Quote Of The Year

Timeless Quotes - Sadly The Late Paul Shetler - "Its not Your Health Record it's a Government Record Of Your Health Information"


H. L. Mencken - "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Macro View – Health, Economics, and Politics and the Big Picture. What I Am Watching Here And Abroad.

October 29, 2020 Edition.


The biggest thing this week is the surge in COVID19 across the whole of the Northern Hemisphere while fortunately in OZ we are remaining under 10 new cases a day. The huge question is “Can it Last”???

The US votes in only a few days – next Tuesday in fact – and we will all be on alert until a result is available and has been accepted by all the actors. I have to say at this point it is really hard to know where it is going – especially as Trump really behaved in the second Debate.

In the UK lock-downs are ramping up and sadly in the rest of Europe we are seeing increasing protests against the responses to the virus – for what good that will do.

In Australia we have seen the onset of some real apparent public organisation extravagance from Australia Post and ASIC as well as some public servant sloppiness which has affected the public purse and taxpayers money. The hysterical reaction of the PM seems to suggest he feels vulnerable on all this and his lack of progress in creating a Federal Integrity Commission. It is pretty clear such a Commission is needed I reckon!


Major Issues.



Ardern's win poses questions over the Greens and challenges for the centre-right

By James Massola

October 19, 2020 — 12.00am

Jacinda Ardern has captured the first outright single-party majority in New Zealand politics since the country's current electoral system was introduced in 1996.

Ardern is a totemic figure for the global left through her inclusive policies and language, and her deft handling of three huge crises in her first three years – the Christchurch massacre, the White Island volcano eruption and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her re-election poses questions for centre-right governments around the world – including that of Scott Morrison – about what voters want and expect from their leaders in the time of COVID-19.

But first, the New Zealand Prime Minister faces a difficult choice – whether, with a likely 64 seats in the 120-member Parliament, she chooses to go it alone or whether she enters into some sort of coalition arrangement and parcels out ministries to the Greens.



Murdoch's sway on politics warrants royal commission

Kevin Rudd

Former Australian prime minister

October 19, 2020 — 12.00am

Living in Australia, many now habitually think our national media landscape is normal. It isn’t. No other Western democracy has the level of print media monopoly that Rupert Murdoch has secured for himself in Australia.

A single American billionaire has now seized control of almost 70 per cent of daily newspaper circulation. In my state of Queensland, which determines most federal elections, this monopoly is almost 100 per cent with every newspaper from Cairns to Coolangatta and Australia’s only commercial 24-hour 'news' channel.

But Murdoch is not just any old businessman. He’s not just interested in money but also in political power and far-right ideology. For Murdoch, it’s long been his triple-aphrodisiac. And the habits of a lifetime lead him to destroy anybody who gets in his way. That’s why people are frightened of him.

Where would Murdoch like to take Australia? Look no further than Fox News in America, which remains the epicentre of the Trump phenomenon, polluting Americans’ minds with bullshit narratives about widespread voter fraud, climate hoaxes and other wild conspiracies. This parallel-universe model is now unfolding in the pages of his Australian newspapers and on Sky News.



Australia’s security and the ‘grey zone’ of influence and coercion

Linda Reynolds

As Defence Minister, it is my job to see and respond to the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.

I see an increasing imperative for Australia to advocate assertively for stability, security and sovereignty in our region.

One of my highest priorities has been engaging with our regional neighbours and global partners. Defence diplomacy has never been more vital than now, as our region faces the most consequential strategic realignment since World War II.

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update, which Scott Morrison and I launched on July 1, takes a clear-eyed view of geostrategic trends. Australian interests are being challenged more directly. Strategic competition, military modernisation and coercion have increased, while warning times for conflict have decreased.



'Looks like a cover-up': $30m Western Sydney Airport land deal probed

Tom McIlroy and Ronald Mizen

Oct 19, 2020 – 12.33pm

A senior federal government bureaucrat has conceded public servants might have tried to cover up actions that led to taxpayers spending $30 million for land worth a fraction of that price at Western Sydney Airport.

The Australian Federal Police are investigating the purchase of the Leppington Triangle land, later valued at only $3 million, with Infrastructure Department boss Simon Atkinson confirming two public servants face additional internal investigations over the deal.

Appearing before Senate estimates hearings on Monday, Mr Atkinson said the former inspector-general of intelligence and security, Vivienne Thom, was investigating allegations of unethical conduct raised in a scathing Auditor-General's report.

Dr Thom led the High Court of Australia's review of sexual harassment allegations against former justice Dyson Heydon.



Spy chief warns MPs: China may target you

Andrew Tillett and Phillip Coorey

Oct 20, 2020 – 6.09pm

The nation's spy chief will warn federal MPs they are vulnerable to manipulation by foreign agents as part of efforts to ward off Chinese attempts to meddle in Australian politics.

And in a further boost to efforts to push back against Chinese influence, Australia will participate in joint naval exercises with India, Japan and the United States after a 13 year absence, cementing the burgeoning Quadrilateral alliance between the four countries.

The long-coveted invitation to Exercise Malabar came as Australian, US and Japanese warships sailed together through the contested waters of the South China Sea.

ASIO chief Mike Burgess told Senate estimates on Tuesday the spy agency had stepped up its investigation into foreign intelligence services that were "deceptively cultivating" politicians at federal, state and local government level to gain influence and curry favour.



Lynas highlights global moves to secure rare earths

By Colin Kruger

October 21, 2020 — 12.24pm

Rare earths miner Lynas Corp said it is actively engaging with governments over plans to ease China’s grip over the crucial sector which has become central to US-China trade tensions.

