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Sunday 21st August 2016 - 6:52 pm
Comments Off on Government pressures Labor on budget cuts

Government pressures Labor on budget cuts

by Alan Thornhill

 

The Federal government says it is “absolutely critical” that Bill Shorten sticks to his promise to support some $650 billion worth of budget cuts.

 

But, speaking in a television interview, the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, also hinted at the possibility of  further adjustments to a superannuation policy that the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, once described as ironclad.

 

Ms O’Dwyer said it is for the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, not the government, to explain why Labor is no longer saying that it will support the budget repair measures that it promised to back, before the July 2 elections.

 

She said Mr Shorten would have: “…no economic credibility if he is prepared to walk back from the commitment that he made to the Australian people prior to the election.

 

“ Now they banked on over $6.5 billion worth of savings, they banked that in their bottom line, in their Budget figures.

 

“If they are saying now, ‘no we didn’t really mean it,” that would show that Labor cannot be trusted.

 

“ We absolutely believe it is important for Bill Shorten to honour his commitments,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

 

Several Liberal MPs, particularly in the Senate, have been pressing the government for bigger tax breaks on super, than it was prepared to concede before the election.

 

And Ms O’Dwyer’s reply, when questioned on the subject today, suggests that they may have been making some progress.

 

She said  : “What we have said on superannuation is that as the fiscal pressures increase and as our demographics change we need to make sure that superannuation is fit for purpose going forward.

 

“That it is affordable, that it is sustainable and that it is flexible and that it allows Australians to be able to save for their retirement.

 

“We’re going to be legislating an objective for superannuation that says that it is for the retirement incomes of Australians that will either supplement or substitute for the Age Pension.

 

“What we’re doing at the moment is we are having discussions with stakeholders, we’re having discussions with colleagues as we would ordinarily do…”

 

She said that is being done with an open mind.

 

“ We’re encouraging people to put money into their spouse’s superannuation if they’ve got a lower income spouse.

 

“And we’re giving them a tax offset to do that.

 

“ We’re making it a level playing field for people who want to be able to have tax deductions for their superannuation contributions so that if they’re employed by a small business that doesn’t actually offer this, they’re not put at a disadvantage.

 

“ We’re creating a level playing field for people to be able to contribute to their superannuation because at the end of the day, it’s their retirement income and we want them to be able to have a good and strong retirement,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

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Thursday 11th August 2016 - 6:18 pm
Comments Off on Social isolation rates high:research

Social isolation rates high:research

by Alan Thornhill

Social isolation rates are high in Australia, according to new research that the National Australia Bank published today.

 

 

The bank said less than two thirds (58 per cent) of Australians now feel connected to their local communities.

 

 

It said, too, that young women and labourers were among Australia’s most isolated people.

 

 

But older people, including widowed people and over 50s, were among those feeling the most connected.

 

 

These results showed up in a special report on Wellbeing and Importance of Community Connections.

 

 

The bank said  networks play an important role in overall community wellbeing.

 

 

It also said that while there is little difference between the sense of community connection between men and women overall, there are “notable differences by age, education, work, and relationship status.”

 

“Just as our personal wellbeing appears to increase with age so too does our feeling of community connection,” the bank said.

 

“Widows, closely followed by  over 50s (particularly women), married couples, Australians with a higher education and professional workers, not only report the highest level of personal wellbeing but they are also the most connected,” it added

 

“Similarly, there appears to be a relationship between low levels of personal wellbeing and weak community connections, with young women (18 to 29) and labourers the least connected groups.” ??The NAB Group’s Chief Economist, Alan Oster, said .

 

 

“The message is clear.

 

 

Those who feel more connected within their local communities typically have higher levels of personal wellbeing,” ??Mr Oster said.

 

 

He conceded that some of the isolation felt by younger people and labourers might due to age.

 

 

“But some may also be a by-product of modern living with a lesser degree of community connection  due to frequency of job changes, increased globalisation and the associated rise in relocations and the rise of online rather than physical communities and networks” Mr Oster added.

 

 

He said too that both men and women believe that addressing safety and law and order issues would have the greatest impact on improving wellbeing, followed by housing affordability, local jobs and health services.

 

 

“While there is much that individuals can do themselves such as volunteering and getting to know their neighbours, there is also a clear role for government, community groups and business, particularly regarding issues such as safety, housing employment and health in order to improve the wellbeing of Australians,” he added.

