Squiz Today / 26 February 2020

Squiz Today – Wednesday, 26 February


"Can't believe Melbournians think Sydney has no culture when stuff like this happens.”

Tweeted one observer of the Harbour City’s great baboon escape of 2020. But what’s a bloke to do when he’s on his way to a vasectomy with his two ‘wives’? (PS it's 'Melburnian'...)


Fronting the media yesterday to reassure Australians about our readiness to deal with the coronavirus crisis that's gripping many parts of the world, PM Scott Morrison said the government’s proactive response was paying dividends. Those measures include the ongoing travel ban preventing non-Australians and permanent residents entering Australia from China, and sending those evacuated from Wuhan, China and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to quarantine centres. Trumpet blowing alert: “Australia is not immune, but we are in the best position that any country could be in,” Morrison said.

Hmm, not quite. In the same press conference, the word ‘impact’ was uttered 35 times. And the most worrying impact on Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s mind is the one to the economy. Already hurting the tourism and education sectors (which contribute $16 billion a year to our economy), he said there’s uncertainty about how much pain will be inflicted. “But the message is very clear - the impact will be more significant than the bushfires as it plays out more broadly across the Australian economy," he said. That’s concerning for those who export to China, like our farmers. And it’s worrying for those waiting on goods from China, like retailer Noni B which is bracing for a cardigan shortage… And it’s not just Australia. Markets around the world are rattled by the global spread of the virus.

China has delayed the big annual National People's Congress to focus on the crisis. The death toll there has increased to 2,663, and more than 77,000 people have been infected. Japan and South Korea (where a queue for face masks has to be seen to be believed) have stepped up efforts to contain the outbreak. In Italy, where 10 people have died, the government has warned people not to panic buy. And in Iran, the head of the coronavirus taskforce has come down with it. Globally, the number of cases passed 80,000 yesterday, but the World Health Organisation has stopped short of declaring a pandemic.



Many were yesterday celebrating the conviction of former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and rape. Time's Up CEO Tina Tchen said the verdict "marks a new era of justice" for all survivors. But others, including Weinstein’s former Miramax assistant Zelda Perkins, warned the issues that triggered #MeToo are far from resolved. Meanwhile, the publicist for disgraced former comedian Bill Cosby, who is currently serving a 3-10 year sentence for sexual assault, asked via Instagram: “Where do [wealthy and famous men] go in this country to find fairness and impartiality in the judicial system?” Weinstein was taken to hospital with chest pains after the verdict was handed down. He will be sentenced on 11 March, and his team has already lodged an appeal.


MAYHEM IN MALAYSIA AS MAHATHIR MANOEUVERS - On Monday, Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned. And yesterday, the 94yo was named interim prime minister. What’s going on? He was blowing it all up so he could dump his alliance with former deputy then foe then ally Anwar Ibrahim. After becoming the world's oldest prime minister in 2018 in a comeback that would be like John Howard running against the Liberals to become PM again in 12 years from now, Mahathir made Anwar his designated successor. But that partnership has fallen apart. Again. Not that it bothered Mahathir much...

MORE UNCERTAINTY IN EAST TIMOR - East Timor’s PM Taur Matan Ruak offered to resign yesterday as the coalition of parties making up the government collapsed. He will stay put for now as President Francisco Guterres makes an assessment about whether someone else can govern, or a new election is needed.

EGYPT’S MUBARAK DIES - President for 30 years from the 80s until he was ousted in the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, Hosni Mubarak’s family yesterday confirmed that he has died. The 91yo was imprisoned after Egypt’s military removed him from office for conspiring to murder more than 200 demonstrators during the 18-day standoff, but he was freed in 2017. Pro-America and anti-extreme Islam, Mubarack’s time in power is remembered as an autocracy by many Egyptians.


The Norwegian energy giant becomes the third company after BP and Chevron to abandon plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight. It yesterday announced the endeavour was "not commercially competitive”. Despite facing fierce opposition from environmental groups over potential oil spills, the federal government gave Equinor the green light just weeks ago to allow exploration drilling almost 400 kilometres off the coast of South Oz. While Greenpeace called the move an “incredible win”, Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt said the company's decision was "disappointing" and signalled his support for future drilling operations in the Bight.


At a glance, average national student scores in the nation’s NAPLAN tests conducted last year haven’t moved much in the decade since the exercise kicked off. But a closer look shows some improvement, Australia’s curriculum boss David de Carvalho said yesterday as the final results from 2019 were released. Specifically, “the performance of Australian students in Year 5 numeracy, Years 3 and 5 reading, Years 3 and 5 spelling, and Year 3 grammar” have improved, he said. Also doing better - Indigenous children and those with a language background other than English. Put in place to measure basic skills in literacy and numeracy in years 3,5,7 and 9, recent results, along with a declining position in the world education rankings, has Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan razzing up his state and territory counterparts. Labor's Education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the latest result showed too many kids were falling behind.

Sounds important but not sure what’s happening at school? We’ve got a Squiz Shortcut on education in Australia for you.


Katherine Johnson, the celebrated mathematician who helped NASA realise its space-race ambitions in the 60s, has died at the age of 101yo. When Johnson first started working as a ‘human computer’ in 1953, her race (she was African-American) and gender meant she ranked barely above the level of a secretary. But her contributions, immortalised in the 2016 book/Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figureswere “critical to the success of the early US space programs,” according to NASA historian Bill Barry. Her achievements were recognised when she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.


ABC TV comedian/Hard Quiz host/Logies-wrecker Tom Gleeson is someone usually associated with being a bit, well, hard on people/things. But 2020 could be different with the arrival of a purple-lidded bin. Because everything changes when you fall in love… Let’s see if the other million-odd Victorians who will now wrangle four bins become as smitten as he is…


12.30pm (AEDT) - Deborah Terry AO, chair of Universities Australia and Curtin University Vice-Chancellor, to address the National Press Club - Canberra

Ash Wednesday

Launceston Cup = a public holiday for the city

ABS Data Release - Construction Work Done, December

Teal Ribbon Day (Ovarian Cancer)

Birthdays for Helen Clark (1950), Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (1954)

Anniversary of the birthdays of Victor Hugo (1802), Levi Strauss (1829), John Harvey Kellogg (1852), Fats Domino (1928), Johnny Cash (1932)

Anniversary of the P&O's SS Ceylon beginning the world's first round-the-world pleasure cruise from Liverpool (1881)

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