We will wrap up our Australian rolling coverage of Covid-19 developments now. Thank you for your company and correspondence.

The Guardian’s international liveblog continues here:

In summary:

  • The global death toll from Covid-19 has surpassed 217,000. There are more than 3.125m confirmed cases worldwide.
  • Australia has a total of 6,746 confirmed cases. Ninety people have died across the country from Covid-19.
  • There was another death at Sydney’s beleaguered Newmarch House aged care home. Twelve people have now died there.
  • More than 3 million Australians have downloaded the government’s Covidsafe app.
  • The degenerating relationship between Canberra and Beijing deteriorated further, with tit-for-tat bickering, trade threats and a gate-crashed press conference, all emerging out of Australia’s proposal for an independent inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak. There is far to run here.

We will return tomorrow as this country, and this world, continues to grapple with the pandemic.

All of you, stay well and stay safe.


Thanks Alby ... this is helpful – 6.67, you say?

Unsure of how to practice social distancing?

Just visualise the distance light travels in 6.67 nanoseconds between yourself and your friend. pic.twitter.com/YadLM2j4Eo

— Alby 🥑 (@Alby) March 25, 2020


UK PM Boris Johnson and partner Carrie Symonds celebrate birth of baby boy

From our global liveblog ...

The Press Association has just snapped this:

A spokesman for Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds said: “The prime minister and Ms Symonds are thrilled to announce the birth of a healthy baby boy at a London hospital earlier this morning. Both mother and baby are doing very well.

The PM and Ms Symonds would like to thank the fantastic NHS maternity team.


Some further details on South Australia’s suppression of Covid-19.

There have been no new cases reported in the state again today, the seventh day in a row of zero new cases.

A total of 438 cases have been reported across South Australia, 420 of which have been cleared and those people recovered.

Fourteen cases remain active in the state. Four people have died from Covid-19.

A 68-year-old man is currently in a stable condition in intensive care at the Royal Adelaide hospital. SA Pathology has undertaken more than 55,000 tests for Covid-19 so far.


The degeneration of Australia-China relations over Australia’s proposal for an independent, international investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak continued apace today. Helen Davidson has this excellent tick-tock marking this week’s developments in the deterioration.

We reported earlier the remarkable press conference held by federal health minister Greg Hunt feat. China’s consul general for Victoria, Zhou Long, who was invited to speak at the conference by Andrew Forrest.

Notable in this piece, the prominent role played by the Global Times in prosecuting the Chinese government’s position. Neither novel nor unusual, but particularly pronounced in this episode.


This week saw a dramatic slowing in the number of new Covid-19 cases across the Pacific islands with 259 reported, up from 239 last week.

But in the Indonesia province of Papua, official figures may belie a much grimmer picture. The official tally of 155 infections in the province is likely to be low, given the state of health care, and the systemic distrust between the indigenous population and the state. One batch of 300 tests administered to government officials in Mimika returned 110 positive results.

This is an excellent summation of the Covid-19 situation across the Pacific from Dan McGarry and Tess Newton Cain.

The people’s poet, First Dog on the Moon, answers the critical questions... who indeed?

How do you decide who are the first people you visit after lockdown? An important test of character and priorities! ⁦@firstdogonmoonhttps://t.co/rtpy7SgoMq

— Svetlana Stankovic (@SvetlaStankovic) April 29, 2020

That’s all from me today. I will leave you with my colleague Ben Doherty. Stay well.

Kristina Keneally, Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman, has responded to Peter Dutton attacks.

Oh @PeterDutton_MP’s hysterical attacks this afternoon on @PatsKarvelas’ show made me laugh.

Doesn’t he know that the Premier of NSW is not responsible for Australia’s borders?

That’s his job! pic.twitter.com/v88Stzhq04

— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) April 29, 2020

The Greens have released a statement on the call for an international inquiry into the cause of Covid-19.

“If the Australian government wants to really lead from the front on this issue it will call for an end to the global trade of wildlife, not just an investigation into wildlife markets,” said Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

There cannot just be an investigation of wildlife markets in China or other countries like Indonesia as the prime minister seemed to be suggesting today.

Ultimately the trade of wildlife for consumption and other purposes, which is a global issue including in Australia, must end.

A push to end wildlife markets is welcome but it must be accompanied by a push to end the trade of wild animals, otherwise very little will have been achieved in the battle to prevent future pandemics like Covid-19.

The prime minister also needs to commit to looking at wildlife trade in his own backyard. The federal government needs to close the loopholes in our laws that allow our rare and endangered native animals to be traded for profit and ensure they are protected here where they belong.


Trevor Watts, the state MP Toowoomba North, was fined more than $1,300 for attending this get-together at the weekend.

Police body-worn vision of the Toowoomba East gathering at the weekend that led to Trevor Watts receiving a COVID-19 fine and resigning as Oppositon police spokesman pic.twitter.com/AKoFMEj7na

— Thomas Chamberlin (@TomChamberlin) April 29, 2020

Some good news in South Australia.

#BREAKING: one whole week of zero new cases in #SouthAustralia! Keep up the good work 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/mmQn3YoqgR

— Steven Marshall, MP (@marshall_steven) April 29, 2020

#BREAKING: A childcare centre in Yarraville has been shut down and children sent home after a positive coronavirus test. @CGreenbank9 #COVID19 #9News pic.twitter.com/uCGwTNs2Wx

— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) April 29, 2020

Linda Burney, Labor’s social services spokeswoman, is asked by Patricia Karvelas on the ABC about the jobseeker payment.

Scott Morrison said today the coronavirus supplement is temporary, and rejected the case for a permanent increase to the dole when the pandemic is over.

Taking the Newstart payment back to its original $550 a fortnight, I think that is going to be an extremely difficult thing for the government to do.

I mean, if it was OK to live on $40 a day before the pandemic, why are they increasing it now? There are going to be economic impacts as well.

The WA premier Mark McGowan provided an update earlier. It clashed with the national update so I am providing it to you now.

  • WA recorded one new case overnight, a 19-year-old woman from Perth who returned from overseas
  • The state has only 43 active cases, 500 people have no recovered
  • Public school students went back today, attendance was about 60%

Meanwhile, still on the ABC, Peter Dutton has launched a blistering attack against his Labor counterpart Kristina Keneally.

Keneally has been blaming the federal government for the Ruby Princess debacle, arguing that ultimately the buck stops with the Commonwealth, meaning Home Affairs and Border Force. Others argue responsibility was delegated to NSW authorities.

Dutton notes there are inquiries ongoing into the issue, but labels Keneally a “failed premier”.

He claims that she did not alter the arrangements governing these issues while she was premier.

I think an individual or others have made a mistake here in New South Wales Health has been well documented. It was a decision that relied on information from the ship. All that is under investigation at the moment. But Kristina Keneally’s frankly unhinged attacks on the Border Force uniform officers have been quite remarkable and regrettable.


Twelve deaths at Newmarch house

The death toll at the stricken Sydney nursing home Newmarch House has risen to 12.

In a statement, operator Anglicare said:

The past 24 hours have been tragic for Anglicare Sydney and today we are saddened to announce the death of another resident who had tested positive for Covid-19 at Newmarch House. The family has been contacted as have all relevant authorities.

The total number of our residents who are Covid-19 positive who have died since the outbreak on Easter Sunday is now 12.

The commonwealth and NSW governments through their health departments continue to support us in providing the clinical support we require to deliver the care our residents need.

This is a terrible situation and a challenge for us, our staff, but especially for our residents and their families.

Please keep our residents and their families in your thoughts and prayers, especially those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones.”


Dutton rejects Forrest call to delay global Covid inquiry

Peter Dutton has rejected Andrew Forrest’s call that any international inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic be held after the US election.

He says:

I just don’t see what the US election has to do with it any more than the German elections or the elections in France or Italy or New Zealand or Australia. I think at the moment we are seeing parts of the world absolutely devastated by this Covid virus and we know it originated out of Wuhan in China and we want to know how it happened, why it happened, and why it’s not going to happen again next year or the year after.


Nathan Cleary has escaped further sanction by police after he was fined by the NRL for his appearance in photos with a number of women at his house on Anzac Day, as the AFL becomes the latest sporting organisation to open an investigation into players breaching social distancing rules.

Cleary is $4,000 lighter in the pocket following the NRL’s punishment, but he won’t be fined any further after police dropped their investigation into him. They will, however, follow up inquiries into those who Cleary said had come to his home and stayed for 10 minutes.

Fellow rule-breakers Josh Addo-Carr and Latrell Mitchell, for comparison, were fined $1,000 after they were photographed in a group of men at a farm. But it appears that Cleary escaped a similar fine as the visit was unplanned and he did not leave his house.

“Following inquiries conducted by Nepean Police Area Command, no offence relating to the 22-year-old man was detected,” a police spokeswoman said. “Investigations are continuing into other potential offences.”

