WWN#38 – Same-Sex Marriage Legalised in Australia!

What’s Been Happening?

In May 2004, the Howard government expressly prohibited the legislation of same-sex marriage by introducing the Marriage Amendment Act in Parliament. The amendment specified that marriage, would be defined as a “union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others”.

Over the next decade or so, legislation was passed so that discrimination against same-sex couples in areas of tax, social security and health and adoption were gradually removed.

In August this year, a non-compulsory national postal survey (also known as plebiscite) was conducted in order to gauge whether people supported the notion of changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry. Respondents were asked to mark one box – Yes or No on the survey form. 80% of total registered voters (16,006,180) returned the form with 61.6% voting Yes and 38.4% voting No. Having given the public a say, it was felt by most members of parliament (MPs) that the verdict must be reflected in law.

What Now? 

Australia has officially become the 26th country to legalise same-sex marriage after the Marriage Amendment (Definitions and Religious Freedoms) Bill was passed in the Senate last week and House of Representatives on the 7th of December. An overwhelming majority of MPs voted in favour of the Bill, with four voting No and around nine abstained.

The new law changes the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act by removing the words “a man and a woman” and replacing them with “the union of 2 people”. This was the minimum required reform to enable same-sex marriage.

When the vote was declared on the floor of the House, the public gallery exploded into cheers and applause and eventually burst into a rendition of the song, “I am, you are, we are Australian”. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was equally jubilant as he declared, “Australia has done it. What a day for love, for equality, for respect. This has been a great, unifying day in our history.”

Malcolm Turnbull SSM.jpg

What’s Next?

It is certainly cause for celebration that Australia has finally embraced marriage equality. Thousands of Australians who married in overseas jurisdictions will have their vows recognised under Australian law and the first same-sex weddings will be able to occur from January 9, 2018. However, it is not the end of the road when it comes to law reform.

There are still other issues that require attention and discussion which continue to affect same-sex people:

  • Birth certificates that accurately reflect a child’s family structure (e.g. four parents)
  • Controversial conversion therapies that attempt to “cure” a person’s same sex attraction
  • Protection of religious freedom or is it discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation?
References:
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/samesex-marriage-legalised-in-australia-as-parliament-passes-historic-law-20171206-h00cdj.html
http://theconversation.com/from-postal-survey-to-parliament-how-australia-legalised-same-sex-marriage-87594
https://marriagesurvey.abs.gov.au/results/
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-08/same-sex-couples-married-overseas-to-have-vows-recognised/9242196
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WWN#37 – SendGrid’s IPO Soars on Debut

SendGrid.jpg

What’s Been Happening?

SendGrid, a Colorado tech company in the United States, was founded in 2009 by three developers: Isaac Saldana, Jose Lopez and Tim Jenkins. Only one of its three founders (Saldana) still has a big enough stake in SendGrid to be among the shareholders who own 5% or more of the company.

It is a cloud-based email delivery service that assists over 55,000 paying customers (e.g. Uber, Spotify & Airbnb) to send more than 30 billion emails every month.

SendGrid manages transactional email such as purchase receipts, password resets, account creation in addition to email marketing in the form of promotions and email newsletters.

In November 2016, they had a venture capital raising that amounted to $33 million, bringing its total venture funding to $80 million.

What Now?

SendGrid IPO Debut

On the 16th of November, the company made its public debut on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: SEND). SendGrid said earlier this month that it planned to sell 7.7 million shares, priced between $13.50 and $15.50 per share. Prior to going public, it increased both those figures, ultimately offering 8.2 million shares at $16. The stock popped 14% to $18 on its first day of trading, giving the company a market capitalisation of $734 million.

What’s Next?

Despite the success of its IPO, SendGrid is still very much a “show me” story as it isn’t profitable yet. Although its revenues have risen year on year with sales hitting $80.2 million in its first nine months of 2017, net losses also grew to $4.7 million in the same period.

