Wing Drone company in proposal to expand in ACT | The Canberra Times


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The Wing company which operates the drone delivery service in Canberra is considering expanding it to take tools to tradies on jobs across the city. The idea would be to team up with a supplier of hardware so that tradies who suddenly needed a particular item for a job like a particular size of screw, a drill bit or paint brush would be able to order it online and get it delivered within minutes. Wing is talking to tradespeople to see how the service might work and what the demand for it might be. It would need a change in the way the drone service operates. At the moment, users order and pay through an app – but delivery is to the home address. The tradies’ service would need delivery to wherever the work was going on. Wing’s head of public policy in Australia, Jesse Surkin, said the innovation would stop jobs being delayed for days when tradies found they were missing an essential part. “A carpenter without the right drill bit might have to knock-off to go to the hardware store, which has a ripple-on delay effect for the other tradespersons working on site,” a wing spokesperson said. “The project that was scheduled to finish up in a week, will now take three.” At the moment, Wing delivers food and other small goods from shops to homes but not tools and implements to workplaces. But it does have the service for tradespeople operating in Queensland and can’t see why it shouldn’t operate in the ACT in a similar way. In three suburbs of Brisbane, it’s been used by landscape gardeners who found they had run out of line for a whipper-snipper. Wing has commissioned an economics consultancy to study the idea. The conclusion says: “In Australia, tradespeople such as builders make a total of 60 million unplanned trips to the store each year to collect hardware items, tools, or spare parts they need on the job. “At an average of one hour each, these interruptions amount to $2 billion annually in labour and vehicle costs. “They can also result in larger workflow disruptions, leading to lost time for clients, and in some cases, expensive contract penalties for delayed projects.”

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Canberra records a new COVID-19 case, just one day after ACT declared free of known coronavirus cases



A woman who travelled to Canberra on a diplomatic passport has been diagnosed with COVID-19, just one day after the ACT was once again declared free of known cases.

The woman, who is in her 50s, returned to Canberra on Monday after flying into Sydney and travelling to the ACT by private car.

She has been in quarantine and poses a low risk of infecting others, according to ACT Health.

“She has followed all the correct processes and has been quarantining since her return to the ACT and is being supported by ACT Health,” the directorate said in a statement.

The new case brings the total number recorded in the ACT to 116, and is the first case to have been detected in 10 days.

Two close contacts of the woman are being managed by ACT Health.

“The circumstances of this new case demonstrates that our quarantine system here in the ACT is working well to protect the Canberra community from COVID-19,” the directorate said.

The woman was not on board yesterday’s repatriation flight, which returned 120 Australians to home soil, who are now quarantining in Canberra hotels.

ACT Health said three passengers from the flight had been tested for COVID-19 at arrival but returned negative results.

All passengers are expected to be tested today, and again in about 10 days.



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White House trade advisor Navarro says trouble ahead if lawmakers don’t act on COVID-19 stimulus


White House trade advisor Peter Navarro urges lawmakers to pass coronavirus relief legislation. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 6:35 AM PT – Thursday, November 26, 2020

White House trade advisor Peter Navarro said lawmakers need to “act now” on coronavirus stimulus legislation. While speaking to reporters on Wednesday, he called on lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to put aside their differences to pass a stimulus package.

“The administration has done a very good job up to this point,” he stated. “We are facing, however, a chasm ahead for millions of Americans unless there can be a bipartisan ‘come to agreement moment’ on these core elements.”

Navarro went on to stress the need to save small businesses, noting if those are lost then they are not coming back. With many states reporting an increase in cases, business owners have expressed their concerns that they will be unable to survive another round of lockdowns.

Restaurant owners reported spending thousands of dollars in modifications to adapt to local and state requirements to feed guests outside only to have many major cities like Los Angeles adopt new policies forcing them to close anyway.

Navarro said despite the stalemate, Congress needs to focus on three major components: the Paycheck Protection Program, relief checks and unemployment compensation.

The White House trade adviser said he anticipates a second term for President Trump and the administration will continue on the path for strong economic recovery.

