Squiz Today / 22 April 2020

Squiz Today – Wednesday, 22 April


“I think it would get some laughs.”

Says miniature donkey owner Francie Dunlap, who will happily dial-in a special eeyore named Mambo to your next video conference. For US$50. Who knows, he might make more sense than your colleagues…


The coronavirus crisis is a “once in a century event”, Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe said yesterday. While not trying to “catastrophise” the situation, he says the impact on coronavirus-exposed industries (like tourism) coupled with government measures to slow the spread of the virus (like shutting restaurants) will deliver an economic contraction like we haven’t seen since the 1930s, he says.

There are some ugly economic chickens coming home to roost... And from January to the end of June, we’re expected to see a 10% fall in our national output with the total number of hours worked likely to decline by around 20%. Unemployment is expected to hit 10% in June - up from 5.2% in March. And there are new figures from the Bureau of Statistics point to the shredding of 780,000 jobs between mid-March (when restrictions were put in place across the country) and the start of April. When it comes to unemployment benefits, more claims have been processed by Centrelink in the last month than would usually be processed in a year. And then comes the great climb back which could begin within the next 3-4 months if restrictions start to ease soon, Lowe says.

Speaking after yesterday morning's National Cabinet meeting, PM Scott Morrison said we've reached a turning point, and we're “on the road back”. That’s why a decision has been made to allow low-risk elective surgery and IVF procedures to restart next week. But as for lifting the restrictions that are keeping us at home, “you've got to keep them going and you’ve got to stick to the plan,” Morrison says. But the ambition to start easing restrictions in mid-May remains - providing we can up testing and tracing, and there’s a rapid-response health capability on the ground.



• Tasmania has become the state with the highest number of infections per 100,000 residents overtaking NSW.

• Visiting less: Australia Post. It will now deliver letters to metropolitan areas every second day. Visiting more: aged care homes. Or at least that’s what PM Morrison would like to see.

• In a single tweet, US President Donald Trump announced his intention to suspend immigration to the US. With America’s coronavirus case and death tallies larger than any other nation, reports say he’s been frustrated with the limits to his powers to seal off the nation.

• Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation says the lifting of restrictions must be done gradually, or countries risk a second wave of infections. And Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says “the worst is yet ahead of us” as the virus reaches developing nations.

• On the numbers: Australia has 6,645 cases, and 72 people have died. Globally, there are 2.5 million cases and almost 175,000 deaths. More than 665,000 people have recovered.


Embattled airline Virgin Australia yesterday confirmed it has gone into administration. Its failure to secure financial support from its shareholders or the Morrison Government as it grapples with $5 billion of debt and coronavirus travel restrictions means it ran out of options, its board says. It could still have a future with administrator and Deloitte executive Vaughan Strawbridge confirming there has been an "extraordinary" amount of interest from potential buyers of Australia's second-largest carrier. But for now, there are 16,000 jobs on the line and plenty of customers who can’t get refunds or access to their Velocity points.


So a couple of things have happened... A negative price was recorded for a barrel of oil on the West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark for US oil prices. And on the UK’s Brent Crude market, a barrel slipped below $20, its lowest level since 2002. These markets look at future demand for oil - and there ain’t a lot of that when you look at where we’re likely to be next month. A combination of the argy-bargy between big oil producers Russia and Saudi Arabia and the coronavirus keeping us at home means there's an oversupply, and the price has fallen accordingly. And like a hoarder with too much toot paper, oil is filling up global storage tanks. Energy Minister Angus Taylor said Australia is likely to buy some for our strategic reserves. Everyone loves a bargain…


As everyone on the planet goes easy on themselves diet-wise, analysts say China has stepped up its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. China has been accused of meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs with the arrest of 15 high profile pro-democracy protesters last Saturday. And then there are military exercises near Taiwan, and its increased presence in the disputed South China Sea. With its own COVID-19 outbreak mostly under control, China is taking advantage of the region's preoccupation with the virus to "coerce its neighbours", says the US State Department. While China has brushed off the criticism, the US has responded by deploying two warships in the South China Sea, which is an important global shipping route.


Gee, you don't turn up to a party for your long-dead grandfather, and everyone wants an explanation… Except, in this case, last week's celebration of North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung is a big deal in the Hermit Kingdom. And North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s absence has led to speculation that he is seriously ill after heart surgery. It started with a story on website Daily NK, which is run by a group of defectors. Then CNN picked it up citing US officials. But South Korean officials say there is no evidence to suggest the rumour is true. Speculation over the health of Kim Jong Un is not new due to obesity and a big smoking habit. And some commentators say that if anything were to happen to him, his sister Kim Yo Jong would be the most obvious successor. Others say North Korea is too much of a sausage-fest for that to happen.


Kicked off by the Yorkshire Museum in the UK, a shout out to museums across the world to show off their creepiest objects turned into a thread of horror. Our favourite has to be this ‘mermaid’. So creepy...


ABS Data Release - Retail Trade (Preliminary) for March

50th anniversary of Earth Day

Birthdays for Jack Nicholson (1937), Daniel Johns (1979), Amber Heard (1986)

Anniversary of:
• 150 years since the birth of Vladimir Lenin (1870)
• the signing of the Paris Agreement (2016)
• the death of Richard Nixon, 37th President of the USA (1994)

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