Quote Of The Year

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


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

Thursday, May 03, 2018

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

May 03, 2018 Edition.
This block of sittings for the Financial Services Royal Commission is now over – there will be at least 3 or 4 to come I believe – and there a bodies strewn everywhere. Reputations are shattered and the public is just furious. Major change is surely in the air! Elsewhere we are lining up for the May Budget in a week or two and so far the leaks have been rare – we seems to be having much more in the way of announcements.
There is also, of course, questions re how long the AMP Board can last. The Chairman went on the weekend!
The next block of sittings is May 21 – on small and medium business I believe.
Globally North and South Korea and India and China both have summits at leadership levels. What is the outcome finally of both is hard to know at this stage but surely talk is good (rather than war).
Trump seems pre-occupied with all sorts of legal troubles and it is looking more and more likely he won’t control the House of Reps after the November election. Yet again there have been all sorts of staff and confirmation issues!
Here are a few other things I have noticed.

Major Issues.

  • Updated Apr 22 2018 at 12:04 PM

The US bond market is sending contradictory signals

by John Authers
If you find the US government bond market intimidating, you are not alone. James Carville, the svengali figure behind the election of President Bill Clinton in 1992, famously said that if there were reincarnation, "I want to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody."
Bond markets set the price of money for lenders and borrowers throughout the world economy, and do so for years into the future. They permit governments to borrow and pension funds to finance their guarantees to workers. So they are powerful.
They are also intimidatory, for many, because they are complicated and counterintuitive. Yields (the percentage return on a bond) rise as a bond's price falls, and so on.

How Australia's education debacle is still creating victims

By Farrah Tomazin
22 April 2018 — 8:35pm
Rachel Murphy had barely begun the tertiary course that was supposed to kick-start her career when it abruptly ended.
After returning from a gap year in 2016, the sports enthusiast enrolled in a fitness coaching diploma at Sage Institute – the private training college heavily promoted by Biggest Loser TV star Steve “Commando” Willis.
Little did she know that five months later, Sage would shut down and become yet another footnote in what was arguably the biggest public policy scandal in Australian history: the systematic rorting of the vocational education and training system.

'Getting risky': global finance chiefs see trouble ahead

By Enda Curran & Andrew Mayeda
Updated23 April 2018 — 11:18amfirst published at 9:43am
"Things are good, but they're getting risky."
That's how David Lipton, first deputy managing director at the IMF, characterised the global economic state of play in a Bloomberg Television interview.
His observation captured the mood at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington, where the best upswing since 2011 gave cause for optimism even as fears of rising protectionism dominated discussions.
While the IMF left its forecasts for global growth this year and next at the 3.9 per cent it estimated in January, it flagged plenty of worry spots, too.

An enlightened approach to drug policy

23 April 2018 — 12:05am
Harm minimisation has been officially central to Australia’s policies and laws on illicit substances for more than three decades - during which copious evidence has proved the catastrophic failure of the ``war on drugs’’ and the associated increase in preventable harm and death.
A call by the Greens, led by former drug and alcohol doctor Richard Di Natale, for the legalisation and strict regulation of the recreational use of marijuana by adults has shoved drug policy into the spotlight. There have been predictable, alarmist denouncements from the major parties. There have been crucial, careful cautions from medical experts about the dangers of marijuana, particularly to young people and to those with a pre-disposition to mental illness. And there have been other medical experts explaining international proof of effective, cost-efficient harm minimisation policies.
Senator Di Natale’s policy, which extends the Green’s decision a few years ago to review its opposition to legalisation of any illicit drugs, is evidence-based and merits sober consideration, not shrill politicking. Our appeal for rational debate is in no way an endorsement of substance misuse; it is purely about saving and rebuilding some of the lives of our children, siblings, parents and friends. The government says this comprises reducing harm, demand and supply. The government should focus more on the harm and demand components, through regulation and education. That has worked spectacularly in the case of tobacco, with the Quit campaign seen as one of the world’s most successful harm-minimisation policies.

Race panic drags Australia to new low: discrimination commissioner

By Benjamin Millar
22 April 2018 — 3:59pm
Panic over Melbourne’s so-called African gang crisis has dragged race relations in Australia to their lowest ebb in years, Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane says.
Dr Soutphommasane, whose five-year term comes to an end in August, told Fairfax Media the saga had opened the floodgates to some of the worst prejudice and racism he had witnessed during his tenure.
“The panic about African youth crime has undoubtedly done significant damage to racial harmony in Melbourne and Australian society more generally,” he said.
  • Apr 24 2018 at 8:21 AM

Interest-only mortgage reset to add extra $7,000 per year, RBA says

Repayments for a typical Australian facing a reset of their interest-only loan to interest-and-principal will jump by around $7,000 a year - a "non trivial" increase that should, however, be managed by most households, says Reserve Bank of Australia assistant governor Christopher Kent.
Presenting analysis of the almost $500 billion in loans that are due to "reset" away from interest-only loans over the next five years, Dr Kent said the impact on household consumption overall is likely to be less than moderate.
Dr Kent said the Reserve Bank believes many interest-only borrowers will be willing and able to refinance their loans, while many others have built up a "sufficient pool of savings", or can shift savings from elsewhere to meet the higher repayments.

Is democracy in its death throes?

By Peter Hartcher
23 April 2018 — 5:31pm
One of the central themes of ANZAC commemorations is that Australians have long fought and died for freedom and democracy.
Today, those appear to be lost causes. A few years ago the US academic Larry Diamond declared that a "democratic recession" had set in after about 2006. The long global expansion of democracy that began with the fall of the Soviet Union faltered. Worse, it then started to reverse.
If it was a recession then, it's full-blown depression today. A Washington-based watchdog, Freedom House, this year titles its annual assessment of the state of freedom in all the countries of the world "Democracy in Crisis".

