Tag: Australia

Australia to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons through NATO partners

Scott Morrison: Australia to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine through NATO partners s0.rbk.ru/v6_top_pics/media/img/1/95/756459358043951.jpg” alt=”Australia will supply lethal weapons to Ukraine through NATO partners” />

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Australia will send lethal weapons to Ukraine, said Prime Minister Scott Morrison, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

“We are already providing significant assistance in the form of non-lethal weapons, but I just spoke with the Secretary of Defense and we will try to provide any possible support in the field of lethal weapons through our NATO partners, in particular the US and UK,” said the head of government. He explained that he would use these channels because it was “the most effective way.”

Morrison stressed that Canberra would continue to “support what is right when it comes to Ukraine.” The Prime Minister also promised to step up humanitarian aid to the country.

After the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, several countries announced the supply of weapons to Kiev.

The German authorities decided to send 1,000 anti-tank missiles and 500 Stingers to Ukraine. to defend against Russian troops. At the same time, before the start of hostilities, Berlin opposed the supply of weapons to Kiev.

On February 26, France announced the decision to supply Ukraine with additional military equipment.

February 24, Russia has been conducting a special military operation in Ukraine with the purpose of “demilitarization and denazification”, there is no talk of occupying the country, the authorities say. The Ministry of Defense emphasizes that they strike only at military facilities, nothing threatens the civilian population.

Kyiv considered Moscow's actions to be the outbreak of war and severed diplomatic relations with it. Martial law is in effect in Ukraine, general mobilization has been declared.

Western countries have condemned the military operation. The US, EU and UK have imposed sanctions against Russia.

Источник rbc.ru

Move over Charlotte and William: These were the most popular baby names for 2021 at the top of Australia

At just 15 weeks of age, there are only a handful of things to know about Charlie: She loves chewing on her fingers, she rarely sleeps more than a few hours and she's always curious about the outdoors.

Key points:

  • There were 3,392 babies born in the Northern Territory last year
  • Isla, Charlie, Ivy and Jack were the most popular baby names in 2021
  • In recent years, parents have been reviving names associated with grandparents and past generations

Charlie also shares the Northern Territory's 2021 most popular boy's baby name, despite her parents, Chris and Roze Forte — who moved to Darwin from Newcastle last week — being resolute they wouldn't name their child "a really popular name". 

Isla and Charlie edged out Charlotte and William as the most popular baby names of 2021 in the Northern Territory, while Jack remained in second place and Ivy reappeared as a highly ranked contender for the first time since 2018.

NT Births, Deaths and Marriages data shows James rose from seventh place to third and Charlotte — a national favourite for years — slipped to fifth place.

Ezekiel, Florence, Luna, Frankie and Archie — the name of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's son — broke into the Territory's top-40 names for the first time.

Ava was back in at fourth place after disappearing in 2020 and Oliver slipped five places.

Charlie Forte was born in Newcastle in September, 2021. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

There were 3,392 babies born in the Territory's major hospitals last year, including 129 at Gove District Hospital in the East Arnhem region, 229 in Katherine and 738 in Alice Springs.

Almost 100 more babies were born last year — 3,392 in 2021 compared with 3,294 in 2020 — and only 85 more than 2017.

Keeping with global, male-biased trends, there were 43 more boys than girls born.

Ms Forte said choosing a name was a decision that the couple weighed throughout her entire pregnancy.

But, after months of debate and doubt, Charlie was a spontaneous, "last-minute" pick.

"For us, it just feels like a great fit," Ms Forte said.

"We really debated the idea of a unisex name and growing into the name … you think about the name across a life span.

"We really liked Olivia for a little while, but it was just such a popular name from what we could tell from Google searches … and we didn't want a really popular name," Chris added.

"You definitely feel the pressure as time goes along."

It's a big decision, but what's in a name? Lauren Rosewarne says there is always more than one trend happening with baby names, so while some parents might favour old-fashioned names, others will still embrace unique names. (ABC News)

Lauren Rosewarne — a social scientist, and senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne — says that, while names are often heavily influenced by famous people, popular films and characters in books, there is a long history of established names which come and go in fashion.

However, over the past couple of years, there has been a resurgence in traditional names that are easy to pronounce and easy to spell, she said.

"These names have sentimental attachments … or It's about honouring someone in the family who might have died, that they found while researching the family tree," she said.

"There's also a heightened awareness now about things such as spelling of names and, perhaps, the burden that [can be] on the head of a child who has a name that has a unique spelling."

She said that, while all names have a start — either from traditional sources such as the bible or were invented by writers — the revival of names typically happens in inner-city suburbs, particularly those that are "associated with hipsters".

"Hipsters were blamed for the resurgence of old-fashioned names like June, and Dawn and Violet — those old-fashioned names that we associate with our grandparent's friends," she said.

"And then they spread out to the other suburbs."

Hannah Reedy said choosing her daughter's name took months (ABC News: Che Chorley)The classics revived

Ms Forte, who grew up explaining her "unusual" full name, said she was drawn to the classics.

"It's a great conversation starter, but that's what it's like for your whole life — you have a conversation-starter for your name," she said.

Darwin couple Hannah Reedy and her partner also went for an "old fashioned, classic name" after months of wavering between Lola and Violet.

It was months of sitting around the dinner table, pouring over baby books and making short-lists before the decision was ultimately left up to her partner.

"Violet was his favourite name, Lola was mine," she said.

"For our first child, I completely trumped him. After a three-day labour and lots of drugs I looked at him for the first time and said, 'He's a Max' and completely ignored all his wishes."

Hannah Reedy says she was drawn to an "old fashioned, classic" name. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

And while Hannah says Max has lived up to his name – "always living life to the maximum" — Dr Rosewarne says it's unlikely names have a significant influence on personalities or futures.

"There are studies that show that people with difficult-to-pronounce names … have more difficulties getting through job interviews … and men with the name John are still overly representative as [chief executives]," she said.

"But there's probably too much thinking in terms of whether a name has the ability to put you on a completely different track in life. You're probably going to be influenced by the same genetic [and] social factors that you would have seen with if your name was [something different]."

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Australia’s collective life expectancy rose in 2020, and researchers say we have lockdowns to thank

The life expectancy of Australians has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, new research from the Australian National University (ANU) has revealed.

Key points:

  • ANU research shows parts of Australia gained half a year in life expectancy in 2020
  • Researchers say this is partly due to COVID-19 lockdowns protecting people from common infections and road deaths
  • But Tim Driscoll from the University of Melbourne says life expectancy is not necessarily indicative of quality of life

A team from the ANU took a study completed at Oxford University last year and added data from Australia, comparing relative life expectancy across countries before and after the onset of the pandemic.

Their study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that the average life expectancy for Australians increased between 2019 and 2020 by 0.7 years for females and males.

It is, the researchers claim, the largest increase observed in Australia since the 1990s.

They also found that survival increased fairly equally across the country, with New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria each experiencing about half a year of increase in life expectancy.

Lockdowns, less mobility lead to fewer deaths

The 2020 increase in life expectancy ranks Australia highly among other countries. The nations with the next highest increases were Denmark and Norway, both with an increase of 0.1 and 0.2 years for females and males respectively.

The United States, however, trended downward, with the average life expectancy reducing by -1.7 and -2.2 years for females and males respectively.

The research team attributed Australia's rise to the country's response to COVID-19 in 2020.

Despite the stress of the Black Summer bushfires and the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, life expectancy grew as a result of border closures and lockdowns, researchers said.

Fewer common infections were reported in 2020, with a 20 per cent reduction in the number of deaths from pneumonia and influenza.

Road fatalities also dipped, due to the fact that people were forced to remain at home.

"During the 1918 Spanish flu, attempts were made to close borders," the study's co-author Professor Vladimir Canudas-Romo said.

"Yet, once ports opened, the lack of a vaccination meant the virus spread with fatal effects. With modern-day vaccines, Australia has been able to escape this deadly fate."

And, Professor Canudas-Romo said, there was also a dip in the number of deaths from non-infectious diseases.

"This includes a reduction in deaths due to cancer and cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, which accounted for a great share of the mortality reductions,” Professor Canudas-Romo said.

Life expectancy different to quality of life COVID-19 lockdowns protected Australians from common infections like pneumonia and influenza.(Unsplash: Eduardo Barrios)

Professor of Public Health at the University of Melbourne Tim Driscoll said the findings of the study were interesting, given the devastating impact COVID-19 had had on Australian society.

"I think all of us would have thought that because of the health problems that have come from COVID-19, with a lot of people dying as a result of that, and a lot of ill health arising with people having COVID-19, it's surprising that life expectancy was found to have improved more than would have been expected or more than it had been in recent years," Professor Driscoll said.

He said the real concern was in how many diseases might have gone undetected over the past two years, given the number of people assumed to have avoided hospitals and had fewer check-ups with GPs in order to avoid a COVID-19 exposure.

"It's not surprising that there would be decreased illness from infection. And in fact, if we look at influenza as an example, there's been an incredible decrease in the number of cases and a number of deaths from influenza in the community since COVID-19," Professor Driscoll said.

"But contrasting that, there's a lot of concern in the health community that people aren't going to the doctor because they're worried about interacting with the community, because they're worried about getting COVID-19.

"And there's also a lot of concern in the cancer community about people not seeing their doctor about concerns, and also not being involved in screening activities."

But Professor Driscoll said just how much a decrease in doctors' visits could affect life expectancy in the coming years remained to be seen.

He also said, since 2020, the newer COVID variants of Delta and Omicron had increased the number of cases and deaths from the virus, further debilitating the healthcare system.

Professor Driscoll added that the findings were also not indicative of the broader wellbeing of the community, despite showing that there were some benefits to lockdowns.

One major concern throughout the pandemic has been its impact on mental health, but Professor Driscoll said that was hard to define through statistics.

"There was a lot of concern… early in the pandemic and with the first lockdowns about the effect on mental health, and that might increase the risk of suicide," he said.

"From what I've seen, I don't think there's good evidence that that happened, but that doesn't mean that there haven't been issues and challenges with the mental health of people who've been locked down and isolated."

He said ultimately, life expectancy was not the only signifier of health.

"It's not looking at quality of life," he said.

"It's not looking at things that might not kill somebody, but might make their life less enjoyable."

What you need to know about coronavirus:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Live: All the COVID-19 news you need from across Australia

Get up to speed on all the coronavirus news from across Australia. 

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

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Live updates6m ago6 minutes agoSat 15 Jan 2022 at 9:27pm

By Bridget Judd

Pharmacy Guild calls for staged approach to COVID booster rollout

The NSW government is urging people to book in for their third vaccine dose, but some pharmacies don't have capacity until March. 

The Pharmacy Guild's New South Wales president David Heffernan says prioritising booster shots by age will help ease the pressure. 

"A sheer impossibility to do everyone at once. It took us months, six months to get to 95 double vaxxed in NSW for 16 and over," he says.

"And it will take us months to get those same amounts for booster shots."

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15m ago15 minutes agoSat 15 Jan 2022 at 9:18pm

By Bridget Judd

Key EventThree of the ACT's five COVID-19 testing sites will remain closed today

That's due to supply shortages. 

Canberrans will not be able to visit the Kambah, Nicholls and Holt clinics.

But ACT authorities say they have increased capacity at Garran and Mitchell, which remain open. 

Some who sought PCR tests in the Territory yesterday reported little to no waiting times. 

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24m ago24 minutes agoSat 15 Jan 2022 at 9:09pm

By Bridget Judd

Key EventNovak Djokovic's Australian Open fate will be decided by the Federal Court today

The Serbian world number one men's tennis player will make his last attempt to play in the year's first grand slam after his visa was revoked by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke.

His appeal will be heard in the Federal Court by three judges, Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O'Callaghan.

The 34-year-old is not vaccinated against COVID-19, with suggestions he incorrectly filled out his declaration form before arriving in the country.

If the Federal Court upholds the appeal it will allow Djokovic to attempt to win his 10th Australian Open and become the all-time men's leader with 21 grand slam crowns, going past Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

However, if his appeal is dismissed, he faces the prospect of not being allowed into Australia for three years.

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34m ago34 minutes agoSat 15 Jan 2022 at 9:00pm

By Bridget Judd

Here's what you missed

Didn't spend your Saturday meticulously following every COVID update? 

Here's a taste of what happened across the country:

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41m ago41 minutes agoSat 15 Jan 2022 at 8:52pm

By Bridget Judd

Good morning and happy Sunday! I'm Bridget Judd and I'll be bringing you the latest COVID updates throughout this morning.

As always, you can send in your questions and comments by hitting the big blue button at the top of the page.

Grab a coffee and let's get into it.

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Fijian PM Frank Bainimarama recovering from urgent heart surgery in Australia

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is recovering in Australia after undergoing urgent heart surgery, according to the Fijian government.

Key points:

  • Mr Bainimarama had unexpected surgery after a routine check-up in Melbourne found a cardiovascular problem

  • The 67-year-old is expected to make a full recovery and return to his role by the end of February

  • News of Mr Bainimarama comes after he had not been seen in public for more than a week

Fiji's Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum announced at a press conference on Saturday that the PM was currently in Melbourne where he had undergone surgery on Thursday morning.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, who is also acting-PM, said the 67-year-old was in recovery and had been in contact with his family after surgery.

“We are very happy to report that it was a great success. He's now well on his way to recovery,” he said.

Mr Bainimarama had been in Melbourne a week prior for a scheduled medical examination when he was told he would require urgent medical treatment.

“Our prime minister was informed by his physician that he needed to undertake an urgent cardiovascular-related surgical procedure,” Mr Sayed-Kaiyum said.

Mr Bainimarama is expected to make a full recovery and return to his role by the end of February.

“Per the doctor's orders, this type of surgery takes weeks at a minimum to recover from," Mr Sayed-Kaiyum said.

“So we expect to have our prime minister back at the helm of the nation, fitter than ever, by the end of next month.”


News of Mr Bainamara comes after questions about his whereabouts had been raised by local media due to his failure to visit affected areas after the January 10 Tropical Cyclone Cody.

The PM had not been seen in public since January 5 and government officials would only confirm he was overseas.

Earlier rumours of the PM being in New Zealand were quashed as "fake news" by the man himself, tweeting a selfie from a store in the Fijian capital Suva.

It is common for Pacific leaders to seek medical treatment in neighbouring countries such as Australia or New Zealand.


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Tsunami warnings in place for Australia as Pacific feels effects of undersea volcano eruption

A massive underwater volcanic eruption off the island nation of Tonga has been felt across the south-western Pacific, with many tsunami warnings still in place, including for much of Australia's east coast. 

Key points:

  • The Bureau of Meteorology issues a tsunami advisory for parts of eastern Australia
  • New Zealand's tsunami advisory is for its north and east coasts
  • Social media images in Tonga show residents running for cover as large waves crash ashore 

The Bureau of Meteorology said the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupted at 3.10pm AEDT on Saturday, and tsunami waves have been observed as a result of the eruption.

Tsunami warnings were issued across much of the Pacific, including New Zealand, Canada, the US and Australia's Lord Howe, Norfolk and Macquarie islands.

Witnesses in Tonga said the blast shook the earth for several minutes and sounded like rumbling thunder.

Video filmed by locals shows waves more than a metre high crashing into houses.

Photos showed ash falling from the sky.  


In Vanuatu, the authorities have received reports of waves up to two-and-a-half metres high.

Tsunami waves nearing 1 metre have been recorded on the Australian mainland.

The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning had been put in force for all of Tonga.(Supplied: Dr Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau)

"The size of these waves means the threat is for the marine environment for the east coast of Australia, and for land on Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island; however the situation will be closely monitored and warnings updated as required," the BOM said in a statement.


"People in land-warning zones are strongly advised to move 1 kilometre inland or go to high ground at least 10 metres above sea level.

"While evacuations are not necessary for marine warning zones, people in these areas are advised to leave the water and move away from the immediate water's edge."


The statement said tsunami waves are more powerful than beach waves of the same size.

"There will be many waves and the first wave may not be the largest," it said.

The BOM issued marine warnings for parts of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

  • QLD: Sandy Cape to Point Danger
  • NSW: All coastal areas
  • VIC: Lakes Entrance to Gabo Island
  • TAS: Flinders Island to South East Cape


Early on Sunday morning, the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) ordered evacuations of low-lying parts of Lord Howe Island.

