Squiz Today / 23 February 2021
Squiz Today – Tuesday, 23 February
“I’ve never known about it, so now I’ve learned something.”
Said 84-year-old Jane Malysiak, the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine jab on Sunday, who yesterday claimed innocence on her post-jab flipping of the bird. Those oldies - shameless…
FAST AND FURIOUS IN CANBERRA
The Morrison Government faced another day fending off questions from Labor about its handling of Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins' claims that she was sexually assaulted by a colleague in 2019. And as more claims about the accused attacker surfaced, an epic change of subject popped up last night.
AND THAT IS?
That the JobSeeker payment will be permanently increased. Set to be announced after the Coalition’s party meetings this morning, Nine News last night/its papers this morning said that the $565.70-a-fortnight unemployment benefit will be increased after years of political debate. The payment was doubled last year via a coronavirus supplement. That was reduced to an additional $150-a-fortnight from the start of this year with the supplement due to end on 31 March. A permanent increase has been resisted by the Morrison Government and those that came before it, but it was backed this month by Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe, who said "it's not a macroeconomic management issue, it is a fairness issue".
OK, THAT’S BIG. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE HIGGINS CASE?
A fourth woman has now made allegations against the man in question, the ABC reported yesterday. On Sunday, she told police that he'd made an unwanted advance on her by stroking her thigh under a table at Canberra's Public Bar in 2017. Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland yesterday asked why PM Scott Morrison had been kept in the dark when there appeared to be an “alleged serial rapist on the loose in Parliament House”. Morrison says he was not informed about Higgins’ case until media reports surfaced last week. Yesterday, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham (whose department oversees the employment of political staff) said he’s spoken to the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins for guidance on formulating policies and practices that make staffers feel "supported and empowered in their decision-making when such matters arise.”
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MEANWHILE, IN CORONAVIRUS NEWS…
Frontline and older Aussies were the first to receive their colder-than-ice Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shots yesterday. In a nice touch, Professor Rhonda Stuart from Monash Health was the first cab off the rank - her team treated the first Australian case of COVID-19 in January 2020. If you're eager, this helpful calculator will give you an estimate of when it might be your turn to roll up your sleeve. Looking overseas, the US will today hit the grim milestone of recording 500,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic. Infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci yesterday said it's likely that Americans will need to wear masks in 2022 despite vaccinations rolling out across the country. And yesterday, UK PM Boris Johnson announced England would take its first steps out of its 3rd lockdown from 8 March. They’ve been staying at home since early January.
VICTORIA ANNOUNCES ROYAL COMMISSION INTO CROWN
More eyes will be on Crown Resorts with the Victorian Government launching a Royal Commission to test its suitability to run its long-established Melbourne casino. The decision follows findings from the NSW gaming regulator’s inquiry earlier this month that found the gaming operator was unsuitable to hold a casino license for its yet-to-be-opened Barangaroo development. It also follows the Western Australian Government’s announcement of an inquiry of its own. Crown has been accused of overseeing a poor culture after fresh claims of money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth casinos were aired in 2019. Since the NSW report was released on 9 February, 4 directors have resigned, including media buyer Harold Mitchell yesterday. The Royal Commission is due to report by 1 August this year.
For the backstory to this big news story, check out our #SquizShortcut on Crown’s woes.
BIG TECH VOWS TO CURB MISINFORMATION
While Facebook and the Morrison Government continue to battle it out, several tech companies have released a voluntary industry code aimed at combating the spread of misinformation in Oz. The code includes Twitter, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, TikTok and online marketplace Redbubble and spells out what the online operators can do to safeguard against misinformation. That includes labelling false content, demoting its ranking, prioritising credible sources, suspending accounts, and removing content. Critics say it's too little too late from Facebook which last Thursday blocked Aussies from viewing and sharing news content. That's seen the Federal Government turn off the tap on paying for Facebook ads - which is tricky as health officials embark on a massive communications campaign to drive up confidence in the COVID vaccination program.
TRUMP TO TURN TAX RETURNS OVER
Speaking of long-fought battles, former US President Donald Trump has lost a(nother) case in the Supreme Court... He will be instructed to provide detailed information about his finances to a grand jury investigation into alleged hush-money payments and other issues in New York. The tax returns and other documents from 2011-19 will be subject to secrecy rules and won't be publicly released, but that hasn't soothed Team Trump which says the request is "overboard". This all relates to the Trump Organisation's employment of lawyer Michael Cohen and claims that he paid off two women who said they’d had affairs with the former president. Trump has long denied the claims. He was the first president since 1976 to refuse to release his tax returns to the public.
BITCOIN BUSTS TRILLION-DOLLAR MARK
The cryptocurrency has broken another record after further increases took its total market value past US$1 trillion yesterday. Bitcoin has increased in value by 90% since January and by more than 500% over the last 12 months. Fuelled by the backing of Tesla founder Elon Musk and other big companies accepting it as payment, it's becoming more mainstream. That's not to say it doesn't have its critics… Some analysts say it's less currency/more a speculative trading tool that is open to market manipulation. Others say there’s no harm if you don’t get in too deep. “I tell curious friends to set aside their beer money but not their rent money,” said one bitcoin rider.
APROPOS OF NOTHING
A depiction of a kangaroo on the ceiling of a rock shelter in the Kimberley has been dated by traditional owners and archaeologists as 17,300yo. That makes it Australia’s oldest rock painting. They’ve tied that kangaroo down, sport…
A new study out of the University of Cambridge has found that people with extremist attitudes find it harder to perform complex mental tasks. This is bad news for those who want to espouse dangerous ideologies and chew gum at the same time.
SQUIZ THE DAY
12.30pm - Tony Mahar (National Farmers' Federation), Jennifer Westacott (Business Council of Australia) and Peter Strong (Council of Small Business Organisations) address the National Press Club - Canberra
ABS Data Release - Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, July 2016 - June 2020
Birthdays for Aziz Ansari (1983), Emily Blunt (1983) and Dakota Fanning (1994)
• Johannes Gutenberg printing the first-ever book using a printing press – the Bible (estimated date 1455)
• the deaths of John Keats (1821) and Dame Nellie Melba (1931)
• The Times of London publishing the world's first classified ad (1886)
• the first mass inoculation against polio (1954)
• rapper Eminem releasing his first major record album The Slim Shady LP (1999)
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