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Thursday 11th August 2016 - 6:18 pm
Comments Off on Social isolation rates high:research

Social isolation rates high:research

by Alan Thornhill

Social isolation rates are high in Australia, according to new research that the National Australia Bank published today.

 

 

The bank said less than two thirds (58 per cent) of Australians now feel connected to their local communities.

 

 

It said, too, that young women and labourers were among Australia’s most isolated people.

 

 

But older people, including widowed people and over 50s, were among those feeling the most connected.

 

 

These results showed up in a special report on Wellbeing and Importance of Community Connections.

 

 

The bank said  networks play an important role in overall community wellbeing.

 

 

It also said that while there is little difference between the sense of community connection between men and women overall, there are “notable differences by age, education, work, and relationship status.”

 

“Just as our personal wellbeing appears to increase with age so too does our feeling of community connection,” the bank said.

 

“Widows, closely followed by  over 50s (particularly women), married couples, Australians with a higher education and professional workers, not only report the highest level of personal wellbeing but they are also the most connected,” it added

 

“Similarly, there appears to be a relationship between low levels of personal wellbeing and weak community connections, with young women (18 to 29) and labourers the least connected groups.” ??The NAB Group’s Chief Economist, Alan Oster, said .

 

 

“The message is clear.

 

 

Those who feel more connected within their local communities typically have higher levels of personal wellbeing,” ??Mr Oster said.

 

 

He conceded that some of the isolation felt by younger people and labourers might due to age.

 

 

“But some may also be a by-product of modern living with a lesser degree of community connection  due to frequency of job changes, increased globalisation and the associated rise in relocations and the rise of online rather than physical communities and networks” Mr Oster added.

 

 

He said too that both men and women believe that addressing safety and law and order issues would have the greatest impact on improving wellbeing, followed by housing affordability, local jobs and health services.

 

 

“While there is much that individuals can do themselves such as volunteering and getting to know their neighbours, there is also a clear role for government, community groups and business, particularly regarding issues such as safety, housing employment and health in order to improve the wellbeing of Australians,” he added.

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Thursday 11th August 2016 - 1:43 pm
Comments Off on Commercial property:worth a look

Commercial property:worth a look

by Alan Thornhill

 

Commercial property?

 

With returns on interest investments at historic lows – and fresh doubts appearing about the future of residential investment, this might be worth some thought.

Especially in view of the results of the National Australia Bank’s latest Commercial Property Survey,which is for Q2 2016

 

It shows that: “sentiment in the retail commercial property market has risen to its highest level in over six years.”

 

However, the bank adds: “strong retail market confidence was not enough to offset the lower sentiment recorded across the office, industrial and CBD hotels sectors.

 

“ Overall, the NAB Commercial Property Index fell 7 points to +5 in the second quarter of this year,” it said.

 

“This was a strong quarter for capital growth in the retail property sector, with respondents expecting retail to grow 1.5 per cent in the next year.

 

“As a result, sentiment in the retail commercial property sector rose to its highest level since early 2010,” NAB Group Chief Economist Alan Oster said.

 

“However, sentiment from respondents was lower across all other sectors, particularly in CBD hotels which was the weakest sector overall .”

 

“Looking towards the future, confidence levels remain broadly unchanged over the next one to two years across all markets.”

 

Market sentiment remained strongest in NSW (+37) and Victoria (+28), likely driven by the continued non-mining recovery whilst sentiment fell heavily in SA/NT (-27

to -51) and, although still subdued, improved slightly in WA (up +4 to -48).

 

The Q2 Survey showed that one in two developers plan to start new works within the next six months.

 

“But developers have also reported further deterioration in their debt and equity funding situations.”

 

That is expected to continue over the next six months.

 

“This is coupled with respondents reporting the average pre-commitment percentage required for developments increased for the fifth straight quarter,” Mr Oster said.

 

The Bank said About 230 property professionals had participated in the Q2 Survey.

