10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Good morning.

1. Look! Cheap flights! Airline tickets will be sold at half price to 800,000 travellers in a bid by the federal government to bolster the tourism industry. The federal subsidy will run from April to July, and will include regions like Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays, the Sunshine Coast, Alice Springs, Launceston, Broome, regional Victoria, Merimbula, and Kangaroo Island. Some marginal seats in there, yes.

2. PayPal has signalled it will launch its buy now, pay later product ‘Pay in 4’ in Australia in June. The product will offer an instalment payment option to its nine million local customers on eligible transactions between $50 and $1500. With lower merchant fees, potentially lower late fees, and a larger customer base, the move will prove a competitive challenge for Australia’s fast-growing sector.

3. Australia is bracing for the end of JobKeeper and the JobSeeker supplement as business insolvencies begin to rise by more than 60%. With JobKeeper to end in three weeks and business debts up to $1 million needing to be sorted by the end of the month, CreditorWatch has warned the country is in for an economic hit. “This could prompt a rash of insolvencies and, subsequently, redundancies, which could be a destabilising force on the local economy,” CEO Patrick Coghlan said.

4. The NSW Treasurer wants to prioritise international students on the limited flights to Sydney. Education is Australia’s fourth-largest export market, and NSW is particularly exposed to the coronavirus downturn. “We understand the politics behind prioritising Australians returning home but there are our own people here who rely on education exports to provide for their family and make a living,” Dominic Perrottet told the ABC.

5. Australians working in the influencer industry say that Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) are paid less than their white counterparts. This follows an Instagram post about racism experienced by their international counterparts went viral in February. BIPOC influencers are also less likely to be chosen for work and are less likely to be signed by an agency, according to some working in the industry.

6. Roblox, a gaming platform with 32.6 million daily users, hit the public market on Wednesday at a valuation of $44 billion. Roblox games are built by independent developers – helping some teens pay for college. In 2020, the company paid out more than A$427 million to Roblox game developers. Here are some more eye-popping stats about a company you’ve likely never heard of.

7. The United States House of Representatives passed a $US1.9 trillion stimulus package on Wednesday after weeks of negotiations. Trillion with a ‘T’, yes. The passage puts the bill on track to be signed into law by President Joe Biden on Friday. It contains stimulus checks for taxpayers, unemployment benefits, and funding for vaccine distribution. And a lot more, as you’d expect for $1.9 trillion.

8. Thought we were done talking about GameStop? Wrong. The company’s shares rose as much as 19% on Wednesday, having surged more than 550% in recent days. AMC Entertainment, Blackberry, and other ‘meme stocks’ also jumped. However, new data suggests the latest surge is being driven by institutions rather than retail traders.

9. Bitcoin climbed for the fourth straight day, testing the record it had set in February. The cryptocurrency pushed A$73,958 around noon in New York, and is on track for a second straight weekly gain after a retreat last month. As discussions of more US economic stimulus leading to potential higher inflation heat up, bitcoin bulls are becoming more confident in the asset as a hedge against a weaker dollar.

10. Facebook motioned to dismiss two antitrust suits filed against the tech giant in the US on December 9. Facebook argued the suits fail to provide enough evidence that the tech giant engaged in anticompetitive practices. For instance, the social media giant does not have monopoly power over prices because it offers products for free, the motion argues.

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