10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Good morning, folks.

1. The government has announced its wage subsidy program, which is designed to arrest the massive job losses we've seen already in the coronavirus pandemic. The 'JobKeeper' payment works out to be $1,500 per employee per fortnight, will apply to full-time, part-time and some casual workers, as well as sole traders. Essentially, the payment will incentivise businesses, which have taken a severe hit to turnover due to restrictions on trade and movement – as well as plummeting consumer demand – to keep employees on the books until the economy normalises. The whole scheme costs $130 billion, bringing the coronavirus stimulus and repair to $320 billion, or about 16% of Australia's GDP.

2. Also announced by Scott Morrison was a much-needed change to the eligibility threshold for the JobSeeker payment. Previously, the unemployed were not eligible for the payment (which has been effectively doubled with a 'Coronavirus Supplement') if their partner earned more than $48,000. This has been bumped up to nearly $80,000.

3. States and territories are beginning to enforce the latest federal government restrictions, which advise people to stay at home except for essential movement. For example, New South Wales gazetted an emergency ministerial directive late last night which says anyone leaving home without a "reasonable excuse" could spend up to six months in prison and face an $11,000 fine. Fairly harsh! One wonders how rigidly that will be enforced.

4. This may come as little surprise, but auction sales have plummeted to "near record lows" in Australia. The weekend just past was supposed to be the biggest auction weekend of the year, but its expected the clearance rate will end up somewhere in the 30s. With hundreds of sellers forced to withdraw thanks to the ban on in-person auctions, and landlords subject to a six-month moratorium on residential evictions, Domain senior analyst Nicola Powell said the market is now firmly favouring buyers and renters.

5. The Australian stock surge is set to continue, though it would be madness to assume anything longer term at the moment. ASX futures were up 66 points or 1.3% to 5257 near 7am AEDT, following a 7% surge on Monday. It follows some hopeful rises across the world – with shares closing higher across Europe and in the US.

6. The hotel sector says the use of properties as quarantine facilities could 'save' the industry, which has taken a huge coronavirus hit. Occupancy rates have slumped below 10% amid the pandemic. However, many in the industry also fear that any recovery will not come quickly, and that the double hit of bushfires and coronavirus could leave hotels struggling for years to come.

7. The cinema industry in Australia is obviously facing some unique challenges due to the coronavirus restrictions. Our independent chains, like Dendy and Palace, are particularly exposed, Independent Cinemas Australia (ICA) president Scott Seddon told us. "We can’t just leave [projectors] unattended for months on end," he said. "If we leave it off, without regularly restarting it, then there are some components that just won’t restart." Seddon also said the turn towards streaming wouldn't help cinemas either. “Once the film is streamed, it’s dead," he said.

8. There are early signs harsh lockdowns and travel bans are having some positive effect on stopping the spread of the coronavirus around the world. The numbers of new cases reported in Spain, Italy, the UK, and the US have recently declined, evident in data from Sunday. But there is still a long way to go. Death totals, which lag behind newly reported cases, will likely continue to increase even if a corner has been turned.

9. Trump, on the other hand, seems to have radically changed his assessment of the virus. The president previously said he hoped to be able to ease social distancing as early as March 30, later revised to Easter, which falls around mid-April. Now he has extended the country's federal social distancing recommendations to April 30, and says he expects 100,000 deaths – any less than that would be a "very good job", in his estimation.

US healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson announced Monday that it identified a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate that could begin human trials in September. Following the announcement, the company's shares surged as much as 9% during regular trading. It's just one of number of treatments and vaccines currently being worked on in a race against the clock.

BONUS ITEM

Billionaire David Geffen deleted an Instagram post in which he said he was self-isolating on his $590 million superyacht following backlash. For posterity, here it is:

https://twitter.com/nycsouthpaw/status/1243886478729633792?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1243886478729633792&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.businessinsider.com%2Fdavid-geffen-deletes-instagram-after-self-isolating-yacht-post-2020-3