Big waves on Gold Coast and Twofold Bay

According to the BOM, large waves have been observed on Australia's east coast, with Queensland's Gold Coast seeing waves of up to 0.82 metres and Twofold Bay in southern NSW recording 0.77 metre waves.

Norfolk Island has observed waves of up to 1.27 metres. 

Tsunami impacts of unusual currents and waves have also been recorded at Lord Howe Island and Derwent Park in Hobart. 

LoadingNew Zealand warning for north and east coasts

New Zealand's emergency management agency issued an advisory on tsunami activity for its north and east coasts.

The areas, some 2,300 kilometres from Tonga's volcano, were expected to experience strong and unusual currents, and unpredictable surges at the shore.


The Tonga Meteorological Services said a tsunami warning had been put in force for all of the island nation.

Fiji issued a tsunami warning, urging residents to avoid the shorelines "due to strong currents and dangerous waves".

Tsunami waves measuring 60 centimetres in height were also observed by sea-level gauges at the capital of American Samoa, Pago Pago, following volcanic activity in Tonga, the US-based Pacific tsunami warning centre said.

The tsunami threat continues and sea-level fluctuations and strong ocean currents pose hazards along beaches in harbours, the tsunami monitor said in a statement.

The US National Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami advisory for Hawaii and the north-west US, which includes the states of Alaska and California.


Several hours later, a tsunami advisory was issued for Washington state on the north-western US coast, which includes the major city of Seattle. 

Loading'Loud thunder' heard in Fiji

Lasting eight minutes, the eruption could be heard as "loud thunder sounds" in Fiji, more than 800km away, officials in the capital Suva said.


Jese Tuisinu, a television reporter at Fiji One, posted a video on Twitter showing large waves washing ashore with people trying to flee in their cars.

"It is literally dark in parts of Tonga and people are rushing to safety following the eruption," he said.

The eruption, located about 65 kilometres north of Nuku'alofa, caused a tsunami measuring 1.2 metres, the BOM said.

In this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga.(AP: Japan Meteorology Agency)

The federal government is "monitoring the situation and "ready to provide support to Tonga if requested".

"Tonga is part of our Pacific family and our thoughts are with the entire community dealing with the impact of the volcanic eruption and tsunami," a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said.

"Initial assessments are still underway and DFAT is working to ensure Australians in Tonga are safe and accounted for."

The Japan Meteorological Agency has also issued tsunami warnings for the eastern coastal regions, with waves of 1.2 meters reaching Amami Island in the south of the country.


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Live: All the COVID news you need from across Australia

Get up to speed on all the coronavirus news from across Australia.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Follow all of today's news and updates as they unfold in the COVID live blog below. 

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Live updates3m ago3 minutes agoThu 13 Jan 2022 at 9:31pm

By Nicholas McElroy

Minister defends government decision not to order stockpile of rapid antigen tests

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham is defending the government's decision not to order large numbers of rapid antigen tests last year. 

Health experts and business leaders began urging state and federal leaders to stockpile the kits months ago. 

There's now a shortage of rapid antigen tests in Australia and the government has since bought millions that will arrive in the coming weeks and months. 

Minister Birmingham says P-C-R tests were initally the preferred option when delta was the main strain of COVID-19. 

"If we could have all predicted what the omicron variant would looked like of course you would have prepared for it in different ways," Mr Birmingham said. 

"But ultimately we modelled very carefully how we would reopen against the delta. Omicron has changed a lot of that."

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8m ago8 minutes agoThu 13 Jan 2022 at 9:25pm

By Nicholas McElroy

Here's the link to yesterday's COVID blog

While I'm at it, here are some of Thursday's key updates:

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22m ago22 minutes agoThu 13 Jan 2022 at 9:12pm

By Nicholas McElroy

Australian-made RATs await TGA approval amid supply shortage

By business reporter Michael Janda

As Australians struggle to get hold of a COVID-19 rapid antigen test, several Australian companies have been waiting months for local approval of their RATs.

Currently, only one of the 22 home tests approved by Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is made locally, with 16 sourced from China, two from the US and the others from Korea, Singapore and Germany.

However, with the global Omicron wave seeing surging demand for RATs around the world, there are concerns Australia's current supply shortage could be exacerbated if planned shipments are diverted elsewhere.

In particular, with the vast bulk of Australia's tests coming from China, a worsening Omicron outbreak there could further threaten supply if tests bound for export were requisitioned by the Chinese government.

Several Australian companies have developed COVID RATs locally, although at least two are waiting on TGA approval for tests that are already in use in Europe or North America.

Brisbane-based AnteoTech is one of those. Its chief executive Derek Thomson, told the ABC that a lack of supply was inevitable during major waves of new COVID variants such as Delta and Omicron without much earlier planning and investment by Australian governments.

"We were always going to run out of supply, and that's exactly what happened over the Christmas period," he said.

"It caught the governments on the hop, caught all the manufacturers on the hop.

"And so we're in the position that we're in. We've got a massive wave, we're saying that the frontline defence to that wave is rapid antigen testing, and no-one can buy one. So it's a disaster."

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27m ago27 minutes agoThu 13 Jan 2022 at 9:07pm

By Nicholas McElroy

Good morning to the ABC News COVID blog

It's great to be back for another day of updates. 

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Inflation reached its highest point in 40 years in the US. Here’s what that could mean for Australia

While filling up his car at a petrol station in Orlando, Zachary Bolhouse was surprised when he looked over at the meter to see the number tick over to $US50. 

The 23-year-old barista drives to and from work every day and says he used to spend about $US36 at the pump a year ago.

"It isn't breaking the bank but it's still noticeable," he said.

"It's more expensive to fill up and it hasn't gotten better."

Energy prices have soared in the US over the past year — rising 6.1 per cent in both October and November before falling 0.5 per cent in December.

But consumers aren't just paying more at the petrol pump. Yesterday, the US Consumer Price Index (CPI) for December — which measures changes in the cost of food, housing, utilities and other goods as well as petrol — was up 7 per cent, the highest annual increase in nearly 40 years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shelter, food and used cars and trucks, were the biggest contributors to the rise.

"I was looking up apartments recently … and a one bedroom, one bathroom in Orlando is like $US1,700, per month, which is crazy," Mr Bolhouse said.

"… The price of housing is ridiculous."

Rising inflation hasn't been limited to the US. Across developed economies it's tracking above pre-pandemic levels.


Data anlaysis from Pew Research Center from 46 nations found that in the period between July and September last year, the rate was higher for 39 countries than in the same period in 2019.

While prices aren't rising as fast here in Australia, people are still paying more at the supermarket, as they fuel up or when they are looking for a car.

The latest figures for the September quarter showed Australia's annual inflation now running at 3 per cent (seasonally adjusted).

So what's going on? The reasons why prices are rising are complex and varied and include among other things, computer chip shortages, bored consumers and an ever-shifting global pandemic.

But what the recent surge in prices really boils down to are issues with both supply and demand.

Blame the pandemic

According to AMP's head of investment strategy and chief economist Shane Oliver, many recent cost of living pressures are being driven by the pandemic.

Since March 2020, COVID-19 has disrupted international supply chains by shutting down factories, limiting travel and wreaking havoc on labour at almost every level of production.

"We hear about supply chain disruptions — where companies can't get the goods they need, can't get the parts they need to make something — and so that's slowed production right down," Mr Oliver told the ABC.

"And at the same time, people have been restricted from spending on services, like going to a restaurant or going on a holiday, so they've spent more on goods."

As life has resumed after strong uptake of COVID-19 vaccines in the US, demand has surged.(Reuters: Mario Anzuoni)

As a result, according to Mr Oliver, the combination of constraints on supply, and strong demand for goods, "has pushed prices up".

While prices fluctuate all the time, inflation can be hardest on those on low incomes or without any savings to fall back on, particularly if it isn't matched by wage growth.

In the US, while wages are increasing, real average hourly earnings actually decreased 0.5 per cent in October after accounting for inflation. It was a similar picture in Australia, with the Wage Price Index at 2.2 per cent in the 12 months to September, meaning living standards are effectively falling.

Basically, inflation outpacing wage growth means workers are buying less with what they earn.

Yet while the US Federal Reserve and others have predicted this inflation is only "transitory" as markets work through the kinks caused by COVID-19, there is some debate about how long this will last.

A COVID-fuelled spendathon

Consumer demand took a big hit early in 2020 as economies shut down, workers lost their jobs and residents were shuttered indoors due to COVID-19.

That quickly rebounded over the past year as restrictions eased and economies opened up again.

There were a few explanations for this, according to economists. One is that government policies, like the US Federal Reserve's decision to slash interest rates to near zero and pump billions into markets by buying up corporate debt, gave people more cash to spend.

As other countries adopted similar measures, these policies "provided a lot of support for household income through the lockdown," Mr Oliver said.

"That meant that people built up savings," he added.

While some saved, others who retreated indoors due to pandemic restrictions began to look around their homes and think about all the ways they could make their spaces more beautiful.

Inflation outpacing wage growth is another setback for workers still struggling to shake off the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.(Reuters: Andrew Kelly)

As a result, there was a higher demand for things like furniture and building materials for renovations. Demand for computers and other tech also rose as more people moved to working from home arrangements.

There could also be a psychological explanation, according to Craig Austin, assistant teaching professor of logistics and supply chain management at Florida International University.

"What we're also seeing is that people feel they're owed something, they want to shop and buy things … to help cope with the uncertainty around them," Mr Austin told the ABC.

The sharp rise in demand didn't necessarily increase for services like restaurants, travel and entertainment, Mr Austin says, but largely for online goods like furniture, appliances and cars.

"… Many friends of mine no longer go to the grocery store to do their shopping, they go online," Mr Austin said.

Whether that trend will continue after the pandemic ends is difficult to predict, but what is clear is that the rise in demand for online goods also had wide-reaching implications on supply around the world.

The global supply chain is still a hot mess

Companies have struggled to keep up with the surge in consumer demand.

Part of that is a result of the pandemic wreaking havoc on global supply chains — disrupting manufacturers, ships, ports, trucks and the lives of the people making your goods and those delivering them to your door.

Factories have been shut down as part of country wide lockdowns or had their capacity slashed as the list of employees suffering from COVID-19 infections or spending time in quarantine has grown.

Shipping containers have become scarce and a shortage in certain components — such as computer chips — continues to delay production on goods from new cars to laptops.

Problems persist throughout the transport and logistics supply chain.(ABC News: John Gunn)

"If one component in [for example] a washing machine has a problem and it can't be obtained, then it slows down the whole production of washing machines, and that pushes prices up," Mr Oliver explained.

COVID-19 was a "black swan event" on the supply chain, according to Mr Austin, although problems existed long before the pandemic hit.

"When China closed its economy and a lot of other economies did as well, it disrupted the model [of 'just in time' delivery] that companies had been relying on before the pandemic," he said.

"Even though economies had disruption strategies in place, suddenly whole factories were offline.

"It affected everything. Whatever could be made, the quantity was significantly reduced."

Mr Oliver agrees it was a "big supply shock".

"And as the pandemic has gone on, it's become more of a supply shock than a demand shock," he added.

Problems persist throughout the transport and logistics supply chain, although there are signs in the US at least that major ports are clearing some of the backlog. In Europe, however, the problem has been made worse by the high costs for things like energy and fuel, according to Vox.

In the UK, the food and drink industry warned that the soaring cost of raw materials and ingredients was having a "terrifying" impact on consumer prices.

There has also been huge upheaval in labour markets around the world. Anxiety over getting COVID at work, unemployment benefits, as well as access to child care during school closures and other factors are all playing a role in delaying people from returning to work.

"You've also got this thing called the Great Resignation, which has prompted some people to retire earlier, or switch jobs, or focus more on quality of life as opposed to taking any job they can," Mr Oliver said.

"And … with governments provid[ing] a lot of support for household income through the lockdown, that meant that people built up savings [which has] given some workers a bit of choice as to whether they go back to work or … when they go back.

"So the supply of labour has been somewhat constrained relative to demand as well."

What will this mean for Australia?

The recent December figures reinforced suggestions the Federal Reserve may be raising interest rates soon. And the worry is that the Reserve Bank of Australia could follow suit, particularly if inflation begins to pick up here.

Mr Oliver is skeptical that could happen soon but says one implication of the US raising interest rates is that it may eventually put pressure on some mortgage rates in Australia.

Rising inflation in the US may also be an early indication of what we could see in Australia, with Mr Oliver pointing out there is a broad connection between inflation in the two countries.

"We don't see that month to month but over the years. Certainly we saw that in the period of the 1970s," Mr Oliver says.

"And rising prices in the US are consistent with what we're seeing locally in Australia … It's a bit more muted in Australia but certainly the same issues we're seeing driving prices up in the US – issues with the supply chain, consumer demand – are happening here as well."

The psychology around inflation is also important because if people expect inflation to rise, they might start making decisions that means that inflation becomes baked in.

Craig Austin, however, remains optimistic about where things are headed.

"Disruptions to the supply chain have always happened…," he said.

"The pressures are easing, not completely, but we're seeing more merchandise becoming available and a lot of places are improving."

He believes the pandemic has already changed the way companies operate — with some opting to buy their own containers or pursue other freight options.

In his words, "the stew [supply chain changes] has been made, it just needs time for the flavours to marry up".

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

We’re now witnessing one of the worst public policy failures in Australia’s history

Australians are getting a stark reminder about how value is actually created in an economy, and how supply chains truly work. 

Ask chief executives where value comes from and they will credit their own smart decisions that inflate shareholder wealth. Ask logistics experts how supply chains work and they will wax eloquent about ports, terminals and trucks. Politicians, meanwhile, highlight nebulous intangibles like "investor confidence" — enhanced, presumably, by their own steady hands on the tiller.

The reality of value-added production and supply is much more human than all of this. It is people who are the driving force behind production, distribution and supply.

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Labour — human beings getting out of bed and going to work, using their brains and brawn to produce actual goods and services — is the only thing that adds value to the "free gifts" we harvest from nature. It's the only thing that puts food on supermarket shelves, cares for sick people and teaches our children.

Even the technology used to enhance workers' productivity — or sometimes even replace them — is ultimately the culmination of other human beings doing their jobs. The glorious complexity of the whole economy boils down to human beings, using raw materials extracted and tools built by other human beings, working to produce goods and services.

A narrow, distorted economic lens

The economy doesn't work if people can't work. So the first economic priority during a pandemic must be to keep people healthy enough to keep working, producing, delivering and buying.

That some political and business leaders have, from the outset of COVID-19, consistently downplayed the economic costs of mass illness, reflects a narrow, distorted economic lens. We're now seeing the result — one of the worst public policy failures in Australia's history.

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The Omicron variant is tearing through Australia's workforce, from health care and child care, to agriculture and manufacturing, to transportation and logistics, to emergency services

The result is an unprecedented, and preventable, economic catastrophe. This catastrophe was visited upon us by leaders — NSW Premier Dominic Perrotet and Prime Minister Scott Morrison in particular — on the grounds they were protecting the economy. Like a mafia kingpin extorting money, this is the kind of "protection" that can kill you.

Effect as bad as lockdowns

On a typical day in normal times, between 3 per cent and 4 per cent of employed Australians miss work due to their own illness. Multiple reports from NSW indicate up to half of workers are now absent due to COVID: because they contracted it, were exposed to it, or must care for someone (like children barred from child care) because of it. With infections still spreading, this will get worse in the days ahead.

Staffing shortages have left hospitals in chaos, supermarket shelves empty, supply chains paralysed. ANZ Bank data, for example, shows economic activity in Sydney has fallen to a level lower than the worst lockdowns.

Spending in Sydney and Melbourne is now near levels typical of lockdown conditions.

If relaxing health restrictions in December (as Omicron was already spreading) was motivated by a desire to boost the economy, this is an own-goal for the history books.

Relaxing isolation rules

Now the response to Omicron ravaging labour supply is to relax isolation requirements for workers who have contracted, or been exposed to, COVID-19.

The first step was to shift the goalposts on "test, trace, isolate and quarantine" arrangements by redefining "close contact".

On December 29 the Prime Minister said it was important to move to a new definition "that enables Australia to keep moving, for people to get on with their lives". The next day national cabinet approved a definition such that only individuals having spent at least four hours indoors with a COVID-infected person needed to isolate.

Australians certainly want supply chains to keep moving. That won't happen by simply pretending someone with three hours and 59 minutes of face-to-face indoor contact with Omicron is safe. Putting asymptomatic but exposed and potentially infected people back to work will only accelerate the spread.

