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Australian News

Alexei Popyrin pulls out of US Open, joining Ash Barty, Nick Kyrgios and other tennis stars on sidelines


Alexei Popyrin is the latest Australian tennis star to pull out of the US Open due to concerns about coronavirus.

Popyrin made a run to the third round of this year’s Australian Open after a breakout 2019, during which he cracked the top 100 for the first time.

The 20-year-old world number 103 joins Nick Kyrgios and women’s world number one Ash Barty in withdrawing from the major, which is set to start on September 1.

The event will also be without men’s world number two Rafael Nadal, due to coronavirus concerns, and fourth-ranked Swiss great Roger Federer, due to injury, while Federer’s countryman and 2016 champion Stan Warinka has also opted out because of “the health situation in New York”.

The women’s draw has also been hit hard, with two more players from the top 10 joining Barty on the sidelines over the weekend.

Elina Svitolina holds both her hands on her hips and looks up at the sky
Elina Svitolina faced Ash Barty in the decider of the WTA Finals last year.(AP: Adam Hunger)

World number five Elina Svitolina — who made the semi-finals of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open last year — and seventh-ranked Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens are also gone.

Popyrin’s withdrawal means 2012 US champion Andy Murray, who had been granted a wild card at the tournament, will now move into the main draw.

The French Open, traditionally the second major of the year, starts on September 27, meaning anyone who wanted to play both would only have a two-week turnaround from hard court to clay if they reached the final.

This year’s Wimbledon was cancelled.



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Australian News

‘This is the hardest it’s going to get’: NZ Warriors open up about relocating to Australia for NRL


More than 2,200 kilometres from Auckland, the Warriors have called Terrigal on the New South Wales Central Coast home for more than three months.

Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is separated from his partner and young family.

“I’m lucky that I’ve got a strong woman back home,” he said.

“She’s got good support, she’s raising our babies really well, and that’s the same for everyone.”

The New Zealand outfit left their lives behind in early May to help save the rebooted NRL season.

And the players are honest in admitting how tough it has been.

“This is the hardest it’s going to get really,” half-back Chanel Harris-Tavita said.

“Our motto is ‘All In’ and as long as we stick together we will get through this.

“If we can survive this, who knows what we are capable of back in Auckland.”

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Some players have family or partners with them, but many only have their teammates.

“It would be nice to have my family here, but I try and catch up with them, I ring them once a week and I’ve got the support of my girlfriend back home as well,” Harris-Tavita said.

Tuivasa-Sheck is among the remaining senior players still here after Ken Maumalo, David Fusitu’a, Agnatius Paasi and King Vuniyayawa left last week.

“Those boys went home for family reasons and all the boys completely understood that, the ones that are here are happy to stick it out,” teammate Adam Keighran said.

The skipper is keeping a close eye on his team.

“There’s good people around me, I have them to lean on too, and to help the young boys who are in a place they’ve never been before,” Tuivasa-Sheck said.

Life in Warrior lockdown

A rugby league player poses for a photo with a dog on an oval.
Players from the New Zealand Warriors have been walking dogs from the local pound to pass the time in Terrigal.(Supplied: NRL.com)

About 50 players and staff are confined to the Star of the Sea resort in Terrigal where they live together, eat all their meals, and do physiotherapy.

“We try and get together as much as we can at the hotel,” Harris-Tavita said.

“There’s a pool table, we’ve got some boardgames, and we swim at the beach.”

A local gym has offered its premises for the Warriors to train and they also use the Central Coast Stadium.

Players who are missing their pets have taken up walking dogs from the local pound to pass the time.

“The hospitality for us over here has been first class and just makes it that much easier,” Warriors hooker Wayde Egan said.

But while living in the bubble, winning becomes all the more important.

“When we get a win the morale is really high, and if we lose it’s the exact opposite — there’s a lot of negativity around the place,” Adam Keighran said.

Long-term repercussions

Peta Hiku and Ken Maumalo stand, wearing green shirts, looking down at the ground
Ken Maumalo (right) is of four Warriors players to leave the team last week and head home.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

Sports psychiatrist Ian Hickie fears there could be long-term repercussions for players.

