What we learned on Thursday 9 April

We’ll leave it here for tonight. I’ll be back first thing tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow our global coverage for all the latest.

Here’s what we learned today:

  • Australia recorded its lowest number of new cases in three weeks, with 96 people diagnosed since the last update, nationally. It was the first time in three weeks Australia’s new cases have dropped below 100.
  • One man, 76, from regional South Australia, died on Wednesday night in Royal Adelaide hospital.
  • Officers investigating the Ruby Princess boarded the ship overnight and “seized” the ship’s black box equivalent, the New South Wales police commissioner, Mick Fuller, said.
  • The federal education minister, Dan Tehan, ordered independent schools to reopen and provide in-person education to children whose parents want it in term two. Tehan said he would make independent schools’ funding contingent on complying with the order.
  • The NRL said it would resume its season on 28 May, but it’s still unclear in what form it will happen. It came on the same day the game’s free-to-air broadcaster, Channel Nine, issued a withering statement slamming the management of the game.
  • The Block star Scott Cam has agreed to forgo his $345,000 salary as Australia’s “national careers ambassador”. The employment minister, Michaelia Cash, said Cam had agreed to give up his salary given his “role has fundamentally changed” in the midst of Covid-19.
  • Virgin Australia suspended all of its domestic flights except one between Sydney and Melbourne. The company said it was a commercial decision driven by lack of demand.


NSW minister Don Harwin reportedly fined for breaching Covid-19 orders

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the New South Wales arts minister, Don Harwin, has been fined for breaching the state’s public health orders.

It has been a bad 24 hours for Harwin. The Telegraph reported today that he’d been commuting to his property on the central coast, despite the Berejiklian government urging the public to delay non-essential travel.

Harwin had relocated to the property on 13 March, before travel restrictions came into place, but had travelled back to Sydney during that period.

In a statement on Thursday, Harwin said he had been “working remotely” from his holiday home prior to the public health orders coming into effect.

“I took advice from my department officials about the public health order to ensure I adhered to the guidelines during this period,” said Mr Harwin, whose ministerial responsibilities include the arts, Aboriginal affairs and being special minister of state.

While I was assured I was compliant with the guidelines, I apologise to the premier and the people of NSW.

Don Harwin has been fined. Story shortly on @dailytelegraph

— Anna Caldwell (@annacaldwell) April 9, 2020


Scott Cam forgoes careers ambassador salary amid pandemic

My colleague Paul Karp has been dutifully chasing down news that Scott Cam has decided to forgo his salary as the government’s “national careers ambassador”. The gig would have seen the Block star paid $345,000 for 15 months. And the news is true!

The employment and skills minister, Michaelia Cash, said in a statement that given Cam’s role had “fundamentally changed” since the Covid-19 outbreak, he had decided to forgo his salary. Rest assured, though, that he “remains committed to his role as the national careers ambassador”.

Cash’s statement:

The spread of Covid-19 has changed the way Australians work, train and study. The nature of the role of National Careers Ambassador has also changed with face to face events needing to be cancelled.

Mr Cam will continue to work with the Australian Government and the National Careers Institute to amplify online training opportunities and engage with Australians through digital mediums and more content delivered and supported by Mr Cam is continuing to roll out both presently and throughout the remainder of this year and into next year. As his role has fundamentally changed, Mr Cam has also volunteered to forgo his salary payments moving forward but remains committed to his role as the National Careers Ambassador.


My goodness, this video – on how Covid-19 has changed all of our lives so profoundly – is really something.

It’s a must watch, I’d say. Particularly for us in Australia. With the number of new cases dropping and some sections of the media questioning why we’re enduring this lockdown, it’s a timely reminder of how different things could be and how quickly that could happen.


Rugby Australia’s chief executive, Raelene Castle, will take a 50% pay cut as the code continues to work on an agreement over player payments.

No resolution was reached before the start of Easter, as planned discussions with the Rugby Union Players’ Association on Thursday were postponed after a Rugby Australia director fell ill.

AAP reports that both sides are looking to advance the situation and will resume talks on Saturday morning.

Rugby Australia is believed to have asked the players to take a 65% pay cut until the end of September.

The players’ association is still working its way through information-sharing and clarity on Rugby Australia’s cash flows, after last weekend receiving the details it had been asking for.

Players at three of the four Australian Super Rugby franchises are believed to be due payment shortly after the Easter break.

While Castle has taken a 50% pay cut, her executives are taking 30%. The cash-strapped governing body last week stood down 75 per cent of its non-player workforce, after announcing a $9.4m loss.


Western Australia reports 14 new cases of Covid-19 today, bringing the state’s total to 495.

Of the new confirmed cases, 10 are from metropolitan Perth, two from the Kimberley, one from the goldfields region and the other from the wheatbelt.

WA’s department of health says 10 of the new cases are related to cruise ships and overseas travel. Four are close contacts of confirmed cases.

WA has 34 confirmed Covid-19 patients in Perth metropolitan hospitals, and of those 15 are in intensive care.


Via AAP, here’s some detail on the virtual masses that will replace traditional Easter festivities as Christians observe their holiest day on the calendar amid coronavirus restrictions.

Social distancing rules have been eased to allow places of worship to organise Easter service broadcasts and webcasts, but ceremonies will take place in near-empty places of worship across the nation.

Anglican archbishop Glenn Davies will lead prayers for health workers in a televised Easter service at St Andrew’s cathedral in Sydney.

Dean Kanishka Raffel will preach from the pulpit, book-ended by songs performed by the trimmed-down cathedral choir.

The service will air at 9am across Australia on Sunday on Channel 9.

St Andrew’s Sunday mass normally attracts about 400 people, Raffel says. But tourists and devout or irregular church-goers swell those numbers into the thousands for Easter, he adds.

And via social media, Dr Davies’ service is expected to lure many more, curious ears.

Raffel told AAP:

I think people are a bit shy. They’re not ready to make the commitment with their feet but may want to dip their toe in online.

Just around the corner, Catholic archbishop Anthony Fisher will be broadcast preaching Good Friday and Easter Sunday mass on Channel 7.

The archbishop kicked off Holy Week, which marks the end of Lent and climaxes with commemorations of the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday, with a livestream on Palm Sunday.

He said in a video that to talk about the resurrection and its message of hope might seem crass when people were suffering due to the coronavirus.

Scott Morrison’s church, the Pentecostal Horizon, will be posting a string of videos online over the long weekend, while Orthodox churches have switched to live-streaming mass in the lead up to Pascha on 19 April.

Australian Greek Orthodox was the first church to lock down its congregation in response to the Covid-19 threat.


Here’s Labor’s response to foreign minister Marise Payne’s comments earlier today about flights to bring Australians stranded overseas home.

Payne said a Qantas service from Lima to Australia was scheduled to depart Peru on Monday 13 April, while the government was working on further flights from locations including India and the Phillipines.

Labor welcomes the Foreign Minister’s announcement that she’s taking some more active steps to support stranded Australians getting to safety.

Delays in taking these steps - that were always going to be necessary – have been putting the health & safety of Australians at risk. pic.twitter.com/tXgO1RrUaB

— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) April 9, 2020


Health minister Greg Hunt urging Australians to stay home over the Easter long weekend.

This Easter long weekend will be one we can look back on with great pride if we stay home, help flatten the curve and help save lives.

Below is a brief message of thanks & encouragement to all Australians - Let that unbreakable Aussie spirit continue to shine through! pic.twitter.com/zENqRWgI8e

— Greg Hunt (@GregHuntMP) April 9, 2020

Not even Scott Cam is immune to Covid-19 job losses.

Sky News can confirm Scott Cam will not be taking a salary as Skills Ambassador because of COVID-19. @SenatorCash saying -

“As his role has fundamentally changed, Mr Cam has also volunteered to forgo his remaining salary payments over the coming months.” #auspol

— Annelise Nielsen (@annelisenews) April 9, 2020

Police in Western Australia will investigate whether Fremantle Dockers star Nat Fyfe breached restrictions by surfing in Margaret River.

After the West Australian newspaper reported the AFL player had been photographed surfing, the WA police minister Chris Dawson said police would investigate.

“I think that’s something for Nat himself to answer, in terms of, whether he’s done the right or wrong thing,” he said.

“Police will investigate that matter but on the face of it there are questions to be answered.

“An essential service is not surfing unless you are a professional surfer, I’ll leave it at that.”

It’s worth noting that policy contradicts other states, where surfing has been classified by police as legitimate exercise.

Independent Schools Victoria has blasted a decision by Dan Tehan to threaten schools’ funding if they do not all open their doors in term two.

