Record cattle prices may slow national herd recovery as farmers struggle to restock

The Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) has passed the 900 cents a kilogram mark for the first time in history.

“People need to rebuild the herd and they’re scrambling to,” NAB agribusiness economist Phin Ziebell said.

“For producers who are looking to rebuild, you’ve sold low, you’re buying high and if you ask somebody what cattle prices will be in a few years, no-one really knows.”

The EYCI closed yesterday at 901.75 cents, almost 200 cents up on the same time last year.

Rain in drought-affected parts of Queensland and NSW are the main driver, according to Mr Ziebell.

Ray Cranney is a grazier near Goondiwindi in southern Queensland and recent rains have changed the outlook on his farm, which has struggled through years of drought.

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A year after Black Summer fires there’s progress on pasture recovery for eastern Victorian farmers

Farmers in eastern Victoria are still working to restore lost pastures more than a year on from the Black Summer bushfires.

More than 1.5 million hectares were burnt in the fires, including 6,300 kilometres of fencing. Farmers in East Gippsland and the state’s north-east lost 7,500 head of livestock.

Farmers must now replace the lost stock, but also grow the grass needed to feed them.

Remediating pasture is something Agriculture Victoria Livestock Extension Officer, John Bowman, said could take years.

Mr Bowman talked through pasture management and recovery strategies with farmers at Butchers Ridge, between Buchan and Gelantipy, yesterday as part of a TopSoils farm walk.

The Rogers family hosted the farm walk at their property, where they showed the difference between pastures which were burnt in the bushfires and those left untouched.

Amy Rogers said quick thinking was needed to help alleviate the pressure on the farm.

“One of the first things we did was pretty much quit any (stock) we didn’t need to have here so we sold all our lambs in the first three weeks after the fires,” Ms Rogers said.

“We sent about 160 cows to South Gippsland on agistment as soon as we could, weaned the calves and put them in a feedlot compound and sacrificed one paddock.

“We tried to get as much stock off the paddocks as we could.”

Ms Rogers said getting rid of the stock so quickly “was a big winner”, however even the unburnt paddocks suffered because they were stocked at a higher rate which has slowed recovery.

Mr Bowman toured the property and said it highlighted the absence of some of the normal pasture species in the burnt paddocks.

“There was quite a bit of flat weed and different weeds in there … basically the opportunistic weeds had occupied the bare patches left by the fire and started to infiltrate the pasture,” he said.

Although a higher proportion of weeds set seed after a fire, Mr Bowman said it’s not all detrimental.

“Even some of the weeds are quite nutritious and delicious for stock to eat and they will eat them, but you want the clovers, cocksfoots, phalaris and ryegrasses back in the pasture because they produce all year round.”

The Rogers have also been heartened by the success of a lucerne crop which is helping reduce the need for them to purchase silage.

“We had barley crops in before the fire … but the ryegrass and lucerne is just new,” Julie Rogers said.

“It’s a trial but I think it will become permanent.”

Similar farm walks will be held across other fire affected parts of East Gippsland in coming weeks.

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Queensland’s nation-leading jobs recovery grows stronger

After being the first state to recover all its jobs lost during the COVID pandemic, Queensland continues to see strong employment growth according to the latest ABS Labour Force data.

Treasurer and Minister for Investment Cameron Dick said another 23,300 jobs were added during March – equivalent to more than 750 Queensland jobs added per day.

“Today’s Labour Force data shows the Palaszczuk Government’s economic recovery plan is working,” Mr Dick said.

“Queensland was already leading the nation in job creation out of COVID-19, and that positioned has been strengthened with these latest numbers.

“This is good news for Queensland, but it’s particularly good news for the 23,300 Queenslanders who now have jobs.

“Queensland is now further above the pre-COVID level of jobs than any other state or territory.

“There are now 62,800 more jobs in Queensland than there were in March last year, and almost 60 per cent of these are full-time positions.

“This result also means almost 320,000 Queenslanders have found new jobs since the Palaszczuk Government was first elected in 2015.”

Minister for Employment and Small Business Di Farmer said overwhelmingly these jobs have been in the private sector, which lends itself to greater industry investment and more job opportunities in the future.

“For every job we’ve created, particularly on our frontline services, another six jobs have been added elsewhere in the economy,” Ms Farmer said.

“Queensland has seen the highest percentage point increase in labour force participation of the states over the past 12 months.  

