Friday, May 15, 2020

Leaders plan mental health response

The national cabinet of federal and state leaders will today consider the mental health impacts of the pandemic and economic crisis, which experts fear could overshadow deaths from the virus itself. The plan will see more ($) data on mental health shared between states, territories and service providers, and potentially link Lifeline with emergency responders. A new deputy chief medical officer, former Victorian chief psychiatrist Dr Ruth Vine, has been appointed to inform the response to mental health. The Victorian government will push for the mental health crisis to be treated as seriously as the virus, reports The Age, as it publishes scientific modelling today predicting that without urgent action an extra 370,000 Victorians will seek treatment in three years due to mental health problems related to the crisis. Professor Patrick McGorry, who was behind the modelling, wants to see funding for home-based care and pop-up adult mental health hubs. Lifeline 13 11 14

The national cabinet will also consider the economic impact of the pandemic as states continue to lift restrictions today, with New South Wales allowing limited public and private gatherings, dining out, and the opening of some beaches. NSW tourism minister Stuart Ayres has accused other states of holding back the economic recovery through border closures, calling on Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania to scrap travel bans by July 1. NSW is Australia's worst-affected Covid-19 state, representing almost 40 per cent of infections, but also provides the largest number of interstate tourists. The restrictions have disrupted AFL planning for a competition restart. The league will detail its fixture for the first four weeks today, and the NRL will announce its schedule ($) for at least the next two rounds.

The Fair Work Commission is considering the deferral ($) of minimum wage increases for companies operating under the JobKeeper scheme. According to The Australian, the plan could see wage rises delayed for up to six months, with the Australian Chamber of Commerce urging the commission to keep the minimum wage at $740.80 a week for a full year to preserve jobs through the crisis. The ACTU is lobbying for a $30-a-week, or 4 per cent, increase, warning a delay would impact the economic recovery. “Local businesses will rely on how much working people have available to spend in order to get back on their feet,” an ACTU spokesperson said.

More than 140 current and former world leaders have signed a letter calling for next week’s World Health Assembly to agree that any eventual Covid-19 vaccines and treatments be available to all free of charge. The signatories, which include South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, warn against vaccine patents and encourage the sharing of science between nations. The letter comes as French pharmaceutical company Sanofi experienced a local backlash after announcing it would reserve first shipments of any Covid-19 vaccine for the United States, which is helping fund the research.


“As an immunocompromised primary school teacher juggling care of her own at-risk child at home with the preparation of online-learning classes for hundreds of students, Tina faces many challenges in this moment. But there’s one in particular she can’t quite get over.”


“Many Australians hoped that Morrison’s three expanding rounds of COVID-related stimulus in March signalled that he and Frydenberg were suddenly less worried about debt and deficit than they were about jobs and growth. But that, it turned out, was just a plot twist in the tawdry tale of Australian governments’ romance with neoliberal theory since the 1980s. It’ll be back to the new normal soon, Morrison and Frydenberg are saying, so we can look forward to stagnant wages sliding into job losses and misery all round. The only growth we’ll see is in inequality.”


“The patient is tired to her bones. A doctor’s heels click down the corridor. A baby starts crying. The patient waits. The patient’s doctor takes her blood pressure, sitting and then standing. Looks in her ears, at her throat. Asks if she’s under stress at the moment. If she is anxious. If she’s vegetarian. He doesn’t say he doesn’t know what’s wrong.”


“Australia’s unemployment rate jumped a full percentage point after 594,300 workers were forced out of jobs by the coronavirus pandemic in April. The latest ABS data show unemployment hit 6.2 during the month, up considerably from the 5.2 per cent recorded in March.”


“Dr Jim Stanford from the Australia Institute's Centre for Future Work says 750,000 Australians were counted as ‘employed’ last month even though they didn’t work a single hour. He says if you add the number of people who left the labour force with the number of officially unemployed people, along with the hundreds of thousands of people who were paid but didn’t work at all, the unemployment rate would be closer to 15 per cent. And if you included the dramatic decline in hours worked ... the truer unemployment rate would be 20 per cent.”


“From above, a lone figure with a backpack can be seen peering down at a brown river that flows at the bottom of what appears to be a deep desert canyon. Los Angeles–based travel photographer Erin Sullivan did not not ride a helicopter or use a drone to get this remarkable aerial view. She used stacks of pancakes.”

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