The chief executive of ISV, Michelle Green, said:

Victorian independent schools have been placed in an impossible position. They are caught between conflicting advice from state and federal authorities.

This week ISV strongly encouraged the 220 independent schools in Victoria to follow the direction of the Victorian government when it announced that, following advice from the chief health officer, “all Victorian government primary, secondary and special schools will move to remote and flexible learning and teaching”.

The Victorian government’s advice was that all children who can learn at home must learn from home – with exceptions only in extremely limited circumstances.

Many Victorian independent schools had already decided to take this course of action, even before the state government’s announcement.

Today, the federal government told these same schools they had to provide on-site learning facilities for the children of all parents who want it – not just the children of emergency service and health workers.

They were warned that their federal funding was conditional on them following the government’s direction.

This has left teachers, parents and, ultimately, their students confused and frustrated at a time of extraordinary stress.

I have alerted the federal minister to the practical implications of his announcement and pressed him for urgent clarification.


Virgin Australia suspends all but one domestic flight

As Josh mentioned a little earlier, Virgin Australia has suspended all of its flights except one between Sydney and Melbourne.

I’ve now got its statement. The company says this is basically a decision based on demand. The company will continue to operate local and international cargo transport as well as charter flights for Australians trapped overseas.

A spokeswoman for Virgin said:

We continue to monitor passenger numbers and adjust our capacity requirements as necessary. As a result of government restrictions, less people are travelling and we have made changes to our schedules to reflect this.

We continue to operate a daily service between Melbourne and Sydney, provide cargo transport locally and overseas, and operate charter flights including assisting the government in bringing Australians home.


In the meantime, the Tasmanian government has said today that it will use helicopters to monitor people’s movement over the Easter long weekend.

The apple isle has had tough Covid-19 rules limiting movement for some time, but today the premier, Peter Gutwein, told residents that if they left their homes unnecessarily over the long weekend, they could face fines of up to $16,800 or six months’ jail.

Patrols will be increased in the state’s north-west, where an outbreak of Covid-19 has hit two hospitals. Gutwein said:

To be frank, the gloves [have] come off. We are going to police this. The period of education is over.


Good evening. This is Michael McGowan, taking over from Josh Taylor. I’ll get you some more on that Virgin announcement as soon as I can.

Virgin Australia has suspended all its flights except one between Sydney and Melbourne.

The dreams of many were dashed this week when NRL island was taken away from us all, but maybe there’s hope yet for UFC island?

UFC is close to securing a private island to stage fights, President Dana White said https://t.co/I1hViYoIL3 pic.twitter.com/9P568TtT8A

— Reuters (@Reuters) April 9, 2020

The PM’s Easter message, telling people to stay home.

Prime Minister's Easter Message @ScottMorrisonMP #auspol pic.twitter.com/TwwsFfz6fI

— Political Alert (@political_alert) April 9, 2020

On the restart of the NRL season at the end of May:

“The details on the competition structure we haven’t got yet because the landscape is changing around government boundaries. That will feed into the complexity structure,” said ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce, who is also a member of the NRL’s innovation committee.

Today what we landed on was a starting date. We haven’t finalised what that [competition] looks like yet. Why we want to firm up a date is to give certainty to players and their schedules, clubs and thousands of people who are out of work through clubs, and millions of fans.

It’s a mark for everyone to work towards that’s associated with the game.

Pearce suggested the proposal to split the league into conferences was off the table.

We’re leaning towards a competition structure that looks more aligned with what we’ve currently got. We’re not going to the conference scenario at the moment.

We’ve currently got support from the NSW government in terms of if we adhere to public health guidelines and make sure our players follow those guidelines, we are able to train and play, provided we have strict measures around testing the players and put other protocols in place to minimise the risk of infection within the playing group and community.


WA premier Mark McGowan is talking after national cabinet.

He says there will be monthly reviews on the restrictions currently in place, but he doesn’t want to pre-empt the outcome of those reviews.

“We’re certainly not guinea pigs,” he says on whether WA could be a test ground for other states.

But he says WA was stronger in its initial response.


Restrictions to be 'reviewed regularly', national cabinet agrees

Here’s the latest from national cabinet via a press release from the prime minister’s office (no press conference):

  • Social distancing measures are working, we’ll be living for the virus for at least six months
  • Stay at home over Easter
  • The suppression phase will last a while: “Restrictions will be reviewed regularly and planning for the medium- to long-term has begun”
  • National cabinet to meet again in a week (April 16)
  • There will be a consistent and immediate exemption for non-cruise maritime crew to be transiting to and from work and across jurisdictions with documentation
  • Air crew on international flights will need to self-isolate in their home or hotel if not local city between flights for 14 days
  • Domestic air crew stay exempt except where a state or territory specifically prohibits entry
  • National cabinet agrees for consistent “hardship” responses for utilities, including telcos, energy companies etc
  • Flexible payment offers should be offered to all households and small businesses in financial stress
  • No disconnections
  • Deferring debt recovery/credit default listing
  • Waiving late fees and interest charges on debt
  • Minimising planned outages and giving as much notice as possible for that which can’t be avoided
  • And work between the states and the federal government around seasonal workers. States are responsible for the self-isolation requirements for those wanting to go pick fruit in regional areas
  • There’s been no change to the requirements previously announced around that.


NRL to return on 28 May

The NRL season will recommence in late May, but it’s still unclear in what form it will happen.

#BREAKING: The NRL has announced a competition restart date of May 28. #9News pic.twitter.com/e5uwbe0fAj

— Nine News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) April 9, 2020


Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson is calling for road blocks on the Great Ocean Road to force people to stay home this long weekend. @Kieran_Gilbert

— David Sharaz (@DavidSharaz) April 9, 2020

Victoria police made 54 arrests in the CBD in the past week of people attempting to rob stores that were shut during the pandemic.

And 110 people caught up on other offences were also given a fine for breaching the stay at home orders.


NBN Co has just put out its latest report on how much internet we’re using while stuck at home.

It’s interesting. You’d think that it would keep going up as more and more people are home, but in the past week there has been a stabilisation, and a slight decline in evening “busy” hours.

NBN Co has taken about 40,000 activation orders in the past two weeks with people seeking to get connected, and a lot of people are upgrading their speed plans. The vast bulk are on 50Mbps, but about 16% of new orders are at the 100Mbps tier.

Let’s see what happens over the long weekend with a lot of people stuck at home and not going away for the break.


Protest planned by unions over jobkeeper

There’s due to be a car convoy on the Sydney Harbour Bridge this afternoon – organised by the Maritime Union of Australia Sydney branch and the NSW CFMMEU construction division, among others – protesting against jobkeeper leaving millions of workers out.

It’ll cross the bridge at 4pm and head up to NSW parliament and NRMA headquarters.

Not sure how NSW police will respond to this and if it will consider it an activity within the guidelines for people to be out of the house. We shall see.

The unions want jobkeeper extended to those left out, and for sackings and stand downs of workers in the private ferry business in Sydney to be stopped.

They also say it is racist and unacceptable to direct international students and migrant workers to leave Australia, and they should get support, too.


Good afternoon everyone.

I’ve been looking into the ongoing conspiracy theory linking 5G to coronavirus. Facebook has already started removing content linking the two, and I’ve observed that YouTube search results are favouring official sources disproving the claims rather than all the conspiracy videos.

The communications minister, Paul Fletcher, even wrote to YouTube expressing concern about it.

But where did it all come from? This from Wired is a very interesting read.

It started with one doctor. On 22 January, Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws published an interview with Kris Van Kerckhoven, a general practitioner from Putte, near Antwerp. “5G is life-threatening, and no one knows it,” read the headline. One scientifically baseless claim in this article, published in a regional version of the paper’s print edition and since deleted from its website, sparked a conspiracy theory firestorm that has since torn through the internet and broken out into the real world, resulting in fires and threats. Van Kerckhoven didn’t just claim that 5G was dangerous. He also said it might be linked to coronavirus.


On that note, I am going to hand you over to Josh Taylor for the rest of today.

Please take care, and try to squeeze in some at-home fun in between all the isolation drudgery this Easter.

Stay safe and take care of you. I’ll be back Monday.


Marise Payne on flights bringing Australians home

Marise Payne’s office has released some more information on those flights:

“A Qantas service from Lima to Australia is scheduled to depart Peru on Monday 13 April. Subject to confirmation of regulatory and operational approvals, the details of commercial services to Buenos Aires and Johannesburg will be confirmed in the coming days.

“This is in addition to a flight organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with South American airline LATAM, which departed from Lima, Cusco and Iquitos in Peru today. We are pleased that 280 Australians and four New Zealanders are scheduled to arrive in Melbourne tomorrow morning.