“That means more people are coming to Queensland, more people are seeking work in Queensland, and more people are finding work in Queensland.

“These are all major positives for our state and come off the back of our Unite and Recover plan for jobs, skills and training.”

This new Labour Force data takes in the final month where JobKeeper was in place. 

Mr Dick said with JobKeeper now cut by the federal government, it’s likely there will be rough headwinds looming for employment.

“We will have to wait another month to see how badly Queenslanders have been impacted by the Commonwealth’s JobKeeper cut-off,” he said.

“And we’re putting the Morrison Government on notice – if unemployment worsens next month, it will be on them, because they cut JobKeeper without suitable support measures to replace it.

“With all these delays to the vaccine rollout, it’s the last thing they should have cut.

“That’s why the Palaszczuk Government is calling on the Commonwealth to reinstate JobKeeper, at a minimum, for our affected industries in international tourism.”


Media contact: Ben Doyle 0400 775 561

Change in employment to March 2021 (seasonally adjusted)


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Spending at CBD small businesses recovery underway: CommBank

Consumer spending across the CBD in Australia’s major cities has grown 22.4 per cent in the last six months, with workers slowly returning to workplaces following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

According to data from Commonwealth Bank, Gen X and older millennials
aged between 35-49 led this spending increase across most CBDs, though Sydney
and Melbourne saw spending growth mainly from younger millennials.

This spending, recorded between September 2020 and February 2021, is
compared to March to August 2020 – a period when most CBDs were effectively
ghost towns due to the stay-at-home orders issued across the country

“We’re encouraged to see spending in our CBDs on the up, and we hope to see this trend continue as more people start coming back into city centres more regularly,” Commonwealth Bank executive general manager of small business, Claire Roberts, said.

“Small businesses in CBD areas have had it really tough over the past year but we’re seeing encouraging signs of recovery.”

The growth wasn’t even across the country’s cities, however. Perth led
the way, with spending up 33.7 per cent, while Sydney sat in the middle of the
pack at 21.5 per cent. Melbourne, still yet to recover from the longest

lockdown period across the country, recorded just 2.36 per cent growth.

And while this growth is likely welcome, the fact it is rising off an
effectively nil base means CBD retailers are not exactly out of the woods.

“Our CBDs are not the thriving places they once were pre-COVID, and we need innovative ways to get people back supporting these hard-hit businesses,” said Australian Retailers Association chief executive, Paul Zahra, said last month, when welcoming the City of Sydney’s hotel voucher scheme.

“The office occupancy rate in the Sydney CBD is less than 50 per cent. It means there aren’t as many people doing the things they would be normally, like grabbing a coffee from a nearby cafe, shopping during their lunch break, or having dinner and drinks in the city after work.”

This story first appeared on our sister publication Inside Retail

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Delay in vaccine rollout ‘not expected to derail’ economic recovery, Australian treasurer says | Australian economy

The Morrison government looks set to revisit in the looming May budget a key underlying assumption from last year’s mid-year economic forecast that a population-wide Covid-19 vaccination program would be fully in place by late 2021.

But the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has declared the delay of the vaccination rollout “is not expected to derail momentum in our economic recovery”.

Scott Morrison late on Sunday admitted that all Australians may not be vaccinated by year’s end. The prime minister said in a statement uploaded to Facebook there would be no new timetable to replace the previous October target.

With the government taking heavy political fire for bungling the critical vaccine rollout, Morrison took to Facebook once again late on Monday to try and reassure the public.

In a Facebook live session, Morrison said frontline health workers and the elderly would be inoculated under current arrangements as winter closed in, and the vaccination program would ramp up for the “balance of the population” later in the year.

“I’ve been asked a bit about what our targets are,” Morrison said.

“One of the things about Covid is it writes its own rules. You don’t get to set the agenda – you have to be able to respond quickly when things change. Rather than set targets that can get knocked about by every to and fro – international supply chains and other disruptions that have occurred – we are just getting on with it.”

Labor said on Monday the government would need to revisit the Myefo assumption on 11 May. The shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, declared it would stretch credibility for the government “to now pretend their vaccine debacle won’t impact the budget or the economy”.

The mid-year economic forecast last December assumed that a Covid-19 vaccine would be available in Australia by March 2021, with a population-wide vaccination program fully in place by late 2021.

That forecast assumed there would be no state border restrictions in place throughout 2021, and that temporary and permanent migration would return gradually from late 2021.

