And with that, we’ll be closing the blog tonight. Thanks for reading and stay safe. We will be back covering all the developments tomorrow.
You can follow the continuing international liveblog here:
Here is what happened today:
- Australia’s unemployment rate rose to 6.2% for April, and underemployment increased to 13.7%, in the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That is the highest unemployment rate since September 2015, and does not include the six million people on jobkeeper.
- Millions of doses of experimental Covid-19 drug hydroxychloroquine, imported by Clive Palmer, will not be available to non-Covid-19 patients. The drug is currently used in Australia to treat autoimmune conditions, and isn’t yet proven to work on Covid-19. But the new shipments of the drug won’t be given to those patients with autoimmune conditions.
- Queensland is considering partnering with other bidders for Virgin Australia, with $200m on the table from the state government.
- In-person school attendance will be compulsory in Western Australia from Monday for all except students with medical vulnerabilities or family members with chronic health issues.
- Beaches in eastern Sydney will reopen tomorrow, with 500 at a time allowed onto the iconic Bondi Beach and enforced social distancing.
- The anti-vaccination NRL player Bryce Cartwright has obtained a medical exemption to getting the flu vaccination, meaning he can play in the upcoming season unvaccinated.
- The Australian will have to publish an apology to the special commission into the Ruby Princess, after an article it published potentially constituted contempt against the inquiry.
- Mutual obligation requirements for jobseeker will be suspended further – until 1 June. But the minister for employment, Michaelia Cash, said they will be brought back “in stages”.
From midday tomorrow, pubs in the Northern Territory will be allowed to reopen – albeit with a time limit of 2 hours for each patron.
The front page of the NT news is, you could say, quite happy.
And there’s a big dig there at NSW, where the dining areas of pubs can reopen tomorrow, but with a limit of 10 patrons.
Google Australia has paid $133m in back taxes (covering multiple years) after a push from the ATO.
Ben Butler has the story:
China has announced it will immediately begin allowing US barley imports.
The trade decision, which comes amid growing concern in Australia that China is cutting back its trade, has been framed as a potential Australia v US problem by state media.
China’s recent trade decisions have dominated Australian media this week, with Chinese authorities telling Australian producers they could impose tariffs on barley exports of 80%, and delisting four Australian abattoirs. Australia has exported several million tonnes of barley to China in recent years, compared with about 100,000 tonnes from the US.
The Chinese government insists its decision about Australian imports are all legitimate trade responses and not the “economic coercion” Australian politicians were worried about last week. But they come at a time when bilateral relations are very low, and with Beijing voicing some hefty warnings to Australia about the damage it is doing in pursuing an investigation into the source and spread of the virus.
Hawkish Chinese media outlet, the Global Times, has reported on the US barley announcement this afternoon, couched with several warnings for the Australian government.
The Global Time article, published in the last hour, says the decision to allow US imports “suggests a delicate situation” for the Morrison government.
“If US agricultural products take over Australia’s share in the Chinese market, then who is the antagonist of Australian businesses, China or the US?” it said.
The article then says – simultaneously – that the trade practises are normal and Australia shouldn’t be politicising them, but also that the Morrison government should “halt the further decline of its relations with China”.
“Moreover, it is likely Australia will face competition from US agricultural products in the future, which may put US-Australia friendship to the test. One can’t help but wonder what Australian politicians would do to protect their businesses under those circumstances and whether they would take a hard line against the US.”
And that has just been confirmed by the club, the Gold Coast Titans.
In a statement, the club said that player Brian Kelly had received “both the influenza vaccine and pneumococcal vaccinations” and is cleared to play.
Bryce Cartwright has obtained a medical exemption and will be able to play without taking any vaccines.
The club said:
Bryce Cartwright provided the club with medical documentation seeking an exemption from the influenza vaccine protocol.
This was subsequently passed on to Queensland’s chief medical officer Jeannette Young for review.
Dr Young has granted Cartwright an exemption based on medical grounds.
Cartwright is now eligible to return to training with the playing squad in preparation for the season restart.
And in further sport news, the anti-vaccination NRL player, Bryce Cartwright, was initially given a deadline of 5pm today to decide whether he will get a flu vaccination, or walk away from his playing contract.
According to reports from Channel 7, Cartwright has written to the Queensland health officer and obtained a medical exemption to the vaccine, claiming that he has previously had a bad reaction.
This means he should be free to train and play.
We’ll bring you more when it has been confirmed.
AFL season to restart 11 June – reports
Channel 7 are reporting that the AFL have picked an official date for the season to resume: 11 June.
Earlier, we mentioned that Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman had hinted he was in favour of permanently increasing jobseeker (formerly known as Newstart).
The government has previously said they won’t make it permanent. Newstart/jobseeker has not been raised above the inflation rate since 1994.
Here are his full comments on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing.
Host Patricia Karvelas asked him: “Do you think it should be a higher rate than the old Newstart payment?”
Zimmerman: “I do have views on that but I haven’t communicated them to the treasurer so it would be wrong for me to do so via your program.”
Karvelas: “Alright, you’ve given us a hint your views are it should be higher?”
Zimmerman: “You could say that, my dear PK, but I couldn’t comment.”
Karvelas: “You can call the treasurer after the show finishes at 5.00pm, no problem. Tell me now, you think there should be a higher rate?”
Zimmerman: “We will see a lag of [more] people moving to unemployment and I will leave it at that.”
My colleague Josh Taylor’s latest report on the Covidsafe app looks at the legal questions over whether US law enforcement can access its data.
WA to make school compulsory again
Earlier today, WA premier Mark McGowan announced that school will be compulsory again in the state from next week.
Students with medical vulnerabilities or family members with chronic health issues will be granted exemptions, but otherwise, the standard absence rules will apply from Monday.
It will apply to public, independent and Catholic schools.
Previously, parents had the option of keeping kids home and learning remotely.
“People need to reorganise themselves and we’re going to sensibly allow that transition to happen,” the education minister, Sue Ellery, said. “But attendance is mandatory.”
Parents are still prevented from entering school grounds when dropping off or picking up children, while school assemblies, camps and interschool activities will not be held.
On Wednesday, in-person attendance was already above 85%.
Teachers and school staff over 70, and those over 65 with a health condition, are encouraged to seek medical advice before returning to work.
Hi all, it’s Naaman Zhou here, taking over from the wonderful Amy Remeikis.
In some good news, legislation has passed parliament today that will allow aged care residents emergency leave to move out of nursing homes, without extra fees or losing their place.
The legislation has created a new category of emergency leave for aged care, AAP reports.
Under current arrangements, permanent residents are entitled to 52 days a year of social leave.
When that’s exceeded, providers no longer receive government subsidies, meaning significant costs are passed on to residents.
The federal government will now continue paying providers during emergencies like a pandemic or bushfires if the 52-day social leave cap is broken.
The legislation also bans providers from charging residents to reserve rooms while on leave during emergencies, with changes backdated to April 1.
Although the New South Wales government announced on 10 May that lockdown restrictions would ease from Friday 15 May, the health order confirming this change has not yet been published.
Without the health order, restaurants and cafes, which have been advised they can serve up to 10 patrons at a time on premises as long as they follow social distancing guidelines, will not have the authority to trade.
Publicans, who only discovered that they would be able to reopen their premises for food services on Wednesday evening, are particularly anxious to view the health order.
Chris Triall, of the Lady Hampshire in Camperdown, plans to reopen his venue on Friday 15 May.
Earlier today, he told Guardian Australia they are still seeking clarity “on the logistics ... we just need to get some guidance on how pubs will be operating differently from restaurants and cafes”.
Parliament is starting to wind down.
It will be back on 10 June though, so there is not too long to wait. By then, if the nation stays on its projected schedule, we should know a lot more about the next stage of the restriction relaxations as well. It’s basically a whole new world each week at this point.
In the meantime, Naaman Zhou will take you through the next few hours. Thank you so much for joining us for today’s coverage so far. You can always reach me here or here if you have burning questions outside the blog times.
Thank you again and take care of you.
In case you were interested – here is the government’s official response to today’s unemployment figures:
The Queensland government Virgin Australia stake bid story has been bubbling along all day, mostly because of the maroon on maroon fight between the Queensland government and Peter Dutton.
It’s the worst state of origin battle ever.
Kristina Keneally was asked about it by Kieran Gilbert on Sky, mostly because there is nothing Keneally loves more than a chance to shade Peter Dutton, something Gilbert is very well aware of:
KG: The final issue I want to ask you about is Virgin, the airline, and the suggestion the Queensland government is going to buy into an equity stake in that airline. Peter Dutton and David Littleproud have criticised that at a federal level. Is this something state governments should be really buying into as a former state premier yourself?
Well first of all I can understand why the Queensland government is interested in seeing Virgin with its 16,000 employees, and the services it provides regional communities, including in Queensland, I can understand why they’re keen to see that airline survive.