RELATED: Outdoor dining ban moves forward in L.A. County despite decision being based on scarce data





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ACT COVID-19 social distancing rules to halve, but New Year’s Eve and Australia Day events cancelled


Many Canberra business owners have today been filled with holiday cheer, as the ACT Government announced social distancing requirements for venues would be halved from next week — as long as businesses install the Government’s app.

From Wednesday December 2, the requirement to have only one person per 4 square metres will be halved to allow venues to host one person per 2 square metres.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said people deserved to be able to celebrate the end of a difficult year.

“As we reach what’s been one hell of a year, I’m sure many Canberrans are looking forward to getting out with family and friends, and taking a well earned break,” Mr Barr said.

But if businesses want to move to the eased social distancing rules, they are required to be using the ACT Government’s Check in CBR app.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said with the increased risk that more crowded venues brings, the Government needed to be sure it could contain any possible outbreak.

“It is very important that our contact tracing team is able to respond to positive cases very quickly, and to identify potential areas of transmission,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

Capacities for cinemas and all ticketed venues, indoors or outdoors, will also be eased to allow up to 65 per cent of seats to be filled.

“We’re able to move forward … thanks to the behaviour of the Canberra community and Canberra businesses,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“To stay in this position … we must continue to follow the health advice and the habits we have built up this year.”

The announcement of eased restrictions came as Ms Stephen-Smith confirmed the ACT was again free of known COVID-19 cases, as last week’s diagnosed case detected in a returned diplomat had recovered overnight.

Major events cancelled, postponed

But despite the Government’s confidence in being able to manage eased restrictions, Mr Barr said most summer events would be cancelled or significantly reshaped.

Mr Barr said the New Year’s Eve fireworks and city concert event had been cancelled — the second time in a row following last year’s cancellation due to bushfire smoke.

In its place, he said several small events with local musicians will be hosted in town centres, spreading the festivities across the city.

New Years Eve
New Year’s Eve events have been cancelled for the second year in a row.(ABC News: Andrew Kennedy)

Mr Barr said the traditional Australia Day celebrations would also not be able to go ahead, and plans for a COVID-safe event were in the works.

Looking further into 2021, Mr Barr said other major events such as Enlighten and the Canberra Balloon Spectacular would have to be “significantly” adapted.

The Multicultural Festival will also be postponed until late in 2021.

The next ‘formal’ checkpoint at which the ACT will reassess restrictions, barring a change in circumstances, will be at the 12th of February next year.



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No evidence that increased unemployment benefits act as disincentive for job seekers, economists say | Welfare


There is “no evidence” the coronavirus supplement stopped jobseekers looking for work and even a “substantial increase” in unemployment benefits would not provide a disincentive to take a job.

Those are the conclusions of the labour market economist Jeff Borland presented to a Senate inquiry into extending the supplement to March at the reduced rate of $150 a fortnight.

The evidence, supported by the social policy academic Peter Whiteford, contradicts concerns from Coalition backbench MPs and anecdotal evidence from employers that jobseekers are turning down work.

Scott Morrison has warned temporary economic supports must be pared back to prevent disincentive effects, reasoning that drove the government to cut the supplement from $550 a fortnight from September.

Borland told the Senate community affairs legislation committee that there was “no evidence the higher jobseeker rate in 2020 has had any appreciable effect on incentives to take up paid work”.

Borland found that although the rate of people moving from unemployment to employment froze at the start of the pandemic, as soon as the economy reopened in May “the rate of that flow … returned to its previous level” compared with the preceding three years.

Nor were job vacancies taking longer to fill, which would be expected if jobseeker acted as a disincentive, he said.

Borland said although there was “anecdotal” evidence from some employers, they could be attributing regular difficulty filling positions to the supplement.

“There are always some employers who have difficulty” filling positions, he said, citing employment department data from before the pandemic showing some 45% of employers complained of difficulty filling vacancies despite 20 applicants on average for each job.

Whiteford noted that if jobseeker goes back to its old rate of $40 a day it will be 40% of the minimum wage, providing an “extremely high” incentive to find work.