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“You can’t just treat them like machines as if you’re a robot, as if your family doesn’t matter, your community doesn’t matter, as if what’s happening back in New Zealand doesn’t matter. We all need support,” he said.

Professor Hickie is the co-director at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, and believes there’s a sense of unreality in both the NRL and AFL as they deal with the pandemic.

“It’s very unrealistic taking young sportspeople out of their lives and expecting them to cope. To many it will be very detrimental. The longer it goes on, the more difficult, and the greater [the] risk to your mental health,” he said.

The club says it is prioritising players’ welfare.

“It is very stressful,” Warriors chief executive Cameron George said.

“Our focus right now is ensuring the players and staff in Australia are well supported and looked after, their wellbeing is critical.”

Uncertain future

If the Warriors make the top eight, their stay will extend into October.

“I don’t know what the next six months is going to look like, if this club is going to be based out of Australia next year or New Zealand, things can change dramatically,” George said.

The club also has to find a new head coach, after Stephen Kearney was sacked in June.

“There’s no use appointing a coach that brings their family over and all of a sudden we are in Australia next year. We need clarity on a lot of issues and are exploring plan B, C, D and E,” George said.

Fans rally

A man and a woman pose for a selfie with Warriors clothing on.
New Zealand Warriors fans Sandra and Jayden Penerata(Supplied)

One constant has been the support of fans like husband and wife Jayden and Sandra Penerata, who’ve been supporters for more than 20 years.

“It’s hard to see what our boys are going through,” Ms Penerata said, from Auckland.

“Over here we are at level one so they’re missing a lot, given the situation in Australia with the virus, a lot of us can’t believe what they’ve been doing and what they continue to do.”

For many New Zealanders, it’s hard to comprehend their position.

“We’re very proud of what they’ve done,” Mr Penerata said.

“We support you through thick and thin. No matter what, we know you guys are going through a hard time [and] we’re fully behind you.”



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Australian News

Rafael Nadal pulls out of US Open tennis citing coronavirus concerns


Defending champion Rafael Nadal will skip the US Open because of the coronavirus pandemic, putting on hold his bid to equal Roger Federer’s men’s record for grand slam titles.

Nadal explained his decision in a series of tweets sent in Spanish and English on Tuesday.

“The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it,” Nadal wrote.

The 34-year-old from Spain called sitting out the tournament scheduled to begin on August 31 in New York “a decision I never wanted to take”, but added that he would “rather not travel”.

“Rafa is one of the greatest champions in our sport and we support his decision,” US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster said.

Australian world number one Ash Barty had already announced she would not play the US Open, with her fellow countryman Nick Kyrgios joining her in skipping the tournament.

The US Tennis Association’s entry list announcements on Tuesday noted 2019 women’s champion Bianca Andreescu was in the field — at least for now; players can withdraw until the start of play — but made no mention of Nadal.

Rafael Nadal watches the tennis ball closely as he winds up a forehand at the Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal has 19 grand slam singles titles.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

The professional tennis tours have been on hiatus since March because of the COVID-19 outbreak, with play resuming for women on Monday in Palermo, Italy. The first men’s event on the main tour is scheduled to be held later this month.

Nadal’s plan to skip the US Open came shortly after the Madrid Open, scheduled for September, was cancelled because of the pandemic.

“We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after four months stopped with no play,” Nadal wrote on Twitter. “I understand and thank for the efforts they are putting in to make it happen.”

In last year’s thriller of a men’s final at Flushing Meadows, Nadal edged Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 in 4 hours, 50 minutes. That gave Nadal four titles at the US Open and a total of 19 across all the grand slam tournaments, just one away from Federer’s career mark.

Federer will be absent from the US Open, too, but because of two operations on his right knee this year.

The last grand slam tournament contested without either Federer or Nadal was the 1999 US Open — four years before Nadal made his debut at one of the sport’s four most prestigious events.

