Good morning, and welcome to Friday.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Asylum seekers who made failed attempts to reach Australia are being caught returning to Malaysia from Indonesia in the Malacca Straits. And China – yes, China – has raised human rights concerns about Australia’s border protection regime.
- Joe Hockey says reforms to how Australia pays for health, education and welfare are on the cards in this year’s federal Budget. “We will either have to have a massive increase in taxes – and that means fewer jobs at the end of the day – or we are going to have to look at ways that we can restructure the system to make it sustainable,” Hockey said on Channel Seven this morning. Hockey has been looking at the recommendations of the Commission of Audit and the noises he’s making suggest he’s laying the groundwork for some sweeping reforms on pensions because increasing life expectancy is crippling the budget. “If nothing happens, we are never going to get back to surplus,” he says. Frontbencher Steve Coibo has also been discussing Medicare changes, saying people understand the system must be sustainable. The government is also on the hunt for a business leader to head up a review of Australia’s workplace laws.
- Hockey will lead the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in Sydney this weekend. Multinational tax structures and hard targets for global growth (!) are on the agenda. The OECD launches a report on global growth today at 11.30am.
- Coffee is about to get more expensive. Brazil has been hit by unusually dry January and February, which has led to a 30% drop in the arabica coffee crop. Normally, fluctuations in bean prices can take weeks to flow through to consumers, but this time the price rise is so pronounced – up 55% – that this time, it will be a matter of weeks. Coffee over the counter in Australia is a ridiculously high margin game so it will be interesting to see what happens to the price of a flat white over the coming month.
- Henry Blodget writes today that Facebook buying WhatsApp for $19 billion isn’t stupid. It’s bold and may end badly but people who say it’s stupid are wrong, he says. It’s also emerged Google had a chance to buy WhatsApp and blew it.
- The Chief Justice of the High Court has written to the government to warn it about the fallout from cutbacks whose effects are rolling across the public service. It’s extraordinary for a judge from the High Court to write to the government in this way. His honor raises concerns about the court’s ability to do its basic functions if it continues to have to deliver on “efficiency dividends”, which is what the public service and Treasury calls sacking people. More here.
- The first photos of the man accused of killing Sunshine Coast teenager Daniel Morcombe have been released.
- The mayhem continues in Ukraine, after a tentative truce broke down last night. Some 35 people are reported dead in the latest wave of clashes between protesters and government forces. The scenes are extraordinary – there’s a good wrap-up here.
- The excellent Goldman Sachs Elevator has an epic review of Young Money, the book based on a writer who shadowed young Wall Streeters around for two years. “But really,” he writes, “Sexist, bigoted, racist, homophobic, classist remarks from a bunch of rich, white guys getting drunk and celebrating themselves. Why is anyone surprised?” Find a few minutes to read it today, here.
- South Africa are 5-214 after the first day’s play at Elizabeth. AB de Villiers now holds the record for the most consecutive half-centuries – 12 – in Test matches. But it’s Advantage Australia.
Bonus item: From Brazil, a video showing what some people think is a werewolf. Let us know what you think in the comments.
Have a cracking weekend. I’m on Twitter: @colgo
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