What we know today, Thursday May 20

Qantas has announced a two-year wage freeze for its workers and says it expects to shed “several hundred” more jobs, with the company forecasting it will have lost $16 billion in revenue by the end of the financial year due to the pandemic.

May 20, 2021, updated May 20, 2021
 Photo: AAP/Bianca De Marchi

Photo: AAP/Bianca De Marchi

More job losses, two-year wage freeze for Qantas workers

Qantas has announced a two-year wage freeze for its workers and says it expects to shed “several hundred” more jobs, with the company forecasting it will have lost $16 billion in revenue by the end of the financial year due to the pandemic.

The national carrier today reported that it expects to post a statutory loss of more than $2 billion in the 2020-21 financial year.

That’s on top of a $2.7 billion loss the airline recorded last financial year.

To tackle their financial problems, Qantas today announced it will offer more voluntary redundancy packages for its international cabin crew.

The company says the voluntary redundancy expression of interest program is expected to receive “several hundred” applications, but “the total number accepted [will] be balanced against retaining key capability for the longer term”.

Six thousand Qantas workers still remain stood down from their roles.

The company also today flagged it will cut the commission it pays travels agents for selling international tickets from 5 per cent to 1 per cent – with the fee reduction coming into force next July.

This is alongside a two-year wage freeze for all employees across the Qantas Group, including management.

CEO Alan Joyce said the wage freeze “certainly isn’t a reflection of the hard work of our people, but it is a reflection on the tough reality we face”.

“We have to stay focused on managing our costs, especially given the competitive environment,” Joyce said.

“But ultimately, this is part of being able to one day grow again.”

Joyce said Qantas feels like it’s starting to turn the corner after a year being battered by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Net debt for the company has peaked and is starting to decline, signalling the airline is on the way to repairing its balance sheet.

“We have a long way still to go in this recovery but it does feel like we’re slowly starting to turn the corner,” Joyce said.

“We’ve adjusted our expectations for when international borders will start opening based on the government’s new timeline.

“But our fundamental assumption remains the same – that once the national vaccine rollout is effectively complete, Australia can and should open up.”

Joyce said Australia should apply the “same intensity” to the vaccine rollout as it did to lockdowns and restrictions.

“Because only then will we have the confidence to open up.”

The federal government has warned international travel and border restrictions will remain in place for “some time”, arguing Australia must play it safe.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised by business leaders, health officials and some colleagues for not giving certainty on when the country can reopen.

The budget papers assume a mid-2022 deadline, but there’s no guarantees and it could extend well into 2023.

Magpies superfan charged with historical child sex offences

Collingwood AFL superfan and cheer squad leader Jeffrey “Joffa” Corfe has been charged by police over the alleged abuse of a teenage boy.

The 60-year-old is due to face Melbourne Magistrates Court again in July on two charges of sexual penetration of a child under 16.

It’s understood the charges relate to allegations Corfe abused a 14-year-old boy in Melbourne in 2005.

One of Collingwood’s most recognisable fans, Corfe was condemned by the club in March over comments he made calling on “Indian workers” to be removed from aged care jobs.

The club said while he had a long association with the organisation, he was not a member.

He’s on bail and due to face a committal mention on July 30.

PM dismisses calls for vaccine ad campaign

Scott Morrison has downplayed the need to counter vaccine hesitancy through a revamped campaign.

The Australian Medical Association wants a more effective national strategy to motivate people who are in no rush to get their shots.

AMA deputy president Chris Moy has warned Australians are sitting ducks until enough people are inoculated.

He wants to convince people to roll up their sleeves by promoting the benefits.

“At the moment, given we have no COVID and we are living in this really gilded cage, people do not perceive a risk,” Dr Moy told ABC radio this morning.

“Seeing for example what is happening overseas where there is a tsunami of COVID and also the development of variants, we are sitting ducks until we get a significant proportion of the population vaccinated.”

The prime minister said the government was already running a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to encourage vaccine uptake, targeting priority groups including older adults and aged care residents.

Morrison argued the campaign would ramp up later this year as big shipments of Pfizer vaccines arrived and more people became eligible.

“There’s no point talking to people who are 30 years old at the moment, because they can’t go and get a vaccine,” he told 3AW radio.

