New Zealand central bank to hold rates at record lows as coronavirus shock seen milder – Reuters poll


September 21, 2020

By Praveen Menon

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s central bank is likely to keep interest rates steady at record lows and hold off on further stimulus this week, even as the economy faces a deep recession, on signs the fallout from coronavirus pandemic could be milder than expected.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) will keep the official cash rate (OCR) unchanged at 0.25% on Wednesday for a fourth consecutive meeting, according to all 11 economists polled by Reuters. The economists said they expected rates to remain steady for the rest of the year.

New Zealand fell into its deepest economic recession on record in the second quarter, data showed last week, but the 12.2% quarter-on-quarter contraction was smaller than the 12.8% decline forecast in a Reuters poll.

Meanwhile, Treasury forecasts showed a milder short-term shock from the coronavirus outbreak, while house prices have defied forecasts and stayed buoyant.

“The recent period of stronger data means the RBNZ won’t see any need to loosen monetary policy further at this stage,” said Westpac Chief Economist Dominick Stephens.

About 97% of the market expects no change in rates this week, but have priced in a move close to zero by April next year, according to Eikon.

In the Reuters poll, three of the 11 economists expected a rate cut in the first quarter of next year and seven expected rates to enter negative territory in Q2 2021.

The RBNZ has held rates steady since cutting them by 75 basis points at an emergency meeting in March.

But in August the central bank expanded its bond-buying programme to NZ$100 billion ($67.7 billion) and struck a dovish tone.

It reiterated its commitment to holding rates until March next year, and said it would consider negative rates and low-cost funding to banks if further stimulus was needed.

On Wednesday, the markets will focus on whether there’s any change to this forward guidance, ANZ Bank said in a note.

“For the short end, any weakening of the commitment to keep the OCR unchanged until March would certainly cause a flurry of excitement, but this is not our expectation,” said ANZ Chief Economist Sharon Zollner.

(Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)





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Victorian Liberal Tim Smith can’t even rig a poll right


Not Tim Smith’s finest moment…

Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith (right) with federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (Image: AAP/Julian Smith)

Victorian Liberal Tim Smith, a man who calls to mind a kind of Freaky Friday body switch between a small town mayor and a Year 12 student who wears a blazer on free dress days, last night put out a Facebook poll on whether Daniel Andrews should resign.

It was one of those polls that utilitises the various emoji reactions as a voting mechanism (“thumbs up to vote yes, love heart to vote no, angry face to vote undecided” etc), only he’d amusingly rigged so there could only be one outcome:

The only problem was that Smith, who is paid nearly $200,000 in public money a year, and employs people to help with his media strategy, had forgotten — appropriately enough — about the “hug” emoji, which, at time of publication, accounts for 33,000 of the 38,000 responses he’s received, presumably making Smith the first man to be conclusively trounced in his own rigged push poll.

Smith presents a uniquely modern challenge to any journalist. His late-night, school boy insults and baseless provocations have no intention or content beyond harvesting attention, and calling them out has no effect. His colleagues presumably already know he’s an embarrassment, and no amount of jokes on our part about how he’s a Young Liberal who got magically aged into an adult’s body like Tom Hanks in Big is likely to halt talk of him as a possible leadership contender.

Largely because, as Victoria suffers the worst COVID-19 crisis in the country, you couldn’t pick the current Liberal leader out of a line up of one.

Peter Fray

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In Wisconsin Poll, Unrest Concerns Don’t Translate Into Surge for Trump


For more than a decade, Wisconsin has been among the most polarized and evenly divided states in the country, and the fate of its political candidates has hung on turnout. When Democrats in its two major cities — Madison and Milwaukee — turned out in big numbers, party standard-bearers like Barack Obama and Gov. Tony Evers won statewide elections. But when Democratic turnout in Milwaukee or Madison has been soft, Republicans have prevailed: former Gov. Scott Walker carried the state in three elections between 2010 and 2014, and Mr. Trump won in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes out of nearly three million cast.

In Wisconsin’s cities, enthusiasm is high. The poll found 81 percent of voters in the cities said they were “almost certain” to vote, compared with 69 percent of suburban voters and 68 percent of rural voters. These city voters are also far more likely to favor Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump to maintain law and order. The intensity gap, if it is maintained through Election Day, is likely to benefit Mr. Biden.

