Quote Of The Year

Quote Of The Year - Paul Shetler - "Its not Your Health Record it's a Government Record Of Your Health Information"

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Eight Pillars Of The Digital Health Revolution – Bianca Phillips

This article, and last of a series of five and reproduced with permission.

The eight pillars of the digital health revolution

Authored by  Bianca Phillips
This article is the final in a series on the making of the digital health revolution. It provides an overview of what has been discussed to date as well as some additional thoughts.
Personalised medicine
In the article Digital health success hinges on four principles, co-authored with Dr Bernard Robertson-Dunn, we provided an overview of personalised medicine and an overview of pharmacogenomics, epigenomics, exposomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, phenomics, microbiomics and metabolomics.
We proposed the idea that the shift to a personalised medicine model of care would require the application of four principles:
  • the acquisition of more and better data from the patient at the time and point of care;
  • diagnostic tools and models that understand and interpret these data;
  • treatment that addresses the cause of the problem; and
  • a health care system that efficiently uses this radically different approach to clinical medicine.
Telemedicine for diabetes and heart failure
In the article Telemedicine for diabetes and heart failure: an evidence review, co-authored with Dr Denise O’Connor and Professor Leonard Gray, we observed that the “evidence from systematic reviews and overviews indicates that telemedicine can improve blood glucose control in people with diabetes and provide similar health outcomes in the management of heart failure as to face to face or telephone delivery of care.”
We also noted that the Cochrane telemedicine review findings will be updated later this year and may be of interest to practitioners looking to implement telemedicine into their practices, and recommended the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners telehealth guidelines.
My Health Record challenges
In the article My Health Record: legal challenges, co-authored with David Vaile, we discussed the concerns put forth by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, and the Human Rights Commission in relation to the My Health Record opt-out model.
Additionally, we discussed the language used in section 67 of the My Health Records Act 2012, which states that a patient can use information included in their My Health Record “for any purpose”. We considered the provision from the lens of practitioner privacy, which is often overlooked as an area of importance.
Control and ownership of health records were also noted as a legal challenge. We stated that:
“We need to debate whether patient control is a good idea from a clinical, legal, ethical and social perspective, and also the degree to which the current claims about patient control reflect the design and operation of a system by a third party with the power to change the rules at any time, and to interpret which third party claims to accept.”
It will be interesting to follow the debate on data ownership taking form in the United States, and it is hoped that these matters will be more openly discussed in Australia moving forward.
The eight pillars of digital health law making
Having observed the My Health Record system as a case study of law making, there appear to me to be eight pillars of law making. The eight pillars I suggest are as follows:
  • accountability of law makers for the reasons for their decisions;
  • human rights;
  • clinical benefit;
  • societal benefit;
  • harm reduction;
  • risk reduction;
  • business case; and
  • public consultation.
These principles were considered as part of the law-making process for My Health Record, but there are questions surrounding the extent to which they were considered and whether the law-making process could be improved.  I am of the opinion that these eight pillars could be applied to the field of digital health more generally, being utilised in a structured manner as component of decision-making. At the very least, they could be utilised as a law-making quality review checklist, just like AMSTAR is used as a checklist for the quality of systematic review.
Some of these pillars are easier to define than others. For example, notions of clinical benefit are easier to define than societal benefit, which is laden with complex societal, ethical and philosophical questions. The task of further elaborating these pillars is a component of my research; however, I note that there are some benefits in retaining a framework in its abstract form, as often reaching a consensus on broad considerations is a necessary starting point.
The digital health movement has precipitated in the past 5 years, and it is expected that the field will continue to grow as technology companies turn their focus to the consumerisation of health care. It is clear that the approach to date has been one of “move fast and break things”. However, as Paul Yock has stated:
“In this environment, tech’s ‘move fast and break things’ model can become ‘move too quickly and break your company’ … [a] better approach for healthcare is need-driven innovation. Rather than leaping to invent a technology (like a sleep monitor) and then searching for a challenge it can be used to address (promoting more restful sleep), one starts by deeply understanding an important problem in healthcare and then designs a technology that is uniquely suited to solve it.”
As such, the success of digital health requires immense input from the medical community in order to achieve its intended objectives.
Digital health is more likely to accord with principles of evidence-based medicine, and to account for the needs of patients and practitioners in the clinical setting, if practitioners themselves are the driving force for change.
It is my view that attempts by technologists and governments to present new tools as a fait accompli will simply not succeed.
Thank you for following the series, and I hope it has been interesting and has presented some new ideas for your consideration. I would like to thank all of the co-authors for their insightful contributions along the way; it was wonderful to co-author with leaders in the field of digital health from the disciplines of law, engineering and medicine.
Bianca Phillips is a Victorian academic lawyer conducting medical law research. Bianca will be presenting her ideas on the future of digital health and the law at a summit at Harvard Medical School later in the year. If you would like to get involved in her research initiatives, feel free to connect on her website www.e-healthconsultants.com. She can also be found on Twitter @biancarphillips and LinkedIn.
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Thursday, April 25, 2019

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

April 25, 2019 Edition.
The election campaign has had a bit of a breather and it looks as though it will really be on in earnest after ANZAC day (today). It also looks like it will be furious and noisy!
In the US it is all about the Mueller Report and what is means for Trump and what the Democrats will do. There is a lot of discussion about impeachment etc.
Brexit is taking an Easter Break and in Indonesia the incumbent has been returned – a good thing I believe.

Major Issues.

China's coal users, importers shifting away from Australian suppliers

Michael Smith China Correspondent
Apr 14, 2019 — 1.56pm
Shanghai | Fears of port delays in China are forcing importers and end users to switch from Australian coal to other sources, according to industry players.
There are also further suggestions from traders, coal customers and industry officials that the slowdown in Australian coal imports are politically motivated, although shipments linked to firm contracts were still getting through.
The Australian dollar and mining stocks fell sharply earlier this year following reports than ports in China’s north-east had banned Australian coal.

Brown Brothers and CSIRO look to climate-proof grapes

Luke Housego Reporter
Apr 14, 2019 — 11.59pm
Brown Brothers’ end-of-vintage party is an annual event, with last Friday’s marking 130 harvests for the family-owned company that owns six vineyards across 840 hectares in Victoria and Tasmania.
But lately, the date for the party has shifted left in the company calendar.
 “The average harvest time [used to] start in mid to late February,” Brown Brothers chief executive Dean Carroll says. “These days, it’s closer to Australia Day and sometimes earlier.”
Carroll says the company is very conscious of the consequences of a changing climate and its effect on viticultural operations.

Strong economy? No, but maybe it will be eighth time lucky

By Ross Gittins
April 15, 2019 — 12.00am
Scott Morrison wants the Coalition re-elected because of its superior management of the economy. In Josh Frydenberg’s budget speech he referred to our “strong economy” 14 times. Why? He had to keep saying it because it ain’t true.
But get this: it’s not the government’s fault. It’s happening for reasons far beyond the government’s control. Growth is weak in Australia and throughout the developed world for deep reasons economists don’t yet fully understand.
It’s taken a while to realise this because the econocrats – mainly Treasury, but with the acquiescence of the Reserve Bank - either can’t or won’t accept its truth. They’ve gone for eight budgets in a row forecasting an early return to strong growth.

Auction numbers down but clearance rates up over Sydney’s pre-Easter weekend

Melissa Heagney
Sydney’s auction numbers were down, but the clearance rate stayed high on the usually super Saturday of auctions the weekend before Easter.
This year, 756 auctions were scheduled across Sydney on Saturday, compared with last year’s 1095 the weekend before Easter.
But, the preliminary clearance rate is at 68 per cent, well above last year’s results. This figure is expected to be revised down to 58 per cent once all results are in.

