Thursday, September 03, 2015

2016 Budget -Parliament Gone Again and The World Economy Maybe A Bit More Stable?

September 3 Edition
The big news this week will continue to be market turmoil which seems to have eased a bit but may not have finally stabilised as yet. This is not good for the Budget or our super accounts! It may be Mr Hockey has a real problem too with some calling for him to go.
Budget Night was May 12, 2015. We now await economic and  activity data reporting to see how successful it was. Interestingly there are some early indications the small-business stimuli might be working. Certainly JB HiFi and Harvey Norman seem to have been doing well recently.
Parliament came back on 10th August  and has now gone away for a few weeks so calm has returned! They all come back Sept 7 for another 2 weeks followed by another 2 weeks in October if I read the calendar right.
Well at least Spring is just around the corner - you can tell as the birds are waking up earlier each day and the daily top temps seem to be slowly rising!
Interesting that there seems to be pressure on Mr Hockey right now - especially after Mr Abbott’s comments regarding ‘hyperventilation’ regarding share market losses. A tiny bit more sympathy and reassurance might have been useful.
Comments early in the week on Mr Hockey must make him a little anxious. See here

Samantha Maiden: Treasurer Joe Hockey out for the count

August 30, 2015 12:00am
Samantha Maiden Sunday Herald Sun
TONY Abbott should sack Joe Hockey as Treasurer for Christmas. Trouble is, nobody thinks he has the savagery to do it and use a looming reshuffle to install Scott Morrison in the job.
Or Malcolm Turnbull, the only Liberal who would deliver instant economic credibility to the job.
It is what’s known in politics as the turkeys voting for Christmas.
The refusal to come to terms with the fact that Hockey is a lame duck is a real shame because the last treasurer with any authority was Peter Costello, who exited the stage in 2007.
and here:

Rough week? Joe Hockey's was worse

Date August 29, 2015 - 4:45PM

Michael Pascoe

BusinessDay contributing editor

If you've had a rough week courtesy of market volatility, just consider how much worse it could have been – you could have been Joe Hockey.
The federal Treasurer began the week with what had been billed as a major speech on taxation with a message the Coalition was keen to get back to after various "distractions", as blunders and embarrassments are euphemistically labelled.
Instead, the speech was a policy disaster, immediately shredded by just about everyone with an interest in the subject. 
CPA Australia CEO Alex Malley buried it for being "long on rhetoric and short on substance". When a conservative Treasurer loses the accountants…well, you know.
Here is some other of the recent other news and analysis.

General Budget Issues.

Tony Abbott says 'don't hyperventilate' over sharemarket losses

Date August 25, 2015 - 2:31PM

Lisa Cox

National political reporter

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says "it's important that people don't hyperventilate" after the Australian sharemarket suffered its worst day on Monday since the global financial crisis.
It comes after the Australian sharemarket was hit by $60 billion in losses, on the back of major slump in China, which has sparked heavy losses across Asia.
Mr Abbott said he had been briefed by Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens on Tuesday.
"I think it's important that people don't hyperventilate about these type of things," Mr Abbott said from Thursday Island on Tuesday, where he is visiting Indigenous communities.
"Certainly I've been talking to Treasurer Joe Hockey about the stock market issues over the last couple of days.

Game of politics has dealt Joe Hockey a dreadful hand

  • Peter Brent, Mumble
  • The Australian
  • August 26, 2015 11:07AM
In his first budget last year, Treasurer Joe Hockey overprojected federal government revenue across the forward estimates by around $50 billion. That’s according to the revised numbers in this year’s document.
After all his carry-on about Wayne Swan’s repeated downgrades, Hockey looks pretty silly.
But another recent treasurer transgressed in this way much more severely: one Peter Costello, in 2007. That was to the tune of around $90 billion which, adjusting for inflation, constitutes an error more than twice the size of the current treasurer’s.