At the current share price, the company’s risk profile is too high and banks too much on the staying power of email, like its competitors MailChimp and SparkPost. But for now, with 54% of the planet (3.7 billion people) still using email, it’s hard to imagine a world that is without email anytime soon.

References:
https://sendgrid.com/http://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/sendgrid-ceo-interview-what-it-takes-to-go-public-2017-11-1008180449
http://www.denverpost.com/2017/11/15/denver-sendgrid-ipo/
https://seekingalpha.com/article/4125853-sendgrid-shares-fly-ipo-upside-limited

WWN#36 – What’s Different? IPhone X Released

What’s Been Happening?

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus were released on the 22nd September this year. Compared to its predecessor, the screen, display and cameras were left largely unchanged. The biggest visible difference would be the glass back which replaces the aluminium used in previous versions. It was a necessity as the new wireless charging feature would not have been possible without it. Inside the IPhone 8, there is an A11 Bionic chip that has been touted by Apple to be 25% faster than the previous A10 chip.

In terms of battery life, the battery on the IPhone 8 is actually smaller than the 7 but optimisations on the new chip seems to make it last longer. Overall, the updates are all quite small.

What Now?

Price Guide IPhone 7 IPhone 7 Plus IPhone 8 IPhone 8 Plus IPhone X
Minimum Price (in AUD) $849 $1049 $1079 $1229 $1579

On the 3rd of November, the IPhone X was released to Australia. More than four hundred people lined the streets around Apple’s flagship Sydney store proving it to be significantly more popular than the IPhone 8 despite the $350 price hike. If I was to describe the IPhone X in a sentence: the IPhone X is the IPhone 8 Plus but with all of its features crammed into a body that’s closer to the size of an IPhone 8. However, there are also a few new distinctive features:

  • Face ID – Unlike Samsung’s attempts at facial recognition which have been insecure to date, Apple’s Face ID actually seems to work well. As one user reported, the phone can still recognise you even if you wear a fake beard or glasses. And instead of a one in fifty thousand chance that someone would be able to open your phone with their fingerprint, with Face ID that becomes a one in a million chance. Face ID replaces the fingerprint reader “Touch ID” with the home button being removed.
  • Super Retina Display – At 458 pixels per inch, the resolution is crisper than the IPhone 8 Plus and IPhone 8 (401 and 326 ppi respectively). Without getting too technical, this has been made possible by Apple’s switch from an LCD panel to an OLED display panel.

Notable Mentions:

  • Battery life on the X is purported to be two hours longer than the IPhone 8 (14 hours vs. 12 hours).
  • Dual Cameras – According to Business Insider, the cameras on the back have markedly improved with dual optical image stabilisation which make for less blur, particularly noticeable in videos. The front-facing “TrueDepth” camera with all of its different components makes selfies look more like professional photos.

TrueDepth Camera

Unfortunately the IPhone X stock will be extremely limited until well into 2018 as Apple has reportedly run into significant problems mass producing the “TrueDepth” camera sensor. So for the people who did not line up for an IPhone X on launch date, you may have to wait a few months longer for this one.

What’s Next?

  • Until now, Apple has followed a vaguely chronological naming convention. As we’ve reached 10, it is unlikely that the next IPhone will be called IPhone 9. The big question is whether the next one will be IPhone 11 or will Apple invent a new name?
  • Better displays, better cameras and better processors. It’s likely that the next-generation IPhone for 2018 will contain at least some improvement in one of these areas as Apple has achieved this with every new IPhone release. It’s hard to see though how this can be done next year without increasing the size or weight of the IPhone.
  • The introduction of animated emojis “Animoji” in the X signal that further development in augmented reality is likely. There are already applications available within the App Store that you can download and use that incorporate augmented reality functionality (e.g. IKEA Place lets you visualise its furniture in your home).
  • Although the chances are very slim, I can only hope that the next IPhone will be cheaper than the X…
References:
https://www.macworld.co.uk/review/iphone/face-id-versus-touch-id-3666345/
http://www.news.com.au/technology/gadgets/mobile-phones/apple-iphone-x-five-reasons-why-you-shouldnt-buy-the-new-phone-and-five-reasons-you-might/news-story/ca5e55e04306cdc040e0e736782e6e36
http://www.trustedreviews.com/news/iphone-8-vs-iphone-7-3286334
https://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2017/09/17/apple-iphone-x-vs-iphone-8-new-iphones-whats-the-difference-upgrade-guide/#2030731610af
https://www.businessinsider.com.au/apple-iphone-x-8-plus-7-camera-comparison-2017-9?r=US&IR=T
https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/4463177/apple-iphone-9-or-11-rumours-release-date-features-name-and-wild-speculation-after-iphone-x-launch-event/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ikea-place/id1279244498

