Explainer: why police will be crucial players in the battle against coronavirus



AAP/Dean Lewins

Terry Goldsworthy, Bond University and Robyn Lincoln, Bond University

As coronavirus continues to affect all aspects of life, law enforcement agencies are playing a more pivotal role in enforcing new health and social regulations while ensuring society continues to function in a civil manner.

So why is law enforcement important in our battle against COVID-19, and what role will it play?

Police help contain the virus

Several Australian police services have set up dedicated resources to assist in containing the virus. These include major incident rooms and operations and specific new taskforces.

Victoria has established a 500-strong contingent to compel the closure of all but essential services. As well as the shutdown measures, police and authorised officers will be enforcing mandatory self-isolation periods for anyone entering Victoria from overseas. Under Victoria’s state of emergency, breaking quarantine conditions carries fines of up to A$20,000 for individuals and nearly A$100,000 for businesses.

NSW police can impose on-the-spot fines to enforce social distancing.

In New South Wales, police have been required to limit large gatherings in public and restrict access to beaches, removing swimmers and surfers where necessary.

The state government this week granted police enhanced powers to enforce public health orders relating to COVID-19. This includes the power to arrest people breaching their quarantine. Police will be able to compel suspected COVID-19 cases to remain in isolation. The bill will:

allow a police officer to arrest a person who the officer reasonably suspects of contravening a public health order in relation to COVID-19 and returning the person to their usual place of residence or their place of detention.

NSW Police at Bondi Pavilion after state officials closed the beach.
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In conducting similar checks, Victoria Police discovered seven people were not self-isolating as required during spot checks this week.

Such enforcement activity brings with it a unique set of problems. Reports this week indicated up to 200 Victorian police staff are already in quarantine. Concerns were raised about a lack of protective equipment for officers. The powerful Police Association wants a state of disaster declared to free up police to act with greater efficiency and additional powers.




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In Queensland, police recruits have been fast-tracked through the academy to provide extra personnel. In addition, Operation Sierra Linnet was launched, a multi-agency taskforce that will ensure compliance with restrictions for all pubs, registered and licensed clubs, gyms, indoor sporting venues, casinos and night clubs.

From midnight Wednesday this week Queensland police have been harnessing their random roadside breath-testing skills to curtail non-approved border crossings.

What impact might coronavirus have on crime?

While police are being asked to extend their range of duties into our everyday activities, in other areas they are pulling back from traditional roles. For example, Queensland police have stopped static random breath test sites because of coronavirus fears.

It is probable police will respond to essential call-outs only, as has happened in some other countries. Even then response times might be longer than before.

We should not be concerned that fewer uniformed police will have an impact on public safety – it is common for police to exercise largely peacekeeping functions. This was highlighted in the Kansas City Patrol Experiment in the 1970s, which found formal police patrols did not impact on crime rates or community fear of crime.

As a consequence of the virus, we have seen criminal elements attempt to take advantage of emerging markets. In the UK, police arrested men who had allegedly stolen toilet paper and hand wash. In Sydney, two men threatened staff with a knife while trying to steal toilet paper.

The strain on our social cohesion is showing, with fights erupting between shoppers as they try to obtain items now in short supply.

In response, the prime minister this week announced his government was creating a new offence to target people hoarding essential goods in an effort to prevent price gouging and exports of products needed to reduce the spread of coronavirus. He said:

These measures will help prevent individuals purchasing goods including face masks, hand sanitiser and vital medicines and either reselling them at significant mark-ups or exporting them overseas in bulk, which prevents these goods from reaching people who need them in Australia.

It isn’t only New York that has two-hour wait queues for firearms and ammunitionconsumers are stocking up on ammunition here as well.

What does the future hold?

Trying to predict crime transformations due to coronavirus is difficult. It is likely there will be surges in some crime categories and reductions in others due to conditions created by the crisis.

“Break and enter” offences in private dwellings will probably decline under a widespread lockdown that keeps people in their homes. Alcohol-fuelled violence in public spaces is certain to drop significantly with the closures of pubs, clubs, casinos and restaurants. However, domestic violence incidents are predicted to rise over time, with interpersonal tensions in restricted living arrangements.