But even if jobseeker was raised to the rate of the age pension, at 65% of the minimum wage, workers would still be “much, much better off” in full-time work, he said.

In November, Morrison said Australia’s safety net could “potentially” act as an impediment to employment “as we hear from so many employers around the country who are seeking people to go into jobs”.

In June Guardian Australia revealed claims that jobseekers were turning down work were based on a handful of responses from among 2,324 surveyed employers.

The shadow social services minister, Linda Burney, said the government “continues to contradict the evidence of the experts by cynically insinuating that Australians out of work are choosing unemployment”.

“With 1.8 million Australians expected to be on unemployment by the end of the year, the reality is that there are simply not enough jobs for everyone who needs one.”

The Greens senator Rachel Siewert said it was “outrageous that the government have continued their ideological attacks on people on income support in the face of the worst recession of a generation”.

Despite the government insisting no decision has been made about the future of jobseeker payments, the coronavirus supplement extension bill stipulates that after 31 March the supplement will be repealed.

The bill permanently removes Covid-19 exemptions to the liquid assets test waiting period and the assets test, meaning singles with $5,500 of liquid assets and couples with $11,000 would have to wait up to 13 weeks to get jobseeker.

Earlier in the hearing, the Australian Council of Social Services chief executive, Cassandra Goldie, urged the Senate to oppose the bill on the basis it should instead push for jobseeker to be raised to the rate of the aged pension.

Corey Irlam, the deputy chief executive of the Council of the Ageing, said a return to the old rate of jobseeker would drive older Australians, who face great difficulty re-entering the workforce over the age of 55, further into poverty.

Paul Zahra, the chief executive of the Australian Retailers Association, said the coronavirus supplement had been the “quiet achiever” of the pandemic, helping support an anticipated 2.8% increase in Christmas trade compared with 2019.

Given 58% of jobseeker payments were spent in retail, Zahra said the ARA estimated that the supplement was worth $8.5bn per year to the sector, helping to support 130,000 jobs.



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AFL 2021 | Geelong Football Club’s balancing act with plan to play youngsters


He said the Cats – who lost 21-year-old Lachie Fogarty to Carlton as he sought more opportunity – understood the challenge they would face at selection in 2021.

“The real challenge is how do we provide opportunities for our young players next year,” Cook told SEN.

“We need a different mentality around some of the senior players who expect to play 22 games. Maybe they won’t, maybe they will play 15.”

The Cameron deal took three years, it didn’t take three months or three minutes.

Brian Cook

Geelong just fell short of beating Richmond in this year’s grand final but with the addition of three quality players are expected to contend for the premiership again.

They also re-signed a bunch of youngsters this month including Zach Guthrie, Quinton Narkle, Sam Simpson, Stefan Okunbor, Ben Jarvis, Brad Close and Brandan Parfitt while also adding Paul Tsapatolis as a category-B rookie.

Charlie Constable explored his options but has stayed at the Cats while top 20 draft picks Cooper Stephens and Sam DeKoning are yet to debut. Jordan Clark has also decided to fight for the spot he lost this season.

Cook revealed that the Cats spent three years getting their salary cap in shape to enable them to secure a free agent such as Cameron with Geelong also showing interest in Essendon’s Joe Daniher.

“The Cameron deal took three years, it didn’t take three months or three minutes,” Cook said.

The deal went right to the wire with Geelong only able to hand over pick 20 and land an extra second round pick when the Giants traded Jye Caldwell to Essendon in the dying minutes of the trade period.

That leaves the club with a first round pick and three second round picks in 2021 with list manager Stephen Wells saying they have just pushed their plan to go to the draft back a year on what they anticipated.

After a trying year Cook said the club would break even in operating terms although they were likely to report a loss of around $2.5 million after write downs, much less than the $8 million hole they were staring down when the game was suspended in March.

He said they were planning for six budget scenarios depending on crowds in 2021.



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Bradyn Dillon inquest told ACT child protection system operating in same conditions as at the time of his death


Four years after the murder of Canberra boy Bradyn Dillon, the ACT’s child protection services are still understaffed, overworked, and behind on paper work, an inquest has heard.

