by Alan Thornhill
Tertiary students from regional areas will be able to get extra help in the New Year.
Two Federal Ministers said about 20,500 would benefit.
Senator Chris Evans, who is Tertiary Education Minister and Regional Development Minister Simon Crean said they would get the extra help through Youth Allowance scheme from January 1.
They said that tertiary students from inner regional areas across Australia would then be able to access independent Youth Allowance the same way students in outer regional and remote areas can.
“Students from Mount Gambier, Mackay and Bunbury will be treated the same as students from Port Lincoln, Townsville and Kalgoorlie,” Senator Evans said.
“Around 5500 students will now get access to Youth Allowance payments for the first time, or will receive a higher rate of payment each year.
In recognition that dependent students from regional areas often experience high costs to move from their home town for study, the Gillard Government has also increased the value of Relocation Scholarships for regional students,” he added.
From 1 January 2012, eligible students from regional and remote areas will be able to access $4,000 in the first year they are required to live away from home to study at university, $2000 in the second and third year and $1000 in subsequent years.
Mr Crean, said the changes would benefit around 15,000 regional higher education students per year over the duration of their degree.
“The number of regional students attending university is once again on the increase after a decade of decline under the Howard Government,” he said.
“Regional universities have strong relationships with their local communities and are vital partners in social and economic development of Australia’s regions.
“Young people who study in the regions tend to stay in the regions.
“This is a great outcome for regional communities and is a direct result of the Gillard Government’s investment in higher education in our regions.”
From January 1 the age of independence will also be reduced to 22, making an additional 11,000 students eligible for independent Youth Allowance.
The Youth Allowance reforms come on top of the other practical steps the Australian Government has taken to help regional young people go to university including:
- increasing total regional loading for universities by $109.9 million over four years to $249.4 million to help overcome the higher costs of running regional campuses;
- changing indexation arrangements in 2011 to increase funding for Universities and commissioning the Higher Education Base Funding Review to look at the levels of funding required to ensure Australian higher education remains internationally competitive;
- establishing a demand driven funding system for undergraduate university places and increasing overall funding for undergraduate places by almost $4 billion over six years from 2010;
- increasing the number of Australian Government supported undergraduate places at public universities by around 10 per cent since 2009; and
- allowing universities to charge a Student Services and Amenities Fee to provide essential services and facilities such as child-care, counselling, sport and recreation and accommodation.
by Alan Thornhill
Australian shares closed lower for a third straight session, ending a dismal year for investors which saw the market lose 15 per cent, or about $180 billion in value.
by Alan Thornhill
Australians have been using their credit cards very carefully over the past year.
The Reserve Bank reports that “other personal credit” – which includes amounts put on credit cards – rose by just 0.1 per cent in November.
And the amount outstanding – on the same measure – actually fell by 1.1 per cent over the 12 months to the end of November.
With prices now rising at an annual rate of 3.5 per cent – on the latest available data – these figures suggest a substantial contraction in the use of credit cards, store credit and other personal credit over the past year.
Consumer confidence has been weak, over much of that time, largely as a result of persistent instability in world financial markets.
Growth in housing credit, though, has been a little stronger, over the same time.
The bank reports that it grew by 0.5 per cent last month, to a level 5.7 per cent higher than that of November last year.
However industry analysts say much of the activity has been in high rise apartment construction, while the construction of traditional homes has remained weak.
The Housing Industry Association is also warning that the two recent rate cuts won’t be enough to revive that sector and that home construction is likely to fall even further behind underlying demand.
Business owners, worried by poor sales, have also been reluctant to borrow.
The Reserve Bank reported, also, that business borrowing was flat last month and rose by a bare 0.9 per cent over the 12 months to the end of November.
What, though, of total credit?
The bank also reports that total credit, provided to the private sector rose by 0.3 per cent over November 2011, after a 0.2 per cent rise in October.
Over the year to November, total credit rose by 3.5 per cent, neatly matching price rises, over that time.
by Alan Thornhill
Wayne Swan says allegations of credit card hacking must be “thoroughly investigated.”
The Treasurer was responding to reports that both Malcolm Turnbull and the businessman David Smorgon are among the victims of widespread hacking.
The reports said both men had their credit card details published on the internet by hackers.
Replying to a reporter in Brisbane Mr Swan said: “…I think the first thing is we’ll have to establish how that hacking occurred,”
“Obviously there’s a breach of the law.
“This will need to be thoroughly investigated and then prosecuted,”Mr Swan added:
A spokesman for Mr Turnbull confirmed that the former Opposition Leader’s private details had been published.
Mr Smorgon said he had cancelled his credit card upon hearing the news.
“I was advised by Stratfor -a US security firm – a few days ago on what had happened,” Mr Smorgon said.
“I was totally surprised.”
“… I have cancelled my American Express credit card and I was obviously not the first to do so.
“This is a warning bell for everyone and I guess it’s the cost of doing business online.”
A loose-knit hacking movement called Anonymous claimed on Sunday through Twitter that it had stolen thousands of credit card numbers and other personal information belonging to clients of Stratfor.
Hackers posted a link online to what they said was Stratfor’s private client list.
They also posted images claiming to show receipts for donations made to charity using credit cards belonging to Stratfor clients, including the US Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.
The Australian Department of Defence has a contract with Stratfor for a database subscription until November 2012.
by Alan Thornhill
Many families hit by violent storms in Melbourne on Christmas Day will be offered financial assistance.
