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Australian News

Scott Morrison shares Australia’s virus response


Scott Morrison is gearing up for day two of the virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia.

The prime minister is attending the meeting from his office at The Lodge in Canberra, while he quarantines following his trip to Japan last week.

The coronavirus pandemic was at the centre of leaders’ discussions during day one of the summit.

This included calls for more co-ordinated international action to respond to the crisis, greater preparedness for the next pandemic, and making a vaccine and treatment “safe, affordable and available to all”.

“No one is safe until we are all safe,” many leaders agreed.

The need to support the World Health Organisation’s work was deemed critical to identifying pandemics early.

Mr Morrison and several others also noted the key role hope would play during the pandemic recovery, adding the progress on vaccine trials were part of that.

He told the summit that Australia’s response had been “relatively successful” in terms of suppressing the health impact and cushioning the economic blow with unprecedented fiscal support.

“With 75 per cent of jobs coming back Australia is now looking to build for the future,” Mr Morrison said.

Most leaders supported extending debt relief for vulnerable countries, and there were calls to keep trade and supply chains open, and for safe cross-border travel to resume.

Changes to the World Trade Organisation to help boost economic recovery across the world were also discussed.



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Business

Mixed response on $6.4b takeover bid for AMP



The offer lobbed by AMP’s US suitor, Ares, far exceeds the price tag analysts had placed on the troubled wealth manager.



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Anthony Albanese criticises Fed Gov virus response


Anthony Albanese is set to unleash a scathing critique of the Federal Government’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying support measures created debt that would take generations to repay.

The leader of the Labor Party, who will deliver a speech to the McKell Institute in Sydney on Wednesday, said the Coalition needed to explain how a $1 trillion debt was manageable.

“Australia is in a deep and painful recession. The Morrison recession,” Mr Albanese said.

“Nearly a million Australians are unemployed and 400,000 more will join them by Christmas.

“Let’s not forget before anyone had even heard of coronavirus, the Coalition had already doubled debt.

“Economic growth was already below trend, wages were stagnant, productivity was already going backwards, business investment was already in decline (and) household debt was already at record levels.

“We can’t avoid the need to borrow money to get by until the economy recovers but we should be disciplined about it.”

Mr Albanese accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of “leaving people behind” as income support schemes JobKeeper and JobSeeker were scaled back.

“Worse than that, he’s kicking people while they are down. By December, 700,000 vulnerable Australians will have their payments cut when they can least afford it.

“Australia needs leaders who are prepared to tackle the big challenges facing our nation and its people. Yet Mr Morrison has no jobs plan. He has no plan for growth. No plan for skills training.

“Mr Morrison dislikes having to take responsibility unless it involves political gain.”

He said many people were forgotten in the JobKeeper scheme, including casuals, artists and university staff, and the COVIDSafe App did not prove as successful as anticipated.

“JobKeeper was poorly targeted.

“Students working a shift a week for pocket money were suddenly eligible for $1500 a fortnight in JobKeeper assistance – while single mums who worked long hours as casuals and had children to feed were ineligible.”

Mr Albanese also pointed to government mishaps, including its recent $4.5 billion allocation to “clean up the mess” of the NBN and sports rorting scandal.

In order to generate economic activity, he said the federal budget needed to prioritise job creation and allow investment in social housing, early education and universities, and roads and railways across the country.

“Above all, the budget must invest in our nation’s greatest resource – our people. That should include attacking the skills crisis created by seven years of Coalition neglect and inaction.

“With record levels of debt, massive deficits and the economy in recession, every dollar of new spending must be used to protect jobs, create secure jobs, train and upskill Australians and support those who need help to pay the bills and put food on the table.

“Any new spending is borrowed money. It can’t be wasted on mates, or rorts, or dodgy deals, or pork-barrelling.”



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World is frozen in response to deluge of US dollars, fearing Trump punishment


The dilemma facing European policymakers is, however, one confronting much of the world as it struggles to recover from the destructive impact of the pandemic on economic growth.

Since March and the Fed’s decision to not only provide a deluge of dollars for its own economy through massive and open-ended purchases of bonds and other securities but to provide liquidity swaps with 14 central banks – supplying them with US dollars – the world has been drowning in US dollars.

The combination of the access to dollars, the extent of the monetary policy stimulus in the US and the Fed’s recent decision to hold US rates at their current negligible levels – negative in real terms – has seen the US dollar appreciate about 9.3 per cent against the basket of its major trading partners’ currencies since March 19. That’s its weakest level for more than two years.

