Parliament passes most significant stimulus ‘since the war’, then closes for five months


The Federal Parliament has rushed through $84 billion in financial support for workers, students and businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak, before wrapping up for a five-month-long break.

Key points:

  • The bills were passed late on Monday night without objection in the House
  • The first direct payments won’t be made until April 27
  • Parliament won’t resume until August, while the Finance Minister has been given extra powers

A bare minimum of MPs and Senators came to Canberra for a single day to vote on legislation for the Government’s two rounds of stimulus measures.

The bills were passed late Monday night without objection in both the House of Representatives and the Senate after some amendments were made.

“The measures that have been passed by the Parliament today represent the most significant support for the Australian economy and community since the war,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“There is much to do for this country in the weeks and months ahead, but working together, we can support the Australian community at their moment of need.”

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said the Parliament’s co-operation “has been a good example today of the Parliament at its best, working at a time when the nation is facing some of its worst”.

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236,000 students to benefit, Government says


The coronavirus economic downturn has fuelled more Centrelink claims. (ABC News: Chris Taylor)

The legislation supports both the first coronavirus economic stimulus package, worth $17.6 billion, and the $66 billion in direct financial support announced in the second package on the weekend.

It also includes a raft of other measures to support the economy more broadly, as well as giving the Government flexibility to respond to changing circumstances without needing further legislation.

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@JoshFrydenberg tweet: Tonight the Govt’s Coronavirus support package passed the Parliament. This is the most significant set of measures to support the Aust economy since wartime. This is a Team Aust moment

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Under pressure from Labor and the Greens, the Coalition amended its own legislation to give the social services minister the power to make changes to the stimulus payments, including rates, means testing, eligibility and residency requirements.

The Government will immediately use those powers to extend the $550 coronavirus supplement to students receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy payments.

Other than the income test, “there are really very few other requirements” students will have to meet to get support, said Social Services Minister Anne Ruston.

The Government estimates up to 236,000 students could benefit from the change.

Labor demanded an end date to the extra powers for the social services minister be included in the legislation.

“I think giving broad powers like this would, in any normal situation, never be provided to the executive,” said Labor’s finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher.

“But this is a very unusual world that we are living in now and we acknowledge that the Government will have to respond, and will have to respond at different times and in different ways, over the next few months.”

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First direct payments won’t happen until April 27


Coronavirus prevention measures has sent many small businesses into economic freefall. (ABC News: Nicole Asher)

Labor had wanted stimulus payments to reach workers earlier, given the first direct payments won’t reach wallets until April 27.

“There is a lack of urgency in this support,” Labor’s Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said.

“We are concerned that payments to households, including pensioners, will arrive too late. And we are deeply concerned that cashflow assistance to businesses will arrive too late.”

“For sole traders and the self-employed, this support is just not enough.”

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@KKeneally tweet: Tonight the @AuSenate debates, and passes, vital stimulus measures. It’s called a stimulus package but it’s for the survival of Australia

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Labor also raised concerns about letting people access their superannuation early, but passed the bills nonetheless.

“Now is not the time to stand in the way of this package of measures because Australians need support now,” said Senator Keneally.

The Greens failed to win support for a series of amendments, but ultimately backed the bills, too.

They wanted financial support to be extended to people on temporary visas and those receiving disability support and carers’ payments.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Parliament won’t resume until August 11


The Finance Minster has been given unprecedented powers to spend without parliamentary approval. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Parliament is now not due to sit again until August 11, with the May budget postponed and other parliamentary sitting days cancelled.

Parliament has approved an ‘advance’ of $40 billion for the finance minister to spend on unforeseen events from July 1 without needing parliamentary approval.

By comparison, the ‘advance’ for the current financial year was $1.2 billion.

The Government will have to publicly announce every use of the funds and consult the Opposition when spending more than $1 billion.

Labor’s Senator Gallagher said the extraordinary increase in the ‘advance’ represented the “unprecedented times” the nation was facing.

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Broken Hill seeks SA border exemption as KI calls for tourism end

Adelaide 5000

Preparations are being made to impose restrictions on the entry of people into South Australia in what the Premier says is an effective closing of borders, while a doctor on bushfire-affected Kangaroo Island is calling for all tourism to stop.

Key points:

  • Anyone entering SA from other states will have to isolate themselves for 14 days
  • Broken Hill wants to know whether it will be exempt from the rules
  • Kangaroo Island mayor expects travel restrictions to further hurt tourism

The Mayor of Broken Hill is calling for her city to be exempted from the rules, despite being in New South Wales.

Anyone who enters South Australia is now required to isolate themselves for two weeks — and from 4:00pm on Tuesday will need to sign a declaration about their health and where they will stay.

It is meant to restrict the movement of non-essential travellers to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Premier Steven Marshall said those living in border communities will still be allowed to cross over into SA without the restrictions, provided there are no outbreaks in their town.

“I know these are extraordinary restrictions and we certainly don’t take these decisions lightly — the Cabinet considered it yesterday at 11:00am and in reality the meeting was over by 12:00pm,” Mr Marshall said.

“Everybody was supportive once they saw the data.

“We are in a fortunate position in South Australia that we lag [in cases] somewhat behind the eastern states.”

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There will be exemptions for “essential travel to maintain health, the food supply chain, and the state’s economic needs”, the State Government announced on Sunday.

Twelve border crossings will be established.

Quarantine and heavy vehicle testing stations will be staffed by police as well as officers from other departments.


Broken Hill is about 50km from the SA border. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)

Mayor seeks clarification for Broken Hill

There are concern about the border restrictions in Broken Hill, just across the South Australian border in NSW.

The city has traditionally had stronger social ties to Adelaide than to Sydney.

Broken Hill Mayor Darriea Turley said she was seeking immediate clarification about how residents would be affected.

“I’ve reached out as a matter of urgency to the state Member [of Parliament],” she said.

“I consider we are a border town and I believe we should be exempt by this, particularly if you think about how many people access Adelaide for treatment and for care and assessment for health.”


Broken Hill Mayor Darriea Turley wants clarification about the city’s status. (ABC News)

Mr Marshall said Broken Hill had not been considered yet for an exemption.

He said it would depend on whether there were any COVID–19 diagnoses in far west NSW and whether restriction in Sydney would drive people to move farther west.

“We’ll take all those things into account,” he said.

There are 100 positive cases in South Australia.

There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in NSW’s far west.

On Saturday, the first case was confirmed in Mildura, in Victoria.

Over the weekend, Victoria’s Wimmera recorded its first cases of the coronavirus — in the Yarriambiack and Gannawarra shires.


Katharine Daniels from Murrayville, which is expected to be exempt from the rules. (ABC News: Samantha Dawes)

Katharine Daniels, who lives on a farm at Murrayville, about 500 metres across the Victorian border in the Mallee, said her community understood the strict measures.

The town is expected to be exempt from the rules.

“We very much are one community that if and when it reaches one of the communities it’ll probably affect the other one as well, but I am really hoping it doesn’t come to that for a while anyway and I really do trust that they will look after us cross-border communities,” she said.

The Overland train service will be suspended and V/Line will issue advice in the coming days regarding bus services between Adelaide and Victoria.

The Ghan is also suspended until May 31.


A Queensland police officer looks over the border into South Australia. (File: ABC News)

Testing now available for interstate travellers

While there is a shortage of an essential reagent needed for the testing process, the criteria has been broadened to include people who have travelled interstate in the last week.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said anyone who met the new criteria should be tested.

“Anybody that has travelled interstate in the last seven days and has respiratory symptoms, we want to test you,” Dr Spurrier said.

“We had people at the end of last week come to the COVID–19 clinics with that situation and because they didn’t fit the test criteria the clinic didn’t do the test.

“If you are listening and that happened to you, could you please come to the clinic and we would like to have you tested.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

AFL club Port Adelaide has put all of its players, coaches and staff who travelled to the Gold Coast over the weekend into self-isolation for 14 days.

The club said the move was made on the strong recommendation of the South Australian Government and SA Health as part of broader policies to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The AFL has been postponed after the completion of round one, until at least the end of May because of the virus outbreak.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said officers would use their power to give directions to people in relation to gatherings and movements “in a measured way”.

“We’ve been checking on people who are required to self-isolate and so far people are complying and doing so willingly,” Mr Stevens said.

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Kangaroo Island tourism to suffer

Kangaroo Island’s Mayor said the latest travel advice from the Federal Government is another major hit to the already struggling island.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday called for Australians to end all non-essential domestic travel — on top of international travel.

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The island had hoped for a tourism-led recovery following January’s bushfires.

Mayor Michael Pengilly said he accepted the advice was necessary — but it will compound local problems.

“It is a huge blow to the island on top of what’s happened over the summer with the fires, but it’s one that we have to take on board and we have to keep moving and keep things going for the sake of the island community and Australia,” he said.

Kangaroo Island Medical Clinic posted advice to residents on its Facebook page.

There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases on Kangaroo Island.

“If your family or friends want to visit Kangaroo Island, now is not the time,” Dr Jeremy Wells said.

“Ask them to rebook later this year or in 2021.

“It is with great consideration of all factors that we have arrived at our firm view that tourism must stop today.

“This is vital to enable us as your local health system to manage the potential influx of severely unwell people as well as our usual influx of emergency presentations as safely and as effectively as we can.”

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Australian shares plunge again as businesses shut and US Congress bickers over coronavirus stimulus


Australian shares have lost nearly $100 billion in a day of volatile trade after the country shut down parts of its economy and more states shut their borders.

Key points:

  • The ASX 200 lost further value, putting it back to where it was in late November 2012
  • The Australian dollar is trading at a near 17-year low
  • Global rating agency Standard & Poor’s predicts Australia’s economy will expand by just 0.4 per cent in 2020

Investors were also unnerved by the failure of the US Congress to pass the latest coronavirus stimulus bill, which saw US stock futures plunge 5 per cent at the open, the biggest permissible fall.

The ASX 200 index came off earlier lows to be down by 5.6 per cent or 271 points to 4,546 at the close, with most sectors in the red led by banks and consumer stocks.

The benchmark index is back to where it was in late November 2012.

The All Ordinaries index slumped 6 per cent to 4,564.

The Australian dollar is trading at a near 17-year low against the greenback of around 57.63 US cents.

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Another fall in oil prices saw the ASX 200 energy index lose as much as 9 per cent during the session, to the lowest since early 2004, as more companies cut their spending and delayed projects.

It comes amid a slump in demand for fuel due to coronavirus, and as governments globally closed borders and shutdown their economies.

The Nikkei 225 index in Japan has gained 2 per cent after the Bank of Japan said it would inject an extra 800 billion yen ($12.7 billion) into the financial system of the world’s third-largest economy.

In China, the Shanghai Composite and the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong were both in the red in afternoon trade.

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Swimwear company Tigerlily goes into administration

Fashion and swimwear brand Tigerlily became the latest retailer to go into voluntary administration.

Administrator KordaMentha said the decision to go into administration was made after considering the impact of the coronavirus.

Tigerlily employs 200 people and some shops will stay open as the administrators look for a buyer.

The firm was founded by former model and businesswoman Jodhi Meares, a former wife of billionaire James Packer.

The first meeting of creditors will be on April 1.

Reserve Bank plans further bond purchases

The Reserve Bank said it planned to buy another $4 billion in government bonds.

That follows a $5 billion purchase of bonds on Friday in its biggest intervention in Australia’s financial system in history.

The banking regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, will soon announce plans to reduce the regulatory burden faced by financial institutions in the wake of the coronavirus.

The news comes a little over a year since the final report of the banking royal commission was released, which clamped down on bad behaviour by financial institutions.

What the second stimulus package will mean for you
A suite of new measures have been unveiled to soften the economic blow dealt by coronavirus. But what do they mean for your wallet?

APRA said lenders needed to put aside more money to cover losses caused by allowing customers to defer loan repayments.

The Council for Financial Regulators said it had discussed the need for continued “close engagement” and contingency plans with international regulators.

CMC Markets chief markets strategist for Asia Pacific, Michael McCarthy, said investors were increasingly pessimistic about the economic outlook and were expecting a recession globally and in Australia, especially as the US Senate failed to advance a coronavirus stimulus bill.

“The lack of political will in a crisis is really disappointing investors,” he said.

However, negotiations are ongoing, and US President Donald Trump said Congress was close to reaching an agreement.

On the local market, banks and industrial stocks led the falls.

The big banks plunged to multi-year lows, with National Australia Bank back at levels not seen since 1996 at one point this morning.

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Buy now, pay later firm Afterpay lost nearly one third of its value, down $3.50 to $8.90.

Financial company Challenger dropped by more than one fifth to $2.97 after the Federal Government said people in financial difficulty because of the coronavirus could access their superannuation early.

And retail firms like Premier Investments also took a hit; its shares lost one quarter of their value to $8.95.

Flight Centre brought forward plans to close 100 underperforming stores and its senior executives will take a 50 per cent pay cut.

US stocks futures fell by nearly 4 per cent in opening trade in Asia, suggesting another fall on Wall Street tonight.

In New Zealand, the benchmark NZ50 index lost 7.6 per cent to 8,498 after the country’s government announced a shutdown to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Global credit-ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) estimated total and permanent losses in Asia because of the coronavirus stood at $US620 billion ($1.08 trillion) for governments, companies, banks and households.

Last week it said the global economy was already in recession.

S&P predicted Australia’s economy would expand by just 0.4 per cent in 2020 after growth of 2.2 per cent last year seasonally adjusted according to the Bureau of Statistics.

It said China’s growth rate could halve this year to 2.9 per cent.

The agency forecasted the Hong Kong, Singaporean, South Korean and Japanese economies would go backwards in 2020.

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Queensland to impose border controls after recording highest daily coronavirus tally

Brisbane 4000

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will impose border controls that include travellers being placed in quarantine for two weeks after the state recorded 60 new coronavirus cases in the last day.

Key points:

  • There are now more than 300 COVID-19 cases in Queensland
  • The teachers’ union is threatening strike action if schools are not closed
  • Queensland cabinet has voted to begin border control measures

The Queensland Government will close the state’s borders beginning midnight Wednesday.

The initial stage of the restriction will force anyone entering Queensland to quarantine themselves for 14 days after arrival.

Authorities will convene in the coming days to establish how road-based restrictions can later be placed along the state’s borders.

But Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said it would be “business as usual” for those commuting between northern New South Wales and Queensland on a daily basis, even after the border closures were in place.

“We have a very close relationship with northern New South Wales — a lot of people live there and work in Queensland and vice versa,” Dr Young said.

“People in northern New South Wales come to Brisbane and the Gold Coast for everything … healthcare, shopping, everything.”

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Dr Young said the border closures were in place to stop travellers from other capital cities with high community transition rates visiting remote areas of Queensland.

“We do not want people who are currently in Sydney or in Melbourne who have been exposed to go up to the Whitsundays for instance — we’ve got no cases up there,” she said.

“We want to keep the rest of the state free of the virus as long as possible.”

Freight transport will continue as normal, both in and out of the state.

“We need to bring goods from other states into Queensland — that’s important and Queensland goods need to go from our state to other states,” Dr Young said.

“We are a massive food bowl for our nation.”

But Tweed Shire councillor Warren Polglase said people were confused and concerned about the implications.

“The Queensland Government has created a lot of uncertainty and this is not a time for uncertainty,” he said.

“Roughly 20 to 30 per cent of our population goes north to work in Queensland and about 15 to 20 per cent come from Queensland or work in Tweed.

“There’s cross-border [travel] every day for very many various trades and business people and I don’t know how it’s going to work.”

He said two of the Tweed Shire Council’s senior managers and directors lived in Queensland.

“Are they going to be quarantined once they go over and back, or how are we going to handle that?” he said.

“I think the proposal was made on the run in many ways and I think if the police are asked to police this issue I don’t think they know exactly what to do.”

