by Alan Thornhill
Malcolm Turnbull warned today that Labor’s “reckless” plans to reform negative gearing would “devalue” every home and property in Australia.
However Labor dismissed the Prime Minister’s warning, with the Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen,describing it as “a stunt” by the government
Mr Turnbull and his Treasurer, Scott Morrison, were speaking to reporters in the Sydney suburb of Penshurst, when he delivered his message.
He said the government would never adopt Labor’s policies.
“…they’ll devalue every home, every property, in Australia,” the Prime Minister said.
” They’ll result in increased rents because they will reduce the number of rental properties available,”he added.
” So it is an extraordinary trifecta of outcomes the Labor Party is proposing in their recklessness.
“They are going to drive down home values, drive up rents and discourage investment.”
” That’s why we won’t have a bar of it,” the Prime Minister warned.
However Mr Bowen said Mr Turnbull does not care at all about home affordability.
“Malcolm Turnbull is saying that he doesn’t have a plan for housing affordability,” Mr Bpwen said.
” He thinks it’s more important for an Australian buying their tenth or eleventh property to get a tax break than it is for first home buyers to get into the housing market.”
“… Tony Abbott knew how to run a scare campaign,”Mr Bowen said.
“but now we know that Malcolm Turnbull has no more than this for an election campaign.”
by Alan Thornhill
Australians aged 45 years and over are intending to work longer than ever before, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today.
The Bureau said this was shown in the the results of a survey conducted in 2014-15.
It said these showed that 71 per cent of Australians intended to retire at the age of 65 years or over, up from 66 per cent in last survey result of 2012-13 and 48 per cent in 2004-05.
by Alan Thornhill
The Turnbull government may be facing the rare prospect of a defeat in Federal parliament which could lead to an early election.
This prospect has arisen because the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull does not control the Senate and he is anxious to set up a building industry watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission Bill.
This is one of a number of bills on which debate between the two houses of parliament, the House of Representatives and the Senate is deadlocked.
Control of the Senate is currently shared by the Labor party, the Liberals and Nationals, the Greens and various micro parties.
The micro-parties and independents would probably be wiped out if voting reforms that the government is also proposing area adopted.
For that reason – if no other-a fierce and messy debate on these plans has been predicted this week -and – in fact – it has already begun.
The Treasurer, Scott Morrison, was severely embarrassed yesterday when he was forced to admit in parliament that that cuts he had flagged earlier, for this year’s budget are no longer likely to be realised.
This led Labor members to suggest that his position is now untenable.
MrMorrison is now saying that individual tax cuts – which he has previously flagged – will not be possible until the budget is in better shape – he Morrison has dashing hopes he had previously raised, in that area. Now, he is saying that only tax cuts for business are still on the cards. Mr Morrison regards them as a tangible “growth dividend.” That is Treasury-speak for economic growth and higher employment rates.
So some opposition members are now wondering if the Treasurer is engaging in the traditional pre-budget game of expectation management, where gloomy predictions are seeded before delivering a bretter than expected outcome on budget nigh, to to sighs of relief.
However the shadow treasurer Chris Bowen sees the government’s mixed messages on tax changes with glimpses of a higher offset by loweri aand now earlier cuts in tax rates as evidence that Mr Morrison lacks authority.
“It took Joe Hockey two years to crash and burn,” Mr Bowen told Parliament.
It’s taken Scott Morrison six months.”
“When it comes to economic policy and tax reform, the last three years have been a waste, with the government promising three more years of the same.”
He said it was time Mr Morrison “considered his position”.
The comments followed media reports that the Treasurer has told colleagues that a lack of “fiscal headroom” made tax cuts for individuals impossible at present.
This is despite the fact htat Mr Morrison wasg among the most vociferous advocates of returning “bracket creep” to taxpayers who through wage inflation had drifted into higher taxation brackets.
The government effectively surrendered the scope for large-scale tax reform once it pulled out out of lifting the GST – a measure it was understood Mr Morrison was more inclined towards than Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
On Tuesday, Mr Morrison attacked Labor’s proposed halving of the capital gains tax discount on housing, arguing it would inhibit rather than encourage investment.
Confusion over the finalisation and release of the tax package had seen it flagged for April, then in the budget, and then both, although a government source said it was merely a matter of keeping release options open allowing budget details to be reported in the days leading to it.
But the date of the budget itself remains in play
by Alan Thornhill
Australia may soon be seeing more students from Singapore.
This is part of the adjustment that this country has been forced to make to the collapse in iron ore and coal prices.
We are now looking to expand service industries – like education – instead.
