Quote Of The Year

Timeless Quotes - Sadly The Late Paul Shetler - "Its not Your Health Record it's a Government Record Of Your Health Information"


H. L. Mencken - "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Macro View – Health, Economics, and Politics and the Big Picture. What I Am Watching Here And Abroad.

Trump has become unhinged this week with suggestions that one injects anti-septics to treat the COVID-19 and noticing that the death toll in the US has exceeded 60,000. He has also been forced to accept some of his other suggestions for treatment don’t seem to work!
In the UK we are seeing Boris getting back to work and having a huge number of hard decisions to make! He has also had a little baby boy!
In OZ we are seeing great containment of the virus with the population starting to become restless. Will be interesting to see how this plays out! The need to relax restrictions is being pushed hard!

Major Issues.


Home prices to plunge 10pc: CBA

Nila Sweeney Reporter
Apr 17, 2020 – 1.14pm
Australia's largest lender Commonwealth Bank has downgraded its home price targets for the next six months, citing a short-term but deep economic hit from coronavirus restrictions.
The bank says residential property prices will drop by 10 per cent over six months or 20 per cent on annualised basis, led by steep falls in Sydney and Melbourne.
Melbourne's housing market is expected to cop the biggest decline of 11 per cent, while Sydney and Canberra are set to fall by 10 per cent each over the same period.
Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart markets are expected to drop by 8 per cent each while Perth is forecast to slide by 7 per cent.

Australia leads calls for independent review of outbreak's origins

Tom McIlroy Political reporter
Apr 19, 2020 – 2.03pm
An international institution or panel of distinguished experts could lead a wide-ranging review of the global coronavirus pandemic, as Foreign Minister Marise Payne led calls for an independent report into the genesis and handling of COVID-19.
Senator Payne on Sunday warned Australia's relationship with China was set to change in the wake of the pandemic, saying the accuracy of information shared by authorities and the performance of the World Health Organisation should be reviewed.
Suggesting an international probe akin to reviews of major incidents and abuses of human rights, Senator Payne said Australia would "insist" on honesty and transparency from China.
"My trust in China is predicated in the long term there," she told ABC TV.
"My concern is at a high point. My concern is around transparency and ensuring that we are able to engage openly."

This bear market will be a generational wealth opportunity

Tom Richardson Markets reporter and commentator
Apr 19, 2020 – 11.59pm
In 1936, a horse trained and co-owned by the great-grandfather of Sydney fund manager Will Culbert won the Sydney Cup at Royal Randwick.
It was bought in 1933 for 150 guineas (£160) in a racing partnership between Sydney accountant Max Claveranne and Culbert's great-grandfather, the successful trainer Danny Lewis. The horse ran fourth in the 1935 Melbourne Cup.
Max Claveranne is the great-grandfather of Culbert's co-portfolio manager and business partner Tom Millner, and the grandfather of billionaire investor Robert Millner, the chairman of Washington H. Soul Pattinson (WHSP) and Brickworks.
The investors decided to name their asset management business, Contact, after the Sydney Cup-winning racehorse that ended up netting their great-grandfathers around £6000 in winnings from a £160 investment.

Five weeks that shocked Team Australia to the financial limit

Josh Frydenberg was in Saudi Arabia when the virus drama unfolded with unprecedented force and the nation's focus shifted from a budget surplus to saving lives and shoring up the economy.
Pamela Williams Writer-at-large
Apr 20, 2020 – 12.01am
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe strode through the gleaming white marble and gold halls of the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, taking a coffee along the way to a G20 meeting.
It was a moment preserved in photographs seemingly from another era, but it was just eight weeks ago – February 22 – and it was just before the world turned.
Within five weeks, Frydenberg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison would have launched a string of domestic bailouts for Australia as the nation closed down – with the breathtaking centrepiece of a $130 billion JobKeeper program; the Reserve Bank had entered uncharted waters with plans to buy $100 billion in government bonds to fund $100 billion of cheap loans to banks; and banking regulator APRA had told the banks to dip into their capital buffers to keep liquidity flowing.
The Ritz Carlton, and the King Abdulaziz convention centre next door in Saudi Arabia, conjured wealth and privilege, but for the world’s top finance ministers and central bank governors gathered for that G20 meeting in February, the reality was a waking nightmare: the latest news on the coronavirus in China.

Investor shock as high-flying hedge fund posts savage slide

By Kylar Loussikian
April 20, 2020 — 12.00am
One of Australia's most prominent investment outfits, Regal Funds Management, has posted a shock 59 per cent slide in its high-performance hedge fund during March, leaving some investors fuming.
Regal's chief investment officer Phil King told clients in a note distributed late last week that he had "underestimated the speed and scale" of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving a portfolio of stocks owned by the company's Atlantic Absolute Returns Fund exposed to savage share price falls.
March was a difficult month for investors, with the ASX 200 falling more than 20 per cent and Wall Street sliding 18 per cent. But Regal's performance was significantly worse than some of Mr King's competitors, with local hedge fund VGI Partners posting a 1.4 per cent return and Totus Capital's Alpha Fund rising 10.4 per cent.
Caledonia Investments, which manages money for a number of wealthy families, declined 22.5 per cent in March.

How drip-feeding investments can avoid costly mistakes

It's more about circumventing emotionally-led decisions that will harm long-term prospects than avoiding market falls.
Ben Smythe Contributor
Apr 20, 2020 – 10.53am
If you've built up cash reserves in your self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF), waiting for a buying opportunity, do you invest everything now or slowly "drip-feed" into the market over the next six to 12 months?
There is compelling evidence to show how difficult it is for investors to try to time markets – that is, to pick the top or bottom of markets. But aren't you doing the same thing by drip-feeding (dollar cost averaging), hoping to pick up shares at a lower price some time in the future?
This will obviously depend on your rationale for drip-feeding versus investing the cash in a lump sum, and this is a very important consideration for SMSF trustees. If your rationale for drip-feeding is because you believe the market will go down for a period and then recover, that is not a sensible game to play. But if your rationale for drip-feeding is to deal with any emotional fall-out from a correction after investing, then you are on the right track.

'Can't give it away': US oil prices go negative

Jacob Greber United States correspondent
Apr 21, 2020 – 7.18am
Washington | They're running out of space in Cushing, Oklahoma, one of the world's biggest crude oil storage hubs - sending the benchmark West Texas Intermediate contract for May delivery below zero for the first time in history.
In less than half an hour of stunning trading early on Tuesday (AEST), traders crashed the May WTI to an unprecedented minus $US37.63 a barrel.
As investors struggled to fathom the concept of a negative energy price that means buyers are effectively being paid by suppliers of oil, experts said the collapse was yet another consequence of the demand-crushing coronavirus pandemic shutdowns combined with a worsening glut of supply.
"The storage facilities are full," said Kyle Bass, founder of Hayman Capital Management. "Pipelines are full of crude and I was just told Cushing won't take any more crude."

If we want world-class universities we need to find a way to pay for them

Merlin Crossley
Deputy vice-chancellor academic at UNSW.
April 21, 2020 — 12.00am
A friend of mine just told me that “universities have lost their way, today they only talk about money”.
As the impacts of the coronavirus are felt and thousands of jobs are threatened, the message is re-iterated in another way – “universities, greedy for revenues from foreign students, have unwisely exposed themselves to risk, now they are getting what they deserve”.
I recall even when at UNSW we were introducing a new and more flexible academic calendar for our students, one student said to me “this is just a trick designed to make the owners of the university even richer”.
But the university doesn’t have any "owners". We are a not-for-profit institution, a registered charity, a public institution that serves the community.
The revenues we raise are invested back into our operations (teaching and research) or put into infrastructure (buildings and IT systems). Profits do not go to shareholders, nor do they go to buying private jets for the directors. Universities are not “all about money” but we need money to provide world-class teaching and research.

ASIC to reform share trading

More than a month after record trading volumes clogged the ASX clearing and settlement pipes, the regulator is working on a permanent fix.
Apr 23, 2020 – 12.00am
When ASX’s clearing and settlement pipes got clogged by record share trading volumes in March, the securities regulator stepped in with what market participants hoped was a temporary solution.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission forced the nine largest broking firms to slash executed trades by up to 25 per cent from the levels on Friday, March 13.
More than a month later, ASIC’s failure to remove its Band-Aid solution is causing growing disquiet among brokers who must monitor trading through the day to ensure they do not breach market integrity rules.
At least one broker among the top nine was forced in the past month to refuse to deal on behalf of a client because of ASIC’s trading restrictions.

