by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has announced extra assistance for victims of the Adelaide Hills bushfires.
He did so after visiting the area this morning.
In his statement, Mr Abbott said: “People eligible for the Disaster Recovery Payment – those who have lost their homes or suffered injury as a result of the disaster – can access a one-off payment of $1000 per adult and $400 for each child.”
And he added: ““The Commonwealth Government assistance announced today is over and above the support already being provided under the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, which were announced on Sunday.”
Mr Abbott said that both the Disaster Recovery Payment and the Disaster Recovery Allowance will be provided to eligible residents affected by the Sampson Flat Bushfire in the Mount Lofty Ranges region of South Australia.
“This is a difficult time for those affected by the bushfire, which has had a devastating impact on local communities,” Mr Abbott said.
He also thanked fire fighters and rescue crews, saying that they: “… through their dedication and selflessness, have ensured that there has been no loss of life.”
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has described a terrorist attack, which killed 12 people in Paris, as an “atrocity.”
He said the thoughts of all Australians are with the families of the victims, who worked at a satirical magazine,Charlie Hebdo, which ran cartoons of the Prophet Mahomet.
One of the gunmen was heard shouting “we have avenged Allah” as he ran from the site.
At the time of writing, the gunmen were still at large.
Mr Abbott said Australia’s security agencies are investigating whether the attack in Paris has any implications for Australia.
But none are apparent at present.
However Mr Abbott reminded Australians to stay alert, as a terrorist attack in this country is still rated as “likely.”
He said: “The Government condemns the atrocity in Paris overnight.
“The thoughts of all Australians are with the families of those who have lost their lives in this barbaric act.
“Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of a free society.
“The Government will continue to do all it can to protect our community from terrorism.
“Our National Terrorism Alert level remains at High, which means a terrorist attack is likely.
“Our security agencies are assessing the situation for security implications to Australia but there is no information to suggest that there is an imminent threat to Australia as a result of the Paris atrocity.
“All Australians should remain vigilant, and again, I urge people who see or hear something that they feel is not right, to contact the National Security Hotline immediately on 1800 123 400.
“Australia stands with the people and the government of France at this difficult time,” Mr Abbott said.
He was supported, shortly afterwards, by the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten said: “Labor condemns the senseless and horrific act of terrorism in Paris overnight.
“Australians stand in solidarity with the people of France as they come to terms with this brutal attack,” the Opposition Leader added.
by Alan Thornhill
Disaster assistance is now available for Victorians affected by the Moyston bushfires.
The Federal Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan and the Victorian Minister for Emergency Services, Jane Garrett, made the announcement jointly today.
They said Emergency Relief Assistance would provide payments up to $520 per adult and $260 per child, up to a maximum of $1,300 per household.
This would cover emergency food, shelter, clothing, and personal expenses.
There would also be Emergency Re-establishment Assistance.
This can provide assistance of up to $31,950 per household for clean-up, emergency accommodation, repairs, rebuilding a principal place of residence and replacing some damaged contents.
They said assistance is also available to people affected by the Creightons Creek fire which began in December last year.
Emergency Re-establishment Assistance is only available for households in extreme hardship.
They said further information about the assistance can be found on the Australian Government’s Disaster Assist website at www.disasterassist.gov.au and through Emergency Relief and Recovery Victoria (www.recovery.vic.gov.au or 1300 799 232).
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, today today marked the tenth anniversary of a tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean in 2004 killing more than 200,000 people.
Thousands have also gathered in the Indonesian town of Banda Aceh, today to mark the anniversary of the disaster, which devastated the town.
In a statement, Mr Abbott said: “On 26 December 2004, a magnitude nine earthquake off northern Sumatra triggered one of the worst natural disasters in modern times.”
He said the thoughts and prayers of all Australians had been with its victims that day, as news of the horrific events flashed around the world.
“This 10th anniversary is a time to commemorate the lives that were lost,” Mr Abbott said.
“This is also an opportunity to pay tribute to all that were involved in the search, rescue and rebuilding efforts.”
He noted that the then Prime Minister, John Howard, had said that the catastrophe had brought the world closer together.
