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10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Good morning.

1. Sydney is currently blanketed in smoke, thanks to blazes ensconcing the city from all sides. The Bureau of Meteorology says it is likely Sydney will be smothered in smoke for at least the next few days and perhaps even beyond that.

https://twitter.com/timritchie/status/1201605700960555008

2. House prices in Australia surged 2.7% in November, which is the strongest growth in 31 years. Prices rose in every capital city except Darwin and Sydney is set to recoup the 15 per cent loss in prices sustained during an 18-month downturn. Considering the otherwise sluggish economy and stagnant wage growth, you could be forgiven for thinking this is an... interesting development.

3. The compliance manager removed by Westpac after reporting 29 million legal breaches to AUSTRAC has accused the bank's upper echelons of being driven by a selfish, unethical culture. In the AFR this morning, Amanda Wood says the bank's big dogs weren't initially concerned by the dodgy transfers – which allegedly breached money laundering law and may have in part funded the purchase of child pornography – because they believed it was a technicality which wouldn't attract a substantial fine.

4. You were warned it was coming, and now it's here. New South Wales now has mobile phone detection cameras to catch drivers texting. There is, however, a grace period – if you're caught in the next three months, you'll get a warning but no fine. After that, it's $344.

5. Deloitte has been named the best company in Australia for paternity leave, with any parent getting 18 weeks of paid leave including super. They can take the 18 weeks as a single chunk or spread it out over 36 months; with the possibility of working part-time for a set period also available. “I’m extremely proud of our parental leave policy and the impact it’s making, not just in supporting all Deloitte parents, but also as a conversation starter to challenge the long-held gender stereotypes that still exist in Australian society and the workplace, and to drive greater equality for everyone,” said CEO Richard Deutsch.

6. UK PM Boris Johnson has been accused of ignoring a family's pleas not to exploit their son's death for political gain in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack. David Merritt, the father of victim Jack Merritt, asked politicians not to use the ‘terrible, isolated incident’ to justify more ‘draconian’ justice measures. By the time Merritt said that, Johnson had already published an op-ed in a British paper announcing a tougher stance on terrorism.

7. In a leaked all-hands recording, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos addressed the company's rising political spending. "You have to be able to work with people who don't agree with you on everything," Bezos said, in response to a question about the company's donations to Republican politicians. He said certain issues would be "disqualifying" for receiving Amazon donations, but didn't specify what they might be.

8. We're getting a WeWork movie, courtesy of the producer of "Get Out" and the screenwriter of "The Big Short". That's when you know a corporate collapse is really real. The movie will be based on the Fast Company senior contributing writer Katrina Brooker’s reporting and her upcoming book on the company and CEO Adam Neumann.

9. Some retailers have begun carrying straps for AirPods, to alleviate the anxiety of possibly losing the wireless buds. You may well say that defeats the purpose of going wireless in the first place, but anyone willing to drop sixty bucks on this sort of thing is obviously on another planet anyway. They have no time for your petty concerns.

https://twitter.com/Hipster_Trader/status/1201497219624509440?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1201497219624509440&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.businessinsider.com%2Fnordstrom-sells-airpod-carrying-strap-losing-airpods-2019-12

10. The cryptocurrency community is in turmoil after Virgil Griffith, who works for the Ethereum Foundation, was arrested following a talk he gave in North Korea. He was charged with violating US sanctions on North Korea by giving technical details in his talk. According to a statement from prosecutors, Griffith and other conference attendees discussed how North Korea could use blockchain and cryptocurrencies to get around sanctions. Here's the Ethereum cofounder defending Griffith:

https://twitter.com/VitalikButerin/status/1201182901062307840

BONUS ITEM
Can't say exactly why this one has resurfaced, but here you go anyway: a bizarre Austin Powers parody video made by Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. You're welcome?

https://youtu.be/fI_xuFA18m4