Budget pain if cuts too quick: Hockey

  • AAP
  • 27 Aug, 6:12 PM
Treasurer Joe Hockey says more government spending cuts need to be made, but if reductions are made too quickly it will cause the community pain.
His comments came after a stark warning by former Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson that Australia will be "sleepwalking into a mess" unless fiscal and productivity reform are dealt with in tandem.
Dr Parkinson, who stood down as one of the nation's most powerful public servants late last year, told an economic reform summit on Wednesday that the growth of living standards could fall by half of what has been the norm over the past 50 years if nothing is done.
  • Aug 27 2015 at 6:21 PM
  • Updated Aug 27 2015 at 7:01 PM

ACTU urges Joe Hockey to consider increasing tax brackets

The ACTU has urged Treasurer Joe Hockey to consider increasing the number of tax brackets as part of measures to reduce bracket creep and increase workforce participation.
In a 20-page policy blueprint arising from the National Reform Summit, the ACTU has also urged the government to take a leading role in the productivity debate by devising a program to lift the skills of the nation's managers.
Outlining broad-ranging proposals to change the tax system, the ACTU's draft document says any review of the personal income tax base should include consideration of the impact on workforce participation, incentives on bracket creep and additional tax brackets.
Aug 29, 2015

Embattled PM ignores carbon, backs Hockey's tax cut pledge

Frustration with the lack of leadership coming from Canberra prompted two of the nation’s more influential newspapers to stage what was billed as a reform summit this week. But instead of a far-reaching agenda, on display was the sort of self-interested myopia the organisers bemoaned.
Few could disagree with the scene-setting statement: “For too long our politicians have been engaged in bitter personal conflicts, across different parties and within them.” They chided elected leaders for forgetting that Australians want and expect to see our country being well run. Voters certainly tired of the Rudd-Gillard soap opera that ran on repeat for six years of Labor government. But the replacement hasn’t impressed much either. Running the country well seems to be an elusive project. What makes it so much harder is the loss of trust or credibility. For Tony Abbott, regaining it is a losing struggle.
Already, the Liberals appear not to see Abbott as a plus. He doesn’t feature in their campaign material for the seat of canning. Julie Bishop is the big attraction there.

Health Budget Issues.

Labor calls on Joe Hockey to rule out GST on health to pay for tax cuts

By political reporter Peta Donald
The Federal Opposition has called on Treasurer Joe Hockey to rule out broadening the base of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to include health care, as a way to fund income tax cuts.

Key points

  • Hockey left the door open to broadening the GST to pay for personal income tax cuts
  • Labor said applying the GST to healthcare "would be terribly regressive"
  • Any change to the GST would need the approval of the states
  • Economists said increased economic growth would not be enough to fund tax cuts
  • Aug 24 2015 at 4:56 PM
  • Updated Aug 24 2015 at 7:47 PM

Joe Hockey leaves open GST on health

Treasurer Joe Hockey has left open the door to extending the GST to healthcare to help fund a possible $25 billion in income tax cuts needed to combat bracket creep.
Senior sources said the development was a concession that the government could not hope to fund the now-promised tax cuts through spending cuts alone, and may take to the next election a proposal which would involve increasing the rate or base of the GST, or both.
Mr Hockey and Prime Minister Tony Abbott have ruled out a GST increase without the unanimous approval of all the states and say any increase must be part of a tax reform exercise, rather than raising extra revenue.

How a GST on health would hurt your hip pocket

  • August 25, 2015 10:00PM
  • Sue Dunlevy
TREASURER Joe Hockey denies he suggested extending the GST to health in a major tax speech on Monday but he won’t definitively rule out the option to pay for income tax cuts.
Doctors, chemists and health insurers have raised concerns at remarks he made on Monday.
Mr Hockey said he wanted an income-tax cut to compensate people when wage rises push them into higher tax brackets and left open the option of extending GST to health to pay for it.
“There’s no doubt that with the exemptions in place in relation to the GST, the GST’s base is narrowing,” Mr Hockey said.

Labor slams proposal for GST on health

Published: 7:12 am, Tuesday, 25 August 2015
Labor says extending the GST to health would amount to a GP co-payment by stealth.
Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King has told ABC radio the tax burden would fall disproportionately on the sickest Australians, costing patients $3 billion a year.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen says it would amount to a co-payment by 'stealth'.
Treasurer Joe Hockey said tax cuts were needed to address the growing problem of bracket creep, which pushes workers into higher tax brackets merely though wage inflation.
He left the door open to funding the tax cuts by broadening the base of the GST to include health.