Morrison said on Monday evening the international border would remain closed because “around the world Covid-19 is still rife”.

“We will keep moving quickly to vaccinate our most vulnerable population and we’ll keep those borders closed for as long as we have to, but only as long as we have to,” the prime minister said.

The government will update its economic forecasts on 11 May, when it hands down the budget. As well as attempting to reassure the public on Monday night, Morrison flagged more stimulatory measures in the budget “that build on the work that was done by jobkeeper and jobseeker to ensure the Australian economy keeps leading the world out of the recession that was caused by Covid-19”.

Morrison reconfigured the vaccination timetable due to blood clot warnings applied to the AstraZeneca vaccination. With concerns rising about vaccine hesitancy in the wake of the revised timetable, the prime minister said on Monday night the vaccine was safe for people over 50 according to the “very strong” medical advice.

In terms of the impact of the delay on the economy and the budget, it is possible the current strength of the economic recovery will ultimately net out the impact of a delayed vaccination rollout, assuming that Australia can get through another winter without sustained lockdowns.

Frydenberg said in a statement to Guardian Australia on Monday the Australian economy outperformed every major advanced economy in 2020 and “with the successful suppression of the virus and substantial reopening of the economy, both household and business confidence are now higher than before the pandemic”.

“While the continued vaccine rollout is an important step in protecting Australians against the threat of the virus, the timing of the rollout is not expected to derail momentum in our economic recovery,” the treasurer said.

The latest Deloitte Access Economics business outlook, released on Monday, found that living standards in Australia increased during 2020 at a faster rate than the average over the past decade despite the country enduring the first recession in three decades because of the shock caused by the pandemic.

The fillip was attributable to surging commodity prices and rock-bottom interest rates.

But the Deloitte assessment assumed virus numbers would stay suppressed in Australia, with herd immunity achieved by late 2021 or early 2022 – a timetable now in doubt due to the revamp of the vaccine rollout.

Labor says the botched vaccination rollout is a public policy debacle that imperils Australia’s continuing economic recovery.

“We can’t have a first-rate economic recovery with Scott Morrison’s third-rate vaccine rollout,” Chalmers said on Monday.

“It stretches credibility for the government to now pretend their vaccine debacle won’t impact the budget or the economy. The government’s failures on jabs will have consequences for jobs because delay after delay risks more lockdowns.”

Figures released on Sunday show 1.16m vaccinations have now been dispensed, with about half delivered by the commonwealth through the GP network and in aged and disability care, and the other half delivered through state vaccination hubs.

The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the Morrison government needed to maintain a sense of urgency with the program and the public should not be lulled by any false sense of security.

“I know that some people don’t think there is a sense of urgency because we’re doing so well, but things can change very quickly and I don’t want to see our citizens left behind because the rest of the world starts trading with each other, starts travelling,” the premier said.

“I do have a sense of urgency about it”.

Epidemiologist Prof Mary-Louise McLaws, who advises the World Health Organization, said on Monday it would take “a couple of years” to fully vaccinate the Australian population if the rollout continued at the current rate. She told the ABC ramping up the number of vaccinations to between 100,000 and 120,000 per day would require “a lot of logistics” and for state governments to create mass vaccination sites.

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Central Australia sees first signs of recovery as tourists flock to the Red Centre

The area is becoming such a popular destination there’s concern there may not be enough staff to cater for the influx of travellers. Isabel Moussalli reports.

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Bushfire recovery cricket match attracts hundreds of people one year on from fires

Two bushfire-affected communities in Victoria’s east have competed in the inaugural Sandhill Ashes in a bid to attract local crowds more than one year on from the devastating 2019/2020 fires which tore through parts of the Gippsland region.

Hundreds of people gathered to watch mixed social teams from Clifton Creek and Sarsfield battle it out, with the Sarsfield side taking the game home by one run, 144 to 143.

The match was borne from a local bushfire recovery survey and was played under Twenty20 rules.

Co-organiser and Sarsfield player Phil Schneider said the day was a great way for the neighbouring communities to reconnect after bushfires and COVID-19 lockdowns.

“I think bushfire towns were forgotten a bit during the pandemic, but now that everything has started to relax it’s the perfect way to bring everyone together and have a laugh at ourselves on the field,” he said.

The match garnered support and funding from several Gippsland community groups which Mr Schneider said had helped Sarsfield and surrounding towns to organise a number of new and exciting local events.