Meanwhile, the AFL is aware of a video in which three Fremantle players are seen in a group of people, reportedly on Sunday night. The gathering of seven people, which included star defender Luke Ryan and fringe players Michael Frederick and Jason Carter, has prompted a club investigation.

Before Monday, gatherings in Western Australia were limited to two people. That limit is now 10.

“We have been made aware of a video of a small gathering of people at a home on Sunday night, including three Fremantle players,” a Dockers spokesman told AAP.

“We are in the process of speaking to the players involved and gathering all the relevant details and information. Once that is completed, the club will be in a position to comment further.”

Dutton says China should “welcome” the transparency that would come from an inquiry.

He won’t weigh into the fracas between DFAT and the Chinese ambassador.

The home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, is on the ABC with Patricia Karvelas.

Making the case for an international inquiry into the Covid-19, he says people who have lost loved ones during the pandemic deserve answers.

Is he confident the virus started in Wuhan?

I think we need to accept the facts. Where else did it start if it wasn’t in Wuhan? What other concentrations or clusters where there in other jurisdictions, I’m not aware of any, at that early stage. And the reason it is important is we want to make sure we don’t see this restart.

We don’t want to see a new version of this virus in 12 months’ time or in two years, that’s why we’ve been critical not of wet markets but of wildlife wet markets where to this very day bats are still being sold.”


Andrew Forrest was just on the ABC where he was asked if there were any tensions with health minister Greg Hunt standing alongside the Chinese consul-general, Zhou Long, at the press conference today.

Forrest claims there was a “lessening of tension”.

“The Minderoo Foundation did ask for the blessing of the consul-general to attend,” he says.

There was a lessening of tension and I think the consul-general of China made some globally powerful statements about China’s attitude of pulling together to get through this. The minister and myself have that same attitude. The world has got to pull together to get the world through this pandemic.

It appears Health Min. Hunt did not have a whole lot of notice that China Consul General Zhou Long would be at his Joint Presser with Andrew Forrest.

Hunt made it clear Twiggy would have to be the one to introduce the Vic Consul General, and that he wasn't allowed to take Qs.

— Thomas O'Brien (@TJ__OBrien) April 29, 2020


Thanks to Amy for her great work today, and always. I’ll be with you for the next few hours. You can reach me at luke.henriques-gomes@theguardian.com or on Twitter @lukehgomes.


And on that note, I am going to hand you over to Luke Henriques-Gomes for the next little bit.

I’ll be back tomorrow morning. Thanks again for joining me, and if you still have questions, you can reach me here or here (apologies if I take some time replying, I am making my way through the backlog).

As always, take care of you.


Paul Kelly thinks that it is “interesting” the US is talking about establishing a permanent pandemic response team, given it already has it – that would be the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) (which is always turning up in hazmat suits in American movies) .

I believe we [Australia] have that structure. There have been calls in the past to set up something like the CDC or a Centre for Disease Control in Australia so we can be like the US. I think it’s interesting that the US is talking about setting up something which they’ve already got. We have that structure at the federal level and there is expertise in each of the states and territories and we have a virtual centre if you like.


On professional sport resuming, the deputy chief medical officer says an answer should be provided very soon

We are working with the AFL, NRL and other codes and specifically with the Australian Institute of Sport. Thank you to Dr David Hughes who has done excellent work with a team there at AIS, to look more broadly, not just at the elite level of sport, but to community sport and Olympic sports and so on about what would be a safe transition back to sporting codes, including the elite ones and others. We had a discussion about that today at the AHPPC and there will be advice to the national cabinet on Friday with some general principles and some advice on those matters.


Professor Paul Kelly then gives a reminder of what the Covid tracing app actually does (ie: it doesn’t make you ‘safer’ by preventing you from coming into contact with the virus)

The app doesn’t replace good contact tracing. We have real expertise in Australia in relation to public health broadly and including contact tracing. Every state and territory has a very good unit and the heads of those units, the chief health officers, meet with us every day in the Australia Health Protection Commit There are public health units on a more regional basis too. The app is only a technological assistance to that expertise that’s already there. I’m very confident in our ability there.

Professor Paul Kelly goes on to talk about the dangers of a second wave of coronavirus in Australia:

So the second wave I’m sure will be a topic for quite some time.

In one sense we’re victims of our success there to an extent.

Because we’ve had so few people that have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and we are nowhere near that concept of herd immunity.

That would be one way of guarding against a second wave.

We’re definitely not looking to do that in Australia, as some of the countries have either planned to do or have been forced to achieve very large caseloads.

We’ve seen what that has done in other parts of the world. So we won’t be going to that.

A second wave is always possible and that’s why those three precedents have been set by the Prime Minister before we lift those social distancing and socialisation rules about case finding, keeping the cases low if possible, if cases occur, finding them quickly, finding their contacts, quarantining them and decreasing the size of any outbreaks that we might have by having a very detailed and quick response.

If a second wave does occur we’ll deal with it quickly and we’ll respond to it.

11 May is restriction review 'target'

Looks like 11 May is D-day for examining the relaxation of restrictions, at least from what the deputy chief medical officer says here:

You might remember a few weeks ago, as we were on some very worrying upswings of the pandemic in Australia, where we were getting several hundred new cases of Covid-19 diagnosed every day.

At that time there was a lot of change, a lot of new things were announced.

Premiers sometimes announcing slightly different social distancing measures, slightly different figures and so on. So the word confusion was used a lot then.

I’ve heard it a lot over the last week or so.

That in one way is not surprising because we’re on a new phase in this epidemic, much less frightening phase, but a phase of change.

So over the next few weeks – and as we get closer to that May 11 target and after that as well – there will be many announcements about changes in the way we’ll be living our lives and hopefully getting back to some sort of new normality living in a Covid-19-safe society.

There will be a lot of information. It may be slightly different in different states.

That’s not a mixed message.

That is a changed message.

And we will, as we have always done, undertake to share those differences and share those announcements as soon as they come to be.

And I’m sure across Australia people will understand that.


The deputy chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, is giving the national update today:

Over 544,000 tests so far. It’s worthwhile considering where we are in Australia compared to the rest of the world right now.

There was another milestone I guess overnight or yesterday where there is now over 3 million cases that have been diagnosed.

About a third of those in the US. And over 200,000 deaths.

An incredible figure when you think that the first cases we heard of were just in early January. Only four months ago.

So we’re continuing to do well in Australia. We’re in that suppression phase of and we have well and truly flattened that curve.


If they had just set up NRL island, none of this would have happened.

I will never let go of the island dream. But Nick Tedeschi has a much more measured take:

Optics are as important now as reality and the flagrant disregard for both rugby league and the law of the land has marginalised public opinion about a 28 May return.

The NRL may be able to survive a PR crisis relatively unfettered now but any breach by any player once teams return to training – scheduled to start on Monday – will have a catastrophic impact for the code with the game certain to be shut down.

Given some players are clearly unable to comprehend the impact their actions have on the wider game, those at League HQ must be petrified at the prospect of trying to get all players to adhere.”

You’ll find that story, here


AAP has an update on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which will be held in 2021 (but still called the 2020 Olympics, because everything is already printed):

Staging the Tokyo Olympics next year isn’t contingent on the discovery of coronavirus vaccine, senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member John Coates says.

Japan’s Medical Association believes the Games, postponed until July and August next year, can only proceed if a vaccine is found.

“I saw that opinion,” Coates told AAP on Wednesday. “But the advice we’re getting from WHO [the World Health Organisation] says we should continue to plan for this date and that is what we’re doing, and that’s not contingent on a vaccine.

“A vaccine would be nice. But we will just continue to be guided, as we must be, by WHO and the Japanese health authorities because in all of this, the health and wellbeing of the athletes and other participants in the Games is the number one priority.”

Coates, the chair of the IOC’s coordination commission, said organisers at every level were working at pace towards holding the Games in Tokyo from July 23 to August 8 next year.


The Victorian education minister, James Merlino, is not a fan of federal minister Dan Tehan’s decision to link early non-government school funding to returning to classrooms by 1 June.

Merlino told reporters in Melbourne the plan was “disappointing” and “completely inappropriate” because independent schools were feeling financial pressure and there was no need to attach strings to the funding.

He said:

What the federal government is doing is using funding to force non-government schools to ignore the expert medical advice of the Victorian chief health officer. Expert medical advice, not money, should determine whether schools open.

Merlino also noted the latest intervention was “different to the advice from the prime minister” that the “only person” Victorian parents should look to for advice about whether their kids should go to school was the Victorian premier.

Merlino said he “feels for Victorian non-government schools” but the move “won’t force our hand”.

Every decision we’ve made has been by expert medical advice ... My expectation is the vast majority of non-government schools will continue to follow the advice.


I have seen a few comments over the past week or so, so for anyone who is still wondering, Murph is off for a few weeks so she can work on a project. Malcolm Farr is with us in the meantime.

Sarah Martin is on maternity leave, having welcomed Annabel to her (and our) family.


