Monday, March 29, 2021

Workers brace for JobKeeper’s end

Hundreds of thousands of Australians are today waking up to an uncertain future, with a surge in job losses expected following the expiry of the JobKeeper wage subsidy on Sunday. Treasury has estimated up to 150,000 jobs may be lost this week, while labour market economist Professor Jeff Borland warns the number could be as high as 250,000. According to the Australian Tax Office, more than one million employees were still relying on the wage subsidy at the end of January. Those who lose their jobs can likely shift to JobSeeker, however that will be reduced from its peak of $1115.70 to $620.80 a fortnight from Wednesday. There are concerns the cuts to support will further the gap between rich and poor, with new analysis by SGS Economics finding lower socio-economic regions of Sydney and Melbourne suffered greater job losses than wealthier areas during the pandemic. But some economic indicators are showing positive signs, with job advertisements increasing by 7 per cent in February. It comes as Labor MP Andrew Leigh proposes that publicly listed companies be forced to disclose exactly how much they received in JobKeeper payments.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval has taken a hit in the latest Newspoll, with his satisfaction rating falling from 62 per cent to 55 per cent in the space of two weeks. The survey found no change in Labor’s 52-48 per cent two-party preferred lead, although the Coalition’s primary vote rose one point to 40 per cent. The results come after weeks dominated by news of Morrison’s handling of sexual assault allegations made against his colleagues in Parliament. More allegations have surfaced, with The Australian reporting that Nationals MP Anne Webster made a complaint against someone who harassed her, and Labor has referred to the Australian Federal Police an anonymous sexual assault allegation concerning a senior Labor figure.

The Federal Parliament and Nine Entertainment are both grappling with crippling IT disruptions, though it is unclear whether the two cyber attacks are linked. The disruption at Parliament left many of the building’s occupants without access to email across the weekend. The ABC reports that the attack on an external provider linked to the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) was not sophisticated and the system shut down as intended. The Australian Signals Directorate is working with DPS to investigate the issue. It comes as Nine Entertainment was hit by an attack that forced the abandonment of live broadcasts from Sydney during Sunday morning, which were replaced with either pre-recorded or interstate content. iTnews reports that ransomware is believed to be the cause of the problem. 

The Covid-19 pandemic is reaching grim new heights in South America, where Brazil’s health system is on the verge of collapse. Last week, Brazil set new records of more than 100,000 new Covid-19 cases confirmed in a single day, 3650 deaths in a single day, and total deaths exceeding the 300,000 mark. Intensive care units are close to capacity and oxygen supplies at hospitals are running low. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has attracted criticism for playing down the threat of the virus, pushing back against lockdowns, and overseeing a slow vaccine rollout. Mexico meanwhile has acknowledged that the country’s true death toll from the coronavirus pandemic now stands above 321,000, almost 60 per cent more than the official test-confirmed number of 201,429.

The plight of the platypus
The platypus is one of Australia’s most iconic and intriguing animals, but like so much of our natural wildlife it’s under threat. Today, James Bradley on what makes the platypus so special and whether we’re at risk of a future without them.

“By 2012, locals, who referred to the special forces as ‘bearded devils’, were aware of at least intermittent Taliban activity in the area, so Lalai stayed inside for safety’s sake. Soon afterwards, four soldiers – three Australian and one Afghan – forced their way inside his house. ‘I knew that you’re supposed to put your hands up in these situations. I put my hands up and they shot me here,’ he says, pointing to his left bicep. Still standing, he continued slowly towards the soldiers until one, holding his rifle like a weightlifter clutches a barbell, rammed it into his face.” 

“Government officials are refusing to answer key questions about what they did after Brittany Higgins’ alleged 2019 rape, suggesting police may now be investigating the incident’s aftermath.
ACT Policing will not say if it is actively examining other potential offences, but a blanket of secrecy has been thrown over all aspects of the alleged incident, including how government officials responded after what was first reported as a ‘security breach’.”

“I felt elation and deflation in equal parts when a friend messaged me that the Dark Mofo festival in Tasmania had cancelled the controversial performance Union Flag by artist Santiago Sierra. Like so many other First Nations peoples exposed to Dark Mofo’s promotional material, I’d been vexed, stressed and upset by the advertisement announcing: ‘WE WANT YOUR BLOOD.’ With Union Flag, the Spanish artist had proposed to drench the British flag in the blood of First Nations peoples from territories colonised by the British Empire. As is typical with Sierra’s work, the advert was devised to elicit unease, discomfort and outrage.”

“A young man who tested positive to Covid-19 in Queensland held a house party for about 25 people after being told to isolate. Queensland Health released a list of venues attended by the Strathpine man, who is aged in his 20s. ‘More locations may be added after it was revealed the Strathpine man hosted a gathering of around 25 at his home between being instructed to isolate and getting his positive test results,’ Queensland Health said.”

“When a Strathpine man in his 20s tested positive for Covid-19, authorities reported that he threw a party for 25 people while awaiting his result. But less than 24 hours later, it was found that was not the case and, in fact, he was at home with his four roommates and one other person. The man in question, who is currently in a Brisbane hospital, has asked for privacy, saying the situation has ‘caused him a great deal of stress’. So how did authorities get it so wrong?”

“Pulling on a thread from his boss’s jumper, Coalition backbencher Andrew Laming decided he hadn’t been getting enough attention recently and, in the modern politician’s equivalent of a toddler throwing poop at a wall, posted some old-school racism on Facebook. The Queensland MP – who once had to fire a 20-year-old staff member for being racist on social media – did as the kids do and was also racist on social media: ‘Deny it’s Australia Day,’ he posted. ‘That’ll help petrol sniffing and school attendance in remote Australia.’”

“Once upon a time I decided to train a neural net to generate pickup lines … ‘I’m losing my voice from all the screaming your hotness is causing me to do ... You have the most beautiful fangs I’ve ever seen ... I love you. I don’t care if you're a doggo in a trenchcoat ... I have exactly 4 stickers. I need you to be the 5th.’”

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