Browsing articles in "Social security"
Sunday 3rd July 2016 - 8:09 am
Comments Off on “..Labor party is back” Shorten declares

“..Labor party is back” Shorten declares

by Alan Thornhill

“…The Labor party is back,” its leader, Bill  Shorten declared triumphantly, after the result of the first night’s count in yesterday’s Federal election was known.

 

However his conservative rival, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull was insisting that he could still form a government.

 

Independent observers, though, were saying that the results, so far, are so close that voters may still have to wait days to find out which of  these two men will be Australia’s Prime Minister for the next three years.

 

One thing is already certain, though.

 

Malcolm Turnbull has lost the gamble he took, when he called a double dissolution election, months early, in the hope of winning clear control of the Senate.

 

He did that in the hope of restoring peace in the building and construction industry, by reviving the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

 

The final outcome in the Senate will take even longer to decide than that in the House of  Representatives.

 

However one thing is already clear.

 

The new Senate will be peppered with independents and others who may well prove troublesome to the incoming  Prime Minister.

 

 

 

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Thursday 30th June 2016 - 5:50 pm
Comments Off on Medicare:The big sleeper?

Medicare:The big sleeper?

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

 

 Labor has been talking about Medicare again in the dying days of our eight week Federal election campaign.

 

The shadow minister for health, Catherine King, did that when she said:  “Today there is yet more evidence of the overwhelming damage of Mr Turnbull’s Medicare cuts.”

 

This was shown by the Victorian Government’s “dire warning” that his Medicare rebate freeze will rip $230 million out of the pockets of Victorians and see more patients crowding into hospital Emergency Departments in that State, she declared.

 

Labor’s repeated warnings that Medicare’s future  will be threatened if the Turnbull government is returned on Saturday, is one of the few that looked like catching fire, in that otherwise dull campaign.

 

Especially as the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, still believes that he has extinguished Labor’s Medicare threat, under a blanket of strong words.

What, though, if the issue has simply become a sleeper, instead?

 

Let’s look at it, one last time.

 

All parties agree  that Australian voters place a very high value on universal access to health care.

 

Our  politicians agree, too, that voters deserve much more than empty, rattling semantics from their leaders.

 

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, for example, was able to encapsulate the debate very neatly by holding up a Medicare card.

 

He would then declare that this piece of green plastic, not a Visa card, should be all that is required, to get medical treatment.

Mr Shorten would then add that only a Labor government would protect Medicare.

 

Mr Turnbull responded buy branding this “the most outrageous lie” of the entire campaign – and asserting that Medicare would be preserved, if the government he leads is returned on Saturday.

 

He was helped when Labor’s campaign stumbled, because a major medical association refused to endorse th ALP’s warning that a fresh Turnbull government would threaten Medicare’s future.

That is where the semantics kicked in.

We now know that

 

Labor has been talking about Medicare again in the dying days of our eight week Federal election campaign.

The shadow minister for health, Catherine King, that when she said:  “Today there is yet more evidence of the overwhelming damage of Mr Turnbull’s Medicare cuts.”

She said this was shown by the Victorian Government’s “dire warning” that his Medicare rebate freeze will rip $230 million out of the pockets of Victorians and see more patients crowding into hospital Emergency Departments in that State.

Labor’s repeated warnings that Medicare’s future  will be threatened if the Turnbull government is returned on Saturday, is one of the few that looked like catching fire, in that otherwise dull campaign.

Especially as the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, still believes that he has extinguished Labor’s Medicare threat, under a blanket of strong words.

What, though, if the issue has simply become a sleeper, instead.

Let’s look at it, one last time.

 

We now know that many patients will have to pay for blood tests, Pap smears, X-rays and other scans for the first time from July when the government axes the incentive it pays providers to bulk bill patients.

 

The present government has also extended a Medicare rebate freeze that the previous Labor government had introduced as a temporary measure.

We can confidently expect to see more economy measures like these next year if the Turnbull government is returned.

