by Alan Thornhill
The Australian government say it has “stubbed out” online tobacco advertising.
The Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek , who made this claim, described these ads as “the last bastion of tobacco advertising” in Australia.
She said the Australian Senate has now passed legislation restricting online tobacco advertising in this country.
“This legislation has extinguished the last remaining opportunity for tobacco companies to freely promote their harmful products to the Australian public,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Sales of tobacco on the internet will be subject to the same restrictions as everywhere else, and online retailers won’t be able to spruik cigarettes with words such as ‘cheap’ and ‘tax-free,’” she added
Ms Plibersek said the new law will bring restrictions on tobacco advertising on the internet into line with those applying to other media.
She said the new law complements the Australian Government’s world-first plain packaging legislation, which removes tobacco companies’ ability to advertise on tobacco packaging.
Smoking related illnesses kill an estimated 15,000 Australians each year.
They cost the community more than $A 30 billion ($US27.8 billion).
by Alan Thornhill
Julia Gillard’s hold on her job is slipping, even though her undeclared rival, Kevin Rudd, is not likely to mount an early challenge.
Despite an improvement in the latest Herald Neilsen poll, published in The Sydney Morning Herald today, Labor still trails the Coalition 47 -53.
Ms Gillard also saw a 6 point rise in her approval as Prime Minister.
Even on these figures, though, Labor would still be soundly defeated in a general election.
Even so, that was still an 8 point improvement for Labor.
Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has also virtually ruled out an attempt to bring down the Gillard government, by mounting a no confidence motion, when parliament resumes this week.
Instead, the Prime Minister told reporters she was looking forward to a planning session with Labor MPs, when she arrived for a Caucus meeting yesterday.
The meeting decided to attack the opposition on the economy, with MPs saying Mr Abbott had failed to set out an alternative plan for Australia’s economic management, when he addressed the National Press Club last week.
Ms Gillard told the meeting that Labor needed to present its message more clearly.
She also called for discipline, warning MPs to stop backgrounding reporters.
Meanwhile the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, who strongly supports Ms Gillard, reminded the public of Labor’s achievements, since it took office.
Mr Swan said families with a typical $300,000 home loan, are now saving $3,000 a year on repayments, through lower interest rates.
He also said the Reserve Bank’s marker cash rate, which had been 6.75 per cent, when Labor came to power, is now 4.25 per cent.
Mr Swan also described Australia’s big four banks as “hugely profitable.”
He said they would be well able to pass on any rate cut the Reserve Bank might announce on Tuesday, in full. (see separate story)
Mr Swan claimed, too, that the government’s record of job creation is “outstanding” with 700,000 Australians gaining jobs over the past four years.
Tony Abbott, though, insisted that Australians still needs a “better government right now.”
“I think we need an election,” Mr Abbott said.
However, Mr Abbott said that while ever Craig Thompson is in Parliament “I think this government is firewalled against a no confidence motion…”
In a television interview, Mr Abbott also accused Fair Work Australia “or elements of it” of collusion with the government, in the Craig Thompson case.
Fair Work Australia has been investigating allegations that Mr Thomson, now a Labor MP, misused union credit cards.
However FWA has not yet produced a report on the case, despite long proceedings.
Mr Rudd, the Foreign Minister, who is overseas on duty, did not attend the Caucus meeting, which was followed by a barbeque Ms Gillard held for Labor MPs, at the Lodge.
Although she is likely to survive as Prime Minister, at least in the short term, Ms Gillard’s position remains weak.
Both public and private polling has shown, consistently, that she does not have the public support she would need, to win the Federal election due next year.
That polling also shows that Kevin Rudd, the man she deposed from the nation’s top job, would have a much better chance of victory in that election.
Ms Gillard dismisses talk of a Rudd challenge as media “chatter.”
But Labor party bosses are not completely convinced.
And the chance of even a highly embarrassing victory next year, with a recycled Rudd leading the campaign still tempts them.
by Alan Thornhill
On line share traders beware.
Scammers are about – and the watchdog is barking.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is making a big noise, to warn of the dangers..
In a statement released today, ASIC said clients of online stockbroking firms should urgently review their account security.
