Squiz Today / 09 August 2017

Squiz Today – Wednesday, 9 August


“Pride and Prejudice is actually a very adult book, much less bonnet-y than people assume.”

What we can take from playwright Nina Raine’s thoughts on the Jane Austen classic is that her upcoming ITV remake will be different and, dare we say it, a bit dark. The BBC has had six goes at Pride and Prejudice, and this is the first they haven’t had a hand in. Raine is working with production house Mammoth Screen, the people behind Victoria and Poldark. Not so fun fact – it’s been 22 years since Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy swept us off our feet. Sigh.


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg will today meet with seven of Australia’s major power retailers with the aim of securing a better deal for consumers. With electricity prices up by about 20% recently - and data released last week showing Aussies are paying the highest prices for electricity in the world - the government has warned the sector they need to provide relief or risk greater regulation. Particularly, it wants commitments from the power companies on three issues:

1. That there are protections in place for low-income customers;

2. For customers who were attracted by deep discounts in the past, there are protections in place to prevent them from being shifted onto much more costly new arrangements; and

3. A code of conduct for power price comparison websites.

According to the power companies, the way they sell electricity isn’t the problem (what a shock!). They say the issue is that for the last ten years no government has stuck with an energy/climate policy longer than it takes to boil a kettle. And they say the indecision on a Clean Energy Target (ie how much of our power should come from renewables and ‘clean’ power generation) is holding up much-needed investment in the sector. But the competition regulator is concerned that because the big power retailers are also big power generators there’s not a lot of downward pressure on prices. And the Energy Users’ Association boss Rosemary Sinclair said yesterday that the power sector reminds her of telco in the years before Richard Branson turned up with a Virgin offer; “the competitiveness of that sector just sky-rocketed and the outcomes for consumers and the sector improved dramatically.” Wouldn't that be nice...

We’ll see. The government will be looking to replicate the success they had wrangling the gas companies earlier this year – that is; bring them in, send them off to make changes and if they can’t or won’t, regulate them to billyo. So the ball’s in the power companies’ court. The big players - Origin Energy, AGL and EnergyAustralia - were said to be in discussions before the meeting to reach agreement on areas where they can be helpful. But with polls showing high power prices as a top order issue for Australians – and with big power bills set to hit letterboxes in the next few weeks - something tangible needs to give.


Ok, what’s happening is:

- The Senate will be asked this week to approve a compulsory plebiscite to be held on Saturday, 25 November. That’s probably going to be defeated.

- So we progress to Plan B – a non-compulsory postal vote. A mailout to every registered voter would begin on 12 September with responses due by 7 November. The result would be announced on 15 November.

- If it’s a ‘yes’ vote, Parliament is sitting for two weeks (from 27 November to 7 December) - so heaps of time to vote on a bill.

- If it’s a ‘no’ vote, Turnbull says no change would be pursued.

Other things to know – the postal vote will cost $122 million and will be conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (because the money can be appropriated to them to conduct a ‘survey’ without legislation) and Electoral Commission staff will be seconded to the ABS to assist. Clear as mud? Good.

Federal Police claimed a yuuuge win yesterday with a series of raids and arrests they say will disrupt major international drug syndicates and stop tonnes of drugs from hitting our shores. Police yesterday raided homes and businesses in Sydney, Dubai and the Netherlands resulting in 17 arrests over 1.8 tonnes of ecstasy, 136kg of cocaine and 15kg of crystal methamphetamine worth hundreds of millions of dollars that was seized in the Netherlands in July. The drug syndicates are alleged to involve the infamous Ibrahim family, Asian crime and bikie gangs. We’ve just watched Blue Murder: Killer Cop so we’re all over this.

Details of a US intelligence report leaked to the Washington Post show they believe North Korea now has the capacity to produce a miniaturised nuclear warhead. If correct, this takes them from being a very annoying ballistic missile tester to a terrifying nuclear power. North Korea has surprised experts with how fast they have evolved their missile and nuclear programs of late. Leader Kim Jong Un has long said that developing nuclear-armed missiles capable of striking the US was crucial to his regime’s survival and has tested more missiles this year than his father did in his entire time in power. And while officials have known they were testing nuclear blasts, it has been highly secretive and with tests occurring underground. So, you know, happy Wednesday…

It’s going to be a cold, hard Christmas for senior Commonwealth Bank executives and board directors this year with the repercussions of the money laundering troubles starting to land. Execs will lose their short-term variable bonus (part of what they get paid if the bank hits key targets for the year), and board members will take a 20% pay cut. For context, CEO Ian Narev received about $2.8 million as a short-term bonus last year. It’s unlikely the bank’s vocal critics will be satisfied with their sacrificial offering, but Narev and his team will be able to tell shareholders, analysts and the media why it’s all coolio at the profit announcement today.

It’s also been a tough week for both major supermarket chains, Coles and Woolies – and we’re only up to Wednesday. Woolies had to deal with cranky customers who were charged twice for purchases made on some Visa cards at their supermarket, petrol outlets, Dan Murphy’s, BWS and Big W stores between 11-13 March. Oopsie! Woolies said it was gropable. Meanwhile Coles received a couple of poor reviews from the analysts who are worried Coles is in deep schtick now that is Woolies getting its act together. We’ll know how they're really going over the next couple of weeks when Coles’ parent Wesfarmers and Woolworths release their earnings to the market. 

Anyone who’s had braces knows what we’re talking about – it’s a long, uncomfortable, sometimes painful process in the quest for nice, healthy teeth. But you expect all the metal and wires to stay in your mouth, not end up in your tummy. Pity then the poor Perth woman who has become the subject of an international medical journal case study after a 7cm piece of wire - thought to be from the braces she wore 10 years earlier - was removed from her small bowel after presenting to hospital with severe abdomen pain caused by the punctures it had made. She’s all good now - no word on whether her teeth have stayed in place.


12.30pm (AEST) - Tara Moss addresses the National Press Club - Canberra

ABS Data Release - Housing Finance, June; Building Approvals, June

Westpac Consumer Sentiment Survey

International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

Thursday 4.00am (AEST) - Start of the Women's Rugby World Cup with Australia's Wallaroos taking on host-nation Ireland

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