10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Photo by Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Good morning.

1. A devastating explosion rocked Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, on Tuesday. The exact cause of the blast is unknown, but a senior Lebanese intelligence official said that he suspects that confiscated high-explosive materials stored at the port where the explosion occurred are to blame. The country’s health ministry says that at least 67 people are dead and more than 3,500 people are injured. It has been confirmed at least one Australian is among the dead. Some of the footage from the ground is absolutely insane.

2. The RBA increased the official interest rate yesterday. Just kidding! Of course they didn’t. The cash rate is on hold at 0.25%, where it is likely to remain for a long, long time. Having effectively run out of conventional monetary policies, the RBA board revealed it is increasingly concerned with the shape of Australia’s recovery. RBA Governor Philip Lowe encouraged the government to step in and increase spending to support the economy.

3. The latest APRA figures show Australians have frozen $274 billion as of June 30. Of that, $195 billion was mortgage debt, making up 11% of all home loans. However, with just $18 billion opting out in June versus $40 billion more opting in, it looks unlikely many will be in a position to begin repayments again for some time yet.

4. With Melbourne entering stage four restrictions for six weeks, and greater Victoria entering stage three, 250,000 Australians are expected to be stood down. However, as large wholesale sectors shutdown, the impact of the lockdown will go beyond state borders. Unemployment, underemployment, and business insolvencies are all expected to rise, with the federal government facing pressure to increase economic support rather than taper it off.

5. Victoria announced tougher penalties for those violating the state’s stage four lockdown. A fine of $4,957 will apply to people who breach quarantine a “second or subsequent time”, with maximum penalties of $20,000 for those found to have violated rules multiple times – including by going to work while sick with COVID-19. In a press conference on Tuesday morning, Andrews said 3000 door knocks for those meant to be in self-isolation had been completed, and that people were not home in 800 of those instances.

6. Under Melbourne’s stage four restrictions – which will be enforced from midnight tonight – rideshare companies are only allowed to support access to permitted services and provide transport for essential workers. Obviously people in Melbourne won’t be moving around very much at all under the stay-at-home orders anyway, but that’s something to note.

7. One last Melbourne update. There’s been some confusion about retailers which sell to both trade customers and regular punters, like Bunnings. Parent company Wesfarmers says Bunnings will be open to trade customers, and Officeworks will be open to business customers. For everyone else, online operations will continue, including home delivery and contactless click and collect options.

8. Everyone’s talking about the interview between Donald Trump and Axios reporter Jonathan Swan (formerly of the Sydney Morning Herald). Snippets of the 37-minute interview that originally aired on HBO have been trending on Twitter. The below clip is easily the best part. (Fun fact: Swan is the son of Norman Swan, who you’ve no doubt seen on the ABC over the past few months talking coronavirus.)

9. Apple’s longtime head of marketing, Phil Schiller, is stepping aside, the company announced Tuesday. Schiller will remain at the company as an “Apple Fellow”, while another longtime employee, Greg Joswiak, takes his place. The change marks the third high-profile leadership shakeup since early 2019 and comes as Apple is facing government scrutiny over its App Store practices.

10. The World Health Organisation’s director-general this week warned that there might never be a “silver bullet” for the novel coronavirus. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ statement comes six months after the organisation declared the virus a global health emergency. Tedros warned that despite promising prospects of a vaccine, the world might still need to maintain practices it adapted during the pandemic.

BONUS ITEM

Go on, have another funny from the Axios interview.

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