The second step has been to reduce the isolation period for those who do pass this tougher "close contact" test. At its December 30 meeting, national cabinet agreed to a standard isolation period of seven days (10 days in South Australia), down from 14 days.

For "critical workers" in essential services including food logistics, the NSW and Queensland governments have gone even further, allowing employers to call them back to work so long as they are asymptomatic.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 4 minutes 22 seconds4m 22s Woolworths CEO says supply 'patchy' but they are working to remedy distribution issuesSnatching defeat from the jaws of victory

This follows a US precedent, despite scientific evidence indicating contagion commonly lasts longer than 5 days.

Employers will use this change to pressure exposed and even sick workers to return to work, risking their own health, colleagues, customers, and inevitably spreading the virus further.

Copying US COVID protocols only guarantees US-style infection rates. In fact, since January 5, Australia's seven-day rolling average infections per million now exceed that of the US.

From one of the best COVID responses in the world to one of the worst, Australia has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

It's not too late to limit the carnage

The idea that health considerations had to be balanced with economic interests was always a false dichotomy. A healthy economy requires healthy workers and healthy consumers.

The Omicron surge has created an economic emergency that will be difficult to endure.

But it's not too late to limit further avoidable contagion. Infection prevention practices (including masks, capacity limits, prohibitions on group indoor activities, PPE and distancing in workplaces, and free and accessible rapid tests) must be restored and enforced.

Income supports for workers who stay home must be restored. Staffing strategies need to emphasise steady, secure jobs, rather than outsourcing and gig arrangements which have facilitated contagion.

Above all, our policymakers need to remember the economy is composed of human beings, and refocus their attention on keeping people healthy. Protecting people is the only thing that can protect the economy.

Jim Stanford is an economist, Director of the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute and honorary professor of political economy at University of Sydney. This piece first appeared on The Conversation.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Omicron now dominant in Australia. But experts say Delta’s still ‘out there’

Omicron has taken over as the most prevalent coronavirus variant in Australia, but experts say the true scope of infections — and the continued spread of Delta — is still unknown as authorities become overwhelmed with case numbers.

Key points:

  • The exact spread of Omicron and Delta in Australia is hard to confirm, as experts catch up with the high number of cases
  • One data analyst says Omicron now makes up about 90 per cent of Australian infections
  • It's not known how high Australian infections will go before peaking

The introduction of self-reporting for rapid antigen test results last week, delays in PCR testing and record case numbers over the holiday period mean genomic sequencers — the experts who analyse COVID-positive strains — have been battling to keep up.

But the ABC understands that in New South Wales, which has reported the highest number of COVID infections over the past month, genomic sequencers are reporting Omicron is making up about 85 per cent of all infections. 

Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from January 11 with a look back at our blog.

Of the patients in ICU in NSW, the ABC understands about 60 per cent have the Omicron strain, with the remaining 40 per cent infected with Delta.

And one independent data analyst suggests Omicron is now making up about 90 per cent of infections across Australia. 

Authorities have been closely watching the rising hospitalisation rates across the country, and although Omicron is widely considered to be a milder version of the virus compared to the Delta strain, the World Health Organization has warned it is not a "mild" disease.

Australians can now report a positive RAT result, but finding the testing kits has been hard.(AAP: Bianca Di Marchi )

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said this week she knew of at least one "young person" who died after contracting the Omicron strain.

She said genomic sequencers were working to confirm which variants were involved in the deaths and hospitalisations of COVID patients.

In Victoria, although the state has introduced mandatory reporting of positive RAT results, genomic sequencing of the variants is not as clear.   

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said on Tuesday the breakdown of Omicron and Delta circulating in the state would be something he'd "come back to" later in the week after speaking to the state's health authorities.

Queensland Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said his state, which opened up in mid-December, was seeing a "95 per cent" prevalence of Omicron.

Virologist Tony Cunningham, from Sydney's Westmead Institute, said there was no doubt Omicron had become the dominant strain across the country, but Delta was still "out there".

Tony Cunningham says it would take a "brave person" to predict Australia's case peak. (ABC News: Chris Taylor)

However, he said it was impossible to know the exact numbers because of the self-reporting of positive RAT results — not yet available in NSW — and the delays over the Christmas period.   

"We don't have enough tests to give us totally accurate figures," he said.

"And this is one of the problems we have with RATs."

Omicron 'expansion phase' in Australia   

Melbourne-based data integration specialist Mike Honey has been analysing data provided to online platform GISAID — which collects genomic sequencing of the virus from across the world — and the Australian-based Communicative Diseases Genomic Network.

After "scraping" the data trends over the past two months, he calculates Omicron now makes up more than 90 per cent of all infections Australia-wide.

According to the data, Omicron overtook Delta as the most prevalent strain in Australia just over midway through December.   


This week the World Health Organization said it believed Delta was still the more common strain worldwide, as a record 9.5 million cases of COVID were tallied across the globe — "the highest number" reported so far in the pandemic.  

According to GISAID, Omicron is yet to take over in some European countries, with Germany (18.3 per cent Omicron), France (48.6 per cent), Italy (38.5 per cent) and the Netherlands (30.7 per cent), reporting numbers lower than 50 per cent. 

However, Omicron is now responsible for 80 per cent of infections in the UK, 65 per cent of US infections, 90 per cent in Japan and 100 per cent of all infections in South Africa.

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Professor Cunningham said Omicron was clearly supplanting Delta as the key variant across the world. 

"We're seeing huge numbers in the UK, US, Europe and South Africa," he said. "But interestingly in South Africa it's peaking, and in the UK there's some evidence it might be peaking.

"That might give us an indication of what will happen here.

"But clearly we're still in the expansion phase with Omicron, and you'd have to be a brave person to predict when the peak will occur in Australia.  

"It's clearly much more transmissible than Delta, and we've seen it can evade two-dose vaccines. So it's critical that we encourage as many people as possible to get a booster to ensure we are protected."   

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 3 minutes 36 seconds3m 36s How to speak to your kids about their COVID-19 vaccinationWhat you need to know about coronavirus:

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Djokovic did not have guaranteed entry to Australia, government lawyers argue

Novak Djokovic was not given an assurance by the federal government that his exemption to enter Australia without being vaccinated would be accepted, government lawyers said in court filings ahead of a Monday hearing.

Key points:

  • The government's submission says the department's email was not an assurance Djokovic's "so-called 'medical exemption' would be accepted"
  • The court filings also challenge Djokovic's claim for a medical exemption from Australia's vaccination requirements on the basis he recently had COVID-19
  • Home Affairs lawyers lost their bid to delay Monday's court case

The tennis star is fighting to overturn a decision by the Department of Home Affairs to quash his visa because he had not received a COVID-19 vaccination.

Djokovic's legal team said the Serbian player had an assessment from the department that his responses on his travel declaration indicated he met the requirements for quarantine-free entry into the country.

But the government's submission, released late on Sunday night, said the department's email was not an assurance "that his so-called 'medical exemption' would be accepted", and his responses could be questioned and verified on his arrival.

"There is no such thing as an assurance of entry by a non-citizen into Australia. Rather, there are criteria and conditions for entry, and reasons for refusal or cancellation of a visa," the submission said.

"The email from the department stated that the applicant's responses to his Australian Traveller Declaration indicated that he met the requirements for 'quarantine free' travel into Australia.

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"But that says nothing about the power of the minister (or her delegate) to interrogate those responses, the evidence upon which they were based, and conclude that a cancellation power was enlivened under the Act upon his arrival into Australia."

It also challenged Djokovic's claim for a medical exemption from Australia's vaccination requirements on the basis he contracted COVID-19 in mid-December.

"There is no suggestion that the applicant had 'acute major medical illness' in December 2021. All he has said is that he tested positive for COVID-19," the government submission said.

In its conclusion, the submission also made clear that even if Djokovic was successful in his appeal, the department retained the right to re-detain him.

Djokovic 'had exemption on grounds of recent COVID-19 infection' Novak Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 on December 16, court documents said.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

The submission drew the ire of Djokovic's father, who addressed another small group of protesters in front of Serbia's parliament building in Belgrade on Sunday.

"The politicians are now saying that even if the court decided that he can play, they can detain him again under their laws," Srdjan Djokovic said.

"Are we animals? What are we? We're human beings. This is happening because we are just a small part of the world, but we are proud. They have no respect for him."

The Serbian's legal team filed his court documents the night before, claiming he was granted a visa to enter Australia on November 18, and on December 30, Tennis Australia granted him a "medical exemption from COVID vaccination" on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID-19.

The "exemption certificate" said the date of Djokovic’s positive COVID-19 PCR test was December 16, 2021, but that he had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms in the past 72 hours.

It also recorded that the conditions of the exemption were "consistent with the recommendations of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI)".

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The submission said Djokovic then received an automated email from the Department of Home Affairs on January 1, saying "[his] Australia Travel Declaration [had] been assessed", and that "[his] responses indicate[d] that [he met] the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia where permitted by the jurisdiction of your arrival".

However, the defending Australian Open champion was detained by Border Force officials after arriving on a plane from Dubai and was taken to an immigration detention hotel.

If he fails to have his visa cancellation overturned and is deported, Djokovic could be barred from re-entering Australia for up to three years.

His December COVID-19 infection also ignited controversy on social media over appearances that he had made at public, indoor events without wearing a mask around the time of his positive PCR test.

It was, however, unclear if Mr Djokovic was aware that his test results were positive before appearing at the events.

Djokovic is hoping to win his 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open, starting in Melbourne on January 17.


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Live: All the COVID-19 news from across Australia in the one place

Catch up on all the COVID-19 news from across Australia today.

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Live updates6m ago6 minutes agoFri 7 Jan 2022 at 9:27pm

By Bridget Judd

What COVID support is available?Any word of if there will be any financial support – disaster relief. Have lost all work as professional musician again. Dates now into feb.. but apparently everything is “normal” and we are “back”..


Morning Holly, I'm really sorry to hear you're having a rough go of it.

The COVID-19 Disaster Payment is no longer available, but there may be other state or territory pandemic payments available (depending on where you live and your personal circumstances).

You can find the criteria for each state and territory right here, alongside other support services.

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18m ago18 minutes agoFri 7 Jan 2022 at 9:16pm

By Bridget Judd

In case you missed it…

If you didn't spend your Friday wading through all the COVID news (I don't blame you), here's what you missed:

As a reminder, you can find the coronavirus story stream right here.

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26m ago26 minutes agoFri 7 Jan 2022 at 9:07pm

By Bridget Judd

Good morning, I'm Bridget Judd and I'll be bringing you the latest COVID updates throughout this morning.

As always, you can send in your questions and comments by hitting the big blue button at the top of the page.

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

“Stab in the back”: how the treaty against China quarreled Australia with France

The AUKUS alliance, which was created by the UK, Australia and the United States, is aimed at China, political analysts say. But France was the first to be indignant: because of the new contract, it lost a contract for € 56 billion. Why this happened – in the RBC video


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Worse than predictions: Australia’s big cognitive leap as Omicron surge takes us to new ground

A joke bounced around the country earlier this week. It ricocheted across social media, on front pages and out of the mouths of dads deprived of more days on the couch in front of the cricket.

"Want to get a fast test? Play the Poms."

But for the people who had waited in a testing queue for longer than England's second innings, it was no laughing matter. With queues for kilometres at some PCR test sites that actually opened over the Christmas weekend and rapid antigen tests rarer than the hottest Christmas toy, frustrations ran deep.

We've heard the horror stories — testing centre queues so long they were closed just minutes after opening time, friends who'd visited upwards of five sites trying to get a pre-holiday test, people with long-standing medical appointments missing out on a required PCR test.

Beyond the cancelled plans and missed Christmases, we don't really have a way to judge the real damage done by the poor testing situation.

Some of those with symptoms — or even multiple positive self-administered rapid antigen tests — are skipping the PCR confirmation, turned off by the queues or the risk of passing it on while waiting.

Add to this the rapidly rising positive rate of those who do make it to the front of the line. In NSW over the past seven days, it has skyrocketed,

Despite more than 35,000 cases a day across the nation, experts presume we're seeing the tip of the iceberg.

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant admitted as much in the state's Friday press conference.

"Obviously we recognised that some people are probably taking a [rapid antigen] test themselves and making their own decision … you should behave as if you've had a confirmed PCR if you're choosing not to [have one] but our recommendation is that you should," she said.

UPDATES: Read our round-up of the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic

This is living with the virus. And we're only just starting to figure out what that means: long lines, a blowout in waiting times, shelves empty of rapid antigen tests, communication failures and repeated errors.

It's tempting to see the testing crisis as evidence of Australia falling at the first hurdle, but in reality, the hurdles are gone and the track has changed.

We're running a completely different race but we're still trying to follow the old rules.

We're so far beyond COVID-zero that Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard said it baldly this week: infection with COVID-19 was required for the pandemic to evolve to be endemic — a constant presence in our lives.

"Not only is the spread of this virus inevitable, it is necessary," he said on Thursday.

"In order for us to go from the pandemic phase to an endemic phase, the virus has to be widespread."

That's a big cognitive jump for Australians — and there's no going back.

A new festive decoration: QR codes and hand sanitiser. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica )We're in it now

For anyone watching on, it was clear we were facing the perfect storm. Christmas parties. La Niña forcing us back indoors. The festive season. Generations mixing together after months of distancing.

Enter a new variant, faster than any we've seen to date, and a lot can change in a matter of weeks.

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NSW was hit by Omicron first, with cases rising from mid-December and escalating sharply just before Christmas. Victoria — which had been sputtering along mainly in the low 1,000s since the end of lockdown — started picking up around then too, albeit at a lower rate than NSW.

Perhaps the escalation was most marked in Queensland, with its newly reopened border no longer protecting it from the surge. Cases moved from double digits on December 21 to well into the 3,000s by year's end. South Australia and Tasmania, too, have an established surge.

Even fortress WA wasn't safe, though it has kept its numbers in single figures for now.

After months of sheltering behind borders and lockdowns, Australia can no longer escape the sort of numbers we used to scoff at overseas despite our nationwide vaccination rate of more than 90 per cent.

Worse than predictions

We'd become used to seeing terrifying predictions at the start of a COVID wave, and then successfully avoiding the worst-case scenario.

In April 2020, we were told 30,000 Queenslanders would die, that demand for intensive care could peak at 35,000 beds a day, that Victoria could have reached 58,000 cases a day.

But with strong community response to prevention measures, hard work from the health sector and a stroke of good luck, we dodged the worst-case scenarios.

Not this time. 

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard suggested on December 15 — just 18 days ago, when the state recorded 1,360 cases a day — that NSW should brace for 25,000 cases a day by the end of January.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 1 minute 26 seconds1m 26s NSW 'could' have 25,000 COVID-19 cases per day.

On the last day of December, that was starting to look optimistic, with the 20,000 mark already broken, well ahead of that pace.

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said on Friday it was a challenging time, but not unexpected.

"It reflects the international experience with Omicron, where we're seeing a rapid doubling rate," she said.

Omicron is a game changer, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.

"We need to reset how we think about the pandemic, and how we manage ourselves and the things we need to do as governments," he said, announcing new definitions of "close contacts" and loosening the parameters for who needs to get tested.

But here lies the cognitive gap for Australians.

Mindsets don't change overnight

It's one thing to know that the way we see COVID is changing, that this is potentially a milder variant for most people and mass vaccinations should prevent the huge rate of hospitalisation and death seen overseas last year.

But Australians have had the need to get tested drilled into them from the start of the pandemic. Every press conference, every QR code, every public health poster. Every exposure, every sniffle.

A new set of rules won't change that demand overnight — especially at a time when we're reconnecting with loved ones, taking holidays and mixing like we haven't in months. Many are worried — if not for themselves then for their more vulnerable loved ones.

Lockdowns aren't yet a distant memory: Australians are still used to shutting down when cases go up. And before Christmas, many businesses did just that.

Of course, we're not alone — the whole world is being buffeted. The US has topped 500,000 daily cases and reduced its isolation period, records are being smashed in Europe as many countries increase restrictions, Israel is attempting an uncharted fourth vaccination shot. In South Africa, where authorities say the Omicron wave has now peaked, restrictions are being loosened.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 2 minutes 5 seconds2m 5s Israel approves a fourth dose of the pfizer vaccine for people with weak immune systems.