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Given the uncertainty and the ever-changing situation facing us all, policing needs to be agile and flexible in its response to the needs of society and the demands of governments.

Our law enforcement agencies will perform a critical role in combating the virus and ensuring public safety.The Conversation

Terry Goldsworthy, Associate Professor in Criminology, Bond University and Robyn Lincoln, Assistant Professor, Criminology, Bond University

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

Kids shouldn’t have to repeat a year of school because of coronavirus. There are much better options



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Julie Sonnemann, Grattan Institute

Australian schools and teachers are preparing to shift classes online – some independent schools already have. Remote learning is likely to be the norm in the second term and possibly longer.

Even if done well, there are still likely to be learning losses.

Rigorous US studies of online charter schools show students learn less than similar peers in traditional face-to-face schools.

This makes sense, because learning is a social activity. The evidence shows positive effects are stronger where technology is a supplement for teaching, rather than a significant replacement – the situation we face now.

Our disadvantaged students will be hardest hit. Children from poorer households do worse at online learning for a host of reasons; they have less internet access, fewer technological devices, poorer home learning environments and less help from their parents when they get stuck.

Students who are struggling academically are at risk too. Asking students to independently work through large parts of the curriculum online can create extra stresses as it requires them to regulate their own learning pace. Many struggle with this, especially students who are already behind.




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To be clear, this is not an argument against online learning. Digital learning offers much potential for schools and students. Several online programs, including digital games, simulations, and computer-aided tutoring show positive results when used to support to learning.

But the success of online initiatives relies on preparation and good implementation. A rapid-fire response to shift teaching online to large populations during a pandemic is unlikely to produce above-average results.

So what should the government do post-COVID-19 when school re-opens to help students bounce back?

Catch-up programs

Many students are likely to be behind, and some will be very far behind. If schools are closed for all of term two, and possibly term three, many students will have a lot to catch up on to move up a grade in 2021. What lies ahead is a difficult and unprecedented situation for our educators.

Governments and schools have several options. Getting struggling students to repeat a year shouldn’t be one of them, unless school closures go much longer than expected. Evidence shows repeating a year is one of the few educational interventions that harms a student academically. Those who repeat a year can become unmotivated, have less self-esteem, miss school and complete homework less often.

A better option is for educators to conduct intensive tuition for small groups, before or after the normal school day. These sessions could be targeted at the most disadvantaged and struggling students in groups of two to five students.

Evidence generally shows the smaller the tuition group, the bigger the effects. One-on-one tutoring has the largest effects in most cases, but given it is more expensive, small group tuition could be tried as a first step.




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Another option is intensive face-to-face academic programs delivered over a few weeks. These could be similar to what Americans call “summer school” programs, but with a stronger academic focus and targeted at struggling students.

In Australia, these could be run in the week prior to schools re-opening, or over the term three or term four holidays. US evidence shows students who attend summer school programs can gain two months of extra learning progress compared to similar students who do not.

The impacts of summer programs are larger when academically focused and delivered intensively with small group tuition by experienced teachers.

Of course, teachers can also do more during regular face-to-face school lessons to help kids catch up, and the current crises may create extra focus on what teaching practices and programs work best. But given the likely size of the challenge, additional catch-up measures will still be needed.

The costs would flow back into economy

The costs of these sorts of catch-up programs are significant, but affordable. For example, we calculate providing small-group tuition for half of the students across Australia would cost about A$900 million. This is based on groups of three students receiving 30 minutes of tuition, five times a week, for two full terms, at a cost of $460 per student.

Conducting a three-week intensive summer school for say 800,000 disadvantaged students across Australia would cost about $800 million, assuming a cost of $1,000 per student based on US and UK experiences.

These are not big sums in the scheme of the economic stimulus and rescue package spending for COVID-19. If new catch-up programs cost, let’s say, between $2-4 billion, that is only 3-6% of the federal government’s stimulus measures announced to date.




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And the money for summer schools and small group tuition would flow to extra salaries for teachers, providing financial stimulus at a time when the economy really needs it.

No doubt schools and teachers will do their best to continue student learning while schools are closed. And through this process we will also learn a lot about how to do online learning for large populations, and improve along the way.