A trade deal with Europe carries real political risk

By David Crowe
26 April 2018 — 12:02am
Australia has a choice between the new protectionism of Donald Trump and the pursuit of trade agreements that promise growth but also carry real political risk.
A trade negotiation with Europe will start with high hopes but quickly shift to the hard decisions about who might pay the price for a deal.
Farmers will win from access, however limited, to a huge market of 28 countries. Some will be asked to give up names that are key to their brands because those names have a link to a European location.

'I'm truly concerned': AEMO chief warns on rooftop solar

By Cole Latimer
Updated25 April 2018 — 3:20pmfirst published at 3:19pm
The rise of rooftop solar has helped drive down electricity costs for many Australians but the head of the energy market operator warns those still on the grid have been punished with higher prices.
"I am truly concerned over the issue of an economic bypass," Audrey Zibelman, the head of the Australian Energy Market Operator, said at a Centre for Independent Studies event this week.
"We do not want to invite an economic bypass," she said, "creating the haves and the have-nots."

New type of poverty hurting middle class

By Dick Bryan
26 April 2018 — 2:29pm
The banking and finance royal commission has cast light on a new type of poverty to emerge in our society: middle class poverty.
To understand it, we have to go back to an earlier government inquiry: the 1972 Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, conducted by Professor Ronald Henderson. That commission had no real policy impact, but its cultural impact was profound. It gave prominence to the Henderson Poverty Index: a measure of consumption described by Henderson as so austere that it was unchallengeable. Updated versions of this index remain a standard benchmark of poverty.
As much as 5 per cent of advice provided by ANZ was unlikely to be in best interest of the client, according to reports provided to ANZ executives uncovered by the Hayne Royal Commission.

Spreading the benefits of the boom. Where had I heard that before?

By Peter Martin
26 April 2018 — 6:39pm
I had a sinking feeling in Sydney’s Four Seasons Hotel listening to Treasurer Scott Morrison guarantee that he would be able to deliver permanent tax cuts and properly fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme “in this year’s budget and beyond” without any longer needing an extra levy.
I’d heard it before, more or less, in the Great Hall of Parliament House in 2012. The speaker was Wayne Swan, Morrison’s long-term Labor predecessor, who after years of bad luck including the global financial crisis was finding revenue turning up.
“I am proud to announce a new Spreading the Benefits of the Boom package,” he told us. It was time to share the proceeds of the mining boom with families and businesses, and the disabled.

Been there, done that: A blast from the past for Healthscope's bidders

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
27 April 2018 — 12:10am
As their first target since raising more than $2.5 billion for the launch of their private equity business last year, Ben Gray, Robin Bishop and Simon Harle have chosen a company and a playbook they are very familiar with.
A heavyweight consortium, led by their company BGH Capital, has made a $4 billion or so indicative offer for perennial takeover target Healthscope. In their previous roles at TPG and, in Bishop's case, as a TPG adviser at Macquarie, Gray and Harle have bought and sold Healthscope before. TPG and Carlyle Group paid $2.7 billion for Healthscope in 2010 before refloating it on the sharemarket with a $3.7 billion valuation in 2014.
At $2.36 a share, a 16 per cent premium to Healthscope's closing price on Tuesday, the consortium -- which includes Australian Super, Singapore's GIC, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board -- may struggle to achieve its initial objective of gaining access to due diligence.

Neither Libs nor Labor have a plan to tackle debt

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 28, 2018

Peter Van Onselen

It’s plainly the case that the government is framing this year’s budget as an election budget, whether polling day follows later this year or early next year. Scrapping the increase in the Medicare levy, leaked plans to deliver a 10- year personal income tax cut package and suggestions that improved flows of company taxes will help the budget bottom line all point to a re-election strategy designed to offer a contrast between a fiscally prudent team that fav­ours lower taxes and an opposition with an agenda to increase taxes.
Malcolm Turnbull hopes budget numbers that across the forward estimates continue to reveal a steady pathway back to surplus contrast with Labor’s years in government, when the deficit jumped around and debt ballooned.
But the truth is that neither major party has an impressive story to tell when it comes to managing the economy. Labor never got the budget under control in the post-global financial crisis environment, and the baked-in spending inherited by the Coalition has largely continued to accumulate.

Financial Services Royal Commission.

Why regulators need to lift the fear factor and put jail on the table

By Clancy Yeates
23 April 2018 — 12:00am
A former head of JP Morgan in Australia, Brian Watson, recalls working on Wall Street in the 1980s when the authorities were conducting a major investigation into an insider trading scandal. The aggressive way it was handled quickly sent a message through the whole sector.
"US Attorneys walked onto the trading floor of one of the major houses, and arrested the head of trading and put him in hand cuffs and took him off," Watson says. "I can tell you that within 30 seconds of that happening everybody in Wall Street knew it had happened."
Can you imagine that occurring in Australia today? Me neither.

Royal Commission reveals need for tougher corporate cop

By Jessica Irvine
22 April 2018 — 11:05pm
Imagine this ... An elderly couple returns home from holiday to discover their front door lock broken and $2000 in cash stolen from a biscuit tin in their kitchen.
The couple immediately ring the police, who inform them of a spate of similar robberies in the area. But the police have tracked down the perpetrator, who is in custody facing charges that carry a jail term of at least five years.
The elderly couple are promptly reunited with their cash.
Now, try this ... The same elderly couple visits a financial adviser, who helps them to invest their retirement savings, deducting $2000 in fees each year.

