10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

10 things you need to know this morning in Australia
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Good morning, folks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signalled Australia will not return to hard border restrictions in light of the Omicron COVID-19 variant — excluding the nine southern African countries currently barred out, that is. Speaking after a meeting of the National Cabinet on Tuesday, Morrison said the nation will “continue to pursue a suppression strategy” instead of trying to block Omicron at the border. Earlier, the Prime Minister said the decision to postpone the arrival of working visa holders and international students was a “prudent and temporary measure”.

Nevertheless, New South Wales has tweaked its quarantine requirements as it faces multiple cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. From 12.01am Wednesday, all overseas travellers must undergo a PCR test and isolate at their home for three days. In addition, the state has boosted fines for non-compliance, capping out at $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for corporations. A new case has been detected on the Central Coast, with authorities urging residents at a number of venues to seek testing immediately.

One in three staffers at Canberra’s Parliament House say they have been sexually harassed, according to a damning new report. A landmark paper on the institution’s workplace culture was tabled before Parliament on Tuesday, exposing what Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins called “processes that are not equipped to prevent or address the consequences of that behaviour”. The report calls for a systemic overhaul “to ensure safe and respectful work environments in Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces”.

Debate over Victoria’s proposed pandemic bill stretched early into the morning with a vote yet to materialise. The Age reports the bill, which would grant the premier and the health minister the ability to enact public health orders, faced Upper House scrutiny until 5.45am. It is expected to pass, with Labor counting on crossbench support, but there’s still some way to go.

Almost 1 in 3 Australian companies say they are currently dealing with high staff turnover, according to a new report. A survey by financial services firm Findex of more than 500 small and medium-sized enterprises found that more than half of firms are concerned about their ability to retain staff over the next 12 months. You may not be shocked to learn that the ability to work from home remains a key sticking point for many employees.

In a related note, Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar said roughly one in three hires his firm has made since the start of the pandemic are based outside of major city centres. Speaking to the Australian Financial Review, Farquhar credited Atlassian’s ability to hire outside metro hubs for its ability to ride out the tech skills shortage. However, he said local firms require further government and industry support to stay competitive in the global market.

Mr Yum, the Australian QR code platform enabling restaurant diners to order from their tables, has completed an $89 million Series A raise. According to early data, the funding round comes in as the third-largest in Australian history, and the largest Series A round secured by a female-led outfit, pushing the startup’s total funding to just over $100 million. With its new cash pool, the business wants to “triple down” on dominating markets in the US and the UK, CEO and co-founder Kim Teo said.

Do you use Australia Post’s ShopMate to buy goods from the United States? If so, you might want to look into alternatives. Australia Post said it is winding down the service for an end-date of February 25. The reason: Dwindling demand and international delivery pressures, AusPost said.

A bit of Facebook/Meta news: David Marcus, who helmed the company’s attempt at a digital currency, will depart by the end of 2021. He led the creation of Novi, the company’s digital wallet, and co-created Diem, its stalled digital currency. Both Diem and Novi, while ambitious in their core, faced criticism and never saw proper rollouts. Stephane Kasriel, currently the VP of product at Novi, will take over his role.

Elsewhere in the digital sphere, a plot of virtual land has sold for the equivalent of $6 million. Republic Realm bought that digital real estate in The Sandbox, the Wall Street Journal reported, cracking a price record set just last week. The purchase speaks to increasing speculation on digital holdings and the frantic rush for a piece of the yet-to-form metaverse.

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