Liza Harvey’s decision leaves WA Liberal Party with uncertainty ahead of 2021 election

Just 111 days from an election that MPs have been fearing could lead to a historic wipeout, Western Australia’s Liberal Party finds itself rudderless and facing some big questions about its future.

In some ways, Liza Harvey shocked colleagues with her abrupt decision to quit as Opposition Leader — most Liberals first learned of the it when a statement was sent to their WhatsApp group on Sunday morning, before she confirmed it in a three-minute press conference an hour later.

But, in other ways, Harvey’s decision was a long time coming.

Her future had been an open question within the Liberal Party for months, with MPs left increasingly despondent by poor polling and fears they were headed for an electoral cliff on March 13.

Liza Harvey’s decision to step down was, in some ways, a long time coming.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Talk of a challenge long persisted, but that window passed when nobody put up their hand at what was to be the final pre-election partyroom meeting.

That left a bloodless transition as the only realistic path for a change — and Harvey’s resignation will allow for that.

“I’m standing aside to give the Liberal Party — with a new leadership team — the opportunity to reset our election strategy and give the public a real choice at the March election,” Harvey said in her resignation statement.

Kirkup, Nalder most likely successors

But the Liberals now find themselves facing uncertainty on every angle about an election that is just around the corner.

The first issue, clearly, will be who should take on the leadership.

Health spokesman Zak Kirkup and Shadow Treasurer Dean Nalder have both declared their hands, confirming they will nominate for the position.

A mid shot of WA Treasurer Dean Nalder wearing a blue suit and black tie talking to reporters outside State Parliament.
Shadow Treasurer Dean Nalder has put up his hand to contest the Liberal leadership.(ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)

Other nominees could still be a possibility — Cottesloe MP David Honey and Churchlands MP Sean L’Estrange have previously been seen as possible contenders — but Kirkup and Nalder are seen as the most likely victors.

As for the deputy, Vasse MP Libby Mettam looks to be a strong contender to take over from Bill Marmion, who is likely to face pressure to relinquish his plum seat of Nedlands for new blood.

Whoever does take on the top job will have precious little time to make policy decisions and sell themselves to the public as a viable alternative to Premier Mark McGowan.

And uniting a Liberal team that has now battled internal tensions for years will also be a top priority.

From high hopes to potential wipeout

As for Harvey, Liberals had high hopes for her when she took over the leadership from Mike Nahan in mid-2019.

She had ministerial experience, a compelling backstory and what they saw as the likeability and charisma to win over the pubic.

Liza Harvey wearing a light blue jacket, standing in front of dark green shrubs.
Liberals had high hopes for Liza Harvey when she took over the leadership from Mike Nahan last year.(ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)

Initially, Opposition MPs were encouraged by the results, but concerns mounted during the pandemic — particularly about Harvey’s decision-making over the interstate border.

Polling had warned the Liberals could be headed for a wipeout, with the party placing well behind in a range of key seats, including Harvey’s own.

Nevertheless, some within the Labor Party believed the Opposition was better off with Harvey in charge than without.

“We really thought they were going to stick with her,” one Labor strategist said.

But some key Liberals had been resigned for months that the best they could hope for was holding their miniscule ground, while admitting there was serious danger of things getting much worse.

The new leader will not have much time to turn the ship around — but from the position they find themselves in now, simply saving the furniture may be seen as a decent result by some Liberals.

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Season-opening tennis events in Melbourne in doubt over player arrival uncertainty, putting ATP Cup, lead-up events at risk

But central to TA’s plans was the need for tennis stars to have access to practice facilities while undertaking a compulsory 14-day period of quarantine. The Andrews government and Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services is yet to sign off on the plans and continues to analyse requirements for various major events scheduled for in Melbourne during Christmas and through January.


The Australian Open has been a key plan of the city’s major events calendar since the tournament was relocated to Melbourne Park in 1988. Premier Andrews expressed his confidence on Wednesday that the Open would go ahead.

“There was some reporting earlier in the week that this all was some sort of done deal, that there would be lead-up tournaments … and the whole thing was finalised,” he told reporters.

“I just want to make the point – this is incredibly complex, it has to be safely, it has to be done properly. So that reporting was not accurate.

“We are working very, very closely with Tennis Australia. They are working all of their partners. We’re confident that we’ll finish up with an Australian Open. It’s a very important event.

“But there’s a lot of work to be done to make sure that that’s as safe as possible – not just from the broader Victorian community from a public health point of view.

“It has to be safe for those involved in the event.

“It’s a massive task. There is more work that has to be done and we’re deeply engaged with Tennis Australia and others to get that outcome.”