Monday 18th July 2016 - 7:17 pm
Comments Off on Tony Abbott:off the team

Tony Abbott:off the team

by Alan Thornhill

Tony Abbott has missed out on a place in Malcolm Turnbull’s new ministry and Christopher Pyne is to become Australia’s new minister for defence industry.

 

The Prime Minister has also named Josh Frydenberg Australia’s new environment minister.

 

This has angered environmentalists who say Mr Frydenberg has always favoured the  coal industry over the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Mr Turnbull’s new ministry and cabinet are to be sworn in next week.

 

The Prime Minister’s decision to leave his predecessor, Mr Abbott, off his front bench comes as no surprise, even though hard right MPs, within the Liberal Party, would have welcomed such a move.

 

As he  promised do before the election, Mr Turnbull generally avoided unecssary changes changes when he announced his new team today.

 

But Mr Frydenberg will become minister for the environment and energy.

 

Mr Turnbull said all his previous cabinet ministers had been reappointed although there had been some changes and expansions in their duties.

 

He said:  “Senator Fiona Nash will add Local Government and Territories to her Regional Development and Regional Communications roles.

 

“Christopher Pyne will be appointed to the new role of Minister for Defence Industry, within the Defence portfolio.

 

“Mr Pyne will be responsible for overseeing our new Defence Industry Plan that came out of the Defence White Paper.

 

“This includes the most significant naval shipbuilding program since the Second World War.

 

“This is a key national economic development role. This program is vitally important for the future of Australian industry and especially advanced manufacturing.

 

“The Minister for Defence Industry will oversee the Naval Shipbuilding Plan which will itself create 3,600 new direct jobs and thousands more across the supply chain across Australia.

 

“Beyond shipbuilding, there is a massive Defence Industry Investment and Acquisition Program on land, in the air and inside cyberspace.

 

“This is a massive step change set out in the Defence White Paper. This investment in Defence Industry, as you know, is a key part of our economic plan.

 

“It will drive the jobs and the growth in advanced manufacturing, in technology, right across the country. And I’m appointing Christopher to be the Minister to oversee that and ensure that those projects are delivered.

 

“As I said at the outset, this is a term of government for delivery.

 

“We will be judged in 2019 by the Australian people as to whether we have delivered on the plans and the programs and the investments that we have promised and set out and described in the lead-up to the election.

 

Greg Hunt will move from Environment to become the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, where he will drive the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

 

“Can I say that Mr Hunt has been an outstanding Environment Minister and he served in that portfolio in Government and indeed, in opposition.

 

“He has a keen understanding of innovation, he has a keen understanding of science and technology and he will give new leadership to that important portfolio and those important agendas so central to our economic plan.

 

“Josh Frydenberg will move to the expanded Environment and Energy portfolio combining all the key energy policy areas.

 

“These include energy security and domestic energy markets for which he has been previously responsible in the current portfolio. Renewable energy targets, clean energy development and financing and emission reduction mechanisms which are part of Environment.

 

“Senator Matt Canavan will be promoted to Cabinet as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and I welcome Senator Canavan to the Cabinet in this key economic development role,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 12th July 2016 - 1:42 pm
Comments Off on PM’s “get out of jail” card

PM’s “get out of jail” card

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

 

What happens now that Malcolm Turnbull has at least the 76 lower house seats that he needs to form majority government?

 

We can expect to see tight government, as the Prime Minister takes up the reins, to start his fresh three year term.

 

Not quite as tight, though, as the independent Bob Katter has suggested.

 

 

Mr Katter warned, not altogether seriously, that a government with a majority of one, might lose a critical vote, if he left Parliament to attend his mother’s funeral, or to respond to a call of nature.

 

That’s not a worry

 

Australian parliaments, thankfully, have civilised arrangements called “pairing” to deal with exigencies like these.

 

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, though, did raise as serious matter, when he warned of divisions in the Liberal party, particularly those involving the hard right, which supported Tony Abbott against Malcolm Turnbull, last September.

 

They have not forgotten or forgiven.

 

That became clear this week, when one member, Cory Bernardi, sent e-mails to supporters, urging them not to “… allow the political left to keep eroding our values, undermining our culture and diminishing our important institutions.”