A weak dollar exports deflation elsewhere. It helps US exporters be more competitive (albeit while harming importers in an economy with a structural trade deficit) and therefore one that imports more than it exports) while damaging the exports and growth prospects of economies elsewhere.

The tumbling value of the dollar has had varying impacts. At one extreme is the Australian dollar, which has appreciated almost 27 per cent from its March lows. At the other are countries such as Brazil and Turkey, whose economies have been weakened more than most by the impact of the pandemic.

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Their currencies have weakened despite the weaker US dollar.

Lesser developed, emerging economies would normally be expected to benefit from dollar weakness as their own currencies strengthened by lowering the cost of mainly US dollar-denominated debt, encouraging capital inflows and lowering input costs. Concerns about their ability to fight the coronavirus and fund their responses to it have clearly weighed on their exchange rates.

Exchange rates tend to be driven by growth rate and interest rate differentials. Those are at play in the current dollar weakness, along with some less conventional influences.

When the Fed announced recently that it would change its inflation-targeting framework, in effect signalling that US rates would remain lower – in real terms negative – for much longer than markets might have been factoring in they locked in the US side of rate comparisons for the foreseeable future.

The looming US election adds a sense of political instability and another layer of uncertainty to the outlook for the US.

The looming US election adds a sense of political instability and another layer of uncertainty to the outlook for the US.Credit:AP

Where, for much of the post-financial crisis period, US rates were higher than those in, say, Europe, there is now no material difference. The swap lines the Fed put in place with other central banks means there is no shortage of dollars, reducing the incentive to acquire US assets. America’s bungling of its response to the pandemic – and the continued dysfunction of its fragmented response – weighs on its growth prospects.

Moreover, recent events and the looming US election – with very different policy frameworks depending on whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden emerges with the presidency – adds a sense of political instability and another layer of uncertainty to the outlook for the US.

The eurozone’s caution in responding to the strengthening of the euro – and that of other developed economies experiencing the same revaluations even as the pandemic spreads global recession – owes something to nervousness about how the Trump administration might respond if they were seen to be overtly attempting to weaken their currencies against the US dollar.

The administration’s willingness to deploy tariffs and financial sanctions and its elevation of trade as a key component of its re-election platform makes currency relativities an especially sensitive issue in the lead up to the US election.

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China has allowed its currency to drift up nearly 4 per cent against the US dollar since March, although that properly reflects the extent to which its economy has rebounded relative to the continuing weakness of the US economy.

It would be even more aware than western economies of the risks of inflaming the administration, given that it is already weighed down by US tariffs and, more recently, a recent raft of financial sanctions and other measures, albeit those are targeted at companies and individuals rather than economy-wide.

There are analysts who think the decline in the value of the US dollar is structural rather than cyclical and that Trump’s abuse of the dollar’s privilege as the world’s reserve currency – use of that privilege as an option of first resort to sanction individuals and companies – will hasten that decline and the world’s search for alternatives.

Whether that’s China’s currency, which it is promoting aggressively as an international medium of exchange in competition with the dollar, albeit with only limited success, the euro or a global cryptocurrency (as espoused by former governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney) the administration’s policies are providing incentives for eroding the dollar’s clout.

The euro is probably best-placed to challenge the dollar’s dominance, particularly after the historic decision earlier this year to allow the European Union to issue collective debt, a European alternative to US Treasury bonds.

In the near term the dollar’s position is unlikely to be directly challenged, but longer term the capacity for its reserve currency status to be used as the Trump administration has used it and America’s retreat from globalisation and the post-war global institutions that have underpinned that process may continue to chip away at that status.

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Local News - Victoria

Police promise ‘swift and firm’ response to CBD anti-lockdown protest


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“Those still thinking of attending the CBD to protest can expect a swift and firm response from police.”

Saturday’s protest appears to have been organised by several online communities who are calling for an end to Victoria’s lockdown.

A 76-year-old man from Windsor was arrested on Friday and charged with incitement for allegedly helping to organise the protest.

An event page for the protest attracted the interest of thousands before it was blocked by Facebook. Those trying to access it in Australia receive the message: “You’re unable to view this content because local laws restrict our ability to show it.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said content which is flagged as inappropriate is reviewed by the social media giant and can be restricted.

