Squiz Today / 22 November 2023

Squiz Today – Wednesday, 22 November

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Squiz Today Podcast

Today’s listen time: 9.30 minutes

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Squiz Sayings

“I just want you to know, it’s difficult turning 60.”

Quipped US President Joe Biden as he celebrated his 81st birthday by pardoning 2 Thanksgiving turkeys at the White House. Sure, he mixed up Taylor Swift and Britney Spears and said he wanted to see the birds play ice hockey, but the crowd gobbled it up…

The low down on secrecy law reform

The Squiz

The Albanese Government’s plan to significantly reduce the number of secrecy laws in Australia was outlined by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus yesterday. The overhaul of the legislation covers what classified information journalists can publish without fear of a run-in with the law and penalties for the public servants and others who leak it… Dreyfus says the reforms are needed because “there have long been concerns about the number, inconsistency, appropriateness and complexity of Commonwealth secrecy offences”. 

Don’t keep it hush-hush – break it down for me…

A good example: what happened with former News Corp/current Nine journalist Annika Smethurst. Her home was raided by Federal Police in 2019 after stories she wrote that included leaked classified information from Australia’s spy agencies were published in 2018. The threat of prosecution hung over her for almost a year – and the case saw former Attorney-General Christian Porter issue an order that journalists not be prosecuted without his consent. That process would have legislation behind it under Dreyfus’s proposal. As for the people who leaked the information… A new ‘general secrecy’ law would see stronger penalties against people who compromise the “effective working of government”. Human rights experts aren’t happy with that – they say there’s more work to do to “strike the right balance between secrecy and transparency in our democracy”.

Why is this a thing?

It’s in response to a couple of scandals in recent times. The first is from 2019, when former Australian Defence Force lawyer David McBride was charged with disclosing secret military information to ABC journalists. McBride says the info (including allegations of war crimes by Aussie soldiers in Afghanistan) was in the public interest, but he pleaded guilty in the legal case against him last week, prompting questions about protections for whistleblowers. And the second scandal is the PwC tax consultants’ breach. Dreyfus says the new ‘general secrecy’ laws are designed to ensure that sort of “breach of confidentiality” doesn’t happen again. As for what’s next – the fine details need to be worked through, so it’s definitely a 2024 thing… 

AusPol Australian News

Squiz the Rest

Israel hostage deal in its ‘final stages’

A truce between Hamas and Israel could be getting closer… Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu hopes for “good news soon”, and this morning he met with his war cabinet to discuss the hostages. Reports say negotiations have focused on details like the length of the ceasefire, getting aid into Gaza, and a swap of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners. Yesterday, Ismail Haniyeh (aka the political head of Hamas) said his response to negotiations had been delivered to Qatari mediators – but he didn’t outline what that was. Meanwhile, a row is unfolding in Israel, with some families of the hostages clashing with far-right politicians who are advocating for the death penalty for captured Palestinian militants. “I beg you not to capitalise on our suffering now … when the lives of our loved ones are at stake, when the sword is at their necks,” said one family member. If a truce goes ahead, analysts say it could be a significant step towards ending the fighting. 

World News

Re-entering murky waters…

It was just over a week ago that PM Anthony Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping were all smiles and handshakes… That already seems like a long time ago as Chinese officials accused Australia of “making trouble” with “rude and irresponsible” allegations over our Navy divers who were injured by a Chinese warship’s use of sonar pulses in international waters off Japan last week. That happened between Albanese and Xi’s meeting in Beijing and San Francisco, but the PM has declined to say whether he brought it up with Xi – he says it was raised “very clearly through all of the normal channels”. Coalition leader Peter Dutton reckons Albanese’s squibbed it – he says repairing ties cannot come at the cost of national security. But Albanese says his government will raise disagreements with China “where it must”. 