Australia’s Trade and Investment Minister, Andrew Robb, who is now in Singapore to drum up business is well aware of all that.
In a statement today Mr Robb said he would be seeking both to assess the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and to advance progress with it,
The Prime Ministers of both countries launched the partnership last June.
It marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Mr Robb said the new partnership identifies a wide range of initiatives across the economic, foreign affairs, defence and security fronts.
“One of the many initiatives identified was an early review of the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), which entered into force back in 2003,” he added.
“ The review is scheduled for completion by July this year,” he said.
“Other economic initiatives include expanding two-way investment flows and exploring investment opportunities in sectors such as food, agribusiness and infrastructure in areas like northern Australia.”
Mr Robb also spoke of increasing the flow of skilled labour and visitors; joint tourism cooperation; building additional research and development partnerships and enhancing aviation and maritime connectivity.
“There are also various initiatives to deepen defence cooperation in areas such as military training, exchanges and postings; intelligence sharing, counter-terrorism, organised crime and cyber-crime,” he said.
“A strong focus has also been placed on deepening links between our educational, scientific and research institutions, including new opportunities for students under the New Colombo Plan,” he said.
“There will also be more cooperation between our arts institutions,”Mr Robb added.
He said, too, that a shared strategic perspective and complementary economies are the cornerstones of the Australia-Singapore relationship.
“To me our ambition for deepening our relationship and economic integration should be akin to the close relationship we enjoy with New Zealand,” he added.
Mr Robb said the FTA is an important component of our economic relationship, and the review provides an opportunity to further strengthen our bilateral trade and investment links with our fifth largest trading partner and foreign investor.
“The review of the FTA is timely and consideration is being given to enhancements in areas such as goods trade, services, investment and government procurement,” he said.
“There are significant opportunities to build on our relationship across a range of sectors including in science and research, advanced manufacturing, agribusiness and infrastructure.”
by Alan Thornhill
Google’s agreement to pay a big back tax bill in Britain has – inevitably – set critics loose in Australia.
The Independent Senator, Nick Xenophon, for example says the internet giant could owe “hundreds of millions” of dollars in this country.
Yet the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, talks of a need for both lower company tax and income tax rates, to keep Australia “competitive.”
Google has, arguably, jumped the gun on that one.
The search engine giant pays tax in Singapore on its Australian advertising revenue.
Official figures showed that it paid $9.2 million in tax in 2014, an amount well below the Australian company tax rate of 30 per cent.
The critics are unlikely to be silenced, while this continues.
Google has used complex tax minimization schemes, to lower its tax bills in Britain.
Such as the “double Irish” and the “Dutch sandwich.”
Senator Xenophon believes it is reasonable to ask whether it has adopted similar strategies in Australia.
That’s a question he says he will put to the ABC’s incoming Managing Director, Michelle Guthrie, when she takes up her new post in May.
Ms Guthrie is already a Singapore based Google executive.
Senator Xenophon sits on the Senate’s multinational tax avoidance inquiry.
Watch this space.
by Alan Thornhill
The US Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates – by 25 basis points – is being hailed as the end of the global economic crisis.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen said it ended an “extraordinary period” in which the bank sought to revive the US economy.
It was the first rise ordered by the Fed for nine years and follows seven years of economic crisis.
For much of that time the Fed has kept US marker interest at or close to zero.
The US decision will put pressure on Australia’s Reserve Bank to raise its marker rate – of 2 per cent – early in the New Year.
The Fed’s decision follows the longest period of weakness in the US economy since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
It has been long awaited.
But there are still doubts about whether the US economy was ready for this step.
However Fed officials are confident.
They say an improved economy was ready for a rate hike.
They point to “solid” consumer spending, a rebounding housing market and stronger business fixed investment.
The Fed also took careful note of a healthier labor market in which the unemployment rate has tumbled to 5 per cent.
That is just half the level seen in the early stages of the crisis.
Janet Yellen has few doubts.
“The first thing that Americans should realise is that the Fed’s decision today reflects our confidence in the U.S. economy,” Yellen said in a press conference after the Fed action.
Even so the US decision will be watched apprehensively in Australia, particularly in the building industry, which has been one of the few strong performers in recent times.
There will be relief, though, that Janet Yellen has already announced that any future rate rises in the US will be gradual.
US Investors welcomed the Fed’s decision, seeing it as recognition of increasing strength in the world’s biggest economy.
Their enthusiastic response saw the Dow Jones index rise 224 points overnight – Australian time – to 17,749.
That pointed also to the prospect of a strong start to trading on the local market.
The $A was trading at 72.6 US cents early today,
by Alan Thornhill
The Turnbull government has maintained its lead over Labor in the latest Morgan poll.
