10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Good morning all.

Victoria recorded 76 new cases of COVID-19 this morning.  45 of those cases are linked to known outbreaks. Health authorities identified nearly 150 new COVID-19 exposure sites yesterday, with 40 listed after 8pm. The state administered 32,162 vaccine doses yesterday, towards a total of 2,415,600.

Another record day for NSW (and Australia) with the state recording 1,290 cases. There were also four deaths, meaning there have now been more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in Australia since the start of the pandemic. It comes as The Guardian reports the federal government was warned last year of a potential catastrophe in the COVID-hit town of Wilcannia.

The last US military planes left Kabul airport early on Tuesday local time. It marks an end to America’s presence in the country after roughly two decades of war. “I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of our military mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals, and vulnerable Afghans,” US Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, confirmed.

New analysis of ATO data has uncovered new details around the number of Australian companies that received JobKeeper payments but posted increased revenue in 2020.  $13 billion in funds were awarded to businesses that turned a profit, the analysis found. Labor claims the government should answer for what it considered wasted spending, while Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has defended the scheme. 

Virgin Australia has announced plans to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all staff, with frontline workers jabbed by mid-November. The airline’s bottom line has been ravaged by the pandemic and border closures, prompting CEO Jayne Hrdlicka to say vaccines are “the only solution”. The plan is yet to be finalised, but the airline now joins rival Qantas and regional carrier Alliance Airlines in its plans to make the jab a staff requirement.

BHP could be next. The mining giant is considering making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for staff and visitors in 2022.  BHP’s president of Minerals Australia, Edgar Basto, said the company was actively assessing it, with a decision to come as soon as next month. “We have an obligation to ensure our people are safe when they are at work, and to support the health of the regional communities where we operate,” Basto said.

Businesses are now offering over $100,000 in prizes and rewards to vaccinated Australians. New site Big Vax Bonus aggregates jab incentives from major companies like Qantas through to local pubs. Private enterprise is pushing for more Australians to get vaccinated against COVID-19, with the federal government saying restrictions will wind down once 70% of Australians are jabbed.

Treasury looks set to grant itself new powers in a bid to tackle Apple and Google’s growing control of Australia’s payments infrastructure. Josh Frydenberg has flagged a new campaign to take control of the payments system and force tech companies to comply with greater regulation. “Ultimately, if we do nothing to reform the current framework, it will be Silicon Valley alone that determines the future of our payments system, a critical piece of our economic infrastructure,” Frydenberg told the AFR.

Canva is readying for a fully flexible return to work once lockdowns end, joining fellow Australian tech giant Atlassian. Staff will only be required to come into its offices eight times a year. “It’s definitely a whole new world of work,” billionaire co-founder and chief product officer Cameron Adams told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. “I think the traditional notion of going into work in the office isn’t going to really exist anymore, and anyone who does stick to that is going to have a hard time finding the talent.”

Young investors are flooding into exchange-trade funds (ETFs) as a means of entering the market. Women in particular have led the pack and are on track to hit parity with men by 2026. It has helped turn the investment product into a fast-growing $116 billion market, as a local boom outpaces the rest of the world.

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Sorry kids: China is imposing a strict time limit on video game playing for children. Kids are allowed one hour for gaming, from 8 to 9 p.m., on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. China’s biggest gaming companies, Tencent and NetEase, are imposing the restrictions directly through their respective login systems.