Squiz Today / 29 February 2024

Squiz Today – 29 February 2024

Squiz Today Podcast

Today’s listen time: 6 minutes

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Squiz Sayings

“He’s sweating and he’s all dirty and it brings you back to [the thought that] everything that you
do is for a reason, and that we do appreciate it, we do love it.”

Said jillaroo Jemma Luelf whose life-long passion for rural photography has produced some
stunning images of the local landscape, animals, and her little brother Henry. Luelf says her
hobby “centres” her, and we casual observers also feel a sense of peace in her rural insights…

Steadying the inflation ship

The Squiz

New data from the Bureau of Statistics shows Australia’s inflation rate remained flat at 3.4% in January – the same as in December. That went against most economists’ predictions of an increase. BetaShares’ chief economist David Bassanese says it “should be broadly reassuring” to the Reserve Bank that inflation is going in the right direction – aka down – ahead of its next meeting in March.

So we bid adieu to inflation?

Not quite… The data shows insurance (+8.2%) and housing (+4.6%) were some of the biggest contributors to inflation over the 12 months to January. Food and non-alcoholic beverages were close behind at 4.4%, although Michelle Marquardt, the Bureau of Stats’ head of price statistics, says fresh food – like meat, seafood, fruit and veggies – “saw lower or negative annual inflation”. Speaking of groceries, claims of price gouging hit Coles again yesterday, after the supermarket giant revealed an underlying half-year net profit of $589 million on Tuesday. Chief executive Leah Weckert defended that – she said the profit allows Coles “to invest in our business and deliver for our stakeholders”. And we can’t mention price gouging without pointing to the video of Independent MPs Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie drew attention to the issue by dressing up as pigs… 

Is there anything else to note?

While we have you on finance – Australia’s biggest trading partner, China, is still facing economic problems, led by a debt crisis in its property sector… And it took another hit yesterday, with a liquidation petition filed against the country’s biggest property developer, Country Garden, over non-payment of a $314 million loan. Country Garden says it will “resolutely oppose” the petition, which was filed by a creditor, and a court hearing has been set for May. It comes a month after the world’s most debt-ridden property developer, Chinese property giant Evergrande, was ordered to liquidate. With much of China’s household wealth tied up in real estate, the sector’s downturn is causing widespread financial stress – and experts are worried that could lead to lower demand for Aussie exports.

Australian News Business & Finance

Squiz the Rest

Keeping it in the family

Mike Burgess, the head of Australia’s spy organisation ASIO, has delivered some eye-opening news in his annual risk assessment. He says a former unnamed Australian politician was recruited by a foreign spy ring called the ‘A-Team’, and they were being paid for information. The pollie also offered to introduce the group to the then PM’s family, Burgess says. Members of the spy ring posed as consultants, officials and academics to Aussies in high places, offering thousands in exchange for sensitive information. Burgess said at least one politician “sold out their country, party and former colleagues to advance the interests of the foreign regime” – and they were caught. In the past, Burgess has pointed to far-right extremists as a major threat to Australia – and he says that is still the case. Last night he said there are concerns about the rise of nationalists seeking to incite a race war.

AusPol Australian News

Growing concerns over Gaza aid

The United Nations’ humanitarian agency – OCHA – says humanitarian organisations are being “systemically denied access” to Gaza, with aid convoys facing regular attacks – something that Israel denies. Experts say photos and videos of Palestinians fighting to get hold of what aid is coming through highlight the scale of the issue. Officials warned that one-quarter of Gaza’s population – about 576,000 people, including children – is experiencing an “escalating famine” which could “kill thousands” within the coming days. It comes as the Albanese government told another UN agency – UNWRA – that Australia needs confidence aid will go to those who need it, as calls grow to reinstate at least $6m in funding to the organisation. Oz was among a dozen countries to suspend its financial support after Israel alleged that numerous UNWRA staff were involved in the 7 October Hamas attacks. 

Australian News World News

Michigan chooses its candidates

US President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have both claimed victory in their respective parties’ primary elections in Michigan. Trump secured a fifth straight win over his Republican rival/former colleague Nikki Haley of about 68% to her 28%, reinforcing his position as the favourite for the Republican nomination heading into Super Tuesday. And although Biden won about 81% of the Democratic votes, he has some big problems to deal with… Many Democrats in Michigan – which has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the US – used the vote to express frustration over his handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict, with 12% of voters marking “uncommitted” on their ballot instead of Biden. That’s notable because Michigan is a swing state – in some presidential elections the Republicans have won, and in others, the Democrats. In 2020, Biden won with less than 3% of the vote, so he hasn’t got much wiggle room in November…

World News

The Tillies strike again

The Matildas have sealed their spot in the Paris Olympics after winning their second qualifying match against Uzbekistan in front of more than 54,000 fans at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium. The Uzbeks went into the game as underdogs, but the Matildas promised to bring their A-game, and they certainly did – the final score was 10-nil. Veteran striker Michelle Heyman had a fantastic night again – scoring 4 goals in the first 45 minutes alone. But it was a team effort, with Kaitlyn Torpey, Mary Fowler, Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso, and Amy Sayer also added to the scoreboard. They celebrated their Olympic qualification on the field afterwards, with Olympic cycling champion Anna Meares giving them a giant novelty plane ticket. The Olympics kick off in July, but we’ll see the Tillies before then – they have a friendly match scheduled against Mexico on April 10.

Australian News Sport

Leaping into Leap Day

If it’s your birthday today, you’re one in about 1,461 – which is not quite one in a million, but still pretty special… And you’re in good company – rapper Ja Rule and Aussie cricketer Sean Abbott are your fellow “leaplings” celebrating today. That nickname is just one of the fun facts about leap days we’ve learnt this week, which generally occur every 4 years but not always due to complex scientific reasons we won’t get into here… The reasons why leap years exist are also complicated, but the short version is that, without them, we’d gradually fall out of sync with the seasons. Leap days also used to prompt several traditions, including being the one day when women could propose to men – although that, and the postcards that used to poke fun at women about it, is a tad out of date nowadays…

Australian News Quirky News

Apropos of Nothing

If you love drag queens, twerking, ballerinas, classical Indian dance and kangaroos, then the winner of the Dance your PhD competition is for you… Kangaroo Time (Club Edit) took out the top prize with this spectacular entry and we can’t stop it bouncing around our brains…

Last week, it was hot cross buns, but now we have a guide to the best pesto on the market… We’re big fans of the traditional Italian recipe, but with cozzie livs and no time for breaking out the pestle and mortar, we are grateful for this cheat sheet…

And if our use of ‘cozzie livs’ bugs you, there’s more bad news for English language pedants because one of the world’s biggest dictionary companies says it’s fine to let go of old-world rules like ending a sentence with a preposition. What is there to be afraid of?

Australian News Quirky News

Squiz the Day

9.00am (AEDT) – Men’s Cricket – First Test of the Trans-Tasman series – Australia v New Zealand – Wellington

10.20am (AEDT) – President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos will address the Australian Parliament – Canberra 

Leap Day 2024

ABS Data Release – Retail Trade, January 2024

A birthday for motivational speaker Tony Robbins (1960), Universal Music Group CEO Sir Lucian Grainge (1960), and rapper Ja Rule (1976)

Anniversary of:

  • Hattie McDaniel becoming the first African American to win an Academy Award for her performance as Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1940) 
  • The UK’s Ministry of Defence withdrawing Prince Harry from a tour of Afghanistan after news of his deployment is leaked to foreign media (2008)
Squiz the Day

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