10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

10 things you need to know this morning in Australia
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Welcome.

Teachers, childcare workers, and a few other public-facing professionals listed as COVID-19 close contacts will be allowed back on the job once they return a negative RAT result. That’s the key takeaway from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Thursday press conference, which ran through changes discussed at a National Cabinet meeting amid severe workforce shortfalls. Stopping the spread of the virus “is not a realistic objective,” Morrison said, adding “that is not something we are trying to achieve”.

Workplace shortages have snowballed into empty shelves at Australia’s major supermarkets, but some independent grocers appear to be operating just fine. The Age reports Melbourne’s smaller grocers have largely avoided those constraints due to a simpler supply chain compared to the warehouse-intensive operations favoured by Coles and Woolworths. If your hunt for fresh food is emulating your search for rapid antigen tests, consider popping in to your local greengrocer instead.

Speaking about RATs: Business groups are pushing back against a government proposal that would require more businesses to cover the cost of rapid antigen tests for staff. Those costs could cut deep for small and medium firms, advocates say. Innes Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, said it “makes little sense to make PCR tests free and charge employers for RATs, particularly in situ­ations where the testing is ­required by govern­ment regulation”.

Macquarie Bank has become Australia’s third-largest bank by market capitalisation, unsettling the traditional Big Four order. On Wednesday, Macquarie’s market capitalisation crept just shy of $80 billion to overtake Westpac, which ended trading with a market cap of $79.5 billion, ahead of ANZ only marginally, with a market cap $78.9 billion. Analysts say the bank has now turned the corner on its post-GFC coming-of-age period, which saw it re-enter the market as a stock standard investment bank.

Almost three in five Australian workers are considering a job change in the coming months, new LinkedIn data suggests. Finance sector workers charted among the most likely to consider a new gig. The survey also charted which professions have taken the biggest knocks to their confidence through the pandemic so far; unsurprisingly, respondents in the fields of retail, catering and leisure, arts and culture, healthcare, and education were most likely to report negative impacts.

An interesting spin on the Novak Djokovic snafu. The Age reports that the Committee for Melbourne — a cultural advocacy group which counts Arts Centre Melbourne, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, and Racing Victoria as members — fears the situation has diminished Melbourne’s international brand. Given the region’s moniker as the sporting capital of Australia, and the billions of dollars Victoria’s live events contribute to the economy, that’s hardly the kind of thing they’d take lightly. (The Federal Government is slated to hand down a Djokovic decision of some form today, for what it’s worth.)

Elsewhere in Australian Open news: The organisation’s new NFT collection, comprising of nearly 7,000 digital tennis balls, sold out within hours of launch on Thursday. Each AO Art Ball corresponds to a patch of the physical tennis court, and the tournament plans to hand out real tennis balls when match-winning shots correlate to those virtual holdings. There’s also some metaverse integration, which you can scope out here. As of Friday morning, some 980 Ethereum have been traded on the AO Art Ball market through OpenSea — the equivalent of $4.4 million.

Payments giant Visa is testing a platform which could support central bank digital currencies (CBDC). Central bank currencies are garnering mainstream attention, including in Australia. Visa’s platform, operated in partnership with blockchain firm ConsenSys, could open those central bank liabilities to the general public. “If CBDC networks are seamlessly integrated into your existing banking app, you’d be able to use your CBDC-linked Visa card at the checkout,” Catherine Gu, Visa’s head of CBDC, said Thursday.

China will launch a state-backed blockchain to support NFTs, according to the South China Morning Post. The announcement signals Beijing’s interest in the NFT surge while trying to balance it against its 2021 ban on crypto transactions; unlike ‘traditional’ public blockchains, this one will reportedly feature heavy backing from state-owned China Mobile, China UnionPay, and State Information Centre.

Prince Andrew will defend himself against sexual-assault allegations as a private citizen, not as a British royal, Buckingham Palace has said. In 2021, Virginia Roberts Giuffre filed a lawsuit against Prince Andrew accusing him of sexual assault. Roberts Giuffre alleges Prince Andrew’s friend, Jeffrey Epstein, forced the then-teenager to have sex with the royal. “With The Queen’s approval and agreement, The Duke of York’s military affiliations and Royal patronages have been returned to The Queen,” a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said in a statement sent to Insider on Thursday. “The Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen.”

BONUS ITEM

Remember that online pile-on about “Wordle” and pretenders to the throne? Apple is taking action by removing copycat games from the App Store.