AFL cuts back on official pre-season games


AFL clubs will play just one official pre-season match to reduce travel ahead of the home and away season as the competition continues to deal with COVID-19 restrictions.

The AFL had planned for clubs to play two AFL-sanctioned pre-season matches in the space of three weeks.

But on Sunday, it confirmed those plans would be replaced by one scratch match and one AFL-sanctioned match per team, in a bid to “safeguard the health and safety of the competition and the community by reducing travel prior to the home-and-away season.”

Each team will first play a practice match – scheduled by the AFL – against a team in the same state in the last week of February.

In those games, the two participating clubs will decide on the match’s format, including the number of players, number of quarters and quarter length.

The clubs will then each play one AFL-sanctioned pre-season match – of regular-season format and length – between March 3 and March 7.

There will be at least a seven-day break between the scratch match and the official pre-season match.

“In addition to ensuring we continue to prioritise the health of our players, staff, and the wider community, this arrangement provides clubs with the ability to determine individual requirements, allowing clubs and players to best prepare for the season ahead,” AFL fixtures boss Travis Auld said.



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Chicago corn hits highest since 2013 after USDA cuts supply outlook


Article content continued

along with U.S. and world wheat inventories.

“The USDA’s seemingly unending cuts to U.S. G&O (grain and oilseed) supplies

continued this month, and with soybean and corn stores particularly bare, it

seems only a matter of time before cuts shift to demand,” Rabobank said in a

note.

The market remained focused on weather prospects in South America, with

rainfall forecasts in Argentina closely monitored.

Argentina’s government said on Tuesday it had lifted a 30,000-tonne-per-day

limit recently placed on corn exports.

CBOT soybeans were up 0.3% at $14.222-1/2 a bushel, while wheat

was up 1.0% at $6.71-3/4 a bushel.

Russia is to discuss this week possible changes to a planned wheat export

tax amid reports it could raise the levy.

Prices at 1154 GMT

Last Change Pct Move End 2020 Ytd Pct

Move

CBOT wheat 671.75 6.75 1.02 640.50 4.88

CBOT corn 535.50 18.25 3.53 484.00 10.64

CBOT soy 1422.50 4.25 0.30 1311.00 8.50

Paris wheat Mar 228.50 4.00 1.78 213.25 7.15

Paris maize Mar 212.75 4.25 2.04 198.50 7.18

Paris rape Feb 442.75 1.25 0.28 418.25 5.86

WTI crude oil 53.33 0.12 0.23 48.52 9.91

Euro/dlr 1.22 0.00 -0.32 1.2100 0.56

Most active contracts – Wheat, corn and soy US cents/bushel, Paris

futures in euros per tonne

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by

Subhranshu Sahu and Pravin Char)

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Tax cuts gave $8million more cash over summer in spending boost for economy


Eight million workers had an extra $760 in their pocket over the last six months thanks to tax cuts kicking in as part of a plan to encourage spending during the coronavirus pandemic.

New data compiled by the Australian Taxation Office, shows a total of $5.9 billion flowed back to 7.8 million earners nationally through the low- and middle-income tax offset in the six months to January. The offset, also known as the “lamington”, gives these income earners up to $1080 back in their pay over the year.

Tax cuts were one of the major features of the 2020-2021 federal budget.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Households further benefited from $1.1 billion in tax savings over this period due to the stage two tax cuts being brought forward in the federal budget. These changes lifted the top threshold of the 19 per cent tax bracket to $45,000 from $37,000 and increased the 32.5 per cent tax bracket’s top threshold to $120,000 from $90,000.

The 2020-21 federal budget fast-tracked the stage two tax cuts to put money back into the economy as activity dropped during the pandemic due to restrictions, uncertainty and hardship. About 11.6 million people were expected to get a tax cut in 2020-21. Forecasts made in the budget documents at the time said the cuts would boost GDP by $3.5 billion this financial year and $9 billion in 2021-2022.

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Prime Minister, To Be Among The Attendees Of The SCG Test

Despite Medical Experts Fearing It Might Be A “Superspreader”

Following the controversial SCG Test between Australia and India, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has given his tick of approval. This comes after Cricket Australia announced on Monday that there will be major cuts to the crowd capacity at the third Test.