I have to say though I’m quite puzzled by Peter Dutton’s ongoing and somewhat obsessive commentary about what is happening in the Queensland government. It might be worthwhile if Peter Dutton remembers that he has a day job that is to be the minister for home affairs in the government of Australia. I mean to look at his Twitter feed and his public commentary, you think he’s moonlighting as the opposition leader there in Queensland.
I’m not sure if that is the job he really wants, but it would be important for him to do his day job, particularly when we see the 22nd death from the Ruby Princess.
In fact, the deaths from the Ruby Princess if you count the north-west Tasmanian outbreak, which seems to have been linked as well to the Ruby Princess, are over 30. It accounts for 10% of Australia’s coronavirus cases. I suppose if I was Peter Dutton I wouldn’t talk about my day job either.
When I asked for the earth to open up and swallow me during question time, this is not what I meant.
Trent Zimmerman is on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing – and he remains on the ‘increase Newstart’ train. The Covid supplement to the Newstart allowance – now called jobseeker – has doubled the rate to $1,100. That supplement runs out in September.
The calls to keep it, or increase the rate above the $550 a fortnight have already begun, and Zimmerman says he will be talking to the treasurer about it.
I do have views on that but I haven’t communicated them to the treasurer so it would be wrong for me to do so via your program.
This morning education minister, Dan Tehan, announced $10m for hygiene measures in non-government schools that plan to have 50% of students back by 1 June.
Why would this group of schools be getting funding? Well, first, the federal government is the dominant funder of independent and Catholic schools, and public schools are majority funded by the states.
Secondly, it’s a bit of a sweetener for the schools that sped up their return to in-classroom teaching.
Our government has taken a consistent position to follow the expert medical advice and the expert medical advice has been consistent that schools are safe for students and teachers with the right protocols in place ... Washing hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser is an important part of practicing good hygiene that helps slow the spread of the coronavirus. Supporting schools to adopt stronger hygiene protocols will help ensure the safety of teachers.
You know who is not pleased – the Australian Education Union, which represents public school teachers.
AEU federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said:
It is extraordinary that the Morrison government continues to deny additional funding for public schools in their response to Covid-19. Mr Morrison has once again favoured private schools with additional funding while telling the community that ‘we are all in this together’. Clearly his government has prioritised private schools over public schools. Principals, teachers and education support staff across Australia have undertaken an extraordinary task to ensure that teaching and learning continues in schools during Covid-19. However, they need to be supported in this work with the appropriate health guidelines and resources, including sufficient sanitation and hygiene equipment.
Mark Butler has followed up question time with this statement:
But NSW police found no evidence the minister’s office downloaded the 2017-18 Annual Report from the City of Sydney’s website.
Today when asked in Question Time if the minister stands by his statement he said ‘the document was accessed from the City of Sydney website’.
Also last year, Angus Taylor assured parliament he would fully cooperate with the NSW Police Strike Force Garrad investigation into his use of a fake document.
But the NSW police gave evidence stating the minister forwarded all interview requests to his solicitor.
Today when asked in Question Time why he promised the House he would cooperate with the investigation but then refused to be interviewed by NSW Police Mr Taylor said he ‘didn’t refuse an interview with the New South Wales police’.
At a time when trust in government is more important than ever Australians deserve some straight answers from Angus Taylor.
If he won’t give them the prime minister needs to stand him aside.
For more context on that apology from the Australian newspaper to the Ruby Princess inquiry.
The Australian has “unreservedly apologised” for an opinion article that could have constituted contempt of the inquiry.
The op-ed, written by the former Daily Telegraph editor David Penberthy, said the inquiry was “a sham” with a “political end” to protect members of the NSW government.
It was sparked after a NSW Health senior epidemiologist, Kelly Anne-Ressler, cried in the witness box under extensive questioning from commissioner Bret Walker SC. Penberthy wrote that it was “debatable” whether Ressler should have been called to give evidence and that health minister Brad Hazzard should have been called instead.
He described the questioning as “an act of state-sponsored bastardry designed to ensure that whatever villains are found in this affair do not inhabit NSW cabinet”, and called it “a taxpayer funded show trial aimed at achieving a political end”.
The counsel assisting the inquiry, Richard Beasley SC, said there were 10 valid reasons why they questioned Ressler, denied that any member of the NSW government had interfered with the inquiry, and said this language could constitute contempt.
The newspaper has now apologised, saying the op-ed was “intended to be a discussion of political matters [and] was not intended to be critical of the inquiry itself or the commissioner”.
Question time, as seen by Mike Bowers:
It has just been brought to our attention (full credit to @macaulaybalkan on Twitter) that the Daily Telegraph’s political editor at large, Sharri Markson, was a recent guest on Steve Bannon’s podcast.
Steve Bannon, Jack Maxey, Jason Miller, Raheem Kassam discuss the latest on the coronavirus pandemic as President Trump orders American financiers to pull pension funds from Chinese equities. Calling in is Sharri Markson to discuss her groundbreaking reporting on the “Five Eyes” dossier. Also calling in is Roger Robinson to discuss the implications of pulling American pension funds out of Chinese equities.
The Australian apologises to NSW Ruby Princess inquiry
Naaman Zhou has just turned my attention to this letter which has been published on the Ruby Princess special commission website.
The Australian will have to publish an apology to the commission in tomorrow’s paper, after some critical coverage appeared to have crossed the line.
From the commission:
The commission has been advised that The Australian will publish an apology on p. 2 of tomorrow’s edition of the paper, as well as online.
The commissioner does not intend to make any further comment in relation to this matter.
This is happening because the states are expected to pick up the tab for public schools.
The finance minister, Mathias Cormann, has brushed off a series of opposition questions seeking to contrast the $267,000 being paid to Covid-19 Coordination Commission chair Nev Power with the plight of Australians excluded from the jobkeeper scheme.
In Senate question time, Labor and the Greens pursued the government over the matter after the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet revealed Power was being paid the sum over six months as a reimbursement for travel expenses.
Labor’s deputy Senate leader, Kristina Keneally, asked Cormann to justify the $267,000 in light of the exclusion from jobkeeper of a mother of three children who had been employed for 11 months (one month short of the eligibility test).
She also cited the case of a Gold Coast scaffolder who had been working crew to crew for 13 years but was excluded because they were with their current employer since September.
Keneally argued local government and university staff, disability workers, and arts and entertainment sectors had also been “deliberately and willfully excluded from the jobkeeper scheme”.
Cormann said the coronavirus supplement had effectively doubled the rate of jobseeker allowance, while people may also be eligible for help such as rental assistance.
He said Power was not receiving a salary but did come from WA and was being reimbursed for costs such as flights and accommodation.
“That is not something that has been negotiated by the government. It is an arrangement that has been put in place by the prime minister’s department without the involvement of the prime minister or his office.”
The finance minister said the arrangements were “entirely appropriate” and he could see “an attempt here to smear a distinguished Australian” who was doing an important job for Australia.
He argued Labor was trying to turn people against each other.
The Greens senator Larissa Waters earlier raised concern over the adequacy of conflict of interest arrangements for the commission, asking: “Where is the transparency?”
Cormann said the commission included “distinguished Australians” who “know how to manage conflicts”.
Christian Porter is presenting the revised program for sittings (which we reported a little earlier, because our friends of the blog network is vast and very handy).
There are 65 more days of sittings before the end of the year, so yup, it is packed.
Darren Chester also paid tribute to Patrick Simon, the Mayor of Villers-Bretonneux who died overnight, after he had been diagnosed with Covid-19.
Anthony Albanese takes the moment after question time to thank the parliamentary cleaning staff for all the extra work they have been doing keeping the offices and hallways clean.
We have made this point a few times today – but it worth repeating.
After another dixer, Scott Morrison calls an end to question time, ahead of Richard Marles asking his next question.
He has once again called an end to question time early.
Richard Marles to Scott Morrison:
I refer to the prime minister’s earlier answer, such as as it was. Why did the prime minister’s office want sports rorts grants sent to the coalition’s campaign headquarters? Is there any aspect of this program that wasn’t rorted?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I can only assist the member by referring to the many responses I’ve given to this matter, Mr Speaker.
It was very clear – the authority for making the decisions on this matter was the minister for sport, Mr Speaker.
Publicly released guidance clearly stated the “the minister was the final decision-maker and that could take into account many other issues”.
That’s how the process was run. Mr Speaker, today we heard information released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that almost 600,000 Australians have lost their jobs. Mr Speaker, that’s where my focus is. I’ll leave the Australian people ... to – leave it to their judgement to see where the opposition’s focus is.
For anyone who cares, Parliament is coming back on 10 June for a two week sitting.
It is going to be a fairly hectic end of year.
Richard Marles to Scott Morrison:
Why did the prime minister tell the House yesterday about his sports rorts scheme and that “the only authority sought from the prime minister’s office and from me was in relation to announcements”, when the Audit Office found the prime minister’s office told senator McKenzie’s office, “It was expected that the minister would write to the prime minister to seek authority on the approved projects and inform the prime minister of the rollout plan”?
I said it because it was true.
I am not sure if we ever got an answer on what the difference is between ‘downloading’ and ‘accessing’.