The USTA has given repeated indications it intends to go forward with the US Open, despite the spikes in cases around the United States, saying in a news release last week: “New York state continues to be one of the safest places in the country as it relates to the COVID-19 virus.”



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Australian News

Bouldercombe motorsport precinct plans unveiled and open for consultation


A Central Queensland council has unveiled plans to build a multipurpose motorsports precinct, but some locals fear noise from the track will disrupt the quiet neighbourhood.

The Rockhampton Regional Council announced the draft plan, which was designed in collaboration with experts and local clubs.

The precinct — proposed to be built at Bouldercombe — will include tracks for a range of sports including rallycross, drifting, driver safety courses, mud sports, and BMX racing.

“We’re delighted with the design of the racetrack itself and are working with our local motorsport clubs to design the perfect precinct,” Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow said.

A map of a race track
A map of the proposed motor sport precinct, which will include tracks for a range of sports.(Supplied: Rockhampton Regional Council)

Councillor Strelow said the plans aimed to mitigate the impact of noise and dust on the local residents.

“With the nature of motorsports, it’s never going to be a perfectly quiet precinct,” she said.

Water concerns

Councillor Strelow said she was aware of some concerns from locals around water usage for the track, which had been taken into account in the design.

“The engineers have designed for water collection on site and we’re considering whether to bring water from a nearby site to [add to] council’s piped water,” she said.

“Everything seems to have been considered in the plan but now it’s over to the broader community to see what they think about the design.”

She said people who missed previous consultation groups can give feedback before August 24.

“They have been talking about noise, traffic and water and this is a rural area and they are very concerned about anything that might lower the water table they rely on for their crops and livestock.

“We’ve paid attention to that, and it’s why we’ve put this out to people who are experts in the field because they are working on sites like this all around the world — some of them in urban locations.”

Councillor Strelow said the next step will be lobbying for state funding.

Locals concerned over site location

Bouldercombe resident Ian Boag voiced his concern over the proposed site location and the potential for noise pollution in the usually quiet area.

“It’s going to have an adverse effect on us, with the scale of the operation they’re contemplating building,” Mr Boag said.

“I am a motorsport fan, but we’ve lived out in the bush for more than 30 years.



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Australian News

Nick Kyrgios says he won’t play at the US Open over COVID-19 fears, warns players not to be selfish


Australia’s Nick Kyrgios has ruled out playing in this year’s US Open, saying he is making his decision for “my Aussies”, and for the people who have lost their lives in the COVID-19 pandemic.

He becomes the second high-profile Australian tennis player to announce he will be staying away from the New York-based tournament, following this week’s statement by women’s world number one Ash Barty.

The tournament is scheduled to start on August 31 — it will be held at its usual home in Flushing Meadows, Queens but will be played without fans to limit the risk of spreading of the virus.

Kyrgios posted a video on Sunday, where he read from a statement.

“I will not be playing this year at the US Open,” he said.

“It hurts me at my core not to be out there, competing in one of the sport’s greatest arenas, Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It’s my decision.”

A tennis player stands with his head down and his fist in front of his face after losing a point.
Nick Kyrgios says he is sitting out the US Open for Australians, and for the Americans who have died from COVID-19.(AP: Adam Hunger)

Uncertainty remains around the tournament that is usually the last major of the year.

The tennis world has been largely shut down for months in response to the pandemic, and players have expressed concerns over safety.

While tournaments are just about to restart, there have been a number of exhibition events held — the most notorious being the ADRIA Cup, a tournament organised by world number one Novak Djokovic, held in a number of countries, but which featured poor social distancing.

Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric later tested positive. Kyrgios described the decision to go ahead with the exhibition as “boneheaded”, saying people had to stick to the protocols.

Kyrgios has also been drawn into online exchanges with Coric and former world number one Boris Becker over their approach to the virus.

“Dear tennis, let’s take a breath here and remember what’s important, which is health and safety as a community,” he said in the video.

The Canberra native said he had no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open, and that if players wanted to go, that was up to them.

“So long as everyone acts appropriately, and acts safely,” he said.