Oil market 'in complete turmoil', negative prices could return

William McInnes Reporter
Apr 22, 2020 – 5.37pm
Any lifting of isolation measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic could be too late to save oil from a return to negative prices in the weeks ahead, as a wipe-out of demand and tapped out storage conspire to drag Brent crude to a 21-year low.
While Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing nations have agreed to reduce output, their efforts still fall woefully short, causing a glut in global markets and sending the price of Brent on Wednesday down 17 per cent to $US15.98 after WTI traded in negative territory the previous session.
A meaningful recovery in demand is still three months away on some estimates. ASX energy stocks were hit with renewed selling led by Cooper Energy sliding 5.8 per cent to 41¢, Beach Energy declining 3.9 per cent to $1.24 and Oil Search 3.6 per cent to $2.41. Large caps Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy fell just 1.5 per cent.

Value in the firing line as three years of gains disappear

Sarah Turner Reporter
Apr 23, 2020 – 3.44pm
Australian fund managers saw three years of gains evaporate in just six weeks during the March quarter, but the greatest pain was reserved for value strategies, which fared worse than the index as COVID-19 erupted.
Overall, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 dropped 23.1 per cent on a total return basis during the first three months of the year.
Morningstar's quarterly report on Australian equity managers calculated that value managers investing in large companies dropped 26 per cent, large cap blended managers (which mix growth and value strategies) fell 23.7 per cent and large cap growth managers chalked up a 22.6 per cent decline.

Ray Dalio tries to explain the changing world order

Nathan Crooks
Apr 24, 2020 – 8.50am
"You need to understand how money, credit, and debt work," Ray Dalio writes in his latest post in a series previewing an upcoming book he's titled The Changing World Order.
The billionaire investor and founder of Bridgewater Associates said he's working with both historians and political experts to connect pieces of the past together to better understand the future.
"They lacked adequate practical understanding of how money and credit work, and I lacked adequate practical understanding of how politics and geopolitics work," Dalio wrote in the 13,000-word essay sprinkled with simple language and bold print in an attempt to make it easier and shorter to read.

The week Australia stood up to China and global giants

Peter Hartcher
Political and international editor for The Sydney Morning Herald
April 24, 2020 — 7.03pm
It was in 1911 that the Chinese formula of "thick face, black heart" was first published. It summarises an ethos, the psyche of a person with "a heart blacker than pitch and a face thicker than the Great Wall of China".
What does it mean? A thick face is one that feels no shame. A black heart has no mercy, no virtue. "It's a wonderful metaphor for complete ruthlessness," says the erudite Australian Sinologist Geremie Barme.
Its creator, Li Zongwu, was a politician and social commentator who wrote that "the emperors, ministers and generals who really succeeded in Chinese imperial politics were all masters of the art of the thick and the black", says Barme, who translated part of a book on the subject.
"It's at the heart of Chinese Communist Party politics," he says. And, at the moment, it is more evident to the outside world than it ever has been. Beijing is making the most outrageous and shameless claims.

Bushfire Crisis And Climate Policy

There are no entries in this category.

Coronavirus And Impacts.

Daily chart

Tracking covid-19 excess deaths across countries

Official covid-19 death tolls still under-count the true number of fatalities
Apr 16th 2020
AS COVID-19 has spread around the world, people have become grimly familiar with the death tolls that their governments publish each day. These numbers give a better indication of a country’s trajectory than do counts of confirmed cases, which largely measure how many people have been tested. Nonetheless, official covid-19 death tolls still under-count the true number of fatalities that the disease has already caused at that point.
In many places, official daily figures exclude anybody who did not die in hospital or who did not test positive. Often the cause of death takes several days to establish, which creates a lag in the data. And even the most complete covid-19 records will not count people who were killed by other conditions that probably would have been treated successfully, had hospitals not been overwhelmed by a surge of covid-19 cases.
The best way to measure the full damage caused by such a medical crisis is to look at “excess mortality”: the gap between the total number of people who died from any cause during a given period, and the historical average for the same place and time of year. These numbers take longer to emerge. Some countries publish them with a few days’ delay, others after more than a year. EuroMOMO, a group of academics from 24 European countries, releases a weekly index. But it does not publish absolute numbers of deaths for each country.

Jobless shock 'worst since depression' despite JobKeeper

David Marin-Guzman Workplace correspondent
Apr 19, 2020 – 9.00pm
Up to a quarter of Australia's workforce could be out of work because of the coronavirus restrictions, and the jobless rate is likely to surpass anything seen since the Great Depression, a new analysis has found.
The Grattan Institute has forecast that 1.9 million to 3.4 million people – between 14 per cent and 26 per cent of workers – will lose work in the coming weeks, if they have not already, and warns that a fast recovery is less likely the longer the downturn continues.
Even with the government's JobKeeper wage subsidy, which disguises the full impact of the job losses, the unemployment rate will hit between 10 per cent and 15 per cent in the coming months, the institute warns.
Under mid-range and pessimistic scenarios – 12.2 per cent and 15.1 per cent, respectively – the jobless rate would be larger than anything experienced since the 1930s.

Threat of super withdrawals overshadows ASX bull

Sarah Turner Reporter
Apr 19, 2020 – 6.55pm
Australian investors are holding back from enthusiastically embracing the bull market as superannuation withdrawals loom and the damage to US corporate earnings from measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic becomes clearer by the day.
The S&P/ASX 200 is set for a subdued start to the week, with futures pointing to a flat early session after closing at 5464 in New York on Friday.
The ASX's muted performance will contrast sharply with the US session on Friday, when the Dow surged 3 per cent on a combination of hope for a COVID-19 vaccine and President Trump's plans to reopen the US economy.
While infections are declining in Australia and the rate of increases of new cases fell below 1 per cent for seven consecutive days, there has been no attempt as yet to reopen the Australian economy from its pandemic-induced shutdown.

'Absolutely insane': Anti-vaxxers promote coronavirus conspiracies

By Caitlin Fitzsimmons and Tom Rabe
April 20, 2020 — 12.00am
Anti-vaxxers have been targeting Sydneysiders by dropping leaflets in letterboxes that claim the novel coronavirus is a hoax and by spreading conspiracy theories online.
Some residents of Ryde received a 12-page printed document in their letterboxes calling the pandemic the "plannedemic" and advising people not to follow advice to get a seasonal flu shot and challenge the government over physical distancing rules.
The document, seen by the Herald, said COVID-19 was just a mild seasonal cold and was being exaggerated as part of a conspiracy to remove social freedoms and introduce forced vaccinations.
The document alleges that a cast of villains, including Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Lucy Turnbull, the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and Big Pharma, had a secret agenda that would culminate in hiding identifying nanoparticles in the vaccine to exert global domination.

Artificial intelligence, trackless trams: Ideas for Australia's post-coronavirus economy

By Jennifer Duke
April 20, 2020 — 12.05am
National technology programs that teach workers about artificial intelligence. Infrastructure projects that put trackless trams on major roads. These are two of the ways that business leaders and academics say Australia can repair its economy after the coronavirus pandemic.
Australia faces mass job losses due to a long period of social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, but there could be an opportunity to bring in major new projects to bounce back, said Curtin University's sustainability professor, Peter Newman.
Dr Newman, a former Infrastructure Australia board member, said that rebuilding capital cities with the next 50 years in mind was an opportunity to boost the economy.
"This is the time when we have to do it. COVID has swept away all the silly reasons and it's time to rebuild cities around the 21st Century's demands,"he said.

Businesses that rely on China need to think about plan B

It’s becoming clear that Australian businesses that make their living selling to, or buying from, China will need to prepare for some significant change in the relationship between the two countries.
It’s very early days, and impossible to tell how much of a change we’re talking about, but it seems safe to predict that life isn’t going to be the same in future.
If we thought Australian businesses were heading into a tricky place when the United States and China were just engaged in a fairly uncomplicated trade skirmish, that could be a picnic compared to what’s coming.
Sunday’s interview with Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the ABC was extraordinary.

Banks could face 46pc hit to profits from card defaults

James Frost Financial Services Writer
Apr 20, 2020 – 10.43am
Big four bank profits stand to be bushwacked by massive losses from unsecured credit to retail customers with analysis showing defaults on credit cards and personal loans could rise five times normal levels knocking an average 46 per cent off pre-crisis profits.
Evans and Partners analyst Matthew Wilson said a spike in defaults of this magnitude was consistent with previous recessions and in line with provisions made by US bank JP Morgan Chase last week.
During last week's quarterly update the US's biggest consumer bank hiked its loan loss provisions by 450 per cent to $8.3 billion while lifting expectations for losses from its unsecured credit portfolio from 3.36 per cent to 9.71 per cent.
Mr Wilson said a spike in unsecured credit defaults "is an area that could drive disproportionate impairment" and said a rise in defaults to as high as 15 per cent was not out of the question.