Bradyn was nine years old when his father Graham Dillon beat him to death in 2016 after weeks of violent abuse.

Dillon is now serving more than 40 years in prison for his son’s murder.

An inquest into Bradyn’s death is currently underway in the ACT examining what various agencies knew when, and assessing the adequacy of their response.

Services in similar position as four years ago, worker warns

Today a child protection worker, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was questioned over her decision making while handling Bradyn’s case. She also faced questions about the pressures staff were under.

The worker said staff still faced resourcing shortages, as the situation had not drastically improved since 2016.

“It’s always been a resourcing issue,” the worker said.

“Back then [paperwork] was a year behind.

“Now we don’t have the staff, and we are weeks behind — that’s the current climate.”

The inquest is examining how Bradyn Dillon slipped through cracks in the system.(Supplied)

The worker told the inquest she was “extremely concerned” by a loss of experienced staff within the sector since Bradyn’s murder.

“We are dealing with a lot of graduates and people who don’t have experience,” the worker told the inquest.

“And the experience of those staff entering those reports. I don’t agree with the current system.”

The worker also revealed that staff who handled Bradyn’s case never received a formal debriefing after he died.

“We got nothing formal, nothing even informal,” she said.

Bradyn Dillon
Bradyn’s case file was closed more than a year before his death.(Supplied)

Worker reminded by coroner she was not to blame for Bradyn’s death

The worker was also questioned over her decision to categorise the prospect of Bradyn facing further abuse as “not probable”, despite a separate report of bruising noticed by one of his teachers.

Rebecca Curran, the counsel assisting the coroner, put it to the worker that she had instead accepted Bradyn’s father’s version of events, who claimed the injuries were from a bicycle fall.

Ms Curran: “You rejected the teacher’s report.”

Worker: “It’s not that black and white.”

Ms Curran: “You accepted the bruises were on one side of his face, when the teacher said they were on both cheeks.”

Worker: “Based on that reading I would say I accepted the father’s explanation, I’m assuming I didn’t have enough evidence to proceed further. Honestly I would have had a completely different view on this report given the time to reflect. I wouldn’t have ticked that box.”

A lawyer told the inquest the worker had “broken down” outside the courtroom during a break in her evidence, and felt that she was “being held responsible” for Bradyn’s death.

When the worker returned to the stand ACT Coroner Margaret Hunter told her: “You’re not to blame for Bradyn’s death, his father is.”

The worker told the court more staff were needed to get through a back log of child protection cases.

The inquest is continuing.



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New Village people trio set to replace tired Kirby bros act


It’s hard to see how Village Roadshow could be worth the price tag Mittleman ascribes to it. It is four years since Village traded at that level and now seems to be in a sufficiently parlous financial position that it will need an injection of equity to keep its bankers happy.

Given its line of business, Village Roadshow has been one of the most negatively COVID-impacted companies on the ASX.

But its woes pre-date COVID. Its performance has been disappointing and internal brawls between the Kirby brothers, who are the major shareholders, cast a pall over the unconventional governance of the company.

Even pre-pandemic, BGH had been working on a bid at $4. By the time BGH formalised its offer in August it was re-pitched at the far more abstemious base level of $2.20. And even at that level it was supported by Village Roadshow’s independent directors.

More recently, influential proxy group CGI Glass Lewis put its weight behind the deal – essentially advising shareholders to cut and run.

The board must be jumping through hoops that a previously recalcitrant investor Spheria Asset Management, which speaks for 7.8 per cent of the stock, has pushed BGH higher.

BHG needed to have the support of either Spheria or Mittleman to get the deal across the line and Spheria had stated previously that $3 was its magic number.

Incidentally Mittleman had threatened to take legal action against the directors accusing them of failing to discharge their duties to shareholders while fielding the BGH takeover bid.