It would easily win an election held today.
The poll results, published today , give the government 56 per cent support, on a two party preferred basis, to Labor’s 44 per cent.
They also show confidence in the government up 2.5 points to 122, its highest level since March 2011.
Pollster Gary Morgan said the study showed the Turnbull Government’s honeymoon continuing as Australia heads towards Christmas.
This week Prime Minister Turnbull has travelled to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta – his first meeting with the Queen since becoming Prime Minister – and on to the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris.
“However, despite the issues of Global Warming and terrorism dominating the news headlines lately, Turnbull’s most important task as Prime Minister is to ensure a growing Australian economy which provides gainful employment to as many Australians as possible.”
“Ultimately it is job creation and sustainable economic growth in Australia which will decide the success or otherwise of Turnbull’s Prime Ministership,” Mr Morgan said.
“To be a successful Prime Minister Turnbull needs to take advantage of the boost to confidence his ascension to the top job has created …. and not allow Labor and the Greens to obstruct the implementation of overdue reforms to the Australian economy.
“If they continue to hold-up needed reforms, Turnbull must bypass this ‘blackmail’ and let Australian electors decide by calling an election early in 2016.” Mr Morgan added.
by Alan Thornhill
This is the statement on national security that the PM Malcolm Turnbull has just made to Federal parliament.
THE PRIME MINISTER
When innocent people are dying at the hands of violent extremists, no matter where in the world this is happening, hard questions are asked of societies like our own — hard questions for which there are no easy answers.
For all freedom-loving nations, the message could not be clearer: if we want to preserve the values that underpin our open, democratic societies, we will have to work resolutely with each other to defend and protect the freedoms we hold dear.
Following the recent mass killings of innocent civilians in Paris and around the world, I take this opportunity to update the House on Australia’s global, regional and domestic policies to respond to terrorist attacks.
Let me start by once again expressing my condolences to all the victims. Our hearts go out to the families who have lost their loved ones and to those recovering from their injuries.
We should grieve and we should be angry.
But we must not let grief or anger cloud our judgment. Our response must be as clear eyed and strategic as it is determined.
This is not a time for gestures or machismo.
Calm, clinical, professional, effective.
That’s how we defeat this menace.
The threat from ISIL is a global problem that must be addressed at its source, in the Middle East, by ensuring our involvement in coalition efforts in Syria and Iraq is resolute and effective.
ISIL aims to overthrow all the existing governments in Muslim societies, and beyond. It regards as apostates any who will not submit to its own perverted view of Islam.
Strategically, ISIL wants to create division by fomenting resentment between non-Muslim populations and Muslims.
ISIL emerged as an extremist, terrorist group out of Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria. Their territorial gains in Syria and Iraq have fed into their narrative of conquest.
By most measures, however, ISIL is in a fundamentally weak position.
We must not be fooled by its hype. Its ideology is archaic, but its use of the Internet is very modern. ISIL has many more smartphones than guns, more twitter accounts than fighters.
It does not command broad-based legitimacy even in those areas under its direct control. It is encircled by hostile forces. It is under military pressure.
And, through its depraved actions, ISIL has strengthened the resolve of the global community, including Russia, to defeat it.
The 60 nation-strong coalition’s objective is to disrupt, degrade and ultimately to defeat ISIL. This will require a patient, painstaking full spectrum strategy. Not just military, but financial, diplomatic and political.
This involves a combination of air strikes in both Syria and Iraq and support and training for Iraq’s army.
Australia’s contribution to coalition forces on the ground in Iraq is second only to that of the United States and large relative to our population and proximity to the conflict.
Larger, for example, than any European nation, larger than Canada or any of the neighbouring Arab States.
We have six FA-18s involved in missions in that theatre, with 240 personnel in the air task group, 90 special forces advisers, and around 300 soldiers training the Iraqi army at Taji.
The special forces are authorised by our Government to advise and assist Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service in the field at headquarters level.
However the Government of Iraq has not consented to any of our defence forces being deployed outside the wire on ground combat operations.
The Government of Iraq believes that large scale Western troop operations in its country would be counterproductive.
Australia’s servicemen and women are making a significant contribution to the Coalition campaign and we will continue to support our allies as our strategies evolve in what is likely to be an extended campaign.
In Iraq, ISIL’s momentum has been halted.
Its capabilities degraded.
Kurdish and Iraqi forces have won back territory with coalition support.
I have to report to the House that the consensus of the leaders I met at the G20, at APEC and at the East Asia Summit is that there is no support currently for a large US-led Western army to attempt to conquer and hold ISIL-controlled areas.
