China to tap elderly population in bid to tackle looming demographic crisis, boost economy



China wants to see more seniors contributing to its US$13 trillion dollar economy, as the world’s most populous country braces for the effects of a rapidly ageing population and shrinking workforce after more than three decades of the one-child policy.The Chinese government said this month it will launch specific policies to boost consumption and develop “human resources” among its senior citizens, including providing training to help pensioners integrate with the buzzing digital economy.In…



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Election voting begins in Burkina Faso under a looming threat of violence


Polls opened in Burkina Faso on Sunday in a presidential election dominated by jihadist violence, which has cost over 2,000 lives this year and will prevent voting in hundreds of villages.

President Roch Kaboré is seeking a second five-year term, campaigning on achievements such as free healthcare for children under the age of five and paving some of the red dirt roads that snake across the arid West African country.

But a surge in attacks by groups with links to the militant groups al Qaeda and Islamic State has eclipsed everything else.

Three weeks after his inauguration, al Qaeda’s regional branch attacked a hotel and a cafe in the capital, killing 32 people. An ambush on mine workers in the east last year killed 39.

People line up to vote in Burkina Faso’s presidential and legislative elections as polling stations open in Ouagadougou on 22 November, 2020.

EPA / AAP

“We need someone who is going to bring peace to our country. The president needs a second mandate to end what has started,” said secretary Maimouna Tapsoba, 59, who wiped purple ink from her finger after voting in Ouagadougou.

Small numbers of early voters waited in a large sandy schoolyard to cast their ballots after polls opened at 6 aam on Sunday (local time). 

Mr Kaboré faces stiff opposition from former finance minister Zephirin Diabré, the runner-up in 2015, and Eddie Komboigo, who runs the party of Blaise Campaoré, the president of 27 years who was overthrown in 2014.

Analysts expect a tight race that could go to a second round if no candidate wins more than 50 per cent.

Provisional results of the first round are expected by midweek.

In a press conference on Saturday, Mr Diabré said the president was orchestrating “massive fraud” ahead of the vote, without providing evidence.

The electoral commission says polling stations will remain shut across much of the north and east for fear of violence.

At least 400,000 people – nearly seven per cent of the electorate – will be unable to cast their votes, official data show.



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A figure no longer sacrosanct – A contest between populism, diplomacy and aid is looming in Britain | Britain


WHEN BORIS JOHNSON told Parliament in June that he planned to merge Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), he mocked it as a “giant cashpoint in the sky”. Its do-gooders, now under the auspices of the clunkily-named Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), may soon have rather less cash to dispense. According to whispers whooshing around Whitehall, the government is thinking of breaking its promise to keep spending 0.7% of GDP every year on foreign aid.

Such a move would come as no surprise to watchers of the wrestling match under way at the FCDO between hard-nosed diplomats and bleeding hearts. The 0.7% figure was enshrined in law in 2015 as a sign of the Conservatives’ determination to shed their “nasty party” tag. Last year DFID was responsible for dishing out most of the £15bn earmarked by Britain for the poorest of the world.

On the whole, the cash has been well spent, but it has sometimes been tricky to dish it all out. Even last year’s weak GDP growth meant an extra £600m had to be divvied up. In an era of covid-imposed recession and looming mass unemployment at home, a populist government was likely to start balking at such generosity to foreigners, however deserving.

The figure has become totemic. But dropping it to, say, 0.6% would still leave Britain as one of the world’s biggest donors. As the anti-aid lobby points out, Britain is the sole country in the G7 group of big economies to meet the 0.7% figure, which is promoted by the UN. (Only four other countries are as worthy: Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden. France spends 0.4%, Italy and Spain around 0.2%, and America less than 0.2%.) And it was already being whittled away, as the government began to define aid more elastically. The Ministry of Defence, the Department of International Trade and other ministries now often mark down spending abroad as aid.

The bigger concern is the merger, which officially occurred on September 1st. Whether or not spending is cut as a proportion of GDP, the FCDO is likely to slice up the cash less effectively. “It’s not a merger, it’s the demolition of DFID,” laments Andrew Mitchell, once the Conservatives’ most dynamic boss of DFID.