Tennis Australia has been pushing for players to arrive in Australia in early December, giving them plenty of time to quarantine before events begin. The Open is scheduled to begin on January 18 while the new ATP Cup men’s teams tournament – which took place in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane earlier this year – was set to begin early in the new year.


But the ATP has indicated that those arrangements were now under review.

“In discussions with Tennis Australia over the past 24 hours, we have been informed there are some new challenges around the previously planned arrival dates for players and team members,” the ATP said in a note to players.

“We continue to work with Tennis Australia on confirming plans for January, and we will provide an update as soon as more information is available in the coming days.

“We understand there is uncertainty about the start of the 2021 season, and we are working as hard as possible to deliver the best possible calendar of events to players.”

When contacted on Wednesday, TA could not provide an immediate comment, but indicated more information would be made available later.

TA chief executive Craig Tiley has said that the costs involved in implementing strict biosecurity measures Down Under would exceed $30 million.

“It’s going to be painful. We are in investing in the event,” Tiley told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. “We have over $33m in biosecurity costs we didn’t have before. We will have a reduction in our partnership revenue.

“I think our broadcast revenue will stay whole because we’ll be able to broadcast across Australia and around the world. Our merchandise numbers will be down, ticket numbers will be down, hospitality will be down and costs will be up. We will run at a loss this year.”

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The principals’ uncertainty – Why the TikTok deal is like Schrödinger’s cat | Business

IF YOU WANT to understand the agreement between TikTok, a Chinese-owned video-sharing service, and Oracle, which sells corporate software (see article), it is useful to think of Schrödinger’s cat. Like the hypothetical feline of quantum mechanics, simultaneously alive and dead, the deal seems to be in two states at once—one hunky-dory to Beijing but fatally flawed to Washington, the other vice versa.

Take the question of who owns TikTok Global, the new company to be spun out of ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese owner, to give the data of American users a secure home in America. ByteDance insists that it will hold 80% of the new entity. The Americans say they will control a majority stake. Oracle and Walmart, a supermarket titan which has joined in, will own only 20% of TikTik Global between them. But American venture-capitalists already own 41% of ByteDance. Apply the right maths and both the Chinese parent and the Americans own more than 50% of TikTok Global, which the deal values at $60bn and which is supposed to go public within a year.

What about TikTok’s technology? Beijing says that ByteDance’s eerily accurate recommendation engine is not for export. Security hawks in America want to ensure no data are diverted and the algorithm is not used to spread misinformation. So the source code will stay in China but Oracle will have access to it. How this will work in practice is about as clear as Schrödinger’s equation is to non-physicists.

In normal times everyone would resolve the ambiguities at the negotiating table. But times aren’t normal, especially in America. Ahead of November’s election, President Donald Trump prizes ambiguity. He wants to bash China but not irk America’s 100m users of TikTok, which he has threatened to ban (along with WeChat, a messaging app owned by another Chinese tech giant). A federal body that examines foreign investments in America looks ready to approve the Oracle deal, obviating a Department of Commerce edict banning Americans from doing business with TikTok from September 27th (a federal judge this week blocked the WeChat ban on free-speech grounds). Predictably, mostly positive noises from Washington have provoked angry ones in China, where state media have denounced the deal. Observe Schrödinger’s cat close enough and it ends up either dead or alive, after all.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline “The principals’ uncertainty”

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Djokovic shares uncertainty over summer of tennis

Asked about the situation after his 6-3, 6-2 win over Diego Schwartzman in his first match at the ATP finals, Djokovic said it was challenging.

“We don’t know whether ATP Cup is happening. We heard some rumours there might be eight teams only,” he said.

“Obviously you want things to be ideal, but what is ideal in these circumstances? We really don’t know. So I think it’s out of our reach. Also Tennis Australia has to follow what the Australian government is regulating and proposing them to do.”

Asked about those comments, Djokovic said: “I have not noticed much of a doubt whether the tournaments will happen or not.” But he added: “It is challenging. I’m just hoping for the sake of tennis and sake of the players that we will have the Australian Open and also the possibility of the ATP Cup and a couple more tournaments at least.”

This year’s ATP Cup was staged across Brisbane, Perth and Sydney with the final in Sydney.


Under the new plan, that would be impossible with players restricted to Victoria where they will be free to move around once they have completed a two-week quarantine.

Tiley told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in an interview last week: “I think we are the safest sports nation in the world right now. The only internationals coming in now over the next five months would be the cricketers, the tennis players and the F1 drivers.

“We’re planning a five-, potentially six-week summer. I think that’ll be great for our sport here in Australia, great for our position globally, and particularly if this is broadcast around the world. It’s a great opportunity.”

Asked if the WTA and ATP would stage makeshift tournaments to make the players’ 14-day quarantine worthwhile, Tiley said: “Yeah, it could look like that”.