AusPol World News

Counting the cost of interest rate hikes

The Reserve Bank isn’t shying away from the possibility of more interest rate hikes as new data out yesterday shows younger Aussies are being hit hardest by cost of living pressures. The Commbank iQ report found 25-29yos were the only group to cut back on essentials like food and fuel in the September quarter. Analysts say that makes sense because they are the group most likely to rent or be paying off a mortgage. Meanwhile, Aussies over 70yo are doing fine – they increased their non-essential spending at a greater pace than inflation thanks to healthy savings accounts. Researchers noted that younger generations spent more than the general population during the pandemic and were the first to start travelling again. And while they’re cutting back on essentials, younger peeps still found room in the budget for entertainment experiences. No wonder instant noodles are having a moment

Australian News Economy

Threats and apologies at OpenAI

The OpenAI saga continues… Investors in the organisation that birthed ChatGPT are considering legal action after the board’s sudden sacking of CEO Sam Altman. The decision has sparked threats of a mass walkout from the company’s 700+ employees – they have been offered jobs at Microsoft, where Altman and OpenAI co-founder/president Greg Brockman have landed. Adding to the mayhem, board member/chief scientist Ilya Sutskever says he deeply regrets his actions – he led the revolt against Altman due to worries over the fast-track approach to releasing the organisation’s AI products. “I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company,” Sutskever said on X. The future of OpenAI – a big player in the AI industry – is now up in the air. It’s “the debacle of the decade”, said one analyst.

Business & Finance Technology

Snooze and booze – welcome to the festive season…

As our American mates prepare for their Thanksgiving feasting tomorrow, some new research is busting myths. First up: turkey-induced sleepiness is not a thing. Despite tryptophan being found in turkey (it’s an essential amino acid needed to make serotonin, which can make us happy/sleepy), you’d have to gobble down about 3.5kg of the bird to get your turkey snooze on, says Steven Malin from Rutgers University. The real culprits are more likely to be overeating, lack of sleep, and a bit too much of the bubbly. And those red wine headaches? Researchers are pointing the finger at a flavanol called quercetin, which can cause a buildup of toxic acetaldehyde in the bloodstream, leading to headaches. So, this festive season, enjoy your turkey without fear of a food coma and choose your drinks wisely… 

Health Quirky News

Apropos of nothing

Soccer superstar Lionel Messi is expected to break a new record when a collection of 6 jerseys he wore at last year’s World Cup goes under ethe hammer. They’re expected to ​​fetch $US10 million ($15 million), threatening Michael Jordan’s record for the most valuable piece of sports memorabilia ever sold at auction.

We can almost hear Wallace cry “no clay, Gromit” after the studio behind the popular animation revealed it has enough clay left for just one more feature film. Its favourite manufacturer closed down earlier this year, so it’s a matter of loaf and death

And parents might want to prepare for endless pestering about the next family holiday after Disney opened its first Frozen-themed park in Hong Kong. That’s one way to try to tempt cautious tourists to visit… 

Quirky News

Squiz the Day

12.30pm (AEDT) – Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland addresses the National Press Club – Canberra

6.30pm (AEDT) – Reserve Bank Governor Michele Bullock gives a speech at Australian Business Economists dinner – Sydney

Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation trial against Network Ten, Lisa Wilkinson and the ABC is due to begin in the Federal Court – Sydney

ABS Data Release – Childhood abuse 2021-22 financial year; Partner violence 2021-22 financial year

Company shareholder meeting – Medibank Private; Football Australia

Dutch general election

Lebanon’s Independence Day

National Go Home On Time Day

Go For a Ride Day

Kimchi Day

Birthdays for Jamie Lee Curtis (1958), Scarlett Johansson (1984), and Hailey Beiber (1996)

Anniversary of:
Middlemarch author George Eliot’s birthday (1819)
• the first interracial kiss on television, between Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and Uhura (1968)
• the release of Toy Story, the first feature-length film created completely using computer-generated imagery (1995)
• Angela Merkel becoming the first female Chancellor of Germany (2005)
• the deaths of Aldous Huxley (1963) CS Lewis (1963), John F Kennedy (1963), Michael Hutchence (1997) and Bryce Courtenay (2012)

Squiz the Day

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