The vagueness of the guidance has led to differing interpretations among policy makers and investors, who have bitter memories of the 2013 taper tantrum, when the unexpected news the central bank was thinking about reducing bond buying sent yields surging.
Governor Lael Brainard on Wednesday said the pace would be appropriate for “quite some time,” though at least four Fed presidents have said a strong economy could prompt discussion of tapering of bonds late this year.
Powell pointedly said that the guidance was deliberately not based on any date in the calendar when the Fed would think about paring back asset purchases, aimed at holding down longer-term borrowing costs. But he did promise that there would be ample warning if conditions were getting ripe to consider such a step.
‘We’ll let the world know’
“We’ll let the world know,” he said. “We’ll communicate very clearly to the public and we’ll do so, by the way, well in advance of active consideration of beginning a gradual taper of asset purchases.”
Powell’s comments weighed on front-end US rates and boosted long-end yields, further steepening the curve. Eurodollar futures for 2024, used to wager on where the Fed’s target rate will be, were supported, while inflation expectations — as measured by so-called Treasury breakeven rates — climbed and the 10-year yield topped 1.11 per cent. Stocks gained and the dollar largely maintained its decline for the day.
“Powell sure did not sound in a hurry to taper,” said Roberto Perli, partner at Cornerstone Macro in Washington. “By not putting a time frame on tapering, the focus stays on what the FOMC said, which is that they need to see substantial further progress to taper, and that represents a high hurdle.”
While the Fed chief said he was optimistic about the US economy over the next couple of years, he also spelled out that it had to weather a tough winter.
Around 9 million more Americans are out of work than before the pandemic struck and the virus continues to rage across the US. Powell and his colleagues are committed to using all their tools to support the recovery, and last month signalled interest rates will stay near zero at least through 2023.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce says Australia still only has room for two major airline groups and it is unlikely both Virgin Australia and new rival Regional Express (Rex) will survive the post-pandemic aviation dogfight.
Mr Joyce said in an interview on Wednesday that country airline Rex launching flights between Sydney and Melbourne in March would spark fierce competition on the busy route.
“My personal view is that this market has never sustained three airline groups and it probably won’t into the future,” he told an online event hosted by Reuters.
“You can be guaranteed that Qantas will be one of them – it’s who else is going to be in the market place post this and into the future is going to be interesting.”
Qantas this week reopened bookings on most of its international network from July 1 including to the pandemic ravaged United Kingdom and United States, despite there being no change to the government ban on Australians leaving the country.
The airline said its decision was based on the projected deployment of vaccines abroad and their planned rollout in Australia by the start of March. However, health experts believe herd immunity will be needed before any major resumption of commercial passenger travel given questions around how effective the vaccines are in stopping the spread of the virus, rather than just lessening its symptoms.
Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist and public health specialist at the University of Melbourne, said Australia would not have herd immunity until October and that returning travellers would still need to go into quarantine in the meantime to prevent further outbreaks.
“There will still probably be the need for some form of quarantine well beyond by July for countries with higher infection rates,” Professor Blakely said. “Quarantine-free travel with those countries [such as the UK and US] is going to be highly unlikely to happen by July.”
The World Health Organisation has also warned that enforced quarantine is likely to remain a feature in countries like Australia and New Zealand that have largely eradicated the virus until herd immunity is achieved.
Australia currently has a “one-way bubble” open with New Zealand allowing people from New Zealand to travel here without going into quarantine, but not in the other direction.
Health minister Greg Hunt on Wednesday brought forward Australia’s vaccine rollout by two weeks to commence in March and is expected to finish in October.
Mr Hunt said it was not yet known whether the vaccines being rolled out around the world controlled transmission of COVID-19, and that is what would determine when Australia reopened its borders.
“What we’re likely to see is a progressive opening up – there won’t be just one day where all of a sudden everything’s open,” Mr Hunt said during an interview on 2GB radio.
“As we believe it’s safe that people can leave and be able to return, then we’ll open those steps progressively.”
The federal government has also warned consumers to not get their hopes up on international travel, with Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Michael McCormack saying on Tuesday that there was no guarantee anyone booking a flight would be able to travel.
“Decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian government,”Mr McCormack said.
While brining forward UK and US flights from an October start, Qantas has also pushed back services to Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan which were set to resume from March to July as the prospect of COVID-safe “travel bubbles” dissipate.