This cut means the reduction of 25 per cent of the stadium’s capacity as a safety measure against the spreading of the virus.

It has recently been made known by leading medical experts that Sydney should not become a “superspreader” event, with a bid to mitigating the ever-surging cases of coronavirus across the country.

However, the Prime Minister told media that he was not concerned about having a surge of attendees for outdoor events, which is expected to be at about 9,500 individuals at the venue.

He said “They have made some sensible decisions based on the medical advice. I think it’s great that it’ll be played in front of people. It’s being done in a safe way and they’ve got a good plan to deal with that based on the medical advice.”

Now working out of Canberra on coronavirus travel restrictions, the Prime Minister stated that he planned to watch the game while pouring over paperwork.

When asked about sporting events planned in Melbourne after speaking with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews earlier on Tuesday, Mr Morrison told media that it had been wise to delay the Australian Open event until February.

Moreover, he also strongly agreed with the decision to reschedule the Formula One event – which was cancelled on the day of the race last March – adding that it could have been very jeopardizing for the country.

(Image source: Perth Now)

Where the rain is falling as cyclone cuts roads



UPDATE 6.40PM: The latest downpour from ex-tropical cyclone Imogen bearing down on Cairns has brought with it hundreds of millimetres of rain across the region.

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Labor calls on Coalition to do more for hard hit areas of Australian economy as jobkeeper cuts kick in | Welfare


The Morrison government faces new calls to offer targeted support to businesses in the hardest hit parts of the Australian economy as the Coalition presses ahead with cuts to emergency wage subsidies from Monday.

Labor has accused the government of withdrawing critical support from the economy at a time when Covid-19 outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria have sparked the return of tight domestic border rules and curbs on business activities.

The opposition said the cuts – which are worth up to $200 a fortnight for each worker receiving jobkeeper – “ignore the increased stress on many businesses over the holiday period, particularly in parts of Sydney and surrounding tourist regions”.

From Monday, the jobkeeper payment will be paid at the rate of $1,000 a fortnight – down from $1,200 – for eligible workers who normally worked at least 20 hours a week.

Recipients who normally worked less than 20 hours a week will receive $650 a fortnight, a reduction of $100.

About 1.6 million individuals were receiving jobkeeper in the December quarter, down from the peak of 3.6 million in the first phase, when all recipients were paid at the flat rate of $1,500 a fortnight.

Jobkeeper payments will cease entirely at the end of March, as part of the “tapering” of what the government argues was always meant to be a temporary program but ended up being extended beyond its original cutoff date.

The latest cuts come a few days after the 1 January reduction in the rate of the coronavirus supplement, which topped up several welfare payments including the jobseeker unemployment benefits.

Labor’s finance spokesperson, Katy Gallagher, said the cuts would hurt small businesses, regional communities and vulnerable Australians at a time of heightened uncertainty.

“Many business owners are seeing holiday bookings cancelled or empty tables in their cafes and restaurants at what is usually their busiest time of the year,” she said.

“This is the second time in three months that the Morrison government has cut jobkeeper without a proper plan for jobs, despite the fact that 2.2 million Australians are looking for work or more work and the government expects another 90,000 will join the jobless queues by March.”

Gallagher said the Labor party believed financial support needed to be tailored to the prevailing economic conditions.

She called on the government to “urgently consider options to provide targeted support to hard hit parts of the economy and ensure those who need financial support continue to receive it”.

Handing down a budget update last month, the government said the economy was doing better than expected and that was why the jobkeeper program was now expected to cost $90bn – down more than $11bn since October.

The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, argued then that Australia’s economic recovery was “well under way” and more businesses were “graduating off jobkeeper”.

He pointed to budget measures such as a youth hiring credit and personal income tax cuts as providing further economic support.

The federal government on Sunday gave its tick of approval to the way state governments were handling the latest Covid outbreaks.

The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said there was “significant cause for hope in Australia”.

Speaking after a call with the chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, Hunt acknowledged “the times are challenging” but said Australia’s cases numbers continued to be “astonishingly low” by global standards. Hunt said the results indicated “significant containment both within Victoria and NSW”.