 

Of course Mr Shorten has also said that he is prepared to “modernise” Medicare, if necessary.

 

Where does all this leave, understandably confused, voters?

Take those now vanishing rebates on those tests, for example.

 

They might well be a bargain all round, if they show that patients, often with quite troubling symptoms, don’t need expensive stays in hospital, after all.

Labor, essentially, is arguing that Medicare faces death by a thousand cuts, under a Turnbull government.

 

Mr Turnbull, himself, denies that, saying Medicare is “core business” for any Federal government.

Voters, though, have already confronted him by pointing out that the last Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, promised that there would be no spending cuts to health or education, if he won office.

Politicians, on all sides though, do find it hard to keep promises like that.many patients will have to pay for blood tests, Pap smears, X-rays and other scans for the first time from July when the government axes the incentive it pays providers to bulk bill patients.

The present government has also extended a Medicare rebate freeze that the previous Labor government had introduced as a temporary measure.

We can confidently expect to see more economy measures like these next year if the Turnbull government is returned.

Of course Mr Shorten has also said that he is prepared to “modernise” Medicare, if necessary.

Where does all this leave, understandably confused, voters?

Take those now vanishing rebates on those tests, for example.

They might well be a bargain all round, if they show that patients, often with quite troubling symptoms, don’t need expensive stays in hospital, after all.

Labor, essentially, is arguing that Medicare faces death by a thousand cuts, under a Turnbull government.

Mr Turnbull, himself, denies that, saying Medicare is “core business” for any Federal government.

Voters, though, have already confronted him by pointing out that the last Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, promised that there would be no spending cuts to health or education, if he won office.

Politicians, on all sides though, do find it hard to keep promises like that.

Tuesday 28th June 2016 - 6:10 pm
Comments Off on Government plans a $1.1 billion crackdown on welfare

Government plans a $1.1 billion crackdown on welfare

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government is aiming to save $1.1 billion a year, by targeting  “leakage, waste and abuse” in the welfare system.

 

However the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, who announced this crackdown today, said people who are entitled to welfare payments would continue to get them.

 

He was announcing the Coalition’s financial targets, for the three years following the July 2 election.

 

However the Greens ridiculed Mr Morrison’s statement, saying he was urging that Australia’s social security system be automated and upgraded even though its staff cannot even answer their  phone  calls.

 

Senator Rachel Siewert – the Greens spokesperson on Community Services – said Mr Morrison is   advocating that Australia’s social security system be “automated and upgraded” when his staff cannot even answer their phones.

 

“After 22 million missed calls last year amongst other issues, there are many Australian’s accessing income support of some form, be it Family Tax Benefit, Paid Parental Leave, Disability Support Pension, Youth Allowance, Newstart, Carers Allowance, who feel extremely frustrated,” Senator Siewert said.

 

“The missed calls are just the tip of the iceberg,” she 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.

Sunday 26th June 2016 - 3:23 pm
Comments Off on PM urges Australians to vote for “stability”

PM urges Australians to vote for “stability”

by Alan Thornhill

Malcolm Turnbull says:  “the shockwaves in the past 48 hours from Britain’s vote to exit the European Union are a sharp reminder of the volatility in the global economy.”

Delivering his policy speech in Sydney for the July 2 elections, the Prime Minister also spoke of the need for stable majority government, experienced economic leadership and a national economic plan.

An edited copy of  his 4,000 word speech is reproduced below.

After praising senior Liberals who attended the launch, Mr Turnbull said Australia needs a national economic plan  which “recognises the nature of our times – both the opportunities and challenges – and gives us the resilience we need to succeed.”

“Only the Liberal National Coalition can deliver that plan, that security, that leadership,” he added.

“Everything we seek to achieve, all of our hopes, our dreams depend on strong economic growth, “ Mr Turnbull said.

In a strong economy, business is  confident and  prepared to risk investing, expanding and hiring.”

