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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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Tasmania’s coronavirus border closures mean Hobart AFL match won’t go ahead


The AFL will be forced to rejig its fixtures again with Tasmania to keep its borders closed to people travelling from Queensland.

Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein confirmed this afternoon the round-11 match between North Melbourne and Melbourne will not be able to take place on August 9 at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval.

Mr Gutwein did not address the Kangaroos’ planned match with Brisbane in Hobart on August 15, but that match is also likely to be moved to another state.

The AFL announced on Tuesday night it had scheduled two North Melbourne home matches for Bellerive Oval as part of its fixture announcement for rounds nine to 12.

Most of Victoria’s 10 clubs are temporarily based in Queensland, alongside the Brisbane and Gold Coast teams.

“The decision that has been arrived at is that for North Melbourne and Melbourne supporters, unfortunately, they won’t be playing here on the ninth of August,” Mr Gutwein told a media conference in Hobart.

“I would hope that AFL could be played here later in the year but that will largely be dependent upon the circumstances of the states where the teams are based.”

North Melbourne chief executive Ben Amarfio said the club would liaise with the AFL about where the match against the Demons would now be hosted.

“We will work with the AFL to reschedule any affected games to Queensland and we will obviously endeavour to secure replacement games in Hobart when the borders re-open to Queensland,” he said in a club statement.

“The AFL has said all along that we must remain flexible and agile as the environment is ever-changing.

Peter Gutwein, Tasmanian Liberal politician, stands outside ABC News, Hobart, undated image.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said the AFL was the “least” of his considerations at the moment.(ABC News)

Mr Gutwein said Tasmania would have “safe travel bubbles” with Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory from August 7.

Tasmania will not open its borders to people from Queensland or New South Wales until at least August 14, with the situation to be reassessed next month.

Prior to the Tasmanian Government’s announcement this afternoon, the AFL had said playing matches in Tasmania was a priority for the league.

“We have been consistent in our desire to get matches in Tasmania,” AFL general manager of clubs and broadcasting Travis Auld said on Tuesday.

“Both the AFL and North Melbourne are heavily invested into footy in Hobart and we are very happy for the state and the city to host two matches.”

AAP/ABC



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Annastacia Palaszczuk won’t rule out closing NSW-Queensland border


Queensland’s Premier has not ruled out closing the border to NSW or further hot spots within the state.

Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was monitoring cases of COVID-19 in NSW daily and was determined to keep Queenslanders safe.

“If we have to declare further hot spots, we will declare further hot spots,” she said.

“And if there is an outbreak of community transmission in NSW, like we have seen in Victoria, we will not hesitate to take swift action.”

The Premier also reiterated her disappointment about NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s refusal to allow the border checkpoint to move further south into the state.

“It was about making residents of border communities lives easier but they are NSW residents so there is nothing I can do about that,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can. We’ve got police there, emergency services, Australian Defence Force personnel — it’s a big job. But this big job is about keeping Queenslanders safe.”

The Premier also confirmed a plan to offer pandemic leave to health professionals was still on the table.

“The Health Minister will be meeting with people about that and I absolutely believe our health professionals deserve to have pandemic leave,” she said.

As for declaration passes, Ms Palaszczuk said people needed to be honest when attempting to cross the border into Queensland.

“We are dealing with life and death, these are very serious issues.”



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PM won’t pursue elimination strategy


Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia won’t be pursuing a “risky” elimination strategy to defeat COVID-19.

Speaking at a press conference today, Mr Morrison warned such a move would result in the country suffering a massive economic downfall.

He said countries that have gone for the elimination strategy have seen much greater economic impacts than Australia.

“You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of more people unemployed for a start and other businesses closing and livelihoods destroyed,” he said.

“In Victoria, they had the hardest lockdowns and theirs is the state that has succumbed to that outbreak, (which) was initiated by a failure in hotel quarantine by returning Australians.

“The idea that people wouldn’t be allowed to return to Australia or exporters can’t sell

products overseas we hold all shipping to Australia, that’s where the risk comes from and the greater risk of an eradication strategy is.”

RELATED: Follow our full coronavirus coverage

RELATED: Where Victoria’s 317 new cases came from

RELATED: Experts say suppression was a mistake

He said the view of the Government and health advisers is that an aggressive suppression strategy is the best option.