 

WWN#35 – Changes Overdue for CBA’s Compliance, Customers and Culture

 Commbank’s latest initiative – Rewarding Service and not Sales

What’s Been Happening?

August

  • Commonwealth Bank accused of ‘serious and systemic’ breaches of anti-money laundering and terrorism financing laws by AUSTRAC. For each of the 53,700 contraventions, the maximum penalty is up to $18 million. $8.9 billion was deposited through CBA’s intelligent deposit machines before the bank conducted a money laundering risk assessment.
  • A week after the scandal was made public, the Commonwealth Bank’s board has announced a cut to executive pay and short-term bonuses for the financial year that ended.
  • In mid-August, the bank announced the retirement of CEO Ian Narev who will leave before July 2018.

September

  • Perhaps in an effort to improve its image, CBA announced in late September that it will remove ATM fees charged to non-customers for using its ATMs which was followed in quick succession by Westpac, ANZ and NAB. As a result, fees will be abolished at 3400 CommBank machines, 2300 ANZ machines, 2925 Westpac machines and 1300 NAB machines.

October

  • In early October, rumours of a class action led by Maurice Blackburn against Commonwealth Bank for the AUSTRAC debacle became reality following the announcement that the funding for the litigation by IMF Bentham was now unconditional.
  • Scathing criticism came from the country’s largest consumer group, CHOICE, about the Commonwealth Bank’s Dollarmites scheme which allowed “kickbacks” to schools to “flog their products”. CBA also pays schools $5 for every account opened via the program, and 5 per cent of every deposit made at school, up to a maximum of $10 per deposit.

What Now?

Last Friday (13th of October), CBA announced that it would immediately remove “financial outcomes” from a bank teller’s performance assessment criteria, with customer service being the sole measure of a teller’s performance.

This is seen as the latest move by the bank to endear itself to customers and shareholders following the AUSTRAC money-laundering scandal and the call to ban the bank’s Dollarmites program by CHOICE.

Executive General Manager, Angus Sullivan, said “the new remuneration plan will support and encourage [our staff] to have better quality conversations with customers, understand their needs and provide the best possible service”.

What’s Next?

Moving away from sales-based incentives and recognition programs and towards value-based rewards is certainly a step in the right direction. As Australia’s largest bank, it will still take a number of changes before the bank can be back in the spotlight for all of the right reasons instead of wrong ones.

In her opening statement before the House of Representatives in Canberra, CBA Chairwoman Catherine Livingstone outlined the renewed focus for the bank in:

  • Encouraging a customer-centric mindset that is shared by both management and employees across the company so that customers’ needs are met and outcomes are improved.
  • Reviewing and implementing better monitoring procedures for cash transactions, especially ones that flow through the IDMs.
  • Meeting and exceeding overall compliance obligations to AUSTRAC
  • Fostering an organisational culture that strengthens accountability and compliance

 

References:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-14/commonwealth-bank-ceo-ian-narev-to-retire-by-july/8803302
http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/banking/atm-fee-removal-comes-with-a-catch/news-story/d62b3513646d98d24a8cae9a74419163
http://thenewdaily.com.au/money/finance-news/2017/10/13/cba-scraps-bank-teller-commissions-move-improve-image/
https://www.choice.com.au/money/banking/savings-options/articles/cba-facing-public-scrutiny-cleans-up-dollarmite-commissions-061017
https://www.businessinsider.com.au/catherine-livingstone-just-told-mps-the-cba-is-conscious-there-needs-to-be-greater-transparency-about-what-the-bank-does-2017-10

WWN#34 – Regulators say Miwa Sado died from “karoshi”


What’s Been Happening?

