Squiz Today / 02 April 2019

Squiz Today – Tuesday, 2 April


"They’re far more versatile than what you’d traditionally expect from a pair of briefs.”

Says one retailer of these denim “brief-style shorts”. No. Just no.


In an Aussie politics-dense week, we thought we’d go in another direction today… Japan’s Emperor Akihito is stepping down on 30 April - the first abdication in 200 years - bringing an end to the Heisei era. And just like that, a new era starts on 1 May with soon-to-be-emperor Naruhito’s newly-unveiled ‘Reiwa’ era. "We hope (the era name) will be widely accepted by the people and deeply rooted as part of their daily lives," chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said at yesterday's highly anticipated announcement.


• Before WWII, emperors in Japan were considered to be god-like figures. But after its loss to America and the Allies, the current reigning house - the Chrysanthemum Throne (which is the world’s oldest reigning dynasty) - and its ruler Emperor Hirohito were stripped of political power.

• Emperor Akihito, Hirohito’s eldest son, acceded to the throne in 1990 following the death of his father. The 85yo has had a ceremonial role and is a popular figure across Japan. It was announced more than a year ago that he would abdicate due to his advancing age and ill-health.

• That means Crown Prince Naruhito will become Japan's first emperor to be born after WWII. He's 59yo, interested in environmental causes and is considered to be a bit dull. Which reminds us of someone, but we can't quite put our finger on it…

• His wife, Crown Princess Masako, a Harvard and Oxford-educated fledgeling diplomat before her marriage in 1993, suffers from a stress-related disorder. In the lead up to the transition, her doctors have publicly said she must not be subjected to too much pressure.

• And looking at the next generation, Naruhito and Masako have a 17yo girl named Aiko. Changes to Japan’s Imperial succession law, which prohibits women from inheriting the throne, were discussed given there was no boy child on the horizon for the royal family. But the 2006 birth of Hisahito, Aiko's first male cousin, put paid to that.

It’s a big deal and highly symbolic for the nation. The ‘Reiwa’ name draws from the seventh-century poetry collection Manyoshu (aka the 'Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves') that is regarded as “a literary classic and high point of Japanese poetry.” The name means that culture is born and grows when people come together and "care for each other beautifully." And isn’t that a lovely thought? Emperor Akihito's era of ‘Heisei’, which means "achieving peace," was the first without a war in Japan's modern history.


Over the coming weeks, The Squiz will team up with Bupa to unpack the upcoming private health insurance changes that kicked off on 1 April 2019 (no joke). If you're someone who likes to keep on top of your (and your family's) health and budget, this is for you.

We've rounded up the important information and broken into understandable nibblets. It is a Squized-up telling of key information to help you make some excellent decisions when the time rolls around to review (or get) your policy sorted.

Personal-admin greatness awaits. Get ready to be Squiz'splained...


No more sleeps until Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivers the federal Budget… On the cards today - our first surplus for a decade, and if The Australian is right (paywall), a plan for the elimination of government net debt the coming decade. Also previewed are tax cuts of about $1,000 for low and middle-income earners, and a bunch of other stuff (a good list is at the end of this article). Meanwhile, Labor's Bill Shorten has sketched out his team’s approach to tackling climate change. The headline is a push to have 50% of new car sales to be electric models by 2030. But it’s the proposed changes to the ‘safeguard mechanism’ that regulates the way big industry accounts for its carbon emissions that have both the Coalition and the Greens offside. As they say in the classics, watch this space…


In the ongoing tussle between China and America, there was a win of sorts yesterday for US President Donald Trump with the news that China will add fentanyl-related substances to their list of controlled drugs from May 1. Use of the powerful synthetic drug, which reports say is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, has reached epidemic proportions in the US and is considered the country’s most dangerous drug. Fentanyl overdoses claimed some 18,000 lives in the US last year, and it was linked to the deaths of musicians Prince, Tom Petty and Mac Miller. The Trump Administration says a big part of the problem has been the drug is coming into the States from China illegally.


And so, with one deftly-timed guilty plea, the second woman accused of killing the half-brother of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in an audacious attack at Kuala Lumpur airport two years ago could walk free from jail as early as May. Yesterday, Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong, who stood accused of assassinating Kim Jong Nam using a nerve agent, pled guilty to the lesser charge of causing hurt by potentially deadly means. The development means no one has been held to account for plotting the murder. It also means neither woman will ever have to face court to testify how they came to be entangled in a plot worthy of a Le Carré novel.


But the slide has become more widespread. Analysts CoreLogic said the March result showed many people looking to buy or sell a home are holding off until after the federal election. Looking back at the first quarter of 2019, capital city home price falls were recorded in Darwin (-3.9%), Melbourne (-3.4%), Sydney (-3.2%), Perth (-2.9%), Brisbane (-1.1%) and Adelaide (-0.5%). Canberra was flat. And Hobart was up 1.2%. (Note: our southern capital’s strong run of growth means Adelaide, Perth and Darwin are now considered to be more affordable housing markets than Hobart.) The ‘combined regionals’ fall was -1% between January and March. That sound you can hear is muttering about an official interest rate cut…


The Woolworths-owned discount department store chain will close 30 of its 183 stores and two distribution centres over the coming three years. That’s not a surprise to retail-watchers with the retailer struggling to achieve good sales and profit results over the last few years, and it’s online store lacking the range or razzle-dazzle shoppers are looking for. The process will cost $370 million with most of that going towards paying out broken leases. Woolies says it will minimise job losses by redirecting Big W workers to other stores in its network. Analysts haven’t ruled out more store closures or the sale of the business in the future.


Just as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg steps up to deliver the Budget tonight, the first episode of the last-ever season of the delightfully inappropriate/sweary Veep goes to air on Foxtel. Talk about a dilemma… It’s been almost two years since the last instalment with protagonist-in-chief Julia Louis-Dreyfus needing some time to successfully undergo treatment for breast cancer. Wanna get in the mood? You’re welcome.


2.30pm (AEDT) - Reserve Bank announces its decision on interest rates

7.30pm (AEDT) - Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to deliver the government’s federal Budget speech to the House of Reps

ABS Data Release - Building Approvals, February

World Autism Awareness Day

International Children's Book Day

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