Malcolm Turnbull admits 'political mistake' on bank royal commission

By David Crowe
23 April 2018 — 3:33am
Berlin: Malcolm Turnbull has admitted making a political mistake in rejecting a royal commission into the banks for more than 18 months, taking responsibility for the call but insisting he was right to put a priority on new laws to protect customers.
In his first public response to last week’s furore over the banks, the Prime Minister said commentators were right to say he would have had less “political grief” if he had acted sooner to launch the commission.
It was a "political mistake" rejecting a royal commission into the banks for more than 18 months, says Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, taking responsibility for the call but insisting he was right to put a priority on new laws to protect customers.

Banking royal commission: what is the point of AMP?

  • The Australian
  • 6:43AM April 23, 2018

Alan Kohler

What is to become of AMP? Or perhaps the real question is: what is the point of AMP?
For 146 years it was a very well-regarded life-insurance mutual society, owned by policyholders — a bit like today’s industry funds — and paid handsome commissions to its agents, who were also pillars of every local community in the land.
In 1995 it began a new life as one of the most spectacularly unsuccessful and badly managed listed companies in stock exchange history. Apart from four good years of rebuilding under Andrew Mohl and Peter Willcox between 2003 and 2007, the stock has been a shocker.

Banking royal commission: ANZ cases of poor advice soared

  • The Australian
  • 12:00PM April 23, 2018

Ben Butler

The number of cases of shoddy advice given by financial planners at ANZ exploded by more than 40 times over eight years, even as the number of advisers working for the group fell.
Despite recognising the high risk that poor advice would lead to breaches of its financial services license, investigations by the corporate watchdog and customer compensation costs, ANZ was unable or unwilling to fix the problem for years, the financial services royal commission heard this morning.
Giving evidence to the commission this morning, ANZ’s chief risk officer for its digital and wealth businesses, Kylie Rixon, said the bank’s ability to detect poor advice had improved over the years.

Dirty little secrets: why banks need to be more transparent

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
Updated24 April 2018 — 8:47amfirst published at 12:05am
Commonwealth Bank's bemusement and sense of being blindsided by Austrac's decision to launch legal action over breaches of anti-money laundering laws last year, when reviewed in the context of the shocking disclosures coming out of the banking royal commission, provides a broader insight into the relationships between large financial institutions and their regulators.
CBA felt aggrieved. It believed it had been ambushed by Austrac because the agency hadn't given it any notice that it was going to initiate the action against the bank.
Austrac may or may not have given CBA assurances that it would warn it ahead of any action but it is consistent with what we know of the banks and their regulators that they expect to be forewarned of any regulatory action and they expect to be given - and almost always are given - the ability to negotiate an out-of-court settlement on any issue of substance.

The questions you need to ask before you pick a financial adviser

By Christine Long
23 April 2018 — 1:34pm
A financial planner may enter your life through the recommendation of a friend or family member or an introduction via your bank. But that doesn’t mean you should simply hand your money over.
As the Hayne Royal Commission is highlighting some thorough investigation is needed before choosing a planner. Here’s how to unearth a financial planner who should do you good.
As much as 5 per cent of advice provided by ANZ was unlikely to be in best interest of the client, according to reports provided to ANZ executives uncovered by the Hayne Royal Commission.

Royal commission: forget fuzzy feelings, give me boring bankers any day

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 24, 2018

Judith Sloan

I’m not a big fan of the corporate schmooze-fest. You know the sort of thing: you’re invited along for lunch or dinner, the food and wine are excellent, a number of senior managers make presentations about how good the company is, and you all go away with warm and fuzzy feelings towards the host.
I tend to avoid these events like the plague. After all, I could always be cleaning out the garage or catching up on some weird sci-fi program on Netflix.
But last year I made the mistake of attending one of these carefully planned love-ins, organised by one of the big banks. What was I thinking?

Turnbull stops short of full mea culpa on banking royal commission

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 24, 2018

Dennis Shanahan

In the face of mounting evidence of banking scandals and political ineptitude in defending the ­Coalition, Malcolm Turnbull has conceded it was a clear political error not to call a banking royal commission.
The Prime Minister has also conceded the Coalition “knew what the problem was with the banks” but still resisted calls for a royal commission and described the final decision as “regrettable”.
These are massive political concessions forced on a government losing control of the agenda on wrongdoing and rip-offs by banks and financial institution and unable to justify its actions.

How can we be protected from this sort of behaviour?

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 25, 2018

James Kirby

Sam Henderson, the celebrity financial adviser, has been exposed as the most dangerous type of adviser — the one who actually does know what they are talking about, but wants your money so much they break the rules.
There are two stunning ­breaches of faith in Henderson’s dealing with Fair Work Commissioner Donna McKenna. These were laid out as evidence in the financial services royal commission yesterday.
First, in trying to persuade a senior public servant to cash out their public sector super arrangements and start a self-managed fund, Henderson was being ambitious. In pushing for McKenna to then borrow in her super fund and invest in funds that Henderson provided, the exercise becomes ­rapacious.

Culling the bank culture cliches is going to need more time

By Adele Ferguson
24 April 2018 — 9:11pm
 “Sloppy and unprofessional” was the description used by National Australia Bank senior executive Andrew Hagger for the widespread practice of financial advisers falsely witnessing documents about who gets a customer’s superannuation when they die.
Ethically challenged and morally bankrupt is probably more apt. The royal commission has seen a parade of wrong doing in the financial planning arms of the banks and AMP as it raced through each institution in the past week.
Thousands of customers were affected by false signatures as senior executives complained about having bonuses cut.

'Benefit of hindsight': ASIC may have been wrong body to protect consumers

By Peter Martin
24 April 2018 — 9:58pm
One of the architects of Australia's financial system has expressed doubts about the policing power given to one of the corporate regulators now under fire for failing to prevent fraud and deception by the banks.
Professor Ian Harper was a member of the Wallis committee of inquiry into the financial system which in 1997 recommended the creation of a specialist organisation to regulate financial markets and financial institutions known as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, or ASIC.
He later chaired the Harper Competition Review for the Abbott and Turnbull governments, and is a Reserve Bank of Australia board member.