Elimination and suppression strategies have a lot of the same control measures, including rapid identification and isolation of cases, fast contact tracing, testing and quarantining, social distancing and lockdown measures and border controls.

Where the strategies diverge is when these measures are introduced and how long they stay in place, with suppression strategy aiming to lift restrictions earlier to so as not to have as much impact on the economy.

Mr Morrison branded the elimination strategy “very risky and very illusory”.

“You can’t mortgage off your economy for what would prove to be an illusory goal by the process,” he said.

Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth released a statement today branding the renewed calls for an elimination strategy “unrealistic and dangerous”.

“The inference is that if Victoria had eliminated community transmission, this second outbreak would not have occurred – something which is patently false,” he said in a statement.

“As the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, has said, this outbreak has largely stemmed from breaches in quarantine arrangements for Australian citizens returning from overseas. Such breaches would have ceded this outbreak even if community transmission had been eliminated for several weeks.”

Dr Coatsworth said true elimination is only a realistic strategy when there is a vaccine available.

He used measles as an example, noting the World Health Organisation (WHO) branded the illness eliminated in Australia in 2014.

“We have occasional outbreaks, which are quickly brought under control by our public health teams and because we have an excellent immunisation program,” he said.

“In Australia, we have pursued aggressive suppression with the knowledge this will lead to periods of elimination in parts of the country.”

Australia is not in a position to achieve elimination as global transmission is increasing, the deputy CMO said.

“It is impossible to completely seal the borders of any country – even an island continent such as Australia – and nor should we try to. Returning travellers, freight vessels and associated crews will continue to come from countries with widespread transmission,” he said.

“No country or part of a country can assume that a period of local elimination is protection against further community outbreaks.

“Our systems are excellent, but they will never be perfect, and it would be irresponsible for any leader to claim they could be.”

WHO recently confirmed its view that elimination and eradication are unrealistic goals, Dr Coatsworth said.

“In Australia, we will continue to strive for local elimination wherever possible. We remain one of the world’s most successful nations in the fight against COVID-19,” he said.

“We have achieved this, not by pursuing the false hope of elimination, but by realistic, pragmatic and proportionate action when it is most necessary.”



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Gold Coast Suns won’t rush decision on treatment for Matt Rowell’s AFL shoulder injury



The Gold Coast Suns are taking a cautious approach to treating Matt Rowell’s shoulder injury, as concerns grow the teenager is facing season-ending reconstructive surgery.

Scans today confirmed Rowell dislocated his right shoulder during Saturday’s 37-point defeat to Geelong at Kardinia Park.

The 2019 number one draft pick, who had been on fire for the Suns in their three matches prior to the Cats fixture, sustained the damage in a tackle by Geelong’s Brandan Parfitt during the opening quarter.

The midfielder has since flown with the squad to Wollongong, where the Suns will spend the next two weeks.

Amid reports the club is debating whether or not to put Rowell under the knife, Suns football manager Jon Haines said there was no hurry on finalising the 19-year-old’s treatment plan.

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“What we’ll do now is take a little bit of time to assess those options, assess the views and have a good chat about it,” Haines said.

“We don’t feel like we have to rush the decision. We understand there is a high level of interest in it, but we also want to make sure we make the right decision for Matt and that will be done in consultation with Matt and his family.

Haines said Rowell would remain with the Suns squad for the time being during their New South Wales stay.

“He’s frustrated and disappointed obviously, but that’s the type of person he is,” he said.

“Depending on what path we take with our decision, we’ll make a decision on whether he stays here or not.”

Former Suns captain and Cats great Gary Ablett sustained a similar injury while playing for Gold Coast in 2014 and missed the rest of the season after opting for reconstruction surgery.

Ablett, who played for the Cats against the Suns on Saturday, has offered to provide advice to Rowell.

AAP/ABC



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Wigan is the latest English football league club to enter administration. It probably won’t be the last


The announcement that Wigan Athletic has entered administration has sent shivers of nervous apprehension rippling through fans of the lower leagues of English football.

That clubs would be sent to the wall by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic was not a surprise.

Back in May, when football authorities were trying to hammer out a plan for clubs to finish their seasons, English MP Damian Collins warned that as many as 10 of the Football League’s remaining 71 clubs could go into administration “within weeks”.