WHO chief warns worst of coronavirus pandemic is still ahead

April 21, 2020 — 4.03am
Geneva: The World Health Organisation chief has warned that "the worst is yet ahead of us" in the coronavirus outbreak, reviving the alarm just as many countries ease restrictive measures aimed at reducing its spread.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus didn't specify why he believes the outbreak that has infected some 2.5 million people and killed more than 166,000 could get worse. He and others, however, have previously pointed to the likely future spread of the illness through Africa, where health systems are far less developed.
"Trust us. The worst is yet ahead of us," Tedros told reporters from WHO headquarters in Geneva on Monday, local time. "Let's prevent this tragedy. It's a virus that many people still don't understand."
Some Asian and European governments have gradually eased or started relaxing "lockdown" measures like quarantines, school and business closures and restrictions on public gatherings, citing a decline in the growth of COVID-19 case counts and deaths.

NSW Parliament recalled to debate rental relief measures

By Alexandra Smith
April 21, 2020 — 12.00am
The Berejiklian government will recall NSW Parliament on May 11 to pass critical rental relief legislation to help residential and commercial tenants and landlords hit by the coronavirus crisis.
The NSW government says it will provide $440 million in rent relief through land tax waivers or rebates to be split evenly between business and residential landlords.
But Labor has described the measures as "woefully inadequate" and says the changes will mean "tens of thousands of landlords and tenants" will miss out on any assistance.

Pressure mounts for JobKeeper changes as firms rush to enrol

By Shane Wright
April 20, 2020 — 5.22pm
The Morrison government is resisting growing calls to make key changes to its $130 billion JobKeeper program as firms rush to enrol in the scheme and find cash to cover their staff wage bills.
On Monday the Australian Tax Office and accountants reported a rush by businesses to enrol in JobKeeper, which will provide $1500 a fortnight to firms for each eligible staff member, with payments due to start rolling out next month.
It is a pivotal part of the government's response to the economic consequences of the social distancing rules introduced to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Treasury modelling suggests that without the scheme the nation's unemployment rate could reach 15 per cent.
Shocking new economic modelling has warned unemployment could reach more than 20 per cent due to the coronavirus.

Australia’s success implies we've over-stimulated

The government's fiscal stimulus may have been calibrated for a situation that is much worse than the one we face.
Christopher Joye Columnist
Apr 21, 2020 – 3.00pm
Australia's exceptional efforts in flattening the COVID-19 curve quickly and crushing viral transmissions means that we may be a victim of our own success.
The government's fiscal stimulus may have been calibrated for a situation that is much worse than the one we face.
New analysis presented by Deutsche Bank economist Torsten Slok shows that among the 20 countries he examined, no nation has provided more fiscal support as a share of GDP than Australia in revenue and expenditure terms.
And yet, according to our real-time COVID-19 infection and fatality tracking systems, Australia’s new infection numbers peaked at the start of the month.

NSW Health says COVID-19 testing for anyone is inevitable

By Kate Aubusson
April 22, 2020 — 12.00am
NSW Health is preparing to widen COVID-19 testing to all suburbs across the state for anyone with even the mildest symptoms, as the head of a major pathology lab predicts every Sydneysider will inevitably be tested before the pandemic abates.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant will meet with private pathology providers on Wednesday to confirm the state has the capacity to deliver a major testing blitz.
Testing has been restricted to hotspot suburbs where there have been indications of community transmissions.
"If we have enough testing kits and swabs and collection points, we will be announcing testing is open to anyone with symptoms who wants a COVID test," Dr Chant said.

Universities start to make staff redundant

Robert Bolton Education editor
Apr 22, 2020 – 3.49pm
Deakin University in Geelong will sack a "substantial" number of staff permanently as the coronavirus pandemic shutdown smashes revenue causing a cash crisis for the university.
Financial-ratings agency S&P Global also warned on Wednesday that Australian universities will have to beef up their balance sheets because day to day operations are "bleeding cash".
Vice Chancellor at Deakin university Iain Martin told staff "it will be impossible to avoid redundancies" as they face an $80 million to $110 million revenue drop this year, predicted to blow out to $300 million collapse next year, a fall of 22 per cent.
Professor Martin said the federal government's recent higher education rescue package would make "very little difference" to the university and he was "profoundly disappointed" that the federal government had decided to "cast international students adrift".
"We cannot adopt a position which is predicated on riding out a 12-month disruption followed by a return to our 2019 position in late 2021. If we did so, our Future Fund would be exhausted in less than two years and, we would still be facing the tough decisions we are looking at now," he said.

Official COVID-19 figures underestimate spread by 'order of magnitude'

By Liam Mannix
April 21, 2020 — 11.45pm
The true number of people infected with COVID-19 in Australia is likely to be much higher than the official government tally, experts say, with one estimate putting the figure as high as 30,000.
There have been 6623 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia so far, but independent epidemiologists said that number is likely to be a significant underestimate.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has assured Australia is on a slow road to recovery while confirming three new COVID-19 deaths.
Any underestimate of the true spread of the virus might encourage false confidence in the timing of any government decision to relax Australia's lockdown, some experts warned.
A model developed by the Actuaries Institute suggested the true number could be five times higher than the official number of diagnoses.

Even liberal Sweden's PM says normality is a long way off

Hans van Leeuwen Europe correspondent
Apr 23, 2020 – 5.10am
London | Sweden's Prime Minister has urged his people to keep social distancing and to think of COVID-19 restrictions in terms of months not weeks, in a rare press conference that belied the country's newfound notoriety for taking a liberal approach to lockdown.
"People want to know when they can start living their normal lives. We can't give a date. Don't think weeks, think months," Stefan Löfven said on Wednesday (Thursday AEST).
But his words did reveal freedoms that other Europeans can only dream about. "Keep a distance in pubs, cafes, keep a distance in the queues for ice cream vans," he said. Pubs? Ice cream vans?
There are certainly restrictions: Sweden's authorities have curbed mass gatherings; they have asked people to work from home and to avoid non-essential travel; and they have threatened to shut restaurants and pubs that don't keep people at a distance from each other.

Coronavirus will be 'largest event in insurance history', Chubb says

By Katherine Chiglinsky
April 23, 2020 — 7.41am
The coronavirus pandemic and the economic turmoil it creates will likely spur the largest single loss in insurance industry history, said Evan Greenberg, chief executive officer of insurance giant Chubb.
“We’re in an unprecedented moment of historic proportions,” Greenberg said as he presented the global insurer's first-quarter results in a conference call on Wednesday. "None of us living today has experienced an event of this nature or magnitude. It is at once surreal and catastrophic."
Chubb, which is one of the world's largest insurers, expects coronavirus-related claims for insurance covering travel, accidents and health, trade credit, and possibly political risk. The virus and its ripple effects would impact both the asset side and the liability side of the balance sheet, he warned.

'Simply astonishing' falls in manufacturing and services

Matthew Cranston Economics correspondent
Apr 23, 2020 – 1.40pm
Company shutdowns, government restrictions and steep falls in both domestic and international demand caused the key manufacturing and service index to collapse in April.
The index, which charts output, orders, jobs, delivery times and stocks, showed services almost halved as coronavirus shutdown hit, dropping 18.9 points to 19.6 points, while manufacturing sank 4.1 points to 45.6 points.
"The overall result is simply astonishing," Commonwealth Bank economist Gareth Aird said.
New orders decreased substantially and the shock to global demand was picked up by the big fall in new orders from foreign customers in April. Official figures on Thursday showed exports of manufactured goods dropped 4 per cent in March.
23 April 2020

We’re not ready to lift restrictions, epidemiologists say

Posted by Penny Durham
Australia’s COVID-19 epidemic should be treated like a bushfire, say two Melbourne epidemiologists: small right now, but unpredictable and dangerous.
Dr Kathryn Snow and Professor James McCaw, infectious diseases epidemiologists at the University of Melbourne, told a briefing this morning that Australia’s low case numbers were masking the continuing threat, and that lifting social restrictions risked unleashing an out-of-control epidemic.
Uncontrolled outbreaks were possible even with restrictions maintained, Dr Snow said.
“Some are seeing that the numbers have come down a lot and think it’s under control and we’re out of the woods,” she said. “But there is a huge element of luck – any epidemic is a random, unpredictable process like a bushfire.