‘Enough’s enough’ says teachers’ union

Ms Palaszczuk also urged people to “stay in your suburb” but remained adamant schools would stay open.

However, Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) president Kevin Bates called on the State Government to close schools by mid-week, saying he could not rule out strike action if negotiations fail.

Mr Bates said the safety of teaching staff was being put at risk.

“Governments are talking about shutting down all of the businesses apart from essential services, and yet there’s still talk about schools remaining open. Those two things are contradictory,” Mr Bates said.

Mr Bates said he appreciated that medical advice suggested it was OK to keep schools open, but said that: “We can’t see how the logic of that plays out.”

“We don’t accept that you have to have social distancing in terms of closing down parks and beaches and other things but you can have 3,000 students at a school and that is OK.

“What we are saying is, enough’s enough.”


Jeannette Young says one patient with COVID-19 is in intensive care. (ABC News)

Ms Palaszczuk urged teachers over the age of 60 or those with an underlying health condition to seek advice from their school principal about working from home.

But Mr Bates said teachers had lost faith in the “ad-hoc” approach.

“The words that we know have been used are ‘sacrificial lamb’, ‘glorified babysitters’ — that’s how they’re feeling,” he said.

Ms Palaszczuk said Queensland state schools would remain open but said parents could keep children home if they wished.

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“Parents have a choice — if they choose not to send their child to school, that can that make that choice,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“But schools will remain open.

“Also, we know that the school holidays are coming up in a couple of weeks’ time. I want to send a clear message to people to stay in your state, and stay in your suburb. There are no school holidays. It is not about packing up the car and going to the beach for a picnic or going for a swim on the beach.”

Dr Young said schools that recorded a positive case of COVID-19 would have to take their own circumstances into account when deciding whether to reopen.

“Every school has got different arrangements, so you can’t just have one process,” Dr Young said.

“Whether or not the school reopens is up to that school.”

Case tally goes past 300

A total of 319 cases have now been recorded across Queensland.

Dr Young said one patient with COVID-19 was being treated in intensive care, and described that person as “unwell”.

“They are in ICU and are ventilated. I don’t have all the specific details,” Dr Young said.

Dr Young said the sharp rise in cases underscored the importance of adhering to social-distancing measures.

Government staffer tests positive

Meanwhile, it has been revealed contact tracing is underway within a busy Government department after a public servant based in an office in the Brisbane CBD tested positive for COVID-19.

Staff within the Department of Housing and Public Works were updated on the situation in an email from department deputy director-general Trish Woolley a week ago.

“We have traced staff members who have been in contact with this staff member and invoked business continuity arrangements in our service delivery network and senior executive team to ensure we continue to manage the implications of COVID-19 on the delivery of essential services,” she said in the email.

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“It is important to remember, that as part of any trace contacting that occurs, we are not looking for people the person may have passed on the street or in a shop, as the risk in these situations is extremely low.

“The same applies for a passing interaction in an office.”

The ABC understands several staff are still working in the office, despite raising health concerns.

Surge in cases ‘justifies’ venue closures, Minister says

The previous highest daily case total for Queensland was last Thursday, when 50 new patients were announced, with another 40 on Friday.

Health Minister Steven Miles said some hospitals in Queensland had begun rescheduling non-urgent surgeries, and urged people to keep donating blood.

“That is the highest single-day figure we’ve had so far, and it justifies the strong action that the Premier and other national leaders have taken overnight to restrict people from accessing large gatherings and events,” Mr Miles said.

Last night, following a meeting with state and territory leaders, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that from midday Monday places like pubs, indoor sporting venues and churches would be closed.

Mr Miles said Queensland Health had conducted 32,000 tests for COVID-19 so far.

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The ordinary Australians saving historical landmarks from demolition

Castlemaine 3450

Volunteers across Australia are pushing to preserve historic landmarks in their towns.

Key points:

  • Communities are preserving about 100 historic landmark buildings each year
  • Everyday volunteers are keeping their heritage buildings standing through advocacy campaigns
  • Not-for-profit organisations like the National Trust are helping to convince councils to apply protections over historic buildings

Community members in regional and urban areas are fundraising, petitioning and enlisting advocacy groups like the National Trusts of Australia to persuade councils to save historic buildings.

Felicity Watson, the executive manager of the Victorian branch of the National Trust, says communities in her state are preserving about 100 historic buildings every year.

“What we find is there are so many competing demands for ratepayers’ funds in council areas that it’s really up to the community to have a strong voice to put their heritage first,” she said.


Felicity Watson says competing demands for ratepayers’ funds means it’s up to community members to put their heritage first. (Supplied: National Trust)

“We petition to councils to amend local planning schemes to apply heritage overlays over significant buildings.”

Set up in each state, the trusts are strong voices that have successfully helped volunteers protect and preserve their treasured landmarks through advocacy efforts.

A face from the past

In Castlemaine, regional Victoria, the Castlemaine Market Hall, a 158-year-old building that sits in the heart of town, has almost been demolished twice.

It fell into disrepair in the last century, but through the efforts of residents and the National Trust of Victoria, the building was saved and restored in 1974.


The great granddaughters of William Downe, Marion Downe, from Castlemaine, and Margaret Benady, from England, donated their ancestor’s portrait and antique desk. (ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)

The historic hall, built in 1862 was originally home to 22 market stalls, selling fresh produce and poultry while also hosting live animal auctions.

It is now the town’s tourist information centre and exhibition space.

The great granddaughters of William Downe, the architect who designed the market hall, have donated their ancestor’s portrait and antique desk to the building’s exhibition space.

Marion Downe, from Castlemaine, and Margaret Benady, from England, returned the heirloom to commemorate Mr Downe’s contribution to the town’s streetscape.

“It’s lovely to have William recognised this way, but it’s really due to the efforts of the local people who did a lot of fundraising and worked in conjunction with the National Trust to save it,” Ms Downe said.


Alleyne Hockley says linking personalities and real people to heritage buildings allows community members to feel more attached to their history. (ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)

Castlemaine Historical Society’s Alleyne Hockley said linking personalities and real people to heritage buildings allow community members feel more attached to their history.

“It’s important to link communities with the personalities of their history,” she said.

“He was an important gentleman in Castlemaine.”


William Downe’s desk, upon which he drew up the designs for the Castlemaine Market Building, now sits inside the building itself. (ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)

Genuine drawcards

Ms Watson said many councils in regional Victoria were listening to the National Trust and prioritising their heritage buildings as they are “real draw cards for tourism and economic development.”

In the same year, there were 34.6 million visitors to cultural heritage places across Australia and visitors spent $32.2 billion on cultural heritage tourism.

Jane Alexander from Queensland’s National Trust said there were several factors that contributed to a historic building being saved.

“These include effective legislation, willing owners, community sentiment and advocacy from organisations like ourselves,” she said.Ms Alexander said their branch acquired a rare and remote 19th Century brick convent building in Cooktown in the late 1960s, which is now the James Cook Museum.


The James Cook Museum in Cooktown, Queensland, was built in 1889 as a convent. (Supplied: National Trust Queensland)

Brick by brick

The National Trusts of Australia are also acquiring buildings to save them from disrepair.

Ms Alexander said their branch acquired a rare and remote 19th Century brick convent building in Cooktown in the late 1960s, which is now the James Cook Museum.

Constructed in 1888, the convent housed the Sisters of Mercy who provided education to day students and boarders from the Cooktown region.

“During World War II, the sisters and their students moved inland to Herberton and did not return, leaving the convent to gradually fall into disrepair,” Ms Alexander said.


The National Trust in Queensland restored the convent and it reopened as the James Cook Museum in 1969. (Supplied: National Trust Queensland)

The National Trust in Queensland restored the convent and it reopened as the James Cook Historical Museum in 1969.

In Western Australia, Karl Haynes from the state’s National Trust said their branch operates over 50 heritage appeals a year to fundraise and help prevent the loss of heritage places.

“A successful heritage appeal has been the Holy Trinity Church in Roebourne, located 1,600 kilometres north of Perth,” Mr Haynes said.

“The 1890 church was damaged by Cyclone Christine in 2013, but with the support of community, and grants from the Heritage Council of Western Australia, the National Trust in Western Australia raised

over $400,000 and the church’s restoration is nearing completion.”


Tasmania’s coronavirus tally of 22 a reflection of ‘rapidly increasing incidence’

Hobart 7000

There are now 22 people in Tasmania who have tested positive for coronavirus, with five people being diagnosed today, the director of Public Health says.

Key points:

  • Tasmanians told they need to “do better” in observing the measures to stop the spread of coronavirus
  • The tally of people testing positive reaches 17 — all are people who became infected before arriving in the state
  • Sunday’s National Cabinet meeting may result in further tightening of Tasmanian policy

This brings the number of confirmed cases to 15 in the state’s south, two in the north, two in the north-west and three who lived interstate.

The five confirmed cases today all returned to Tasmania from overseas — two from the United States, two from the Ruby Princess cruise and one from the Ovation of the Seas cruise.

Public Health director Dr Mark Veitch said the cases “reflect the rapidly increasing incidence of coronavirus infection throughout the world”, and the occurrence of cases on cruise ships.

“Public Health Services is speaking daily with passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise who are all required to be in quarantine until April 2,” Dr Veitch said.

Meanwhile, the Tasmanian public has been warned they would face the “full brunt of the law” if they fail to observe the self-isolation protocols in place to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

At a press conference on Sunday, Premier Peter Gutwein said people who were directed to enter self-isolation after being diagnosed as positive for the COVID-19 illness “must do that”.

“It is important that people follow the rules. If you have been asked to self-isolate, to quarantine, then you must do that … you cannot go to the shop, you cannot have friends around, you cannot go to a place of worship,” he said.

“We are doing a good job, but we need to do a better job. This is serious.”

Mr Gutwein said people who were instructed to go into quarantine “must stay in self-isolation”, adding that people who “flout the rules” would face the “full brunt of the law against you”.

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The ABC has reported Victoria and New South Wales are moving to stop non-essential activities in the next 48 hours, which include the closure of non-essential businesses such as restaurants and pubs.

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap

Victoria will also move its school holidays forward to Tuesday.

Asked if he was still sending his own children to school in Tasmania, Premier Gutwein said “yes, I am”.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Second stimulus package on its way

Mr Gutwein said the possible closure of schools was also on the agenda for discussion at tonight’s National Cabinet meeting between the Prime Minister, premiers and chief ministers.

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The State Government said it was working on releasing a second stimulus package “that will help Tasmanians even further”.

Mr Gutwein said it would be announced in the “coming days”.

“The coming months will be hard on Tasmanians as we deal with the ongoing impacts the coronavirus pandemic is having, but the most important things we can do are stay calm and follow the advice from health professionals,” he said.

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Here’s how much money you’ll receive in the new coronavirus stimulus package


As Australia’s economy is left reeling from the flow-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Government has unveiled a suite of new measures designed to soften the blow.

The $66 billion package includes relief for retirees, and a “safety net” for workers already bearing the brunt of the crisis.

With no end in sight, it’s sure to be a welcome relief for those who’ve been calling for a lifeline.

But what do the new measures actually mean for your pay packet? And who is set to benefit?

1. Casuals and sole traders

If you’ve found yourself affected by the economic downturn, you’ll be able to access a “coronavirus supplement” of $550 a fortnight for the next six months.

That’s on top of other benefits — so if you’re already receiving payments through Jobseeker (formerly known as Newstart), you can claim both.

Sole traders and casual workers who are currently making less than $1,075 a fortnight will be eligible to receive the full supplement.


Sole traders and casual workers who are currently making less than $1,075 a fortnight will be eligible to receive the full supplement. (ABC North Queensland: Nathalie Fernbach)

In practice, that means if you’re a single parent (receiving a maximum fortnightly payment of $612 through Jobseeker), for example, and you meet the criteria, you’ll take home about $1,162 a fortnight.

“This means anyone eligible for the maximum Jobseeker payment will now receive more than $1,100 a fortnight, effectively doubling the Jobseeker allowance,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

Sole traders or casual workers who have had their income or hours reduced by 20 per cent or more as a result of coronavirus will also be able to access to up to $10,000 of their superannuation tax-free.

2. Households

If you’re not eligible to receive the coronavirus supplement, you could still be able to claim a $750 stimulus payment.

The payment will be made automatically from July 13 to about 5 million Australians, including those receiving the age pension, a carers allowance or family tax benefit and Commonwealth senior card holders.

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That’s in addition to a separate $750 stimulus payment announced earlier this month.

“This is clearly saying that we expect this to go on for some time and we know that those vulnerable groups may need additional income support during those periods,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“Yes, it will provide some sort of support for the economy, but it will also provide some very real financial support for the most vulnerable in our community.”

3. Pensioners

Deeming rates will be reduced by a further 0.25 percentage points to reflect the latest rate reductions by the RBA, which follows similar cuts made earlier this month.

This is important because deeming rates are used for the pension income assessment — and therefore affect how much someone will receive through their pension.

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From the beginning of May, the lower deeming rate will be 0.25 per cent and the upper deeming rate will be 2.25 per cent.

To put things in perspective, when deeming rates were reduced by half a percentage point in the first stimulus package, National Seniors estimated age pensioners would receive on average an additional $219 per year.

According to the Government, the change will benefit around 900,000 income support recipients, including age pensioners, and is estimated to cost $876 million over the forward estimates period.


The change will benefit around 900,000 income support recipients, including age pensioners. (AAP: Glenn Hunt)

4. Employers who want to keep staff

Not-for-profits and small businesses with a turnover under $50 million will receive a tax-free cash payment of up to $100,000 to help them retain staff and continue operating.

The Government expects 690,000 businesses employing 7.8 million people and 30,000 not-for-profits will be eligible for measures in the stimulus package.


By linking the payments to business to staff wage tax withholdings, businesses will be incentivised to hold on to more of their workers. (Unsplash: Mitchell Hollander)

It doesn’t mean extra pocket money if you’re an employee, but by linking the payments to staff wage tax withholdings, businesses will be given an incentive to hold on to more of their workers.

“We know that small businesses are enormously resilient but this is really hurting them,” Mr Morrison said.

“Whether it is a coffee shop or mechanic or hairdresser… by providing at a minimum $20,000 and up to $100,000 for small businesses who employ people, [it] gives them a chance to get to the other side.”

Expect more to come…

An important thing to keep in mind is that this is the second suite of measures announced by the Government in just a matter of weeks.

The first, announced on March 12, also included one-off cash payments for welfare recipients, and changes to welfare payments for casual workers who contracted COVID-19 or had to isolate themselves.

In announcing Sunday’s package, Mr Morrison himself warned that it would not be his “last visit to these podiums”.


In announcing the package on Sunday morning, Mr Morrison himself warned that it would not be his “last visit to these podiums”. (AAP: Lukas Coch)

“There will be more packages and more support,” he said.

“There will be more issues that even now have not presented themselves or could not even be conceived at this point.”

So, if you’re doing it tough, expect more measures in the near future.

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Lockdowns as Africa starts to tackle ‘one of the biggest health challenges in a generation’

Congo, The Democratic Republic Of The

Countries across Africa have begun to initiate lockdowns as cases of COVID-19 rise above 1,000, with Nigeria announcing it is closing airports to all incoming international flights for a month in the continent’s most populous country.

Key points:

  • Nigeria recorded the first case in sub-Saharan Africa only three weeks ago
  • South Africa has cancelled visas for 10,000 Chinese and Iranian citizens
  • Virunga National Park has closed to protect its mountain gorilla population

Experts are concerned the continent will not be able to handle a surge in cases without the depth of medical facilities available in more developed economies.

“This is one of the biggest health challenges Africa has faced in a generation,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for Africa, said.

“Adopting approaches which are adaptable to the African context is key to containing the spread,” she said.

Africa now has more than 1,100 cases of the coronavirus, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Many African countries have already shut their borders, closed schools and universities and barred large public gatherings.