Sunday 17th July 2016 - 6:52 pm
Comments Off on Turnbull “backs away” from promised super changes

Turnbull “backs away” from promised super changes

by Alan Thornhill

By late tomorrow (Monday), we should know what the new Turnbull government will look like, but not what it will do about its proposed changes to superannuation.

 

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, signalled yesterday that a decision on that matter is still some way off.

 

Labor called that a “humiliating back down.”

 

Its superannuation spokesman, Jim Chalmers noted that Mr Turnbull had  had said before the July 2 election that the government’s proposed changes to superannuation were “absolutely ironclad”.

 

There are many critics, including some critical ones within the Liberal party, who don’t like the caps the government is proposing to put on tax free contributions to super.

 

Mr Turnbull, though, insists that they are needed, to make the system fairer.

 

But he warned reporters in Sydney today not to expect a quick resolution of this issue.

 

That’s  good advice, as those internal critics, in particular, are very powerful.

 

And they would seriously embarrass the Prime Minister if they forced him to back down, from a position that he, himself, has described as “fair,” so soon after an election.

 

Mr Turnbull told reporters today that he is listening “very carefully” to the concerns that “my colleagues and others” have raised at the proposed superannuation tax reforms.

 

“And they will go through the normal Cabinet and party room process.

 

“We are listening very keenly, I am listening very keenly and carefully to concerns that have been raised by my colleagues, and of course by other people in the community as well,” he said.

 

But Mr Turnbull added that he would not say more at a press conference.

 

Mr Chalmers ridiculed Mr Turnbull’s new stance.

 

“Well, it will be champagne flutes at twenty paces tonight at The Lodge as the members of the Turnbull Government gather to brawl about their superannuation changes,”  he said.

 

“ No amount of taxpayer-funded champagne and prawns will fix the deep divisions in the Liberal Party, in the Turnbull Government, over the mess they’ve made of superannuation,” Mr Chalmers added.

 

Mr Turnbull also coonfirmed today  that there would be some changes between his old ministry cabinet and cabinet and his new ones.

 

His junior Coalition partner, the Nationals, for example, are expected to get at least one extra seat, because they polled well in the July 2 elections.

Thursday 14th July 2016 - 1:29 pm
Comments Off on Trend unemployment “steady” at 5.7 per cent:ABS

Trend unemployment “steady” at 5.7 per cent:ABS

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose by 0.1 per centage points in June  to 5.8 per cent.

 

However the Bureau of Statistics reported today that its “more reliable” indicator of unemployment, the trend series, had stayed steady at 5.7 per cent.

 

Th bureau said our participation rate also remained steady at 64.8 per cent.

 

As always, the detail of the Bureau’s employment figures were important last month.

 

And it said employment grew by 0.07 per cent in June, consistent with the average growth rate over the last six months, on trend figures.

 

The bureau added that, over the past month,, trend employment increased by 8,300 people to 11,933,400.

 

Trend full-time employment increased by 700  after falling for the previous four months.

 

Part-time employment increased by 7,600 persons, its weakest monthly growth since August 2014.

 

The Bureau also said that the hours worked by employed people fell, but not by as much as in previous months.

 

“This reflects the small increase in trend employment,”  bureau said.

The trend unemployment rate remained steady at 5.7 per cent. The participation rate also remained steady at 64.8 per cent.
 

“Trend series smooth the more volatile seasonally adjusted estimates and provide the best measure of the underlying behaviour of the labour market,” Mr Hockman said.

The seasonally adjusted number of persons employed increased by 7,900 in June 2016.

 

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for June 2016 increased 0.1 percentage points to 5.8 per cent and the seasonally adjusted labour force participation rate increased by less than 0.1 percentage points to 64.9 per cent.

Tuesday 12th July 2016 - 1:42 pm
Comments Off on PM’s “get out of jail” card

PM’s “get out of jail” card

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

 

What happens now that Malcolm Turnbull has at least the 76 lower house seats that he needs to form majority government?

 

We can expect to see tight government, as the Prime Minister takes up the reins, to start his fresh three year term.

 

Not quite as tight, though, as the independent Bob Katter has suggested.

 

 

Mr Katter warned, not altogether seriously, that a government with a majority of one, might lose a critical vote, if he left Parliament to attend his mother’s funeral, or to respond to a call of nature.