Wannabe journalist Assange needs a crash course in ethics

The Economist
  • 12:00AM April 15, 2019
Julian Assange, hauled out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Thursday after nearly seven years of self-imposed confinement, pale and hirsute, was not a pleasant house-guest.
He is alleged to have smeared faeces on the wall of the embassy and neglected his cat, among other uncouth behaviour, according to Ecuador’s exasperated foreign minister. Even so, claim his supporters, his expulsion and arrest was a grave assault on press freedom. Others think it a long-­overdue reckoning with justice for a man who had unleashed information anarchy upon the West, culminating in the destabilisation of American democracy. Is Assange a heroic journalist, reckless activist or even an enemy agent?
There is no doubt Assange and his organisation, WikiLeaks, have published some of the most dramatic leaks of the past decade. These include documents exposing American wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan (including larger estimates of civilian casualties in Afghanistan than previously reported, and video footage of an indiscriminate attack by an American helicopter in Iraq) in 2010. The same year, it released more than 250,000 juicy American diplomatic cables, stolen with the help of Chelsea Manning, then a junior soldier. Perhaps most seriously, in 2016 WikiLeaks was the conduit for Russian-hacked emails from the Democratic Party that may have swayed the course of America’s presidential election.

Big earning from machine learning

  • By The Economist
  • 12:00AM April 15, 2019
Amazon’s six-page memos are famous. Executives must write one every year, laying out their business plan. Less well known is that these missives must always answer one question in particular: how are you planning to use machine learning? Responses like “not much” are, according to Amazon managers, discouraged.
Machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence which mines data for patterns that can be used to make predictions. It took root at Amazon in 1999 when Jeff Wilke joined the firm. Wilke, who today is second-in-command to Jeff Bezos, set up a team of scientists to study Amazon’s internal processes in order to improve their efficiency. He wove his boffins into business units, turning a cycle of self-assessment and improvement into the default pattern. Soon the cycle involved machine-learning algorithms; the first one recommended books that customers might like. As Bezos’s ambitions grew, so did the importance of automated insights.
Yet whereas its fellow tech titans flaunt their AI prowess at every opportunity — Facebook’s facial-recognition software, Apple’s Siri digital assistant or Alphabet’s self-driving cars and master go player — Amazon has adopted a lower-key approach. Yes, its Alexa competes with Siri and the company offers predictive services in its cloud. But the algorithms most critical to the company’s success are those it uses to constantly streamline its own operations. The feedback loop looks the same as in its consumer-facing AI: build a service, attract customers, gather data, and let computers learn from these data, all at a scale human labour could not emulate.

Desperate times for savers

More than a decade after global central banks began systematically depressing rates, the hunt for yield is more intense than ever.
Patrick Commins Columnist
Apr 15, 2019 — 5.04pm
Savers are once again under the pump: term deposit rates have hit their lowest on record, based on RBA data that goes back to 1981.
Banks are offering a meagre 1.9 per cent on a $10,000 deposit over six months, the Reserve Bank of Australia data shows. The first thing to note is that this is barely above annual headline inflation, which is running at 1.8 per cent, so in real terms you are getting pretty much zilch.
For the wealthy retiree couple who want to keep their money in risk-free cash and live off the income, a million dollars is not going to give you much in the way of a comfortable lifestyle.

Final count leaves Premier Berejiklian facing tougher upper house

By Lisa Visentin
April 16, 2019 — 12.00am
The Berejiklian government could need the support of five of the 11 crossbench MPs to pass legislation in the new upper house, which includes two One Nation members.
The expanded crossbench will also include three Greens MPs, two Animal Justice Party MPs, two Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MPs, one Christian Democrat, and independent Justin Field who recently defected from the Greens.
After more than three weeks of counting, the final makeup for the NSW Legislative Council was determined on Monday, with Labor, Animal Justice and One Nation claiming the final three seats on preferences.

High Court to decide if a sperm donor can be a parent

By Harriet Alexander
April 15, 2019 — 5.59pm
A contest over two little girls, the women who raised them and the elder child's biological father has framed the terms for a High Court showdown over what it means to be a parent.
Robert Masson is trying to block the mother of his biological daughter from moving to New Zealand with her partner and the girls, claiming that his role in their lives has always been larger than that of a "sperm donor".
"We went away on holiday together and cooked up that we would have a child, and the stipulation from my side of it was 'I have to be Dad,' " Mr Masson said.

People are weeping in the streets for Notre Dame. I weep with them.

By Bénédicte Paviot
April 16, 2019 — 9.55am
Our Notre-Dame de Paris burning! My Paris! Am heartbroken. Horrified to watch the huge blaze engulfing and devastating Notre-Dame Cathedral. The images are terrible, unbearable. The flames raging through the main spire and its roof. Both then collapsing. Intense emotion and powerlessness at seeing this awe-inspiringly beautiful 850-year-old cathedral ravaged by fire.
It is not possible to think of Paris without thinking of Notre-Dame. It is geographically at the heart of Paris, as it is kilometre zero. It is loved by Parisians, by French people, indeed people all around the world. It has withstood many centuries and wars. Its bells rang out calling all Parisians to celebrate the end of the Second World War. It is not only the most important for the Catholic Church in France; it is also the heart of one of Europe's greatest and oldest cities.
Mournful Parisian crowds gather to watch as the historic cathedral burns and collapses.

Tomb paintings reveal secrets hidden for 4300 years

  • By Hannah Lucinda Smith
  • The Times
  • 12:00AM April 16, 2019
A tomb excavation in Egypt has revealed brightly coloured paintings made 4300 years ago during what is known as the Age of the Pyramids.
The newly opened necropolis near Saqqara, about 30km south of Cairo, is adorned with depictions inspired by the nearby Giza pyramids, painted in special resins that have kept their hues over the millenniums.
It was built for a nobleman called Khuwy, who lived in the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, which in total spanned from 2686BC to 2181BC. The art of pyramid building had been perfected in the preceding Fourth Dynasty.
The latest discovery could shed new light on the pyramids themselves. Historians regard this period as having been “written in stone”, with events recorded only through monuments rather than texts.

How to position your portfolio for recession

Investors should pay attention to the next few months of leading economic indicators, and position their investments accordingly.
Mark Draper
Apr 16, 2019 — 10.25am
With the graphs of leading Australian economic indicators taking on the shape of a waterfall, investors would be wise to dust off the play book about how to invest in a recession. While we're not in recession yet, we are likely to know in the next few months whether Australia is heading that way.
It all depends on whether some indicators, which we examine here, can change direction.
If Australia were to enter recession, there are several investment sectors where investors should tread carefully.

Superannuation rise will cut wages: Grattan

John Kehoe Senior Reporter
Apr 16, 2019 — 9.00pm
A future Labor government is being warned that its ironclad pledge to increase mandatory superannuation contributions will cut wages and hurt low-income people.
Implementing the legislated superannuation guarantee (SG) rise to 12 per cent, from the existing 9.5 per cent, would result in wages being more than 2 per cent lower than otherwise, Grattan Institute chief executive John Daley said.
"If employers are required to put extra money into super then by definition they will put less money into wages," Mr Daley said.
"Paul Keating made that argument in public and pretty much every other economist who has ever looked at this makes the same argument.

Custody case tests who is a parent

  • 12:00AM April 17, 2019
In a landmark case that could rewrite the status of parenthood, lawyers for a sperm donor who is attempting to stop a lesbian couple leaving the country with the daughter who calls him “Daddy” have invoked “the spectre of a child being left with no parents”.
Appearing at a hearing before the High Court yesterday, counsel for the commonwealth argued that the specific reading of the Family Law Act relied upon by the mother’s lawyer and state jurisdictions would leave some children without any parents at all, excluding even a woman who carried and gave birth to a child.
Attorney-General Christian Porter intervened in the case to support the man, known to the court as Robert Masson, after he lost an appeal in the Family Court to establish his right as a legal parent of the girl.