Africa’s fragile healthcare systems face grave challenges with COVID-19. (Reuters: Feisal Omar)

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South Africa bars foreigners

Nigeria announced the first coronavirus case in sub-Saharan Africa just three weeks ago.

Authorities said the country’s first patient, a man who had travelled from Italy, was now fit to go home.

It has banned all religious activities for at least a month.

Nigeria’s international flight ban came a day after Africa’s busiest airport, in Johannesburg, blocked foreigners from disembarking and two major airlines — Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways — announced sweeping cancellations of international flights.

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In South Africa, which has the most cases in sub-Saharan Africa, more citizens have taken to wearing masks and gloves in public.

The number of confirmed cases in the country rose by 38 to 240 on Saturday.

The South African Government announced this week it would revoke nearly 10,000 visas issued this year to people from China and Iran, and visas would now be required for other high-risk countries that had been visa-free, including Italy and the United States.


There is major concern over what will happen when coronavirus takes hold in Africa. (AP: Themba Hadebe)

Burkina Faso now has the most virus deaths of any country in sub-Saharan Africa, along with the most total cases in West Africa at 64.

It is one of Africa’s most fragile states with a growing humanitarian crisis caused by attacks linked to Islamic extremists.

More than 130 health centres have closed, Burkina Faso’s Government and aid groups say.

Jerry-Jonas Mbasha, cluster coordinator for WHO in Burkina Faso, said he was “much worried about what might happen in the next one week, two weeks from now.”

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Efforts to protect gorillas

Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to about a third of the world’s mountain gorillas, has shut its gates due to the crisis.

“The park’s temporary closure of mountain gorilla tourism is being undertaken as a precautionary measure and it’s in line with the World Health Organisation’s recommendation to restrict movement and limit social contact,” it said in a statement.


A park ranger walks past a mountain gorilla in the Virunga National Park in eastern Congo. (AP: Jerome Delay)

“It has been taken following advice from scientific experts indicating that primates, including mountain gorillas, are likely susceptible to complications arising from the COVID-19 virus.”

More than 275,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed globally, including over 11,000 deaths, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

At least 88,000 people have recovered.


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‘We’ve got to throw everything we’ve got at it’: Coronavirus vaccine to be fast-tracked in Queensland

Brisbane 4000

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a $17 million package to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine developed in the state.

Key points:

  • The number of Queensland COVID-19 cases has risen to 259 after 38 more people tested positive
  • The state government has announced $17 million in funding to fast-track the development of a vaccine
  • The money is expected to cut the time a vaccine would be available for use by about six months

She said the funding would support the University of Queensland (UQ) as the only Australian organisation and one of six worldwide to be tasked to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

It included:

  • $10 million from the Queensland Government
  • $3 million from the Federal Government
  • $3.5 million from the Paul Ramsay Foundation

“This is now becoming a serious issue here in Queensland and a serious issue here in Australia and we’ve gotta throw everything we’ve got at it, so $10 million today is a great step forward out of a $17 million package,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“Queensland is a world leader when it comes to research and the progress that is being made here is very encouraging.”

The money would allow researchers to bring a large-scale manufacture of the coronavirus vaccine forward to run parallel with clinical trials.

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Professor Paul Young, head of UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, described the work as a “radical approach”.

“We are living through remarkable times and remarkable times sometimes need radical ideas, and that is what the funding announced today is about.”


Annastacia Palaszczuk warned the media to practise social distancing at Sunday’s press conference on coronavirus. (ABC News)

“The typical timeline for vaccine development has been thrown out the window, with many referring to the possibility of a vaccine in 18 months.

“A vaccine is required even sooner than this.

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“We’re not cutting any corners in ensuring this vaccine is going to be safe and efficacious in humans, we will go through those clinical studies, but we should be ready to deploy as soon as that is done.”

“With this approach we should carve about six months off our timeline.”

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Queensland Innovation Minister Kate Jones said if successful, there could be a coronavirus vaccine available for emergency use among healthcare workers and vulnerable populations in early 2021.

Biotechnology researcher Professor Trent Munro is a team leader on the vaccine project and welcomed the funding.

“We have to be careful in saying there are no guarantees of success. This is going to be technically very, very challenging but this funding lets us push forward in a way that we wouldn’t have dreamed possible just a few weeks ago.”

‘Stay in your village’

The funding announcement came as 38 more people tested positive to coronavirus in the state, bringing the total number of Queensland’s COVID-19 cases to 259.

“We want to contain this virus as long as we can so we can develop a vaccine and ultimately save lives,” Health Minister Steven Miles said.

He said the cases were concentrated in south-east Queensland among those returning from overseas where coronavirus had already spread.

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The Premier is urging people not to travel outside their immediate community except for work.

“In the coming weeks and months, I need everyone to stay near your village,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“That means you can support things in your local village, you can shop in your local neighbourhoods, but as much as possible you need to restrict your non-essential travel and stick close to home.

“That’s what we do during cyclones, that’s what we do during floods.

“We all pitch in and help together.”

Library queues in last-minute borrowing rush

Keen readers at Indooroopilly were met with long queues and a 40-minute wait to get into the library.

“I was a bit surprised, I wasn’t expecting to see so many people here,” one woman told the ABC.

“You never see a line at a library.”


One borrower described the queues as “panic-borrowing”. (ABC News: Jess Rendall)

On Saturday, the Brisbane City Council announced it would be closing all 33 of its libraries to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“It’s closed until the end of June, that’s a long time to not be able to come to the library.”

Some locals are making the comparison to panic-buying, which saw Australia’s supermarkets stripped bare of toilet paper and other necessities.

“I think it’s better for books… at least people are looking for knowledge, I’m happy with that.”

“Everyone just wants to read, to do something if Australia goes into lockdown.”

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Australia has an advantage that many countries don’t — here’s how we use it


Nobody likes talking about the COVID-19 endgame, but we need to choose one.

The appropriate interventions — public health, government spending and freedom of movement — all depend on the endgame we choose.

The differences between endgames amount to tens of thousands of avoidable deaths, hundreds of thousands of avoidable hospital admissions, and deep and systemic impacts on Australia’s economy and society.

Many discussions are underestimating the likely political reactions when death counts rise.

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They are also underestimating the economic and social consequences of an open-ended epidemic that will have enormous real-world impacts on small and medium businesses, as well as many not-for-profit organisations in every sector of the economy and society. We are not facing up to the social consequences if many close and credit markets collapse.

We see three possible endgames.

None is attractive, but one is better than the others.

Endgame A: ‘flatten the curve’

Endgame A is the plan to “flatten the curve” — restricting movements in order to lower the peak in cases, while accepting that infections will continue to grow until the epidemic has run its course. There will be many deaths.

Imperial College has demonstrated that even if Britain flattens the curve, the peak months would still overwhelm hospital intensive care capacity, (particularly ventilators) by eight times instead of 30, perhaps halving the ultimate death toll.

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Australia is also likely to run out of intensive care capacity when there are about 45,000 infections — a small fraction of the population.

In reality, political economy will probably get in the way of continued growth of infections. Public pressure to “shut everything” will become overwhelming as infections rise and hospitals struggle. But by then, with exponential growth in infections from a greater base, the containment challenge will be much greater.

Once infection rates fall in response to the shutdown, there is a risk of public pressure to open again too early, increasing infections until the death rate again becomes unacceptable — what economist Tyler Cowen has dubbed the “epidemic yoyo“.

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Whether that happens or not, flattening the curve will require us to suppress economic and social activity for at least 12 months, and possibly much longer. The economic — and social — cost will be enormous.

No matter how much money governments throw at the economy, most businesses cannot survive the absence of normal activity for more than a few months.

It is not just tourism and hospitality. Companies small and large across sectors from household services to manufacturing to construction, are developing and executing plans to sack hundreds of thousands of people.

Unemployment will soar, probably driving a sharp fall in house prices, causing big problems for banks.

A variant of Endgame A is to isolate everyone over 60 (the age group most at risk), infect as many younger people as possible, and then hope that the disease dies out.

It’s not really plausible. There would be continued pockets of infection in many places, and they would quickly turn into localised outbreaks, particularly in nursing homes. It would be very hard to keep everyone over 60 separate from the people who provide them with food and services (who are likely to get infected) for months.

And of course there will be some deaths among those under 60.

Endgame B: ‘trace and track’

Endgame B is to trace and track every infection, something governments are trying to do.

But as NSW has now discovered, with thousands of potentially infected people getting off planes every day, and little enforcement of voluntary isolation, it’s easy for untracked infection to take off, and then it becomes practically impossible for subsequent tracking to shut it down. It is too easy for the number of new infections to overwhelm the tracking system, and then we are back in Endgame A.

Endgame B is only plausible if you start with very few infections and have sealed borders. Tasmania is now in that world, but other Australian states are not.

Video: Scott Morrison announces new indoor gathering restrictions

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Endgame C: ‘stop then restart’

Endgame C is to “stop then restart”. This means minimising activity and interactions, and sealing the borders to passenger traffic including citizens (although not trade), until infections are driven down to zero.

Only essential services would be maintained (particularly the food supply chain and utilities such as electricity, water and the internet).

There is no point trying to finesse which strategies work best; instead the imperative would be to implement as many as possible at once, including closing schools, universities, colleges, public transport and non-essential retail, and confining people to their homes as much as possible.

Police should visibly enforce the lockdown, and all confirmed cases should be housed in government-controlled facilities. This might seem unimaginable, but it is exactly what has already happened in China, South Korea and Italy.

Once infections are at zero, and stay there for a fortnight or so to ensure there are no asymptomatic cases, economic and social activity can restart sequentially, although international borders would have to remain closed to passenger traffic until there is a vaccine.


China’s ability to track and trace is difficult to copy in Australia. (Xinhua via AP: Deng Hua)

We’re better at tracking people

Governments would also need to implement widespread testing and tracking to identify and squash any recurrence (something the shutdown would give them time to set up and improve).

This will be much easier once we are not dealing with a continued flow of new infections from passenger traffic.

Some epidemiologists, such as those from Imperial College, dismiss this approach, saying renewed large outbreaks are “inevitable”. But that is only based on history and past measures to track and trace. Today’s have no precedent.

We don’t yet have China’s ability to track and trace. But in a national emergency, setting up systems to track people and their contacts using mobile data might be worth both the money and the invasion of privacy.

While some people would like to execute this strategy without shutting passenger borders hard and for a long time, it is not plausible.

Even today, almost half of Australia’s new cases are getting off planes, and every one of them increases the risks of recurrence. Mere voluntary isolation is nothing like safe enough.

An alternative might be to allow Australian citizens to enter, provided they go into enforced isolation in a quarantine station room — for which airport hotels could be repurposed.

China, South Korea and Tasmania are doing it

In effect, Endgame C appears to be the strategy of China and South Korea — and domestically Tasmania is heading in the same direction.

Endgame C appears to be working so far in China, where the only new cases on Thursday were incoming passengers, each of whom is required to spend 14 days in supervised isolation in a designated hotel.

In Endgame C, it is plausible the shutdown would only need to last about eight weeks.

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The mathematics of exponential growth also work in reverse: if the infection rate is below 1, instead of above 2 as it is now, then large numbers of cases turn into small numbers quickly.

China went from 4,000 new cases per day to 20 per day in six weeks with an infection rate that dropped below 0.5.

In Australia, if we achieved an infection rate of even 0.8, new infections per day would reduce from 100 to 10 in about six weeks, at which point track and trace becomes much more effective.

If Endgame C is the dominant strategy, it makes sense to implement it immediately and aggressively. The longer we wait, the longer that economic activity has to remain at a standstill to get back to zero cases.

Endgame C could offer hope

Endgame C isn’t pretty. Until a vaccine is deployed — and we’re punting that there will be a vaccine — there will be no meaningful international travel, tourism or students for at least 12 months. But most of these those things won’t be happening under Endgames A or B either.

At least Endgame C would allow domestic travel and tourism, hospitality, and other domestic activity once the shutdown was over. If our major trading partner — China — also successfully executes the same strategy, our major exports might continue as well.

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More importantly, if it is communicated clearly, Endgame C would give businesses a plausible end date.

They would have a reason to hang on if government intervenes to tide them over.

Measures might include forgiving taxes, paying a fraction of wages (but also requiring employees to be paid less overall), mandating big temporary rent reductions (landlords are typically better placed to absorb losses than small businesses), providing loans and encouraging — or requiring — banks to suspend loan repayments and perhaps interest payments.

Psychologically, it would provide genuine hope. We should aim for eight weeks, and provision for 12 in case it is harder than we expect.

An eight to 12-week shutdown

That relatively short duration would enable governments to intervene better to hold society and the economy together.

The government’s strategy would focus on providing a large social insurance policy that tides people and businesses over until the shutdown ends.

The goal would be to ensure we emerged out of the trough with human and physical capital and institutions in good shape. We need to avoid deskilling and demoralising workers and destroying businesses that will not be reborn easily.

This will require very large expenditure from government, which the government can afford if the shutdown is short enough.

Endgame C is not available to every country. The disease has already spread too far in Iran, and may have done so in the United States. It’s a difficult strategy for countries with big land borders with neighbours that let the disease run.

Australia can do it, though others cannot

Australia has the advantage of being an island, with a major trading partner that seems to be adopting the same strategy. This time around, we might be the less unlucky country — if we can act quickly and decisively.

It’s possible that Endgame C might not work. Despite our best efforts, we might not be able to reduce infections, or the disease might recur when we think it has been eliminated.

But the costs of giving it a try are relatively low — in both lives and economic costs — compared with Endgame A.

In the worst case, it gives us more time to increase critical care capacity and prepare for Endgame A.

The logic is compelling: if we’re not going to pursue Endgame C (stop then restart), at the very least authorities ought to explain why it is not technically possible.

Each of the endgames are unpleasant. COVID-19 is the real-life “trolley problem” in which someone is asked to choose between killing a few or killing many.

When any of us are presented with the trolley problem, the all-but universal response is to refuse to choose.

That is what we are doing at the moment, and it will just make our problems worse.

We should recognise this psychology, and decide to choose the least-bad endgame.

The faster we do it, the less bad it will be.

John Daley is chief executive officer of the Grattan Institute. This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

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‘The problem is just over the horizon’: Rise in NSW coronavirus infections, state’s total passes 400

Sydney 2000

Health authorities in NSW have confirmed 83 new coronavirus infections in the 24 hours to 8:00pm on Friday.

Key points:

  • NSW Health has banned travel to Lord Howe Island
  • Four cruise ships have experienced cases of COVID-19 in relation to travel out of Sydney
  • A religious service attended by 300 people on March 8 in Ryde has resulted in seven cases

The new cases take the state’s total number of COVID-19 infections to 436 and represent NSW’s largest increase over a 24-hour period.

A total of 46,456 people have been tested and cleared in NSW.

Out of the 436 cases, 218 were picked up overseas, 92 have been cases caught from a contact and 74 have been diagnosed as locally acquired, but with an unidentified contact.

The remainder are being investigated.

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NSW Health has also declared a ban on travel to Lord Howe Island from 5:00am on Sunday in a bid to restrict the spread of the virus.

The ban means access to Lord Howe Island is restricted to residents, health workers and other essential service workers.

Any new arrivals within permitted categories will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine.

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NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard encouraged people to heed advice on social distancing, amid the rising number of infections.

“The problem is just over the horizon on the basis of the numbers that we’re now seeing,” he said.

“Particularly here in New South Wales, they are showing a substantial increase.

“We will all remember the numbers in the last few days, they’ve effectively doubled just in the last week.

“Save yourself and save your family. Listen to the messages that are coming out, not just from Government officials but from doctors.”

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Elsewhere, seven people have been confirmed as COVID-19 cases after attending a church service with a congregation of more than 300 people.

The Sydney Church of Christ service took place at Ryde Civic Centre on March 8.

Close contacts of cases have been put into self-isolation and NSW Health is warning attendees of the service to be alert for symptoms.