It is not difficult to work out why mandarins generally favour it. In the past two decades the diplomatic service has been hollowed out by drastic budget cuts, sorely weakening its hand in traditional diplomacy. Britain’s representation shrank to only one or two diplomats in nearly half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, invariably outnumbered by staff working for DFID. In at least 14 African countries Britain has no embassies at all (Turkey now has half a dozen more than the UK). In some places the head of the DFID office, by virtue of dispensing vast dollops of aid, carried more weight than the ambassador. Under the merger, the resident ambassador will oversee aid as well as diplomacy. And the number of diplomats is being bumped up.

Even before Tony Blair created DFID as a separate ministry when he came to power in 1997, the aid-and-development arm of the FCO was fairly autonomous, with a minister of its own. Now there will be no specific aid minister. DFID’s top civil servant has been shunted off as a “special envoy” for famine prevention. The rejigging of the new department is being overseen mainly by FCO types, not aid specialists. “The idea is to break DFID up into little pieces and scatter it,” says Nicholas Westcott, a former diplomat who runs the Royal African Society. “They want to make it hard to separate it out again.”

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Shotgun wedding”

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Snapshot of looming AFL trade moves


THE BIG AFL TRADE PERIOD MOVES YET TO GO THROUGH AHEAD OF THURSDAY’S DEADLINE

JEREMY CAMERON (Greater Western Sydney)

Preferred destination: Geelong

State of play: GWS matched the Cats’ bid for the restricted free agent in order to force a trade deal. The two clubs remain in contact over a deal for the prolific spearhead.

ADAM TRELOAR (Collingwood)

Preferred destination: Not yet declared

State of play: Treloar has five years left to run on his bumper contract but appears set to be forced out because of the Magpies’ salary-cap issues. No major suitor has stepped forward as yet, but it is unlikely the gun midfielder will remain at Collingwood next year.

ADAM SAAD (Essendon)

Preferred destination: Carlton

State of play: The Bombers want a first-round pick in exchange for the running defender, who has finished top-three in their best-and-fairest award for the last three seasons. They may have to give up a later pick with Saad to get the deal over the line.

JOSH DUNKLEY (Western Bulldogs)

Preferred destination: Essendon

State of play: Dunkley wants out of the Bulldogs as he seeks more midfield time and has picked the Bombers as his club of choice.

JYE CALDWELL (Greater Western Sydney)

Preferred destination: Essendon

State of play: GWS want a first-round draft pick in exchange for the promising young player, who they initially selected with pick 11 in the 2018 draft.

BEN BROWN (North Melbourne)

Preferred destination: Melbourne

State of play: Brown could fill a hole in attack for the Demons, who need firepower but are unwilling to give up a first-round draft pick.





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Where your club sits with trade period’s deadline looming


Brisbane

Deals done: Signed restricted free agent Joe Daniher from Essendon.
Traded 2020 pick 43 and 2021 fourth-round pick to Melbourne for 2020 pick 53 and 2021 round-three pick.

On the table: Ruckman Stefan Martin has interest from the Western Bulldogs, while the Lions are poised to get Geelong’s Nakia Cockatoo. West Coast are interested in Alex Witherden.

Joe Daniher is embarking on a fresh start at the Brisbane Lions. Credit:Jono Searle

Carlton

Deals done: Signed restricted free agent Zac Williams from GWS.

On the table: Pursuing a trade for Essendon’s Adam Saad, who wants to be a Blue.

Collingwood

Deals done: Nothing yet.

On the table: Adam Treloar looks likely to leave for a Victorian club, maybe the Bulldogs or Hawthorn. Tom Phillips could also depart.

Essendon

Deals done: Received first-round compensation for losing Daniher (currently pick seven). Lost Shaun McKernan to St Kilda with no compensation.

On the table: Bulldog Josh Dunkley wants to get to Essendon, as does GWS’ Jye Caldwell. Saad wants to get to Carlton and Orazio Fantasia wants to go to Port Adelaide. Could get Peter Wright from Gold Coast.

Fremantle

Deals done: Jesse Hogan traded to GWS for pick 55.

On the table: Nothing in play at the moment.

Geelong

Deals done: Received unrestricted free agent Isaac Smith from Hawthorn.

On the table: Need to sort a trade for Jeremy Cameron from GWS. Shaun Higgins expected to join from North Melbourne.