“We review content reported to us against our policies on harmful misinformation linked to COVID-19, and take action on it where appropriate,” she said.

“We also restrict access to content that violates local government guidance about social distancing when we are made aware of it by the relevant authorities.”

Before the page was removed, organisers wrote that they wanted half a million people to attend the protest to “end the lockdown and celebrate freedom”.

They described the event as a protest against the leadership of Premier Daniel Andrews and the damage being caused by the lockdown in order to “hold the government accountable”.

Details of the event, billed as “Freedom Day”, continue to be shared on social media.

Mr Andrews on Monday expressed his disappointment with the protests, including suburban events which have taken place over the past week in Broadmeadows, Roxburgh Park and Dandenong.

Mr Andrews said protesting at the moment was not appropriate.

“You know what disappoints me more than anything? The behaviour of some of those people takes away from the amazing work, absolutely amazing work the vast majority of Victorians are doing,” he said.

He said there will always be some who do the wrong thing but urged Victorians not to take part in protests.

“No matter what your postcode or purpose, protest is not safe, it’s not smart, it’s just not right because it potentially puts at risk everything that people have worked so hard to achieve.”

Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt on Monday said it was a “shame” that resources were being diverted from other police work to cover the protests.

“Domestic violence in the community, reducing the crime rate and the road toll – all of these things haven’t gone away. Our members have been balancing a lot of different things at the moment and have a lot of plates spinning at the same time,” he said.

Some of the violent conduct seen towards police at the suburban protests was “disgraceful”, he said.

Victorian Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt.

Victorian Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt.Credit:Paul Rovere

“It’s selfish behaviour,” he said.

“Every time our members are exposed to people like this there is a high risk they will be exposed to coronavirus themselves. That’s the single greatest risk our members confront at this point in time.

“I’ve got officers who have spent weeks in quarantine, who have missed the birth of their children, who have not been able to hug their kids for weeks because they have been in hotels because they don’t want to transmit the virus to their families. This is because they’ve had short-term contact with people who haven’t worn masks, who haven’t done the right thing, who are simply coming out and flaunting the rules.”

Three men were arrested on Sunday, after clashes between police and anti-lockdown protesters in Broadmeadows, in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, and five fines were issued during a prohibited gathering near the George Andrews Reserve in Dandenong.

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Investors say Rio board’s response to cave blast disaster falls well short


“But the question, I think, for the board is, ‘Who are the best people to lead the changes we have identified and feel are essential to ensure we don’t have a repeat of Juukan?’ And the conclusion we’ve reached is the JS, Chris and Simone are the right people.”

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Some investors, however, raised immediate concerns that the board’s report failed to deliver on meaningful accountability for the destruction of some of the most significant cultural sites in Australia.

The $52 billion superannuation fund HESTA, which invests in Rio, noted the report’s findings that the blasting of the gorge, although legally sanctioned, had fallen “well short” of the miner’s own standards but had failed to specify who was ultimately responsible for adhering to those standards and for ongoing oversight of heritage management.

“The report fails to assuage investor concerns about the gap in Rio Tinto’s public commitment to lead on heritage protection, and its actions,” HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey said.

Australian Council of Superannuation Investors chief executive Louise Davidson called on Rio’s board to explain why greater accountability was not being applied in light of the disaster.

“Remuneration appears to be the only sanction applied to executives,” Ms Davidson said. “This raises the question – does the company feel that £4 million is the right price for the destruction of cultural heritage?”

Mr Thompson said the board had decided the three executives would forfeit about £4 million ($7 million) in their 2020 bonuses.

Mr Jacques would be stripped of payments worth nearly $3 million, while Ms Niven and Mr Salisbury would lose about $1 million each. Mr Jacques would also lose $1.8 million of long-term incentives.

In, 2019, Mr Jacques received a salary of £5.79 million ($10.5 million).

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“Of course, you cannot put a monetary value on Juukan,” Mr Thompson said on Monday. “But these are significant penalties and I think they reflect both the seriousness of the incident and the damage that has been done to Rio Tinto’s reputation.”

James Fitzgerald of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, a shareholder activist group working with First Nations land councils, said the penalties were “completely off the mark” and “pocket change for these highly paid executives”.

“These minimal proposed financial penalties misunderstand the nature of the damage, which is permanent and irreparable,” he said. “The CEO needs to go and head of cultural heritage, Simone Niven, needs to accompany him.”

