Australia markets closed

PM apologises to rejected bushfire victims: Monday morning wrap

Smoke, flames and burn scars over the east coast of Australia, 31 December 2019 (issued 12 January 2020). Photo by the European Space Agency (ESA). (EPA/ESA HANDOUT -- contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA.)

Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know this morning in Australia and beyond to kick off your week:

ASX: Australian share prices appear headed for a flat start to the trading week after the US market on Friday fell from earlier record highs.

The SPI200 futures contract was down 52 points, or 0.76 per cent, to 6817.0 points at 0700 AEDT on Monday after slower-than-expected December US jobs growth prompted Wall Street prices to fall late last week.

US stocks slipped on Friday as investors took profits after hitting record highs this week and data showed slower-than-expected December US jobs growth.

AUD: The Australian dollar was buying 68.94 US cents, up from 68.79 US cents at Friday's close.

Farmers are losing their livestock to the bushfires, with the number of livestock lost in NSW topping 13,000 and is expected to climb. Meanwhile, the federal government has put $50 million towards helping restore Australia's devastated wildlife as bushfires continue to ravage the country.

Keen to support bushfire-ravaged communities? You can buy their products, but – when they’re ready for tourists again – you can also visit them and give their local economy a well-needed cash injection. When they rebuild, consider visiting these local businesses and communities during your next Aussie road trip.

Have you settled into the new business year yet? Kick it off right by picking up some new productivity habits. Here’s how to get started.

Also, how many of these terrible email habits do you have? Go through this list and see how many on this 31-strong list you’re guilty of.

The Prime Minister has apologised to bushfire victims who were denied emergency relief payments over outdated maps. Over the weekend, a number of residents around NSW’s south coast said their application for the $1,000 tax-free disaster recovery payments were rejected because of old maps used by Centrelink that did not include their area as officially bushfire-affected.

But Scott Morrison has said that any policy changes or process reviews that need to be performed to ensure payments were provided to those who needed them were “being done very swiftly”.

"There are a large number of people involved in assessing and making sure these payments get out and in the odd case there may be circumstances that need to be rectified and I want to give you that assurance that is being acted on with the Minister overseeing that very carefully and very clearly," Morrison said as reported in SMH.

Fresh Newspoll figures reveal that Morrison’s approval rating has slumped from 45 to 37 per cent, while Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s has jumped from 40 to 46 per cent – making the Labor leader the more preferred PM.

US President Donald Trump has been justifying the assassination of top Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani by saying Iran was likely to attack four US embassies.

But the US defence secretary is saying he did not see specific evidence from intelligence officials about this.

"What the president said was that there probably could be additional attacks against embassies. I shared that view," Esper said on Sunday.

"The president didn't cite a specific piece of evidence."

When pressed on whether intelligence officers offered concrete evidence on that point he said "I didn't see one with regards to four embassies".

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