Thursday, May 04, 2017

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

May 4, 2017 Edition.
Well we have survived the first 100 days of the Trump Presidency (that means 1361 to go I am told.)
We have all sorts of domestic as well as international challenges right at the moment. Think everything from North Korea to Energy Exports.
When you read this we will be less than a week until we hear about the May 9 Budget. Will be interesting to see what we get this year!
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Here are a few other things I have noticed.
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National Budget Issues.

24 Apr 2017 - 3:30pm

Budget to have another go at dole bludgers

The Turnbull government is turning its sights on dole bludgers as voters indicate tackling housing affordability isn't necessarily a top budget priority.
Source:
AAP 24 Apr 2017 - 3:30 PM  UPDATED YESTERDAY 3:30 PM
The Turnbull government is going back to basics with its May 9 budget and having another crack at dole bludgers.
After weeks of speculation over what the budget might bring to ease housing affordability pressures, Malcolm Turnbull has attempted to tone down expectations despite a red-hot property market in Sydney and Melbourne.
A new poll has found voters agreeing with the prime minister about housing affordability, saying while it's an important issue it isn't necessarily a top priority.
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Gas reservation would be protection – economists

Peter Martin
Published: April 25, 2017 - 12:15AM
Australia's most eminent economists have rubbished a proposal for a "gas reservation" policy under which 15 per cent of all gas produced would have to be reserved for local use.
Proposed by former West Australian premier Colin Barnett and not yet ruled out by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the scheme would ensure that industry could get the gas it needed without being charged extortionate prices or subjected to onerous conditions.
A similar scheme exists in Western Australia.
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Housing worries: Interest rates lower despite crackdown as Labor sounds alarm on stability

Georgia Wilkins, James Massola
Published: April 26, 2017 - 12:01AM
Most interest-only and investor loans from the big four banks are cheaper than a year ago despite a series of rate hikes and a regulator crackdown aimed at cooling the housing market.
And shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has sounded the alarm about the stability of the Australian financial system, while criticising the Turnbull government's refusal to adopt Labor's polices of paring back negative gearing, reducing capital gains tax discounts and stopping self-managed super funds borrowing to buy property.
In a hard-hitting speech on Wednesday, Mr Bowen will describe cutting the capital gains tax discount from 50 to 40 per cent - a policy measure considered, but unlikely for the May 9 federal budget - as "tinkering at the edges", while he will mock the government for cooling talk of a housing affordability budget centrepiece.
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There's a missing word from Scott Morrison's vocabulary that should trouble households

Matt Wade
Published: April 26, 2017 - 12:00AM
A mystery of modern Australian politics is how little attention is given to the number of people out of work.
Last month just over 750,000 people were unemployed – the highest in 14 months. Nearly one in four had been out of work for a year or more. That compares with one in eight prior to the global financial crisis.
We've tolerated that huge pool of jobless workers for a long time. In early 2008, just before the GFC, only 440,000 Australians were unemployed but the total climbed over 700,000 in October 2013 and has been above that threshold ever since.
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Inflation up in March quarter, but below expectations

Published: April 26, 2017 - 12:06PM
The annual rate of inflation has crept above two per cent for the first time in two years but won't have the Reserve Bank reaching for interest rate hike lever anytime soon with question marks remaining over the strength of the labour market.
New figures showed the consumer price index rising 0.5 per cent in the March quarter, a slightly smaller increase than most economists had been expecting.
The most significant price rises in the quarter were for petrol (up 5.7 per cent) and electricity (up 2.5 per cent) but this was partly offset by a 6.7 per cent drop in fruit prices.
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April 27 2017 - 12:00AM

Federal budget 2017: New rules allow Scott Morrison to boost spending on big projects

James Massola
Peter Martin
Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are preparing the ground for a boost in infrastructure spending in the May budget, with the Treasurer to unveil budget changes that will enable him to borrow for worthwhile projects without endangering a return to surplus.
In his final pre-budget speech, to be delivered to business economists in Sydney on Thursday, Mr Morrison will also tell Australians that "things are beginning to look up – there are clearly better days ahead". 