In Syria, the broader conflict and the absence of a central government that the West can work with makes action against ISIL even more complicated.
Following the destruction of the Russian airliner over the Sinai and the Paris attack, Russia and France have raised their operational tempo against ISIL.
Ultimately a political solution is needed in Syria. Only this would allow attention to turn more fully to eliminating ISIL as a military force. We support the negotiations in Vienna to find a pathway to a political resolution in Syria.
Under the circumstances I have outlined, and mindful that Australia has a range of security priorities across the globe and in our own region, there are currently no plans for a significant change in the level or the nature of Australia’s military commitment in Iraq and Syria.
No such change has been sought by our allies – if one were we would of course carefully consider it.
We will always proceed on the basis of the considered advice of our military professionals in the Australian Defence Force, just as we rely on the advice of our counter-terrorism experts domestically.
Current advice to the Government is that the unilateral deployment of Australian combat troops on the ground in Iraq or Syria is not feasible or practical.
As a supplement to our already significant military commitment, our interests – and those of the countries and people in the region – are served by supporting stability in countries neighbouring Iraq and Syria, particularly Jordan. We will continue to look for ways to further strengthen cooperation with Jordan.
The rise of ISIL and the conflict in Syria have increased the threat environment in Southeast Asia. I have discussed this issue at the East Asia Summit and in depth with the leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.
We are working more closely than ever to share intelligence and counter messaging strategies.
From an Australian perspective, we see a real risk that terrorist groups in the region might be inspired by attacks such as we have seen in Ankara, Beirut, Bamako and Paris and we are very
mindful of the fact that hundreds of thousands of Australians visit Southeast Asia every year, for business, study or holidays.
Just as Australia cannot fight any military conflict against ISIL unilaterally, we cannot counter violent extremism alone, particularly online. In my recent discussions with regional colleagues at the East Asia Summit and APEC I further committed Australia as a leading partner in this area.
We look forward to supporting the new Malaysian counter messaging centre and to further cooperation with Indonesia, beginning with the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, who is also the Minister assisting me on Counter Terrorism, shortly taking up an offer to visit Indonesia in December to hold discussions focused on furthering our countering terrorism and violent extremism efforts in the region.
The Paris attacks demonstrate ISIL has an ability to launch concerted attacks in Western cities. It was also a reminder that, while coordinated, there is not much sophisticated planning required for armed fanatics to slaughter unarmed civilians with military assault rifles and suicide vests.
As Prime Minister, and speaking on behalf of the heads of ASIO and the AFP, as well as the Chief of the Defence Force, I want Australians to be aware that a terrorist incident on our soil remains likely but also that Australians should be reassured our security agencies are working diligently and expertly to prevent that happening.
In addition to being the most successful multicultural society in the world, Australia, as an island continent, has some natural advantages over Europe, which is currently facing the uncontrolled movement of hundreds of thousands of people.
Unlike the Europeans we are in control of our borders. For example, people who successfully enter Greece are moving at will throughout much of the EU.
We are an island nation. The people smugglers’ business model has been broken. The boats have been stopped.
We also have very strong gun laws that make access to weapons more difficult and play a vital role in keeping our public safe.
As your Prime Minister my highest duty, and that of my government, is to keep Australians safe.
We cannot eliminate entirely the risk of terrorism any more than we can eliminate the risk of any serious crime. But we can mitigate it. We will continue to thwart and frustrate many attacks before they occur.
We are examining closely the implications of the Paris attacks for our own domestic arrangements. I am receiving updated intelligence on this every day. We are working more closely than ever with our European partners.
Public safety is the highest priority. And a major part of this is to be as open and transparent with Australians as possible about both the threat and what everyone can do to help.
In September last year, the alert level was raised to HIGH, and it has remained there ever since. We have subsequently seen terror attacks against police officers in Melbourne, the Sydney Siege and the murder of a police worker in Parramatta by a radicalised young man.
The tempo of our domestic counter terrorism efforts has increased and our capabilities have been tested. Since September 2014, 26 people have been charged as a result of 10 counter terrorism operations around Australia. That’s more than one-third of all terrorism related charges since 2001. Counter Terrorism Units at our airports are also stopping people leaving for, and returning from, the conflict zone.
The fact that there has to date been no mass casualty attack owes much to the vigilance of our security agencies.
ASIO and the Federal Police have advised me that there is no evidence that the recent attacks, including Paris, will materially affect the threat level in Australia but we are constantly on watch for any evolving or emerging threats.
The Council of Australian Governments agreed in July to develop a new threat advisory system to make it clearer to the public what our security experts believe to be the current threat from terrorism.
