Browsing articles in "Social security"
Friday 27th November 2015 - 7:30 am
Comments Off on Malcolm;s big statement

Malcolm;s big statement

by Alan Thornhill

Some might call it a mini-budget.

 

All the Prime Minister said, in an interview with Leigh Sales on the ABC last night, though, is that his government would release “an innovation statement” within the next two weeks.

 

Well, perhaps he did add a little dressing, to make the prospect enticing.

 

How?

By promising, for example, that he would would “set out a very large number of substantial measures. to drive the innovation that would ensure that Australians, their children and grandchildren, will have great jobs.”

 

“…better jobs in the future that will drive our economy,” he added.

 

Then he laid it on the line.
“I don’t think anybody has any doubt that if we are to remain the high wage, generous social welfare net country, first world country that we want to be then we need to be more innovative, more competitive, more productive and the innovation statement will be a good example of the measures the government is undertaking to achieve that.”

 

Yet Mr Turnbull, himself, has some catching up to do in this regard.
He saddled Australia with the pursuit of an internet system which, even if achieved, would offer speeds be well below those of many other first world countries, such as France.
Of course, with its vast expanses to connect, Australia does have difficult – and expensive – problems to overcome, in building anything that could – even remotely – be called a fast internet system.

 

Yet the picture emerging from Mr Turnbull’s attempt to do so – on the cheap – has not been impressive, so far.

 

Long waits for connection.

Cost over-runs.

 

There can be no doubt about one thing.

 

This “innovation statement, when it appears, will be drawn up to underwrite Mr Turnbull’s bid for re-election next year.

 

Politically, his situation has its difficulties, despite what some are calling his initial “honeymoon” period.

 

He is still the man who became Prime Minister, without a popular mandate.

 

And he is not short of opponents who stand ready to remind him of that fact, if he starts making mistakes, as most Prime Ministers do, as they start to settle into office.

Mr Turnbull also declared during his interview last night that he is “comfortable” in his new job.

 

But make no mistake.

 

His handling of the Brough affair is already being watched very closely.

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Tuesday 20th October 2015 - 1:01 pm
Comments Off on Business welcomes planned overhaul of Australia’s financial system

Business welcomes planned overhaul of Australia’s financial system

by Alan Thornhill

Industry has welcomed the Federal government’s broad acceptance of the recommendations of the Murray Committee’s review of Australia’s financial system.

 

Kate Carnell, Chief Executive officer of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the reforms it recommends would strengthen growth and jobs.

 
“The set of balanced reforms announced today will help deliver a stronger, more competitive and resilient financial system to underpin greater business investment and personal retirement savings,” Ms Carnell said.

 

She said business could be seen as the engine room of the economy and  the financial system as its fuel pump.

 

“And we need to keep it finely tuned for the best performance,” she added.

 

”The government has set out a clear plan for strengthening the resilience and effectiveness of Australia’s financial system to help underpin stronger business growth and job creation.

 

“We welcome progress on long awaited proposals and urge the Parliament to support this important reform agenda, including ensuring robust capital adequacy for banks,” Ms Carnell said.

 

“The Australian Chamber noted earlier this year that merchant service fees were the largest component of bank fee growth for the second year in a row.

 

“This highlights the importance of action to improve regulation of banking fees,”she added.

 

We are pleased to see Treasurer Scott Morrison’s statement that future credit card surcharging will need to pass a type of ‘fair dinkum test’ and urge the government to extend similar reforms to bank interchange fees.”

 

“Business welcomes the Government’s intention to secure crowd sourced equity funding legislation through the Parliament by the end of 2015.

 

“This will give greater scope to widen its focus to crowd sourced debt funding, which done correctly would also be very positive for small business growth and start-ups.”

 

John Osborn, the Chamber’s Director of Economics & Industry Policy, said: “A more open and competitive superannuation system with greater choice for employers and employees will foster innovation and deliver better value for businesses and consumers.

 

“The current default superannuation fund rules are outdated and not in keeping with the demands of a modern and competitive finance industry. This includes forcing default fund selection though a Fair Work Commission process and the treatment of employees covered by agreements,” he added.

 

“Currently, an employee who is subject to an enterprise agreement cannot redirect contributions to a personally nominated fund. It no longer seems appropriate or necessary to supress personal choice and we cannot ignore the broader competition implications of limiting the ability of people to vote with their feet.”

 

“We welcome the government’s commitment for the Productivity Commission to examine this issue more closely. Super funds already require approval by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority – the body with the expertise to assess product suitability – and whatever comes from the Productivity Commission’s process must keep duplication to an absolute minimum.”

 

“We continue to support the proposal that requires superannuation fund trustee boards to have a minimum of one-third independent directors – including an independent chair – and believe this strikes the right balance for superannuation governance,”  Mr Osborn concluded.