In Trump-era elections that Democrats have won, there has been a surge of voter turnout in heavily Democratic Dane County, which includes Madison — the state capital and home of the flagship University of Wisconsin campus. In April’s state Supreme Court election, nearly as many votes were cast in Dane County as in Milwaukee County, even though Dane County has less than 60 percent of Milwaukee County’s population.

Justin Lang, a 38-year-old software developer in Verona, just outside Madison, said he had already ordered his absentee ballot to vote by mail for Mr. Biden.

“One hundred percent,” he said, when asked how certain he was that he would vote. “I don’t know that everyone is gung ho about Joe Biden in particular, but there’s a shared feeling across the board that Trumpism is a big problem. And that we need to get in there and vote to repudiate that.”

He added, “Within my social group, that’s going to be a big thing.”

The swing region of the state is the Fox Valley, a collection of small cities and rural areas stretching south from Green Bay. Andrew Fox, 38, an Iraq war veteran from Menasha, a community of 18,000 on the northern tip of Lake Winnebago, said he was not a fan of either major presidential candidate but was inclined to stick with Mr. Trump.



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NFL: Political divide on athlete activism widens in the U.S. – Reuters/Ipsos poll


September 9, 2020

By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The political divide over athlete protests has deepened in the four years since NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the playing of the U.S. national anthem, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Since then, Democrats and Republicans are moving further apart on the issue even as, overall, opinions have not changed drastically with more than half of Americans wanting professional athletes to be required to stand during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Weeks after the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Kaepernick sat out the playing of the anthem prior to a San Francisco 49ers pre season game in August 2016 in protest of racial injustice and knelt for the song in subsequent weeks, prompting a handful of other players across the league to join him.

Asked whether professional athletes should be required to stand during the national anthem at sporting events in a Reuters/Ipsos poll this month, 54% responded “agree” compared to 56% who responded the same in September 2016.

But while the overall national sentiment has remained largely the same, the topic has grown more partisan.

Of those respondents who identify as Democrats, just 33% said they agreed that professional athletes should be required to stand for the national anthem, compared to 43% in 2016.

Among self-identified Republican respondents, the momentum moved in a different direction: 81% said this month that pro athletes must stand, compared to 73% in 2016.

U.S. President Donald Trump, then the Republican candidate for the White House, was among Kaepernick’s most vocal critics when the quarterback took up the protest, and told a radio show in August 2016 that he should “find a country that works better for him.” He has maintained his criticism toward athletes who kneel in the years since.

Kaepernick, who entered free agency in March 2017 and subsequently filed a collusion grievance against the NFL after he failed to land with a team, ushered in a new era of athlete activism, with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) both mounting brief strikes last month in protest of police brutality.

The percentage of self-identifying Democrats who responded that professional athletes should be able to express political statements of any kind at sporting events rose to 77% from 60% in 2016, according to Reuters/Ipsos data. The response from Republicans was virtually flat, with 27% answering in the affirmative, compared to 25% four years ago.

The 202 NFL season kicks off on Thursday, as the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs take on the Houston Texans.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,337 American adults and has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery and Chris Kahn; Editing by Alistair Bell)





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Australians losing faith in gov’t handling of COVID-19: poll


CANBERRA, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) — Australians are losing faith in government handling of the coronavirus crisis, a poll has found.

The poll of more than 1,000 voters, published by the Guardian Australia on Tuesday, found that 59 percent of respondents approved of the federal government’s handling of the pandemic, down from 73 percent in May.

In early September Australia’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 700, an increase of more than 500 percent from 103 at the end of May, with a vast majority of the deaths having occurred in aged care facilities.

However, Scott Morrison remained the most popular choice for the prime minister with 49 percent of respondents identifying him as their preferred PM compared to 26 percent for Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese.

More than 40 percent of voters said aged care providers were responsible for outbreaks in their facilities while 31 percent blamed the federal government and 28 percent state governments.

Almost 80 percent agreed that authorities failed to prepare for COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care and 72 percent agreed that the issue has been exacerbated by underfunding.

The poll also found that voters’ faith in state and territory governments has declined.

Support for the New South Wales’ government response to the pandemic fell two points to 57 percent while that for the government of Queensland, which is facing an election at the end of October, fell seven points to 66 percent.

Half of voters approved of the Victorian government’s handling of the crisis despite the state accounting for 74 percent of Australia’s coronavirus cases and more than 85 percent of the nation’s deaths.