Men’s governing body the ATP declined to comment.


“From what I’ve heard the latest news from Tennis Australia is that the Australian Open and the rest of the tournaments will be held in Victoria state, mostly Melbourne and around Melbourne,” Djokovic said.

“I hope that it will happen. I want to play in Australia, Australian Open. I’m not sure about the ATP Cup and the tournaments before, because obviously you have to leave quite in advance, I think two-and-a-half or three weeks prior to the first match,” Djokovic said.

“I’m just hoping for the sake of tennis and sake of players that we will have Australian Open and also possibility of ATP Cup and couple more tournaments at least.”

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Australia’s hardest border has fallen, but the road to reunification is paved with uncertainty


November 15, 2020 00:15:56


A drone shot of a long road stretching into the Nullarbor. (ABC News: Phil Hemingway)

Seven months ago, Western Australia slammed shut its doors to the rest of the nation. Now it’s on the road back to rejoining the rest of the country, but not everyone’s sure it’s going in the right direction.

For the past seven months, a 710-kilometre stretch of highway — where the vast and arid Nullarbor Plain meets the cliffy coastline of the Great Australian Bight — has seen truck after truck.

The harshest border controls in the country have meant other travellers have been all but locked out and only essential travel — such as transportation of food and goods — was allowed.

But although they couldn’t leave, most residents of Australia’s biggest and most isolated state sheltered happily behind their barricade, and as COVID ravaged other communities, they went about life as close to normal as anywhere in the country.

That all changed at the stroke of midnight, when Western Australia removed its hard border, in a major step towards reunifying with the rest of the nation.

Finally allowed in, returning sandgropers and interstate visitors making their way into WA via the main road in the south, the Eyre Highway, will encounter mixed feelings ranging from excitement to trepidation at the proposition that we’re all in this together once again.

‘We’re on the Frontline’

Brooke Littlewood will be one of the first faces travellers come across on their journey across the Nullarbor.

A woman on the phone behind a motel desk.


Ms Littlewood works at the Eucla Motel, just 12 kilometres across the WA/SA border. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Just 12 kilometres west of the border, Ms Littlewood is taking reservations at the front desk of the Eucla Motel.

For the first time in months, the few remaining staff here are gearing up for an influx of visitors.

“It’s been a tough slog,” she says.

“Turnover has dropped by around 90 per cent and we’ve been forced to close the caravan park and the budget motel rooms.”

Brooke Littlewood standing outside the Eucla Motel.


Being the first point of contact for many travellers, Ms Littlewood says those in Eucla are on the frontline. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

As the first point of contact across the border, Ms Littlewood says Eucla’s 50-odd residents are looking forward to welcoming visitors, but are anxious of the unknown.

“We are a lot stricter here when it comes to COVID practices than places in the city,” she says.

“But we have to be — we are on the frontline.”

While the new “controlled” border makes it easier to enter WA, travellers coming from states where there is still community spread of COVID-19 will still need to self-isolate for 14-days.

“People are stopping here before they go into a two-week quarantine,” Ms Littlewood says.

“We really encourage people to wear their masks, sanitise their hands, keep their distance.”

As of Saturday, the process of entering the state became a whole lot easier.

Instead of an application, it is now a declaration.

But while people arriving by air will be temperature-checked and COVID-19 checked if required, land arrivals will simply provide health and travel information in the form of a G2G declaration form.

A warm welcome waits in Cocklebiddy

More than 270 kilometres west along the Eyre Highway sits one of three roadhouses managed by Troy Pike.

While he is also hopeful those making the journey do the right thing, after losing 75 per cent of business amid the shutdown, his excitement is hard to contain.

A man gives the two thumbs up sing in front of a snack bar


Troy Pike can’t wait to welcome customers back now the border’s down. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“I can’t tell you how absolutely ecstatic we all are, the lot of us,” he says with a smile from ear to ear.

“The morale is the hardest thing to keep up when no one is coming through, but now we’re all stoked.”

Mr Pike says bookings have doubled in the past five days, and he is also desperate for more workers.

“We need staff out here as soon as the road opens, we are going to need waitresses, cooks and servo guys and maintenance guys,” he says.

“Anyone that wants a job, just give me a ring.

“Once those flood gates open, we’re gonna hit the ground running.”

Mr Pike holds out a can of beer in a stubbie holder from behind the bar.


You’ll find a cold beer on offer at one of Troy Pike’s roadhouses. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Living in the ‘forgotten corridor’

A couple of hundred kilometres west again down the highway, the door swings open to the Balladonia roadhouse and a truck driver walks inside to find manager Raewyn Bond.

