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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.

 

 

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Thursday 7th July 2016 - 11:39 am
Comments Off on Medibank tax statements delayed

Medibank tax statements delayed

by Alan Thornhill

Many Medibank customers will have to wait longer than usual for their annual tax statements.

 

The health fund’s chief, Craig Drummond, said the delay followed a major technology upgrade.

He said the fund is : “….. experiencing a reporting issue which will likely prevent it from providing  annual tax statements to a majority of customers by July 15.

Mr Drummond also said the situation is:  “is result of customer data migration and acknowledged that it is   unacceptable for customers.
He said:  ““I sincerely apologise to our customers for this disruption.

 

“It is important for customers to know their personal data has not been compromised.

“Our team is working around the clock to resolve this issue, and I want to assure customers that our focus is on minimising the impact this will have on them,” Mr Drummond said.

Customers wishing to find out more information can go to the website www.medibank.com.au he added.

 

 

 

Monday 27th June 2016 - 9:17 am
Comments Off on PM’s speech: the lustre and bluster

PM’s speech: the lustre and bluster

by Alan Thornhill

Anlysis

 

 

 

Malcolm Turnbull’s policy speech yesterday was a polished performance.

 

He managed to suggest, for example, that something very like the Brexit disaster could well sink Australia, too, if we don’t vote the right way on July 2.

 

Without actually saying so.

 

So is there a danger, in his message that might not be immediately apparent?

 

Arguably.

 

Is the lustre, of his carefully crafted message, for example, brighter than its bluster?

 

The Prime Minister assured voters, constantly, throughout his speech, that his Coalition has a plan to deal with all eventualities, that might arise over the next three years.

 

Without saying, too specifically, what it was

 

He also boasted that some 300,000 new jobs had been created, on his government’s watch.

 

Without mentioning that most of them are part time positions, with pay rates that don’t cover grocery bills

 

This has left many Australians, particularly the young and the old, without a place in Australia’s modern work-force

 

So it might well be worth looking again at just what the Turnbull forces are planning to do, as well as what Mr Turnbull, himself, is actually saying.

 

Tax cuts, both for Australians on high incomes – and the big corporates – are at the heart of his plan.

 

It may well be worth remembering, at this point, that much of the vote for Britain’s exit, from the EU, came from poor areas, in Britain’s north.

 

That is  from the very people who have suffered most, over the years, from the austerity that came with Thatcherism, and its successors.

 

Eminent economists, like America’s Paul Krugman are not impressed by arguments that rising wealth for the rich will produce more jobs for the poor.

 

Krugman says that’s like relying on “the austerity fairy” to overcome unemployment.

 

However that argument still appeals, even if its strongest appeal is to those who benefit most from it.

Monday 20th June 2016 - 6:19 pm
Comments Off on Shorten startles Turnbull

Shorten startles Turnbull

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

For the first time in the present election campaign, Bill Shorten appears to have seized the initiative.

He did that on Sunday, when he declared that the vote July 2 would be “a referendum on Medicare.”

In doing so, he greatly increased his chances of becoming Prime Minister.

But he still has to win 21 seats to do that.

The Prime Minster’s response, to this challenge from the Opposition Leader, was to say – very forcefully – that it was based on “a lie.”

Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Sydney today that Labor had been ringing older people  in the evening, saying “Medicare is going to be sold off.

“Medicare will be privatised.

” This is the biggest lie of the campaign.”

“I want to be very clear. Medicare will never ever be privatised,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Every element of Medicare services that is currently being delivered by government will continue to be delivered by government. Full stop,”  Mr Turnbull said.

Labor strategists remained  cool, saying simply that their charges are “biting.”

A reporter had asked Mr Turnbull why voters should accept his  latest promises  on Medicare when his predecessor,  Tony Abbott, had not kept his.

The Medicare debate has caught fire, among voters.

Reports in Fairfax newspapers today help to explain why.

The headline on one, in The Sydney Morning Herald, says: ‘Narcissistic’ surgeons charge cancer patients exorbitant out-of-pocket costs without disclosing

alternatives .”

It quotes chief executive of Cancer Council Australia, Sanchia Aranda, saying : “the most brazen example was robotic surgery for prostate cancer.”

She said these cases attracted out-of-pocket fees of between $15,000 to $30,000, even though there is no evidence to suggest robotic surgery offered patients better cancer or functional outcomes than a standard prostatectomy when performed by a surgeon of equal skill.