“We are also working on facilitated flights from further destinations in the coming weeks, including to India and the Philippines.

“Border closures and internal restrictions on movement in many countries around the world, along with the complexity of arranging such flights, should not be underestimated. Australian officials are working closely with relevant governments to support Australians to travel internally to major airports and gain the necessary flight approvals and airport clearances in locations where Australian airlines do not typically fly.

“These further flights are the latest outcome of the hard work of Australia’s consular and diplomatic staff and Australia’s airlines to assist Australians overseas. It follows the return of more than 280,000 Australians in recent weeks, including more than 6,200 Australians who have safely disembarked 45 cruise ships around the world.

“Details for these latest flights will be confirmed in coming days, with information provided directly to registered travellers. As they are commercial services, passengers are responsible for purchasing tickets.

“The Australian government will, where possible, support non-scheduled commercial services to further locations to bring Australians home where there are few other options to depart.”


Seems like a particular social service may be getting a lot of calls today. Which goes to show just how desperate people are right now for reassurance they’ll be getting help, and for answers.

Legislation for JobKeeper Payment has now passed.

There’s no need to call or visit us - If you think you might be eligible for the payment, we’d urge you to speak to your employer. This payment will be paid to your employer through the @ato_gov_au. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/HwmXZqRqOA

— Services Australia (@ServicesGovAU) April 8, 2020


Katy Gallagher has responded on behalf of Labor to the commonwealth public servant wage freeze:

This decision will come as a disappointment for the public servants working hard to protect the safety and welfare of Australians through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Across the country, public servants are on the frontlines – from staff working in Centrelink offices and the ATO to deliver economic support measures, to those leading our national health response, to scientists at the CSIRO working on a cure.

We thank public servants for their significant contribution working on the frontline in the ongoing response to Covid-19.


For anyone who may have missed the earlier announcement and needs the information:

A new, dedicated support service designed to help all Australians cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health and wellbeing launched today. The free Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service is available at https://t.co/ufGTZlcnRh pic.twitter.com/CtJHIsCRnK

— Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) April 9, 2020


Here is one of those flights Marise Payne was talking about:

Good news. Wheels up on a @LATAM_CHI ✈️ leaving Santiago 🇨🇱 for Melbourne Australia 🇦🇺, returning hundreds of stranded Aussies from Peru. We are working hard to inform remaining Aussies of flight options as they become available. @embauslima pic.twitter.com/RfrHobWftf

— Todd Mercer (@AusEmbCL) April 9, 2020


It seems like national cabinet is about to break for the day (it will regroup after the weekend) but it doesn’t look like we will be getting a press conference from Scott Morrison.

That is not unusual. He has only been standing up when he has something to say, which means the announcement can’t be too big today.


'Call me Covid-19!'

Not sure we should be making coronavirus a friend, but if it helps your kids understand whats going on, you’ll find some materials here:

We developed a new animation and accompanying ebook to help parents talk to their young children about #COVID19au. Find out more https://t.co/N2mSRi9hpF pic.twitter.com/Q9EJKgFDcZ

— Queensland Department of Education (@QLDEducation) April 8, 2020


The ACT has recorded one other case, a man in his 50s who contracted the virus while overseas.

ACT daily briefing: Health Minister Stephen-Smith says no confirmation of community transmission in #Canberra.


An ICU nurse has tested positive for COVID-19. Early investigation suggests it's likely they got it from a close contact recently returned from OS, not hospital.

— Anna Vidot (@AnnaVidot) April 9, 2020

The Australian has an update on the Don Harwin story which was broken by the Daily Telegraph this morning:

From the Oz:

Under-fire NSW minister Don Harwin has been hosting a young former Liberal party candidate – who recently returned on a flight from the UK – at his Central Coast holiday home for the past three weeks in spite of strict social distancing and isolation restrictions.

The startling revelation comes as the state’s premier, Gladys Berejiklian, conceded she had been aware her special minister of state had left Sydney for his coastal retreat but had failed to address the situation – before finally demanding he return to the capital on Thursday.

It is understood that lawyer Geoffrey Winters, who contested the seat of Sydney at the 2016 election, made a beeline for Harwin’s $1.3m Pearl beach pad after returning on a flight from London on 17 March.

All returning Australian travellers were required to self-isolate at their own home for 14 days at the time Winters arrived back in the country – little more than a week before the government issued an edict making it mandatory for all newly returned Australians to undergo a two-week quarantine at a hotel.


The Queensland Property Council has welcomed the Palaszczuk government’s decision to refund the last three months of land tax, defer the implementation of the foreign land tax surcharge, and defer the issuing of next year’s land tax assessments for eligible landlords.

Its chief executive, Chris Mountford, said the decision would bring relief to landlords:

“Land tax is often the biggest outgoing for commercial, retail and industrial landowners,” he said.

“By granting this relief, landlords will have a greater capacity to support tenants [who] have been adversely affected, taking pressure off their cash flow at this critical time.

“We know the circumstances that landlords and tenants are finding themselves in vary greatly. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to these challenges simply does not work.

“Landlords, tenants and their financiers are going to need to work together to find solutions that suit their circumstances. We know many of these proactive discussions are already happening.”


NSW has introduced $5,000 fines for anyone who deliberately coughs or spits on a healthcare workers.

The health minister, Brad Hazzard, has to actually say these words, because of some incidents in NSW health and hospital services:

These frontline workers are caring for us and the simple fact is, we need to care for them so this on-the-spot $5,000 fine will send a clear message that we are all as one. We are telling you stop it or you will cop it with a $5,000 fine.


Treasurer gives details of business loan scheme

Josh Frydenberg has released information on small and medium business loans:

“Under the scheme, the government will support up to $40bn of lending to SMEs with turnover of less than $50m, including sole traders and not-for-profit organisations, with the government guaranteeing 50% of new loans issued by eligible lenders until 30 September 2020.

“The government will make offers to 29 banks and five non-bank lenders in response to expressions of interest which will total $34bn of potential lending to SMEs. Applications from a range of other lenders are currently being assessed for the remaining $6bn in the scheme.

“The legislative and scheme rules have also been finalised following consultation with lenders and key stakeholders to ensure the scheme provides the required support to SMEs during this period.

“The scheme complements other initiatives undertaken by the government and the Reserve Bank of Australia to support lending to SMEs, including:

  • $15bn to allow AOFM to invest in wholesale funding markets used by small ADIs and non-ADI lenders;
  • The RBA’s $90bn term funding facility for ADIs with a priority for SME lending;
  • Cutting red tape to ensure SMEs get access to credit faster.

“The scheme will also support the jobkeeper program to help businesses get access to the necessary working capital to continue operating when their revenues have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus.”


In this new social distant dystopia, even the Easter bunny must receive state-sanctioned approval.

I can confirm to all the boys and girls across NSW that the Easter Bunny is allowed to visit this weekend! pic.twitter.com/KPzxkipXTt

— Gladys Berejiklian (@GladysB) April 9, 2020


Darren Chester and Mike Kelly are continuing their bipartisan friendship, which was cemented during the bushfires (which also feel like a million years ago, but I know are still severely impacting so many regional NSW, Victorian and South Australian communities).

Please grab a coffee from PD Murphy while your there. Mark the proprietor is really doing it tough. They do a good one.

— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyofEM) April 9, 2020


Andrew Wilkie, who visited Julian Assange earlier this year (which seems like it was decades ago), has not forgotten about him.

COVID-19 is in the UK's prisons. #JulianAssange is at high risk due to his chronic lung condition and must be released into home detention. He is no risk to the public. Our letters to the UK Government. #politas #auspol pic.twitter.com/Hr8bRE9Dfb

— Andrew Wilkie MP (@WilkieMP) April 9, 2020


Bill Shorten spoke to Adelaide radio 5AA this morning (in between documenting his drive back to Melbourne from Canberra) and the transcript has just dropped.

He says the coronavirus crisis has shown how Australia needs to bring manufacturing back home:

Well I think we’ve all had a giant wake-up call: our medical supplies – from ventilators in the intensive care units, right through to masks and hand sanitisers, to medical equipment – is I think what’s really shocked people to begin with. And I feel when you look at those images of older Australians who stand bewildered in front of empty rows in our shopping centres. I know our farmers are doing a good job – I think in food we’re doing a good job – but in some of the manufactured items which we’ve found that we need, we shouldn’t be depending on a shipment from Wuhan for God’s sake.


Independent schools ordered to reopen

The federal education minister, Dan Tehan, has ordered independent schools to reopen and provide in-person education to children whose parents want it in term two.