Gold Coast

Deals done: Got Oleg Markov from Richmond for a future third-round pick and signed unrestricted free agent Atkins from Adelaide.

On the table: Wright to Essendon looks on.

Greater Western Sydney

Deals done: Lost Williams to Carlton for first-round compensation (currently pick 10). Lost Aidan Corr to North Melbourne for a round-two compensation pick (currently 31), traded Zac Langdon to West Coast for pick 55, then traded that to Fremantle for Hogan.

On the table: Caldwell wants a trade to Essendon, Hately wants to get to Adelaide and Cameron wants to get to Geelong. Braydon Preuss from Melbourne is of interest.

Hawthorn

Deals done: Lost Smith to Geelong for a third-round compensation pick (currently 46) and traded a future fourth-round pick for the Crows’ Hartigan.

On the table: Some interest in Collingwood’s Phillips.

Tom Phillips may be a trade candidate this year.

Tom Phillips may be a trade candidate this year.Credit:Getty Images

Melbourne

Done deals: Got the Lions’ 2020 pick 43 and 2021 fourth-round pick for their own 2020 pick 53 and 2021 third-round pick.

On the table: North’s Ben Brown wants to get to Melbourne. Mitch Hannan wants to be a Bulldog.

North Melbourne

Done deals: Signed unrestricted free agent Corr from GWS.

On the table: Higgins should get to Geelong and out-of-contract Jed Anderson has been linked to a move.

Port Adelaide

Done deals: Nothing yet.

On the table: Want to trade for Essendon’s Fantasia.

Richmond

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Done deals: Lost Markov to Gold Coast for future third-round pick.

On the table: Jack Higgins has interest, including from the Saints.

St Kilda

Deals done: Signed restricted free agent Crouch and unrestricted free agent McKernan.

On the table: Luke Dunstan and Jimmy Webster could leave. Not totally out for Treloar but would be tough given their salary cap.

Sydney

Deals done: Nothing yet.

On the move: Interested in Eagle Tom Hickey.

West Coast

Deals done: Got Langdon from GWS for pick 55.

On the table: Quiet on the trade front currently.

Western Bulldogs

Deals done: Nothing yet.

On the table: Keen on Brisbane’s Martin and in the frame for Treloar, should Dunkley receive his desired move to Essendon.

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QAnon and the looming threat of misinformation in Finland


QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory movement that originated in the United States, has made its way to Finland, ensnaring a growing number of supporters in the country. QAnon first emerged on 4Chana largely unfiltered imageboard websitein October, 2017, when an anonymous user known only as Q (derived from the Q-level security clearance they claimed to have) posted coded messages expounding numerous conspiracy theories. 

These theories place American president Donald Trump in the role of a saviour-like figure discreetly working towards dismantling an evil “deep state” and claim, among other things, the existence of secret cabals of child trafficking, that 5G causes cancer and that certain celebrities and public figures have been replaced by body doubles.

Since its conception, QAnon has gained traction rapidly, spreading across virtual platforms with the speed and intensity of the very virus it claims to be a hoax, amassing a wildly enthusiastic global following. 

While many might dismiss these conspiracy theories as the laughably absurd and primarily harmless ramblings of a fringe group, they have proved capable of dangerous, real-world consequences, being linked to numerous instances of violence. QAnon has also led to the dissolution of social and familial bonds in many cases. 

Last month, Facebook announced that it would ban QAnon on all its platforms (including pages, groups and Instagram accounts). Other major platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Twitter followed suit, disabling accounts that promote content associated with QAnon and related conspiracy theories. Supporters have since shifted to less regulated online platforms such as Telegram.

The growing global magnitude of the phenomenon has given rise to a counter-movement of sorts, with the emergence of a number of organisations and communities dedicated to debunking unfounded theories and containing the destructive after-effects of QAnon. 

A Finnish QAnon follower at a protest on 1 March (Lehtikuva)

 

Johannes Koski, a Finnish democracy activist and UX director of a gaming company, founded Kollektiivi, an international collective of researchers, scientists and activists committed to raising awareness about the dangers of conspiracy theories. According to Koski, the QAnon movement has gained significant ground in Finland despite the country’s strong democratic ideals and exceptional education system. 

