Business and union leaders have broadly welcomed the Federal Government’s $130 billion wage-subsidy scheme, but there are concerns that it excludes some casual workers and comes too late. More than 8000 employers have already signed up to the scheme, which will provide a flat $1500-a-fortnight payment to businesses and not-for-profits meeting thresholds for income lost to COVID-19 restrictions, to be paid on to employees. Australian Small Business Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the scheme would “ensure small businesses stay connected with their staff” and could bring them back on board when normal conditions return. Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O'Neil told SBS News she was concerned that payments excluded casual workers who hadn’t been with an employer for 12 months, and the money would only begin to be paid from the first week of May, although it would be backdated to March 1. There are also concerns companies may be incentivised to keep workers in idle areas rather than move them to areas of potential growth.
Australians now face some of the heaviest fines in the world for breaching social distancing rules, as most states and territories begin enforcing new punitive measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 from today. There are two sets of fines, with the first covering social distancing rules such as gathering in groups of more than two people. In New South Wales the fine is up to $11,000, in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania it is $1000, while for Victoria it is $1652 and for Queensland $1334. Heavier fines will apply to individuals breaching quarantine, such as travellers returning from overseas or interstate, with up to a $62,000 penalty for the Northern Territory, $50,000 or a year in jail in WA, up to $25,000 in SA, a $19,826 fine in Victoria, $11,000 fine and up to six months’ jail time in NSW, $13,345 in Queensland, and $8000 for offenders in the Australian Capital Territory. Businesses face higher fines for breaches.
Health workers in India are turning hoses onto migrant workers to spray them with disinfectant, as a 21-day lockdown disrupts the lives of day laborers. Unable to work and often living in their workplaces, thousands of migrant laborers have returned to their home villages, with at least 22 people dying on journeys on foot back home that can stretch for thousands of kilometres. The country has reported 901 cases of COVID-19 and 27 deaths. With threats that people breaking the lockdown may be shot on sight or beaten by police, hundreds of Australian travellers stuck in India are asking for government assistance to return.
The rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will run from July 23 to August 8 in 2021, shifting to the same time of year from the original schedule for the Games, which were due to start on July 24 this year. “A certain amount of time is required for the selection and qualification of athletes and for their training and preparation, and the consensus was that staging the rescheduled Games during the summer vacation in Japan would be preferable,” said Tokyo 2020 president Yoshirō Mori.