A Qantas spokeswoman said the carrier had “aligned the selling of our international services to reflect our expectation that international travel will begin to restart from July 2021”.
“We continue to review and update our international schedule in response to the developing COVID-19 situation,” she said.
Start the day with major stories, exclusive coverage and expert opinion from our leading business journalists delivered to your inbox. Sign up for the Herald‘s here and The Age‘s here.
Business reporter at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
Appropriately, one of the last major sports stories of 2020 was the shock revelation that the Sydney Test would be played in… Sydney.
Just nine months ago this would have been like declaring the Running of the Bulls would be held in Pamplona or Wimbledon would be played on grass.
Yet, after a period of complete deprivation and then frantic reorganisation and redistribution, it is safe to say we will not take sport for granted for some time.
For many of us, organised sport is not merely a welcome distraction from life’s often more mundane realities, it is as soothing and reliable as the changing of the seasons.
Test cricket, the Australian Open tennis, the start of the various football seasons, the brief flirtation with horse racing interspersed with the various annual international tournaments, majors, grand slams and quadrennial blockbusters have been the bookmarks of our lives.
So the absence of professional sport, and then its return in various truncated, relocated and unattended forms, was both jarring and an opportunity for reflection.
Most pertinently, we had the chance to ponder what sport really meant to us; and what it meant altogether.
The first question for those who have often threatened to tear up our club membership if our team continued to pick “THAT HACK!” or play “LIKE CRAP!”, but always relented, was would we miss it?
I imagine the consensus view would be the absence of professional sport made Joanne Public even fonder of her club and her game of choice, and that its return provided precious comfort and distraction for locked-down residents particularly.
In this context, administrators who worked long hours to solve complex cross-border logistics and relaunch leagues and competitions, and athletes confined to hubs were cast as heroes to the fans for whom they were providing an invaluable service while enduring considerable personal sacrifice.
This is true to a point, although the experience of the suddenly non-attending fan should not be taken for granted.
Personally, the year’s sports-supporting mementos are an unused Melbourne Cricket Club membership card and a football club subscription complete with pristine scarf, the remnants of the first season in 30 years that I could not attend an AFL game.
It was not so much the game itself that was missed, but the social interaction with family and friends in the grandstand or over post-match drinks at a nearby pub.
For some of us — as much as our attendance is discouraged by the thumping “crowd activation” drowning out our conversation, or schedules weighted heavily toward attracting TV audiences — sport remains both an event and a meeting place.
There is a legitimate concern for Australian sports clubs that fans won’t return after forfeiting membership money last season when games were cancelled or relocated.
But for lovers of live sport there is an equal concern the absence of spectators this season will only accelerate the rate at which changes designed to maximise TV eyeballs are initiated and spectators now deemed “fortunate” to be able to go to sport will be further marginalised.
Meanwhile, during a year when TV networks never had a better opportunity to condition spectators to view games from their sofas rather than at the stadium, it could be argued the quality of some productions had the reverse impact.
Of course, inevitably it is our addiction to our sport and our club that keeps us coming back. And regardless of our detachment or the sometimes irritating commentary filter through which we are forced to observe, there was much to be admired this year from athletes and clubs performing in trying circumstances.
In that regard, the most revealing comment about any sports team came from Richmond’s mindfulness coach, Emma Murray, when asked about the Tigers’ response to several controversial incidents during the season, including players fighting on the Gold Coast strip.
Such poor behaviour seemed to fly in the face of the image of Richmond exceptionalism portrayed by various authors and spruikers who had chronicled the club’s previous seasons with a misty-eyed parochialism.
But Murray pointed out no-one at Richmond had “ever thought we were perfect”, and it was the preparedness to cope with the “inevitability of imperfection” and even failure that gave the clubs its greatest strength.
That sentiment might also help explain our abiding love for professional sport as much as its mere ability to provide a distraction in dark times or the odd uplifting moment in that rare great season.
If you’ve watched long enough you are prepared for sport’s imperfections, geared for the disappointments and — now more than ever — accustomed to the rather jarring way it is sometimes presented.
Perhaps that is the lesson from our odd, dislocated sports experience in 2020 and the secret of our loyalty to game, club and athlete — we do not merely love professional sport, we tolerate it.
Before play on day four of the Melbourne Test, Justin Langer was asked to assess the performance of Australia’s opening batsmen in this series.
