Monday, May 11, 2020

Albanese warns against ‘snap-back’

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese will today warn against a “snap-back” to the problems of pre-coronavirus Australia, calling for a reshaping of the national economy. Albanese will today deliver a broad ranging “vision statement” pushing high-speed rail, decentralised government services to boost regional areas, affordable social housing, and a revitalised manufacturing sector. “Let's not ‘snap back’ to insecure work, to job seekers stuck in poverty, to scientists being ignored", he is expected to say. The call comes as Grattan Institute analysis finds development of a hydrogen-based steel industry, powered by wind and solar resources, could deliver $65 billion in annual export revenue and 25,000 jobs. 

Australia faces the two largest budget deficits in Australian history at more than $130 billion this year and next, according to an economic forecast from Deloitte Access Economics. unemployment is back at 5 per cent. The analysis finds that Australia will suffer a $200 billion (or 10.8 per cent) hit to national income in 2020-21, and won’t return to the sub-5 per cent unemployment rate enjoyed prior to the shutdown until the end of 2024. Deloitte partner Chris Richardson said low interest rates made the debt levels manageable, equating to $3 a week for the average taxpayer. In addition, Deloitte expected net overseas migration to drop to 55,000 in 2020-21.

Former judges and senior public servants have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to urge Australia to follow the United Kingdom and Brazil in employing virtual parliamentary solutions. The group of ten, which Guardian Australia reports includes former high court justice Mary Gaudron and and former department of prime minister and cabinet secretary, Michael Keating, say Australia’s response is “undemocratic and unprecedented” and parliament should still meet. “Individual ministers have been given the power to allocate multibillion dollar discretionary funds and write the rules for major policy response programs,” the group said in the letter. Parliament will sit for three days this week but is not scheduled to reconvene until August.

Victoria will make an announcement later this week on whether to join other Australian states in relaxing restrictions. New South Wales will relax laws from Friday and Western Australia will return to work next Monday. Queensland and NSW schools begin a staggered return today, South Australia will permit outdoor dining, and Tasmania is easing restrictions on funerals and visits to aged-care homes. Restrictions overseas are also being relaxed, although such moves are fanning fears of a second wave of infections. In Germany, infections are accelerating again,  days after its leaders loosened social restrictions including the opening of shops.


“As the Ruby Princess sailed towards Sydney Harbour on the night of March 18, phone calls, emails and text messages flew, including between the ship and the shore ... Late into the night, the conversations went back and forth, a web of interactions that reflects the tangle of responsibilities activated when a cruise ship approaches Australia with sick passengers on board.”


“The creation of a bubble would likely reinstate New Zealand as the largest source of tourists to Australia. New Zealand held this position for about 20 years until last year, when it was overtaken by China. Other parts of the world are also considering creating travel bubbles as they bring Covid-19 under control. China and South Korea have agreed to open travel for business purposes, and countries in eastern Europe may soon allow access to some tourist destinations.”


“The response was clear and immediate. Within minutes of launching the National Museum of Australia’s project to record our collective experiences of the coronavirus, scores of people across the country joined in to share how they were coping with the crisis ... There was a couple in face masks for their wedding photos. A game of Twister amended to comply with social distancing rules. A global online celebration of a young woman’s recently completed PhD. And my favourite – a roll of toilet paper sprayed gold.”


“Diplomatic tensions between Australia and China may be reignited with an extraordinary threat by a Coalition backbencher to summons the Chinese ambassador to answer questions from a parliamentary committee ... Queensland Coalition MP George Christensen, who has a record of threatening to cross the floor, issued the latest threat in his capacity as chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth.”


“China has fired its first shot in an increasingly bitter diplomatic row, threatening to slap major tariffs on Australia's barley exports, that could rip hundreds of millions of dollars from the trade ... Several major Australian grain groups have issued a joint statement today saying the industry understands China is ‘potentially proposing to place tariffs on barley imported from Australia as a result of their ongoing anti-dumping and countervailing duties investigation’.”


“Romance as a genre receives more than its fair share of mockery for, among other things, its overwrought olfactory descriptions. But one Twitter user has spent the past couple of years lovingly chronicling those very descriptions through the Male Scent Catalogue, which documents how authors describe male love interests and their odors.”

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