But despite best efforts, we should prepare for learning losses and plan for catch-up programs.The Conversation

Julie Sonnemann, Fellow, Grattan Institute

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

Coronavirus: it’s tempting to drink your worries away but there are healthier ways to manage stress and keep your drinking in check



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Nicole Lee, Curtin University; Genevieve Dingle, The University of Queensland, and Sonja Pohlman, University of Newcastle

Bottle shops remain on the list of essential services allowed to stay open and Australians are stocking up on alcohol.

In these difficult times, it’s not surprising some people are looking to alcohol for a little stress reduction. But there are healthier ways of coping with the challenges we currently face.

Why do we drink more in a crisis?

People who feel stressed tend to drink more than people who are less stressed. In fact, we often see increases in people’s alcohol consumption after catastrophes and natural disasters.

Although alcohol initially helps us relax, after drinking, you can feel even more anxious. Alcohol releases chemicals in the brain that block anxiety. But our brain likes to be in balance. So after drinking, it reduces the amount of these chemicals to try to get back into pre-drinking balance, increasing feelings of anxiety.

People may also be drinking more alcohol to relieve the boredom that may come with staying at home without much to do.

What happens when we drink more?

Alcohol affects your ability to fight disease

Alcohol impacts the immune system, increasing the risk of illness and infections.

Although the coronavirus is too new for us to know its exact interaction with alcohol, we know from other virus outbreaks drinking affects how your immune system works, making us more susceptible to virus infection.

So, if you have the coronavirus, or are at risk of contracting it, you should limit your alcohol intake to give your immune system the best chance of fighting it off. The same applies if you have influenza or the common cold this winter.

Alcohol affects your mood

Drinking can affect your mood, making you prone to symptoms of depression and anxiety.

This is because alcohol has a depressant effect on your central nervous system. But when you stop drinking and the level of alcohol in your blood returns to zero, your nervous system becomes overactive. That can leave you feeling agitated.




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Alcohol affects your sleep

Alcohol can disrupt sleep. You may fall asleep more quickly from the sedating effects of alcohol, but as your body processes alcohol, the sedative effects wear off.

You might wake up through the night and find it hard to fall back to sleep (not to mention the potential for snoring or extra nocturnal bathroom trips).

The next day, you can be left feeling increasingly anxious, which can kickstart the process all over again.




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Alcohol affects your thoughts and feelings

Alcohol reduces our capacity to monitor and regulate our thoughts and feelings.

Once we start drinking, it’s hard to know when we’re relaxed enough. After one or two drinks, it’s easy to think “another won’t hurt”, “I deserve it”, or “I’ve had a huge day managing the kids and working from home, so why not?”.

It’s easy to think, ‘another won’t hurt’ when we’ve already had a drink or two.
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But by increasing alcohol consumption over time, eventually it takes more alcohol to get to the same point of relaxation. Developing this kind of tolerance to alcohol can lead to dependence.

Alcohol ties up the health system

Alcohol related problems also take up a lot of health resources, including ambulances and emergency departments. People have more accidents when they are drinking. And drinking can increase the risk of domestic and family violence.

So an increase in drinking risks unnecessarily tying up emergency services and hospitals, which are needed to respond to the coronavirus.




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How to manage your alcohol consumption

Don’t stock up on alcohol. The more you have in the house, the more likely you are to drink. Increased access to alcohol also increases the risk of young people drinking.

Monitor your drinking. If you are getting on board with the new virtual happy hour trend, the same rules apply if you were at your favourite bar.




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Try to stay within the draft Australian guidelines of no more than four standard drinks in any one day and no more than ten a week.

Monitor your thinking. It’s easy to think “What does it matter if I have an extra one or two?”. Any changes to your drinking habits now can become a pattern in the future.

How to manage stress without alcohol

If you are feeling anxious, stressed, down or bored, you’re not alone. But there are other healthier ways to manage those feelings.

If you catch yourself worrying, try to remind yourself this is a temporary situation. Do some mindfulness meditation or slow your breathing, distract yourself with something enjoyable, or practise gratitude.