“For the past decade, social media algorithms have been increasingly connecting high-risk individuals to radicalising material on a global scale,” he says. “Trust in media, science and government institutions has dropped around the world, partly as a side-effect of the rise of political populism.” 

Koski also attributes the sudden and exponential increase in conspiracy theorists to the detrimental effects that the global pandemic has had on public mental health. The pandemic has brought existing socio-economic inequalities in Finland to the fore, heightening feelings of powerlessness and fomenting mistrust in established public institutions.  

This July, Finnish QAnon supporters gathered for the first-ever Q weekend festival at Dragsfjärd in Southwest Finland. According to Iltalehti, the QAnon Suomi group on Facebook had garnered over 2,200 members as of September (the group has since been removed by Facebook). 

Over the last few months, QAnon has gained an increasingly strong foothold in Europe, thriving especially in Germany, where it has become inextricably linked with anti-semitism and the Neo Nazi movement. As in countries such as Germany, Italy and the UK, QAnon in Finland is strongly rooted in radical right-wing ideology, fostering intense, anti-immigrant sentiment and distrust of local and international media. 

Finnish proponents of QAnon support Finland’s exit from the EU (termed Fixit) and deem the Koronavilkku contact tracing app a thinly-veiled attempt by the government to monitor citizens. Like their counterparts in other countries, they hold that COVID- 19 is a scam of international proportions, propagated by various governments across the globe.   

Koski believes that setting up an international network to educate the public about the potential dangers of misinformation and providing emotional support to families of those who have fallen victim to radical thinking are key to mitigating the adverse effects of such movements. 

“Sharing information and networking between dozens of experts, researchers, journalists and activists is very helpful. We have plans for starting a podcast to educate the public and we’ve collected lots of information, research articles, videos and news articles on our new website (kollektiivi.org). Plus it helps to have a community around you when you’re standing against a digital, cult-like movement of millions of followers,” he adds. 

 


Tahira Sequeira

Helsinki Times 



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With election looming, U.S. faces record surge of coronavirus cases


 

A record surge of coronavirus cases in the United States pushed hospitals closer to the brink of capacity and drove the number of infections reported on Friday to an ominous new daily world record of 100,000, four days before the U.S. presidential election.

 

The United States also documented its 9 millionth case to date on Friday, representing nearly 3% of the population, with almost 229,000 dead since the outbreak of the pandemic early this year, according to a Reuters tally of publicly reported data.

With the country facing the final stretch of a tumultuous presidential campaign dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. health authorities on Friday also confirmed that 100,233 more people had tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.

Friday’s tally set a new single-day record in U.S. cases for the fifth time in the past 10 days, surpassing the previous peak of 91,248 new infections posted a day earlier.

 

It also represented the world’s highest national daily toll during the pandemic, exceeding India’s 24-hour record of 97,894 set in September.

The accelerating pace of U.S. infections continued as data trickled in on Friday, with at least a dozen states individually reporting a record number of new daily cases.

Serious cases of COVID-19 were on the rise as well, as hospitals in six states reported having the most patients suffering from the disease since the pandemic started. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has risen over 50% in October to 46,000, the highest since mid-August.

 

Among the hard-hit states are those most hotly contested in the campaign between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, such as Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

More than 1,000 people died of the virus on Thursday, the third time the daily death toll had exceeded that number this month, and the pace of fatalities is expected to continue rising. COVID claimed at least 926 more deaths on Friday.

The University of Washington’s newly updated model projects the death toll, which had been holding at a monthly pace of just over 22,000 for most of October, will start climbing next month toward a new record of more than 72,000 in January.

 

The January projection by the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation would eclipse the nearly 61,000 fatalities in April when the pandemic first exploded in the United States and overwhelmed hospitals in New York City.

“Our hospitals cannot keep up with Utah’s infection rate. You deserve to understand the dire situation we face,” Utah Governor Gary Herbert said on Twitter, echoing officials in other states and public health experts.

‘NOT QUITE PREPARED’

Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, Rhode Island, said the country lacks adequate testing as the infections erupt in different parts of the country.

 

“We are having some of the largest outbreaks that we’ve had during the entire pandemic,” Jha told Reuters in an interview. “And nine, 10 months into this pandemic, we are still largely not quite prepared,”

The pandemic remains a political football across the country, including in El Paso, Texas, where the mayor refused to comply with an order by the county’s top executive to shut down non-essential businesses, as infections rise and hospital capacity is stretched.