“We’re talking to those who are eligible for the vaccine at the moment, which is over 50s and particularly those who are over 70 and in residential aged care facilities.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said everyone aged over 50 should get vaccinated as soon as possible.

But he also raised eyebrows after reminding those uncertain about the AstaZeneca jab that alternative vaccines would soon arrive.

“We want to encourage everybody over 50 to be vaccinated as early as possible,” Hunt said.

“But we’ve been very clear that as supply increases later on in the year, there will be enough vaccine of mRNA vaccines for every Australian.”

Published polling suggests one in three Australian adults are unlikely to seek out a vaccine.

Fee relief at SA Catholic schools

South Australian Catholic schools will offer fee-free entry for reception students at its mid-year intake to help families struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

All Diocesan primary and combined schools will offer the term-three fee waiver which includes tuition costs and other compulsory charges.

It comes on top of fee reductions already introduced for existing students.

“Last year, we offered fee relief to any family unable to pay school fees due to the financial impact of COVID,” Catholic Education SA director Neil McGoran said.

“This year, we reduced the school fees in every Catholic primary school in the state.

“These reductions are now in place with an average reduction of $450 per student.”

McGoran said the reductions had put $7.5 million back in the pockets of parents.

He said the fee waivers were occurring alongside a strategy aimed at strengthening the provision and experience of a Catholic education at each school.

“At the same time as we are introducing these reductions, we’re also focusing on improving educational and wellbeing outcomes for every student in our schools,” he said.

Global tech company moving HQ to Lot Fourteen

International tech company LVX Global will be moving its headquarters from Perth to Adelaide’s Lot Fourteen, with the decision to create 20 jobs in the process.

LVX Global is a technology solutions company which manages tech projects for both the public and private sector and has hubs in Europe and the US.

Their projects include smart lighting and fire safety, along with engineering and advisory services for licensed and owned technology.

The company will be located at the recently refurbished Bice Building on North Terrace, next to the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre slated for completion in 2024-25.

“LVX Global’s new headquarters at Lot Fourteen is another triumph for South Australia,” Premier Steven Marshall said.

“Firmly embedding its international HQ here ensures that the company’s future growth will be driven by the team based in South Australia.

“We’re excited that this is another step towards providing companies with the opportunity for co-location with like-minded business and hi-tech industry cluster collaboration at Lot Fourteen.”

The LVX move comes after Google announced plans last month to set up its public sector cloud HQ at Lot Fourteen.

Global tech giant Amazon also announced plans to set up at Lot Fourteen in February.

LVX Global CEO Corey Gray said his company was excited to work alongside other international companies.

“After 11 years of our Australian headquarters in Sydney and then Perth, LVX Global has moved our HQ back to Adelaide where it all began for us 30 years ago,” Gray said.

“We are extremely impressed with Lot Fourteen and the innovative and committed approach of the South Australian Government and key partners to the transformation. Their commitment to the technology and innovation sectors are to be congratulated.”

SA test facility announced for Hunter Class Frigate program

A new land-based test facility for the Australian Navy’s Hunter Class Frigate program will be set up at the St Kilda Transmitting Station in South Australia and is expected to create around 180 jobs.

The site, which is slated for construction this month and completion in 2023, will test the combat systems of nine new Hunter Class Frigates built as part of the $45 billion Future Frigates program.

The $65 million federal government investment has engaged Hansen Yuncken as the head contractor to build the site.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the works form part of the federal government’s $2.1 billion Navy Capability Infrastructure Sub-program.

“Those facilities will support the operation of Navy’s new ships being obtained under the 2017 Naval Shipbuilding Plan,” Price said.

“Hansen Yuncken’s target is to have 100 per cent of the work go to businesses in the greater Adelaide region.”

Member for Sturt James Stevens said the facility will employ an average workforce of 90 people, with this peaking to 180 at different stages of the testing program.

“There will be many more employed through the supply chain and in off-site manufacturing,” Stevens said.

“This truly is a significant win for the people of Sturt and for South Australia more broadly.”

Job figures to shed light on post-JobKeeper economy

Economists have a broad range of expectations for the latest jobs numbers due to be released today, with the figures to provide an initial signal on what impact the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy has had.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will today release the labour force report for April – the first full month since JobKeeper ended in March.

Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy is optimistic about what impact the end of the scheme might have on employment, having previously estimated up to 150,000 jobs could be lost.