In a quarterly update to the ASX on Wednesday, Lynas chief executive Amanda Lacaze highlighted the growing strategic imperatives around the globe to secure supply chains for rare earths outside of China which controls 80 per cent of the market.

Lynas noted the executive order from US President Trump early this month to build reliable and resilient critical minerals supply chains for the US economy.

The European Union also identified the need for a diversified and sustainable supply chain to secure access to rare earths, while the Australian government released its Modern Manufacturing Strategy, which also prioritises these key ores.



Pope Francis calls for civil union laws for same-sex couples

By Nicole Winfield

October 22, 2020 — 1.17am

Rome: Pope Francis has endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time as pope while being interviewed for the feature-length documentary, Francesco, in what amounts to his clearest support to date for the issue.

The papal thumbs-up came midway through the film that delves into issues he cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.

"Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God," Francis said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film, which premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT).

"What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered."

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favour of civil unions as pope.



'Christians are not victims': church leader slams religious freedom bill

By Angus Thompson

October 23, 2020 — 12.00am

The leader of a major church group says it is disingenuous to portray Australian Christians as victims of persecution in his criticism of a NSW religious freedom bill spurred by the Israel Folau controversy.

In comments made before his appearance in a parliamentary committee to discuss One Nation's Mark Latham's proposed legislation on Friday, Uniting Church NSW and ACT Synod moderator Simon Hansford put himself at odds with other denominations and the schools under its umbrella in slamming the bill as heavy-handed against minorities.

Reverend Hansford rejected claims that discrimination against Christians was spiralling in Australian society, saying instead the evidence showed most discrimination was directed towards religious minorities.

"Christians are not victims in Australia because of our faith, and we should not seek freedoms that are self-serving and come at the detriment of others in the community," he said.



Susan Ryan opened doors that will never close

Anthony Albanese


October 22, 2020 — 6.53pm

My last conversation with Susan Ryan was on September 4. It began with the usual pleasantries but typically, she didn't want to talk about herself. She wanted to talk about others. Susan was concerned about the crisis in aged care that has already led to more than 680 deaths. She pressed the immediate need to increase staff in aged care homes, improve transparency and accountability, and implement long-term reform.

Susan knew a thing or two about long-lasting reform. As the first woman to sit in a federal Labor cabinet, in the Hawke government of 1983, she effected change that still resonates today. It’s not just because of what she did that we honour her with a state funeral in Sydney today, even though she did so much. It’s because what she did lasted; the doors that she opened will never be closed again. What she fought against looks to younger generations like the stuff of dystopian fiction - but it was real and Susan toppled it.

She was a Labor giant, feminist hero and great Australian. Someone who, at the time, had a novel idea – that gender-based discrimination shouldn’t be allowed in our workplaces – and fought with a balanced combination of hunger and good grace to make it happen. It’s an idea that is uncontroversial now but it was remarkable, even revolutionary, at the time. And it was an idea that demanded the full force of Susan’s courage and persistence. Her triumph is that her reforms have become part of who we are as a nation.


ASIC chief clings on as expenses scandal hits

John Kehoe and Ronald Mizen

Updated Oct 23, 2020 – 6.15pm, first published at 1.13pm

Australia's top corporate watchdog James Shipton is under pressure to keep his job after stepping aside for an investigation into payments of more than $180,000 to cover the cost of managing his tax affairs and rental payments for a deputy boss.

The federal government's auditor criticised the size of payments the Australian Securities and Investments Commission made for work relocation expenses, including $118,557 for KPMG tax services to help Mr Shipton move from the United States to lead ASIC in 2018.

ASIC also paid $69,621 in housing costs on behalf of deputy chair Daniel Crennan, QC, equal to $750 weekly rent in 2018 and 2019, after he was asked to relocate from his long-time home of Melbourne to ASIC's Sydney office.

In an extraordinary letter, Auditor-General Grant Hehir told Josh Frydenberg that the matter was of "such importance" he was directly contacting the Treasurer to "gain greater confidence that appropriate action would be taken".



ASIC chair's sense of entitlement

Chanticleer is Australia's pre-eminent business column.

Oct 24, 2020 – 12.00am

James Shipton's career as one of the country's top five most powerful public servants is almost certainly over.

The chairman of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission is a victim of his own inflated sense of entitlement.

This is the only conclusion Chanticleer can draw after reading the letter sent by Auditor-General Grant Hehir to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg this week.

Hehir sets out the granular detail of how Shipton ended up charging ASIC for $118,000 in personal tax services supplied by KPMG and $78,256 in fringe benefits tax. Shipton has repaid this money to the Commonwealth.



Old age is the next global economic threat

By Noah Smith

October 23, 2020 — 6.03am

While the world wrestles with a deadly pandemic and how to confront climate change, there's another, long-term global challenge that no one really knows how to deal with: Population ageing. As the human race transitions from a burgeoning, exploding species to a static or shrinking one, economies around the world will come under significant strain.

Japan is the canary in the coal mine here. Although its birthrate is not as low as that of many other rich countries, it's been low for a longer time. That's why Japan is now the world's oldest major economy.

On one hand, Japan demonstrates why a shrinking population doesn't automatically impoverish a country. Its population is slowly declining, and is back down to the level of two decades ago, yet the country's income per capita has continued to rise as productivity grows and more women enter the workforce.

But pronounced ageing like Japan's does come at an economic cost. Every year, a dwindling pool of working-age Japanese people is forced to support an expanding pool of gray-haired consumers. This is why Japan's living standards are falling behind rich countries with growing populations.