The month of budget rabbits

With a month left for the final push and shove and lobbying that goes into formulating a budget Scott Morrison has to pull several rabbits out of his hat. Michael Pascoe comments.
The Treasurer's second budget will now highlight a different measure of the budget balance – the so-called "net operating balance", currently buried in the budget papers – to indicate whether the government's day-to-day spending and income are in balance, with spending on infrastructure hived off.
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Treasurer Scott Morrison announces changes to the way budget debt is reported

April 27, 20179:51am

Treasurer to announce debt reporting changes

AAP News Corp Australia Network
SCOTT Morrison will today announce changes to the Budget reporting process that will make government departments more accountable for Australia’s increasing federal debt.
The Treasurer will tell an economists’ lunch today that this year’s Budget will distinguish between “good and bad” debt, making it clearer expenditure that contributes to investment and increasing productivity and debt incurred to deal with everyday spending.
“We all need to understand what is driving the growth in our public debt and we need to budget in a way that creates accountability for increasing public debt and the interest rate payments that go with it,” he will say.
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ANALYSIS
April 27 2017 - 7:51AM

Why Malcolm Turnbull has made an extraordinary intervention on gas prices

Adam Morton
Imagine for a moment that your energy bill increased by a factor of nearly eight – from, say, $100 to not much less than $800 – in just a handful of years. Chances are you couldn't pay it.
In simple terms, that's the challenge facing some businesses, particularly in manufacturing, because of a gas market that has been allowed to run out of control.

Turnbull talks tough on gas

Ahead of a meeting with suppliers, Malcolm Turnbull says it's essential businesses and families have access to reliable and affordable gas,
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Budget a mystery as government treads a new path

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 27, 2017

Niki Savva

Less than two weeks away from the federal budget we remain blissfully clueless about its themes.
Other than the startlingly obvious broad objective articulated by the Prime Minister last week — that it will continue to support strong economic growth — conscious efforts and coincidental events have conspired to shift the focus.
Although economic narratives are desirable and essential, in the circumstances their temporary absence is not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it is a lot better now if we expect little more than a bit of prudent economic housekeeping rather than the fevered incitement of a few weeks ago to do something — anything — about things over which a federal government has little or no influence.
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Property Council unveils ten-point plan to fix housing crisis

AAP, Claire Bickers, News Corp Australia Network
April 26, 2017 9:16am
AUSTRALIA’S peak property industry group has unveiled a plan to improve housing affordability, championing low-deposit loans for first home buyers, but warns against “playing with” negative gearing.
The Property Council of Australia’s 10-point blueprint, released less than two weeks out from the Federal Budget, talks about reducing construction costs, boosting supply and removing barriers to downsizing.
But it urges against pursuing changes to negative gearing or any other measures that purport to help with affordability but instead “act as a tax” on investment and supply.
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COMMENT
April 27 2017 - 12:00AM

Federal budget 2017: At last, Morrison and Turnbull will be able to borrow big

Peter Martin
Suddenly we've a budget that will do something.
Until now, Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull have had both hands tied behind their backs. They know that our bursting cities need infrastructure: railways, roads and power stations. But they know that if they borrow big to build that infrastructure they'll weigh down their budget deficit which, in the view of one private sector commentator, won't move into surplus until Wyatt Roy gets the pension.

The month of budget rabbits

With a month left for the final push and shove and lobbying that goes into formulating a budget Scott Morrison has to pull several rabbits out of his hat. Michael Pascoe comments.
Roy was until last year the youngest-ever member of Parliament.
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April 27 2017 - 6:33PM

Federal budget 2017: Reporting shake-up sparks debt spree concerns

Peter Martin
James Massola
Leading economists have expressed unease about a budget change that would allow the government to all but eliminate the deficit within two years while borrowing to help build projects including a rail link to Sydney's second airport and a rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane.
The change, unveiled by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Thursday, will prioritise a measure known as "net operating balance", which excludes borrowing for infrastructure, and is on track to fall from a deficit of $37.5 billion in 2016-17 to $1.3 billion in 2019-20.
Infrastructure will be a major feature of the May 9 budget, but it will only contain a limited pot of new money for grants for projects. Instead, the focus will be on leveraging private sector investments for major new projects.
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COMMENT
April 28 2017 - 12:46AM

Australia is at the mercy of the whims of two mad men

John Hewson
I had come to believe that, post Vietnam, I would never see another serious military incident or war in our region in my lifetime. How wrong could I be.
Not only is the probability now mounting at an alarming pace, with Donald Trump and tensions over North Korea and the South China Sea, but I fear that we, as a nation, are being caught in the headlights.
We are being sucked along as these probabilities mount and unfold, without a clear sense of our national interest, and without a clear strategy as to how we should be positioning ourselves to respond.
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  • Updated Apr 27 2017 at 11:00 PM

