by Alan Thornhill
As the critical campaign for the Canning by-election enters its final week, Tony Abbott has become bolder.
He declared, on arrival in Perth at the weekend, that the Liberals would win this contest next weekend.
“Well, we’re not going to lose the Canning by-election, ” he said
“We’ve got an outstanding candidate.”
“We’ve run a strong campaign.”
“And I think the people of Canning are going to ask themselves ‘who is going to look after them?'” he said.
A reporter had asked him whether he would stand down, as Prime Minister, if the Coalition lost the seat, which was vacated when a popular local member Don Randall died.
But Mr Abbott probably wouldn’t get that choice, if the Liberals do lose, or even fail to produce a respectable result next Saturday.
That’s because the party would, most likely, make the decision for him, giving Mr Abbott his marching orders.
So Mr Abbott clearly decided he might as well be bold.
Even though there is already talk of his overthrow, anyway.
There was also a flurry of announcements, over the weekend about the good things that can be expected in this electorate if the Liberals do win well next Saturday.
These include at least one road duplication, to make traffic flow more smoothly in a notorious black spot near the southern suburb of Armadale.
There will also be a new road bridge at Byford, not far away.
The popular seaside city of Mandurah could also look forward to the installation of more CCTV cameras, as a public safety measure.
The Federal Justice Minister said the Coalition government is prepared to contribute $150,000 to a community safety project, planned by the City of Mandurah.
He made the announcement while visiting the site, with the Liberal Candidate for Canning Andrew Hastie, saying the funding will be delivered under the Coalition’s Community Development Grants Program.
Mr Keenan also let it be known, while campaigning with Mr Hastie at the weekend, that young people in Armadale would get improved mental health services.
That would happen with the opening of an Australian Government-funded Headspace centre.
It would provide access to a range of support services for people between the ages of 12 and 25.
These include mental health care, related physical health care, services associated with alcohol and other drug use and social and vocational support.
Labor hasn’t been idle, either.
The Federal Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, was also in Western Australia at the weekend, on one of several visits he has made, to support his party’s by election candidate, Matt Keogh.
He urged voters in the electorate to support Labor, to protect their penalty rates, which he accused Mr Abbott and senior Federal ministers are attacking.
Mr Shorten said this is a live issue in the campaign.
“Today we see members of the community, many people who go to work and don’t earn a lot of money just saying enough is enough Mr Abbott and the Liberals, please stop attacking our penalty rates.
“The future of Australia doesn’t depend upon cutting the wages and conditions of millions of Australians. ”
“We can have a bright future in this country if we properly fund our schools and our health care, if we stand up for new jobs and infrastructure, and most importantly if we don’t divide the country. Retail wages in this country are not high, hospitality and tourism rates are not high.
“Many of the people who depend upon penalty rates be they nurses, ambulance officers, people who look after our quality of life.”
“They need these penalty rates.”
“The future for Australia is in high skilled, reasonably paid jobs where we’re all working together,” Mr Shorten said.
by Alan Thornhill
There is a strong case for increasing the compulsory rate of superannuation contributions to 12 per cent of wages, according to an industry association.
It is now 10 per cent.
The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) made this observation today when it released its latest Standard calculations of how much Australians will need to save for their retirements.
These showed that rising costs and changes to the Age Pension mean that an Australian couple will now need to save $130,000 more for a comfortable retirement
ASFA now estimates that Australians will need a super balance at retirement of $640,000 for a couple and $545,000 for a single,to meet that goal.
That would be an increase of $130,000 and $115,000 respectively from previous estimates.
ASFA says the June quarter figures indicate a modest rise in the cost of living for retirees, with couples aged around 65 living a comfortable retirement needing to spend $58,784 per year and singles $42,861, a respective 0.6 per cent and 0.7 per cent increase on the previous quarter.
Budgets for older retirees increased by 0.8 per cent at the comfortable level and by 0.7 per cent at the modest level.
“A combination of increasing cost pressures, increasing life expectancy and the recently legislated changes to the Age Pension means test have had an impact on the estimated savings Australians will need to live a comfortable retirement,” ASFA CEO, Pauline Vamos,said.
“In particular, adjustments to the taper rate and thresholds for the assets test will impact how people plan to fund their retirement.
While some individuals with relatively low retirement savings will receive a small increase in their Age Pension after 1 January 2017, others will receive a lower Age Pension, or none at all, until they run down their superannuation.
“As a result, many individuals and couples will require higher levels of private savings for a comfortable standard of living in retirement.
“If there are further increases to the eligibility age for the Age Pension beyond what is already legislated and a lower indexation factor is applied to future increases in the Age Pension, those retirement savings targets will necessarily increase further.”
ASFA said the most significant price rises affecting the cost of living for retirees this quarter were automotive fuel (+12.2 per cent) and medical and hospital services (+4.5 per cent).
The most significant offsetting price falls this quarter were domestic holiday travel and accommodation (-5.4 per cent) and pharmaceutical products (-1.8 per cent).
Ms Vamos said” …many individuals may want to consider making voluntary contributions.
“These are generally tax advantaged and the earlier you can put money away, the more you will benefit from the effects of compound interest.