 

“We know of patients who are mortgaging their houses because they are being led to believe that these flashy new types of procedures are the best way to have their cancer treated,” Professor Aranda added.

Friday 17th June 2016 - 6:19 pm
Comments Off on PM says Medicare safe

PM says Medicare safe

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

 

 

An industry watchdog did Malcolm Turnbull no favours when it alleged there had been dirty work at the cross-roads as the Federal government moved to sell off Medibank Private.

 

Its action, just weeks before a Federal election. allowed some to suggest that Medicare, too, might soon be on the auction block.

 

The Medicare Private sale had been profitable, raising  almost $5.7 billion, which the Federal government said would be spent on infrastructure projects.

 

Now, though, that watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused Medibank of “engaging in misleading conduct,” to raise that very tidy sum.

 

Although the case has yet to be decided, unions have been out in the streets of Australian cities today, handing out brochures warning that the Federal government is now planning to sell Medicare as well.

 

The Prime Minister responded angrily, rejecting that accusation “absolutely” and accusing Labor of “frightening” old people, in particular, by telling them “disgraceful lies.”

 

Scare campaigns are not entirely unknown, in Australian elections.

 

Both sides, at times, have accused their rivals of indulging in them.

 

This time, though, the tension evident in Mr Turnbull’s voice, as he rejected that allegation, showed that he recognises that Medicare might still become a decisive issue, in the present campaign.

 

Speaking in a radio interview, he said his government would: “absolutely, completely, unequivocally guarantee Medicare will not be privatised – will never be privatised. ”

 

“It is a core government service,” he said.

 

“It will always be provided entirely by the government,” the Prime Minister added.

.

 The interviewer, Neil Mitchell, then said: “So you are just selling off the support area?”

 

Mr Turnbull replied: “It is one of the most disgraceful lies the Labor Party is telling.

 

“And they have trade union officials ringing up people, selective, they are ringing up in particular older Australians and frightening them with this lie.”

 

“ Medicare is a core government service.”

 

“It will always be provided by the government.”

 

““ It will never be privatised,” Mr Turnbull said.

Friday 17th June 2016 - 5:02 pm
Comments Off on Medibank Private sale worries Labor

Medibank Private sale worries Labor

by Alan Thornhill

Labor says it is “deeply concerned” by allegations that Medibank Private deliberately deceived its members to get a better price, when it was privatised.

 

The Shadow Minister for Health, Catherine King, said: “While the allegations will be tested in court, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused Medibank of “engaging in misleading conduct, making false or misleading representations and engaging in unconscionable conduct” by failing to tell Medibank members about a decision to limit benefits paid to members for in-hospital pathology and radiology services.”

 

She aslo said: “Labor is particular concerned at the ACCC’s allegation that Medibank Private kept consumers in the dark about the change in order to maximise its sale price.

 

 

“If proved, this would mean Medibank members were penalised at the benefit of the Federal Government, with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann publicly stating that the sale raised almost $5.7 billion.
Ms King said:”today’s events come only months after the newly-privatised Medibank reported a massive increase in profit for the first half of the 2015-16 financial year of $271.7 million, up $100 million or almost 60 per cent in just one year.
She said: “the Abbott- Turnbull Government consistently failed to make the case for the sale of Medibank, and today’s ACCC action indicates the privatisation has provided no benefit to either the health system or health insurance policyholders.
And she added: “…today is just another stark reminder of the danger to patients if the Turnbull Government is re-elected and continues to press ahead with its plans to privatise Medicare, putting profits before patients across the entire health system.
“Only a Shorten Labor Government can be trusted to protect Medicare. “ Ms King said.

Sunday 12th June 2016 - 7:35 pm
Comments Off on PM warns voters

PM warns voters

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, warned today that Australia cannot take its economic success for granted.

 

Speaking to reporters on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Mr Turnbull said re-election of his government on July 2 would mean: “  More opportunity and more jobs.”

 

“We understand the nature of the times in which we live,” the Prime Minister said.

 

“More competition, more opportunities, greater challenges.

 

“We recognise that we cannot take our economic success for granted,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

Meanwhile the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, said Australians would see shorter waiting times, at the nation’ hospitals, if he becomes Prime Minister on July 2.