Government set to build airport, rail link with 'good debt'

The Turnbull government will help fund inland rail and is almost certain to build, own and operate the $6 billion second Sydney airport, after Treasurer Scott Morrison paved the way for an infrastructure splurge by changing the way debt will be classified in the budget.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull all but confirmed that so-called "good debt" would be accrued to help build the much-vaunted inland rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane. Sources confirmed the government would enter the $10 billion venture with the private sector.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister said the rail link was " a very high priority".
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Federal budget expected to owe much to creative accounting

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 29, 2017

Judith Sloan

Children have Christmas advent calendars. I have a budget advent calendar. I count down the number of sleeps until the big event and each day I swallow a very strong mint to give me strength to cope.
Here’s the thing: the budget is two parts marketing, one part policy. It’s a time for the treasurer to shine — OK, this doesn’t always happen — by making ludicrously broad and unsupported propositions about the outlook for the economy as well as announcing another set of meddlesome policies to deal with particular issues. Expect housing affordability to be one of these in this budget.
Since budgets were given names — first done by Paul Keating as treasurer — it has been a steady downward march, with more political spruiking and less serious substance. Pompous titles include: Delivering a Stronger, Fairer Future; Delivering Balanced and Credible Budget Repair; Achieving the Government’s Social and Economic Objectives; and Nation Building for the Future.
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Why it's silly to debate 'good' versus 'bad' debt

Jessica Irvine
Published: April 29 2017 - 12:15AM
The Treasurer, Scott Morrison, strayed into some rather silly territory this week in a speech seeking to lay down a new set of markers for the budget, divvying up government debt into "good" and "bad" debt.
In a small way, it's nice to have a concession – at last - that government debt is not always "bad".
But the idea of distinguishing between "good" debt and "bad" debt is silly for several reasons, the primary one being that it's impossible.
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House prices fall in Sydney for first time in 18 months

Eryk Bagshaw
Published: April 28 2017 - 5:33PM
Sydney house prices are set to suffer their first fall in 18 months, new figures show, in the wake of strong action from regulators designed to curb the growth in investor loans.
The survey could offer some relief to owner-occupiers who have been locked out of the Sydney and Melbourne markets, and to the Turnbull government as it plays down housing affordability as the focus of the May budget. 
CoreLogic's figures for the first 27 days of April show Sydney house prices have fallen 0.1 per cent for the first time since December 2015, while Melbourne's property prices have risen 0.5 per cent, half as much as the previous month. 
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Gas tax review confirms nation faces decade wait for revenue from global giants

Heath Aston
Published: April 29 2017 - 12:14AM
Multinational gas companies will soon sell an annual $50 billion worth of Australian liquefied natural gas to foreign markets, but the nation will have to wait more than a decade for any revenue boost and some projects will never pay a cent in tax for the resources they extract.
A report prepared for the Turnbull government into the petroleum resource rent tax has confirmed fears, first revealed by Fairfax Media in 2015, that revenue from offshore gas will continue to flatline until at least 2027.
Despite that, Treasurer Scott Morrison insisted on Friday that Australians were not being shortchanged, but said the government would consider some changes to the system.
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Health Budget Issues.

  • Updated Apr 23 2017 at 11:00 PM

Voters worry more about Medicare and jobs than housing: JWS poll

Voters are more concerned about health, economic growth, and welfare than they are housing affordability when it comes to priorities for the forthcoming May budget, exclusive new research reveals.
But housing affordability is still an important issue, equalling education funding as a priority and beating debt reduction, infrastructure investment and personal or business tax cuts.
The polling, by JWS Research, shows that a majority of Australians believe funding for hospitals and Medicare should be the main priority for the budget and this is the belief of all voting groups, regardless of age, gender of where they live.
Despite discussion about housing affordability dominating the lead-up to the May 9 budget thus far, the poll finds 57 per cent regard hospitals and Medicare as their top priority. Of the nine priorities tested, it is the only one which received majority support among the 1228 people surveyed.
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Medicare freeze looks set to stay another year