In a speech this week, Kennedy said the early indications are that while there have been job losses, many workers appear to have already found employment thanks to the strong labour market.

Economists’ forecasts centre on a 20,000 increase in employment in April, although predictions range from a 40,000 fall to a 60,000 increase.

Likewise, the April unemployment rate is expected to be unchanged from March’s level of 5.6 per cent, but forecasts range from 5.8 per cent to 5.4 per cent.

South Australia’s unemployment rate in March dropped to 6.3 per cent from 6.8 per cent the month before, but still remained the worst in the nation.

The State Government will also be looking for an improvement in SA’s worst-in-the-nation participation rate (61.9 per cent), which measures the proportion of people either in the workforce or looking for a job.

Last week’s federal budget forecast the jobless rate to be five per cent in mid-2022 and 4.5 per cent two years later.

The Reserve Bank wants to see unemployment much lower than its current rate, believing it needs to be below 4.5 per cent to drive wages growth above three per cent, so as to bring inflation back to some normality.

The latest national wage growth figures showed there is a long way to go before this is achieved, with the annual rate as of March just 1.5 per cent.

However, forward indicators of employment continue to point to a strong labour market.

The National Skills Commission’s final vacancy report for April, also released on Wednesday, confirmed a 3.3 per cent increase in skilled job advertisements posted on the internet.

This was the 12th consecutive monthly rise and a 44.8 per cent increase from pre-COVID-19 levels.

Somerton Man’s remains in ‘reasonable condition’ after exhumation

The exhumation of the “Somerton Man” is complete and his remains are in a “reasonable condition” according to SA Police, boosting hopes that DNA analysis can shed light on the 73-year-old mystery.

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Police on Wednesday morning began excavating the grave of the unidentified man who was found dead on Somerton Beach in December 1948, with the circumstances surrounding his last days still an open police investigation that has generated intense public interest.

The exhumation process at West Terrace Cemetery took 12 hours, with four pallbearers carrying a coffin containing his remains out of the cemetery under police escort late on Wednesday.

The Somerton Man has now been formally delivered to Forensic Science SA who will determine the most appropriate method of DNA testing to analyse the remains.

Detective Superintendent Des Bray said he “can’t predict” what DNA work will be done to analyse the remains but is pleased with how the exhumation went.

“Everything has gone smoothly and we’re happy that we’ve recovered the complete remains of the Somerton Man,” Bray said.

“The remains we’ve got today are in reasonable condition and we think that will give us a reasonable opportunity to obtain a DNA sample.”

Earlier in the day, Forensic Science SA Assistant Director of Operations Anne Coxon was cautious about the potential for the exhumation to provide a strong enough DNA sample to identify the man.

“With older remains, you need to look at the condition of the remains and whether there is DNA present,” Coxon said.

“Even if do actually find DNA present, we may not actually find a match.”

Flinders University Chair in Forensic DNA Technology Professor Adrian Linacre told InDaily that a “highly compromised” DNA sample would rule out the use of DNA analysis techniques used in the criminal justice system, as the regions of DNA being examined would fail to give a result.

He suggested a Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA analysis could be used if routine DNA typing techniques are ineffective.

Y-chromosome analysis can identify anyone with a common male ancestor, while mitochondrial DNA testing can establish common female relatives.

Coxon said Forensic Science SA has never “had a case … where we are considering as many different types of DNA testing that are available”.

The forensics centre will be consulting with experts from across Australia to conduct the analysis.

Post your jab experience online: health minister

The federal government is encouraging Australians to share their experiences on social media of getting a COVID-19 jab in a bid to tackle increasing levels of vaccine hesitancy.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said people get the biggest boost of confidence from seeing others receive the vaccine.

“[We need] as many Australians as possible to upload their photo – ‘this is me getting the jab’ or ‘I’ve had the vaccine’,” he told radio 4BC on Wednesday.

“As we see more and more people have it, then that actually builds an effect in terms of confidence.”

Hunt’s proposal comes after a poll published by Nine Entertainment showed almost one in three Australian adults are unlikely to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was more interested in the 70 per cent of respondent who are keen to get the jab.

“Let’s just get on with them,” he said.

“There’s plenty of time to have the chat with the others who are a bit hesitant … but there are others who are open to the conversation and we will have that.”