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Yesterday, Mr Hazzard revealed several people on board the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which docked in Sydney earlier in the week, had tested positive to coronavirus.

He warned the 2,700 passengers that disembarked they could have been exposed to COVID-19, and urged them to self-isolate for 14 days.

Today, NSW Health named three other cruise ships which have had confirmed COVID-19 cases onboard.

A 67-year-old passenger has been diagnosed after travelling on the Ovation of the Seas out of Sydney.

The ship is now at sea with only crew on board.

A woman in her 20s has been diagnosed with COVID-19 after travelling on the Voyager of the Seas, which returned to Sydney from New Zealand on March 7.

On a later trip on the Voyager of the Seas, a 66-year-old man was confirmed as having COVID-19.

The other case involves a passenger on the Celebrity Solstice, who travelled on the cruise ship before it docked in Sydney on March 20.

The Ruby Princess remains at sea between Sydney and Wollongong after recording four confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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Canberra records new cases of COVID-19 as prison visits suspended

Canberra 2600

The ACT Health Minister has praised the actions of three Canberrans newly diagnosed with COVID-19, saying each of them followed guidelines to minimise their transmission to others.

Key points:

  • All three new cases had recently travelled overseas
  • Canberra’s jail will suspend visits to inmates to slow the virus’s spread
  • There are now nine confirmed cases of coronavirus in the ACT

But a search is still underway for people who may have come into contact with the infected people, including on Canberra-bound flights.

The cases, a man in his 70s and two women in their 50s and 60s, all recently returned from overseas travel and went into self-imposed isolation.

The announcement of three new positive results is the largest jump in COVID-19 cases in Canberra so far, bringing the total to nine.

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ACT Health is now working on reaching the close contacts of the three, including passengers on flights used by two of the new cases while they may have been infectious.

The third case was not believed to have been infectious while she was travelling.

Authorities are looking to contact people sitting on rows 79 to 83 on flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney, which arrived on Tuesday March 17, and rows 12 to 16 on flight VA672 from Sydney to Canberra, landing at 9:30pm on the same day

They are also looking into whether passengers on flight QR906 from Doha to Canberra on Monday March 16 could have been exposed to the virus, though were yet to determine the infectious person’s seat number on the flight.

The two women remain at home in isolation, while the man has been admitted to hospital.

Prison visits halted to stop virus spread

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said all three new cases had “done the right thing” by self-isolating to limit their contact with other people.

“It’s an important reminder to those people who may have returned from overseas and are wondering whether they really do need to self-quarantine — yes you do,” she said.

The ACT Government has also cancelled visits to Canberra’s jail from Monday, in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading inside.

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ACT Corrective Services Commissioner Jon Peach said one prisoner at the Alexander Maconochie Centre had been tested for coronavirus after exhibiting flu-like symptoms, but they had returned a negative result.

“We have to make sure that people put into the centre are protected … from the potential spread and we have to limit the number of people actually entering the jail,” Mr Peach said.

“We have a number of prisoners that are obviously concerned about the virus, we’ve also got a number of prisoners that really, really want to see their families.

“We are working very very hard to ensure that there are opportunities for detainees to maintain those family ties, which would [include] increased access to telephones.”

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In the ACT, more than 2,200 people have been tested for COVID-19.

Yesterday, the ACT Government released details of a stimulus package aimed at helping the territory to weather the economic storm the coronavirus outbreak has brought.

It includes a $150 rebate on bills for every household, credit for businesses and cash payments to public housing tenants.

Farmers markets allowed to go ahead amid social distancing

While several events in Canberra have been postponed or cancelled in the wake of the pandemic, farmers markets were allowed to go ahead over the weekend, as they are classified as an essential service.

Sarah Power, the manager at the Capital Region Farmers’ Market, said staff had worked hard to accommodate for social distancing requirements.


Shoppers were encouraged to keep their distance at the markets. (ABC News: Holly Tregenza)

“We’ve taken out all tables and chairs, removed them entirely, so that we are encouraging social distancing,” she said.

“We’ve also spread the majority of our stalls out as much as we can so that allows people to distance themselves.”

Food sampling has also been scrapped, but Ms Power said there had been no need to institute purchase limits on goods, as major supermarkets had done in response to panic buying.

“We are certainly up in terms of a lot of people but it’s calm, it’s orderly, people are forming lines and every one is really just happy to be here,” she said.

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Gold Coast after-school care worker tests positive to coronavirus after working while sick

Brisbane 4000

A worker at an after-school care program on the Gold Coast has tested positive for coronavirus, forcing all students to self-isolate for a fortnight.

Helensvale State Primary School has written a letter to parents saying the employee of YMCA Helensvale returned the positive result on Friday and was at work on Wednesday.

“It is understood that they had some sign of illness in the days prior,” the letter, obtained by the ABC, said.

All students and staff must now be quarantined, and the centre is expected to be closed for the rest of the term.


Helensvale State Primary School, where the YMCA runs the after-school program. (ABC News: Kate McKenna)

Qld COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 221
  • Deaths: 1
  • Patients tested: 29,867

Latest information from Queensland Health.

The school will remain open, on advice of Queensland’s chief health officer, the letter said.

“I wanted to make this information available to all families as soon as possible so that you can be alerted to your own child’s health over the coming days,” the letter said.

Federal and state authorities maintain there is no need to close schools at this stage, although more than 100 other countries have.


The school was being washed-down after one staffer at the YMCA Helensvale tested positive to COVID-19. (ABC News: Kate McKenna)

Health Minister Steven Miles said the Helensvale case was one of 37 people diagnosed in the past 24 hours.

There are now 221 positive results in Queensland, which is the third highest tally in the nation.

Mr Miles said the staff member had been working for some days.

“It underlines the message, we all have a responsibility to one another, if you’re unwell and in contact with a lot people, you should seek medical advice,” he said.


Helensvale State School will remain open, despite the case at its after school program. (ABC News)

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said the increase of 37 cases overnight was a similar level as the past two days.

She said all the country’s chief health officers are considering escalating travel restrictions, including domestic travel bans should the situation deteriorate.

“We are keeping it under control,” she said. “We are keeping it in hand.”

Brisbane, Logan libraries close, Gold Coast open

Brisbane City Council will close all 33 of its libraries from Monday until further notice.

For those who already have books out, loan periods will be extended to June 30 and book return chutes and bins will still be operating.


The Annerley library is one of the Brisbane libraries which will close. (ABC News: Kate McKenna)

If people wanted to loan books out on Saturday, they were able to get out 60 per person, instead of 20.

All nine Logan City Council libraries will also be closed by noon Monday, but on the Gold Coast libraries will remain open and people will be able to get out 40 items. Loan periods have also been extended.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Parents stuck on cruise ship

The daughter of a Brisbane couple stuck on a cruise ship in the South Pacific is pleading with the Federal Government to bring her parents home.

Marcia Kretschmer said her parents, both in their 70s, left Sydney on the Norwegian Jewel more than three weeks ago.


The Norwegian Jewel cruise ship docked in Sydney on Valentine’s Day. (AAP: James Gourley)

The ship was supposed to disembark in Tahiti but it has been denied entry to several ports which have closed in response to coronavirus.

“If there is no other country that will accept this boat then I think it’s Australia’s responsibility to return them where they actually embarked on the journey,” she said.

The Foreign Affairs Department and the cruise line have been contacted for comment.

‘Stay home this weekend’

Residents are being told to stay indoors this weekend.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

It is now a requirement that all indoor venues have spacing of four square metres per person, which equates to 25 people per 100 square metres.

Mr Miles said there were some reports last night that some pubs and clubs were not following the guidelines.

“If we work together, stick together, we will be able to keep more people out of hospital and more people alive,” he said.

Coffee vendor Sebestian Velasquez said unclear messaging from the government could be the reason people were still crowding together.


Unlike crowded scenes at Bondi Beach, people practiced social distancing at South Bank in Brisbane on Saturday. (ABC News: Julie Hornsy)

He worked on Saturday morning at the West End Markets in Brisbane.

“I think the information is a little scattered, people aren’t sure what they should or shouldn’t be doing,” he said.

Until stricter messaging is released, he does not think people will stay home.

“It’s human nature to not think that those rules [don’t] apply to you, or make exceptions when they don’t suit, so maybe until there is a clear line that is set out, stuff like this is going to keep happening.”


West End market on Saturday morning. (ABC News: Jessica Rendall)


Coronavirus fears to test Sydney’s property market as over 900 auctions to take place

Sydney 2000

Fear and uncertainty over coronavirus will test Sydney’s rebounding property market this weekend.

Key points:

  • There are due to be 907 auctions taking place across Sydney this weekend
  • Sydney buyers’ agent says securing new loans could be a challenge
  • Those in secure jobs could potentially find good bargains

The 907 auctions due to be held across the city will be closely monitored for early indications of the impact coronavirus could have on the real estate market.

CoreLogic forecaster Kevin Brogan said while there had been an increase in activity in recent weeks, the outcome of today’s results would give an insight as to the confidence, or lack thereof, in the market.

He said an extra interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank would normally be greeted with optimism by prospective buyers.

But Mr Brogan said the current economic forecasts and extreme uncertainty made it unlikely to provide a boost in prices.

“The factors that are going to weigh most heavily on people’s minds are around confidence,” he said.

“We’ve seen confidence and employment certainty dropping.

“You’re definitely going to see participation rates in the market slow down as people wait to see what’s going to happen next.”


Open inspections and auctions will be practicing social distancing measures. (ABC News: Michael Coggan)

Sydney’s final auction clearance rate fell to 68.1 per cent across a lower 767 auctions last week down from 75.2 per cent the week before.

But it is still significantly up on the same time last year when only 54.2 per cent of properties cleared.

Sydney buyers’ agent Kim Ball said prices would fall but the full scale of the declines won’t be known for some time.

“I think there will definitely be a price retraction and the market evidence shows us we have been through dips before and the market does bounce back,” she said.

“This is unprecedented — we haven’t been through anything like this before and I think anyone who says they do know what’s going to happen now isn’t telling the truth.”

Second wave of economic chaos
The coronavirus outbreak is expected to cost the Australian economy billions, with the second-order impact to be felt across supply chains, as many factories remain closed in China.

Some of the major banks have indicated they will allow eligible mortgage customers the chance to defer repayments for up to six months to deal with the crisis.

But securing new loans could be a challenge.

“If there are widespread job redundancies that might come into distressed sales,” Ms Ball said.

“Again, the big banks are talking and there might be mortgage relief — no one knows yet.”

The states also agreed to work on how relief could be provided to tenants in both commercial and residential tenancies over the next six months.

“Most businesses will be affected by this in a negative way,” said Ms Ball.

“Landlords will either have to decide whether they terminate their lease and then they have no tenant, or whether they try and give their tenants a rent-free period to try and sustain them.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

But she said those in secure jobs and who have liquidity could potentially find some good bargains.

“If you are a buyer, there is no rush to buy.

“However if you’ve got cash or you’ve got finance approved and your job is secure then you’re in a good position to take advantage of opportunities when they arise, and they will arise.”

The key for vendors is to make sure people actually turn up.

Open inspections and auctions will be practicing social distancing measures today, with some agents allowing no more than four people in at a time or even offering private property inspections and more video presentations where possible.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Bidders will also be separated and most agents are looking to increase live streaming of auctions and phone and online bidding options.

Sydney Auctioneer Clarence White is conducting 14 auctions this weekend but expected fewer onlookers coming onsite to watch the action.

“For example, we use Gavl (an online bidding platform and streaming app) so someone can watch the auction from home,” he said.

“We would then make available the option for someone to phone bid, or if agents want to go to the next step, those apps can be allowed for online bidding.”

Video: Dr Norman Swan explains coronavirus terminology

(ABC News)

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Launceston burial fees proposed to rise by 15pc for fifth consecutive year, funeral directors outraged

Hobart 7000

It’s a decision everyone, or their families, will one day need to make — to get buried or cremated?

Key points:

  • Burial prices at Launceston’s Carr Villa Memorial Park are set to rise 15 per cent from July 1
  • Launceston council says it will “align” burial fees with the wider industry, but funeral directors say “it’s getting out of hand”
  • Launceston burial costs are still cheaper than Hobart, but are more expensive than others in the state’s north, say funeral directors

Cremations are these days becoming the more popular option, but it’s not always because people don’t want to get buried.

The cost is also playing a role.

In Launceston, in Tasmania’s north, burial costs in the city’s main cemetery Carr Villa Memorial Park have risen by more than 225 per cent in eight years and they are proposed to rise by another 15 per cent from July. The increase has nothing to do with the spread of coronavirus.

The proposed increase, if approved by councillors, means burial costs for a single grave at Carr Villa will be $3,770 from July 1, 2020 — up from $2,850 two years ago and $1,164 in 2012.

Meanwhile, cremation costs in the city have decreased — from $810 in 2018/19 to a proposed $615 for next financial year — as it is a more competitive market.

Bringing fees ‘in line’ with wider industry

Council staff who have proposed the rise in the “City of Launceston draft Fees and Charges 2020-21” document said it would “align” the cemeteries’ fees with the wider industry.

“The key elements of the pricing structure are: to continue to increase burial pricing by 15 per cent annually (adjusted for rounding), in line with other comparative cemeteries … (and) to reduce cremation pricing to meet the market,” the report stated.

The council was expected to discuss and set the new charges at its March 19 meeting, but the agenda item was withdrawn at the eleventh hour because the council voted to prepare a coronavirus stimulus package which could affect other council fees.

The council would not comment further on the proposed price increases.


Around 20 per cent of Tasmanians pre-book and pay in advance for their funerals. (Pixabay)

Finney Funeral Services managing director Mark Graham said Carr Villa’s fee had “skyrocketed” when compared to other cemeteries in northern Tasmania.

“If we look to the mainland and Hobart, some of the cemetery costs are considerably more than what we would pay here from a regional perspective, but the costs have certainly gone up at Carr Villa and way more in comparison to cemeteries at Scottsdale, Deloraine, Beaconsfield and Georgetown,” Mr Graham said.

“The problem with a 15 per cent increase each year is that that is actually compounded, so what that’s done to the cost of burials is made them skyrocket.”

Saving costs by getting buried elsewhere

Some councils — like the Northern Midlands — charge an additional fee for non-residential ratepayers to be buried in their cemeteries.

However, even with the additional 30 per cent non-Northern Midlands ratepayers need to pay, it’s still much cheaper to get buried at Longford or Perth than in Launceston.


A plot in the Longford cemetery will set you back more than $1,500. (ABC Radio: Ross Marsden)

Devonport ratepayers receive a $750 discount if they want to be buried within their municipality.

Approximate Single Burial Costs For 2019/20Longford Cemetery : $1,505
Perth Cemetery: $1,701
Devonport: $2,550
West Coast Council cemeteries: $1,410.65
Dorset Council cemeteries: $1,020
Burnie: $2,248

Millingtons Cemeteries, which manages most of the public cemeteries in the state’s south including the Cornelian Bay Cemetery in Hobart, was unable to provide its burial costs before deadline.

Kingborough Council charges $1,005 for single burial plots, but grave-digging costs are added on top of that.

Burial costs should match CPI, say funeral directors

Launceston funeral directors believe burial cost rises at Carr Villa are getting out of hand and shouldn’t be rising more than CPI.

“I can appreciate from the Launceston City Council’s point of view if you’ve got an under-performing asset then they’ve got to do something about it, but they’ve really passed the cost of their business decisions onto the users,” Mr Graham said.


Funeral director Nicholas Lee says cemeteries are not supposed to be money-making ventures. (ABC News: Manika Champ)

TM Foley director Nicholas Lee described the rise as “disgraceful” and an insult to residents.

“Most of the people here have lived their entire life in Launceston, and as our way of honouring them and thanking them for building our city, we increase the single grave by $2,640 over a 10-year period,” he said.

“It’s just theft on a grand scale.”

