UK PM, finance minister agree to cut personal taxes before next election: newspaper

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrive to attend a Cabinet meeting of senior government ministers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, Britain, September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool

September 6, 2020

(Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak have agreed to cut personal taxes before the next election, London’s Sunday Times newspaper reported.

Sunak will tell lawmakers and voters that the government must raise money now to pay for the coronavirus bailouts, the newspaper reported.

The finance minister will outline an “arc” on taxation in November’s budget, under which the wealthy will pay heavier taxes, with cuts to follow in 2023 or 2024, the report said.

Sunak has no plans for changes to inheritance tax this year, while Johnson is not prepared to sanction rises in income tax, national insurance or value-added tax, the newspaper reported.

Last weekend, newspaper reports in Britain suggested the finance ministry was looking at sweeping tax increases. Sunak said such reports were speculation.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; editing by William Mallard)

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Sydney Stack, Callum Coleman-Jones must agree to pay Richmond AFL fine for COVID-19 breach after fight outside strip club

Suspended Richmond pair Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones cannot be forced to pay the $75,000 fine imposed on the club after the two Tigers breached the AFL’s COVID-19 protocols when they were involved in a fight outside a Gold Coast strip club in the early hours of Friday morning.

The AFL has ordered the pair out of Queensland, suspended them for 10 AFL matches and imposed a $100,000 fine on Richmond, with $75,000 in relation to this breach and $25,000 due to a suspended fine levied on the club for an earlier breach after captain Trent Cotchin’s wife breached regulations.

In a statement on Friday, Richmond said the pair would pay the $75,000 with a furious club CEO Brendon Gale saying Stack and Coleman-Jones would be held responsible. The Tigers also lost $100,000 from their soft cap, potentially putting jobs in the club’s football department in jeopardy.

However the AFLPA, who had a representative sit in via Zoom when the AFL’s integrity team interviewed the pair who were isolating in their hotel room on the Gold Coast, said the club could not unilaterally make that decision.

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WA only state not to agree to open borders by Christmas while Queensland has ‘hotspot’ concerns | Australia news

Western Australia has refused to sign up to Scott Morrison’s plan to reopen state borders by Christmas while Queensland has expressed reservations after the prime minister declared most states and territories had backed the goal.

The prime minister emerged from a national cabinet meeting on Friday saying that WA was the only jurisdiction not to give in-principle support to the plan to ease restrictions – although he also conceded more work was needed on the definition of a coronavirus hotspot.

Later in the evening, the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, emphasised she had not signed up to Canberra’s hotspot definition and said she agreed with WA that “our borders protect our health and our economy”.

Annastacia Palaszczuk

Queensland has not agreed to the Federal Government’s hotspot definition @markriley7. I agree with WA – our borders protect our health and our economy.

September 4, 2020

A source subsequently told the Guardian that Queensland was comfortable with the ambition to ease restrictions by Christmas – something WA didn’t embrace – but the hotspot definition remained a sticking point.

Morrison played down dissent in the Friday meeting, saying the national cabinet needed to ditch the aim of total consensus on all issues because “that sets the federation up to fail” and “Australia is too diverse a place”.

The prime minister also flagged further talks with the states, territories and airlines to consider increasing the number of Australians able to return home from overseas, amid concerns that the strict caps have left thousands of Australians stranded.

Morrison had gone into Friday’s meeting seeking to build support for the replacement of state border closures with localised restrictions and exclusions of smaller subsets of the population based on a common definition of a hotspot.

He said he welcomed seven out of eight states and territories agreeing to revive but modify the national cabinet’s three-step reopening plan that originally had a July deadline for easing restrictions.

“The virus prevented us from achieving that. Seven out of eight states and territories want us to get back to that position in December of this year,” he said.

The acting chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, has drawn up a proposed definition of a coronavirus hotspot: more than 30 new cases in a consecutive three day period in metro areas, or nine cases in rural or regional areas.

Morrison said it was “a good starting point” but conceded that it would “take some time to get that right” in discussion with the states and territories.

“The idea of ultimately moving beyond a situation where you have hard borders, but you move to a situation where you can have a workable hotspot concept … that is something we are going to give it our best possible go to define and to make work.”

The new plan would be different from the old plan because it would not simply define when cafes could reopen, he said.

It would detail how testing regimes would work, how outbreaks would be managed, and the availability of passenger manifests for people flying around the country. It would require the open sharing of Covid-19 case data among the states and territories.

He played down the fracture in the national cabinet, saying the group of federal, state and territory leaders was “practical” and “not everyone has to get on the bus for the bus to leave the station”.

“I’m not going to hold Australia back when one or two jurisdictions, at this point in time because of their own circumstances, don’t wish to go along with the path that the country is seeking to go in.”

The WA premier, Mark McGowan, showed absolutely no sign of relaxing the state’s border policies at a media conference on Friday afternoon, crediting them for the state’s economic recovery and saving lives.

Western Australia “will not be agreeing to a hotspot model … which replaces our successful border controls”, McGowan said. Those border controls would stay in place “as long as the health advice recommends it”.

