – and there he suffered my questions, some of them good, some of them sloppy. I say suffered because it is clear Morrison does not like being questioned. He does not like doubt and rarely expresses it. He is not comfortable being asked to explain. Most politicians dislike press conferences … But Morrison’s dislike is more intense, more seething. It is a barely controlled contempt.”


“Millions of Australians who are not entitled to paid sick leave may be forced to choose between going to work ill or losing pay if they test positive for coronavirus … Margaret Sinclair, a casual teacher in Victoria, worries she'll struggle to feed her family if she's forced to undergo two weeks of self-isolation — the recommended quarantine for diagnosed coronavirus patients.”


“Senior Vice President of Rides and Platform Andrew MacDonald said drivers and delivery people diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in quarantine by a public health authority would receive compensation. ‘Drivers and delivery people in these situations will receive compensation for a period of up to 14 days,’ he said. ‘This has already begun in some markets and we are working to implement mechanisms to do this worldwide. We believe this is the right thing to do.’”


“You’ve contracted coronavirus, you’ve been told you need to self-isolate for 14 days, and instead of buying things you actually might need – like food – you bought 80-dozen rolls of toilet paper. Whoops! Luckily, there are some creative ways to bring those 960 rolls of 3-ply to life in a range of delicious dishes.”

Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.