When Australia could reopen, according to economists

Matthew Cranston Economics correspondent
Apr 23, 2020 – 1.41pm
Economists expect the concerns about a second wave COVID-19 hit, as seen in Singapore, will mean policy advisers will be reluctant to lift restrictions until June in line with the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) expectations.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday the national cabinet would over the next four weeks start considering lifting some restrictions.
"We will be assessing our performance and looking at how we can start to ease restrictions in that four-week period."
IFM chief economist Alex Joiner said the federal government and policy makers will be highly cautious despite a widespread push to drop restrictions soon.

Banks get hurry-up as businesses cling on

The Morrison government is able to claim credit on managing the health crisis, but managing the economic crisis is only becoming harder.
Jennifer Hewett Columnist
Apr 23, 2020 – 6.11pm
City streets may feature a few more people moving around outside as the number of COVID-19 infections falls dramatically. Inside most businesses and offices, it's still the silence that is so overwhelming. The lack of economic movement is due to the almost total absence of cashflow for so many businesses.
Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg point to brighter news like a construction industry still operating and a strong mining sector, while some key retailers such as supermarkets and home office suppliers are experiencing booming sales growth. The government is also sounding increasingly confident about the ability to consider gradually easing some health restrictions in another three weeks.
Any confidence about the economic message, however, is becoming harder to sustain. "We are on the way back to a COVID-safe economy," the Prime Minister declared on Thursday.
But the overall mood among many businesses is less one of being in temporary hibernation than of being stuck in a coma indefinitely.

Brace for a slow and painful recovery

Some of Australia's most senior company directors have poured cold water on predictions of a sharp post-virus rebound for the economy.
Apr 24, 2020 – 12.15am
Australia's economic recovery is likely to be slow and painful, some of Australia's most senior directors warn, given rising debt levels and the risk that a vaccine for coronavirus will never be found.
The directors also argue that boards will need to revisit their business continuity plans and risk-planning scenarios, given that no one had stress-tested for a shutdown of the global economy or the possibility that the health system could be overwhelmed.
With Australia set to enter a recession and unemployment forecast to hit 10 per cent, directors poured cold water on predictions by the International Monetary Fund for a sharp rebound in 2021.
"I do think it's going to be a really challenging period. I don't think any of us know how challenging at the moment, but I do not subscribe to a V-shape recovery," says Richard Goyder, chairman of Qantas, Woodside and the AFL.

'Huge element of luck': The greatest risk to eradicating coronavirus in Australia

By Kate Aubusson
April 24, 2020 — 8.41am
Outbreaks in prisons or nursing homes, and re-importations - unwitting or malicious - pose the greatest risks of any attempt to eradicate coronavirus in Australia, two leading epidemiologists say.
The federal government is officially pursuing a strategy of virus suppression, but as the numbers of new daily cases continue to fall, elimination seems increasingly enticing to many.
Melbourne University epidemiologists Dr Kathryn Snow and Professor James McCaw warned against complacency and the misplaced belief that eradication was inevitable.
Dr Snow said there was a misplaced sense in the community that “we are pretty much out of the woods”.

Borders to remain closed for months, government weighs NZ travel

By Dana McCauley
April 23, 2020 — 5.48pm
Australia's borders look set to remain closed for months but the Morrison government is weighing a proposal to open up travel to and from New Zealand that could inject much-needed money into the collapsed tourism sector.
The so-called 'trans-Tasman bubble' plan would open up a market of millions of potential tourists and enable business travel between the two nations, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday were on "similar trajectories" in tackling COVID-19.
"If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that's New Zealand," Mr Morrison said, saying he had discussed the matter recently with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Travel industry and business leaders welcomed the comments, which came after Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told a Senate committee that Australians should not expect international travel to resume for at least three to four months.

Micro-reforms from university fees to council red-tape to lift post-virus economy

By Shane Wright
April 23, 2020 — 10.49pm
Improving vocational education and stopping local councils from getting in the way of small businesses are among key micro-economic reforms the Morrison government is considering to drive the economy out of the coronavirus shutdown.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said fresh ideas would be needed to boost economic growth, to help the government lift employment and pay down the record level of debt accrued during the pandemic.
The Australian government is considering the biggest reform agenda in 30 years to rebound from the coronavirus crisis.
He singled out the Productivity Commission's Shifting The Dial report, which he commissioned as Treasurer but has been largely ignored since its release in 2017.

What to consider before an early raid of your super

Potential consequences include locking in market losses, losing insurance cover and big reductions in retirement income.
Duncan Hughes Reporter
Apr 24, 2020 – 11.36am
Those eligible to access up to $20,000 of their super early need to balance a need for quick cash with the risk of losing life cover, locking in market losses and long-lasting damage to retirement income.
“If you need money, then you need money,” says Tim Jenkins, convener of the superannuation practice committee for the Actuaries Institute. “But if you reduce savings now, it can only mean reduced savings at retirement, unless you make catch-up contributions.”
For example, a 30-year old who withdraws $20,000 is expected to have savings reduced by $50,000 upon retirement aged 67 (in today's money). That will reduce annual income from superannuation in retirement by about $2800.
The calculation assumes 3 per cent growth a year after inflation, investment fees and tax.

Young COVID-19 victims are dying from strokes

Ariana Eunjung Cha
Apr 25, 2020 – 8.46am
Thomas Oxley wasn't even on call the day he received the page to come into Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. There weren't enough doctors to treat all the emergency stroke patients, and he was needed in the operating room.
The patient's chart appeared unremarkable at first glance. He was male, no medications, no history of chronic conditions.
He had been feeling fine, hanging out at home during the lockdown like the rest of America, when suddenly, he had trouble talking and moving the right side of his body. Imaging showed a large blockage on the left side of his head.
Oxley gasped when he got to the patient's age and covid-19 status: 44, positive.

Can't pay your debts due to COVID-19? Meet the new debt collector

James Eyers Senior Reporter
Apr 24, 2020 – 3.00pm
Major banks will make massive provisions in the coming weeks given bad debts are expected to surge in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown.
So - for the first time in a decade - lenders are having to think deeply about whether their debt collection practices will meet community expectations, racheted higher by the Hayne royal commission.
After jumping on “Team Australia” during the COVID-19 crisis, most banks have stopped selling overdue debts to external collectors, as there are concerns the practice could expose them to unwanted reputation risk.
The share prices of ASX-listed debt collectors such as Pioneer Credit, Collection House and Credit Corp are in the doldrums and antiquated approaches across the sector have created an opportunity for technology disruption.

Hidden outbreaks spread across US long before Americans knew

Benedict Carey and James Glanz
Apr 24, 2020 – 4.08pm
New York | By the time New York City confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on March 1, thousands of infections were already silently spreading through the city, a hidden explosion of a disease that many still viewed as a remote threat.
Hidden outbreaks were also spreading almost completely undetected in Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle, long before testing showed that each city had a major problem, according to a model of the spread of the disease by researchers at Northeastern University who shared their results with The New York Times.
Even in early February – while the world focused on China – the virus was not only likely to be spreading in multiple US cities, but also seeding blooms of infection elsewhere in the United States, the researchers found.
In the background, you have this silent chain of transmission of thousands of people.
— Alessandro Vespignani, Northeastern University in Boston
As political leaders grappled in February with the question of whether the outbreak would become serious enough to order measures like school closures and remote work, little or no systematic testing for the virus was taking place.

Scott Morrison has a good story to tell but the world isn't listening

George Megalogenis
April 25, 2020 — 12.00am
Spare a thought for Scott Morrison. He has a valuable story to tell the world about Australia’s response to the coronavirus. The Morrison model of shared power between the Commonwealth government and the states and territories has proven to be more efficient in a health crisis than the wartime approach where a single politician or expert assumes the burden of national saviour.
The international media has missed this scoop. You won’t see Morrison’s picture featured alongside New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Norway’s Erna Solberg or Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen because Australia does not fit the pattern of successful nations led by women. Yet Australia’s record to date is better than any European country, and is the equal of New Zealand’s and Taiwan’s.
Morrison carries two pieces of baggage onto the global stage: his mansplaining manner, and his unflinching loyalty to the leader with the most catastrophic response to the pandemic so far, Donald Trump. The irony is that second item suddenly threatens to alienate Morrison from his macho peers in Europe.
This week, the governments of Britain and France politely brushed off the Prime Minister’s call for an international inquiry into the pandemic. Now was not the time to discuss it, they said. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that their focus was on saving lives. A spokesman French President Emmanuel Macron reminded Morrison that there should be "transparency for all players" not just the World Health Organisation.