“Cemeteries are not places where we’re supposed to be making money — they’re meant to be a service.”

Funeral homes hit with the increased costs

Mr Graham said large year-on-year burial cost increases were costing businesses.

Around 20 per cent of Tasmanians pre-book and pay in advance for their funerals.


Many Tasmanians pre-pay their funerals, leaving businesses out of pocket when costs rise. (AAP)

“When families are looking to set aside money for graves, they’re just not going to have an investment that would go anywhere near catering for a price increase of 230 per cent, ” Mr Graham said.

Mr Lee said hundreds of his clients had pre-paid their funerals in 2002.

“The cost of the grave was something like $700, now in 2020 it’s over $3,000 — I’m out of pocket each time by $2,300,” Mr Lee said.

“I can’t go to the family and say they haven’t paid enough.”

It is unclear when the City of Launceston’s proposed 2020/21 fees and charges will go back to councillors to be debated and set.


Coronavirus means we need to make sacrifices like wartime. Are we ready?


It was the idea of rationing that did it.

All week long I’ve been thinking about life at home during wartime: life suddenly locked down and changed; living under the threat of death; loved ones separated on foreign shores; food shortages and panic-buying. Shift your historical reference a little and what we are describing is the home front of World War II that some Australians are still alive to remember and that many more will recall as an epoch-defining time.

Then the Federal Government suggested that if we didn’t stop our panic buying they could introduce rationing, and I realised that the war front and the home front have converged.

It is not an exaggeration to say that we now live on both the battleground of COVID-19 and the home front of lives that continue greatly changed and under threat of the war against mass infection. How will generations of Australians cope for whom “on demand” and “more” are simply descriptions of how we expect life to be lived now?

Do we know any more how to put ourselves second, third or even fourth? How to share resources and go without?


The war kept young couples apart. (ABC News: Mitch Woolnough)

I hear of people now sadly separated by border restrictions for the health of communities and I think of the young couples who didn’t see each other for years after a quick wedding and one night of bliss, separated by war and with no Face Time in their pocket. There’s something about their forbearance from which we could learn.

We are entering a kind of wartime through which we will eventually establish a kind of normal, a way of getting through life while the bombs fall and we head into the bunkers, we now endure the infective pandemic version of that.

We will need to make sacrifices. And that’s a term, a concept, so foreign to us now.

Oxford historian Jose Harris writes that WWII and the British home front was perhaps the only period in the whole of British history in which its people came together as a metaphysical entity: “an entity that transcended the divisions of class, sect, self-interest and libertarian individualism that normally constitute the highly pluralistic and fragmented structure of British society”.

I hope that in adversity, if we come together for the common good, this home front might just be the making of us.

This week we have a great piece on how businesses are adapting to survive an unprecedented threat to their survival and the future employment of so many of us. You can play your part by contacting your favourite service providers and continuing to buy and use their stuff as much as practical.

Tell the grocer to pack you a box and put it in a cab to you, or do a drive-buy for takeaway.

We also have a fascinating insight into how our bodies fight coronavirus, the battleground is in us as well and our immune systems are the most courageous armies.

Have a safe and happy weekend. The parks and gardens of Australia are simply glorious now in this season of mellow fruitfulness, so please get out amid them — there’s lots of socially distanced room to move and breathe.

And after you read this TURN OFF YOUR PHONE AND YOUR COMPUTER! Stop checking updates! Give yourself a break. Read a novel, play a board game, watch the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as it keeps live music alive while we stay at home.

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And dance. Never forget to dance.

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Go well.


What to read this weekend

Virginia Trioli is presenter on Mornings on ABC Radio Melbourne and the former co-host of ABC News Breakfast.


Mother asks panic buyers to consider their actions after child left without medication

Maroochydore 4558

A Queensland mum has pleaded with the public to stop panic-buying medication, after she was unable to buy her son life-saving drugs that prevent his “lungs shutting off”.

Key points:

  • Pharmacy staff told a mother they had been abused attempting to stop a man without asthma purchasing puffers and planning to store them
  • New regulations combat bulk-buying behaviour, limiting the purchase of prescription medications and critical over-the-counter drugs to a month’s supply
  • The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia says warehouses have reassured them there is enough of these medicines

Sunshine Coast woman Natalie Benson said she tried to source Ventolin from four chemists for her three-year-old asthmatic son Oliver, after he fell sick earlier this week, but coronavirus panic buyers had left pharmacy shelves empty.

On Thursday, the Federal Government enforced new regulations to combat bulk-buying behaviour, limiting the purchase of prescription medications and critical over-the-counter drugs to a month’s supply.

Ms Benson said it was disappointing the Government had to step in, and that people were choosing to put others’ lives at risk.

“My son is sick at the moment, and as soon as the asthma comes into that he cannot breathe. It can be very dangerous for him, his lungs can shut off,” Ms Benson said.

“If he doesn’t have that Ventolin on hand, then it’s a trip to the hospital where he can get it.

“He’s up having to spend a night or two there trying to get his oxygen levels back up.”

Staff copping abuse

According to Ms Benson, staff at a local pharmacy said they had been abused after attempting to stop a man from purchasing four puffers upon learning he didn’t have asthma and planned to store them.


Sunshine Coast mother Natalie Benson with her three-year-old son Oliver Dionysius. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Tara Cassidy)

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap

“It’s so disappointing people are doing that, I can usually go to any chemist and there’s always a supply,” she said.

“If you don’t have asthma or need it then don’t go stockpiling it, as people like my son really need it.

“It doesn’t actually help people who don’t have asthma, so it’s a waste and then the people who need it end up in hospital taking up an oxygen mask instead.”

Customers buying ‘many months’ worth of medicine

According to Australia’s peak pharmacy body, pharmacists across the country were reporting panic buying along with “physical and verbal abuse” toward staff who try to intervene.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia president Chris Freeman said the behaviour was “worrying” and widespread.


Pharmaceutical Society of Australia president, Associate Professor Chris Freeman. (Supplied: Pharmaceutical Society of Australia)

“We had many pharmacists contact us describing people coming in and purchasing many months’ worth supply of life-saving medicines like Ventolin,” Mr Freeman said.

“People have then been physically or verbally abusing pharmacists trying to get these medicines.

“Then we’ve had pharmacies unable to stock them, which is critical for people to access.

“Medicines aren’t things like toilet paper, people can actually die without them.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

‘We have supply’

Mr Freeman said he hoped the new restrictions on purchases would help mitigate the problem.

“Warehouses have reassured us multiple times that there is enough of these medicines out there, we have supply. It’s just about getting them into the pharmacies quick enough,” he said.

“Wholesalers have had increases in the range of 50 to 60 per cent above their normal ordering amount, and they’re delivering more but it’s difficult with such high demand coming in.


Staff at a Sunshine Coast Terry White chemist were abused by a customer earlier this week. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Tara Cassidy)

“With these new measures to curb bulk buying we’re hoping to get stock into pharmacies quicker, so people who genuinely need these medicines can access them at any point in time.

“But to do that we need people to reduce the amount they’ve been buying over the past two to four weeks.”

Panic buyers could cause drug outages

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

Pharmacy Guild of Queensland president Trent Twomes said panic buyers choosing to over-purchase for fear of stock running out would be the only reason an outage ever occurred.

“As we’ve said, all critical medications are in stock, we’re just experiencing delays in the supply chain due to a spike in demand,” he said.

“So we have drug shortages, that is a fact, but those shortages are solely being caused by panic buying.

“We don’t want shortages to turn into outages.

“What we need is for Australians to realise we have the strongest Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in the world and by going out and panicking, like they’ve done with toilet paper and other issues, it is actually going to be the thing that will cause problems down the track, not a lack of supply in Australia.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)


Funeral staff ‘re-using body bags, gowns’ due to COVID-19 restrictions

Ballarat 3350

Funeral directors say they are being forced to re-use “single-use” medical equipment, like body bags and plastic gowns, as the coronavirus emergency challenges how they deal with both the dead and the loved ones left behind.

Key points:

  • Coronavirus control measures are impacting on how funerals are conducted
  • Concern that staff collecting potentially infectious bodies don’t have adequate protection
  • Funeral directors are demanding recognition as essential service providers, like hospital staff

As bans on large crowds and other emergency measures impact funerals, behind-the-scenes staff are facing challenges due to a shortage of protective gear.

National Funeral Directors Association of Australia president Nigel Davies said the industry was being forgotten during the COVID-19 pandemic because the Federal Government didn’t recognise it as an essential healthcare service.

He said new health guidelines stipulated eye protection, mask, full-body gown, gloves and leak-free body bags to be used when moving a body suspected of having coronavirus.

But the guidelines failed to take into account the equipment was in short supply and reserved for hospital and nursing home staff, not funeral home staff who retrieve the deceased.

“We’re already getting requests from places to be wearing PPE (personal protection equipment) that we can’t get because, theoretically, nobody has bothered to notice we’re essential-service workers as yet,” Mr Davies said.

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap

“The issue is our staff – that spend their entire time going and collecting deceased, some of whom may be infectious, we don’t know – are walking into nursing homes that are in lockdown without necessarily having the adequate equipment (because we can’t get it).


The funeral industry is the latest to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. (ABC: Karla Arnall )

“We’re already at the point of trying to re-use things that are theoretically disposable, but if they can be sterilised or re-used in any way, we’re having to do so.

“Cheap plastic gowns are supposedly one-use disposable items but, if you can’t replace them, you take them back and you spray them clean with the chemical and you hang them out for a day and you put them back in the vehicles.

He said there was also a shortage of leak-proof body bags for handling bodies confirmed or suspected to have died as a result of COVID-19 and the bags were “too valuable” to dispose of after a single use.

Mr Davies said he wanted the government to work out who was part of the essential services chain and for funeral directors to be covered under the essential care healthcare network, so they could access PPE.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

“Funeral directors are trying to do the same things that any hospital or ambulance person would, but we have to have access to the equipment to do that,” he said.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s office was contacted for comment, but did not reply before publication.

Funerals hit by rules on crowds

It’s not the only issue confronting the funeral industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Davies, who also runs Lonergan & Raven Funerals in the Melbourne suburb of Clifton Hill, said he’d changed venues for funeral services to allow for social distancing.

He’s also live-streamed funerals to keep numbers below the government-mandated 100-people gatherings.

He says he holds one funeral service a day to allow time to clean the fabric-covered furniture and carpets, which he is considering removing to allow for more efficient cleaning and more services.


Registry lists and condolence books are a thing of the past thanks to COVID-19. (ABC RN: Tiger Webb)

Some funerals are now invitation-only, with online condolence books to prevent people sharing a pen.

“Some of the families are obviously finding it quite difficult, but they’re all being quite reasonable,” he said.

Tobin Brothers Funerals director James MacLeod said his company had suspended catering and its limousine service for families.

“We’re talking to families about 50 people attending (funerals), because we know it will escalate to 60 or 70,” Mr MacLeod said.

Mourners going online

He said he was expecting a rise in funeral webcasting.

“We have the ability to record funeral services and we’re offering to client families to upload them so they can be distributed and watched online (by) those that couldn’t attend the funeral,” Mr MacLeod said.

“Webcasting’s been available for over a decade now … and it’s worked very successfully. We do it on multiple occasions each and every week.

“You think there would be an uptake (on live streaming funerals) given the new attendance numbers and a cap on 100 people at any event, including funerals.”


Filming funerals for webstreaming or online sharing is expected to rise in popularity to help deal with coronavirus pandemic restrictions. (ABC Ballarat: Emma Nobel)

Sunraysia Funerals owner Elvira Iamarino said the new rules for crowd numbers made already challenging times potentially more difficult and the bereaved would need to be understanding.

“If people are mindful of what is expected, it will be a lot better outcome for the mourning families and also for everybody else because these things are put in place for everyone’s safety,” Ms Iamarino said.

“People have to be aware that they may be asked to be outside the building if the service is going to be held inside a building.

“People (need) to be courteous, respectful and understanding, and not only just for funerals but generally in every day things we do, because at the end of the day we’re all in the same boat.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Dr Norman Swan answers some of your questions about the coronavirus outbreak



Brisbane man jailed for life for murdering pregnant teenager


A 65-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of murdering pregnant teenager Tiffany Taylor.

Key points:

  • Tiffany Taylor’s body has never been found
  • Killer Rodney Williams was previously convicted of an elderly woman’s murder in 1978
  • The jury heard Ms Taylor’s blood was found in Williams’ car

Rodney Williams had pleaded not guilty to the murder of the 16-year-old, who went missing after meeting him at Waterford West, south of Brisbane, on July 12, 2015.

Ms Taylor’s body has never been found.

Williams will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years in jail.

During his sentencing, the Supreme Court in Brisbane heard Williams had previously been convicted of the murder of an elderly woman in Tasmania in 1978. He was sentenced to life in prison for that crime.

The court heard he had punched his elderly neighbour, then stabbed her in the back during a robbery.

Williams was also convicted for the indecent assault of a girl in 1994.

‘You preyed on her’

In sentencing him for Ms Taylor’s murder, Justice Ann Lyons said the teenager was “clearly defenceless”.

“Ms Taylor’s life had value,” Justice Lyons said.

“She was excited about her pregnancy, she was close to her sister, and her diary reveals her plans for the future.

“As her family said, she was underneath it all a naive young girl.

“There can be no doubt you preyed on her.

“Only you will know what transpired that afternoon but the conclusion is she died at your hands.

“You showed her no respect after she died. You simply discarded her and then you continued your life as normal.”

The Supreme Court jury in Brisbane deliberated for about eight hours before finding him guilty.

Killer created ‘false digital trail’

During the trial, crown prosecutor Philip McCarthy QC told the court Williams murdered Ms Taylor after meeting her for a paid “sexual liaison” on the day she went missing.

The jury was shown a chain of message exchanges between the pair, in which Williams said he had $500 to pay.

The court heard that before she went missing Ms Taylor was regularly using a website to meet men for paid sex, and she had threatened several men who refused to pay her.

In his closing address, Mr McCarthy told the court Williams repeatedly lied to police.


Rodney Williams pleaded not guilty to the murder of the 16-year-old. (Supplied: Queensland Police Service)

He said Williams sent Ms Taylor a message hours after meeting her on July 12, 2015, which read: “Sorry I didn’t turn up. Decided I wasn’t going to pay for it.”

“The first thing he’s done is to create a false digital footprint, a false digital trail denying any physical contact with that girl,” Mr McCarthy told the court.

“A pretence to the world that he’d never met her. A pretence to the world that he thinks she’s still alive.

“It is a false story.

“Indeed, as we learned, his story simply got worse and worse and was full of logical inconsistency in which he was, demonstrably, an unconvincing liar.”

During the trial, the court heard Williams told police he met Ms Taylor but had not had sex with her, instead saying he drove her to Redbank Plains where she got out of the car at traffic lights.

In a later police interview, Williams changed his story, telling officers he dropped the teenager at a truck station on the Warrego Highway where two men were standing, the court heard.

The prosecution alleged Williams tried to flee interstate after being contacted by police to arrange a second interview in August.

“He [Williams] goes down to Roma Street station, he had packed up all his worldly belongings and that wasn’t done in haste,” Mr McCarthy told the court.

Teenager’s blood found in car

The prosecution argued Williams drove Ms Taylor to an industrial estate at Larapinta for about 20 minutes, when he had “plenty of opportunity” to kill her.

The jury heard Ms Taylor’s blood was found in Williams’ car.


Tiffany Taylor was last seen on July 12, 2015 leaving a hotel at Waterford West. (Supplied: Queensland Police Service.)

Williams told police he noticed Ms Taylor had a nosebleed when she entered his car.

In his closing argument, Williams’ defence lawyer Eoin Mac Giolla Ri said there was evidence Ms Taylor’s older partner, Gregory Hill, was violent.

During the trial, the court heard Ms Taylor moved out of home when she was 12 to live with Mr Hill, who was 38 at the time.