Identifying areas for change, the review said Rio would strengthen its community relations and heritage functions across its operations, including improving processes for escalating heritage issues to senior decision-making levels and a greater focus among senior operational leaders on relationships with traditional owners and First Nations people. The company would also introduce more effective internal audits to ensure compliance with heritage standards and guidelines.

It comes as the miner is facing a federal parliamentary inquiry into the lead-up to the Juukan Gorge blast and the adequacy of the nation’s heritage-protection laws. Rio has acknowledged to the inquiry it could have made better decisions and been better partners with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama Pinikura (PKKP) people in the years leading up to the blast.

The company said it had missed multiple opportunities to better communicate with the traditional landowners or pause to rethink its mine expansion plan after archaeological digs in 2014 found the site to be much more significant than previously thought.

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Savage response to Victorian government’s ‘lame’ videos


Yesterday the Victorian government launched a new ad campaign to promote “staying home, staying safe” as the state enters its seventh week in lockdown, but it’s been met with derision by the Victorian public.

The short clips feature a number of prominent Australians, including Magda Szubanski, Shane Jacobson, Tayla Harris, Waleed Aly and Nazeem Hussain, who encourage handwashing, mask-wearing and other law-abiding behaviours.

However, the ‘Staying Safe is in Our Hands’ Campaign hasn’t impressed everyone with some accusing Premier Daniel Andrews of being tone deaf and others calling it lame and “bottom of the barrel”.

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“As part of the latest in the Victorian Government’s communications campaign, some of our most loved Victorians are here to remind us all – staying safe is in our hands,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews put out in a statement.

“That includes small but simple things like wearing a mask, washing your hands, keeping your distance – and getting tested if you have symptoms.

“Using Victorian voices and a very Victorian sense of humour, this is the latest in our ongoing advertising and communications efforts and will be successively rolled out on social media channels in the coming days.”

The first video stars comedy actor Magda Szubanski playing the iconic role of Sharon Strzelecki from Kath and Kim.

In it, she plays netball by herself while wearing a mask.

RELATED: Victoria’s big call on virus numbers

“I tell you what, I am so over this lockdown,” she tells the camera.

“Playing netball by yourself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when you still can’t even win.

“But you know what? It’s not the lockdown that’s the enemy, it’s the virus.

“And the sooner we obey the rules, the sooner this will all be over.”

The other video stars Aussie comedian Shane Jacobson, best known for his 2006 movie Kenny.

“When I was a little tacker, they used to have an ad campaign for condoms. And they had a slogan which was ‘if it’s not on, it’s not on’,” he said.

“Now thank goodness my parents didn’t follow that advice or I wouldn’t be here today. But you know what? I am here today and I’d like to stay here.

“So I’m bringing the slogan back. If it’s not on, it’s not on.

“So whack one on your face. I’m talking about the mask of course, not the condoms.”

There are eight ads in total but these are the only two released so far.

Some Victorians aren’t too happy about it though.

Some took offence at the patronising tone while others simply admitted they didn’t like some of the media personalities.

However, others had nothing but praise for the videos and the actors in them.

Others pointed out that Jacobson hadn’t copped any criticism.

Szubanski herself weighed in on the debate, revealing that the ads had also brought a lot of COVID-19 conspiracy theorists out of the woodwork, especially to her private inbox.

The ad campaign comes as Victoria recorded 208 cases today, ending its two-day low streak of less than 200 cases.



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Local News - Victoria

GPs ‘forgotten in COVID-19 response


Although Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services insists GPs are providing a “vital service’’ throughout the pandemic, doctors have expressed frustration they aren’t being given information about cases in their neighbourhoods beyond the public, daily briefings provided by the government.

“It is a bit lonely as a GP at the moment,’’ said Tamsin Franklin, a doctor who has set up a walk-in COVID-19-testing clinic in the car park behind her Northcote practice.

Dr Tamsin Franklin says the pandemic has been a lonely experience for GPs.

Dr Tamsin Franklin says the pandemic has been a lonely experience for GPs. Credit:Jason South

“I honestly don’t know who to ask for help. The six different people I have emailed within the DHHS have all said it is someone else’s responsibility.”

Dr Hanna El-Khoury, a Newport GP who treated COVID-19 patients connected to two large outbreaks in Melbourne’s west – Al-Taqwa College in Truganina and Cedar Meats in Brooklyn – described his “bitter experience’’ of providing the wrong advice to Al-Taqwa students because he wasn’t told there was a suspected COVID-19 cluster at the school.