'This is not a one-off hit': Sydney universities cut courses and casual staff

By Natassia Chrysanthos and Jordan Baker
April 24, 2020 — 5.56pm
Western Sydney University has warned staff it will cut casual workloads next semester as it faces mounting financial shortfalls over the next three years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It comes amid mounting concern about casual workforces across the state's universities, with Sydney University slashing 30 per cent of its arts courses and one-third of casuals at the University of NSW reporting they've lost work.
Macquarie University in Sydney has announced it will accept students based on their year 11 results.
"This is not a one-off hit," WSU Vice-Chancellor Barney Glover told staff via video link on Thursday. "The challenge is bigger in 2021 [and 2022] than it is in 2020."

Treasurer closes loopholes, fixes problems with JobKeeper

By Shane Wright and Nick Bonyhady
April 24, 2020 — 7.09pm
A series of problems with the Morrison government's $130 billion JobKeeper program have been resolved amid growing concerns about its feasibility for many small businesses.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a string of changes to the pandemic response program late on Friday afternoon, which the government had put in place to keep workers linked to their employers.
While broadly welcomed by the business community with more than 400,000 formally enrolling in the scheme this week, there have been a series of complaints about its structure and operation.
They include pressures on small businesses to find a month's worth of wage payments upfront, much higher wages for almost 1.7 million part-time workers, rules governing charities and even the structure of firms.

Schools safe, say commonwealth medical experts

April 24, 2020 — 10.50pm
The nation's peak health advisers have backed a return to teaching in school classrooms as new figures reveal only seven active cases of the COVID-19 virus among children and teenagers across NSW and Victoria.
The new guidance confirms teachers and students will not need to stay more than 1.5 metres away from each other in the classroom, pushing back against union demands for continued online learning at home.
While state governments are at odds over when to bring all students back to school, the state and federal chief medical officers issued updated advice to assure parents the classrooms could be kept safe.
NSW health officials are also preparing to release a report this weekend that has not found significant evidence that children are transmitting the virus in schools, even in cases where students were found to be infected.

The shape of Australia to come

By 2030 Australia may be short one million residents because of COVID-19.
We usually have remarkably accurate data on which to base our population forecasts. The age profile and volume of Australia’s migrant intake is consistent, we have kids at predictable rates, and we even die at reliable intervals — at least we did so before the coronavirus. Now things are much harder to predict.
There are no new updates to the official population forecasts in sight. Business needs to have at least a rough understanding of what the population will look like by the end of the decade. Companies large and small struggle under the lockdown and must reassess their strategic positioning, must understand new market realities to be ready for the post-corona world.
I want our businesses to succeed and to navigate this crisis successfully, so I have had a crack at measuring the impacts of the coronavirus on our future population.

Real unemployment will be a lot more than 10 per cent

The forecast that unemployment will rise to 10 per cent is a convenient, reassuring, round-number fiction, as is the idea that it would have reached 15 per cent without the $130bn JobKeeper package.
The ABS might even pronounce that unemployment is, in fact, 10 per cent in June, and we will all faithfully report that, but that won’t make it true. Actual unemployment is probably already more than 15 per cent and could end up being twice that.
The ABS is very specific in its definition of an unemployed person: it’s someone who didn’t work for more than an hour in the past week, had actively looked for work in the past four weeks and was available to work in the past week, or was waiting to start a new job within four weeks. They ask those questions of 25,000 households per month, or about 50,000 people.
For a start, the $750 per week the JobKeeper Allowance is budgeted to be paid to six million people in place of their salary, since there is no work for them and their employers can’t afford to keep paying them. They’ll be unemployed, and on welfare, but the ABS won’t count them as unemployed because they’ll say they’re not looking for a job. And by the way, for many of them the $750 will be a pay rise.

Contagion codebreaker

He cracked the malaria puzzle but Ronald Ross’s greatest discovery changed the way we understand infectious disease outbreaks.
By Adam Kucharski
When disease researchers hear about a new threat, one of the first things we do is draw what we call an outbreak curve – a graph showing how many cases have appeared over time. Although the shape can vary a lot, it will typically include four main stages: the spark, growth, peak and decline.
Society’s focus often falls on the spark. People want to know how an outbreak started, and who was responsible. In hindsight, it’s tempting to ­conjure up explanations and narratives, as if the outbreak was inevitable and could happen the same way again. But if we simply list the characteristics of successful infections, we end up with an incomplete picture of how outbreaks work. Most pathogens don’t spark: for every influenza virus that jumps from animals to humans then spreads as a pandemic, there are millions that fail to infect any people at all. (There’s a saying in my field of epidemiology: “If you’ve seen one pandemic, you’ve seen... one pandemic”.) Even if there is a spark, it’s only the start. Rather than just viewing outbreaks in terms of whether they take off or not, we need to think about how to measure and predict them.

Safe as houses: COVID-19 study clears NSW schools for student return

By Kate Aubusson
April 26, 2020 — 12.00am
There is no evidence that children have infected teachers with COVID-19 in NSW schools, and half of all confirmed cases at the schools studied were teachers themselves.
These are the findings of a thorough investigation the Berejiklian government hopes will reassure educators and parents that it is safe for students to return to the classroom.
"Schools are among the safest places that we have," lead investigator Professor Kristine Macartney, of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, told The Sun-Herald.

Experts warn against creeping complacency as travel ticks up and businesses reopen

By Michael Koziol
April 26, 2020 — 12.00am
Growing numbers of Sydneysiders are on the move, hairdressers are going back to work and the city's beaches and parks are filling up, in signs that patience with social distancing rules is fading and a sense of complacency may be taking hold.
Mobility data from Apple shows increasing numbers of people searching for directions by road, foot and public transport, compared to the first weeks of strict "stay at home" instructions.
At the start of April, weekday searches for road directions in Sydney averaged about 54 per cent of the normal baseline level. The week after Easter it averaged about 61 per cent and last week it was averaging 64.2 per cent, with a spike on Thursday of 69.9 per cent amid a week of sunshine and warm temperatures. That was the highest number since March 20.
There were also also several fatal road incidents in the past 48 hours, including a vehicle that crashed into a tree in the Royal National Park on Saturday, killing a male passenger.

Sydney's population growth set to plummet

By Matt Wade
April 26, 2020 — 12.00am
A migration slump following the coronavirus outbreak could temporarily shrink Sydney’s population and leave it at more than 200,000 fewer people than expected by 2025, raising doubts about the timetable for major infrastructure projects such as WestConnex stage three and the Western Harbour Tunnel.
The city’s population growth is rate is set to plummet with international migration to Australia effectively halted and the birth rate likely to dip due to heightened economic uncertainty.
Projections prepared for the Herald by consultancy SGS Economics and Planning show Sydney will add only 15,600 people next financial year if the economy does not recover quickly from the coronavirus-induced downturn. That’s less than a fifth of the city’s population growth last financial year of 87,000.
The report’s author, economist Terry Rawnsley, said the departure of around 300,000 temporary visa holders from Australia this year may even "push Sydney’s population backwards" temporarily.

Royal Commissions And The Like.

There are no entries in this category.

National Budget Issues.


JobKeeper changes demanded as businesses face Solomon-like choices

By Shane Wright
April 20, 2020 — 12.01am
The Morrison government is facing demands from the business sector to overhaul key parts of its $130 billion JobKeeper program as firms face impossible decisions to take on large debts to pay staff or even break up long-lasting partnerships.
Just the way businesses are structured could leave some small firms with access to generous government support or shut off from tens of thousands of dollars in assistance as issues in the program, rushed through Federal Parliament, become apparent.
Lauren Woodall and Julia Challenor have run the Kiss the Sky graphic design business for the past 15 years. They have structured the NSW-based business, which has suffered an 80 per cent drop in turnover, as a partnership.
But the JobKeeper program explicitly denies JobKeeper payments to more than one partner.

Economists warn PM against ending social distancing as job losses grow

By Shane Wright
April 20, 2020 — 12.01am
Some of the nation's most-respected economists including a sitting Reserve Bank board member have warned the Morrison government against winding back social distancing laws too early amid warnings up to 3.4 million Australians could be out of work within weeks.
As former treasurer Wayne Swan called on tech companies to be slapped with a digital tax to help pay for the budget damage caused by the fight to stop the coronavirus pandemic, research by the Grattan Institute shows the current shutdown will cost the country at least 1.9 million jobs.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced coronavirus restrictions may ease within a month’s time if a number of conditions are met.
The government has signalled next month an easing of some restrictions which most economists believe have delivered Australia its first recession since 1990-91. The federal Treasury is forecasting unemployment to peak at 10 per cent in the June quarter.