“A useful thing you can do is get in touch with your superannuation fund to find out what options are available to you, so that you have the best chance of living your post-work years free from major financial worries,” she added.
by Alan Thornhill
Age pensioners have faced bigger price rises than many other Australians over the past year, according to the Bureau of Statistics.
In papers published today, for example, the Bureau reports that the living costs of Age pensioners rose by 0.6 per cent in the three months to the end of June and 1 per cent in the 12 months to the end of June.
The living costs of employees, though, rose by 0.4 per cent in the quarter and 0.9 per cent for the year as a whole.
Australia’s inflation has been low, by traditional standards, over this time.
The Bureau also reported that its broader Consumer Price Index rose by 0.7 per cent in the quarter and 1.5 per cent over the year.
It noted that rising fuel prices had a big impact on the living costs of both pensioners and employed Australians in the June quarter.
The Bureau calculated, for example, that the transport costs faced by age pensioners rose by 4.2 per cent in the June quarter.
It said this was driven by the rise in automotive fuel prices.
Employed Australians saw their transport costs rise by 3.4 per cent in the same time.
Age pensions are adjusted twice a year in Australia to reflect price rises.
They were also adjusted automatically to reflect rising national prosperity, until last year, when this was discontinued.
by Alan Thornhill
A former director of Provident Capital Limited, Trevor John Seymour, has been banned from managing corporations for three years.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which took this action, also announced that Seymour would be banned from providing financial services for three years.
In a statement today, ASIC said these actions followed its investigation which found that Seymour breached his duties as a director and failed to comply with financial services laws.
It also said that Seymour, of Campbelltown, New South Wales, was a director of Provident Capital from 25 May 1998 to 17 December 2013.
Provident Capital went into receivership on 3 July 2012 and into liquidation on 24 October 2012.
The Commission said it had found Seymour breached his obligations as a director of Provident Capital and engaged in conduct that was misleading or deceptive.
It said he did this by approving a number of documents issued by Provident Capital.
• 15 Quarterly and 7 Benchmark Reports issued to ASIC and Australian Executor Trustees Limited, which contained misleading statements and which were misleading or deceptive, and
• a Debenture Prospectus in December 2010, issued to raise funds from the public, which contained misleading statements and which were misleading or deceptive and
• Information Booklets in 2012, which were deficient.
ASIC Commissioner John Price said, ‘Directors of financial services companies have a clear responsibility to ensure the company provides accurate and credible information upon which investors can rely.
He said it would act to remove people who fail in their corporate governance and compliance obligations, for the protection of the public.
Mr Price noted though that Seymour has been given permission to manage Raintron Pty Ltd (the trustee of his self-managed superannuation fund) and Garde Pty Ltd (a trustee company which acts as an executor of an estate).
He said tese exceptions had been granted on the basis that altering the arrangements to accommodate his disqualification is disproportionate to the risk to the public given the limited activities of these companies.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government says it is making “strong progress” in repairing the budget.
The Treasurer, Joe Hockey. and Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, made the claim today in a joint statement.
They said:” As the first half of the Parliamentary year draws to a close, the Government is getting things done.
“We have made good progress to repair the Budget and are implementing our plan for stronger growth and more jobs for all Australians.
“Over the past fortnight we were able to pass key measures in our Small Business and Jobs package through the Senate, as well as more than $14 billion in Budget repair measures.”
They said, too, that:”We’ve have made significant improvements to the Budget bottom line.”
* $2.8 billion from Labor 2013-14 Budget Savings (Measures No. 1) Bill 2014 (Cancellation of 2015-16 tax changes linked to the carbon tax – first proposed by Labor in their 2013-14 Budget).
* $0.5 billion from the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2015 Measures No. 1) Bill 2015 (including the abolition of First Home Saver Accounts and the abolition of the Dependent Spouse Tax Offset)
* $2.4 billion with the passage of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015.
* $1.1 billion with the passage of Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Seniors Supplement Cessation) Bill 2014.
* $3.6 billion over the five year period to the end of 2018-19 with the passage of the bi-annual petrol indexation measures.
· $257 million from the Government’s changes to excise for domestically manufactured biodiesel and fuel ethanol commencing on 1 July 2015.
* $465 million from the Government’s changes to improve integrity of social security income test arrangements.
* $3.2 billion from the Appropriation Bills which provide for the efficient delivery of Government operations.
“Since last year’s Budget more than $50 billion in budget repair measures have now been legislated.” the two ministers said.
“But there is more to be done.
“We will continue to work methodically and in a prioritised fashion through our plan for stronger growth, more jobs and to repair the Budget,” they added.
by Alan Thornhill
Tests for the Age Pension will be tightened, as the result of a deal between the Federal government and the Greens.
That deal saw the new tests – which the government announced in its May budget – become law when the Senate passed the necessary legislation late last night.
This means that at least 170,000 pensioners with low and modest levels of assets will have their pension increased by around $30 a fortnight.
However the changes will also mean cuts in part pensions for another 235,000 people.
And 90,000 others – with large amounts of assets- will lose their part pensions entirely.
The changes will save the government $2.4 billion.
Labor had opposed them.