But Australia is approaching the wave from a different starting point to other countries and that's affecting how our infrastructure is handling the surge and our attitudes towards it.

Our competing priorities were shown in the need for PCR tests to travel to states with fewer cases — which helped fuel the testing crisis in NSW and Victoria. It took longer than ideal for NSW to put its foot down, and for Queensland and South Australia to back down.

Again, when a new "national" set of rules for close contacts and testing were announced on Thursday — with four different timelines, and exceptions in South Australia, an "in principle" yes but no changes in WA and an announcement to come from the NT. And the rules changed again less than 24 hours later.

The decision to make rapid antigen tests free in only limited cases — apparently to allow the "private market" certainty to order more stock, according to Morrison — won't see supplies increased in the short-term to fill the gap.

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The good news is that hospitalisations haven't risen at the same rate as positive cases, nor have ICU admissions or deaths.

The changes to the close contact rules should limit the number of healthcare workers taken off the roster and strengthen the system, along with a new directive from NSW to allow asymptomatic staff deemed as close contacts to leave self-isolation.

It's unclear at what price these changes come, in terms of increased risk to essential workers and their families.

"It seems national cabinet is prepared to bet that a massive Omicron outbreak won't cause large numbers of hospitalisations," Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said on Thursday.

"We expect hospitalisations to rise in coming weeks, simply due to the very large number of cases, which will be far larger than the positive tests indicate, due to today's decision."

But for now, fewer of us need to get tested and, according to Morrison, that's cause to relax.

"If you don't fulfil this definition of a close contact then there is no need for you to be in that line," Mr Morrison said.

"You should go home. Go to the beach, go and do what you want to do. Read a book in the park."

We've come a long way from chained-off beaches and scare photos of heaving crowds at Bondi, though we're not all quite ready to live with that reality yet.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 1 minute 54 seconds1m 54s How accurate are rapid antigen tests?What you need to know about coronavirus:

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

The vast NT has Australia’s lowest take up of electric vehicles. Is that about to change?

Top End motoring enthusiasts come together once a month to talk cars and bikes, with coffee and donuts in hand.

Key points:

  • There are only 61 electric vehicles registered in the NT
  • Subsidies, lower prices and 4WD models could see sales increase
  • Businesses have begun installing infrastructure to facilitate use of EVs

On this clear Sunday — in the car park of the Howard Springs Bakery on the outskirts of Darwin — sit both the past and perhaps the future of Australian motoring.

One car among the prized line up of vehicles is attracting more attention than usual.

Parked alongside a Holden HSV Maloo — once touted as the world’s fasted ute — is an electric motor-powered Tesla Model X 100D, its gull-wing doors aloft.

The electric vehicle can accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in 4.9 seconds, has a top speed of 250 kph and a range of 565 kilometres.

There are only 61 electric vehicles currently registered in the Northern Territory and the Electric Vehicle Council of Australia puts the NT last among all states and territories for electric vehicle penetration, with only 0.03 per cent of our light vehicle fleet being electric, well below the 2020 global average of 4.2 per cent.

It's not often you see Teslas in the Northern Territory.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

However, the Territory’s small and dedicated community of electric vehicle enthusiasts hopes to change that.

Richard Smith, owner of the Tesla family SUV, has clocked up close to 60,000 km since he purchased the vehicle in 2018.

“I often hear people say that you can't drive an electric vehicle in the NT, and I use that opportunity to let them know that it's pretty easy actually … I let them know some of the things that I've done,” says Mr Smith, who is from Darwin.

Richard Smith has driven around Australia in his electric vehicle.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Driving the Tesla, Mr Smith circumnavigated Australia over 18 days, often exceeding 1,000 km in a single day.

“I did Port Augusta to Melbourne in a day, well over 1,000 km, and Sydney to Brisbane in a day,” he says.

Mr Smith has also travelled extensively in the Northern Territory, including doing the Alice Springs-to-Darwin drive many times.

“It would be right to say that better and faster infrastructure along the Stuart Highway would make the journey easier, but there are many more electrical outlets in Australia than petrol stations, so in terms of being able to charge your vehicle there's no problem,” he says.

The free charging port at Darwin's Charles Darwin University campus is powered by solar energy.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Darwin local Joseph Chin, who moderates a Facebook group dedicated to renewable energy solutions and electric vehicle ownership, also champions electric vehicles but does not yet own one.

He says the cost and limited range have kept him from buying one but he expects that to change with the arrival of cheaper models with greater range options that are expected to enter the Australian market in 2022.

Commercial businesses have already begun installing chargers or re-fitting existing structures to accommodate the trickle of cars operating on the Territory’s roads.

Middy's Electrical of Darwin installed its first charger in August 2020 and have one or two regulars twice a month who use the service, as well as a number of drop-ins.

[ev charging replace]

Branch manager Jay Hibberd puts the relatively low usage of the service down to the small number of electric vehicles in Darwin.

But he is expecting a surge in usage with the planned introduction of incentives from the Northern Territory government, which are due to come in to effect in July 2022.

“We are already starting to get requests from home owners to have domestic charging stations installed at their home,” he says.

“I feel, once the incentives come in, there will be a big demand in usage, not only here, but all over the Territory.”

This electric vehicle charger sits in an underground carpark in Darwin near Parliament House.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

The Northern Territory government has committed to installing charging outlets across new government-owned and leased buildings.

It is also offering stamp duty concessions and free registration for electric vehicles for the first five years of ownership.

Eva Lawler, the Minister for Renewables and Energy, has said the Territory's government would "support the installation of fast chargers at strategic locations across the main highway network".

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The government also has a plan to transition its fleet to electric vehicles at a rate of 20 vehicles per year, culminating in 200 vehicles by 2030.

Currently, there are 15 EVs across the fleet, which — according to a report by the National Transport Commission released in August of 2021 — puts the Northern Territory second to last as a percentage of total sales for electric or hybrid vehicles by state or territory government.

Under the government’s plan, fleet EVs will also enter the second-hand market on their replacement, offering another avenue to cheaper EV ownership in the future.

Joseph Chin doesn't believe the concessions go far enough.

He suggests the government follow the lead of other states by offering $3,000 rebates to new EV purchases.

“The concessions are going to be helpful to a point, but I'd prefer to see a rebate brought in,” he says.

“I want to see as many people as possible able to benefit from this technology.”

Prices for many top of the range EVs remain prohibitive, with vehicles such as Mr Smith’s Tesla costing almost four times as much as Australia’s top selling SUV, the Toyota RAV4.

At the federal level, the Morrison government has released its Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy plan, which includes the installation of three fast-charging outlets, but only for Darwin in round one of the plan.

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It does not include any financial incentives to stimulate the uptake of EVs, instead relying on partnerships with the private sector

Federal Labor meanwhile has committed to making electric vehicles more affordable through the exemption of many EVs to import tariffs and fringe benefit taxes, saving employers up to $9,000 on a $50,000 EV if purchased through employment arrangements.

Aside from the government measures, the arrival of new electric vehicles costing less than $50,000 is expected to accelerate sales growth in Australia.

And the expected arrival of electric off-road capable vehicles in 2022 is expected to surge sales in northern Australia, where there is a strong 4WD community and culture.

David Brown — group fleet sales and account manager at the new and used car business Darwin Motor Group — says that cheaper options “certainly help the consumer in considering purchasing an electric vehicle over a combustion engine” because EVs and internal combustion engine cars head towards price parity.

Car models with greater range are expected to enter the market in 2022.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Mr Brown says that a substantial drop in cost, combined with the introduction of government incentives, can potentially encourage “the wider community to purchase an eco-friendly option”.

With range anxiety fading thanks to the implementation of new chargers across the country and apps to help locate services, Mr Brown expects an increase in “consumer peace of mind and confidence with the full electric models”, something many in the Territory's already established EV community already have.

Peace of mind for Mr Smith and his family comes from knowing that his vehicle charges overnight at his home, “just like a mobile phone”, powered from solar power collected during the day, and that — when he leaves in the morning for work or to drop off the children at sport — his car is ready to go.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Diplomatic tensions come with a human cost. What lies ahead for Australia and China?

Next year will mark 50 years since Australia established diplomatic ties with China, but the relationship has rapidly deteriorated in recent times.

Key points:

  • Trade tensions continued and concerns over Hong Kong and Taiwan intensified in 2021
  • The geopolitical stoush is having a human cost for those with family detained in China
  • Australia's federal election and China's national congress will both be held in 2022

It was another tumultuous year for Australia-China relations in 2021, continuing a trend from 2020.

The year began with a World Health Organization (WHO)  investigation into the origins of COVID-19, with a delegation sent to Wuhan.

It was something Foreign Minister Marise Payne had called for ahead of other nations, and it made Beijing bristle.

As the year closes out, tensions have taken a sporting turn, with a diplomatic boycott of Beijing's Winter Olympics and speculation swirling around tennis star Peng Shuai.

In between there were other sore points surrounding trade and security: Australia went to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Chinese tariffs on Australian wine, only for China to lodge its own complaint with the WTO days later.

Ministerial contact between the two nations has apparently been severed, and the ongoing trade tussle has impacted not only wine, but also Australian barley, lobster, beef and coal exports.

Australia also ditched its French submarine deal for AUKUS, a nuclear-powered submarine agreement with the United Kingdom and the United States, in a move widely seen as an attempt to counter China's influence in the Indo-Pacific.

A poll this year showed that trust in China sank to a record low in Australia, with more than 60 per cent of those surveyed saying they view Beijing as a security threat rather than an economic partner.

Pichamon Yeophantong — from the UNSW Canberra at Australian Defence Force Academy — described the relationship as being in a "death spiral", while ANU researcher Ye Xue said the downward trajectory from 2020 was a "new normal".

However, Jennifer Hsu, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute, highlighted that the appointment of a new ambassador to Australia might be the best opportunity to hit the restart button on a rocky path.

Australians still detained in China

Two Australians — writer Yang Hengjun and journalist Cheng Lei — remain detained in China over alleged espionage and "illegally supplying state secrets" respectively, and there has been no indication of when they might be released.

"The ongoing detainment of Cheng Lei and Yang Hengjun reflects the individual human costs of the tensions in the bilateral relations," Dr Hsu said.

Australian journalist and mother-of-two Cheng Lei has been detained for more than 16 months.(Supplied)

Earlier this year, Beijing released two Canadians — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was freed from custody in Canada.

It was a case widely described as "hostage diplomacy", and observers saw little hope that the release of the two Michaels heralded any change in circumstances for the Australians.

Another continuing source of international outcry that is also affecting Australian families is the treatment of Uyghurs in the north-west region of Xinjiang.

Earlier this month, an unofficial tribunal set up by a prominent British barrister came to the conclusion the Chinese government had committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghur Muslim group, saying policies of forced birth control and sterilisation were designed to reduce the population.

The group has also allegedly been subjected to forced labour and arbitrary detention.

Australians such as Mehray Mezensof and Mamutjan Abdurehim say they have been separated from their partners for years.

Mehray Mezensof spoke to the ABC about the ongoing detention of her husband in Xinjiang.(ABC News: Grace Tobin)

The US, Australia and other nations say the treatment of Uyghurs — among other human rights issues — is part of the reason their diplomats will not attend the Winter Olympics early next year.

Chinese officials condemned the move, saying "no one would care whether these people come or not".

Dr Hsu said Beijing would use the event in February to shape perceptions of China, by "showing it is a friend to the world through sports".

"It will make a concerted push to use sports [and/or the] Olympics to demonstrate that it is not aggressive and can hold safe and friendly games," she said.

China observers say Beijing will use the Winter Olympics to project a good image.(Reuters: Tingshu Wang)BRI deal axed, Hong Kong's freedoms decline

The federal government's cancellation of Victoria's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) agreement with Beijing was a significant moment this year — one that signalled the relationship might get worse before it gets better, Dr Yeophantong said.

A global project by Beijing to build a vast network of trade routes, the BRI agreement — in the case of Victoria — was to encourage Chinese infrastructure firms to bid for major projects in the state was part of the nascent agreement.

However, the Australian government tore up the deal before it was fully formed.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and former Chinese ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye signed a BRI Framework Agreement in 2019 that was scrapped in 2021. (Supplied: Chinese Embassy)

"It not only stimulated a lot of debate within Australia, but it also struck a real nerve over in Beijing," Dr Yeophantong said, adding there was "anger and frustration" in the domestic messaging in China.

"This project actually is led by President Xi [Jinping] himself, which is very, very important for the Chinese government, especially as China wants to build this global influence," Dr Xue added.

Kevin Carrico, senior lecturer in Chinese Studies at Monash University, said the "intensifying repression" in Hong Kong was also significant for Australia, with the federal government offering special visas and a pathway to permanent residency for Hong Kong and British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders.

He pointed to the closure of the Apple Daily news outlet, the recent removal of the Pillar of Shame statue, which commemorated the 1989 loss of Tiananmen Square victims, and the detention of democratic opposition leaders as part of a rapid deterioration for the former British territory.

Hong Kong's government removed the Pillar of Shame at the University of Hong Kong. (Reuters: Tyrone Siu)

"All of those things show how quickly China's control of a political system can transform a society," he said.

"It's not a matter of xenophobia, or fear of so-called 'Chinese influence', but rather simply a genuine collision between a free and open society — which Hong Kong represented to a degree — and a more closed and authoritarian model of politics."

Nuclear submarines and the Taiwan Strait

Taiwan has also shifted into focus for Australia this year, with Australian officials talking of "drums of war" and Chinese President Xi Jinping using the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to re-avow "peaceful unification" with Taiwan.

"Australia's attitude towards Taiwan is also, I think, a new assertiveness from the federal government," Dr Xue said.

The fate of Taiwan has gained more focus in domestic Australian politics this year.(Reuters: Ann Wang)

He said that, in the past, the Taiwan Strait dispute was more low-profile in Australia, but that Defence Minister Peter Dutton made "several, very sharp statements", for both domestic and international reasons.

Mr Dutton said Beijing considered Australia a "tributary state" and warned that, if China seized control of self-governing Taiwan, it would quickly take other disputed areas in the region.

He indicated that Australia would back the US if there was a potential war with China over Taiwan.

His rhetoric was criticised by Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong, who said: "Amping up the prospect of war against a superpower is the most dangerous election tactic in Australian history."

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"Increasing talk of war in Canberra and more aggressive posturing by Beijing in the region will only increase the discord between the two," Dr Hsu said. 

Dr Yeophantong said it was unlikely Australia's Taiwan policy had irked Beijing, but it did signal Australia was siding with the US, as was the AUKUS agreement.

"For Beijing, at least, domestically, I don't think AUKUS is viewed as a threat, per se," she said, adding China's own naval modernisation program has progressed much further.

"But it just simply provides very clear messaging that Australia will remain firmly in the US camp."

What does 2022 hold?

Dr Hsu sees some hope in the appointment of Xiao Qian, as the new ambassador to Canberra.

"[It] indicates Beijing is moving away from Wolf Warrior diplomacy and, perhaps, may bring some relief to the Australia-China relations," she said.

The previous ambassador's tenure coincided with the series of "economic punishments" meted out to Australia and the release by the Chinese embassy of a list of 14 grievances against Canberra.

"Perhaps with the new ambassador in Canberra it's an opportunity for Australia to restart the relationship," Dr Hsu said. 

Mr Xiao's past roles have included ambassador to Hungary, and posts related to Asian affairs and Korean Peninsula affairs within China's foreign ministry.

Most recently he was the ambassador to Indonesia.

Trade tensions have shaped the Australia-China relationship this year.(Reuters: Jason Lee)

In the year ahead, domestic politics are likely to remain a focus, as Australia prepares for a federal election.

"It depends on whether a new government is formed or if the current government is returned. That, perhaps, will change how the relationship is managed," said Yun Jiang from the Australian National University.

While policies might remain the same, the opposition could change how they're implemented and messaged, and it could open a window for Beijing to engage differently, she said.

One article in the jingoistic tabloid The Global Times suggested bilateral relations were at their "lowest ebb", and that they may worsen during the 2022 election campaign "as candidates would make multiple aggressive speeches targeting China to serve as a public stunt to help them win more votes". 

Chinese President Xi Jinping marked 100 years of the Chinese Communist Party this year.(AP: Xinhua/Li Xueren)

China, meanwhile, is preparing for its National Congress, where the CCP's top leadership is set for the next five years.