It’s taken a little longer than that, but there is a genuine fear that Wigan is simply the first domino to fall.

Wigan’s woes since FA Cup glory

Wigan were in the Premier League as recently as 2013 and famously won the FA Cup that year with a stunning, last-minute winner to beat Manchester City 1-0.

That the result came against a neighbouring club was sweet. But the fact that City were, and still are, brimming with the riches that have become so necessary to compete at the top level, made it even sweeter.

Wigan celebrates Cup final win
Roberto Martinez lead Wigan to a stunning FA Cup win. Things have gone downhill since.(Reuters: Darren Staples)

However, that joy was short-lived. The club was relegated from the Premier League just a matter of weeks later, and then suffered the indignity of a second relegation after just two seasons in the second-tier Championship.

Wigan yo-yoed between the second and third tiers a couple of times, winning the third-tier League One title twice before settling back in the Championship in the 2018 season.

At that point the club was sold by the son of long-term backer Dave Whelan — a former professional player who owned and was chairman of the club for the best past of 20 years — to Hong Kong investment group International Entertainment Corporation (IEC).

However, just four weeks ago, IEC sold up to the Next Leader Fund, citing the coronavirus pandemic as a major reason for them selling.

Is this the same situation as Bury?

Just 10 months ago, the English Football League (EFL) was reeling from the death of one of its founding members, the 125-year-old Bury FC.

One of the reasons for Bury’s expulsion from the football league was a result of poor financial management and a serious lapse from the much-maligned EFL, who failed to ensure then-owner Steve Dale complied with its “proof of funding” rules upon the conclusion of his takeover.

The EFL is under fire again from some quarters, with fans arguing that Next Leader Fund should not have been able to pass the financial aspect of the league’s fit and proper persons test.

Joint administrator Paul Stanley told Sky Sports that “from what we can see [the new owners] have just decided they don’t want to fund the club anymore.”

Unlike Bury, Wigan have not been expelled from the league, and Stanley said he was “confident” that a buyer could be found for the “well-run club”.

Whether that optimism is warranted in the midst of a coronavirus-fueled economic downturn, remains to be seen.

Why is Wigan’s plight pertinent to the rest of the football league?

Simply put, the coronavirus outbreak is not the sole reason for Wigan’s issues.

In fact, the accounts show Wigan was haemorrhaging money back when the prospect of a global pandemic was something contained within the realms of a Hollywood producer’s imagination.

The accounts show that Wigan lost more than 9 million pounds ($16.23 million) before coronavirus hit.

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Those losses are not uncommon in professional football.

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire told Sky Sports that although Wigan’s situation was “unique” in the sense that it was a case of a new owner immediately deciding not to put money into the club, Wigan is not the only club in trouble.

“They’ve got no money coming in from match day for the foreseeable future, the broadcast money in terms of the solidarity payments from the Premier League are likely to be reduced because of rebates that are due to broadcasters, and commercial partners will be unwilling to sponsor clubs if matches aren’t taking place.

“Put all of those three together and sadly it does look as if many clubs will be walking a very tight rope over the next few months.”

Is there any hope for lower league football clubs?

As coronavirus continues to rage in the UK, any thoughts of throwing open stadium turnstiles appear to be dead in the water, meaning clubs may well be without the lifeline of gate receipts for a fair while longer.

a green metal fence obscures the view of Etihad Stadium
Fans have been locked out of stadiums since the coronavirus pandemic started, and are likely to remain so for many months.(AP: Jon Super)

Collins, the former chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, told Sky Sports News that government support, therefore, was essential to ensure the survival of some clubs.

“Without the government stepping in, those clubs could go to the wall, and there may be others that follow,” he said.

What would be most galling for Wigan fans is that on the field, things have been going brilliantly since the turn of the year.

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Under manager Paul Cook the Latics are unbeaten in nine games, are yet to concede in seven — a run that straddles the coronavirus pause — and are up to 14th on the ladder.

Now, with an automatic 12-point deduction from the Football League — the standard penalty for entering administration — hanging over the club, those recent successes are nothing more than Pyrrhic victories, with relegation almost a certainty.

With clubs across the country facing the prospect of not being able to welcome crowds when next season starts up again — robbing clubs lower down the leagues of vital match-day revenue — there is nothing to say that this will not precipitate a flurry of clubs being condemned to a similar fate.