His letter sent to the Independent Schools Council of Australia and peak bodies in each state and territory on Thursday includes a condition that will make independent schools’ funding contingent on complying with the order.

In the letter, Tehan said:

“I am aware that a small number of independent schools have chosen to stand down all physical classroom delivery and move to alternative, or online classroom delivery. While I appreciate that a number of jurisdictions are moving towards this form of service delivery, I am asking schools to retain a physical classroom environment for the children of parents who may not have a choice of keeping children at home. These might be the children of essential front line workers such as paramedics, nurses, doctors and police officers who, in the absence of a classroom option, are forced to make the decision to stop working in our essential services.

“Students should also not be refused physical classroom access based on their parents’ employment.

“While I hope independent schools across Australia will recognise the need for taking this step, the Australian Education Act 2013 does provide me with the authority to include an additional condition/s if I consider the conditions to be in the public interest.

“Therefore I am advising you that I will be varying the approval of all independent approved authorities to include a condition from the commencement of term two, requiring schools to provide a physical classroom environment for the children of parents who choose to access it. I have included a copy of the condition that will be imposed, by a variation to the approval of independent school’s approved authorities.”

Despite the order, Tehan also recognised the need for schools to follow “the advice of the health or education authorities of the commonwealth or the state or territory in which the school is located, including any directions they may issue in regard to school shut downs”.

This could prove tricky in jurisdictions such as Victoria, where the advice is in favour of closure.

We’ll bring you a full news wrap of the letter and the situation for term two in each state shortly.


WA’s health minister, Roger Cook, has announced a new mental health program for the west.

The ‘Be Positive, Be Connected, Be Active’ campaign focuses on wellbeing strategies, and I’d like to thank the [mental health] commission for bringing forward this campaign to the community.

The campaign is for everyone across WA, including those in self isolation, older people, parents and younger members of the community who are feeling anxious at this time.

Ultimately we want to reduce the worry and stress is in the Western Australian community, and we know that this can lead to long-term consequences within our communities and families if we don’t practise good mental health and wellbeing practices.

My hope is that everyone will be able to find ways to be positive, connected and active during this busy time.

Under Covid-19 there are so many things we don’t have control of – so many aspects of our lives which we are giving over to the measures we are putting in place to protect everyone in the community.

But looking after our own mental health and wellbeing is something that everyone can do, making sure that you stay positive, stay connected, stay active, because we know that these are all essential elements of making sure that we maintain good mental health and wellbeing.


Queensland offers rental support for eligible tenants

On top of the eviction freeze, Queensland has announced rental support for eligible tenants, which includes domestic and family violence protections. If your lease expires, and you want to stay, your landlord has to extend your lease by six months – they can’t kick you out. But if you want to leave your lease early because of the impacts of coronavirus, you will be allowed to do so.

From Jackie Trad’s office:

Rental support

“New eligibility criteria is now in place for rental grants of up to four weeks rent, or a maximum of $2,000.

“This is a last resort for Queenslanders in need of support while they are waiting for federal government support to prevent homelessness.”

DFV protections

“We want all Queenslanders to be safe at home, but for some people this is just not the case.

“If you need to escape in a hurry, we won’t allow paperwork to stand in your way.

“Immediate support to end tenancies quickly, change locks without seeking approval, access bond and separate from co-tenancies will be introduced.”

A house for lease in Melbourne.
A house for lease in Melbourne. Photograph: David Crosling/AAP


Greg Hunt on those numbers I mentioned a little earlier:

While we have been cautious over the last two weeks as we have seen the early data, what we’re seeing now is a genuine consolidation in the 24 hours to this morning’s report: there was an increase of 96 cases.

This is the first time in over three weeks that fewer than 100 people have been added to the list of those with coronavirus.

That’s an exceptionally important development for Australia. Fewer cases, fewer risks, fewer lives at risk.

But we’ve got a long way to go.


ACT to build ED on oval near Canberra hospital

The ACT government will build its temporary Covid-19 emergency department on Garran Oval, adjacent to the Canberra hospital.

The location has been selected to mitigate any interruptions to the Canberra hospital operations through this critical period.

It provides flexibility for the facility to have adequate area available for logistics and essential equipment servicing the facility. The facility is intended to be fully self-sufficient by way of public and staff car parking and amenities.

The ACT government, along with partners Aspen Medical, will commence site investigation for the temporary ED over the coming days to inform final design and site layout. Construction will begin shortly after.

Canberra Hospital, ACT.
Canberra Hospital, ACT. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian


Nick Coatsworth says the aim of 7,500 ventilators is part of worst-case scenario planning:

The average number of ventilators in Australia, ventilated beds, is nine per 100,000, so it ends up close to a tripling of that capacity. In terms of another element of your question – is that going to be enough? We saw the modelling released by the prime minister and Prof Murphy a few days ago which demonstrates that with a reduction in the transmission rate we are seeing that that will be more than sufficient to be able to cover any intensive care needs.


Australians on the special chartered flights will have to pay for the flights themselves (as is usual). The Lima flight tickets cost about $2,500 each. Those who can’t afford the flight are being offered access to emergency loans from the government.


The deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth, says the number of ventilators in Australia is growing:As you are aware, we have been building capacity in the system.

With particular reference to ventilators, we have set ourselves a national target of 7,500 building on the [more than] 4,400 existing ventilators within the Australian system today.

That target is well supported by acquisitions that we have made through Resmed, a company that does undertake ventilator fabrication in Australia, and as I said last week, we have contracted Resmed to support us with [more than] 500 invasive ventilators that can be used with the intensive care unit, and importantly 5,000 non-invasive ventilators.

That can be modified to use in an intensive care capacity and will certainly be a useful option in the event of large cases of severe Covid-19 in the country.

Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth.
Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth. Photograph: Lukas Coch/EPA


Australia may have recorded its lowest number of coronavirus cases for one day in the past few weeks – 96 new cases is the first time in three weeks we’ve seen figures below 100 – but Greg Hunt says the government acknowledges people are struggling with the restrictions which have been put in place:

Part of this job, though, is also building on what we’ve done with containment and expanding our capacity.

In primary care, one of our critical tasks is the mental health of Australians. People are lonely – they are isolated. Many will be suffering anxiety.

So I’m pleased to be able to say that going into Easter we are now launching our new Beyond Blue coronavirus support program, the coronavirus mental wellbeing support service.

That will be available online at Beyond Blue.

We would urge you to go to the website, coronavirus.org.au, or telephone 1800 512 348 if you are struggling, if you are battling.

It is the most human thing for people who might feel isolated, who might be lonely, who might be alone – they might be widowed or separated or simply living by themselves. So this is a very hard time.

If you can call somebody else and give them the support they need, perhaps do the grocery shopping for them to provide that support, you cannot just help save lives and protect lives but help somebody with the anxiety they are feeling.


Governor general signs $130bn wage subsidy into law

The governor general has signed off on the $130bn wage subsidy legislation, giving it the royal assent.

It is law.


First time in three weeks Australia's covid-19 cases dip below 100

Greg Hunt steps up to the podium.

He says 6,068 Australians have been diagnosed with Covid-19. Of those, 82 are in intensive care and 35 are on ventilators. And 51 people have died.

But in better news, Australia recorded its lowest number of new cases in three weeks, with 96 people diagnosed since the last update, nationally.

Hunt says that is the first time in three weeks Australia’s new cases have dropped below 100.

He says while the early signs are encouraging, there is still “a long way to go” and uses what has become one of his favourite lines:

As we go into Easter with welcome news for Australia, the virus does not take a holiday therefore none of us can relax ...

This in many ways is the most important weekend we may face in the whole course of the virus.

If we can lock in the gains that we’ve made as a nation through the courage and sacrifice of those on the health, medical and policing frontlines, but also through the immense goodwill and discipline of Australians, then we can help really protect Australian lives going forward and give ourselves the pathway through.


Special arrangements are being made to help Australians out of other countries, including the Philippines, India and Nepal, and the deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, is helping facilitate discussions with Qantas and Virgin.

There are also talks about what to use as the transfer hubs, LA, NZ among them, Marise Payne says.

But the foreign affairs minister includes a reminder that Australia had declared a pandemic and some people still decided to go traveling, so a reminder that yes, this has taken some time, but things got difficult pretty quick on the global scale:

You know, we declared Covid-19 a pandemic two weeks before the World Health Organisation did. We were one of the first countries to restrict travel from the worst-affected nations including China and Iran and as early as 9 March we advised Australians to reconsider taking cruise ship trips at the time.

On 13 March we advised all Australians to reconsider the need to travel overseas.