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Get as much exercise as you can. Exercise releases brain chemicals that make you feel good. Even if you can’t get into your normal exercise routine, go outside for a walk or run. Walk to your local shops to pick up supplies instead of driving.

Maintain a good diet. We know good nutrition is important to maintain good mental health.

Try to get as much sleep as you can. Worry can disrupt sleep and lack of sleep can worsen mental health.

Build in pleasant activities to your day. Even if you can’t do the usual activities that bring a smile to your face, think about some new things you might enjoy and make sure you do one of those things every day.




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Remember, change doesn’t have to be negative. Novelty activates the dopamine system, our pleasure centre, so it’s a great time to try something new.

So enjoy a drink or two, but try not to go overboard and monitor your stress levels to give you the best chance to stay healthy.


If you are trying to manage your drinking, Hello Sunday Morning offers a free online community of more than 100,000 like-minded people. You can connect and chat with others actively managing their alcohol consumption.

If you’d like to talk to someone about your drinking call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015. It’s a free call from anywhere in Australia. Or talk to your GP.The Conversation

Nicole Lee, Professor at the National Drug Research Institute (Melbourne), Curtin University; Genevieve Dingle, Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology, The University of Queensland, and Sonja Pohlman, Clinical Psychologist and Lecturer, University of Newcastle

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

What is orthohantavirus? The virus many are Googling (but you really don’t need to worry about)



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Allen Cheng, Monash University

According to Google Trends, the top globally trending topic this week is “orthohantavirus”, as spurious sites claim it’s the next pandemic on the horizon.

Take it from me: it’s not.

This baseless claim circulating online underscores the need to get health information from reputable sources – and that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on social media.

What is orthohantavirus?

“Orthohantavirus” – commonly known as hantavirus – is a very, very rare virus. There have never been confirmed human cases in Australia. The last two reported confirmed cases worldwide were in January in Bolivia and Argentina.

It is in a class of diseases called zoonoses, meaning it is a virus transmitted from animals to human. In this case, the animal in question is rodents (usually rats). Hantaviruses can cause severe disease, including bleeding and kidney failure.




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How does hantavirus spread?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hantavirus is spread from several species of rodents in their urine, droppings, and saliva. It is thought that transmission occurs when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus.

CDC also reports:

  • if a rodent with the virus bites someone, the virus may be spread to that person, but this type of transmission is rare;
  • scientists believe that people may be able to get the virus if they touch something that has been contaminated with rodent urine, droppings, or saliva, and then touch their nose or mouth;
  • scientists also suspect people can become sick if they eat food contaminated by urine, droppings, or saliva from an infected rodent.
Don’t believe everything you read on social media.
Shutterstock

How worried should I be about hantavirus?

Not very. In general, infectious disease specialists do worry about zoonoses – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and Ebola are both important recent examples of animal-associated diseases that have crossed the species barrier.

Hantavirus, however, is not thought to be a big threat at the moment.

There’s certainly no chatter among infectious disease physicians about hantavirus right now. I’m not seeing anything concerning about it on any of my researcher networks and mailing lists that warn about virus outbreaks.

There was a recent report of a single case in China but there’s no indication of any sort of spread.

I think, for now, let’s concentrate on the pandemic we have – which is coronavirus and also the annual influenza season – rather than worry about uncommon viruses.

However, this coronavirus outbreak and everything that’s come before reinforces that we need early warning systems to work out what’s out there that could be threatening.

Yes, it is true that animals carry a lot of viruses but very few come across to humans.

Hantavirus is certainly not one we are particularly concerned about right now.




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The Conversation


Allen Cheng, Professor in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, Monash University

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

Coronavirus Update: International


General

China

India

Japan

Philippines

Pacific Region

USA

United Kingdom

Federal government gets private hospital resources for COVID-19 fight in exchange for funding support


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Private hospitals will be on the frontline in the coronavirus battle, under an arrangement with the federal government that makes available the sector’s more than 30,000 beds and 105,000 workforce, including more than 57,000 nursing staff.

The government will offer agreements to Australia’s 657 private and not-for-profit hospitals “to ensure their viability, in return for maintenance and capacity” during the COVID-19 crisis.

