by Alan Thornhill
If you think you could help Wayne Swan with next year’s Federal budget, now is the time to speak up.
Australia’s builders already have – and they are suggesting a change of direction for the government.
The Treasurer is inviting submissions.
In a statement just released, Mr Swan said:”… I invite Australian families, individuals, businesses and community groups to submit their ideas and priorities for the 2012-13 Budget.”
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, signalled – just before she went on leave at the weekend – that the government will be looking to monetary, rather than fiscal policy, to boost the Australian economy, if Europe’s troubles make that necessary.
Decoded, that means more rate cuts, not extra spending.
Australia’s builders, though, believe that wont be good enough.
“There is an immediate requirement for direct short term stimulus to new home building, Harley Dale said.
Mr Dale, who is Chief Economist at the Housing Industry Association, said rate cuts, alone, would not be enough.
Mr Swan, who is also acting Prime Minister, at present, won’t be pleased to hear that.
He is adamant that the spending phase, which followed the global economic crisis, has now passed.
Indeed, the Treasurer has already signalled that there will have to be substantial spending cuts, in next year’s budget, to get it back into surplus.
Meanwhile, he says, Australia is doing relatively well.
“While Europe is dealing with a sovereign debt crisis, the Australian economy continues to outperform the developed world with solid growth prospects, strong public finances, low unemployment, and a record pipeline of resources investment,” Mr Swan said.
“The budget is on track to return to surplus in 2012-13 despite the significant global headwinds that have reduced government revenues by around $140 billion over five years,” he added.
He pledged that the Government would ”continue its disciplined approach to spending,”
However Mr Swan said it would also be “providing the necessary social protections for the most vulnerable in our community and ensuring our nation is prepared for long-term challenges such as the transition to a clean energy future and the ageing of the population.”
“Community views are a vital part of the development of Government policies and the budget process,” Mr Swan said.
The deadline for your submissions is Friday, January 27 next year.
Submissions should be posted to the Budget Policy Division Department, the Treasury Langton Crescent PARKES ACT 2600
Or emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Alan Thornhill
Three quarters of Australian homes don’t have a meat thermometer – a device that can help you avoid food poisoning – when cooking the Christmas turkey.
That advice comes from the Food Safety Information Council.
The council says that although meat thermometers reduce the risk of food poisoning, only 23 per cent of Australian households own one.
And among those who do, only a third of those with a one have used it in the past month.
The council’s Chairman, Dr Michael Eyles, says there are several ways to lower the risk of food poisoning over Christmas.
“A meat thermometer ensures the safe cooking of poultry, and meats,” Dr Eyles added.
” It is also a vital piece of equipment if you want to get consistently good results from your cooking.
“It is not just about safety – remove the guesswork and be a better cook with a meat thermometer,” Dr Eyles said.
“There are an estimated 5.4 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year, including 120 deaths,” he added.
” The risk of your family getting food poisoning increases around Christmas time as the weather warms up and we prepare food for larger numbers of people, some of whom may be in the high risk groups of the very young, pregnant women and the elderly. Using something as simple as a meat thermometer can reduce this risk,” Dr Eyles said.
The council also urges Australians who love picnics to:-
- Pick up a new Esky or insulated food container with plenty of refreezable cold packs.
- Buy a new picnic set with plates and cutlery that are easier to wash than the ancient ones.
- Give plenty of plastic containers with lids that will separate foods in the Esky and stop meat and chicken juices leaking on to foods which won’t be cooked such as salad vegetables and fruits.
- Some hand wipes or alcohol sanitizer to keep hands clean when picnicking away from running water.
And it says school children should have a bright insulated lunch container with a freezable drink container or ice brick to keep school lunches cool and safer (good for adult workers too)..
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government is likely to revive its plan to means test the present private health insurance rebate.
This is a direct result of Julia Gillard’s victory last week, in elevating a former Opposition member, Peter Slipper, to the Speaker’s chair in Federal parliament.
That has given her minority government one extra vote, as the former speaker, Harry Jenkins, will be returning to the floor of the House, to vote with fellow Labor members
It also takes a vote from the Opposition, as the Speaker traditionally abstains from voting on major issues, in normal circumstances.
The government has made no secret of its belief that the rebate should be means tested.
However, it has been unable to apply that test, so far, because it did not have the numbers to push that measure through parliament.
Its ability to do that is still in doubt, but the task will, at least, be easier, with just three independents, instead of four, to convince.