Christians 'under siege', says Sydney archbishop following Notre-Dame Cathedral fire

April 18, 2019 — 10.02am
Sydney's Catholic leader believes Christians around the world are "under siege" and hopes the fire at Paris' Notre-Dame Cathedral was not a deliberate attack.
Investigators believe the blaze, which destroyed most of the roof of the 850-year-old architectural icon, was an accident possibly linked to renovation works.
But Archbishop Anthony Fisher said after hearing of a recent "catalogue of fires" at churches in France, "it really struck me that we are, in some ways, under siege".
"Particularly at this time, we know there are those in the world who are opposed to all religion or opposed to our religion and it looks like some of them are determined to make that clear by burning down our buildings," he told 2GB radio on Thursday.

EU law will force takedown of extremist content in an hour

New European legislation will make it mandatory for Google, Facebook and Twitter to remove extremist content within an hour of it being posted or else face fines up to 4% of turnover for repeat offences.
The European Parliament voted 308 to 204 with 70 abstentions to back the proposal meant to solve the problem of internet hosting services being misused for terrorism.
The EU move comes in the wake of the killing of 50 Muslims at a mosque in Christchurch by an Australian white supremacist gunman on 15 March.

This Easter the Catholic Church is trying for a 'heck of a conversion'

Tony Banks
Apr 17, 2019 — 11.00pm
The Catholic Church is in trauma, to state the obvious. Each sexual abuse allegation is another sadness while also a further battery on believers. In addition those in power, who fail to understand the core responsibilities that go with their power, have added further abuse.
In the future we can see further inquiries into use of resources, gender equity, and management of personnel. There are multiple reactions prevalent within the Catholic Church today including the notion that somehow the church is also a victim, or that they (the elders of the church) were all terrible.
The Jesus of history lived parables – some of which he spoke and others which he enacted in his behaviour. Parables generally have outcomes that are quite different from the expectations of the observers and listeners. Both the preachers and those who hear (or suffer) the preaching today may have become blasé to such parables. Surely the Bravehearts and Victims Rights groups are the new Good Samaritans. And are not the LGBTIQ community similar to the prodigal returning to court? Who are the loving parents who receive them? Who are the “virtuous” ones who reject them?

Can the 2019 equity boom last?

After the best start to Aussie shares since 1991, investors are wondering whether this heralds a new beginning or the restart of an old, unwelcome trend.
Patrick Commins Columnist
Apr 17, 2019 — 4.07pm
It might not feel like it, but the start of 2019 has witnessed a boom of historical proportions on the ASX.
A 10 per cent bounce in Aussie stocks made for the best first-quarter performance since 1991, on Bloomberg numbers.
Meanwhile, global equities broadly have had their best start to the year ever, analysis by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch shows.
So far this year the broadest index of world sharemarkets is up 15 per cent. Wall Street is 16 per cent higher and Chinese mainland equities, which tend toward boom and bust cycles, are up almost 40 per cent.

Unicorn start-ups: Business model problem leaves investors exposed

  • By The Economist
  • 12:00AM April 20, 2019
Investors often describe the world of business in terms of animals, such as bears, bulls, hawks, doves and dogs. Right now, mere ponies are being presented as unicorns: privately held tech firms worth more than $US1 billion that are supposedly strong and world-beating — miraculous, almost.
Next month Uber will raise about $US10bn ($14bn) in what may turn out to be this year’s biggest initial public offering. It will be America’s third-biggest-ever tech IPO, after Alibaba and Facebook. Airbnb and WeWork could follow Lyft, which has already floated, and Pinterest.
In China, an IPO wave that began last year rumbles on. Thanks to fashionable products and armies of users, these firms have a total valuation in the hundreds of billions of dollars. They and their venture-capital (VC) backers are rushing to sell shares at high prices to mutual funds and pension schemes run for ordinary people. There is, however, a problem with the unicorns: their business models.

Kids make you happier - as long as you can pay for them

By Matt Wade
April 21, 2019 — 12.05am
Raising children is a source of happiness, right?
Well, it turns out the data tells a more complicated story.
For the past two decades a growing troupe of researchers has been investigating happiness across the globe.
They’ve found marriage tends to make people happier, unemployment makes them miserable and that wealthy nations are happier, on average, than poorer ones.

From British race patriotism to inclusion: we are not a racist nation

By Tom Switzer
April 20, 2019 — 12.00am
 “Racist” is a powerful accusation to make against anyone, but since the Christchurch terrorist attack it has been frequently applied to Australia’s political mainstream. Hardly a day goes by without talk of our nation’s entrenched racism and how it fuels Islamophobia and extreme right-wing violence.
It’s not a persuasive argument, because anyone who seeks to whip up racist sentiments is relegated to the fringe of our public discourse. Besides, since March 15 the widespread outpouring of support for Christchurch’s Muslim community — and indeed Muslims in the wider Australian community — has been a rebuke to those who commit violence in the name of race and to those who think Australia is irredeemably racist.
For all our nation’s historic blemishes, and notwithstanding the pockets of xenophobia, we are a broadly liberal and tolerant multi-racial, multi-ethnic society. And it has been that way for the best part of half a century since both major parties chipped away at the great white walls of White Australia and moved quickly to enshrine the multicultural ideal as the basis of national community.

Federal Election.

A highly taxing campaign for voters

There are now fundamental and sharply defined differences in philosophy driving both sides of politics – and the voters who follow them.
Jennifer Hewett Columnist
Apr 14, 2019 — 4.28pm
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Scott Morrison has found a figure he just loves: $387 billion. Say it often, say it loud – right through until May 18: $387 billion.
Its very precision makes it meaningless, of course. Any notion Treasury boffins can accurately calculate the impact of Labor's tax policies over a decade with that degree of accuracy is ludicrous.
Nor was Treasury even officially calculating Labor's policies, of course – merely "alternative" policies as requested by the Treasurer's office before the election was called.
But $387 billion represents a very calculated political gamble from the Coalition that it sounds a big enough, scary enough figure to persuade voters that Labor is going to tax, tax, tax its way to a big spending government. Spending YOUR money, that is.

Alex Turnbull's plan to 'destroy' News Corp's political influence

Aaron Patrick Senior Correspondent
Apr 14, 2019 — 1.11pm
The support of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's son, Alex Turnbull, for several independent political candidates, including Kerryn Phelps in his father's old seat, is part of a long-term plan to challenge the major parties and reduce the influence of the Murdoch family over Australian politics.
Alex Turnbull, a private investor who lives in Singapore, said he was helping coordinate a project to provide corporate and technological support to help independents campaign, raise money and comply with electoral laws.
"If you want to destroy News Corp's influence in Australian politics you need to provide the infrastructure for lazy members of the incumbent parties to face challenges from their constituents," he said in an interview on Sunday.

Political parties split on implementing Hayne recommendations

Adele Ferguson Business columnist
Apr 15, 2019 — 12.01am
It was a different tune three years ago. The opposition’s election campaign kicked off with a call to the banks that a Shorten government would call a royal commission.
Scott Morrison, then treasurer, was having none of it, warning a royal commission would hurt Australia’s international reputation, threaten economic stability and be a waste of money because we had a tough cop on the beat.
Three years on, with a royal commission still searing through the minds of those who saw the headlines throughout 2018, this election will be fought on trust.