A woman stands behind the counter of a bar


Raewyn Bond hopes customers will respect COVID-19 protocols when they visit the roadhouse she manages in Balladonia. (ABC News: Hugh Sando )

“Don’t forget your hands,” Raewyn tells the truckie, as she motions at the hand sanitiser stationed at the entrance.

“My hands have that much alcohol on them, I reckon I’d fail a breathalyser test,” the truckie replies.

“You’re not the first one to say that,” Ms Bond says, with a smile that barely hides the weariness of repeating this phrase.

The pitstop, which is the second-last stop along the Eyre Highway between Eucla and Norseman, is a stretch of road Ms Bond calls “the forgotten corridor”.

A large blue truck with cattle transporting trailers attached in a small country town.


Truck drivers have been part of the exempt category of worker previously allowed into WA. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Ms Bond says the reality for those working and living in this deserted part of the state is a world away from those living in the rest of WA — where pandemic restrictions have been few.

She says the freedoms West Australians have enjoyed makes them the most concerning customers.

“They have relaxed and they have let their guard down,” Ms Bond says.

“They come here and go, ‘I’m from WA, I’m clean, I don’t have to do this’.

“But coming from the east … they have been living it and they know what needs to be done.”

A road train passing a sign proclaiming '90 Mile Straight'.


Balladonia to Caiguna on the Eyre Highway boasts the longest stretch of straight road in the nation. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

How splendid the isolation can be

A further 290 clicks west along the highway you hit the quiet streets of Norseman — where the 500-odd residents are grappling with a desperate need for tourists and a simmering fear of the unknown.

The tops of buildings are visible in the town.


An aerial view of the town of Norseman in WA. November 2020. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Even before COVID-19 hit and WA’s hard border was implemented, Norseman, in the Shire of Dundas, was struggling.

A bushfire tore through 500,000 hectares in December and blocked all access to the town.

The inferno followed drought, and for the remaining residents of the once bustling mining town the pandemic has been the final straw.

A wide shot of Lynn sitting on a couch in his photo gallery, with bright photographs on the wall behind him.


Norseman business owner Lynn Webb owns a photo gallery called Splendid Isolation — but says the isolation felt since the hard border was introduced has been anything but (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“It is a tough enough gig here at the best of times,” says photographer Lynn Webb.

The former shire president now owns a gallery in the town centre aptly named Splendid Isolation, with images capturing the region’s vast empty spaces.

“Recently, well, it’s been very splendidly isolated,” he jokes ruefully.

Up the street, publican Claye Poletti has owned and run the Norseman Hotel for the past 22 years.

He says he’s seen a lot in that time but this year has sent him close to the edge.

Claye wearing a dark blue shirt sitting at the front bar of a pub, with a glass of beer on the counter and a pool table in back.


Claye Poletti has owned and run the Norseman pub and hotel for the past 22 years and said while there’s been some tough years, 2020 and the COVID pandemic has almost left him unable to open the doors. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“The bills keep coming, you know, power, electricity, rates, insurance, it doesn’t go away because you’ve got no customers,” he says.

But even on the brink of collapse, it is hard for him to get excited about the border rules being relaxed.

“In some ways I’m not too happy about it because we don’t know what’s coming across really, we don’t know where people are coming from,” he says.

A federation-style hotel.


Venues like the Norseman Hotel will have to put in place contact tracing procedures by December. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

A sign in bushland with red dirt that reads Welcome to Norseman.


Some in Norseman are apprehensive about the reopening. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Despite the downturn, some along the Eyre Highway say while traffic has unquestionably slowed, it has hardly ground to a halt.

“I think it was sold incorrectly to the people who live in the nice green suburbs of Perth,” Dundas chief executive Peter Fitchat says.

Peter wearing a blue check shirt, standing outside in the rural town of Norseman, with gumtrees and dirt.


Dundas chief executive Peter Fitchat says the shire has lost thousands of visitors since WA’s hard border went up. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“We have had people from over east walking around town looking for accommodation.

“Who is checking on them?

“We have just been lucky.”

With a high proportion of elderly and Indigenous residents, Shire President Laurene Bonza says it is essential for the State Government to provide appropriate support and information before that luck runs out.

A close up of Laurene wearing a pink shirt and grey blazer, inside a small souvenir shop in Norseman.


Shire of Dundas President Laurene Bonza says opinions on WA’s easing border restrictions are divided – with business owners desperate for more visitors while older residents remain wary. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“When the border first closed and the quarantine came in [in April], we only found out they would use us [Norseman] as an isolation point in a press conference,” she says.

“We were a bit sort of left out in the cold, we have had to pick up the slack.”

Four women seated at a table in the room of a house working on crafts.


The ‘Craft Ladies’ in Norseman. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

In the Norseman arts and craft room, the women are making plans to begin sewing masks for locals.

