Google announces Bard A.I. in response to ChatGPT

Welcome to Talking Business, a podcast produced in Melbourne Australia. The podcast is available on the Acast site, my own website, the Apple Podcast store or wherever you go to get your podcasts. Or you can get it at the Business Acumen website at or at Banking Day.

This week’s Talking Business is brought to you by multi-award winning law firm McDonald Legal, experts in the areas of Dispute Resolution and Commercial and Property Law

For the most exclusive access to leading economists and business leaders from around the world, subscribe      to Talking Business from my website

I am Leon Gettler. My job is to review and monitor the week’s news in business, finance and economics. I bring it all to you, every week.   

This is episode number 02 in our series for 2023 and today’s date is Friday February 10.

First, I’ll be talking to Peter Kokkinos, the Vice President and Managing Director of online learning platform Udemy APAC. And I’ll be talking to CommSec chief economist Craig James about what’s ahead in the market.

But now, let’s talk to Peter Kokkinos.

Need legal information or legal advice? Today’s podcast is brought to you by Multi-Award Winning Law firm McDonald Legal, experts in the areas of Dispute Resolution and Commercial and Property Law. For a free consultation on your legal matter, McDonald Legal can be reached on 03 9070 1107 or by visiting the website

So what’s happening in the news

Google is launching an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered chatbot called Bard to rival ChatGPT. Bard will be used by a group of testers before being rolled out to the public in the coming weeks, the firm said. Bard is built on Google’s existing large language model Lamda, which one engineer described as being so human-like in its responses that he believed it was sentient.  The tech giant also announced new AI tools for its current search engine. AI chatbots are designed to answer questions and find information. ChatGPT is the best-known example. They use what’s on the internet as an enormous database of knowledge although there are concerns that this can also include offensive material and disinformation.

The crisis engulfing the Adani Group intensified on Monday as hundreds of members of India’s opposition parties took to the streets to press for a probe into allegations by a U.S. short-seller against the conglomerate which triggered its market rout. Shares in billionaire Gautam Adani’s companies have been in free-fall since a Jan. 24 critical report by Hindenburg Research, with group cumulative market losses now topping $110 billion, sparking fears of wider financial contagion. Opposition parties, who last week called for a parliamentary panel to investigate the saga and disrupted proceedings, have questioned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s closeness with Adani. The billionaire and Modi are from the same state and Adani has repeatedly denied allegations by Modi’s opponents that he had benefited from their close ties. Modi’s government too has denied allegations of favouring Adani. At New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, a Mughal-era observatory that doubles uas a protest site for all causes, protesters held up banners and shouted slogans against Adani. Some broke through barricades, forcing the police to detain them.

The Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday pressed ahead with a ninth straight increase to the official interest rate, taking it to 3.35%, and said more rises would be necessary to tame high inflation despite some families experiencing “a painful squeeze” on their household budgets. After peaking at 7.8% in the December quarter, headline inflation is expected to fall to 4.75% by year’s end but remain well above the RBA’s 2% to 3% target band until at least mid-2025.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has sought to dampen expectations of handouts in the coming budget in May, amid signs of a return to surplus, and says the cost of living measures must not further exacerbate inflation and interest rates. Speaking to the annual conference of the Chifley Research Centre in Canberra, the Treasurer noted how in his first budget delivered in October last year, the unexpected revenue burst was banked instead of spent. “If we sprayed around the same amount of that upsurge as our predecessors did, that would have added to inflation,” he said. Consequently, the government rejected calls for direct assistance to households of welfare benefit increases, and instead funnelled money into measures such as cheaper childcare. With revenues continuing to recover rapidly thanks to rising commodity prices, raising expectations that the May 10 budget will deliver a surplus, Dr Chalmers warned that a similar discipline of restraint must apply. He said he respected the independence of the central bank – “you don’t want to get our goals in conflict with the RBA’s goals”.

Federal ministers have been told not to bother proposing new spending in the budget unless the idea is accompanied by offsets, and has been declared a policy priority by the Prime Minister, as the government seeks to minimise pressure in interest rates. Signalling a return to the pre-pandemic budget discipline of paying for all new spending, Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Anthony Albanese reinforced on Monday that while inflation was expected to abate over the year, it will not do so quickly. “[The current inflation rate of] 7.8% is obviously unacceptably high and puts a lot of pressure on families and others in our community, but we expect that inflation is starting to moderate,” Dr Chalmers told parliament. “It will stay higher than we’d like for longer than we’d like. That is the truth of it. Interest rate rises are an inevitable consequence.” Mr Albanese said spending restraint must be a hallmark of the May 10 budget, as it was at the October budget, especially as about 20% of all housing loans would roll off fixed rates this year to much higher variable rates.