'Our approach is to remove the hard right': GetUp raises $12m in effort to oust conservatives

By David Crowe
April 15, 2019 — 12.00am
A flood of money has lifted activist group GetUp to a new peak of $12.5 million in annual donations as it puts pressure on election candidates to declare their policy positions in order to gain its support on polling day.
Donations have soared 27 per cent over the past year in a significant threat to the Morrison government, which is urging voters to ignore the group's "untruths" and its support for higher taxes.
The group is about to intensify its campaigns against conservative candidates by choosing 30 priority electorates where it will urge Australians to cast their ballots on climate change, the Adani coal mine and the treatment of refugees.

Australia needs stronger laws to deal with hate speech

By Gillian Triggs and Julian Burnside
April 14, 2019 — 11.30pm
The attack on the Al Noor mosque began at 1.40 in the afternoon, when most of those in attendance were at prayer. Forty-two people, ranging in age from three years old to 77 years old, died. The attack resumed about 15 minutes later at the Linwood Islamic Centre, a few kilometres from the Al Noor mosque where eight people died.
A 28-year-old Australian has been charged with 50 murders. He had earlier written and distributed a rambling manifesto, which included the vilest sort of hate speech against migrants, white supremacist rhetoric and approving references to terrorist attacks committed by far-right extremists such as Anders Brevik who, in 2011, brutally murdered 78 people in and around Oslo.
In the wake of Christchurch, we have been heartened by the outpouring of genuine grief and sympathy for the victims, not just in New Zealand, but across the globe. It is deeply reassuring to see how at these moments of our deepest anguish, we demonstrate our most profound capacity for compassion.

Pressure for integrity commission builds as poll reveals loss of trust in politics

About two-thirds of Australians have either low or very low trust in federal government, polling shows
An overwhelming majority of Australians have lost trust in federal politics and want a strong, well-resourced anti-corruption commission, new polling shows.
Integrity experts and Transparency International Australia will on Monday launch a sustained push on the major parties to make substantial commitments to boosting integrity in the lead-up to next month’s election, including the establishment of a properly empowered federal integrity commission, reforms to donations and lobbying, and better protections for whistleblowers.
Their push coincides with polling released by the Australia Institute showing trust in Australia’s federal parliament is low and declining further.

Labor's plans will hurt many people who aren't rich at all

By Amanda Vanstone
April 14, 2019 — 11.30pm
Perhaps, as Nino Culotta said, we are a weird mob. We live in a wonderful country. For all the problems we face we have better education and health services than just about anywhere. We have a decent welfare system.
We enjoy, in fact take for granted, freedoms that millions of people have never had. As journalist Shalailah Medhora tweeted late last year “but can we stop for a moment to appreciate how good is it to live in a country where people can openly say” ... this or that leader is a dickhead.
As Christopher Pyne rightly noted in his valedictory speech, our good fortune isn’t just a happy accident. We enjoy what we do today because people of all political persuasions in Parliament have done their best. And yet still, we seem to hold politicians in low regard.

The dislocation of bonds and commodities a strange backdrop to poll

  • 6:17AM April 15, 2019
The 2019 federal election campaign is taking place against a very unusual market backdrop: the 10-year bond yield and commodities have dislocated.
The yield on Australian 10-year bonds has collapsed, in line with global bond markets, while the iron ore price is in the midst of a powerful rally that is supporting the Australian dollar. The oil price is rising as well and so is copper.
In 2016 bond yields and commodities were falling together, likewise in 2010. In 2013, as the election was called, bond yields and iron ore were both rising, but that didn’t last long – both peaked three months after the election and began a co-ordinated three-year decline.
Australia is a commodity-based economy, so bond yields and commodity prices usually move in the same direction – predicting both good times or bad.

Only a fear campaign can save the Coalition now

  • 7:50AM April 15, 2019
The sharemarket, bookmakers and the opinion polls are saying the same thing: the ALP will win the May election and the economy will survive.
And so, we are seeing shares remain strong. This partly reflects overseas tends and the 10-year bond yield below 1.9 per cent compared 2.56 per cent in the US. The Australian dollar is strengthening. The looming change of government is being accepted without panic both here and abroad.
So suddenly Scott Morrison becomes the “opposition-leader-in-waiting”. Yet he is still campaigning as the prime minister, handing out goodies that large segments of the population - particularly younger people - ignore because they don’t expect him to be prime minister after May 18.

NSW upper house: Animal Justice Party’s Emma Hurst beats out David Leyonhjelm, One Nation picks up second seat

  • April 15, 2019
The micro-Animal Justice Party has won its second seat in the NSW Legislative Council, with vegan bodybuilder Emma Hurst elected, joining Mark Pearson in as an upper house MP.
The result saw Ms Hurst beat Christian Democrat Paul Green by about 8000 votes to the spot.
She also defeated Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and Keep Sydney Open’s Tyson Koh to the final spot of 21 elected members when preferences were finally distributed today from the March 23 election.
April 16 2019 - 12:30AM

The Federal election campaign has started but polls show Australians have made up their minds

AND so the election campaign begins, but is anyone really listening?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten were in full election mode on the weekend, surrounded by their families, after May 18 was finally announced as federal polling day.
Half the campaign, in NSW at least, will coincide with school holidays and run only a few short weeks after a largely underwhelming state election campaign that returned the incumbent.
The federal poll will also cut across national breaks to celebrate Easter and mark Anzac Day, when Australians are unlikely to be impressed with too much politics.

Morrison tax plan needs $40b spending cut

Apr 16, 2019 — 12.00am
The Morrison government would need to cut spending by about $40 billion a year by 2030 to afford its big personal income tax cuts and deliver on its budget surplus forecasts, new analysis by the Grattan Institute shows.
The Coalition has positioned its $387 billion in lower taxes than Labor over the next decade as the key economic fight in the federal election, including an extra $230 billion in personal income tax cuts that Labor is resisting.
The government’s budget assumes the Coalition would be able to gradually reduce spending from 24.9 per cent of GDP in 2018-19 to about 23.6 per cent over the decade, in order to fund the tax cuts and keep the budget in surplus.
That low level of federal spending was only achieved three times in 11 years by the Howard government and, before that, in 1989-90, according to an analysis of the federal budget by The Australian Financial Review.

Labor's pathology boost for cancer sufferers

Tom McIlroy Political reporter
Apr 16, 2019 — 12.00am
The Opposition confirmed on Monday it would work to negotiate the split with state and territory governments in time for a new national funding agreement after the 2020-2025 deal expires.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will continue to campaign on health on Tuesday, pledging to spend $200 million to give cancer patients and the elderly continued access to free pathology tests to diagnose illness and track treatment.

Crossbenchers don't like Shorten's tax plan

Apr 16, 2019 — 12.00am
Crossbenchers have begun preparing a log of claims in the event of a hung Parliament, demanding action on climate change from the Coalition and scuppering Labor's planned crackdown on franking credits and negative gearing in any deal with Bill Shorten.
Neither Scott Morrison nor Mr Shorten would be drawn on whether they would enter into negotiations with the crossbench as they declared their intention to form majority governments.
While polls have consistently pointed to a Labor win, including the most recent Newspoll published on Monday, which showed Mr Shorten on track to win 10 seats, strategists from both major parties expect the result to be much closer.

Bill Shorten sparks political firestorm with superannuation tax claim

By David Crowe
April 17, 2019 — 12.00am
Labor leader Bill Shorten has triggered a political clash over superannuation after telling voters he had "no plans" to increase taxes on their nest eggs despite taking four policies to the election to raise at least $18.9 billion over a decade.
More than one million Australians could pay more tax on their super under Labor plans, including stricter caps on payments into funds and a bigger contributions tax for workers on higher incomes.
Labor rushed to clarify its position after Mr Shorten also struggled on climate change policy when asked about the economic impact of his pledge to reduce carbon emissions, including a new permit scheme for manufacturers.

