Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Frydenberg tallies cost of second wave

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will today warn the public that ignoring Covid-19 prevention measures could see lockdown restrictions return at a cost of billions of dollars per week. In a formal address to federal parliament on the day he was due to release the now-delayed 2020-21 budget, Frydenberg will reveal Treasury estimates of a cost of $1.4 billion a week to New South Wales and $1 billion to Victoria, reports The Age, if the states had to reimpose restrictions that are beginning to ease. Health experts have warned SBS News that second waves of the virus in Germany and South Korea after restrictions were relaxed are a cautionary tale for Australia.  Analysis by KPMG to be released today finds that arts and recreation services, retail trade, air transport and the accommodation and cafe sector will take until 2022 to fully recover from the restrictions. 

A report by energy analyst Hugh Saddler finds that reduced economic activity over a five-week period of Australia’s lockdown is likely to have only cut carbon emissions from the national energy grid by only 1 per cent compared with previous years, according to Guardian Australia. Saddler, an honorary associate professor at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy, said energy-hungry mining and manufacturing operations had mostly stayed open, with air-conditioning and lighting continuing to run in shopping centres, offices and hotels despite fewer people using them.

The Coalition party room will meet today by telephone conference call, with Liberal backbenchers calling for the return of mutual obligation rules as the start of cutting back the cost of the JobKeeper wage subsidy of $1500 per fortnight for those in work and the JobSeeker payment of $1100 per fortnight for the unemployed. Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared it "premature" on Monday to change the scheme, although signalled it could be adjusted. Labor leader Anthony Albanese warned on Monday casual workers and skilled foreign workers on visas were missing out on assistance as they were not covered by the JobKeeper scheme.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has eased the country’s lockdown despite Covid-19 infections surging by more than 10,000 per day, with the country recording the third highest number of cases globally at 221,344, reports The Moscow Times. Analysis by The Financial Times finds Russia’s death toll could 70 per cent higher than the official total of 2009, with Moscow and St Petersburg recording 2073 more deaths in April relative to the historical average, yet official Covid-19 deaths in the two cities came to just 629 for the same period. The findings reinforce concerns of a cover-up in Russia, with three medical workers, two of them critical over the country’s Covid-19 response, falling out of windows in recent weeks. Meanwhile in Hong Kong, local police say they arrested 230 people taking part in the weekend’s pro-democracy protests. Chief executive Carrie Lam has promised to reform the city’s education system, arguing its liberal studies curriculum helped fuel last year’s demonstrations.


“Managing director, David Anderson, was to announce a five-year response to the latest round of funding cuts; it was expected job cuts would be in the hundreds, and major changes would be made to operations and programming. But the coronavirus prompted a stay of execution. As one senior ABC journalist puts it: ‘Obviously you don’t want to be telling people they’re losing their jobs on a Zoom conference.’ Anderson’s announcement has been put off until July ... Says another senior employee: ‘Come July, they will say, “You’ve all done very well. But now you’re going to be sacked.”’”


“A three-cornered contest, they warned us – it will be messy and unpredictable. But what did they know? The fiasco of the Eden-Monaro byelection already has at least seven corners, and counting. The only apex approaching stability appears to be Labor’s Kristy McBain, a prominent local who has remained a candidate for almost a fortnight.”


“He knew. When he walked into Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in 1993 beside Gerald Ridsdale, a man facing dozens of counts of indecent assault against boys, George Pell knew the priest had been abusing children in the church. According to redacted findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, he had known it for more than a decade.”


“It got pretty wild. Speakers canvassed theories ranging from the coronavirus numbers being inflated, to 5G causing health issues, to the government trying to microchip citizens. A handful of unruly protesters attacked police … Since it was started on April 8, the group has grown to more than 37,000 members who have made more than 900,000 posts, comments and reactions.”


“‘I understand people’s frustration,’ Morrison said, addressing the protests that saw ten people arrested, one police officer injured, and dozens brazenly flouting the social distancing regulations … That response is a far cry from the one the Prime Minister gave in response to prior protest action surrounding much more serious issues like climate action. In that regard, Morrison went so far as to call protesters ‘anarchists’ while asserting that his Government was working to ‘identify mechanisms that can successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices.’”


“Researchers who study gossip have found that it helps us bond, increases cooperation, and encourages good behavior and self-reflection—all qualities of a good quarantine habit … If you’re struggling to come up with good gossip while quarantined, don't worry about finding huge scoops to share. McAndrew said that since our social lives have diminished, it’s likely that the standards for interesting gossip have gotten lower—even mundane things can now qualify as scintillating.”

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