Mayor Dee Margo, noting that he had already reduced the capacity at which businesses may operate, cited 32,000 jobless people and 148,000 relying on food banks in his city of 700,000.

 

“Struggling families should not have to choose between following rules and putting food on the table,” he said at a press conference.

The county executive, Judge Ricardo Samaniego, said in a statement that he was pursuing legal options to enforce his two-week shutdown order.

Trump has repeatedly played down the virus, saying for weeks that the country is “rounding the turn,” even as new cases and hospitalizations soared. He maintained his upbeat tone in a tweet on Friday, saying the country was doing much better than Europe had in confronting the pandemic.

 

Biden and fellow Democrats in Congress have criticized the president for his handling of the health crisis.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats released a report on Friday condemning the Trump administration’s pandemic response as being “among the worst failures of leadership in American history.” At least 6 million Americans have been thrust into poverty and millions more are jobless, it said.

The 71-page interim report by Democratic staff of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis also said investigators identified more than 60 instances in which Trump administration officials overruled or sidelined top scientists to advance the president’s political interests.

 

“The administration’s response to this economic crisis has benefited larger companies and wealthy Americans, while leaving behind many disadvantaged communities and struggling small businesses,” the report said.

After his hospitalization with COVID-19 in early October, Trump resumed the large campaign rallies that draw thousands of supporters packed together, many not wearing masks. The Trump campaign says the rallies are safe and that masks and social distancing are encouraged.

A CNN investigation found that 14 out of 17 counties surveyed showed an increased rate of new COVID-19 cases one month after hosting Trump rallies.

 



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‘I’m really scared’: how the looming cuts to Covid welfare payments are worrying millions | Australia news


The federal government’s Covid-response boost to income support offered something critics say was long denied to Australian welfare recipients: a genuine safety net.

Six months after welfare benefits were doubled, that support is now falling away. And for millions of people relying on jobseeker or jobkeeper payments, the strange sense of financial security that accompanied the pandemic is now giving way to anxiety and fear.

“I’m really scared how I’m going to manage after December,” says Angela Cadwallen, a 55-year-old jobseeker from western Sydney. “Getting that supplement made a huge difference, otherwise I don’t know where I’d be.”

Back in April, the government introduced a $550-a-fortnight coronavirus supplement to the jobseeker payment, lifting the rate to $1,115. It has now tapered the supplement down to $250, and it is set to expire altogether in December.

To keep people connected to jobs and out of the welfare system, the government also created the jobkeeper subsidy. The payment goes to about 2 million workers at cash-strapped businesses but will expire in March, likely triggering an influx of new jobseeker recipients.

What is most unclear for those people – and the 1.4 million already on jobseeker – is how much money they might have to live on next year.

The result is that people like Cadwallen, who lives with her son and his four-year-old daughter, are already turning their minds to tough decisions.

“If my son doesn’t get a job between now and when that payment changes, we’ll have to find somewhere else to live,” she says.








Angela Cadwallen says she may have to move house after the coronavirus supplement is cut again. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Before the pandemic, the jobseeker payment was about $565 a fortnight, or about $40 a day, plus some supplementary payments.

Government ministers have indicated they are open to a further temporary extension of the coronavirus supplement, at an undisclosed rate, but notably absent from the federal budget was a permanent increase to the jobseeker payment. The government says it may not make a call until December, when it believes it will have a clearer view of the economy.

If jobseeker reverts to the old rate, Cadwallen may have to access her superannuation. She has had to do so once already, when her son lost his job at the start of the pandemic.

“I wasn’t happy,” she says. “I have bugger all super – I only had about $50,000.”

Similar conversations have been playing out in households across the country in recent weeks. Last month, the government started unpicking what Scott Morrison described at the start of the crisis as the “supercharged safety net”.

As well as reducing the coronavirus supplement, the government cut the jobkeeper wage subsidy paid to about 2 million people.

The payments fell from $1,500 to $1,200 a fortnight, and a part-time rate of $750 was introduced. In January, jobkeeper will fall to $1,000 and $650, before the subsidy is scrapped in March.

