View from The Hill: MPs aim for lightning sitting on stimulus as third parliamentarian contracts virus

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Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A pared-down parliament will aim to pass the government’s stimulus package in a single day’s sitting on Monday.

As a third federal parliamentarian tested positive for coronavirus, the government and opposition agreed to pair 30 a side from the 151 House of Representatives members. The Senate will also be reduced.

Members with personal or family health issues will be the first off the list of attendees, followed by those who live furthest away. Staff travelling from interstate will be kept to a minimum.

If complications arise, the sitting – originally scheduled for four days – might have to extend to a second day but both sides want to avoid that.

On Tuesday, NSW Liberal senator Andrew Bragg announced he had tested positive for the virus. This followed Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Queensland Nationals senator Susan McDonald also being confirmed with the virus.

Mr Bragg contracted the disease at a March 6 wedding where multiple guests were infected. He chaired a Senate committee on March 9. Senate crossbencher Rex Patrick, one of those present at the inquiry, said he had no symptoms but was going into self-isolation and would get tested.

Foreign affairs late Tuesday issued advice to Australians abroad that if they want to come home, they should do so now. “If you’re already overseas and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means.”

Against the background of increasingly disastrous news from the business community and more chaos in supermarkets, Scott Morrison and his senior ministers are working at full speed on the new support measures to be added to last week’s $17.6 billion package.

The NSW government unveiled a $2.3 billion package including health measures and tax relief for small business.

With travel to and from overseas drying up and local air travel drastically reduced as events are cancelled and businesses ground their employees, Qantas announced it was cutting 90 per cent of its international capacity and 60 per cent of its domestic capacity.

The government is blunt about the devastating economic consequences of the virus crisis.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who usually puts an upbeat interpretation on everything, said:

“The impact is clearly getting more severe. We expect that businesses will close and people will lose their jobs. We are currently working to provide the necessary support through what will be a difficult transition. That is the grim reality of it.”

Mr Cormann said tourism and hospitality sectors were “very much on the front line”, while also pointing to the difficulties of the not-for-profit sector.

“There are a whole series of Australians at the lower income end who are facing particular challenges,” he said. These people would need “appropriate levels of support”.

Mr Cormann said the government was considering “to what extent we might be able to channel those workers who have less work for a company like Qantas, but might be able to do more work for companies like Coles and Woolworths”.

The government announced expanded telehealth services. They will now cover midwives, access to more GPs, and a range of specialist services including general surgeons, psychiatrists and mental health support, and geriatricians.


Read more: View from The Hill: Government forced to “scale up” fiscal response to deal with impact of “scaled up” health response


Health Minister Greg Hunt also said 230,000 new masks had just arrived in Australia and flagged an expansion of testing. He said he had had discussions with the Doherty Institute about new testing regimes, so “we can expand beyond the individual tests”.

“They are looking at ways of expediting the testing process, and, indeed, some significant new mass testing processes over and above what we’re doing.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What do you hope will be included in the next stimulus package?

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Written by The Conversation

68 Comments

Total Comments: 68
  1. 0
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    How about releasing the first stimulus package immediately? Those lower income people and pensioners need it now not in 2 to 4 weeks.

    • 0
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      Agree agree agree! Supermarket shelves are bare now – longer people are expected to wait the worse it appears to be getting!

      Seniors and everyone whom this package was directed to should have received it within 48 hours IMO – always thought it was simply a “press of a button” by Centrelink” once the amount was released/decided?

      I personally know of people desperate til their next fortnightly payment! Appalling!

    • 0
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      Foxy – agree! Funny how ‘with the press of a button’ Centrelink can cut your benefits. Very quickly.
      My uncle died on a Saturday. When we went to notify Centrelink, they advised it had already been done – on the Monday after his death. Don’t know if it was the nursing home or funeral place, but they were VERY quick at reducing my aunt’s benefits.
      And yes – the stimulus package should have been released as soon as it was announced. Is just like the banks – when amounts go up, they are VERY slow to pass it on. But if cutting the amount – voila! – instant.

  2. 0
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    Somehow I wonder if the lower income people and pensioners will get anything this time. Seeing as a $750 payment (not yet received!) was announced already. My guess is business this time.

    • 0
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      I was thinking the same, I doubt they will still not raise the rate. Raisetherate.org.au

    • 0
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      They will come up with some sort of excuse not to hand it over.

    • 0
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      They don’t want us to get too excited ..after all our “fantastic” $10.90 increase starts also in March – right? Almost pays for 1 x pack 24 “dunny” rolls! Pathetic!

    • 0
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      Pensioners don’t need any more support, nothing will change for them, they will still get the pension every fortnight. The ones needing support are the low income WORKERS with families, those in the GIG economy and casual workers.