And the government is under pressure, on all sides, to find whatever savings it can, to get its budget, for the new financial year, into surplus.
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, admits that instability on world financial markets is slowing parts of the Australian economy.
That reduces revenue flows.
The government has already shown that it is prepared to resort to unattractive options, to raise extra cash, as it did with its deferral of a promised tax break, on overseas bank transactions.
The government will be sorely tempted to means test the private health insurance rebate.
The rebate cost it $3 billion in 2004-05.
So it’s a big ticket item.
It would, of course, face bigger bills for public hospital treatment, if it did so.
However those would be much lower than the savings it would make on the rebate.
And Mr Swan is making no secret of the fact that he believes he is trapped between a rock and a hard place, right now.
by Alan Thornhill
Tired of struggling to balance work and personal commitments?
You are not alone.
New research shows that both men and women are working longer, than Australians generally did, back in 1985.
The study, conducted by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, with help from the AMP, confirms that this is producing a great deal of stress.
“Balancing work and family remains a big issue for Australian men and women, with around 40 per cent of women and 30 per c ent of men feeling often or always rushed or pressed for time,” the study says.
It shows that men are now working an average of 42.3 hours a week, 2.8 more than they did, in 1985.
Women are now spending 38.6 hours a week, in full time work, against the 36.4 they did, back then
And despite advances made by women’s liberation, the study found that traditional gender roles are still deeply entrenched in Australian life.
“ And women are even less happy with the help they get with household tasks – with 11% actively dissatisfied. In contrast, only 4% of men are dissatisfied with their partners’ efforts around the home.,” the report says.
The report also found:-
Women spend more time buying goods and services, while men have more free time
Each day, on average:
Women spend 59 minutes on child care, compared to 22 minutes for men
Women spend 2 hours, 52 minutes on domestic activities and men spend one 1 hour, 37
Women spend 58 minutes purchasing goods and services while men spend 38 minutes; •
Men spend 4 hours, 33 minutes on employment-related activities, while women spend 2
hours, 21 minutes.
The report also has something to say about Australia’s Federal public servants, who hate being called fat cats.
“ Canberrans enjoy some of the highest salaries in Australia, and they also enjoy the lowest average full-time hours of work each week – 37 hours, 42 minutes,” it finds.
by Alan Thornhill
Australians are living longer, are better educated and have higher incomes, but our productivity is falling.
All this – and much more – is revealed in average measures of national progress, just released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Bureau notes, for example, that a baby boy, born in 2009, could expect to live to the age of 79.3, or 3.1 years longer than the average life expectancy of those born in 1999.
Life expectancy for girls rose 2.1 years, to 83.9, over the same time.
The proportion of Australians aged 25-64, with a bachelor degree or higher, rose from 18 per cent in 2000 to 27 per cent in 2010.
In the ten years to the end of June last year, real disposable income rose, on a per capita basis, from $37,400 a year, to $45,600.
The Bureau said it made that comparison in 2008-09 dollars.
We got richer, too, on average, over much the same time.
The Bureau reported, for example, that real national net worth, also on a per capita basis, rose from $285,700 to $308,500, between June 2000 and June 2010.
Once again, the figures it quoted were in 2008-09 dollars.
However income distribution in Australia remains very uneven.
The Bureau reports, for example, that the top 20 per cent of Australians, by income, received 41 per cent of the nation’s total personal income, in 2007-08.
Those in the bottom 20 per cent had to share just 10 per cent of the nation’s income.
And, as the old song says, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Back in 1997-98, the top 20 per cent had to be satisfied with just 38 per cent of national income.
And the bottom 20 per cent got 11 per cent.
In the meantime, in between time…ain’t we got fun?
Isn’t that how the old song goes?
In the four years to June 2008, though, our productivity fell by 1 per cent, on the Bureau’s calculations.
by Alan Thornhill
It’s been a cold winter for many Australians.
A bitter one, too, for those at the bottom of the socioeconomic heap.
A survey, published by the Australian Council of Social Services, makes that clear.
In reveals that community and social groups have simply not been able to keep up with rapidly rising demands for their help.
ACOSS says more Australians have been turning to these groups for help.
Many got it.
ACOSS said the 745 community groups surveyed had, together, provided help more than 6 million times.
That was a 12 per cent increase on the previous year.
But many others missed out.
ACOSS says this shows that the common perception that Australia has fully recovered from the global financial crisis is false.
