Thursday, July 23, 2020

Largest deficit since World War II

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will today reveal an “eye-watering” budget deficit of nearly $90 billion for 2019-20, which will more than double the following financial year. Today’s pre-budget economic statement will detail the largest deficit as a percentage of GDP since World War II, reports The Australian, on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic and summer bushfires. The back-to-back deficits combined are projected to hit $280 billion by mid-next year. “What we want to do is not see any reduction in the services, or increases in the taxes, that’s not our track record,” Frydenberg will say. Global ratings agency Moody’s predicted Australia would enter recession this year, with real GDP to contract by 4.9 per cent. Opposition Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers said the government should be releasing “four years of numbers” instead of a two-year forecast. “We need to know how bad the government expects this recession to get, how high unemployment will be for how long, and how much extra debt has piled up,” he said. Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe this week said the debt is “entirely manageable and affordable”.

As of 11.59pm last night, residents of metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire are required to cover their face when they leave the house or risk a $200 fine. Acceptable face coverings include medical or reusable cloth masks, scarves, and handkerchiefs. A Victoria Police spokesperson said officers would “exercise discretion” for the next week, reports the ABC, but that clear breaches would be penalised, for instance if someone has a mask but refuses to wear it when requested. Melbourne's Louise Boyd, who runs Etsy website Loooeezee Handcrafts, said demand is booming for masks, with items adorned with AFL team logos proving popular. Chief health officer Brett Sutton warned against vilifying unmasked people, noting that some cannot wear them because of medical or psychological reasons. The restrictions come a day after Victoria reported a record 484 new cases of Covid-19. The Royal Melbourne Hospital this week took delivery of 22 new ventilators, reports The Herald Sun. RMH ICU nurse unit manager Michelle Spence said the new ventilators were vital in preparing for the coming weeks, with hospitalisations following about 10 days behind the trend in overall Covid-19 cases

An Australia Institute analysis found that 723,700 employees of companies receiving JobKeeper were laid off because they were ineligible for wage subsidies. The analysis of a Treasury review of the scheme indicates that between mid-March and the end of April half of all ineligible employees of companies claiming the payment were laid off. “Too many workers in highly casualised and insecure industries, such as arts and entertainment, hospitality, retail and accommodation have been intentionally overlooked by this scheme and now we are seeing the consequences in black and white,” David Richard, a senior research fellow at the Australia Institute, told Guardian Australia.

The Chinese navy confronted five Australian warships in the South China Sea last week when they sailed close to the contested Spratly Islands, reports the ABC. In a statement, a Defence spokesperson said “unplanned interactions with foreign warships throughout the deployment were conducted in a safe and professional manner”.  The Australian warships were heading towards the Philippine Sea for training exercises with the United States and Japan. It comes as tensions rise between the US and Beijing, with the US government ordering China to "cease all operations and events" at its consulate in Houston, Texas. Local media shared video of what appeared to be officials inside the compound burning documents.


“Powerful cotton irrigators in northern New South Wales are facing significant legal and parliamentary challenges to the method by which they get up to a third of their water, unmeasured, unlicensed and free. The entrenched practice of floodplain harvesting ‘is an ongoing heist’, according to the Horne brothers of Aqua Law, lawyers representing thousands of irrigators from the southern Riverina.”


“‘I just started thinking about Australia, and cricket, and what had been normal, and I just lost it,’ the 33-year-old tells The Saturday Paper. ‘I sat on the floor in tears, with wet dishwashing hands, having a proper sulk. Loz realised what was going on – she came over and was like, “What’s wrong? Where has this come from?”’”


“In a world that is ‘more dangerous and more disorderly’, Morrison said, Australia must shape its strategic environment and ensure that countries in the region can trade freely and are not subject to coercion. This ambition seems self-evident and it leads to an equally obvious conclusion: Australia needs to strengthen its voice and presence in the region ... the government revealed plans to do the opposite. It is downsizing the already under-resourced Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Sixty positions will be cut, including fifty in Canberra and ten at overseas posts.”


“The Gomeroi people have lost their legal bid to protect significant areas of Aboriginal cultural heritage within the footprint of the Shenhua Watermark open-cut coalmine on the Liverpool Plains in north-west New South Wales, but said they will fight on a new front. Gomeroi custodian Dolly Talbott was suing the environment minister, Sussan Ley, in the federal court, alleging Ley made an error of law in deciding not to make a declaration to protect the Aboriginal heritage.”


“A 23-year-old Melbourne law student is suing the Australian Government for failing to disclose the risk climate change poses to Australians' super and other safe investments. The world-first case filed on Wednesday in the Federal Court alleges the Government, as well as two government officials, failed in a duty to disclose how climate change would impact the value of government bonds.”


“Because both fish species are in danger of dying out, scientists are understandably curious if sturgeon and paddlefish can be bred in captivity. Using gynogenesis (a method of asexual reproduction that requires the presence of sperm without the contribution of their DNA for completion), the researchers accidentally used paddlefish sperm to fertilize the sturgeon eggs. Remarkably, the hybridization worked.”

Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.