Universities Australia has warmly embraced Victoria’s contribution to help international students. Eligible students can access up to $1,100 in payments (equal to two weeks of jobseeker) in a $45m announcement made in conjunction with universities today:

Victoria now joins the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australian, Tasmanian and Western Australian governments in assisting international students who, like their Australian peers, have lost casual or part-time jobs as a result of the global pandemic.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said almost all states and territories, together with every Australian university, now offer support for international students.

“Many international students now find themselves in extremely difficult circumstances due to the economic impact of Covid-19. Unlike their Australian classmates, there will be those who won’t have family or local support networks to fall back on,” Ms Jackson said.

“Assistance from all levels of government adding to that from our universities is vital at this time of growing need.”


Western Australia has recorded just one new positive diagnosis for Covid-19 in the past 24 hours.


Christian Porter is then asked about his Victorian counterpart’s letter, allowing for the publication of the redacted documents which related to George Pell in the child abuse royal commission’s final report.

Porter says:

So, that letter’s been received. Process is – and I apologise if this sounds bureaucratic – but this is the process: I receive it, I read it, it goes to the department, they satisfy themselves, I get final legal advice, and yep, and then documents can be published.

If I were you, I would keep an eye on tabled documents during the next sitting of parliament, given that response.


Pressed on that comment by Gareth Parker, who asks whether or not diplomats are known to go free-range with their responses, Christian Porter says:

Well, I’m not entirely sure about that. There’s been some other responses in some other countries and responses differ from diplomat to diplomat.

And, you know, every human being gets emotional from time to time.

But I would describe that an emotional response to what is, I think, just an inarguably reasonable proposition that a virus which has killed enormous numbers of people, brought the world economy to a grinding halt, brought the Australian economy to its knees – from which position we have to recover – should be the subject of a forthright investigation so that we can understand the origins, the early transmission, the way in which the disease was administered, well or not well in its early stages.

And that’s a matter of global concern. The idea that you wouldn’t have an investigation like that is irrational, illogical, unreasonable, and the response suggesting that that style of investigation is not warranted and necessary, to me is an emotional response. So, you know, we stand by the need
for an investigation of the origins of the virus. It’s as simple as that.


Attorney general labels Chinese ambassador's response 'largely emotional'

Christian Porter then goes on to say he believes China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, was “emotional” when he responded to Australia’s call for an independent investigation into the Covid response:

I think that the Chinese ambassador’s response was largely emotional and generally speaking those type of emotional responses are relatively short-lived.

So whether this escalates or not will be a matter to wait, watch and see.


Christian Porter told Perth radio 6PR he believes the privacy argument regarding the Covid tracing app is “over”. The source code has not been released as yet (security agencies are deciding how much can go out) and the legislation surrounding the app won’t reach parliament until May.

Well, I do, I do think that there is no more private, more secure information, and what we have done is make it an offence for the information to be used for any other purpose than the purpose that Greg Hunt has set out, which is to allow for the quicker ability to work out where someone has been diagnosed with Covid-19, who they’ve been in proximity-contact with for a period of time that puts that person they’ve been in contact with at risk of contracting the disease.

That’s all it’s being used for. Any other use is unlawful, and you know in normal circumstances when you consent or volunteer information to a private or public sector entity, it is possible for that information potentially to be the subject of a warrant or to be provided to law enforcement agencies.

Not with this information ... That is strictly prohibited by a biosecurity direction of Greg Hunt by agreement with the states and by legislation.

So it’s very safe, it’s very secure, it serves a very important purpose and everyone in WA wants to get their lives back and get their businesses back on track and get our economy roaring back to life. And this is a very, very important part of achieving that.

And as a country we’ve achieved better health results than virtually every other country on Earth. And trying to continue those health results, whilst also re-animating our economy, means that we as a government have to try things and this is definitely worth a very strong try.

I think it will succeed and I think the early numbers are extremely encouraging.


The government has announced $1m to help connect older and vulnerable Australians become (or stay) digitally connected:

Minister for families and social services Anne Ruston said the government was committed to support older Australians stay digitally connected during these difficult times.

“One-off payments of up to $5000 would allow existing Be Connected Network partners to purchase and loan digital devices and sim cards to Australians aged over 50 years,” minister Ruston said.

“We expect these grants will help provide devices such as a laptop or iPad and data plans to up to 3500 older Australians who would otherwise be at risk of disconnecting during the coronavirus pandemic.


The National Catholic Education Commission has released a statement about Dan Tehan’s offer to bring forward non-government schools funding - noting that Catholic schools in different states may have to manage the return to face-to-face teaching differently.

Executive director, Jacinta Collins, said:”Catholic schools are keen to minimise the disruption on students’ education and return to classroom learning as quickly as possible. However, there may be variances in the way Catholic schools across Australia manage the transition of students back to school in response to differing local considerations and differing state health advice.

Parents and carers will be advised of specific arrangements by their child’s school. In the meantime, Catholic schools will continue to remain open for students who need to attend, and will provide remote learning to ensure that all students can continue their schooling during this period.”

Winston Peters has given an interview which includes a pretty extraordinary admission of something the New Zealand cabinet was asked to consider:

Via AAP:

New Zealand’s cabinet formally considered and dismissed a potentially illegal ministry of health proposal last month to shut the country’s borders to stranded Kiwis.

The extraordinary cabinet leak was revealed by deputy prime minister Winston Peters on Tuesday.

Mr Peters, in Wellington for the first time since the country’s lockdown, gave a speech thank the ministry of foreign affairs and trade for their above-and-beyond consular efforts in the crisis.

The NZ First leader then made the revelation when fighting back criticism that the government’s response has been “too myopic and captured by advice from the ministry of health”.

“Both critiques could not be further from the truth,” he said.

“The ministry of health recommended a total shutdown of the border, including to returning New Zealanders. From its health perspective this was understandable and appropriate advice.

“But the Coalition cabinet rejected that advice because it was and is inconceivable that we will ever turn our backs on our own.”


Still confused about quantitative easing?

We have released a summary of the unconventional monetary policy measures being used in Australia - https://t.co/qeQVGzByUO pic.twitter.com/gSAwVQpALq

— RBA (@RBAInfo) April 29, 2020

Economist Warwick McKibbin is a specialist at modeling the economic effects of pandemics and a former RBA board member.

Those who think that the Australian government shutdown is causing the economic loss haven’t looked at the Swedish data. Sweden has a much higher COVID19 death rate than Australia and a deep recession without a shutdown. https://t.co/5taENg7q8C

— Warwick McKibbin (@WarwickMcKibbin) April 28, 2020

Anthony Albanese was just on Sky News.

He was asked if it was weird to see Greg Hunt standing next to a Chinese ambassador, given the latest round of diplomatic sparring:

Well, it was probably fair to say it was an unexpected vision at that press conference. But it’s not a bad thing, either. I’m not critical at all of Greg Hunt for doing that.

What we saw here was a practical difference being made by Twiggy Forrest and to enable an increase in the number of tests that are taking place here in Australia.

Australia always has to stand up for our own national interest. And that’s what we’ve done here. Australians, as well as others, it must be said, have an interest in finding out exactly the details of how this crisis came about, the source of the virus, how it happened.

Not as an academic exercise, but so that we can avoid it ever happening again.


The car manufacturer Ford is planning to use its remaining Australian facilities to produce and donate about 100,000 face shields to healthcare workers.

PPE stocks have been the subject to unprecedented demand across the globe during the pandemic. Australia has sought to boost its own stocks by getting existing industries to pivot into PPE manufacturing.

Ford Australia this morning announced it would use its existing development facilities at Broadmeadows to produce and donate the face shields after working with the Victorian government on a design.

“Producing face shields is certainly something new for us, but our innovation team and engineers were able to test a number of different designs in hospitals, and with their input we have been able to get the face shield right for the people who will be wearing them,” Kay Hart, the company’s Australia and New Zealand president, said in a statement.

“With testing of the prototype shield now complete, we’re quickly ramping up production and working to dispatch the shields to medical workers and other facilities that need them.”

The company says it has already assembled about 50,000 shields and is talking to government about ongoing needs.

Ford last year sold off many of its facilities at Broadmeadows, including its assembly plant, after ceasing local manufacturing. But it still retains a presence there for staff in its engineering and design divisions.


Will Australia back Taiwan’s bid to rejoin the World Health Organisation? It wants us to. But Greg Hunt, standing next to Zhou Long says:

I will completely leave those those questions to the foreign minister. It’s not one within my remit. It was a nice try.


Zhou Long:

Ladies and gentlemen, the virus knows no ideology, border or race, and in face of the pandemic the testings of all countries are closely interwoven where we’re all in this together.

Solidarity and the cooperation is the only way to overcome the public health challenge and all countries should unite as one in this undertaking.

And only by working together can we secure the ultimate victory against Covid-19.

Views have been expressed that Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest crisis faced by mankind since World War II.