Just for some context on all of that:
Mark Butler to Angus Taylor:
On 24 October 2019 in answer to a question, the minister told the House that a document with fake numbers was drawn from a Sydney of City website but New South Wales police have told New South Wales parliament they found no evidence that the office downloaded the annual from report from the city’s website. Does the minister stand by his statement to the House? Why won’t the minister tell the House where the document came from?
I do stand by the statement made on 25 October, that the document was accessed from the City of Sydney website. Let me read from the department’s evidence, which was made public in January, four months ago.
The department did ascertain that the ‘City of Sydney’s website was accessed by minister’s on 9 September 2019. The system allows individuals to directly print from the website’.
This matter was the ninth police referral from those on the other side, and in keeping with the previous eight, the commission was cleared not once but twice.
As the commissioner said, the matter is over, full stop.
I’m getting on with protecting lives and livelihoods because I know that a strong Australia coming out of the Covid-19 crisis requires a secure and reliable supply of chain, liquid fuels and gas and electricity. That’s what I’m focusing on every day. Those opposite should do the same.
Keith Pitt is taking the latest dixer, while continuing the alarming trend we have seen among Coalition MPs this week of wearing truly horrendous bold striped ties.
Which excludes him from offering any fashion commentary, but he does anyway:
I want to point out that my opposites, the shadow ministers have reached out across the aisle. We have worked closely where necessary and to my state counterparts, they have put aside the red and the blue tracksuits, we’re all in the green and gold tracksuits.
Scott Morrison really loves this line.
Jim Stanford, the director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, has crunched the numbers on what is left out of the 6.2% unemployment figure.
Official unemployment increased by just 105,000 people. However, 500,000 people lost work but ‘left’ the labour force. To be included in the labour force, you must be available for work and ‘actively seeking it.’ For many, there was no point seeking work in April (or actually impossible to do so.) So, we should count them in actual unemployed too.
Then there’s another 750,000 Australians who were ‘employed’ but didn’t work a single hour. Jobkeeper helps on that score: the goal of the program is to maintain attachment between workers and employers, even if there’s no work. Include them and suddenly unemployment is now 2.1 million – not the official 823,000. That’s an unemployment rate equal to 15% of the adjusted labour force.
However, to get a true picture of unemployment, we also need to account for the big drop in hours of those who did work. Average monthly hours for those still employed fell by 7 hours per worker for the month of April, or by 5%. That’s the loss of another 600,000 full time equivalent positions. That takes genuine unemployment to almost 20%.
Anyone claiming unemployment was ‘not as bad as expected’, has not worked through how the misleading ‘6.2% unemployment rate’ is constructed. A more meaningful number is 20%.
Tony Burke convinces Tony Smith it is and Angus Taylor is called to the despatch box:
Of course, I didn’t refuse an interview with the New South Wales police, and as the NSW police have said in their responses to questions on notice in the NSW parliament, we replied, answered questions and provided documentation, Mr Speaker.
Now, Mr Speaker, I remind those opposite that they made this political police referral last year and, since then, the NSW police have considered and closed this matter. The AFP ... have considered and closed this matter. And the commissioner, no less, has said the matter is finalised, full stop. Full stop. So I’m getting on with protecting lives and livelihoods as should those opposite.
Last year the House was assured that the Minister would fully cooperate with the New South Wales Police Strikeforce Garrett investigation, but the New South Wales police have given evidence to the New South Wales parliament that the minister rejected an interview request. Why did the minister promise the House he’d cooperate with the investigation but then refused to be interviewed by the New South Wales police?
Tony Smith is working out whether or not the question is ok under the rules.
Mark Butler is up - which means it is Angus Taylor time!
It was a rather heated start to Senate question time, too, with Mathias Cormann accusing the opposition of “throwing rocks at those who are making the decisions” and “nitpicking”.
Labor’s Katy Gallagher led the questioning based on the latest jobs figures and asked whether the government would consider expanding the eligibility criteria for jobkeeper to ensure more people were kept in employment.
Cormann, the finance minister, said the jobs figures were “devastating” but the government was “doing the best we can” to support people, noting that six million Australians were relying on the jobkeeper wages scheme and 1.6m were receiving the enhanced jobseeker payments.
Gallagher put it to Cormann that the jobs figures wouldn’t be as devastating if the government had acted sooner to put in place the jobkeeper scheme and had included the 1.1m casuals employed for less than a year.
I think that that is an unreasonable proposition. I mean, we are dealing with an unbelievably hard-hitting global health pandemic with devastating impacts around the world.
He said by any objective measure, Australia was doing well in responding to the Covid-19 crisis, adding:
Here you are continuing to nitpick in a partisan fashion. It’s rather disappointing.
Greg Hunt sits just under Scott Morrison as the most powerful minister in the country right now.
Things really are returning to normal in the parliament – Peter Dutton is once again delivering dixers.
But they are not quite normal, normal as yet. We don’t hear just how terrible Labor and the unions are, but you know it is coming.
Susan Templeton to Josh Frydenberg:
Here’s a real-life story. Scott works in theatre and lives in my electorate. He was due to start a 3.5-year full-time contract in May on the stage production Frozen. He’s not eligible for jobkeeper because he’s a casual with less than 12 months’ experience and his future contract is not taken into account. Why has the government left Scott and 600,000 other Australians behind?
Well, Mr Speaker, we have absolutely taken Scott into account with a doubling of the effective Newstart and the $550 jobseeker coronavirus supplement, Mr Speaker. At $1,100, this is effectively a doubling of that safety net that was previously in place. Now, Mr Speaker, as ... the honourable member will know, some six million Australians are now covered by the businesses that have formally enrolled for the payment, together with the jobkeeper payment, together with the 1.6m that are on the jobseeker payment.
We’re talking over half the Australian workforce.
But I could also let the honourable member know through the PM’s work, through the national cabinet, the work of the premiers and the chief ministers, they’ve set out a three-stage framework for lifting restrictions.
Treasury have forecast that the benefit to the economy, and to jobs, from lifting those restrictions, based on the health advice, will be some 850,000 jobs and $9.4bn to the economy.
Now, in relation to those, who work in the arts and the recreation sector, if those three stages are followed through, 76,000 jobs will be created, or people will get back to work in that particular sector. When you look at opening pubs, cafes, and other entertainment venues and other venues you’re looking at a $2.4bn dividend to Australia.
We know we needed to put in place temporary, targeted, proportionate measures in response to the biggest economic shock that Australia has ever seen. A $320bn or 16.4% of GDP – this is a very substantial requirement, as is required at this very difficult time.
But there are stories right across this country, some that I’ve repeated in in House today and yesterday, where our jobkeeper program and our jobseeker program are saving lives and livelihoods.
David Littleproud took a dixer on drought management and came up with their furphy:
The next drought starts the very first day after it stops raining. That’s important to understand.
Narrator: No, it does not.
Preparation for the next drought should begin once the most recent one is broken, but if the next drought begins as soon as the current drought breaks, then climate change has screwed us even quicker than we thought.
Tony Burke to Josh Frydenberg:
Can the treasurer explain why a 20-year-old working one shift per week at a clothes store and living at home receives the full $1,500 jobkeeper wage subsidy but arts and entertainment workers, who work gig to gig and event to event are excluded?
I mean, the reality is we’ve set out a wage subsidy program at $1,500, a flat rate, so that if you earned more, you wouldn’t get a greater wage subsidy from the government. That was the program that we set out.
In terms of who it covers, it was very clear – it would cover full-time workers, it would cover part-time workers, it would cover long-term casuals based on the understanding in the Fair Work Act, as well as sole traders and the not-for-profit sector.
When it comes to the arts sector we’ve announced a couple of initiatives to support that particular sector at this point in time.
But I would like to the House to acknowledge that some six million workers, employees, are covered by the payments based on the 860,000 businesses that have enrolled. If you add to that the 1.6 million Australians who are covered by the jobseeker payment, that’s more than half the workforce. Six million plus 1.6 million – 7.6 million – when you consider that the Australian labour force is today 13.2 million people.
For Gene, and any other new readers to the political blog (which is also coronavirus at the moment), a dixer is a government question to a government minister.
It is written by ministerial staffers and is designed to show off government policy, or anything else the government wants to talk about, and we don’t cover them, unless they are of substance.
I mean, the 10,000 Virgin workers have had to spend the past day and a bit hearing how a senior member of the government, who has a lot of influence in Queensland, thinks it is ridiculous to have a state government put in a bid for a stake in their airline, because it is broke and has millions of dollars for debt and the Queensland treasurer is “crazy” for even considering it, and the idea of using superannuation funds to invest in an airline is also terrible, even though the prime minister suggested that very thing last month and if super funds aren’t investing in these sorts of things, then that’s a pretty bad sign for the economy, but they ALSO get a personally signed letter from the deputy prime minister, so HOW LUCKY ARE THEY?!
Michael McCormack seems very, very cranky as he takes this question from Catherine King, which either means he is still reading this blog (hi, deputy PM) or he just realised he has to spend the rest of his political career being this version of Michael McCormack.
