Squiz Today / 16 September 2020

Squiz Today – Wednesday, 16 September


“It’s great to be here and know that it still works."

Said Paralympics legend Louise Sauvage of yesterday’s firing up of Sydney’s Olympic cauldron to mark 20 years since the Games’ opening ceremony. It could have just as easily been sent to the tip after the way it behaved on the night


PM Scott Morrison is sniffing out Australia’s recovery from our corona-fuelled recession, and he says it smells like natural gas. Unveiling the Coalition Government’s latest energy plan, Morrison said "unlocking gas supply, delivering an efficient pipeline and transportation market, and empowering gas customers," will make energy more affordable. And that's key to helping power-intense businesses get back on their feet while taking pressure off families power bills, he says.

No way. It’s a big plan, and it has all the drama.

• We have an energy shortage. And it’s pressing, particularly in NSW with 10% of its power supply set to be lost when the Liddell coal-fired power plant in the Hunter Valley closes in April 2023. Morrison says the Federal Government will operate its own gas-generated power plant if the industry doesn’t step up...

• Gas is super stinky to some. Gas opponents say a wave of cheaper renewable energy is hitting the market, and that’s a smarter way to go. And they say gas is still in the fossil fuel family, which is bad news for climate change. On the other side of the coin, the energy industry doesn’t like much of the plan either. But Team Morrison says it’s the best way to get a good and guaranteed supply.

• And it’s political. Climate and energy policy has been a key factor in more PMs being turfed than we’ve had hot dinners. And after a string of failed plans, this is the latest attempt to hit the magic double - delivering lower power prices and lower emissions.

Umm, it’s called a recession… In previous years, much of the debate about energy policy has used ‘creating more jobs’ as a throwaway line while ideological wars prevailed. But now we’re heading towards 10% unemployment, and households’ cost-of-living concerns are set to sting, so things might take a different tone. And that includes how the major parties engage on it with Labor having gas issues of its own. Its leader Anthony Albanese didn’t criticise Morrison’s plan directly, saying the PM’s good at announcements but not good at implementation. But frontbencher Bill Shorten who took the party to the last election was more direct. "Climate's important, but let's face it, so are jobs," he said yesterday.



Or at least, it’s a strong theory… This morning the ABC reports that an investigation into NSW political staffer John Zhisen Zhang by Border Force and ASIO, and accusations he participated in a Chinese Government plot to infiltrate the Labor Party and influence voters, could be what’s ticked China off in recent months. That’s because in the course of the investigation, agents intercepted communications between Zhang and China’s top diplomats here, leading to the naming of China’s consul in Sydney in a warrant. Zhang claims Australia has breached the Vienna conventions - a treaty enshrined in Australian law protecting the communications of diplomats. Unnamed officials say the timing lines up with China’s detention of Australian journalist Cheng Lei and the recent doorknock on the ABC’s Bill Birtles and Financial Review’s Michael Smith - acts that could be retaliation for the investigation involving their diplomats.


After coming out of an induced coma last week, Russian opposition figure Alexei Nalvany’s condition is improving - so much that he's posted a pic to Insta singing the praises of being able to breathe independently. His team says he’ll be back in Russia soon. While it’s alleged the anti-corruption campaigner was poisoned with the government-produced Novichok nerve agent on the orders of President Vladimir Putin last month, the Kremlin denies any involvement. Putin’s been busy… He’s held lengthy (read boring…) talks with embattled Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko over the country’s anti-government protest movement that’s grown since his disputed election win last month. Reports say Putin’s offered his neighbour/ideological soulmate a US$1.5 billion loan to help Belarus avoid an economic crisis. #SquizShortcut


As we saw in Australian last summer, big fires tend to get politicians hot under the collar… And with US President Donald Trump blaming poor forest management while Democratic challenger Joe Biden points to climate change, the fires ravaging America’s west coast have put the issue front and centre with less than 2 months until election day. Trump told a group of officials he believes that temperatures will "start getting cooler, you just watch... I don't think science knows actually." Meanwhile, Biden said a second-term Trump administration would see "more of America ablaze". Heading back to the White House for a less heated occasion - Trump welcomed Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu and representatives from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for a historic agreement signing ceremony.


There were two bits of good news from Victoria way yesterday. It was the state’s first day without a coronavirus death in more than 2 months. And regional Victoria is on the restriction-easing fast track with new cases falling significantly. From Thursday, residents will be able to dine-in at a restaurant, gather outdoors, and kids' sport is back on. At the other end of the scale, Premier Daniel Andrews said anti-government protesters were “low”. Those dissatisfied with his leadership are getting on social media to share pictures of boots with the tagline "give Dan the boot". One image features a shed at his parent’s property near Wangaratta knowing it was the place where Andrews’ father’s funeral was held in 2016. “I won't use the words that my father would use to describe that sort of act,” he said yesterday.


It’s a tough one. Cricket Australia's world has been turned upside down with the coronavirus turning it into a schedulers' nightmare. And now cricket's administrators are under pressure from Network Seven and Foxtel with both refusing to pay their agreed instalments. They’re looking for recognition of “the fair value of the media rights against the expected schedule for the season compared to the originally published schedule,” Seven’s boss James Warburton says. Both media companies are struggling financially - and Cricket Australia isn’t exactly swimming in money either… It’s been forced to cut jobs due to COVID-19 losses. Next steps: Seven wants Cricket Australia to hire an independent expert to determine what broadcasting rights costs should be.


Hey, Sydney Olympics - you’re not the only one turning 20yo this week… Celebrated music flick Almost Famous - starring Kate Hudson and Billy Crudup - is also 2 decades young. It’s a homage to music journalism, musicians, and groupies. But real-life queen groupie of the era Pamela Des Barres - who lays claim to 'encounters' with Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Jim Morrison - still holds a grudge against the movie’s producer…


12.30pm (AEST) - Andrew Liveris AO, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Dow Chemical Company, addresses the National Press Club - Canberra

International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

Independence Days for Mexico and Papua New Guinea

Birthdays for comedian Amy Poehler (1971) and singer Nick Jonas (1992)

Anniversary of the birthdays of actress Lauren Bacall (1924) and musician BB King (1925)

And congratulations to last week's prize winner - cheers to Eloise Modun from Ashburton who will celebrate with a $100 Dan Murphy's gift card.

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