The government of Western Australia (WA), which has taken a hardline stance on keeping the state’s borders closed, was the most popular with 87 percent support among voters.



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Hong Kong police swoop on postponed poll protests


Nearly 300 people were arrested by Hong Kong police on Sunday as riot officers swooped on democracy protesters opposed to the postponement of local elections.

Sunday was meant to be voting day for the city’s partially elected legislature, one of the few instances where Hong Kongers get to cast ballots.

But the city’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam suspended the polls for a year — citing the coronavirus — angering the pro-democracy opposition who had been hoping to capitalise on seething anti-government sentiment.

Hundreds of riot police flooded the district of Kowloon in a bid to thwart online calls for flash mob protests to mark the suspended vote.

Throughout the afternoon officers were heckled by people shouting slogans such as “Give me back my vote!” and “Corrupt cops!” as officers conducted multiple stop and searches and ordered crowds to disperse.

In a Facebook statement, police said at least 289 people were arrested, mostly for unlawful assembly.

One woman was detained under a new security law Beijing imposed on the city for chanting independence slogans, the force added.

Live images showed three prominent pro-democracy politicians — Leung Kwok-hung, Figo Chan and Raphael Wong — were among those held.

The protests came hours after the police’s newly formed national security unit arrested Tam Tak-chi, another democracy activist and radio DJ, for “uttering seditious words” — a colonial-era offence.

Tam is the latest in a long line of government critics to find themselves facing prosecution in recent months for their involvement in protests.

When they announced the arrest on Sunday morning, police did not explain what Tam may have said that was considered seditious.

Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong called the protest organisers “heartless”, with a spokesperson adding: “there is zero tolerance for any act that violates the national security law”.

The office also vowed that “we will absolutely not allow Hong Kong to be chaotic again”.

The territory’s government condemned the protesters’ “unlawful and selfish acts” in a statement issued on Sunday evening.

“The first priority for Hong Kong currently is to unite as one and fight the virus together with concentrated resources,” a government spokesperson said.

Beijing has initiated a widespread crackdown against its critics in Hong Kong after the financial hub was rocked by seven straight months of huge and often violent pro-democracy protests last year.

Rallies have been all but outlawed this year with authorities citing both security concerns and wielding emergency anti-coronavirus laws to ban public gatherings.

In late June, Beijing also imposed its new security law, which bans anything authorities perceive to be secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

At least 22 people have been arrested under the new law since it came into effect, sending a chill through the city.

On Friday, UN rights experts warned the broadly worded provisions in the legislation posed a serious threat to political freedoms and the right to protest.

Under a deal agreed with Britain ahead of the 1997 handover, authoritarian China agreed to let Hong Kong keep certain liberties and autonomy for 50 years.

Critics say that deal has been demolished by the security law and the increasingly intense crackdown on the city’s democracy supporters.

Beijing denies freedoms are being eroded and portrays the anti-government protests as a western-backed plot to destabalise the mainland.

su/jta/fox/rbu



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All flaxen was his poll – America’s decennial census and covid-19 | United States


AMERICA’S GOVERNMENT relies on regularly updated, accurate tallies of how many people live within its borders. To produce the data, the founders charged the government with administering an “enumeration” of “the whole number of free persons” living in each state every ten years. Most notably, the decennial census data are used to assign members of Congress to each state according to population. But the tallies are also used as a guide for allocating billions of dollars in programmes such as Medicaid, child health insurance and food stamps for low-income mothers.

This year the accuracy of the census is at risk. Researchers are afraid that the Census Bureau may not be able to count enough people, or a fully representative set of Americans. Facing extra burdens imposed by the Trump administration as well as staffing shortfalls as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, the agency could end up undercounting minority voters which would bias the government against them for at least the next ten years.

The task of enumerating America is a massive one. Records must be compiled on almost every citizen, which requires hundreds of thousands of hours of research and hiring and co-ordinating more than half a million workers. Aside from data processing and technical work, the actual counting takes place in three stages.

First, the government sends a request to fill out the census questionnaire to every household in the country. The primary census form asks for the name and demographic information of each person living there. In past censuses respondents posted these forms back, but for the first time this year they could fill them out online.