Merynda Fraser says it is difficult to reconcile the inevitable need to reunify with the rest of the country alongside her fears for those she loves.

Merynda wearing a black cardigan with pink stripes, while sitting at a table working on craft.


Merynda Fraser worries about her husband who would be at risk should a case of COVID-19 sneak across the border and said she hopes those who come through the town follow the rules. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“I know sooner or later it’s got to open,” she says.

“But I also have got to think of our situation. I don’t want to lose my friends.

“I think we will get through this, Norseman has got through tougher times.

“We are an ageing town and a town that has got a lot of history, and I don’t want to see it go.

“Not through COVID — not that way.”


  • Reporting: Rhiannon Shine and Briana Shepherd
  • Photography: Hugh Sando
  • Videography: Phil Hemmingway and Robert Koenig-Luck
  • Digital editor: Rebecca Trigger









First posted

November 14, 2020 06:40:15

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Navigating uncertainty in the workplace

How do you empower your team to fight through these challenging times,
rather than freeze or flee?

As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, the simple reality is there
is no roadmap from where we are now to where we would rather be. We have
neither experience nor clear predictive indicators of the future upon which to
draw and make decisions with confidence. For most communities and businesses,
life has dramatically changed and its very unclear when, if ever, things will
return to “normal”.

The key to any organisation’s ability to successfully adapt and survive
these times, is an engaged and confident team who are willing to give new
things a go and strive to succeed. While there may be little you can do to
provide your team with greater certainty there are steps you can take to
support each individual to maintain mental health and achieve the standards of
performance you need from them.

Psychological impacts of uncertainty

The simple truth is none of us are a position to know with absolute
certainty what will happen in the future. Irrespective of whether we are
battling a global pandemic or not, life is always uncertain and yet most of us
struggle in unpredictable circumstances with fear of the unknown.

Research shows that uncertainty is a major cause of stress in life including at work. Most people prefer a degree of predictability, so when the future is unknown, worry begins to set in and take a toll. On the most fundamental level our fears are designed to keep us safe. Therefore, unconscious reactions when people are faced with threat can be to fight, freeze, or flee.

“Irrespective of whether we are battling a global pandemic or not, life is always uncertain.”

To feel safe and comfortable about our future, most of us will think
about, if not plan for, what might eventuate down the track. We draw on our
past experiences and make decisions about what we will do today to influence
the tomorrow we want. When we have no experience or facts to pin our hopes on
however, it can be overwhelmingly stressful for some people.

As Associate Professor Kate Hoy, the Head of Interventional
Neuropsychology at Monash University and Deputy Director of the Epworth Centre
for Innovation in Mental Health, said this COVID-19 pandemic is an,
“unprecedented international medical and social emergency with widespread
consequences on all groups of society”.

Understand your team

Trust, earned in part through understanding and empathy, will have a big
impact on your ability to influence how people are thinking, feeling and
behaving. Start by understanding who your people are and what they are
personally dealing with. For example, it may be that their partner has been
laid off and now they’re facing extreme financial pressures. Or perhaps
isolation and social distancing rules are keeping them apart from loved ones.

Threats to physical, psychological, and financial security are likely to
be the most common fears people hold. Through one to one conversations and team
discussions, identify specifically what your team are worried about and why.
Acknowledge the discomfort people are feeling and commit through words and
actions to keep them informed as the future becomes clearer to you.

Purpose, priorities, and progress

Create a clear and consistent picture of what your primary objectives
are. For example, do you need to be innovative and come up with new ways of
working to maintain relevance or market position? Do you need to cut costs to
be financially viable until revenue lifts again?

When people know exactly what the most important goals are, they are

more likely to understand how they can contribute to shoring up the future. The
sense of purpose and power this can give people makes a very big difference to
how energized and in turn motivated they feel.

Set and maintain clear priorities through regular interactions with
individuals and the whole team. Be sure also to maintain visibility of the
progress you are making toward achieving set goals. Feeling hopeful and
successful are important energisers of the human spirit. Look for big and small
wins to help your team focus on what is working well.

Be open and authentic

When you don’t have the answers that your team are looking for, the best
you can do is tell them what you do know. Avoid the all too common leadership
mistake of withholding information because you’re not yet in a position to make
a decision or provide all of the insights people are asking for. Recognise also
if you are hesitating to speak the truth because you assume people don’t want
to hear it.

Take for example, the likelihood of job redundancies becoming necessary.
Most reasonable human beings would rather be told the truth, delivered with
respect and sensitivity, than be blindsided by a reality they were in no way
prepared for.

People are entirely more likely to trust, respect and work hard for a
leader who is willing to tell them exactly how things are, over one who holds
their cards close to their chest and avoids honest conversations. So, if you
don’t know what your current circumstances mean for job security, be upfront
about that and help your team to understand the steps you are taking to avoid
having to let people go.