    • 0
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      How caring of you CARE BEAR.. to trample on the pensioners

    • 0
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      Oh for goodness sake! Stop whinging.

      When the first package was announced the $750 was to be paid on 31 March. That is still 12 days away. Just be patient. If you qualify for it, you will get it. Nothing has changed.

      And business also got something last time or have you forgotten? I fully expect small to medium businesses to get more, but we cannot forget big business either, not if you want to save jobs.

    • 0
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      Was waiting for ‘Care Bear’ to put his 2 bob in….

      Really needs to change their name as ‘Care’ is certainly a word that they don’t know the meaning of.

      You could say that Anzac Day WASN’T on MAY 25th, and he would argue about that!

    • 0
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      Tell me what will change for Pensioners, will payments stop?
      Now compare that with low income WORKERS, some with families to support.
      Loss of total income… they are the ones the Gov’t needs to support.
      As for name change, you only need to change half of yours, you only need Older because you certainly aren’t Wiser. If you are you must have been really dumb before.

  3. 0
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    Testing is a joke. My daughter has had immediate contact and is symptomatic can’t get tested because she hasn’t traveled. Giving large companies like Qantas cash is only a cash grab. They will bounce back in no time.

    • 0
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      I wonder how much of Joyce’s 23 million dollars he earns will be helping his staff out yes pigs fly

    • 0
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      …. a very subdued and pale looking Alan Joyce on tonight’s news! Not his normal “cock sure and smiling” attitude!

    • 0
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      Panos you really need to keep your internal bias in check. Mr Joyce announced a few weeks ago that he will not be drawing a salary for a minimum three months plus all bonuses were cancelled and other directors took pay cuts. All this to help save jobs. At the very least they deserve credit for that.

      Given that planes are likely to be grounded for at least six months, just what do you expect will happen to the workforce?

    • 0
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      Maybe when he was announcing the massive job losses at Qantas he could have stated how many jobs he had saved due to the largesse from his executive staff?

      Oh by the way you peasants, I have a job for you all packing shelves at woolies, HOWZAT !!!!!!

  4. 0
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    Reserve Bank cash rate now .25% deeming rate should be suspended or scrapped

    • 0
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      It’s Based on what your other sources of income are such as super and shares. A rort at best disguised theft at worst.
      I agree though, scrap it and people just pay tax on their income above the basic pension.

    • 0
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      Hmmm shares are doing well at the moment are they not…..

      Someone with a lot of money is going to make a MOTZA when it is all over and it bounces back up to 7000…

    • 0
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      Panos they certainly are going to make billions, happens every time after a world crisis, whoever has the money will spend up like a shopping spree sale and will do extremely well. Part of Bill Gate’s event 201 plan.

  5. 0
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    Pensioners are getting income. Their income not gone down. To nil. Some people are getting no income. Lost their jobs etc.
    They should be helped now. A lot of people live from wage to wage. They will be starving soon. To stop unrest and more houses being robbed. Because of necessity. This needs to be addressed.

    • 0
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      At last a rational comment. But wait for the onslaught from the entitled lot.

    • 0
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      I agree Life Experience, it is a real worry about those who will not be able to work, some are getting paid leave but many are not. Charity organizations will be over worked. Watch the crime, domestic violence and suicide rate increase. We have to avoid civil unrest.

    • 0
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      The Care Bear why are you an entitled lot if you have worked, saved hard, ridden out the various financial crashes and still have a bit to fall back on due to that saving ethos?
      There are plenty of people who have The attitude ‘live for today and bugger tomorrow attitude’, am I supposed to be happy to continue to enable that at the expense of another?
      What’s happening is a deliberate action bought about by corporate greed and poor governance, save your derision for them and not those who are still backing this country.
      For Believe me it’s those savers money that will now carry the countries debt.
      The Reserve bank has been quietly buying up all bank debt over the last few months. Guess who now owes the countries debt…….the people of Australia. Guess who underpins it…..the saver.

    • 0
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      Yes I agree and it’s not always the low income earner who often doesn’t have high debts and lives frugally. Those earners used to spending a few thousand a fortnight are going to really feel this if they have no savings.

    • 0
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      Yes Mootnell. When the Us fell apart in 2009 it was cash dollars passing hand to hand that held the economy sort of together and prevented chaos.

      Let’s see how it pans out here with most running on credit and spending every dollar they get with little thought for rainy days.

    • 0
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      COULDN’T CARE BEAR displays a basic lack of neurones in comprehending facts and figures as well as having no empathy.
      Symptoms very similar to someone having dementia!