ABC news boss warns staff against focus on 'inner city left-wing elites'

By Michael Koziol

October 25, 2020 — 12.00am

ABC news boss Gaven Morris told staff they were too focused on the interests of "inner city left-wing elites" and linked his concerns about editorial coverage to the national broadcaster's ongoing funding from taxpayers.

In remarks made during staff briefings last week Mr Morris warned it would not bode well for the ABC's funding "if we're seen to be representing inner city elite interests", according to three people who were present.

The sources said Mr Morris disparaged "inner city left-wing elites" numerous times, telling staff he would be "happier if we spent less time on the concerns of the inner city elites and more time on the things that matter to central Queensland".

Mr Morris told The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age his remarks referred to the public's perception of the ABC and it was wrong for anyone to infer that he was suggesting government funding could be under threat if news coverage did not change.



Cartier watches may outrage the PM but he should clock these scandals for true shock value

Jacqueline Maley

Columnist and senior journalist

October 24, 2020 — 11.00pm

Napoleon said that men are led by baubles, and certainly, in the case of the senior executives of Australia Post, the gift of Cartier watches – suitably French and fancy – seems to have been received gladly.

Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate rewarded four of her senior staff with Cartier timepieces worth an average of $5000 each, it was revealed last week. She has stepped aside pending a government investigation. She is not expected to return.

The favoured staff had pulled off a deal worth $66 million to the taxpayer-owned company – for a new service called Bank@Post, which allows customers to access banking at the post office. But they negotiated the co-operation of only three of the four big banks (ANZ didn’t sign up).

A $5000 watch for clinching three-quarters of a deal? Not bad.

Imagine if they had pulled off the quartet: they might have been gifted a Bulgari watch, like the one Holgate herself wore as she gave her evidence at Senate Estimates.


Coronavirus And Impacts.



Curfew fails human rights test

The court challenge to Victoria's curfew is important to make sure that the future use of emergency public health powers is necessary, proportionate and transparent. 

Nathan Grills Contributor

Oct 19, 2020 – 12.00am

The case before the Supreme Court challenges the legality of Victoria’s curfew. Whatever the result, it deserves close attention. There are important lessons about the proportionate application of public health emergency powers.

The limitations placed on using emergency powers to address a public health threat are outlined in UN conventions, various acts of parliament and also in public health and ethical frameworks.

Under the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, limitations must satisfy principles including being necessary and proportionate. Proportionality is also a principle in Victoria’s Public Health and Wellbeing Act and forms an important constraint in outlining that use of powers should be “proportionate to the public health risk sought to be prevented, minimised or controlled; and not be made or taken in an arbitrary manner”. This is consistent with the Siracusa principles outlined in the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a signatory.



Our grandchildren will pay the price for COVID-19 recession

Having shut the economy, governments had to spend up big. But the long-term consequences of this year's policy decisions could include a return to the stagflation of the 1970s.

Alexander Downer Columnist

Oct 18, 2020 – 12.48pm

John Maynard Keynes is said to have coined the phrase “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?” When the government of which I was part left office in December 2007, the Commonwealth had a budget surplus and had paid off all of its debt. It was a singular achievement of the Liberal Party to have governed so efficiently.

Today, the same party is in power but it has just delivered a budget with a deficit of $213 billion and debt is expected to reach more than $700 billion in the next year, or 36 per cent of gross domestic product. By 2024 that will have grown to 44 per cent of GDP.

So what do people like me who were deficit hawks think about that? On the face of it, the government has not had any real choice. New facts required new policies. It has deliberately closed down much of the economy, destroying businesses and jobs in order to protect Australians from COVID-19. It has to compensate for those decisions.

And just in case you feel uncomfortable about that, remember, governments throughout the world are doing exactly the same thing. In most cases their starting points were much worse than Australia’s, which means they will end up with substantially higher levels of debt-to-GDP and eye-watering budget deficits.



New economics not just about the virus

Alan Kohler

When the head of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, called for a new “Bretton Woods moment” last week, it completed a dramatic transformation of economic orthodoxy.

Whether her landmark speech is now followed by an international agreement like the one in 1944 is another matter, but the two bodies that were created at the Bretton Woods conference, the IMF and World Bank, have given the green light to uncapped government spending and borrowing without later austerity.

Specifically, the World Bank’s influential chief economist, Carmen Reinhart, who literally wrote the book on austerity and was a leading proponent of it after the GFC, told the Financial Times in an interview a fortnight ago: “First you worry about fighting the war, then you figure out how to pay for it.”

The head of fiscal policy at the IMF, Vitor Gaspar, said last week that countries that are able to borrow will be able to keep borrowing, and will not have to raise taxes or cut public spending.



Coronavirus: Sweden hopes voluntary lockdowns will tackle hotspots

Stockholm and other areas of Sweden are facing voluntary local lockdowns as the authorities draw up “strong recommendations” against using public transport or going to bars, restaurants and non-essential shops.

Swedes in coronavirus hotspots such as Uppsala, Orebro and Jamtland could also be advised to avoid travelling outside their region, physical contact with anyone from other households and visits to people in risk groups, including the elderly.

While compliance with the rules will be voluntary and there are no plans to punish violations with fines or prison sentences, they are likely to have a noticeable impact on daily life in the affected areas.

The guidance marks a shift in strategy from a country that had previously been regarded as a standard-bearer for a more “light-touch” approach to the pandemic.

Since the start of September the number of new cases detected each day has risen from an average of 160 to nearly 700.



Coronavirus: Health fascism has consumed human rights

Adam Creighton

What a farce human rights have become. For years progressive politicians, academics and activists have called for stronger ­protection for human rights, new codes, new laws — and well-staffed commissions costing ­millions to oversee them. Democracies just couldn’t be trusted.

