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The ship is afloat

Good morning! The 400 metre-long, 200,000 tonne ship blocking the Suez Canal for over 5 days, Ever Given, has been refloated, allowing the ~400 ships that were waiting near the entrance to sail on through.

Back at home, Greater Brisbane entered a 3-day lockdown at 5:00pm yesterday after recording another four locally transmitted coronavirus cases on Sunday, only two of which have been linked to the landscaper from Stafford. It's becoming clear that authorities never fully extinguished the leak from the Princess Alexandra Hospital over a fortnight ago, with the virus – the more infectious UK strain – quietly festering away in the community ever since.

Market Wrap

Mainstreaming crypto

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Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract.

US markets were mixed overnight, with the S&P500 (-0.09%) and Nasdaq (-0.6%) falling while the Dow Jones (+0.3%) was likely supported by the next Big Biden Stimulus, which might be announced as soon as Wednesday in the US. It's said to be in the $US3 trillion range with a focus on "infrastructure-related investments", although only the transportation side (at most 50% of it) is expected to be revealed this week.

Mainstreaming crypto: Visa said its network would soon support the use of USD Coin (USDC) – a stablecoin cryptocurrency pegged to the US dollar on the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum was up nearly 10% at the time of writing.

Not our job: The head of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority told Parliament: "It's not our job to solve house prices and it's not our job to solve house pricing affordability". He's right – house prices are hot because of soaring demand, in part due to low interest rates and pandemic stimulus, along with decades of supply restrictions.

Tech Wrap

Australia hacked

A DDoS attack is one possible cause.
A DDoS attack is one possible cause. EC-Council

Hackers disrupted Channel Nine's live broadcasts along with emails and editing systems at the same time as access to IT and emails at Parliament House were cut "as a precaution".

Details matter: We're not sure what systems Nine and Parliament House have in place but these attacks were likely done using one of two methods:

  1. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, which is not a 'hack' per se. Essentially, some entity – individual or organisation/government – with access to a lot of devices, usually compromised computers, phones or even smart fridges ('internet of things'), decided to inundate their servers with spurious requests, overwhelming them.
  2. Phishing – or social engineering – a common form of hacking where a system is compromised by an insider being tricked into providing sensitive information or installing malicious software.

The second method, phishing, is far more severe as the attackers could effectively steal any data on the network and/or encrypt and ransom it – although Nine reported no ransom has yet been demanded.

Elsewhere: The US Congress grilled the CEOs of Big Tech for over five hours, "demanding that they censor more political content from their platforms and vowing legislative retaliation if they fail to comply". It's not yet clear how this will play out but given the centre of the tech universe is in Silicon Valley, the outcome will have an impact on everyone.

Corona Wrap

The Brisbane cluster

Greater Brisbane is in lockdown for at least three days while the government frantically tries to contact trace the seven locally transmitted coronavirus cases in this cluster. One of the new cases was a nurse who worked in the COVID-19 ward at Princess Alexandra Hospital, the source of the previous scare a few weeks ago. Announcing the 3-day lockdown, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said: "these people have been out and about in the community".

Borders back up: WA, SA, Tassie and the ACT all reintroduced border restrictions to all or parts of Queensland. With the exception of WA – which tightened its border on Saturday and made it 'hard' last night – the decisions came after Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk asked the other states and territories to declare the Greater Brisbane region a hotspot.

Schools closed: The school term was due to end on Thursday for two weeks ahead of the Easter break. That has effectively been brought forward a few days for schools in the lockdown-affected areas.

The new normal: Australia has been abysmally slow at rolling out coronavirus vaccines and is set to miss the government's self-selected '4 million Australians vaccinated by the end of March' target by around 85%, or over 3 million people (see chart above).

Unfortunately that means coronavirus community leaks – let's be honest, the government isn't great at preventing those, either – will continue to cause periodic lockdowns at least through 2021.

Poli Wrap

Shuffling the deckchairs

AFR/David Rowe

ScoMo demoted Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds from their prestigious positions as Attorney-General and Defence Minister, respectively. However, he opted to keep them in his Cabinet, with Porter taking on Industry, Science and Technology while Reynolds will assume the Government Service and National Disability Insurance Scheme portfolios.

Stepping back: The federal government is in full-on damage control following a series of scandals from top to bottom, ranging from assault claims against Porter to staffers videoing sex acts in Parliament House. ScoMo has handled it poorly, at one point event opting to falsely accuse media representatives of dealing with their own harassment investigations in a failed attempt to deflect criticism.

There were rumours a few months ago that ScoMo may have been considering an early election, riding a wave of vaccine euphoria and COVID-free bliss. It's a model that worked well for the incumbent Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia, as well as international counterparts such as New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. However, it's safe to say that option has well and truly been shelved for the time being, meaning ScoMo has at most a year to shore up his ship – or find a new job.