The great diversion: election arguments about tax

By Ross Gittins
April 17, 2019 — 12.00am
No one’s more interested in taxation than me, but there’s got to be more to this election campaign than claims about which side is high taxing and which low taxing, and interminable arguments and scare campaigns about franking credits and negative gearing.
Fortunately, the nation’s best and most independent think-tank, the Grattan Institute, has taken a much broader view of the issues to which the winning side should pay most attention in its Commonwealth Orange Book (an allusion to the red book and the blue book that the public service prepares to present to whichever side wins).
To help voters put the election issues into context, however, Grattan starts by comparing our performance on a broad range of indicators with nine comparable countries.

Coalition MPs urged to sell the ABC and support a flat tax in IPA call

By David Crowe
April 16, 2019 — 11.45pm
Coalition candidates are being urged to endorse a conservative manifesto that includes selling the ABC, slashing the company tax rate and pulling out of the Paris agreement on climate change.
The Institute of Public Affairs is also calling on Liberals and Nationals to repeal the ban on offensive speech in the Racial Discrimination Act and scrap the Fair Work Act including its provisions on the minimum wage.
Day Six of the election campaign is underway with Bill Shorten in Adelaide and Scott Morrison in Geelong.
The manifesto, sent to MPs in the past four days, has infuriated union critics who say the "disastrous" ideas should be repudiated at the election because of the IPA's influence over the Coalition.

ALP wipes policy details off website

  • April 17, 2019
Bill Shorten was blindsided ­yesterday when Labor’s official campaign website deleted reams of information explaining his ­signature reforms to negative gearing and capital gains tax, and reposted simplified “fact sheets” with key details stripped out.
Labor previously had almost 100 paragraphs posted on its housing policy, including charts and diagrams explaining the negative gearing and capital gains wind back, but this was reduced to just 10 paragraphs yesterday.
The Opposition Leader was also caught out yesterday when he claimed there would be no new taxes on superannuation, despite Labor planning a $34 billion raid on nest egg ­savings.
Ahead of Treasury’s pre-­election economic and fiscal outlook, to be released today, Mr Shorten came under further ­pressure last night when Labor appeared to scrap its superannuation tax changes policy sheet from its online manifesto.

Underdog ScoMo has a shot

While balanced coverage of the election is missing in action, the RBA is meddling and class actions are in the air for investors reacting to franking changes.
Christopher Joye Columnist
Apr 18, 2019 — 12.00am
It’s funny how most political insiders and journalists are utterly convinced Scott Morrison has zero chance of winning the election, which is echoed in current betting odds that place him as a rank underdog.
It's also reflected in the bifurcated election coverage. Whereas the right-leaning News Corporation is doing everything possible to highlight Labor’s gaffes, it is staggering how much of the ostensibly centrist mainstream media has gone missing in action when it comes to servicing voters with balanced analysis.
News Corporation’s opponents have morphed into its antithesis, running never-ending hatchet jobs on the Coalition while largely overlooking Labor’s shortcomings. When I asked a colleague why the independent alternatives had suddenly become so biased, he responded that “since they believe ScoMo is a dead duck, they’ve trying to curry favour with Labor to buy access for the next three-year term”.

Labor suddenly looks exposed

Labor, as one MP put it, suddenly feels as though "we've got our arse hanging out in the breeze''.
Phillip Coorey Political Editor
Apr 17, 2019 — 8.00pm
If the first week of the election campaign confirmed one thing it was that Labor suddenly feels exposed.
If only because of the contrast with the Coalition which is campaigning on a platform of promising to do very little if it wins a third term of government.
Other than doling out long-term tax cuts, hardly controversial even if there are questions about their affordability, and presiding over a return to surplus off the back of increased revenue and moderated spending, that's pretty much it.

'Member for Manila': MP puts overseas travel before key campaign slogan

By David Wroe
April 18, 2019 — 12.00am
Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen missed a substantial chunk of his parliamentary work on his heartland issue of developing northern Australia because he was visiting the Philippines.
Mr Christensen skipped nearly a third of the public hearings for the 2014 parliamentary inquiry into boosting economic and infrastructure development in the Top End while making some of his numerous visits to the south-east Asian nation.
He has reportedly been dubbed the "member for Manila" by colleagues, and was blasted by the opposition during campaigning on Wednesday for putting his overseas trips ahead of his electorate.

'Nonsensical': Labor's tax affairs cap fires up accountants

By Emma Koehn
April 17, 2019 — 12.00am
Accountants warn Labor's plan to cap deductions for managing tax affairs at $3000 will put a "handbrake" on mum and dad businesses that offer tax advice.
"Many Australians will experience a complex tax issue at some stage. By restricting an Australian’s ability to engage a professional, it hampers their ability to get good tax advice," chief executive of the Institute of Public Accountants, Andrew Conway says.
Australians are able to deduct the cost of managing their tax affairs from their personal income tax bills. The opposition first unveiled a policy to limit this in 2017, capping the claimable expense at $3000 in a bid to crack down on high net worth individuals using these deductions to minimise tax.

Combet’s plan for your money

The former union leader and Labor MP has super powers in one of the nation’s key financial systems. And he’s not afraid to exercise it.
  • From The Deal
April 18, 2019
Greg Combet would be entitled to wonder what might have been. Six years ago, in the dying days of her prime ministership, Julia Gillard told Combet she would stand aside if he were prepared to run against Kevin Rudd for the Labor leadership. Combet had been thinking about his political future for some time and the Gillard offer “forced me to make a decision”. He declined and soon left federal parliament.
Combet, the young mining engineer who went on to lead the union movement before switching to politics and ascending to federal cabinet, says he doesn’t look back and think he could have been in the Lodge.
“No I don’t, because I made a hard-headed decision,” he says. “I did have some health problems. I just decided I wasn’t really strong enough to do a job as demanding as that any more. As much as I love the Labor Party and the labour movement, it was better for me personally. There were other reasons as well but it was important that I was honest with myself about it.

Election the first skirmish of a long generational war

  • 12:00AM April 18, 2019
It would seem that the upcoming election is to be fought along generational lines. This is the first skirmish in what is likely to be a series of pitched battles that will be fought throughout the 2020s.
The losers will be the baby boomers; the winners will be their children’s generation (the millennials). Whether the upcoming election delivers a decisive victory to the millennials over the boomers remains to be seen. But even if they are not successful this time, there will be ample opportunity for the millennials down the track to finish off the straggling, retreating, retiring baby-boomer army.
And here is why this generational war will not cease until the baby-boomer life form has finally ceased to exist. It is because the Australian people cannot afford to fund baby boomers in retirement in the manner to which they have become accustomed. They are too big of a group to start with; and they simply will not die off in sufficient numbers before they consume vast resources in the form of pensions and healthcare support. That is the blunt truth.

A climate reckoning is coming to our political hothouse

By Peter Hartcher
April 20, 2019 — 12.00am
When Tony Abbott was prime minister, he ordered more Australian strike aircraft and troops into Iraq. Not because Australia was big enough to turn the tide of battle against the barbarians of Daesh, so-called Islamic State or ISIL. But because he believed in the fight.
"It's absolutely vital that the world sees and sees quickly that the ISIL death cult can be beaten," he said in 2014. Australia's commitment ultimately made up less than 1 per cent of the combined effort against the terrorist thugs but it was early and firm. Abbott described it as "an important global concern" and he was right. And, with more than 60 countries co-operating, it was a success.
When it came to another important global concern, Abbott argued a very different case. He and like-minded Coalition conservatives have long maintained that Australian action against climate change was futile: "Even if carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring trace gas that’s necessary for life, really is the main climate change villain, Australia’s contribution to mankind’s emissions is scarcely more than 1 per cent," Abbott said last year.

