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Australian News

Gym shuts over positive coronavirus test


A Sydney gym has closed its doors and will undergo a deep clean after a member tested positive for COVID-19.

Planet Fitness in Casula, just a kilometre away from the Crossroads Hotel, took to Facebook to confirm the news and urged anyone who may have attended the gym — particularly between 9am and 11am Thursday and 4pm and 6pm Friday — to get tested.

“The member has not been at the club since Friday 10 July, and is in quarantine,” the gym’s letter to members said.

“We are taking the precautionary measures of closing this location … and to ensure the uncompromised safety of our members.”

The letter said staff were in self-quarantine and it would follow advice from the NSW Health Department.

It is not yet known whether the case is related to the outbreak at the Crossroads Hotel, which has reported nine cases of COVID-19.

NSW chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant confirmed on Sunday an 18-year-old pub staffer was among the nine people.

He is one of four new cases identified on Sunday afternoon linked to the establishment.

A woman in her 50s, who is a close contact of the worker, has tested positive, as well as woman from southwest Sydney who had dinner at the hotel on July 3.

A Victorian man in his 20s, who also had dinner at the pub on July 3, returned a positive test.

These are in addition to the five previously reported cases, which include a woman in her 30s from southwestern Sydney and a man in his 50s from the Blue Mountains, who had dinner at the hotel on July 3.

This man’s three household contacts have also been confirmed as positive for COVID-19.

Dr Chant said she did not believe the teen staff member was the source but urged anyone who was at the pub between July 3 and 10 to get tested and to self-isolate immediately.

“A negative result does not mean you can breach self-isolation,” she said.





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Business

Why this China bull run isn’t a repeat of 2015


This distinction is important, because often loose monetary conditions only make buying margin loans cheaper, without flowing into the real economy at all. Fiscal dollars, on the other hand, can directly boost company earnings. We’ve already seen this with many hard tech companies, such as chip foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International, which would still be in the red without government subsidies. So unlike 2015, the quality of helicopter money is better this time around.

For now, there’s still plenty of market depth and appetite. In 2015, any initial public offering would drain liquidity, causing broader indexes to tumble. This time, while retail investors are still rushing to new shares and betting on big first-day pops, new supplies of stocks are welcome. This is a bullish sign. SMIC’s Shanghai IPO, the largest in a decade, only served as a catalyst to the tech rally. Rising markets that sink on new IPOs are bear rallies – we’re not there yet.

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And let’s not forget, the world has changed. In 2015, the rest of us watched the mainland stock drama with amazement and alarm. This time, China is just joining the global liquidity bandwagon – with its own idiosyncratic investor base and valuations, of course. The “Powell put” has propelled the Nasdaq Composite Index to record highs, even as the US sets daily coronavirus case records. Meanwhile, retail investor participation, a major force in China, is picking up elsewhere, too.

To be sure, China’s already got a lot of fluff. A rally in brokers, for instance, is unsustainable – especially if the government is ramping up competition by allowing giant commercial banks to enter the industry. But hey, there are anomalies everywhere, especially as the world’s central banks are printing money at a record pace.

You can think about China’s stockmarket like a petulant toddler; you don’t know why she’s acting up, so just give her a big hug and hope for the best. With this bull run not even 10 days old, you’d better hold her tight. This is no time to talk about the 2015 crash.

Shuli Ren is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian markets. She previously wrote on markets for Barron’s, following a career as an investment banker, and is a CFA charterholder.

Bloomberg



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Australian News

Aussies spending superannuation on plastic surgery and new cars are ‘obviously breaking the rules’


For thousands of Australians, the Federal Government’s Super Early Release Scheme – introduced in the wake of the coronavirus-fuelled economic crisis – has been dubbed a “lifeline”.

Under the scheme, as many as 2.1 million people applied to access their superannuation early, with those deemed eligible able to grab $10,000 from their super last financial year and a further $10,000 in 2020-21.

Last month, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority figures showed $14.8 billion had already been withdrawn.

At June 7, 2.12 million applications to access super early had been lodged with the tax office.

RELATED: ATO’s grim warning for Aussies

RELATED: How much you will save from tax cuts

Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Jane Hume, said that the decision to take the money out now – or build a nest egg over time – was a “big deal”.