Most Americans end up submitting a completed census form themselves. In 2010, the final self-response rate was 67%, indicating that two-thirds of households were counted by mail. For those who do not respond, the bureau deploys an army of interviewers called “enumerators” to contact them in person. If neither of these approaches gets a response, the bureau hazards a guess as to how many people live in a household by looking at reports for households round about. They use a similar method to fill in demographic information for households who provide no data.

This is all complex enough in a normal year, but the agency faces extra hurdles in 2020. First, Mr Trump and his administration have waged numerous political battles against the census. Put off by the constitution’s stipulation that the census should include all “persons” in the country, which they think unfairly gives a voice to millions of undocumented immigrants, the administration has tried to exclude them from the count. After losing a court battle to add a citizenship question to the questionnaire—which experts believed would have discouraged Latinos and immigrants from responding—Mr Trump on July 21st issued a presidential memorandum declaring that people living in the country illegally should be ignored for congressional apportionment in 2021. The move is probably unconstitutional, but researchers are concerned that the politicisation of the census may hurt its legitimacy and make people even less inclined to fill out the forms.

The census also faces a troubling combination of budget problems and large methodological changes. In 2011 Congress instructed the bureau to spend no more on the 2020 canvassing than was spent for the 2010 count. That would be too low even if they kept the same procedures, but experiments with an internet form, and the need to make new adjustments for non-response, has led to other costs.

A final challenge is covid-19, which prompted the bureau to delay field operations and reduce staffing in the spring. Bureau directors have also cut the window for following up on households that fail to respond from three months in the autumn to two months, ending on September 30th instead of October 31st.

Most scholars agree that all this will cause the ultimate census numbers to underestimate the share of minorities in the electorate. That is because harder-to-contact households tend to be composed of minority and immigrant families, with several generations under the same roof (and some spaces shared between families). If census interviewers miss their homes, they will be disproportionately deprived of their fair share of congressional representation and governmental funds. Using data from a census survey conducted last year, The Economist estimates that a 5-10% undercount of Hispanics would cost California, Texas and Florida one member of Congress each. If you exclude undocumented immigrants from the tally, as Mr Trump wants, California and Texas would lose another representative to boot.

Dig deeper:
Sign up and listen to Checks and Balance, our weekly newsletter and podcast on American politics, and explore our presidential election forecast

This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “All flaxen was his poll”

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Parents fearful of coronavirus delaying children’s vaccinations, medical treatment, according to poll


About a third of children who have been injured or unwell during the COVID-19 pandemic have had their health care delayed by a parent over concerns about contracting the virus, a survey by the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Melbourne has found.

The National Child Health Poll of more than 2,000 Australian parents of 3,500 children, also found one in five children aged under five had a routine vaccine delayed since the start of the pandemic in March.

“The main reason parents gave for delaying care was fear or concern about their child or themselves catching COVID-19,” Anthea Rhodes, a paediatrician at the Royal Children’s Hospital, said.

She said while it was important to acknowledge that fear, parents should not delay seeking medical treatment.

“Healthcare facilities are safe places for families to access care for their children,” Dr Rhodes said.

She said some parents thought vaccinations were not as important while their children were mainly at home.

Dr Rhodes said it was important for parents to realise if vaccinations were not kept up to date, children would be at risk of contracting diseases such as whooping cough, measles and chickenpox when they returned to school and childcare.

If the community as a whole was not up to date with vaccinations, herd immunity could fall and “we risk outbreaks”, Dr Rhodes said.

“So the last thing we want to see off the back of the coronavirus pandemic is outbreaks of these other preventable diseases.”

Professor Bennett urged the Government to make as much progress as possible pushing the numbers down for the final two weeks of lockdown.

Telehealth, drive-through vaccinations on offer

In response to the concerns, the RCH has launched a drive-through immunisation service to allow parents to get their kids vaccinated safely.

“It’s available for all children in Victoria who are due or overdue a routine vaccination,” she said.

Dr Rhodes urged parents to access care closer to home if possible and said other agencies were expected to offer similar vaccination services as well.

The increase in telehealth appointments has been “enormous”, going from 5 or 10 per cent of appointments at the RCH to as high as 60 and 75 per cent.

Since the start of the pandemic 11,000 appointments have been delivered by telehealth.

Dr Rhodes said families who were anxious about accessing health care should start with a phone call to see if there was an alternative to face-to-face care.



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Labor facing reduced seats after NT poll


Top End voters have marked down Labor, but early counting still favours the incumbent Northern Territory party forming at least a minority government.