“The ultimate lie is from Greg Hill, ‘I don’t remember where I was on the 12th of July,'” Mr Mac Giolla Ri told the court.

“There’s only one possible reason for telling that lie, and that is because telling the truth about it would show him to be a murderer.”

Crown prosecutor Mr McCarthy said there was evidence that Ms Taylor intended to return to the hotel room she shared with Mr Hill, and that Mr Hill was very upset when she went missing.

“No matter what he did, she loved him. It seems to be the resounding thing here,” Mr McCarthy told the court.

The defence argued the police investigation was inadequate, and that officers had not had an open mind to other suspects.

Mr Mac Giolla Ri argued that what Williams said in his police statement and interview, as well as the supposed false trail, could all be explained if he in fact had sex with Ms Taylor and was concerned she might have been under age.


As people retreat to their homes, concerns grow for women who live in fear


Domestic violence services and refuges have been holding emergency meetings around the country as fears about the potential impacts of the coronavirus on women trapped in abusive relationships mount.

Following reports of domestic abuse as much as tripling in China during recent periods of isolation, advocacy groups have been urging state and federal governments to act swiftly to better protect vulnerable women.

Family and domestic violence support services:

They are asking leaders to urgently fund emergency accommodation for women fleeing abuse, to provide resources for the increased burden on specialist support services, and to enable victims to be able to stay in their own homes.

“We want a national campaign providing information for victims of abuse,” said Hayley Foster, chief executive of Women’s Safety NSW, telling them “everyone has the right to safety in their own home”, and “there are services to support you.”

Experts have also warned friends and family to be on alert for signs of coercive controlling behaviour during the pandemic: in other countries abusers who won’t let partners leave the house have used the health emergency to control their partner’s movements and daily activities.

According to reports men have threatened to lock partners out of their homes so they get sick; some have withheld money or medication. One American woman reportedly called a hotline saying her partner did not believe in medical treatment and was forcing her to wash her hands until they were red raw.

If abusers feel powerless in the midst of forces they cannot control, experts say they will commonly seek further ways to control a partner.

Jon Owen, pastor and chief executive of Sydney’s Wayside Chapel said he had already noticed a “significant increase” in women accessing support for domestic violence in the past fortnight.

Domestic abuse survivor and advocate Nicole Lee has been watching the developments overseas with concern. “What’s happening in Italy is scary,” she said. “I can see how violent carers will use this to keep people stuck and controlled and in a state of fear.”

Frontline workers on high alert

Ms Foster said frontline workers were preparing for “escalating rates” of domestic violence but that many services were under pressure as a result of face-to-face contact being restricted or cancelled.

In NSW, the Department of Communities and Justice has told service providers it will cover the costs of temporary accommodation for clients who need to self-isolate.


Hayley Foster is calling for a national campaign for victims of abuse affected by coronavirus restrictions. (Supplied: Women’s Safety NSW)

But advocacy groups are asking for more funding, including for helplines like 1800 RESPECT, the Men’s Referral Service, Kids Helpline and Safety Net Australia.

And if courts shut down or the virus spreads to service agencies or crisis accommodation facilities, Ms Foster said, “all the wheels [could] fall off”.

Along with temporary accommodation, Women’s Safety NSW has asked the government to ensure additional police oversight of provisional domestic violence protection orders granted in the next few months.

They also want the police to consider provisional orders which would mean that instead of victims needing to flee to refuges, alleged perpetrators would instead have to leave the home and find temporary accommodation.

Global concerns

Research shows that violence against women increases during times of stress or anxiety, and experts say the next few months are likely to be particularly acute due to financial insecurity, alcohol consumption and health concerns.

Domestic violence a hidden crisis behind the bushfires
Crisis lines and community legal centres are boosting resources in bushfire-affected regions amid an expected surge family violence.

“We know that for people affected by family violence, social distancing and self-isolation measures can pose increased risk,” said Diana Sayed, chief executive of the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre.

“Being forced to share space with perpetrators for extended periods of time only exacerbates already stressful living conditions,” Ms Sayed said.

Financial strain, job loss, food insecurity and mental health conditions, she added, could all inflame high-stress situations — particularly for migrant women on temporary visas.

In China, the hashtag #AntiDomesticViolenceDuringEpidemic has been used thousands of times on social media, and local women’s rights groups have raised concerns police have been using the pandemic as “an excuse” to not take domestic violence seriously.

Anita Bhatia, the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Women told TIME that while social isolation is an important protective measure, “we also recognise that it provides an opportunity for abusers to unleash more violence.”

What can victims do to stay safe?

Advocates are now urging victims to ensure they have access to alternative online supports, including Telstra safe phones, which allow those who are concerned their partner may be monitoring their communications to stay in touch with others and seek help if need be (the government has cut funding for this service from June 30 but for now it is still operational).

Video: How to protect the most vulnerable during coronavirus pandemic

(The Drum)

Nicole Lee said women should “try and stay connected to the outside world as much as possible, even if that’s through random Facebook groups” which she said can “help break down feelings of isolation”.

It is also possible to continue making safety plans during periods of isolation at home, she said, “such as identifying where in the house you can be that’s safer if tension isn’t rising”. Difficult situations might be defused, she added, “by going and sitting in the toilet or shower”.

“Identify at what point you think you will need to call the police for help,” Ms Lee said. “Set up a code word text message to a friend signalling ‘I need help’.”

Women with disabilities are at even greater risk because of their reliance on support workers, who may not be able to work as the pandemic spreads, Ms Lee said.

“This makes them particularly vulnerable and open to neglect and abuse if living in abuse carer situations,” she said. “Support workers that come into the home also help to keep an eye on toxic situations and call for help when needed.”

She added: “I know from my past being able to get out and go to the supermarket with the support worker was my weekly escape from the house and I could talk freely with her as well.

“These points in time are vital for disabled women experiencing violence, it keeps them from feeling isolated and gives them a window of opportunity to seek help if the violence has escalated to the point they need to escape. If the violent person and support workers are your only way to travel or make contact with the outside world, taking away the support is dangerous.”


Two more coronavirus cases recorded in the NT as travellers arrive in Darwin

Darwin 0800

The Northern Territory has recorded two new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the total number of cases detected in the NT to three.

Key points:

  • A Territorian in his mid-30s who recently returned to Darwin from Europe has tested positive to COVID-19
  • The man, who had been in self-isolation, is the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in the NT
  • Close contacts of the man, including plane passengers, will be contacted by health authorities

Earlier today, health authorities revealed a man in his mid-30s had tested positive after flying into Darwin yesterday from Zagreb, via Istanbul and Denpasar.

He flew from Denpasar to Darwin on JQ82, arriving at 5:00am on March 19.

The second case was a 21-year-old woman who arrived in Darwin on March 19 after flying from Utah, via San Francisco and Brisbane.

She flew from Brisbane to Darwin on QF824, arriving at midday.

Both people went into self-isolation on arrival in Darwin, as is now required under Australian regulations.

People on those flights are being contacted as part of contact tracing procedures.

“We want to remind Territorians to stay calm,” Health Minister Natasha Fyles said at a press conference following the first confirmed case today.

“This person had recently returned from overseas, and therefore, was in isolation, as all Territorians and Australians need to be if they have been overseas.”

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap

NT COVID-19 snapshot

  • Cases detected so far: 5

Latest information from SecureNT website

Close contacts to be followed up


Health Minister Natasha Fyles has reminded Territorians to stay calm. (ABC News)

NT Centre for Disease Control director Vicki Krause said the man in his 30s had been in Darwin for about 24 hours and had very limited contact with the outside community.

“At this time, he has been basically off his plane, in quarantine, drove himself to the [pandemic] clinic, went home, was in quarantine,” she said.

Dr Krause said close contacts who were on the plane with the man would already be in self-quarantine as per Australian requirements for all international arrivals.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

However, she said health officials would be in daily contact with them.

Dr Krause praised the man for following all requirements, including calling ahead to his GP before trying to attend a clinic.

She said the man was “moderately unwell”.

“He’s a young man, not in the age dynamic that we expect to be that affected,” she said.

The Territory detected its first case of COVID-19 two weeks ago when a tourist from Sydney arrived in Darwin.

That case is now counted in the national COVID-19 statistics as a NSW case, despite the man still being treated at Royal Darwin Hospital.

The NT’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Dianne Stephens said Katherine Hospital would open its pandemic assessment clinic to check its procedures, despite not much demand at this stage.

Other pandemic clinics in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy will open when required, she said.

The NT’s drive-thru testing clinic at Howard Springs is expected to open by Monday, although it could open earlier if necessary.

How do I get tested in the NT?

  • If you can’t contact or get to your GP, but you have the symptoms, you should call 1800 008 002
  • This is a dedicated NT-wide coronavirus (COVID-19) number for people who need to arrange testing only
  • If you live in Darwin and need to arrange testing, call the Public Health Unit on 8922 8044
  • Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results
  • For general advice, Territorians can call 1800 020 080

Latest information from SecureNT website

Video: Dr Norman Swan answers some of your questions about the coronavirus outbreak



Famous restaurateur clocks 1,000 cancellations in 24 hours

Brisbane 4000

The owners of an award-winning French restaurant in Brisbane have been left devastated by the impacts of coronavirus, with one of their new business on the brink of shutting down after losing 95 per cent of bookings in a week.

Montrachet owner and head chef Shannon Kellam operates five venues and recently opened Lumière Events and Culinary Studio at Newstead.

He said the jobs of 60 staff members were now at risk after mass cancellations within 24 hours.

“On Friday the goal posts really changed for a lot of people,” he said.


Shannon and Clare Kellam say their restaurant may not survive. (ABC News: Lexy Hamilton-Smith)

“We had over 1,000 people cancel events in one day.

“That was only the start of it.

“We’ve worked 14 months on designing and building that business, we’ve just got on board all our team.

“Now it’s just all unravelled within a week of opening — we’ve lost absolutely everything.”


Montrachet owner Shannon Kellam (middle) with his chefs in their Brisbane kitchen. (ABC News: Lexy Hamilton-Smith)

Mr Kellam’s wife and business partner, Clare Kellam, said the worst case scenario was that the well-renowned Montrachet could close.

“Going through this at the moment, it’s devastating,” she said.

“We’re looking at having to lay off staff — casual staff and full-time staff — and shut the doors of our beloved Montrachet.

“Everyday we open the doors we’re losing money.

“It’s a dream gone. It’s people’s livelihoods. It’s people with families, with children, and we’re just getting left behind.”

Mr Kellam said apart from a tax deferment there was no government assistance and the restaurant industry could be crippled in the coming weeks.

“There is no help. What’s going to happen is you’ll see a lot of bankruptcies in our industry in the next four weeks,” he said.

“And those that are able to survive will go bankrupt in September when their BAS [Business Activity Statements] is due.”


Mr Brine’s restaurant is preparing gourmet, cook-at-home boxes. (ABC New: Sofie Wainwright)

Red tape stopping home deliveries

In order to stay afloat some restaurants have come up with creative ways to maintain cashflow.

Townsville fine-dining restaurant A Touch Of Salt has offered “cook-like-a-pro” food boxes with recipe cards, ingredients and video tutorials.

“Changing our business model and adapting, hopefully that generates income and keeps us occupied and busy,” executive chef Michael Brine said.

“With cooking shows and people’s excitement around the cooking phenomenon … that’s the angle.”

Shorehouse restaurant has started providing meals in takeaway containers for customers who are trying to self-isolate.


Mr Fitzpatrick in his Shorehouse restaurant, which is hamstrung by red tape. (ABC News: Siobhan Heanue )

Owner Jamie Fitzpatrick said he hoped to start online home deliveries, but red tape and regulation was not keeping up with COVID-19.

He said alcohol could not be supplied with a home-delivered meal, which would be a huge financial loss, and insurers would not cover staff driving.

“It’s important to adapt but it’s also important for the community and government to understand it’s not a silver bullet for our industry,” he said.


The Shorehouse head chef has prepared takeaway meals in a bid to combat the downturn. (ABC News: Siobhan Heanue)

Businesses face ‘financial famine’

Restaurant and Caterers Association chief executive Wes Lambert said 83 per cent of Australia’s restaurants were located in CBDs and were facing a “financial famine”.

He said while innovative restaurants were trying to enter the delivery market suburban restaurants were expected to fair better amid the uncertainty, as they would supply people stuck at home in their local areas.


Shorehouse head chef Craig Smith said the takeaway meals would help people self-isolating. (ABC News: Siobhan Heanue)

Mr Lambert said the association had more than 45,000 members and some had told him of cancellations between 10 per cent and 100 per cent, as well as potential bankruptcies and mass sackings.

Mr Lambert said he has written to the Federal Government begging for immediate cash injections to keep doors open.

Your questions on coronavirus answered

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Dr Norman Swan answers some of your questions about the coronavirus outbreak



Turtle births mark important milestone for ‘living, breathing dinosaur’

Wingham 2429

Ten turtle hatchlings may not seem like a lot, but it is an important milestone for the Manning River turtle, an endangered freshwater species that dates back 85 million years.

Found only in the Manning River catchment on the New South Wales mid north coast, the turtle is the focus of a captive insurance and conservation program run by Aussie Ark.

The group’s president, Tim Faulkner, said it was the oldest turtle species in Australia and essentially a “living, breathing dinosaur” that played an important role in the river.

“They’re actually garbage cleaners of the river … anything that goes into the water, be it plant or animal that’s diseased or rotting, they clean it up, and you can imagine what that does for the water quality,” he said.


The turtle eggs were rescued from a river bank. (Supplied: Aussie Ark)

The eggs were rescued from the river bank as waters rose following rainfall earlier this year.

The hatchlings, the first of their kind to be born as part of a captive insurance population, will be kept for several months before being released.

“Essentially we get them up and fit and healthy, and then we figure out where we put them back in the system,” Mr Faulkner said.


One of the 10 hatchlings from the first clutch collected by Aussie Ark. (Supplied)

“Ten turtles might not seem like many, and I’m the first to say it’s not, but there’s somewhere around 1,000 of these things — that’s it, that’s the world population.

“This is our first year of breeding or rescuing eggs like that; we’ve also got another 20 in the incubator that are due to hatch in the coming weeks.”

External Link:

This week Aussie Ark staff checked in on the Manning River turtle eggs currently incubating. This heartbeat monitor shows a strong, steady heartbeat inside the egg!

It is hoped that as the program expands, hundreds of turtles will be released each year.

“The thing is that there are no young turtles in the system, there really is no recruitment,” Mr Faulkner said.

“The feral fox is annihilating them, so when the females come out to lay their eggs, the foxes have turtle egg season — they go along and eat all the eggs, and sometimes they eat the females while they’re laying them.

“I’ve snorkelled those rivers and I’ve been surveying the turtle for many years, and I’ve seen three smallish ones, cup-saucer size.”

Community group celebrating

The Manning River Turtle Conservation Group is working in the community to improve knowledge of the turtle’s plight.


Bob was rescued during dry conditions and is in rehabilitation. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)

“They’ve survived 55 million years and we don’t want to see them disappear on our watch,” co-founder Kerrie Guppy said.

“It’s such exciting news with all the sad news, the bad news in the world … it’s definitely inspiring, we’re really excited.”


Manning River Turtle Conservation Group members Brenton Asquith, Kerrie Guppy and Clare Rourke. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)

A turtle rescued from the river before Christmas is doing well and has been taken into a local school as part of an education program.

“It was very ill at the time and malnourished, and that’s sort of expected with the conditions of the river at the time,” carer Brenton Asquith said.

“The turtle’s shedding, which is a sign of growth; it’s fattening back up, it’s looking healthy and it’s a lot more active.”

Bellinger River turtles also doing well

Another population of turtles, these ones critically endangered, has also received a welcome population boost.

Taronga Zoo’s insurance population of the Bellinger River snapping turtle had 35 babies hatch this year.