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Heritier Lumumba won’t join Collingwood’s ‘insulting’ internal review of racism allegations



Former Collingwood defender Heritier Lumumba says he is “insulted” by his former club’s plan to run its own investigation into allegations of racism.

Lumumba, who played with Collingwood for a decade from 2005-2014, has claimed that he was nicknamed “chimp” and was subjected to casual racism on a regular basis while at the club.

The 33-year-old, who is of Brazilian and Congolese heritage, also claims he was ousted from the team’s leadership group and eventually the club itself after he called out club president Eddie McGuire on national television, shortly after the media personality made offensive comments about then-Sydney player Adam Goodes.

Lumumba now lives in the United States and made the allegations shortly after he retired, but has recently demanded a public acknowledgement of the racism he says he endured.

Earlier this week, the Magpies said it would investigate the claims made by Lumumba, charging its “integrity committee” to investigate.

Collingwood director Peter Murphy is chairing the committee, with chief executive Mark Anderson also part of the inquiry.

But Lumumba wrote on social media on Wednesday that he would not be taking part in the internal review.

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“It is simply too late for them to drag this issue out of the public domain and back behind closed doors,” he tweeted.

“Collingwood’s suggestion that it will ‘investigate’ itself after actively denying my story for 6 years is frankly insulting.

“I have no desire to convince Collingwood of a truth that they already know. Given the club’s inability to come clean, and the way it has attempted to publicly and privately attack my reputation, I cannot accept that this ‘integrity’ process has been proposed in good faith.

“My claims have been consistent. Instead of simply acknowledging them, Collingwood chose to engage in deceptive and misleading conduct, unnecessarily dragging its fans and members through a scandal which will leave an unfortunate mark on the club’s history.”

Teammates support Lumumba’s allegations of racism

Former teammates Andrew Krakour and Chris Dawes have both backed Lumumba’s version of events, however former coaches Mick Malthouse and Nathan Buckley deny ever hearing the “chimp” nickname.

Lumumba claims several other former players have supported him in private.

“Senior people in the club have known the truth this whole time and chose a cover-up over transparency,” he said.

When Collingwood announced its review on Monday, club director Jodie Sizer said the club board had unanimously agreed action was needed on the issue.

“Understanding the truth, owning the truth and supporting those in sharing their truths is a key next step for any action,” she said.



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Virgin bidder Bain says it won’t cut any deeper than rival Cyrus


But Mr Murphy said his goal was to maximise jobs at Virgin, while also being “thoughtful” about relaunching the business in line with market demand to ensure it had the best chance of long-term success.

“I’d be surprised, frankly, if the plan is for [Cyrus’] view of the business to be bigger than ours,” he said.

“What we want in five years’ time or eight years’ time, or whenever it becomes time for different owners to be guiding the business, is for the business to be as strong or stronger as it was in its heyday and employing, ideally, as many people as it was prior to the crisis.”

Binding bids for Virgin are due in on Monday.

Binding bids for Virgin are due in on Monday. Credit:AP

“But to get to that long-term success, we have to be sensible about how much capacity is put into the sky straight out of the crisis and make sure that balancing act between customer demand and the operational business that we stand up is realistic.”

Mr Murphy on Thursday joined Cyrus in backing Virgin chief executive Paul Scurrah’s “Virgin 2.0” plan, which includes stripping its domestic fleet back from multiple aircraft types to just its Boeing 737s and focus them on flying profitable routes.

“We’re definitely backing Paul and his team to get this business back up and growing,” he said.

Mr Murphy stressed that Bain would not turn Virgin back into a budget airline and that he saw a “sweet spot” in the market between Jetstar and Qantas. Virgin had tried to take Qantas on head to head in a battle for premium travellers in the past, he said, and “it wasn’t a happy outcome for anybody”.

Despite being loss-making for the past seven years, Mr Murphy said Virgin could be profitable by the end of this year once freed from its “incredibly high” debt burden. Cyrus has said it is looking at a two- to three-year turnaround.

Meanwhile, Mr Murphy extended an olive branch to Virgin’s unsecured bondholders, who are owed $2 billion and growing increasingly nervous they will be completely wiped out. “I would not agree that they will walk away with nothing,” he said.