The election is the first test of an Australian political leader’s coronavirus management.

About three hours after polls closed on Saturday, Labor appeared on track to win at least 12 seats but 13 are needed to retain majority government.

Nationals senator Matt Canavan said it appeared the Country Liberal Party could lift its numbers from a very low base of two to seven, with the possibility of nine seats in the 25-seat assembly.

“That would be a remarkable outcome,” he told Sky News.

The biggest casualty of the night looked set to be former chief minister Terry Mills, who formed the Territory Alliance party late last year to shake up the political system.

His seat of Blain was on track to fall to the Country Liberal Party.

“Those numbers are fluid still and I will let that play out,” he told ABC TV.

The Territory Alliance could still pick up two seats in the new assembly, sitting alongside two independents.

Labor leader Michael Gunner has faced both criticism and praise for his tough stance on border closures, but says he has done it in the name of saving the territory’s economy and protecting territorians’ health.

He comfortably retained his inner-Darwin seat.

On the campaign trail Mr Gunner ruled out his party’s involvement in a minority government.

Territorians may not see a result on Saturday due to social distancing requirements at counting centres, with a majority of votes cast early.

Only about 20 per cent of voters were expected to have cast their ballots on election day itself.

“No deals. Stability and certainty, no deals,” Mr Gunner told reporters when asked of his willingness to form a minority government.

“Particularly during a public health emergency.”

Labor has campaigned on its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which saw the NT suffer just 33 cases, telling voters it’s the party to see them through the crisis.

“We are asking them to choose between secure borders or open borders,” Mr Gunner said.

Despite its success protecting Territorians from COVID-19, the Gunner government has been criticised for its handling of the economy – rated as the nation’s worst performer by CommSec for the June quarter.

CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro has repeatedly pointed to the NT’s skyrocketing debt during the campaign, saying 11,000 jobs had been lost on Labor’s watch.

“We want the territory to be a can-do place that it used to be. This government has squandered that opportunity to make people’s lives better,” she said.

Ms Finocchiaro has promised to fast-track major projects and simplify mining taxes to “signal to the world the territory is open for business”.

Nationals federal president Larry Anthony said the take-out from the NT election is governments across the country can’t hide behind the handling of the pandemic.

“People are looking beyond that and they want to see the future … which is economic growth and getting jobs,” Mr Anthony said.

“They are not just prepared to tick and flick governments because they’ve handled COVID well.”

Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy said voters had elected to “stay the course” with her party.



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Poll: Nearly half of Americans not confident presidential elections will be fair


FILE – In this Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, file photo, a person drops applications for mail-in-ballots into a mail box in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 5:30 PM PT – Friday, August 21, 2020

As Americans across the country consider who they’re going to vote for this November, many voters have begun to realize how they’ll be voicing their stance could be just as important of an issue. According to a recent survey, more than four in 10 Americans are not confident this year’s elections will be conducted fairly and accurately.

The poll, which was conducted in late July and included responses from nearly 6,500 people, showed levels of concern about the integrity of the elections were similar across party lines and increased among voters who are older.

Of those planning to vote for Democrat candidate Joe Biden, 48% stated they are worried. 41% those looking to support President Trump responded similarly.

FILE – In this June 30, 2020, file photo, a box of absentee ballots wait to be counted at the Albany County Board of Elections in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

This report came before the USPS announced it could not guarantee all ballots cast for the general elections would be delivered in time, even if mailed by states’ deadlines. In addition to delays, voters have said they are also concerned their ballot could get lost.

“I don’t know, I’m scared it might get lost in the mail,” stated one resident. “I just want to make sure my vote is submitted, that it actually counts.”

Meanwhile, many people echoed President Trump’s worries about the potential for voter fraud after primary elections revealed outdated voter rolls and discrepancies connected to mail-in voting.

“At this point we have identified 119 applications that appear to be false,” explained Lake County elections supervisor Alan Hays. “We have turned over these documents to the sheriff’s department.”

Volunteer Arsinia Dempsey cleans a voting booth between voters at the North End Senior Center, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Many Americans will still be looking to vote by mail this November. President Trump has encouraged those not at high risk for COVID-19 to exercise their right to vote in person.

On Twitter, he added “If you can protest in person, you can vote in person.”

RELATED: President Trump To Take Steps To Protect Election From Fraud





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