A celebrity planner's world comes crashing down over 'risible' advice

By Sarah Danckert & Jennifer Duke
24 April 2018 — 6:36pm
High-flying celebrity financial planner Sam Henderson's world came crashing down on Tuesday as the banking royal commission heard he instructed his employees to impersonate a client and misrepresented his tertiary qualifications.
Sam Henderson, a high-flying financial guru, has fronted the banking royal commission where it was heard that at his firm, Henderson Maxwell, he had misrepresented his qualifications and instructed employees to impersonate a client.
Mr Henderson, a regular host on Sky News Business, also failed to disclose a conflict of interest and gave advice to one client that was described as "risible," the commission heard.
Client Donna McKenna, who is a Fair Work Commissioner, outlined just what it was like to be a client of Mr Henderson, a principal of a financial planning firm awarded “Practice of the Year”.

The woman asking the hard questions at the banking royal commission

By Michaela Whitbourn
14 March 2018 — 5:42pm
Senior Counsel Assisting Rowena Orr outlines the scope of the first round of hearings of the banking royal commission.
Rowena Orr, QC, one of two silks assisting the landmark banking royal commission headed by former High Court judge Kenneth Hayne, offered a blunt assessment of the task confronting the inquiry on Monday.
"The terms of reference ... are broad and the time to report is short," Orr told Hayne in Melbourne. "We embrace the challenge involved in assisting you."
Orr and her fellow counsel assisting the commission - Brisbane-based silk Michael Hodge, QC, and junior barristers Albert Dinelli, Eloise Dias and Mark Costello - have just 12 months to help Hayne uncover and report on misconduct in the banking and financial services industries.
  • Updated Apr 25 2018 at 11:00 PM

Turnbull government's cowardice on SMSF borrowing comes home to roost

The Hayne commission has clearly demonstrated that the Turnbull government's weak-kneed decision not to ban borrowing by self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) has given unscrupulous financial planners extra leeway to take advantage of their hapless clients.
One of the key recommendations of the Financial System Inquiry, which was headed by former Commonwealth Bank boss David Murray and delivered in December 2014, was that the government should reinstate the general prohibition on direct borrowings by superannuation funds.
But, no doubt following intense lobbying from the financial planning industry (dominated by the big banks four and AMP) and the property industry, the Turnbull government equivocated. Instead, it instructed the Australian Taxation Office and the Council of Financial Regulators to review the level of borrowing in SMSFs, and to report back after three years.

One move that would go a long way to fixing financial advice

By John Collett
24 April 2018 — 6:27pm
There are no quick fixes to curb recurrences of the shocking revelations at the banking royal commission concerning financial advice.
But there is a move you'd think would be obvious: licence planners individually.
Thousands of customers were affected by false signatures as senior executives complained about having bonuses cut.
The authorities have told consumers to only seek advice from those who meet certain requirements, promoting the fiction that advisers are created equal.

Banks heading for AMP danger zone

  • The Australian
  • 7:35AM April 27, 2018

Robert Gottliebsen

Australia’s largest non-bank investment house, the iconic AMP, is in serious long-term trouble.
The crisis facing the Australian banks is not nearly as serious, but also threatens their long-term prosperity.
In essence, in the royal commission the AMP lost its licence to operate as a trusted member of the finance community.
  • Updated Apr 27 2018 at 11:00 PM

Royal commission: get forensic on your finances to check you're not being ripped off

Thousands of investors thought they were doing the right thing by approaching their trusted bank to get advice on anything from a mortgage and investments to superannuation and insurance. But, like the rest of the country, they've listened spellbound as the second – equally explosive – round of the banking royal commission unfolded this week.
Aided by nearly 4000 public submissions, we have heard jaw-dropping revelations about fees-for-no-advice, a sales-driven and even corrupt corporate culture, and repeated failures to reprimand the culprits.
What's more, the commission has laid bare the inadequacy of the broader compliance structure.
  • Updated Apr 27 2018 at 6:07 PM

Banking royal commission raises separation of product and advice

by Fiona Buffini
The banking royal commission has questioned whether the vertical integration of banks, as product makers and advisers, can serve the interests of customers.
Counsel assisting the royal commission Rowena Orr, QC, asked whether it was possible for financial advisers to manage the conflicts associated with providing advice as a representative of an institution that also makes products.

Moral compass lost in sea of easy money

By Adele Ferguson
28 April 2018 — 12:05am
AMP lying to the regulator, CBA awarded the "gold medalist" for charging fees for no service, NAB caught false witnessing documents, client impersonation, inappropriate advice, Orwellian protection policies and a witness carted out on a stretcher after collapsing.
If the financial services sector didn’t think the royal commission could bring more high drama, it just did.
The industry must be sweating blood.
Criminal prosecution is now on the agenda.

Banks need to regain integrity before they can be heroes

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 28, 2018

Alan Kohler

It’s a bit hard to know whether it’s good or bad that the latest TV ad campaigns put together for NAB and Westpac have coincided with peak shock horror from the banking royal commission.
NAB’s 2018 theme, thanks to Clemenger BBDO, is that life is about more than money, and there are some very nicely shot ads showing ordinary Australians talking about what they really want from life.
Westpac’s idea, by DDB, is based around a “we can be heroes” theme, complete with the David Bowie song (sung by someone else), and aims to celebrate the way Australians help each other.

How to spot a bad financial adviser

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 28, 2018

James Kirby

If we have learnt anything from the banking inquiry it is that anyone at any level can let you down.
As an investor just now the ­advice system does not sufficiently protect you.
In fact, you might just as easily get bad advice from an up-market adviser as you would from a poorly qualified sales representative in a major bank.
The remarkable case of boutique planner Sam Henderson, a media celebrity who has been dragged through the commission and revealed as a bloody-minded operator who broke the rules in dealing with a senior public servant (Fair Work Commissioner Donna McKenna) tells us there is no guarantee of fair play at any level.

