Daily News Roundup

May 10, 2021

Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De MarchiSource:News Corp Australia

 

MONDAY 10, May

The Treasurer will deliver the 2021-22 Australian Federal Budget at approximately 7.30 pm on Tuesday 11 May 2021. Treasurer Josh Frydenburg has defended the federal government’s record debt and deficit levels, even as he confirms billions in new expenditure designed to drive unemployment to historic lows and he is calling this budget a ‘Pandemic Budget’.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the total level of Commonwealth debt has skyrocketed to unprecedented highs.

It is forecast to soon surpass $1 trillion – almost five times the level seen during the height of the Global Financial Crisis.

It has already been announced that the budget will contain $2bn in funding for an intermodal terminal in Melbourne and more than $2bn to upgrade the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow in Sydney’s Blue Mountains.

The budget’s infrastructure package will also include funding for upgrades of the inland freight route in Queensland and highway upgrades in the Northern Territory, as well as $161.6m for the Truro bypass in South Australia – a project pushed by the Liberal MP Tony Pasin to link freight routes between South Australia and NSW.

The government will also top up the national disability insurance scheme on Tuesday night. But the minister responsible for the program, Linda Reynolds, has signalled she wants a discussion with the states about what she’s characterised as an “unsustainable” funding model – a signal which has already prompted criticism from the states.

The Morrison government has announced it will double its spending on women’s safety to $227 million annually ($680 million over three years), in Tuesday’s Federal Budget. 

Women’s safety organisations are reporting that the amount is nowhere near enough to address the issue effectively.

They say a $1 billion yearly investment is required to close the gap in frontline domestic violence services.

Frydenberg also said the budget was based on international borders remaining shut until 2022.

“We’ve got to ensure that our communities stay safe and when we suppress the virus as we’ve successfully done, our economy recovers,” he told the ABC on Sunday.

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Australia’s international borders will be reopened in 2022 under a “cautious approach” according to the Tuesday’s budget but there’s a huge wildcard driving uncertainty about when and how quickly that will happen.

The Morrison Government has conceded today the big question remains the threat that people who are vaccinated may still be able to catch and spread COVID, even if the vaccine means it will no longer kill them.

Booster shots may also be required to improve the immunity of travellers who go to regions with new variants that are immune to the first generation vaccines.

It’s that uncertainty that’s driving delays and caution over the reopening of Australia’s international borders that will likely be delivered in a staggered changes that test the impact of each small step to return to normal.

A new 2022 deadline to reopen borders to be confirmed in Tuesday’s budget represents a significant delay to the original plan to reopen borders in October, 2020.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham has cautioned this morning there are “many uncertainties” as the Morrison Government works on a road map to reopening Australia to the world and safety will be first and foremost.

“Border closures have been, arguably, the single biggest factor in keeping COVID out of Australia and in doing so not just saving Australian lives but saving Australian jobs,’’ Senator Birmingham said.

“So we are going to maintain those tough border settings until it is clearly safe for us to do so. And where we take cautious steps, as we have done with New Zealand, it will be on health advice. Right now, sadly, it’s a bit of a grim picture in some parts of the world. That means it will be a very cautious approach.

Senator Birmingham conceded it was not the case that Australians who are already vaccinated could travel internationally.

“No, not at this stage. Again, there’s health advice to consider in relation to vaccination. People who are vaccinated will not get, on the odds, sick as a result of catching COVID,’’ he said.

“But people can still catch COVID and they can still, in some circumstances, transmit it. So that’s where we continue to seek further analysis and information as to how we might be able to use vaccination over a period of time to help inform the way in which we might be able to open up in certain settings or to certain countries. That will all be informed by health advice.”

“There are many uncertainties in relation to COVID. Anyone who says they can predict how a once in a century pandemic unfolds is kidding themselves. What we’ve managed to do is to keep Australia safe.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused the Morrison Government of “confusing” voters on the road map to reopen borders and called on the Morrison Government to clarify when international travel will resume exactly so Australia can start planning.

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82 year old Australian TV Icon, Bert Newton, is recovering after having his leg amputated on Saturday. The surgery occurred after the star suffered complications from an infected toe.

Mr Newton’s agent, Jackie Booler, said he was “doing well”.

Entertainment reporter Peter Ford told 3AW the below-the-knee amputation was a “life or death” decision. 

“It started off just before Christmas time, a tow infection, it didn’t seem particularly dramatic at the time,” Ford rold 3AW.

But he said doctors’ concerns grew over time, before Newton was given “the ultimatum”.

“You only have a couple of months to live [but] if you have this operation and we amputate your leg you could have many years ahead,” Ford said.

“So that was the choice, and Bert clearly chose to stick around.”

Newton was in “reasonably good spirits” considering the significant surgery, Ford said.

Ms Booler said the family would not be commenting further at this stage.

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The value to Dogecoin was being questioned right up until the last minute of Elon Musk appearing on the US comedy TV show, Saturday Night Live on the weekend. With investors/enthusiasts in the cryptocurrency nervous as to what was going to be said by Tesla Chief, Musk, the value of the cryptocurrency dogecoin dropped sharply after he called it a “hustle”.

Tweets from Musk this year saw demand for the meme-inspired cryptocurrency dogecoin increase throughout the last few months with Musk’s Space X announced it would launch a rocket mission to the moon funded by dogecoin.

Dogecoin was quoted as low as 47 US cents (59 cents) on crypto exchange Binance, down 28 per cent from levels of around 65 US cents before the show.

Asked “what is dogecoin”, Mr Musk replied: “It’s the future of currency. It’s an unstoppable financial vehicle that’s going to take over the world.”

When a show cast member Michael Che countered, “So, it’s a hustle?” Mr Musk replied, “Yeah, it’s a hustle.” And laughed.

Mr Musk is the rare business mogul to have been asked to host the venerable comedy TV show. The last billionaire businessman to host Saturday Night Live was Donald Trump back in 2004.

The timing puts him back in the spotlight just as Tesla’s shares are losing steam following last year’s monster rally.