If that is the case, we have no choice but to work together to transform the crisis, the challenges, into new opportunities of cooperation.

There’s also a view expressed that this pandemic will certainly change the world as whole.

If that is the case, we have no choice but to work together to make the world a safer, more harmonious and a better world. In this regard, all of us, no matter who we are – whether we are philanthropists or politicians or government representatives, or medical people, scientists or media people – we all have roles to play.


The weirdest part of that Greg Hunt and Andrew Forrest press conference?

The China consul general for Victoria, Zhou Long, was there – despite the press conference being held in the midst of a diplomatic spat between the Chinese embassy and Australia, and just an hour after the embassy fired off its latest annoyed missive.


The Chinese government has released information related to the Covid-19 in open, transparent and responsible manner and we have worked closely with WHO and other countries including shared experiences in epidemic prevention and control and providing assistance within our capacity.

China very much appreciates and thankful to the compassion, support and sympathy of the Australian people to towards the Chinese people in our fight against the virus and vice versa. We are also doing everything possible to help Australia.

And this is – this project is another testimony of the friendship and the cooperation between our two countries and the two peoples


We are finally listening to the experts.

Can we expect this to flow in other issues? One can only hope so.

The government has asked a range of experts to answer a range of questions to help aid the Covid response:

The Rapid Research Information Forum (RRIF) was convened and is chaired by Australia’s chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel. It benefits from operational support and leadership from the Australian Academy of Science and is a collaboration of the participant organisations listed below.

RRIF participants are working together to rapidly answer pressing questions about Covid-19, as they emerge. Questions are put to the RRIF by ministers and other key decision-makers, for example to support the work of the chief medical officer, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission.

The first three reports, published in response to questions asked by the health minister, are available now.

  • What is the impact of winter on the spread of Covid-19?
  • Is reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 possible?
  • What is the feasibility of monitoring wastewater for early detection and monitoring of Covid-19 in the population?
  • Is there evidence for differential learning outcomes for online versus in-class education? What factors moderate the relative effectiveness? And are there distinct implications for students in metropolitan, remote, rural and indigenous communities?
  • What is the predictive value of serological antibody tests, and are point-of-care tests comparable to laboratory tests?
  • What impact is the pandemic having and likely to have on Australia’s research workforce and will we have the research workforce capability to support our recovery efforts?
  • What are the most vaccines and treatments being developed globally that are regarded as having most promise (including national and international collaborations and consortia) and what are the mechanisms for action for each of these, their stage of development and their strengths and limitations?


CPI rose 0.3% in the March 2020 quarter https://t.co/l3rBFfJCGZ

— Australian Bureau of Statistics (@ABSStats) April 29, 2020

Asked for his opinion on whether or not there should be an independent inquiry into the original pandemic response, Andrew Forrest says:

The relationship I see between the Australian people and the Chinese people is really one of a common heart.

Each of us would like to leave this world a better, kinder, more environmentally sustainable one than we have now.

That is the motive behind the Chinese people and, as I know, all my mates behind the Australian people. So I see a commonality in cause here.

There will be points in any good relationship.

There’s ups and downs. But this is a solid and long-term relationship which has existed since prior to World War I. They’ve been on our side in World War I, in World War II, and that should not change, specifically ... a call for a priority.

My priority is to see the pandemic come to an end, so I’ll be putting everything I can personally, and as the foundation and as my businesses, to remove the fear of this pandemic from the Australian people as quickly as possible.


Greg Hunt and Andrew Forrest are officially announcing the partnership between the government and the Minderoo foundation to secure 10m more covid testing kits


Rents in Sydney have fallen back to where they were in Dec 2017... Down 1pp over past 12 months.

— Shane Wright (@swrighteconomy) April 29, 2020


What did we just learn?

A national mental health program will be rolled out to ensure any gaps in access are closed.

Some 800,000 people have had their jobseeker claims processed.

The increased jobseeker payment will not be extended beyond the emergency response.

So far 2.8 million people have downloaded the Covid-19 tracing app.

The prime minister has linked the app’s take-up to restrictions being relaxed.

Scott Morrison watches TikTok “mashups” to chill out.

Jacinda Ardern* received a phone call from the Queen. Scott Morrison has heard from Prince Charles.

*favoured child


The drought and Covid-19 panic buying pushed annual inflation above 2% for the first time in two years, according to figures released by the Bureau of Statistics this morning.

The bureau said the figures, which cover the first three months of the year, don’t include the full impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

“There were some price effects of Covid-19 apparent in the March quarter due to higher purchasing of certain products towards the end of the quarter, as restrictions came into effect,” said the ABS chief economist, Bruce Hockman.

“Most notably, rises were seen in other non-durable household products (+3.4%), which includes toilet paper; personal care products (+2.2%), which includes soap and hand sanitiser; and other cereal products (+4.4%), which includes rice and pasta.

“More evident effects of Covid-19 are expected in the June quarter CPI.”

A rise of 0.3% for the quarter pushed the annual rate to 2.2%.

“CPI annual inflation was above 2% for the first time since 2018 and the highest since September 2014 quarter,” Hockman said.


Scott Morrison again rules out extending jobseeker payment increase

The government has not really shifted on this. Scott Morrison echoes Mathias Cormann this morning on not extending the jobseeker payment rate beyond the emergency response timeframe:

This was an emergency response measure.

This was not a change in the government’s view about the broader role of the social safety net in Australia.

I think we have a very strong social safety net, but in this particular point of time and as the Treasury secretary pointed out yesterday, when you’re looking at unemployment going above 10%, as I have said to you on a number of occasions, I fear worst statistics coming forward on the economy in the months ahead and we need to prepare ourselves for that.

That’s why jobseeker and jobkeeper were put in place, to deal with the heavy blow that the Covid-19 pandemic is going to have on the Australian economy.

But that’s why we also need to move as quickly as we can, getting these protections in place to ensure that our economy can grow.

The budget will be restored by our economy growing. And that’s why as we move towards the budget scheduled for October this year then we’ll be in a position to line a range of measures that will support that growth into the future.

Which will support to budget.

That’s important because the budget supports essential services.

It’s all about jobs, it’s all about services going forward and ensuring that we can do in a responsible and sustainable way with the budget.

These emergency measures come at a great cost and clearly that level of cost is not sustainable beyond what we have flagged.


Christine Morgan on what you can do to help your mental health fitness:

I think many of us are feeling as though we have lost a bit of our own autonomy, our own ability to control our environment and that kind of feels a bit deflating, takes away from us and also makes us anxious because we don’t know how long this is going for.

I sort of go, regain control.

You can set a routine within your own home. You can choose to do this in your own unique way.

You can actually have more freedom to do that than perhaps we can when we’re going to work and doing other things.

I think psychologically it’s really important, it’s also really good for our health that we have a routine.

Doing things like the right amount of exercise, sleeping, not too much alcohol, those kinds of things I think are really important and reaching out to others.

We heard from – and I said this before – fellow Aussies during the bushfires that when the chips were down we really needed to rely on each other and build community so how we can proactively build a community.

We are in a digital world, we have people in our society who don’t know how to do the online stuff, how can we reach out and help them.

Random acts of kindness are great and I think the good old Aussie spirit.

I don’t know if you’ve seen it, the dress up for bin night, where we’re reclaiming some of that creativity, some of that energy and hope that as we come out of this we can actually come out of it different but OK.

Scott Morrison:

Watching those mashups, too, on TikTok can help*.

*TikTok is now cancelled. I don’t make the rules.


Downloading the covid tracing app is once again linked to restrictions lifting.

Scott Morrison:

But I stress again if we want to get back to sport then we need to download the app.

It’s not mandatory, but it’s common sense.

As we sit down as a national cabinet and make this decisions about easing restrictions it’s one of the many things we’ll be looking at.

I’d love to see community sport get back. The evidence we’re seeing about transmission about outdoor areas and medical evidence is encouraging.

But for us to have confidence of a Covid-safe Australia we need the Covidsafe app to be in place.


The NRL is pushing ahead with a 28 May start date.

But Scott Morrison says there has been no national cabinet determination.

The commonwealth has made no decision about the access by the Warriors into Australia. That hasn’t happened.


Scott Morrison spoke to Prince Charles.

Jacinda Ardern got a call from the Queen.


Scott Morrison is again asked about China, and whether Australia needs to address its economic reliance on that nation’s economy.

(Just as Australia had (to date) 29 years of uninterrupted growth, China had 30 years of uninterrupted economic growth, which was only slowed by the pandemic)

He again points to Australia becoming a bit more self-sufficient in terms of supply chains and manufacturing, in a post Covid restriction world:

There are things that have restrained the competitiveness of our manufacturing and other sectors in Australia, that if we want to have these sovereign capabilities, it isn’t achieved through nationalisation or large public subsidies and protectionism.

It’s achieved by having competitive businesses that can operate in these sectors and be successful.

That is what the road back looks like. It doesn’t look like, you know, and industry run from Canberra.

