by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s politicians would like you to stop for a moment today and think of the nation’s homeless.
On the eve of National Missing Persons Week, the Justice Minister, Michael Keenan, said one person goes missing every 15 minutes in Australia.
More than 35,000 people are reported missing each year and more than 2,000 people are currently listed as a long-term missing person.
“These are our family, friends, colleagues, and members of our community,” Mr Keenan added.
He said: “… I am encouraging all Australians to follow your instincts if you have concerns for someone’s welfare and suspect they may be missing.
“That is why on the eve of National Missing Persons Week 2016, I am encouraging all Australians to follow your instincts if you have concerns for someone’s welfare and suspect they may be missing,” he said.
Mr Keenan said, too, that trends among missing people are now being studied closely.
“To better understand the trends in missing persons cases, the Australian Federal Police are currently leading a comprehensive research project—Missing Persons in Australia—through its National Missing Persons Coordination Centre,” Mr Keenan said.
A report due is due by the end of the year.
Meanwhile the opposition accused the government of not taking the situation seriously enough.\
The shadow minister for housing and homelessness, Senator Doug Cameron, said that every night one Australian in 200 has no home they can call their own.
More often than not, homelessness is a result of circumstances beyond any anyone’s control.
There are complex social, financial and medical issues for it.
Most of Australia’s homeless people find life “very tough indeed,” Senator Cameron said
“They are living from day to day, from hand to mouth, finding shelter and safety where they can; on someone’s couch, in an emergency shelter or in some other temporary supported accommodation,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
The hard right is keeping Malcolm Turnbull on a short leash.
That was shown, yet again, today when the Prime Minister llrefused to back Kevin Rudd’s bid to become Secretary General of the United Nations.
The decision caused some surprise in Canberra.
After all, Mr Turnbull’s cabinet had been evenly divided on the issue, just one day before.
And it left the current Prime minister, alone, to make that decision.
Well, almost alone.
There is still the little matter of the secret agreement that the Liberal party’s country cousins, in the National Party, made Mr Turnbull, himself, sign before they accepted him as Prime Minister, last September.
Neither of the Coalition partners has, so far, revealed what is in that agreement.
But, perhaps they don’t have to.
For, as the old saying has it: “by their works, ye shall know them.”
It would be an honour for a small country like Australia to have one of its citizens as deeply involved in settling world disputes, as Mr Rudd would be, if he gets that job.
And in such circumstances relatively small matters, like past differences in domestic politics, are often overlooked.,
Those who can’t bring themselves to make such accommodations risk being labelled as insular in their outlook.
That label isn’t sticking to to Mr Turnbull just yet.
However, this latest decision isn’t the first of its kind.
That has led to a series of doubtful stories about Mr Turnbull, with headlines like “ will the real Malcolm Turnbull please stand up?”
So far, he hasn’t.
And his country cousins are still running the shop.
by Alan Thornhill
A submarine led recovery?
That’s not advocated in any respectable economic text book.
Yet it is precisely the path the Federal government is taking us down.
At a cost of some $800 million over 10 years
Money the Productivity Commission says might well have been better spent elsewhere.
The government’s decision to build our new subs in Australia is being accompanied by the slow spread of what might well be called a ”barbed wire broadband.”
That is one based on copper wire, rather than the then superior fibre to the node system, that Labor was proposing when the two choices were first offered.
The slower copper wire system, that Malcolm Turnbull pushed, also ended up costing more than the snazzier Labor model.
Even though the man who is now Prime Minister said it would be substantially cheaper
And the man appointed to run it, has since described the Turnbull alternative as a “colossal mistake.”
However, as Mr Turnbull’s lieutenant, Christopher Pyne, has since explained “Australians don‘t need a faster internet.”
So that’s alright, then.
The government has its explanations.
Mr Pyne, for example, also says it will make Australia “a defence hub.”
But the Productivity Commission won’t have a bar of it.
It notes that building a sub in Australia means that it will cost 30 per cent more than simply buying one overseas.
While necessarily based on hypothetical data, because of time differences, its example reveals that the effective rate of assistance provided to Australia’s submarine industry might well exceed that provided to tne nation’s vehicle industry and its textile, clothing and footwear indsustries, while those payment were s their respective peaks.
The commission also notes that paying more to have the subs built in Australia without getting sufficient value in return diverts productive resources such as labour, capital and land away from more efficient uses that need less assistance. .
This damages Australia’s capacity to get the best possible benefits from the community’s resources.