“We are winning but we have not won,” Hunt said.

Despite the federal government being highly critical of the Victorian government’s contact-tracing capacity during the second wave last year, Hunt said he had confidence in the state government’s current response. He said the systems had “dramatically improved”.

Hunt also declined to criticise the NSW government for avoiding introducing a mask mandate until now, saying the state had been responding to its circumstances but had been encouraging people to wear masks even before taking the formal step.

“I think both NSW and Victoria are responding and responding well,” he said.

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NSW will be left to pick up the tab if Scott Morrison cuts JobSeeker


What will this look like? How will it play out across NSW? We can expect to see more people without a permanent and safe place to live. Our already shamefully high homelessness numbers (the highest in the country) will swell by close to 25 per cent across the state, much higher still in particular locations.

And our overburdened, stretched-to-the-limit specialist homelessness services – which for 2019/20 supported over 70,000 clients in NSW, 26 per cent more than they were funded for – will be put under even more strain.

As more families experience housing stress, demand for social housing will grow, adding to NSW’s impossible waitlist of 50,000 and waiting times of up to 10 years in far too many regions.

We will see more children and young people at risk of harm as a result of diminishing resources and rising pressures in households impacted by job loss. Yet our child protection system is failing to adequately respond to notified families as it is, with over two thirds of cases closed before any follow up action is taken.

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Educational attainment will drop off, with young people from the most disadvantaged economic groups most at risk of the lifetime consequences that will follow. Our already exhausted teachers will face the struggle of turning these results around.

Levels of poor mental health in the community will increase as a result of rising unemployment, with young women particularly vulnerable. Sadly, the modelling also predicts an increase in suicide rates with communities already experiencing poverty and marginalisation most at risk. But as highlighted by the Productivity Commission’s recent scathing assessment, our mental health system is spectacularly unsuccessful at providing easy-to-access community-based support to prevent people’s situations escalating to crisis.

This means that our hospital emergency departments, homeless shelters and other parts of the service system will continue to be left to deal with ever growing numbers of people with significant mental health conditions.

These poor outcomes are not predicted to occur many years down the track – they are months away from happening, and a reduced JobSeeker rate will be a primary contributor. The cost to the NSW budget, to our under-resourced social services sector and to our communities will be considerable and long lasting.

The federal government has the ability to lessen levels of disadvantage and the terrible flow-on impacts to individuals, families, the service system and the state’s coffers.

All state and territory governments should demand that the federal government step up and play its part instead of passing the buck and operating under the false assumption that decreasing JobSeeker saves money.

The federal government’s new year’s resolution should be to take more responsibility for the management of the pandemic, and support the most vulnerable in the community by keeping JobSeeker at a rate that enables people to meet their basic needs.

Joanna Quilty is the chief executive of the NSW Council of Social Service.

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‘I am so scared for my future’: jobseeker cuts are devastating for millions of Australians | Welfare


Losing your job is devastating, whenever it happens. Twelve months ago, before we had even heard of Covid-19, we already had more than 800,000 people hit by unemployment. While trying to find paid work, people were struggling to survive on the grisly Newstart set at just $40 a day. Food had become a discretionary item, with surveys finding almost three-quarters of people were skipping meals each week regularly. Teeth went unfixed and hair wasn’t cut. Loneliness and depression grew.

As a nation, we had committed one of our greatest fairness failures, allowing our unemployment payment to become one of the lowest in the developed world. Successive governments ignored or demonised people who were unemployed, blaming them for their own fate.

For more than a decade, I have sat with people from all walks of life, listening to you share what it was like losing your job and trying to live on Newstart. Many millions have been affected by this financial destitution and all its terrible effects. Many of you felt silenced, ashamed, internalising the message that, somehow, it was your “fault”. Over time, many of you have also spoken up, no longer prepared to be silent, as you were plunged into poverty, as a result of unemployment, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Each year we fought hard to persuade the latest minister for social services to fix this national disgrace. Survey after research report after economist made the case to lift Newstart. And each year, the latest minister for social services – and there have been many – turned away.