The new framework, recommended by ASIO, has been subject to extensive consultation and review.
I can inform the House that the National Threat Assessment Centre (or NTAC) that sits within ASIO will this week transition to the new National Terrorism Threat Advisory System.
The new system will provide the public with more information on the nature of the threat we are facing. The adoption of a five-tiered threat system will also provide ASIO with greater flexibility in determining threat levels, reflecting the need to adapt to an evolving security environment.
Rapid developments in communications technology present both opportunities and challenges for our agencies; modern messaging and voice applications are generally encrypted in transit. Human intelligence, relationships with communities, are more important than ever.
I have therefore asked that ASIO and other relevant agencies work with our international intelligence partners to address the challenge of monitoring terrorist groups in this new environment.
I will be meeting with my State and Territory colleagues next month. Co-operation between all tiers of government and state and federal agencies is vital in the counter-terrorism effort.
At COAG on December 11, I will continue our discussions with Premiers on how to best counter violent extremism. I will raise with them initiatives under consideration to address the problem of radicalisation in prisons.
I have also asked that our law enforcement agencies test their responses to a mass casualty attack. Such an attack leaves little, if any, room for negotiation.
This work is in addition to the extensive reform of our national security laws which has already seen the introduction of five tranches of legislation. These laws ensure our agencies have all the tools required in the effort to keep us safe.
Within Australia, our Counter-Terrorism Strategy calls for partnerships between all levels of government, community and the private sector.
It emphasises the need to limit the spread and influence of violent extremist ideas.
The root cause of the current threat we face is a perverted strain of Islamist extremist ideology. Not all extremism ends in violence but all politically motivated violence begins with extremist ideology.
Any war with ISIL is not just one in a military sense, but also a war of ideas. Through their extensive use of social media, they seek the maximum propaganda advantage from any territorial gains as cover for their fundamental military weakness and the barbaric nature of their mindset.
The Government’s investment in Countering Violent Extremism programs has tripled over the past four years to more than $40 million.
The Government’s approach has four tiers:
- maintaining a strong, multicultural society
- helping institutions and sectors of our community combat violent extremist ideology where it emerges
- challenging and undermining the appeal of terrorist propaganda, especially online, and
- intervening to divert individuals away from their violent extremist views.
Importantly, governments cannot win this battle alone. Community leaders and groups have great responsibility both in denouncing violent extremism and teaching unity in diversity, mutual respect instead of hatred.
The condemnation of ISIL and the promotion of authentic, modern and tolerant Islam by the leaders of big majority Muslim nations – including Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia – has been especially important.
To this end, I thank all those Muslim groups and leaders who made statements denouncing the Paris attacks.
A strong and trusting relationship between the government and communities is crucial to ensuring the right messages reach the hearts and minds of those who might be vulnerable to the propaganda of terror groups.
Part of the message is promoting the truth that Australia not only does its part in the military coalition to defeat ISIL but in the humanitarian cause.
Australia has committed to accepting over four years an additional 12,000 people who have fled the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Australia has also provided around $230 million in humanitarian assistance since 2011 to support Syrians and Iraqis affected by the conflict.
This is a significant humanitarian initiative by Australians. We have one of the strongest records of any nation for resettling people facing persecution in their homelands. Since the end of World War Two, Australia has resettled more than 825,000 refugees and others in humanitarian need.
The focus of the 12,000 intake of Syrian and Iraqi refugees is on persecuted minorities and those assessed as being most vulnerable – women, children and families with the least prospect of returning to their homes.
All applications are rigorously assessed on an individual basis – in line with Australia’s existing refugee and humanitarian policies.
Our national security interest is always the first and abiding priority.
Strict security, health and character checks will not be compromised.
In Iraq and Syria, ISIL must be defeated militarily – enabled by a durable political settlement in both countries that will reduce the capacity of the extremists to recruit and mobilise.
The threat of ISIL-inspired terrorism must be addressed through domestic, regional and global counter-terrorism efforts; as an ideological threat, it needs to be confronted globally.
There are no quick fixes.
We will redouble our efforts in support of domestic and regional counter-terrorism efforts.
Across the region, our engagement will intensify, pursuing collective counter-terrorism objectives by better prioritising and coordinating with regional partners.
We will defeat these terrorists.
And the strongest weapons we bring to this battle are ourselves, our values, our way of life.
Our unity mocks their attempts to divide us.
Our freedom under law mocks their cruel tyranny.
Our mutual respect mocks their bitter intolerance.
And the strength of our free people will see off these thugs and tyrants as it has seen off so many of their kind before
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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