“It hasn’t been great,” the Australian coach replied. It was an understatement to rank with Ajinkya Rahane’s comment that India had merely put in a few bad sessions in Adelaide.
The more pertinent questions might have been: why was Joe Burns, as short on form as any Australian Test batsman of recent times, selected in the first place? And what function does Australia’s battalion of coaches actually perform if Burns and Travis Head are being sent into the fray with technical deficiencies so glaringly obvious to even untrained eyes?
There was an acute sense of missed opportunities on day four at the MCG, where it was not enough that the Australian tail wagged to set India 70 for victory. They achieved it with eight wickets to spare.
In the morning, rookie Cameron Green showed that any batsman prepared to wait for the right ball would have cashed in and ensured a far trickier chase for India. Pat Cummins survived longer than Burns, Head, Steve Smith and Tim Paine combined.
Green’s square drive to the fence off Jasprit Bumrah that moved him into the 40s hinted at lavish talents, but more impressive was his ability to learn from his mistake of the first innings, when he fell to the off side and was trapped by Mohammed Siraj’s in-swing. Other Australians repeated their errors. The corollary crime was denying Melburnians a longer look at Shubman Gill.
It is safe to say Australia needs a few of those giant clumps.
Beside the loss of Warner’s runs, attitude and basic intimidation factor, his absence has revealed unacknowledged weaknesses elsewhere.
There has always been a tendency to focus on his strike rate and boundary-hitting sprees, which take scoring pressure off his batting partners. But equally valuable is his general busyness and rotation of the strike — a fundamental strength of the best openers, and a building block of the sorts of long partnerships Australia has lacked in the last fortnight.
By contrast, even when Smith and Marnus Labuschagne are making runs, their running between the wickets is a liability and they’re usually completely absorbed in their own batting worlds.
Warner has been accused of a certain unsophistication at times, but it can also be a virtue in a team sport because it keeps things simple and predictable for those around him.
The two Tests so far have also shown how difficult it is to replicate Warner’s combination of symbolic and statistical output.
In the first innings at Melbourne, Matthew Wade took his mantle of provocateur but got too aggressive too quickly with the bat, holing out when he was settled and ascendant. In the second innings, Wade seemed to expend half his energy in a war of insults with Rishabh Pant, but he was forced into a stodgier hand than he’d normally play, so pressure built at the other end.
Wade’s application provided a compelling case to keep him in the team. Ideally, he’ll be dropped down to number five, squeezing out Head, who can no longer hide behind a Test average skewed by his boot-filling series against the subpar Sri Lankans of two summers ago.
Australia would then use whichever combination of Warner, Will Pucovski and Marcus Harris is available. If fit, it will be the first two. The neglected specialist inside Australia’s quarantine bubble, Harris has surely chewed his fingernails to nubs watching Burns scratch around.
Australia’s misfortune is that its next-generational batting talent is so prone to injury. Like Warner, Pucovski is racing against time to prove himself fit for the Test debut he would have made in Adelaide if not for the latest in a series of worrying head knocks. They are the only blot on an impressive copy book. His 495 Sheffield Shield runs at an average of 247.5 this season have included two double-centuries.
With Pucovski comes a degree of the unknown. Warner, on the other hand, is the man who is never uncertain, never down on confidence, never rustled, never wrong, and never short of the unshakeable belief that he can bend the bowlers to his will and win the game off his own bat.
English cricket writer Rob Smyth once labelled him “a bad guy who is emphatically good for the game”. Right now, he’s also what Australia is sorely missing.
Daniel Andrews is aiming for another stint as Victorian Premier despite damning evidence that failures of his government in hotel quarantine triggered a fatal second wave of coronavirus across the state.
The Premier swept aside calls to resign even though the final hotel quarantine inquiry report released on Monday still could not trace the decision to use private security back to a responsible person or agency.
“Not only will I not resign because that is not who I am, I’ll be on the ballot in 2022,” he said.
“And I’ll be working every day as hard as I can between now and then … to do the things we said we would do, to repair the damage, to heal the wounds and to make sure that we are a stronger economy and community as a result of this year.”
Mr Andrews has faced repeated criticism for his handling of the pandemic.
Retired judge Jennifer Coate’s findings fuelled that fire again, concluding private security guards were the wrong choice to guard Victoria’s returned travellers in the hotel quarantine scheme.
