Squiz Today / 14 November 2023

Squiz Today – Tuesday, 14 November

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Squiz Today Podcast

Today’s listen time: 9.30 minutes

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Squiz Sayings

“They’re like ‘oh my god, I love Toys ‘R’ Us!’” 

Said Penny Cox, the new boss of Toys ‘R’ Us Australia and Kiwiland, of the reaction she gets when talking about her newish job. The retailer collapsed in Oz in 2018, but Cox is angling for a Christmas comeback – just like the Furby

Robodebt recommendations to be rolled out

The Squiz

The Albanese Government has accepted all 56 recommendations made by Commissioner Catherine Holmes in the Robodebt Royal Commission final report, which was handed over in July. It means more social workers will be available to Centrelink customers, face-to-face service options will be on offer, and an oversight body to monitor automated decisions on debts will be established. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the changes will help to prevent anything like Robodebt from happening again. “The Robodebt scheme was wrong. The Robodebt scheme was unlawful. The Robodebt scheme destroyed the lives of many innocent Australians,” he said yesterday.

Remind me what happened…

We’ve got you. The Robodebt scheme was an automated debt recovery program that was established and ramped up by the Coalition when they were in government between 2015-19. It incorrectly calculated the money that was owed to Centrelink by 443,000 welfare recipients using the unlawful income averaging method. The system sent each person letters and made automated phone calls to recover the debts, leading many to take out loans and sell personal effects to make payments. Commissioner Holmes’ damning 990-page report found it led to 3 people taking their own lives – she added she was confident they “were not the only tragedies of the kind”. And it also cost the government (aka taxpayers…) big bucks. In 2021, the Federal Court approved a $1.8 billion settlement between the Commonwealth and victims of the scheme.

So it’s all wrapped up now?

Not quite… Public Service Commissioner Dr Gordon de Brouwer is investigating 16 bureaucrats who were referred by the Royal Commission. Their names haven’t been made public – the key figures Commissioner Holmes recommended for criminal prosecution were listed in a sealed section of the report. And there’s no word on how/when those names will be released, but Albanese Government ministers have previously said it won’t be possible to keep it quiet forever. Government Services Minister Bill Shorten has also called on the Coalition to provide its response to the report, given that Robodebt happened on their watch. That didn’t happen yesterday – Coalition leader Peter Dutton has previously said “mistakes” were made by “individuals” who were involved in the scheme and apologised to the victims.

AusPol Australian News

Squiz the Rest

Gaza’s main hospital goes dark

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has grave concerns for the wellbeing of 2,300 people, including newborn babies, inside the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as “constant gunfire and bombings” continue in the area. Doctors there say they’ve refused an Israeli evacuation order because they fear for 700 at-risk patients they can’t move. WHO boss Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the facility “is not functioning as a hospital anymore” with power outages and shortages of food and water. Israel says Hamas’ headquarters is located underneath the building, which the terror group and hospital staff deny. Al-Quds – Gaza’s second-largest hospital – has also suspended operations due to the fuel shortages. And the United Nations’ humanitarian agency says 20 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are “no longer functioning”, as it struggles to deliver aid supplies.

World News

Clearing the cyber decks

DP World Australia is back in business… The major stevedore – which handles about 40% of our maritime freight – was knocked over in a cyber attack that put the brakes on its operations on Friday. The company worked with the authorities, and while the incident is still under investigation, Christmas presents are expected to be delivered on time (phew…). The breach led to around 30,000 containers being stacked up at our major ports, along with raising fresh questions about the readiness of big companies to deal with mega hacks. The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has found that most companies are ill-equipped to fend off cyber attacks. Meanwhile, telcos will be required to show they have plans to deal with data breaches every year or face steep penalties. Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said that’s needed because “nothing much works in the 2020s without reliable internet”.