Labor demands Facebook remove 'fake news' posts about false death tax plans

By David Wroe
April 19, 2019 — 11.45pm
Labor has demanded Facebook investigate apparent "fake news" posts claiming the opposition is planning to introduce a "death tax" on inheritances, in the first major test of the social media giant's promise to crack down on false election material.
The posts and messages shared via Facebook messenger incorrectly claimed Labor had signed a covert deal to bring in a 40 per cent inheritance tax and carried a link to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's website, though the Liberal Party said it was not behind the posts.
"Labor, the Greens and unions have signed an agreement to introduce a 40 percent inheritance tax," the crudely written message states.
"Everything you own cannot go to your kids or next of kin at death 40 percent goes to the govt. Please share this with all your friends."

Scott Morrison pledges $100 million to help rural cancer patients

By Dana McCauley
April 19, 2019 — 11.45pm
The Morrison government is set to unveil a $100 million plan to help Australians with cancer and rare diseases access cutting-edge treatment no matter where they live.
As the federal election campaign enters its 10th day, Mr Morrison is seeking to bolster the Coalition's credentials on health after two weeks of almost daily announcements by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten detailing Labor's $2.3 billion cancer package.
"Clinical trials offer hope for patients where often there hasn’t been any," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
"Rural patients with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses often have it twice as hard, spending much of their life on the road to get the treatment they need and deserve.

Why the PM is shutting up about the culture wars in this campaign

By Jacqueline Maley
April 21, 2019 — 12.00am
Election campaigns are deeply weird things, involving whirlwind travel, sausage sizzles, the wearing of chinos, and the mild traumatisation of any baby who finds herself in the path of a politician.
Under the weary gaze of the nation, Prime Minister and Opposition Leader must appear energised but not hubristic, natural and yet leaderly, easygoing but ready to attack the slightest mistake made by the other.
It is the time when the leaders want to convince us how normal they are, coming at us live from just about the most abnormal setting possible.

'It horrifies me': Greens in fight of their lives to keep seats

By Judith Ireland
April 21, 2019 — 7.33am
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young says she is "horrified" at the prospect that her Senate spot could be taken by One Nation, as the Greens face losing two of their most high-profile parliamentarians at the upcoming election to Pauline Hanson's party.
Along with Senator Hanson-Young, the Greens' co-deputy leader Larissa Waters has an uphill struggle to hold on to her Queensland seat due to challenges from One Nation, Clive Palmer and far-right senator Fraser Anning.
The Greens have six of their nine senators up for re-election on May 18. "Our focus is on retaining our team of MPs," Greens leader Richard Di Natale told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, saying South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales would "come down to the wire".

Royal Commissions And Similar.

'We’ve seen a real change of opinion': AMP's reputation gets smashed

Jessica Gardner Companies & Markets Editor
Apr 16, 2019 — 12.00am
Revelations of misconduct at the Hayne royal commission have hit the reputation of wealth giant AMP much harder than it has the big four banks, but all five organisations must do a better job of proving they have changed their ways if they are to bounce back.
That's the view of Oliver Freedman of the Reputation Institute, which tracks community sentiment towards large, well-known, national companies and sells that data.
The research firm's annual ranking of corporate reputation showed AMP to be the lowest ranked organisation after falling 18 places – the most of any company on the list. It joins the Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, ANZ Banking Group and Westpac in the bottom 10 companies, which means they are rated as having a weak or vulnerable reputation.

Bupa accused of misleading aged care residents

Elouise Fowler Reporter
Apr 16, 2019 — 11.09am
Australia's consumer watchdog has launched court action against Bupa Aged Care for failing to provide promised services, such as air-conditioning in bedrooms and dementia "smart rooms", for residents at its aged care homes across the country.
Against the backdrop of the royal commission into the abuse and mistreatment of aged care residents, Bupa is accused of charging thousands of residents for such services,  which the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says often amounted to thousands of dollars a year year.
The ACCC is seeking penalties and orders in the Federal Court for Bupa's alleged failure to "provide  or not fully provide services" including covered outdoor exercise areas, travel escorts for outside appointments, hot breakfasts and fully equipped physiotherapy rooms.

Bupa overcharged thousands of aged care residents for extra services

By Natassia Chrysanthos
April 16, 2019 — 2.12pm
The consumer watchdog has started federal court proceedings against Bupa, after it allegedly charged thousands of residents across 21 aged care homes up to $100 a day for extra services it did not fully provide.
Between December 12, 2007 and February 22, 2018, Bupa collected fees for a package of services that included air-conditioning, access to audio books, physiotherapy rooms, hot breakfasts and travel escorts for external appointments.
The company notified the ACCC of its conduct but has not said it breached Australia consumer law.

Bupa Aged Care in court for misleading conduct

Wednesday, 17 April, 2019
A major Australian aged-care provider has been taken to court by the ACCC for charging for services it did not provide.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court against Bupa Aged Care Australia Pty Ltd (Bupa), alleging the organisation made false or misleading representations to aged-care residents in 21 homes, charging them for services it did not provide or only partly provided, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
The ACCC alleges that between December 2007 and June 2018, Bupa charged thousands of residents fees for a package of extra services that it did not provide, or only partly provided, in 21 aged-care homes across the country. The fees for the extra services package often amounted to thousands of dollars each year.
“In some cases the alleged misleading representations related to services that were significant to the quality of life of elderly residents,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said. “The promised services were likely also what attracted many residents and their families to choose Bupa.

Reinventing aged care

By Dan Levitt*
Monday, 15 April, 2019
For many elderly, the thought of entering a nursing home is akin to going to jail. But is it possible to reinvent the aged-care sector? According to Canadian aged-care executive and adjunct professor Dan Levitt, the answer is yes.
I want to share with you my biggest fear.
It keeps me awake at night. It is something that I have not written about, until now.
I have gerontophobia. I am afraid of getting old.
I fear that I will lose my memory, my physical strength and no longer be able to live independently. I dread the weight I will place on my family to care for me at home. I fear most that I will be forced to leave my home in the neighbourhood where I have lived all my life and have no choice but to live in an old-age institution. I am scared that I will have to wait too long for admission to that nursing home, because not enough new residential care facilities will have been built, that the nursing home I move into will be chosen by the government not by me as a consumer as this basic right is not afforded to seniors who meet the eligibility criteria for residential care.

Banks, AMP compensation bill could top $10bn: Shaw and Partners

  • 12:00AM April 20, 2019
The $6 billion bill faced by the big four banks and AMP to rectify wrong­doing and repay customers will climb in the second half, as they assess the cost of poor advice provided by their aligned financial planners.
That is the view of analysts following National Australia Bank’s disclosure of an additional $749 million in before-tax provisions, or $525m after tax for its customer remediation program on Thursday.
That brought NAB’s total provisions for customer-related remediation to $1.1bn, and the financial hit isn’t over yet.
NAB is yet to get a good handle on how much it needs to repay customers who received poor advice from so-called aligned planners which sit under its dealer groups.

Age care: It's time to talk about who pays and how much

April 21, 2019 — 12.00am
Many retirees believe residential aged care is means tested and, therefore, quite affordable.
However, when it comes to what you pay, one definitely does not equal the other.
As a percentage of their wealth, low-means residents pay a high price – 50 cents for every dollar of income above $27,000 a year and 17.5 per cent of their assets between $49,500 and $168,000 are levied as an accommodation contribution.
The amount a low-means age care resident pays is calculated and capped at the accommodation supplement set by the government.

National Budget Issues.