Mr Howard had said then: ““It has been a brutal reminder of the force of nature but also of the inspiring capacity of mankind to ease the suffering of others in their hour of need.”
And Mr Abbott added: “Ten years on, we remember that the worst of times can bring out the best in people, and that the bonds of friendship between the countries of the Indo-Pacific have never been stronger.”
by Alan Thornhill
Crime cost Australia an estimated $47.6 billion in 2011, according to a new report.
The report, by the Institute of Criminology, identified fraud, which cost the nation some $6 billion, as the biggest single item on its list.
But it also said that drug abuse and assault had each cost $3 billion, while criminal damage, including vandalism and graffiti, had cost $2.7 billion.
The Federal Justice Minister, Michael Keenan, said: “since coming to Government we have fast-tracked new anti-gang squads to help state and territory authorities tackle criminal gangs, and their illegal trades including drug trafficking, drug manufacturing, extortion, prostitution and firearms trafficking.”
He said the government also had “… a roadmap to tackle the growing threat of fraud – particularly identity crime.
This had been released recently.
“We also have a $50 million Safer Streets program which is being used to support a range of community safety commitments to improve security on the ground in communities around Australia,” Mr Keenan said.
The report also said that in 2011 there had been 463 homicides, including 274 cases of murder and manslaughter and 189 cases of driving causing death.
“The total cost for homicide was estimated at $2.7 million per incident, totalling $1.3 billion.”
It said, too, that there had been an estimated 1.2 million assaults with a cost of $2,600 per assault.
“ The estimated medical costs of an assault requiring hospitalisation was $11,600 with a total medical cost of $379 million overall,” the report said.
by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has criticised the US President, Barrack Obama, over remarks he made about the Great Barrier Reef.
While in Australia for the recent G20 Summit, the President said that not only would he like to visit the reef, but he would like his daughter and grandchildren to be able to do so, as well.
Speaking to the ABC’s 7.30 report, from New York, Ms Bishop said “there was an issue regarding [Mr Obama’s] statement” and she could “understand the Queensland Government’s concern.”
The Queensland government was sharply critical of Mr Obama’s remarks.
In a speech at University of Queensland, Mr Obama also said that: “Here, a climate that increases in temperature will mean more extreme and frequent storms, more flooding, rising seas that submerge Pacific islands.”
And he added: “ The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened.”
Ms Bishop told 7.30: “We are demonstrating world’s best practice in working with the World Heritage Committee to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef is preserved for generations to come.
“I think that President Obama might have overlooked that aspect of our commitment to conserving the Great Barrier Reef.”
It is highly unusual for an Australian Foreign Minister to criticise a US President in this way.
However, even among Federal MPs, she is far from alone.
Coalition frontbenchers Joe Hockey and Jamie Briggs have also done so.
Mr Briggs called Mr Obama’s e address a “massive, massive distraction” from the rest of the G20 summit.”
And Mr Hockey said it would be difficult for Mr Obama to deliver on his stricter emissions standard pledge.
“Barack Obama has to get any initiative on climate change through a hostile US congress.
“ … I mean, that’s up to the US, but so far he hasn’t had great success,” Mr Hockey told Insiders.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned the Great Barrier Reef could be at risk if more is not done to reduce carbon emissions.
Environmental groups also want a complete ban on dumping dredge spoil in reef waters.
by Alan Thornhill
Tell it to the marines, Senator Cormann.
Or, perhaps, to Merv and Robyn Blanch.
They were self-funded retirees, until they took the advice of their financial planner, at the Commonwealth Bank, Don Nguyen, and lost $170,000.
“Dodgy Don,” as he is unaffectionately known in the trade, put this couple firmly on the path to a hard life, on welfare.
Yet the Federal Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, is still saying that the Senate’s decision yesterday, to disallow the government’s new rules for financial advisers, is bad for people like the Blanchs.
“By disallowing our FOFA improvements the Senate tonight voted to increase the cost of financial advice and to lessen competition across the financial advice industry without improving consumer protections for Australians saving for their retirement,” he declared.
Perhaps Senator Cormann should ask Merv or Robyn if they would have been prepared to pay a little more to get good advice, instead of innocently accepting Dodgy Don’s.