On 17 March we advised Australians overseas who wanted to return home to do so as soon as possible by commercial means.

On 18 March we raised our travel advice for anywhere overseas to do not travel, and on 25 March the government put in place a travel ban on Australians leaving Australia, except for certain exemptions.

So we have been very clear in our warnings and our advice.

We will continue to work on getting Australians home in a way that is safe for them and also safe for Australians in Australia.

We are very mindful about broader responsibilities as a government and the fact that many Australians need help right now, both abroad and of course at home.

We are getting Australians home, we are harnessing our relationships overseas, we are leveraging our diplomatic network, we are working with our airlines, we will do all of that to take into account the many responsibilities the Australian government has in this unprecedented time.


Stranded Australians to be flown from Peru

In relation to our Covid-19 response internationally I am pleased to indicate we have finalised and secured agreement with Qantas to carry out special facilitated flights, initially to three countries: Peru, Argentina and South Africa.

Those planned Qantas flights are anticipated to take place over the next week, and follow on from another successful facilitated flight that occurred today, carrying about 280 Australians from Peru, who are now on their way to Australia.

Grounded Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
Grounded Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. Photograph: Darren England/AAP


Marise Payne opens her appearance at Greg Hunt’s daily press conference with an update on cyclone Harold and its impact on our pacific neighbours – Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga have all been hit.

Australia is supporting a caretaker government in Vanuatu and defence personnel is being sent over to help with the recovery.


Channel Nine rips into NRL

Channel Nine has launched a scathing broadside at the NRL over the league’s plans to restart a shortened competition as early as 21 May, claiming the broadcast rights holder has not been consulted on the proposal and accusing the NRL of squandering millions of dollars over a number of years.

In a strongly worded statement, the national broadcaster criticised the NRL’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, which forced the 2020 season to be put on hold after just two rounds and plunged the game into financial crisis.

“At Nine we had hoped to work with the NRL on a solution to the issues facing rugby league in 2020, brought on so starkly by Covid-19,” a Channel Nine statement read.

“But this health crisis in our community has highlighted the mismanagement of the code over many years. Nine has invested hundreds of millions in this game over decades and we now find they have profoundly wasted those funds with very little to fall back on to support the clubs, the players and supporters.

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys.
Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys. Photograph: James Gourley/EPA

“In the past the NRL have had problems and we’ve bailed them out many times including a $50m loan to support clubs when the last contract was signed. It would now appear that much of that has been squandered by a bloated head office completely ignoring the needs of the clubs, players and supporters.”

The league’s innovation committee is due to report to the ARLC today with a restart in May having received the backing of the NSW government. The most likely solution to getting the 2020 season back underway is for a shortened 15-round competition to be given the green light, with teams to be temporarily relocated to a hub in western Sydney.

Full story here:


The federal government has just taken a fairly significant step in its attempt to boost the number of ventilators available in Australian hospitals. Emergency powers have been enacted allowing the minister to exempt ventilators from parts of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 which ensure conformance with safety and performance requirements.

Such exemptions can be made only by the minister “so that the devices can be made available urgently in Australia in order to deal with an actual threat to public health caused by an emergency”. A description of the new powers says:

“The effect of the instrument is to exempt these ventilators from certain requirements under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 in order to deal with the threat to public health caused by the Covid-19 emergency.”

The new powers were registered on Wednesday and will cease on 31 January 2021. You can read the full detail on those exemption powers here.

The powers appear designed to allow new suppliers of ventilators to get them into Australian hospitals as quickly as possible to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

Ventilators are critical in the fight against the virus because they aid the failing lungs of the most seriously ill patients. Australia had about 2,300 ventilators in intensive care units across the country before the crisis, but the government is seeking to dramatically increase that number as it surges ICU capacity.

Only one company in Australia, Resmed, manufactures ventilators and it has been working overtime to increase its output. The government has also been attempting to procure more ventilators from abroad and kickstart new domestic manufacturers by securing existing designs used by foreign companies.


I was curious how the government could just declare that pay rises will be deferred in the public service, because most employees would be covered by enterprise agreements, with pay increases agreed, scheduled and seemingly locked in.
Assistant minister to the prime minister and cabinet, Ben Morton, explained it will be done through a determination using s.24(3) of the Public Service Act.

That section says:”The Public Service Minister may, by legislative instrument, determine the terms and conditions of employment applying to APS employees, if the Public Service Minister is of the opinion that it is desirable to do so because of exceptional circumstances.”

Professor Anthony Forsyth told Guardian Australia the Act “does appear to allow” a determination to overrule enterprise agreements although it “depends on the meaning of exceptional circumstances”.

“[But the] opinion that it is desirable to do so is not the same as necessary,” Forsyth said.

He also noted that according to the Act section 42 of the Legislation Act - on disallowance - does not apply - meaning that one of the “ordinary processes of parliamentary scrutiny ... looks like [it] doesn’t apply”.

The Community and Public Sector Union is upset about the move, but agrees with the conclusion that it is legal.

So there you have it - one of the quirks of working in the public service, maybe better job security than the private sector but employment conditions altered at the stroke of a pen.

National park visits over Easter are out

A reminder that national parks are closed – which includes to Easter visitors.


The Australian Academy of Science is continuing its great series, where scientists and researchers answer your questions.

They get it fact-checked too, so you don’t have to worry about the Malcolm Roberts of the world delivering your information.

The latest is on whether or not childcare centres are safe.

Australian Academy of Science


The national cabinet is about to meet. As we have mentioned, schools will be the big issue.

Tenancies not so much. It’s “fluid”, I’ve been told.

On schools, one of the issues is whether or not they will be prepared for students to be sent back. Officially they are all open; unofficially enrolments are falling, even before the most serious of the physical distance restrictions were in place.

If parents suddenly decide to return their children to school en masse after a month or so of home schooling, that presents its own challenges to education jurisdictions who have just spent the past month preparing for term two to be online.


Very big 28 Days Later vibes going on here:

NSW Police board the Ruby Princess last night to seize the infected ship's 'black box' and interview key witnesses, inc the captain. @9NewsSyd @Ninecomau #coronavirusau #RubyPrincess #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/fxUkdS8Igm

— Mark Saunokonoko (@saunokonoko) April 9, 2020


RBA says no need for panic

All things considered though, the RBA in that April report says there is no need to panic, and that the lending restrictions put in place over the past five years have helped:

Australia’s financial system faces increased risks, but is well placed to manage them ...

As discussed in previous financial stability reviews, the level of household debt and elevated housing prices are longstanding risks for the Australian financial system.

In the period ahead, many households will find their finances under strain due to efforts to contain the virus.

Some of these households will be able to draw on significant financial buffers, including large mortgage prepayments, although many highly indebted households have only small buffers and so are more vulnerable to lost income.

Repayment deferrals (“holidays”) being offered by the banks and the government’s recently announced wage subsidy should both help avoid large increases in arrears.

More generally, tightened lending standards over the past five years or so have improved the quality of outstanding household debt while government income support policies and access to superannuation balances for the worst-affected households will cushion falls in household income.


Labor’s Amanda Rishworth says the government’s childcare package still needs some work:

As an unintended consequence of the new policy, some services have been stripped of so much income their viability is now at risk. With their revenue cut by a minimum of 50%, many providers, particularly family day care and in home services, are reporting they will not be able to continue providing their service.

We are hearing reports that these services are now cutting back on opening hours, turning families away, or sacking early educators to try to survive.

Free childcare will be of no benefit to those families that can no longer send their children to early learning and care because their provider has reduced access. Essential workers in particular need to know they can put their children into early learning.

In addition the viability of centres run by local councils, churches and some large not-for-profits are now at risk as they are not eligible for the jobkeeper payment. The minister made it clear that a combination of the new package and jobkeeper payments will protect the viability of providers, and as such he must ensure services can access jobkeeper.


The Reserve Bank has released its financial stability review April report, and on page 11 it included the tidbit about Australia’s rich withdrawing millions of dollars from their bank accounts in March:

Over-the-counter withdrawals of cash from banks were elevated over the second half of March as some customers with large balances sought to hold precautionary funds. This included a small number of customers making very large withdrawals (more than $100,000, and in some cases into the millions of dollars).

The Reserve Bank worked closely with the large banks and cash-in-transit companies to ensure branches had sufficient cash supplies. The focus of this work was on the logistics of moving cash to the right places as there was adequate total supply.

The elevated demand has since abated.

I guess its the 1% version of toilet paper.


Victoria now has 1,228 cases of Covid-19

Victoria Health has released its official update for the day:

The total number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in Victoria is 1,228, an increase of 16 from yesterday.