24 April, 2017  
The Medicare freeze will be lifted for GP consultations with concession patients from July, but general patients will wait until 2018 for rebates to rise, according to media reports.
The staggered approach, reported in News Corp papers, will come as a blow to the GP groups who were hoping the MBS freeze would end for all GP patients.
Patients of non-GP-specialists will have to wait until 2018 for a rebate rise for consulations, while the rebate for procedures won't be indexed until 2019.
Citing “one of the most comprehensive pre-budget leaks ever”, News Corp is also reporting that pharmacists will enjoy a $600 million windfall to perform in-pharmacy diabetes checks.
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Labor ramps up health budget demands

on April 26, 2017, 12:19 am
Less than two weeks out from the federal budget, Labor is ramping up its demands on the Turnbull government to abandon the Medicare rebate freeze.
Health Minister Greg Hunt indicated in March he was close to reaching a deal with the medical profession over the freeze, which caps the amount doctors get back for a standard 20-minute consultation and is slated continue until at least 2020.
Labor health spokeswoman Catherine King said any moves to pick and choose which parts of the freeze to undo and when would be a massive blow to health professionals and patients.
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April 27 2017 - 11:45PM

Malcolm Turnbull to forge ahead on GP reforms, despite doctors' funding fears

Adam Gartrell
The Turnbull government is forging ahead with reforms to GP care despite fears its policy is rushed and underfunded.
The government is set to announce 200 trial sites for Health Care Homes – described by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as one of the biggest health system reforms since Medicare – in the coming days, Fairfax Media can reveal.

Medicare freeze may end

Malcolm Turnbull has given the clearest indication yet that the freeze on the medicare rebate given to GP's may soon end.
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Aged-care sector ‘a tough gig’ but it’s also fruitful

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 29, 2017

Sarah-Jane Tasker

The federal government poured more than $16 billion into Australia’s aged-care sector last year, as profits from operators continue to rise.
The industry, which has been transforming under reforms ­delivered over the past five years, has been forced to adjust financial models on the back of changes to government funding but most still enjoy decent profits.
David Sinclair, a director at ­accounting firm StewartBrown, said one of the biggest problems for the sector when talking about profits was there was a disconnect with the community, with the view companies should not be making a profit out of that service.
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Let's celebrate the good news. Ageing is getting better

Peter Martin
Published: April 29 2017 - 6:10PM
Who wouldn't want an extra few decades of life? Quite a few of us, as it happens.
When the Queensland University of Technology asked the question a few years back, 5 per cent of those surveyed nominated "boredom" as a reason why they wouldn't want to live longer. Another 34 per cent nominated more years of ill health. Another 16 per cent said they couldn't afford it. Twelve per cent said they might outlive their family and friends.
Naturally, there's a word for the instinctive fear of extra years of life. It's "gerontologiphobia", defined by University of Michigan gerontologist Richard Miller as an "irrational public predisposition to regard research on specific late-life diseases as marvellous but to regard research on aging, and thus on all late-life diseases together, as a public menace bound to produce a world filled with nonproductive, chronically disabled, unhappy senior citizens".
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Health Insurance Issues.

Lifetime health cover loading: Most Australians don't know what it is or where it goes

Esther Han
Published: April 23, 2017 - 4:34PM
Almost half of all Australians do not understand a loading on their health insurance policy that can add up to 70 per cent to their premiums, new figures show.
Some Australians are having to pay as much as 70 per cent on top of their health insurance premiums because they've delayed taking out hospital cover long after their 31st birthday.
And more Australians are at risk of being slugged the lifetime health cover loading (LHC), with new figures showing that 43 per cent have no clue what it is and, therefore, how to avoid it.
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Doctors are charging some patients based on ‘perceived wealth’, according to NIB

April 24, 20179:47am
John Rolfe News Corp Australia Network
EXCLUSIVE
WOMEN seeking breast reductions are being charged based on perceived wealth, a top health fund says, leading to bills up to 10 times the Government-recommended charge.
Men face a similar rip-off for prostate removal.
In levelling the accusations, insurer NIB has also taken a swipe at the most expensive surgeons and specialists, saying they aren’t necessarily the best.
By the end of the year, NIB — which insures more than one million people — plans to expose overrated medicos by making charges and outcomes public.
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  • Updated Apr 27 2017 at 5:26 PM

Private patients pay $729m more for medical implants

Private hospital patients were charged almost $730 million more than those in public hospitals for implantable medical devices over 12 months, according to not-for-profit health insurance funds.
The new statistics showing the difference in prices charged for a range of medical devices comes a fortnight before Health Minister Greg Hunt is expected to receive the first independently sourced data on the costs imposed on private patients compared to those in the public system.
And a Senate inquiry into a proposed overhaul of the "prostheses list" – which sets a floor price charged to consumers' health funds by medical device manufacturers – is set to report on May 10 and is expected to recommend a range of measures to increase the transparency of the notoriously complex way private and public patients are charged for devices like artificial hips, lens and pacemakers.
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Superannuation Issues.

Retirement savings at risk from climate change: John Hewson

Clancy Yeates
Published: April 26, 2017 - 11:51AM
Australian retirement savings could be put at risk unless regulators force the financial sector to be more transparent in managing the investment risks created by climate change.
That is is the view of former Liberal leader John Hewson, who is calling for regulators to take a much tougher line on how the financial sector handles the risks associated with global warming.
Dr Hewson, chairman of the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, made the call as new rankings showed many of the world's 500 largest asset owners, including some of Australia's biggest superannuation funds, were taking a more active approach to protecting their portfolios from climate change risks.
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International Commentary:

Julie Bishop fires back at North Korea after nuclear threat against Australia

James Massola, Kirsty Needham
Published: April 23, 2017 - 1:46PM
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has delivered a blistering rebuke to the North Korean regime, suggesting it should spend money on the welfare of its citizens, not weapons of mass destruction.
Ms Bishop's comments come after the North Korean foreign ministry personally criticised her and warned Australia was "coming within the range of the nuclear strike".
The Foreign Minister hit back at the hermit kingdom on Sunday after its bellicose threats against Australia and its allies in the region.
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French election results: Emmanuel Macron wins first round vote, projections show

Nick Miller
Published: April 24, 2017 - 5:18AM
Emmanuel Macron, the 39 year-old former banker who quit the Socialists to run a remarkable tilt for France's presidency, has won the country's first-round vote, according to early projections.
He was two percentage points ahead of far-right Marine Le Pen, whom he is expected to comfortably beat in the second round of voting.
As none of the candidates won an absolute majority, the two leading candidates will head for a run-off vote on May 7.
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  • Updated Apr 24 2017 at 10:00 PM

Brace for volatility in the event of war

by Chris Stott
As tensions escalate between global superpower the United States and rogue state North Korea, the world is confronting the imminent threat of nuclear war and investors face the prospect of extreme volatility across global share markets.
While North Korea has long flouted international sanctions by pursuing its nuclear weapons program, its recent provocative nuclear and missile tests, coupled with the unpredictable nature of the new Trump administration, have heightened fears of a military conflict in the region.
The leaders of each nation have adopted an increasingly aggressive stance, with US Vice-President Mike Pence declaring his country's preparedness to take military action "that could ignite a full-blown war". North Korea has used similarly unequivocal language expressing its willingness to go to war in response to any act of US aggression, according to a BBC report.
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North Korea is spraying Australia for speaking up, not because it's a logical target

David Wroe, National Security Correspondent
Published: April 24, 2017 - 6:21PM
It mightn't seem obvious at first but there's a positive interpretation to North Korea's threatening Australia: it shows they're paying attention and they're feeling pressure.
Their diabolical threat in turn raises the pressure on China because it is one more thing Pyongyang's ally cannot ignore, which is also a good thing.
And it's a lot better that the North Koreans feel pressure now than in a few years' time when they actually do have the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead to another country or continent.
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North Korea highlights 1250 US marines in Darwin to claim America is preparing for nuclear war

Kirsty Needham in Beijing, James Massola
Published: April 24, 2017 - 11:42PM
North Korea's state newspaper has singled out the United States' deployment of 1250 marines to Darwin to claim America is preparing for nuclear war.
And as regional tensions escalate and a US carrier strike group approaches the Korean peninsula, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the secretive regime "must be stopped" as it represented a threat to the region and, potentially, globally.
In a phone call with US president Donald Trump, Chinese president Xi Jinping said China opposed any actions that went against UN security council resolutions, as Japan confirmed it was joining drills with the strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson that is headed to Korean waters.
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North Korea nuclear stand-off: There are no easy answers

Mark Kenny, National Affairs Editor
Published: April 25, 2017 - 11:52AM
America is the world's undisputed military superpower but it faces a strategic conundrum over North Korea's nuclear intentions.
The bind is this: there may be no morally acceptable military option to de-nuclearise the Korean peninsula, even as Washington parades that very eventuality
It's a situation of some powerlessness and yet one the United States has done much to create over the years, both with the development of its own nuclear arsenal - which, let's not forget, kicked off this whole global proliferation race - and with its past mercurial responses to states with nuclear aspirations.
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North Korea: White House in extraordinary Senate briefing

