Thursday, April 16, 2020

Bosses denying workers JobKeeper

Employers are shutting retrenched workers out of the federal government’s $1500 wage subsidy scheme, as legal analysis reveals businesses are not required to nominate all eligible staff. Workers say employers are refusing to rehire them so they can access the JobKeeper payments, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, including two who suspect COVID-19 was used as cover to force redundancies. Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie called for a support hotline to be set up, claiming one sacked worker had been contacted by their former boss offering the payment provided they paid a $600 cut to the employer. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged businesses to look into JobKeeper, but to “seek advice” before considering whether to reverse redundancies. The Australian Financial Review reports that employers ($) may be able to select which employees receive JobKeeper payments, experts say, despite the government claiming this would not be possible.

United States President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend $631 million in payments to the World Health Organisation during the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a wave of international criticism. The United Nations, European Union, and China were among those condemning the suspension, which major WHO donor Bill Gates described was “as dangerous as it sounds”. US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi Nancy Pelosi says the decision will face a challenge. There are fears the move will impact the WHO’s work in co-ordinating vaccine research, procurement of protective equipment, and provision of assistance to help middle and lower-income countries. Meanwhile, the Group of 20 major economies have agreed to suspend debt payments for the world's poorest countries until the end of the year as the world grapples with the crisis. Aid and development organisations argued for the debt to be cancelled, not suspended. There are now more than two million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, the number doubling in just a fortnight.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will push for schools to resume face-to-face learning for the second term at a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders today. State and territory governments are resisting the move, with Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton arguing schools should stick with remote learning for term two. Federal deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth says the cabinet will consider how to make schools safer, but this won't include teachers being made to wear personal protective equipment, with only 2 per cent of all cases in Australia affecting those under 18. State School Teachers Union of WA president Pat Byrne said educators were concerned about a lack of access to protective equipment.

COVID-19 has caused Australia’s biggest-ever population decline, with 300,000 tourists, temporary workers and students leaving the country so far in 2020 ($), reports The Australian. Research finds a further 300,000 people could leave the country by the end of the year, which economists warn could erode consumer demand and cause a housing slump.


“A gap in quarantine processes meant airline passengers potentially infected with coronavirus were able to fan out across the country last month without immediate follow-up in some places, as details from the government’s isolation declaration cards were not universally passed on.”


“The ‘arson emergency’ explanation ... made it possible for some to hold onto their belief that climate change had nothing to do with the catastrophic bushfires. Therefore those people were motivated to seek out reasons to believe in widespread arson and to reject any evidence against it. Arguing against a motivated reasoner is a frustrating experience, and a particularly fruitless one, Tierney suggested. ‘So rather, what we need to do,’ she said, ‘is start thinking about why it is that people would want to believe that global warming isn’t occurring.’”


“Monsignor Charles Portelli was George Pell’s principal opportunity witness. He told the trial he was with Pell elsewhere at the relevant time when the then archbishop was supposedly in the sacristy molesting choirboys. As Mandy Rice-Davies might remark: ‘He would say that, wouldn’t he?’”


“News Corp is calling for an investigation into journalist Annika Smethurst to end after the High Court delivered a partial victory for the political editor in her challenge against the police raid on her home last year. The court unanimously found the warrant executed at Smethurst's home by the Federal Police was unlawful on technical grounds, because it ‘misstated’ relevant criminal laws and was not specific enough about the alleged offences.”


“A victory for journalism? Not quite. News Corp also asked the court to order the police to either return or destroy any evidence collected during the raid. In a decision split 4:3, the judges rejected the request. This effectively allowed the police to still use the evidence for any investigation and prosecution. The reasoning is complex and highly technical, but its overall effect is to undermine the already paper-thin protections for press freedom in Australia.”


“You want to hear something intimidating? Out there in the ocean right now is a lifeform that is longer than the Statue of Liberty is tall, made up of thousands of tiny creatures that are all working together in perfect synchronicity to do one thing: feed.”

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