“…the stark reality (is) that a growing group of people in Australia are simply not doing well,” the Chief Executive of ACOSS Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
The survey showed that more than one in twenty people, who needed help, had simply been turned away.
People were denied services on approximately 345,000 times, Dr Goldie said.
” This represents a 19 per cent increase,” she added.
So who needs that help?
And who is missing out?
Both the young and the old have been hit.
The survey showed a 128 per cent leap in the number of older Australians needing residential care.
And the number of young people needing help rose by almost a third.
“Our survey shows this growing need for help is placing enormous strain on community services with almost all services experiencing heightened demand.
“Funding levels have not kept pace with the increase in demand,” Dr Goldie said.
The survey showed that 50,000 Australians who sought help to get a roof over their heads were simply turned away.
So were almost 36,000, who sought help with mental health issues.
Sole parents, too, are doing it tough.
The survey showed they are “disproportionately high” users of social services.
ACOSS said almost half of those who sought help were not in paid work.
by Alan Thornhill
The price of established homes in Perth fell by 4.1 per cent, in the 12 months to the end of June.
This was the biggest fall in any Australian capital, according to figures published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Bureau also reports that house prices in in the capital of the resource rich State of Western Australia are still falling faster than in any other State capital.
They dropped by 1 per cent in the June quarter.
Only Darwin, which saw a 1.6 per cent fall in established home prices over the same time, suffered a bigger fall.
On average, over the eight Australian capitals, house prices fell by 0.1 per cent in the June quarter and 1.9 per cent over the year.
Only Canberra saw home prices rise over the year, chalking up a 2.2 per cent jump.
This included a 1.1 per cent rise in the June quarter.
Sydney house prices rose 0.4 per cent in the quarter, but still eased by 0.7 per cent over the year.
In Melbourne, house prices eased by 0.1 per cent in the quarter and 2 per cent over the year.
Brisbane’s house prices eased by 0.3 per cent in the quarter and fell by 3.6 per cent over the year.
In Adelaide, prices fell 0.8 per cent in the quarter and 2.1 per cent over the year.
House prices in Darwin fell 3 per cent over the year.
The Bureau also reported that home building approvals, throughout Australia, fell by 3.5 per cent in June to a level 15.5 per cent lower than that seen in June last year.
by Alan Thornhill
They will launch a major campaign today to persuade the government to reverse a decision it made last February.
They said the government had effectively put major life prolonging and pain easing drugs beyond the reach of thousands of people who need them.
Carol Bennett – CEO of the Consumers’ Health Forum – said this is a false economy.
The campaign will be launched at a conference of the MS Society in Canberra today.
Ms Bennett warned that some people could die as a result of the government’s decision.
She said the shelved medications include:” a range of vital medicines to help people with everything from lung disease, MS and schizophrenia.”
The government had put these drugs on hold to make small short term savings.
Ms Bennett described the government’s decision as “highly political” and a “dangerous precedent.”
She said the government ignored its independent advisers, on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, when it made this decision.
These savings, thought to add up to some $30 million a year, were among many the government ordered to help bring the Federal budget back into surplus within three years.
In isolation, though, this decision would make very little difference to the bottom line in any Federal budget.
In fact, Ms Bennett said, this measure, which she described as a short term move, could ultimately add significantly to Federal health costs.
“…some critical medicines and vaccines will be put well beyond the reach of some sick and vulnerable consumers and this will (ultimately) lead to increased health costs,” she said.
“Thousands and thousands of Australians will be affected,” she warned.
“Cabinet does not have the expertise to make decisions on shelving drugs.
“….the new move is a “dangerous precedent” that will see essential medicines become a political issue,” she said.
That would lead to consumer and drug companies then lobbying for drugs to be listed, Ms Bennett said.
The health consumer bodies, backing the campaign, include the AIDS Council of NSW, Alzheimer’s Australia, Arthritis Australia, the Australian Lung Foundation, the Australian Pain Management Association, the Brain Tumour Alliance and Cancer Voices Australia.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Saturday May 18
The Dow Jones Index rose 121.18 points to 15,354.40
- Sharon Coulton on Proposed family tax benefit scrapped
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- Liam Knuj on The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s, New Year’s Message
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|Aud To Usd||0.973||N/A||N/A|
|Bhp Blt Fpo||34.410||+0.650||+1.93%|
|Nat. Bank Fpo||33.090||+0.040||+0.12%|
|Rio Tinto Fpo||55.290||+0.610||+1.12%|
|Origin Ene Fpo||12.930||+0.210||+1.65%|
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