10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

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Morning, folks.

1. The Democratic Party primary in the US, which will decide who goes up against Trump in November, has a pretty clear frontrunner now. That would be Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-declared socialist from Vermont, who just pulled off a narrow win in the New Hampshire primary. Sanders and moderate challenger Pete Buttigieg remain neck and neck in the chaotic Iowa caucuses, where recanvassing is currently taking place.

2. The world’s biggest smartphone conference, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, has been cancelled over coronavirus fears. Big companies including LG, Amazon, Sony, Ericsson, Facebook, Nvidia, MediaTek, Sprint, and Vivo had already pulled out for the same reason. MWC is typically a launching ground for new gadgets and where companies often announce new smartphones and other tech.

3. More Australian housing boom news. Property group Domain has updated its forecasts for 2020, and it expects house prices to rise by 8% nationally this year. That includes a rise of 10% in Sydney, which would bring the median price in Australia’s largest city to an insane $1.25 million. “Very low-interest rates and the expectation that interest rates will remain low will be the key drivers of rising property prices in 2020,” the report reads.

4. Four of the nation’s biggest industry super funds are deeply invested in global fossil fuel production, despite taking vocal stances on emissions reduction. That’s from a report in the Nine papers today, which cites public disclosures as evidence UniSuper, Hostplus, HESTA and AustralianSuper have large investments in coal, oil and gas sectors around the world. Furthermore, the report points out these firms are voting down more climate-focused shareholder resolutions than ever.

5. Australia’s biggest banks owe customers billions of dollars after the royal commission. But how much have they actually paid back? According to new figures from ASIC, some $607 million has been paid to just over 872,000 customers, for an average payout of nearly $700. NAB has so far paid back the most, spreading around $203 million to almost 587,000 customers. It’s followed by the Commonwealth Bank on $174 million, AMP on $167 million, Westpac on $106 million and ANZ on $95 million.

6. An interesting one to keep an eye on: the ABC is trialling news videos on Instagram. By the broadcaster’s own account, it’s an attempt to capture the eyeballs of millennials and Gen Z, who are increasingly drifting away from not only traditional media channels but even some of the online ones which supplanted them. “We knew it was important that, instead of trying to lure young people toward a radio or television most of them don’t even own, we needed to bring the news, in a palatable form, to them,” the ABC said.

7. Boeing is preparing for the return of the 737 Max by flying it around the US with a test crew and no passengers on board. The manufacturer is testing its updates to the plane before they are examined by regulators to see if the plane should return to the skies after two fatal crashes killed 346 people. What do you reckon – are you keen to get back on board one?

8. Also in plane news: rival giant Airbus unveiled a futuristic plane prototype with one giant wing and no separate fuselage. It believes this design could be the future of passenger jets. One thing’s for sure: the inside looks a lot roomier.

9. Bitcoin surged past US$10,000 on Wednesday – a five-month high. It’s not quite the soaring heights of late 2017, but it certainly shows some recovery for the much-debated digital currency. As this was happening, US Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank was exploring a government digital currency. We reported last month the Australian Reserve Bank has been contemplating the same.

10. Something a little quirky which has unfolded over the past couple of days. The new DC comic book movie “Birds of Prey” – starring Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn – seriously underperformed its sky-high box office expectations. As a result, Warner Bros issued a theatrical title change, and it’s now being listed as “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey”. I could be wrong, but this might be a world-first SEO-focused movie title change.

BONUS ITEM
An amateur Chinese marathon runner under coronavirus lockdown ran 50 kilometres in his living room to pass the time. Personally, I would just watch TV.

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