The prime minister has said that the government will not provide assistance to Virgin Airlines because the government would only take a sector-wide approach. Why has the government provided $54m to majority foreign-owned Rex Airlines, which employs around 1,000 workers, but no equivalent support for Virgin, which employs almost 10,000 workers?
(Morrison sends it to McCormack)
McCormack spends the first half of the question talking about the total industry grants provided by the government, but he doesn’t get to the question until a point of order on relevance:
We are supporting each and every airline through our sector-wide assistance. We are supporting Rex, yes.
We are supporting Qantas, yes.
We are supporting, very much, Virgin.
We’re very pleased that Virgin, there are, potentially, 19, in fact, potentially even more, investors and, of course, tomorrow - tomorrow - the preliminary bids, as part of the voluntary administration process, which Paul Scurrah, the CEO of Virgin – I spoke to him this week – they’re going through.
We’ve appointed Nicholas Moore to liaise with the voluntary administrators. He’s reporting back to treasury. He is coming back to me. We want to make sure we have two commercially viable airlines through this.
I’m sure that is the view of everybody in this House. All of those airlines, they’re supporting workers.
There have been many, many workers from Virgin who are contacting me.
I am writing back and personally signing each and every one of those bits of correspondence ... Yes! I’m [signing] every one because they’re important to me as I’m sure they’re important to you. We want those jobs. Ten thousand people work for Virgin.
Josh Frydenberg appears to be using dixers to repeat parts of his Tuesday economic statement which was lost to his coughing fit.
Zali Steggall has the crossbench question today. It is to Scott Morrison:
The terms of reference of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission indicate that the commission will, and I quote, “ensure the government receives the most comprehensive advice available to meet the challenges ahead”, yet its membership was not subject to public consultation, or submission, there’s no transparency about its governances and processes, questions were raised yesterday at the Senate inquiry that manufacturing and industrial advice is being received from individuals with apparent conflicts of interests.
And there is no requirement to focus on lowest cost and lowest emissions technologies and opportunities. In the circumstances, how can the Australian people trust that the government will address all the challenges ahead?
Morrison talks about how wonderful a job the commission is doing and says the transparency is there:
All the arrangements that have been put in place for members of the Covid commission have been arranged by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, consistent with their rules and procedures that apply to all similar-type appointments. They are subject to the normal scrutiny, as you would expect, and that process is actually being pursued through the Senate committee process, which is entirely appropriate. So that transparency is available and present through those channels.
And he finishes with:
I applaud their work. I think they are doing absolutely amazing work. When I called them and asked them to do this, I said, “I need you to serve your country”, and they are serving their country, and this House should be very proud of their service.
Jim Chalmers to Josh Frydenberg:
My question is for the treasurer. How much shorter would unemployment queues be today if the government had implemented the jobkeeper wage subsidy earlier and included more groups including casuals?
Well, Mr Speaker, it’s a joke getting a question about jobs from the member who was going to saddle Australians with the highest tax-to-GDP ratio in the history of the commonwealth.
Chalmers says something that the microphone doesn’t pick up but the Speaker does, and is made to withdraw the comment. He does. Frydenberg continues:
Mr Speaker. As the member for Rankin is well aware, we announced the most generous and most significant wage subsidy program in the history of this country, Mr Speaker. With some six million Australian workers covered by the 86,000 businesses that have formally enrolled in this program.
As the member for Rankin is aware, the eligibility for this program was set out very clearly.
Full-time workers, part-time workers, long-term casuals, sole traders, and those in the not-for-profit sector.
As the member for Rankin is aware, treasury has forecast that unemployment is expected to reach around 10% but for the jobkeeper program it would have been 15%. So the jobkeeper program and the financial commitments from this government have helped save lives and save livelihoods.
Michael McCormack just McCormacked all over the despatch box (something about driving to Canberra and seeing farmers working) and the greatest moment came when he ran out of time at the end and his microphone was turned off.
Silence is so often an under-appreciated gift.
There seems to be a slight re-writing of history in this answer Scott Morrison gave to a dixer, about the government’s response to Covid.
It was important that when we set out on dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, as a government, we called the pandemic before the WHO, we acted on the advice of the medical experts to list this as a virus of pandemic potential, then they’ll activate the response plan.
We knew that we had to fight this fight on the health front. But we also knew, at exactly the same time that this was a fight that had to be fought on two fronts – on the economy and on the health front, Mr Speaker. Not all agreed with us on that point.
Some believed that we should only focus primarily on the health, but we always believed that we had to ensure that we had to deal with this issue on the economic front as well as the health front, Mr Speaker. And, indeed, we did.”
I don’t remember anyone calling for the economy to be ignored, as thousands of Australians lined up outside Centrelink offices, but there you go.
Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:
How many of the 600,000 fewer who were employed in April were excluded from the jobkeeper wage subsidy?
Well, I can tell you that the jobkeeper program has 86,600 employers, which is supporting six million employees.
The cash flow boost program – because all of these measures go together in supporting employees – some 503,900 businesses, Mr Speaker, supported by the Cash Flow Boost program, which goes to those business employers to support people to stay in jobs.
Some $9.1bn on top of the jobkeeper payments that are paid to those businesses to keep Australians in work.
These programs are designed to keep people in jobs and where those programs are not able to be made available to all those throughout the economy, in addition to the six million who are already supported, then the jobseeker program is there to support them.
These two programs work together to provide the economic lifeline Australians need.
Albanese jumps up to ask about relevance to the question, but the prime minister has concluded his answer.
Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:
The number of people employed in Australia fell by 600,000 in April. This followed the prime minister’s decision to deny a wage subsidy to casual workers, arts and entertainment workers, and workers in the university and local government sectors. Aren’t more Australians out of work today because the prime minister deliberately excluded them from the jobkeeper wage subsidy?
No, Mr Speaker, that’s not true. Mr Speaker, it’s disappointing ... that when the Labor Party says they’re engaging in a bipartisan effort, it doesn’t take long, Mr Speaker, for the white-anting to begin...
It really doesn’t take long, Mr Speaker, because the truth is, the truth is, six million Australians are benefits from a jobkeeper program that is being shouldered by $20bn a month, Mr Speaker.
On top of that, Mr Speaker, there is the expansion of the jobseeker program with the effective doubling of the jobseeker payment, which has seen some almost 1.2m additional Australians be able to go and get that additional payment with the Covid supplement, with the processing of those almost 1.2m claims by Services Australia in a period of about six to seven weeks, a set of claims which would normally be done over a 2-year period.
The response of the government to the anticipated blow that would come from the Covid-19 crisis to Australia has to ensure on this day, an incredibly difficult day for Australians, with almost 600,000 jobs lost in just one month, this was a day that this government anticipated and moved quickly, and acted to ensure that both the jobkeeper and the jobseeker programs, then the blow would be cushioned as a result of the decisions that we took as a government.
Australians can continue to rely on that support from our government because we ensured that we put Australia in a place where, when this crisis hit the...
Albanese calls him out of relevance, but the PM can continue:
Australians can count on this government to be there for them right here, right now, and we are for them here right now. Six million Australians today are getting support through the jobkeeper program.
Hundreds of thousands of businesses keeping them in jobs because of a program, unprecedented in scale and in reach, across our economy, supported by the social safety net that is available through the jobseeker program, which was extended and enlarged to encompass those, Mr Speaker, who would need it.
Mr Speaker, had this government not done that and done it from a position of fiscal strength by bringing the budget back into balance and end sure that we could act in this time, we have been there for Australians. We will be there for Australians.
Because the government knows how to manage money and ensure that those ... who are in deep need at the moment, Mr Speaker, are in a position to receive that support because of the great generosity of Australians.
Question time begins
We will find out what the new sitting calendar will be at the end of question time.
Which just began.
Question time is about to begin.
Peter Dutton took his ‘Queensland buys stake in Virgin is a terrible idea’ show onto Sydney radio 2GB’s airwaves:
It’s a con. If it’s just a political stunt, they realise they have no way of being successful they will spend millions of dollars on what essentially will be a political stunt and that’s unacceptable.
So people should call that out, and if they are genuine about it, don’t forget that premier Palaszczuk, as premier of Queensland, every credit card she has is already maxed out.
They don’t have one dollar in the bank.
Every wage bill they pay, every new train they buy, every centimetre of road that they lay is on borrowed money, and yet they are saying they want to spend billions or borrow more billions of dollars to put into an airline in the middle of a crisis, one of the most significant economic downturns in the world’s history, when airlines around the world are suffering and being propped up by their owners – I mean, Richard Branson is not proposing to wade in like the Queensland government is.
The Chinese owners and the Middle Eastern owners of Virgin aren’t proposing to do what the Queensland government is doing, and I think premier Palaszczuk needs to come out and say that this was a bad idea, and drop it.
Just a reminder that the “every dollar they spend is borrowed” line is also now applicable to the federal government, given the budget is most definitely, not back in the black.