Indeed, this year has witnessed the most extraordinary attack on freedoms by democratic governments in modern history, making a mockery of such human rights acts and conventions. Yet there’s been barely a peep from those in the human rights industry, who’ve perhaps been enjoying working from home on their large taxpayer guaranteed salaries.

The $10m-a-year Victorian Human Rights Commission, at ground zero for what will be seen as the most destructive over-­reaction in Australian history, says on its website its focus during the pandemic includes “reducing racism” and “improving workplace gender equality”. COVID-19 “has exposed some weaknesses in the way the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities protects Victorians from violations of their rights”, the commission does concede on its website.



Why Covid 2.0 is less deadly: all that sanitising bought us time

Imogen Reid

Is COVID-19 becoming less ­deadly as the pandemic pro­gresses? That’s a question being asked by scientists who have found the amount of virus present in throat and nose swabs from positive ­patients is less than what it was at the start of the pandemic.

There are now understood to be a number of different strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus circulating around the world, and a US study in Detroit — which took samples from hospital patients in Michigan from April to June — shows the initial viral load in COVID-19 swabs has been decreasing as the pandemic progresses.

The study found that the downward trend in the viral load on swabs was associated with a decrease in the death rate.

It also suggests Australia’s ­approach of rapid social-distancing measures, lockdowns and the use of masks may have decreased exposure and consequently bought time for the population as the virus became less deadly.



After the pandemic, a revolution in education and work awaits

The pandemic has accelerated the fundamental shift of focus from degrees to skills in a new world in which skills are becoming obsolete faster than ever before.

Thomas L. Friedman

Oct 21, 2020 – 2.42pm

The good Lord works in mysterious ways. He (She?) threw a pandemic at us at the exact same time as a tectonic shift in the way we will learn, work and employ.

Fasten your seatbelt. When we emerge from this coronavirus crisis, we're going to be greeted with one of the most profound eras of Schumpeterian creative destruction ever – which this pandemic is both accelerating and disguising.

No job, no K-12 (kindergarten to 12th grade) school, no university, no factory, no office will be spared. And it will touch both white-collar and blue-collar workers, which is why this election matters so much.

How we provide more Americans with portable healthcare, portable pensions and opportunities for lifelong learning to get the most out of this moment and cushion the worst is what politics needs to be about after November 3 or we're really headed for instability.



Has Australia been too successful in combating COVID-19?

With a vaccine months away and new case numbers in the low single digits, the Australian government needs a national plan for living with the virus.

Jill Margo Health editor

Oct 24, 2020 – 12.00am

This is the weekend Victorians have been waiting for. New cases of COVID-19 have settled into low single figures and on Sunday, Melburnians are expecting a further easing of restrictions.

For more than 100 days, they’ve shown what sacrifices are needed to overcome a second wave in the absence of a vaccine. And their success contrasts dramatically with the surge in cases in Europe and North America, where the same disciplines were not applied.

But Victoria's stringent approach would not have been necessary if the state had been better prepared and it is time for structural change, says Honorary Professor John Mathews, an esteemed epidemiologist with deep experience in Australian health politics.

In the 1970s authorities thought we had seen the “end of communicable diseases", says Professor Mathews. 

"Despite early optimism about the national cabinet facilitating co-operative planning, that ethos has largely been lost and hard work is now needed to fix the problems that arise from divided responsibilities, particularly relating to border control," he says. “From the 1918 pandemic we should have learned the importance of Commonwealth control of border quarantine.



Coronavirus: How to do away with lockdowns

Natasha Robinson

It’s a study in contrasts. Europe is grappling with a second wave of COVID-19, with case numbers already triple those recorded at the peak of the first wave. But in Asian countries including Singapore, Japan and South Korea, the disease is largely contained and governments are preparing to ease restrictions and reopen borders.

The seeds of the disaster in Europe versus the success in Asia were sown early. In countries including Italy, France and Britain, governments locked down hard, brought cases down and then largely eased restrictions throughout their summer. But community transmission was never brought fully under control and, as lockdowns ended, cases rose.

In Asia, rigorous contact tracing, strict quarantine measures and widespread testing stamped out outbreaks when they arose, the groundwork carefully laid for a long-term strategy of containment.

Lacking a strong public health infrastructure — Germany is the exception — many countries in Europe are now left with little choice but to again lock down societies. It’s a strategy the World Health Organisation rejects as not feasible in the longer term. So what can be learned from Asia about how to prevent the virus from gaining control and avoiding ongoing lockdowns?



The '90 per cent economy' - post-pandemic, it will never be the same

Matt Wade

Senior economics writer

October 24, 2020 — 11.01pm

When nations across the globe went into pandemic lockdowns earlier this year The Economist newspaper coined the term “90 per cent economy" to describe what would be left once restrictions were lifted.

Australia has dealt with the health crisis better than most countries but our economic decline was largely in line with that prediction. At the end of June, the quarterly output of the Australian economy was about 92 per cent of what it would have been if growth had continued as normal, uninterrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.

A recovery is now under way, but the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, warns the pandemic has taken an unusually haphazard toll. “All recessions are uneven, but this one has been especially so,” he said this month.

Under the best-case scenarios, where a COVID-19 vaccine becomes quickly available and pandemic restrictions ease, it will be some time before important industries such as international tourism and education are revived.


Climate Change


No articles this week.


Royal Commissions And The Like.



Radical shake-up of financial advice rules floated

Aleks Vickovich Wealth editor

Oct 20, 2020 – 12.01am

Research house Rice Warner has proposed a major rethink of the laws governing financial advice, deregulating the troubled sector in a bid to improve access and affordability for regular consumers.

