by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard says a National Disability Insurance Scheme will start in Australia from July next year.
The cost would be detailed in next Tuesday’s Federal budget.
“From mid 2013, about 10,000 people with significant and permanent disabilities will start to receive support,” Ms Gillard said.
“By July 2014, that figure will rise to 20,000 people,”she added.
So the first stage of the scheme would be delivered a year ahead of the Productivity Commission’s recommendation.
“For the first time in Australia’s history people with significant and permanent disability will receive lifetime care and support, regardless of how they acquired their disability,” Ms Gillard said
by Alan Thornhill
Wayne Swan had ridiculed one of Australia’s richest men, Clive Palmer, who says he will challenge the Treasurer for his seat, in the next Federal elections.
Mr Swan said the mining magnate had once again repeated his “conspiracy theories” involving the CIA, as he announced his challenge.
The Treasurer also launched a stinging attack on the Liberal party, saying its Federal and Queensland leaders, Tony Abbott and Campbell Newman, are beholden to Mr Palmer, a major contributor to the party’s funds.
Mr Swan said it is now clear that the Liberal party will “fight to the death” for the interests of mining magnates, like Mr Palmer.
Labor, though, would pursue “a fair go” for all Australians.
“The land of a fair go is absolutely essential for our children,” Mr Swan said.
He said the Liberal party displayed its attitude in its opposition to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, which would finance tax cuts for small business and higher superannuation contributions for working Australians.
Mr Swan launched his attack shortly after Mr Palmer announced that he would challenge the Treasurer for his seat in next year’s Federal election.
Mr Palmer’s announcement was blunt.
“I intend to put to the test to the people of this country my views against the treasurer in his home seat of Lilley,” the mining chief said.
He said Mr Swan, who won the seat in 1998, had been the sitting member for far too long.
“ It’s about time we get this country moving again,” Mr Palmer said”
Mr Palmer admitted that he has not yet spoken to Mr Abbott about his decision.
But he said Mr Swan’s attacks on himself and other mining leaders had prompted him to stand.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has acted decisively to isolate her government from scandals surrounding Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson.
She has suspended Mr Thomson from the Labor Caucus – and asked Peter Slipper not to resume his position as Speaker until allegations against him have been settled.
These actions will leave her government in a precarious position in the House of Representatives.
Labor will now have to supply an Acting Speaker, when the Parliament resumes on May 8, for the Budget session.
However, its situation was eased, somewhat, by Mr Thomson’s declaration that – although sitting as an independent – he will continue to vote with the Labor government.
Tony Abbott said this should not happen.
“If you want to disown Craig Thomson, you’ve got to disown his vote too,” the Opposition Leader said.
Despite Mr Thomson’s promise, the Gillard government will be left with the barest of margins, as the Budget sessions start.
The continuing support of all independents will be vital to its survival.
However, Ms Gillard was adamant that she had made the right choice.
‘”Australians are entitled to expect that people in public life uphold the highest standards,” she said.
But the Prime Minister also cautioned that her actions should not be seen as a judgement against either man, as both are entitled to a presumption of innocence.
Mr Slipper, too, has now agreed to stand aside, until allegations made against him have been settled.
The Speaker is facing allegations of fraud, over his use of Cabcharge documents and a charges that he sexually harassed a young staffer.
Mr Thomson is facing allegations of fraud, arising from his time as a National Secretary of the Hospital Services Union.
Mr Thomson told reporters that he would continue to sit in Federal parliament, but would become an independent.
He added, though, that he would continue to support the Labor government.
These changes mean that Labor will have to supply an acting Speaker, when Federal parliament resumes, for its budget sessions, on May 8.
This will leave the Gillard government with the barest of margins, as those sessions start.
The continuing support of independents will be vital to its survival.
Mr Slipper is facing allegations of fraud, over his use of Cabcharge documents and an allegation that he sexually harassed a young staffer.
Mr Thomson is facing allegations of fraud, arising from his time as a national secretary of the Hospital Services Union.
Julia Gillard has asked MP Craig Thomson to quit the Labor Party
But Mr Thomson said:””I am still a Labor person…
“I will be supporting Labor’s agenda…
“Clearly I am not going to be part of the Caucus process.
“But broadly I will be supporting the Prime Minister’s position in terms of the reform agenda.