“For many people, the benefit of taking that money out now outweighs the benefit of leaving it in the future,” Ms Hume said.

“The government isn’t in the business of telling people how to spend their money.”

Critics have argued accessing your superannuation should be a “last resort” only, after it was revealed by Industry Super Australia (ISA) about 480,000 Aussies had cleared out their funds completely, and that accessing cash now would have dire long-term consequences for retirement nest eggs.

On average, about 15 per cent of Australian workers have accessed their super early.

Three states were above the national average – Queensland at 20 per cent, Northern Territory 19 per cent and Western Australia 16 per cent. Only 8 per cent of ACT workers accessed their super early.

Those critics have taken it one step further following a report on 60 Minutes on Sunday night that showed some Australians who have withdrawn $10,000 from their superannuation splashing the cash on “non-essential luxuries” like plastic surgery and new cars.

Cassandra Garcia, a 41-year-old mother and businesswoman, put the cash toward a “series of surgeries” that included a boob job and liposuction on her torso, legs and chin, purchases that she deemed “essential” to her own self-confidence.

Asked if she’d taken the money out in the spirit that the government intended, Ms Garcia said she’d “definitely put the money back into the economy, I haven’t just left it in my bank account”.

“The reality is, I’m OK with my decision. At the end of the day, this is all of our money, it is not money that we’re loaning from the bank,” she said.

According to some, though, this behaviour is “obviously breaking the rules”.

“If you’re spending your super draw down on a boob job, you’re obviously breaking the rules,” ABC business reporter David Taylor wrote in a tweet.

“And ill-informed,” fellow ABC business reporter Rachel Pupazzoni replied.

Others commented it was “laughable” that people like Ms Garcia had been approved to withdraw their super.

“Classic short-term thinking from the government and from those who’ve taken the money but aren’t experiencing financial hardship,” another viewer commented.

“Have fun now and who cares about future. Hope they don’t whinge about not having enough money when they’re trying to survive on pension.”

“No thought for the future. Appalling that some consider a car and cosmetic surgery essential,” wrote another, in response to Ashleigh Masterson, a 26-year-old who lost her job at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, using part of her withdrawn super funds to purchase a new car.

But while many were critical of people’s “frivolous” spending, others defended their financial decisions, claiming “the money belongs to the individuals”.

“If they choose to spend it freely, let’s not forget it will provide a boost to the economy,” one viewer commented on Facebook.

“There is no right or wrong in this situation but I for one am someone who desperately NEEDED it and am so grateful for its help!!!” wrote another.

“A minority will always use things in a way that it’s not intended, the majority need it. It’s people’s money at the end of the day.”





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Local News - Victoria

Specialist schools fear return to face-to-face learning amid Melbourne lockdown


Mr Peverett said specialist schools were not consulted on the decision for them to continue face-to-face learning, and they faced unique challenges in preventing the spread of the deadly virus.

Physical distancing was largely impossible and hygiene more challenging, he said, with some staff required to help with toilet breaks and feeding. In addition, children tend to travel further to attend these schools, including from COVID-19 hotspots and the public housing towers put in hard lockdown last week.

Broadmeadows Special Developmental School is in a COVID-19 hotspot.

Broadmeadows Special Developmental School is in a COVID-19 hotspot.Credit:Wayne Taylor

“We’ve advocated from the very start that our specialist schools should be treated in the same way as our mainstream schools, because they’re still children and they’re still susceptible to becoming unwell, but they come with an inability to maintain appropriate health and hygiene practices,” Mr Peverett said.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday confirmed mainstream schools in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire would revert to remote learning for students aged prep to year 10, with the aim of reducing the mass movement of families during lockdown.

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Students in years 11 and 12 and in specialist schools will return to face-to-face learning on Monday, as will year 10 students taking VCE and VCAL classes.

Schools outside lockdown zones will also open as normal this week.

Students with disabilities in years 10 and below at mainstream schools will still be able to attend on-campus classes as required. Education Minister James Merlino on Sunday confirmed flexible arrangements for those students.

A Victorian Education Department spokesman said specialist schools would open as normal “in recognition of the complex needs these students have, and the challenges of supporting their remote learning effectively”.

“The advice of Victoria’s Chief Health Officer is that schools continue to be a safe learning and working environment,” he said.

