Thursday, April 09, 2020

JobKeeper package clears Senate

The federal government’s $130 billion JobKeeper legislation has passed both houses of parliament without amendment, meaning eligible workers will receive $1500 fortnightly payments for at least six months. Labor supported the package despite its proposed amendments to extend eligibility to short-term casuals and temporary visa workers rejected. Eligible businesses that have had a minimum 30 per cent hit to revenue due to the COVID-19 shutdown will receive the payment, which they will be obligated to pass on to their employees. Full-time and part-time employees are eligible, as are sole traders, casuals with a one-year link to their employer, and New Zealanders on 444 working visas. Last-minute negotiations with the Australian Council of Trade Unions saw the legislation adjusted to ensure workers who have their hours cut can request time to work a second job, with the Fair Work Commission able to rule on worker disputes. In addition the Senate established a Labor-chaired select committee to monitor the government’s response to the pandemic, with parliament scheduled to resume in August. 

A database that tracks consumption patterns of Australians found that online wagering increased by 67 per cent during the past week and alcohol and tobacco purchases increased by 33 per cent. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the data has experts concerned that the economic downturn and social restrictions Australians are currently living under could see a rise in harmful and addictive behaviours. Addictions expert Dr Stephen Bright said there was a link between social isolation, drinking, and gambling. “People drink more when they're stressed and anxious,” he said. “You might be thinking smart before you’ve had a few drinks but after a couple you think ‘I'll chuck a couple of hundred on and see what happens’.” The news comes as authorities urge Australians to abandon Easter holiday travel plans. New South Wales Arts minister Don Harwin was caught staying ($) at his Pearl Beach holiday home on the Central Coast in defiance of the call.

The ABC has temporarily pulled its documentary series Revelation from its online streaming service and is re-editing the program, in the wake of the high court’s decision to quash Cardinal George Pell’s sexual abuse conviction. The program included details of allegations against Cardinal George Pell. The decision comes as the ABC comes under sustained criticism by conservative commentators including Andrew Bolt who claim the ABC colluded with Victoria police to have Pell charged.

United States senator Bernie Sanders is suspending his presidential campaign, after suffering a string of losses to former US vice-resident Joe Biden. Sanders congratulated Biden and said he would work with him to bring forward progressive reforms. Biden can now turn his attention to taking on President Donald Trump, who is currently embroiled in a fight with the World Health Organisation. After Trump threatened to pull funding from the global health body over the COVID-19 response, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned global leaders about politicising the COVID-19 outbreak “if you don’t want to have many more body bags”. The dispute comes as the US Customs and Border Protection halts exports of respirators, surgical masks and surgical gloves. Worldwide, the number of cases continues to climb, approaching 1.5 million as the death toll exceeds 85,000.


“It’s the silence that terrifies front-line family violence workers the most. A national lockdown, coupled with a shattered economy and tens of thousands of jobs lost, has created a new type of uneasy quiet. Many victims are now inside the home with their abuser almost all day, every day.”


“The people who have actually been issued fines are not the Portsea or Rushcutters Bay set. Sex workers and brothels were among the first to be fined, while the first case to go before a court in NSW over a breach of Covid-19 restrictions was no silvertail either. The man, who was issued a fine for breaching a self-isolation order, and then breached it a second time, had a long history of mental health and substance abuse issues. The magistrate, mercifully, did not throw the book at him, but imposed a $600 fine and a 12-month community correction order, rather than jail time.”


“When Leigh Robb, curator of the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres, realised the exhibition she had worked on, solidly, for two years would likely close just three weeks after opening, she immediately went into documentation mode. ‘It became a race against time,’ she says, ‘to capture as much as we could before everything shut down.’”


“Detectives have raided the Ruby Princess cruise ship to seize evidence and question crew members about the docking and disembarkation of passengers in Sydney three weeks ago. The vessel is linked to hundreds of COVID-19 cases and more than a dozen deaths across Australia. NSW detectives wearing personal protective equipment boarded the vessel at Port Kembla on Wednesday night to gather evidence about how hundreds of passengers aboard were allowed to leave the ship on March 19.”


“An Australian Border Force officer instructed a Sydney harbour master to allow the troubled Ruby Princess to dock despite as many as 140 passengers in isolation on board, official sources said … the harbour master was told by the Border Force officer that she needed to check with a supervisor and 15 minutes later, she called back and said the ship could dock.”


“A technical fault around the daylight savings switch reportedly saw the station play the riff from a Thornhill song for nearly five hours on repeat in the Northern Territory on Sunday morning. ‘The Northern Territory doesn’t mess around with daylight savings,’ triple j Content Director Ollie Wards said in a statement. ‘So while some states had a nice soft sleep in on Sunday, we figured our hardcore listeners in the NT would be up for some metalcore. On repeat. All morning.’”

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