Morrison's cash stimulus worked, but households will likely need more

Andrew Charlton
Founder of AlphaBeta and economic adviser to the Prime Minister during the global financial crisis in 2008-2009.
April 20, 2020 — 12.02am
Over the past fortnight, $750 stimulus cheques started to arrive in the bank accounts of 6.5 million Australians. Using real-time economic data, we can already rate the success of the stimulus in fighting the economic downturn. The short answer is that the cash handouts did their job at boosting consumer spending quite well, but we may need more support for households before this crisis is over.
Economic stimulus packages are scored on three criteria: quality, impact and speed. The art is in managing the trade-offs among these objectives.
In a perfect world, stimulus funds would be spent on high-quality projects that improve the nation over the long term, like roads, rail lines, schools and other infrastructure. The problem with these worthy projects is that they take a long time to get started.
The construction of Sydney’s Anzac Bridge was announced as part of Paul Keating's stimulus to help us out of the recession of the early 1990s. But planning took time and construction didn’t reach its peak until the recession was well and truly over.

Lives versus the economy is a statistical calculation

Stephen Bartholomeusz
Senior business columnist
April 20, 2020 — 12.00am
What’s the value of a life? That’s the unpalatable question confronting the federal and state governments as they contemplate how and when to start thawing an economy frozen by their responses to the coronavirus.
There’s little doubt the draconian measures they have taken have saved lives. The modelling released by the Doherty Institute earlier this month showed that, had governments done nothing, almost 90 per cent of the population would have been infected and, with a mortality rate of around one per cent, the casualty list would have been unthinkable.
With the data showing that the epidemic is being contained, indeed suppressed, however, the equation now confronting governments is becoming more complicated and uncomfortable.
The cost of containment has been extraordinary. It’s not just the $230 billion the federal Government has committed to spending and the tens of billions state governments are outlaying to mitigate the economic impacts of the virus, but also the damage done to lives and businesses by the shutting down of so much of the economy.

Coronavirus: Face of the Australians who plan to claim the $1500 JobKeeper allowance has been revealed

The surprising face of the Aussies who plan to claim the JobKeeper allowance has been revealed and it’s not who you might expect.
Samantha Maiden
news.com.au April 20, 20209:34am
Australian workers will soon be able to access a guaranteed paycheck of $1500 a fortnight, are you eligible for it?
The surprising face of the Australians who plan to claim the $1500 JobKeeper allowance has been revealed and it’s not who you might expect.
According to the first snapshot of the employers applying for the wage subsidy, the biggest single industry group turns out to be white-collar workers and professionals including lawyers, barristers, accountants, and management consultants.
The shock finding is contained in an Australian Australian Taxation Office analysis of more than 800,000 sole traders and companies that have expressed interest in the $130 billion cash handout.

RBA warns business might not recover without reforms

Matthew Cranston Economics correspondent
Apr 21, 2020 – 12.01am
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe is expected to make an appeal for further policy reform over fresh fears business investment might not rebound after the COVID-19 crisisbecause of higher debt and a doubling in unemployment.
In a speech to be given on Tuesday afternoon Dr Lowe is expected to raise concerns that despite $340 billion in both government and central bank stimulus in the past month, business investment may not recover as hoped.
While seeking to calm the public on economic recovery, the central bank expects the coronavirus pandemic to reduce economic growth by up to 10 per cent, dragging confidence, consumer spending and new orders so low that businesses start cancelling existing and future investment plans.
Dr Lowe told the ABC's Four Corners on Monday night that "we're going to have a very significant economic contraction".

Biggest economic contraction since 1930s: RBA

Matthew Cranston Economics correspondent
Apr 21, 2020 – 4.29pm
The Reserve Bank expects the economy will contract 10 per cent in the first half of this year and that there will be many reports of record declines in economic activity.
RBA governor Philip Lowe said the contraction in the first half of this year was likely to be "the biggest contraction in national output and income that we have witnessed since the 1930s."
The central bank also expects total hours worked in Australia to decline by around 20 per cent over the first half of this year while the unemployment rate will remain above 6 per cent for the next couple of years.
"As the economic data roll in over coming months, they will present a very sobering picture of the state of our economy."

Tax, workplace reforms needed to drive pandemic recovery: RBA

Matthew Cranston Economics correspondent
Updated Apr 21, 2020 – 7.01pm, first published at 4.29pm

Key Points

  • The RBA's growth agenda includes reform of income, consumption, land taxes;
  • Reform of building and pricing of infrastructure;
  • Education and training of workforce;
  • Regulations that hinder innovation;
  • Industrial relations flexibility and complexity;
The Reserve Bank is insisting major reforms to tax and industrial relations need to be delivered soon by governments in a "Team Australia" style cooperative effort to help the economy recover from the once-in-a-century COVID-19 economic shock.
The central bank expects the economy to shrink 10 per cent in the first half of this year in what governor Philip Lowe said was likely to be "the biggest contraction in national output and income that we have witnessed since the 1930s".

'Catastrohphic' slump predicted with unemployment to double and house prices to tumble

By Rachel Eddie and Paul Sakkal
Victoria is set for a "catastrophic" economic downturn with the unemployment rate to double to 11 per cent and house prices to drop by almost 10 per cent, according to modelling presented by state Treasurer Tim Pallas.
About 270,000 people will likely lose their jobs and the unemployment rate is set to peak at 11 per cent in the September quarter.
"That is essentially twice the level of the unemployment that we're currently experiencing," Mr Pallas said, describing the modelling as "frankly, quite catastrophic".
"We make no attempt to sugarcoat this."
Property prices are expected to fall nine per cent by the end of the year.

Uncertainties abound as Lowe paints grim picture

Australia must change the way it lives, works and functions. Warning that the nation faces a “once-in-a-century economic contraction”, Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe sees a medium-term outlook of wages growth of less than 2 per cent, unemployment above 6 per cent and low interest rates for years.
That looks like a realistic, maybe optimistic, setting for the next election. It will transform the politics of public policy. The critical message Lowe delivered is the sooner current restrictions can be safely eased, the less damage will be done to jobs, business and investment in the recovery phase.
Lowe’s speech was about certainties and probabilities. The certainty is the bad news — output down by 10 per cent, mainly in the June quarter, total hours worked down by 20 per cent in the first half of 2020, unemployment scaling 10 per cent and the worst economic hit since the Great Depression. Nothing will stop this crunch.

Get rid of 'old stale' ideas: Prime Minister wants a new way out of the COVID-19 crisis for Australia

We have made our live blog of the coronavirus pandemic free for all readers. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.
By David Crowe
April 23, 2020 — 10.36am
Scott Morrison is ready to hear ideas for economic reform but is a long way away from choosing the path ahead.
The Prime Minister is in what some call a "harvesting phase" on big reform options like tax, industrial relations and deregulation.
He wants business and community groups to come up with proposals but is not going to be prescriptive about the solution – whether that means changes to workplace rules or a company tax cut.
This is a difficult message to send to a political class that prefers a simple message about a specific plan that can lift Australia out of a slump once the coronavirus crisis passes.

Health Issues.


Locked-down lives drive emergency department numbers to record lows

By Melissa Cunningham and Jenny Noyes
April 21, 2020 — 12.00am
Patient numbers in Australia's hospital emergency departments have fallen to record lows with doctors concerned some people are delaying life-saving treatment.
The number of people attending hospital clinics to be screened for the deadly coronavirus has also dropped by up to 80 per cent over the past month.
Hospitals across Australia have observed a rapid decline in patient numbers of up to 50 per cent in some hospitals alongside an alarming deterioration in cardiac emergencies.
This comes after The Age revealed last week that patients were having heart attacks in their homes as they avoided hospitals amid fears they would be burdening the healthcare system, while some chronically ill people were skipping critical medical appointments.

Coronavirus could impair organs of those infected for 'months and years'

By Melissa Cunningham
April 23, 2020 — 12.00am
The novel coronavirus could inflict lasting damage on the body's major organs, impairing for years the lung and heart functions of those who become critically ill with the disease.
Long-term neurological impairment is also possible in a small number of patients with extremely virulent cases, some experts suggest.
University of Sydney infectious diseases expert Robert Booy said scarring and damage to the heart and lungs may be felt for months in some cases and years in other patients.
“There is no doubt the virus especially affects the lungs in the immediate days and weeks,” Professor Booy said.

International Issues.