We are expecting to hear about the new parliament schedule very soon.
Parliament had been adjourned until August, but with the economy opening up again, you can’t keep parliament closed. So it will be back next month. Not sure of the dates as yet, but we will let you know.
From what I am hearing, the July break looks like it’s remaining (that is the winter adjournment) with a return to ‘normal’ proceedings from August.
On Thursday employment minister, Michaelia Cash, announced that mutual obligations for jobseekers will be further suspended to 1 June, after which they will be reintroduced in three phases depending on the state of the labour market and Covid-19 restrictions.
In the first phase, jobseekers will be required to reconnect with job service providers and no suspensions of welfare or penalties will be applied.
In the second, more appointments will be scheduled and jobseekers may be asked to apply for work.
In the third, penalties will be reapplied.
Cash declined to clarify the threshold for each phase, but said it will be consistent nationally.
AAP has a brief update on new legislation through the house:
Businesses and recruitment agencies will be able to directly access the academic records of vocational education students.
Legislation passed federal parliament on Thursday to expand access from registered training organisations to employers, recruiters and other third parties.
Students can decide to give limited access to third parties and choose to remove incomplete subjects from their record.
We don’t know when mutual obligations will be returned or what the threshold for the stages will be, but we do know how the stages are set out.
NSW government foreshadows further privatisations
New South Wales treasurer Dominic Perrottet has revealed NSW will take a $9bn hit to state revenues in the next financial year but says he still wants to push forward with tax reform and reducing state taxes.
Speaking at a Committee for Sydney webinar, Perrottet said that now was the time to look at tax reform so the state could recover quickly.
He said he had been in conversation with federal treasurer, Josh Frydenberg about options:
We have an obligation to reform our system. We owe it to future generations to set up the states for the future.
Top of his list seems to be stamp duty, which he described as a “terrible tax” because it was a tax on transactions.
He also said NSW would be bringing forward shovel ready projects and foreshadowed that the state would look at more asset recycling, a.k.a. privatisations.
He also foreshadowed that the state would look at making some of the changes to trading hours introduced during the Covid-19 crisis permanent in the future:
Governments should get out of the way.
Changes to allow pharmacies to trade 24 hours a day and allowing take out from pubs had not caused problems and should be considered in the future, he said.
Mutual obligation requirements to be eventually reinstated – in stages.
Minister for employment Michaelia Cash says mutual obligation requirements for Jobseeker will be suspended until 1 June.
But after that, it depends on what Treasury says about the economy, and the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 restrictions.
When it is reintroduced, it will be done “in stages” – with no penalties to apply, in the first stage, if a mutual obligation is missed.
Annastacia Palaszczuk defends Queensland's Virgin Australia bid
Annastacia Palaszczuk was asked about Peter Dutton’s earlier criticism of Queensland’s interest in bidding for a stake of Virgin Australia.
Queensland now has an unemployment rate of 6.8%, which is the second-worst in the nation after South Australia, and is higher than the national average of 6.2%.
I cannot understand how people don’t want to back Queensland and back Queensland jobs.
It is vital that we keep jobs and tourism. That we can back an airline that is based here in Queensland, and we back the workers, right across regional Queensland as well.
And it is all the flow-on jobs as well, it’s not just the people who work at the airlines, it’s the taxis that come and pick up the tourists, as the hospitality workers that drive our tourism across regional Queensland.
And I will always stand up for Queensland and back in Queensland jobs.
Scott Morrison was asked by Phil Coorey of the Australian Financial Review if he would expand jobkeeper now, which is something Labor and the Greens (and most of the crossbench) have been calling for, for weeks.
It’s undersubscribed, so far at least, but Scott Morrison says he won’t be changing it (basically).
Well, it’s a demand-driven program, and so it is extended to all of those to whom the parameters provide for. And we had estimated that we would have a need of this order, and that has proved to be true, and they are... they were hard numbers when we saw them the first time, Phil, when we knew that that was likely what would be required, and when you’re running a program that is asking of taxpayers more than $20bn a month, that’s a big load, but Australians are carrying it and they’re carrying it for their fellow Australians, and so we will continue to run the program as we’ve set it out, to provide that support on a demand-driven basis, so it is built to take up the load that it is designed to carry.
Anthony Albanese also responded to the job figures:
What these figures reveal is that some time ago 600,000 Australians, 594,000 to be precise less were in employment.
That is a devastating figure.
They are all people with families, with a need to put food on the table for their family and their kids.
They are people who are our friends, our relatives, our neighbours, people in our community.
They are people also who won’t be receiving the sort of income that you get in work, which then helps to stimulate the economy.
That is the problem here. There will be accumulative event. Not the least of which because when we look at the jobkeeper program the government is still leaving people behind, particularly the most vulnerable.
Our casual employees, people in whole sectors like the arts and entertainment sector aren’t getting the support that they need.
The government needs to respond to this.
We thought it would, this week, frankly, with parliament coming back and budget day two days ago in the formal calendar, that we would see a response from Josh Frydenberg of substance.
What we got was a speech out of Seinfeld. A speech about nothing. No substance, just a few old figures put together.
A few press releases collated and a speech which will only be remembered for Josh Frydenberg’s coughing fit.
Nothing else. There was nothing else that happened during that day. In contrast, Labor is looking towards the recovery and looking to how it needs to happen.
Chief economist at Ernst & Young, Jo Masters has had a look at the unemployment figures and agrees – they are hiding a lot.
... The data showed a record 594,000 Australians became unemployed in April but that’s not the complete picture, though, as those on the jobkeeper subsidy are counted as being employed, even if they are working no hours. The impact of that can be seen in working hours which fell by a record 163.9 million hours, and hours worked are an important indicator of economic activity.
To put that fall in perspective, the previous largest monthly decline was 36 million hours in 2007. Moreover, the underemployment rate – those that have a job but would like to work more hours – also jumped, from 8.8% to 13.7%, the highest since records began in the late 1970s.
Disappointingly, nearly half a million Australians left the labour market, meaning they are not available or not actively looking for work. This saw the participation rate fall to 63.5% from 66%, the lowest since 2004. Importantly, the drop was larger for females than males, with female participation dropping 2.9 percentage points to 58.4%, reversing the upward trend of recent years.
This point from economist Callam Pickering is important:
What he is saying here is that 490,000 people dropped out of the labour force market, which means they are not counted by the official unemployment statistics. Labour force counts the number of employed and unemployed people. It doesn’t count those who have literally dropped off the employment market – you’re not looking for work, so you don’t count as unemployed. You’ve just gone missing from the official figures.
Add in that dramatic fall in the labour force, and suddenly the economic impact of the pandemic becomes a lot more clearer.
On the question of youth unemployment, which as Shalailah Medhora from Triple J pointed out has not improved, despite government programs such as Jobs Path, Scott Morrison says he “doesn’t agree with the premise of your question”.
The premise being, that maybe government youth unemployment programs need to be looked at, because youth unemployment has not improved.
That is not a premise - it is a fact. Youth unemployment has been significantly higher than the national unemployment rate for years. In October last year, so well before the pandemic hit, it reached a record high of 12.4%, which was more than double the then national unemployment rate of 5.3%.
Scott Morrison, though, disagreed:
I don’t agree with the premise in your question, I mean the premise of the facts of your question that just simply not right.
So I, we have seen, we had some quite strong falls from the peaks of youth unemployment under the policies we had put in place, including the ones you referred to, so I’m sorry I can’t share your analysis so if I don’t share it I can hardly comment on it.
Scott Morrison again pointed to the jobkeeper and increased jobseeker payments not continuing.
This shouldn’t be news to anyone – he has repeatedly said the payments are temporary. And even in the face of these unemployment figures – which the government knows will only get worse – he said it again, while also talking about China.
We don’t want an Australian economy that’s propped up by subsidies.
We want an Australian economy that’s propped up by strong businesses with strong markets, and with great products and services that are competitive in a global marketplace.
Australia is one of the great trading nations of the world. And that’s why we’ve always pursued trade, in all countries, wherever we see those opportunities – you stand still long enough, next to one of our trade ministers in recent years, they would have sought to do a deal with you. And that’s what we’ve done. And we’ll work those trading relationships. But what we will never do is trade away our values.
Listening back to that press conference now, and it seems that mutual obligation requirements are on the way back.
Asked how important it is for those on the jobseeker payment to start seeking work as the economy reopens, Scott Morrison says:
This is a very important question and the treasurer might want to comment on this as well the minister for employment will be having a bit more to say about this today.
And it is very important that as the economy starts opening up again, and as we start getting out from under this doona that we’re under, that people do go back and start seeking those opportunities now,. In how that relates to our employment programs, we will take that at a fair and even pace and I’ll let the minister for employment to speak more to that.
But it is important.
It is also important that when you have what are effectively unemployment benefits through jobseeker at the levels that they are, that can provide in normal circumstances a disincentive with payments at that level for people to go and seek work and that’s why these arrangements with the Covid supplement are temporary arrangements.