It looks like an industry made up of very successful, innovative businesses on the ground, finding markets, sustaining themselves, employing many Australians, engaging new technology, and using the best minds that we have.

That is where sovereignty comes from, and that is the type of approach that we will be pursuing. Australians will find markets, as we have been now for a long time, all around the world, and for many years now our markets have been diversified.

I mean, the predominance of our trading relationship with China is obviously resources-based, and I see no reason why that would alter in the future.

I mean, the thing about our relationship with China is it is a mutually beneficial one.

It is a comprehensive strategic partnership, and we will continue to pursue that partnership, respecting China’s sovereignty, and their independence, and its success will continue to depend on that being returned.


When it comes to monitoring wildlife wet markets (which are not just in China and are different to wet markets, which is an all-encompassing term for a fresh food market – the distinction is important) Morrison says:

On wildlife wet markets, my position has never been directed only to one country. It has been a broad position. These markets exist in many places, just as the next pandemic could come from any country, any country in the world. It could occur in any part of the globe, and it is important that we learn the lessons of how this pandemic started, so we can move on any future pandemic, wherever it starts.

This is why it is an important initiative, and one that I believe has support to occur at the right time. In Europe at the moment, I was speaking to the president of the European Commission last night. We discussed this issue. The Europeans are bringing forward a motion on this matter at the World Health Assembly. I think it is a very good motion.


And on China’s reaction, specifically, Scott Morrison says:

That is a matter for them. Australia will do what is in our interest, in the global interest, and we will of course continue to support moves to ensure there is a proper independent assessment of what has occurred here. I mean, that is in the global health interest, it is in the global economic interest. It is not a remarkable position. It is a fairly commonsense position, and one that we don’t resile from.


Will Australia continue to pursue an independent investigation, given China’s reaction?

Scott Morrison:

Australia will of course continue to pursue what is a very reasonable and sensible course of action.

This is a virus that has taken more than 200,000 lives across the world.

It has shut down the global economy. The implications and impacts of this are extraordinary.

Now, it would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again.

I don’t think this is a remarkable suggestion.

I think it is a fairly obvious and commonsense suggestion, that I believe there will be support for at the right time, to ensure we do that.

We are a supporter and a funder of the World Health Organization.

We have supported particularly the work they do on the ground here, in our region, in south-east Asia, and the south-west Pacific.

But it is an organisation like any that can learn lessons from how this began, and the authorities they had to understand what was happening, and the transparency around those issues. Nothing extraordinary about that.

So what Australia is pursuing is not targeted. It is said independently, it is said out of common sense, and I think in Australia’s national interests, and in the global interest.

And so I find Australia’s position to be not remarkable at all, but one that is entirely responsible, and I am sure is broadly seen in that light around the world.


International travel, mass gatherings not resuming 'anytime soon'

On lifting restrictions, Scott Morrison says don’t get your hopes up for a return to normal as we knew it.

Not until there is a vaccine (and even then, things will continue to be different. We are not going back to what we knew before),

Putting the protections in place for a Covid-safe Australia, which means we can get an economic growth occurring again, and move on to what Australians like doing again.

It won’t be exactly like it was before. I can’t see international travel occurring anytime soon. Can’t see that. The risks there are obvious.

The only exception to that, as I have flagged, is potentially with New Zealand, and we have had some good discussions about that. But outside of that, that is unlikely.

But I look forward to the time when Australians can travel again within Australia. I look forward to the time where they can sit down for a meal at a restaurant or a cafe or a pub again.

I look forward to the time where they can see, whether it is the AFL, the netball, the NRL, or whatever code they support, and being able to watch that again.

But I can’t see them going along to a game for a while, those larger mass gatherings.

I can see, I suppose, the opportunity for those seeking private prayer in a place of worship, I can see that happening. I can’t necessarily, though, is the largest services occurring again.

But anyway, these are the issues we have to work through.


Scott Morrison again makes a point of saying there is no beef between him and state and territory leaders who may have a different view on restrictions. In this case, it is in relation to Dan Andrews:

First of all, Daniel and I, the premier and I, talk quite regularly, as you would expect, with all the premiers.

We are working together. That doesn’t mean we don’t from time to time have a different view about particular issues. It would be extraordinary if we didn’t.

But the fact is, when we do work through these issues, we do it in a very cooperative and respectful way.

And that is very much the relationship I have not only with Dan, but with all the premiers and chief ministers, as we work through these issues.

So yes, we talk all the time about this, and the point about the states that have gone beyond the baseline levels of restrictions is, that is entirely a matter for those states, and for them to make that judgment, based on how they see the conditions in their own state.

He says all the leaders are “swapping notes” and will continue to do so.


Scott Morrison says Christine Morgan will address the national cabinet when it meets on Friday but adds the state and territory mental health ministers have been developing a plan, which should be rolled out soon.


Beyond that, Christine Morgan says a plan is now being developed for what happens once the restrictions are lifted:

As the prime minister has said, that is absolutely critical to us getting back to the life we all want to have. Will we be anxious during that time?

Yes, that’s inevitable.

We can’t stop the anxiety, but we can certainly support and address it.

So the second phase that we will be looking at will be looking at the reality of that, and how can we from a mental health perspective ensure that we are there to meet the needs of Australians?

We will look at what are the particular issues? Should there be surges or hotspots, and we will look at what is needed for the long-term recovery.

And that is a plan which I understand from the prime minister he has invited to be put before the national cabinet. And we are doing this in a very short turnaround time.

We will have something to present for consideration by the end of next week.


Christine Morgan says a national plan is being developed to help address mental health gaps:

In conversation this morning with the prime minister and with our federal health minister, and reflecting on a very, very strong meeting that we had with Australian ministers responsible for mental health just at the end of last week, we are looking at significantly ramping up our ability to coordinate service delivery, to ensure that the accessibility that we have opened up with telehealth, the accessibility that we have opened up with increased digital and online services, is able to be accessed by Australians in a way that passes across our jurisdictional and commonwealth systems.

We need to make that work better. We need to ensure that anybody who actually needs a service is reached.

We are looking at how can we reach those Australians who are not currently coming to us for help?

We know when we look at those we lose to suicide that 50% of those we lose have not come in touch with our mental health services.

We are looking to what we can do by way of outreach.

So the commonwealth is working in conjunction with the states and the territories on a plan, on a mental health response plan, which will look at what are we doing on the current scenario.

What are the current specific issues, challenges and services we need when we are in this state of physical distancing, and staying at home?

Then we will look at what is the appropriate response as we ease those restrictions, and we must ease those restrictions.


And it is also important that the onus is not left on those who are struggling. If you notice someone may be in trouble, or not coping well, or just generally feeling anxious and unsafe, don’t be afraid to talk to them about what they might need.

Christine Morgan:

Your mental health is really important, your mental wellbeing is important.

As I said before, it is actually foundational.

It is foundational to our creative resilience and being able to get through this in the best way that we can.

But also just some circumstantial things which we are hearing, which I think it is just important to put to our notice.

I mentioned that in particular in talking to my colleague Georgie Harman at Beyond Blue that they are hearing stories of people not feeling safe.

And I think this is a reality that all Australians need to address.

I have said before that it is incredibly difficult to go behind closed doors to see what is happening in confined spaces, but we can look at the increase in calls to 1800 Respect, we can look at the increased calls, not there, but which we have also recorded, to Men’s Help Line.

We know that this is happening, we know that people may be more challenged than normal to reach out for help, so I call on all Australians, keep your eyes alert for what may be needed.


Christine Morgan says people need to keep up their mental health checkups and appointments:

For those Australians who live on their own, who actually cannot have that tangible reality of a hug from a loved one, we cannot underestimate the mental health impact that that is having on our Australians.

And, of course, there is the worry, that is being addressed, but it is a worry, about the job security, housing security, employment security. Those issues.

So what we would have hoped to have seen as a response to that is actually an increase in the use of mental health services. The reality is that, overall, there has actually been a decrease.

Now, why is that happening?

Why we think that is happening is that, for those who would normally be using mental health services to support their mental health and wellbeing, or their mental health challenges, they are not actually going out and doing those visits.

Morgan says telehealth has helped address that but she encouraged people to reach out when they need to.


Christine Morgan, the chief executive of the National Mental Health Commission, is at the press conference with Scott Morrison. She is going through some of the stats on mental health since the pandemic measures began:

Beyond Blue has seen a 40% increase in contact being made to it over this time last year and what we are seeing with respect to those calls is an increase in the distress levels and an increase in the anxiety levels and in the complexity of what people are feeling.

We are also hearing – and this is anecdotal … that people aren’t feeling as safe as they once did. That is a concern.

Head to Health has also seen a spike in visits.


The economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has sparked calls for greater transparency around welfare statistics as Labor argues the most recent data is now four months old.

The Labor frontbenchers Brendan O’Connor and Linda Burney argued on Wednesday that the criss “heightens the (pre-existing) need for timely and accurate data” on the number of people who had lost jobs and were now accessing welfare.