But Susanne Wirth, principal of Broadmeadows Special Developmental School, backed Mr Peverett’s position. Her school is in a COVID-19 hotspot and has 300 students with moderate to profound intellectual disabilities, plus 150 staff. Staff are worried, Ms Wirth said.

Shane Kamsner, principal of Rossbourne School in Hawthorn.

Shane Kamsner, principal of Rossbourne School in Hawthorn.Credit:Simon Schluter

Shane Kamsner, principal of Rossbourne School in Hawthorn, said while he had faith in the medical advice, it was “unclear as to why students with disabilities are at less risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 than students in mainstream schools”.

There are 108 specialist schools in Victoria, ranging from autism specialist schools to physical disability schools, facilities for students with mild to severe intellectual disability, and those that focus on social, emotional and behavioural needs.

The Victorian government will spend $45 million on extra cleaning of government schools in term three and provide supplies such as hand sanitiser, masks, gloves, gowns and goggles.

Students will also have their temperatures taken each morning and be sent for COVID-19 testing if they have a fever.

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Australian News

Second $750 coronavirus stimulus payment flows


A second wave of coronavirus stimulus payments worth $750 each will begin flowing to five million Australians this week.

Pensioners, veterans and carers will be among low-income households to receive the support.

RELATED: Latest virus update from Victoria

RELATED: Pay your own hotel bills

“The second $750 economic support payment will inject $3.8 billion into the economy and provide an economic lifeline to millions of Australians at a time when they need it most,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

The first round was made automatically in March and April to welfare recipients and eligible concession card holders who do not get the fortnightly coronavirus JobSeeker or JobKeeper payment as part of their current payment.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said if eligible, people would see the $750 payment arrive in their bank account from July 15 until the end of the month.



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Local News - Victoria

Victorian government to probe sexual harassment practices at courts, law firms


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An investigation in June by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald uncovered allegations from senior legal figures of predatory behaviour by Mr Heydon. The women claimed that his status as one of the most powerful men in the legal sector protected him from being held to account for his actions.

The review, initiated by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria Anne Ferguson, will consider measures to prevent sexual harassment, improve reporting and support for those who experience it, and ensure accountability in workplaces throughout the legal profession.

Firms that fall short of the standard the government determines to be appropriate for internal audits will be given an opportunity to bring their processes up to scratch or face the prospect of their contracts — sometimes running into the millions of dollars — being discontinued.

The state government is possibly the biggest consumer of legal services in the state. Contracts awarded to various firms are lucrative and run into millions of dollars.

Some firms that contract with the government have several thousand employees, and many count the state government among their biggest clients.

Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said a workplace that was not free of sexual harassment was not a safe workplace, and the review would aim to “improve workplace culture and enforce compliance”.

Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy says a workplace that is not free of sexual harassment is not a safe workplace.

Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy says a workplace that is not free of sexual harassment is not a safe workplace.Credit:Joe Armao

“I want to thank the women who have bravely stood up and shared their stories, as well as acknowledge the commitment from our heads of jurisdiction to ensuring their workplaces are safe, healthy and respectful.”

Justice Ferguson, who is also Chair of the Courts Council, said Victoria’s courts and tribunals were united in their commitment to building a culture of respect across their workplaces.

“Improper and unethical conduct will not be tolerated under any circumstances and we look forward to working with Dr Szoke’s review.”

Head of employment law at Maurice Blackburn, Josh Bornstein, who is also representing alleged victims of Mr Heydon, said sexual harassment was by no means confined to the High Court, and the government should consider establishing an independent body to deal with such complaints.

Justice Anne Ferguson says Victoria’s courts and tribunals are united in their commitment to building a culture of respect across their workplaces.

Justice Anne Ferguson says Victoria’s courts and tribunals are united in their commitment to building a culture of respect across their workplaces.Credit:The Age

At present, there are female heads of jurisdiction at VCAT, the supreme, magistrates and children’s courts, and 50 per cent female representation at the Magistrates Court.

The review will be undertaken in close consultation with the Judicial Commission of Victoria to ensure the state’s judiciary maintains the highest standards of integrity.