“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me. I’m speaking for the guy who works in the restaurant, the cleaners, the locker room attendants.

“These are the people that need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”

Kyrgios called on players to act in each other’s best interests and work together.

“That’s just so selfish. Think of all the other people for once.



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Australian News

Sunshine Coast Lightning open Super Netball season with 66-48 win over Queensland Firebirds



Super Netball’s controversial super shot has delivered on its crowd-pleasing potential, as Sunshine Coast Lightning launched the 2020 season with a 66-48 win against Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane.

The Lightning’s win was followed by West Coast Fever’s 74-62 triumph against Adelaide Thunderbirds, with Jhaniele Fowler sinking 53 goals for the victors to complete the double-header.

The brave Firebirds were overpowered in the last quarter of the local derby by the Lightning’s more experienced and stronger bodies in a revealing opening clash of the coronavirus pandemic-delayed 2020 season.

Sunshine Coast trailed by as much as nine goals in the first half but — in internationals Laura Langman, Stephanie Wood and Karla Pretorius — the Lightning had too much class in the fourth term.

Kylee Byrne held her nerve in her first game as the club’s head coach, thanks largely to a big finish from Wood, who shot 10-from-11 super shots in her 14-goal haul.

Despite some early promise, Firebirds shooters Romelda Aiken (26/33) and Tippah Dwan (11/17) were unable to provide the impact their team needed in the second half.

Firebirds youngster Dwan, who was promoted to the squad this season in the absence of pregnant sharpshooter Gretel Bueta, became the first player to capitalise on the super shot.

The new rule rewards the shooter with two points from goals scored in the outer half of the shooting circle in the last five minutes of each quarter.

The Firebirds goal attack sank two super shots for the first quarter to hand last year’s wooden spooners a surprise eight-goal quarter-time lead over the two-time champions.

Strategically, the Power Five period has already become a major game changer, with both coaches using the closing stretch of each quarter to inject long-range specialists.

Just as Dwan ripped open the first quarter, Wood shot five-from-five super shots to single-handedly drag her side back into the contest.

Fever open season with a bang

Fowler did most of the damage of her 53 goals from close range, barely needing the assistance of the super shot as the Fever crushed the Thunderbirds.

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Until Wednesday morning, the Perth-based Fever were preparing themselves for a season-opening showdown with the Giants in Sydney.

But games in New South Wales were rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the Fever instead packing their bags for a Queensland assignment.

Fever goal shooter Fowler was the dominant figure in the first half. Her anticipated duel with Jamaican teammate, Adelaide’s Shamera Sterling, was not the gripping battle the Thunderbirds had hoped for.

It was no shame Sterling was unable to tame the 198-centimetre shooter, whose strength and body positioning made her almost impossible to stop near the post.

The new-look Thunderbirds, driven in the centre by Maisie Nankivell, pressured their opponents in the third quarter and stayed in touch thanks to a trio of super shots from Samantha Gooden.

Despite at times fielding five internationals on the court, the Thunderbirds could not stay with the West Australians.

AAP/ABC



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Local News - Victoria

Restrictions imposed in regional Victoria as new fronts open in Geelong


Pubs, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to stay open in those areas, and the rest of regional Victoria outside Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.

Mr Andrews said it might seem counter-intuitive that “you can go to the pub but you can’t go to your mate’s place”, but transmission was not taking place in cafes and restaurants.

Most transmission was occurring at workplaces, but there were still some “household to household” infections in regional Victoria, he said.

“That makes sense when you think about it. People are not necessarily keeping their distance in their family home,” he said. “It’s a natural thing. You let your guard down.”

Active cases in Greater Geelong have reached 63, including 11 residents and one worker at the Opal South Valley aged care home, Barwon Health confirmed. Sixteen of Geelong’s cases are related to the Golden Farms chicken abattoir cluster.

Barwon Health infectious disease director Eugene Athan said containing the nursing home outbreak was the bigger challenge of the two clusters.

“We are quite concerned and doing our very best to damp down and contain the outbreak quickly,” he said.