The Greens leader Richard Di Natale said that – in striking the deal with the Coalition – he had managed to convince the Government to put superannuation back on the agenda.
But the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, told parliament – after the deal was struck – that his government is not planning any changes to superannuation.
The government described last night’s vote as a major victory.
Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said it was both a win for pension fairness and for the budget bottom line.
“This is a fairly emphatic endorsement of the Government’s policy, but also of the Government’s budget,” he said.
“The have-a-go budget is gaining real traction in the Senate.
“Some $3.5 billion worth of savings passed the Senate, not just the pension assets test change but also the seniors supplement passed.”
However, Labor’s Jenny Macklin said the Greens had been “completely dubbed” as the Government had made it clear they would not change tax concessions on superannuation.
by Alan Thornhill
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott told Parliament today that 170,000 pensioners – with modest assets – would be $30 a fortnight better off, under a deal the government has struck with the Greens.
And Australians with a million dollars worth of assets – as well as a family home – would face cuts in their part pensions.
But the changes will not take effect until January 2017.
However Mr Abbott surprised many observers by saying that the government will not be reviewing tax breaks on superannuation.
The Democrats had said that this, too, was part of the deal.
However thousands of Australians approaching retirement will face tighter pension tests, under it.
The proposed changes, designed to gradually restrict the Age pension to people the government believes really need it.
In the deal, announced late yesterday, the Social Services Minister Scott Morrison and the Greens leader Richard Di Natale agreed to a tighter assets test for the age pension.
The agreement will give effect to changes the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, flagged in his May budget.
It will save nearly $2.5 billion dollars over four years, making it the biggest single measure in the 2015 budget.
Labor is bitterly opposing the proposed cuts, which it said would flow from this “dirty deal.”
Bill Shorten declared that Labor would fight planned pension cuts that the government announced in last month’s budget.
The Opposition Leader said Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison had set out to cut the pensions of almost 330,000 low income pensioners.
He said that included 90,000 who would lose their pensions entirely.
“Labor has carefully considered the proposal and it’s clear the Government has not been upfront about the full extensive impact of these cuts,” Mr Shorten said.
“Independent analysis shows that these new cuts will affect half of all new retirees within ten years, he added.
“It shows more than a million retirees will be affected by these cuts, including 700,000 people who will retire in the next decade.”
He said some single pensioners would lose more than $8,000 a year – a quarter of their yearly income of $36,000.
“Some couples will lose approximately $14,000 a year,” Mr Shorten added.
“These are not rich people – they are not on high incomes – and they deserve dignity and security in their old age,” he added.
“People planning and saving for their retirement now will be affected,” he said.
“These people have worked and saved hard their whole life.
“They deserve dignity and respect in their retirement.
“Instead, Tony Abbott is attacking their savings.
“If you’re on a pension, if you will rely upon a pension in the future – the Liberals are coming after you,” Mr Shorten said.
“And the only party standing in the way is Labor.
“And we know, if this government is re-elected they will cut pensions again.”
So what did Mr Hockey, himself, have to say about all this, in his budget last month?
The following extracts, taken from page 27 of his Budget Overview, set out the government’s main objectives.
“A fairer pension system
“Targeting pensions to those who need it most
“The Age Pension is our largest welfare payment, totalling an estimated $44 billion in 2015-16.
“As our population ages, we need to ensure the pension system is sustainable…” Mr Hockey said.
“From 1 January 2017, the asset free area for pensioners will increase, allowing around 170,000 pensioners with moderate assets to receive a full or increased pension.
“At the same time, the asset test taper rate will increase from $1.50 to $3.
“This means for every $1,000 of assets over the asset free threshold, the pension rate will reduce by $3 a fortnight.
“Currently, pensioners with substantial assets can still get a part pension.
“Without changes, a single homeowner could hold assets up to around $800,000
and couple homeowners could hold assets up to around $1.2 million, in addition to their family home and still be eligible for a part pension.
“The changes in the Budget require those pensioners with substantial means to draw on slightly more of their assets to maintain their current income levels in retirement, while the Government continues to support those who need it most.
“In a worst case scenario, this would mean a 1.8 per cent annual drawdown on
their assets,” Mr Hockey said.
Butt he added:”…. those who no longer receive a pension will remain
eligible for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card or Health Care Card.”
by Alan Thornhill
The Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, described the budget as fundamentally unfair.
He said:”This is not a Budget for Australia’s future – this is a short sighted attempt to save Tony Abbott’s job.
“Tonight’s Budget has more tax, more debt and higher unemployment.
“It is the worst of all worlds.
“On Joe Hockey’s own numbers, he has doubled the deficit in one year.”
Mr Bowen said the cuts the public rejected last time are again at the core of tonight’s budget.
These included an $80 billion cut from hospitals and schools; $100,000 university degrees; cuts to family payments.
“The Government has failed the test it set for itself – spending is up, deficits are up, unemployment is up,” Mr Bowen said.
“Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have broken their promise to families that they would not be hurt – this Budget is paid for by cuts to households’ budgets,” he added.
“Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have broken their promise for no new taxes,” he said.
“This Budget contains 17 new taxes.”
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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