Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he has “worn out the carpet” by his bed praying for Australians impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Your perspective on that admission might vary depending on your faith — both in a higher power, and in the federal government’s handling of aged care centers ravaged by the virus. Morrison’s claim was just one of many aired in last night’s “60 Minutes”, in which the PM attempted to show a more personable side ahead of the federal election.
Lamingtons may be off the menu. The Low and Middle Income Tax Offset— the LMITO, or ‘lamington’, for short— could be scrapped in the Coalition’s upcoming pre-election budget statement, reintroducing a $1,080 tax hit for those earning less than $126,000 a year. The Age reports a red-hot economy, household cash reserves, and inflationary fears could convince the Coalition the offset is no longer required.
Social services advocates want tax cuts favoring high-earners to end. In a separate report, The Age heard from Australian Council of Social Service, which is calling for a suite of social housing, rent assistance, and welfare payment increases. Those would be funded by tweaks to tax considerations on high earners, negatively-geared property, and super investment income post-retirement.
A hat trick of tax talk today, with this insight from Ken Henry. An overhaul is in order, the former Commonwealth Treasury secretary told The Australian Financial Review, with the next liable government to make a host of reforms. One big ticket item, as he sees it, is a reformation of personal income tax: an aging population means a shrinking proportion of workers will be taxed under the current system.
Victoria’s Code Brown hospital designation is over. Most commonly used after natural disasters, the Code Brown was called to prepare the state’s healthcare system for an influx of COVID-19 cases. As per Nine News, the designation is over, allowing hospitals to return to some kind of normalcy (as much normalcy as can be afforded during a pandemic, at least). Limits on restrictive surgery have also been eased.
AGL Energy has slammed the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) over its plan to drastically reduce coal power generation on the grid by the end of the decade. In an exclusive from The Fin, Australia’s biggest power provider said AEMO’s central scenario was “difficult to envisage”. Just last week, AGL caused a stir by announcing it would close one of its coal power plants not in 2048, but in 2045, a shift which climate activists called barely relevant.
US inflation touched 40-year highs last week, suggesting turbulence on the local market. The US Labor Department reported inflation hit 7.5% in January, up from the 7.3% expected by market analysts. Local bond prices tumbled in response, pushing yields to multi-year highs as the market priced in domestic interest rate increases.
Reopening Australia’s international border won’t hurt the overall unemployment rate, Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe repeated Friday. Speaking before a parliamentary committee, Lowe maintained the decision to welcome skilled migrants will help the economy overall, as businesses will be able to deploy capital more effectively if they can obtain the right staff. The knock on effect: even better economic outcomes, hopefully. “The sooner the borders can be reopened, the better for us all,” he said.
The Australian Government has ordered its three remaining Ukrainian embassy staffers to evacuate Kyiv. Per The Age, Australia fears the threat of conflict between Russian forces and Ukraine has become too great for them to remain in the capital. Those workers have established a temporary base in Lviv, near the Polish border.
Anti-vaccine mandate protestors have been shooed away from Canberra by police. Over in the US, the Department of Homeland Security fears a similar convoy could mess with today’s Super Bowl festivities. An extra 500 staff have been deployed to California to ward against disruptions caused by the ostensibly trucker-led protests. “They’re taking all necessary steps to ensure that the convoy does not disrupt lawful trade and transportation or interfere with federal government and law enforcement operations,” White House secretary Jen Psaki said.
Here’s how New Zealand convinced its own anti-vaccine mandate crowd to disperse. Hey macarena, baby.