A mystery virus killed 90 per cent of the Bellinger River snapping turtle population. (Supplied: Taronga Zoo/Paul Fahy)

Endemic to the Bellinger River, the species of freshwater turtle was almost wiped out in 2015 when a novel virus infiltrated the river.

A group of healthy turtles was rescued to establish the insurance population.

Taronga reptile keeper Adam Skidmore said it was the population’s fourth successful breeding season.

“We now have nearly 100 of these turtles living at our quarantine facility and the hatchlings are doing really well — eating lots and growing — and we are really happy with their development,” he said.


Shortages of self-isolation essentials see local business work overtime to meet demand

Scone 2337

As many Australians prepare to self-isolate or reduce their movements amid the coronavirus pandemic, and with essentials such as milk, bread, mince and toilet paper selling out — it’s creating an opening for small, local businesses.

Key points:

  • Customers are turning to local business to source essentials, such as milk, bread and meat, with supermarket shelves stripped of supplies
  • One butcher in Scone, NSW, says he’s pumped out a record number of sausages, which are easy to freeze, in the past week
  • Urban farmers have also been approached for supplies, which has resulted in a lesson in seasonal produce

In the New South Wales Hunter Valley, local producers are finding themselves in hot demand — and they’re hoping it will help counteract an economic downturn.

Jason and Annie Chesworth run Hunter Belle, a dairy company in the Upper Hunter that supplies fresh milk and cheese to local stores as well as their own cafe in Muswellbrook, run by Mr Chesworth’s parents.

This week, Mr Chesworth has been working around the clock, bottling 5,000 litres of milk a day at his factory in Scone, as supermarkets increasingly run out of the essentials.

“I’ve got the pasteuriser going non-stop at the moment.”

Yesterday, as Coles announced a limit of two bottles of milk per customer, Mr Chesworth fielded dozens of calls from people asking to buy his milk.

He said, as a small business owner, he was more agile and able to meet an increase in demand compared to many larger brands.

“People are struggling to get their milk from their normal avenues,” he said.

“Big corporates are so big, a lot of them don’t realise their problems until they’re wrapped up in them and, by that point, it’s too late to try to get extra product out.

“We’re lucky — we know our farming family who we get our milk from very well … we’re the only two people between the cow and the consumer, so we can just keep going. We’ve got plenty of capacity.”

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap


Meat, pasta, rice and vegetables are out of stock in many supermarkets across Canberra. (Supplied)

Your questions on coronavirus answered

A report this week from Rabobank shows slowing imports from countries such as China are likely to hurt the Australian export dairy industry.

But at a local level, small companies like the Chesworths’ are benefitting, as shoppers find themselves forced to return to old-fashioned routines of visiting individual stores such as butchers and bakeries.

Meat shortages set to drive up prices


Scone butcher David Luck says he’s been producing the equivalent of nearly 2 beasts’ worth of sausages and mince each day this week to cater for demand amid the coronavirus pandemic. (ABC Upper Hunter: Michael Pritchard)

Nearby in Scone, butcher David Luck is pumping out record volumes of sausages — up to 400 kilograms a day.

“We’ve had, quite possibly, the turnover of a week in a matter of days,” Mr Luck said.

“It’s [a lot] when you think about, a body of beef that comes into the store weighs about 200kg.”

While other cuts of meat were selling at a normal rate, it’s the cheaper, easy-to-freeze mince items that were stockpiling favourites.

Mr Luck said he believed the initial rush was an indicator of “panic buying”. But now, customers were “buying bulk quantities just to try and make sure they’ve got it”.

“It is going to come down to how much people are willing to pay because, ultimately, we are going to need to pay more to acquire that product.”

Mr Luck’s regular supplier had been inundated and had closed to orders.

“We’ve had to source out of Sydney, Brisbane, anywhere and everywhere, you name it. And that impacts on price as well,” he said.

But he said, so far, that had not slowed sales down. He had just made another big order and was urging customers not to panic.

A lesson in seasonal produce

Melissa Fogarty, an educator who runs an urban farm at Medowie, north of Newcastle, said she had been fielding calls asking if she was reopening after a tough, dry summer to supply the local community with produce.


Melissa Fogarty with lettuces to be fed to chickens after the heat caused them to ‘bolt’. (ABC Newcastle: Eliza Goetze)

“We have had more people contact us about what we have available because our local supermarket is running very low, and also a lot of people are not keen to go to the supermarket for various reasons,” Ms Fogarty said.

It’s led to an awakening for many callers accustomed to buying whatever produce they wanted year-round.

“We’ve had a lot of requests for things like broccoli and they’re just not ready yet,” she said.

“But we’ve said to people, crops that grow much faster, like bok choy — they’re coming. Snowpeas — they’re coming.

“[People are learning] things don’t grow in 24 hours — it takes a minimum of five weeks for a radish to grow, 60 to 90 days for broccoli or carrots.”

Ms Fogarty said it was causing people to question their reliance on mass food production.

“People now can see that sometimes having only two or three supply chains for food is not really the safest and most community beneficial way to receive your food — and so looking outside at alternative sources is a good idea.”

Hopes the demand will continue

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The Reserve Bank of Australia has said COVID-19 may leave the nation’s economy in the doldrums for months, if not years, to come.

Jason Chesworth doesn’t mince his words on the mood around the pandemic’s impact on his family business.

“We were really, really scared before [this week] about what a potential lockdown might mean for our business,” he said.

“We run things pretty close to the line; I’ve got some big debts.”

But he said the support from locals had been “unbelievable”.

“We plan on helping as many people in the Hunter as we can in the coming weeks get their hands on some dairy, even if it means we have to deliver it to them ourselves,” Mr Chesworth said.

“We really bust our backsides to run these businesses and do our best to employ local people.

“At times like these, we just hope it doesn’t hinder us too much and we don’t end up losing our livelihoods out of it.

“Hopefully, this is a sign — if we can get the milk out to the people, we might be able to get some sales and keep our head above water.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Dr Norman Swan answers some of your questions about the coronavirus outbreak



Australia is now a nation in self-isolation — but are we ahead of the curve?


There’s new official lingo about tackling COVID-19’s economic challenge. A “bridge” is being built to take us to the other side of the crisis.

Meanwhile, the government is preparing a “cushion” for businesses and individuals who are already or soon will be its casualties.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe came up with the bridge metaphor, Scott Morrison loves it and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is using it.

The Reserve Bank on Thursday unveiled its bridge-building package. It cut the cash rate again, to 0.25 per cent. It will also put a staggering $90 billion into the banking system, with the government injecting another $15 billion, to encourage low interest lending targeted at small and medium sized businesses.

But the bridge requires constructing a foundation of confidence, at a time when many businesses and consumers feel only fear.

In present circumstances, normal economic incentives have a much lesser effect. The market signals don’t work properly. If small businesses have their customers disappear and don’t expect them back any time soon, owners won’t be too interested in cheap loans.

Video: Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg announce latest coronavirus measures

(ABC News)

The nation self-isolates

Morrison has stressed Australia is not in shut down. Not officially. But out of a combination of alarm, caution and government measures to contain the virus’s spread, many activities have shut down and more do so every day.

Less than 90 minutes after the Reserve Bank produced its measures, Morrison announced the government was closing Australia’s border to foreigners, which will take effect late Friday.

As a health measure, this is sound, given the spread of the virus overseas and the extent to which arrivals have driven its early stage in Australia.

But it will be yet another brake on the economy, even though foreign arrivals have already fallen drastically.

Two days earlier, Australians were told not to leave the country. Australia is in national self-isolation. And unlike for individuals, there is no set end point.

Video: TWU boss Michael Kaine slams Qantas for forcing workers to bail out airline

(ABC News)

Qantas has stopped international flights and stood down 20,000 staff. It is hoping flexible leave arrangements will preserve jobs, but for how long?

A measure of the strange times is that Qantas is talking to Woolworths about some of its employees working there. The hoarding frenzy has become a job creator.

A trade-off

During this week, Morrison seemed on top of his messaging and the pioneering “national cabinet” of federal and state leaders was showing there is such a thing as “co-operative federalism” (albeit it has taken a national emergency to put it on display).

But federal and state governments and the community are a long way from having any certainty what measures — health or economic — might eventually be needed.

In circumstances unprecedented in living memory, difficult judgements are being made day by day that juggle health, the economy, and public sensibilities.

Devising rules for nursing homes pitted health against the humane. COVID-19 is lethal for the frail aged. But this week the government decided visits to these facilities should be restricted rather than stopped.

It was a trade off. A ban would have been safer in medical terms, but for residents a devastating isolation from family.

A ban could have carried another danger. Families are often watchdogs on how people in these institutions are being treated. Even after the royal commission’s indictment, constant eyes are needed.

The balance struck was sensible and has been generally accepted as such.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

The school question

In contrast, the debate about schools has been fraught and is unfinished in the public mind. The government advanced several reasons for not closing them (at this stage). Few children are affected by the virus. If kids were not at school, many would be minded by grandparents in the most at-risk age group.

And shutting schools could mean a 30 per cent hit on the health workforce.

The last is crucial in the government’s thinking. The health system will be under enormous pressure in the next few months, with no guarantees about how well it will cope, despite the reassuring words.

Rejecting the arguments of health officials and governments, certain schools have closed and some parents are removing their children from others.

If the schools are eventually closed under public pressure, it could be devastating for many students in their final year.

Anger and bad behaviour

Clearly, the bad behaviour the crisis has triggered has not abated — the out-of-control supermarket scenes, and the abuse of shop staff, health workers at some testing places, and even teachers.

Deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly went to the length of highlighting the last by referencing the experience of his sister, a teacher.

Country town residents are angry at their shop shelves being stripped by non-locals.

On Thursday, restrictions were announced for the dispensing and sale of drugs by pharmacies.

Video: Scott Morrison's comments came as supermarkets struggle to cope with shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic.

(ABC News)

Is the binge buying just panic? There is a great deal of that, with people unreceptive to the indisputable point there would be plenty of supplies if everyone behaved normally.

Morrison had a strong message for the hoarders: “Stop it”.

But anecdotal evidence also suggests some of the “hoarding” may be for other reasons.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton (who is still quarantined with COVID-19) claims some people are “profiteering”; he declared the police are in pursuit of them.

“They’re hoarding, not for their own consumption — I think they’re either sending some of the products overseas or they’re selling it in a black market arrangement in Australia,” Dutton told 2GB.

Are we ahead of the curve?

The government maintains that on the health front it is keeping ahead of the curve, although critics says it has been tardy and should even now be doing more.

On the economic front, however, it knew it was behind the curve immediately after announcing last week’s $17.6 billion stimulus measures.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

Now it is finishing its second package, which could dwarf the initial one; the combined measures will be legislated by the “mini” Parliament early next week.

Last week the imperative was to keep growth going to try to avoid a recession; now the goal is being cast differently.

“What this second package will be designed to do is to cushion the blow for Australians, particularly those who have lost their jobs, but also for those small businesses who are facing this very, very difficult moment,” Frydenberg told the ABC on Thursday night.

Earlier, after the bank announced its measures, Lowe said in his speech, “At some point, the virus will be contained and our economy and our financial markets will recover”.

At what point and at what cost? That bridge could need to have a very long span.

Michelle Grattan is a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra and chief political correspondent at The Conversation, where this article first appeared.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Dr Norman Swan answers some of your questions about the coronavirus outbreak



Australia’s still not running out of food, so why are the shelves so bare?

Adelaide 5000

Until a couple of weeks ago — before the coronavirus crisis — the biggest queues you would probably expect to see at supermarkets were at checkouts, as people lined up to leave.

Key points:

  • Empty shelves are the result of distribution, not production, problems
  • Retailers want emergency measures including curfew reforms to ensure better supply
  • Despite fears of looting, one retail expert says that is unlikely

Now, however, customers are queueing to get in, with lines stretching for hundreds of metres in some cases, as shoppers try to keep their distance from one another.

A surge in panic buying has induced “unprecedented” changes in consumer behaviour, and prompted a word of rebuke from the Prime Minister.

“I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it,” Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap

“People are acting like jerks, drongos and bloody idiots,” Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

In WA, the police presence has been boosted in and around supermarkets, and police in South Australia are also “keeping an eye” on shopping centres.

“We’re closely monitoring behaviour and activity around shopping centres. We have included that as part of our general patrol activity,” Commissioner Grant Stevens said.

Fights have broken out in aisles, and the Australian Retailers Association said it was aware of at least two cases of knives being pulled.

Farming and retail authorities have repeatedly attempted to reassure the public that the nation is not running out of food — but many are asking, if that’s the case, why are shelves still bare?

The answer involves consumer psychology, logistics and the way the nation’s supply chains work.

Ignorance to blame for panic buying

If there’s one thing authorities are absolutely agreed upon, it is that Australia is not running out of food.

The nation produces three times as much as it consumes, about two-thirds of which is currently exported.


Shoppers have queued for hours to gain access to supermarkets. (ABC News: Emily Piesse)

According to Monash University supply chain expert Dayna Simpson, part of the reason for unabated panic buying is not simply fear, but ignorance.

“I think a lot of consumers — they worry that something won’t be available, and so they don’t really understand what goes [on] behind the shelf,” Associate Professor Simpson said.

“We’re very tied to convenience and being able to buy whatever we want, whenever we want.”

The Australian Retailers Association said panic buying was driven more by perception than reality.

“If you can get stock on the shelf and if customers can walk in and a supermarket looks like it’s full, they’re highly unlikely to panic buy,” executive director Russell Zimmerman said.

“They are looking at the shelves and saying ‘oh my goodness, there must be a shortage’ … if everybody stopped panic buying as of today, the shelves would fill up.”


Supermarkets have imposed sales limits to gain better control of supply. (ABC News: Emily Clark)

Mr Zimmerman said some consumers probably now had “six or seven or eight months’ worth” of toilet rolls stockpiled in their home — far more than they needed in the short term.

“Most people would have in their pantry or cupboards at home approximately two weeks of supply without buying another thing,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

How can the supply chain keep up?

Food production is not the problem — instead, the issue of shortages has everything to do with distribution.

Supermarkets have grown in size over the decades, but are still limited in their amount of shelf space.

Mr Zimmerman said distribution centres (DCs) were currently chock-a-block with stock, but “the problem is getting [it] from the DCs into the stores”.


Restrictions on deliveries from distribution centres are contributing to shortages, the retailers association said. (ABC News: Michael Barnett)

He said council by-laws often imposed curfews on truck movements, restricting afterhours and late night deliveries to supermarkets.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

“What we’re asking is for local councils to give approval for those trucks to deliver 24 hours a day,” he said.

“There are restricted times in which the trucks can actually make those deliveries. If the truck can’t [make the] delivery in time, they can’t fill the shelves up.”

Queensland has already flagged curfew reforms, while Coles has moved to employ 5,000 new staff to help cope with pressures in retail outlets.

While trading hours differ on a state-by-state basis, the South Australian Government has announced temporary deregulation to allow around-the-clock trading.

“We’re not asking shops to stay open for 24 hours, we’re just extending the window in which they can trade. Some may choose to close during the day because it’s easier for them to restock,” Premier Steven Marshall said.


Getting stock from warehouses into supermarkets is the main challenge, experts say. (Supplied: Kimberly-Clark)

But the state’s Road Transport Association said lack of shopping hours was not the problem.

“The delivery of product to replace the 30 to 40 per cent higher turnover in stock is struggling to keep up,” executive director Steve Shearer said.

“Many councils, to keep the amenity nice in their suburbs, say you can’t bring your trucks in here during these hours of the day.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Could looting become the next big worry?

One challenge for authorities has been battling outbreaks of violence.

The Australian Retailers Association is aware of at least two cases in suburban Sydney in which shoppers had threatened other shoppers with knives.

However, the SA Premier has been among those to caution against hysteria, warning that “fake news” was “unsettling people”.