Australian News Business & Finance

He’s back…

David Cameron, former PM of the UK from 2010-16, has returned to the frontbench as Foreign Secretary. He left politics in 2016 following the Brexit referendum, which he didn’t support – he said that meant he wasn’t able to lead the country through the process of leaving the European Union. To facilitate his return, Cameron has been appointed to the House of Lords, which is the unelected upper chamber of British politics. And what’s brought it on is a major reshuffle of PM Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives after he fired Home Secretary Suella Braverman – a right-winger who has made a series of controversial comments in recent weeks, including that the police have been too sympathetic towards pro-Palestinian protesters. Cameron says he’s “delighted” to return to politics, and while some commentators say he will bring clout and experience to the role, others point out that he is strongly disliked by elements of the party and electorate. “It’s a very odd appointment,” said one expert

World News

Led up the garden path…

A rescue group in British Columbia, Canada, has issued a warning to hikers to stick to old-school paper maps and compasses rather than Google Maps. The warning came about following the rescue of 2 hikers who followed non-existent trails shown in the app. The rescues were no small thing, involving helicopters and rope rescue teams leading the tech giant to remove the dodgy trail. This isn’t the first time Google Maps has been called out for its trail displays – earlier this year, Mountaineering Scotland warned that the app was directing visitors to a dangerous route up Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain. Fun fact: Google Maps was initially developed by an Aussie start-up called Where 2 Technologies, which was bought by Google in 2004.


For the love of a few ZZZ’s

If Sleepy is your Disney character of choice, you might be interested to know that Japan is leading the way in the power nap industry. With over 40% of Japanese workers getting less than 6 hours of shut-eye a night, they’re coming up with some nifty solutions – like desk-mounted headrests, heated eye masks, and the Giraffenap – a booth that lets you snooze while standing up. But before you start dreaming of upright snoozes, remember that it can come with its own set of challenges, including an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis. Meanwhile, a study from Denmark suggests that a well-ventilated bedroom could be the key to a good night’s sleep. They found that higher ventilation rates reduced CO2 and particulate matter levels, decreased humidity, and improved sleep quality. It’s time to crack a window before you hit the hay…

Quirky News World News

Apropos of nothing

G’day, NCIS fans! NCIS: Sydney – the fifth instalment in the franchise/first to be hosted outside the US hit screens this week. The reason for the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s presence Down Under? The AUKUS agreement… It’s no small thing – the franchise continues to be a ratings juggernaut. No pressure, Sydney…

Gwyneth Goes Skiing – a new theatre production based on the real-life legal tussle between Gwyneth Paltrow and Terry Sanderson, who collided on the ski slopes of Deer Valley in 2016 – is about to open in London. And here’s the twist – the audience gets to play judge/jury to decide “who’s guilty and who’s gooped”.

Gold Coast cricketer Gareth Morgan has bowled his way into the record books, claiming 6 wickets in 6 balls on Saturday. The opposing team was 5 runs away from victory with 6 batsmen in hand when Morgan stepped up to the crease… The local council worker said the experience “was very surreal”…

Quirky News

Squiz the Day

12.30pm (AEDT) – UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Human Rights, Francesca Albanese, addresses the National Press Club – Canberra

APEC Ministerial Meeting begins (until 15 November) – San Francisco

ABS Data Release – Overseas Arrivals and Departures, September

Company shareholder meeting – Goodman Group

AIHW Release – Residential Aged Care Quality Indicators Annual Report, 2022–23

World Diabetes Day

National Survivors’ Day

National Pickle Day – US

A birthday for King Charles (1948)

Anniversary of:
• the birthday of painter Claude Monet (1840)
• the publication of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851)
• New York World reporter Nellie Bly beginning her attempt to surpass the fictitious journey of Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg by travelling around the world in under 80 days. She succeeds, finishing the trip in 72 days, 6 hours (1889)
• the first public trains runnings under the English Channel (1994)
• the film premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) and the first James Bond film starring Daniel Craig, Casino Royale (2006)

Squiz the Day

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