In a new paper commissioned by the Financial Services Council and seen by The Australian Financial Review, researchers Michael Rice and Richard Dunn conclude that consumers need advice to maximise their financial positions, boost national savings and take pressure off the age pension.

However, most Australians are priced out by exorbitant costs pushed up by complex laws and regulations. According to Rice Warner, the vast majority of consumers would not pay more than $500 a year for comprehensive, face-to-face advice, while the fees charged by advisers can often be closer to $5000.

The paper proposes overhauling the present dichotomy between "general" and "personal" financial advice, only the latter of which involves proper consideration of the consumer's personal circumstances.



Aged care inquiry lawyers call for staff ratios and tougher laws, enforcement

By Julie Power

October 22, 2020 — 10.49am

Lawyers assisting the aged care royal commission have recommended mandated staffing ratios in residential aged care, including the compulsory registration of aged care workers, and a new Aged Care Act that would protect the rights of older people.

After two and half years of hearings that have included appalling tales of neglect of aged care residents, counsel also recommended a new act to protect the human rights of older Australians and proposed replacing the existing regulator with a new and independent Aged Care Commission.

The recommendations are among 124 proposed by senior counsel Peter Gray, QC, and Peter Rozen, QC, assisting the commissioners. They are contained in a 500-page submission to commissioners, Tony Pagone, QC, and Lynelle Briggs. It was made public on Thursday.

Counsel also called for the proposed new Australian Aged Care Commission - and its new commissioner - to be independent of the Aged Care Minister. The Australian Quality and Safety Commission, the existing body, is with the Commonwealth Health Department.



Aged Care Royal Commission hears of almost 50 sexual assaults every week

The Royal Commission into Aged Care has heard there are almost 50 sexual assaults in residential care every week.

Senior counsel assisting the royal commission Peter Rozen referred to a KPMG report during his lengthy closing submissions on Thursday.

Mr Rozen said the estimated number of incidents of “unlawful sexual contact” in 2018–19 was 2520, or almost 50 per week, which he described as “a national shame”.

“Many witnesses have explained they placed their loved ones into residential aged care because they felt it would be safer for them or because safety was a concern,” he said.

“It is therefore entirely unacceptable that people in residential aged care face a substantially higher risk of assault than people living in the community.”



Aged Care Commission at odds as Sir Humphrey-speak strikes a discord


Things could be a little frosty between aged-care commissioners Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs as they sit down to the unenviable task of finalising their royal commission report to government, due in February.

On Thursday, they had a brief if significant public spat over an element of the new aged-care system being proposed by the commission’s counsels assisting, Peter Rozen and Peter Gray.

Summarising a 500-page submission, Rozen and Gray outlined an ambitious plan for aged care, basically abandoning the old system and building a new one all but from scratch.

It is premised on some important themes, including a new Aged Care Act enshrining that older Australians have a universal right to receive safe, timely and quality care. Aged care should no longer be rationed, they argue. If the need is there to help someone live an ­active, meaningful life, it should be provided. No arguments so far.



Aged care system needs to be torn up and rebuilt, aged care royal commission is advised

Stephen Lunn

The aged care sector should be reconstructed, with nursing homes required by law to deliver minimum adequate care standards and address system-wide neglect that is currently failing at least 20 per cent of residents.

The plan is contained in 124 recommendations to the aged care royal commission by counsel assisting Peter Rozen QC and Peter Gray QC. They also include mandatory minimum staff levels, price controls and a universal right for seniors to access care.

In the 500-page submission urging a fundamental redesign of the aged care system, the lawyers propose mandatory minimum hours of care per resident and a new legally enforceable duty of care on providers to deliver quality services.

Sexual abuse of nursing home residents was far more prevalent than previously understood from official figures, Mr Rozen said, with new KPMG survey data on resident-to-resident abuse revealing the extent of the problem.


National Budget Issues.



This one-year, fold-away budget won’t do the trick

Ross Gittins

Economics Editor

October 19, 2020 — 12.00am

From the way the budget blows out debt and deficit, it may seem that Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have stopped caring how much they rack up, but it ain’t so. This budget is just a one-year plan, which not only brings the handouts to an early stop, but then starts reeling much of the money back in.

This budget is like a fold-up bike you can put back in the boot after you’ve finished with it. Technically, its design is clever. But I fear it’s too clever by half.

If it turns out Morrison has turned off the budgetary stimulus too soon – as many business economists fear – he won’t have got the economy growing strongly enough and unemployment falling far enough.

His decision to turn the stimulus off so early – and to choose his budget measures based more on political correctness than job-creating effectiveness – may prove a great error of political (as well as economic) judgment as the election approaches in late next year or early 2022.



Economy set for a ‘beautiful recovery’, says Deloitte’s Chris Richardson

Patrick Commins

Australia’s economy over coming years will bounce back hard and fast from the COVID-19 shock, provided the health crisis remains under control, but will still be left smaller because of a much lower population.

Deloitte partner Chris Richardson said despite a devastating recession, “if things go right, and virus numbers go right, you genuinely start to get a beautiful recovery”.

Mr Richardson, who began his career at Treasury in the early 1980s, said previous recessions or downturns in Australia had been followed by times of faster growth as workers and ­industries left idle resumed ­activity.

“The point that people have not understood is we will grow really fast when we come out of this,” he said. And “the bigger the downturn, the bigger the ­recovery”.



RBA's Chris Kent talks up $200b TFF

Jonathan Shapiro Senior reporter

Oct 20, 2020 – 10.00am

Reserve Bank assistant governor Chris Kent says the central bank has provided more support to the economy than it did during the global financial crisis.

