Squiz Today / 26 March 2020

Squiz Today – Thursday, 26 March


"A few years ago, I actually had a rule where I HAD to say yes to every invitation unless it clashed with something else. I was very tired by Christmas, but it was also one of the most exhilarating years of my life."

Said Joann Rutherford, a teacher on the Tiwi Islands. She holds a special place in our Squiz hearts as one of our first sign-ups, as well as being a long-suffering sounding board for our podcasting endeavours. Joann's recently returned to teaching after a stint in real estate, and she's also putting the finishing touches on her first novel. Busy... Please welcome go-getter Joann to this week's Three Minute Squiz.


As Australia’s economy contracted while we slept with new restrictions coming into force overnight, America has taken a big step towards soothing international markets’ coronavirus jitters. What started as a US$1 trillion glimmer in US President Donald Trump’s eye ten days ago has turned into a US$2 trillion (A$3.31 trillion) relief package that was agreed yesterday by the Congress and the Trump administration.

A lot. It’s a million millions. We looked it up and everything… And it has to be big because its job is to cushion the world’s biggest economy from the effects of one of the biggest economic cluster-disasters the world has seen for 100 years. And when it comes to government funding packages, America has never seen anything like it. It aims to “flood the economy with capital” with a three-pronged approach. It will put US$1,200 (A$2,000) into the hands of many Americans. There’s a big loan program for small businesses. And there’s a US$500 billion ($830 billion) fund for industries, cities and states. And it’s such a big deal that news that it was going to get done saw the US market surge 11.3% - its biggest one-day gain since 1933.

Because as the saying aptly goes, when America sneezes, the world catches a cold. And that certainly is the case when it comes to our neck of the woods. News that US legislators were settling up with President Trump saw our stock market rise to close yesterday 5.5% up when you look across our top 200 listed companies. But while markets might think it’s great that unprecedented financial assistance is coming in the US, there are ongoing concerns about the health response in America, and Trump’s eagerness to shake off the coronavirus crisis by Easter. He's a glass-half-full kinda guy...



• Our future King has the virus. Who knows how 71yo Prince Charles got the virus, but Clarence House says he had "a high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks." He and wife Camilla (who doesn’t have it) are now self-isolating at Balmoral. The Queen is fine, the palace says, not having seen Charles since 12 March.

• Cruise ships - what a problem… The ninth Australian has died in Toowoomba. Garry Kirstenfield was 68yo, and reports say he contracted the virus while on a cruise. And with sensitivities high after the Ruby Princess stuff up in Sydney last week put more than 130 coronavirus cases into the community, there’s a standoff brewing off the coast of Western Australia.

• PM Scott Morrison yesterday announced that elective surgeries, other than the most urgent, will be put on hold. And a new coronavirus commission headed by former Fortescue Metals boss Neville Power will form to “solve problems”.

• Yesterday, Virgin Australia put 80% of its staff on indefinite leave as it cut 90% of its domestic flights. In another bad day for jobs, several fashion brands, including Gorman, have shut their stores.

• And Spain’s death toll has passed that of China's. It recorded 738 deaths in just 24 hours taking the total to 3,434. China reported 3,285 deaths, while Italy has 6,820. Globally, there are more than 440,000 cases, almost 20,000 deaths and 112,000 people who have recovered.


Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the government “strongly objected” to the formal indictment of Australian-Chinese academic and pro-democracy blogger Yang Hengjun by the Chinese government over accusations of espionage. Dr Yang has been detained in China for 14 months, where he has mostly been kept in isolation. His lawyers say he has been subject to daily interrogations, and they have concerns about his health and mental wellbeing. Payne has said that there is no evidence to support China’s accusations, and Dr Yang’s supporters say his arrest was politically motivated with friction between Australia and China over things like our 5G rollout and foreign interference laws. China will decide whether it will prosecute Dr Yang after Easter.


Two people have been arrested after the bodies of 64 men were found yesterday in a sealed shipping container amid scorching conditions at a checkpoint in Tete, Mozambique, according to the UN's International Organisation for Migration. A further 14 people were hospitalised after being rescued from the container. Survivors say they are Ethiopians attempting to get to South Africa, but none were carrying identification. After arresting the Mozambican driver and his assistant, police are now tracking down the person responsible for allowing the migrants into the country. It was October last year when 39 people from Vietnam were found dead in the UK's Essex in a similar tragedy.


Not seen as many sheep and cattle around lately? That’s because farmers are struggling to rebuild their herds after a tough economic trio of drought, bushfires and COVID-19 combined to decimate investment in cattle and sheep numbers. Our national cattle herd has dropped to a 30-year low, while the national sheep flock is the lowest it’s been since 1904. While some farmers are working to rebuild their stocks, many question whether it’s worth their time and money. Livestock prices have hit record highs, which means it’s expensive to get your sheep/cattle gang back together if you’re a farmer. Meat and Livestock Australia predict cattle numbers will continue to decline by nearly 6% by June this year.


As longtime Squizers know, when we retire, we intend on becoming part-time letters-to-the-editor writers penning complaints about everything from what's on the telly to the price of devon at the supermarket. Because being grumpy is a choice, right? Apparently not. According to researchers at Kyoto University, some older people might be a bit prickly because they can suffer from 'smile blindness'. That means they find it harder to spot happy faces. But what they remain good at is spotting cranky people. Maybe because it takes one to know one…


ABS Data Release - Australian National Accounts: Finance and Wealth, December 2019; Labour Force, February 2020.

Independence Day in Bangladesh

Birthdays for US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (1940), Watergate journo Bob Woodward (1943), singer Diana Ross (1944), Google co-founder Larry Page (1973), and actress Keira Knightley (1985)

Anniversary of the birthdays of poet Robert Frost (1874), playwright Tennessee Williams (1911), actor Leonard Nimoy (1931)

Anniversaries of:
• Boris Yeltsin becoming Russia's first President (1989)
• The Schengen Treaty going into effect (1995)
• Carrie Lam becoming the first woman elected to lead Hong Kong (2017)

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