Karoshi, a Japanese term for “death by overwork” is an inevitable result of Japan’s gruelling work culture that is rarely discussed.

The culture where long hours and after-work social engagements are typical, dates back decades. Koji Morioka, a professor at Kansai University in Japan, has commented that a Japanese workplace always has overtime work. It’s almost a part of scheduled hours. At least one in five Japanese employees work 49 hours or more every week.

In December 2015, 24 year old Matsuri Takahashi committed suicide after having clocked 105 hours of overtime within a one month period. In the same year, Kiyotaka Seriwaza who was a maintenance worker killed himself after putting in 90 hour weeks.

What Now?

NHK, the public broadcaster that employed a reporter by the name of Miwa Sado has only just released more details surrounding her death in 2013. NHK said that it waited to make the information about her death public out of deference to her family. Sado was a Japanese journalist whose work schedule included 159 hours of overtime and just two days off in a single month. This inevitably led to a heart failure that killed her at the age of 31.

In a statement released by Labour regulators, they ruled that her death was another case of “karoshi”. “It can be inferred that she was in a state of accumulated fatigue and chronic sleep deprivation”.

What’s Next?

In light of the growing attention surrounding “karoshi”, the Japanese government has been taking steps to end the norm of long working hours so that there is an appropriate work life balance for its people. Earlier this year, legislation was passed introducing a “Premium Friday” which lets people leave the office a couple of hours early – but not every Friday, only the last Friday of each month. However, the scheme is not mandatory so it is unclear how many businesses will actually participate in this initiative.

Companies have been joining the effort to change the gruelling work culture. The ad agency Dentsu has begun shutting its lights off in its headquarters at 10pm and requires its workers to take at least five days off every six months. Japan Post Insurance, a life insurance company, shuts its lights off at 7:30pm.

There’s still a lot more that can be done and though new company policies or legislation can be passed quickly, effectively implementing and transforming work culture can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.

References:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/do-japanese-really-work-themselves-to-death-in-some-cases-yes/2016/07/31/77b48754-4f48-11e6-bf27-405106836f96_story.html?utm_term=.a24b22c586b8
http://fortune.com/2016/12/30/japan-karoshi-overwork-working-hours-friday/
https://www.mumbrella.asia/2017/10/japanese-work-culture-scrutiny-nhk-admits-death-employee-caused-overwork
http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/japanese-reporter-dies-after-working-159-hours-overtime-in-a-month/news-story/8975f3d0783a824e469db2b89eb68a7f
http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/japanese-reporter-miwa-sado-worked-herself-to-death-regulators-say-20171005-gyvgiy.html

WWN#33 – Ban Overturned: Women Can Finally Drive in Saudi Arabia!

Credits

What’s Been Happening?

Although Saudi women have consistently raised the issue by legal and social means, little progress has been made to allow them to drive due to the vague nature of Saudi law, which complicates the matter. Whilst Islamic law or Saudi traffic law does not prohibit women from driving, they are not issued licences and are detained if they attempt to drive.

Background:

  • In 1990, 47 women were arrested for driving in protest against the driving ban and some consequently lost their passports and jobs.
  • In 2011-2012, there was a social media campaign with Facebook and YouTube being used to encourage women to drive and inspire others to do the same, promoting change. Whilst the response was largely positive, women who were caught driving were still detained or arrested.
  • In late 2014, two Saudi women were detained for more than two months when they tried to cross the Saudi border with a licence obtained from the United Arab Emirates in an act of defiance.