Banks will be required to produce thousands of documents to prove they are not ripping off savers on deposit rates amid criticism that earnings on term deposits have not kept pace with increases in the cash rate. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is preparing to examine deposit rates after Treasurer Jim Chalmers flags he wants the watchdog to ensure that banks are “treating their customers fairly when it comes to savings accounts”. ACCC chairman Gina Cass-Gottlieb said the investigation into how quickly banks responded to cash rate rises was one of her top priorities for 2023 given the cost-of-living pressures faced by retirees and the elderly. Banking observers say the probe could lead to legal changes.

Some 80% of Australia’s large organisations have upped their cyber security spend in 2022, a significant jump on prior years, amid a rise in high-profile data breaches affecting the likes of Optus and Medibank and their millions of customers. That is up from 63% a year earlier, while 41% of smaller businesses are doing the same. The growing number of major data breaches over the past 12 months has led to a corresponding jump in cyber security budgets, according to research from global cyber security group Netskope, which found that the headline-grabbing data loss incidents have sparked C-Suite executives – particularly of larger organisations – into action. When asked how the breaches have influenced awareness among their organisation’s leadership, more than three-quarters (77%) of respondents said their leadership’s awareness of cyber threats had increased, and 70% were also seeing an increase in leadership’s willingness to invest in cybersecurity.

The anticipated surge in high-spending Chinese tourists to Australia and other pre-pandemic holiday hotspots has failed to materialise since the country’s borders reopened after three years of lockdowns. Chinese travellers have started arriving since borders reopened almost a month ago, but the numbers are a trickle rather than a tsunami. Analysts predicted a surge of “revenge spending” by the world’s largest source of pre-pandemic tourism revenue when leisure travel resumed on January 8. They said China’s middle-classes,  frustrated after being stuck at home for months on end under President Xi Jinping’s draconian COVID-19 restrictions, would be desperate to hop on planes and spend like crazy. Instead, most Chinese travellers are playing it safe. Delays getting visas and passports and eye-watering airfares mean many are biding their time before booking holidays further afield again. China’s crippling lockdowns and restrictions have also shattered consumer confidence in the world’s second-largest economy.

NAB Consumer Sentiment Survey shows 4 in 10 Australian consumers have cut back or stopped buying coffees or lunches, car trips to save petrol and entertainment. Consumers remain less prepared to cut back on private school fees or tutors, children’s activities, on pets, home services (e.g. house cleaning), insurances and gym, sports or club memberships.

Commonwealth Bank has written to its business customers, advising them of plans to start limiting access to cheques. For any business accounts opened after June 3, cheques will not be available

The Australian gold sector would be dominated by a single company that controls the nation’s biggest mines if the Newcrest Mining board accepts a $24.45 billion takeover bid from US company Newmont. A five-year frenzy of dealmaking at the big end of the global gold sector stepped up a gear at the weekend when the world’s biggest gold miner by market capitalisation, Newmont, pitched its offer to acquire the biggest gold miner on the ASX, Newcrest. Newcrest has repeatedly been in the cross-hairs of North America’s biggest gold miners over the past five years,. But Newcrest chairman Peter Tomsett, who has taken on additional duties since CEO Sandeep Biswas left in December, did not dismiss the improved bid lobbed by Newmont’s Australian-born president, Tom Palmer, on Sunday, saying it was worthy of consideration. Mr Palmer said the merged entity would be 30% owned by Newcrest shareholders if they accepted the deal.

Star Entertainment will fight a third class action in the Victorian Supreme Court with solicitors from Phi Finney McDonald filing a claim on behalf of shareholders against the casino giant. It follows class action firms Slater & Gordon and Maurice Blackburn, which filed separate yet similar class actions last year that alleged the company misled the market, breached continuous obligation laws and wiped billions of dollars from the company’s value. Phi Finney McDonald’s claims are similar, relating to representations made by the company between March 29 and June 13, 2016, that the firm alleges were misleading or deceptive. The claim alleges during that period the Star made misleading representations, including about its systems and processes for compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing obligations. The claims also state Star failed to disclose relevant information it had about those matters to the market, and conducted its affairs contrary to the interests of the members of Star as a whole. Star said in a statement to the ASX it intends to defend the proceeding.

ANZ Bank is shelling out $50 million for a minority stake in Antony Catalano-led real estate listings business View Media Group (VMG), as the lender eyes off the potential to sell more home loans digitally. In the latest sign banks are betting more borrowers will take out more loans through digital channels, ANZ on Monday announced the investment, saying it would take a seat on the board of VMG and planned to establish an exclusive financial services partnership. VMG, which launched last year, is backed by former Domain chief executive Catalano and Thorney Investment Group executive chairman Alex Waislitz. The business says it’s aiming to disrupt the real estate transaction market by building “the digital real estate superstore of the future.” VMG, which also counts Seven West Media as an investor, has a real estate listing business, a property technology business for real estate agents and an online utilities service. The $50 million investment, comes as ANZ has set its sights on expanding its footprint in mortgages as a key strategic goal, and it is also responding to the strong growth in online banking, including in the home loan sector. ANZ said the investment supported its strategy of establishing services that make it easier to buy, own or rent property, and it was open to working with businesses such as real estate agents or utility operators. Home loans – a crucial market for the nation’s banks – are the most obvious banking product that can be sold or promoted via a property listings platform. Domain,