Falling house prices threaten tax cuts or surplus, as Australia's economy softens

By Shane Wright
April 15, 2019 — 12.00am
Doubts over the election promises made by the Coalition and Labor have been raised with new predictions the Australian economy is softening on the back of falling house prices and stagnant wages.
Ahead of a warning from shadow treasurer Chris Bowen that the Coalition's tax cut plans would drive the budget into the red if the economy weakened, forecasts from Deloitte Access Economics point to budget problems that may curtail expensive vote winners.
The Coalition is promising $290 billion in personal income tax cuts between 2022 and 2029 even after it was forced to write down expected revenue by $15 billion in its recent budget.

Employment growth beats forecasts

  • By James Glynn
  • Dow Jones
  • April 18, 2019
Employment grew strongly in the Australian economy in March, dampening expectations of an interest-rate cut in coming months and lifting the Australian dollar.
The unemployment rate rose to 5.0 per cent in March from 4.9 per cent in February, as expected by economists.
The number of people employed rose by 25,700, compared with an expected 15,000 rise, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.
The number of people in full-time work rose by 48,300, while those in part-time work fell by 22,600.

Business conditions, confidence weaker: NAB

Matthew Cranston
Apr 18, 2019 — 11.23am
Business conditions and confidence have barely held above the long run average in the first quarter of this year and are not expected to improve any time soon, according to the latest quarterly NAB Business survey.
Business expectations on the level of capital expenditure over the next three and 12 month periods have eased.
Forward orders have turned negative and expectations for business conditions for the next three and 12 months also declined despite their already elevated levels.
"Conditions are now only just above average and negative confidence and forward orders suggest the outlook remains weak," NAB group chief economist Alan Oster said.

Health Issues.

'Missing out on basic healthcare': Australians spend $34 billion a year on out-of-pocket health costs

By Dana McCauley
April 15, 2019 — 11.45pm
Australians are paying more for healthcare than most other developed nations, forking out $34 billion a year on out-of-pocket health costs, an analysis of official data reveals.
The latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that of the $181 billion spent annually on health, 19 per cent is paid directly from patients' pockets.
Those out of pocket costs equate to 3 per cent of Australian household spending, the third-highest in the OECD behind South Korea (5.7 per cent) and Sweden (3.8 per cent).

Health system needs to be protected from climate change: doctors

By Stuart Layt
April 15, 2019 — 5.23pm
Hospitals across Australia will struggle to cope more frequently in the future unless more is done to offset the effects of climate change, a group of seniors doctors argue.
In an opinion paper published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday, the experts advocate for the entire health system to be made more agile and resilient to meet increasing demand.
One of the authors, Queensland University of Technology public health expert Gerard Fitzgerald, said health systems across Australia were already running close to the line, and did not have enough wiggle-room to deal with increasing problems linked to climate change.

HIV infection rates in NSW hit record low, but there are concerns

By Esther Han
April 20, 2019 — 12.00am
The number of new HIV cases in NSW has dropped to their lowest level since 1984, but NSW Health would not say whether it will hit its target of "virtually" eliminating the disease by 2020.
In 2018, 278 people had a newly diagnosed HIV infection, which was 17 per cent lower than the 2013-2017 average and 83 per cent lower than the 1987 peak, the latest government data shows.
Despite the downward trend annually, there were 86 new infections in the December quarter, mostly in men who have sex with men. This is an increase compared with recent quarters.

The age groups most likely to be unvaccinated for measles in Australia

1:21pm Apr 20, 2019
Pockets of under-vaccinated adolescents and young adults could be putting the community at risk of contracting measles as outbreaks continue, an expert has warned.
There have been 89 cases of measles in Australia in the first three months of this year alone, compared to the 109 cases that occurred in the whole of 2018.
The data reflects the growing trend of outbreaks overseas, with the World Health Organisation revealing this week that the numbers infected with measles have tripled worldwide this year.
A total of 170 countries have already reported just over 112,000 measles cases to WHO from January to March.

International Issues.

Trump and the modern annihilation of shame

Once we blushed if we were caught out. The US president has heralded an era of blatant shamelessness instead.
Bret Stephens
Apr 14, 2019 — 1.34pm
I had never heard of Charles Van Doren until, in college, I saw the movie Quiz Show, and I probably never thought of him again until I read his obituary this week in The Times. Van Doren, if you didn't know, was the polished scion of a distinguished American literary family, who in the 1950s was a champion contestant on the NBC show Twenty-One, dazzling millions of viewers with what looked like preternatural erudition.
But the show had been rigged, the contestants coached, their fates determined by the need of the producers to manufacture drama and maintain ratings. When the truth came out, America was scandalised and Van Doren nearly ruined.
"I would give almost anything I have to reverse the course of my life in the last three years," he told a congressional committee in 1959, after finally coming clean about what he had done (along with other contestants). He spent the remainder of his 93 years living a decidedly quiet and unblemished life.
How quaint.

The world is caught in a debt-trap built by central bankers

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
April 16, 2019 — 7.30pm
Could the current developed economy settings of low growth and low-to-negative real interest rates reflect a catch-22 interaction where the low rate environment established by the key central banks perpetuates low rates and low growth?
That’s a question effectively posed, and answered tentatively in the affirmative, by a recent research paper issued by the Bank for International Settlements that builds on a thesis the BIS has been constructing in recent years that low rates beget lower rates, fuelling financial booms and busts and too much debt and too little growth.
In what is a highly technical paper, BIS researchers, led by the head of its monetary and economic department, Claudio Borio, argue that monetary policies play a more important role than commonly thought in long-run economic outcomes.

Jerome Powell adopts an inflation stance Janet Yellen shunned

Rich Miller and Craig Torres
Apr 18, 2019 — 4.39am
New York | Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues have made an important shift in their strategy for dealing with inflation in a prelude to what could be a more radical change next year.
The central bank has backed off the interest-rate hikes it had been delivering to avoid a potentially dangerous rise in inflation that economic theory says could result from the hot jobs market. Instead, Powell & Co. have put policy on hold until sub-par inflation rises convincingly.
"The Fed is evolving to a 'whites-of-the-eyes' approach in terms of inflation'' under which it won't hike rates until price rises accelerate, said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities.

Kim Jong-un oversees test of new tactical guided weapon

By Joyce Lee, Josh Smith and David Brunnstrom
Updated April 18, 2019 — 8.39amfirst published at 8.14am
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has overseen the testing of a new type of tactical guided weapon, state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Thursday.
It is North Korea's first public weapons test since the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi ended with no agreement in February.
KCNA did not describe exactly what the weapon is, including whether it was a missile or another type of weapon, but "tactical" implies a short-range weapon, as opposed to the long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the United States.

Ukrainian arrests 7 Russians for plotting attacks

April 18, 2019 — 5.57am
Kiev, Ukraine: The Ukrainian Security Service says that it has arrested seven Russian nationals who it says have been plotting attacks in Ukraine.
Ukraine's intelligence agency, which is also known as the SBU, said Wednesday that two of the seven men claim to work for Russian intelligence but offered no documentation to back up this claim.
The arrests come days before Ukrainians vote in the presidential election runoff.
Following news of the arrests, there was some confusion after Radio Free Europe on Wednesday interviewed someone it thought was one of the arrested men.

What’s the deal, AOC?

She’s young, radical and has a seat in Congress. And she reckons we’ve got the economy all wrong. Should we care?
  • From The Deal
April 18, 2019
The landing of 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US Congress has generated not so much a splash as an earthquake. She is as outrageous to Republicans as Donald Trump is to Democrats, and as much of an untameable challenge to the leadership of her own party as he is to his. The economics establishment has united in horror at the scale of her deficit-funded program.
Enter “Ocasio-Cortez” and “economics” into Google and you are inundated with vitriol: Shows basic ignorance; Attractive, glib, energetic, but she has zero understanding of history or economics; Needs to learn the ABCs of Economics 101 before espousing her outrageous opinions; A kindred spirit to (Venezuela’s) Nicolas Maduro – and so on, across most of the 15.2 million responses.
Ocasio-Cortez arrived in Washington in January, having won her New York seat after ousting the third most senior Democrat congressman in a primary battle. Born in the Bronx to a struggling Puerto Rican family, she made it to Boston University with a scholarship and loans. Her economics degree is often cited by her critics as proof of the inadequacies of a university education.