There were no new deaths overnight. The number of people who have died in Victoria from coronavirus is 12.

The total number of cases includes 642 men and 585 women. Cases range in age from babies to people in their early 90s.

There are 110 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Victoria that may have been acquired through community transmission. More than 62,000 tests have been conducted to date.

There are 50 people are in hospital, including 13 patients in intensive care, and 806 people have recovered.

Of the total 1,228 cases, there have been 992 in Melbourne and 225 in regional Victoria. Several cases are still being investigated.


Gladys Berejiklian addressed the Don Harwin issue, after the Daily Telegraph caught the arts minister in his central coast holiday home.

Harwin says he chose to relocate there three weeks ago, because of his underlying health issues and didn’t break any NSW restrictions.

Berejiklian is calling him back to Sydney anyway:

I was advised a few days ago that he had decided to make that his principal place to live some three weeks ago, and he has been there for three weeks, but obviously given what we have asked the rest of the community to do I think it’s entirely appropriate he come back to Sydney.

Police commissioner Mick Fuller says he’ll review the case, and if there have been any breaches, Harwin will get a fine:

I will ask for an explanation, and if it doesn’t stack up, I’ll ask for a ticket. We have evidence in terms photographs, and if the explanation doesn’t stack up we will let you know and give him a ticket for $1000.”

But he’ll keep his job.

Queensland is updating its border measures – which now includes Queenslanders who are seeking to return to Queensland after a trip over the border.

You’ll find the border measures (when they are updated) here

The foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, is joining the health minister, Greg Hunt, and deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth, for today’s briefing, which will be at 12.30.


And just like in Queensland, where a freeze was put in place last week – after which the government realised it also froze frontline worker pay – the commonwealth public servant union says the Morrison government has just done exactly the same thing:

The union representing the public sector including Centrelink workers and Australian border force officers, the CPSU, has condemned the move to freeze the wages of frontline government service workers for six months.

Communities around the country are looking to our public sector at this troubled time, more than ever before. Public sector workers are delivering for all of us, and the government is thanking them with a six-month pay freeze.

At a time when the government is spending billions of dollars to stimulate the economy and keep people spending, it just doesn’t make sense to be freezing the wages of essential workers.

The wage increase federal public sector is only 0.058% of the government budget. Freezing wages will not help the budget line, but it will affect tens of thousands of family budgets around the country, and the communities in which they spend.

The CPSU is calling on the Morrison government to immediately reverse this decision.


Arts funding not good enough, says Labor

Labor has responded to the arts funding announcement the government made today.

Tony Burke says it doesn’t come near to being close enough:

While every extra dollar of support is welcome, the government’s $27m funding package does not even come close to what’s needed to save this industry from decimation.

This is a $50bn industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Australians – and it has been almost completely shut down by government fiat.

This sector was one of the first to be affected in the earliest rounds of crowd restrictions, and it may be one of the last sectors to recover.

These workers are hurting.

Many of them have lost 100% of their income but are ineligible for the jobkeeper wage subsidy simply because of the gig-to-gig nature of their industry.

Live Performance Australia estimates the live performance industry alone needs $850m in support to get to the other side of this crisis, 30 times what the government is offering.

For a month Labor has been calling for a targeted, tailored comprehensive support package for the arts. After years and years of Coalition cuts, arts organisations don’t have the financial wherewithal to get to the other side of this crisis alone.

Today’s announcement is a start – but so much more is needed.


Larger charities still miss out on being eligible for the jobkeeper wage subsidy, despite the drop to 15% revenue loss (it is 30% for other entities under a $1bn and 50% for those over a billion) with government grants making some things tricky: the money is spent, but counted, and funds for future projects and staff is drying up.

Plan International, which misses out, and focuses on international aid, has some other ideas on how agencies like theirs can be helped:

Plan International Australia’s chief executive, Susanne Legena, said although this result was disappointing, there were a range of other measures the federal government could implement in the short term to provide relief.

These include:

  • Introduce tax breaks for individuals in a position to donate to charities, including a tax deduction of 150% for the rest of the financial year;
  • Lift the cap for fringe benefit tax to help charity employees. This will help alleviate the impact on staff wages in the reduction of employee hours as donations fall;
  • Introduce a $300m Australian charities stabilisation fund, including providing flexible grants over at least the next six months of a value of between $20,000 and $100,000 which are rapidly assessed by the commonwealth;
  • A fully flexible, 0% government loan facility for charities.


These are still dribbling out:

The Australian Government is sending an official text message to mobile phones across Australia.

Please stay home and save lives this long weekend.

Visit https://t.co/rnvzJNnIuo for the latest information.#COVID19 #coronavirusaustralia #stayhomesavelives pic.twitter.com/bS7l8LU7JH

— Australian Government (@ausgov) April 8, 2020


The Greens senator Rachel Siewert wants the government to check itself when it comes to debt collection over this period:

The government is sending mixed and very confusing messaging about debts.

Debts are supposedly paused but some processing is still going on. Robodebts are supposed to be frozen but people are still having to make repayments on what are likely to be illegal debts and people are being sent notices for the period when income reporting was turned off.

Yesterday the social services minister confirmed in the Senate that debts should not have been incurred during the period that income reporting was not required, yet some people are now getting notices.

This is causing a deep level of anxiety.

For weeks now my office has been inundated with calls, messages and emails from people who cannot use MyGov or contact Centrelink.

Income reporting was suspended because of the huge influx of people attempting to use Centrelink and people simply couldn’t report. Now the system is supposedly able to cope so income reporting is again required but people are telling us they still can’t report.


Order for 2,000 more ventilators announced

While there are early indications that Australia is managing to flatten the curve, there are still preparations everywhere you look for a potential worse-case scenario.

That includes increasing Australia’s ventilator access. The federal science minister, Karen Andrews, has just announced a new deal on that:

A group of Australian manufacturing companies and engineering firms will work together to produce 2,000 invasive ventilators in Australia as part of the nation’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The federal government has reached a $31.3m agreement with Victorian company Grey Innovation, which is leading an industry consortium to produce the ventilators.


Now that the payment has been legislated, this should be able to answer your questions about whether or not you are eligible:

Jobkeeper payment: am I eligible? Here's everything you need to know to register https://t.co/ss2qDRqMjm

— Guardian Australia (@GuardianAus) April 9, 2020


Commonwealth public servants have wage frozen

It’s happening across the states – now it’s happening across the federal agencies:

The assistant minister to the prime minister and cabinet, Ben Morton, has deferred general wage increases for commonwealth public servants for six months.

“The Australian public service remains a critical part of our efforts to minimise the impacts on Covid-19 on the Australian economy for workers and their families. Everyone from the prime pinister down appreciates the outstanding work the APS is doing.

“Every APS employee will have someone in their families, or know someone, affected by the current economic circumstances. While communities are doing it tough, it’s important the APS helps share the economic burden.”

Last month the government implemented a stay for senior public servants’ salary increases and also requested a stay for all ministers, parliamentarians and parliamentary office holders.

The deferral of wage increases commences from 14 April and will remain in effect for 12 months. During this period, agencies will defer upcoming wage increases by six months as they fall due. This will ensure the deferral is shared equally by all APS employees.


NSW Health has released its official update:

As at 8pm Wednesday 8 April, an additional 39 cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed since 8pm 6 April, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in NSW to 2,773.

The 39 new cases represent the lowest daily count since 16 March.

There are 221 Covid-19 cases being treated in NSW. This includes 31 cases in intensive care units, and 21 of these require ventilators.

A further 3,906 people were tested for Covid-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm Wednesday 8 April, a 32% increase from the 24 hours before (2,945).

There have been 12 new cases at Gosford hospital including two patients and six staff and four family/friend cases. The affected ward was closed yesterday and community contact tracing is ongoing.

Of the 161 symptomatic travellers quarantined in hotels, 36 (22%) have tested positive.


How lucky for Victorians who have holiday homes.

Minister Lisa Neville says yes legally you can visit your holiday home this weekend. But you can’t rent, Air BnB, caravan camp, boat, fish. #7NewsMelb pic.twitter.com/tAoRGEV80r

— Brendan Donohoe (@BrendanDonohoe7) April 8, 2020

Tasmanians urged to 'abide by the rules'

The Tasmanian premier, Peter Gutwein, said:

We have in front of us five of the most critical days through to next Tuesday and I ask Tasmanians to abide by the rules.

The professor said it yesterday: this is about protecting your community, your mum and dad, your pregnant sister, your children – protecting your community – and we have the benefit of being an island state ...

