10 things you need to know in Australia this morning

(Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)

Welcome to Wednesday.

1. The UK is officially locked in for a general election, after the Labour Party backed Boris Johnson’s plan for a pre-Christmas poll. Previously, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had expressed his party’s opposition to an early vote – but acceded once the EU extended the Brexit deadline by three months. The Conservative Party currently has a solid lead in the polls, but the volatility of the electorate (and Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system) means this one is tough to call. The country will hit the polls on December 12.

2. New South Wales residents can now set up a digital drivers licence to use as photo ID. It’s all run through the Service NSW app for iOS and Android, and you can use it for entry into venues as well as to show ID to police officers. However, you should probably keep your physical ID just in case you encounter the odd Luddite who has no idea why you’re waving your phone in their face. There appeared to be some capacity issues on the app yesterday, but it might be smoother after the initial rush.

3. The unions are pushing for 5-year prison sentences and multimillion dollar fines for wage theft, while employer groups argue underpayment shouldn’t be a crime at all. These proposals come from the submissions to the Attorney-General’s discussion paper on wage non-compliance. The government has flagged it is willing to criminalise the most serious cases of wage theft, which will no doubt be making a slew of celebrity chefs sweat right now.

4. And here’s a possible example of why the unions are pursuing it: there’s news this morning Woolworths has underpaid thousands of employees as much as $300 million dollars due to non-compliance with the industry award. In a statement, the company revealed it had underpaid approximately 5700 of its salaried workers. “The review has found the number of hours worked, and when they were worked, were not adequately factored into the individual salary settings for some salaried store team members,” the statement from Woolies said.

5. It’s almost amusing just how desperate the RBA has become to make the government do something to stimulate the economy. This chart counts references in RBA communications to fiscal policy – and you can see just how sharply it has risen in recent months. Of course, after ten years of almost religious fervour, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg clearly have no intention of jeopardising their surplus, even if it means they’re taking the whole economy to hell with them.

6. If you’re the kind of person who likes to listen to their podcasts at double speed – not that I endorse that kind of behaviour – you might soon be able to do the same on Netflix. The company confirmed it is testing a feature which allows some users to speed up TV shows. It might completely ruin the watching experience, but at least you can get up-to-date on your shows for those water cooler conversations at record speed.

7. There’s a petition circulating at Facebook with hundreds of employees demanding Mark Zuckerberg change the company’s controversial policy on political ads. The company refuses to fact check paid ads, basically giving unscrupulous candidates carte blanche to lie with impunity. Obviously, the counterargument is Facebook shouldn’t (and couldn’t) be the arbiter of truth. Sounds like a bum deal for the rest of us either way, while the company makes billions.

8. Perhaps as a result of its lacklustre final season reviews, the “Game of Thrones” prequel series is reportedly dead at HBO. It follows the announcement that GoT creators Devid Benioff and D.B. Weiss are ‘walking away’ from their planned “Star Wars” trilogy. Supposedly there are still some other GoT projects cooking at HBO, but reports indicate those aren’t looking too crash hot either. Oh well.

9. After the AirPods Pro announcement yesterday, you might well be wondering whether they’re actually any good. Apparently, yes, they are. Our reviewer over in the US has some early thoughts, saying it could well be the “upgrade we’ve been waiting for”. She praised the feel, the fit, the sound and the noise cancellation capability. “It’s too soon to tell, but if you have an ageing pair of AirPods, this may justify the upgrade.”

10. Juul, the hottest brand in vaping and e-cigarettes, has revealed it plans to cut 500 jobs in preparation of a ban on flavoured pods in the United States. The flavoured pods, which have been accused of appealing largely to teenagers, are facing a federal ban spearheaded by Donald Trump. In Australia, nicotine vapes are basically banned for general sale anyway – and it doesn’t look like that’s changing.

Edible glass made out of seaweed. Why not?

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