The agreement makes available more resources to meet the virus crisis, preserves the private hospital workforce, and is designed to allow a speedy resumption of non-urgent elective surgery and other normal activity when the crisis has passed.

The states will complete “private hospital COVID-19 partnership agreements”, with the Commonwealth paying half the cost.

“In an unprecedented move, private hospitals, including both overnight and day hospitals, will integrate with state and territory health systems in the COVID-19 response,” the government said in a Tuesday statement.

These hospitals “will be required to make infrastructure, essential equipment (including ventilators), supplies (including personal protective equipment), workforce and additional resources fully available to the state and territory hospital system or the Australian government”.

Private hospitals will support the COVID-19 response through:

  • Hospital services for public patients – both positive and negative for COVID 19

  • Category 1 (urgent) elective surgery

  • Use of wards and theatres to expand ICU capacity

  • Accommodation for quarantine and isolation cases where necessary, and safety procedures and training are in place, including:

    • Cruise and flight COVID-19 passengers
    • Quarantine of vulnerable members of the community
    • Isolation of infected vulnerable COVID-19 patients.

The cost of the move is estimated at $1.3 billion.

Last week the government announced a ban on non-urgent elective surgery. While this freed up beds and staff, it would also strip the hospitals of core income and threaten the collapse of some hospitals without government action.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the agreement dramatically expanded the capacity of the Australian hospitals system to deal with COVID-19, at the same time as the curve of new cases showed early signs of being flattened.

The private hospitals “are available as an extension now of the public hospital system in Australia. So, whilst we’re not taking ownership, we have struck a partnership, where in return for the state agreements and the commonwealth guarantee, they will be fully integrated within the public hospital system”.

Hunt said the $1.3 billion estimated cost was not capped. “If more is required, more will be provided. If it turns out that it’s not that expensive, then those funds will be available for other activities. That takes our total additional investment to over $5.4 billion within the health sector.”

In a letter to private hospital providers, Hunt stressed: “A fundamental principle of this agreement is that it contributes towards to your ongoing viability, not profits or loan/debt repayments”.

Commonwealth deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth said intense efforts were being made to ramp up rapidly the number of ventilators.

He said there were some 2,200 ventilated intensive care beds in Australia. Currently just over 20 were being used for COVID-19 patients.

With immediate expansion, including repurposing and use of the private sector, this could be increased to 4,400.

“Our target capacity for ventilated intensive care beds in Australia currently stands at 7,500.

“We are working around the clock to procure ventilators,” he said. “Locally, we will have 500 intensive care ventilators fabricated by ResMed, backed up by 5,000 non-invasive ventilators, with full delivery expected by the end of April.”

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association welcomed the “ground-breaking agreement” with private hospitals for ensuring both the best use of resources and the stability of the health system for the future.

The Australian tally of cases as of Tuesday afternoon was 4557, with 19 deaths; 244,000 tests had been completed.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.

JobKeeper payment: how will it work, who will miss out and how to get it?



@shotsoflouis/Upplash, CC BY-NC

Rebecca Cassells, Curtin University and Alan Duncan, Curtin University

The A$130 billion $1,500-per-fortnight JobKeeper payment will benefit six million Australians for six months, with payments expected from May 1.

Eligible businesses include not-for-profits and businesses with turnovers of less than $1 billion per year whose turnover is down 30%. Businesses with turnovers of more than $1 billion per year need to have lost 50% of turnover.

Eligible workers include full-time and part-time employees and sole traders as well as permanent visa holders and several other visa categories.

Workers don’t apply on their own behalf. They go to their employers, who will apply to the Tax Office.




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But casual workers are eligible only if they have been with their employer for 12 months or more.

Our calculations suggest about 950,000 casual workers will be ineligible, because they have been with their most recent employer for less than 12 months, something common among casual workers.

Most are employed in the accommodation and food services, retail trade, and health care and social assistance industries. More than half are women.


Casual workers employed less than 12 months with current employer


Bankwest Curtin Econimcs Centre | Calculations from ABS Characteristics of Employment

Eligible employers will receive $1,500 per fortnight (before tax) for each eligible employee regardless of whether that employee is paid more or less than this and regardless of whether the employee is full or part-time.