Instead, each federal budget, treasurers came after social security for more cuts, chasing that elusive budget surplus.

2020 changed many things. It has been a harsh year, in so many ways. But this year’s minister for social services, at least for six months, finally increased jobseeker, lifting millions of people and their children out of poverty virtually overnight. With the introduction of the coronavirus supplement, the doubling of jobseeker meant that for the first time in almost 30 years people hit by unemployment could feed themselves three times a day with fresh food, pay their rent and bills, and sleep just a little easier at night as they continued to search for paid work.

So it is hard to describe the devastation and fear now experienced by millions as the federal government cuts away at jobseeker. It is truly the lifeline payment. The queues at Centrelink earlier this year confronted everyone. Many of those people are still out there now and more have joined them. People are still trying to find a job, still frightened that they will lose their home, the power bills won’t get paid, and their mental health will decline. While we work hard to bring jobs back, Treasury predicts unemployment will be at 7.5% by March 2021.

At Acoss we continue to hear from people every day – younger people who cannot get even their first job, single parents frightened of losing their homes and living with their children in the car, a woman in her 50s who spent more than a decade working as a Triple-0 operator hearing from people at the height of fear, crisis and despair. Now herself on jobseeker with PTSD, she is not considered “sick enough” to qualify for the disability pension. Her rent just went up to $355 a week:

I am so scared for my future and feel as if I am worth nothing to anyone. I am begging the government to see that affordable housing for a single female is impossible to find. I really won’t be able to go back to the $40 a day, I won’t be able to afford food, let alone the internet. Please, I’m begging the government because I can’t cope.

Her desperation is shared by more than 3 million people (which includes about 1 million children) at the prospect of the coronavirus supplement being cut again to just $150 a fortnight on New Year’s Day as others celebrate seeing the back of 2020.

It is important to understand the dollars at stake here. From 1 January 2021 the maximum rate of jobseeker with the coronavirus supplement will be cut from $58 a day (about $21,000 a year) to just $51 a day (about $18,500 a year). Originally increased earlier this year to $80 a day (about $29,000 a year) at the beginning of Covid, jobseeker will plunge back down to $40 a day (about $14,500 a year) at the end of March 2021 unless the federal government acts. The gap between the base rate of jobseeker and the minimum wage or the aged pension will be eye-watering. The age pension, not generous by any means, is $67 a day ($24,500 a year). The minimum wage is $107 a day (about $39300 a year). It is also important to remember that more than 1 million people on temporary visas are denied income support altogether.

The advice and evidence from economists, thinktanks and the reserve bank have praised the economic benefits of the government’s original economic packages responding to Covid-19, including the coronavirus supplement. Economists have now rated a permanent, adequate increase to jobseeker, together with social housing, as the best fiscal policy priorities for supporting the economic recovery as we live through Covid-19 into 2021. The OECD agrees. We know that people on jobseeker were spending their recently more adequate incomes on the basics, in local shops and businesses, helping to keep others in jobs. Modelling by Deloitte-Access Economics predicts that removing the coronavirus supplement entirely (as is due on 28 March 2021) would cut $31bn from the economy, resulting in the loss of a further 145,000 jobs.

For those of us who have campaigned for more than a decade for a permanent, adequate increase to jobseeker, it is inexplicable that the federal government has not acted to increase the base rate of jobseeker already. I am constantly asked, why won’t they fix it? What more do they need to be persuaded to act?

In 2020, we showed that, when governments act based on evidence and expert advice, public trust grows. The evidence and expert advice in support of a permanent adequate increase to jobseeker is overwhelming. The support is across sectors and politics, with backing from groups as diverse as the BCA, ACTU, Cancer Council, Country Women’s Association, Investment Council, Australian Retailers Association, KPMG, Deloitte, National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, Council on the Ageing and other Acoss members, and the list goes on and on and on.

We don’t need more reports, inquiries, surveys. We need this federal government – this prime minister and minister for social services – to act, and fast. We need a permanent, adequate increase to jobseeker urgently, and it needs to be extended to everyone hit by unemployment now.

In 2021, the futures of millions are in your hands.

