Good morning, and welcome to Wednesday.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce meets with unions today and will also deliver a lunchtime speech at the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce. It has emerged that a comment from Qantas about the carbon tax – a rejection of claims from the Treasurer that the tax was having a severe impact – may have played a role in the government changing its tune on a form of debt guarantee. The relationship between the government and Qantas is under huge strain so every word from Joyce today will be carefully watched.
- Russia announced this morning it had test-fired an ICBM amid the continuing tensions over Ukraine. In a vintage act of sabre-rattling that’s right out of the Cold War playbook. Russian president Vladimir Putin said overnight that force would be used “only as a last resort”, but said if people in Ukraine were calling for Moscow’s help, all options remained on the table. (One highlight was a Putin advisor threatening to drop the US dollar as a reserve currency and refuse to repay loans to US banks. This effectively means he’d be forcing Russian companies to default – the opposite of a threat.) As all this is happening, somehow Kevin Rudd – yes, him – has shown up in Moscow and is seeking meetings with Putin aides.
- Australia needs six wickets to win the final Test, and the series, against South Africa in Newlands. David Warner notched up a century and the Proteas will resume at 4-71 tonight. They’ll have to survive almost 100 overs of Johnson, Harris & co to tie the series. Long-serving South African captain Graeme Smith, who announced his retirement from international cricket this week, was dismissed for 3 in his final Test innings.
- BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie spoke in London overnight, and argued for the importance of continued use of cheap fossil fuels to help lift developing nations out of poverty. Newer technologies, he says, would prolong poverty in developing economies. According to industry publication Fuel Fix, Mackenzie also said his view that climate change was real and caused by humans was his inescapable conclusion because of his training as a geologist. His withering reasoning: “You can’t argue with a rock.”
- ICBM test aside, the noises from Moscow have reassured the markets and the S&P500 closed at an all-time high. Australian GDP for Q4 is out today at 11.30am eastern. The market expects 0.7% – ANZ warns this morning that a high number might mask continuing weakness in the economy. Greg McKenna’s full guide to the overnight markets is here.
- After spending a vertigo-inducing $19 billion for WhatsApp, Facebook is reported to be looking at another, much more sensible acquisition: a drone company that would enable it to deliver internet services to parts of the world where there’s no telecoms infrastructure. The rumoured price tag is $US60 million, a snip for Zuckerberg.
- There’s growing support among government MPs for a move to reduce pay rates for workers on Sundays, with businesses arguing that the penalty rates are forcing them to stay shut on Sundays, costing jobs.
- Ratings agency S&P has compared its debt appraisals to car reviews by Top Gear, arguing in a closely-watched Australian court case that “triple A does not mean anything hanging out there as a concept”.
- New research says high-protein diets are nearly as bad for you as smoking.
- Hollywood star Michelle Rodriguez has been confirmed as in Melbourne for the Grand Prix next week. The Daily Telegraph reports the question now is: will she bring her supermodel girlfriend?
Bonus item: A guy in the US built a luge track in his back yard for the kids.
Have a belter of a day. I’m on Twitter: @colgo
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