10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

AAP Image/Marc Tewksbury

Hello. It’s Monday.

1. If polls are to be believed – and, after the election result in May, it’s a big if – Scott Morrison and the Coalition have taken a huge popularity hit. The first Newspoll of the year puts Labor ahead 51-49 on a two-party-preferred basis, but its the leadership figures that truly surprise. Approval for Scott Morrison plunged from 45 to 37 per cent, while Anthony Albanese’s rating shot up 40 to 46 per cent. That means Albo is now the preferred PM, according to the polls. It’s worth mentioning Bill Shorten never found himself in that position across his entire tenure as Labor leader.

2. Has that presaged a shift in the Coalition’s climate change policy? Well, probably not. But Morrison did flag his government could stop claiming Kyoto credits to “meet and beat” its emissions obligations. The use of such credits, which were ‘accrued’ thanks to us exceeding our Kyoto Protocol targets, is extremely controversial. Australia is the only country which has officially said it would use them to hit Paris targets – but it’s clear Morrison sees the looming problem there. Australian climate policy would evolve, according to the PM, “if we are in a position where we don’t need them and we are able to continue to reduce our emissions and use the technology.”

3. Bushfire donations from corporates keep rolling in. This time, it’s Amazon. In an Instagram post over the weekend, Jeff Bezos announced the company would donate $1 million towards “needed provisions and services”. “Our hearts go out to all Australians, the country’s communities, bushland, and wildlife affected by the devastating bushfires,” Amazon said on its website.

4. Following her mammoth bushfire fundraising effort – the largest in Facebook’s history – comedian Celeste Barber will host a music event to raise further money. Fire Fight, which will be held in Sydney, will see artists including Queen and Adam Lambert, Alice Cooper, KD Lang and Olivia Newton-John perform with a string of Aussie acts. Barber is set to host the mammoth nine-hour event.

5. Rideshare service Didi, which is muscling its way into the Australian market, is facing serious blowback from its drivers over its new ‘rewards’ scheme. Under the ‘DiDi Advance’ program, drivers pay higher commissions to the company unless they complete 30 trips or more a week and meet other conditions – metrics drivers say can be very difficult to hit. One driver told Business Insider Australia he was worried the new program would pressure drivers to drive when tired, saying it was “an accident waiting to happen”.

6. Video games retailer EB is the latest to feel the pinch in Australia, as it announces it will shut 19 unprofitable stores across the country. “Like all businesses, we are constantly evaluating our property portfolio to ensure that our stores mix is in-line with the ever changing retail landscape,” the company said. “After careful consideration we will be closing 19 unprofitable stores at the end of January.” You can check the list here to see if your local is affected.

7. There is some good news kicking around for retail, though. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales managed to loosen Australian purse strings, giving the sector a desperately-needed shot in the arm. November retail figures show a big uptick in spending, outstripping previous years and filling cash registers. There’s a caveat: some economists think those sales merely brought spending forward, with a lacklustre December and January to follow. We’ll have to wait and see.

8. Over the weekend, Iran admitted it shot down Ukrainian Airlines flight 752, blaming human error. The country’s foreign minister blamed the shooting on an atmosphere of crisis caused by the sudden escalation of Iran’s conflict with the US. The military went on to say it mistook the plane for an enemy missile. President Hassan Rouhani says Iran will continue “to identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake.”

9. The fugitive and former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says Hollywood has contacted him about his escape from Japan. In a new interview, Ghosn described himself as a “fugitive from injustice”. Investigators believe he stuffed himself in a box used for concert equipment with breathing holes cut in the bottom, so that he could be transported by private jet into Lebanon, where he grew up. Would make a pretty good movie, I imagine.

10. The Democratic primary over in the US, which will determine who will face down Trump in December, begins next month. An early frontrunner? Bernie Sanders. Though former vice president Joe Biden tops national polls, the crucial first caucus in Iowa is led by the firebrand senator from Vermont, who is running on dramatic expansion of America’s healthcare system and tilting the economy in favour of the average worker.

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