10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Hello folks.

The Victorian government appears to have abandoned the strategy to get COVID-19 transmissions down to zero in the face of the Delta variant. Premier Daniel Andrews conceded at a press conference yesterday that lockdowns had been “bloody tough” on mental health, while saying the state would nevertheless try to get numbers as close to zero as possible. Expect an announcement on loosened lockdown later today, though any changes will be minor. There were 120 new local cases reported today.

NSW reported 1164 new, locally acquired coronavirus cases yesterday. It was revealed that almost one in five clinical staff in the state’s public health system has not received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s potentially an issue given the deadline for all health workers to have one shot comes at the end of September.

An extra 500,000 Pfizer vaccinations are on their way to Australia, courtesy of Singapore. Under the agreement, Australia will receive 500,000 Pfizer doses that are due to expire. In return, Australia will give the same number of Pfizer doses back later in the year, when we will have plentiful supply, to bolster a hypothetical Singaporean booster programme.

Harvey Norman told investors it has paid back $6.02 million in JobKeeper support. Announcing a $841 million net profit on Tuesday, it has now repaid payroll support to the ATO. It came despite the fact Gerry Harvey’s insistence in the media over the past year that the company would keep the money. The amount did not include $14 million claimed by Harvey Norman’s privately owned franchisees.

The belated decision from the retailer has ignited further calls for more transparency around the wage subsidy, which the government is fighting. “Harvey Norman has given us the best advertisement for more transparency into the secretive, rorted JobKeeper scheme,” said Labor MP Andrew Leigh, one of the loudest voices in this campaign. Those in favour say companies are allowed to keep their JobKeeper – even if profitable – while individuals are hounded for claiming too much pandemic welfare.

One million Australians are tied to underperforming super funds, APRA says. The first 13 superannuation funds deemed as ‘underperformers’ under a new test have been revealed. Funds highlighted by the prudential regulator for lagging performance include Commonwealth Bank Group Super’s Accumulate Plus Balanced, Christian Super’s My Ethical Super, and Colonial First State FirstChoice Superannuation Trust.

Australia’s gender pay gap has grown to 14.2% or $261.50 a week for full-time earners, new analysis shows. Advocates warn women could fall further behind through the slow COVID-19 recovery. August 31 marks Equal Pay Day, the point past the end of the financial year that women must work to earn the same annual amount as their male counterparts.

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday delivered a speech on the completion of the Afghanistan withdrawal. “My fellow Americans: The war in Afghanistan is now over. I’m the 4th president who has faced the issue of whether and when to end this war,” Biden said. “I refused to send another generation of America’s sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago.” The president said he believed the move to withdraw was a “wise decision” and the “best decision for America.”

Some good news: even with the Delta variant, the ability of COVID-19 vaccines to prevent hospitalisation hasn’t significantly dropped, a CDC scientist says. Vaccine ability to prevent infection ranged from 39% to 84% since the introduction of the Delta variant. But vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation ranged from 75% to 95%.

Max Shand, one of Afterpay’s first employees and founder of Serenade, believes performers need to diversify how they make money to thrive in today’s music industry. The platform connects fans with ‘digital merch’ that includes personalised performances and NFTs. He spoke to Business Insider Australia about the future of the industry.

BONUS ITEM

What do we think? Will you be first in line?