There have been concerns that Virgin could go into insolvency before a new owner can be installed at a second creditors’ meeting in August. But Mr Murphy said that if chosen as the preferred bidder at the end of this month, Bain would fund the airline’s operations from that point on.



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Impact of Black Lives Matter protest on Victorian coronavirus spread won’t be known for at least a week


Victorian health officials say it could be at least a week before it is known whether Saturday’s Black Lives Matter protest caused COVID-19 to spread in the community.

More than 10,000 people marched from Victorian Parliament to Flinders Street Station on Saturday afternoon in solidarity with anti-racism protests sweeping the US.

Many protesters wore masks and gloves and used hand sanitiser at the peaceful demonstration, but the large numbers meant many did not follow health advice to stay 1.5 metres apart.

Gatherings of more than 20 people are banned in Victoria under the Chief Health Officer’s directives and police said they would fine the organisers $1,652 each for breaching the restrictions.

Health officials and political leaders had called for the protest to be called off due to fears of coronavirus spreading.

Large crowd of people outside Flinders St Station in Melbourne.
Thousands of people attended the protest in Melbourne’s CBD.(ABC News: Rudy De Santis)

“Those gatherings do present a risk and we are aware of that risk and we will continue to monitor … for any further cases as a result of that,” Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen said.

She encouraged anyone with symptoms, whether they had attended the rally or not, to be tested for coronavirus.

“In terms of potential outbreaks in relation to the protest, it really will be at least a week and probably closer to two weeks before we have an idea about whether there’s been any transmissions or outbreaks related to that,” Dr van Diemen said.

She said “not an insignificant risk” was posed when large crowds gathered and the Department of Health and Human Services did not receive contact details for attendees.

A Victoria Police spokesperson said there was a “post-event investigation” initiated in relation to the protest.

“We are reviewing footage, gathering evidence and expect to take enforcement action against several organisers in due course,” the spokesperson said.

“Investigations are ongoing.”

A protester holds up a sign saying 'need a mask or hand sanitiser? We got you!'
Many of the demonstrators were observed wearing masks.(ABC News: Elias Clure)

‘Quietly hopeful’ Victoria is tracking well

Victoria recorded four new COVID-19 infections overnight, including a household contact of a person linked to an outbreak at the Fawkner McDonald’s restaurant.

The outlet was closed for cleaning in May when several staff and their close contacts contracted the virus.

The outside of a McDonald's restaurant on an autumn day with blue sky and clouds.
The Fawkner McDonald’s outbreak is linked to 13 infections.(ABC News: Darryl Torpy)

The new case is the 13th linked to the restaurant.

The three other new infections were detected in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

There were no new cases of suspected community transmission and the total number of active infections in the state is 70.

Saturday was the first time in more than three months that no new cases were recorded in a 24-hour period.

“I’m quietly hopeful that we are tracking well, our case numbers continue to trend downwards,” Dr van Diemen said.

“It’s important that we don’t become complacent at this point in time, that we continue to be very vigilant and that we encourage people to get tested whenever they have symptoms and to maintain physical distancing.”

‘Unfortunate’ Melbourne man who flew to Qld wasn’t disclosed as contact

Victorian and Queensland health authorities are still working together after a Melbourne man flew into Queensland while infectious with COVID-19.

The fruit picker is thought to have contracted the virus through an outbreak at the Rydges on Swanston hotel.

The hotel has been used to quarantine returned travellers and is now linked to 14 infections.

Dr van Diemen said the man was not disclosed as a close contact to contact tracers at the time.

“That’s an opportune time to reiterate that we really do rely on people being very forthright with all of their close contacts,” she said.

“It’s unfortunate that they weren’t disclosed to us,” she said.

She said authorities were constantly reviewing practices at hotels used for quarantine, but the exact mechanism for transmission at the hotel had not been established.



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Backlash over who will and won’t receive money


The full details of the Government’s new HomeBuilder grant have only just been revealed – but it’s already being slammed by critics who claim those who need it most will miss out.

In a nutshell, the scheme will offer $25,000 payments to eligible Aussies to be spent on building new homes or substantially renovating existing properties.