“January is the part that is stressing me,” says James McRae, who, like Cadwallen, is expecting to make a second superannuation withdrawal to cover rent, car repayments and other debts.

McRae, 42, was working full-time hours in baggage services at Sydney airport but is now on the reduced jobkeeper rate of $1,200 a fortnight.





A queue outside a Centrelink office



A Deloitte report estimates the Covid income support cuts could cost the economy $31bn due to reduced household spending. Photograph: David Mariuz/AAP

He is baffled by the decision to taper the payments. “Nothing has really changed for those people who can’t work,” McRae says. “In this industry, those borders are still closed, we can’t go to work. We’re not suddenly worth less money, we don’t suddenly have less expenses.”

McRae’s wife is still working full-time and he has managed to get some casual work in his past profession as a teacher. He recognises he has it better than many, including those at companies in his industry that were ineligible for jobkeeper.

But he won’t be eligible for jobseeker payments when jobkeeper ends, because his wife earns more than the income test of about $80,000 a year.

“I’ve already reduced costs everywhere else,” he says. “We’re not doing some of our more luxury things like [going to] cafes, which is good, but also means we’re not spending money in the community either.”

Associate Prof Ben Phillips, whose research has found pandemic-boosted benefits spared about 2.2 million from poverty, says uncertainty about the future of welfare payments could cause some to “squirrel money away”.

“That would be a negative for the economy,” says Phillips, of Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods.

A report by Deloitte last month estimated the reduction and eventual end to the coronavirus supplement could cost the economy $31bn due to reduced household spending.

This week in Warwick in south-east Queensland, Emma Lenz, a single mother of two, received her first parenting payment since the supplement was cut by $300.

“I’ll be buying nothing from now on except what I need,” says Lenz, 39. “And I’ll put some extra on the power and rent, just so that at Christmas, when my kids are off school and I can’t work, my bills are paid.”

While much of the debate about the rate of welfare payments has focused on jobseekers, the future of the coronavirus supplement will also affect those on student and parenting payments.

Overall, about 2.3 million people have been getting the supplement, and Lenz’s daughter, 10, and son, seven, are among the 1 million children who live in families that have benefited from it.





Angela Cadwallen with her dog outside her home



Angela Cadwallen: ‘I can live in a dump, but when you’ve got a little kid, you need somewhere halfway decent.’ Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Lenz, who juggles parenting with casual paid work and part-time study, says the supplement was briefly life-changing.

“My son’s seven and I’ve never actually purchased new linen for him,” she says. “That’s all been second-hand or hand-me-downs. He’s got his first doona for the first time in his life, and he’s stoked.

“They’ve got both new underwear and socks. I just thought of [getting] as much as I could, because I knew [the supplement] was running out.”

Now she’s back to old habits like “adding up ever dollar” as she walks around the supermarket.

Fearing the worst, Cadwallen’s family is already looking for a new house, but she says she’s struggled to find anything cheaper than the $450 a week they currently pay in the Penrith area.

“I can live in a dump, but when you’ve got a little kid, you need somewhere halfway decent, you don’t want to be living in squalor,” she says.

Cadwallen was receiving worker’s compensation on top of her jobseeker payments until August, but the boosted pandemic payments meant she was still be able to manage.

Without the supplement, that’s much less certain. “Next year is going to be pretty tough,” she says.



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Adam Scott test positive for coronavirus, pulls out of Zozo Championship with Masters looming



Australia’s former Masters champion Adam Scott has tested positive for the coronavirus and withdrawn from this week’s PGA Tour event in California.

Scott’s exit comes hot on the heels of world number one Dustin Johnson testing positive last week at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas.

Scott has not played since last month’s US Open and has played only four times — two majors and two FedEx Cup play-off events — in the four months since the PGA Tour returned from the COVID-19 shutdown.

The news of his positive test comes on the eve of the Zozo Championship and just three weeks before the start of the Masters, which has been pushed back from its usual April slot to a November 12 start.

The 40-year-old remains the only Australian to have won the event, back in 2013.

“While it’s difficult news to receive — as I really looked forward to playing this week — my focus now is on recovery for the final stretch of the fall,” Scott said in a statement.

