10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

(Photo by Steven Ferdman/WireImage)

Howdy, team.

1. The impeachment hearings against Donald Trump, which promise to be an absolute circus, have officially begun. Live updates are filtering through here, including a stream you can tune into if you want to procrastinate at work by watching history (potentially) unfold. Two career diplomats gave what our US team called “devastating” testimony. The internet’s attention seems to be on Republican staff attorney Steve Castor, who assailed a pair of witnesses with a dizzying array of incomprehensible questions.

2. Australian retailers are expecting a tough Christmas season, so you can probably expect some bargains ahead of the Boxing Day sales. “Just over 60% are expecting to increase their sales this Christmas, compared to 80% in 2018, and nearly 40% are also expecting to see a decrease in seasonal margins,” said Deloitte national retail leader David White in a note. “This is, unfortunately, the most pessimistic we’ve seen retailers since 2013.” Economy’s doing great! Nothing to see here!

3. Wage data landed yesterday, and it’s not looking particularly great. Almost every industry has growth below its decade average – except one. Thanks to demand in the sector, healthcare workers saw more than 3% wage growth on average. The public sector continues to outpace private wage growth too, with Victorian public servants leading the pack.

4. The buy now, pay later battle is heating up locally. Just a week after Zip announced a partnership with Amazon Australia, heavyweight Afterpay revealed it has a deal lined up with eBay Australia. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the major players, like Visa and MasterCard, inevitably skip the middleman and launch their own offerings. NYU prof Scott Galloway thinks they might just get their lunch eaten.

5. If you’ve got a gigantic hole burning in your pocket, then listen up: Apple is launching its $US6,000 Mac Pro next month. I give you US currency because there isn’t Australian pricing – or even a proper release date – as yet. But you’d imagine it won’t be too far behind. Once GST is applied and Apple wrangles a bit of currency magic, you’re probably looking at something pushing close to ten grand.

6. Elsewhere in Apple world: the company has, to some extent, admitted defeat on its godawful MacBook keyboards. The new 16-inch MacBook Pro, announced today, comes with a more traditional keyboard, replacing the so-called ‘butterfly’ keyboard, which caused users (and technicians) a lot of grief. Aside from the keyboard, our reporter says the laptop looks like a winner.

7. Mark Zuckerberg has been on the offensive against wildly popular Chinese-owned app TikTok recently, calling it a threat to democracy because of its content policies. Pot, kettle, etc. What he didn’t mention is that Facebook spent six months trying to buy the app’s predecessor, Musical.ly. Having failed to do that, Facebook is testing an obvious TikTok clone within Instagram, named Reels.

8. Elon Musk says the UK lost out on a Tesla gigafactory because of Brexit uncertainty. Oh well. The company confirmed yesterday the next factory would be located on the outskirts of Berlin, following facilities in Nevada, California, New York, and China.

9. Qantas is ending its flight from Sydney to Beijing, marking the third time the airline has axed the route, which I guess must be cursed. The company cited low demand for business class seats, as well as increased competition from other airlines on the route. It first operated between 1984 and 1987, then between 2006 and 2009, and now 2017 to 2020. Vale.

10. A fun one for those of you partial to the Colonel’s offerings: we spoke to KFC about why they’re launching a world first ‘drive-thru only’ concept in Newcastle. There were plenty of reasons on offer, but they all seem to come down to the fact Novocastrians really like KFC. Go with your gut. It’s an interesting pitch, though – you order through an app, then drive up to claim your chook. In a world where other apps offer full delivery, do we need that extra brick-and-mortar step?

BONUS ITEM
A Vitamin Water ad is doing the rounds this morning. It’s very much real, albeit from eight years ago. Interesting pitch!

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