Mr Turnbull said:  “Our business tax cuts encourage small and medium businesses to do just that.

“A strong economy means a mum whose kids are now at school and wants to work a few more days, or work full time, will have plenty of opportunities to do so,” Mr Turnbull said.

“And our childcare reforms will make it easier for her to do so too,” he added.

“It means that young men and women who have left school and are looking for a job will find an employer who is hiring and is happy to give them a start.”

“Our PaTH program with job training and internships will provide additional support to youth employment,”Mr Turnbull added.

A strong economy means we can fund our Innovation and Science Agenda to ensure our kids learn the digital skills of the 21st century, our research is commercialised to create jobs here at home and investors support start-up companies.

A strong economy means that senior Australians know their children will be in good jobs, their investments will deliver better returns and that Government will have growing revenues to support their pensions and health care.

It means that the farmer is getting much better prices for his cattle and can afford to hire a local contractor to replace his fences, clean out a dam or build a new hay shed.

It means the cafe, the restaurant, the hotel has more tourists and they hire more staff to cater for them.

All thanks to our export trade deals.

A strong economy means that builders will be hard at work on new homes and tradesmen will have more jobs.

It means that a manufacturer has more export orders, can buy more equipment, hire more workers and expand their business.

A stronger economy means we can fund over $50 billion in 21st century road, rail and other infrastructure including the Western Sydney Airport and the 39,000 jobs it will create.

“A stronger economy means we can afford to fund world-class education and health services, including Medicare, without weighing down our children and grandchildren with more debt and deficits,” Mr Turnbull said.

A strong economy means we can meet and beat our international obligations  to address climate change and do so without massive hikes in electricity prices as Labor would do.

“We have a national economic plan because the prosperity and security of 24 million Australians depend on it,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said success in the 21st Century cannot be taken for granted.

“Always expect the unexpected.”

“We will need to renegotiate vital trade deals with Europe and Britain,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We concluded five in the last three years – Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

“In six years Labor concluded none,” he said.

“We have carefully considered what we need to do to succeed, to make the transition from an economy fired up by a once in a century mining construction boom to one that is more diverse, more innovative, smarter, more productive – an economy that wins, and keeps on winning.”

“So there is a clear cut choice at this election,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We present our fellow Australians with a national economic plan every element of which supports more investment, stronger economic growth and more jobs.

“Our plan invests $1.1 billion to promote leading-edge innovation in our industries and to prepare our children for the jobs of the future.”

Our plan promotes export trade deals to generate 19,000 new export opportunities, giving our businesses premium access to the biggest economies in our region.

Our plan invests in local defence industries to ensure every defence dollar possible supports advanced manufacturers and thousands of Australians jobs.

Our Enterprise Tax Plan provides tax relief to tens of thousands of small-to-medium family businesses now and to all companies over time so they can invest, grow and hire more Australians.

“On the other hand, our opponents in the Labor Party have no economic plan.”

“Labor believes its best hope of being elected is to have trade union officials phone frail and elderly Australians in their homes at night, to scare them into thinking they are about to lose something which has never been at risk,” Mr Turnbull said.

“That’s not an alternative government, that’s an Opposition unfit to govern.”

Every element of Labor’s platform would discourage investment and employment.

He described it as: “a recipe for economic stagnation.”

“If returned at this election, we will convene a joint sitting to restore the rule of law in the construction industry and reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, Mr Turnbull said.

So Australians could  have the building infrastructure  they need  “at a price they can afford.”

He said:  “housing values would fall in a fragile property market and rents would rise, because of Labor’s investment destroying ban on negative gearing and 50 per cent hike in capital gains tax.

“This threat is real.

“ So we need to be crystal-clear about what our votes will mean,” Mr Turnbull said.

“If your local vote is for Labor, Greens or an Independent, and you are in one of the 20 or so key battleground seats across the country, it is a vote for the chaos of a hung Parliament, a budget black hole, big Labor taxes, less jobs and more boats,” he warned.