“There were [claims about] Army people on the corners of our streets — it’s just preposterous, it’s absolutely ludicrous and it’s quite dangerous. It’s frightening a lot of vulnerable people,” he said.

However, he also said there had been “quite a lot of unacceptable behaviour from the public towards people working on the frontline in retail”.


Mass looting broke out during the London riots in 2011. (Reuters: Olivia Harris)

Former senior Coles employee and retail analyst George Panas is hoping such incidents will remain isolated.

He said appeals by the retail industry and by politicians for consumers to calm down would start to have an impact, and that mass looting was extremely unlikely.

“There’ll be some heightened precautions obviously for the staff and their contact with customers,” Mr Panas said.

“[But] I would be very surprised if any supermarkets looking at a large-scale looting type of possibility.”

Video: Question of whether to close schools divides medical experts

(ABC News)


Artist allegedly lured students to his Sydney home before sexually assaulting them, court told

Sydney 2000

Famous street artist Anthony Lister allegedly lured and drugged “young, impressionable” art students before sexually assaulting them in his Sydney home, a court has heard.

  • Lister is accused of sexually assaulting four women aged 18 and 19
  • The 40yo is facing 18 charges including sexual assault, grievous bodily harm and drug possession
  • The street artist has been granted bail on a $20,000 deposit posted by his mother

Lister, 40, was also recorded on CCTV allegedly removing bags of what police suspect was evidence from storage units in Moore Park in late February before his arrest, Sydney’s Central Local Court was told.

The CCTV footage was captured about two weeks before Lister was charged over the alleged sexual assault of four women, in separate incidents, between 2015 and 2018.

He has been in custody since last week when NSW Police raided his Darlinghurst home and one of his studios in Marrickville.

Police prosecutor Kerry-Ann McKinnon today told the court Lister “lured” the budding artists to his house and talked them into participating in “some kind of art activity”.

“These young, impressionable women are drugged and then acts of a sexual nature occur,” she said during a bail application.

Senior Constable Sean O’Brien told the court an Instagram conversation took place on February 27 in which Lister discussed some of the allegations with a woman who police suspect was present during one of the alleged assaults.

Lister allegedly wrote: “After my art show in Wollongong I’m buying a ticket to LA stat”.

Senior Constable O’Brien said the storage units, which were rented under someone else’s name, were last accessed by Lister the same day as the Instagram conversation.

“We have CCTV of Mr Lister exiting with bags,” he told the court.

“We suspect there is further evidence. We are aware he was aware of the investigation at that time and was seen to be leaving the units with items.”

Allegations ‘extremely serious’: Magistrate

Police have already seized about 30 hard drives and a number of USB devices from the storage unit, but they are yet to be analysed.

Senior Constable O’Brien said a further two complainants would shortly be interviewed.

Lister’s barrister, Hament Dhanji SC, said none of the separate allegations against Lister were strong and they relied on the evidence of each of the complainants.

He said Lister took part in a police interview in which he denied the allegations and could not be considered a flight risk due to current travel restrictions because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Magistrate Clare Farnan said the allegations were “extremely serious” and could result in a “lengthy” full-time prison sentence.


Anthony Lister is one of the country’s most prominent artists. (Outpost Project)

Lister was granted bail on a $20,000 deposit posted by his mother, and other conditions including not to contact any witnesses.

The four original women were aged 18 or 19 at the time of the alleged offences and Lister is also accused of tattooing three lines on one of the complainants without her consent.

Lister, who was born in Brisbane, has become one the country’s most internationally-recognised artists and his work has been collected by Hugh Jackman, Pink and Pharrell Williams.

His distinctive style and tag appears not only in galleries, but many public spaces around Australia, particularly in Sydney’s inner west.

In a statement last week, Lister’s lawyers said he was “distressed and hurt” by the charges and “emphatically” denied wrongdoing.

The statement said the matter would become a test case on “the responsibilities of men and women in sexual encounters to themselves and to each other”.


How businesses like Qantas can stand down permanent employees and not pay them


Qantas and Jetstar’s decision to temporarily stand down two-thirds of their employees has once again sparked questions over how workplaces can respond to the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

Qantas has said it needs to stand down most of its 30,000 employees from late March until at least the end of May in order to preserve as many jobs as possible.

The decision, according to workplace relations law professor Anthony Forsyth from RMIT, could soon be taken by other businesses.

So we asked him what it could mean for casual, part-time and permanent employees.

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap

Can you be stood down by your employer?


Professor Forsyth says other businesses may also follow Qantas’s decision to stand down. (105.7 ABC Darwin: Emilia Terzon)

Yes. Usually, if you’re a full-time or part-time employee asked by your employer not to work, you would be entitled to be paid.

But under the Fair Work Act, any employee (whether full-time, part-time or casual) can be stood down without pay if they can’t do useful work because of an “equipment breakdown, industrial action or a stoppage of work for which the employer can’t reasonably be held responsible”.

And it can be for an indefinite period of time, according to Professor Forsyth, but only if the situation which has caused the stand-downs – in this case, potentially, the coronavirus pandemic – is still ongoing

How does it work?

Professor Forsyth says the Fair Work Act includes provisions on how stand-down arrangements work, but they don’t deal with every situation.

Employees can be directed, for a period of time, to not attend work while business is affected, causing a necessary stoppage of work, and that’s without pay,” he told the ABC.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

While those rules apply under the Fair Work Act, you should also check your enterprise agreement (if you have one) as it might have further rules limiting employer stand-down powers.

Most larger business will have agreements in place, in which case Professor Forsyth says there may be provisions that state your employer “will need to consult with staff or unions before standing you down”.

“Or in some cases your agreement might stipulate that you should be paid for some or all of the time you are stood down,” he said.

“In the case of Qantas, they have about 50 enterprise agreements in place for their relevant divisions, but of the two I quickly read I couldn’t see any stand-down provision in place.”

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

Professor Forsyth says that in that case, the Fair Work Act rules apply.

Qantas has said employees will be able to use annual and long service leave, but has conceded that periods of leave without pay are inevitable.

Employees have been told in an email that they can seek alternative employment and still keep their jobs, and can also access unemployment benefits.

It’s unclear if this will be the case for other employees who may be stood down by other organisations.

But Fair Work says it is possible for an employee to take paid or unpaid leave (for example, annual leave) during all or part of a period in which they would otherwise be stood down.

Could other employers soon follow suit?


Employers might be considering other ways they can continue operating during the coronavirus pandemic. (Pixabay: rawpixel)

Dr Forsyth says it’s likely Qantas is “only the beginning”.

“There’s definitely a massive concern this is just the start. Already we’ve seen many businesses impacted, just one business not being able to operate as normal can have a ripple effect on others,” he said.

“So other business will be looking at similar measures.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

What other measures could be considered?

If your employer wants to continue operating, they may also consider making positions redundant in response to a business downturn due to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to the Fair Work website, an employer must meet a series of requirements before they can terminate someone, such as providing notice, and they will likely also have to provide redundancy pay.

“The advantage of a stand-down compared to redundancies is that employers have the option of being able to return to normal pretty quickly if the conditions that shut them down begin to change,” Professor Forsyth said.

“In the event of redundancies, they will have to look at whether they can redeploy staff, engage in consultations and provide redundancy pay, which can range from four weeks to 16 weeks under the Fair Work Act.”

The Fair Work website also says that under the relevant Act, an employee is protected from being dismissed because of a temporary absence due to illness or injury, for example having coronavirus.

“The Fair Work Act also includes protections against being dismissed because of discrimination, a reason that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable or another protected right,” the Fair Work website says.

“These protections continue to operate in relation to employees impacted by coronavirus.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Dr Norman Swan answers some of your questions about the coronavirus outbreak


External Link:

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Panic buying sees SA shop hours pushed to 24 hours a day

Adelaide 5000

South Australian shops will soon be allowed to trade 24 hours a day as part of new emergency measures introduced by the State Government.

Key points

  • Adelaide retail shops will be allowed to trade 24 hours a day as part of a 30-day trial
  • SA Independent Retailers claim they were not consulted before this decision was made
  • Premier Steven Marshall hopes the new measures will help ease shopping pressures and panic buying

The 30-day trial comes into effect from Saturday and applies to weekdays.

There will also be extended trading on weekends, with shops allowed to open 12:00am to 9:00pm on Saturdays and 9:00am till 9:00pm on Sundays.

Premier Steven Marshall said he wanted to ease shopping pressures caused by coronavirus and to support local jobs.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

“We do emphasise this is not a compulsory measure so individual supermarkets and retail outlets can make up their own mind as to when they are best served to open to support their customer base,” he said.

Supermarkets across the country have been hit by outbreaks of panic buying which have seen many shelves cleared of items like toilet paper, hand sanitiser, and tinned goods.

Mr Marshall said the changes would give shops more flexibility which would help both shoppers and retailers.

“We’ve seen quite a lot of unacceptable behaviour from the public and this has absolutely got to stop,” Mr Marshall said.

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap

“So we’ve taken action to try to spread the envelope of hours that shops can choose to open.”

Treasurer Rob Lucas is using his special ministerial powers to introduce the changes — the same ones he previously used to grant special exemptions to allow Boxing Day trading.


The extended hours is on trial for 30 days. (ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

However, the changes have surprised some retailers who have actually decided to close earlier than normal to allow them time to restock their depleted shelves.

Retailers ‘under duress’ by extended hours

SA Independent Retailers chief executive Colin Shearing said his members were not consulted and feel “ambushed”.

“It’s definitely not going to work and this is putting already stressed and fragile retailers under more duress,” he said.

“With this COVID-19 out there, we’re going to need more time to clean and sanitise and really put additional procedures [in place] to sanitise and clean and we have to have the stores shut when we do this,” Mr Shearing said.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Mr Lucas has been pushing for deregulated hours for many years, but has been unable to get the legislation passed through Parliament.

The union representing shop workers, the SDA, has accused the Government of using the pandemic to score a political point over trading hours.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

“I’m not aware of a retailer that has requested these trading hours,” secretary Josh Peak said.

“In actual fact retailers are going in the opposite direction.

“I can’t think of a reason the Government has done this, unless it is to score a political point, as this is just not what is needed.”

Government rejects ‘politics at play’

Mr Marshall said the Government consulted people across the board and has rejected suggestions it is a political move.

“This is not ideological, it is not political, it is just practical,” he said.


SA Road Transport Association says trucks delivering products were struggling to keep up with demand. (Supplied)

The South Australian Road Transport Association’s Steve Shearer said store shelves were empty because trucks delivering products were struggling to keep up with the huge surge in demand.

“We are delivering massive amounts of products to the distribution centres, but they are proving incapable of handling that extra volume that they are ordering,” Mr Shearer said.

“They can’t receive it fast enough and they are not getting it out fast enough.”

He said one of the biggest constraints to getting stores restocked was local councils restricting truck access at certain times of the day.

“Those are the things that if Government actually spoke to the people involved, they would learn and understand what is causing the shortages on the shelves,” he said.

“They need to talk with us and they are not.”

Charities call out for more ‘younger’ volunteers

Meanwhile, Meals on Wheels SA chief executive officer Sharon Broer has put out a call for younger people to join its volunteer ranks so it can keep delivering meals to vulnerable people.

“We’re not short of food, our challenge at the moment is people to help in the kitchens and particularly with deliveries,” Ms Broer said.


Meals on Wheels are not short on food or supplies, they need more drivers. (ABC News: Nance Haxton)

The organisation said it was facing a double whammy — an older age group needing meals delivered and a majority of volunteers who are aged over 70.

“Younger people seem not to have the severity of illness from COVID-19 that older people do,” she said.

“Older people are already core volunteers and we’ve almost exhausted the community of older South Australians to help and we’d really love the younger people to step up.”

Foodbank has flagged suspending some of its services as it said it was in a similar position with older volunteers.

“Some of the older volunteers who feel that they are at risk with the coronavirus have elected to stay at home and some of our outlets may have to close,” chief executive Greg Patterson said.

“If we can’t get volunteers we will need to employ people to do these roles and that’s the only other way we can do it.”

Mr Patterson is meeting with the Government later today to try to secure extra funding and is asking anyone with free time to consider volunteering.

“We’re the last line of defence for food relief in South Australia, if we don’t operate there is no food relief,” he said.

“We already supply 70 per cent of all the food to all the charities across the state.

“We’ve got plenty of food, we’ve got donations of toilet paper and everything.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Question of whether to close schools divides medical experts

(ABC News)


Major NT hospitals ban kids from visiting to ‘slow down spread’ of COVID-19

Palmerston 0830

Royal Darwin and Palmerston Hospitals are postponing elective surgeries and restricting visiting hours in an attempt to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission to patients.

Key Points:

  • There has still only been one case of COVID-19 in the NT
  • As yet, there has been no community spread of the virus
  • The restrictions are being made as a precautionary measure

The decision came just days after six top NT doctors wrote to Territory chief health officer Dr Hugh Heggie, calling on him to take “immediate action” to minimise the impact of coronavirus on vulnerable Territorians.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

The doctors made a number of recommendations, including suspending elective surgeries, stopping dental and standing down the medical school, halting dental services and suspending all elective surgery except life or limb-preserving elective surgery.

The letter was signed by the Royal Darwin Hospital’s [RDH] acting director of anaesthesia Andrew Fenton, director of emergency medicine Didier Palmer, women, children and youth medical co-director Kathryn Roberts, surgery and critical care medical co-director Mahiban Thomas, ICU director Paul Goldrick and medicine medical co-director Nadarajah Kangaran.

It warned “Australia is only weeks” behind countries such as Italy and the Netherlands, and soon there will be an “overwhelming number” of patients requiring the ICU and ventilation.

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap

Restrictions now in place

Top End Health executive director of medical services Charles Pain, who was copied into the email, said the Territory was in the fortunate position of having very low prevalence of COVID-19 cases and was putting in place the best possible preparations to minimise the impact of the virus in the NT.

The NT still only has one confirmed case of the virus, and there has been no community transmission.

“We regret any inconvenience these changes will have for our patients as well as their families and friends,” Dr Pain said.

“We believe these changes are in the best interests of patients during this challenging period and to slow down the spread of this virus as much as possible.”


Dr Charles Pain said the move was made by Top End Health in the best interest of patients. (ABC News: Nadia Daly)

Visiting hours are restricted to 10:00am to 12:00pm; and 5:00pm-7:00pm each day, except for maternity and paediatrics.

Only one visitor will be allowed per patient in each visiting session and there will be no visitors aged under 16 allowed.

Exemptions to these visiting rules will apply in special circumstances, such as palliative care, through a request to ward managers.

Elective surgery category 2 and 3 have been postponed, but elective surgery for category 1 continues.

NT Health said elective surgery was being managed as per its existing protocols and would be rescheduled in due course.

‘We will beat this together’

Deputy Chief Health Officer Dianne Stephens said Top End Health did not want to separate parents from their children, so they would be some exceptions made for people in maternity and palliative care.

“If we are serious about reducing that spread, we need to change the way we do things,” Dr Stephens told ABC Radio Darwin.

“But we have to be kind.”


The NT still only has one confirmed case of the virus, and there has been no community transmission. (Supplied: Jack Bullen)

Dr Stephens said it wasn’t unusual to cancel or defer elective surgeries in a “crisis”.

She also addressed the 16 recommendations outlined in the letter to Dr Heggie, and said the six doctors who penned it did not have access to the same information she did.

“Yes, we are all worried, we’re worried about how this is going to impact on our system, we’re worried about if we’re going to have enough beds in our system,” Dr Stephens said.

“All of those things outlined in that letter were already in place, or had already been done or we’re working on.”

Dr Stephens said the spread of coronavirus in Australia was very different to how it was in other countries, such as the Netherlands.

“The way in which [COVID-19] is spreading in Australia, and the way in which our measures have contained it look nothing like it does in Europe,” Dr Stephens said.

“Australia is way ahead of the game.

“We will beat this together.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Video: Question of whether to close schools divides medical experts

(ABC News)


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