Workers that are paid less than $1,500 per fortnight will receive the full $1,500 per fortnight regardless of their pay.

Most part-time workers will take home more under the $750 Job Keeper payment than they were receiving in wages from their employer.


The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Is it good policy?

At a projected cost of $130 billion over the next half year, it is an extraordinary commitment from the government, and a huge statement of intent to support businesses and workers.

It will help many businesses stay afloat and help many workers stay attached to their employers as we move through the crisis.

But the model adopted raises a number of questions:

1. Is it fair to full and part-time workers?

It will give a part-time worker on 15 hours per week about the same weekly wage as a full-time worker on a 35 hour week.

Employers might try to re-organise hours of work to make it fairer, but some workers might want fewer hours and others more. Regardless, many will end up with the same pay.

A capped wage subsidy model would deliver support more efficiently, but may be harder to administer and police. Every worker and every employer knows that they will get $1,500 per fortnight. Anything outside this amount will raise alarm bells.

2. How will it interact with other payments?

Many part time workers who are combining work with caring for others and/or studying also receive family payments and other means-tested government payments.

For many, the $1,500 per fortnight will cut their other payments while at the same time increasing the demands their employers for hours, where those employers are able to continue to operate.

3. What about multiple job holders?

There are currently more than one million workers in Australia who hold more than a single job. The rules state they are eligible for the JobKeeper payment in respect of only one of those jobs.

They will have to choose which job to keep their attachment to. The employers who miss out will miss out on the wage support.

4. Will it actually keep people in work?

A key aim of the JobKeeper payment is to keep people in jobs. It will certainly offer an incentive for workers to stay attached to their employer and in work, whatever form it takes.

But, some might judge their overall welfare to be better served if they receive a combination of the enhanced JobSeeker payment (formerly Newstart) and other benefits and might not seek JobKeeper.

5. Will it keep businesses afloat?

The benefit for eligible employers is that their wages will largely be covered. But this might not be enough to keep them operating if their other costs become too large. This will especially be the case for firms for which Labour is a small share of costs.

This is where other elements of the government’s support package will come into play to keep businesses afloat including those announced on March 12.

6. Will businesses change in order to become eligible?

Behavioural responses are inevitable. JobKeeper creates incentives for firms to force down turnover to get access to the payments

And it might induce firms to pay their workers the flat $1,500 per fortnight even if they can afford to pay and would ordinarily pay more – not the best outcome.




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The Conversation


Rebecca Cassells, Associate Professor, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, Curtin University and Alan Duncan, Director, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, and Bankwest Research Chair in Economic Policy, Curtin University

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

What actually are ‘essential services’ and who decides?


Gary Mortimer, Queensland University of Technology

The Morrison government keeps using the word “essential” to describe employees, public gatherings, services and businesses that are still allowed and not restricted as it tries to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

But what is essential, and who gets to decide?

By its very definition, essential means “something necessary, indispensable, or unavoidable”.




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When it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are no recent precedents for governments. There is no pre-determined list in place on what is an essential service. Instead, “essential” appears a moving beast that is constantly evolving and that can be confusing.

Confused messages

On March 22 the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews called for “a shutdown of all non-essential activity” within 48 hours. Supermarkets, banks and pharmacies were some of the things he said were essential but he did not provide an exhaustive list of what was considered an essential service.

Naturally confusion reigned. For example, in the rural Victorian town of Ballan, some stores closed while others remained open.

We’ve now seen a number of retailers decide to voluntarily shutter stores for the safety of their workers and the public, considering their businesses “non-essential”.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a meeting of the national cabinet had agreed to a raft of new restrictions, such as limiting “shopping for what you need, food and other essential supplies”.

But he also described his wife’s recent purchase of a number of jigsaw puzzles for the family as “absolutely essential”. While toy and hobby retailers may find comfort in this statement, in reality such businesses may not be considered “essential”.

Guns and pastries, essential?

There are differences too overseas in what people consider essential as part of any COVID-19 restrictions.

Is the United States, it’s recommended employees of gun stores and gun manufacturers should be seen as “essential” workers, according to a memo from the Department of Homeland Security.