The reason the Covid supplement was put in place was because we knew that those who would otherwise be on jobseeker, who might in better times times be able to go and find employment, that during this period that would be very difficult, so we understood that.
But as the economy reopens, and as opportunities open up again, then of course we would want to see people taking up those opportunities when they present.
And so we will do that in a I think in a fair way and recognising that still, still, there are few opportunities that are out there at present, but we are looking forward to seeing those opportunities reopen.
The prime minister ends the press conference before he takes a question on sports rorts from Paul Karp.
Scott Morrison says he is “not going to buy into that” when it comes to Queensland’s bid for a stake in Virgin Australia.
What we have done ... and that is ensuring that Virgin will keep flying and will fly into the future. And we resisted, what I think to be very preemptive and I think rather dangerous calls for the commonwealth to engage in this area, on behalf of taxpayers at that very phase. And I think as a result of that good judgment, to allow this process to do its job, which is what is occurring. There are many bids that are coming through the process and we welcome that.
Scott Morrison defends the jobkeeper program:
When you have almost 600,000 people out of employment, that is a devastating set of numbers.
And when you look at hours worked and all of those issues as well what you do see is a, an even deeper impact and I think that’s reflected in what the treasurer is saying. What I would add to that, though, is that the reason that people have been able to stay connected to their employers has been because of the jobkeeper program and clearly the jobkeeper program has been incredibly effective.
I mean, 6 million Australians have been supported at their worst moment, and hundreds of thousands of businesses.
Now, granted, there will be issues that arise at the margin on a program of this scale. But let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees here. I mean, this is a program of historic proportions that is helping 6 million Australians.
There is a “coming out from under the doona” reference.
This is what we are talking about when we say the underemployment rate is the one to watch here.
Scott Morrison again says the plan has always been to get people back to work.
And I would urge people to not underestimate the scale of that task – it’s one thing to close things down, it’s entirely another to open them up again.
And to do so in a Covid-safe way. And that’s why we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves here.
The task we have now is to reopen these businesses to get employees back into their jobs and to do so in a, in a Covid-safe way so that it’s sustainable.
For many years, potentially, if that is what is required. And so the task and the message I have for those young people is that’s why I have been so forward leaning, whether it has been the reopening of schools which has been on Treasury’s advice –
One of the most key areas to unlock and reopen our economy.
And based on the health advice, which has always been so consistent, that has been a necessary step and I know.
Sure, I may have been pretty insistent about this, but the reason I was is I know how important it is to open up those jobs again, and get those young people back into work.
Scott Morrison says the stimulus plans will be reviewed at the end of June - which would include the Covid payment to jobseeker and the jobkeeper wage allowance.
That was always the plan. Whether the plan continues beyond September, or is to be stopped earlier, will depend on what the economy looks like in another month.
And the Senate has just voted on one of those disallowance motions – the one which would have returned the seven days notice employees have of proposed changes to their enterprise bargaining agreements has just failed.
One Nation voted with the government, and as the swing votes, tanked the motion.
Josh Frydenberg says 1.6m Australians are now on the special jobseeker rate.
Six million Australians, working for more than 860,000 businesses, are on jobkeeper.
Both are designed to end in September.
In the midst of this press conference, Christian Porter confirms that he has agreed to Pauline Hanson’s request for a new regulation under the Fair Work Act to limit changes to enterprise agreements, to be effective for no more than 12 months.
The government wants Hanson to vote against a disallowance motion in the Senate which would extend who is eligible for jobkeeper.
The prime minister trots out a favourite word of the previous prime minister – “resolution”.
On the basis of our national character, and our ingenuity, and our resolution that we will see those better days ... we will come through this together, as we always promised that we would.
Scott Morrison says he remembers the last recession in Australia, as he had just left university.
“It was hard, this is harder,” he says.
Scott Morrison says the jobkeeper and jobseeker supports were “put in place in anticipation of this day, because we knew it would come and more will follow”.
But he says a “key component” of the plan is to get the economy moving again.
Scott Morrison 'this is a tough day for Australia'
It’s a very sombre Scott Morrison facing the media on the job figures:
This is a tough day for Australia. A very tough day. Almost 600,000 jobs have been lost. Every one of them devastating for those Australians, for their families, for their communities. A very tough day. Terribly shocking, although not unexpected.”
Scott Morrison press conference on jobs
The prime minister has stepped out to talk about those job figures.
He was expecting this, and it is a little better in terms of the rate that economists were predicting (which was around 8%) but the underemployment rate and hours worked is very worrying.
As is what is going to happen in September.
And the hits to casual and part-time workers have been bad. Very, very bad. Youth unemployment is now at 13.8% and it is only going to rise. That is the unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds. That’s double the national unemployment rate, and for many regions would be even worse.
The ABS has reported the underutilisation rate, which is basically the unemployment combined with the underemployment rates, has hit a record high of 19.9 per cent.
The wage subsidy, due to run out in September, masks a lot of the damage. But these numbers are only going to rise.
The numbers to keep an eye on are the hours worked and the participation rate – which is when people just give up looking for work.
How complicated is it?
Just ask the ABS:
It is important to note that there will be a range of ways in which people will have been stood down without work as a result of Covid-19. Some may be stood down with pay, some through paid leave (e.g. long service leave, annual leave, etc) and some without pay. Some people will perceive that they still have a job (but just no hours at the moment), while others will consider they have lost their job. The questions that we ask in the Labour Force Survey will be able to capture this, and support the ABS to use the above approach to classifying people.
And we have also seen changes to the participation definition. From the ABS:
People not working any hours, including those who were stood down: it depends on their job attachment and pay, and potentially other labour market activity
A person will be classified as employed if they:
· had taken any kind of paid leave;
· were away from their job for any reason (e.g. they were stood down), and were paid for some part of the previous 4 weeks (including through the jobkeeper scheme); or
· were away from their job for four weeks or less for any reason, without pay, but believe they still have a job to go back to (e.g. they were stood down, with no pay).
If a person is away from their job for one month or more without pay, or they believe they no longer have a job to be absent from, they will be classified as:
· unemployed – if they have actively looked for work, and are available to start work; or
· not in the labour force – if they have not looked for work and/or are not available to start work.
Just a little more on those new definitions – here is how the ABS is treating jobseeker:
People in receipt of the jobseeker payment: it depends on their labour market activity
People who receive the jobseeker or other similar government payments are not necessarily classified as unemployed (just as those classified as unemployed are not necessarily going to also be in receipt of a government payment).
The jobseeker payment is paid to people who are looking for work or are sick or injured and cannot undertake their usual work or study for a short time, and who meet the eligibility requirements. People can also receive the jobseeker payment if they have a job, if they meet a low income test. Recent changes to the jobseeker program as result of Covid-19 also mean that recipients do not have to meet the usual mutual obligation requirements (such as looking for work).
To be classified as unemployed in Labour Force statistics, a person must:
· have actively looked for full-time or part-time work in the last four weeks; and
· be available for work in the reference week.
People who were waiting to start a new job within four weeks from the end of the reference week and could have started in the reference week if the job had been available then are also classified as unemployed.
Now a quick point – the jobkeeper payment has complicated the unemployment rate quite a bit - masking the true story, if it were.
The ABS has changed its definitions.
So people paid through the jobkeeper wage subsidy are classified as employed, even if they are not working.
Why is that an issue?
It turns off, at this point, in the last week of September. There is talk of turning it off earlier. Which means a lot of people risk tumbling over into “unemployed” overnight. That is one of the reasons Treasury is predicting a 10% unemployment rate by the end of the year.
So from there, you can see that South Australia and Queensland both have unemployment rates higher than the national average
And what those losses look like in terms of rate (only seasonally adjusted is being reported at the moment)
New South Wales from 4.9% to 6.0%
Victoria from 5.2% to 6.0%
Queensland 5.7% to 6.8%
South Australia 6.3% to 7.2%
Western Australia 5.4% to 6.0%
Tasmania 4.9% to 6.2%
Northern Territory 5.5% to 6.0%
Australian Capital Territory 3.2% to 4.2%
Australia 5.2% to 6.2%
The ABS has also done a breakdown in the job losses for the states:
New South Wales - down 221,400 people
Queensland - down 129,600 people
Victoria - down 127,100 people
Western Australia - down 62,300 people
South Australia (down 40,800 people).
The ABS has some key take aways from the April figures:
Australia’s seasonally adjusted estimate of employment decreased by 594,300 people in April 2020, with:
- the number of unemployed people increasing by 104,500 people;
- the unemployment rate increasing 1.0 percentage points (pts) to 6.2%;
- the underemployment rate increasing by 4.9 pts to 13.7%;
- the underutilisation rate increasing by 5.9 pts to 19.9%;
- the participation rate decreasing 2.4 pts to 63.5%; and
- the employment to population ratio decreasing 2.9 pts to 59.6%.
Employment decreased by 594,300 people (-4.6%) between March and April 2020, with full-time employment decreasing by 220,500 people and part-time employment decreasing by 373,800 people.