 

Thursday 15th October 2015 - 12:17 pm
Comments Off on Unemployment eases slightly

Unemployment eases slightly

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s unemployment rate remained at 6.2 per cent in September, despite a fall of 0.1 percentage points based on unrounded estimates from the August results.

This is shown in the latest seasonally adjusted figures from the Bureau of Statistics, which were published today.
The Bureau also said the seasonally adjusted labour force participation rate fell 0.2 percentage points on the same basis to 64.9 per cent.
It reported too that number of people employed fell by 5,100 to 11,769,900 in September.

There were falls in male full-time and part-time employment and female full-time employment, with the largest decrease in male full-time employment (down 11,000).

The Bureau’s seasonally adjusted estimate of hours worked in all jobs series in the month rose by 12.2 million hours or 0.7 per cent in September.
The seasonally adjusted number of people unemployed in September fell by 8,100 to 772,500.

 

In trend terms, employment increased to 11,775,800 in September 2015 and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.2 per cent for the third consecutive month.

Trend employment increased by 232,400 since September 2014 while the civilian population aged 15 years and over increased by 286,400 over the same period.

Wednesday 23rd September 2015 - 3:56 pm
Comments Off on Government services hit as pay strike spreads

Government services hit as pay strike spreads

by Alan Thornhill

Strikes over a bitter pay dispute are continuing to disrupt Federal public services and they are expected to spread on Thursday afternoon.

The Community and Public Sector Union said in a statement Wednesday that tens of thousands of public sector workers would be out when Medicare, Tax Office staff and others join industrial action that has already hit international airports.

Their half-day action will begin at lunchtime.
It will also involve workers from the departments of Human Services, Employment, Environment, Education, Agriculture, Defence and Veteran Affairs, along with the Tax Office, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Bureau of Statistics.

The uinion’s National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “These workers are extremely frustrated with the Government’s 18-month attack on their rights and conditions.”

She said:“ We are calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister Michaelia Cash (who assists him with public service matters) to rethink this failed bargaining policy and work with the union to find a sensible way forward.”

Ms Flood also said: “This dispute was caused by Government policy requiring Commonwealth agencies to go to war with their own workforce.”

Important workplace rights and conditions had been stripped from enterprise agreements.

Ms Flood said the strikers would include “mums and dads working at Centrelink and Medicare who are are deeply worried about the loss of family-friendly conditions.”

“The previous Minister responsible, Senator Eric Abetz, refused to even meet with the union to discuss these concerns since January,  2014,”  Ms Flood said.

She said the on-going industrial action is sending a clear message to the government.

“Minister Cash now has a clear opportunity to move away from the failed bargaining policy of her predecessor and instead take a modern, productive approach to public sector workplace relations,” she added.

Ms Flood  noted that Mr Turnbull had clearly stated that he does not want to wage war with workers or unions.

“We are calling on the Government to change the way it deals with its own workforce,” she declared.

She said, though, that  many government departments still do not have new enterprise agreements..

“Earlier this week workers with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection became the latest to emphatically reject the Government’s negotiating approach to date,” Ms Flood said.

 

 

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Thursday 17th September 2015 - 2:29 pm
Comments Off on Hockey’s budget cuts “hurting the homeless”

Hockey’s budget cuts “hurting the homeless”

by Alan Thornhill

Big spending cuts imposed on the Department of Social Services are having a “devastating” impact on the community, according to a new report.

The report, by a Senate Committee, followed its inquiry into the effect the cuts – totalling $270 million over four years – are having on the the department’s work.

It looked, in particular, at how the Department is now able to assign the task of representing homeless – and other vulnerable Australians.

In a statement today, Dr Cassandra Goldie. CEO of the peak welfare organisation, the Australian Council of Social Service – ACOSS- was scathing.

She said the homeless – and other vulnerable Australians – are being been hurt by the cuts – which were announced $in the last Federal budget.

And she welcomed the report.

$270m in funding cuts within the Department of Social Services, which are now being implemented.

“The Report confirms the community sector’s view that the commonwealth tendering process of community services, following the Federal Budget in 2014, was the worst of its kind in living memory,” she said.

“During the Inquiry, Senators heard from one organisation after another about the myriad ways in which the tender process had failed: bad process and bad outcomes with devastating impacts.

The Inquiry Report verifies that the extent of the cuts – totalling $270 million over four years – left many people, vulnerable and in need, without critical support and services around the country.

“Based on overwhelming evidence, the Committee concluded that the 2014 tendering process was ‘poorly planned, hurriedly implemented, and resulted in a loss of services.’

It was damning of the process which ‘does not seem to have been equitable and transparent’ and undermined many of the outcomes.