While in Europe, “necessities” are said to include Belgian Fries, French Baguettes and Dutch Cannabis. In France, it’s also shops specialising in pastries, wine and cheese reportedly declared essential businesses.

In Ireland, reports say the government there has issued a detailed list of what it considers “essential workers”. As for essential retailers, they include pharmacies, fuel stations and pet stores, but not opticians, motor repair and bicycle repair outlets.

The essential essentials

Here in Australia there is broad agreement supermarkets, service stations, allied health (pharmacy, chiropractic, physiotherapy, psychology, dental) and banks are essential business and services.

Similarly freight, logistics and home delivery are also considered essential. Australia Post says posties and delivery drivers continue but some posts offices are temporarily closed.

Some bottle shops can stay open but many are now imposing restrictions on how much people can buy.

The government has moved to progressively add more business, services and activities to its “non-essential services” list.

This includes cafés, food courts, pubs, licensed clubs (sports clubs), bars, beauty and personal care services, entertainment venues, leisure and recreation (gyms, theme parks), galleries, museums and libraries.

Some of these entities do have exceptions. A café can remain open for take-away only. A hairdresser or barber can trade if they comply with the one person per four square-metre rule.

Others remain convoluted, such as outdoor and indoor markets (farmers markets), which are a decision for each state and territory.

In and out of work

In reality, no worker should ever be considered, or consider themselves, as “non-essential”.

But due to how the restrictions have been broadly applied, some workers in one industry may now find themselves out of a job, while others in that same industry remain fully employed.




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Take for example chefs. Due to bans on restaurants and licensed clubs, chefs there are being stood down, but chefs inside hotels can continue to cook and provide room service meals.

A barista in a café can still be gainfully employed, as long as they only make take-away coffee, but a barista inside a licensed sports club, is unfortunately stood down.

Further restrictions and essentials

While we have seen many businesses reduce their operations and several retailers voluntarily close their doors, many are standing by waiting for further announcements to potentially close all “non-essential” services.

What should the government consider before deciding what is and isn’t regarded as essential?




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Some decisions are easy: we need health workers, police, fire fighters and other emergency services workers, and we need those who maintain services to the public such as food supply, clean water, sewerage and so on.

But we also need those services required to keep these people functioning. The military describe this as tooth to tail ratio: the number of people required to keep any soldier on the battlefield (estimated up to three for every soldier).

In the civilian context this includes those responsible for the supply of consumables, personal protection equipment, transport, power, fuel, computer systems, and someone to look after their families while they do the heavy lifting.The Conversation

Gary Mortimer, Professor of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Queensland University of Technology

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

Australia’s $130 billion JobKeeper payment: what the experts think



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Steven Hamilton, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University; Anthony Forsyth, RMIT University, and David Peetz, Griffith University

The A$130 billion payment will be benefit six million of Australia’s 13 million employees through their employers.

It will ensure each employee kept on in a business that has lost custom gets at least $1,500 per fortnight for six months. But the devil is in the detail.

We asked three experts to pick the package apart.

Steven Hamilton

Visiting Scholar, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This is a welcome move by the government that will keep many businesses afloat and connected to their employees, which are critical to a speedy recovery. It is commendable that the government reversed course so quickly given rapidly deteriorating economic conditions.

You can’t shut down the economy for months without providing massive support to businesses and workers. At A$130 billion, this package alone is worth 12% of the economy over the next six months. Along with the measures already announced, it takes our fiscal support to a similar scale as recently legislated in the United States.

Targeting only businesses experiencing a revenue loss limits profiteering. Those currently doing well won’t get unneeded support. It applies to all full-time, part-time, and long-term casual employees, as well as the self-employed, and it forces all participating firms to pay workers at least the $1,500 per fortnight subsidy.




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It could have several unintended consequences. It might encourage firms to limit sales to push revenue down below the turnover threshold.

For example, for Qantas the subsidy would be almost $600 million, but to receive it, its revenue will need to fall to 50% below where it was this time last year. That might discourage it from reopening routes, which would slow the recovery.

The scheme will also make it harder for businesses desperately in need of staff (such as supermarkets) to hire new workers from currently struggling businesses.

