May 6, 2020

Morning mail: $102bn in wages lost, Victoria abattoir not told of cluster, and internet funnies | Australia news

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 7 May.

Top stories

One in four Australians are afraid they will lose their job over the next year due to coronavirus. Australians have already suffered a $102bn blow to household income and more than 600,000 have lost jobs, with people aged 18-24 and women from non-English-speaking backgrounds the worst affected. As Scott Morrison begins to push to “flatten the curve of unemployment”, we look at what safe workplaces could look like. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico is facing an acute shortage of Covid-19 testing kits after a $59m deal with an obscure Australian medical company fell through. And Labor has asked the auditor general to examine commonwealth debt, accusing the Coalition of doubling gross debt since it took office in 2013.

Spain has extended its state of emergency until 24 May, as leading European nations such as Germany begin to ease lockdown conditions. The successful vote to extend emergency status followed acrimonious scenes inside parliament in Madrid, on a day in which the World Health Organization director warned of the “very real” threat of a return to lockdowns if transitions weren’t carefully handled. Iran has recorded its highest one-day tally of new infections since 11 April, with 1,680 cases overnight after it relaxed restrictions on movement. The UK is set to announce an easing of restrictions next week, despite global criticism of its perceived mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Russia has recorded more than 10,000 new positive infections for a fourth consecutive day. And Donald Trump has all but abandoned a public health strategy of societal restrictions to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and opted instead to push for a restart of the US economy, a move that experts have warned is premature and risks handing a “death sentence” to many Americans.

Cedar Meats, the meat-processing plant in Victoria at the centre of a Covid-19 cluster, was not told it could be dealing with an outbreak of coronavirus for three days after someone connected to the facility was diagnosed, according to a spokeswoman for the company. The cluster at the processing plant has risen to 49 after an additional four cases were confirmed on Wednesday morning.


John Barilaro’s Dungowan Estate

NSW deputy premier John Barilaro’s Dungowan Estate in south-east NSW. Photograph: stayz

The NSW deputy premier John Barilaro has ignored his own advice for people not to travel during the coronavirus pandemic, revealing he visited his second property over the weekend – an act that saw arts minister Don Harwin resign last month and saw him fined under the state’s lockdown laws.

A community campaign to halt the clearing of bushland that had survived the recent bushfires crisis has been successful, with developers announcing a two-week suspension on the site on the south coast of NSW. Negotiations are now expected to consider potential alternatives to clearing the bushland.

Sections of the child abuse royal commission report pertaining to Cardinal George Pell will be made public for the first time, more than two years after the report was delivered to parliament.

The world

Egyptian filmmaker Shady Habash

Egyptian film-maker Shady Habash died in Cairo’s Tora prison complex on 2 May. Photograph: Facebook

An Egyptian film-maker, held without trial for more than two years, has died inside prison, with authorities saying the 24-year-old had mistakenly drunk hand sanitiser in his cell, thinking it was water. Shady Habash produced a music video that was critical of president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Airbnb has made a quarter of its global workforce redundant, with revenues forecast to be halved in 2020 by around $2.4bn amid what the company’s co-founder called “the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime”. Domestic bookings in some European countries have shown signs of recovery though, the accommodation platform reports.

Indigenous leaders in Brazil’s Amazon basin fear president Jair Bolsonaro is using the coronavirus pandemic as a smokescreen to extend land-grabbing practices. A new presidential decree before congress would allow farmers to legalise plots of up to 2,500 hectares claimed from within government reserves.

Astronomers are hailing the discovery of the closest black hole to Earth yet, just 1,000 light years away. HR 6819 has a mass over four times the sun, and its composition and relation to nearby stars is said to be unlike other black holes previously identified.

Recommended reads

Sydney venue Carriageworks went into administration on Monday after Covid-19 hit its income sources hard.

Sydney venue Carriageworks went into administration on Monday after Covid-19 hit its income sources hard. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

The closure of the Carriageworks arts precinct in Sydney is just the first of many major shutdowns, Australian art leaders have warned, unless there is “enormous action”. “What we’re seeing right across Australia is a total loss of self-generated income for galleries”, writes Elissa Blake, and with major players such as the Museum of Contemporary Art losing 40% of its funding overnight, further closures beckon.

Times are tough for everyone, but young workers have taken the economic hit hardest, writes Greg Jericho. “Younger workers inevitably have less attachment to any job than older workers, they are usually less skilled and are therefore easier to replace when things pick up again. But while previous recessions have seen massive falls in the number of youth employed, nothing compares to what we are seeing now.”

If you’re feeling short of a laugh, we have a new series for you: the funniest things on the internet. And kicking it off is one of our favourite Australian comics, Zoë Coombs Marr, sifting the webosphere for her top 10 giggles: from Terrible Tom the turkey to vintage French and Saunders.


The global race for face masks. When the coronavirus began spreading beyond China in January, the race to buy up any available personal protective equipment went global. In today’s episode of Full Story, we look at the frenzy of buying and how the race to obtain masks shows no sign of slowing down.

Full Story

The race for face masks happening around the world

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.


Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury

Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury trains in Melbourne during the suspension of the AFL season due to Covid-19. Photograph: Michael Dodge/AAP

The NRL’s bulldozer tactics to restart may have ruffled feathers, but they’ve also paved the way for the AFL “endorsed pathway”, writes Scott Heinrich. And while Aussie Rules footy could yet be a few months away, slowly the obstacles are disappearing.

Tennis Australia are planning contingencies for the 2021 Australian Open, after chief executive Craig Tiley admitted the tournament “will be compromised” by ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus. The worst-case scenario: cancellation.

Media roundup

International researchers fear the coronavirus has already mutated into a second “more contagious” strain, reports the ABC, potentially undermining efforts to find a swift global vaccine. Thousands of foreign students could be flown in to Australia under strict quarantine conditions, claims the Australian Financial Review, as a government committee looks to reboot the tertiary educations sector. And suicide rates in Australia are forecast to rise by 50% over the next five years, and could outstrip deaths from the pandemic fourfold, writes the Australian.

Coming up

The first hearing of the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the government’s management of Covid-19 will be held, with NSW health minister Brad Hazzard called as a witness. The federal inquiry into the pandemic will also sit again today, with a focus on the CovidSafe app.

The Lawyer X inquiry hearings will resume today, with Victoria police’s deputy commissioner expected to give evidence.

And if you’ve read this far …

Left languishing in the national archives for nearly four decades, Spain’s first ever talking picture directed by a woman may have just been unearthed by an eagle-eyed worker inside the country’s national film archive. María Forteza’s eight-minute film, Mallorca, was miscatalogued and forgotten. Now it could be a national treasure. There’s nothing like a Covid-19 related spring clean.

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