Thursday, April 09, 2015

2016 Budget Watch. Parliament Closed Until Budget Day. The Leaks Continue!

Last Budget Night was on Tuesday 13th May, 2014 and it is still not finalised -apparently $27Billion still unresolved!
We now look forward to see what we might see next time. I am sure this will be fun.
Last week was just huge with early leaks and a Tax White Paper and a Competition Final Report released. Too much for most to even start to get their heads around!
Budget Night is May 12, 2015.
Articles looking forward and back this week include.

General Budget Issues.


Joe Hockey's Uber moment: Treasurer says the changing economy is affecting the tax collected

Date March 30, 2015 - 9:48PM

Latika Bourke

National political reporter

When Joe Hockey finished having a coffee with a friend from overseas recently, it was not the quality of the espresso or even the conversation that was occupying his thoughts at the end of the catch-up.
Instead, the federal Treasurer said he was left wondering whether rideshare company Uber, who had just picked up his friend, was charging the GST or not.
Mr Hockey raised the example when launching the tax white paper titled "Re:think" to illustrate how the changing economy and business world is affecting the amount of tax the government is raising and crucially, from whom.
Mr Hockey said on Monday his friend's decision to decline the offer for a taxi in favour of Uber left him thinking.

Australians reject Hockey’s tax plan

7:59pm, Mar 31, 2015
James Fernyhough Money Editor
The majority of Australians oppose the Treasurer’s plan to lower income and corporation tax.
Australians overwhelmingly oppose the vision of taxation reform put forward by Joe Hockey in his taxation discussion paper yesterday, according to an Essential poll.
Mr Hockey yesterday outlined a vision of lower income and corporation taxes, and an increase in the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
But in so doing, Mr Hockey appears to have again alienated the majority of the Australian population.
The Essential report found 76 per cent of respondents support taxing multinational companies more, not less; while 65 per cent support increasing the income tax for income earners.

Government policy changes worry consumers

Published: 11:43 am, Wednesday, 1 April 2015
Consumer anxiety levels have risen amid concerns about federal government policy.
Policy changes were a bigger worry for consumers than the cost of living in the March quarter, National Australia Bank's consumer anxiety index found.
The index rose 1.7 points to 61.8 points - with seven out of 10 respondents worried about government policy despite the axing of a proposed $5 Medicare co-payment in March.

Budget credit warning for federal Treasurer Joe Hockey

  • Colin Brinsden
  • AAP
  • April 02, 2015 10:00PM
ONE of the world’s biggest investment banks has sent federal Treasurer Joe Hockey a stark warning: change the course of the Budget or Australia risks losing its triple-A status.
And Australia’s biggest retail bank has again called for the Government to develop a long-term plan to tackle the major economic threat posed by sagging confidence levels.
JP Morgan’s chief economist in Australia, Stephen Walters, yesterday said there was a growing risk Australia would be stripped of its triple-A credit rating.

Hockey put on notice over credit rating

Updated: 8:11 am, Friday, 3 April 2015
One of the world's largest investment banks has delivered a stark message to treasurer Joe Hockey, fix the budget or Australia risks losing its triple-A credit rating.
JP Morgan chief economist Stephen Walters says moves must be made to address the nation's chronic deficit, warning government spending has 'accelerated, not slowed' under the Abbott government.

Editorial: Ending entitlement culture

In an Easter message to be posted today, the Anglican Primate of Australia and Archbishop of Melbourne, Philip Freier, calls for a broader conversation about the kind of society we want here, given the nation faces “serious and urgent questions”.
Archbishop Freier reprises Joe Hockey’s pungent idea of ending the age of entitlement, asking for a reappraisal of what Australians expect from government and what they are prepared to contribute. As we see it, this is no mere thought bubble, but an overdue debate about fiscal sustainability, economic flexibility, self-reliance and fairness; it must go to the heart of taxation, welfare, retirement incomes policy and workplace relations reform. To bear fruit, it must be approached in a systematic way by the major parties, the only entities who aspire to broad-based governing.
Having put the handout culture on the agenda in an April 2012 speech, it’s a pity Mr Hockey has done so little to lead such a vital debate. The nation faces a structural fiscal defect that will see Canberra racking up deficits and debt for countless years to come as a result of spending and taxing decisions taken by Coalition and Labor governments during the mining booms. The Treasurer has failed to gain traction for remedial fiscal measures because he mismanaged the politics of reform and his messaging has been inconsistent and insipid. But there are emerging signs others are prepared to take the conversation to the next level.

Apparent Budget Leaks.