Australia's former ambassador to China, Geoff Raby, wrote that 2022 would be the most significant year in Xi Jinping's 10-year rule.

Dr Yeophantong said Australia was a middle power and could be a "thorn" in China's side targeting Beijing's soft spots.

However, Dr Jiang pointed out that Washington was a bigger concern for Beijing than Canberra.

"From China's perspective, if it is not a great power yet, then it is going to be a great power soon. And from [Mr Xi's] perspective, the United States is its key competitor," she said.

The experts said Australia needed to find a balance between standing firm on its values and being pragmatic, while also trying to re-engage in a dialogue and deepen our understanding of Beijing's worldview.

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Dr Yeophantong said one way forward might be to focus on human interactions or "people-to-people diplomacy", something Dr Xue said could improve if more Chinese international students return to study in Australia in 2022.

Dr Carrico said he was pessimistic about Australia-China relations in the near future, and anticipated more uncertainty, tumult and withdrawal on the Chinese side. 

He said the Chinese leadership was stuck in a positive feedback loop without a "self-correcting mechanism", and wouldn't recognise that "it's alienating many of its global allies and it's coming off as a bully".

He said China's physical borders were mostly shut as it pursued a COVID-zero strategy, but he feared the country would retreat further in on itself by "closing its doors politically and culturally" too.

"These periods in which the country turns in on itself, closes its doors — those are certainly not the best periods in Chinese history," he said.

"They're reliably the most destructive, most chaotic and most traumatic eras in history."

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Chinese Embassy in Canberra were approached for comment but did not reply by deadline. 

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

The biggest events these experts say will shape Australia in 2022

As the end of 2021 draws near, despite the emergence of the Omicron variant there's an air of optimism about 2022.

Vaccine rates are continuing to climb, businesses that survived two years of uncertainty are reopening, the workforce is growing, state border restrictions have eased (although some states are reintroducing testing and/or isolation requirements in response to a rise in COVID cases), international travel is gradually resuming and there's an election on the horizon.

But will that optimism last? And what are the key economic trigger points to keep an eye on next year?

ABC News speaks to five leading economists about what they expect to happen in 2022.

COVID-19 is here to stay

As much as we might all be ready to move on from COVID-19, if the last two years, and recent weeks, have taught us anything, it's that the virus runs its own race and remains king.

"COVID is the main game," says Deloitte Access Economics partner Chris Richardson.

Deloitte Access Economics' Chris Richardson says COVID will continue to be the dominant factor driving our economy in 2022.(ABC News: John Gunn)

"When the economy was recovering to COVID free, that was magnificent, but it was fragile. And that was the story in the first half of 2021.

"The story for 2022 is likely to be a recovery off the back of booster vaccinations. Now that may not be quite as good as COVID free, but it should be much more reliable."

Chief Australia economist at BIS Oxford Economics Sarah Hunter agrees vaccination boosters are what's needed to help us get off the "roller-coaster ride" of 2021.

"The Omicron variant has definitely raised the level of uncertainty compared to a few weeks ago," she says.

"But, given vaccination rates and the initial reports of their effectiveness against severe disease outcomes, I'm more positive on 2022 compared to 2021."

A booster shot is now available to Australians five months after their second dose, with uptake expected to rise.

Chief Australia Economist at BIS Oxford Economics Sarah Hunter described 2021 as a "roller coaster" but is confident 2022 will be a smoother ride.(ABC News: John Gunn)

"It's still going to be there, we're still going to be living with the fallout, we're still going to be adjusting — but I think it's going to lessen over time, and we can already see that through the data," says Dr Hunter.

"The disease globally goes in waves and we can see that really clearly, if you look at the case numbers. But if you look at the economic impact of those, every time we get another resurgence, another wave, the impact on the economy lessens.

"So we're really learning to live with COVID, what it means, how we adapt to it, and how we tackle it, from an economic perspective, and also from a public health perspective."

The labour force recovery will continue

One of the biggest surprises for our economists in 2021 was how well the jobs market recovered after the Delta outbreak shut down New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT.

That momentum is expected to carry on into 2022 if lockdowns become a distant memory.

The unemployment rate is now the second lowest it's been in 13 years, at 4.6 per cent, after a record 366,100 jobs were added in November.

"An unemployment rate with a 4 handle on it is not something we've had for many, many years pre-COVID," says the Commonwealth Bank's head of Australian economics, Gareth Aird.

The Commonwealth Bank's Gareth Aird expects upside labour force pressures to continue in 2022.(ABC News: John Gunn)

"I think conditions in the labour market, notwithstanding the lockdown, look very good.

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"And I think that's a genuine surprise to the extent that we went through a large negative shock, which is COVID, but we're going to come out on the other side in better shape than we went into it."

There remains a lot of demand in the labour force, with the number of Seek job ads at the highest level they've been in 23 years, while the number of people applying for jobs is 53.6 per cent below December 2019 levels.

The expectation is that supply and demand tension will finally lead to a meaningful lift in wages.

"As we head through next year, the forward-looking indicators of the economy look very, very good," argues Mr Aird.

"A tight labour market means upward pressure on wages and we think, by the time we get to the end of next year, wages growth will be upwards near 3 per cent."

Dr Hunter's also expecting 2022 will deliver wage growth.

"Even in the public sector wages, we're starting to see the wage freezes that many of the state and federal governments put in place are being unwound, pay negotiations are happening and more significant increases are being baked in," Dr Hunter explains.

"So you put that together, that strength in the labour market and some robust growth in private sector wages, with public sector movements, the outlook for the overall index, I think is pretty positive and I do think we'll see wages growth pick up next year."

Inflation will increase

As the world continues to adapt to life with COVID, our experts say temporary spikes that have fuelled higher inflation will moderate.

"Petrol prices aren't going to keep going up over 20 per cent a year," notes Dr Hunter.

"Some of those indirect fallout's from supply chains, travel restrictions, limited migration, will to some extent still be there in 2022.

"The impact of these factors is likely to fade — there are already signs of this — but they're still going to be significant in 2022 and to be honest with you, going into 2023 too. But how we adapt to deal with and tackle these issues, I think is shifting."

AMP Capital Senior Economist Diana Mousina says what has, until now, been called transitory inflation is becoming more long term.

AMP Capital senior economist Diana Mousina expects global supply chain pressures will keep inflation high.(ABC News: John Gunn)

"There are definitely some supply chain issues that are going on in the global production cycle.

"But that could still last for another six months, so I don't know how long you can call that transient for if it's lasted for six to 12 months, that to me seems like a pretty persistent level of inflation."

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"I think that will still be affecting goods prices over the next year, and of course, the huge increase in demand that you've had from consumers for global goods, is also putting additional upward pressure on goods prices.

"As well as that you're now starting to see services prices are likely to increase as consumers shift their demand from goods towards services as the services economy reopens."

The increase in demand will continue to see the prices we pay for goods and services increase, leading to ongoing inflation.

Which is key for the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

The official interest rate will (maybe) lift

Since it cut the official cash rate to 0.1 per cent in November 2020, the RBA has been saying it won't start to lift rates "until actual inflation is sustainably within the 2 to 3 per cent target range."

While trimmed mean inflation hit 2.1 per cent in the September quarter, the RBA's "central forecast is for underlying inflation to reach 2.5 per cent over 2023."

Based on that forecasting, the current cash rate will remain in 2022.

But some of our economists disagree.

Australia's central bank maintains it won't lift the official cash rate until wages increase and inflation is within its target band.(ABC News: John Gunn)

"We think the RBA will be hiking rates for the first time next year, for the first time for about a decade, and we think that that will start in November next year," forecasts Ms Mousina.

Mr Aird agrees the cash rate will lift by the end of next year, with increases of about 0.25 per cent each quarter after that.

"Ultimately, we think the cash rate ends at a pretty low level of around 1.25 per cent as we get through towards the end of 2023."

But Dr Hunter doesn't expect the cash rate to change just yet.

"I think we're probably looking at the first half of 2023, from where I'm standing right now, but we'll obviously see how things play out in the numbers as we go through the next 12 months," says Dr Hunter.

Independent economist, Nicki Hutley observes that banks are already moving on interest rates.

Independent economist Nicki Hutley says she has been encouraged by the outcomes of COP26.(ABC News: John Gunn)

"The way the financial markets are pricing interest rates, we're already seeing mortgage rates, at least at the fixed end, start to increase and creep up.

"My money would be on, if not 2022, then certainly early 2023 would be more likely for the first interest rate rise."

"It may be 2023," says Mr Richardson.

"But that will be a sign of success. It's only going to happen if the economy is strong enough for long enough and it should be welcomed when it arrives."

House price rises will slow CoreLogic data shows property prices rose 22.2 per cent in the 12 months to November 2021.(ABC News: John Gunn)

The record 22.2 per cent house price increase recorded nationally in the past year is unlikely to be continued, but price rises aren't over yet.

"Those monthly growth rates, which were incredibly strong through 2021, should moderate as we go through 2022," explained Mr Aird.

"As we head into through 2023 the outcomes that we get on the housing front will be very much linked to what the Reserve Bank does on interest rates."

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CBA is forecasting prices will increase another 7 per cent in 2022, before falling 10 per cent in 2023.

"House prices obviously have had a number of very unique one-off factors that have really driven them up over the last 18 months and certainly through the last year," adds Dr Hunter.

"We're already seeing first-time buyers are getting into the market less than they were compared with six to 12 months ago, mortgage rates are climbing and auction clearance rates are falling. 

"They are all signs that affordability is getting squeezed and that will naturally dampen the momentum in prices."

The election, climate change policies and relations with China

The Morrison government announced how Australia would achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in late October, ahead of COP26.

"This really is the death knell for fossil fuels," Ms Hutley said.

COP 26 was a 'game changer' for government action on climate change, according to Ms Hutley.(AP: Branden Camp)

"It's a warning sign to governments that they need to be planning the transition, that they need to be supporting those communities that are going to be most affected by this, because we cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand."

She adds: "We are seeing something very significant happening here and of course COP 27 in Egypt next year is all about even more, an even firmer plan.

"So the pressure is on across all sectors of society, to see that change unfolding and I think it's a very exciting time."

Voters will go to the polls in early 2022.(ABC News: John Gunn)

Ms Mousina predicts the upcoming election will impact consumer sentiment.

"We tend to see that around the election, we can get some pretty large movements in consumer sentiment. So that could be one of the main things that drives consumer spending in the second half of next year."

She also expects the election will weigh on equity markets.

"It's another source of risk for share markets because share markets do still react and they can react aggressively to changes in leadership or even around volatility when it comes to elections."

Geopolitics, particularly with China, will continue to be a major issue next year.(AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool)

Mr Richardson warns relations with our largest trading partner will be the biggest issue, after COVID, to impact Australia next year.

"While our attention was very much on COVID and the fight against it, relations with China went down, but also the Chinese economy began to slow," he observes.

"It's been slowing in ways that hurt the Australian economy, showing up in things for example, like a lower iron ore price, that will make it a more of a challenge.

"China, having been our friend in economic terms for so long, may not be as friendly to the economy in 2022."

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘People have forgotten us’: The Afghan diaspora in Australia and the worries for those left behind

As the focus on Afghanistan's latest humanitarian crisis wanes, the everyday struggles of the Afghan diaspora have become more pronounced.

From those who left the war-torn country a decade ago to those who escaped the latest Taliban takeover, their stories reveal the perils of resettlement and the heartache of losing connection with their homeland.

For those forced to leave their homes, the months and years since have done little to lessen the pain.

Abdul fled Afghanistan in 2011 after the Taliban targeted him for being a journalist.

Two years and three countries later, he boarded a boat from Indonesia and arrived on Christmas Island after a five-day voyage.

He has not seen his wife and five children in a decade — they are still in Afghanistan.

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August. (Reuters: Ali Khara)

"Australia is a beautiful country. Nice people, lots of opportunities but when you don't have your family with you … that's jail for you," he said.

Abdul said his life had changed immensely since leaving Afghanistan.

"Before [the Taliban came] to target me, my life was very good. I got business, I got everything. I got my wife, kids, family, mother, sister. I was very happy."

Abdul is on a temporary protection visa (TPV) which grants temporary residency in Australia.

But TPV holders are unable to sponsor family members applying for Australian visas.

Abdul fled from Afghanistan in 2011 after he was targeted by the Taliban.(ABC News: Steve Cavenagh)'People have forgotten us'

The Australian Human Rights Commission said approximately 4,000 TPV and safe haven enterprise visa (SHEV) holders in Australia are in a similar situation.

The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in August took a particularly hard toll on Abdul.

He said he felt "broken" and helpless because he was unable to relocate his family to Australia.

"My daughter said, 'Dad, you [have been living] for 10 years in Australia and people [are] going for free [but] you cannot take us from here?' I said, 'Ghazal, you will be coming soon'."

Abdul says he's still hopeful of being reunited with his family.(ABC News: Steve Cavenagh)

Abdul said he and others in his situation are feeling abandoned.

"People have forgotten us, especially those on temporary visas. The government especially forgot us."

But Abdul said he still held on to the dream of a family reunion.

"I'm staying strong. I am not giving up … I know the Australian people [are] very nice people. I hope the government changes the policy so my family can come."

In a statement, a Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said family visa applications "continue to be processed".

"It remains the case that visa applicants must meet all requirements before a visa can be granted," it said.

It said the government is working to ensure visa options continue to be available to Afghan nationals "through Australia's longstanding Humanitarian and Migration Programs".

"Afghans will be a priority under the 2021-22 humanitarian visa program. An initial 3,000 humanitarian places will be allocated to Afghan nationals within Australia's 13,750 annual program," the statement said.

'They should be given permanent protection'

Mark Gillespie from Refugee Action Collective Queensland said those numbers need to improve.

"Our understanding is that Canada is taking 40,000 people, Australia has not extended its humanitarian program at all," he said.

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Mr Gillespie said people on TPVs and SHEVs need to be granted permanent protection and an opportunity to be reunited with their families.

"They need to be allowed to do family reunion, they should be given permanent protection."

Multicultural Australia president Christine Castley said settlement experiences differ for Afghan refugees, depending on personal circumstances and community support.

"There are people who have arrived who were separated from their family. This disrupted their settlement experience, understandably, because they are very focused on [reuniting] with their family," she said.

"Others who actually have arrived have their whole family connections here, and ready to move on."

Sohail Azizi is one of the lucky people. In the most recent turmoil, Mr Azizi and his family were among the first to be evacuated.

Sohail Azizi and his family successfully fled Kabul earlier this year.(ABC News: Glen Armstrong)Fleeing as the Taliban took Kabul

His father, already an Australian citizen, had been staying with Mr Azizi for several months prior to Kabul's collapse.

"[My father] was very worried, that's why he never left. He came just to visit us, but on a daily basis when things got worse I used to tell him to leave. He said, 'I can't leave you guys'," Mr Azizi said.

He said his evacuation experience progressed incredibly quickly. He received an email from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on August 12, three days before the fall of Kabul.

The email asked if he and his family wanted to evacuate and asked for some relevant paperwork, which Mr Azizi filled in.

Two days later, he received a response asking them to go to the airport.

On August 16, Mr Azizi and his family arrived at the Kabul airport. He described the experience as "chaotic" and "challenging".

"I had three kids, and [shots were fired] to reduce the crowd … and hand grenades [tactical grenades] were also thrown," he said.

Mr Azizi in his new home in Brisbane. (ABC News: Glen Armstrong)

Despite having no visa, the authorities helped Mr Azizi submit his application at the airport, where they stayed overnight waiting for approval.

The next day, their visa application got approved and they were on their way to Dubai airport.

"I was very much lucky, by getting the visa in less than 24 hours. So for me, it was quite unbelievable for some time that I've come to Australia because it happened very fast."

Mr Azizi said he is happy his children's future is secure in Australia, but he knows what he had to leave behind.

"We came with one pair of clothes, no more than that — documents, everything was left behind."

Life still a daily challenge

He said he has settled comfortably in Australia because of his family's support.

"My family have been the backbone since the day I came here living with them. I haven't felt anything as a challenge because whatever it is we come together as a family and it fades away."

Mr Azizi said while he escaped the chaos of Afghanistan, he still faces daily challenges in trying to adapt to a new environment and find a job.

"The challenges start after arriving in Australia because it's always difficult to restart everything. You're coming from one side of the globe to another side."