Only a Liberal or National vote ensures stable government, a clear economic plan, real funding for the aged, Medicare and education; more jobs and strong borders.

Mr Turnbull urged Australians to: ““Vote for your local Liberal or National in the House and in the Senate.”

“In the last calendar year, there were 300,000 new jobs,” the Prime Minister said.

“Our unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent is well beneath what was anticipated when the Coalition came to office,” he added.

None of this happens by chance. Strong economic leadership supporting hard-working Australians means that, even with difficult global headwinds, we continue to grow our economy and expand our workforce.

And, today, I can announce additional policies from our Coalition team to support our national economic plan for jobs and growth.

Mr Turnbull said his government is determined to ensure none of our regional communities are left behind as we make the transition to a stronger new economy.

“… our regions must be at the frontline of the drive for innovation, jobs and growth,” Mr Turnbull said.

Our ‘Regional Jobs Fund’ is a major commitment… he added.

“As we build a stronger economy, it is vital that we also do all we can to ensure all Australians, especially young Australians, are not left behind,” he added.

So the Coalition woulds deliver a record $73.6 billion over the next four years for all Australian schools,” he said.

“Today, I can announce an additional $48 million for scholarships under the Smith Family’s Learning for Life program, to help disadvantaged students to complete year 12 and transition to work or further education and training,” he added.

“The Coalition will also invest $31 million in programs to encourage more girls and women to study and work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Mr Turnbull said.

It would also help older Australians get smartphones.

He said only about one household in five, with people aged 60 or above, had a smartphone.

“To make their lives easier, to help them retain their independence, and to keep them connected to families and friends, I am announcing today a $50 million Coalition strategy to assist seniors who want to improve their digital literacy skills,” he said.

“And as announced earlier today, my Government will be investing $192 million more in front line mental health services including twelve suicide prevention sites around Australia and ten more headspace centres; and at the same time using smart phone and other technology to make these services more accessible,” he said.

This complements our support for Veterans’ mental health programs, itself a reminder that we best honour the diggers of Gallipoli and Fromelles by supporting the veterans and their families of today.

Mr Turnbull said; “only a strong Australia can be a safe Australia.

“After six years of abject Labor neglect and indecision, our continuous shipbuilding strategy will ensure Australia retains a sovereign capability to build and sustain naval vessels, securing thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs for decades to come,” he added.

Mr Turnbull said:”Labor’s abandonment of John Howard’s proven border protection policy opened the door to the people-smugglers:

The results had included:-

  • 50,000 unauthorised arrivals on 800 boats,
  • 1200 deaths at sea, of which we know,
  • Over 8000 children put into detention,
  • 17 detention centres opened, and
  • An $11 billion border protection budget blowout.

“In contrast, the Coalition has restored security at the border, integrity to our immigration program – and with it, public trust,” he said.

“I am proud to announce that today marks 700 days without a successful people-smuggling venture to our country,” he added.

“I am also very proud to announce that we have removed every child from detention in Australia,” Mr Turnbull said.

Labor had failed Australia before.

“The people-smugglers are looking for the earliest sign that an Australian government will waver,” he added.

Mr Turnbull said: “our policies are tough.

“But  these policies have stopped the drownings at sea, and restored the integrity of, and trust in, our large but orderly immigration and refugee programs,” he added.

To further strengthen our domestic security I announce initiatives that go to that most fundamental of liberties – the right to live without fear of violence.

Mr Turnbull also said: “my first announcement as Prime Minister was a new $100 million package to encourage all Australians to confront squarely and honestly the ugly truth of violence against women and children in our society.

“Today, I can announce a $64 million commitment to crack down on the trafficking of illegal firearms on our streets, in particular by criminal gangs,” he added.

He said he is asking Australians to make a clear choice — to back a strong and stable Coalition majority government that can press ahead with its plan for a stronger new economy.

That would deliver the economic security that enables Australians to fulfill their aspirations.