He admitted Ms Coate’s findings pointed to serious failings in “oversight and structural integrity”.
“If we could have a system of oversight that was, I think, the best in the country back then, as we do now, then, of course, we would put those steps in place,” Mr Andrews said.
The Premier was confident he would continue to lead the state and vie for the top position at the next Victorian state election in November 2022.
“We’ve faced many challenges as a state, hard work is the answer, and I’m prepared to work as hard as anyone,” Mr Andrews said.
“I’m accountable absolutely, I’m the leader of the state – but running from challenges, quitting, that cutting and run thing, that’s not accountability, that’s cowardice and you’ll get none of that from me.”
Opposition leader Michael O’Brien, who called for Mr Andrews to resign multiple times over the past few months, again said he needed to step down.
He also called for a Royal Commission into uncovering “the truth the Coate Inquiry could not find”.
“He (Daniel Andrews) should resign,” Mr O’Brien said on Monday.
“This program failed from the start. Nobody can say who chose private security. Nobody can say who rejected the ADF and nobody is accepting responsibility for these failings.
“173 people died during Black Saturday and we got a Royal Commission. 801 people died in Labor’s second wave and we don’t have any accountability.
“But today there are no answers. There is no accountability. Nobody is taking responsibility.
“Daniel Andrews has failed Victorians and refuses to take responsibility for the largest public policy failure in our state’s history.”
University of NSW deputy vice-chancellor and constitutional and counter-terrorism specialist George Williams said the move to deport Benbrika might not make the world safer.
“Deporting a dangerous person to an overseas location where they may be quite capable of doing harm to Australians and others in a country with far less capacity to monitor their activities is highly problematic,” Professor Williams said.
“Putting Australians aside, is it really a responsible thing to do to deport one of our own people to a location where they may well cause grave harm and injury if they undertake terrorism?
“It’s hard to see how this will make the world a safer place and may indeed make it more dangerous.”
Benbrika was considered so influential in prison that lawyers and academics say he was partly the motivation behind the federal laws he is now facing – the post-sentence detention scheme (which can keep terrorists in prison for up to three years after they have served their time) and the deportation of extremists with dual nationalities.
The laws, introduced in 2015, mean extremists who join terrorist organisations or are convicted of terrorism offences can be stripped of Australian citizenship. Mr Dutton also has the discretion to remove citizenship if he thinks it’s in the public interest or is satisfied someone has rejected their allegiance to Australia.
“One of the difficulties with the legislation is that the minister has enormous discretion, and the decision-making process is not transparent and the person has very limited appeal rights,” Australian Law Alliance’s Greg Barns, SC, said.
Citizenship law expert Sangeetha Pillai, from the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, said it was the first time since the laws were introduced that they had been used against a person in Australia.
Twenty other dual nationals have previously lost their Australian citizenship over terrorism offences, but none were in the country at the time.
ISIS recruiter Neil Prakash had his Australian citizenship revoked on the understanding he was a dual national of Fiji. But Fiji doesn’t want him, with the country’s top immigration official saying he was not a Fijian national. The case hasn’t been resolved and Prakash has just started a seven-year jail stint in a Turkish prison.
Dr Pillai said there was a very real prospect the Benbrika case might lead to the first High Court challenge of the laws on the basis that a person who had been an Australian citizen for a long time was not, under the constitution, an alien.
The constitution said nothing about citizenship, but had a broad mechanism called the “alien power” that allowed people to be removed from the country if they were considered alien, Dr Pillai said.
Until now, only non-citizens have been removed from Australia under the alien power. Benbrika is the first citizen who stands to be removed on this basis.
“The citizenship cancellation laws were made on the presumption that an Australian citizen can become a constitutional “alien” by acting in a manner that undermines Australia’s national security. Whether or not this presumption is correct is a matter for the High Court to determine, and they may well be called on to do so,” Dr Pillai said.
Benbrika was scheduled to be released from prison this month, but he remains in custody on an interim detention order until the conclusion of the trial, which begins before Justice Andrew Tinney in the Supreme Court on Monday.
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Tammy Mills is the legal affairs reporter for The Age.
Victoria’s anti-corruption agency says it will not investigate allegations that Vatican funds were used in an attempt to secure child sex abuse charges against Cardinal George Pell, finding there was not enough merit in the claims.