Well, the Commission says that “during regular surveillance” it has “become aware of several stockbroking account intrusions involving unauthorised access and trading.”
ASIC is urging on line traders to take urgent action.
Specifically, it says that “as soon as possible” traders should:-
*…ensure their computer virus software is up-to-date;
*…change their passwords and
*…check their transaction history.
It says traders should take these steps regularly.
“If you become aware of any unauthorised trading on your account, you should contact your stockbroker immediately,” ASIC says.
This will help to ensure that any further unauthorised activity can be prevented.
ASIC says it already is working with online stockbroking firms to help those whose clients who have been hit.
It says it is also also “working with other authorities” to identify and catch the scammers.
by Alan Thornhill
The excellent reputations of Australia’s banks could be jeopardized, if they proceed with the big job cuts they are considering.
Their -hard earned -reputations are their greatest treasure.
Big job cuts, in any industry, inevitably carry the smell of failure.
But that is precisely what the banks are considering.
Perhaps that is inevitable.
There is, after all, great instability in world financial markets.
We are also likely to see higher risks, factored into interest rates.
And one of the banks’ biggest customers, the building industry, is still producing speckled performances, at best.
So it’s hardly surprising, in this climate, that startling reports of job cuts in Australia’s banking and finance industries are now starting to appear.
The current talk is of up to 7,000 banking – and finance – jobs being lost over the next two years.
The ANZ, for example, is making no secret of the fact that it is planning big staff cuts, over that time.
And the other big banks are under the same pressures as the ANZ.
But this, also, is surely the time to pause and think.
So far, Australia’s banks, have mostly been able to produce impressive profits.
Big job cuts, though, reported day after day, would certainly carry more than a whiff of panic, on the part of the banks.
Just the thing, really, that the finance industry most needs to avoid, in times like these.
It wasn’t always so.
In the Great Depression of the 1930s, the “bank Johnnies” mostly kept their jobs.
Your correspondent knows this, painfully.
It was that observation, on his father’s part, that saw him join the dear old Commonwealth Bank, as a staffer, on leaving school, despite an absolute lack of talent for that kind of work.
The banking industry – somehow – survived that challenge, however narrowly.
It will, undoubtedly, survive present challenges, too.
Australia’s banks, after all, are well managed.
The Federal government has always acknowledged that.
Even though its Industry Minister, Kim Carr, recalled today that the government had stood ready with “very, very considerable assistance” in the dark days, immediately after the global financial crisis.
Even so, Australia’s banks have much to be proud of, in their performance, over the past few years.
Big job cuts, though, inevitably carry the appearance of some kind of failure.
And banking, above all, is an industry in which appearances matter.
That must never be forgotten.
by Alan Thornhill
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, and former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating are among those who have claimed parliamentary expenses but not verified them, according to the Canberra Times.
The paper was quoting from a list published by the Department of Finance.
It noted that serving and former parliamentarians are entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in allowances a year for domestic and overseas travel, office fit-outs and family travel expenses.
“ For example, Mr Abbott was paid about $590,000 in entitlements for the first half of 2011, according to the department’s report, and Ms Roxon claimed about $190,500 for the same period.”
But for the first time the department has published a ”name and shame” list of the politicians who failed to examine the bill they ran up and check it off against their own accounts.
Every parliamentarian is provided with a six-monthly account, called a ”management report”, of what he or she has spent and asked to certify that the expenses were paid for proper reasons.
But politicians including Adam Bandt of the Greens, the Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, and the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, have not yet tallied their accounts for the public record, according to the department’s list.
Signing off on the accounts is not compulsory but in a 2009 Senate estimates hearing, Labor senator John Faulkner advocated for the ”naming and shaming” list as an important transparency measure.
”I certainly would not want to be a parliamentarian so named and that of itself, I think, would be a significant sanction,” he told the hearing. ”What people want to see is the management reports certified and provided to the department.”
A 2009-10 Auditor-General’s report pointed out weaknesses in the self-certification system, including that compliance by parliamentarians was voluntary.