Think long term

It can be tempting to jump to short term solutions to fix your immediate
challenges, but never underestimate the impact the decisions you reach now will
have on the engagement of your team over time. If people perceive that the
decisions you are making lack fairness or integrity, the engagement and
cultural ramifications are likely to be severe.

For example, the leader who unexpectedly let 40 per cent of his sales
team go, stating the need to “right size to survive”, all while proceeding with
the purchase of an expensive new car, is likely to struggle to inspire the rest
of his team to give their best. While it may be more challenging to find a new
job right now, when things start to improve, unfair or disrespectful leaders
will struggle to keep people on board.

While many people will be able to “bounce back” from the stress or
hardships they have experienced through these times, others will continue to
struggle. As The Black Dog Institute point out, as restrictions begin to ease,
while many of us will be able to move on reasonably quickly, “there will be a
significant minority who will be affected by long-term anxiety as a result”.

The most important thing you can do to navigate your team through times
of uncertainty is to step firmly into a coaching role. Guide each person on
your team to recognise the steps they can take to manage stress, keep fears of
the unknown in check and be a part of creating both your new normal and a
successful future. Working as a coach you’re also more likely to recognise
mental illness and offer the support people need to recover.

Karen Gately, Founder, Corporate Dojo and author of “The People
Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people”

This story first appeared in issue 30 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine

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US Fed leaves interest rates near zero amid US election uncertainty

By Christopher Condon

Federal Reserve officials kept monetary policy in a holding pattern, leaving interest rates near zero and making no change to asset purchases, as the final results of U.S. presidential and congressional elections remain uncertain.

“Economic activity and employment have continued to recover but remain well below their levels at the beginning of the year,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement Thursday following a two-day meeting, largely repeating language on the economy they’ve employed since July. That marked only a slight tweak from the previous statement saying the economy and jobs had “picked up in recent months.”

The Fed kept the federal funds target rate in a range of zero to 0.25%, where it’s been since March.

“The ongoing public health crisis will continue to weigh on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term,” the FOMC said in language identical to the prior statement in September.

While vote counting continues in closely-contested U.S. states, the two major parties could split control of Washington. Democrat Joe Biden is on the brink of capturing the White House from Donald Trump, and his party will retain the House of Representatives. But control of the Senate may hinge on runoff elections in Georgia.

A split outcome would reduce the chances for a big fiscal stimulus package from Congress in the new year, even as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to threaten the economy. That may put more pressure on the Fed to ramp up its bond buying, or at least change the composition of its purchases, in an attempt to lower borrowing costs and further boost the recovery.

“With fiscal support looking both smaller and less likely, the Fed will have to think harder about what it can do to steer the economy in the desired direction,” Roberto Perli, a former Fed economist and partner at Cornerstone Macro LLC in Washington, said before the meeting.

Fed officials, however, made no change to monthly purchases on Thursday and gave no signal they might do so when they meet again Dec. 15-16.

The FOMC’s statement repeated its past pledge to increase holdings of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities in the coming months “at least at the current pace.”

Combined monthly purchases of the securities currently total about $120 billion.

The economic recovery remains uneven against a backdrop of surging Covid-19 cases, with more than 12 million Americans still out of work. October’s employment report, due Friday, is expected to show the jobless rate continuing to edge down to 7.6%, while the pace of new hiring probably cooled for the fourth consecutive month.

The vote was unanimous. Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari, a voter this year, did not attend the meeting following the birth of a child Tuesday. San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly voted as an alternate.

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Adelaide International tennis event under cloud amid Australian Open coronavirus uncertainty

Next year’s Adelaide International tennis event has been thrown into doubt after Tennis Australia confirmed it was considering shifting its entire summer program to Melbourne.

The uncertainty comes after two other large Adelaide sporting events — the Adelaide 500 Supercars season opener and next year’s Tour Down Under cycling race — were cancelled over the past week.

But Tennis SA and the State Government said they were still preparing to host the WTA and ATP women’s and men’s events at Memorial Drive.

Tennis Australia has proposed bubbles in various cities to allow international players to train and play ahead of local tournaments and January’s Australian Open, but the plans need approval from state governments.

Along with the Adelaide International and the Hobart International, the ATP Cup is scheduled for Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.

But to ensure players do not get stuck interstate if there is a coronavirus outbreak outside of Victoria, Tennis Australia is considering moving all tournaments to Melbourne, and has until next week to make a decision.

Sofia Kenin won the Australian Open in Melbourne in February. (AP: Lee Jin-man)

The new Adelaide International event was first run at a new look Memorial Drive in January, replacing the Sydney International.