Budget 2015: Treasurer Joe Hockey hints the Government will be introducing a bank deposits tax

March 30, 2015
Treasurer Joe Hockey has hinted the Federal Government will push ahead with a tax on bank deposits while blaming the Labor government for the budget deficit.
When asked on Network Ten's The Bolt Report whether he would be introducing a bank deposit tax, Mr Hockey hinted he would introduce the tax first introduced by Labor in 2013.
Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has previously refused to provide any details on the policy, but Mr Hockey has confirmed the policy will mirror Labor's.
"Any announcements or decisions around this proposed policy which we discussed at the last election will be made in the lead-up or on budget night," he said.

Tax reform: Super concessions for the wealthy in the firing line

Date March 31, 2015 - 8:26AM

Latika Bourke

National political reporter

A crackdown on superannuation concessions received by the wealthy appears to be the next major tax reform, with both sides of politics declaring they are looking to tackle the issue. 
A Treasury discussion paper on tax, released by the government on Monday, advocates broadening the GST, which is 10 per cent, and reducing income and company taxes.
While Treasurer Joe Hockey talked down the prospect of an increase in the GST level, hesignalled the Coalition may look to cut back on generous superannuation concessions that favour the rich.
And in a rare sign of bipartisanship, Labor agreed on the need for change to the current system, which critics say favours the wealthy.

Grattan Institute warns budget could include super changes

Mar 31 2015 at 4:10 PM
by Sally Patten
Savers should not rule out superannuation changes in the May budget, one of the country's most prominent think tanks has warned.
Criticising this week's tax discussion paper for a lack of detail on the Coalition's priorities for tax reform, Grattan Institute chief John Daley cautions that super tax breaks could be in sight of Treasurer Joe Hockey as he prepares to bring down his second budget on May 12.
"If there is anything material, it will be on the super side," Mr Daley said, adding that lowering the annual contributions limits or reducing the salary threshold for the higher contributions tax were two measures that could be introduced.
The annual pre-tax contributions caps are $30,000 for workers under the age of 50 and $35,000 for those aged 50 and above. Individuals on salaries of more than $300,000 a year pay a contribution tax of 30 per cent, against 15 per cent for individuals earning less than that amount.

Politicans enjoying generous lifetime pensions agree other Australians should have their superannuation taxed more

  • DANIEL MEERS National Poltical Reporter
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • April 02, 2015 12:00AM
Key Points.
  • Politicians considering whether superannuation should be taxed more
  • Debate comes despite taxpayers funding $45 million in poli pensions
  • Tony Abbott will earn at least $200,000 a year at retirement
  • John Howard has been getting $250,000 a year since losing the top job
FEDERAL politicians considering a Robin Hood raid on the superannuation of older Australians are unlikely to feel any pain themselves as they accept a slice of the generous $45 million in pensions paid out annually to retired politicians by the taxpayer.
In a rare act of bipartisan politics, all sides seem to be in agreement that the tax man should take a bigger bite out of super while at the same time enjoying generous life-time pensions.
The Finance Department has revealed taxpayers fund the $44.6 million needed to pay for the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act for those who have served in parliament.

Joe Hockey waves the white flag on spending cuts

We should be wary of engaging in the fanciful reform ideas being fed to us by the people we elected. They are only trying to distract us from their inability to do the basics: cut spending.
This government is operating on the motto: “You think we are big-spending, high taxers? Trust us, Labor would be even worse, and by the way, look over there!”
Perhaps you think me unkind. Australia, if Treasury is to be believed, is, under present settings, going to take at least 40 years to achieve a surplus. Forty years.
Where will you be in 40 years? In 40 years, if still alive, I will be 85 and hopefully dementia-free. Considering the wait, I want to have all mental faculties intact so as to fully appreciate the moment the budget emergency from 2013 is finally fixed, the fire is put out and Labor’s mess is cleaned up.

Suddenly, we have new directions on superannuation tax and pensions

The Australian

  • April 04, 2015 12:00AM

Paul Kelly

The politics are remarkable. Within a few days of the government’s tax discussion paper the Labor Party has killed off the pivotal proposition — the need to shift the balance from direct to indirect taxation — and has instigated a national debate about its own proposal to remove super tax breaks at the high end.
Opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen has campaigned all week to make the superannuation tax the centrepiece. It is a classic hijack.
Yet it is also an opportunity for Joe Hockey, who wants to shift public opinion on the need for intergenerational equity and enduring budget reform.
The reality is that superannuation tax breaks for high-income earners are unjustified in the current fiscal situation on revenue and equity grounds. This is emerging as a shared Liberal-Labor position in principle. It has been reinforced this week by a report launched by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia showing that about 70,000 people with an account balance of more than $2 million receive tax-free income.

