Mr Morrison said more than 587,600 applications for JobSeeker payments have been processed. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)
Coronavirus growth figures are so low they would have been unimaginable just weeks ago.
This means Australian leaders are beginning to talk about the country working towards a so-called “COVID-safe economy”.
But, as cases appear to be under control, they warn we can’t get complacent because thousands of people are dying of the disease in counties with advanced healthcare systems like the UK, France and Germany.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg gave some updates on the economic response to the coronavirus outbreak. Catch up on their key points.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Australian Tax Office has allowed 456,000 people to have early access to their super funds. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)
Getting to a ‘safe’ economy
With just four cases recorded across the country on Thursday, Mr Morrison said Australia was “on the way back to a COVID-safe economy”.
An update is expected from the Chief Medical Officer tomorrow about the rate of transmission figures.
In the meantime, Mr Morrison said additional contact tracing measures and reliable supplies of testing kits and medical equipment will be protections against any future outbreaks.
“We are on the way back to a COVID-safe economy as well, which is what we have to achieve,” Mr Morrison said.
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Massive effort to process JobKeeper payments
JobSeeker, formerly known as Newstart, was recently boosted to help Australians who lost work because of coronavirus.
Mr Morrison said each day roughly 50,000 people are enrolling for JobKeeper payments and related programs.
And so far, 587,600 applications have been processed, which is more than is usually dealt with in a year.
The massive workload has seen roughly 3,000 government staff moved to the tax office to work on the applications, and 5,000 into Services Australia.
As applications continue to be processed, $3.8 billion in payments have so far been approved.
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Applicants can withdraw up to $10,000 from their super fund, but only under certain circumstances. (ABC)
Tapping into super funds
The Australian Tax Office has allowed 456,000 people to have early access to their super funds, which totals $3.8 billion, said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
He said the payments will start being made to applicants within five days and the average withdrawal is about $8,000.
Applicants can withdraw up to $10,000 from their super fund, but only under certain circumstances.
The payments are open to people who are unemployed, eligible to receive certain welfare payments, were made redundant, lost more than 20 per cent of working hours or had a business that was suspended or reduced.
“We’re now firmly in the implementation phase and providing that support to millions of Australians,” Mr Frydenberg said.
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A voluntary smartphone app will similar to one used by the Singaporean Government. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)
Contract tracing from a new mobile app
Mr Morrison was asked about when a contact tracing mobile application aimed at helping authorities track coronavirus would be introduced.
He didn’t say when it would be released but he said the Federal Government would not have access to any data from the app.
“Now, that app, the information, that is collected from that app, goes into a national data store that is fully encrypted and the Commonwealth government has no access whatsoever to the information into that data store,” Mr Morrison said.
“None. Zero. Zip. Nothing.”
He said the program was not a “silver bullet” but it would help health authorities track the spread of the virus.
“I want to be clear about, again, what this is. This is a tool, a public health tool,” Mr Morrison said.
The voluntary smartphone app will be modelled closely on a similar one used by the Singaporean Government.
There will be an opportunity to pursue an inquiry into the origin of the outbreak in May when the World Health Assembly meets. (Reuters: Stringer)
What we can learn from the origin of the pandemic
Mr Morrison said an independent inquiry into the origins of pandemic was needed and the Chinese Government should cooperate.
“We will need an independent inquiry, that looks at what has occurred here so we can learn the lessons,” Mr Morrison said.
“Any member of the World Health Organization, I think that should be something that should be understood and that’s part, I think, of your responsibility — or should be anyway — in participating in such an organisation.”
There will be an opportunity to pursue an inquiry into the outbreak in May when the World Health Assembly meets.
“Our purpose here is just pretty simple — we’d like the world to be safer when it comes to viruses,” he said.
“It seems like a pretty honest ambition that I’m sure most people in the world would agree with.
“I would hope that any other nation … be it China or anyone else, would share that objective.”
He said a decision on the NRL going ahead on May 28 is up to the NSW and Queensland governments.
National Rugby League in the hands of Queensland and NSW
Mr Morrison was asked about the NRL’s return touted for May 28.
It came after the Chief Medical Officer suggested community sport would be among the first restrictions to be eased in coming weeks.
“The NRL is not community sport, the NRL is a fairly large commercial activity,” Mr Morrison said.
“In terms of the NRL, it’s principally a matter for the New South Wales Government, because they are, as I understand the proposal, that’s where the matches are being played.”
What we can expect tomorrow
The Prime Minister and the Chief Medical Officer are expected to provide an update on rate of transmission figures.
They will give an insight on when coronavirus restrictions might be eased.
“Modelling work, which is being updated on a weekly basis, will give you a further indication of how we are travelling this first week down into that 4-week process that National Cabinet flagged as being the period of time in which we will be assessing our performance and looking at how we can start to ease restrictions in that 4-week period,” Mr Morrison said.
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