That is even though interest rates were cut by 4 percentage points then compared to 0.5 percentage points in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

This Dr Kent explained in a speech on Tuesday was because it had expanded its balance sheet up 5 percentage points and injected funds into the banking system for a longer period.

"The breadth and the durability of the easing in financial conditions associated with these balance sheet tools has been greater now than was the case during the GFC," he said.

Dr Kent's comments were eagerly watched after Thursday's game-changing speech by governor Phil Lowe in which he said more easing would be required to support the economy while dropping a strong hint that the central bank could begin buying long term government bonds.



Virus response sees banks' operational resilience emerge from shadows

James Eyers Senior Reporter

Oct 20, 2020 – 12.00am

Almost one-third of global bank leaders say "scale and complexity" make it tough to satisfy regulators' demands for stronger "operational resilience", while 16 per cent say budgets for doing so are constrained, a survey by Herbert Smith Freehills has found.

After the Reserve Bank and the prudential regulator specifically flagged emerging risks around the stability of IT systems as digitisation in the economy accelerated during the crisis, the latest global bank review by the law firm finds resilience as the third biggest concern for senior managers over the next three years (after broad regulatory change and digital transformation).

Regulators define "operational resilience" as a bank's ability to prevent, respond to and learn from disruptions to operations. The RBA last week flagged growing outages of bank payment systems this year as a concern.

Australian regulators are "developing a set of standard operational performance disclosures, with the intention of focusing banks and their leadership on ensuring the reliability of their retail payment services", a team of global bank partners of Herbert Smith Freehills said in the review.



RBA minutes reveal early easing flip

Matthew Cranston Economics correspondent

Oct 20, 2020 – 12.19pm

The strength of the Australian dollar and the significant drag on the economy caused by Victoria's lockdown were two key factors that are pushing a further easing monetary policy, the minutes of the Reserve Bank reveal.

The board meeting minutes show that one of the biggest changes in monetary policy in 27 years was agreed almost a week before it was announced to the public,

Last week RBA governor Philip Lowe said the bank would make monetary policy decisions based on actual not forecast inflation – a move that signalled interest rates would stay low for "at least" three years.

In meeting minutes published on Tuesday, the Reserve Bank said it had decided to change this policy on October 6 and would reveal the move in a speech by Dr Lowe a week later.


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Trump threatens to leave if he loses, as stimulus talks revive

Jacob Greber United States correspondent

Oct 18, 2020 – 6.56pm

Washington | Hopes for a last-minute pre-election US stimulus package have been revived after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held talks over the weekend.

As the presidential election intensifies, with just over two weeks to go and more than 26 million votes already cast, US Treasury official Monica Crowley said on Twitter that Ms Pelosi and Mr Mnuchin spoke for an hour and 15 minutes on Saturday (Sunday AEDT) and agreed to speak again on Monday.

Signs that both sides are still working on some form of deal came as President Donald Trump went on the offensive, accusing Democrats of trying to "destroy the American way of life", and suggesting he might leave the country if he lost "to the worst candidate in the history of American politics".

Speaking at rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin – two rust-belt states Mr Trump won four years ago but is in danger of losing this year – the President said electing his Democratic rival Joe Biden would create the "single biggest depression in the history of our country".



US election 2020: Cult of Trump is not going away

Joe Hockey

Donald Trump had a brief moment of reflection last week. “Could you imagine if I lose?” he told a large crowd in Georgia, “maybe I’ll have to leave the country.” His critics will be cheering but they won’t be alone.

If he wins in two weeks we will all need to strap in for the wildest of rides. If he loses he will continue to be a massive influence on US politics. He will be the leader of a political cult movement that has tens of millions of members. He will still be a disruptive force on the centre right. Over time, even his current allies and colleagues will be encouraging him to make a move to Christmas Island.

No single figure in modern American history has had more unwavering support from such a large proportion of the country. Both Trump the candidate and Trump the President have managed to harness that energy behind the patriotic grab, “Make America Great”. People have forgotten that it was used by many leaders including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Only Trump has weaponised it successfully against fellow Americans who don’t support his agenda. Trump owns the American flag, the anthem and patriotism. His rallies are all red, white and blue.

Even so, Trump has not won a single significant poll that would indicate he could win on November 3. Despite this, he can still rely on a hard vote of at least 35 per cent of the voting population.



A distracted US is dangerous for Taiwan

For decades, the threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan has been held in check by the US. But the US is now consumed by the most divisive presidential election campaign in living memory.

Gideon Rachman Columnist

Oct 20, 2020 – 9.28am

The idea that a US election can be shaken up by an “October surprise” is a well-worn staple of political commentary. Less discussed is the danger that, if China takes advantage of political confusion in the US to make a move on Taiwan, international affairs could be convulsed by a November or December surprise.

The din of the American campaign is drowning out increasingly aggressive words and actions by China, as it threatens to use military force to combat what it regards as intolerable “separatism” by Taiwan, which is, de facto, an independent state, but claimed by Beijing.

A Taiwanese Air Force F-16 in foreground flies on the flank of a Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force H-6 bomber as it passes near Taiwan. Xi Jinping has already demonstrated that he is willing to take military risks and repressive actions that antagonise the west and scare China’s neighbours.  AP

Chinese military aircraft now regularly cross the median line between Taiwan and the mainland, forcing the Taiwanese air force to scramble. Last week, a flight from Taiwan was prevented from reaching the Pratas Islands — a Taiwanese-controlled outpost in the South China Sea. The flight was turned back by Hong Kong air traffic control, which cited unspecified dangers in the area and said the airspace is now closed.