Uncover conflicts of interest and maintain your independence

  • James Gerrard
  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 28, 2018
Independent and non-bank-aligned financial planning firms provide alternative advice and are generally perceived to be more reputable than their bank counterparts.
With a wider range of products and more focus on strategic advice the independents do not appear to suffer the same conflicts of interests as bank advisers selling a bank-branded super or insurance product.
But seeking advice outside a bank doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. Conflicts of interest are not just limited to the banks, the conflicts of interest are just different.

A tale of two scandals: the banks royal commission and the GFC

By Nick Miller
29 April 2018 — 12:00am
Are Australian banks finally facing the crisis they dodged a decade ago? On the surface, the answer appears to be no.
The banking royal commission currently causing ructions in the Australian banking system is different from the global financial crisis. The GFC was a creature of high-level investment banking, and the reaction was geared to deal with an existential threat to major banks which our royal commission, so far, does not claim to pose.
 “Each [banking] crisis is really different from another one, that is why it’s so difficult to forecast,” says banking expert Dr Leone Leonida, the director of the banking and finance program at the business school at King’s College London.

We didn’t need a royal commission to know about bad bankers

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 28, 2018

Terry McCrann

Back in December I wrote that it — the forthcoming banking royal commission — was going to be “not quite a royal commission about nothing; just a royal commission about nothing that we don’t already know”.
That should demonstrate that I was not arguing that the banks and other financial institutions were pure, selfless and utterly above reproach. Indeed, I made the contrary explicit: yes, I wrote back then, “there have been cases of the banks acting unfairly and even illegally”.
My point was that we didn’t need a RC to know that. “The simple fact that we ‘know about them’ — the misdeeds — is because they have been projected in various other forums, including dozens of other inquiries.”

Malcolm Turnbull has hit out at bad bankers

MALCOLM Turnbull has hit out at bad bankers, saying financial advisers should be forced to give plain language advice and have their conversations recorded.
AAP April 28, 20183:28pm
MALCOLM Turnbull wants bankers and financial advisers to be forced to give plain language advice to their customers and have their conversations recorded.
The prime minister is angry and disappointed about revelations about banks and financial planners unearthed by the Hayne royal commission, saying there are too many cases where customers were not put first.
“Banks and financial advisers have a solemn duty to put the interests of their clients and customers first,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

Banking royal commission: Kenneth Hayne signals end of wealth model

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 28, 2018

Michael Roddan

Ben Butler

The largest banks and wealth management companies in Australia are at risk of being broken up after suffering a fortnight of explosive and embarrassing revelations at the hands of the royal commission.
Criminal behaviour by Australia’s so-called fifth pillar, AMP, has been alleged, while the corporate regulator is also in the gun after admitting it does not do enough to tackle widespread misconduct in the scandal-stricken financial planning sector.
Admissions from senior executives taking the stand at Kenneth Hayne’s royal commission have shaken the powerful financial sector and forced Malcolm Turnbull to air his regret at opposing the year-long inquiry into misconduct in the industry.

National Budget Issues.

The Greens Plan To Legalise Recreational Cannabis Could Generate Almost $2 Billion A Year

Mo' weed mo' money.
Posted on April 23, 2018, at 7:16 a.m.
BuzzFeed News Reporter, Australia

The Greens' plan to legalise cannabis for adults across Australia could raise almost $2 billion a year, according to new figures from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).

Greens leader Richard Di Natale says the PBO costings released on Monday show his plan would not only raise funds, but also shift the resources currently being used by the Australian Federal Police to combat cannabis-related law enforcement.

Tax cuts, higher wages: Budget 'raining revenue', says Deloitte Access

By Peter Martin
22 April 2018 — 6:41pm
The federal budget is about to be hit with a deluge of revenue, making Scott Morrison’s third budget the easiest to put together since 2012, says Australia’s most experienced private sector forecaster in its pre-budget assessment of the Australian economy.
“Improving global and local economies are raining revenue,” said Deloitte Access partner Chris Richardson, a former budget analyst in the Federal Treasury.
“The globe is doing Australia plenty of favours. The bad news of huge falls in mining-related construction has passed, and the long-awaited pick up in wage gains is beginning, spurred along by good profit growth and by the scorching pace of job gains.”

Budget to announce rail projects to head off Labor attacks

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 23, 2018

Ean Higgins

The federal budget is expected to splash out on a series of passenger and freight rail projects around the nation to shore up marginal seats and counter a frontal attack by Labor claiming the Coalition has cut spending on infrastructure.
The initiatives would be some of the “goodies” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack last week said would be announced by Scott Morrison in an “infrastructure budget”.
Queensland will be a big focus with business sources saying they expect federal commitments of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Brisbane Cross River Rail Link, the Acacia Ridge to Brisbane port freight rail proposal, and the Brisbane Metro.

The tax office’s big launch to give back super

By Olivia Maragna
23 April 2018 — 10:26am
In this topsy-turvy world, the only sure things are death and taxes.
So what does it say about the times when the Australian Taxation Office is trying to give away money?
That’s right, to offload more than $3.75 billion in ATO-held superannuation, the tax office has launched an extensive email and letter campaign to notify recipients in the hope of reuniting them with their superannuation savings.

