30 March 2020

Renters protected, public gatherings limited to two under tough new COVID-19 restrictions

| David Murtagh
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Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison at this evening’s COVID-19 press conference. Image: Screenshot.

UPDATED March 29, 10 pm: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a suite of new measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a moratorium on rental evictions for the next six months and tighter restrictions on public gatherings.

Speaking at his second COVID-19 press conference for the day, Mr Morrison said public gatherings would be restricted to two people, which would be enforced by the states and territories. The ban will cover playgrounds, outdoor gyms (‘group’ activities will be limited to only the trainer and the client) and skateparks, all of which will be closed from tomorrow.

Mr Morrison said the strong advice was that all people should stay home unless they were:

  • Shopping for essentials
  • Using medical services
  • Exercising as per the two-person limit, or
  • Working or undertaking education which could not be done remotely.

“When you are going out for shopping, you should be going for just stuff you need and do it and get home. It is not a time for browsing. It is not a time for catching up with friends or bumping into people and having a long conversation.”

He reiterated the “strong advice” of the National Cabinet that people aged over 70 stay at home “for their own protection to the maximum extent possible”, as should people over 60 years of age who have existing health conditions or comorbidities, and Indigenous Australians over the age of 50 who have existing health conditions or comorbidities.

“Should they need support then I’m sure they can get support through their community or others,” he said.

“I’m sure they could even ring their local MP and I’m sure their local MP would want to help them in any way they could at either a state or federal level because I have seen that already happening through many of our electorate offices.”

To alleviate the fears of Australians becoming homeless due to coronavirus, the National Cabinet has enacted a moratorium on evictions related to financial stress.

He conceded that there was more work to be done on the proposal but he hoped commonsense would prevail under the current circumstances.

“My message to tenants, particularly commercial tenants, and commercial landlords, is a very straightforward one: we need you to sit down, talk to each other and work this out.

“It’s about looking at the businesses which have been closed, businesses that may have had a significant reduction in their revenues, and we need landlords and tenants to sit down and come up with arrangements that enable them to get through this crisis.”

Following decisions made at National Cabinet this evening, the ACT will also implement tougher restrictions. “If we don’t act now to further flatten the curve, the advice we have is that our healthcare system will be overwhelmed”, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said tonight.

He said that the ACT, along with the other States and Territories, will be moving to implement stronger enforcement measures in the near future (such as fines) to ensure consistency across jurisdictions.

The ACT will also be joining other state and territory governments to implement the eviction moratorium and Mr Barr said landlords who receive Federal and Territory Government tax relief will be expected to pass this through to tenants suffering financial stress. Tax reductions will only be available for those who participate.

Further discussions will continue with the property sector on further mechanisms the ACT and Federal Governments can provide to assist this process.

The ACT Government is finalising a second package of economic survival measures following the Commonwealth’s announcement to ensure complementary support is provided to those that need it.

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“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
? George Orwell, 1984

I am a self funded retiree. I own outright one rental property from which I derive the majority of my income. If my tenant cannot pay rent then I can’t pay my bills, I will barely be able to afford to eat. Am I eligible for Centrelink payments?

Unless you can get the age pension and you probably fail the assets test with a paid off property, there is nothing.

It is lies that the ban on eviction is limited to financial stress. All evictions are stopped for any reason (in the laws so far passed in Tasmania), and the tenant doesn’t need to show they are unable to pay. They can be trashing your property and there is nothing you can do. They can claim rent assistance and not pay one cent to you and there are zero consequences.

This article is about the federal agreement, details of which are forthcoming.

Privatepete: In Australia, welfare payments are means-tested. Thus welfare goes to those most in need. If you have substantial assets, you generally don’t receive welfare. Were you in Scandinavian or Western European country, you may receive welfare because the premise of their system is different – it’s that everyone has an equal right to state assistance. The Greens and the far left of the Labor party have advocated for this, but most Australians wouldn’t tolerate the high taxes it requires.

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