Scott, who won at Riviera in February, is ranked 15th in the world and is the third player from the top 20 to have tested positive in the last three weeks, along with Americans Johnson and Tony Finau.

After self-isolating for 10 days, Scott will not have to be tested again for three months under CDC guidelines the PGA Tour has adopted.

AAP



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JobKeeper ‘bloodbath’ looming with job losses, redundancies expected


The coronavirus crisis has devastated countless livelihoods – but there’s a new threat facing businesses and everyday workers alike that most of us haven’t seen coming.

That’s according to Aussie employment relations expert Natasha Hawker, who told news.com.au JobKeeper 2.0, which is now just days away, would leave employees and staff exposed to a redundancy “bloodbath”.

The $1500-a-fortnight JobKeeper wage subsidy was first announced by the federal government back in April in a bid to keep businesses and households afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But while it has been extended for an extra six months to March 28, 2021, the rate of payments will be scaled back from the end of the month, with full-time employees who work more than 20 hours on average a week getting their payment slashed to $1200 per fortnight.

Part-time employees who worked less than 20 hours a week will get $750 per fortnight.

The eligibility criteria is also being tightened, and with $30 billion earmarked for the new version of the scheme, compared with a far more generous $70 billion for the initial program, experts fear many more Aussies will miss out this time around.

When the extension was announced in July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison touted it as a win for workers and a tool in “delivering the support Australians need and the policies our economy requires to reopen, recover and create jobs”.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus coverage

RELATED: More than 3000 millionaires claimed JobKeeper

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also praised the extension, claiming it would “help keep businesses in business and Australians in jobs as our economy reopens.”

But Ms Hawker said instead, the pared-back scheme would cause “a lot of pain” for bosses and staff, and that many businesses would be forced to cut costs as a result.

She predicted that would lead to a massive spike in redundancies – and with it, unfair dismissal claims.

“For many businesses, especially smaller businesses for whom cash flow is vital, JobKeeper has been like a ventilator for their business during COVID-19 – but the oxygen is about to be turned off, and some businesses won’t survive without life support,” she said.

Ms Hawker said there had been a 70 per cent increase in unfair dismissal claims during the last quarter alone, and that she expected that figure to rise after the nation reached the “September cliff” with JobKeeper, rent relief and loan deferrals beginning to wind up.

“The reality is most businesses will no longer qualify for JobKeeper and even if they do, they can’t continue to accrue debt…when they have minimal or zero income coming in,” she said.

She explained that it cost just $74.50 for sacked workers to file an unfair dismissal claim, and that someone earning an average Australian salary of $65,000 could score themselves a $32,000 payout on top of their redundancy.

And while a let-go worker had “nothing to lose” by filing, Ms Hawker said the process could be disastrous for business owners.

RELATED: What to expect when payments are cut

She said there was a requirement for a redundancy to be “genuine” and that workers were protected from terminations that were deemed to be “harsh, unjust or unreasonable”.

But she said many businesses came unstuck on technicalities after failing to follow the correct protocols, which include planning the redundancy process and timetable, preparing managers for the conversation, preparing documentation, calculating redundancy packages and consulting with the employee throughout the process.

“I believe it will get a lot worse before it gets better and I think we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg,” she told news.com.au.

“The reality is most businesses in my view have been blindsided by the pandemic and have little cash in reserve – owners are fighting for the survival of their business as well as their own family’s financial survival.

“The harsh reality is that with JobKeeper ending, many will have to let staff go and if they find themselves defending multiple unfair dismissal claims, it could be ultimately brings them undone.”

Ms Hawker said with so many business owners in distress, it was even easier to make potentially costly mistakes, citing a real-life example of a distribution company that recently dismissed a driver “on the spot” after three years of service without offering any severance pay.

Unsurprisingly, it ended up in an unfair dismissal complaint and a six-week payout was eventually negotiated – but Ms Hawker urged business owners to get the right advice from the get-go to avoid a similar disaster.

“Lots of business owners are thinking, ‘I’m stuffed, I’m going broke, why would I pay you out?’ and they take the risk when they’re not thinking straight and are in panic mode … but rushing and making mistakes ends up hurting both sides,” she said.

Ms Hawker called on the government to extend grants to small to medium business owners across the country to help them gain proper legal, accounting and HR advice during the pandemic and recession.



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