Samantha Maiden: PM Tony Abbott gets serious about kicking millionaires off the pension

  • The Sunday Telegraph
  • April 05, 2015 12:00AM
KEVIN Andrews gets a bad rap as a deadwood minister cruising into the Defence ­Department exit lounge.
One minute, he was the minister for love, cheerfully handing out $200 vouchers for sex and relationship counselling sessions and posing up to promote the scheme with his lovely wife as they clutched hands on a burgundy sofa.
The next, the anti-divorce campaigner was being shifted into Defence, the great political departure lounge that few ministers have ever re-emerged from.
Media coverage of his replacement, rising star Scott Morrison, generally asserts that his predecessor was a bit of a dud.

Health Budget Issues.

1 April 2015, 6.05am AEDT

If the government wants price signals, it should stop supporting health insurance

PPrivate insurance, by its very nature, suppresses price signals and encourages over-servicing and cost escalation.

Author Ian McAuley

Lecturer, Public Sector Finance at University of Canberra
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared the Medicare co-payment proposals “dead, buried and cremated”, but two related ideas behind it live on: Medicare is becoming “unaffordable” and our universal health system should morph into a program reserved for the poor.
The government’s original justification for the co-payment was to bring more “price signals” into Medicare. In itself the idea has merit, but the government has been going about it in a ham-fisted way.
Whether by design or accident, the government seems to be undermining the principle of Medicare as a universal tax-funded program, paving the way for private health insurance to play a role in funding primary care.
But private insurance, by its very nature, suppresses price signals and encourages over-servicing and cost escalation. It is an expensive way to fund health care.

Half unaware of hike in health insurance premiums

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Health insurance premiums will jump by 6.2 per cent on average today, but only one in two Australians are aware they are about to be hit with the increase.
This year’s increase could add to the trend of people dumping or downgrading policies, which recently passed 2.5 million.
Research from revealed that half of all health insurance policyholders surveyed were unaware if their insurer had made changes to their policy.
The survey, of an independent panel of 1000 Australians with private health insurance, showed that while 81 per cent of respondents said they were confident they were covered for major healthcare costs, 50 per cent were unaware if changes had ever been made to their policies and 39 per cent had allowed their policies to automatically renew each year.

Mental health funding to be extended by Coalition after lobbying from sector

Mental health programs worth $300m will continue to be funded for another year while government works through the findings of a review
The federal government has announced it will extend funding for a number of mental health programs for 12 months, following pressure from lobby groups.
Funding for some community mental health organisations was due to expire at the end of the financial year, which mental health advocacy groups said would mean the loss of services affecting thousands of people.
The health minister, Sussan Ley, on Thursday announced that the programs, worth $300m, would continue for another year while the government worked through the findings of a report into the sector undertaken by the Mental Health Commission.

Tax reform promises focus not just on how much, but how revenue raised, while Budget cuts still major concern

Marie McInerney | Mar 31, 2015 3:32PM | EMAIL | PRINT
Yesterday Treasurer Joe Hockey released the Federal Government’s long-awaited discussion paper on tax reform, which comes just five years after the long-awaited Australia’s Future Tax System Review for the Labor Government by former Treasury Head Ken Henry.
Among other measures, the paper advocates broadening the GST and reducing income and company taxes,  along with a crackdown on superannuation tax concessions that have been described as a “tax haven” for the wealthy.
Unlike the harsh measures doled out in the last Federal Budget, this paper looks past issues of spending to the question of revenue – of what we need in order to deliver the services we want. It notes the focus should be “on how revenue is raised, not just how much” and that the government’s goal is to deliver “lower, simpler, fairer taxes.”

Pharmacy Issues.

Review calls for abolition of pharmacy regulations

31 March, 2015 Chris Brooker
Pharmacy organisations have rejected the recommendations of the Federal Government’s Competition Policy Review.
The report, delivered today, has recommended removing pharmacy ownership and location rules.
It called on the government to use Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement negotiations to “implement a further targeted relaxation of the location rules, as part of a transition towards their eventual removal”.
“If changes during the initial years of the new agreement prove too precipitate, there should be provision for a mid-term review to incorporate easing of the location rules later in the life of the next Community Pharmacy Agreement”.

Harper review: Pharmacists slam proposal to lift restrictions

Date March 31, 2015 - 6:33PM

Beau Donelly

Loosening strict pharmacy regulations would allow supermarket chains to tap into the prescription medicine market and could compromise patient care, pharmacists warn.
The final report of the Harper Review, published on Tuesday, has recommended dumping pharmacy location and ownership rules among a raft of other changes aimed at boosting competition.  
But pharmacists have roundly rejected the proposal, saying deregulation would give supermarkets the power to compete with local pharmacies, driving independent operators out of business and putting health care second to profit.
They say the big supermarket chains could never be a legitimate part of the health system while they profit off cigarettes and alcohol.