Why history is on Trump's side, not Joe Biden's

Late tightening of polls, the power of incumbency and the enthusiasm of crowds mean that the President is far from dead.

John Ruddick Contributor

Oct 19, 2020 – 4.00pm

Can Donald Trump win again? We have four guides in election forecasting: polls, precedents, passion and punters. A sober overview tells us Trump has a realistic chance of victory.

On October 17, 2016 (22 days before election day), Hillary Clinton had a 7 per cent lead in the national polling average. October 12, 2020, was 22 days before this year’s election and on that date Joe Biden led Trump by 10.2 per cent.

That’s obviously positive for Biden, but in the final weeks of 2012 and 2016 the national polls narrowed significantly in favour of the Republican. In early October 2012, Mitt Romney was 9 per cent behind, but on election eve Obama had only a 0.7 per cent polling lead. Much of the commentariat were so certain of Clinton’s win from mid-October 2016 they switched off checking the polls, which showed Trump finishing strongly.

Clinton’s national polling lead slipped from 7 per cent on October 17 to 3.2 per cent on election eve. The actual result had Trump down 2.1 per cent in the national popular vote so the polls in 2016 were off, but only just – except where it counts.



Chinese economy grows but misses forecasts

By Gabriel Crossley

Updated October 19, 2020 — 3.51pmfirst published at 1.15pm

Beijing: China's economic recovery accelerated in the third quarter of 2020 as consumers shook off their coronavirus caution, however, overall growth missed forecasts pointing to persistent challenges for one of the world's few current engines of demand.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4.9 per cent in July-September from a year earlier, National Bureau of Statistics data showed on Monday, slower than the median 5.2 per cent forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll and following 3.2 per cent growth in the second quarter.

"The rebound in Q3 GDP was less strong than expected, but was still a decent 4.9 per cent year-on-year," said Frances Cheung, head of macro strategy for Asia at Westpac in Singapore.



Is Joe Biden making the same mistake as Bill Shorten?

While the Democratic hopeful rests up ahead of this week's crucial debate, President Trump's return to the fray has given his supporters hope that the 2020 race is still alive.

Jacob Greber United States correspondent

Updated Oct 20, 2020 – 3.44pm, first published at 2.10pm

Washington | Donald Trump was in deep trouble just two weeks ago.

With a hectic campaign schedule derailed by a nasty, but ultimately short-lived, bout of COVID-19, the US President's already flagging fortunes – thanks in part to a disastrous first debate – appeared to have been dealt a lethal blow.

Madder-than-usual Twitter volleys, a virus-wracked White House, poor polling and an interminable row with Congress over stimulus funding to help lift the US out of recession made his re-election bid look all but hopeless.

However, after 11 rallies in eight days of frenetic campaigning, a now fighting fit President Trump is managing to nudge the polls in his direction.

Although there's still plenty of ground to cover before he catches Joe Biden, his chances have improved at the margins.



Power shift: China-US economic battle reshaped by the pandemic

By Andrea Shalal and Gabriel Crossley

October 22, 2020 — 11.04am

The United States and China dealt with the spread of the devastating coronavirus pandemic in vastly different ways, and that split is reshaping the global battle between the world's two leading economies.

About 11 months after the Wuhan outbreak, China's official GDP numbers this week show not only that the economy is growing, up 4.9 per cent for the third quarter from a year earlier, but also that the Chinese are confident enough the virus has been vanquished to go shopping, dine and spend with gusto.

China's total reported death toll is below 5,000 and new infections are negligible, the result of draconian lockdowns, millions of tests, and strict contact tracing that set the stage for an economic rebound.

"China's success in containing the virus has allowed its economy to rebound more quickly, and with relatively less policy support, as compared with other large economies," said former senior US Treasury official Stephanie Segal, a senior fellow at the US-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.



'Possible to imagine': Putin says Russia-China military alliance can't be ruled out

October 23, 2020 — 5.40am

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is no need for a Russia-China military alliance now but the idea of a future one can't be ruled out.

Putin was asked during a video conference with international foreign policy experts Thursday if a military union between Moscow and Beijing was possible. He replied that “theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it.”

Russia and China have hailed their “strategic partnership,” but so far rejected any talk about the possibility of their forming a military alliance.

Putin noted that Russia has been sharing highly sensitive military technologies China that helped significantly bolster China's defence capability, but didn’t mention any specifics, saying the information is sensitive.

“Without any doubt, our cooperation with China is bolstering the defence capability of China’s army,” he said, adding that the future could see even closer military ties between the two countries.



Trump breaks agreement by releasing his own video of '60 Minutes' interview

By Jeremy Barr and Elahe Izadi

October 23, 2020 — 3.55am

US President Donald Trump has followed through on his threat, or promise, to release a video of his 60 Minutes interview before it goes to air on Sunday night.

Trump was interviewed by CBS News journalist Leslie Stahl at the White House on Tuesday, but abruptly ended the interview after 45 minutes, declining to participate in a scheduled walk-and-talk that would have included Vice-President Mike Pence as well.

Later that day, he said on Twitter said that he was "considering" posting the White House's copy of the video interview, "so that everybody can get a glimpse of what a FAKE and BIASED interview is all about".

Then, on Thursday morning (Friday AEDT), after he again teased a release of the video ("the vicious attempted 'takeout" interview of me"), a 37-minute-clip of the interview appeared on the President's Facebook page.



Russia accused of mysterious 'Havana Syndrome' attacks on CIA officials visiting Australia

By Latika Bourke and Anthony Galloway

October 22, 2020 — 8.15am

London: Russia is being accused of carrying out mysterious "Havana Syndrome" attacks against two CIA officials visiting Australia last year using microwave weapons.