Compared to a year ago, there were 123,000 less people employed full-time and 272,000 less people employed part-time. This change led to a decrease in the part-time share of employment over the past 12 months, from 31.5% to 30.3%.
The employment to population ratio, which is a measure of how employed the population (aged 15 years and over) is, decreased by 2.9 pts in April to 59.6%.
Unemployment rate rises to 6.2%
Seasonally adjusted employment fell by 594,300 people between March and April, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Large changes were seen across all labour market indicators in April.
“The large drop in employment did not translate into a similar sized rise in the number of unemployed people because around 489,800 people left the labour force”, stated Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS.
Unemployment increased by 104,500 people to 823,300, and the unemployment rate increased by 1.0 percentage point from 5.2 per cent to 6.2 per cent.
The larger than usual number of employed and unemployed people leaving the labour force resulted in an unprecedented fall in the participation rate by 2.4 percentage points to 63.5 per cent.
“This means there was a high number of people without a job who didn’t or couldn’t actively look for work or weren’t available for work”, Mr Jarvis said.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on hours worked was also extensive. Total hours worked fell by around 9.2 per cent between March and April.
When taken together with people leaving the workforce, around 2.7 million people (about 1 in 5 people employed in March) either left employment or had their hours reduced between March and April. This was much greater than in previous years.
As a result, the number of underemployed people also rose sharply (up 603,300 people, to a total of 1.8 million people), and the underemployment rate rose to a record high 13.7 per cent (up 4.9 percentage points).
Joel Fitzgibbon will hold a press conference with Bob Katter.
Hasn’t 2020 inflicted enough suffering on us already?
Restrictions to be loosened further on Sydney's eastern beaches; ocean pools to reopen with maximum 10 swimmers
Sydney eastern beachside councils are planning a relaxation of the rules around using some of the most popular beaches in the city from Friday, including Bondi, Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee.
Waverley council is still finalising its plans but it is likely that people will be able to walk and exercise on Bondi Beach as well as simply just crossing the sand to swim.
Ocean pools will reopen as well, with swimmers restricted to 10 swimmers at a time.
Waverley plans to restrict numbers to 500 people at a time and will be enforcing social distancing, but it marks a significant step towards a return to normality.
Usually Bondi beach gets around 4,000 people a day in May but this weekend is forecast to be cold and wet so that should mean the beaches won’t be overwhelmed.
“The two key considerations for us moving forward will be keeping numbers on each beach below 500 and also minimising our lifeguard’s exposure to Covid through performing rescues.” a memo to councillors says.
“Both factors will be closely monitored and may result in full or partial closure if necessary. It is important to remember the beaches were closed initially due to the fact that the 500 limit and social distancing could not be managed adequately. Fencing at all three beaches (Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte) will remain in place so that access to the beach can be managed through the access points currently in place.”
Randwick City council plans to progressively open outdoor facilities including playgrounds, outdoor gyms, basketball courts, skate parks and ocean pools from Friday, mayor Danny Said announced.
Clovelly, Coogee, Maroubra, Malabar, Little Bay and La Perouse beaches – previously accessible for exercise only – will now be accessible for general recreation provided social distancing is maintained and gatherings restricted to no more than 10 people. Beachside carparks will also reopen.
Mayor Said said use of outdoor facilities will still require people to observe social distancing guidelines.
The relaxation of some restrictions means we’re taking small, cautious steps towards life as we used to know it, but is not an indication that we should become complacent,” he said.
Jamie McPhee has explained that ME Bank limited the amount customers could access in their redraw because it was concerned that “some customers could fall behind” in their repayments if they fully drew down on the facility in their loan.
This would leave customers at risk of “not meeting repayment commitments”, causing them to pay extra interest and a longer loan life.
We adjusted the redraw facility to ensure they couldn’t inadvertently redraw funds above the normal repayment schedule. The change applied to 17% of home loan customers, or 4% of our customers over all.
McPhee stressed that customers could still access some funds in the redraw facilities, but the amount was capped. After the controversy, ME Bank set up a hotline and an online mechanism to allow customers to adjust their redraw facilities back.
McPhee said ME Bank “never removed or transferred funds” from customer offset accounts. He said the change was “not made for financial reasons, liquidity or capital reasons” and the bank didn’t breach the credit code.
Peter Dutton has found his new attack line, just as Queensland enters election mode:
Why would Mr [Cameron] Dick and Annastacia Palaszczuk be out there wanting to buy an airline in the midst of this crisis? I want to see the jobs stay in Queensland. I want to see pilots and all of the attendants back on those planes as quickly as possible. I want to see a competitive market and I want to make sure that as many of those jobs are based in Queensland, but you can do that through other ways.
His “other way” examples include former Queensland premier Peter Beattie luring Virgin to Queensland without buying it. Which is true. But it wasn’t in the midst of a global recession, and it came with a lot of bells and whistles, which the state paid for.
This is the latest example of Premier Palaszczuk being completely out of her depth. She’s putting Queensland on a path to economic disaster, and every credit card that Annastacia Palaszczuk has as the Queensland premier is maxed out. She doesn’t have a dollar left. Yet she’s talking about going spending billions of dollars she doesn’t have on an airline that had no money coming in and it has billions of dollars worth of debt.
Both Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have called press conferences for 11.40am - which is just after the job figures are released.
Duelling press conferences is very much becoming a trend.
ME Bank chief executive, Jamie McPhee, has started his evidence by apologising for slashing the amount home loans customers can access in their redraw facilities.
I’d like to start by apologising for the upset we’ve caused some of our customers by adjusting their redraw facility.
ME Bank Prides itself on relationship with customers – and this was particularly disappointing.
We had customers’ interests at heart but got the timing and communications wrong. We should have done better.”
Keep an eye on this – if successful, it would mean many detainees in detention centres would not have access to their mobile phones.
AAP has more on the Victorian clusters.
On the Fawkner Macca’s:
The fresh cases – confirmed by the Health Department overnight – are close contacts of the four employees at the Fawkner restaurant who tested positive.
Another two close contacts had already been confirmed as positive.
The site was closed on Friday and underwent a deep clean at the weekend before being reopened on Wednesday with staff from surrounding McDonald’s.
McDonald’s Australia chief executive Andrew Gregory said the vast majority of the Fawkner site’s 100 employees have been tested and were negative.
But not all the results have come back yet.
It’s possible we will get a small number of positive infections,” he told 3AW radio.
And on Cedar Meats:
The abattoir in Melbourne’s west is being investigated by WorkSafe.
A spokesman for WorkSafe has confirmed it will be investigating the Brooklyn abattoir, which is linked to 91 infections.
The probe will examine whether social distancing measures were in place at the abattoir and if workers were provided with appropriate personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser.
The state government and Cedar Meats management have defended their handling of the outbreak, including the decision to allow staff to work for several days after workers tested positive.
The unemployment figures will be out very, very soon
Just a reminder though
The Business Council of Australia has launched its “Good to Go” campaign:
“The Good to Go campaign provides the entire business community with a coordinated voice that allows us to get three simple health messages out to our teams,” Business Council chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, said.
Good to Go encourages Australians to:
- Keep your distance - maintain social distancing wherever you go
- Keep hygienic – wash or sanitise your hands every time you have been outside your home
- Keep the app on – make sure you have downloaded the Covidsafe app
Matilda Boseley has asked the spokesperson for Cedar Meats about the “reopening” claims.
This has been their response.
Cedar Meats is restarting its cold storage facility on Monday 18 May 2020. Cedar Meats is not recommencing production on 18 May 2020. The cold storage facility requires a minimum of staff.
Restarting the cold storage facility has been planned with the advice and support of the public health team at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The safety and wellbeing of staff is Cedar Meats number one priority.
Ninety of Victoria’s Covid cases have stemmed from the meat-processing plant.
Industry Super Australia is up first at the House Economics Committee.
The Liberal chair, Tim Wilson, starts with a string of questions trying to get ISA to make concessions that increasing the 9.5% superannuation guarantee to 12% will cost jobs, but ISA chief executive Bernie Dean just doesn’t concede.
Then Wilson drilled down on whether ISA had updated assumptions on its calculator for early release of super - deputy CEO Matthew Linden said it had done so due to updated Asic guidance on 17 April.
Linden explains how it calculated early release in super would cost a 30 year old $97,000 in retirement, while Asic’s calculator suggests the cost would be $43,000.
Both have similar return assumptions - Asic (7.5%), ISA (7%), but Asic had used a deflator of 4%, compared with ISA’s 3%.
Essentially, they disagree about what today’s dollar will be worth in 40 years’ time. Linden defended its calculation, which he said is “more in line with contemporary economic evidence” about the trajectory of real wages and inflation.
Labor’s Andrew Leigh lobs a few easier questions, revealing that industry super funds have processed 99% of early release of super requests within 5 days, compared with 93% for retail funds.
Linden also revealed that 5% of requests for early release had resulted in the super accounts being emptied (to a zero balance), around 50,000 requests. This number will increase over time, he said.
Victoria reports nine new Covid-19 cases
Victoria has reported nine new cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours.
