1. The Sydney siege is over. Tragically, three people died, including the gunman who has been identified as Man Haron Monis, a self-styled “Muslim cleric and peace activist”. Monis was reportedly before the courts on two separate matters, including more than 40 sexual assault charges and as an accessory to the murder of his former partner. Police moved in around 2am after they heard gunshots inside the cafe. Here’s the moment:
Early reports indicate two female lawyers were the innocent victims. Australia’s hearts are with their families. Several others were taken to hospital to have gunshot wounds treated, including a police officer who was hit in the head. All are doing fine.
Amongst the shock and the sadness, there were some amazing moments of compassion and competence. The #IllRideWithYou movement quickly went viral, offering commuter company for Muslims needing a buddy.
If you reg take the #373 bus b/w Coogee/MartinPl, wear religious attire, & don’t feel safe alone: I’ll ride with you. @ me for schedule
— Sir Tessa (@sirtessa) December 15, 2014
There’s a lot of talk about how “Sydney has changed forever”. We hope not. It’s up to everyone who loves the city to do everything in their power to make sure it doesn’t change, at all. As of this morning, Sydney is open for business.
To the markets.
2. Locally on the ASX, the March SPI 200 futures contract is off 36 points to 5,098 after a weaker but not terrible day on the physical yesterday where the market was only down 0.6%. Overall futures look biased back to the lows of September.
3. In Asia yesterday, the Nikkei was lower once again and had its weakest close on around a month. The technicals are a bit wobbly. Shanghai managed to rally but Hong Kong was under pressure with the bigger markets. At the close, the Nikkei was down 1.57% to 17,099, the Hang Seng was down 0.95% to 23,028 and the Shanghai Composite was up 0.5% to 2,953.
4. The Aussie is under pressure at 0.8217. Datawise, the RBA board minutes are out at 11.30am with assistant governor Guy Debelle giving a speech at 1.15pm to the 27th Australasian Finance and Banking Conference in Sydney. It’s also Flash PMI day with release of Chinese, French, German, EU and US data.
5. The MYEFO went straight through to the ‘keeper. Treasurer Joe Hockey’s mid-year report was as bad as all the previews suggested. The 2014-15 budget deficit is now forecast at $40.4 billion compared to the $29.8 billion forecast in the May budget. And the deficit in 2017/18 is now expected to be $11.5 billion rather than the $2.8 billion May budget estimate. Unemployment is forecast to reach at 12-year high of 6.5% this financial year and won’t fall until 2016-17. There’s a heap more – charts, Hockey’s statement and worse news to come. You can catch up on it all here.
6. We have a new Miss World. Congratulations South Africa, the new world champion of ladies, after their entrant Rolene Strauss took the coveted, dreadfully un-PC title of Miss World last night. The 22-year-old Strauss is decsribed as “a high-achieving Instagram lover” and fourth-year medical student. She’s into bungy jumping, oxtail and blusher and thinks the world will be more amazing if everyone realises their potential. Congratulations to Courtney Thorpe, Australia’s entrant, who enjoyed a top five finish and this lovely tweet from the winner:
— MissUniversUsa.com (@MissUniversNEWS) December 14, 2014
7. Coles was fined $10 million and admitted it “crossed the line” in the way it was treating suppliers. The ACCC also got the supermarket giant to agree to pay a further $16 million in reparations to suppliers affected by its efforts to penalise them for such things as waste, late and short deliveries and purported profit gaps. Coles managing director John Durkin apologised personally, saying the company “crossed the line and regrettably treated these suppliers in a manner inconsistent with acceptable business practice”.
8. Shark attack. Sadly, another death went largely unreported yesterday, that of a teenager who was killed by a shark. The 18-year-old was spearfishing on Rudder Reef off Port Douglas in North Queensland whan the shark bit him on the upper leg and arm. It was a two-hour trip back to shore and unfortunately the man died while waiting for emergency services to arrive.
9. Tax the rich. Former RBA governor Ian Macfarlane says it’s time to overhaul Australia’s tax system, starting by having a broader tax base with lower rates. And if you do that, he says, you’ve also got to tax wealth. And inheritance. Macfarlane wondered why the budget had slipped so far, so quick, saying the country should be moving toward a budget surplus, fast. “It is not as though it has blown out because of a recession,” he told The Australian.
10. Our new cricket captain. Congratulations Steve Smith, who at 25, will be Australia’s third youngest captain if Michael Clarke is (highly likely) unfit to play when the Second Test gets under way at the Gabba tomorrow. Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was expected to fill in, but Cricket Australia shifted him to Smith’s deputy in a sign that it wants a more settled team with a long view approach to the future. Smith’s played just 23 Tests since his 2010 debut, but has matured quickly and cemented his spot with innings more befitting a veteran. (On behalf of the rest of Australia, being a New South Welshmen doesn’t hurt either, right?)
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