Proposed social security cuts pass huge cost to forensic patients

Date August 25, 2015 - 9:00PM

Dan Howard

A government bill seeks to end forensic patients' entitlement to social security payments.
The government has been debating the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 which, if passed, will have the drastic consequence of denying social security payments to persons in psychiatric confinement who have been charged with a serious offence.
The changes aim to save the federal budget a meagre $30 million over four years. This will be at enormous cost to forensic patients – those charged with an offence, but found at court to be either unfit for trial or not guilty on the grounds of mental illness.
If passed, the proposal will have a seriously detrimental impact upon the well-being and therapeutic progress of these patients who are among the most disadvantaged in our society.

Medicare Local bureaucracy leaves $1m legacy

24 August, 2015 Serkan Ozturk 
Now nothing more than another defunct health acronym, the top lobby group for Medicare Locals has been wound up despite enjoying a million-dollar surplus.
The Australian Medicare Local Alliance (AMLA) was set up to oversee the rollout of the nationwide Medicare Local network in 2011.
The victim of the changing party political tide, the network was scrapped within three years by former health minister Peter Dutton to make way for a new acronym, the PHN or Primary Health Network.
Administrators Kazar Slaven said AMLA — funded largely by taxpayers via the Federal Department of Health — left no bad debts but it had a surplus of more than $1 million.

Concerns home doctor after hours bulk-billed service is costing taxpayers $220m a year

  • Samantha Maiden
  • The Sunday Telegraph
  • August 29, 2015 10:00PM
GENERAL practitioners have raised concerns about a booming home doctor service providing “free” bulk-billed home visits after 4pm that is costing taxpayers $220 million a year.
The concerns have also sparked a warning from Health Minister Sussan Ley that companies should be careful to ­ensure they are not “gaming’’ the system by claiming Medicare consultations are “urgent’’ when they are routine.
The flying squad of hundreds of GPs now providing home visits across Australia is helping slash health costs for state governments by reducing emergency visits — but the federal government is picking up the whopping bill.
GPs also claim some visits do not fit the criteria of ­“urgent’’ used to justify the $150 Medicare fee.

Unnecessary procedures ripe for review

A new report has found that many Australians are undergoing unnecessary medical treatments, including treatments that have been found to be ineffective or downright dangerous.
The report, co-authored by Stephen Duckett at the Grattan Institute, focused on five treatments that should not be undertaken. Despite this warning, 6000 people have undergone those treatments in 2010-2011, or more than 16 people per day.
The five treatments that were identified included: hyperbaric oxygen therapy; the removal of healthy ovaries during a hysterectomy; laparascopic uterine nerve ablation for chronic pelvic pain; arthroscopic debridement for osteoarthritis of the knee and vertebroplasty for osteoportic spinal fractures.

Medical Research Fund Issues.

Coalition buries its own medical research fund victory

  • The Australian
  • August 27, 2015 12:00AM

Niki Savva

On August 31 last year, Alastair Lucas, an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, announced the formation of an action group to lobby crossbenchers and the Labor Party to support the Abbott government’s proposed $20 billion medical research fund, which by then was in deep trouble.
It was a broad coalition including academics Nicholas Fisk and Bruce Robinson, researchers of the calibre of Christine Bennett, Brendan Crabb and Doug Hilton, high-flying business types such as Matthew Grounds and philanthropists such as Harold Mitchell.
Such are the cruelties of life that a week later Lucas, also chairman of the renowned Burnet Institute, was diagnosed with brain cancer that was so aggressive there was little that could be done for him. Lucas died in early July. He lived long enough to know a deal had been struck to establish the fund, not long enough to see the legislation passed and, sadder still, not long enough to derive some personal benefit from the important work that no doubt will flow from it.

Health Insurance Issues.

