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Westpac has suspended its dividend after the banking giant's cash profit plunged 70 percent. The lender reported cash earnings fell to $993 million for the six months ended March 31, from $3.3 billion a year earlier. The bank last week announced a $1.6b impairment for potential loan defaults due to the COVID-19 related shutdown and has also put aside $900m for a potential penalty related to AUSTRAC proceedings. Westpac, which was hit by a money-laundering lawsuit from the regulator AUSTRAC during the first half, said impairment charges hit $2.4 b, an increase of $1.9b.

Homebuilding approvals dipped by 4.0 percent in March as the nation braced for impact from the coronavirus pandemic and adjusted to social-distancing restrictions. There were 15,279 approvals given, and the housing type most responsible for the decline was units and homes other than houses.

This category had a fall of 8.2 percent to 6,538 approvals, according to seasonally adjusted data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

There was a 1.2 percent drop in house approvals to 8,520.

A massive solar and wind project in Western Australia's Pilbara region has been recommended for approval by the state's environmental watchdog.

The proposed $22 billion Asian Renewable Energy Hub combines wind turbines, solar panels, above and below-ground transmission cables, and four subsea power cables intended to export hydrogen to southeast Asia.

The Environmental Protection Authority on Monday recommended approval for the project, subject to conditions including managing and monitoring impacts on migratory birds. Almost 12,000 hectares of native vegetation will be cleared if the project goes ahead, with up to 1743 wind turbines to be located 26 kilometers from Eighty Mile Beach.



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