Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Parliament passes $84bn stimulus package

Federal parliament has rushed through $84 billion in stimulus measures, including amendments allowing for the extension of the $550 coronavirus supplement to students, before shutting down until August. A skeleton crew of MPs and senators passed the federal government’s two stimulus packages, amended to grant the social services minister broad powers to make changes to the stimulus payment without going through parliament; including rates, means testing, and residency requirements. The Greens pushed failed amendments to extend the payments to recipients of disability support and carers' payments, as well as those on temporary visas, however The Australian reports ($) that the Coalition is planning a form of support payment for temporary migrants stranded in Australia without work. Parliament also approved an “advance” of $40 billion for the finance minister to spend on unforeseen events from July 1.

The national cabinet of state and federal leaders will meet today, reports Guardian Australia, to consider measures to lock down coronavirus hotspots, provide financial assistance for renters, ensure workforce continuity in critical industries, and further shutdowns of non-essential services. The meeting comes as tensions escalate between the Federal Government and the governments of Victoria and New South Wales, with The Age reporting on how the premiers of the two major states forced Prime Minister Scott Morrison to accelerate lockdown measures, due to concerns that the economy was being prioritised over health considerations. The number of COVID-19 cases nationally has risen to 1717, with health authorities warning young people are not immune to the virus.

A new protocol to be released today allows eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant to order internet providers to block websites that host graphic material following “online crisis events”. The move aims to prevent violent content such as the Christchurch shooting video from spreading on social media, reports the ABC. The block could be in place for about five days. “It's like stemming a wound,” Inman Grant said. “You want to stem it right when it happens.”

In sport, the NRL has suspended its season, after Queensland’s move to impose a 14-day quarantine period on interstate visitors scuttled plans to relocate the entire competition to a small town near Gladstone. The decision comes 24 hours after the AFL also suspended its season, with the A-League expected to follow suit today, with competition chief executive James Johnson to make a “significant announcement regarding the conduct of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season” at 10am AEDT.


This is coercive control – a form of domestic abuse that almost always follows the same script. Perpetrators seek to dominate, and virtually colonise, their victims by isolating them, micromanaging their behaviour, humiliating and degrading them, monitoring their movements, gaslighting them and creating an environment of confusion, contradiction and danger – all held in place by the believable threat of violence. Actual physical violence may be minor, rare or not used at all.”


“There are two ways forward. The Morrison government can either wield the enormous power of the state to regulate behaviour, spend an enormous amount of money and provide clear guidance to the public – or it can let the markets, and the virus, do as they wish. There’s no point aiming for ‘balance’ or a ‘middle ground’. The choice is clear: we can make the public sector a lot bigger or the population a lot smaller.”


“Scott Morrison insists that his message is clear: the government is fully on top of the coronavirus crisis, there is no reason for doubt or uncertainty. Well, up to a point, prime minister. Viewed individually, Morrison’s edicts are indeed firm and unequivocal. If they are taken at face value, there is no room for confusion. But the problem is that, taken together, they are not only confusing but often self-contradictory. As so often with Morrison, there is no overall strategy – simply a series of reactive measures that, he hopes, will do the job unless another one is needed.”


“Australian pharmacies saw a rush of people presenting scripts for the drugs hydroxychloroquine — sold as Plaquenil — and chloroquine from their GPs, or asking to buy it over the counter. Demand skyrocketed following a press conference by US President Donald Trump last week, in which he touted the drugs as a ‘game changer’ ...  pharmacies had seen unprecedented demand for the medications, creating a shortage for patients who actually needed them.”


“If you are in isolation, are over the age of 70, of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, or have a compromised immune systems or chronic health condition, you may be eligible for a free service to deliver medicines to your home … If you’re not eligible for the home medicines service, one way to get your prescription and non-prescription medicines delivered to your home is via an app like mymedkit. This Australian-based company allows you to take a photo of your prescription and upload it into the app, where the script is then filled by your local pharmacy.”


“Boutique parlour bar Dulcie's, in Kings Cross, is devising a delivery model that will potentially offer ‘patrons’ not just cocktails but also takeaway shakers, rentable glassware and access to the in-house playlist for ‘the full Dulcie's experience’ in your living room. Owner Brandon Martignago says this model is not about profit but survival ... ‘This door-to-door delivery service for us would be the difference between weathering the storm or not,’ Mr Martignago said. ‘All of these cocktails would come with proper garnishes, proper descriptions, they would even come with coasters from the bar.’”

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