 

That’s not a worry

 

Australian parliaments, thankfully, have civilised arrangements called “pairing” to deal with exigencies like these.

 

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, though, did raise as serious matter, when he warned of divisions in the Liberal party, particularly those involving the hard right, which supported Tony Abbott against Malcolm Turnbull, last September.

 

They have not forgotten or forgiven.

 

That became clear this week, when one member, Cory Bernardi, sent e-mails to supporters, urging them not to “… allow the political left to keep eroding our values, undermining our culture and diminishing our important institutions.”

 

The ratings agency, Standard and Poors, delivered the biggest challenge Mr Turnbull will face late last week, though, when it put Australia’s triple A credit rating on “negative watch.”

 

It cited both uncertainties which then existed about the July 2 election results and high levels of both domestic and international debt.

 

This means that the agency might well downgrade Australia’s presently excellent credit rating, if we don’t get those issues under control, over the next two years.

 

An astute Prime Minister might see it as more than that, too.

 

A “get out of jail free card” in fact.

 

Even governments which want to keep their pre-election promises often find it very difficult to do so.

 

So what could Mr Turnbull do, if he finds himself in that all-too-likely position?

Mr Shorten warned, during that eight week election campaign, that this is no time to be giving big companies $50 billion worth of tax cuts, over 5 years, even if they are to be phased in slowly.

 

And a report funded by Getup and published just days before the election said big miners and cigarette companies would be among the main winners, from that policy, which Mr Turnbull repeatedly said would create more “jobs and growth.

 

The miners, perhaps.

 

The cigarette companies.

 

Never.

 

So some adjustments can be expected there.

 

Nick Xenophon might also  be in for some disappointment when he comes to Canberra, seeking more money, to protect the jobs of steel workers, in his home State of South Australia.

 

Mr Turnbull might even be able to convince voters that some restraint in these areas is virtuous, as well as necessary, to avoid extra interest rate pain, for home buyers and others.

 

 

If he is astute enough.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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 - 7:25 pm
Comments Off on Bill Shorten sets his “markers”

Bill Shorten sets his “markers”

by Alan Thornhill

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, set out his objectives for a Labor government after July 2, in his final speech of the current campaign to the National Press Club in Canberra today.

 

He said:   “We are setting our markers for the Australia of 2030.”

 

These were:-

 

  • Strong, universal, affordable Medicare
  • A school system back in the top 5 in the world
  • 50 per cent renewable energy
  • A first-rate, fibre NBN, putting us at the centre of the Asian Century
  • Revitalising advanced manufacturing and apprenticeships
  • Building the nation building, productive infrastructure unclogging our cities and joining our economic operations
  • 3 per cent of our GDP dedicated to science, research and technology
  • 300,000 more women in work
  • Halving the national suicide rate, and
  • Reducing the rates of ovarian cancer.

 

He said all  of this would be  matched with an economic and fiscal plan for the next decade, ” to fully-fund our investments in the future.”

 

This would mean: “Delivering the needed structural savings and tax reforms that will bring the budget back to balance in the same year as our opponents forecast, and build stronger, more sustainable surpluses in the years that follow.

 

“Achieving these goals over the next decade means starting work next week.

 

“My team and I have a clear set of priorities for our first 100 days.
“A new Labor government will hit the ground running:

–    Offering certainty to Arrium in South Australia – and protecting jobs in Laverton, Rooty Hill and Acacia Ridge

–    Setting up our transition fund to support 200,000 automotive supply chain jobs

–    Developing the Financing Mandate for our new $10 billion Concrete Bank, so we can get private investment flowing into public infrastructure

–    Drawing up the terms of reference and appointing a Royal Commissioner to investigate the rip-offs, scams and credit card interest rate rorts in the banking sector

–    And convening a National Crisis Summit on Family Violence, an assembly of the frontline: counsellors, law enforcement, community legal centres, state governments and – most importantly – survivors.

 

 

These are the  people who know, better than anyone, what is wrong with our system and what we need to do to end family violence.

 

“Underpinning all of this – our long-term objectives and our immediate plans for action – will be an old-fashioned focus on good public policy.

 

“A careful and considered approach – recognising that government is a most serious business, a long-term policy institution.

 

He said a Labor government would be “Dealing honestly with the challenges we face and being upfront about our plans.”

 

 

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