Its report leaves no room for its readers to doubt about the fact that the commission regards the Federal government’s decision to promote with submarine construction in Australia was a dreadfully dud deal.
So why did it happen?
The commission notes that “iconic” factories were closing and local areas, particularly in South Australia and Victoria, were doing it tough, as a closely fought election, on July 2, approached.
And those who suspect that political, not economic judgements prevailed in this case, won’t get much argument from the Productivity Commission.
by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s annual inflation rate fell to just 1 pr cent in the June quarter.
That was the weakest annual rise since the June quarter of 1999.
This is shown in the June quarter Consumer Price Index figures just released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The fall in the annual rate – from 1..3 per cent at the end of the March quarter – occurred even though consumer prices rose by 0.4 per cent in the June quarter.
This followed a fall of 0.2 per cent in the March quarter.
The Bureau said the most significant price rises this quarter are in medical and hospital services (+4.2 per cent), automotive fuel (+5.9 per cent) and tobacco (+2.1 per cent).
But it added: “These rises are partially offset by falls in domestic holiday travel and accommodation (–3.7 per cent), motor vehicles (–1.3 per cent) and telecommunication equipment and services (–1.5 per cent).
The bureau also said that the increase of 4.2 per cent for medical and hospital services was driven by the annual increase in Private Health Insurance (PHI) premiums.
These rise on 1 April every year.
It said also that the increase of 5.9 per cent for automotive fuel follows three consecutive quarterly falls.
The rise included increases in unleaded, premium and ethanol fuels.
The bureau noted that world oil prices increased from a 12-year low last quarter.
by Alan Thornhill
The main appointments Mr Shorten made to his new ministry and cabinet include:-
Deputy Opposition Leader and shadow minster for education Tanya Plibersek.
Shadow foreign affairs minister, and Senate Opposition Leader Penny Wong.
Shadow special minister of state and Deputy Senate Opposition Leader, Stephen Conroy
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen
Shadow minister for families and social services Jenny Macklin
Shadow minister for the environment and water Tony Burke
Shadow minister for climate change and energy Mark Butler
Shadow minister for defence Richard Marles
Shadow minister for finance Jim Chalmers
Shadow minister for employment and workplace relations Brendan O’Connor
Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus QC
Shadow minister for immigration and border protection Shayne Newman
by Alan Thornhill
The Opposition leader Bill Shorten spoke of his “education dream team” today, as he announced that Tanya Plibersek is to become shadow minister for education. in a reshuffle announced today.
Penny Wong, who previously held that post, will now become, labor’s shadow minister for foreign affairs,
These changes, effectively a swap, were the most important on Mr Shorten’s long list of new responsibilities.
Ms Plibersek also remains Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
She is one of Labor’s most effective speakers.
And her new appointment is being taken as a sign that Labor is planning to make education the spearhead of its next election campaign.
She will be supported by ministers with expanded responsibilities.
Mr Shorten said: “Kate Ellis will expand her responsibilities as the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development to include TAFE and Vocational Education.
And “In addition to being Shadow Cabinet Secretary, Jacinta Collins will also be assisting Kate with Early Childhood.
“As a staunch advocate for blue-collar jobs, Doug Cameron will be the Shadow Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships.”
Introducing his new team, Mr Shorten said: “education from the early years to schools, university and of course TAFE and vocational education, is a first-order economic and social priority for Labor in the 45th parliament.
” Investing in education is the key to Australia’s future prosperity, and it is one of the sharpest contrasts between us and the Turnbull Government.
” So I present to Australia, the education dream team: Tanya and Kate – supported by Doug, Jacinta, Terri and Andrew.”
Mr Shorten also said Penny Wong will continue as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and she will bring her considerable talents and intellect to the important post of Shadow Foreign Affairs spokesperson.
“Claire Moore will work alongside Penny as Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific.
“Stephen Conroy will remain Deputy Leader in the Senate and take on the new job of Shadow Special Minister of State, putting a new emphasis on scrutiny of government and the accountability of the executive. Stephen will also be the Shadow Minister for Sport
“It’s great to have a Collingwood supporter in that role at last.
“As I made clear during the campaign, Chris Bowen will continue to lead the economic debate as Shadow Treasurer.
“Andrew Leigh will serve as Shadow Assistant Treasurer, with additional responsibilities as Shadow Minister for Competition and Productivity and Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits.
“Sam Dastyari will join the Shadow Ministry with the portfolio of Consumer Affairs.
