10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Good morning, team.

1. Attorney-General Christian Porter identified himself as the Cabinet minister who is facing a historical rape allegation at a press conference yesterday afternoon. He denied the allegation. “I can say categorically that what has been put in various forms in allegations, simply did not happen,” Porter said. “Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened.” The whole government is out in force this morning on the issue.

2. Stan boss Mike Sneesby will be Nine Entertainment’s new CEO, replacing the outgoing Hugh Marks. He beat challengers including Chris Janz, Nine’s current head of publishing, and former Endemol Shine boss Carl Fennessy. “I am honoured to be entrusted with this important role, to be the custodian for many of Australia’s most important, valuable and iconic media brands,” Sneesby said in a statement.

3. Eight of Australia’s most prominent buy now, pay later companies drafted and signed up to a new code of conduct, which went into force on March 1. The code, which does not enforce any actual legal penalties, has been criticised by consumer advocates as toothless in regulating a new, wildly popular form of credit. Speaking to Business Insider Australia, Afterpay defended the code, saying “regulation is not enough” to protect consumers, and that their model is much better for the end user than traditional credit products.

4. You might have seen the drama circulating around Greensill, but you could be forgiven for not immersing yourself in the world of supply chain finance to find out what’s going on. There are only so many hours in the day, after all. Here’s our explainer of billionaire Lex Greensill’s efforts to save his crumbling empire.

5. Qantas has released a ‘mystery skies’ program that will fly participants from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to an undisclosed location for a day of luxury. The program is a nod to a trend from last century of booking day-of flights on planes with empty seats. The airline hopes to lure Australian travellers to invest even more in domestic travel. Flights start at around $740.

6. More Australians took holidays, annual leave, flextime, or long service leave in January 2021 than have in the last five years, according to a report from the ABS. 3.7 million workers cut their hours considerably. Following disruptions to leave and travel plans in 2020, the numbers point to a buildup of accrued leave coming into 2021.

7. Also from the world of ABS data: household spending on car sales rose more than 30% in the December quarter. Yes, this does explain why used cars have been so expensive of late. Industry figures show strong interest in new and used vehicles in the back half of 2020. International travel bans, flexible work, and a general reluctance to use public transport have all driven the car market’s recovery.

8. Here’s a fun one: Redditor u/drfreshbatch is determining the performance of Australian online investing communities by tracking how well their most-mentioned stocks perform on the market. So far, the high-risk approach of r/ASX_Bets – the local version of the infamous r/WallStreetBets – has taken the lead over the risk-averse r/AusFinance community. These online communities have emerged as a significant source of information and culture for Australians teaching themselves about personal investing.

9. SpaceX is launching a new Starship rocket prototype this morning our time. The last two attempts, you might recall, ended in spectacular explosions. Elon Musk estimated a 60% chance of a successful landing.

10. Some good news: the coronavirus vaccines being rolled out around the world are really, really good. Scientists tracking the performance of shots from Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca are finding that they’re working well to protect people from COVID-19, living up to the results the vaccines delivered in human trials. Infections, hospitalisations and deaths are all being slashed. Plus, even as the vaccines have been given to millions, no unexpected safety problems have cropped up.

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