Adelaide International tournament director Alistair MacDonald said moving all tennis tournaments to Melbourne was one of “six or seven scenarios on the cards” to ensure players could make it to the Australian Open.

A man wearing glasses, an open-necked shirt and a suit jacket
Adelaide International tournament director Alistair MacDonald at Memorial Drive.(ABC News)

“Looking at all these scenarios is the right thing to do, but we haven’t made a decision on any of these, albeit we are getting closer to where we have to make a decision,” Mr MacDonald said.

He said the tournament had a “really great first year” and organisers were “keen as mustard to run a second one”.

“We’re doing everything we can to do that — we’re working with [the South Australian] Government, we’re working with SA Health,” he said.

“Let’s hope, collectively, we can ensure players can get to Melbourne to play the Australia Open because we want them to get to Melbourne.”

Contract is ‘locked-in’

South Australian Treasurer Rob Lucas said his Government had signed onto a “locked-in contract” to deliver the event and that SA Health was working on plans for it to go ahead safely.

A man wearing a suit behind microphones on stands
South Australian Treasurer Rob Lucas.(ABC News: Emma Rebellato)

He said the contract was signed as part of the Memorial Drive redevelopment, on which taxpayers spent $10 million and Tennis Australia chipped in $1 million.

“We made a significant investment a year or so ago in Memorial Drive [and] as part of that deal was a locked-in contract for a period of time for the Adelaide International tournament,” Mr Lucas said.

“It would only be if we couldn’t deliver on our particular contractual arrangements in South Australia that anyone could seek to take it.

Labor’s Tom Koutsantonis said while out of the Government’s hands, any decision to cancel next year’s tournament would compound the loss of the Supercars race.

“If you rely on international events in the time of a global pandemic, surely … domestic events are more important than they ever have been,” he said.

Tickets for the Australian Open go on sale this month with plans to accommodate crowds at 25 per cent capacity.

Five new cases in South Australia

South Australia today reported five new coronavirus cases — all of them international travellers in hotel quarantine — while Victoria reported none for the sixth day in a row.

SA Health said today’s cases included a teenager, a man in his 20s and another in his 40s, and two women in their 30s.

There are now 16 active cases in South Australia and 20 in Victoria.

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Analysis: U.S. states votes legalizing marijuana to drive growth despite election uncertainty

November 4, 2020

By Shariq Khan and David Randall

(Reuters) – Votes to legalize marijuana on Tuesday by a handful more U.S. states should spur further development of the industry and possibly bring changes at a federal level, even if pro-decriminalization candidate Joe Biden loses his bid for the White House, according to industry executives and analysts.

Consumer demand and the promise of tax revenue are leading more states to embrace pot, which then leads other states to follow suit, making what happens at the local level more important, they said.

Shares of U.S. companies with footprints in multiple states, including Curaleaf Holdings Inc <CURA.CD>, Cresco Labs Ltd <CL.CD> and Green Thumb Industries Inc <GTII.CD>, were all up on Wednesday after voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota chose to legalize recreational use.

The votes should add steam to an industry now pushing hard for new federal legislation.

“The momentum of the legal industry will likely remain unchanged regardless of the election outcome,” said Matt Hawkins, founder and managing partner at cannabis-focused private equity firm Entourage Effect Capital.

“As long as there is strong consumer demand, the industry will continue its upward growth trajectory and the pathway to legalization will likely speed up regardless.”

For example, approval in New Jersey is expected to open up other eastern states, such as New York and Pennsylvania, said Salvator Armenia, vice president of business development at producer C21 investments <CXXI.CD>. Those states and nearby Connecticut already allow marijuana sales for medical purposes.

Tuesday’s votes takes the tally of U.S. states where recreational use will be legal to 15 plus the District of Columbia. Mississippi voters also backed legalizing cannabis for medical use, while Oregon voters approved legalizing the psychoactive substance psilocybin found in “magic mushrooms.”

The “total addressable market” in those five states alone is considered to be as large the entire Canadian cannabis market, worth a potential $5 billion to $9 billion annually, Armenia said.

The path to federal legislation that would allow cannabis companies to bank and trade freely is still unclear, with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a major opponent. Republicans appear poised to retain control of the senate.

Michael Underhill, chief investment officer at Capital Innovations, cautioned that several bills would need to pass before U.S. companies found themselves on the same regulatory playing field as their Canadian counterparts.


In last month’s debate with Vice President Mike Pence, Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris said marijuana would be decriminalized at a federal level under a Biden administration.

“Each election cycle cannabis comes closer to federal acceptance, and this election is pivotal to those goals,” said Cynthia Salarizadeh, founder and president of House of Saka, a cannabis-infused beverages business.