    • 0
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      MEZ, you really need to get a grip. My point is that the Low Income workers need the handout before pensioners. Nothing will change for pensioners, if they are struggling now, they will continue to struggle,but, pension payments will still be paid. Compare that to people in the GIG economy, low paid hospitality workers who are more likely to lose their jobs and therefore income. Some have families to support.
      We need to support our Workers first, they are our assets, they pay tax, before we increase support to our Welfare population because Nothing will change for them.
      If I’m wrong, tell me what will change.

    • 0
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      If they are low paid they don’t pay tax anyway. Get a refund…

      Welfare horrible word….. It’s people who need income support to live so they dont cause havoc for the rest of us who do pay taxes

      Glad I don’t have rental houses as investments in fact glad I dont have any investments

  6. 0
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    How convenient, paring down the senate/government just as it’s a bought to vote on the 10,000k transaction money bill. They snuck through the disgusting ‘bail in’ bill with a paltry 5 out of 7 senators passing it through (not even a legal quorum) we have over 70 sitting senators that should have been present. Make no mistake these two bills are very much linked and dependant on getting access to your savings. Dangerous virus my butt not as dangerous as our hypocritical government.

  7. 0
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    The one of payment of $750-00 will be released at the end of March and everyone should have theres at the latest by middle of April to the people who are to receive this payment….

    • 0
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      The one off payment does not go to people who have lost their jobs and have absolutely no income , some no savings. This is wrong. They should be helped. Pensioners have income. It’s small. But enough to struggle through. They are the lucky ones here.

    • 0
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      I was born in April but I feel I will never ever forget this April 2020 if I survive this virus

    • 0
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      So much for your “Life experience”! Obviously never had to pay private rental in your life out of your pension? Enough to struggle on? Yeah maybe if you own your own home and not sickly!

      Try being in Melb. – Sydney in the private rental market with simply the pension? No super – no savings – just the pension! 50/70% of your meagre monthly payment on rent alone?
      Ha – think you maybe need more “Life experience” before making outrageous statements like that! Maybe you didn’t “think” it thru’ – right?

      Pensioners the lucky ones? – not in the real world! FIFO and GIG workers will be some of the hardest hit – also casual hospitality workers! Not to mention small business and sole traders!

      The financial crisis looming is more frightening than the virus! – just my opinion ……………

    • 0
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      So what will CHANGE for you?

  8. 0
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    One group which has not been even mentioned, who also may need to receive some handouts or financial support, are the self funded retirees, (after working all their lives to set themselves up as to not be a burden on the government or have invested some inheritance wisely) who may also be unemployed or working part-time often due to no fault of their own/due to age discrimination, who may have one or two investment properties, but you really need 3 investment properties before you start to see some cash flow. So cash poor self funded retirees, too “old” for anyone to want to employ yet too young for the pension. I would like to see this demographic considered, acknowledged and remembered, as some tenants of those investments properties may lose their jobs (another issue/not good) and that would then put the senior group at financial risk

    • 0
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      Sell em at a loss and cash out if your worried about your investment houses and need dollars you have assets to sell, sell em to survive… Dont expect the govt to bail you out.. so you can keep em

    • 0
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      panos – could not agree more! I have a friend (aged around 74, single) who is a self funded retiree, lives in very exclusive area of Gold Coast, owns a minimum of 6 rental homes (not units). Huge boat moored on the pontoon, 3 cars in the garage, and all he complains about is how, as a self funded retiree, he gets no govt assistance! Oh – and complaining because his overseas trip has had to be cancelled.
      When I mention selling one of his houses, he almost has a fit! The latest really made my blood pressure go up a few octaves. He was annoyed that his personal assistant couldn’t go early to the supermarket to do the shopping, because she had no pension card to show!

    • 0
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      OMG, amazing no doubt true story of the entitled.

      There is them and then the rest of us and it will always be the same….

      I bet he is busy now after letting his personal assistant go, trying to find someone over 60 with a senior’s card that can get his toilet paper for him and wipe his A*** for him.

  9. 0
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    Time for the government to lead by example, cut their salaries by 50% which is not to be refunded at the end of the troubles. Bring in asset assessment for ex politicians forever.

  10. 0
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    Oh yes I forgot to add, I see the Banks are at there best as well, stimulus package the reserve lowers rates again and the BANKS are very very quite. While oil hits an 18 year low the petrol companies are doing $1.60 a litre and diesel has not budged at all for many months…

    ACCC says motorists should shop around, toothless tigers….

    • 0
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      Bit of a worry. The companies are pulling rigs out right now to avoid further losses. With our fuel supplies in Singapore and borders closing it could get nasty very quickly. This country is run by inexperienced fools.

    • 0
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      Who do we have to blame if there are fuel shortages coming guess what the blinkered govt, we dont need a steady fuel storage in this country.

      Now we sow what the govt has reaped.

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