Trump suggests China may be 'knowingly responsible' for virus

Mario Parker
Apr 19, 2020 – 10.08am
Washington | President Donald Trump raised the prospect that China deliberately caused the COVID-19 outbreak that has killed more than 39,000 Americans and said there should be consequences if the country is found to be "knowingly responsible".
"It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn't, and the whole world is suffering because of it," Mr Trump told a daily White House briefing on Saturday (Sunday AEST).
"Let's see what happens with their investigation. But we're doing investigations also. If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences."
The strategy could not be clearer: from the Republican congressmen blanketing Fox News to new ads from Mr Trump's super Political Action Committee to the biting criticism on Donald Trump jnr's Twitter feed, the GOP is attempting to divert attention from the administration's response to COVID-19 by pinning the blame on China.

British government on the defensive over claims Boris Johnson skipped coronavirus meetings

By Latika Bourke
April 20, 2020 — 7.11am
London: The British government is facing growing questions about its preparedness for the pandemic after it was revealed Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not attend five security (COBR) meetings on the issue, as the virus ravaged Italy and other countries around the world.
Current and former cabinet ministers on Sunday rushed to defend Johnson in the wake of the Sunday Times investigation, saying it was rare for prime ministers to attend every COBR meeting. Johnson is still recovering from the coronavirus infection that saw him admitted to intensive care in hospital for several nights.
The UK government has defended Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he was accused of missing five key crisis meetings.
Responding to the criticisms, Michael Gove, one of the four cabinet ministers overseeing the government's response, said any suggestion Johnson had not cared about the government response was "grotesque".

Why Xi will shelter behind the great wall of secrecy

Beijing will oppose an international investigation into the pandemic because accountability would put the one-party system in the dock.
Richard McGregor Columnist
Apr 20, 2020 – 1.28pm
China’s reaction to charges it initially covered up the emergence of a new coronavirus in Wuhan in early January has ranged from sober refutations to full frontal attacks on Beijing’s critics by officials and armies of internet bots alike.
But not everyone in China has rushed furiously to defend their government, for fear that any acknowledgement of wrongdoing will be a stain on the nation and open it to overseas criticism.
"Some people say if we investigate our country’s culpability, we would be giving evidence to foreigners to pursue reparations and hurt our national interests," veteran economist Hua Sheng wrote on his social media account. "I must say, it’s precisely the opposite."
Secrecy is a feature, not a bug, of the Chinese party-state.
Hua is in a minority in China, at least in public, but perhaps not overseas, with Marise Payne, the Foreign Minister, calling for an investigation into the origins of the virus that would be independent of Beijing and the World Health Organisation.

Politics was already succumbing to a strongman virus. This crisis could cement it

The world’s strongman rulers often made a weak impression in the early stages of the coronavirus crisis. But I fear they will turn it to their advantage in the long run.
Gideon Rachman Columnist
Apr 21, 2020 – 9.28am
International politics was suffering from a pre-existing condition when COVID-19 hit. Before coronavirus, the political world was already succumbing to a strongman virus.
In 2018, China abolished presidential term limits, making it possible for Xi Jinping to rule for life. This year, Russia announced that it, too, is planning constitutional changes that would allow Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036 — giving him a longer period in office than Stalin.
Even well-established democracies are displaying symptoms of strongman syndrome. Donald Trump came to power in the US in 2016, decrying American “carnage” and proclaiming, “I alone can fix it”. He recently announced that his “authority is total” in dealing with the pandemic.
Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in as president of Brazil in 2019, having expressed frank admiration for the military junta that ran Brazil in his youth. In Manila, Delhi and Riyadh, a personalised, swaggering style of leadership is in vogue.

Coronavirus is accelerating eight challenging mega trends

By William Hague
April 21, 2020 — 9.49am
London: Our daily experience of the COVID-19 crisis is that it slows down our lives. Jobs are on hold, holidays not booked and travel unthinkable. We have more leisure time whether we like it or not. For people not on the front line of the NHS or essential supplies, the lockdown is a slowdown.
Yet what is really happening is that the forces that will shape all our futures - the global tensions, the economic policies, the political ideas, the new technologies - are being speeded up. Huge decisions and great controversies that might only have come to a head over the next couple of decades are suddenly upon us. We are about to experience the next 20 years in 12 months, and we need to get ready for it.

1. Eurozone

For an obvious example of this, take a look at the eurozone. Some of us have argued for years that it cannot work in its current form. To put it crudely, Italians will not work as productively as Germans, and Germans will not agree to pay off the debts of Italians. Without this crisis, such a fundamental chasm in the foundations of the euro would have continued to be a troubling but not imminent problem. Now it has yawned wide open. When Italy has looked north in its hour of need, it has found belated sympathy and precious little help. Suddenly, the EU faces an existential crisis.

Xi and Trump: insecure 'strongmen' who had nothing to offer in a crisis but vanity

Peter Hartcher
Political and international editor for The Sydney Morning Herald
April 21, 2020 — 12.01am
The leader of which great power has done these five things during the COVID-19 outbreak? First, misled the world – and his own country – by pretending that there was no problem at the outset.
Second, once community transmission was already known to be happening in his country, lied about the extent of it. Third, cracked down on principled truth tellers. Fourth, blamed another country for the creating the pandemic as a way of deflecting his own failures. Fifth, dyed his hair an improbable colour.
The leaders of both of the world's superpowers are guilty of all five. Xi Jinping and Donald Trump have bungled the epidemic shockingly. Mass death is the result.
Although there are many brave and honourable people doing selfless work in both countries, they have been betrayed by their leaders.

Kim Jong-un in serious condition, say intelligence reports

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is believed to be in a serious condition after heart surgery, according to intelligence sources being monitored by the US.
Kim has not been seen for more than a week and missed Wednesday’s key anniversary celebration of the birthday of Kim Il Sung, his grandfather and the nation’s founding father.
Daily NK, a speciality website run mostly by North Korean defectors, cited unidentified sources inside the isolated state saying Kim was recovering at a villa in the Mount Kumgang resort county of Hyangsan on the east coast after having a cardiovascular procedure on April 12 at a hospital there.
Reporting from inside North Korea is notoriously difficult, especially on matters concerning the country’s leadership, given tight controls on information.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, declined to comment on the report.

China forced onto the defensive against European backlash

Hans van Leeuwen Europe correspondent
Updated Apr 21, 2020 – 2.58pm, first published at 2.48am
London | China's coronavirus propaganda effort in Europe has been pushed onto the defensive, as politicians, press and the public gradually turn against Beijing over its perceived culpability for the COVID-19 pandemic.
French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian was the latest European to take a pop at Beijing, angrily rejecting China's "calumnies" and accusing President Xi Jinping's regime of fomenting divisions on the Continent.
His public foray late on Monday (AEST) will be seen as a boost to the US and Australian push to hold China accountable for how it has handled the COVID-19 outbreak, following Foreign Minister Marise Payne's call on Sunday for an international probe into Beijing's conduct.
China has been trying to recast itself as the country that has successfully beaten the pandemic and can help others to do so, portraying itself as the altruistic hero rather than the cover-up villain.

Congress and White House agree nearly $US500b extra bailout

Susan Cornwell and Patricia Zengerle
Apr 22, 2020 – 4.54am
Washington DC | US congressional leaders and the White House agreed on Tuesday on nearly $US500 billion ($794.5 billion) more in coronavirus relief for the US economy, and President Donald Trump urged them to pass it quickly before beginning discussions on another.
The deal provides $US321 billion for a small business lending program, $US60 billion for a separate emergency disaster loan program also for small businesses, as well as $US75 billion for hospitals and $US25 billion for national coronavirus testing, a senior Republican congressional aide said.
The Senate was expected to vote on the plan later on Tuesday, and the House of Representatives later in the week, most likely on Thursday.
Congressional leaders had said they were very close to an agreement on legislation to provide more money to help small businesses, after an initial $US350 billion fund was quickly exhausted.

'The greatest challenge': Asia catches coronavirus' second wave

By Eryk Bagshaw
Updated April 21, 2020 — 9.06pmfirst published at 4.17pm
Beijing has imposed new restrictions on an upscale diplomats district that is home to 3.5 million people, as it guards against the threat of a second wave of coronavirus cases.
The move to increase social distancing in the Chinese capital just weeks after it relaxed strict lockdown measures is likely to be repeated around the world, as Australia and other countries grapple with the threat of resurgent infections.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday said there were no plans to change travel restrictions on China as Australia's largest trading partner looks to re-open parts of its economy despite the threat of a second wave.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Chinese diplomats had begun negotiating with up to a dozen countries including South Korea, Singapore and others in Europe on two-way travel for essential workers and business.