Afghan Diaspora Unity Council president Dr Noor Khalidi says maintaining family cohesion is essential for Afghan refugees.(Supplied: Noor Khalidi )

Afghan Diaspora Unity Council president Noor Khalidi said Afghan refugees do not leave their homes by choice.

"People who apply as a refugee are forced to apply. Ordinary people are not migrating — it is the urban educated, the workforce who cannot find space for them in the new government under the Taliban," he said.

Dr Khalidi said the settlement experiences for people from non-English-speaking backgrounds differ on all levels.

"In Afghanistan, we have netted families. The family unit work very closely together and when there is separation, the husband and wife come apart, the children come apart," Dr Khalidi said.

He said raising Afghan children in a vastly different cultural environment also has its challenges.

"[The children] don't understand their parents, and the parents do not understand the kids' needs. They don't understand what kids are going through in school with bullying and also outside of school," he said.

'I realised I needed to grow up faster'

Fahima Ahmadi says many Afghan families in Australia are heavily reliant upon their children because of language and cultural barriers.(ABC News: Glen Armstrong)

Fahima Ahmadi, a young Afghan Hazara, can relate to that.

The 18-year-old high school student said on top of the language barrier, her main settlement challenge has been adapting to a new education system.

"As a person who was born in a country where there was only one computer at school, it was really hard for me to use technology," Ms Ahmadi said.

She said she also struggles with understanding her own identity.

"I was brought in as a refugee in Iran. But I was known as an Afghani in Iran. But when I went to Afghanistan, because of my Iranian accent, I was called an Iranian, or a traitor in public spaces. And [Australians] would consider me as an Afghan from Afghanistan, raised in Iran, and who will become an Australian in two years."

Her father came to Australia in 2011, leaving behind his wife and children in Iran.

"That was a time when I realised I need to grow up faster in order to support my family," Ms Ahmadi said.

"My priority at the age of eight was to help my mum wrap chocolates to earn a living at night while doing my school commitments and also dealing with the discrimination that I used to face every day in Iran."

Fahima Ahmadi was separated from her father for eight years. (ABC News: Glen Armstrong)

Eight years later, her family was accepted into Australia and arrived in the country in 2019.

As a young Afghan girl, she faced unique settlement challenges — something she said is common among young Afghans and yet largely ignored within the community.

"In Afghan communities where there would be only one child, everyone would be dependent [on] that person. For that [young] person, the pressure and the mental health [toll] they would suffer is insane.

"My father had to support us when we were in Iran and he didn't get the opportunity to learn [English]. And when we came to Australia, my older sister and I were the only children in my family who could speak English and make that connection."

Despite the difficult situation in Afghanistan, Ms Ahmadi said she wants to enter politics.

"Witnessing the situation and the living conditions of those people whose only crime was being born in Afghanistan, I [decided] to become a politician," she said.

The ABC sought comment from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) regarding Mr Azizi's visa situation.

DFAT did not answer direct questions and referred the matter to the Department of Home Affairs.

"As the Foreign Minister announced in September, Australia will contribute $100 million in humanitarian assistance to respond to the Afghanistan crisis from 2021-24," DFAT said in a statement.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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Live updates4m ago4 minutes agoWed 22 Dec 2021 at 9:30pm

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17m ago17 minutes agoWed 22 Dec 2021 at 9:17pm

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Two years on from Australia’s largest bushfire residents fear the next blaze

Two years has passed since Australia's largest bushfire razed more than a million hectares, but the scars are still burned into the memories of those who were there. 

Key points:

  • Locals around Lithgow reflect on the fire which burned from October 2019 to January 2020
  • Many are traumatised by the ferocity of the blaze and damage it caused
  • They're afraid the next fire could be worse due to high fuel loads and climate change 

The Gospers Mountain mega-blaze burned for almost three months and scorched hundreds of kilometres across the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury, and Central Coast areas. 

It began with a lightning strike in the Wollemi National Park in late October 2019 during a long drought that had dried out bushland and evaporated water sources.

For six weeks, residents in the areas around Lithgow anxiously waited for the inevitable. 

In the week before Christmas, the fire arrived at the town and the nearby Wolgan Valley. 

The bushfire was among the world's 10 largest on record.(Supplied: RFS Lithgow)

Dozens of buildings and homes were destroyed in the inferno.

Kristie Kearney said knowing what was coming made her sick with dread.

"It sounded like a jet plane coming through and the sky was just so thick with smoke," Ms Kearney said. 

"It was almost like daytime had gone to night-time." 

The blaze burned for almost three months and scorched hundreds of kilometres.(Supplied: Gena Dray)

She and her husband battled the fire on four fronts for six days to save their property in the Wolgan Valley. 

"You don't have any physical scars but it's definitely emotional scars that stick with you for many years," she said. 

She said the community as a whole had worked on building fire preparedness because climate change would increase the ferocity and frequency of such catastrophic events. 

If you or anyone you know needs help:

A bigger threat remains

In the valley sits Newnes, an abandoned mining area surrounded by the Wollemi National Park, where Thomas Ebersoll lives and runs holiday cabins. 

On December 21, 2019, the fire surrounded him. 

The shed behind the Newnes Hotel Cabins surrounded by flames.(Supplied: Thomas Ebersoll)

"If I had evacuated, nothing would have been left here," he said. 

With the help of local residents he managed to save his home and business but said the surrounding landscape was devastated.

"It scars you … it was horrific." 

Mr Ebersoll said he lived in fear of the next blaze, because after two very wet years there was more fuel on the ground than he had ever seen. 

"If it dries up, which it will, then the fire danger is bigger than ever before and it'll burn hotter and more severe." 

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On January 12, 2020, the fire was officially declared out.

It came within 500 metres of Julie Favell's house. 

The local environmental advocate said while much of what burned had recovered, some animal and plant species would probably never return. 

"It's taking time," Ms Favell said. 

A silver lining, she said, had been finding native flora which had not been seen in the area for a long time. 

"There is hope there.

"The other hope is that the government is well resourced for the next fire, given our journey with climate change." 

Julie Favell (right) says it's taking time for the environment to recover.(ABC News: Xanthe Gregory)Find more local news

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Arizona’s house prices jumped 35 per cent. That could be bad news for Australia

There's something romantically rustic and unique about Phoenix, Arizona. 

Renowned for its year-round warmth, specular vista and expansive red dirt fields dotted with giant cactus, the Valley of the Sun has long been the holiday mecca for those living in northern states during the harsh winter months. 

However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it became a refuge for those feeling captive in big cities. They didn't just travel there temporarily, they relocated long-term.

As a result, house prices in the southern desert city have jumped an unprecedented 35 per cent in the year to June.

"It's kinda like we're on hyperspeed now, everything is super fast. If you hesitate, you're out," real estate agent Jeff Fields said.

"There are multiple offers on properties and a lot of waiving of inspections, which is crazy."

Jeff Fields has seen an extreme demand for property in Phoenix.(ABC News: Cameron Schwarz)

Homes in the area that were once worth $US500,000 ($703,000) are now easily selling at $US800,000. 

"Some properties are receiving as much as 20 to 30 offers on the day [of listing]. That's how crazy our market has shifted," Mr Fields said. 

"I just closed on a property for a buyer who, four months earlier, it had sold for $US100,000 less."

There are a few factors at play, but the phenomenon that's shaking out in Phoenix isn't isolated.

It's happening in markets across the globe, including Australia. 

Hundreds of viewings, priced out within days Amy and David Guerrero found themselves putting in offers as soon as properties were listed in Phoenix before they eventually found their home.(ABC News: Cameron Schwarz)

Young couple Amy and David Guerrero have long dreamed of owning their own home.

During 2020, they ramped up their efforts to enter the first home buyer market but were priced out by out-of-state money, time and time again.

They considered putting offers on up to 30 homes in Phoenix.

"We probably looked at over a hundred houses in person and thousands online," Mr Guerrero said. 

"Eventually it turned into, new listing is up, I'd call her [Amy], we'd run to the house, we'd look in the window, call the agent, wait to get an appointment in it and then make an offer that same day.

"That's how competitive it was getting. Two days in, it would be sold."

The couple have now settled into their new home.(ABC News: Cameron Schwarz)

The Guerreros — who are thinking of starting a family — finally managed to secure their first home in May, but it certainly wasn't an easy journey.

They came up against prospective buyers willing to waive inspections and valuations, others putting down cash offers, while some agreed to give the seller $US10,000 once the inspections were done.

"There are a lot of ways people with money are really working the system that people who don't have as much can't really do," Mr Guerrero said. 

But others, like single father-of-four Jason Smith, haven't been so lucky. 

The self-employed plumber tried for months to enter the market. He eventually settled on a buying a motorhome and now lives in an RV park in North Phoenix. 

"I make everybody else their dream home, but I can't even find a half dream," Mr Smith said.

"You really want a house, you don't want a trailer, you want something that's stable, that you can put a dog in the backyard.

"At the end of the day, when I was trying to think outside the box, I ended up buying a box to live in."

Single dad Jason Smith gave up his dream of home ownership and bought an RV instead. (ABC News: Cameron Schwarz)The US leads the pack globally, so what does it mean for Australia?

The pandemic prompted consumers worldwide to re-evaluate their lives, with many choosing to evacuate big cities in the hunt for more space as their work went virtual.

Major hub cities like New York and Los Angeles were abandoned in favour of those with more space. 

That demand, combined with record low interest rates, a housing shortfall, supply chain delays and fast-rising inflation as the world emerged from the shutdowns, has pushed up home prices everywhere, pricing out many consumers. 

"Housing prices are increasing at historically high rates — at a blistering rate right now — but, year over year, it's more like 20 per cent [in the US]," University of Pennsylvania real estate professor Susan Wachter said.

"It's also happening in the UK, Australia, Canada: It's a global phenomenon." 

In Australia, house prices are expected to cap the year out with more than 20 per cent growth.

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And what happens next in the United States could trickle down directly to the average Australian household. 

If the Federal Reserve chooses to lift interest rates to cool inflation and consumer spending, it will have a ripple effect worldwide. 

"Then, of course, there is the monetary response to COVID, which has driven interest rates and mortgage rates to all-time lows. That is also extremely important to the outcome of unprecedented increases in housing prices, worldwide," Professor Wachter said. 

"If inflation comes down due to the Fed's actions — interest rate increases — that's likely to be followed on elsewhere and, at the same time, other central banks are in fact following on, pre-empting the Fed, increasing interest rates now because of high global inflation."

Susan Wachter says the real concern is mortgage debt increasing while house prices continue to grow. (ABC News: Cameron Schwarz)

At a basic level, raising interest rates goes hand-in-hand with appreciating currencies.

In many parts of the world, the US dollar is used as a benchmark of current and future economic growth.

The Australian dollar is now starting to fall against the greenback, which is only expected to further exacerbate inflation. 

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In addition, many Australian banks fund their fixed mortgage loans in US bond markets. So, any rise to interest rates will likely flow on to Australian homeowners.

"There is a vulnerability, particularly with fixed-rate mortgages to sharp rises in interest rates, which is why central banks are preparing banks and asking for cushions and additional capital," Professor Wachter said.

"It is quite possible that a sharp rise in mortgage rates could spark some mortgage stress, mortgage payment shock and a rise in defaults. 

"This is the real concern, it could not just slow prices but [could] cause prices to reverse and decline, and that's the major concern.

"To have price declines at the same time as unemployment increases is a recipe for macro-instability and that's what happened in the Great Recession [2007-2009]."

While she doesn't foresee a repeat of the fallout from the global financial crisis, Professor Wachter is concerned with mortgage debt increasing at the same time as record house price growth. 

The building supply chain has also been severely disrupted by the pandemic and is now playing catch-up. 

In America, as elsewhere, the result is a widening generational gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials who are watching their dreams of buying a home go up in smoke, once again.

Any decision by the US Federal Reserve to lift interest rates to alleviate the housing problem will have a ripple effect on the rest of the world.(ABC News: Cameron Schwarz)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Australia signs UK free trade deal, scrapping import tariffs and opening British jobs market to Aussies

Australia and the United Kingdom will today formally sign a free trade deal, which is expected to make it easier for Australians to live and work in Britain, as well as eliminating or phasing out tariffs on a vast range of products, including lamb, beef, sugar and dairy.  

Key points:

  • The deal is the first free trade agreement struck by the UK since it left the European Union
  • It will make it easier for more young Australians to live and work in the UK
  • Meanwhile, the UK is hoping the deal will generate momentum in other trade negotiations

Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison announced an in-principle agreement on the FTA back in June, but negotiators have spent the past six months finalising the text. 

Today the two countries will agree to immediate tariff-free quotas on a number of Australian exports, with plans to scrap the taxes entirely in a decade, as well as cutting $200 million worth of costs imposed on imported British cars, whisky, confectionery, biscuits and cosmetics.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan said the deal covered nearly all Australian business with the UK.

"It is a true free trade agreement, it covers all areas," Mr Tehan said.

It is the first new free trade deal struck by the United Kingdom since it left the European Union and has been spruiked by Mr Johnson as evidence that Britain can strike out on its own and open up new markets to soften the economic impact of Brexit. 

To secure it, Mr Johnson had to stare down some of his own backbenchers and reassure the UK farm lobby, which warned that a flood of Australian agricultural exports could hurt British farmers. 

In contrast, Australian farming groups gave full-throated backing to the FTA, saying it will provide farmers with welcome new export opportunities.

The agreement will also make it easier for younger Australians to live and work in the United Kingdom – and for Brits to come here – by increasing the age limit for the working holiday visa to 35. 

For both countries, though, the total economic benefits are modest. The United Kingdom estimates an FTA could lift its GDP (gross domestic product) by around $900 million, while modelling suggests Australia's economy could be boosted by around $1.3 billion.

However, the United Kingdom believes the deal will make it easier for its companies to bid for Australian government contacts, as well as open up new opportunities in financial and legal services.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan says Australia does not typically focus on climate change targets in free trade agreements.(ABC News: Tim Stevens)

The UK also hopes that the agreement will help it generate momentum in other trade negotiations, including its pitch to join the massive CP-TPP — a sprawling trade agreement taking in 11 Pacific Rim nations, including Australia. 

In June, Boris Johnson said the agreement was "important economically" but "more important politically and symbolically". 

"We're opening up to each other and this is the prelude to a general campaign of opening up around the world," he said. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also hailed the deal as "the most comprehensive and ambitions agreement that Australia has concluded".

Both countries say the agreement will help to buttress their close strategic ties.

However, the United Kingdom and Australia were at odds over climate change during the negotiations.

In September, British news outlets revealed that Australian negotiators had rejected a British push to include language explicitly committing countries to the Paris Agreement goals to limit temperature increases.

Australia's Trade Minister, Dan Tehan, did not deny the report and said Australia did not typically focus on climate change targets in free trade agreements. 

"We like our free trade agreements to actually be about free trade and multilateral environmental agreements [are] where you negotiate emissions reductions," he said.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Warner and Labuschagne win key battles as Australia takes control of second Ashes Test

At the end of the 1986/87 Ashes series, by which point Chris Broad had piled on 487 runs, England captain Mike Gatting had taken to calling his opening batsman "Whoda" — as in, "Whoda thought it of you, Broady?"

The many successes of Broad's son Stuart are met with no surprise.

On day one of the Adelaide Test, he collected his 150th Test cap — a feat achieved in defiance of history, biology and the law of averages. From there, Broad was expected to resume his role of lording it over Australian opener David Warner and nothing less.

The scene was set when Australia batted first, putting Warner's tenderised ribs immediately in the firing line of his nemesis. There was a raucous LBW appeal from the first delivery of the duel and no relief at the other end, where Jimmy Anderson was deftly slanting the ball across Warner and Marcus Harris.

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The degree of difficulty was underlined by Harris's awkward groping outside off stump, which led inevitably to his departure from Broad's 21st and — to that point — only bad delivery. Coming around the wicket every ball, with a leg gully in place, Broad's idea was dead obvious. Yet Harris still fell into his trap.

You thought that Warner might too. Yet, as in Brisbane, he was unperturbed. On a flat surface with spongy bounce and none of the pace he craves, Warner put aside his ego, accepted he'd play and miss plenty, and didn't even seem to mind that his first run took 20 deliveries — his slowest start in Tests.

Again, it was true that he benefited from luck, namely one of the more fortunate LBW reviews yet seen in Ashes cricket. But whereas in the past he seemed to accept the risks of blasting 80 before lunch, here his mantra was survival.

