Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Worst recession since Great Depression

The International Monetary Fund has forecast that Australia’s economy will shrink by 6.7 per cent in 2020, with the world facing a $14 trillion hit in the space of two years. In a baseline projection that assumes the global pandemic peaks in the next three months, the global economy is projected to contract by 3 per cent in 2020, before rebounding by 5.8 per cent the following year. IMF mission chief for Australia, Harald Finger, told The Australian Financial Review that Australia faced recession due to “relatively tight containment measures against COVID-19, the economy’s dependence on commodity and tourism exports, and already high levels of household debt”. The IMF endorsed economic shutdowns and social distancing, warning that COVID-19’s growth must be curbed if economic activity is to resume. If the pandemic continues into next year, the IMF predicts a far deeper recession with further breakdowns of global supply chains. Labor opposition leader Anthony Albanese said the government should respond to difficult economic conditions by reconsidering plans to end the $550 JobSeeker supplement in mid-September.

Staff from a Tasmanian hospital have come forward about alleged shortages of personal protective equipment as the north-west region grapples with a coronavirus crisis. More than a third of the state’s confirmed 165 COVID-19 cases are linked to the North West Regional Hospital, which has been closed for a deep clean. The Mercury reports that Tasmania Police will ($) investigate claims made by Commonwealth chief medical officer Brendan Murphy yesterday that medical staff in Burnie held an “illegal dinner party”, a claim which Murphy later backtracked on. Meanwhile, in a televised message to parents and teachers Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pushed back against union concerns about the safety of returning to face-to-face school classes, saying teachers could join the “great heroes” of Australia returning to work. 

The High Court will make its judgment this morning on whether the Australian Federal Police raid on the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst in 2018 was legal. The raid was justified on claims Smethurst breached the “Official Secrets” law over stories on empowering the Australian Signals Directorate to be allowed to secretly access the data of Australians, which the Morrison government later moved to do. Lawyers for Smethurst say the warrant used should be thrown out as it did not specify the crime and the law it was issued under breached an implied constitutional right to freedom of political communication. Lawyers for the federal government claimed a warrant did not have to specify a charge. Also to be determined is whether material collected by the police should be destroyed or returned.

Cardinal George Pell has characterised the complainant who testified against him as a “poor fellow” who may have been “used”, in an interview with Sky News presenter Andrew Bolt broadcast last night. Pell linked sexual abuse accusations against him to alleged corruption in the Vatican and in Victoria. Bolt was supportive throughout the interview, describing the royal commission into institutional responses to child abuse as “extremely hostile” towards Pell. The interview comes as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian appoints Pell’s lawyer Bret Walker SC to conduct a special inquiry into the cruise ship Ruby Princess, which is expected to report back ahead of a criminal investigation.


“This is not the end of the Pell matter. There is at least one civil case waiting. A redacted chapter – involving the cardinal – of the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will likely be published. There is also the possibility Pell will seek an ex gratia payment from the state of Victoria or sue for malicious prosecution.”


“Greens leader Adam Bandt says this is the moment for Australia to be ambitious in its thinking about the recovery ... ‘I see a debate looming about the pathway out; it will be a choice between blue austerity or green growth,’ he says. ‘The Green New Deal is about borrowing to invest to make more money and grow out of the crisis, versus others who argue the only way is cutting, [which] will only increase the crisis.’”


“To date, the Australian government has approached the coronavirus crisis as largely a domestic one. I have been critical elsewhere of the tardiness of various elements of the national response – both in public health measures and on the economy. However, as this crisis continues, we ignore the foreign policy implications at our peril and to the peril of our region.”


“The coronavirus pandemic has led to an unprecedented global surge in digital surveillance, researchers and privacy advocates around the world have said, with billions of people facing enhanced monitoring that may prove difficult to roll back. Governments in at least 25 countries are employing vast programmes for mobile data tracking, apps to record personal contact with others, CCTV networks equipped with facial recognition, permission schemes to go outside and drones to enforce social isolation regimes.”


“It is feared dozens of regional newspapers across Australia will close temporarily amid a business downturn due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Australian Community Media (ACM) executive chairman Antony Catalano told staff via email that from Monday the company would suspend printing operations in Canberra, Murray Bridge, Wodonga and Tamworth until the end of June … ACM publishes more than 160 newspapers across the country.”


“It was time to go. They made the trek across their territory barefoot, from the spongy mesa of the couch to the bleached tile expanse of the kitchen. The bleach touched everything now.”

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