Only temporary: Donald Trump suspends green cards for 60 days during pandemic

By Matthew Knott
April 22, 2020 — 10.04am
Washington: US President Donald Trump has announced a 60-day pause on immigrants applying for permanent residency, clarifying a late-night tweet in which he said he would suspend immigration into the United States.
The milder-than-expected decision was a relief to American businesses and universities, who feared the executive order would also apply to the hundreds of thousands of temporary workers and students in the US or who plan to enter the country.
"It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad," Trump said at a White House briefing on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST).
"We must first take care of the American worker."

Coronavirus: US second wave to be ‘even more dire’ as it coincides with flu season

US President Donald Trump has announced, “in order to protect American workers, I will be issuing a temporary suspension of immigration into the United States."
The head of America’s leading disease control agency has warned that the coronavirus could come back in a second wave with even more dire consequences later this year because it would coincide with the flu season.
“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” the Centre For Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield said. “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he said.
He said two simultaneous respiratory outbreaks would put unprecedented strain on the nation’s already stretched healthcare system.
But Dr Deborah Birx from the White House coronavirus taskforce sounded a note of scepticism about a second wave being more deadly than the first, saying: “I don’t know if it will be worse, it’s been pretty bad.”

Antibody study suggests more people in LA County infected with coronavirus than estimated

The study identified individuals exposed to the virus.
By  Alexandra Kelley
Preliminary results from an antibody test conducted by the University of Southern California (USC) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health suggest coronavirus infections are more widespread than previously anticipated, but with a much lower fatality rate.
Researchers and public health officials conducted drive-thru antibody testing from April 10-11 at six locations. The results from the first round of testing, released Monday, showed approximately 4.1 percent of the county’s adult population has an antibody to the virus. Antibodies are a protein in the blood produced in response to a specific pathogen like the coronavirus.
When taking the statistical margin of error into account, about 2.8 percent to 5.6 percent of the county’s adult population is projected to have an antibody to the coronavirus. These percentages translate to about 221,000 to 442,000 adults in L.A. County who have been infected.
That estimate is about 28 to 55 times higher than the 7,994 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported to the county at the time of the study. As of Monday, L.A. County had 13,816 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

All eyes on Georgia as ‘guinea pig’ state rushes to reopen

Georgia was very much on Donald Trump’s mind when he called the state’s Governor Brian Kemp to discuss Mr Kemp’s decision to reopen major parts of Georgia’s economy while coronavirus infections in his state are still rising.
The US President says he told Kemp that he disagreed with what he was doing. “It’s just too soon … I told the Governor that I disagree with his decision but he has to do what he thinks is right,” Mr Trump said.
It is unclear how strongly Mr Trump voiced his disapproval given that he has loudly encouraged US states to safely reopen their economy as soon as they can.
But Georgia now looms as a test case for the US after it jumped the gun by reopening key parts of its economy without waiting for the 14 day fall in infections, as stipulated by Mr Trump’s own guidelines.

Skyrocketing US jobless claims hit 26m

Apr 24, 2020 – 1.21am
Washington DC | More than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for US unemployment benefits last week as job cuts escalated across an economy that remains all but shut down, the government said Thursday.
Roughly 26 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the five weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors. About one in six American workers have lost their jobs in the past five weeks, by far the worst string of layoffs on record. That's more than the number of people who live in the 10 largest US cities combined.
Economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20 per cent.
The enormous magnitude of job cuts has plunged the US economy into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Some economists say the nation's output could shrink by twice the amount that it did during the Great Recession, which ended in 2009.

Marise Payne condemns Beijing's actions in the South China Sea

By Anthony Galloway
April 23, 2020 — 11.46am
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has condemned China's recent actions in the South China Sea, including the reported sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat, saying it was vital all countries ease tensions so they can focus on combating COVID-19.
An Australian warship has been conducting exercises in the disputed waterway with three US ships in recent days, as anxiety increases about China's expansion in the region while the world is dealing with the coronavirus.
In her first comments on China's latest moves in the disputed waterway, Senator Payne said Australia was concerned about "a number of recent incidents and actions" in the South China Sea.
She said this included "reported efforts to disrupt other countries' resource development activities, the declaration of new 'administrative districts' over disputed features, and the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat, reportedly in a collision with a Chinese coast guard vessel".

Economy heading for ‘unimaginable’ collapse, says IHS Markit

Gurpreet Narwan, Economics Correspondent
Thursday April 23 2020, 12.00pm BST, The Times
Britain’s economy is collapsing at an unimaginable pace amid record falls in business activity and spiralling job losses, according to a closely watched survey.
Economists warned that hopes of a swift “V-shaped” recovery after the lockdown were vanishing fast as record numbers of workers were losing their jobs, despite attempts by the government to prevent mass unemployment.
In findings that are likely to fuel more frustration about the costs of the lockdown, IHS Markit’s “flash” purchasing managers’ index (PMI), an early estimate of private sector activity in the month, plunged from 36 in March to 12.9 in April. This is by far the lowest reading since the survey began in 1998 and much worse than economists’ forecasts of 31.4.
The employment index recorded a 17.7-point drop from 43.6 to 25.9, which was worse than the 38 reached at the height of the financial crisis a decade ago. The findings suggest that job losses have shot up, despite the government’s job-retention and self-employment income support schemes.

Sun, humidity, disinfectants: Trump showcases ideas to fight virus

Kevin Freking
Apr 24, 2020 – 11.39am
Washington | The White House on Thursday (Friday AEST) pitched "emerging" research on the benefits of sunlight and humidity in diminishing the threat of COVID-19 as the debate to reopen economies intensified and nearly 50,000 deaths reported.
Past studies have not found good evidence that warmer temperatures and higher humidity help tamp down the spread of the virus.
But William Bryan of the Department of Homeland Security said at a White House briefing that there were "emerging results" from new research that suggest solar light has a powerful effect in killing the virus on surfaces and in the air.
He said scientists had seen a similar effect from higher temperatures and humidity. A biocontainment lab in Maryland had been conducting testing on the virus since February, Mr Bryan said.

Australia's China challenge in the post-coronavirus world

Eryk Bagshaw
Economics correspondent
April 25, 2020 — 12.00am
The coronavirus was a health story. It is now an economic story. Before we know it, it will become a geo-strategic story and Australia has a blind spot.
There are two major challenges Australia must face as it navigates a post-coronavirus world which will be dominated by the US retreat from its sphere of influence and China’s increasingly muscular diplomacy.
The first is our lack of direct access to China. There are few, if any, MPs in Parliament who have a relationship with their Chinese counterpart.
Australian MPs can count substantial networks in Washington, London and Jakarta, but none with the National People’s Congress of our largest trading partner. Half-a-dozen offices in Parliament have a sticker of wolf claw marks on their front window. They belong to the Parliamentary Friends of Democracy - an informal group made up of Liberal senators James Paterson and Amanda Stoker, Labor’s Kimberley Kitching and the chair and deputy chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Andrew Hastie and Anthony Byrne.

China relationship headed for the rocks

The coronavirus has severely damaged the Australia-China relationship, shattering whatever illus­ions remained that the two nations shared strategic interests. The relationship will never be the same again. It will divide into two periods, BC and AC — Before Coronavirus and After Coronavirus.
Australia is not alone. Many nations will fundamentally rethink their view of Beijing. This is partly reassuring as it indicates that it is not any Australian misjudgment that will cause the trouble. But it’s perplexing because Canberra will have to deal with the fallout from Beijing’s newly troubled relationship with other nations, especially the US.
There was trouble in the relationship before coronavirus. Scott Morrison as Prime Minister has not had a single formal meeting or phone call with China’s President, Xi Jinping, though they have said hello at G20 and Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summits.
This is not Morrison’s fault. Beijing continues to take actions that damage Australia directly and the Morrison government, like its predecessors, tries to safeguard our national interest.

Muslim Hajj pilgrimage threatened for first time in 1000 years

It has survived pestilence, political tensions and war, but one of the world’s greatest religious spectacles is expected to be cancelled for the first time in a millennium this year.
The religious authorities and the Saudi royal family are balancing worldwide enthusiasm for the Hajj, the pilgrimage of millions of Muslims to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, due to start in late July, against the risk of coronavirus.
Ramadan, the fasting month that launches the annual season of prayer, feasts and pilgrimages, began in Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim countries on Friday.
Some countries eased shutdown restrictions slightly to make easier the annual family gatherings that mark the breaking of the fast at dusk every day.
I look forward to comments on all this!