“Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well.”
Princess Eugenie and husband Jack Brooksbank have had their first child, a boy weighing in at a healthy 3.6kg. “!!” was the young royal’s Insta caption – sentiment many new parents will recognise…
BETS OFF FOR CROWN CASINO OPENING
Crown Resorts is “not suitable” to hold the licence to operate its just-built Barangaroo casino. That’s the conclusion of an inquiry conducted by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin for the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) after serious claims of money laundering and links to criminal syndicates took off in 2019. The scathing report is a massive blow to the company that has spent $2.2 billion building the casino/hotel/dining skyscraper on Sydney Harbour and its 36.7% shareholder James Packer.
WHAT DID THE REPORT SAY?
The 12-month inquiry has resulted in an 800-page report that details the Commissioner’s issues. The “core problems” were Crown’s “poor corporate governance” and “deficient risk-management structures”. Bergin made recommendations on those and said CEO Ken Barton “demonstrated that he is no match for what is needed” to lead a casino operator. But the biggest issue is what Bergin said was Crown’s culture of “corporate arrogance”. “One of the difficulties for Crown was its unjustified belief in itself and its unwillingness to entertain the prospect that there was any force in any of the media allegations,” the report says.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Well, first things first – this report is Commissioner Bergin’s recommendations to the NSW Government. It’s not the final word because governments do what they want… But if it sticks to what the report recommends, Crown will have an opportunity to open the casino – but only if it ‘converts to suitability’… That would require a makeover of its board and allow audits of its anti-money laundering systems, amongst other things. There’s also speculation about what it means for Packer’s stake in the company. The report recommends he sell off a big chunk. It’s a personal blow for the billionaire who championed the casino’s establishment in Sydney, just like his father Kerry wanted. NSW Minister for Gaming Victor Dominello said the government will “consider its recommendations very carefully before providing a formal response in due course.”
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TROUBLE WITH NAILING DOWN COVID’S ORIGIN STORY
The group of scientists in China as part of a World Health Organisation inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus said late yesterday that viruses similar to COVID-19 can be detected in many animals, but they haven’t found the direct link between animal-to-human transmission. Long story short, bats and pangolins in China (along with other animals) have coronaviruses – but not the exact strain that created the global crisis. With no ‘natural reservoir’ of COVID-19 in an animal, the experts believe there was animal-to-human transmission of a virus at some point. That version then evolved and spread between humans. As for the ‘leak from a Wuhan lab’ theory – “extremely unlikely,” said Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO team’s leader. “The possible path from whatever original animal species all the way through to the Huanan market could have taken a very long and convoluted path also involving movements across borders,” he said.
SHORT TRIAL’S A GOOD TRIAL
Former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the US Senate is off and running. In the red corner: Team Trump and most Republicans. They argue the trial should not be held at all because he’s now just plain old Don from Florida (aka a private citizen). And they say he didn’t incite the violence that followed an address to a rally of supporters on 6 January. In the blue corner: Democrats who say he should be punished for inciting insurrection by encouraging supporters to storm the Capitol, leading to the deaths of 5 people. The process is set to take a little more than a week, and no witnesses are slated to give evidence. Game on, but spoiler alert: Trump is likely to be acquitted… Come what may, it’s a good thing Trump’s legal team is getting some practice in – they’ll be required for Georgia’s inquiry into his efforts to overturn the election result in the state.
EDDIE EVERYWHERE - EXCEPT COLLINGWOOD’S BOARDROOM
A week of intense pressure following a scathing report into systemic racism at the AFL club has forced president Eddie McGuire’s resignation. Last week, he called the release of the ‘Do Better’ report a “proud day” for Collingwood. ‘Yeah, nah’ was the response from many with McGuire subsequently conceding he’d “got it wrong”. Yesterday he said his words made him “a lightning rod for vitriol” and he’d “placed the club in a position where it is hard to move forward with the implementation of our plans in clear air.” And feeling the feelz, McGuire said “I try my best and I don’t always get it right, but I don’t stop trying.” AFL bigwigs said he made the right call, and thanked him for his 22 years at the league’s biggest club.
A BIG COUPLE OF WEEKS ON MARS
Amal is about to swing into orbit around Mars. Don’t worry – the human rights lawyer hasn’t added ‘space explorer’ to her already impressive CV… Amal is Arabic for Hope, and it’s a spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates that’s become the first of 3 to make it to Mars with probes from China and the US following over the next week and a half. The 480 million km journey has taken each spacecraft nearly 7 months to complete, and each mission has a different focus. Hope will go around and around the planet while mapping its atmosphere. China’s rover will attempt to land on the surface in May to search for signs of life. And America’s ‘Perseverance’ mission will also attempt a landing to collect rocks to bring back to Earth. About 60% of previous Mars missions have ended in failure. Which coincidently is our success rate for baking sponge cake…
APROPOS OF NOTHING
Jen Peedom, an Aussie film director with a penchant for altitude, has won the backing of Barack and Michelle Obama’s Netflix venture for a biopic of legendary Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Which makes sense given the Obama’s production company is named Higher Ground…
Seen an uptick in pop star Britney Spears’ mentions in the last couple of days? It’s because the New York Times has released Framing Britney Spears – a doco about her battle for control over her affairs. It’s not available in Oz yet, but it’s drawn A-list support for the singer.
“Every 2 hours we’re eating. It’s become a chore. I don’t enjoy eating at all every 2 hours.” That’s the complaint of Thor star Chris Hemsworth’s stunt double Bobby Holland Hanton who is having trouble matching up to the buff Aussie. For the record, it’s not something you’ll ever hear us say…
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12.30pm (AEDT) – Epidemiologists and immunisation experts Robert Booy, Mary-Louise McLaws & Sanjaya Senanayake address the National Press Club – Canberra
World Sustainable Development (Virtual) Summit – on until 12 February – India
ABS Data Release – Building Approvals, December (Additional Information)
World Pulses Day
Birthdays for actors Laura Dern (1967), Elizabeth Banks (1974) and Chloe Grace Moretz (1997)
• the debut of the Tom & Jerry cartoon (1940)
• Glenn Miller’s In the Mood hitting #1 (1940)
• the sinking of the HMAS Voyager after colliding with aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne, killing 82 people (1964)
• IBM’s Deep Blue becoming the first computer to win a game of chess against a reigning human chess champion – in this case Gary Kasparov (1996)
• more than 30 bushfires in NSW were put out by the heaviest rainfall in 30 years, helping end one of Australia’s worst bushfire seasons ever (2020)
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