“We’ve had small movie and trivia nights, but this cricket match is the first big event since the fires. It’s been so good for our spirits especially after all the tragedy,” Mr Schneider said.

“It’s onwards and upwards from here.”

The two teams competed for a replica ashes urn made from a piece of tea tree salvaged from a peat paddock fire that burned for weeks on a nearby farm.

The coordinator of the Sarsfield Recovery Hub, Neil Smith, helped craft the special urn and said it held historic local significance.

“It was pretty well preserved so I collected a few bits of it … and when the Sandhill Ashes were proposed I took the pieces down to a wood turner in Lake Tyers and we worked together to make it what it is.”

Locals have not just been busy picking up their bats and brushing up on their cricket skills.

A grassroots photography project titled Sarsfield Snaps has children and young people from across East Gippsland capturing moments important to them while their communities recover.

Head of the initiative Tiana Felmingham said the program received a 20-camera donation from Fuji Film in February last year, and she is expecting more cameras to arrive in coming months.

“We have over 50 kids now and the program has really helped to build their self esteem,” she said.

“We have a calendar that the kids made last year, large prints have been displayed all over the outside of the recovery hub, and we’re even planning exhibitions in Melbourne and Canberra,” Ms Felmingham said.

Twelve-year-old participant Ashley Wolf said she enjoyed learning new skills and making new friends.

“Sometimes it can be really hard for us to express how we’re feeling and communicate with everyone how we’re coping, so taking Snaps has really helped.”

The project was recently granted $40,000 from the Bushfire Recovery Appeal which will help to develop a short film through young eyes.

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Family businesses well-positioned to help post-COVID recovery

A new study highlights the unique structure of family businesses that is helping them respond to the impact of COVID-19.

The report, Mastering a comeback: How family businesses are triumphing over COVID-19, found that the involvement of the family and their long-term mindset has enabled them to show resilience in the pandemic, putting them in a key position to lead the economic recovery.

Compiled by the STEP Project Global Consortium and KPMG Enterprise, the research includes insights from nearly 2500 family businesses and more than 500 non-family businesses across the globe, including Australia.

Robyn Langsford, Head of Family Business at KPMG Enterprise Australia said that multi-generational change, with a focus on digitisation and diversity, has driven improved governance and productivity even in the midst of COVID-19.

“In Australia, family businesses and private enterprises comprise more than 70 per cent of all businesses,” Langsford said. “The ability of families to leverage the past experiences of older generations represents a crucial component of their reactive pivots such as deferring or reducing executive pay.”

The study reveals that families were able to draw on support from multiple generations, leveraging the past experiences of older generations to help manage critical challenges and utilising the insights of younger members to drive modernisation. In addition, next-generation family members helped advance two critical agendas: their company’s rapid digital advancement and putting ESG in the strategy spotlight.

“Being able to draw on intergenerational knowledge and experience meant that 70 per cent of families reported that they maintained their R&D investments and continued to launch new products and services throughout the pandemic,” Langsford said. “The pandemic opened up opportunities for young, tech-savvy family members to take on prominent roles in introducing digital technology solutions that streamlined their business operations and launched a host of new products into the market.”

Maintaining a focus on governance and implementing meaningful KPIs, to track performance and productivity, is vital for the future success of Australian family businesses.

“Unregulated private companies such as family businesses are not subject to the same regulatory and legislative direction as ASX-listed companies and therefore can act with a higher level of autonomy and flexibility,” Langsford said. “However, this means that they may not necessarily capture the benefit of diversity, by having independent directors on board. Typically, these entities may appoint friends as board members and resist the unfamiliar. Diversification of appointments to their Boards can benefit the whole sector.”

KPMG pointed out that strong governance supports thriving family enterprises. Having a focus on gender bias, for example, is vital to building resilience for both the family and their business in the future, according to Langsford.

“Around one-third of all Australian businesses are owned or operated by women, yet females remain under-represented in large family businesses,” Langsford said. “Strategies to improve diversity could include introducing positive quotas, enabling deliberative decision making, and building diverse boards for family and private offices.

“Now is the time for family businesses to commit to the future and use the competitive advantages of purpose, community and patience as guideposts to make a long-term comeback and help drive Australia’s economic recovery,” Langford concluded.

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Rural shires miss out on vital COVID-19 recovery funding

Rural shires across Victoria have missed out on vital government funding that they say could have helped businesses as they struggle to recover from the pandemic’s effects.