Italian newspapers La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera published stories in October claiming a rival of Cardinal Pell’s was suspected of arranging for €700,000 ($1.1 million) to be transferred to people in Australia to support the prosecution of the charges.
In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission said the media reports were not enough to kickstart an investigation.
“IBAC confirms it received information based on media reports which alleged Vatican funds were transferred to individuals in support of the recent case against George Pell,” the statement said.
This week, many enjoyed their first meal or coffee out of their own home for months. If they were anything like me, the first time was a warped sense of normal. I imagined myself blinking in a brand new sun as I took my seat with a friend (a person not from my household, the excitement!). We laughed to ourselves sitting at a table marooned in a sea of socially distanced lino, QR scanned ourselves in and did a quick internet search as to the rules on when you were allowed to remove the masks.
In the spirit of social support, I decided to spread my coffee money around my small town and the following time I arranged to meet a friend at another café. We ordered our coffee from a maskless barista and sat down, feeling slightly awkward.
We discussed the prevalence of conspiracy theorists, blaming the lawless plains of social media and the echo chamber of unvetted comments. We drank our coffee, served by a similarly maskless waitress and discussed what kind of a business decision it was, in a small town, to so boldly ignore both public health advice and also the law.
I will not be supporting them again; there are plenty of other cafes in town who are all doing their best to fulfil public health requirements and protect everyone in society. I didn’t go through the pain of lockdowns and home learning to do it all over again because a few idiots think they know better than a whole lot of very educated experts.
Mark McGowan has reassured West Australians worried about relaxing the state’s tough border stance that he won’t hesitate to reinstate it if needed.
The Labor leader announced on Friday quarantine-free travel will be allowed from the very low risk jurisdictions of Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT from November 14.
But travellers from NSW and Victoria will still be required to self-quarantine for 14 days in suitable approved premises and be tested for COVID-19 on day 11.
The announcement came as a surprise given that just one week earlier, the Premier refused to agree to National Cabinet’s plan to open domestic borders by Christmas.
In a video posted to social media on Sunday, Mr McGowan said 2020 had been tough for all but even harder for WA residents living elsewhere who wanted to return home and people who yearned to visit family in the state.
“My parents and brother live in NSW — it has been difficult not knowing when I will be able to see them again so I know what Friday’s announcement will mean for many West Australians ,” he said.
“At every stage, I’ve been guided by the expert health advice, and it’s that advice that has allowed us to take this cautious and considered step to a controlled interstate border.
“All this year, we’ve seen how quickly things can change and I will not hesitate to adapt our measures to protect the health of Western Australians.
“This includes reintroducing the hard border or delaying our move to the controlled border.”
WA has been at phase four of relaxed restrictions since June 27, allowing lucky residents to go to pubs and restaurants, watch performances, and socialise widely with family and friends.
Even Optus Stadium has been allowed to operate at half capacity with more than 30,000 attendees.
Few people wear face masks anymore, some are seen not observing social distancing and many shops have removed floor markers designed to encourage it.
That’s why there is concern the state is vulnerable to an outbreak if the virus returns, something acknowledged by WA Health Minister Roger Cook.
He said there was no doubt West Australians had become more relaxed as the threat of coronavirus decreased, and urged people to abide by hygiene rules and get tested if symptomatic.
Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller is pleased family reunions are on the cards — he previously accused the state government of “economic discrimination” for heavily skewing travel exemptions to workers — but is concerned the state is not “culturally ready” for the change.
“Buy masks as well as tinsel this year,” Dr Miller tweeted.
“WA needs to have covid outbreak drills to maintain readiness.
“Mandate mask wearing on public transport & in lifts every Monday, for example, to get people used to it.
“Anyone visiting hospitals or aged care should wear masks to practice.
“It’s coming. Get ready.”
Meanwhile, the WA government’s legal showdown with Clive Palmer over the “hard border” reaches the High Court this month.
The Queensland billionaire launched the constitutional challenge after he was denied entry to the state in May, accusing Mr McGowan of risking “economic shutdown with his Gestapo tactics”.
It’s not the first time the pair have traded barbs, and both are suing each other for defamation.
It has been almost six months since WA last recorded a case of community transmission, but there have been close calls with cases imported to the export-reliant state on livestock vessels, bulk carriers, and, in the early stages of the pandemic, cruise ships.
WA Health was monitoring 42 active cases as of Sunday.