We are in front of the pack. I want to keep us there but we can only keep Tasmania safe by following the rules.

So unless you have a reasonable excuse to be out of your home, do not be surprised if the police stop you ... and do not be surprised if you face the full force of the law over this weekend.

It is serious and we need to get on top of this. The north-west coast will effectively be in lockdown. The rules are strict. We ask people to abide by them. They will be policed.

The Tasmanian premier, Peter Gutwein.
The Tasmanian premier, Peter Gutwein. Photograph: James Gourley/AAP


On those additional measures Queensland has put in place, Queensland residents who want to head into NSW will need a permit to return to Queensland. (Previously they did not need that.)

Also they may be forced into the 14-day quarantine, which includes police checks.

So basically, you can leave the state but getting back in is going to be a major pain.


Queensland just did this and is now having to deal with the fact it also included frontline health workers and teachers in the freeze.

‘Public servant” is not a one-fits-all term.

🚨breaking: NSW Treasurer @Dom_Perrottet says he will move to legislate a pay freeze for public servants before June 30.

“It’s not fair. You’d want to socially distance yourself from any politician that thinks they deserve a pay rise in this environment” @SkyNewsAust

— Laura Jayes (@ljayes) April 8, 2020


Queensland introduces new border restrictions

Queensland looks like it is implementing new travel restrictions for Queenslanders looking to travel into New South Wales.

That’s after Queensland had to close some of its most famous Gold Coast beaches after it claimed Brisbane and Logan residents were flouting the physical distance restrictions.

Well I’ve seen photos of concrete road blocks being put in place at “just-over-the-border-but-we-all-consider-Queensland” beaches like Dbar, so it looks like the restrictions are going further.

In better news, just 10 Queenslanders were newly diagnosed with coronavirus since the last update yesterday.


Anthony Albanese also takes aim at some of the “informed” commentary, saying Labor has been very constructive during the 2020 crises.

I think any objective analysis – except for some august publications – have recognised the role we have played, and we have done that consistently since day one.

Some of the absurd opinion pieces frankly, that haven’t bothered to look at what I have said and what Labor has actually said, speak for themselves, and I think do more damage to the authors, then they do to the Labor brand.


Let's not forget the sports rorts fiasco, Albanese says

Anthony Albanese is also keeping an eye on the future – and the political issues which have been left behind

“The gap between the rhetoric of this government and the reality has been extraordinary,” he said. “And we know that with regard to money, they treated taxpayer money in the lead-up to the election as if it was LNP money. We won’t let go and Australians shouldn’t forget the sports rort fiasco, the use of infrastructure money, the $3bn fund, to just marginal seats and LNP seats, the great spending in seats like Kooyong and Higgins, for example.”


“I am not for a ramping up of authoritarian measures,” Anthony Albanese says, on whether road blocks need to be put in place to stop people from travelling into regional communities this Easter.

It should just be commonsense, he says.

“We shouldn’t need for that to be reinforced.”


Anthony Albanese says Labor will continue to try to have more people included in the wage subsidy, including those on temporary visas who are unable to return home because of flight and border restrictions.

“People can’t self isolate if they can’t have somewhere to self isolate,” he says.

He says marginalised people, left without support, are also a health risk to the wider community.

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese speaks to the media at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, April 9, 2020.
Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese speaks to the media at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, April 9, 2020. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


A lot of arts performers have fallen through the cracks of the government’s stimulus packages.

This announcement may help some, but there will be many, many who still need assistance:

“To help the arts sector deal with the devastating impact of Covid-19, which has seen performances cancelled, venues closed and many performers and crew hit by the loss of gigs, the Morrison-McCormack government is committing $27m in targeted support across three particularly vulnerable areas of specific need.

“The government is providing $10m to help regional artists and organisations develop new work and explore new delivery models. The funding will be delivered through Australia’s regional arts fund.

“In remote Australia, self-isolation due to Covid-19 means Indigenous arts centres are unable to receive visitors, and the income that many artists rely on to support themselves and their families has dried up.

“To support Indigenous artists and arts centres, the government is providing $7m in additional funding. The funding will be delivered under the Indigenous visual arts industry support program.


Don't go to church this Easter!

Leaders are asking people to avoid church and religious ceremonies this Easter, no matter how long-running the tradition.

AAP has this update on what is happening with one of Brisbane’s biggest services:

Brisbane’s Catholic archbishop will conduct an Easter service from a hospital that’s preparing to take in coronavirus victims.

Mark Coleridge says Thursday night’s service at St Vincent’s private hospital is about “going where the action is” instead of preaching in a cathedral with no congregation.

The archbishop says the location is also an attempt to face what lies ahead, while paying tribute to the extraordinary and often hidden work of health workers.

“We didn’t want to celebrate in an empty cathedral,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.

“This is far from over. We’ve got to face reality. Our move to the hospital this evening was an attempt to face reality.”

From 7pm on Thursday Coleridge will lead a service at the hospital, which has regular patients but is also preparing to step up if the coronavirus crisis demands it.

It will be livestreamed on the diocese’s website and Facebook page.

Other services – also livestreamed – will go ahead inside an empty St Stephen’s cathedral on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday.


NSW has seen its lowest growth in diagnosis since mid March: 39 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 since yesterday’s update, the state’s chief medical officer, Dr Kerry Chant, says.


Anthony Albanese will address the media in the next 10 minutes or so.


With China lifting the travel ban on Wuhan, residents have been able to leave the province for the first time in almost six months.

And so have planes, including one which landed in Australia overnight carrying almost 100* tonnes of much needed medical equipment.

* Amended from a previous figure


And on schools, Gladys Berejiklian said plans for next term are still a work in progress.

There’s some options we’re considering. But again it will be based on health advice and in consultation with all of our stakeholders, including of course principals and teachers and parent groups as well.

We’ll provide an update on that situation once we make a decision and again that will be based on health advice.


NSW to provide free preschool

In among that briefing was the news the NSW government would fill the gap between the federal government’s free childcare and the services offered by local governments to make nearly all early childcare free in that state.

Gladys Berejiklian

I’m pleased to announce the New South Wales government will be providing free preschool for parents over the next six months. That will be at a cost of $50m but we’re pleased to do this because we know that household budgets are under pressure, families are under pressure, so for the next six months, preschool for all ages will be free in NSW.

But to match what the federal government has done in childcare centres, local government can’t cover it all and we’re stepping up and paying the other half.

That means childcare centres run by local governments don’t have to worry about the additional cost of keeping staff on and providing the vital services.

That will cost us $82m. That’s not the dollars but the fact we’re stepping up as a government to do our part, but also sending a strong message to both our early childhood education community and also our school community to say thank you so much for all the effort that everyone has put in.


Mick Fuller spoke about just how cooperative members of the NSW community have been in helping the police (as well as the planned traffic enforcement operations for the weekend, to keep everyone home):

In terms of this weekend, we have spoken a lot about double demerits and traffic enforcement will continue.

We’ll be watching the north coast very carefully, particularly those border towns.

We’ve pushed additional police resources up there. But in preparation, we’ve been going through the caravan parks and other holiday spots to make sure we don’t have visitors here.

Anyone who has been here who shouldn’t be has been warned.

From Friday onwards, we’ll be issuing tickets, particularly for those not from NSW.

Be clear: we’ll reach a point when the warnings will be over.

We’ll protect our border towns and we’ll protect our coastal areas during this busy period.

Tickets have been issued again overnight – 24 for non-isolation issues – and many of those are tagged with other criminal behaviours.

But again, there’s been plenty of warnings about the long weekend and we would ask you listen to the warnings.

This is coming from the communities themselves. Up to date we have 5,000 Crime Stoppers reports in relation to people flouting the laws.

From my perspective, that means the community are well behind us on this journey.


Another 24 fines were issued in NSW since yesterday for disobeying physical distancing rules.

And NSW Crime Stoppers has received FIVE THOUSAND calls from people dobbing in their neighbours for allegedly breaking the isolation restrictions.



Police seize Ruby Princess's 'black box'

Mick Fuller confirms NSW police boarded the Ruby Princess overnight and “seized” the ship’s black box equivalent.

They spoke to the captain of the ship, who was extremely helpful. Ships have a black box very similar to that of international planes and that and other evidence has been seized for further investigation.

And that is just sort of part one of the investigation. I can confirm there’s still over 1,000 crew members on the ship. We’re working closely with Carnival.

Three-quarters at this stage say they want to remain on the ship. They feel safe on the ship. And I think that’s a good outcome. Also the local community [has] dropped off a number of care packages at the port for the crew members which I think speaks volumes of the local community in southern area.