 

The ratings agency, Standard and Poors, delivered the biggest challenge Mr Turnbull will face late last week, though, when it put Australia’s triple A credit rating on “negative watch.”

 

It cited both uncertainties which then existed about the July 2 election results and high levels of both domestic and international debt.

 

This means that the agency might well downgrade Australia’s presently excellent credit rating, if we don’t get those issues under control, over the next two years.

 

An astute Prime Minister might see it as more than that, too.

 

A “get out of jail free card” in fact.

 

Even governments which want to keep their pre-election promises often find it very difficult to do so.

 

So what could Mr Turnbull do, if he finds himself in that all-too-likely position?

Mr Shorten warned, during that eight week election campaign, that this is no time to be giving big companies $50 billion worth of tax cuts, over 5 years, even if they are to be phased in slowly.

 

And a report funded by Getup and published just days before the election said big miners and cigarette companies would be among the main winners, from that policy, which Mr Turnbull repeatedly said would create more “jobs and growth.

 

The miners, perhaps.

 

The cigarette companies.

 

Never.

 

So some adjustments can be expected there.

 

Nick Xenophon might also  be in for some disappointment when he comes to Canberra, seeking more money, to protect the jobs of steel workers, in his home State of South Australia.

 

Mr Turnbull might even be able to convince voters that some restraint in these areas is virtuous, as well as necessary, to avoid extra interest rate pain, for home buyers and others.

 

 

If he is astute enough.

 

 

Sunday 10th July 2016 - 7:09 pm
Comments Off on PM claims victory

PM claims victory

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, claimed victory today in the Federal elections that were held on July 2.

 

He said the Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, had telephoned him earlier today and congratulated him on being re-elected as Prime Minister.

 

Then he added: “Mr Shorten said earlier today that he looked forward to seeking to reach common ground.

 

“And I welcome that remark, I welcome that.

 

“Because it is vital that this Parliament works.

 

“It is vital that we work together and as far as we can, find ways upon which we can all agree, consistent with our policies that we have taken to the election, consistent with our political principles, that we meet the great challenges Australia faces.

 

“We need to ensure that we have a strong economy in the years ahead,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

The newly re-elected Prime Minister then set out broad objectives, for his second term.

 

He said: “We need to ensure that we maintain a successful transition from the economy fuelled up by the mining construction boom, to one that is more diverse.

 

“We need to ensure that Medicare and education, our health services, and all those vital government services are provided for and Australians feel secure that they are provided for and guaranteed.

 

“And at the same time, we have to ensure that we bring our Budget back into balance.

 

“These challenges are not easy, there’s no simple solution to them.

 

“But that’s why they need our best brains, our best minds and above all, our best goodwill in this new Parliament to deliver that.,” he said.

 

 

He also dismissed a reporter’s suggestion that he might have more trouble with the new Senate than he had with the old, saying there were always cross benchers in the Senate  and there would only be one more in the new Senate.

 

Mr Turnbull also signalled, very clearly, that he would  not be taking his predecessor, Tony Abbott, back into Cabinet.

 

He said: “I have obviously given consideration to the Ministry both before and after the election and as you know I have said that the Ministry I lead – I led to the election, will be the Ministry I lead after the election.

 

“Regrettably several ministers have not been returned and so there will be some changes.

 

” but you shouldn’t anticipate large scale changes. ”

 

 

 

 

Monday 4th July 2016 - 8:46 am
Comments Off on Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s political leaders will be hitting their phones this week, trying to scrape together enough support to give the country stable government for the next three years.

 

The main rivals, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who heads a conservative coalition and Bill Shorten, who leads the Labor party both found themselves short of the 76 seats they would need, in the House of Representatives, to govern in their own right, at the end of the initial, but still incomplete, count.

 

Late yesterday, Labor had 67 seats, the Coalition 65, others 5 and 13 were still in doubt.

 

The Australian Electoral Commission had counted 78.2 per cent of the votes cast, at that point.

 

It will not resume the count until Tuesday, and the final result, for the House, will probably not be known until some time next week.