The Fawkner McDonald’s cluster now has eight cases, after two people who live with staff members of that McDonald’s tested positive for the coronavirus.
Cedar Meats has three new cases, which takes that cluster to 90.
Peter Dutton is really agitated about this:
I think Premier Palaszczuk should come out and say that she’s mad a massive mistake and it really shows that at a time when she should be thinking about getting Queenslanders back to work, getting Queensland businesses reopened, she’s off on this crazy frolic of wanting to buy an airline and it shows that Labor just can’t manage the economy.
... I have made my view as a Queenslander very clear and I’m completely at odds with Premier Palaszczuk and the new treasurer. It’s clear we had a bad treasurer before in Jackie Trad.
We have now got a crazy person in Mr Dick who wants to spend money he doesn’t have and Queenslanders at the moment, who are doing it tough, should be very worried that their taxes, if they are lucky enough to have a job in the current environment, are going to be squandered on an airline.
It just doesn’t make any sense, which, as I say, is why the premier needs to come out, show leadership, admit she’s made a mistake, and pull back from this.
Peter Dutton continues attack on Queensland's Virgin Australia bid, criticises Scott Morrison's idea.
It is not just George Christensen’s comments Peter Dutton hasn’t been paying attention to.
He also seems to have ignored Scott Morrison’s comments about how super funds should bail out Virgin Australia:
“The industry super funds in this country have got $3 trillion worth of assets – here we’ve got a company that needs capital,” Mr Morrison told ABC’s 7.30 last month.
“Its own workers have been paying in to industry funds and there are funds out there in these super funds that could be investing in a number of companies.”
Dutton in attempting to slam the Queensland government, says he thinks that is a stupid idea.
Annastacia Palaszczuk bought Queensland to the brink of bankruptcy and is now talking about buying an airline.
I mean, it is dangerous. If it is a political stunt they should pull out now.
If it is a second option, they are serious about wanting to bid for it, then they need to be honest that the money they are going to use, at least in part - apart from further borrowings, will be the superannuation funds of nurses and police in Queensland.
Is that a prudent way in which to invest your superannuation money?
I don’t think so.
Not that government debt is the point, but ahead of the pandemic and its response, Treasury had forecast that federal government debt would hit almost $380 billion by June next year.
Peter Dutton then has another go at the Queensland Labor government for its interest in buying a stake in Virgin Australia, and the man who loves a team Australia moment has a problem with the name “Operation Maroon”.
Well, I’m from Queensland. So, I will comment on Queensland matters. And this is a very serious issue now. There is one of two things happening here.
Labor is either in the midst of an election stunt and they are putting at risk millions of dollars in some phoney bid that they know is not going to be successful, just because they want to be patriotic.
They have named it Operation Maroon, just a silly way the spin doctors have come up with a glib line for them to be running in Queensland media.
That’s the first alternative. The second one is even more dangerous. That is that they’ve decided as a state government to buy an airline in the midst of a pandemic.
One of the biggest and most difficult downturns in the economy in a century, the Labor party in Queensland has no money, they have close to $100 billion of debt. Every dollar they spent is borrowed.
They are talking about buying an airline that doesn’t have any revenue at the moment and has billions of dollars worth of debt.
Peter Dutton is standing up in the mural hall, and he is asked about China. Dutton was one of the first out of the blocks to criticise China’s response to the pandemic, but he has tempered his words here:
The government has done nothing more than stand up for our values. As the government has pointed out, particularly to family members who have lost loved ones during the Covid pandemic [and] want answers and legitimately have questions to ask and they need to be answered in a transparent way.
And Australia’s done nothing more than stand up for our values and we will consistently do that. I think that’s very important. The prime minister, I think, has been resolute in standing up for Australians in relation to this matter. And that won’t change.
George Christensen was a lot more forthcoming to Alan Jones on Sydney radio 2GB this morning, accusing corporate Australia of selling out:
The deal with China is when you say something they don’t like they come and try this bullying and coercive tactic. You either stake your own claim, be an independent sovereign nation, or you just be a lackey.
That’s what the Chinese Communist party wants, that seems to be what the Labor party wants, and it seems to be what corporate Australia wants.
These people put money before their country.
Dutton says he has not heard those comments.
China, and Australia’s strained relationship with the CCP and the resulting trade issues, is still very, very much on the agenda today.
Penny Wong was asked about it while on ABC radio RN this morning and she said the government leadership needed to take its backbench in hand:
I actually don’t have a problem with the messaging. I just think that the foreign minister and the prime minister should be engaging much more publicly and clearly in framing and leading this debate.
I think it is regrettable that much of this debate is being framed and led by conservative backbenchers, trying to outdo each other as to who can be more strident on China, and I don’t think that serves the national interest.
The Australian national interest is served most by consistently holding to what our interests are, holding to our position. I think that Marise Payne should engage much more clearly and consistently in this national discussion.
The bells are ringing for parliament.
And my existential angst.
Kristina Keneally says Labor will consider the migration amendment “if and when the government introduces it”:
If Peter Dutton’s incompetence means illicit drugs, weapons and child exploitation material have made their way into immigration detention centres, he needs to explain why this has happened during his five and a half years as the minister.
This is back on the agenda: Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities).
Which basically is a bid to ban mobile phones from detention centres.
The government first tried this in 2017. It didn’t get up. So here we go again.
David Littleproud has called a press conference for 9.30 in the mural hall.
Michael McCormack was as Michael McCormack as you can imagine about the Queensland bid for a stake in Virgin Australia. Here he is on the ABC:
Well, I think they’re a government, and I agree with Deb Frecklington, they should stick to trying to run Queensland, and Queensland’s economy.
I think this should be left to companies, should be left to potential bidders and investors who aren’t necessarily government. I believe that there should be very much a market-led solution.
On the relaxing of restrictions in NSW, AAP has this:
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has confirmed pubs and clubs will join cafes and restaurants in providing dining as part of the state government’s push to boost the economy.
Mr Perrottet says the venues will be able to open from Friday as long as they adhere to social distancing requirements and stick to a limit of 10 customers at any given time.
Bars and gaming facilities will remain closed but table service for alcohol with a meal will be allowed, along with takeaway services.
There has been one question on sports rorts this week.
If you are in NSW you are encouraged to call ahead any hospitality venue you might want to visit – don’t just turn up.
NSW reports four new Covid-19 cases
NSW tested more than 9,700 people yesterday and recorded four new Covid-19 cases.
But restrictions are being slightly eased from tomorrow, which means case numbers will go up.
People have been asking me the last few days, “Are you worried about what Friday and beyond might look like?”
Of course we are. Of course I am.
Because we need to make sure that everybody practices good social distancing.
But I’m also heartened because, as we’ve come together, the results we have been able to achieve in New South Wales have been absolutely unbelievable. I mean, to get from 200-and-something cases a day down to a handful – very few places on the planet have been able to to do that.
And so I’m really heartened by the goodwill the community has demonstrated and I’m confident, I’m quietly confident, that we’ll be able to demonstrate that discipline moving forward.
Here’s a wrap of what you might have missed yesterday:
- Some NSW pubs with restaurants and sit-down dining tables will be allowed to reopen on Friday. Only 10 people will be allowed in the premises and tables will still have be 1.5 metres apart.
- The Queensland government announced it will bid for Virgin Australia, and that could include a “direct equity stake” in the airline.
- Worksafe in Victoria will investigate the coronavirus cluster at the Cedar Meats abattoir.
- The government’s Covid-19 coordination adviser, the former Fortescue Metals chief executive Nev Power, is being paid $267,345 for six months’ work. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had to correct its own evidence after it told a Senate inquiry Power was being paid $500,000. The money is an allowance for travel costs, not a salary.
- The Therapeutic Goods Administration has fined an Australian chapter of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing more than $150,000 for selling and promoting a solution containing industrial bleach as an alleged cure for coronavirus.
- Coronavirus tests brought to Australia by the mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest at a cost of $200m to the Australian taxpayer are not being used by most state and territory governments and have instead been sent to the national medical stockpile.
- Australia’s Covid-19 toll rose to 98 after an 81-year-old woman, who was a passenger on the Ruby Princess, died in NSW.
- Australia recorded 13 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday – seven in Victoria and six in NSW.
Welcome to today’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and the day in parliament.
It’s the last scheduled day of sittings until August, although with the country gradually reopening you would expect more parliament sittings to be scheduled quite soon.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release the latest unemployment figures – and the data will give the actual impact of the pandemic and the great lockdown on employment. Not that we need the figures – we all saw the lines outside Centrelink and, if not us, we all know someone who has been impacted by the shutdown.
Still, the figures will be sobering.
Also under discussion today is Queensland’s bid for Virgin:
There is an election in Queensland in October so things will heat up very, very quickly in the sunshine state – we’ll keep you up to date on that.
You have Mike Bowers, Katharine Murphy, Paul Karp and Daniel Hurst on deck in Canberra today, and Amy Remeikis at the helm. And of course, access to the entire Guardian brains trust.
So let’s get into it.