• Cassandra Goldie is CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service



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Uni fee rises and welfare cuts: six Australian government changes coming on 1 January 2021 | Australian politics


Australia is about to mark the end of a year like no other, but some new year rituals endure. One of the enduring traditions is the Australian government setting 1 January as the start date for a range of changes to fees, regulations and benefits. Here are six changes to look out for:

Medicine co-payments rise with new listings of subsidised drugs

Co-payments for drugs listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) typically increase on 1 January each year based on consumer price index (CPI) movements. The government says the maximum co‑payment for general patients will be $41.30 per PBS script in 2021, an increase of 30c (or 0.7%) from the 2020 level.

But the health minister, Greg Hunt, says the PBS co‑payment for concession card‑holders will remain capped at $6.60 per script in 2021. “The safety net threshold for concession card‑holders will also remain at $316.80 per year,” he says. “When a concession card-holder reaches the Safety Net threshold, they will be eligible for a Safety Net Card and receive PBS medicines free of charge for the rest of 2021.”

The new year will also see several new listings of drugs on the PBS, including Darzalex as a treatment for patients with multiple myeloma – a cancer of the plasma cells. The government says Australians living with severe chronic psoriasis will benefit from the listing of Otezla on the PBS.

University fees to skyrocket in some disciplines

The government’s controversial “job-ready graduates” package takes effect in January, with a range of courses facing fee hikes. For example, students in disciplines such as law and humanities will pay up to 113% more than current students.

Fees for certain other fields of study – such as the sciences – will decrease in a bid to encourage Australians to undertake study in areas of skills needs as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 shock. The changes apply to new students, rather than those midway through their courses.

Critics say the package represents, on average, a reduction in the commonwealth contribution to university degrees, shifting more of the burden on to students. The government says it will fund an additional 12,000 commonwealth-supported places in 2021 in national priority areas.

Foreign investment charges to rise

The Morrison government says it will increase fees for reviewing foreign investment proposals from 1 January to “ensure that foreign investors, not Australian taxpayers, bear the costs of administering the foreign investment system”. The budget papers say the fee overhaul will deliver $55m to the budget over four years.

The fee changes come as the government has also tightened rules – including adding a new national interest test – against the backdrop of concerns about potential Chinese investment in sensitive national security businesses. China has previously accused the Australian government of blocking foreign investment proposals on opaque national security grounds – an objection we are likely to hear more of as tensions between the two countries spill over into 2021.

Insolvency relief for business

The government’s changes to insolvency rules will also take effect on 1 January. The changes could allow small businesses that are in financial distress due to the Covid recession but still considered viable to be left in the hands of their owners rather than placed into administration under a new debt restructuring process.

The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, says the reforms draw on key features of the chapter 11 bankruptcy model in the United States, giving flexibility for businesses to restructure. “They will apply to incorporated businesses with liabilities of less than $1m – covering around 76% of businesses subject to insolvencies today, 98% of whom who have less than 20 employees,” he says.

Cuts to the coronavirus supplement

While businesses will gain added flexibility from the insolvency changes, more than two million welfare recipients are set to face a significant hit to their incomes from 1 January, as the government cuts the coronavirus supplement by $100 a fortnight.

Recipients of the jobseeker payment and several other welfare payments had their incomes topped up as part of emergency measures introduced at the beginning of the pandemic and then extended. But the government has maintained it will proceed with tapering the measure.

From 1 January, about 1.3 million people on the jobseeker payment will receive a base rate of $715.70 a fortnight, down from about $1,115 at the height of the pandemic. Three days later, the rate of the jobkeeper wage subsidy will also be reduced.

Ban on waste exports

The federal government is banning the export overseas of certain types of unprocessed waste – including plastic, paper, glass and tyres – from 1 January. Official figures indicate Australia exported about 7% of all waste it generated in 2019, as highlighted by The Conversation. There have been concerns about the impact of sending unprocessed waste offshore, and countries including China and Malaysia have instituted bans on imports.

The government says the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment will administer a licensing and declaration scheme allowing the export of waste materials “where it can be demonstrated that sufficient processing has occurred prior to export to prevent harm to the environment or human health overseas”.



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