RELATED: $25,000 to achieve the ‘Australian dream’
RELATED: Big losers of ScoMo’s home reno handout

It has been designed to help Australia’s economic recovery post-COVID-19 and specifically to secure tradie jobs and prop up the construction industry, which is facing a steep decline in the months ahead.

But the stimulus package comes with a raft of caveats – which means there are many groups who won’t get a cent.

EXACTLY WHO GETS IT?

The $688 million HomeBuilder program will be available to Aussies who are building a new home worth less than $750,000.

It can also be put towards renovations worth between $150,000 and $750,000 that will result in the property being priced at $1.5 million or less.

The cash can’t be used on investment properties or to construct things outside the house such as swimming pools, tennis courts, outdoor spas and saunas, sheds or garages, and the work must be carried out by a licensed builder.

It will be means-tested and you will only be available to singles who earn less than $125,00 a year or $200,000 per couple.

THE PROS

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is spruiking the scheme as a way to “keep the dream” of home ownership alive for citizens as well as salvaging tradie jobs and giving the “important” construction industry a helping hand.

It also has the backing of many industry groups, with Property Investment Professionals of Australia chairman Peter Koulizos welcomed the Federal Government’s HomeBuilder scheme, claiming it will help individuals and the industry as a whole.

“The Federal Government’s HomeBuilder scheme will be a welcome shot-in-the-arm for the construction section over the next six months,” Mr Koulizos said.

“Not only will it help more first homebuyers into the property market, but it will also allow current homeowners to upgrade to a new dwelling or to update their current home, which can improve their financial futures.”

Real Estate Institute of Australia President Adrian Kelly also welcomed it.

“The REIA believes that the Federal Government’s announcement of the HomeBuilder scheme today will be a massive boost to the employment of home builders and their tradesmen at a time when a major driver of economic activity was stalling,” he said.

“Importantly, it is the owner-occupier that decides how the extra dollars are to be spent, whether it is on a new build or a major renovation to their existing home. This alleviates the concerns that the REIA had with a scheme that was only assisting new dwellings.”

“First homebuyers can benefit by buying a property at the lower end of the market in a location they prefer and upgrade immediately.”

THE CONS

However, it has sparked fierce backlash from many everyday Aussies.

Scores have taken to social media to slam the policy, claiming it is too restrictive to benefit those that need it the most.

In fact, many are convinced it will actually help those who are already comfortable.

Scott Langford, CEO of St George Community Housing, NSW’s largest community housing provider, said the handouts “were not the answer”, arguing there would be greater benefits if the money was put towards social housing.

“Social and affordable housing is not just bricks and mortar, it is essential infrastructure for a well-functioning society and economy,” Mr Langford said.

“We look forward to the detail of the announcement of the Government’s HomeBuilder stimulus package to see if it could be expanded to offer opportunities for community housing providers to leverage funding for maintenance upgrades, and we remain optimistic that the Government recognises the burgeoning opportunity to innovate in the form of infrastructure investment.

“With Australia now officially in recession, our Government can’t ignore those most vulnerable in social housing, and those key workers in affordable housing who have battled tirelessly on the frontline during COVID-19.”

He said now was the time for the Government and the private sector to work collaboratively to “invest in and improve” our social housing infrastructure.

“We are keen to see a willingness from Government to work with providers like SGCH to develop an investment proposition that attracts private capital, creating a multiplier effect,” he said.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for investors and the fundamentals are in place to attract institutional investors supported by their own investors with a strong social conscience. “Social housing as an asset class offers the benefits of low-volatility, long-term demand and is highly regulated. If Government gets the settings right, Australian private capital, including our $3 trillion super funds and other larger institutional investors, will have an opportunity to invest in this valuable social infrastructure.”

Lynette Manciameli, director of NSW builder broker Builder Finders, has also warned the HomeBuilder scheme is at risk of being exploited by unscrupulous builders which could see a repeat of the pink batts disaster following the GFC.

“As we saw with the pink batts disaster following the GFC, even the best laid plans can have unintended consequences. Incentivised by the opportunity to make quick cash, several irresponsible operators delivered substandard work, scammed unwitting customers or placed untrained young workers at risk,” she said.

“What we are likely to see off the back of the HomeBuilder scheme is dodgy builders coming out of the woodwork. This is bad news for the consumer and bad news for the many reputable builders who are doing the right thing.”



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