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10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Good morning.

1. The Reserve Bank has slashed the interest rate to 0.5%, the lowest it has ever been, in anticipation of the coronavirus blowing a hole in the economy. “The coronavirus has clouded the near-term outlook for the global economy and means that global growth in the first half of 2020 will be lower than earlier expected,” Governor Phillip Lowe said in a statement. “It is too early to tell how persistent the effects of the coronavirus will be and at what point the global economy will return to an improving path.”

2. With that in mind, some economists are urging the government to forget the surplus and start providing economic stimulus. The RBA has been warning for a long time that it can only slash the interest rate for so long before it stops having a worthwhile effect. “There needs to be a two-prong approach. It can’t all be left to the RBA,” Domain economist Trent Wiltshire told Business Insider Australia on Tuesday, ahead of the RBA’s rate decision. “Boosting things like Newstart and rental assistance would give money to people who have a high propensity to spend."

3. National news agency Australian Associated Press is shutting down in June, after its owners – primarily Nine, News Corp and Seven West Media – decided it was no longer viable. Anyone who regularly reads the news would have seen the AAP byline on tons of stories, and it's hard to overstate just how much of an impact this will have on the Australian news landscape. After all, the AAP was formed out of resourcing concerns, when the big papers realised they'd be much better off shunting a significant volume of labour onto a shared resource like AAP. Without them, you wonder whether a lot of politics, sport and court news will even get a run at all. Not good.

4. A NSW woman in her 50s has become the third person in Australia to catch the coronavirus locally. It's a decent sign the virus is spreading through the community. Meanwhile, 40 staff from Ryde Hospital have been quarantined after coming into contact with a doctor who was diagnosed with COVID-19.

5. Australia's largest toilet paper manufacturer, Kimberley-Clark, is moving into 24-hour production due to shortages created by coronavirus panic. "That is the economy in motion, that is private companies assessing their own risk plans and responding to them," said Scott Morrison of the production boost. Social media has been flooded in recent days of photos of empty shelves as people stock up on toilet paper. Woolworths has now put a limit of four packs of toilet paper per customer, so that's where we're at. Honestly, this is my take:

https://twitter.com/bencjenkins/status/1234755863866310656

6. Uber launched its electric bike product, Jump, in Melbourne this morning. Now, if you're in the City of Melbourne, you'll be able to book an e-bike through the Uber app and whizz around to your hearts content for 30 cents a minute (plus a $1 booking fee). If this is giving you grim flashbacks to the oBike debacle of 2017, you're probably not alone, but Uber is launching this in partnership with local councils and seems to have a much better handle over the whole situation. So we probably won't find quite as many of them at the bottom of the Yarra, one assumes.

7. Google has cancelled the I/O developers conference, its biggest event of the year, because of coronavirus concerns. The cancellation comes after several other high-profile events have been delayed or scrapped for the same reason, including Mobile World Congress and Facebook’s F8 conference. In an email to attendees announcing the cancellation, the search giant said it was following health guidance from the CDC and WHO.

8. The Federal Reserve over in the US also cut interest rates by 50 basis points, but it has not calmed investors. Stocks slipped from initial gains on Tuesday, closing deeply in the red, after the Federal Reserve's emergency rate cut failed to soothe investors' worries. All major US indexes surged higher in the minutes following the announcement before reversing their gains and tumbling more than 3% at intraday lows. Stocks remain well below their record highs.

9. 8% of Iran’s parliament – 23 out of 290 members – have been infected with coronavirus. At least seven government officials also have it, including one of Iran’s vice presidents, and a key adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has died from the virus. At least 77 have died in Iran from the virus so far according to the official death toll, though the number could be much higher due to the government’s apparent efforts to hide the extent of the outbreak.

10. On the draconian end of things, the UK is preparing for a major coronavirus outbreak with potential plans to create no-go zones and bans on mass public gatherings. The public could even be instructed to work at home for at least three months in order to prevent further spread of the virus. Three months working from home would send me insane.

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