In a letter to their counterparts Michaelia Cash and Anne Ruston, they noted that the ABS labour forces released last week were a “lagging indicator”.

They said:

Of particular importance to evaluating the impacts of the crisis on employment and social security payments would be the timely release of claims for forms of social security like Newstart and jobseeker payments.

However, the Department of Social Services claims to only release such data monthly. It appears the department has not uploaded any data recently, as the most recent available data is from December 2019.

This is in stark contrast the practices in comparable jurisdictions, such as the United States that releases comparable data weekly.

Scott Morrison said last week 587,686 new jobseeker payment claims had been processed during the pandemic. But it is unclear how many recipients are now on the payment. In December 728,000 people received Newstart.


Some 800,000 jobseeker claims have now been processed.


Now we get to the point of the press conference – mental health.

Half of the mental health consultations are now being done through telehealth.

Scott Morrison:

One million telehealth mental health consultations have taken place since mid-March and some $35m specifically in mental health-related consultations have been conducted over that period of time, since telehealth was put in place.


A reminder that the app only helps authorities trace who a Covid-positive person has been in contact with (for more than 15 minutes). It won’t alert you to who might be positive in your vicinity – the app isn’t going to mean you don’t come in contact with the coronavirus.


He likes that so much, he says it twice:

We are unable to give you breakdowns of what ages of people have downloaded the app or what states they are from because all of that information is locked in the national data store.

As you know, that is not information that is available to the commonwealth government or the state governments. That is the protection we have put in place.

We would encourage all Australians, if you want to see us return to the more eased restrictions that I know you’re looking forward to and that I’m looking forward to, then it is important that you download the Covidsafe app.

That is your ticket, Australia’s ticket to a Covid safe Australia where we can go about the things that we love doing once again.


But Scott Morrison says he needs “millions and millions and millions” more Australians to download the app for a “Covid safe Australia”:

I would liken it to the fact that if you want to go outside when the sun is shining, you have to put sunscreen on.

This is the same thing. Australians want to return to community sport.

If you want to return to a more liberated economy and society, it is important that we get increased numbers of downloads when it comes to the Covidsafe app.

This is the ticket to ensuring that we can have eased restrictions and Australians can go back to the lifestyle and the many things that they previously were able to do and this is important.

If you have downloaded the app, thank you very much. Convince two or three more people that haven’t downloaded the app to do the same thing.


Scott Morrison says 2.8 million people have downloaded the Covidsafe tracing app so far and Australia is “not too far” from restrictions being relaxed:

We are looking at what the bigger-picture success is when it comes to Covid-19 and we are working to all of that together as a national cabinet, our own cabinet here at a commonwealth level will meet again today as we do every week, to ensure we’re focused on all elements of the recovery and the road back.

It is important to understand that on the road back, when we get to that Covid-19 safe environment, where we can ease the restrictions, which is not too far away, and you’re already seeing that happen with many of the states and territories – as I said they would over this interim period before we get together in the week beginning the 11th of May and consider the baseline restrictions.

States are already moving back from where they were ahead of those baselines and you have seen those announcements, whether it is in New South Wales or WA or other places.

That is welcome and that demonstrates to Australians that there is a dividend for them, for the way that they have been conducting themselves.


Scott Morrison press conference

The prime minister has arrived at the podium (it is raining in Canberra so it is the blue room, the second most fancy press conference location).

What does success look like in a Covid-19 world?

It doesn’t just look like having a low number of cases.

That is welcome. If we were to consider our success on Covid-19 as just having a low number of cases, that is not good enough.

That is not what our government is seeking to achieve and I don’t believe it is what the national cabinet is seeking to achieve either.

We have had great success in flattening our curve, that is obvious.

But having a low number of cases but having Australians out of work, having a low number of cases and children not receiving in classroom education, having a low number of cases and businesses not being open, having a low number of cases and Australians not able to be going about their as normal lives as possible, that is not what success looks like.

This is the success we’re seeking, to be able to have the protections in place, to enable Australians to go back to as normal a life and economy as possible.

To be able to achieve that as soon as we possibly can.


Tasmania is also spending an additional $4.1m to help homeless and vulnerable people through the pandemic.


Queensland recorded one new case of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours.


China responds

The war of words over an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19 continues.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Canberra responded to the latest from the Department of Foreign affairs and Trade:

The Q&A of the Embassy Spokesperson in the afternoon of 28 April was a legitimate response to the earlier breach of diplomatic protocol by the Australian side. The report on the phone call between the Chinese Ambassador and DFAT Secretary first appeared on Australian media. The phone call itself as well as the content of the conversation was obviously leaked by some Australian officials. As the Australian media report was inaccurate and misleading, the Embassy had no choice but to set the record straight.

The Embassy of China doesn’t play petty tricks, this is not our tradition. But if others do, we have to reciprocate.


The crossbench senator Rex Patrick says China’s reaction to Australia’s calls for an independent inquiry into Covid-19’s origins and the initial reaction to the pandemic is more evidence taht an inquiry into Australia’s relationship with China is needed:

Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye’s explicit threat this week of a Chinese boycott of Australian services leaves no doubt that a substantial reset of Australia’s relations with China is required.

The Ambassador revealed China’s true diplomatic face and confirmed concerns about China’s preference for control and coercion rather than partnership.

The Chinese Government’s response to Australian support for an international inquiry into of the COVID-19 pandemic confirms the increasingly fraught nature of Australia-China relations and makes it all the more important that Australia carefully consider our future approach to dealings with Beijing.

A business as usual approach is clearly not a sustainable proposition. We need a deep dive into the dynamics of Australia-China relations to determine the best strategies moving forward.


The Royal Melbourne Show is the latest event to be cancelled because of Covid-19.

We are expecting the prime minister to make some sort of announcement on mental health.

That has been a particular focus of Scott Morrison for sometime, which has been heightened during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Lithuanians are among the smartest and best people in the world and I am not at all biased about this.

Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, has announced plans to turn the city into a vast open-air cafe by giving over much of its public space to hard-hit bar and restaurant owners so they can put their tables outdoors and still observe physical distancing rules. https://t.co/9x5lS9WWrY

— Jennifer Keesmaat (@jen_keesmaat) April 28, 2020


NRL restriction breachers could jeopardise competition restart

The actions of the four NRL players who broke social distancing rules were “beyond belief”, according to Gladys Berejiklian, and their actions could ultimately jeopardise the planned restart of the season on 28 May, the NSW premier said.

Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell, Tyronne-Roberts Davis and Nathan Cleary were fined by the league on Tuesday for bringing the game into disrepute, although none are expected to miss any games after being given suspended bans. Mitchell and Addo-Carr are also facing firearms charges.

The NRL is forging ahead with plans to restart a shortened season at the end of next month, but still needs to overcome several hurdles if the proposal is to be given the green light.


We always base any decision on health advice and on the ability of an organisation to stick to that health advice. I think it does jeopardise [the restart], because the season hasn’t even started.

We are in a pandemic. It’s life and death. You might forgo your own safety, but to compromise someone else’s safety, that’s inexcusable. All of us are making huge sacrifices to protect other people. And if that doesn’t occur – if we don’t know that’s the intent – that will of course come into our decision-making, to the extent that it [the season restart] is our decision …

We can not afford to take chances or endorse any risky behaviour in a situation where lives could be lost because of a flagrant breach of a rule.”


Tourism Australia to redirect marketing focus to domestic tourism

Tourism Australia will be revamping its campaigns and redirecting its marketing focus to domestic tourism, which makes sense given that the borders are closed to international visitors.

Since 2013, Tourism Australia has focused on international tourists, under a directive from the Abbott government. The bushfires had already started to change the focus – shutting the borders sort of made the decision for them.


Scott Morrison will hold a press conference at 11am.


What a surprise that the ’Bra responds this way.

'locals only' scrawled on the headland at Maroubra, a few days after a neighbouring council said it's beaches would be open for locals only. pic.twitter.com/lXznGsLen3

— joe koning (@jskoning) April 29, 2020


Independent Schools Victoria accuses feds of using private schools as 'wedge'

Independent Schools Victoria has criticised Dan Tehan’s offer to bring forward funding, accusing the federal government of using independent schools as a “wedge” in a dispute with the Victorian government.

Michelle Green, chief executive of ISV, said:

The federal government’s announcement ... has placed the staff, students and parents in Victorian independent schools in an extraordinarily difficult and unfair position.

Schools now have just two days to decide if they are able to provide a safe workplace for their teachers and a safe learning environment for their students ...

Independent schools are being used as a wedge in a policy disagreement between the federal and Victorian governments. This is unfair and entirely inappropriate when what’s at stake is the health of children and their teachers.

The students and teachers at independent schools are being pitted against their government counterparts.

ISV has consistently recommended to its member schools that they follow the advice of the Victorian government, based in turn on the advice of Victoria’s chief health officer.