Certainly in terms of no confidence motions, supply motions,” he said.
by Alan Thornhill
Consumer confidence is rising, as more Australians see brighter times ahead.
The nation’s job market is strengthening, too, with the number of vacancies advertised on the internet rising.
In both cases though the improvements are modest.
And neither should be a barrier to the now widely expected rate cut, when the Reserve Bank board meets next Tuesday.
What is still in doubt, though, is the extent to which Australia’s big four banks will cut their rates, to match any change the Reserve Bank makes to its marker rate.
Indeed, there is still a real chance that thousands of home owners and business people will see no cut in their rates, even if the Reserve Bank does lower its rate.
The Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace relations reports that the number of job advertisements, appearing on the internet in March, was 2.6 per cent higher than that seen in February.
The Roy Morgan organisation also reports that consumer confidence has now risen for three straight weeks.
But the latest rise, of just 0.7 per cent,, which showed up in the results of a survey conducted last weekend, still left confidence 8.2 per cent below the level seen 12 months earlier.
The small rise in Consumer Confidence was primarily driven by small rises in confidence about economic conditions in Australia over the next 12 months and the next 5 years and personal financial situations.
The Department said internet advertising showed that the strongest rises in vacancies were for machinery operators and drivers, which were up 4.7 per cent.
Vacancies for and community and personal service workers also rose, by 3.9 per cent.
But there was a 5.1 per cent fall for labourers and a 0.2 per cent drop in clerical and administrative workers.
by Alan Thornhill
Wayne Swan is making no secret of the fact that he is having a tough time pushing next month’s budget into surplus.
And the Treasurer’s opposite number, Joe Hockey, is telling the world that Australia’s finances must not be dominated by the unjustified sense of “entitlement” that he believes too many people have developed.
So both should be at their computer screens early today, closely studying a new report.
Called Waste Not, Want Not” for short it is, indeed, a remarkable document.
Produced by the Australian Council of Social Service, its declared aim is to make room in the Federal Budget for essential services.
And the authors boldly claim that it identifies no less than $8 billion in budget savings.
“Where?” you might hear Mr Swan calling, somewhere towards the back of your imagination.
By tackling “poorly targeted subsidies and tax concessions and clamps down on tax loopholes such as ‘golden handshakes and other shelters, ” ACOSS chief, Dr Cassandra Goldie would reply.
Dr Goldie says these include:-
- subsidies for ‘gap fees’
- other private expenditures for health and community services, such as the Private Health Insurance Rebate from ancillary or ‘extras’ cover
- the Extended Medicare Safety Net
- the Medical Expenses Tax Offset
- the Education Tax Refund and
- tax deduction for self-education expenses.
And she adds “A major problem with these rebates is that they mainly benefit people on higher incomes who in relative terms can afford to pay more for these services in the first place.
“The time has come to pare back these programs beyond applying means tests to cap them at very high income levels,” Dr Goldie adds.
Many politicians would agree with Dr Goldie, at least in large parts of her analysis.
But would they follow her advice, especially with an election looming next year?
Dr Goldie also says that tax concessions on superannuation “now cost over $30 billion in lost revenue and adds: “that’s….about the same as our spend on pensions.”
Yet most of the benefit goes to those in the top 20 per cent income bracket, she adds.
There’s a lot more in this report, which was put on the ACOSS website at 5am today.
It’s challenging material.
by Alan Thornhill
Luxury cars, including Rolls Royces, a Lamnborghini and an Aston Martin have been seized in a police and Tax Office crackdown on crime and tax evasion.
Altogether, assets worth some $40 million were seized by Federal police, as part of Operation Wickenby.
The Federal Justice Minister, Jason Clare and Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury, congratulated the police on their success.
They said the seized assets are believed to be the proceeds of crime generated through an elaborate tax evasion and money laundering scheme.
“ The Commonwealth Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce today executed six warrants in NSW and Queensland and charged a 67 year-old man with conspiring to dishonestly cause a loss to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and conspiring to deal in the proceeds of crime to the value of $63 million,” the two ministers said in a joint statement.
The assets also included a Mercedes Benz car, a BMW and yachts.
The two ministers said: “today’s seizure was the result of a seven month joint operation – Operation Beaufighter – between the Australian Federal Police and the ATO.”