“And Katy Gallagher will bring her wealth of experience to her new role as Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services.
I’m combining these responsibilities to drive improved access to capital for small business and better accountability in our banking sector.
“This is a Cabinet position, as it should be.
“It deserves a heavy hitter, as Katy is.
“Julie Owens, representing the small business heartland of Parramatta, will be the Assistant Minister. Matt Thistlethwaite will be an Assistant Minister in the Treasury Portfolio.
“Jim Chalmers will enjoy a well-deserved promotion to join the Shadow Cabinet with responsibilities for Finance.”
by Alan Thornhill
Bank customers, worried about high fees and poor service have left Australia’s big four banks facing their lowest satisfaction ratings in three years.
A new survey, by Roy Morgan Research, found that although only some 5 per cent of bank customers are classed as “dissatisfied,” their complaints may well need to be addressed, to produce wider levels of satisfaction.
So what were they?
Predictably, fees and charges took top spot.
The researchers said: problems in this area were the most frequently mentioned.
They said customers generally felt that many fees were not justified and a backward step.
Their comments had included: “It used to be free and now they charge me a monthly account keeping fee”; “they charge for silly things”; “fees exorbitant”; “…they’re at uni studying and if balance is low they charge fees” and “…extreme overcharging of fees”.
The researchers also said: “the second most frequently mentioned problem,(was) poor service.
This had spanned a wide range of issues including: “not enough service, prefer you to be out the door”; “poor service and too much focus on profits and shareholders”; ”no follow-up service”; ”very inflexible”; and “poor service and listening skills”.
The researchers said poor service, spanned a wide range of issues including: “not enough service, prefer you to be out the door”; “poor service and too much focus on profits and shareholders”; ”no follow-up service”; ”very inflexible”; and “poor service and listening skills”.
Then there were branch issues, the Roy Morgan organisation said.
A major branch-related problem was to do with branch closures such as: “they keep closing their branches, very difficult to go to branch”; “removal of branches”;”…closing branches and this results in diminishing service”; “…the branch moved…no close local branch”. Other branch issues related to poor service in the branch: “reduced over-counter service…push to electronic banking”; ”waiting time in branches”; ”not enough tellers”.
by Alan Thornhill
Placating dissidents is risky.
But Malcolm Turnbull was not deterred, a few days ago, when he sent Liberal dissidents a message, from a news conference.
The Prime Minister said “: I am listening very keenly and carefully to concerns that have been raised by my colleagues and of course by other people in the community as well.”
He was, of course, was speaking to a small, but very active group, of Liberal dissidents, who want bigger tax breaks, on superannuation, for their wealthy voters.
The South Australian, Cory Bernardi, who was among the first to speak out on this issue, welcomed the assurance.
The ABC reported that he said Mr Turnbull had been “unbelievably receptive and respectful of differences of opinion on policy issues, including in superannuation.”
But not all are convinced.
Another conservative Senator, George Christiansen, is threatening to cross the floor – and vote against – what he calls a Labor style policy if the government does not drop its proposed $500,000 cap, on tax free superannuation reforms.
The budget contained two main superannution reforms, a $500,000 contributions cap and a $1.6 million pension fund limit.
The Financial Planning Association chief executive Dante De Gori has described these as good measures, but warned confidence in the super system could be eroded by the retrospective effects of the $500,000 contributions cap.
The dissidents do not agree.
One West Australian MP, among their number, says the Liberals would not have lost votes, as they did, in the July 2 elections, if well heeled voters could have been enticed out to polling stations, to hand out how to vote cards.
Ian Yates the Chief Executive of the Council on the Ageing, said “the fact that the Prime Minister and Treasurer are under pressure to reverse sound policy to make super fairer, based on a weak narrative about selected poor election results and fewer well-heeled supporters manning polling booths, would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.”
He said: ““…superannuation tax breaks cost over $25 billion in foregone revenue.
“Middle and lower earners, the majority of whom are women, have to pay more in taxes – both now and in the future – to pay for super tax breaks that largely benefit high-income men,”Mr Yates said.
Several other bodies also vowed to fight the dissidents’ campaign when Mr Turnbull softened his stance on the matter last Sunday, after declaring in the recent election campaign that the government’s position on the matter was “ironclad.”
Perhaps the most significant of those declarations, for the government, was that from GetUp, which said it is ready to fight on this matter.
Especially as it showed, before the election that it has some skills, in this area.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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