Professor Brendan Murphy is giving the national update on where Australia stands, today:
Over the last week we have certainly seen daily numbers that were significantly lower than the previous week, but as I have said on many occasions, the fact we are still picking up new cases means that we obviously cannot be complacent.
Someone was asking about the number of hospitalised patients, there are 113 people in hospital at the moment, 43 people still in intensive care and 27 people currently receiving support from ventilators.
Those numbers again have come down significantly, over the last few weeks.
As you know there are some jurisdictions in Australia that have had no new cases for some days. Our suppression strategy is working well.
From the chatter I have seen on social media, it seems being able to order take away food is the thing our trans-Tasman cousins are most excited about.
I wish them all the dumplings in the world.
Jacinda Ardern says there is “no widespread underlying community transmission in New Zealand. We have won that battle,” as the country prepares to relax some of its restrictions.
AAP has some more on that press conference we touched on a little while ago:
Ardern said about 400,000 Kiwis would return to their workplaces on Tuesday with the lessening of the country’s clampdown from level four to level three.
The shift has only a small effect on the social lives of New Zealanders, who are still being asked to stay home and to practice social distancing.
But the change is vital for business, with many industries severely sidelined over the last month.
Ardern has maintained a health-first approach to fighting Covid-19, arguing a drastic short-term action would benefit the economy in the long run.
The result has produced remarkably low case numbers.
On Monday, health officials reported the country’s 19th death from 1,122 confirmed coronavirus cases.
The latest death was a woman aged in her 90s, linked to the St Margaret’s residential aged care facility in Auckland.
All of New Zealand’s deaths have been elderly people, with a majority from clusters linked to either the St Margaret’s home or Rosewood rest care home in Christchurch, with 10 deaths.
Hospitalisation rates have shown the strength of New Zealand’s public health response; fewer than 90 people have been to hospital with the disease.
The federal education minister, Dan Tehan, has signalled he will look at providing help to childcare centres that rely on migrant workers who are excluded from the jobkeeper wage subsidy.
As Amy mentioned earlier today, Tehan has announced $27m will be spent on grants of up to $10,000 per service to keep childcare centres open.
In an interview on Sky News, Tehan acknowledged the government was having to step in to deal with some unintended consequences of the “completely new” funding system that it had put in place extremely quickly.
“There will always be some unintended consequences,” he said. Interestingly, Tehan said childcare centres that relied on migrant workers – who are ineligible for the jobkeeper payments that were meant to go hand in hand with the broader childcare relief package – would be considered as part of the imminent review into how the system is working.”
That’s one of the things we’re going to be looking at when we do the one-month review … that we are starting next week.” As it stands the childcare relief package – with its promise of free childcare – is due to expire at the end of June (three months), but the government has always suggested it could be in place for six months, in line with other economic support measures.
Tehan said childcare services were currently running at 40-60% of normal capacity.
He said hopefully as the country continued to flatten the curve and more restrictions were lifted, attendance rates would increase and the old system could come back into effect, but “we don’t think we’re there yet”.
On schools, Tehan reaffirmed his previous call for all states and territories to have classroom instruction back to normal for all age levels by the end of May.
The ACCC has released its interim report as part of its inquiry into Australian home loans. It found that there wasn’t a lot of transparency in the cost of loans, or difference in the mortgage rates for the four big banks.
It also found that the banks only dropped their rates when the RBA slashed the cash rate. And it could take a while to do even that, meaning the banks picked up revenue in the lag time.
While each big four bank announced their rate changes on the day of or the day following the RBA’s cash rate decision, changes to the big four banks’ headline variable rates came into effect 9 to 21 days after the banks announced their rate changes (see table 1.2). We refer to the time between a bank’s announcement date and the date the bank’s rate change came into effect as the lag period. Each bank had a consistent lag period following each of the three headline variable rate changes in June, July and October 2019; with CBA consistently having a significantly longer lag period than the other big four banks.The banks informed the ACCC that their respective lag periods allowed sufficient time to implement the required business and operational changes that follow a change in the headline variable rate.
Chris Bowen, who has downloaded the app, says it is one more step towards whatever new normal will greet Australia once the restrictions begin being relaxed:
Just as we see some encouraging signs around the country when it comes to infection rates.
But there’s a long way to go yet. No room for complacency.
No room for people thinking we’re through this.
Tomorrow of course the Katy Gallagher-chaired Covid-19 committee will also sit, hear evidence from the treasury, and explore the economic handling of the Covid crisis.
We’re glad that parliament is now going to sit on May 11 and that week. We want it to sit more than that.
In the meantime, through the Senate committee and through other committees, we’ll hold the government to account and provide constructive engagement to the government on the task at hand.
ACT Health has released its daily update – there have been no new cases of Covid diagnosed in the territory in the last 24 hours, which is becoming quite the trend (as it is for the NT and South Australia).
There have been no new cases of Covid-19 recorded in the ACT in the past 24 hours. The ACT’s total is still 106.
A total of 100 cases have recovered from Covid-19 and have been released from self-isolation.
There is currently one (1) Covid-19 patient in a Canberra hospital. They are in a stable condition.
The remaining cases are isolating at home with ACT Health support.
The ACT has recorded three (3) deaths.
The number of negative tests in the ACT is now 7,996.
The NT is announcing the relaxation of restrictions now but, like Queensland, they won’t be lifted until the weekend.