“Organised crime is driven by money.
“Take away their money and assets and it reduces the incentive to commit crimes,” Mr Clare said.
“The Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce was set up in January last year to target the profits criminals make.
“Just like with Al Capone – you can catch criminals by following the money.”
“ This is the first time the Australian Federal Police has conducted litigation to restrain assets on behalf of the Taskforce since the legislation came into effect in January this year giving the AFP powers to commence and conduct proceeds of crime litigation,” the two ministers said.
by Alan Thornhill
Wayne Swan has refused to badger Australia’s banks to pass on any interest rate cut next week, but the nation’s builders are calling - stridently - for a big cut.
Business leaders, too, are urging the Reserve Bank to cut rates, when its board meets next Tuesday.
The Treasurer said the latest inflation figures, showing that prices are “contained,” while the nation’s “economic fundamentals are strong “are good news for the nation.”
However Mr Swan also acknowledged that many Australian families are still facing stiff cost of living pressures.
And with the four big banks moving rates independently of the Reserve Bank recently, there have been doubts about them passing on any cut next week.
A reporter asked Mr Swan if he would urge them to do so.
He replied: “In terms of what the response of the banks would be, I don’t intend to put the cart before the horse.”
Australia’s builders, though, had no such reservations.
The Housing Industry Association said: “The consumer price index for the March 2012 quarter came in well below market expectations and a 50 basis point interest rate cut next week is justified,”
Its Chief Economist, Dr Harley Dale said: “The housing industry and wider Australian economy needs a further 75 basis points of interest rate cuts.
“And there is nothing standing in the way of a 50 basis point move to get the ball rolling next Tuesday,” he added.
Dr Dale was scathing, too, in his assessment of bank arguments that they need to cover rising funding costs, describing those arguments as “fallacious.”
“The banks need to follow suit and pass any rate cuts on in full,” he said.
They must not hide behind the “fallacious argument that higher funding costs somehow justify them holding some interest rate relief back,” Dr Dale added,
Mr Swan, though, was clearly delighted with the Statistician’s figures showing that prices rose by just 0.1 per cent in the March quarter and 1.6 per cent over the year.
“Contained inflation is a reminder of our strong economic fundamentals,” the Treasurer said.
by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s headline inflation rate rose by just 0.1 per cent in the March quarter – and by a remarkably low 1.6 per cent in the 12 months to the end of March.
Underlying inflation was just 0.3 per cent in the quarter and 2.1 per cent over the year.
Both the quarterly and annual results, on underlying figures, were at their lowest levels for more than a decade.
The Reserve Bank studies the underlying – not the headline figures – when it reviews interest rate levels, as its board will do next Tuesday.
But there are still real doubts about whether Australia’s big four banks will pass on any rate cut, to their home loan or business customers.
These doubts were strengthened, when the ANZ bank contributed an opinion piece to Fairfax newspapers, arguing that its own borrowing costs had risen.
The small rise, in the March quarter consumer price index figures, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, followed a flat result, the previous quarter.
However, the apparently small overall rise, covered some quite large movements, in particular sectors.
The cost of pharmaceutical goods, for example, rose by 14.1 per cent in the quarter, while secondary education costs rose 7.7 per cent and fuel prices jumped by 2.5 per cent.
The Bureau also reported, though, that fruit prices plunged 30 per cent, holiday travel and accommodation prices dropped 4.8 per cent and furniture prices fell 6 per cent, in the quarter.
Hobart people faced the nation’s biggest price rises, of 2.1 per cent over the year, while those in Brisbane saw the lowest rise, of just 1.3 per cent.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Tuesday May 21
The Dow Jones Index fell 18.97 points to 15,335.40
Unions are seeking a rise of $30 a week in the National Wage Case, which opens today
The latest Morgan Poll shows support for the L-NP down 1 per cent to 55 per centover the past week and the ALP at 45 per cent, 1 per cent, on a two-party preferred basis.
- Sharon Coulton on Proposed family tax benefit scrapped
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|Aud To Usd||0.9774||N/A||N/A|
|Bhp Blt Fpo||34.830||+0.040||+0.11%|
|Cwlth Bank Fpo||72.480||-1.010||-1.37%|
|Nat. Bank Fpo||33.090||-0.280||-0.84%|
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