Monday, July 20, 2020

Casuals face JobKeeper cuts

The Morrison government is planning to announce tightened eligibility requirements for a reduced JobKeeper payment, including the exclusion of casual workers from the full wage subsidy. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Thursday will announce an extension of the wage subsidy until Christmas at a reduced rate of at least $1000-a-fortnight, reports Even if casuals work full-time, the plan would shift them onto a reduced part-time JobKeeper rate. Part-time workers would also be moved onto this payment. A new turnover test would apply when the current scheme ends on September 27, to exclude companies that have recovered from shutdowns. Boosted JobSeeker payments are also expected to be extended, at a lower rate. Economic modelling from The Australia Institute to be released today finds that scrapping JobSeeker in September would force more than 600,000 Australians into poverty.

Face coverings will be mandatory for all residents in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire virus hotspots whenever they leave their homes from 11.59pm on Wednesday night. The rule does not require surgical facemasks, with authorities also allowing for scarves or alternative face coverings. Anyone who fails to wear a mask could be fined $200. Victoria recorded 363 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday. New South Wales Health authorities are also now recommending NSW residents wear masks in public, although the state has not made them mandatory. The NSW government will also establish a new border exclusion zone along the Murray River to further tighten restrictions on interstate travel.  NSW on Sunday reported 18 new cases, five of which were found by testing overseas travellers in quarantine.

A new report from the Doherty Institute claims Victoria’s second surge came despite the state’s residents doing a better job at social distancing than elsewhere in Australia. Professor James McCaw, the University of Melbourne epidemiologist leading the team tracking the pandemic’s spread for national and state government, told The Age the state’s second surge was growing even as data showed Victorians were self-isolating more than people in other states, and that it was caused by a small number of incidents and some bad luck. The Victorian government has admitted "a number of" cases in late May and early June were linked to a hotel quarantine breach. An official inquiry into hotel quarantine opens today. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will today announce that small employers will be granted expanded access to a $40 billion loan scheme to help them through the recession. The expanded loan scheme will offer companies four times the amounts previously allowed up to a new cap of $1 million, extending repayment times from three to five years.

After multiple hospital admissions on Christmas Island following two weeks of abdominal pain, detained Tamil asylum seeker Priya Murugappan has been evacuated by air for medical treatment in Perth. The mother from the detained Biloela Tamil family told SBS News the medical transfer came after nearly 20 days of symptoms that included nearly constant vomiting and severe abdominal pain. She claimed on-site detention centre medical staff from International Health and Medical Services at Christmas Island had only given her Panadol and painkillers. Priya said she had no idea how long she would be on the mainland separated from her family, and that she could not make a video call to her daughters because Australian Border Force had not given her family access to wi-fi at the centre.  


“In the middle of April, a close descendant of the coronavirus strain that first took hold in the Chinese city of Wuhan all but disappeared in Australia. On April 16, this ‘S’ strain was found in a 79-year-old woman in Victoria, but her diagnosis would represent the end of the line for the first wave of the outbreak in Australia. Social distancing had been a success. Lockdown policies starved the virus of venues for large-scale contagion. As this original lineage petered out in Australia, though, newer versions of the virus were taking off in Europe and the United States.”


“Jacinda Ardern’s prospects of winning the upcoming New Zealand election further improved this week after the surprising resignation of the opposition leader, Todd Muller, who held the position for just 53 days ... hours after Muller’s resignation, the National party room elected Judith Collins as leader. Collins, an MP since 2002, is a prominent, tough-talking politician known for her hardline approach to law and order.”


“The buttery emollients that gushed back and forth between Jolly John Kerr and senior palace flunkey Sir Martin Charteris will be a treat for Australia’s gimcrack royalists and accompanying style mavens … Trappings and trivia filled the billets-doux, yet not so far beneath the surface the political groundwork was being laid for the dismissal.”


“Labor has urged the presiding officers of the federal parliament to establish a bipartisan working group to ensure the chambers can continue to sit amid a second wave of Covid-19 infections ... Scott Morrison on Saturday said he had received medical advice from the acting chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, that there was ‘significant risk associated with a meeting of parliament in the context of the increased community transmission of Covid-19 in Victoria and the trends in New South Wales’.”


“In Britain, even at the height of the pandemic crisis, the Parliament was able to come together remotely. On April 21, it approved a motion that would allow members to participate either virtually or physically in the chamber … Why is this too difficult in Australia? Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said it was ‘not practical’ for Parliament to run via video-conferencing.”


“The Government’s high-tech coronavirus tracing app, COVIDSafe, has alerted officials to a potential viral outbreak on a cruise ship called ‘The Ruby Princess’ four months ago. If proven correct, it will be the first case identified by the $2 million app. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the discovery will help authorities track down those potentially infected, stemming the spread of the virus across the country in April and May.”

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