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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tests negative for COVID-19

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has tested negative to COVID-19 after a coughing fit in parliament raised concerns.

“Yesterday I was tested for COVID-19 out of an abundance of caution on the advice of the Deputy Chief Medical Officer. This morning I received the result of the test which was negative,” he tweeted in Wednesday.

The coughing fit happened as Mr Frydenberg delivered the economic statement on Tuesday, the day he was supposed to hand down the federal budget, Mr Frydenberg canvassed Treasury forecasts of a $50 billion hit to the economy in the June quarter.

Treasury also expects the staged lifting of restrictions will cost $9.4 billion a month after July, while household consumption could drop 16 per cent and business and dwelling investment 18 per cent apiece from pre-crisis levels. It also anticipates unemployment rising to 10 per cent.

Labor said while the traditional budget day didn’t contain a budget, Australians would have expected Mr Frydenberg to unveil some kind of plan with his update.

“Yet all Australians get today is a cut and paste of what the government has already said and what Australians already knew,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said.

“If only the treasurer had coughed up some detail or a plan.”

Australian Industry Group boss Innes Willox said governments must be willing to challenge and change old ways of thinking as they look towards the economic recovery.

“Conversations around policy change which were previously consigned to the too- hard basket need to be reconsidered,” he said.

“Changes in approach need to take account of competitiveness, productivity, growth and fairness.”

New data for wages growth in March out on Wednesday and labour force figures on Thursday are expected to add to the gloomy picture.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the latter numbers could challenge consumer sentiment, which has continued to improve from record lows when the virus first hit Australia.

“Optimism that we may have seen the back of the worst of the pandemic and an easing of lockdown restrictions have likely boosted consumer morale,” he said.

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