A legal requirement that banks – and other institutions – must act “in the best interests” of their clients, is at the heart of this row.
Late last year, the then Labor government, introduced the so-called Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) legislation, which imposed this obligation, quite broadly.
But, in July this year, after a deal with the Palmer United Party, the government restricted that requirement, quite tightly.
However the Senate, last night, disallowed the government’s changes.
It did so because it decided, on a two vote majority, that the government’s amendments unfairly favoured the big end of town.
That was made possible because the increasingly independent – and now just marginally PUP Senator, Jacqui Lambie – and Motoring Enthusiast Senator, Ricky Muir – changed their minds – and their votes – to disallow the government’s changes.
They did so after Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, put together “ a coalition of commonsense,” with that aim in mind.
The Blanchs are far from alone in their plight.
Thousands of, mostly retired, people, collectively, lost millions of dollars, through taking the bad advice of the Commonwealth Bank’s financial planners.
Their losses were incurred in whirlpools of barely disclosed fees and trailing commissions.
There is – now – no secret about any of this.
Earlier this year, a Senate Committee, delivered a stinging report, exposing what had happened, to thousands of vulnerable people, who had, unwisely trusted the Commonwealth Bank.
That scandal, though, was only one of many.
There was the Timbercorp case, too, in which the ANZ bank played a highly questionable role.
Despite all that, Senator Cormann has already signaled that he will be doing all he can, in the months ahead, to restore something very like the government’s FOFA changes.
Disputes as big as this, of course, always have unintended consequences.
And, this time, many financial advisers are worrying that they might find themselves, retrospectively, in breach of the law because of yesterday’s disallowance, which applied immediately.
A small statement today, from the financial watchdog, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, though, should give them some comfort, on that score.
ASIC noted the Senate’s decision and said it would take “ a practical and measured approach to administering the law as it now stands.”
“We will work with Australian financial services licensees, taking a facilitative approach until 1 July 2015,” it said.
You remember ASIC, don’t you?
It was the watchdog that Senate Committe lambasted, earlier this year, for failing to bark, while Dodgy Don and his mates, at the Commonwealth Bank, were living the high life, at the expense of their mostly elderly, trusting customers.
Some financial advisers, certainly, are deeply – and understandably – worried by the chaos they fear, from the Senate’s disallowance.
But this gentle message from ASIC suggests that advisers who have nightmares of the Feds breaking down their doors, to get at their books, are worrying too much.
Some things never change.
by Alan Thornhill
Some might see Tony Abbott as a less than gracious host for the G20 summit, that is about to open in Brisbane.
Vladimir Putin, for instance.
Australia certainly hads serious issues to raise with the Russian President, at the earliest opportunity, after pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, shot down a Malaysian airliner, with many Australians on board.
But is telegraphing even legitimate worries, weeks ahead, with a provocative phrase, like “shirt-fronting” the best way to advance them?
Vladimir Putin, who is due to arrive in Brisbane today, along with many other world leaders, certainly doesn’t think so.
Those Russian warships, conducting exercises in international waters, off the Queensland coast, might safely be seen as a sign of that, even though the Russians have made a habit of staging such “force projections” on similar occasions in the past.
Those exercises are legitimate, if a little intimidating.
But what is Russia saying, in presenting its warships, in this way?
Perhaps that these are the boats the Australian government could not stop.
Mr Abbott has also been spelling out, from Myanmar, just what he does – and doesn’t – want discussed in Brisbane.
Jobs and economic growth are his preferred topics.
“Not what might happen in 16 years’ time” on climate change.
That, of course, was a deprecatory reference to an agreement China and the United States have just made, to tackle climate change.
Many are calling that deal “historic.”
What, though, is the host, who calls the Brisbane summit the “most important meeting ever held in Australia, doing, in trying to limit discussion, in Brisbane.
Especially when some of his guests, at least, do want to debate such matters.
Jen Psaki, of the US State Department, has been clear about that.
“There will be a focus on economic issues and how we are co-ordinating with the global economy,” she said.
”Climate, in our view is part of that,” she said.
Many would agree.
That leaves key questions open.
Why, after all, is this year’s G20 Summit host trying to restrict debate, in this way?
Particularly when he calls himself a Liberal?
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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