The Federal Minister for Emergency Management, Robert McClelland, made the announcement.
He said assistance would be provided through the joint Commonwealth and state funded Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
Those living in the worst hit areas of western and northern suburbs of Melbourne would be eligible.
“These storms impacted a widespread area across Melbourne and have caused extensive damage to personal property,” Mr McClelland said.
“They could not have come at a worse time, striking just when many households were looking forward to relaxing on Christmas Day with family and friends,”
Mr McClelland said the Commonwealth and Victorian governments are committed to helping those hit by the storms.
He said personal hardship and distress assistance is available, under the joint Commonwealth and State arrangements.
It would include:-
* Emergency Relief Assistance of up to $1,200 to cover emergency shelter, food, clothing, personal items or specific transport needs, and
* Emergency Re-establishment Assistance of up to $30,000 to help eligible households with tasks such as clean-up, emergency accommodation, repairs, rebuilding and replacing some damaged contents.
Mr McClelland said people who had suffered personal hardship and distress should contact their local Victorian Department of Human Services branch or visit www.dhs.vic.gov.au for further information about assistance.
by Alan Thornhill
Australian mothers once believed they had to stay at home while their children were young.
Now, though – with big mortgage payments to be met each month – that is no longer possible for millions of young Australian families.
So formal child care has become critically important.
Especially for the children.
“We know that the first five years of a child’s life shapes their future outcomes,” the Federal Minister for Child Care, Kate Ellis says.
She was announcing: “our country’s first national and high quality early childhood education and care system from the start of next year.”
Ms Ellis says more than 800,000 children will benefit.
Parents, too, would see improvements.
They would know that their children would be safe, have access to quality early education and be well looked after.
“The introduction of the National Quality Framework means that Australia will join the rest of the world in recognising that investing in these early years is absolutely critical,” Ms Ellis said.
It would improve staff-to-child ratios and require staff to have formal qualifications.
It won’t all happen immediately.
“These and other changes will be put in place gradually so that the sector has time to adjust, Ms Ellis said.
There would be new staff to child ratios, within a few days, for very young children, those aged up to and including two year olds.
“We know that the first five years of a child’s life shapes their future outcomes,” Ms Ellis said.
The changes won’t be cheap, though.
“Overall the Australian Government will invest $21.7 billion in early childhood education and care over the next four years” Ms Ellis said.
Like to know more?
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by Alan Thornhill
Returning Christmas gifts can be embarrassing.
But if you found that a particular gift was faulty, when you unwrapped it, you can return it to the store at which it was purchased.
David Bradbury, who is Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, confirms that.
He says: ““Consumers who receive gifts this year, even those from Santa, have the same refund rights as customers who buy directly – but you must show proof of purchase.“
“Consumers should be aware that they can have defective goods repaired, replaced or refunded under the Australian Consumer Law, ”he adds.
The law says:
• that goods will be of an acceptable quality;
• that goods will be reasonably fit for any purpose that a supplier states they would be fit for; and
• that the description of goods (for example, in a catalogue or television commercial) is accurate.
“Where there is a minor problem with the item, the seller must provide either a repair, replacement or refund,” Mr Bradbury says.
“If the goods suffer from a major failure, the consumer is entitled to reject the goods and request a refund or replacement,” he adds.
“A product will suffer from a major failure where the defect is so serious that the person buying the product wouldn’t have done so if they’d known about it.”
The store selling the goods is responsible for complying with the consumer guarantees.
“And consumers should not be caught between parties trying to shift responsibility.”
People should remember to keep their receipts to prove where the goods were purchased.
“ If you don’t have the receipt, you can show other forms of evidence, such as a credit card statement.”
But there are limits.
“… consumer guarantees don’t extend to situations where the person is not happy with the gift received or the person purchasing the good has simply changed their mind, “ Mr Bradbury says.
“… stores will be able to refuse a refund in those circumstances.”
Still in doubt?
“If consumers encounter any problems when dealing with a business about their sale items, they should contact their State or Territory fair trading office, or contact the ACCC on 1300 302 502.”
by Alan Thornhill
Wild weather over much of Australia yesterday raised uncomfortable memories of Cyclone Yasi and severe floods some 12 months earlier.
Tropical Cyclone Grant, which is due to hit the Northern Territory coast this morning, caused local flooding but, at last report, is likely to miss Darwin.
Authorities estimated that two tornados, and fierce hailstorms, which hit Melbourne, caused damage estimated to be worth at least $1 billion.
And another cyclone, off the Queensland coast, closed Sunshine and Gold Coast beaches, which were hit with four metre swells.
The tornados hit two outer suburban areas, in Melbourne’s west, during the afternoon.
The weather bureau briefly forecast of a tornado for Melbourne, itself, but later downgraded its warning to that of a severe storm.
Wild winds overturned cars, in the Western suburbs, and hailstones the size of golf balls, hit homes.
An estimated 2,500 Melbourne home owners made urgent telephone calls for help.
Fiskville, near Bacchus Marsh, was hit by one of the tornadoes.
Several flights, due to leave Melbourne airport were delayed and others, due to land there, were diverted to Sydney.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Wednesday May 22
The Dow Jones Index rose 52.07 points to 15,387.30
At least 24 die in Oklahoma tornado
Unions are seeking a rise of $30 a week in the National Wage Case, which opens today
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