 

Mr Turnbull had made much of the need he saw for stability, during the late stages of the eight week election campaign, particularly after Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
However the swing to Labor, evident in Saturday’s election, showed that voters were more impressed with Mr Shorten’s warning that only Labor could be trusted to protect Australia’s health insurance system, Medicare.

 

Mr Turnbull had sought support for a plan centred on tax cuts for big companies and high income earners.

 

He had warned that a big spending Labor government could not be trusted to manage Australia’s economy responsibly.

 

And, at a news conference today, he welcomed a question from a reporter who asked him if the election result could threaten Australia’s TripleA credit rating.
He thanked the reporter and said: “This is why it is very important … for me to explain what is happening at the moment.”

 

“We are simply going through a process of completing a count,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

The Prime Minister also said that he could still form a new government, for the next three years.

 

However Bill Shorten greeted the initial count with a triumphal declaration.

 

He conceded that the public might not know the outcome of Saturday’s election : “…for some days to come.”

 

“But there is one thing for sure – the Labor Party is back.” he said.

 

But which of these two men is likely to be Australia’s Prime Minister over the next three years?

 

The answer to that question will depend, very much, on their relative telephone skills.

Thursday 30th June 2016 - 5:50 pm
Comments Off on Medicare:The big sleeper?

Medicare:The big sleeper?

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

 

 Labor has been talking about Medicare again in the dying days of our eight week Federal election campaign.

 

The shadow minister for health, Catherine King, did that when she said:  “Today there is yet more evidence of the overwhelming damage of Mr Turnbull’s Medicare cuts.”

 

This was shown by the Victorian Government’s “dire warning” that his Medicare rebate freeze will rip $230 million out of the pockets of Victorians and see more patients crowding into hospital Emergency Departments in that State, she declared.

 

Labor’s repeated warnings that Medicare’s future  will be threatened if the Turnbull government is returned on Saturday, is one of the few that looked like catching fire, in that otherwise dull campaign.

 

Especially as the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, still believes that he has extinguished Labor’s Medicare threat, under a blanket of strong words.

What, though, if the issue has simply become a sleeper, instead?

 

Let’s look at it, one last time.

 

All parties agree  that Australian voters place a very high value on universal access to health care.

 

Our  politicians agree, too, that voters deserve much more than empty, rattling semantics from their leaders.

 

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, for example, was able to encapsulate the debate very neatly by holding up a Medicare card.

 

He would then declare that this piece of green plastic, not a Visa card, should be all that is required, to get medical treatment.

Mr Shorten would then add that only a Labor government would protect Medicare.

 

Mr Turnbull responded buy branding this “the most outrageous lie” of the entire campaign – and asserting that Medicare would be preserved, if the government he leads is returned on Saturday.

 

He was helped when Labor’s campaign stumbled, because a major medical association refused to endorse th ALP’s warning that a fresh Turnbull government would threaten Medicare’s future.

That is where the semantics kicked in.

We now know that

 

Labor has been talking about Medicare again in the dying days of our eight week Federal election campaign.

The shadow minister for health, Catherine King, that when she said:  “Today there is yet more evidence of the overwhelming damage of Mr Turnbull’s Medicare cuts.”

She said this was shown by the Victorian Government’s “dire warning” that his Medicare rebate freeze will rip $230 million out of the pockets of Victorians and see more patients crowding into hospital Emergency Departments in that State.

Labor’s repeated warnings that Medicare’s future  will be threatened if the Turnbull government is returned on Saturday, is one of the few that looked like catching fire, in that otherwise dull campaign.

Especially as the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, still believes that he has extinguished Labor’s Medicare threat, under a blanket of strong words.

What, though, if the issue has simply become a sleeper, instead.

Let’s look at it, one last time.

 

We now know that many patients will have to pay for blood tests, Pap smears, X-rays and other scans for the first time from July when the government axes the incentive it pays providers to bulk bill patients.

 

The present government has also extended a Medicare rebate freeze that the previous Labor government had introduced as a temporary measure.

We can confidently expect to see more economy measures like these next year if the Turnbull government is returned.