While not mandatory for independent schools, this advice is that schools should provide remote and flexible learning for the majority of their students, while providing onsite learning for those who have no alternative.

Just two weeks ago the federal government told us that independent schools that acted in accord with Victorian government health advice were effectively compliant with federal advice.

This announcement, which was given to the media before it was sent to independent schools, will leave many schools – and their teachers, students and parents – confused and frustrated at a time of extraordinary and unprecedented stress.


Meanwhile, the casino group controlled by the Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho, Melco Resorts, has sold its 10% stake in James Packer’s Crown Resorts to the US investment giant Blackstone.

In an extremely brief statement to the stock exchange, Crown, which has shut down its casinos due to the coronavirus crisis, said it “has been informed that an entity owned by funds managed or advised by The Blackstone Group Inc and its affiliates has purchased 67,675,000 shares in Crown, representing 9.99% of the issued capital of Crown, from Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited at a price of $8.15 per share”.

That’s about $550m.

Melco bought the shares for $13 each, so Ho’s group has suffered a significant loss.

Ho’s company had agreed to buy almost 20% of Crown but this was later wound back. The original transaction is under scrutiny from an inquiry in NSW, which is itself on hold due to the coronavirus crisis.

It’s not clear whether Blackstone will need approval from state gaming authorities for the purchase.


Victoria to provide support to international students

Victoria is the latest jurisdiction to provide support to international students (another group who have missed out on federal government support).

Forty-five million dollars will be spent on payments of up to $1,100 (two weeks of jobseeker) which approximately 45,000 international students will be eligible for.


National death toll rises to 89

A woman in her 80s who had been diagnosed with Covid-19 died in Victoria, taking that state’s death total to 18 and the nation’s total to 89.

Three more Victorians were diagnosed with Covid-19 in the last 24 hours.


Mehreen Faruqi criticises 'another special deal for private schools'

The Greens senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi is not a fan of the government’s $13bn advanced funding plan to get independent schools open by 1 June (particularly when state schools are still struggling to get things like hand soap).


This is yet another special deal for private schools. Ninety-nine per cent of public schools are underfunded as they work to support kids and families through this pandemic. Their students need urgent investment, not the 99% of private schools that are overfunded.

What the minister proposes is a bizarre approach to both school funding and public health.

School reopenings should be based on considerations of the health and wellbeing of students and teachers, as well as careful discussions with school communities, not on whether private school boards are willing to accept bribes from the minister in the form of advance funding.

It is despicable of the government to try and put pressure on public schools in this way.

We know the combination of economic conditions and exorbitant fees at private schools is very likely to cause student withdrawals. An advance for next year based on current enrolments will inevitably include money for students that won’t be there.

This comes only weeks after the Liberals and Labor pushed $3.4bn in additional private school funding through parliament during an emergency Covid-19 sitting.

Days after indicating that Newstart payments would return to below the poverty line, the government has found money in its back pocket to pay out billions of dollars to private schools ahead of schedule.


These are not just numbers. They represent people.

#UPDATE The United States marked its one-millionth #coronavirus case and reached another grim milestone as it registered 58,365 deaths -- a larger loss of life than recorded by its military in the Vietnam War https://t.co/xdTVSekvDp pic.twitter.com/1KkCIua8Fx

— AFP news agency (@AFP) April 28, 2020

The family and federal circuit courts have set up a special Covid-19 list to deal with the urgent applications that have emerged during the lockdown.

Women’s Safety NSW says calls for help in domestic violence situations have risen in the past month and services need government assistance to meet the demand.

Victims Services NSW statistics show a greater than 10% increase in the number of domestic violence client referrals – 13,767 in total – being received by NSW government’s Safer Pathway services statewide in March 2020 when compared to the same time last year.

Women’s Safety NSW provided detailed information to the NSW government three weeks ago on the significant outlays domestic violence services right across the state had made in changing the way they offer support to victim-survivors, many spending several thousands of dollars on laptops, mobile phones, lockable filing cabinets and information technology upgrades to keep confidential files secure whilst workers shifted to working from home.

• If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.


Greg Hunt will hold his press conference at 11.45am today.


NSW contacts federal government over 'lack of communication' at Newmarch House

Gladys Berejiklian said her government had contacted the federal government over the communication issues families connected to the Anglicare Newmarch House aged care home are reporting.

At least 30 Covid-19 cases have been linked to the Sydney home, and 11 residents who had been diagnosed with Covid-19 have died, including five in the past 24 hours.


The number of deaths yesterday was devastating, but I think what it does is remind us how contagious this virus is and how it attacks the elderly and vulnerable in particular. And our hearts go out to all the families of the people who have succumbed to the disease, but also to all the families who, um, are really worried about their loved ones.

I can confirm that last night the minister for health contacted the federal minister for aged care to express our government’s concerns at the lack of communication between the centre’s operators and the relatives.


Linda Burney was asked about the Cook anniversary on Sky news this morning.

Well, it’s an anniversary of mixed feelings for all Australians, and for First Nations people like myself.

It’s obviously a very difficult anniversary. I’m not saying that Cook was not a great navigator.

I’m not saying that Cook’s contribution to the world is not significant. But what [that] today means for First Nations people was the beginning of Terra Nullius – the beginning of a very difficult period in our history.

I think the most important thing is that truth be told – that it not be a one-sided celebration of Cook.

And Cook didn’t circumnavigate Australia as the prime minister said*.

That was somebody else. But it is a difficult day.

But it’s a day for reflection and truth-telling. I think that’s what’s really important. There is the story from the ships out in Botany Bay. But there is also the story from the shore. And both stories need to be told.

*When announcing $6.7m would be spent sending a replica of the Endeavour to circumnavigate Australia, Scott Morrison referred to it as a “re-enactment”. Cook never circumnavigated Australia. In terms of Europeans making their way around the continent, history writes Matthew Flinders as the first to do that. Morrison later corrected himself.


The economics committee will hold its second day of insurance hearings today.


Coles sales soars by 13% due to panic buying

Sales at the supermarket giant Coles soared more than 13% due to panic buying sparked by the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement to the stock exchange Coles said its supermarkets had sold more than $8.2bn of stuff in the first three months of 2020, compared with about $7.2bn at the same time last year.

It said its costs were also going to be higher because it had hired extra people to restock shelves and run its stores during longer trading hours.

The crisis also caused price hikes averaging 2.6% for supermarket goods because some things were in short supply and Coles stopped putting goods on special due to the floods of shoppers in their stores.

By contrast, prices went up by average 0.9% at the same time last year, and if fresh food and cigarettes are excluded actually went down 1.4%.

Coles also thinks the virus crisis has changed what people are buying.

“As more customers either work at home or stay at home there is early evidence of customers changing their habits, purchasing less convenience and impulse products and moving towards more cooking and baking from scratch,” it said.

“This is supported by the best viewer numbers of MasterChef in five years.”


The Independent Schools Council of Australia has welcomed Dan Tehan’s offer to bring forward non-government schools funding if they open their doors by 1 June.

David Mulford, ISCA chief executive, said:

The independent sector greatly appreciates this offer as it will help to alleviate some major cashflow issues facing many schools resulting from the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is important to note that this is not a handout. It is simply a matter of adjusting the timing of one of the regular scheduled payments to assist in effective financial management by schools. It will have no extra cost to government, but it will make a big difference in helping schools wrestle with the complexities of the Covid-19 impact.

While the health and safety of all students and staff remain of the utmost priority, independent schools remain supportive of the government’s intention to reopen schools in a timely manner and look forward to working cooperatively with the government to restore face-to-face learning as soon as practicable.


It has been 250 years since Captain James Cook rocked up uninvited on Dharawal land.


Logies to return in 2021

In some good news, which we all desperately need in these times, the Logies have been cancelled.

Australian TV’s “night of nights” will return in 2021.

Tom Gleeson with his Gold Logie
Memories from the 2019 Logies ... Tom Gleeson poses after winning the Gold Logie for the most popular personality on Australian TV. Photograph: Darren England/AAP


Two million Australians download Covidsafe

The number of people downloading the Covid-19 tracing app has topped 2 million.

Health experts continue to urge people to download it.

An Emergency Medicine Doctor's point of view on how the #CovidSafe app works and what it can be used for. @VictorianCHO @healthgovau #covid19 #coronavirus #covidsafeapp pic.twitter.com/Lmio6SSZtO

— Dr Dan Digital (@DrDanDigital1) April 28, 2020


The interview ends with a question about Angus Taylor.

Mathias Cormann:

I have full confidence in Angus Taylor. I’m not close to the ins and out of all this. I will let Angus explain himself.

Q: Even if there are differences?


I will let Angus deal with these matters.

Q: Are you confident he has not mislead parliament?


I have confidence in Angus Taylor, absolutely.

Taylor has maintained that he and his staff have done nothing wrong.


Should Australia expand its trade base so it is not so reliant on China?

Mathias Cormann:

Well, obviously Australia is always focused on diversifying our trading opportunities.

