10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

10 things you need to know this morning in Australia
Australia's supply chain could soon fracture if rapid antigen tests aren't made free, the transport union warns. Photo: Getty Images

Good morning all.

Workers in NSW and Queensland who are critical to supply chains and emergency services will no longer be required to self-isolate as close contacts, per changes introduced by both states yesterday. The amendments arrive in the wake of major food shortages across the country, as hoards of workers in the retail and transport industries have been forced off the job with COVID-19. From today, asymptomatic workers will be allowed to continue working, regardless of their status. 

The Djokovic saga continues. The tennis world number one will have his case heard by the Federal Court today, where his lawyers are challenging the government’s rejection of his visa. In an appeal document lodged with the court, they claim Djokovic tested positive for COVID in December, and that it is on those grounds his exemption should stand. Ahead of the hearing, the Morrison government warned that even if the court overturns his visa status, they’ll just slap it down again.

Parents across the eastern states are reportedly furious over cancellations of their children’s vaccination appointments, as the jab rollout for children aged five to 11 suffers hiccups before it even begins. The cancellations come as the result of yet another supply contraction, which has seen some GPs receive only a fraction of the vaccines they were promised. The Health Minister’s office has, reliably, denied the claims. He’s “delighted” some GPs were able to get a headstart. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was reported to have called a meeting of his cabinet’s National Security meeting in a bid to address the nation’s crippled supply chains. There isn’t much his government can actually do in the way of federal intervention, but it’s reported that it was there that changes to isolation requirements were first floated. The Australian Retail Association and Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association were pleased with the changes, but said free RATs were key to relieving supply chain pressures.

Shops and cafes are suffering their biggest spending hit since Delta lockdowns, as people opt against leaving their homes amid surging Omicron case numbers. National weekly spending data from ANZ for the week to January 5 shows that overall spending dropped sharply after the Christmas period, as residents of New South Wales and Victoria grew cautious and started to avoid leaving their homes. ANZ’s head of Australian economics David Plan said it’s become clear that consumers have locked themselves down.

Sydney-based courier platform, Zoom2u, has created a donation-driven rapid antigen test marketplace that collects them from those who have too many, and delivers them to those who need them, for free. In practice, the service sends a courier out to the premises of someone who has tests to spare. Then, the driver either returns them to headquarters, where the test/s are kept for stock, or driven directly to someone who has registered interest via the courier service’s site.

Executives at Australia’s top venture capital firms are so confident the market’s next unicorn will be a crypto outfit that they’re backing founders with half-baked ideas, The Australian reports. AirTree Ventures partner James Cameron’s thesis is that Web3 projects are now preoccupying Australia’s best tech talent. “Overall, though, we make sure to stay open-minded and not be led too heavily by thematics. We know good ideas can come from anywhere, and our founders are in the best position to find gaps in their own markets.”

Luxury real estate agents say the housing market’s top tier is still a hive of activity, contrary to recent house price data released by CoreLogic. Melbourne buyer’s agent David Morrell, a specialist in securing homes for ultra-wealthy clients in Toorak and South Yarra, said there was no sign of any let-up at the very top end of the market. “That’s not what I am experiencing. We had our busiest two to three weeks of the year in the lead up to Christmas,” he told the AFR.

US stocks ended their first week of 2022 lower as investors digest a December jobs report that missed expectations and try to plan for the Federal Reserve’s looming interest rate hikes. Selling pressure in US equities began on Wednesday when minutes from the December meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee showed policymakers are looking at possible tightening monetary policy faster than anticipated.

Ethereum’s dominance is at risk, as the crypto network is still a year away from receiving a key upgrade to its blockchain that would make it more competitive against newer protocols, according to JPMorgan. Efficiency concerns, number of transactions per second, and high gas fees are issues that have been plaguing ethereum in recent months, in part due to growing transaction volumes of NFTs and other digital goods that often use ether as the preferred currency.