 

Of course Mr Shorten has also said that he is prepared to “modernise” Medicare, if necessary.

 

Where does all this leave, understandably confused, voters?

Take those now vanishing rebates on those tests, for example.

 

They might well be a bargain all round, if they show that patients, often with quite troubling symptoms, don’t need expensive stays in hospital, after all.

Labor, essentially, is arguing that Medicare faces death by a thousand cuts, under a Turnbull government.

 

Mr Turnbull, himself, denies that, saying Medicare is “core business” for any Federal government.

Voters, though, have already confronted him by pointing out that the last Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, promised that there would be no spending cuts to health or education, if he won office.

Politicians, on all sides though, do find it hard to keep promises like that.many patients will have to pay for blood tests, Pap smears, X-rays and other scans for the first time from July when the government axes the incentive it pays providers to bulk bill patients.

The present government has also extended a Medicare rebate freeze that the previous Labor government had introduced as a temporary measure.

We can confidently expect to see more economy measures like these next year if the Turnbull government is returned.

Of course Mr Shorten has also said that he is prepared to “modernise” Medicare, if necessary.

Where does all this leave, understandably confused, voters?

Take those now vanishing rebates on those tests, for example.

They might well be a bargain all round, if they show that patients, often with quite troubling symptoms, don’t need expensive stays in hospital, after all.

Labor, essentially, is arguing that Medicare faces death by a thousand cuts, under a Turnbull government.

Mr Turnbull, himself, denies that, saying Medicare is “core business” for any Federal government.

Voters, though, have already confronted him by pointing out that the last Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, promised that there would be no spending cuts to health or education, if he won office.

Politicians, on all sides though, do find it hard to keep promises like that.

Tuesday 28th June 2016 - 7:25 pm
Comments Off on Bill Shorten sets his “markers”

Bill Shorten sets his “markers”

by Alan Thornhill

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, set out his objectives for a Labor government after July 2, in his final speech of the current campaign to the National Press Club in Canberra today.

 

He said:   “We are setting our markers for the Australia of 2030.”

 

These were:-

 

  • Strong, universal, affordable Medicare
  • A school system back in the top 5 in the world
  • 50 per cent renewable energy
  • A first-rate, fibre NBN, putting us at the centre of the Asian Century
  • Revitalising advanced manufacturing and apprenticeships
  • Building the nation building, productive infrastructure unclogging our cities and joining our economic operations
  • 3 per cent of our GDP dedicated to science, research and technology
  • 300,000 more women in work
  • Halving the national suicide rate, and
  • Reducing the rates of ovarian cancer.

 

He said all  of this would be  matched with an economic and fiscal plan for the next decade, ” to fully-fund our investments in the future.”

 

This would mean: “Delivering the needed structural savings and tax reforms that will bring the budget back to balance in the same year as our opponents forecast, and build stronger, more sustainable surpluses in the years that follow.

 

“Achieving these goals over the next decade means starting work next week.

 

“My team and I have a clear set of priorities for our first 100 days.
“A new Labor government will hit the ground running:

–    Offering certainty to Arrium in South Australia – and protecting jobs in Laverton, Rooty Hill and Acacia Ridge

–    Setting up our transition fund to support 200,000 automotive supply chain jobs

–    Developing the Financing Mandate for our new $10 billion Concrete Bank, so we can get private investment flowing into public infrastructure

–    Drawing up the terms of reference and appointing a Royal Commissioner to investigate the rip-offs, scams and credit card interest rate rorts in the banking sector

–    And convening a National Crisis Summit on Family Violence, an assembly of the frontline: counsellors, law enforcement, community legal centres, state governments and – most importantly – survivors.

 

 

These are the  people who know, better than anyone, what is wrong with our system and what we need to do to end family violence.

 

“Underpinning all of this – our long-term objectives and our immediate plans for action – will be an old-fashioned focus on good public policy.

 

“A careful and considered approach – recognising that government is a most serious business, a long-term policy institution.

 

He said a Labor government would be “Dealing honestly with the challenges we face and being upfront about our plans.”

 

 

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