What Now?

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has issued a royal decree allowing women to drive, in a historic decision that will make it the last country in the world to permit women behind the wheel. The decree stated that the majority of Muslim scholars on the country’s highest clerical council agreed that Islam allows women the right to drive. From June 2018, women will be able to obtain driver licences. Prince Khalid bin Salman has further stated that women will be allowed to obtain driver’s licences without having to ask for permission from their male guardian. This move is seen as part of the government’s “Vision 2030” plan for social and economic reform as the kingdom prepares for a post-oil era.

A newly-formed committee will first develop a plan on how to implement the order in accordance with religious and regulatory standards, presenting its recommendations in 30 days.

What’s Next?

The announcement is a move in the right direction but activists say that there is more to be done. Other violations of women’s rights persist due to the country’s strict laws and guardianship policies. A male guardian’s consent is required for any female to perform even the most mundane activities. Some examples are: getting a passport, travelling abroad, opening a bank account, getting a job and dressing how they want – all of which require guardian consent.

For Saudi women, gaining the right to drive is not the end of the struggle. As Muna AbuSulayman, a Saudi television presenter, has said: “It didn’t solve all the issues, but it made them one less.”

References:
http://abcnews.go.com/International/women-saudi-arabia-drive-things/story?id=50130702
http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/saudi-arabia-to-allow-women-to-drive/news-story/c9fe37b5d87e4674011ed72d500014d2
http://www.bbc.com/news/business-41427772

WWN#32 – Kenya’s August Election Ruled Invalid! Kenyatta vs. Odinga

What’s been happening?

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected in August amid accusations of election fraud by the opposition. The opposition leader Raila Odinga has claimed the results were rigged, echoing claims made against Kenyatta in the 2013 elections. In 2013, Kenyatta won with a wafer-thin margin of 50.03 percent, a result that Odinga disputed unsuccessfully but peacefully in court.

Official results this time around show that Kenyatta won by a comfortable margin of 1.4 million votes (54.27%). However, Odinga and his opposition party immediately rejected the results and appealed to the Supreme Court for a new election.

What Now?

Kenya’s Supreme Court has declared Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in the presidential election last month invalid. The six-judge bench ruled 4-2 in favour of a petition filed by Odinga who had claimed the electronic voting results were hacked and manipulated in favour of the incumbent. A new vote is to be held on October 17 after the Court found there were “irregularities and illegalities” in the election.

Hours after the Supreme Court ruling, President Kenyatta addressed the nation, saying that he respects the court’s decision but personally disagreed with the decision. However, he has called for peace and respect for the rule of law. “Amani, Amani, Amani! (Peace, peace, peace!)” – Kenyatta

Odinga and his party welcomed the decision but said that they preferred the new election to take place later on October 24 or 31 in order to provide the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) with enough time to fix its problems.

What’s Next?

More will be revealed when the full judgment of the court is released within 21 days of the ruling. In the meantime, a weakening currency and plunging stock market indicate that the extended political uncertainty will inevitably have a negative impact on the country’s economy.

Organising another election will also be costly. The original vote cost around $500 million and involved more than 300,000 temporary workers. Now the IEBC has to repeat it and under heavier pressure to prove that results are reliable and accurate.

Another election is likely to mean more violence on the horizon. After a flawed presidential election in 2007, more than 1,000 people died and half a million people were displaced in the post-election violence and street protests. If Odinga loses this election as well, it is possible that he may challenge the results again or worse still, incite his supporters to take action through violent means.

References
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/01/kenyan-supreme-court-annuls-uhuru-kenyatta-election-victory
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/31/kenyan-election-official-christopher-msando-dead-before-national-vote
https://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFKCN1BJ1F5-OZATP
http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/kenya-election-2017-uhuru-kenyatta-wins-amid-protests/news-story/19ef6bbb5ed664c80e5f33ca20b60125
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-41129919