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Business

TPG brings benefits to Vodafone users on day one


Vodafone customers can expect an increase in their mobile network speeds as the $15 billion merger with TPG Telecom completes and forms Australia’s third major telco player.

The two providers, which first announced plans to merge in August 2018, will operate as a single entity for the first time today, marking an end to a lengthy process riddled with regulatory hurdles.

TPG boss Inaki Berroeta says Vodafone mobile customers can expect an immediate boost in user experience.

TPG boss Inaki Berroeta says Vodafone mobile customers can expect an immediate boost in user experience.Credit:Renee Nowytarger

Vodafone customers in Melbourne and Canberra will be the first to benefit from the integration of TPG’s spectrum and small cell equipment, which the company says will increase mobile speeds, provide consistent mobile coverage in busy areas and improve overall network performance.

“We’ve been working on a lot of the technology integration,” TPG Telecom chief executive Iñaki Berroeta told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. “We’re putting the spectrum on our network, and that is going to give a lot of capacity. Capacity in a mobile phone is higher speeds…and use more data.



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Nearly a million Australians rush to file their tax returns and claim tax offset of up to $2160


Nearly a million Australians have rushed to file their tax returns early and claim a tax offset worth up to $1,080 for singles and $2,160 for couples.

As thousands of workers are forced to rely on welfare and raid their super accounts as the economy is battered by a COVID-19 recession, new figures reveal they have also moved swiftly to claim tax refunds that should start hitting bank accounts this week.

The cash splash is set to provide a much-needed boost to the economy with hopes that workers will spend the money and help support jobs as the economy reopens outside of Victoria.

Ten million Australians on low and middle incomes are set to secure a tax cut under the changes, but only when they file a return this year.

Nearly half of those workers – around 4.5 million Australians – will secure the maximum $1,080.

RELATED: How to get your tax refund faster

RELATED: More tax benefits for small business

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the early bird refunds will hit bank accounts over the course of this week.

“A record number of Australians have already lodged their tax return with refunds to land in bank accounts over the course of the week,” he said.

“As part of last year’s budget we increased the low and middle income tax offset to $1,080 for individuals and $2,160 for couples.

“It means people can keep more of what they earn providing a much-needed boost to the household budgets.

“Millions of Australians across the country are set to benefit again this tax time from the Government’s tax cuts,” he said.

Nearly 991,000 year-to-date 2020 individual lodgements have been received, an 11 per cent increase compared with the same time last year.

The tax cuts, worth $8 billion this year alone, include a change in the top threshold of the 32.5 cent tax rate and the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (LMITO) worth up to $1,080 for workers earning less than $126,000 a year.

But not all workers secure the maximum of LMITO amount. Workers with a taxable income of up to $37,000 only secure $255.

The maximum offset of $1,080 will apply to anyone earning between $48,000 and $90,000.

Workers earning over $90,000 but less than $126,000 start securing less from the offset until it gradually reduces to zero to ensure high income earners don’t secure the benefits.

The top five electorates to benefit from the LMITO include Wright in Queensland, Bob Katter’s electorate of Kennedy in Queensland, Stirling and Cowan in Western Australia and Tanya Plibersek’s electorate of Sydney in NSW.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s electorate of Lalor in Victoria is also in the Top 10 as is Melbourne and Capricornia in Queensland.

Last week, Mr Frydenberg flagged the prospect of bringing forward legislated tax cuts to help stimulate the economy in the October budget.

Personal income tax cuts for middle income earners worth up to $2,565-a-year are likely to be brought forward to help boost spending.

Mr Frydenberg confirmed that the fast-tracking of the tax cuts was a live option in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are three stages to those legislated income tax cuts and, you know, the benefit was very clear. We’re creating one big tax bracket between $45,000 and $200,000 where people pay a marginal rate of no more than 30 cents in the dollar,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“So we are looking at that issue and the timing of those tax cuts because we want to boost aggregate demand, boost consumption, put more money into people’s pockets and that is one way to do it.”



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Local News - Victoria

Hallam station upgrade in Melbourne’s south-east to quell congestion


Designs for the new Hallam train station in Melbourne’s south-east have been revealed, following the completion of a nearby $225 million road upgrade.

The major Thompsons Road upgrade, which connects to East Link and the South Gippsland Freeway, has been completed following final works on at the corner of Frankston-Dandenong Road and Thompsons Road in Carrum Downs.