"Al-Taqwa was a disaster": Newport GP Dr Hanna El-Khoury.

“Al-Taqwa was a disaster”: Newport GP Dr Hanna El-Khoury.Credit:Scott McNaughton

The Al-Taqwa College cluster started in late June when a senior school teacher attended class with a cough. The outbreak has since been linked to 183 cases. Dr El-Khoury said that when an Al-Taqwa student presented to him with cold and flu symptoms on June 25, DHHS had not reported any concerns about the school.

When the student tested negative to coronavirus, the doctor told them there was no need to quarantine from their family or friends. The student subsequently tested positive, along with members of their family.

On June 29, DHHS announced Al-Taqwa College was closed for cleaning. Dr El-Khoury said that had he known earlier that a staff member had tested positive, he would have advised the student to quarantine for 14 days regardless of their test results.

Dr El-Khoury, a GP for 30 years, said that despite his strong connection to the school community, including a shared Arabic heritage and language with many Al-Taqwa families, he was never contacted by anyone from DHHS or provided information about the outbreak beyond what was publicly available.

“Al-Taqwa was a disaster,’’ he told The Age. “It was a disaster for me, especially when you feel you are giving wrong information.”

GPs bill their patients through the federally administered Medicare Benefits Scheme and traditionally have had little to do with the DHHS.

Dr Cameron Loy, a Lara GP and Victorian chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said the relationship between GPs and the DHHS had improved in recent years and particularly during the pandemic.

“I don’t want to minimise the efforts they have gone to,” he said. “They have come a long way towards understanding general practice in the last couple of months.”

However, Dr Loy said local doctors did not have access to tailored information about outbreaks in their communities.

Lara, west of Melbourne, is part of the City of Greater Geelong, which is largely COVID-19-free. It also borders Wyndham, the local government area with Australia’s highest number of cases.

“We need to know what is happening in our local areas,’’ Dr Loy said. “I often get information about where the cases are from the Geelong Advertiser rather than the department. It would be incredibly useful for me to know whether there are cases in Lara.’’

Dr Haikerwal this month provided a 13-page briefing to the Premier’s office raising concerns about the COVID-19 response. He called for the rapid development of a framework to clarify the responsibilities and procedures for GPs and pathology providers when treating COVID-19 patients and urged the DHHS to modernise its “archaic” reporting methods.

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“Get it right now,” Dr Haikerwal wrote. “If it escalates, we then have a robust system underpinning and guiding what we do. Currently, it is a morass.”

A DHHS spokesperson said the department was in “regular communication” with GPs to help them through the COVID-19 crisis.

“GPs play a key role in not just assisting people when they are unwell,” the spokesperson said. “GPs have also been important referral pathways for anyone with coronavirus symptoms – helping them to get tested, manage any mild and moderate symptoms at home and referring patients with more severe symptoms to a hospital.”

Dr Franklin said this communication was not apparent. There is a dedicated DHHS hotline for health professionals but GPs are told that for practical assistance in accessing personal protective equipment or COVID-19-testing kits, they need to contact their local Private Health Network, a separate bureaucracy administered by the federal government.

Dr Franklin says GPs have "dropped through the cracks'' of the public health response.

Dr Franklin says GPs have “dropped through the cracks” of the public health response.Credit:Jason South

Three high schools close to Dr Franklin’s practice were closed last week for cleaning but no information has been provided to her about local COVID-19 clusters.

“I feel like we’ve just dropped through the cracks,’’ she said.

Dr Franklin said the experience of Chris Higgins, a Toorak doctor who was criticised by Health Minister Jenny Mikakos for inadvertently spreading the virus after he went to work early in the pandemic with cold and flu symptoms, had discouraged some GPs from seeing suspected COVID-19 patients.

She described afternoons spent shivering in her makeshift testing clinic as “soul destroying’’ but believes GPs need to play a bigger role in the pandemic response.

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“My feeling is we are doctors, this is a massive health problem, it is time to step up.”

Victoria’s second surge of the coronavirus has proven far deadlier than the initial surge of infections.

On June 9, the last day Victoria recorded no new COVID-19 cases, the death toll was 19. It is now 71, with that number expected to rise as the virus spreads through aged care facilities. There are 4233 active cases, including 560 in aged care and 381 among healthcare workers.