Cannabis sales have surged with people stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. In California, sales data for August showed a 26% jump over the past year, while sales in Nevada were up 34%, according to BDS Analytics.

Alcohol and tobacco companies have taken notice, with some investing in the sector. Drinks maker Constellation Brands <STZ.N> has a stake in Canopy Growth Corp <WEED.TO> <CGC.N>, while Marlboro maker Altria <MO.N> has a stake in Cronos Group Inc <CRON.TO>.

Still, federal decriminalization, or legalization in more states, would not be without challenges, investors said. Many point to Canada as an example.

Though the country became the first G-20 nation to legalize recreational use of cannabis in 2018, regulatory hiccups in Canadian dispensary rollouts, slow international legalization, and a lack of profitability sent investors packing over the next year. That left most companies at a fraction of their market values by the beginning of 2020.

Shares of Canada-based pot producers and distributors, including Canopy, Cronos, Aurora Cannabis <ACB.N> and Tilray <TLRY.O> all fell on Wednesday as the chances of a swift victory for Biden faded.

(Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bangaluru and David Randall in New York; Additional reporting by Martinne Geller in London; Editing by Patrick Graham, Ira Iosebashvili and Bill Berkrot)

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Wall Street brushes off election uncertainty to surge higher

“The first information that people are digesting is that a split government is OK, and we can deal with this,” said Melda Mergen, deputy global head of equities, Columbia Threadneedle. “No big changes are expected anytime soon on the policy side.”

She cautioned, though, that the initial moves for the market may not last. “It’s a very quick reaction without knowing the final results,” she said. “It’s emotional rather than rational.”


Much of Tuesday’s strength for Wall Street was due to big gains for technology stocks. Investors have increasingly seen these stocks as some of the safer bets in the market, able to grow their profits even in a pandemic as more of daily life shifts online.

They don’t need a big stimulus effort for the economy as much as other companies, and the likelihood of Washington approving such a package dropped with the chances of a Democratic sweep. That led to the much better performance for the tech-heavy Nasdaq over other indexes. Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google’s parent company all rose at least 5 per cent

Other areas of the stockmarket, where profits are more dependent on the strength of the economy, lagged behind. Financial stocks in the S&P 500 rose 0.3 per cent. Companies that make construction materials and could have benefited from a big infrastructure plan under a Democratic sweep were falling. .

Some of the market’s sharpest moves overnight were in yields for US government bonds, which had earlier risen on growing expectations for big economic stimulus.

The 10-year Treasury yield swung from 0.88 per cent late Tuesday up to 0.94 per cent as polls were closing. It then sank as low as 0.75 per cent after Trump made premature claims of victories in several key states, Republicans held onto Senate seats and a couple economic reports came in weaker than expected. It sat at 0.78 per cent in early afternoon trading.

All the swings are a bit reminiscent of four years earlier, when Trump surprised the market by winning the White House. Markets initially tumbled after polls and the market’s expectations proved to be so wrong in 2016, but they quickly turned around on expectations that Trump’s pro-business stance would be good for corporate profits.

The difference this time is that the uncertainty seems set to linger. It may take days for a winner of the White House to emerge, and professional investors say they’re bracing for sharp market swings in the meantime. Trump said early on Wednesday that he’d take the election to the Supreme Court, though it’s unclear exactly what he means by that as states continue to tally all their votes.

A drawn-out court battle “just adds more and more uncertainty, and the last thing the market needs is that,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.

Tech giants have been among the big winners on Wednesday. Credit:AP

In the end, though, many fund managers suggest investors hold steady through the tumult in large part because one person can’t single-handedly move the economy and stocks tend to rise regardless of which party controls the White House. What happens with the coronavirus pandemic will have a much greater effect on markets than this election’s results, many fund managers say.

“It’s really about the solution to the health crisis and how do we bridge between now and that eventual period of time,” said Bill Northey, senior investment director at US Bank Wealth Management.

Uber and Lyft both soared more than 12 per cent after the ride-hailing companies won a vote in California allowing them to continue classifying their drivers as contractors instead of employees and preserve their business models.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX recovered from early losses to gain 1.9 per cent. The CAC 40 in Paris rose 2.4 per cent, and the FTSE 100 in London climbed 1.7 per cent.


Besides the election’s impact on Trump’s enthusiasm for tariffs, European investors also watching for what it will do to the US dollar’s value. By making additional stimulus less likely, a divided US government could force the Federal Reserve to do even more on its own to support the economy, which could send the dollar lower against the euro and other currencies.

The Fed will announce its latest decision on interest-rate policy on Thursday. Its moves earlier this year to slash interest rates to record lows and prop up bond markets have helped Wall Street soar since March.

In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.7 per cent, South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.6 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined 0.2 per cent and stocks in Shanghai added 0.2 per cent.


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