McGowan refused to set a timeline to remove the hard border with exemptions, suggesting it would require “the elimination of community spread in the east”.

“If we [reopened] too soon it could be deadly, and there would be economic devastation. That would result in the reintroduction of restrictions. That would possibly mean reintroducing, again, a hard border. It would mean people would die.”

McGowan quoted at length from Justice Darryl Rangiah’s findings in Clive Palmer’s constitutional challenge that bans on travel from hotspots would be “less effective” than the near-total border closure.

While McGowan said that he “feels for” people separated from their family members, he noted that Western Australia did not have border communities and so did not experience the same “social disruption” as the east coast.

Another area of disagreement within national cabinet was on a new agricultural code aimed at allowing freer cross-border movement for rural workers. The code was adopted by five out of eight states and territories, but rebuffed by Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.

National cabinet also agreed that there was a need to boost the capacity to accept Australians who were seeking to come home from abroad, Morrison said.

It follows the release of figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade earlier this week that there are now about 23,000 Australians wanting to return, up from 18,800 a fortnight ago.

Morrison said New South Wales had been doing the heavy lifting on international arrivals and suggested other Australian cities, bar Melbourne, could field more passengers, if commercial operators agreed to fly there.

Morrison said he had also spoken with New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, on Friday , offering to allow New Zealanders to come to Australia under the hotspot approach, irrespective of whether New Zealand reciprocates the offer.

A spokesperson for Ardern said New Zealand remains committed to the establishment of a quarantine-free travel zone with Australia, as soon as it is safe to do so.

“With some states in Australia still reporting community cases, as well as community cases in Auckland, now is not the time to risk opening our border, but we will continue to work with Australia on this so we are ready to go once it is deemed safe.”

Earlier, Palaszczuk told reporters the debate about state borders had been “intense” and “intimidating” but she would “not give in to intimidation”.

She said Queensland had “done extremely well by relying on the expert health advice” of the state’s chief health officer and would not change course anytime soon.

On Friday, Victoria recorded 81 new Covid-19 cases and 59 new deaths – all but one in aged care – including 50 people who had died in July and August.

The chief health officer, Brett Sutton, explained the spike was a result of “reconciliation” of data and “complex” reporting requirements. He rejected claims late reporting was the result of Victorian health authorities being overwhelmed as “completely inaccurate”.

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, noted positive trends – the number of active cases across the state (2,060) was “stabilising and indeed falling” and the number in regional Victoria under stage 3 restrictions was down to 124.

But Sutton said although the seven-day average of new cases was decreasing, it remained “stubborn”. Sutton conceded Victoria was not on track to reach its target of 40 or 50 new cases a day by week’s end, but “could” still get there.

In New South Wales, just eight new cases were recorded – one in hotel quarantine and seven linked to known cases.

The Victorian government extended the rent and eviction moratorium to 28 March, 2021, increased rent relief grants to $3,000 and eased eligibility criteria.

Ahead of the release of Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown on Sunday, the Victorian construction union put pressure on Andrews to include construction in plans to ease lockdown restrictions.

Andrews cautioned the business community against calls to open faster and sooner, warning a “safe and steady” easing is the “only option”. Otherwise, “five minutes of sunshine” would result in a spike in cases and a return to tighter restrictions.

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Farmer frustration as National Cabinet fails to agree on Agricultural Worker Movement Code

National Cabinet has failed to reach consensus on an Agricultural Worker Movement Code.

Five out of eight states and territories supported the code, but Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania did not.

A national code would have allowed workers to move across all state borders relatively freely, in the same way that truck drivers have been able to.

The failure to reach agreement means workers will continue to be impeded in crossing some state borders, causing concerns in sectors like grain growing and horticulture about how crops will get harvested.

South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria are expected to apply the code to their shared borders, but it is not yet clear when it will come into effect.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania would monitor how the code worked in those states.

National Farmers’ Federation disappointed

The code was initially proposed by the National Farmers’ Federation.

Its chief executive, Tony Mahar, said today’s announcement was good news but it was disappointing that Queensland had not backed the code.

“The adoption by five states and territories is a step in the right direction and we want to make sure we continue working to get it adopted across the country,” he said.

Contractor harvesters were already preparing to move their machines north into Queensland.(Supplied: Leigh Burke)

Mr Mahar said the code needed to be enacted as soon as possible.

“We haven’t seen any final details of the code, but we hope that it’s prescriptive enough to allow some certainty to industry and to really make sure that it’s enacted at the state borders,” he said.

Mr Mahar said governments still needed to develop proposals to allow international agricultural workers into the country.

“We’re encouraged by the fact that a plane landed in Darwin this week with workers from Vanuatu, so we want other states to look at those measures,” he said.

Fruit and veg could be left unpicked

Tyson Cattle, national public affairs manager at AUSVEG, said Queensland’s opposition to the code would weigh heavily on the minds of farmers.

“The longer this drags on, the harder it is for our growers and our workers,” he said.