The Pharmacy Guild: the most powerful lobby group you've never heard of

Date April 1, 2015 - 4:16PM

Matthew Knott

What a thrill, to be young and naive.
There's always been a fear that if they ran a campaign they could bring a government down 
I was in my early 20s, my first year of full-time journalism, and had been assigned a task well above my pay grade: to uncover the 10 most powerful lobbyists in Australia.
My initial enquiries focused on Clubs Australia, which was waging war against poker machine reform; the Minerals Council of Australia, whose advertising campaign helped kill off Kevin Rudd's mining tax; and business lobbyist Heather Ridout.
At the end of each phone call, I would ask: is there anyone else I should look at? 
When the first person said the Pharmacy Guild, I ignored them. How powerful could chemists be, I sniffed. Pretty small stuff, surely, compared to the miners and the gambling industry. To tell the truth, I'd never heard of the guild before.

Harper Review: Shake-up of pharmacy rules could mean longer opening hours, better service, Consumers Health Forum says

By political reporter Louise Yaxley
Posted yesterday at 4:22pm
Relaxing the rules for pharmacies could lead to longer opening hours and better service, a consumer group says.
The Harper Review into competition policy, released yesterday, calls for the scrapping of the rules that set out where pharmacies are located.
"Such restrictions limit the ability of consumers to choose where to obtain pharmacy products and services, and the ability of providers to meet consumers' preferences," the review said.
The Consumers Health Forum is backing the idea and says the Government should bring in a new, more-flexible system over the next two years.

Harper review: Second opinion at odds over pharmacy treatment

Joe Kelly

Healthcare groups are split over calls to remove pharmacy ownership and location restrictions, with Small Business Minister Bruce Billson warning that the outlets cannot be treated like any other retail operation.
State and territory laws limit ownership to registered pharm­acists, but the Harper review says this has no bearing on the quality of advice or care provided, and points out no similar laws apply to GP practices.
Location rules are so complex they fill a 56-page handbook. They prevent new pharmacies opening within a certain distance of others, with distances usually varying ­between 1.5km and 10km. The Consumers Health Forum, Cancer Voices Australia and the Chronic Illness Alliance yesterday backed the removal of “antiquated measures” that shield pharmacists from competition.

Harper review of competition has deregulation agenda

Date April 4, 2015 - 12:15AM

Gareth Hutchens

A review of Australia's competition laws is the first systemic shake-up in 22 years and could lead to a revolution in the way Australians live.
Imagine you're a nurse in a busy hospital working late into the night most shifts. By the end of each day you're hungry and exhausted but you haven't done the shopping for days. Your groceries are running low. You would love to have a glass of wine tonight, too, but you have nothing at home.
Dammit. All the shops are closed by now.
Helen Phillips-Vass, of Bondi in Sydney, has worked as a registered nurse for more than 20 years. She says the above scenario is a familiar one.
"There are several times when I've thought I'll just drop in to get some food or a bottle of wine and there's just nowhere," Ms Phillips-Vass says.

Pharmacy explainer: what are the benefits of deregulating the pharmacy industry?

Date April 5, 2015 - 12:15AM

Dan Harrison

Viagra with your Vegemite, Amoxycillin with your apples? This week's call for pharmacy deregulation by the government's competition review could lead to supermarkets entering the industry. Cheaper prescriptions filled at more convenient hours, or the green lighting of unqualified shop assistants dolling out drugs? Dan Harrison looks at the risks and rewards for consumers.
What are the current controls on the operation of pharmacies?
Under state laws, with limited exceptions, you have to be a pharmacist to own a pharmacy. State laws also impose limits on how many pharmacies each pharmacist can own. Federal laws govern where pharmacies can be located, and these are so complex the handbook to explain them runs to 56 pages. In short, a pharmacist must obtain approval from the federal government to open a new pharmacy or to move or expand an existing pharmacy. Generally a new pharmacy can not be opened within a certain distance of an existing pharmacy, usually either 1.5 kilometres or 10 kilometres, depending on the area. These rules also ban pharmacies being placed either within or in a position directly accessible from a supermarket.
I also have to say reading all the articles I still have no idea what is actually going to happen with the 2016 Budget (or the Government) at the end of the day.
Nonetheless I am sure there will be lots of fun to observe over the next few weeks.

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