 

However a new poll, published today, suggests that Labor is not getting enough support, in marginal electorates, to  change the government.

 

The ReachTEL poll, conducted,  in seven marginal seats held by the Coalition, confirms that Labor could remain in opposition, even if it wins a majority of the popular vote, on July 2.

 

That last happened in 1998, when Kim Beazley led the party.

Mr Turnbull said:”. We understand the nature of the times in which we live

 

” More competition, more opportunities, greater challenges.

 

“We recognise that we cannot take our economic success for granted.

 

We need to have a plan.

 

“We do have a plan.

 

“Every element of it will deliver stronger economic growth and more jobs,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

However Mr Shorten chose to concentrate on health issues today.

 

He said a Labor Government would reduce waiting times for elective surgery and emergency departments, invest in hospitals and protect Medicare so Australia has the strong health system we need for the future.
“Labor will also ramp up investment in health care at the frontline – so fewer Australians end up in hospital in the first place,” he added.
“All Australians deserve access to the best possible health care when they need it – determined by their Medicare card, not their credit card.
That’s why a Shorten Labor Government will restore the National Health Reform Agreement for four years, at the originally agreed funding formula of 50 per cent of growth in costs based on the National Efficient Price, and provide additional support to the States and Territories to reduce waiting times for elective surgery and in public hospital emergency departments,” he said.
“This will boost hospital funding by $2 billion more than the Liberals over the next four years, and drive efficiency by funding the States and Territories on the basis of the actual services performed,” he added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 31st May 2016 - 12:34 pm
Comments Off on Super:Who’s missing out?

Super:Who’s missing out?

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

So you are young and self-employed, but you’ve remembered retirement, right?

Well, perhaps.

But there is a special reason for asking that, apparently intrusive, question.

Recent research, by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) found that almost one young, self employed Australian in four has no super.

The Association’s Chief Executive Officer Pauline Vamos also says it is “extremely concerning” that older Australians, who have been self employed, often have much less money in their superannuation accounts than others, as they approach retirement.

She is urging young self-employed Australians to do a little retirement planning.

Ms Vamos admits that she is also disturbed by another finding that emerged from ASFA’s research.

Nearly 10 per cent of the workforce is self-employed and it is currently not compulsory for them to make superannuation contributions.

In the run up to retirement, those who are self-employed and are aged 60-64, have around half the superannuation of employees.

Only 27 per cent of those in their 60s who are self-employed, and soon to reach retirement, have more than $100,000 in superannuation, compared to 50 per cent of employees under the Superannuation Guarantee (SG).

Ms Vamos said that is “extremely concerning.”

The research also found that said people with lower-value business assets were also found to be more likely to have lower superannuation balances, or no super at all.

Those with lower-value business assets were also found to be more likely to have lower superannuation balances, or no super at all.

Ms Vamos said many sald many self-employed Austtralians would not have enough money fpr a comfortable retirement

““We encourage all Australians to think about the lifestyle they want in retirement and to setup, and make regular contributions to superannuation,”
she said .

“Business assets such as financial, shares or investment properties are often believed to serve as de-facto superannuation. However many of those who are self-employed do not have significant business or financial assets, and may struggle sustaining the standard of living they are used to when they reach retirement age.

“Business assets such as financial, shares or investment properties are often believed to serve as de-facto superannuation. However many of those who are self-employed do not have significant business or financial assets, and may struggle sustaining the standard of living they are used to when they reach retirement age.

“Superannuation is a purpose built system for the building of retirement savings. Because it is a long-term investment, the earlier you start putting more into super, the more you benefit from the effects of compounding interest. Contributing to super makes for a sound business decision.”

Because it is a long-term investment, the earlier you start putting more into super, the more you benefit from the effects of compounding interest. Contributing to super makes for a sound business decision,” Ms Vamos said.

While making contributions to super is currently not compulsory for the self-employed, if they do, there are a number of benefits they can potentially claim from the Government, such as bonus co-contributions, she added.

“Now is an opportune time for all, particularly those who are self-employed, to assess where they are in terms of their retirement planning, where they want to get to and how to save enough money to get there,” Ms Vamos concluded.

“Now is an opportune time for all, particularly those who are self-employed, to assess where they are in terms of their retirement planning, where they want to get to and how to save enough money to get there,” Ms Vamos concluded.

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Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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