'Rolling monthly' considerations of NSW restrictions

The NSW premier says she will review the state’s restrictions each month and give an update at the end of the month about whether or not any of the physical distancing measures will be lifted.

We are as a state going to look at data once a month closely in terms of what we do in the future with restrictions. There would be a rolling monthly consideration and I’ll be saying publicly at the end of every month what we’re likely to do the following month. But it’s too soon for me to say that at this stage.


Gladys Berejiklian today has the unenviable task of telling NSW residents to stay at home, while dealing with a minister who left to hang at his holiday house:

[I am asking New South Wales residents] to really respect the rules, not travel, not leave your home unless you absolutely have to, but also – especially to those of you who would normally attend a church service – I know this would be so difficult for many of you, it may be the first Easter where you have not attended a church service or religious gathering, but we’re all in this together and I appreciate what everyone is going through.

I can relate to it in terms of my own family customs and traditions, but I appreciate how everybody is really stepping up and thank you for what you’re doing to date in relation to sticking to the rules. It’s so important for us to stay vigilant.

We can’t lift our foot off the pedal; we need to stay vigilant and make sure we clamp down on the community-to-community transmission, and the early signs on the restrictions are showing real benefit. But we won’t know the true benefit until a few weeks when all the data is in.

I don’t want to jump to any conclusions but early signs are positive. But we’ll rely on data in the next couple of weeks to give us a signal about what we should be doing moving forward.


Third South Australian death from Covid-19

AAP reports on Australia’s 51st recorded Covid-19 death:

A third person in South Australia has succumbed to the coronavirus.
The man, 76, from regional SA, died on Wednesday night in Royal Adelaide hospital.

“The man acquired Covid-19 in the Barossa Valley,” the SA health and wellbeing department said on Thursday.

His death is the third death in SA from Covid-19 and follows the death of a 62-year-old woman on Wednesday who contracted the virus as a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship.

Another man, 75-year-old Francesco Ferraro, died on Monday. His infection was linked to interstate travel.


Sussan Ley has asked some of the most isolated (by choice) Australians how they handle sitting on the literal arse-end of the world, Antarctic, how they handle the days, as the government tries to convince people to stay home these Easter holidays (unless you are the NSW arts minister, it would seem).

From Ley’s statement:

This week I spoke with the station leader at Davis research station [in] Antarctica, David Knoff. It was -16 degrees and pitch dark at 8am with winter ahead for he and his 23-person team.

“We always say to remain flexible and this year has really tested that,” he said.

“Coronavirus has certainly had an impact in Antarctica and the importance of keeping the station coronavirus-free will mean there will be [fewer] people for me to manage next year as we limit numbers.

“In a lot of ways, we actually had a lot of time to prepare for this [Antarctic winter] through training and talking to our families. In the Antarctic program we’re used to having to be isolated and it’s interesting to see how it’s playing out back home.

“My advice is to really do it your way, don’t get too wrapped up in a routine, focus on what you’re happy to do, mixing it up and staying flexible.

“Make the most of the situation you’re in. If you’re stuck indoors don’t sit there worrying about being outdoors. Just make the most of it.”

Isolation tips


In terms of where we are case wise, this latest graph from Guardian data wunderkind, Nick Evershed, gives a pretty good idea:

Locally-acquired cases of Covid-19 have outnumbered travel-related cases for the past four days - however the trend is still downwards for both https://t.co/81eSTcvx8H pic.twitter.com/BY6cF0xG2M

— Nick Evershed (@NickEvershed) April 8, 2020


The next thing on the agenda is schools and what happens in term two.

Teachers have been asked to prepare distance learning for the next semester, but teachers have been telling me they also expect parents who have spent the better part of a month trying to educate their children while also working at home to begin making noises about sending their kids back to school.

Which means schools which remain open but “pupil free” – a wonderfully bureaucratic term – could see students return, meaning teachers once again have to scramble.

These are the sorts of things the national cabinet, along with the nations education ministers, will be talking about today.


With the latest stimulus package passed, parliament is not scheduled to sit again until the second week of August.

Josh Frydenberg held a late night press conference once the Senate passed his latest stimulus bill. The bill passed as the government intended, with Labor’s amendments to include more people defeated in the House, and the Greens amendments, to include those same missing people, defeated in the Senate. Labor had resolved to not support any amendments in the Senate, other than the ones the government put forward, because if the Senate had passed the amendments, the bill would have returned to the House – where it would have been defeated – before returning to the Senate. Katy Gallagher last night described it as “not playing ping-pong” with worker’s futures.

Frydenberg was just happy it was done:

We know already more 730,000 businesses have registered their interest in taking up the jobkeeper payment. That is 730,000 businesses employing millions of Australians and I think for many Australians this will be the economic lifeline they were looking for, giving them the confidence and their employers the confidence to know that despite the difficulties of the times that we face, they will get to the other side. And as you know we have talked extensively about our hibernation strategy, about supporting businesses, whether it’s with the code of conduct between landlords and tenants, whether it is agreements with the energy companies, whether it is with the banks who have been deferring loan repayments, whether it is with insurance companies, this has all been designed to ensure that businesses, and their employees, can get to the other side. I’m confident that with tonight’s passage of the legislation, we have made a massive step forward in the right direction.


NSW minister Don Harwin reportedly found staying at holiday home

NSW arts minister, Don Harwin, has reportedly been found staying at his holiday home on the Central Coast despite authorities pleading with Sydneysiders to stay out of regional towns because of coronavirus.

Photos reveal Harwin was reportedly at his Pearl Beach holiday home on Wednesday afternoon despite his principal place of residence being Sydney’s eastern suburbs, according to the Daily Telegraph.

It comes despite the NSW government saying all non-essential travel to regional NSW towns must be cancelled and urged Easter holiday-makers to indefinitely postpone their visits to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The NSW deputy premier, John Barilaro, said the safest course of action was for people to stay in their own communities.

The NSW police commissioner, Mick Fuller, said people should be in lockdown wherever their “primary home” is to prevent regional hospitals becoming overwhelmed.

Harwin told the Daily Telegraph he had been at the holiday home for about three weeks and in that time had only travelled to and from Sydney for a medical appointment.

He said he was at the holiday house for health reasons and added that his work-from-home arrangements on the Central Coast were better than in his small apartment in Sydney.

Officials across the world have been caught flouting self-isolation rules, including Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, who resigned after being busted travelling to a second home in a rural area of Scotland’s east coast.

New Zealand’s health minister, David Clark, offered his resignation to the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, after he was caught breaking the rules of the country’s lockdown by mountain-biking near his Dunedin home.

Comment has been sought from Harwin and the NSW premier who was reportedly told of the arrangements a few days ago.


Police across Australia are patrolling popular holiday destinations to ensure people do not ignore edicts to stay at home this Easter.

Travel bans have been placed on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), Moorgumpin (Moreton Island) and K’gari (Fraser Island) off the coast of Queensland and police are increasing patrols.

Camping grounds across the state are also closed, as are Gold Coast beaches.

“Can I please ask that people actually do comply with the rules,” the police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, told AAP on Wednesday. “It is actually about saving people’s lives and it is incredibly important as we go into a very busy weekend.”

In Victoria, all campsites and caravan parks on public lands, as well as major beaches and all public playgrounds, barbecue facilities and picnic grounds have been closed.

Victoria’s police minister, Lisa Neville, is due to issue a warning about Easter travel alongside police at 9.45am today.

And in NSW, the police commissioner, Mick Fuller, said people should lock down in their “primary home” rather than travelling to holiday homes in regional areas, to avoid spreading the infection and overwhelming local hospitals. But that does not seem to have stopped NSW arts minister, Don Harwin. More on that later.


Good morning

Well, it went later than expected, but the Senate ticked off on the $130bn six month wage subsidy plan.

Just a few hours later, NSW detectives, in protective health gear, boarded the Ruby Princess cruise ship as part of its investigation into whether or not the cruise operator did anything wrong.

Interviews are expected to be carried out over the coming days.

That’s an escalation of events which began when the Ruby Princess was allowed to dock in Sydney harbour last month, and then, despite some some on board showing covid-19 symptoms, passengers were allowed to disembark and disperse into the community.

Hundreds of Australia’s covid-19 cases have been linked to the ship, as well as at least 11 deaths.

We’ll carry those updates as they come, along with everything else that is thrown at us today, with national cabinet meeting shortly after noon.

On that agenda – schools and what to do about the next term, as well as hopefully, some more answers for Year 12 students.

Residential tenancies still seem some way off.

Ready? Let’s get into it.


Michael McGowan, Josh Taylor and Amy Remeikis

The GuardianTramp

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