Unlike any time in recent memory, the game was almost 15 overs old when Warner finally hit a boundary. And then slowly but surely, he prevailed.

Warner has shown greater maturity with his batting so far this series.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

Warner made 95 from 167 deliveries all told — the second time in as many Tests he's perished with a century in sight, and this time at least to a classically Warner cross-bat biff to cover — but by then he'd not just emphatically won his battle with Broad, but revealed himself a new and highly evolved player since the pair last met in 2019.

Warner's strike rate — now 10 points lower than that maintained by the man who seemed to throw the kitchen sink at every swinging delivery of the last Ashes series — indicates a newfound pragmatism.

Whisper it, but he might just be the most level-headed batter Australia has.

Australia's new odd couple

As it turned out, the more gripping contest of the day was between Marnus Labuschagne and Ben Stokes.

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Zeroing in on Labuschagne's uncertain footwork against the short ball, Stokes peppered the Australian number three with bouncer barrages that brought a plodding contest to life.

The peak of the hostility came in Stokes's third over, just before the end of the first session. A short leg came in. Stokes wound up. Always so keen to dictate terms and bat in his own bubble, Labuschagne became a tangle-footed mess. There were ducks and waves. There was a bizarre late cut, flicked through the cordon. Stokes struck him a thumping blow to the ribs.

Two hours into his innings, Labuschagne scratched around with a strike rate in the 20s. By stumps, he'd triumphed against his own lack of touch as much as the English bowling. His undefeated 95 from 275 deliveries helped Australia to 2-217 at stumps.

Labuschagne reached stumps five runs shy of a Test century.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

Labuschagne's 172-run partnership with Warner may prove decisive in the end, just as the same pair's 162-run union shaped the result in Brisbane.

They are an odd couple; the veteran as straightforward as the newcomer is neurotic. Warner finds singles everywhere and turns twos into threes. Marnus can disappear into himself for hours on end, calling his runs abysmally.

When the going is good, Labuschagne scores at a rate that can relieve pressure on his partner. Here, he laboured through the first and second session at a snail's pace, failing to rotate the strike.

It meant that once Warner started to build some momentum in his own innings, it stalled. It is one thing to dance like nobody's watching, but you can't bat like nobody else matters.

Yet the results brook few arguments. Labuschagne puts a hefty price on his wicket. Sure, he wants everyone to know that it matters that little bit more to him, but, well, it does seem to matter more to him, doesn't it? And yet again, he has put Australia in a commanding position in a big game.

Ambling England need to show urgency

There were plenty of "againsts" for England, too.

Again, without bowling badly, it didn't seem to be nailing any coherent plan. Again, its over rate was abysmal, which means it flirts with the suspension of captain Joe Root if things don't improve quickly.

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And again, most of the basics were just way off. Beyond Broad, and Anderson's opening salvos and Stokes's battle with Labuschagne, the day was typified by the unthreatening spells of Ollie Robinson. In Brisbane, Robinson shaped the ball around at wicked angles and always looked a threat. Here, it was dibbly dobbly overload, like a husky Gavin Larsen.

At drinks in the second session, Broad shared with SpiderCam the novel idea that he was "looking to bring the stumps into play". As if on cue, Stokes's next ball was short and wide, and Warner belted it over cover for four. England's lengths were a problem all day.

And England being England, there were again fielding mishaps that may prove fatal. Having pouched Harris so expertly, Buttler had a mirror-image chance diving the other way when Labuschagne was 21, but he parried it.

On 95, with stumps close, Labuschagne presented a sitter and Buttler put that down too.

Joe Root has plenty to ponder going into day two of the second Test.(Getty Images: Daniel Kalisz)

Root has had better days as captain — his failure to deploy Stokes at the start of the second session, after he'd troubled Labuschagne so obviously at the end of the first, was nothing short of baffling — but there are only so many ways to dice four right-handed seamers.

In the evening session, the tourists' hope was that Anderson could rekindle his magic of the last pink-ball Test between the two teams. He's been taxing Australians almost as long as the GST. But it didn't happen — out of character, he bowled too short as well.

All day, neither he nor Broad could get the pink ball to swing.

Late on day one, Broad was shuffling around like the Tin Man and Anderson stayed warm by lying on his side and pulling at his right leg like a clapped-out lawnmower cord. Both will grimace as they eye the weather forecast for day two — sweltering heat.

For England, it might be a deal breaker.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Migration is coming back to Australia, but will it keep wages down?

Unions are questioning whether a quick return to pre-pandemic levels of migration may suppress forecast wages growth, particularly as the cost of living climbs. 

Key points:

  • Both the Coalition and Labor say migration is important for Australia's economic growth
  • Business groups say the forecast migration numbers are not enough
  • There is hope that a return to pre-COVID migration numbers will boost wages

While inflation is expected to outpace wages growth until mid-next year, real wages are predicted to steadily rise after June 2022.

It is one of the federal government's key selling points from Thursday's mid-year budget update, telling voters to look forward to fatter pay packets in years ahead.

As wages are forecast to rise, so is migration — steadily climbing back to roughly pre-pandemic levels.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg argues migration can climb alongside wages.

"I don't see it as a binary choice between having a sensible, measured immigration program … as well as getting a tighter labour market and putting the policies in place that drive real wages up," he said.

Labor has agreed migration is an important source of economic growth but says it should not be a substitute for training Australians to fill workforce shortages.

Unions have called for a migration rethink and suggested rushing back to pre-pandemic levels will "clearly" push wages lower than they otherwise would be.

Where is migration headed?

Australia is currently in the very unusual position of actually losing people overseas, rather than gaining them.

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In 2020-21, roughly 100,000 more people left Australia than moved here due to strict border policies.

That trend is expected to continue this financial year, even as borders slowly open — with 41,000 more people to depart than arrive.

But in 2022-23, things will start to quickly turn around.

That year is expected to see 180,000 more people arrive than depart, followed by 213,000 the following year, and 235,000 in 2024-25.

To put that number in context, during the last "normal" year (2018-19), that number was 241,000.

And it has been much higher than that in the past — in 2008-09, it fell just short of 300,000.

Unions worry it is too much, too soon

Some union leaders have expressed concern about the rapid return of significant migration, just as wages growth is forecast to rise.

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Acting Secretary of the ACTU Liam O'Brien said he was worried about temporary migration in particular.

"We're deeply concerned about the fact that the Morison government looks to be restarting and really ramping up temporary migration in this country," he said.

"This clearly puts downward pressure on wages just when we need to see them going up."

Mr O'Brien said after years of stagnant wages, the government should be doing everything it can to drive them up as fast as possible.

He said rising wages will drive economic growth more effectively than migration, or anything else.

"Sixty per cent of our economy is workers spending money," he said.

"And if we don't have serious efforts to increase wages, then economic growth is going to slow over the long term."

Are migration and wages really linked?

Some economists pour doubt over suggestions increased migration might affect wages, and others claim it is unequivocally good news.

Chris Richardson from Deloitte Access Economics suggests migrants coming to Australia tend to be younger and more skilled than the general population.

"Over time, migrants don't affect wages for everybody else," he said.

"If a migrant arrives and puts up their hand to take a job, they get a job and spend that money and it creates the next job.

"It doesn't affect job numbers, it doesn't affect wages over time."

But he does warn a very steep climb in migration could have unintended consequences.

"If the return to migration is rapid, it may take some time for those people to get jobs — that may be something that slows wage growth, temporarily," he said.

Mr Richardson says migrants tend to be more skilled than the average Australian.(ABC News)

Danielle Wood from the Grattan Institute said seeing borders open faster than expected is a very good thing.

"What that does is lifts the overall growth rate — if you have more people, the economy grows stronger overall," she said.

"Given some of the pressure points in labour markets and shortages in various parts of the economy, that will very welcome news for a lot of businesses."

'We have to be more ambitious': Business groups argue forecasts aren't enough

Business groups are pushing back strongly against suggestions of any slowdown in migration and some are arguing what is being forecasted will fall short of what is needed.

Many industry groups have for months been complaining of significant skills shortages due to the effective suspension in migration, particularly in sectors like IT and hospitality.

Andrew McKellar from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry argues any question over Australia's migration levels has been long settled.

"The economics of this is well established — migration has been a positive for the Australian economy over a long period of time," he said.

"We know that it will add to demand, we know it will add to our skills base."

Mr McKellar said there is a strong argument for larger numbers in the next few years, to make up for lost time.

"We have to get back to much stronger levels of migration," he said.

"Even the numbers that are factored into the budget at the moment, I'm not sure that's enough.

"I think we have to be more ambitious and we shouldn't run away from it, we shouldn't be afraid of it — we need leadership on both sides on this issue."

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Australia win legal battle against India over sugar subsidies

Australian canegrowers have won a long-running legal battle against Indian sugar subsidies, after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in Australia's favour overnight. 

Key points:

  • A ruling by the World Trade Organisation has found that sugar subsidies in India are distorting global sugar prices
  • The WTO panel ruled in favour of a combined complaint made three years ago by Australia, Brazil and Guatemala
  • It found India's export subsidies were prohibited under trading rules

A WTO panel found India had export subsidies in place that were prohibited under trading rules and recommended their removal. 

Chair of the Australian Canegrowers, Paul Schembri said it was an encouraging decision not only for Australian cane growers, but any sugar producers around the world that do not receive subsidies. 

"We have to be pragmatic as there are still appeals processes that have to be worked through," Mr Schembri said. 

"But certainly it's encouraging news." 

It has been three years since Australia, along with the Brazilian and Guatemalan governments lodged a complaint with the WTO, accusing India of distorting the global sugar price through subsidies to its farmers. 

Australian growers alleged the subsidies caused a glut in the international market, leading to a significant drop in global prices. 

"We can't allow this distortion in the marketplace to take effect, which is why it's important we continue to prosecute," Mr Schembri said. 

"In the past three or four years, the world sugar price has been at or below the cost of production, and that has exacted enormous economic damage to the Australian sugar industry."

Canegrowers had hoped a ruling would come earlier this year, but the process had been hampered by COVID-19.  

In a statement, Canegrowers and the Australian Sugar Milling Council called upon the Indian government to comply with the findings of the WTO's panel. 

Canegrowers in Australia, along with other members of the Global Sugar Alliance, have long argued that India's subsidies have tanked the global price. (Brad Marsellos)

It is not the first time the WTO has ruled in Australia's favour on sugar subsidies: the European Union's supports were declared illegal in 2004, which led to an immediate increase in the world sugar price. 

Australia exports about 85 per cent of its domestic production, and rely on the global raw sugar prices to drive profit. 

Following Brazil, Australia is the second-highest exporter of raw sugar in the world. 

The win could have ramifications for Australia's other disputes, currently before the international court. 

In March, the Australian government announced it would refer China to a WTO dispute panel for breaching international trading rules by imposing tariffs on barley; and in October this year, the WTO agreed to examine China's tariffs on Australian wine. 

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

International students return to Australia warning of a reputation tarnished abroad

International students and skilled migrants can once again enter Australia without an exemption as the country's tough border policies soften slightly.

Key points:

  • Australia's partial international border reopening was delayed by two weeks because of the emergence of the Omicron variant
  • Several international students have told the ABC they are excited to be landing in Australia
  • The nation's universities lost an estimated $1.8 billion last year

After more than 18 months, rules strictly limiting the arrival of both students and skilled migrants have been relaxed.

All will still have to self-isolate for 72 hours upon arrival — just like Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members — and they will only be allowed into states and territories that are already taking international arrivals.

However, while universities are keen to warmly welcome their first major intake of international students in two years, some students are warning this nation's tough border policies have left lukewarm attitudes to Australian study abroad.

LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemicStudents felt 'more respected' elsewhere

Among those arriving on Wednesday will be Deepesh Batra, due to arrive in Melbourne this evening from Delhi before taking up study at the University of Wollongong in February.

Mr Batra said that, after so much time wondering when Australia would open its doors, he was excited to be on campus — and to see Australian-based family too.

"It's kind of magical, to be honest, and I just can't wait to be there," he said.

"To meet my sister and be finally at the university and study."

But Mr Batra warned that, after a frustrating year and a half for international students stuck abroad, many have simply given up on studying in Australia.

He said Australia could have done far better communicating its plans and intentions to the tens of thousands of students around the globe, wondering when they could finally pack their bags.

"Throughout these months, all we were asking for was clear communication between the government and students," he said, "not just fear-mongering, so we would have had some clarity."

Read more about the Omicron variant:

He said he had two friends who had planned to study in Australia but wound up travelling to Canada instead, saying they felt "more respected" there.

"If they have chosen Canada or Australia, the purpose still remains the same, which is to gather knowledge and a high-quality education," he said.

"If there is no clear messaging [from Australia], that creates a dilemma."

Some fear borders will close again, either locking them in or out

Gargi Bakshi will also land in Australia on Wednesday night before heading to Deakin University, where she will study biomedical science.

It is Ms Bakshi's first trip outside India and it has taken two years of planning.

Ms Bakshi finished school in 2019 and was accepted into university, but deferred for two years until she knew she could travel to Australia.

Now she is on her way, she said she is incredibly keen to arrive.

"It's very exciting, very nervous and scared," she said.

"I'm going to be missing Mum's cooking a lot.

"Just put every sort of emotion in, that's me."

Ms Bakshi said her farewells with parents and grandparents were tough, as she felt she could not confidently tell them when she would be back.

She said many students were nervous travelling to Australia, concerned borders may close again and they will not be able to easily return home.

"Once you do land, you still want to go back to your family at least once a year," Ms Bakshi said.

"And, if the borders get shut down and you go back, you can't return.

"So I would definitely say that there is a lot of hesitancy."

Read more about the vaccine rollout:

Universities hope students flood back

Australia's university sector estimates it lost $1.8 billion last year, partly due to a significant shortfall of international students.

Catriona Jackson from Universities Australia said it would take years for numbers to recover.

"It's hard to recover the way you might in other sectors, because the student you don't have in first year, you don't have in second year, third year or fourth year," she said.

"So there'll be a nasty tail."

Catriona Jackson says the economic impact of the pandemic on universities will last for years.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Ms Jackson said she could understand the frustration of students stuck abroad, either studying online seemingly indefinitely, or deferring courses until they knew they could travel to Australia.

But, she said, she hoped they could understand why the borders were in place.

"What we'd say to them is, 'We've taken a particular approach and a very successful approach to controlling the virus in Australia'," she said.

"And they will reap the rewards of that safety when they're back here."

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Kamali and Gesanit migrated to Australia right when COVID hit. Finding jobs has been hard work

Gesanit Mahare moved to Tasmania from Sudan two years ago, right when the pandemic first took off, and it has been a struggle to find work until recently.

Key points:

  • Migrants face unique barriers to work, and job-seeking has been even harder since the pandemic hit
  • There are concerns changes to federal support for jobseekers will mean migrants won't get targeted support
  • A program run in northern Tasmania is proving the benefit of migrant-specific employment support with a more than 70 per cent success rate

"You want to work but you couldn't because you don't have any experience, so it's hard," she said. 

Ms Mahare is in the latest cohort to graduate from an employment program run by the Migrant Resource Centre North in Launceston. 

The Assist Support Strength Employment Train (ASSET) program supports migrants to become job ready, and is already seeing positive results.

At least 70 per cent of those who undertake the program have been able to secure work after completing the course.

Participants are taught skills including resume writing, how to conduct themselves in a job interview and what to expect from an Australian workplace. 

They also attain certificates in kitchen work, cleaning and catering, and complete 40 hours of practical work as an entree before entering into the workforce.

LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic Gesanit Mahare has loved being part of a program to connect her to work.(ABC News: Piia Wirsu)

Fellow participant Kamali Rai, who arrived from Nepal two years ago, jumped at the chance to take part in the program — and has already secured a job.

"I learned lots of things, it's my first experience. I have never done that before in my life but [the program] was so amazing I gained a different knowledge," she said.

Peter Gill, operations manager of Kols Cleaning, has taken on nine workers from Nepal through the partnership with the Migrant Resource Centre since 2019.

"It was perfect timing because we were struggling to find additional staff so we agreed to take on the three staff and since then they've now gone from casual to permanent part-time to some of our most valued employees," he said. 

"From a personal perspective, it's been great to see people succeed and I think as an employer it's nice to stand next to people.

"We've already seen the massive amounts of benefits it's given our business."