Mueller report explicitly doesn't exonerate Trump

Apr 19, 2019 — 2.04am
Washington DC | Special counsel Robert S Mueller III explicitly did not exonerate President Donald Trump of allegations that he tried to obstruct the Russia investigation, ensuring the debate will continue into the president's conduct.
"If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state," Mr Mueller wrote in his report, which the Justice Department released Thursday morning. "Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment."
The report did not conclude that the president committed a crime.
Instead, his report examined a long list of acts by the president, starting soon after his election, that could be seen as efforts to curtail federal investigations against him.

Maximum vulnerability: China (and the world) are still in big trouble

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
April 19, 2019 — 9.11am
China's majestic and elegantly-stable GDP figures are best seen as an instrument of political combat.
Donald Trump says "trade wars are good and easy to win" if your foes depend on your market and you can break them under pressure.
He proclaimed victory when the Shanghai equity index went into a swoon over the winter. This is Trumpian gamesmanship.

8,000,000 per cent inflation: The world's 'most miserable' economy

By Michelle Jamrisko and Catarina Saraiva
April 19, 2019 — 6.33am
Inflation that's projected to reach an eyeball-popping 8 million per cent this year has left Venezuela saddled with the title of the world's most miserable economy.
The embattled South American nation topped the rankings of Bloomberg's Misery Index, which sums inflation and unemployment outlooks for 62 economies, for the fifth straight year.
Venezuela and a handful of others in the "most miserable" camp are in a lonely battle fighting high inflation alongside lofty jobless rates. Most other countries' policy makers this year face a very different challenge: a tricky combination of quiet inflation and lower unemployment that complicates readings on economic health and appropriate responses.

Key takeaways from Robert Mueller's Russia report

By Zeke Miller
April 19, 2019 — 5.48am
Washington: President Donald Trump may not have obstructed justice, but it wasn't for lack of trying.
Robert Mueller's 448-page report takes the public inside the room with Trump as he expressed fear that the special counsel would end his presidency and made several attempts to get the people around him to curtail the probe into his campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Ultimately, Mueller found Trump's inner circle saved him from himself. They refused to carry out orders that could have crossed the line into obstructing justice.

How Trump may have been saved by staff

Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett
Apr 19, 2019 — 2.21am
Washington DC | A detailed report from special counsel Robert Mueller said investigators struggled with both the legal implications of investigating President Donald Trump for possible obstruction of justice, and the motives behind a range of his most alarming actions, from seeking the ouster of former officials to ordering a memo that would clear his name.
"The evidence we obtained about the President's actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment," the report stated. "At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment."
Since Mr Mueller concluded his investigation last month, a central question facing the Justice Department has been why Mr Mueller's team did not reach a conclusion about whether the president obstructed justice. The issue was complicated, the report said, by two key issues - the fact that under department practice, a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, and that a president has a great deal of constitutional authority to give orders to other government employees.

China will keep supporting economy as 'pressure' lingers: politburo

April 20, 2019 — 8.41am
China will maintain policy support for the economy, which still faces "downward pressure" and difficulties after better than expected first-quarter growth, the Communist Party's top decision-making body said on Friday.
The statement from the politburo came two days after China reported had steady 6.4 per cent annual growth in January-March, defying expectations for a further slowdown, as industrial production jumped sharply and consumer demand showed signs of improvement.
"While fully affirming the achievements, we should clearly see that there are still many difficulties and problems in economic operations," the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing a politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping.

'Not China First': China says sour grapes won't stop Belt and Road

By Kirsty Needham
April 19, 2019 — 5.18pm
Beijing: China says 37 world leaders or heads of government will arrive in Beijing next week for its second Belt and Road forum to discuss Chinese President Xi Jinping's grand infrastructure project.
But the United States won't be among them.
"Some countries, when it can't succeed, it doesn't want others to succeed. This sour grapes mentality is to no-one's benefit," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in comments believed to be directed at Washington.
Wang shrugged off claims that China was creating "debt traps" for other countries. He said the focus of the forum would be making "high quality development" the priority of Belt and Road projects. Projects needed to be suitable for host countries, and meet international regulations and best practice, he said.

A tale of two insults to US democracy: the Mueller report unpacked

By Bruce Wolpe
April 19, 2019 — 12.56pm
The report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel charged with investigating Russian interference in the US presidential election of 2016, is a tale of two insults to America’s democracy.
The first – external – was the concerted, aggressive efforts of Russian intelligence agencies and operatives, acting under the authority of the highest levels of the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin, to use social media platforms to polarise and sow divisions throughout political sentiment in the United States, and to use cyber weapons to penetrate and hack the emails systems of the Hillary Clinton campaign, and ensure their public dissemination at crucial moments, to undercut her run for the presidency.
While no conspiracy was found to exist between the Trump campaign and the Russians to co-ordinate such a corruption of the electoral process, the campaign was aware of what the Russians were doing, and rather than advise US intelligence agencies of what was occurring, were satisfied to let these events run their course – knowing that they could only benefit Trump’s prospects in the November election.

Mueller report: ball kicked into voters’ hands

  • By Gerald F. Seib
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • 5:06PM April 19, 2019
After almost two years of investigation, political psychodrama, public name-calling and private intrigue, it should come as no surprise that the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election left almost nobody completely happy.
Instead, by clearing President Trump legally while also declaring he couldn’t exonerate him fully, Mr Mueller has merely ensured that the argument over what Team Trump did and didn’t do will move out of the legal forum and into the political arena. There, it is certain to continue in Congress — and ultimately figures to be settled by voters in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Ironically, the person who seemed most pleased was the man at the centre of the storm, President Trump. As recently as last week, Mr Trump declared that the Mueller report was being prepared “by 18 Angry Democrats who also happen to be Trump Haters (and Clinton Supporters).”

Mueller report: Extensive meddling in election by Russia but no conspiracy by Donald Trump

  • By Sadie Gurman
  • 10:16AM April 19, 2019
Moscow extensively interfered in the 2016 presidential election, but repeated communications with the Trump campaign that year didn’t amount to a criminal conspiracy, Robert Mueller said in a report that also avoided judgment on whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice out of “fairness concerns.”
Today’s long-awaited release of Mr Mueller’s report, which runs to 448 pages, capped a nearly two-year investigation into Russian election interference in 2016 and ties to Mr Trump’s campaign associates. It found extensive evidence that a Russian company tied to the Kremlin conducted a disinformation campaign against American voters and that Russian military officials hacked computers of people affiliated with the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump’s electoral rival that year.
But while citing repeated contacts between Russia-linked entities and Trump campaign officials in the run-up to the election, it found no evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign coordinated with those Russian efforts, which have generated criminal charges against dozens of entities and individuals.

Peace was already uneasy in Derry, then a hooded man raised his gun

By Nick Miller
April 21, 2019 — 12.01am
Northern Irish police have released CCTV showing a masked attacker firing the shots that killed young journalist Lyra McKee: a murder that has shocked Ireland and the UK.
It has added to fears that this island’s 21 year-old, hard-won peace is under serious threat, with converging pressures from Brexit, polarised and paralysed politics, and revived anger from the Bloody Sunday killings.
McKee, 29, had written passionately and insightfully on the grief, resentment and pain that still lies under the surface in Northern Ireland.
It ended up killing her.
I look forward to comments on all this!