Professor Athan said he felt for the residents and their families.

“It’s terrifying and people aren’t allowed to visit. It’s very hard.”

The nursing home could not be reached for comment.

The Golden Farms abattoir, owned by Turosi, has been ordered to close for two weeks while its 420 workers self-isolate and get tested.

Turosi chief executive Phil Hand said the company was working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services, Barwon Health and contact-tracing teams.

“Our priorities right now are the health and wellbeing of our employees and assisting them at this very difficult time, and preparing for the Geelong plant to reopen in due course,” he said.

The United Workers Union, however, called on Golden Farms to provide paid pandemic leave to its workers, who they say had been forced to use leave entitlements while unable to attend work.

Professor Athan said that in the Colac Otway Shire the number of active cases had reached 70.

Government figures indicated 64 cases were linked to the Australian Lamb Company abattoir in Colac.

Professor Athan said many of those infected through the Colac abattoir were recovering well.

Geelong mayor Stephanie Asher supported the introduction of the new restrictions, which allow hospitality businesses, gyms and community facilities to remain open.

“It’s obviously not ideal, but I think everyone appreciates the need to contain the spread of the virus,” she said.

Meanwhile, Bendigo Health confirmed it had found evidence of community transmission.

Government figures showed there were 18 active cases in Bendigo, compared with 11 the day before.

A Bendigo Health spokeswoman said new cases emerged on Wednesday in Bendigo and Heathcote that were not linked to the Don KR cluster, which reached 10 this week.

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“This is deeply concerning and it is evidence that community transmission is occurring in Bendigo and surrounds,” she said.

“It is clear from the contact tracing we have undertaken that people are going out and about in the community after symptoms have begun and this is a problem.”

The health service expects cases to rise in the Bendigo area and warned regional Victorians against complacency.

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Australian News

Why pubs are still open amid home visit ban


The Victorian Premier has explained the reasoning behind banning gatherings at home in parts of regional Victoria while allowing pubs to remain open, saying it was guided by data.

Daniel Andrews today announced residents in six Victorian regional council areas will no longer be allowed to have guests in their homes from 11.59pm tonight.

The restriction affects people living in the Colac-Otway Shire, Greater Geelong, the Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, and the Borough of Queenscliffe council areas. These residents, however, can still go out for dinner and go to the pub, if they wish.

“Understandably, there’ll be plenty of questions about why this and not that,” Mr Andrews said in a statement today. “Why you can have dinner together at a restaurant – but not at a mate’s place.”

He said data indicated the second biggest source of community spread of coronavirus was happening inside people’s homes, between friends or family members.

“We have seen a number of cases where families are giving it to each other — visitors in your home,” Mr Andrews said today.

He said transmission in people’s homes accounted for a smaller number than what was occurring in workplaces, but it remained a “worry” for contact tracers.

The new restrictions were “targeted (at) dealing with the problem” and weren’t just being done “so that there is a sense in the community that we are doing things”.

RELATED: Follow our live Victorian coronavirus coverage

RELATED: New restrictions announced for Victoria after record case spike

The Premier said if there wasn’t chains of transmission in people’s homes the government would be “solely focused on large, high risk workplaces”.

“But when the advice comes in and says there is community transmission down in that corridor, there are household chains of transmission as well … this is exactly the right step to take and again I go back to the counterintuitive point of the pub and your mate’s place and when you think about it, and this is what the public health team have done, thought deeply and looked at the data in really fine, fine detail, they are controlled environments,” he said.

“Having friends over to your house is not a controlled environment and we do, it is not a criticism, it is just one of those facts of life I think that people that they guard down a bit and we finish up with people infecting others.”

HOW WILL IT WORK?

Mr Andrews said Victoria plans to “essentially copy” overseas models that are being used in places like Oregon.

“If you are seated you do not need to have a mask on,” he said. “But if you are not seated, then you have your mask on.”

Mr Andrews said he knows it’s not how we’re used to hospitality looking, but it has “worked in other parts of the world”.

“I think people will adapt to that.”