Concerns about changes to employment services

While the pandemic caused high rates of unemployment across the country, Tasmania has appeared marginally brighter, with overall employment increasing by 0.4 per cent during the September quarter.

But for people from migrant backgrounds, COVID-19 has made getting a job particularly challenging — and there are concerns it will become more difficult when the federal government reforms how jobseekers access employment services from July 2022.

Ella Dixon is concerned federal changes to jobseeker support will leave migrants behind in Tasmania.(ABC News: Piia Wirsu)

Ella Dixon, CEO of the Migrant Resource Centre North, worries the New Employment Services Model will not cater to the specific needs of migrants in Tasmania. 

"I understand that there's not going to be a multicultural-specific stream in Tasmania," Ms Dixon said.

"Which will mean that jobseekers from a multicultural background, CALD [culturally and linguistically diverse] background, will be treated as a mainstream jobseeker."

Ms Dixon said this would mean the cohort would not get the additional support that could ensure the success of securing and retaining a job.

"I think it will just be harder to translate from application to job, and navigating a workplace system, in the absence of that culturally specific response," she said. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Education, Skills and Employment said the new model would deliver services to CALD jobseekers, but did not say whether they would be multicultural specific or targeted.

"The new employment services model will deliver a simple, efficient, trusted and connected service to all Australian jobseekers, including Tasmanian and CALD jobseekers," the spokesperson said. 

"Providers for the New Employment Services Model 2022 will be selected through a Request for Proposal process, which is currently in the market."

Migrants facing cultural, language barriers to work

Ms Mahare said she "looked many times" for work before the program, but a lack of Australian work experience held her back. 

She thinks trying to find work has been more difficult during the pandemic, and despite doing a kitchen hand certificate and applying for dozens of jobs, she still could not get a foot in the door. 

"During COVID the work was a little bit not busy so I didn't have an opportunity to work, so it was really difficult," she said.

Participants learn everything from writing a resume and cover letter, to what to expect from an Australian workplace.

The employment impacts of COVID-19 have been harder felt by migrants, particularly those who have arrived more recently or come from a non-English speaking country, according to data from the National Skills Commission. 

"The usual problems are around language, education, pre-arrival skills and recognition of qualifications from the country of origin," Ms Dixon said. 

"A lack of experience in an Australian workplace, connecting with employers and navigating systems where people have to apply online and submit CVs and answer selection criteria is often quite difficult."

Ms Mahare said she cannot wait to get into work.

"When you like to work and it's from your heart, it's not anything difficult."

Want more Tasmanian news?

Set the ABC News website or the app to 'Tasmania Top Stories' from either the homepage or the settings menu in the app to continue getting the same national news you love but with a sprinkle of more relevant state stories.

Here's a taste of the latest stories from Tasmania:

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Is Brisbane emerging as Australia’s sporting capital?

Sydneysiders will scoff and Melburnians will probably snort out their macchiatos, but evidence is stacking up that Brisbane is on the rise as Australia's sporting capital.

Our men's cricketers' strong start to the First Ashes Test at the Gabba has reinforced the "Fortress Brisbane" aura felt by international teams who visit the city.

England have not won an Ashes Test at the "Gabbatoir" since 1986, and they're not the only ones who've struggled under the sweltering Brisbane sun.

In fact, before India's truly remarkable performance to beat the hosts by three wickets at the Gabba in January, Australia had not lost there since falling to the West Indies in 1988.

And the Gabba isn't alone in being a Brisbane stadium that tends to cow opponents.

The "Gabbatoir" has been the death of many visiting cricket teams over the years.(Getty Images: Bradley Kanaris)

The Wallabies are notably at their strongest when playing at Lang Park — it's the only venue in recent years where they've managed to consistently beat top-tier opponents.

Two out of Australia's last three wins over New Zealand have come in Brisbane (the other was in Perth).

A 24-22 win over the All Blacks at Lang Park in 2020 was the last time the Wallabies beat New Zealand, and since 2016 they've also notched Brisbane wins over South Africa (three times), France (twice) and Ireland, while struggling to beat those teams elsewhere.

The Wallabies can beat anybody at Lang Park.(AAP: Dan Peled)

During the last Lions tour of Australia, the high-hat British journalists in the press box at Lang Park couldn't stop banging on about it as "the best rugby ground in the world", and the same surely applies to rugby league, where The Cauldron's reputation for intimidation has no equal.

If only the Socceroos and Matildas showed up in the River City more often, they might be able to create their own daunting fortresses.

The one thing Brisbane could do with to complete the puzzle is a boutique stadium close to the city that could host events like A-Leagues and Super Rugby in a comfortable and intimate environment.

Did we mention the Olympics?Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 1 minute 25 seconds1m 25s A digital depiction of how the Gabba will be transformed for the 2032 Olympics

Previously starved of the really big events in favour of Sydney or Melbourne, during COVID times Brisbane has shown itself perfectly capable of handling the various Big Dances.

There was the AFL grand final last year and the NRL equivalent in 2021. Both went off without a hitch, generated big crowds and huge buzz.

And contrary to what some prophets of doom believed, the world did not end when the grand finals left their traditional strongholds.

There's currently the freshness and excitement of a new NRL team in town, and then there are other annual sporting events which Brisbane has embraced with typical Queensland enthusiasm.

The Brisbane International has become the biggest lead-up event to the Australian Open in January, attracting many of tennis's biggest names to the world-class Queensland Tennis Centre.

Mascots of NRL clubs (L-R) South Sydney Rabbitohs, Melbourne Storm, Sydney Roosters, Manly Sea Eagles and the Gold Coast Titans outside Brisbane City Hall.(AAP Image: Dan Peled)

In rugby league circles, Magic Round has become a yearly pilgrimage for many fans, where Wests Tigers can draw a crowd of 30,000-plus and you can smell the excitement of the NRL gathering in the air all weekend (or was that Bundy and coke?).

Oh, and did we mention the Olympics? Brisbane is hosting those, too, in 2032.

Not only will it mean the city becomes the focus of the entire world for two weeks, the legacy they will leave behind will be immense, including a massive and much-needed overhaul of the Gabba and its surrounds, investment in the city's general sporting infrastructure and, hopefully, it will mean Americans will finally learn how to say the name of the city properly (Brisben, not Bris-BANE!).

What about … ? Who wouldn't love to see Dan Ricciardo take the checquered flag on Coro Drive?(Getty Images: Lars Baron)

What about Melbourne with its horsey cup and Australian Open and Grand Prix?

And Sydney with its, er, different horse races and big tournament finals and yacht race (shared with Hobart)?

And all those yesteryear Olympics.

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Well, why not bring more of these events to Brisbane?

We've seen how the Brisbane home advantage is the best home advantage, so if you want to see Daniel Ricciardo win another race, make the Australian Grand Prix a street circuit the covers three bridges and he'll be sure to cross the chequered flag on Coronation Drive in first place.

Bring the Australian Open up to the hot and humid north and it'll be Ash Barty and John Millman lifting the trophy at the end of two weeks.

Naomi Osaka poses with Sprocket the Koala ahead of the 2019 Brisbane International.(Getty: Chris Hyde)

Jokes aside, Brisbane does deserve more consideration when it comes to hosting major fixtures, such as the final of the 2023 Women's World Cup or the 2027 Men's Rugby World Cup, which Australia is in the running for, instead of handing them to Sydney every time by default.

And, well, down south can keep their horse races. It's too hot to wear a suit here anyway.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

England needs 300 more runs to put pressure back on Australia, Dawid Malan says

England needs another 250 to 300 runs to have any chance of upsetting Australia in the first Test at the Gabba, batter Dawid Malan says.

England's hard-fought revival on the third day was led by Malan and skipper Joe Root, whose 159-run partnership saw the visitors recover from 2-61 to reach 2-220 at the close, 58 runs behind Australia's first innings score.

Malan said it was "vitally important" to put up a good performance after a calamitous first day in which England was bowled out for just 147, having won the toss.

"The first innings was obviously a disappointment," Malan said.

"We hold our hands up that we weren't good enough in that innings … we're better than being bowled out for 140.

"So for us to come in after a day-and-a-half of hard fielding and to do what we did here today was fantastic. 

"But that's only half the job done. We need another 250, 300 runs tomorrow to put ourselves in a good position."

Dawid Malan and Joe Root combined for 159 crucial runs on day three.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

After losing Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed relatively cheaply in their bid to avoid a catastrophic innings defeat, ticketholders would have been tentatively making plans for a free weekend.

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However, Malan and Root's superb partnership helped give England fans hope of a miraculous recovery.

"We spoke this morning about making sure we go out and express ourselves," Malan said. 

"The last thing we want to do is be sitting ducks and go out and not score.

"After what we did in the first innings, we almost needed to park that and put it aside. This needed to be a fresh innings.

"I know it's really, probably, poor of me to say that in a Test match we started so badly that we just need to park it, but the only way forward in this Test was to actually forget what happened in that first innings."

First hour 'really important' tomorrow morning For the first time in the series, Australia was left looking for answers, and Josh Hazlewood was surprisingly not one of them.(Getty Images: Albert Perez – CA)

Despite being brought back down to earth after two exceptional days of play, Australian batter Marnus Labuschagne said the mood in the Australian dressing room was "very calm".

"That's Test cricket. You never expect any Test nation, especially when you're playing England in the Ashes, to come in and roll over," he said.

"Test cricket is a grind, it's meant to be hard, otherwise it wouldn't mean so much to both countries.

"For us, it's just a day at the office and we make sure we come back tomorrow and review our plans and how we bowled today and come up with some ideas and get those last eight wickets."

Labuschagne said he was unaware of any issue that would have kept Josh Hazlewood — surprisingly unused after tea — from bowling, other than to keep him fresh.

He said the second new ball, due in 10 overs' time, would be hugely important tomorrow morning.

"Playing a lot of cricket here at the Gabba, the new ball is crucial. 

"There can be long partnerships and then all of a sudden you can lose bang, bang, bang, quick wickets.

"If we can put that new ball in the right areas and get some wickets with the new ball, it can really turn quickly.

"The key for us is just to keep building pressure."

Malan said how England resumed tomorrow would be vital, but it was important not to think too far ahead.

England need another big partnership in order to have any chance, Dawid Malan said.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

"As soon as we think too far ahead, you open a door for them, and they are so brilliant at closing that door for us," he said.

"So I think the first hour is really important for us tomorrow, and then we can start thinking about how well we can play.

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"But we need one more good, hundred-run partnership to put a good score on the board, and then, who knows what can happen."

England skipper Root will be hoping to convert his score into yet another hundred to add to the six he's already scored in a stellar 2021 season — and if he continues where he left off on Friday, odds are he'll get there.

His unbeaten 86 on Friday featured a full repertoire of shots that saw the 30-year-old Yorkshireman score to all corners of the ground.

Joe Root played yet another invaluable innings for England.(Getty: Bradley Kanaris)

After a nine-ball duck in the first innings, this was a return to the form that has seen him 67 over the past year, as well as being enough to take him past 1,500 Test runs for the calendar year, the first Englishman to do so.

Labuschagne said Root was a "beautiful player of spin bowling and pace bowling" but he was not there to sit back and watch. 

"It's not my job now to admire Joe Root's innings, it's my job to find holes in his game and try and help the team out wherever I can for us to get a wicket somewhere and get him out.

"The Ashes is on the line here and we've got to make sure we keep putting pressure on him."

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Project turning landfill waste into fuel ‘could save Australia billions’

Waste is piling up in Australian landfills at an exponential pace and "costing the economy and environment billions", according to a CQUniversity researcher, but he believes he may have found a solution. 

Key points:

  • Researchers say the price of the mixed waste fuel will be more competitive as production scales up
  • A bioenergy expert says the aviation and cargo sectors will rely on biofuels for many years to come
  • Professor Rasul says the mixed waste fuel has "near zero emissions"

Postdoctoral research fellow Mohammed Jahirul Islam has completed pilot testing for a method that turns polystyrene, tyres, particle board, agriculture waste, other used plastics, and solid waste into commercial-grade petrol and diesel fuel. 

"We can use this very low-grade solid waste that cannot be used in any other types of recycling [and] convert it into a useful product," Dr Islam said.

He said the practice would generate revenue and reduce Australia's dependency on imported fossil fuels.

"We are spending over $50 billion every year to process solid waste," Dr Islam said.

"More than 80 per cent of crude oil or petroleum oil we use is imported from overseas."

Processing mixed landfill waste into fuel is a complex process.(ABC News: Lewi Hirvela)

Professor Mohammed Rasul, the project supervisor, said it was the first of its kind to reach this scale in Australia.

"Nobody has done all the mixed solid waste through pyrolysis, distillation and hydro treatment as far as I know," he said.

"We are 100 per cent confident that we will get the product to a quality that is required for Australian standard diesel."

Plastic bottles are one of several products the team is processing into commercial-grade petrol and diesel fuel.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)How much would it cost?

Professor Rasul said its price was incomparable to standard diesel, but would become more competitive as production scaled up.

Ben Tabulo, the general manager of Renewable Southern Oil, said the project followed on from the "successful" work done with RMIT and CQU.

"We definitely see it as being a commercially viable process," he said.

"[It] is generated from waste and so there are obviously incentives in place for waste processing — a lot of the uplift comes from that end of it.

"The fuel itself actually has no green premium associated with it.

"If you're paying $1.30 for diesel from fossil, you would be paying $1.30 for diesel from renewable sources."

The project is turning polystyrene, tyres, waste plastic, particle board, and other mixed solid landfill waste into commercial-grade petrol and diesel fuel.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)Why isn't it being used already?

Prasad Kaparaju, associate professor at Griffith University's School of Engineering and Built Environment, said Australia was "20 years behind in this field" but it was catching up.

"It's amazing how much change has come in the attitude of the industries especially, and also from the policy point of view," he said.

The Bioenergy Australia member worked in Finland, Denmark and France, where the industry was more advanced, before arriving in 2014.

Prasad Kaparaju, associate professor at Griffith University's School of Engineering and Built Environment, has been in the industry for decades.(Supplied: Griffith University)

He said biogas would be essential, despite net-zero targets and a predicted rise in electric vehicle use.

"Biofuels will play a significant role during this transition period," he said.

"You have to develop a lot of infrastructure for electric vehicles [but] with biofuels, it's easy to fit into the existing infrastructure like gas stations because it's just a liquid fuel."

Dr Kaparaju said biofuels were "the immediate solution" to reducing the impact of greenhouse gases from the transport sector.

While passenger vehicles were already transitioning to electric, he said the aviation and cargo sectors would be much slower — keeping demand for biofuels high.

The project processes mixed solid waste through pyrolysis, distillation and hydro treatment.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)What happens next

Dr Islam was awarded an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship of $360,000 from the state government in November.

With $1.8 million from the Cooperative Research Centre Projects, $500,000 from CQU, and further funding from partners Northern Oil and RMIT University, the team will enter the next phase.

"In the pilot testing we found that the quality of the fuel is close to commercial or conventional diesel or petrol fuel," Dr Islam said.

"But still we don't have any industry that will produce the amount of diesel and petrol from solid waste that has a low price and can also meet our national demand."

Professor Mohammed Rasul says it is the first project of its kind to reach this scale in Australia.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

The researcher said the next step was to upgrade the technology to an industrial scale.

"We think we can put this fuel into diesel and petrol cars [for testing] within six months to one year," Dr Islam said.

He said it would take at least three years for the biofuel to be available for purchase, but it could be scaled up to meet half of Australia's demand.

'Huge' potential for economy and environment

Professor Rasul said commercial success relied on funding and investor interest.

He said it would convert waste into revenue-producing fuel with "near zero emissions".

"We are converting [landfill] into pyrolysis and it is producing a significant amount of oil, which is 70 to 80 per cent oil and once you refine that you get at least 50 to 60 per cent oil," he said.

"That means if you process one tonne [of landfill waste], you will get 500 litres of oil.

"That has quite good value, and that is also millions of dollars, so in terms of the circular economy for Australia, I think that means huge things."

Dr Mohammed Jahirul Islam, Professor Mohammed Rasul and Dr Ashfaque Chowdhury (not pictured) are the CQU team working on the project.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

Mr Tabulo said it would create huge employment opportunities.

"You've got to get the oil to Gladstone, so you've got logistics jobs bringing it from all over Queensland, you've then got the landfill sites that are generating the crude," he said.

"You're talking about hundreds of jobs, if not more, thousands across the state."

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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