“Given our belief that the [independent board committee] and the VRL board of directors have not properly discharged their duty to act in the interests of VRL shareholders by protecting them from blatant opportunism on the part of BGH, we have engaged legal counsel in Australia to petition ASIC in hopes of garnering regulatory intervention, and failing that, having our objections brought to the attention of the court,” Mittleman chief investment officer Christopher Mittleman wrote in a letter last month, which was sent to the ASX.

Just in case there were any other like-minded shareholders with rosie-eyed views on Village Roadshow’s current financial situation, on Monday the company included a snapshot of its current position. It doesn’t make for happy reading.

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In the four months to October 31, it generated $5 million in cash flow and it expects cash flow to be in the order of $5 million to $15 million over the next seven months – and that includes the benefits of Jobkeeper. But it expects to need $55 million over that period in capital expenditure. Thus its net debt will blow out from $311 million to between $370 million and $380 million.

This equates to a $152 million increase in debt between January 2020 and June 2021.

Adding further uncertainty to Village Roadshow’s future was the September announcement that its contract with Warner Brothers to distribute theatrical films in Australia and New Zealand will be axed at the end of the year.

Dealing with these financial and operational issues will now fall to its new owners, who will undoubtedly have devised a strategic plan on the company’s prospects post COVID.

BGH has been particularly active in the pandemic-opportunism space, having made an unsuccessful tilt at buying Virgin Australia but lost out to another bunch of bargain hunters at Bain Capital.

It also forked out about half a billion dollars to snap up Healius’ 70 medical practices in a deal that other suitors had shied away from in the midst of the pandemic.

BGH founders Ben Gray, Robin Bishop and Simon Harle now need to strap themselves in for the Village Roadshow ride.

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ACT Government introduces $40-a-day in discounts to encourage spending on Canberra businesses


Vouchers worth up to $40 a day will be handed out to Canberrans in the weeks before Christmas, in a bid by the ACT Government to boost spending at local businesses during the coronavirus recession.

In two weeks, the ACT Government will begin giving customers five digital discount vouchers of varying value to spend at participating businesses, which will renew each day.

The program is part of an initial trial running between December 9 and December 21, or until the $500,000 allocated to the program is used up.

Here’s how it works.

How do I get my discount?

From today, anyone over 18 can sign up on the ChooseCBR website. As businesses sign up they’ll start appearing on a registry of participating merchants.

Then, from December 9 you’ll be given five discount vouchers each day, which you can use when you buy from participating businesses.

The five daily vouchers will need to be used at different businesses in order to spread the spending love, and will have minimum spending limits on them.

Voucher valueMinimum spend
2x $2.50$10
1x $5$20
1x $10$40
1x $20$80

You won’t be able to use the vouchers on tobacco, gambling or alcohol, but you will be able to use vouchers for a discount on the food portion of your bill if you order alcohol with a meal.

Business Minister Tara Cheyne said the system was based on a similar program that ran in Darwin, and that the vouchers would be accessible online.

“When you sign up on the website and then load the website, each day the vouchers will be available to you. You can then click on the voucher and then show it to the participating business,” she said.

Which businesses can I spend it on?

The eligibility criteria for businesses is a bit tighter than it is for customers, but the Government estimates about 2,000 businesses across the city will be eligible.

In order to participate the business needs to:

  • Have a physical shopfront (no online-only stores)
  • Have been on JobKeeper at some point this year
  • Be in the retail, tourism, accommodation, arts, recreation, personal services or hospitality sector
  • Have less than $10 million turnover per annum

As businesses sign up between now and the start of the program, they’ll appear on the ChooseCBR business directory.

During the ACT election campaign, the ACT Government committed $2.5 million to a voucher scheme, and Ms Cheyne said she hoped the $500,000 pre-Christmas trial would prove successful, hinting at more discounts to come next year.

“What I’d be hoping is that it’s a successful trial and that we see a really high take-up both from businesses and from the Canberra community and indeed the visiting community,” she said.

“We can make a decision next year about doing it again, and potentially doing it at a time when there might not be such a generous spend in the community.”

A similar scheme was announced in the NSW Budget last week, which will see residents there given four $25 vouchers to spend on food, arts and entertainment.



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