Mr Andrews also announced today that wearing masks or face coverings would become mandatory across all of regional Victoria. The new mandate will take effect from 11.59pm on August 2.

Wearing masks had already been mandated in Greater Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.

The announcement came as the state reported a staggering 723 new cases of COVID-19 over a 24 hour period.



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Ash Barty says she will not play in this year’s US Open, amid travel fears during the coronavirus pandemic


World women’s number one Ash Barty has withdrawn from the US Open in a massive blow to the grand slam tournament in New York.

Not comfortable about travelling during the coronavirus pandemic, Barty is the biggest tennis name yet to opt out of the August 31 — September 13 major because of the global health crisis.

“My team and I have decided that we won’t be travelling to the US and [Cincinnati Masters] and the US Open this year,” Barty said in a statement on Thursday.

“I love both events so it was a difficult decision but there are still significant risks involved due to COVID-19 and I don’t feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position.

“I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and I look forward to being back in the US next year.

“I will make my decision on the French Open and the surrounding WTA European tournaments in the coming weeks.”

Sam Stosur will also reportedly miss the tournament at Flushing Meadows.

The Cincinnati Masters, which is held annually, has been moved to New York this year and is set to start in mid-August.

No Australian women’s players are entered for the leadup event, although Alex de Minaur, Nick Kyrgios and John Millman are down for the men’s tournament.

The US Open will be held in its usual home in Flushing Meadows, Queens but will be played without fans in attendance to limit the risk of spreading of the virus.

Deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 150,000 in the United States on Wednesday, more than any other country and nearly a quarter of the world’s total.

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Business

ASX to open lower as investors brace for a grim week of economic data


There will be little help from overseas markets at Monday’s ASX open after jitters sent Wall Street stocks deep into the red on Friday.

The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones each snapped a three-week streak of gains, while the tech-heavy NASDAQ had its worst week in four.

Second-quarter CPI will be the local centrepiece in another crucial week of economic data, but Burman Investments portfolio manager Julia Lee warned to keep an eye out for more virus-afflicted company news.

Dour updates from shopping mall owner Vicinity Centres and insurance giant IAG capped a turbulent week for local companies that also included pandemic-related impairments for the likes of QBE, Coca-Cola Amatil, and Santos.

Ms Lee said it could be a taste of things to come as companies look to get on the front foot for earnings season.

“(Companies) that get in early to report is a sign that they’ve already let the skeletons out of the closet,” Ms Lee said. “It’s the stragglers you have to worry about.”

Releasing earnings updates this week are mining giant Rio Tinto, Janus Henderson Group, CIMIC, GUD, CreditCrop, and Emeco Holdings.

Macquarie Group will hold its annual general meeting on Thursday, while auto dealer AP Eagers and Australian Agricultural Co will also front shareholders.

“The AGMs will be quite interesting this year,” Ms Lee said. “It will be interesting to see if we get more participation as people can’t physically be there, but can join via video, and whether the tone of the meetings is different.”

Commonwealth Bank’s economics team says government-imposed coronavirus shutdowns and support policies could result in a record quarterly decline for headline inflation on Thursday.

Consensus expectations are for a 2 per cent quarterly decline, which would be the biggest quarterly fall on ABS records, and for year-through inflation to turn negative for the first time since 1997 at -0.4 per cent.

“Free child care services … changes in the rental property market which have caused rents to fall, and the plunge in petrol prices by 20 per cent are driving the historic outcome,” CBA said. “Disinflationary pressure is likely to persist over the next year given the huge relative shock to the economy.”

In the US, NAB says the focus will be on a follow-up fiscal package, given a renewed weakening in the country’s labour market.

The US Federal Reserve will meet on Wednesday and second-quarter GDP figures will be released on Thursday. The world’s largest economy is expected to contract by 34 per cent on an annualised basis, after the first quarter’s 5 per cent drop.

There will also be key earnings reports from the US tech sector – including Facebook on Wednesday, and Alphabet, Amazon and Apple on Thursday.

The Eurozone’s second-quarter GDP figures are also due.

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