The Northern Territory joins WA and Qld in announcing a slight relaxation of restrictions. Here was Michael Gunner on ABC radio this morning:
“We’re aiming towards people in the Northern Territory to live the new normal in June.
“Please go back to that context, saying we’re safe, but not immune. I want people to understand that.
“The second wave of these things are possible. The last thing I’ll be touching are the borders.”
Speaking at a press conference now, Gunner says if restrictions are relaxed, the responsibility on residents grows even bigger – and he warns “don’t be a Bondi”.
Marise Payne on China’s ‘retaliation’
The Chinese ambassador spoke to the AFR on the weekend and said Australia’s pursuit of an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19 and China’s reaction could result in a consumer retaliation.
Marise Payne has responded:
Australia has made a principled call for an independent review of the Covid-19 outbreak, an unprecedented global crisis with severe health, economic and social impacts. This would be undertaken at an appropriate time, fully acknowledging that many countries are continuing to deal with the challenges of the virus.
A transparent and honest assessment of events will be critical as we emerge from the pandemic and learn important lessons to improve our response in the future.
We hope all members of the WHO would cooperate in such an effort, including to strengthen the WHO’s role in responding effectively to a pandemic.
We reject any suggestion that economic coercion is an appropriate response to a call for such an assessment, when what we need is global cooperation.
In case anyone was still at a loss as to which minister was in charge of Services Australia (formerly Centrelink), it’s Stuart Robert.
Australians who were today expecting a boost to their welfare payments courtesy of the government’s new $550 a fortnight coronavirus supplement will have to wait a little longer.
Although the Treasury website states the boosted payments will flow from 27 April, it will only be paid once welfare recipients have “reported income for the period that covers 27 April”, Services Australia advised on Monday.
However, the clarification has frustrated some welfare recipients, who had expected the boosted payments to flow from today.
“People who reported their income last week were expecting to receive the boosted rate this week — they were counting on it,” said Jeremy Poxon, of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union.
Welfare recipients are required to report their income to Centrelink over a fortnightly period in order to receive their next payment.
However, government messaging on the Treasury and Services Australia websites merely stated that the supplement would “commence from 27 April 2020”.
The confusion continues, particularly for some of our most vulnerable
Auditor general to scrutinise Covid spending
After Labor requested the auditor general review of the Covid-19 spending, to ensure oversight, the office has said it will look over the economic response. From the auditor general’s letter:
I intend to develop and publish an audit program of the government’s Covid-19 response, and work is now under way to develop the approach. The audit program will focus on providing parliament with transparency and assurance on management of the response.
It is normal practice for the AAWP to take account of the audit priorities of the parliament determined by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA). The Covid-19 audit approach will be outlined in a revised 2020-21 Annual Audit Work Plan (AAWP) which will be provided to the JCPAA in early May 2020 to consider the priorities of the Parliament. The draft AAWP will also be available for public consultation during May 2020. I expect that the ANAO’s 2020-21 AAWP will be released in July 2020, although some Covid-19 related audits may commence before then.
I have decided to conduct assurance reviews of the Advances to the Finance Minister (AFM).
These reviews will be conducted in accordance with section 19A of the Auditor-General Act 1997 (the Act). They will provide more timely assurance to the parliament than the annual review undertaken by the ANAO in the current circumstances in which the appropriation for Advances to the finance minister has been significantly increased to support Australian government activities in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Reports on the assurance reviews are expected to be tabled in parliament each month.
You have drawn attention in your correspondence to the amendment agreed by the parliament to the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Bill 2020 giving certain powers to the Minister for Families and Social Services. I do not consider that the specific use of such powers lend themselves to the audit and review functions of the ANAO. However, a future audit of the effectiveness of programs or activities undertaken by the government in response to Covid-19 could consider the quality of evidence developed within the public sector to inform the minister’s decisions in this area.
The monitoring of the use of the powers may be something that the parliament may wish to consider in other ways including the Senate Select Committee on Covid-19.
The chief medical officer, professor Brendan Murphy, will give the national Covid update at 2pm.
That’s about an hour earlier than usual, so the meetings must be getting shorter.
Bob Katter starts off with the right idea – that it is kinda absurd to count a “strategic oil reserve”, which is designed to ensure a nation has emergency fuel stocks in the event of a conflict or a supply chain cut, IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, but then he strays into Bob Katter territory and the statement falls off the edge of a cliff (let a thousand flowers bloom):
“Three submarines could simply cut off Australia’s entire oil supply,” Katter said.
“You can’t have an operational defence force without petrol and diesel; it leaves us extremely vulnerable to attack.
“Our current storage and refining infrastructure leaves us with less than a month of fuel supply.”
Katter said ethanol was the solution to the current crisis and called on the federal and state governments to mandate ethanol and build an adequate amount of fuel storage infrastructure – including more refineries.
“I have been talking about ethanol for 30 years; Katter’s Australian party has endorsed ethanol since its inception,” he said.
“More people die a year in Australia from petrol fumes than they have from coronavirus (Ref: 1,715 deaths in 2019, Sydney Morning Herald).
“Every other country on earth has moved to ethanol for that very reason.
“The studies done in California left no question that the particles and carcinogens in petrol make it extremely volatile, not in regional areas, but most certainly in built up city areas like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
“Australia seems to be the only country on earth that doesn’t care if a few thousand of its citizens die from motor vehicle emissions each year, and is happy to leave its army powerless to defend the nation.”