“That is why I am asking my fellow Australians at this election to support our Coalition’s National Economic Plan for a Strong New Economy,” he said.

Tuesday 21st June 2016 - 2:33 pm
Comments Off on Jobs:Australia’s outsiders

Jobs:Australia’s outsiders

by Alan Thornhill

The profound changes in the ways in which Australians now work are reflected in detailed figures the Bureau of Statistics published today.

 

Although they were for February last year, they paint a picture of a modern work scene which still exists today.

 

It is one which Australian workers, of previous generations would barely recognise.

 

Full employment was dominant back then.

 

Not any more.

 

The bureau reported that in February 2015, when its latest job Participation, Job Search and Mobility survey was conducted, 33 per cent of Australia’s working age population was not in the nation’s work-force.

 

It estimated then that of the civilian population aged 15 years and over 6.3 million people were not in the labor force, 835,900 were unemployed and 11.7 million were employed.

 

Of the 6.3 million people not in the labour force:

  • 3.7 million (59 per cent were females)
  • 1.3 million wanted to work (23 per cent% of females and 18 per cent of males); and
  • 15 per cent were aged 15–24 years, 40 per cent were aged 25–64 years and 45 per cent were aged 65 years and over.

Of the 835,900 unemployed people::

  • 444,600 (53 per cent) were males;
  • 217,200 people had been looking for work for 1 year or more; and
  • 21 per cent were aged 25-34.

Of the 11.7 million employed people::

  • 10.6 million (91 per cent) were fully employed; and
  • 1 million were underemployed.

Of the 1 million underemployed workers:

  • 960,700 people who usually worked part-time, but would prefer more hours and were available to start work with more hours either in the reference week, or in the four weeks following the interview; and
  • 75,100 usually worked full-time, but worked part-time hours in the reference week due to economic reasons For example, because,  no work – or not enough work – was available,  or because they had been stood down.
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 10th June 2016 - 12:08 pm
Comments Off on Why we risked all:PM

Why we risked all:PM

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is trying to steer the election campaign back to where it started.

That is with his attempt to restore peace in the building and construction industry.

And in a speech to the American Australian Association & US Studies Centre last night, Mr Turnbull also argued that Australia’s increasing involvement with Asia is making this country’s reliance on America more important than ever.

He said the government had launched an unusually long –eight week – campaign for re-election  “in order to break the deadlock between the House of

Representatives and the Senate over two critical pieces of legislation relating to industrial relations.

“and one of those is the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission,”  Mr Turnbull said.

That aim had – previously – been hardly mentioned during the campaign, which has now passed its half-way mark.

But, last night,  Mr Turnbull declared that the course he had chosen is: “the only way we can get the rule of law restored to the construction sector.”

He said the sector  employs one million people.

“ and the restoration of law to that sector is a vital economic reform, and part of our economic plan to secure our prosperity.”

“the only way we can get that passed is through this double dissolution and getting the numbers collectively in the House and the Senate to pass that law and restore rule of law through a joint sitting of the parliament,” Mr Turnbull said.

“ That’s our commitment,” he added.

Mr Tunbull also paid tribute to a previous Liberal Prime Minister, John Howard, who attended last night’s function.

He said: “John understood that the United States is the irreplaceable anchor to the global rules-based order – an order built upon shared political values and common economic and security interests.

“The truth of his insight has been affirmed by every subsequent Prime Minister of Australia.

“Earlier this year I visited and thanked our men and women serving alongside US forces in Afghanistan, in what is now the longest commitment in our military history.

“And also our forces in Iraq, where we are together with the United States and other allies jointly pushing back, rolling back the brutality and barbarity of Daesh or ISIL.

“And not a day, truthfully not a minute, goes by without our intelligence agencies working together – saving lives – in the fight against terrorism.

“Our ANZUS alliance and broader relationship is anchored in a history that is even deeper and richer than many of us realise,” Mr Turnbull concluded.

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