Morrison promises responsible budget

A GST top-up for the Top End and extra spending to cut Centrelink waiting times have been announced ahead of the federal budget.
Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent
Australian Associated PressApril 23, 20183:16pm
The Turnbull government is providing a $260 million GST top-up for the Northern Territory after it lost out in the latest revenue carve-up and $550 million for remote housing.
With the May 8 federal budget fast approaching, it is also beefing up staff at the Centrelink call centre by 1000 over the next few years to reduce the time people are put on hold.
"We can do all this because we are running a strong economy and a responsible budget," Treasurer Scott Morrison told reporters in Alice Springs on Monday.

Minister accused of hypocrisy over super comments

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 24, 2018

Glenda Korporaal

Superannuation lobby group Save Our Super has accused the Federal Revenue and Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer of hypocrisy with her comments that the Turnbull government would “deliver certainty and stability” for people saving for their retirement.
In an open letter to the minister, the member for the federal seat of Higgins where the organisation is based, Save Our Super says Ms O’Dwyer was a key player in delivering changes to superannuation which “delivered uncertainty and instability” to the system.
“Australians can no longer plan for their retirement,” the letter says.
  • Updated Apr 25 2018 at 11:45 PM

Budget to unveil 10-year income tax cut plan

The income tax cuts to be unveiled in the May federal budget are set to start small and be phased in over a decade so as not to obstruct the return to surplus.
The strategy will also enable the government to argue for its re-election on the basis that a Coalition victory would lock in tax cuts for voters over the longer term.
The government is committed to returning the budget to surplus in 2020-21, as has been forecast in the past five budgets and mid-year economic updates, and a 2021-21 surplus will be again be forecast in the May 8 budget.

Turnbull government to scrap $8 billion Medicare levy increase

By Eryk Bagshaw
Updated25 April 2018 — 7:11pmfirst published at 7:07pm
The Turnbull government will scrap its $8 billion increase in the Medicare levy, effectively preventing a future tax hike on voters and withdrawing one of the signature measures from its 2017 budget. 
Warning "tax can go too far" Treasurer Scott Morrison will offer a preview of expected further income tax cuts on Thursday, and accuse Labor of "creating an unnecessary tax burden [that] squashes incentive and aspiration, and chokes demand."
He said tax receipts up until February were running $4.8 billion higher than he estimated in December through company profits and a jobs boom, meaning there was no longer a need for the extra 0.5 per cent levy on taxpayers to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
  • Updated Apr 26 2018 at 11:45 PM

Labor sticks to high-end tax hit despite Coalition's Medicare levy backdown

Labor is refusing to back away from its plan to raise the top marginal income tax rate to almost 50 per cent even though the Coalition's axing of a hike to the Medicare levy removes a key justification for the slug.
Extra taxes on high-income earners – which have been slammed by tax experts, business groups and even former Labor leader Paul Keating – come as official figures to be released on Friday show the burden of taxes is increasingly falling on fewer Australians.
About 17 per cent of the $186 billion collected from personal income taxes in 2015-16 was drawn from the top 1 per cent of taxpayers, with the top 10 per cent paying 45 per cent, the figures show.
  • Updated Apr 26 2018 at 6:00 PM

Treasurer Scott Morrison clears policy decks with an election budget

Treasurer gives pre-budget address
Malcolm Turnbull's light-hearted speech to last year's Mid-Winter Ball at Parliament House was best remembered for his impersonation of US President Donald Trump.
While critics of the Prime Minister fulminated over such recklessness and forecast his imminent demise, virtually unnoticed was the end of the speech when Turnbull took aim at a couple of commentators over their coverage of the federal budget that was handed down a month earlier.
He singled out those who, before the budget was released, wrote it off as underwhelming based on the dribs and drabs that had so far been leaked or announced.

House prices drop 1.2 per cent across Australia with Darwin leading the charge: Domain Group

Nicole Frosttwitter
House prices across the country have fallen by 1.2 per cent over the March quarter, according to the Domain Group’s State of the Market report.
Darwin led the charge with a 7.5 per cent drop in the quarter, followed by Sydney, where prices fell by 2.6 per cent.
The downwards trajectory of Perth prices continued from its peak in December 2014, when the median price was $616,229. A house in Perth now costs $553,486.

Surge in kids, lack of data raise fears of NDIS cost blowout

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 27, 2018

Rick Morton

Fears are growing that the forecast $7 billion gap in funding for the NDIS will be far greater because the number of children signing up is higher than expected and bureaucrats have not released updated cost projections almost five years after the scheme began.
The gap of $7bn a decade after full rollout, based on departmental forecasts, widens from almost $5bn in 2019-20 because the commonwealth is locked in to picking up the cost of over-65s, and other blowouts.
As the Coalition confirmed it would dump a proposed hike in the Medicare Levy to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme — instead proposing to fund it through other savings and general revenue — the agency responsible for delivering the scheme is grappling with mounting cost pressures. One of the key challenges, the National Disability Insurance Agency says, is a “higher than expected number of children entering the scheme”. More than half of all participants are infants, children or teenagers.

Super rollover plan for SMSFs

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 27, 2018

Michael Roddan

Proposed government reforms in the superannuation sector look set to entrench the growth in self-managed super funds in the nation’s nest egg system.
SMSFs will be allowed to expand from four to six members under new laws expected to be announced by Kelly O’Dwyer today.
Along with the changes, SMSF owners will also be allowed to more easily roll over funds electronically using the SuperStream technology — the standard through which money and information is transmitted across the $2.5 trillion super system.
Currently, rollovers through SuperStream can only be done between two funds that are regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

Warning for Labor on investor negative gearing hit

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 27, 2018

Simon Benson

Almost two-thirds of all investors who negatively geared property were on taxable incomes of less than $80,000 a year, according to new tax office data that suggests Labor’s policy to slash the widely used practice would hit more lower-income earners with only one investment property.
Higher-income earners bore an even larger share of the broader tax burden, according to the most recent Australian Taxation Office numbers to be released today, with 17 per cent of the $186 billion collected in personal income tax in 2015-16 paid by the top 1 per cent of taxpayers.
At the same time, 3.6 million households effectively paid no tax because of the increasing size of government handouts they were receiving.
  • Updated Apr 27 2018 at 10:00 PM

