Hello, and welcome to the long weekend. Just a few more hours and we're home.
1. The response to the government's $680 million HomeBuilder scheme has been... mixed, to put it lightly. Yes, the construction and property industry are happy about it, but elsewhere it has faced criticism. “Anyone able to start this kind of large-scale renovation by the end of the year either already has their finance lined up and hasn’t suffered an income cut during this crisis that would make them reconsider, or has the cash to do it without borrowing,” Emma Dawson, executive director of progressive think tank Per Capita, wrote for The Guardian.
2. Protests in solidarity with Black Lives Matter are set to occur across Australia over the long weekend. This has caused some consternation among state governments, who aren't inclined to support protests against police brutality at the best of times – let alone during a pandemic, when social distancing guidelines are enforced. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has given the Sydney protest the go ahead, wheres Dan Andrews in Victoria is urging people not to go (though they won't be fined if they do).
3. Qantas and Jetstar have announced new plans to get their planes flying again. The airlines will triple capacity this month with the possibility they’ll return to 40% of their normal operation by the end of July. The announcement will see the eight routes frozen at the outbreak of COVID-19 return, with a new one between Sydney and Byron Bay also set to begin.
4. Westpac has blamed last year's enormous money laundering scandal on tech failings, poor judgement and gaps in its compliance systems. The banking giant yesterday released the findings of its own investigation into the compliance breaches, basically concluding there were no deliberate efforts to flout the law, but that a poor system of accountability and a lack of deep understanding of what was required to be compliant led to the company's problems.
5. When Woolworths announced a share program for staff who supported the business through the pandemic, it got a lot of good press – including here. But many staff are less than chuffed about it, saying the program does not compensate for being on the front line of the coronavirus response. Casual workers, who make up just under half of the workforce, will only receive a $100 store credit and no shares. “Woolies was in a position where it absolutely did have to give its staff something,” a 28-year-old part-time supermarket worker said. “What they did was the absolute bare minimum that they had to do, and therefore made themselves look good in the process."
6. It was inevitable we were going to see allegations of major JobKeeper scams. Australian Federal Police raided a Melbourne bedding manufacturer to investigate allegations it it "deliberately depressed monthly revenue to qualify for up to $11 million in wage subsidies," per the AFR. The Australian Comfort Group, which owns brands SleepMaker and Dunlop Foams, delayed issuing invoices and the processing of customer orders in April, according to staff emails seen by the AFR.
7. New analysis from Universities Australia estimates unis will lose $16 billion by 2023 because of the coronavirus. Experts told us the consequences of this reduced funding to universities would include a generally weaker higher education sector and a generational loss of researchers. However, University of Melbourne’s Ian Marshman believes it could lead to a “much leaner and potentially more differentiated sector.”
8. He may well be making history in space, but Elon Musk is also being a weird unit as per usual. The Tesla CEO tweeted that Amazon should be broken up after its publishing service initially refused to publish a book about the coronavirus from a lockdown skeptic. “Time to break up Amazon. Monopolies are wrong!” Musk tweeted on Thursday. Both Musk and author Alex Berenson have posted dubious assertions about the coronavirus on Twitter.
9. While we're talking about dubious claims about the coronavirus: Bill Gates has addressed his place in the world of pandemic conspiracy theories. The billionaire said in a call with reporters on Wednesday that it was “almost hard to deny” the conspiracy theories surrounding him and vaccines “because it’s so stupid.” When asked about a Yahoo News/YouGov poll that found in late May that 28% of Americans, including 44% of Republicans and 50% of people who primarily watch Fox News, said they thought this was true, he said it was "a little bit concerning."
10. Quibi, the much-hyped streaming service aimed at capturing Gen Z, is reportedly considering laying off 10% of its more than 250 employees. The bite-sized streaming platform launched in April with something of a bang – despite never really being clear what it even is – but its downloads and user numbers have been lacklustre in the months since. It's also reported that senior executives, including CEO Meg Whitman, are taking 10% pay cuts to offset Quibi’s poor performance.
Things currently looking dubious on our planet. Let's fantasise a moment: