Thursday, March 02, 2017

The Macro View – Health, Financial And Political News Relevant To E-Health And The Health Sector In General.

March 2, 2017  Edition.
An interesting week with the Trumpian nonsense rolling on and Australia having more than a little problem or two with both politics and the budget. The Reserve Bank Governor made it clear things are becoming pretty difficult to balance for the good of the population.

RBA governor Philip Lowe stresses need for financial stability

Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe in Sydney.
  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 25, 2017

David Rogers

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe has emphasised the need to preserve financial stability, saying he remains concerned about rising household debt and flat wages growth, and says lower interest rates might cause the situation to become “dangerous”.
In testimony before parliament, Dr Lowe repeated the RBA’s forecasts of 3 per cent growth in the economy this year and next, amid stronger commodity prices, higher liquefied natural gas exports, and an anticipated ending of the mining investment slowdown.
However, Dr Lowe said the central bank had to strike a balance between housing market concerns and the need for faster economic growth and inflation to rise towards the desired 2-3 per cent pace annually, suggesting the bank has set a high hurdle for any further cuts.


Thursday Update. President Trump gave a speech to Congress and made some people happy. The US and OZ share market love it and some other reads - so all is OK till tomorrow. I still fear this will all end in tears.
Here are a few other things I have noticed.

Trump Issues.

Australia can't trust America with the 'mad king' Donald Trump in power

Peter Hartcher
Published: February 21, 2017 - 12:00AM
We have no excuse for overlooking the meaning of this anniversary. And its timing compels us to consider its lessons.
In last week marking the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, Malcolm Turnbull called it "shattering". Bill Shorten called it "unthinkable". It was the bitterest strategic betrayal in Australia's history since white conquest.
The fall of Singapore was, according to Winston Churchill, "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history". Britain has never recovered from the blow to its prestige. For Australia it was about much more than prestige. It was about national survival. The fall of the supposedly impregnable British fortress in Singapore opened Australia to Japanese invasion. With Singapore taken, Japan's bombers opened their first attacks on Darwin just four days later.

How Should One Resist the Trump Administration?

How should one resist the Trump administration? Well, that depends on what kind of threat Donald Trump represents.
It could be that the primary Trump threat is authoritarianism. It is hard to imagine America turning into full fascism, but it is possible to see it sliding into the sort of “repressive kleptocracy” that David Frum describes in the current Atlantic — like the regimes that now run Hungary, the Philippines, Venezuela and Poland.
In such a regime, democratic rights are slowly eroded. Government critics are harassed. Federal contracts go to politically connected autocrats. Congress, the media and the judiciary bend their knee to the vengeful strongman.

National Budget Issues.

Scott Morrison under pressure as Budget blows

index&t_product=HeraldSun&td_device=desktopAndrew Bolt, Herald Sun
February 20, 2017 8:11am
Treasurer Scott Morrison is in political strife on several fronts as he struggles to contain a debt blowout. He can't - or won't - rule out tax rises; he's allegedly cancelled meetings with banks to punish them for an insult; and now a Government MP says a capital gains tax change hasn't actually been ruled out.
This scare is now running - based on the Government's desperation to avoid another Budget blowout:
With the May budget looming and the nation's triple-A rating in jeopardy, Treasurer Scott Morrison issued a warning last week the government may have to lift taxes to help the budget back to balance.

This year's cruel and macabre budget spectacle starts now

Jessica Irvine
Published: February 20, 2017 - 12:00AM
Welcome to the 2017 annual budget games!
It's a bloody fight to the death on the second Tuesday in May, and truth is the major casualty.
Since Tony Abbott's shock and horror 2014 budget, the last two budgets have been decidedly cuddly affairs.
Sure, there's been a few slugs to smokers, rich superannuants and multinationals. But mostly it's been about tax breaks for small businesses and middle and upper-income earners.
20 Feb 2017 - 7:38am

Turnbull govt 'working on' housing taxes

A federal Liberal MP says the Turnbull government is working on plans to reform the capital gains tax to improve housing affordability.
Source: AAP  20 Feb 2017 - 7:38 AM  UPDATED 2 HOURS AGO
A federal Liberal MP says the Turnbull government is actively considering tax changes to tackle housing affordability.
John Alexander, whose Sydney seat of Bennelong has the nation's fastest-growing house prices, said people ought "listen very carefully" when the prime minister says he has no plans to change the capital gains tax.
""Are we working on plans? Yes we are," Mr Alexander told Fairfax Media.

Debate over home ownership misses the point

Published: February 20, 2017 - 10:47AM
Luci Ellis is Assistant Governor (Economic) at the Reserve Bank of Australia. This is an edited extract of a speech she made last week at the Australasian Housing Researchers Conference in Melbourne.
Housing is the biggest asset most households will own and the bulk of household sector wealth. Lending against housing is also a large part of financial sector assets. Housing outcomes are therefore central both to the welfare of households and the stability of the financial system.
Housing prices respond to interest rates, and, in turn, affect household consumption through wealth and collateral effects. And the housing construction industry is one of the most interest-sensitive.

Opinion: Scomo stats simply bulldust

index&t_product=CourierMail&td_device=desktopPaul Syvret, The Courier-Mail
February 21, 2017 1:00am
IF BULLDUST was money, Treasurer Scott Morrison would be announcing the Coalition’s first surplus when he delivers the Budget in May.
Sadly it’s not, and he won’t be, no matter how sharp an axe he tries to wield when it comes to reducing spending in areas such as welfare.
As it stands the Government has more than $8 billion in “zombie” savings measures on its books — policy changes that were announced in the deeply unpopular 2014 Budget but are still (and unlikely) to pass through a hostile Senate.
As we head towards Budget 2017 it would appear Morrison & Co though are determined to soften voters up for yet another assault on Australia’s most vulnerable.
  • Updated Feb 20 2017 at 8:15 PM

Government may salvage child care from omnibus crash

The federal government and the Nick Xenophon Team are quietly confident they can agree on enough budget cuts to at least enable the Coalition to implement its child care reform package.
Senator Xenophon announced last week that he and his two Senate colleagues would not be voting for the budget omnibus bill, which contains a net $4 billion in welfare cuts and implement the long-stalled child care package at a cost of $1.6 billion over four years.
The NXT argued it could support the abolition of end-of-year family tax benefit supplements that have been slated to fund the child care package.
Since then, the government has agreed to split the bill and negotiate measure by measure. People on both sides said they were reasonably confident an agreement could be reached on some of the 16 individual cuts packaged in the bill to find enough money to fund child care.

Brace yourself: nothing good comes from a focus on 'the cost of living'

Ross Gittins
Published: February 22, 2017 - 1:08AM
I read that the Turnbull government has decided to make the cost of living its focus for the year. Oh dear. In that case, brace yourself for a year of con jobs and flying bulldust.
There's a long history of politicians professing to be terribly concerned about "the cost of living" and nothing good ever comes of it. It's always about saying things to keep or win your vote and rarely about doing anything real – let alone sensible – about prices.
Politicians start "focusing" on the cost of living when the spin doctors running their party's focus groups report that the cost of living keeps coming up in the things the punters are saying.

$13 billion of Budget measures remain blocked

at 9:32 am on February 21, 2017  
Around $13 billion worth of Budget savings measures remain stalled in federal parliament, blocked by senators Jacqui Lambie and the Nick Xenophon Team. Meanwhile, Treasurer Scott Morrison claims the support of crossbenchers would be unnecessary if the Labor Party backed the Government’s fiscal policies. From The Australian:
There are 15 measures stuck in the parliament worth $12.2bn, nearly half of which are from the former Abbott government’s controversial 2014 budget.
The amount of “zombie” savings measures increases to $13.2bn when other unlegislated budget repair measures are included.

Reserve Bank's hands tied as wage growth hits new record low

Peter Martin
Published: February 23, 2017 - 5:30AM
Private-sector wage growth has slid to a record low of just 1.8 per cent, throwing into doubt budget projections and confounding the Reserve Bank, which would prefer not to have to cut interest rates again and run the risk of reigniting house prices.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe identified house prices as a block on further interest-rate cuts on Wednesday, telling a business gathering that he hoped current rates would "generate stronger growth and we can avoid a further upward pressure on housing prices".
He was "trying to balance multiple objectives".

Forget what you've heard about coal. Electricity prices are going up regardless

Peter Martin
Published: February 23, 2017 - 1:44AM
I'll give it to you cold. Electricity prices are going up. They've been too low for too long. Malcolm Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison and their Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, are happy to make political capital out of the inevitable return to normality (by blaming Labor and fondling pieces of coal in Parliament) but they are careful not to say they can stop it. Frydenberg talks about "reducing pressure" on prices rather than keeping them down.
Prices have been unnaturally low because we've had more generators able to make the stuff than we have had people wanting to use it. Usage per person started falling in 2010 and has only recently begun to recover. To sell power, generators have had to cut prices. Worse still, three of the biggest were bought by their present owners for next to nothing. That means they can afford to unload electricity for little more than the cost of making it, pushing down the prices that can be charged by the others who need to also cover the costs of set-up.
  • Feb 23 2017 at 12:57 PM

Ken Henry: Politicians fail while Australia burns

NAB chairman and former Treasury secretary Ken Henry has damned modern politics, saying it has degenerated into trench warfare where populism is the ammunition and the reform narrative has been replaced by the language of fear and anger.
In a withering speech to the 2017 Committee for Economic Development of Australia summit, Dr Henry has said modern politics is failing the people on budget repair, tax reform, population growth, infrastructure, energy security and climate change.
He will call on business to step up where it can to deliver policy.
"Our politicians have dug themselves into deep trenches from which they fire insults designed merely to cause political embarrassment. Populism supplies the munitions," he said.
"And the whole dreadful spectacle is broadcast live via multimedia, 24/7. The country that Australians want cannot even be imagined from these trenches."

Career politicians aren't qualified to run the country

John Hewson
Published: February 24, 2017 - 12:00AM
When I was leader of the opposition, concerned about the standing of our politicians and failing confidence in our political processes, John Howard used to chip me about the need to recognise politics as a "profession", and politicians as "professionals".
Now, some 25 years on, the dissatisfaction with our career politicians and the political system is of paramount importance, and fundamental to the drift away from the major parties, whereby now almost one in three direct their votes elsewhere.
Politics has become a daily "conflict game", dominated by career politicians concentrated on winning points on the other side, rather than on developing and delivering good public policy, and good government. 

Another budget built on shifting sands

February 23, 201710:14am
Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent Australian Associated Press
Gyrations in the iron ore price can make a treasurer look like an economic wizard or somebody fumbling for an excuse.
That's because a treasurer has no control over the price of arguably Australia's most valuable mineral resource and it's proved hard for Treasury and professional commodity forecasters to predict.
While pundits try to guess what might be in the May budget and what it will mean for a future surplus, the great unknown in recent history has been commodity prices.
  • Updated Feb 24 2017 at 4:25 PM

CGT, negative gearing changes would remove heat from housing, says Philip Lowe

Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe has strengthened the central bank's criticism of tax incentives for property investors, saying changes would help remove some of the "heat" from the market that has worsened housing affordability.
In wide-ranging testimony that hammered home the theme that the governor is finished with more rate cuts, Dr Lowe also warned that driving down borrowing costs would have only a small impact yet worsen household fragility.
Dr Lowe said that while some of his own staff argue in favour of more rates stimulus to drive down unemployment, the main result would probably be further increases in house prices.

The four great myths of Gonski - why Christopher Pyne was right

Ross Gittins
Published: February 25, 2017 - 12:15AM
It turns out Christopher Pyne was right: Julia Gillard's version of the Gonski school funding reform was indeed "C​onski".
The con was that the funding changes Gillard put into law in 2013 – which Labor and the teacher unions christened "Gonski" and have virtuously defended from Coalition attack ever since – bore only a vague resemblance to what leading company director David Gonski's panel recommended in its report to the government in 2011.
In a speech last week, Dr Ken Boston, a member of the panel and former NSW Education Department director-general, argued that much of what people think they know about "Gonski" is wrong. He listed four common beliefs that are mistaken.

Health Budget Issues.

Doctor imports harm poor countries, says the AMA

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 20, 2017

Sean Parnell

The Turnbull government has an ethical dilemma in continuing to accept overseas-trained doctors whose skills could be better used in developing countries, says the Australian Medical Association.
The government has commenced its annual review of the Skilled Occupations List despite unanswered questions about its refusal to remove all medical specialties from the 2016-17 immigration pathway.
The Australian last year revealed the Health Department sought to remove 41 roles from the list, out of concern that domestic graduates were struggling to find training places and jobs. Only four roles were cut and eight more, including GPs, were flagged for future removal.

Unwinding Medicare rebate freeze on GP and specialist visits could cost budget more than $3 billion

By political editor Chris Uhlmann and political reporters Naomi Woodley and Matthew Doran
The Turnbull Government looks set to unwind the Medicare rebate freeze on general practice and specialist visits in the May budget, a move that could cost in excess of $3 billion.

Key points:

  • Cabinet ministers say Government needs to dramatically demonstrate its support for Medicare
  • Health Minister Greg Hunt says he and Mr Turnbull will review the Medicare rebate
  • Labor first introduced the Medicare rebate freeze in 2013 as part of a $664 million budget savings plan
Some Cabinet ministers believe the thaw is essential if the Coalition is to ensure the successful "Mediscare" campaign run by Labor in the weeks before the July election can never be repeated.
Coalition strategists believes that campaign cost it several seats.

Health Department to cut 250 public service jobs through voluntary redundancy

Doug Dingwall
Published: February 22, 2017 - 6:39PM
The Health Department will axe jobs through voluntary redundancies in a move unions warn could shed 250 positions.
In an email to staff, department secretary Martin Bowles said it would seek expressions of interest for voluntary redundancies in a bid for "affordable" staff numbers amid federal budgetary constraints.
The CPSU said the redundancies would shed five per cent of the agency's workforce.

Health Insurance Issues.

nib half-year profit soars 65pc

  • The Australian
  • 9:03AM February 20, 2017

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Health insurer nib’s half-year net profit after tax soared 65 per cent to $71.1 million with policyholder growth and lower claims fuelling the result.
The strong financial numbers saw the insurer (NHF) boost its interim dividend 47.8 per cent to 8.5c-per-share.
Total group revenue jumped 7.3 per cent to $995m, while group underlying operating profit was 43.4 per cent higher at $95.2m.

Superannuation Issues.

Super solution on table for first-home buyers

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 22, 2017

Sarah Martin

A housing affordability strategy targeting older homeowners and first-home buyers is winning favour among government MPs, as Scott Morrison moves away from tax hikes as a way to ease pressure in the country’s overheated property market.
The Australian understands that a proposal to allow young people to access some of their superannuation savings if they make voluntary payments is being pushed within the ­Coalition, as the Treasurer ­develops a sweeping housing ­affordability strategy to be unveiled in the May federal budget.
Under the proposal, first-home buyers would be able to ­access an amount from their banked employer superannuation contributions equal to their voluntary top-up payments, which could then be used as a ­deposit on a first home.
I look forward to comments on all this!


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting snippet of information, I found some comfort it the "our people" section, I heard some rumours around experts being let go but I passed them off as the same old people with axes to grind, we all know them. Happy reading, it is what it is, not really a plan by definition but semantics is not important especially in health.

Anonymous said...

2:42 PM. Do not wish to dampen your hope for a better future but remember this sits within the same culture that wants to release veterans’ info if they complain. Look at the recruitment adds, there is no real desire to employ people who have the skills to foster a health system for patients and providers, they want people who will simply be a quiet little bee and unable to question just want is passing their desks or understand the implications of large contracts issued.