To do so, they would need to entice workers to move from what might be suddenly better-paid jobs (everyone benefiting from the scheme must receive at least $1,500 per fortngiht) to less well paid ones.




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And the choice to subsidise the largest businesses in Australia is questionable.

The major banks are excluded, but every other large company with at least a 50% reduction in revenue is included. Specific, targeted measures for the worst-affected industries might have been a better approach.

David Peetz

Professor of Employment Relations, Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, Griffith University

Dangers often associated with wage subsidy schemes — like wasting money on jobs that would have been created anyway, or substituting one type of worker for another — aren’t much of a concern when a wage subsidy is introduced in an environment in which revenue and employment is diving.

Making the scheme temporary, and restricting it to firms facing a 30% drop in revenue (50% for big businesses) greatly reduces this danger.

That said, the scheme will mainly target workers at or near the minimum wage. That’s because the payment is set close to the minimum wage.

In effect, firms can rehire or keep on minimum-wage workers for free.

For workers on average full-time adult earnings, which are about twice the minimum wage, the subsidy is nowhere near as big. Many are still likely to lose their jobs, as we have already seen.


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And the scheme introduces strange incentives. The same payment is received for a part-time worker as for a full-time worker on any wage. (The weekend leak that part-timers would be excluded seems to have been a furphy.)

Many part-timers’ wages will be less than the subsidy. But the employer still has to pay them the $750 per week. The payroll is simpler the fewer employees are on it, so the employer might give one part-timer the bulk of the hours and retrench the others.




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New OECD estimates suggest a 22% hit to Australia’s economy


Many part-timers are casuals, though, and they aren’t covered unless they are “long term” casuals (seemingly a contradiction in terms).

This means many casuals can expect to be sacked in favour of workers who can be put into “free” $750 per week jobs.

Meanwhile, the superannuation guarantee no longer applies to wages covered by the jobseeker payment, including wages the employer would have paid anyway. That’s something that could lead to all sorts of legal complexities in the future.

Anthony Forsyth

Professor of Workplace Law, RMIT University

My comments focus on the government’s claim that its JobKeeper payment is more generous and broader than the UK’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Australia’s scheme is definitely broader, with the aim of providing support to up to six million Australians over coming months.

Eligibility will depend on a business suffering at least 30% reduced turnover or 50% for businesses with more than $1 billion turnover.

It enables employees to receive income support payments where they have been stood down, or already made redundant where the business wants to rehire the employee with Jobkeeper payment support. In the UK, only “furloughed” employees (stood down) are eligible for payments.




Read more:
Coronavirus: how UK job retention plan borrows from collectivist Europe


But the UK scheme provides payments to those on “zero hours contracts” (akin to casuals). Where hours have varied, payments are based on last year’s average.

However in Australia, casuals can only claim Jobkeeper payment where they have been employed for at least 12 months. Many casual workers will be ineligible given the high turnover in hard-hit sectors such as accommodation, cafés and food services.

Casual teaching contracts in universities are often for less than a year.

As for generosity, Australia’s Jobkeeper payment of around A$3,000 per month is far lower than the UK’s, which is £2,500 per month, worth more than A$5,000.

Australia’s payment is 70% of the median wage. The government’s claim that employees in retail and hospitality will get the median wage in those industries simply reinforces their low-paid status to begin with.

The government specifically mentioned that New Zealanders working in Australia would be able to access the JobKeeper payment along with some other categories of visa holders.




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But the Victorian Trades Hall’s Migrant Workers Centre believes this will leave 1.1 million temporary migrant workers outside the scheme and needing assistance.

Another gap is the hundreds of thousands of workers in the gig economy.

We are relying more than ever on food delivery riders and drivers. Many are incorrectly categorised as self-employed contractors. JobKeeper will cover self-employed individuals but they must be able to show at least 30% decline in their turnover.

Most gig workers will not have the business systems set up to demonstrate this, as they are in reality employees who have had supposed “contractor” status imposed on them by the platforms they provide services for.The Conversation

Steven Hamilton, Visiting Scholar, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University; Anthony Forsyth, Professor of Workplace Law, RMIT University, and David Peetz, Professor of Employment Relations, Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, Griffith University

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