Squiz Today / 22 January 2019

Squiz Today – Tuesday, 22 January


“I know that I have to go out there and try and be as brave as possible.”

Said Ash Barty, our first Aussie Open women’s quarter-finalist in a decade. Barty takes on in-form Czech player Petra Kvitova tonight. No pressure… and she’s a winner no matter the result.


Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his regime have been called “old wolves in new clothing” with reports starting to emerge of the deaths and beatings of hundreds of people in the last week. The government's violent crackdown in Harare and Bulawayo has been sparked by protests over the doubling of petrol and diesel prices making them the most expensive in the world and leaving many Zimbabweans unable to afford the bus to work.

• It’s been more than a year (if you can believe it…) since nonagenarian Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s ruler for 37 years, ‘resigned’. The dictator left the top job in November 2017 amid a political crisis brought on by the sacking of his deputy/right-hand-man Mnangagwa and concern he would install his wife Grace to the top of the government.

• Mnangagwa became president and faced voters in July last year. Despite losing in the country’s urban areas, the man they called “the crocodile” declared election victory (despite the opposition disputing the result) and “a new beginning” for the troubled country.

• Since then, similarities between the Mnangagwa and Mugabe regimes have been drawn. Crippling economic conditions persist. Midnight abductions and beatings of the government's opponents are said to still occur. And the deportation of journalists and the shutting down of the internet has made it difficult for information to get out.

Mnangagwa has been overseas for a “highly productive week of bilateral trade and investment meetings” in Russia and Asia. He was going to head to the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos today, but tweeted he will return home to deal with the “economic situation”. Zimbabweans and international observers are waiting to see if he will abandon the fuel price hike (which makes petrol circa A$4.60/litre and diesel A$4.30/litre) - a move the government says is tackling fuel shortages and illegal trading. The UN and US have criticised the government for the use of force against its citizens. And human rights observers are hoping to get more information about what has happened, and continues to happen, as the crackdown continues.


UK PM Theresa May has outlined Plan B for exiting the European Union ahead of a new parliamentary vote next week. And it looks an awful lot like Plan A… The key thing MPs were waiting to hear about was what changes she could/would make to the thorn in her initial plan's side - the Northern Ireland backstop. May says she's still looking into changes. That means it's shaping up to be another messy week… Looking ahead, and if you’re a visual person, here’s a neat graphic of May’s main Brexit options if the vote next week is unsuccessful.

The illegal tapping of a gasoline pipeline is thought to have caused the deaths of 85 people in an explosion in central Mexico at the weekend. Authorities say a large number of people were around the pipeline when it exploded - one theory is the synthetic clothing some wore caused enough static electricity to set it off. There has been a shortage of petrol across several Mexican states in the last couple of weeks leading to massive queues and unrest. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the military and police would be mobilised in the crackdown on fuel theft.

Gone are the days of double-digit growth (ie 10% and above) for the world's second-largest economy. Official data released yesterday put China's economic growth at 6.6% in 2018 - the weakest annual performance since 1990. Why the slowdown? China’s carrying a lot of debt, and there’s that little thing about a trade war with America that has seen new tariffs put on more than US$250 billion of their exports. That’d do it… And the outlook isn’t great for this year either. That could have a significant impact on the global economy, including Australia’s given we count on China as our biggest export market.

The latest rankings are out. The Financial Review this morning reports (paywall) that Telstra is top of the pops with Brand Finance estimating its brand assists the company's earnings the most of any Aussie company. Even so, Telstra has seen the value of its brand decline since last year, the report says. Next up are major supermarket retailers Woolworths and Coles. Then comes Commonwealth Bank and ANZ. The banks fell in the rankings from last year. When it comes to brand strength - the winner is Qantas.

We were impressed when we thought Aussie motorcycle endurance rider Toby Price came second in the Dakar Rally on the weekend. Imagine our delight (and horror) when we were alerted to the error in yesterday's edition... He actually won. For the second time. Soz.

Yesterday's lunar eclipse snubbed us. And it looks like some places had a lovely time. Whoopie for them…


11.00am (AEDT) - Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to deliver a speech on "Delivering on our Economic Plan for all Australians" to the Sydney Institute - Sydney

12.30pm (AEDT) - Australian Open Tennis - Roberto Bautista Agut v Stefanos Tsitsipas (the Federer slayer)

7.00pm (AEDT) - Australian Open Tennis - Ash Barty v Petra Kvitová

8.15pm (AEDT) - Australian Open Tennis - Rafael Nadal v Frances Tiafoe

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (on until 25 January) - Davos, Switzerland

World Youth Day 2019 (the international Catholic youth-focused event, on until 27 January) - Panama City, Panama

Anniversary of the Melbourne meeting of the leaders of six Australian colonies to discuss federation (1899)

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