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Investors wait for budget response to COVID-19


The index has not registered back-to-back sessions of gains in a fortnight amid a procession of dour virus updates, widening restrictions, and a geopolitical stare-down between Washington and Beijing.

Volumes have also been low – potentially because of the local school holidays and northern hemisphere summer period – though Tribeca portfolio manager Jun Bei Liu said virus-spooked investors are likely to be keeping one eye on the earnings season ahead.

“We’ve been struggling for purchase. When you are so close to the results season, investors are just so cautious,” Ms Liu said.

Thursday’s economic and fiscal update is the undoubted focal point of the week, with the federal government to announce its plan for the JobKeeper wage subsidy beyond September.

Equity markets both locally and abroad have gorged on a river of government stimulus since hitting a floor during the March COVID-19 rout.

GSFM investment strategist Stephen Miller said he expected spending to be tapered but for the tap to remain on for some time yet.

“I’ll be staggered if there’s a sudden ending of fiscal support for the economy,” Mr Miller said.

“I expect some re-engineering for the likes of JobKeeper and Jobseeker, perhaps to iron out some of the inconsistencies, perhaps to make it more sectorally focussed… but it’s a balancing act.

“Keep it going too long, and you’re adding to public sector debt unnecessarily. Too short and you risk falling off a cliff.”

NAB economist Kaixin Owyong said measures announced could include limiting business eligibility to JobKeeper, and allowing the wage payment to vary, such that those who ordinarily earn less than $1500 per fortnight receive a lower payment.

A permanent increase in the JobSeeker unemployment benefit could also be on the cards.

Westpac, meanwhile, says the government could also bring forward personal income tax cuts – at a cost of $7 billion – as well as announcing cash hand-outs and spending on health and infrastructure at $8 billion combined.

On the budget, NAB says the government should confirm an FY20 deficit of around $85 billion, or 4.5 per cent of GDP, and forecast a deficit of around $210 billion in FY21, the biggest deficit since World War II.

Westpac is more pessimistic, estimating deficits of $95 billion and $240 billion over the two years.

Elsewhere, Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe will speak at the Annika Foundation lunch on Tuesday on “COVID 19, the Labour Market and Public‑sector Balance Sheets”.

The RBA Board Minutes from the July meeting are also due.

Preliminary retail sales on Wednesday should show a small 0.5 per cent rise in June.

On the company front, a number of resources firms will release quarterly production reports.

This includes South32, BHP, Oil Search, Oz Minerals, Evolution, Galaxy, Newcrest, Santos, and Syrah.

Megaport, Sydney Airport, and ResMed are also expected to update the market.

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NRL fines Addin Fonua-Blake $20,000, orders volunteer work in response to ‘retard’ slur at referee


Manly prop Addin Fonua-Blake has been fined $20,000 for calling referee Grant Atkins “a f***ing retard” during a game on Sunday.

The money will be donated to Wheelchair Rugby League Australia and the NRL has also decided that Fonua-Blake will referee wheelchair rugby league games once biosecurity protocols allow “to gain a better understanding and respect of disability groups”.

He was initially suspended for two weeks for the abuse of the referee at the end of the Sea Eagles’ two-point loss to Newcastle, but the NRL found a breach of the league’s anti-vilification code and decided to take further action.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said he hoped the actions taken by the league would help drive change.

“The focus of this penalty is about rehabilitation and education, it’s not punitive,” he said.

“I see this as an opportunity to provide positive change for Addin and his experiences will also rub off on the broader playing group. Increasing the suspension is an easy decision but what is more important is driving change in attitudes.”

Fonua-Blake apologised to the referees for his abuse on the day, and in a video released by the club, he said he was not aware of how derogatory the term was.

Addin Fonua-Blake celebrates a try
Fonua-Blake (second from right) was initially banned for just two weeks.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

But Abdo said “ignorance is not an excuse”.

“There is no tolerance for comments like we witnessed on Sunday,” he said.

“Rugby league breaks down social barriers and gives everyone an opportunity to participate. Inclusivity is the foundation of our game.”

Manly chief executive Stephen Humphreys released a statement saying Fonua-Blake and the club accepted the NRL’s decision “without challenge or complaint”.

In addition to concerns about vilification and discrimination, the NRL is also moving to stamp out further abuse of the officials.

Abdo said it was “unacceptable and will not be tolerated”, flagging that he would recommend all matters of “serious abuse or intimidation of match officials” should be sent straight to the judiciary in future.

He said that would “ensure penalties meet community expectations”.



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