More than 3.2 million Australians, including nearly 243,000 people in South Australia, have now received a COVID-19 vaccination, with the daily pace of the rollout increasing as the program expands.

Hunt said public health officials were constantly reviewing advertising campaigns for vaccines, and were also looking at new ways for leaders to talk about jab safety.

“Although we’re safe we’re not immune,” he said.

“And the one thing that gives immunity is the vaccination.”

The more people are vaccinated, the less risk there would be of state border lockdowns, Hunt said.

The federal government is talking to the states about the possibility of allowing vaccinated Australians to move more freely should there be local lockdowns.

“In America where they’ve had very significant restrictions in many states, we’re seeing much greater freedom of movement for those that have had the vaccine,” Hunt said.

“That’s an important model for Australia.”

But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is already opposed to the idea of creating greater movement freedom for vaccinated people, telling The Australian there should be no internal borders – “vaccine or no vaccine”.

US pipeline operators admit paying hackers

Colonial Pipeline’s CEO has acknowledged that his company paid a $US4.4 million ($A5.7 million) ransom to hackers as executives were unsure how badly its systems were breached or how long it would take to restore the country’s largest fuel pipeline.

The 8850-km Colonial Pipeline Co system closed last week after one of the most disruptive cyberattacks on record, preventing millions of barrels of petrol, diesel and jet fuel from flowing to the US east coast from the Gulf Coast.

Petrol shortages stretched from Virginia to Florida as depots and distribution centres awaited supply, with gas prices last week surging to their highest level since October 2014.

The shutdown also forced two refineries to curb output and prompted airlines to reroute flights to refuel at airports outside the affected area.

It also spurred panic buying at petrol stations. At one point in time, 70 per cent of stations in North Carolina and 50 per cent in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia were without fuel.

Chief Executive Joseph Blount told the Wall Street Journal he paid the extortion money for the greater good.

“I know that’s a highly controversial decision,” Blount was quoted as saying.

“I didn’t make it lightly. I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this.”

Blount said the decision had been “the right thing to do for the country”.

The ransom payment illustrates the dilemma facing companies whose networks have been compromised by online extortionists.

On the one hand, companies can be completely paralysed by hackers with potentially far-reaching consequences in cases like Colonial’s.

On the other, paying ransoms effectively passes the problem forward, allowing cash-rich cybercriminals to move on to an increasing number of targets.

US officials have struggled to discourage companies from paying.

“Typically, that is a private-sector decision,” Anne Neuberger, US deputy national security adviser for cyber, told reporters earlier this month.

Late Glory charge stuns Adelaide United

Adelaide United have suffered a second defeat in three games after conceding two late goals against the Perth Glory to go down 2-1 in their A League clash on Wednesday night.

The Glory put down the accelerator just as United ran out of petrol, the home side scoring two goals in the final 15 minutes at HBF Stadium to snatch the victory on Wednesday.

Playing their third game in six days, United dominated for much of the first half.

Their goal came in the 28th minute when Louis D’Arrigo lofted a superb ball from the right wing to drop perfectly for Kusini Yengi.

The striker outmuscled defender Darryl Lachman, getting enough contact to the ball to make it 1-0 before winding up the Glory fan base with some interpretive dance behind the goal.

Glory were badly exposed on the wings as Craig Goodwin kept finding space but a second goal never eventuated.

In the second half they paid the price for their wastefulness.

The introduction of Diego Castro for the Glory after the break changed the complexion of the game as United began to visibly tire.

Providing a huge amount of energy, he set up two quick chances early in the half before Bruno Fornaroli and Chris Ikonomidis added the goals later in the period.

Ikonomidis was provider first of all for Fornaroli who beat two defenders to head past keeper James Delianov for the 78th minute equaliser.

Osama Malik almost made it 2-0 just minutes later when he got plenty of head on a Castro delivery only to pull it wide.

But coming home with a head of steam, the clinching goal appeared inevitable and it was eventually delivered in the 86th minute when Fornaroli and Ikonomidis swapped roles.

This time Fornoraoli turned provider, Ikonomidis’s shot taking a deflection before going past Delianov.

The win sets up the Glory nicely for a serious finals tilt with four games left.

They move to eighth but, crucially, are on the same number of points (31) as sixth-placed Brisbane Roar, while Adelaide are fourth on 35 points.

The Reds next face second-from-bottom Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Sunday.

-With AAP and Reuters

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