U.S. commander on Kim Jong Un: 'Bring him to his senses, not to his knees'

  • The Australian
  • 7:27AM April 27, 2017
The Trump administration hosted senators for an extraordinary White House briefing at a perilous moment with North Korea, marked by the unpredictable nation’s nuclear threats and stern talk of military action, if necessary, from the United States.
All 100 senators were invited and transported in buses for the unprecedented, classified briefing. President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, defence secretary, top general and national intelligence director were to outline for them the North’s escalating nuclear capabilities and U.S. response options, officials said. The briefing team was to meet later with House members in the Capitol.
The Trump administration says North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is an urgent national security threat and the US will exert pressure through diplomatic measures and tighter economic sanctions. That’s according to a statement issued by State Department, defence and intelligence chiefs Wednesday after briefing senators.
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April 27 2017 - 4:23AM

Donald Trump's team unveils opening bid for 'biggest tax cut' in US history

·         Sahil Kapur and Shannon Pettypiece
The White House made its opening bid for what officials called the "biggest tax cut" in US history - with cuts that would benefit businesses, the middle class and certain high-earning individuals - but left unanswered questions about whether the plan would be paid for, or how.
The proposal is a one-page outline - key details are left incomplete - but it presents an initial offer to begin negotiations with lawmakers, as White House officials believe reworking the tax code is one of their biggest priorities to boost economic growth.

Trump tax plan cuts top rate to 35 per cent

White House announces a tax reform plan which would reduce the number of income tax brackets and cut the top rate from 39.6 per cent.
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EXCLUSIVE
April 27 2017 - 12:03AM

Australia needs to build a missile defence shield: former national security adviser Andrew Shearer

David Wroe
Rising tensions with North Korea underscore the need for Australia to "get much more serious" about amassing a missile defence system that could protect overseas forces and ultimately the mainland, a former national security adviser says.
Andrew Shearer, a leading defence specialist who worked for former prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard, is one of several experts who told Fairfax Media that Australia needed to consider missile defence to counter rapid advances in ballistic missile technology that are increasing in range and accuracy.

Does Australia need this weapon?

It's among the most advanced anti-missile system in the world, but does Australia need the THAAD?
A system that protects the Australian continent would cost billions of dollars. While missile defence has come a long way since the days of former US president Ronald Reagan's Star Wars scheme, intercepting long-range, intercontinental ballistic missiles remains a major technical challenge.
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April 27 2017 - 9:32AM

US vows to bring Kim Jong-un 'to his senses' amid rising North Korea tensions

The top US military commander in the Pacific has said the US wants to bring North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "to his senses", warning that North Korea could strike US soil.
The warning came as the Trump administration announced a tightening of sanctions against North Korea and a stepping up of diplomatic efforts amid mounting tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear threats.
Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the US Pacific Command, defended the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defence system in South Korea.
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US economy grew 0.7 per cent in first quarter, slowest in three years

Shobhana Chandra
Published: April 29 2017 - 1:20AM
The US economy expanded at the slowest pace in three years as weak auto sales and lower home-heating bills dragged down consumer spending, offsetting a pickup in investment led by housing and oil drilling.
Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 0.7 per cent annualised rate after advancing 2.1 per cent in the prior quarter, Commerce Department data showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 1 per cent gain. Consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, rose 0.3 per cent, the worst performance since 2009.
The GDP slowdown owes partly to transitory forces such as warm weather and volatility in inventories, which supports forecasts for a rebound as high confidence among companies and consumers and a solid job market underpin growth. Even so, the weakness at car dealers could weigh on expansion, and further gains in business investment could depend on the extent of policy support such as tax cuts.
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Donald Trump's first 100 days marked by 'American carnage', the Washington swamp, and the 'bigness' of it all

Nick O'Malley
Published: April 29 2017 - 11:00AM
The Trump era began on January 20 in a light, cold rain on the western steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, with a dystopian speech by the new president in which he described a ruined nation exploited to the brink of collapse by the elected representatives who watched on from the bleachers around him.
"That was some weird shit," the former president, George W. Bush, was overheard as saying as he left the ceremony.
And it was too.
Inaugural addresses are normally used by incoming presidents to unify the nation in the wake of  a long election campaign and to signal a benign American authority to the world.
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I look forward to comments on all this!
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David.

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