The attacks, first reported by GQ magazine, have been confirmed by senior Australian government sources.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to state if foreign actors were involved with the peculiar cases of US diplomats and spies around the world falling ill with brain damage. He cautioned that the government has not reached a definitive conclusion about what is behind the so-called Havana Syndrome.

Havana Syndrome refers to the curious symptoms first reported by American diplomats stationed in Cuba in 2016 and 2017. US diplomats in China reported the same set of symptoms. Now comes the report of attacks as recently as last year on Australian soil.



Taiwan signs $US1.8bn missile deal with the United States

Taiwan has insisted that it is not provoking an arms race with China after sealing a US1.8 billion missile deal with the US.

The island nation said that the package, which includes 135 precision land attack missiles manufactured by Boeing, 11 lorry-based rocket launchers with a striking range of more than 270km and associated equipment and training, would enable it to modernise its defence capacity.

The Trump administration has increased support for Taiwan through arms sales and visits by senior US officials, adding to tensions between Beijing and Washington that have already been heightened by disagreements over the South China Sea, Hong Kong, human rights and trade.

Beijing has ratcheted up military drills off Taiwan in recent months, including flying fighter jets across the sensitive mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, which serves as an unofficial buffer.



The end of democracy? If Trump loses, Trumpism still wins

Peter Hartcher

Political and international editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

October 23, 2020 — 6.45pm

He couldn't be trusted with a microphone button, yet Donald Trump is asking to be trusted again with the nuclear button. In the last presidential election campaign, he said: "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters. It's like, incredible." Four years on we can see something even more incredible happening.

He didn't stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot anybody. He is, however, presiding over a pandemic that so far has killed 228,000 of his citizens. He has lost some voters in the course of four years. He won 46 per cent of the popular vote in 2016 and today has about 43 per cent on the average of the polls.

But he is still President unimpeached. He is still supported overwhelmingly by the Republican Party. And he is still a real chance of winning re-election, with the betting markets giving him about a 40 per cent chance of victory. Another way of expressing this probability is that if the election were held under the same circumstances 100 times, Trump would win 40 times. In spite of everything.

"They say I have the most loyal people – did you ever see that?" He said that four years ago, and it remains true.



Re-elected Trump will prioritise reducing global reliance on China, security adviser says

By Latika Bourke

October 24, 2020 — 6.51am

London: One of Donald Trump's top national security advisers says redressing the West's reliance on Chinese supply lines will be at the heart of the President's second-term agenda if he is re-elected, pointing directly to Australia's economic dependence on the country.

Matt Pottinger, who is President Trump's deputy national security adviser, told the Westminster think tank Policy Exchange that the US views Australia and India as the "canaries in the coal mine" and on the frontline of dealing with China's increasingly aggressive stance since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which first emerged in Wuhan last year.

Pottinger delivered a lecture in Mandarin in which he urged the world to speak up about China's oppression of the Uighurs, saying there was "no credible justification in Chinese philosophy, religion, or moral law for the concentration camps", where it is estimated up to one million Muslims are held in Xinjiang province.

Pottinger answered a question posed by Policy Exchange Chair Alexander Downer, who asked what specific steps a re-elected Trump administration would take to help countries like Australia who were bearing the brunt of China's fury via tariff increases and threats of economic boycott.



When the US sneezes, we get a cold. That's why Australia needs a Biden White House

George Megalogenis


October 24, 2020 — 12.00am

This is a bittersweet weekend to be a Melburnian. The second wave of the coronavirus is finally behind us. Only one new infection was reported on Friday, bringing the rolling 14-day average down to 5.5. That should mean a significant easing of restrictions on our movement from next week.

But first we have to reckon with the grim denouement of lockdown: an AFL grand final between two Victorian teams at Brisbane's Gabba on Saturday night, followed by a rugby league grand final played where it was always intended, in Sydney on Sunday evening. Both events will remind Melbourne of its enforced separation from the rest of the country since June.

Before the pandemic, grand final week in Melbourne ran like a carnival, culminating in a cheesy Friday lunchtime parade where players on both sides were chauffeured like royalty past adorning crowds. The streets of the city buzzed into Saturday morning, but then they emptied for the game itself. One hundred thousand people were seated at the stadium, while millions more followed the play at pubs, or at home. The party resumed after the siren, as the hungover returned to the night. The Melbourne Cup compressed this week-long ritual into a single afternoon, with the city stilled for the race itself.

Lockdown has removed every part of that communal experience. This week, the streets have been empty, as they had been every other week. Stage four restrictions mean that grand final night in Melbourne will also be pin-drop quiet. The only sound you are supposed to hear are the drones of the Victoria Police which will patrol the suburbs to ensure that every Richmond, and neutral, supporter is watching the game in his or her own home, without visitors.



New virus rules in Madrid as Spain mulls national emergency


9:11PM October 24, 2020

New coronavirus restrictions were taking effect in Madrid on Saturday as the Spanish government weighed declaring a national state of emergency to allow curfews to be imposed.

Just days after Spain registered more than one million virus cases, the country’s regions — responsible for managing public healthcare — have heaped pressure on the government to give them legal right to impose tighter restrictions.

In practice, that would involve the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez declaring a national state of emergency which would enable the regions to impose a curfew — a measure increasingly applied across Europe.

So far, nine of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions have formally requested such a measure, with the government expected to decide at an extraordinary meeting on Sunday.

Although the government can impose an emergency for up to a fortnight, it would need parliamentary approval to extend it.


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