Revealed: how much tax the top 10pc pay

Higher income earners continue to pay the bulk of income taxes amid politically-charged complaints that inequality is rising, new Tax Office data reveals.
While Treasurer Scott Morrison will use Tuesday week's budget to unveil tax cuts targeted at lower and middle-income Australians, the lack of meaningful tax relief for those at the upper end of the scale since the early years of the Rudd government continues to leave them shouldering more of the burden.
Economists are warning the lack of across-the-board tax cuts serves as a disincentive for high-income earners and if delivered, would help boost growth.
The Tax Office's tax statistics for 2015-16 released on Friday show that 44.9 per cent of the total net tax collected was paid by the top 10 per cent of taxpayers.

Please, no more superannuation

By Peter Martin
28 April 2018 — 9:52am
Here’s something that should be in the budget but won’t be: an end to the outrageous assault on our wallets that is ever-increasing compulsory superannuation.
I am hearing that it nearly was in next week’s budget, until the government chickened out.
I’ve never been able to see what most people see in boosting compulsory superannuation, although I certainly have been able to see what those who stand to benefit see in it. They are people who work in the finance industry and the trade union movement and the employer organisations that would get an extra $10 billion a year of our wages to play with, if, as scheduled, compulsory contributions climb from 9.5 per cent of our salaries to 12 per cent in the space of a few years.

Health Budget Issues.

Crunch the numbers before you commit to a retirement village

By Rachel Lane
21 April 2018 — 9:26pm
My last column – looking at the new payment alternatives Lendlease have introduced - was met with a combination of cheers and jeers. The cheers came from consumers and consumer advocates who have long wanted more choice in how they pay for a retirement village, ironically the jeers came from some operators who believe that choice will create confusion.
Here’s the thing, while it is new for an operator such as Lendlease to offer payment alternatives many not-for-profits have been offering alternatives for years. So what options are available?
Tim Allerton helped his aunt try to sell her Aveo retirement village unit, and despite his best efforts, his family had to surrender $150,000 in various fees on the way out.
23 April 2018

Gene tests – what you need to know

Clinical Evidence Based Genetics
Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and mental health genetic tests have all been singled out as areas to be wary of in the long-awaited Genomics in General Practice handbook from the RACGP. 
The handbook has been in the works for years and is the first major piece of guidance for general practitioners since a 2007 resource by the now defunct Biotechnology Australia. 
As the cost of genetic and genomic testing has become more affordable, and private companies are advertising directly to consumers with often exaggerated claims of benefits, the experts behind the handbook were conscious to highlight tests for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and mental illness which patients most commonly expressed interest and wanted to discuss with their GP. 

Retirement village players widen fee options

  • John Rawling
  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 21, 2018
In what may turn out to be a major change in how we pay for retirement home care, the nation’s biggest retirement home operators are introducing new payment options for management fees. This may mean more choice for consumers, but the changes will doubtless further complicate an already byzantine industry.
Aveo, one of the large players in the retirement village market, already provides potential residents with nearly 200 pages of paperwork to plough through when considering to move into one of its villages, including a residence and management contract (56 pages), a personal services agreement (40 pages), a licence deed (46 pages), a user-pays personal services agreement (12 pages), a disclosure statement (10 pages), a fact sheet (10 pages) and a loan agreement (eight pages).
Lendlease plonks a 48-page residence and management contract in front of all potential residents, in addition to a fact sheet and disclosure statement.

Emergency departments key to $1bn costs shift

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 24, 2018

Sean Parnell

The number of public hospital emergency services being billed to private insurers has soared over the past 10 years, pinpointing the epicentre of the controversial $1 billion cost-shifting that is blamed for pushing up health ­premiums.
More vulnerable patients are being convinced to bill their ­insurer, with new data revealing a 144 per cent increase in private emergency admissions over the past 10 years — when there was only a 26 per cent increase in public patients.
The practice is particularly rampant in Queensland, where there has been an extraordinary 736 per cent increase in private emergency admissions since 2007-08. This raises the question of whether patients are voluntarily declaring their insurance status or being targeted by public hospital administrators desperate to balance the budget.
  • Updated Apr 24 2018 at 2:00 AM

Australians identify a knot of DNA that may be the 'volume dial' for our genes

Australian scientists have identified a new DNA structure in human cells. It's in the form of a twisted knot and it exists alongside the well-known double helix.
The finding, made at Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research, a leader in next-generation genomic DNA sequencing in Australia, is expected to open up new possibilities for interpreting how the genome functions.
It's a highly significant finding and appears to be a kind of "volume dial" that regulates the activity of genes.

Nationals prescription for rural health care is wrong

By Nic Batten
24 April 2018 — 12:00am
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is right about one thing – we need more training for doctors in the bush. What he isn’t right about is the stage at which this need exists. We need more rural generalist and speciality training, but not more medical students.
Every single location proposed by Charles Sturt and LaTrobe universities for the Murray Darling Medical School already trains medical students, and in several cases hosts students from more than one university.
As a product of the combined Melbourne-Monash Rural Clinical School in Bendigo, I can attest that the quality of education provided is excellent, and government-funded education infrastructure is already in place.

‘Harvesting’ of patients lifts health premiums by 6pc

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 25, 2018

Sean Parnell

Health insurers have accused the states of “harvesting” emergency patients for money, using controversial public hospital billing practices that have inflated premiums by about 6 per cent.
The Australian yesterday revealed the most vulnerable ­patients were the subject of the biggest increase in public hospitals billing insurers. Over the past 10 years, there has been a 144 per cent increase in private emer­gency admissions — but only 26 per cent for public admissions.
Queensland had a 736 per cent increase in private emergency admissions since 2007-08.