But she added: “We have been delighted to hear the new Prime Minister highlight the need for a more collaborative style of government in an open democratic way. “

This Report sets out how the Government can do so, in the crucial area of community services.

Wednesday 9th September 2015 - 7:55 am
Comments Off on New help for young job seekers welcomed

New help for young job seekers welcomed

by Alan Thornhill

Jobs Australia has welcomed a new Transition to Work program that the Federal government has announced to help young, unemployed people.

The peak body for community sector organisations which help disadvantaged job seekers said that although the new program had been flagged in the 2015 Federal budget, details had not been available until now.

David Thompson, the CEO of Jobs Australia, said:“There has been a significant gap in employment services for young people and early school leavers and we’re pleased the Federal Government has finally filled it.”

At levels above 13 per cent, youth unemployment in Australia is more than twice as high as the general rate.

And Mr Thompson said that in some places, like outback Queensland, youth unemployment is above 33 per cent.

He said the new program plugs gaps that have existed since the end of 2014 when a previous one expired.

Mr Thompson said Jobs Australia has previously argued that mainstream employment programs are not ideally suited to younger job seekers, because people entering the workforce for the first time face a different set of challenges.

In a statement today, Jobs Australia said the new program has been funded until the end of the 2018.

Its cost, of some $60 million a year, will be the same as that of the program it replaces.

“It will cover all employment service areas around the country and includes strong incentives for service providers to meet and exceed employment targets,” Jobs Australia said in a statement.

Friday 4th September 2015 - 1:33 pm
Comments Off on As the rich get richer….

As the rich get richer….

by Alan Thornhill

Yes.

The rich have been getting richer.

And the news, for the rest of us is pretty much as expected.

The Bureau of Statistics reported today that the average income of high income households rose by 7 per cent between 2011-12 and 2013-14, to $2,037 per week.

But Rita Scholl from the ABS said that not all households have experienced the same improvement in economic well being.

“Today’s results show that low income households have experienced an increase of around 3 per cent in average weekly household income, while middle income households changed little since 2011-12.”

Ms Scholl said the average income of all Australian households had risen to $998 per week in 2013–14.

But average wealth had remained relatively stable at $809,900.

Ms Scholl said, though, that change in average wealth had been uneven across different types of households.

For example, the average wealth of renting households was approximately $183,000 in 2013-14.

Rising house prices contributed to an increase in the average wealth for home owners with a mortgage ($857,900) and without a mortgage (almost $1.4 million).

She said too, that, most Australian households continue to have debts in 2013-14.

Over 70 per cent of households were servicing some form of debt.

These included mortgages, car loans, student loans or credit cards.

For example, the average credit card debt for all households was $2,700, Ms Scholl said.

And some had big debt burdens.

“One quarter of households with debt had a total debt of three or more times their annualised disposable income” Ms Scholl said.

“These households are considered to be at higher risk of experiencing economic hardship if they were to experience a financial shock, such as a sudden reduction in their income or if interest rates were to rise, increasing their mortgage or loan repayments,” she added.

Ms Scholl also said the Bureau’s survey also allow comparisons of income and wealth across different types of households.

“In 2013–14, couple families with dependent children had an average household income of $1,011 per week, which was similar to the average for all households at $998 per week.”

“By comparison, after adjusting for household characteristics, one parent families with dependent children had an average household income of $687 per week,” Ms Scholl said.

Thursday 3rd September 2015 - 7:58 am
Comments Off on Government spending saved us:Bowen

Government spending saved us:Bowen

by Alan Thornhill

Australia would have been heading for recession now, if it were not for government spending, Chris Bowen says.

The Shadow Treasurer said that was clear from the June quarter national accounts, which showed the Australian economy grew by just 0.2 per cent in that time.

Mr Bowen described Joe Hockey’s optimistic assessment of the accounts as “completely dishonest and disingenuous.”

Referring to the accounts, Mr Bowen told Sky News:”…sure, there’s terms of trade factors but it’s not just that.

” We’ve got dwelling construction and dwelling investment down, we’ve got soft household consumption.

“The only positive is government spending.”

Mr Bowen said that was quite ironic in view of the Government’s rhetoric over the last few years.

” If it wasn’t for the increase in that government spending we would have had a negative quarter,” Mr Bowen said.

“What we’ve got is a lack of confidence in the economy.

“Business is not investing.

“The transition from the mining construction boom to other sorts of investment is not happening at anywhere near the pace and speed that we need it to.

“We’re seeing a lack of confidence from consumers which is feeding through to a lack of confidence from business.”

The Treasurer has insisted, in other television interviews, that Australia is “not heading for recession.”

He said this country has continued to grow while other resource based economies, including Canada and Brazil, have slipped into recession.

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Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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