Qld pay subsidy call, virus hits transport

Jackie Trad has joined calls for the federal government to introduce wage subsidies.
Jackie Trad has joined calls for the federal government to introduce wage subsidies.

Long queues outside Centrelink would be avoided, or at least minimised, if the federal government subsidised wages, says Queensland's treasurer.

A UK-style wage subsidy in response to the coronavirus crisis would help thousands of workers who have lost their jobs following the outbreak, according to Deputy Premier Jackie Trad.

Queensland is joining unions and other groups calling for the Australian government to pay the wages of workers as claim for unemployment benefits skyrocket.

It's less about money and more about ensuring the mental health of displaced workers doesn't decline, Ms Trad said on Friday.

"You have people who have been productive ... whose identity was so wrapped up in their work, now being told because of the pandemic outbreak that they have to stop and they have to stay at home," Ms Trad told ABC Radio.

"I think we need to understand the impact that that has psychology on millions of Australians," Ms Trad said.

She fears Centrelink is not enough to prevent mass social dislocation.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed the idea, saying existing welfare structures are more effective.

Queenslanders have been warned they could face tighter lockdowns if people continue to flout social distancing rules.

Photos of at least 13 people partying on the balcony of a Brisbane home on Thursday night were posted to Twitter on Friday, while at least 18 people were spotted close together outside a Gold Coast restaurant.

Meanwhile, police have knocked on the door of two tenants of a Newstead apartment building who recently arrived from Columbia and refused to isolate themselves.

"The occupants have been moving around the building and area for the last 10 days," the building's management wrote in email to tenants.

Long-haul train and bus services will be temporarily cut or cancelled entirely from Monday, with rural centres told they will still have access for essential travel on key corridors.

"Right now, people should not be travelling on coaches or trains across Queensland unless they have an essential reason to," Transport Minister Mark Bailey said on Friday.

Anyone who does board a train or a coach for work or medical travel will be carefully managed to make sure they don't sit too close to others.

Passenger services on the North Coast rail line between Brisbane and Cairns will be halved while buses will service communities that will lose their rail.

Services that will be suspended entirely include the Spirit of the Outback from Brisbane to Longreach, the Westlander from Brisbane to Charleville, and the Inlander from Townsville to Mount Isa.

The Savannahlander, Gulflander and Kuranda Scenic Railway services will cease operation.

There are 493 cases of COVID-19 in Queensland and the border with NSW is closed to non-essential travel. NSW trains are also being stopped at the border.

Health authorities are desperately trying to trace people who came into contact with a man who visited three different venues on the Sunshine Coast before testing positive for the virus.

Dozens could be at risk if they encountered the man at the Land & Sea Brewery, Sum Yung Guys restaurant and the Sunshine Beach Surf Life Saving Club between March 13 and 15.

The lockdown of Brisbane's Wolston correctional centre has been linked to a passenger who came off the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney.

Sources told The Courier-Mail that a prison officer became infected after borrowing a trailer from a colleague who got off the ship and was self-isolating at home.

They both tested positive and the jail was forced into lockdown to allow for a forensic clean.

Council elections and two state by-elections are going ahead on Saturday and the Australian Medical Association of Queensland says people should wear masks to polling booths if they have them.

Australian Associated Press