The dope on legal weed

A campaign for the legalisation of marijuana faces many hurdles.
Health regulators have sought to make a clear distinction between medicinal cannabis and recre­ation­al marijuana. A line is drawn between those who could obtain health benefits from the part of the plant understood to relieve symptoms of medically diagnosed conditions, and those who simply smoke weed for pleasure — despite the often-repeated health risks. In Australia, this line is determined by medical evidence and criminal law.
At one extreme, there are children managing their epilepsy, while at the other extreme there are adults battling self-inflicted, drug-induced psychosis.
This is a distinction Greens leader Richard Di Natale, a former doctor, also had sought to make and defend in recent years as he pushed for the seriously ill to have greater access to medicinal cannabis. At least, that was the case until last week, when Di Natale launched the Greens’ campaign for the legalisation of marijuana, blurring the lines completely.

Health Minister’s blast for profit-driven’ private hospitals

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM April 26, 2018

Rhian Deutrom

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles has accused the private hospital industry of “profit-driven rent-seeking” amid the cost-shifting controversy that his federal counterpart, Greg Hunt, claimed had contributed to rising health premiums around the nation.
In a letter to The Australian, Mr Miles took aim at attempts by private hospitals to secure monopoly billing rights for private patients, saying the move demonstrated the sector was “unwilling to compete with public hospitals, and has no concern for the ongoing viability of private health insurance”.
“The entire premise of taxpayer subsidised private health insurance is to take pressure off the public system,” Mr Miles said. “Increasingly, private patients want to be treated in public hospitals. They should be able to use their insurance, which they pay thousands of dollars for.”

Cost of hep C antivirals has already blown out by billions

Health economists want an urgent review
26th April 2018
Australia is facing a huge cost blowout for hepatitis C antivirals, even though only one-fifth of eligible patients have been prescribed the drugs.
Health economists are calling for an urgent review of the nine direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs) funded by the PBS for hepatitis C, after finding that spending on the drugs is already billions of dollars over budget.
The drugs, first added to the PBS in March 2016, were initially projected to cost the government $1 billion over five years.

Labor to axe the tampon tax

By Eryk Bagshaw
28 April 2018 — 5:35pm
Labor will kill off a $30 million-a-year tampon tax if it wins government and send a message to the Coalition that it intends to fight the next election on gender equity grounds.
The decision comes after years of community calls to put tampons and sanitary pads in the essential health items category, where products such as condoms and lubricant are GST exempt.
In a move that will heap pressure on the Turnbull government to offer bipartisan support, Labor leader Bill Shorten described the 10 per cent GST on tampons as a "tax on women."

International Issues.

Trump's brash 'fixer' has become a danger

By Michael Kranish
23 April 2018 — 10:14am
Washington: When Donald Trump won the presidency, his long-time lawyer Michael Cohen seemed in position for a coveted spot in the senior ranks of the White House.
At one point, Cohen topped a list of five candidates for White House counsel, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post. He suggested to some Trump allies that he might make a good chief of staff.
But when Trump built his West Wing team, the brash New York lawyer did not make the cut.

Julie Bishop says Donald Trump deserves credit for the handshake that made history

By David Wroe
27 April 2018 — 6:02pm
The Turnbull government credits Donald Trump’s unpredictable approach to North Korea for triggering a historic meeting of the rogue regime’s leader Kim Jong-un with his South Korean counterpart, kickstarting denuclearisation talks that were unthinkable just months ago.
After months of high tension and years in which a frustrated world has failed to rein in the hermit dynasty of North Korean leaders, Mr Kim made history on Friday by crossing the demilitarised zone for a handshake and talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Kim Jong-un became the first North Korean leader to cross the border into South Korea ahead of historic face-to-face talks.

BBC: 'Foreign agents creating fake BBC news'

By Anita Singh
28 April 2018 — 9:03am
London: Fake videos claiming to be BBC News reports are part of a "state-backed disinformation" campaign by foreign powers, according to the director of the corporation's World Service Group.
Last week, a clip reporting the outbreak of nuclear war between Russian and Nato forces was circulated on social media. Featuring "footage" of Russia launching cruise missiles, it was stamped with the BBC News logo and appeared to be set in a BBC studio.
The corporation was forced to release a statement saying the video was false. Jamie Angus, who heads the World Service and BBC World News, said combating "fake news" was "an increasingly large part of my world".

For many, life in Trump’s orbit ends in a crash landing

By Peter Baker & Maggie Haberman
28 April 2018 — 4:30am
Washington: Another day, another casualty. Or two.
By the time the sun set on Thursday, Dr Ronny L. Jackson was a failed Cabinet nominee whose life had been picked apart for public consumption, and Michael D. Cohen was back in court facing criminal prosecution.
After weeks of controversy, White House doctor Ronny Jackson has withdrawn from the nomination to head the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
A ride on President Donald Trump's bullet train can be thrilling, but it is often a brutal journey that leaves some bloodied by the side of the tracks. In only 15 months in office, Trump has burned through a record number of advisers and associates who have found themselves in legal, professional or personal trouble, or even all three.

Australian aircraft to monitor North Korean ships

By Eryk Bagshaw & Benjamin Preiss
Updated28 April 2018 — 1:20pmfirst published at 12:21pm
An Australian military plane will monitor illicit transfers between North Korean ships, a day after North and South Korea signed an historic peace deal to end 70 years of hostilities.
The surveillance aircraft will reportedly operate out of the US Kardinia Air Base in Japan alongside the Canadian military to monitor Pyongyang's vessels.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed a P-8A surveillance would fly to the region to monitor compliance with sanctions.
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