The federal government will reportedly finalise a roughly $5 billion economic stimulus package amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The government is considering further reducing deeming rates for pensioners, providing all local councils with funding for small projects and expanding instant asset write-offs for businesses, The Sunday Telegraph reports.
Ministers are due to meet on Sunday to prepare the details of the package to boost the economy, with the cabinet expected to rubber stamp the measures on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday the federal government would split the health costs of the coronavirus 50/50 with states and territories, allocating $100 million upfront to boost the health response.
Sky News reported on Sunday that the stimulus package the government is preparing to deliver could be worth as much as $10 billion.
The disruption to major industries including tourism and Australia’s university sector is expected to cost the economy billions. With China shutting down, business supply chains have been heavily impacted, with economists warning that it could push Australia and other economies into recession with job losses expected.
On Wednesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that GDP grew by 0.5 per cent seasonally adjusted for the quarter and 2.2 per cent over the last year, showing the economy continues to underperform.
“Today’s figures confirm that GDP in Australia is still stuck in the slow lane. The last time the Australian economy grew above its long run trend was back in 2012 when Wayne Swan was still Treasurer,” said Dr Richard Denniss, Chief Economist at the Australia Institute.
“The Government’s agenda of cutting taxes over the last seven years has done nothing to boost wages, productivity growth or business investment. Business investment remains low and, with slow wages growth, price growth and consumer spending it is unlikely that any further tax cuts will reverse this trend.”
More than 70 coronavirus cases in Australia
Australia now has 73 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with three deaths, while 22 people have recovered, authorities said on Sunday.
It includes a new case in both Victoria and Tasmania, and eight new cases in NSW confirmed on Saturday.
A Sydney man was confirmed the latest Australian to die from the virus on Sunday after he contracted the illness from an aged care worker at BaptistCare's Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Macquarie Park.
An extra 260,000 masks will be immediately released from the federal stockpile to primary health networks, deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly announced.
“We realised that personal protective equipment for our healthcare workforce and our aged care workforce is absolutely fundamental. We need to make sure that they are kept safe,” Professor Kelly said on Saturday.
The latest Victorian case is a doctor who treated 70 patients at The Toorak Clinic in Melbourne during the week. The doctor and his patients, along with staff, are required to self-isolate.
Two patients he visited in Malvern's Mecwacare nursing home are also in isolation.
Media outlets have reported he is the father of singer-songwriter Missy Higgins.
The doctor, aged in his 70s, is believed to have contracted COVID-19 in the US. He showed symptoms while returning to Melbourne via San Francisco on February 29.
The NSW government on Saturday announced eight new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 36.
All of the new cases were close contacts or family members of previously confirmed cases, except for two men who contracted the virus after visiting Italy.
A Sydney school will reopen on Monday following a thorough clean after a male student tested positive.
Meanwhile, four more Australians have been caught up in yet another cruise ship emergency, this time off the coast of California.
Twenty-one passengers on board the ship have tested positive for the coronavirus.
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