The state government named 22 councils that were successful in securing funding in the second round of Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package allocations.

Those successful councils will share in $5 million of funding to expand and encourage outdoor dining this autumn.

No rural councils were included in the latest round. Almost 60 per cent of councils that received funding were in metropolitan Melbourne, with the rest in the Greater Melbourne area and regional Victorian centres.

Rural Councils Victoria chair Mary-Ann Brown said the result was disappointing.

“The focus … appears to be on the Greater Melbourne region without taking into consideration the implications for other parts of the state where there is significant tourism activity,” she said.

Cr Brown is a councillor at Southern Grampians Shire Council in south-west Victoria. She said a number of towns in her local area could have benefited from the funding.

“You’ve got areas like Portland, Warrnambool, Port Campbell, Apollo Bay along the coast [and] the Grampians region, so places like Halls Gap and Dunkeld, in particular,” she said.

A few hours away in the state’s north-east, Beechworth also missed out on receiving funding.

Indigo Shire Mayor and RCV deputy chair Jenny O’Connor said the historic town was a tourist hotspot.

“It’s puzzling to us as to why some of the wealthier and, in fact, less popular destinations have received this funding,” she said.

The frustration over funding for rural areas is growing, as it is not the first time the regions have been left out of the money pool.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced 15 destinations would be included in its $1.2 billion cut-price flights scheme to encourage tourism.

Only one of those destinations was in Victoria.

Cr O’Connor said grant funding allocation to rural communities had been a hot topic for some time.

“There are a lot of issues around why it’s difficult for rural councils to attract grants,” she said.

“Sometimes it’s because the councils themselves are very stretched budget-wise or resource-wise, so it’s a big process to be shovel-ready for a grant or have a business case established.”

Under-resourcing is also an issue and despite tight budgets councils are often required to provide matching funding.

“There’s a lot of barriers for rural councils … yet we often need the grants more because we are constrained in terms of our budgets and our rate base and our loss of infrastructure costs,” Cr O’Connor said.

She is calling for a review of the successful candidates in the latest funding round and would like to see the monetary aid spread more broadly.

“Our towns are very much in recovery mode … We are very much impacted by the lack of tourism that’s occurred over the last 12 months for a range of reasons — the fires, COVID, border closures,” she said.

“These are often owner-operated businesses. They’re very small [but] they’re really important mainstream businesses for tourists.

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NSW flood residents reeling from bushfires now confront months-long recovery process

The federal government has added 16 more flood-affected local council areas to the list of regions eligible to receive aid, bringing the total of local council areas to 63, including 36 which survived the bushfires. 

Tens of thousands of people across NSW have been given the all-clear to return to their flood-ravaged homes to start mopping up and rebuilding.

However more than 8000 residents were still cast from their homes on Friday evening as evacuation orders remained in place in certain areas.

Flooding has eased in many parts of the state but orders remain around Moree and the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley in northwest Sydney.

Those returning to their flood-damaged homes should first check for damage to the roof and walls and ensure the power and gas are off, the SES said.

Red Cross NSW Director Poppy Brown said the coming weeks will be tough for residents, particularly those who survived the bushfires at the start of 2020.

“Our volunteers have heard stories about the distress about leaving homes, livestock and even a change of clothes behind.

“Many of these communities have already endured years of concurrent disasters, from drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and now floods. The impact of this latest disaster is expected to be significant.”

Residents should wear protective gear while cleaning up, have a supply of fresh water and be wary of contaminated floodwaters.

The SES has also started assessing the damage in affected areas, with at least 75 properties so far declared potentially uninhabitable.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Justin Robinson said the situation across the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley should ease by Monday and river levels in Moree were quickly dropping.

But Mr Robinson warned that although the sun was out, people should still avoid flooded rivers and be careful this weekend.

“Having high rivers, a sunny weekend, children playing … is a pretty dangerous combination,” he said.

The SES said there had been 12,500 requests for help since last week and 1000 flood rescues.

About 500 SES volunteers remain in the field, supported by hundreds of soldiers who have made their way down from Queensland to help with the clean up.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the floods had washed away a “way of life” for many regional businesses, who face another round of rebuilding after last summer’s bushfires.

The federal and NSW government will each pay 50 per cent of flood recovery costs.

Grants of up to $75,000 will be available to affected primary producers while small businesses can access up to $50,000.

Meanwhile the search for an elderly woman continues after police pulled her car from the swollen Barrington River on Thursday.

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