The roundabout at the major intersection has been removed and traffic lights installed, along with road-widening works, including the creation of two dedicated right-turn lanes and three through lanes on each approach to the intersection, and slip lanes.

An artist's impression of the new Hallam  station.

An artist’s impression of the new Hallam station.

More than 58,000 motorists drive through the intersection of Thompsons and Frankston-Dandenong roads each day. The broader upgrade of Thompsons Road began in early 2017.



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PM Scott Morrison drafting a plan to offer additional support to virus-hit Victoria


Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has defended Scott Morrison and said the PM spent the weekend drafting a plan for Victoria after he copped backlash for attending Saturday’s football game between his beloved Cronulla Sharks.

The PM’s wife, Jenny, along with his daughters, will holiday during the school break on the outskirts of Sydney this week but Mr Morrison would not be on formal leave. He is expected to return to Canberra later in the week.

“Given the changing critical situation we have in Victoria, I will not be joining them for that full-time,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.

“As a dad, I will take some time, but at the same time I can assure you we will remain absolutely focused on things we need to focus on next week.”

But when he was spotted at the Sharks game as authorities dealt with containing Victoria’s virus-hit suburbs, Mr Morrison was criticised for “frolicking at the footy”.

RELATED: Greg Hunt admits COVID-19 return ‘greater than expected’

RELATED: PM says JobKeeper support will always be a national program

RELATED: Premier rebuffs question about Scott Morrison attending NRL game

On Sunday night, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Sky News the PM’s appearance at the football adhered to social distancing restrictions and discussed plans to tackle Victoria’s coronavirus rise.

“In terms of around the country it’s appropriate for people to go about new activities and new behaviours, we’re encouraging that,” Mr Hunt said of the Prime Minister’s appearance at the football.

“He was demonstrating exactly what we’re encouraging in an appropriate way.”

It came just hours after Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth issued a stern reminder to anyone becoming complacent about the importance of social distancing, warning the nation’s death toll will rise if people slip back into old habits.

Mr Hunt said he had been working throughout the weekend with the PM to draft a plan for the Commonwealth to offer additional support for Victoria to help the state deal with the surge in infections.

The PM had “worked right through yesterday (Saturday) … on a new level of support for Victoria, over and above every thing that we’ve done”, Mr Hunt said.

“I know because I was working with him. I’ve been working with him throughout today, so this fellow never stops.

“He is one of the reasons, perhaps the fundamental reasons, that we are where we are.

“I have never seen any body work harder in my life and more effectively in protecting a country.”

Mr Hunt did not give detail or outline what support that would be but the government has already deployed more than a thousand Australian Defence Force personnel in Melbourne.

It’s understood that 850 of those will be involved with hotel quarantine, as over 30 cases linked to system have sparked concerns over physical distancing.

Another 200 ADF members will be involved in logistic and medical support.

The ADF members are expected to stay in Victoria until at least the end of July.

At Sunday’s Victoria coronavirus media briefing, where premier Daniel Andrews reported 273 new cases of the virus, he brushed off questions about Mr Morrison’s decisions to take time off, and to attend the football.

The Premier said he had “better things to worry about”.

Victoria recorded 273 new cases of coronavirus and one death on Sunday, as authorities warn police will no longer issue warnings to people found doing the wrong thing.

A man aged in his 70s is the latest fatality during the state’s second wave.

At least 57 Victorians are in hospital with 16 of those in intensive care.

The new cases bring the state’s total to 3799 cases, with almost 1500 of those active.

Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said there were at least 145 cases linked to public housing towers in North Melbourne and Flemington, and a further 22 in Carlton.

It comes as a cluster of eight coronavirus cases has been recorded among staff at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

The hospital says the cluster includes five cases acquired through community transmission and three cases detected through contact tracing.

Mr Andrews again put Victorians on notice, reminding them to only go out when for the purposes that are lawful – shopping for essentials, work or study, care or medical treatment, exercise.

“This is a dangerous time, this is a very challenging time,” Mr Andrews said.

“Victorian police have issued more warnings than fines last time. That won‘t be the case this time.

“If you are out and about doing the wrong thing, then Victoria Police will have no choice but to issue you with a fine.”



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