Medibank ups pressure on hospitals

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Health insurance giant Medibank is stepping up its campaign against paying for hospital “mistakes” with the public release of the “events” it deems preventable.
The company (MPL) has today released its list of 165 adverse events that will no longer pay for, which has been the centre of its bitter dispute with Calvary Hospitals.
Medibank also announced today it would introduce an independent clinical-review process to clarify situations where responsibility for the adverse event was unclear.
Medibank has been locked in a heated contract dispute with Calvary after Medibank refused to renew a deal with the hospital unless it agreed to a list of what the insurer believes are preventable mistakes it will no longer pay for.
3:50pm August 24, 2015

Ley warns Medibank over hospital list row

Medibank has been accused of jumping the gun in a move that could leave millions of Australians facing hefty out-of-pocket costs.
The nation's biggest private health insurer has been told by a federal government agency its policies are based on inaccurate information.
Medibank on Monday ramped up its campaign in a dispute with hospital operator Calvary, despite Health Minister Sussan Ley warning the warring parties to stop using patients as ransom in a cynical "Game of Thrones".

Medibank Private releases list of procedures not covered at Calvary hospitals; crisis talks deadlocked

By Michael Coggan
Posted about an hour ago
A big list of medical procedures and complications will not be covered by Australia's biggest private health insurer, Medibank Private, as the stoush between it and health provider Calvary stands at a stalemate.
At the centre of the dispute are private hospitals run by the not-for-profit Catholic organisation Calvary in South Australia, Canberra, Wagga Wagga and Tasmania.
The insurer's list of 165 "Adverse Events" it will no longer cover includes falls in hospitals and readmission to hospital as a result of a wound infection.
But the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care said the inclusion of about 131 of the 165 events on Medibank's list was "based on inaccurate information".

Medibank restarts negotiations with Calvary Health Care over members’ large out of pocket expenses

  • August 27, 2015 12:00AM
  • Sue Dunlevy -

Medibank Private: the float that shocked

MEDIBANK has resumed negotiations over a controversial private hospital contract just days before its members in four states were due to be hit with large out of pocket expenses.
Calvary Health Care and Medibank Private announced late Wednesday they had recommenced formal contract negotiations in Sydney.
“Both parties are pleased to announce that today’s discussions have been fruitful and are ongoing,” they said in a statement.

Medibank, Calvary end row

  • August 30, 2015 11:00AM
  • AAP
AFTER months of bitter dispute, Australia's largest private health insurer Medibank and Calvary Health Care have agreed to declare a truce.
A DAY before a contract between the pair was due to expire, both parties released a joint statement saying they've signed a new three year agreement.
"We recognise that this was a robust and challenging negotiation," Medibank's Dr Andrew Wilson and Calvary CEO Mark Doran said on Sunday.
August 30, 2015

Joint statement: Calvary and Medibank agree to terms

Calvary Health Care and Medibank today announced they had signed a new three year contract that will deliver enhanced healthcare outcomes and affordability for members and patients.
Medibank Executive General Manager Provider Networks and Integrated Care, Dr Andrew Wilson, and Mark Doran, Calvary National Chief Executive Officer, said:  “We recognise that this was a robust and challenging negotiation.
“However, we’ve reached an agreement that will deliver enhanced clinical safety, quality care and affordability for members and patients.  It is good for both our organisations and all other stakeholders, be they  staff or doctors,” they said.
“We are pleased to have achieved certainty about ongoing care for Medibank’s members who require care in Calvary hospitals.
“This renewed partnership places both organisations in a strong position to help tackle the growing challenges facing Australia’s world class health system.”
As the terms of the agreement are confidential, they would not be disclosed publicly, both parties said.

Pharmacy Issues.

Health officials under attack over PBS deal

  • The Australian
  • August 28, 2015 12:00AM
Health officials have been savaged over the failure to adequately ­account for the payment of $14 billion­ to pharmacists, with a parliamentary committee hearing that just one page documented nego­tiations around the ­nation’s medi­cines supply chain deal.
The five-year deal, which was struck under the former Labor federal government, provided for the payment of more than 5400 pharmacies for their role in dispensing Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme-listed medicines.
But the arrangement between the government and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has been widely panned for its lack of transparency and accountability, ­potential conflicts of interest ­regarding the guild’s dual roles as an administrator and beneficiary of funds, and its failure to ­deliver promised savings to the ­national health budget. A damning report was released by the Australian Nationa­l Audit ­Office in March.
It is going to be very interesting to see what happens to the polls and consumer confidence over the next 2-3 months with the present market chaos. I hardly see it improving in the short term.

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