Three major cities will be hit with plunging property prices in 2023, as higher interest rates bite. PropTrack’s biannual Property Market Value Report, released on Tuesday, shows Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra home values will plummet 8 to 11% this year, following an overall 2.3% decline in 2022. Melbourne and Hobart fare a little better. They are only predicted to fall seven to 10% in the same period, while Adelaide, Darwin and Perth hold up the best with falls of only 3 and 8% predicted.

Australia’s wine exports to China have plunged to just $12.4 million annually compared with $1.3 billion before Beijing imposed punishing tariffs in late 2020. Australian wine exports fell 4% to $1.94 billion last year, industry body Wine Australia said on Tuesday. Exports to the UK, the second-biggest market, suffered a substantial 18% fall to $373 million. Demand slowed from UK supermarkets and liquor retailers as restaurants, bars and pubs did a roaring trade as people went out again with gusto as the COVID-19 pandemic started to fade. Exports to the US fell 3% to $390 million. China was the most lucrative market for Australian exporters before Chinese President Xi Jinping in late 2020 slapped tarrifs of 176% on the biggest Australian wine exporters. The tariffs ranged between 116% to 218%.

Legal proceedings have commenced against Australia’s biggest health insurer Medibank, as customers seek compensation for the most invasive data breach in the country’s history. The documents, which were not available to media, were lodged late on Monday night in a class action brought by Omni Bridgeway and Baker McKenzie against Medibank. Medibank issued a statement saying it would defend the proceedings after being contacted for comment by The Australian Financial Review, but it did not issue anything to the Australian Securities Exchange on Tuesday during market hours. A separate claim is being investigated by Maurice Blackburn, Bannister Law Class Actions and Centennial Lawyers, which would take place after the Office of the Australian Information Commission completes its investigation. In October last year, Medibank first said it had detected “unusual activity” on its network and that it had shut down systems in response. Over the course of several weeks, the scale of the disaster became clear and Medibank was finally forced to admit that the hackers had stolen more than 9 million current and former members’ personal data and 470,000 of their health claims information. The hackers, believed to be operating in Russia, released sensitive information online after failing in their attempts to extort a ransom from Medibank. The breach, which followed an attack on Optus’s 9.7 million customers, has triggered boards to review their cybersecurity as the government also weighs strengthening privacy laws.

And it’s the profit reporting season. Argo Investments has reported a 6.2% increase in interim profit to $137 million for the half year to December 31. Dexus Convenience Retail REIT reported a 92.2% slump in statutory net profit after tax to $3.1 million for the half year ended December 31. Dexus Industria net profit dived to $1.4 million in the six months to December, from $113.7 million in the prior period. Furniture retailer Nick Scali reported a 70% increase in net profit after tax of $60.6 million for the half-year to December 31. ARB Corporation reported a 5.1% decline in unaudited sales revenue to $340.9 million for the first half of the 2023 financial year. Transurban delivered a net group profit of $55 million.  Macquarie Group’s banking and financial services division grew deposits by 8% to $125.7 billion during the December quarter, its home loan portfolio of $105.4 billion increased 4% on 30 September 2022, while funds on platform of $117 billion increased 5% and its business banking loans grew by a slower 2% to $12.5 billion and car loans were down 10% to $6.6 billion. Heallius revenue declined 33.6% to $889.3 million in the first half while EBITDA fell 64.4% to $182 million. Online luxury retailer Cettire reported gross revenue jumped 57% to $242.7 million in the December half year. Boral net profit soared 53% to $56.8 million in the six months to December. Suncorp net profit jumped 44.3% to $560 million, taking earnings 63% higher to $588 million. BWP Trust net profit plunged 68% to $111.3 million in the six months to December. Amcor net sales rose 6% to $US7.4bn ($A10.6bn) for the six months to end of December. GAAP net income surged 62% to $US691m ($A994m)

And that’s it for this week. And next week, I’ll be talking to Scott Agnew, the CEO and Operating Partner at Keller Williams Realty in Utah and KPMG economist Sarah Hunter about the RBA raising interest rates again and its implications for the economy.

This show was brought to you by Multi-Award Winning Law firm McDonald Legal, experts in the areas of Dispute Resolution and Commercial and Property Law. For a free consultation on your legal matter, McDonald Legal can be reached on 03 9070 1107 or by visiting the website

In the meantime you can catch me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. And if you want leave a comment. For the most exclusive access to leading economists and business leaders from around the world, subscribe to Talking Business on the Apple podcast store or on my website   

Wishing you all a safe and healthy week. And looking forward to bringing you Talking Business next week.