We are pursuing a very ambitious free-trade agenda, getting access to markets all around the world for Australian products and services all the time.

We came into government only 26% of our trade was covered by free-trade arrangements.

We have been able to boost that to in excess of 70% and we’re continuing to pursue other opportunities. Having said, that clearly our trading relationship with China will continue to be incredibly important.

In fact it’s the most important trade relationship we have and I would expect that to continue for some time.

What does Cormann think of where relations are now?

Well, look, we obviously are always keen to ensure the relationship is as good as it possible can be.

But we are always going to stand up for Australia’s national interest.

And in relation to the recent discussion, we think it’s entirely unremarkable for our government to argue that the appropriate time there should be an independent review into what happened and the response to it, and how we can avoid such a crisis in the future.

This is a crisis that is impacting on the health and economies and social structures all around the world and it’s of course a principle and right decision to seek to get to the bottom of what happened and how we can better respond to it in the future.


And just to drive that point home:

Q: You’re happy to have the old Newstart go back to where it was, the $40-a-day level?

Mathias Cormann:

Well, the decision is that the supplement is in place for the period of the Covid-19 crisis. And as soon as this – we’re on the other side of this period, the supplement would not continue. That’s right.

Q: What do you say to the Jacqui Lambies who say if you do that, and clearly based on what you are saying, you will, the government is pretty heartless.


I don’t agree. We have provided significant support through this period. We have doubled the level of jobseeker support through this period in recognition of the unique circumstances. But it is a temporary arrangement to deal with a temporary crisis.

Mathias Cormann
Finance minister Mathias Cormann. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Cormann dismisses calls to keep raised jobseeker rate beyond Covid-19 crisis

The independent senator Jacqui Lambie has joined the people calling for the government to keep the increased rate of jobseeker (previously Newstart), beyond the six-month slated time period.

Mathias Cormann says “Well, no.”

What is being provided right now is a Covid-19 supplement to the jobseeker payment.

It is in place for the, you know, the period impacted.

Q: So you wouldn’t consider it being permanent? After we’re through this?


Well, there is a supplement that is in place specifically for – to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. And the Covid-19 supplement won’t be in place on the other side.

The initial period this is in place for is about six months. And you know, capacity to adjust depending on how long this continues to go for.


You can find details of the independent schools funding plan here.


Asked about what the Treasury secretary, Dr Steven Kennedy, had to say yesterday about Australia’s unemployment rate, the man who looks like Mathias Cormann says:

Well, some jobs will not return. But new jobs will emerge as well.

We are working on a plan for a strong recovery on the other side.

Clearly the first priority was to ensure we provided the necessary and appropriate supports for our economy, for business, for Australians through this period and we’ve done that through a combination of jobseeker and jobkeeper and various other programs designed to support business and support Australians.

And our focus now is on maximising the strength of the recovery on the other side.

That clearly is going to be the focus now and there will be new opportunity, fresh opportunities as well, as a result of some of the adaptation that business has been forced to go through over this period.


Mathias Cormann is asked why the government is providing up to 25% of independent schools’ recurrent funding early, if they reopen by June.

Because we want to see our kids get back into the classroom to receive the benefit of classroom teaching. The health advice is emphatic. The health advice from all the health experts reporting to state and federal governments is emphatic. Schools are safe to be open. The best place for kids is in the classroom and to receive high-quality teaching. We don’t want our kids to have this massive disruption to their education if that is not required or justified on health grounds and the advice is very clear, it’s not.

He’s speaking to ABC News Breakfast from Perth and looks how I feel (dead tired).


Berejiklian : 'I’ll still be standing outside the house when I visit my parents'

Gladys Berejiklian started her press conference with some more information on the slight relaxing of restrictions planned for this weekend (when you can have up to two visitors):

The reasons why we’re allowing people to come into other people’s households is to extend the definition of care.

It’s to reduce social isolation and it’s to improve mental health, because we know that so many people in our community have been literally locked up in their homes for weeks on end.

We thank them for it. However, we expect every family, every close friendship, to have a conversation about the new arrangements.

I’ll still be standing outside the house when I visit my parents. I’m in contact with a lot of people and I don’t want to put them at risk.

If you’re visiting someone who is vulnerable, is a particular age, has a comorbidity, please know how contagious this disease is and the horrible impact it can have if you get the serious side effects from it.

We don’t want to see families unnecessarily go through that grief.

Please have those conversations with your families.

Have conversations about what you can do and we haven’t put a limit on how far you can travel in order to visit a loved one. But we ask everyone to be responsible.

This is not a holiday.

The reason we’re allowing people to do this, to reduce isolation, to improve mental health and give people that bit of contact which they haven’t – for some people, if you’re working for home – for a very long time.

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance, police commissioner Mick Fuller, premier Gladys Berejiklian and chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant during a press conference on Wednesday morning
NSW transport minister Andrew Constance, police commissioner Mick Fuller, premier Gladys Berejiklian and chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant during a press conference on Wednesday morning. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images


NSW Covid-19 cases increase by 11

New South Wales has reported 11 new cases in the last 24 hours.


Victoria still appears to be the main holdout when it comes to adhering to the prime minister’s wish that schools return by June (in terms of the big states).

NSW has announced a staggered return to onsite learning from 11 May.

Queensland has signalled it will return to some form of en masse onsite learning from 22 May (announced around 15 May).

Northern Territory schools remain open.

Western Australian schools are open for onsite learning, with social distancing in place. That state is expecting attendance to increase over the next few weeks.

South Australian schools are open for onsite learning with students slowly returning.

Tasmania still has restrictions in place for the north-west, and is encouraging parents who can keep their children home, to do so.

ACT has nine “hub” schools open for onsite learning but is maintaining at-home learning for now.

Here was the Victorian chief health officer a couple of weeks ago:

This is because having around a million children and their parents in closer contact with each other, teachers and other support staff has the potential to increase cases of coronavirus not just in schools but across the community. 2/3

— Chief Health Officer, Victoria (@VictorianCHO) April 15, 2020

Schools are not ‘dangerous places’ and parents should feel comfortable sending their kids to school - if they need to. But the mix of onsite & offsite learning supports better physical distancing overall, reducing risk as we drive new cases down. As risk changes, we’ll reassess.

— Chief Health Officer, Victoria (@VictorianCHO) April 15, 2020


Queensland MP resigns from LNP shadow ministry after social-distancing breach with two police officers

This seems awkward ...

(via AAP)

A Queensland MP has resigned from the Liberal National party’s shadow ministry after he and two police officers were fined for breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Toowoomba North MP Trevor Watts and the sergeant and senior constable were each fined $1,334 over a weekend street gathering in breach of social distancing rules.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington said she had accepted Watts’ resignation as shadow minister for police and counter-terrorism and corrective services.

“I expect the highest standards from my team, especially my shadow ministers,” Frecklington said in a statement on Tuesday.

Watts said he had been catching up with his neighbours on their respective driveways on Sunday afternoon and did not think he was in breach at the time.

“My actions demonstrated a momentary lack of judgment and I regret them deeply,” he said in a statement posted by Seven News.


Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation to provide 10m Covid-19 test kits for Australia

Greg Hunt and Brendan Murphy have announced a “critically important partnership” between the government and Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation to provide an additional 10m Covid-19 testing kits.

Over 500,000 Covid-19 tests have been completed to date. The addition of 10m tests across the country between now and the end of the year equates to an almost 20-fold increase in testing.

This increased testing capability is critical to enabling Australia to expand the testing criteria for Covid-19, and providing national cabinet with the confidence that widespread surveillance testing and expanded testing is achievable and adequately resourced.

This is one of the precedent conditions the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) have set for the national cabinet to achieve over the next four weeks before the further easing of social distancing and economic restrictions.

Further, the diversification of Covid-19 testing supplies in Australia ensures adequate testing capability whilst there are uncertain supply lines and shortages globally.

Expanded testing will also protect healthcare and essential workers on the front line, and ensures the healthcare systems remain strong and resilient to future challenges.


Good morning and welcome to today’s coverage of the coronavirus crisis in Australia. We will bring you all the latest developments, including the federal government’s push for independent and Catholic schools’ to return to face-to-face teaching by June.

Here were some of yesterday’s major developments to bring you up to speed:

  • Four more deaths at Sydney’s Newmarch House aged care home were announced on Tuesday evening, bringing the death toll at the facility to 11. On Wednesday morning the aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, labelled the deaths “absolutely tragic”.
  • More than 2.4 million Australians have downloaded the government’s Covidsafe app.
  • The NRL has said it has confirmed it will start playing matches on 28 May, resuming a 20-round season.
  • The deteriorating relationship between Canberra and Beijing worsened further over Australia’s proposal for an independent inquiry into China’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak.

We’ll bring you all of today’s updates as they happen.

You have Amy Remeikis with you for most of the day.




Ben Doherty (now), Luke Henriques-Gomes and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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