“Do they have the confidence that they’ll have the workers they need, and if they don’t have that confidence, do they make the decision to plough it back into the ground or leave it unpicked?”

Apricots on the ground in an orchard
Fruit could be left to rot if workers are not able to cross state borders.(ABC Rural: Grace Whiteside)

Questions remain for contractors

Leigh Burke, a contract harvester based in central Victoria, is preparing to send his workers to southern Queensland.

He said today’s announcement was “better than nothing”, but he was disappointed Queensland had not “come to the party”.

“This is a pretty important job that we’ve got in front of us and we need to be able to move around,” Mr Burke said.

Harvesters in a row across a field.
Contractor harvesters from Victoria and New South Wales remain concerned about access into Queensland.(Supplied: Leigh Burke)

Mr Burke said it was extremely time-consuming navigating changing border restrictions.

“It’s all new to us and at the moment we’re pretty busy getting machines ready to go north, so trying to find the time to put toward this is really difficult.”

‘We’re not criminals’

Border community farmer Lucy Tink has been severely affected by the restrictions — she lives with her family in Victoria at North Serviceton, but their properties straddle roughly five kilometres of the South Australian/Victorian border.

“Daily we travel to South Australia for farming purposes,” she said.

The Tinks deliver their grain to a mill in Bordertown and Ms Tink said more flexibility for agricultural workers crossing the border would be “lovely” ahead of harvest.

“My husband Matthew is really, really stressed about harvest,” she said.

Ms Tink said the constant police presence at borders has especially been difficult.

“We’re finding we can’t go to a paddock with a tractor … my husband has been out spraying today, and he is being asked where he’s going,” she said.

“We’d just like to feel like we’re not criminals.”

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Economists agree Canada is in a recession, but there’s little consensus on why

Economists say there is no doubt that Canada is experiencing a recession, but the exact criteria determining one is underway can be fraught with confusion.

Broadly speaking, a recession is a period of business contraction where economic activity declines. But what exactly constitutes a decline, and over what time period, is the subject of much debate.

An often-cited definition is two consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product (GDP) reading.

Some economists prefer the C.D. Howe Institute’s definition of a “pronounced, persistent and pervasive decline in aggregate economic activity” based on both GDP and employment metrics.

“I’ve always taken the definition of two quarters of negative growth… but this is just another example that we are in uncharted territory,” said Sheila Block, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’s senior economist.

“This is just another way that the pandemic is redefining things.”

Her remarks come after Statistics Canada said Friday that the economy posted its steepest decline on record in the second quarter, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency said GDP contracted at an annualized rate of 38.7 per cent for the three-month period, the worst showing since the start of 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis. That follows a first-quarter drop of 8.2 per cent, marking two quarters of GDP declines.

The contraction bolsters opinions that Canada has been in a recession throughout the pandemic.

“This is definitely a recession and a big one,” said Avery Shenfeld, an economist at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

However, he said it doesn’t require two quarters of negative GDP growth — a method he never uses — to arrive at that conclusion.

The two quarters method, he said, comes from the National Bureau of Economic Research, a U.S. non-profit organization that analyzes the economy.

Decades ago, Shenfeld said the bureau established a committee of economists to retroactively determine dates of when recessions started and ended, so researchers would have the same data.

“They said that a recession is basically a period of material decline in economic activity, which typically includes two consecutive negative quarters, but it doesn’t have to,” he said.

“In other words, if you had a huge drop and it only took place in one quarter, they would still call that a recession or if you had a drop in one quarter, a small rebound and then another drop, they would put the three quarters together and say over that three quarters, the economy declines so we’re going to call that three quarters of recession.”

Shenfeld looks for material weakening in the economy on “the kinds of things that people would normally think of” such as household income, employment and GDP.

Block has stuck to the two quarter method, but notes the character of recessions has changed in recent decades.

“For example, with the 2008 and 2009 (recession), we climbed out of it much more quickly than we had out of the early ’80s or the mid-’90s recessions,” she said.

“It was a very V-shaped recovery.”

The V-shape refers to a sharp but brief period of economic decline that is followed by a quick rebound.

Shifts in the way recessions unfold have pushed economists to seek more accurate ways to characterize recessions and deal with revisions to economic data that emerge over time, but Block doesn’t think there is any debate that we are in a recession now.

It just may end up looking different than we have seen before, she said.

“I think it was Jim Stanford (the economist and director for the Centre for Future Work), who referred to … a Loch Ness monster-shaped recession and I like that.”This report by The Canadian Press as first published Aug. 28, 2020.

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Rodrigo Moreno: Leeds United agree deal to sign Valencia striker

Rodrigo scored seven goals for Valencia last season

Leeds United have agreed a deal with Valencia to sign forward Rodrigo Moreno.

The Spain international, 29, had a loan spell with Bolton in 2010-11 and initially joined Valencia on loan from Benfica in 2014.

He went on to score 59 goals in 220 games for the La Liga club, helping them win the Copa del Rey in 2018-19.

“Valencia want to thank Rodrigo Moreno for his commitment and effort over the last six seasons,” the club tweeted.