Queensland Labor senator Claire Moore has spoken on this issue in Senate estimates and, together with Senator Faulkner, has advocated for greater accountability.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s, New Year’s Message
The New Year is a time to look with gratitude on the good things of the last 12 months and look forward with confidence to the year that stretches before us.
It’s a time for new hope and new beginnings.
Perhaps a personal resolution like spending more time with family or a big life decision like starting a university or TAFE course or opening a business.
Whatever the New Year holds for you, I trust it will be a safe and happy one.
Let’s also remember that the 1st of January is the anniversary of Australian nationhood.
So let’s also resolve to make this great country of ours even stronger.
Yes we’ve achieved remarkable things in our nation’s journey.
But I firmly believe that even better days lie ahead.
Together let’s make 2012 a year of which every Australian can be proud.
by Alan Thornhill
Wayne Swan says allegations of credit card hacking must be “thoroughly investigated.”
The Treasurer was responding to reports that both Malcolm Turnbull and the businessman David Smorgon are among the victims of widespread hacking.
The reports said both men had their credit card details published on the internet by hackers.
Replying to a reporter in Brisbane Mr Swan said: “…I think the first thing is we’ll have to establish how that hacking occurred,”
“Obviously there’s a breach of the law.
“This will need to be thoroughly investigated and then prosecuted,”Mr Swan added:
A spokesman for Mr Turnbull confirmed that the former Opposition Leader’s private details had been published.
Mr Smorgon said he had cancelled his credit card upon hearing the news.
“I was advised by Stratfor -a US security firm – a few days ago on what had happened,” Mr Smorgon said.
“I was totally surprised.”
“… I have cancelled my American Express credit card and I was obviously not the first to do so.
“This is a warning bell for everyone and I guess it’s the cost of doing business online.”
A loose-knit hacking movement called Anonymous claimed on Sunday through Twitter that it had stolen thousands of credit card numbers and other personal information belonging to clients of Stratfor.
Hackers posted a link online to what they said was Stratfor’s private client list.
They also posted images claiming to show receipts for donations made to charity using credit cards belonging to Stratfor clients, including the US Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.
The Australian Department of Defence has a contract with Stratfor for a database subscription until November 2012.
by Alan Thornhill
A national crackdown on dangerous toys will make this Christmas safer for Australian children.
Federal and State authorities removed some 500 lines of dangerous toys from the nation’s shops, in their joint operation.
Shoppers, though, should still be careful to avoid other dangerous children’s gifts, which might have escaped.
The authorities targeted 3,000 suppliers.
They studied toys ranging from small stocking fillers to bicycles.
The joint operation was conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commision and fair trading regulators in each State and Territory
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer David Bradbury said most of the dangerous had been found in “$2 discount variety stores.”
They had included basketball rings and aquatic toys without appropriate labelling, face paints with dangerous levels of lead and toys with small parts that posed choking hazards to young children.
“This was the first pre-Christmas surveillance operation under the Australian Consumer Law, which came into effect from 1 January this year,” Mr Bradbury said.
“For the first time we have nationally consistent product safety laws so that all products can be assessed against the same set of rules, regardless of which State or Territory they are sold in,” he added.
He said suppliers who sell dangerous toys could face fines of up to $1.1 million.
However Mr Bradbury said parents still have responsibilities, too.
“Parents should take steps to make sure that the toys their children are playing with are safe,” he said.
“Remember to always read the warning labels, check for small parts,” Mr Bradbury said.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Sunday May 19
The Dow Jones Index rose 121.18 points Friday,New York time) to 15,354.40
- Sharon Coulton on Proposed family tax benefit scrapped
- Pete on Rudd government had entered “paralysis:” Gillard
- Liam Knuj on The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s, New Year’s Message
- Change is for the better,change is where your heart grows stronger on Family Assistance boost
- Harry on The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s, New Year’s Message
|Aud To Usd||0.973||N/A||N/A|
|Bhp Blt Fpo||34.410||+0.650||+1.93%|
|Rio Tinto Fpo||55.290||+0.610||+1.12%|
|Bramb Ltd Fpo||9.170||-0.010||-0.11%|
|Qbe Insur. Fpo||15.400||+0.350||+2.33%|
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