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 24, 2018

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

May 24, 2018 Edition.
Two main themes last week. One, is all of Trumps bets seem to be falling apart. Kim is being cute and Trump has now cancelled the Summit, the Middle East is in flames and so it goes.
Two, gradually people are seeing more and more issues in the budget that rather feel to be a bit of sleight of hand - and we now have a slew of bye-elections on July 28!
For the entertainment of the week we are having a new session of the Financial Services Royal Commission which has been yet another train-wreck for some poor witnesses.
Here are a few other things I have noticed.

Major Issues.

  • Updated May 13 2018 at 11:00 PM

Calls for delay to 'comprehensive credit reporting' amid discrimination concerns

Consumer law groups are calling for a delay to one of the government's flagship policies for lifting competition in the banking sector, and will tell a Senate committee on Tuesday vulnerable customers are at risk of discrimination.
Under the "comprehensive credit reporting" regime banks will have to report customers who have negotiated rescheduled repayments as being late on their repayments.
The Financial Rights Legal Centre is preparing to launch a wave of cases at the financial services ombudsman if the reporting of "repayment history information" (RHI) is not pushed back until after the Attorney-General's department confirms how hardship cases should be reported under the regime, which exposes the banks to big fines for non-compliance.

Do interest rates affect business investment? Evidence from Australian company-level data

9 May 2018
We examine the distribution of borrowing rates paid by companies, and the relationship between corporate borrowing rates and fixed capital investment, using a unique hand-collected dataset. We find a high degree of heterogeneity in companies’ cost of debt. Also, since the global financial crisis, the spread between the rates paid by companies at the top and bottom of the distribution has widened. Borrowing rates for a large portion of companies, including smaller and riskier ones, have remained high in recent years, despite falls in aggregate indicators of interest rates. This heterogeneity in borrowing rates enables us to find a significant inverse relationship between the cost of debt and corporate investment, which is generally not evident in aggregate data. We argue that this relationship may be due to credit supply effects, as a relaxation of lending standards leads to lower credit spreads and encourages more investment. These findings shed new light on the link between monetary policy and business investment in Australia.

How we arrived at budgets we can't trust

13 May 2018 — 12:16pm
After last week’s appalling effort, the resort to misleading practices in the budget is reaching the point where the public’s disrespect and distrust of politicians are spreading to the formerly authoritative budget papers.
We’re used to spin doctors with slippery words. Now it’s spin doctors with slippery numbers. They’re not just gilding the lily, they’re creating an unreal world where the truth is concealed.
It gives me no joy to be telling people not to believe what they read in the budget papers. I’d rather tell them that of course the budget figures can be trusted, and they should heed the advice of the nation’s most senior and respected economists.
  • Updated May 13 2018 at 8:04 PM

People are fed up with capitalism

by John Authers
"The facts are clear: all the evidence is that process-driven CEOs are prioritising the bottom line and treating earnings as a key metric. That's capitalism."
These lines are a summary of the news from the corporate sector in the past few weeks. Yet they will read to many Americans like red rags to a bull.
As we have been reporting, the first quarter of this year saw a fantastic rise in corporate profits. In the US, according to Thomson Reuters, S&P 500 companies managed to raise their earnings by more than 26 per cent compared with a year ago. European members of the Stoxx 600 are on course for a much more sedentary 4.1 per cent rise.

Why do politicians refuse to believe decades of polling and research?

By Peter Hartcher
Updated14 May 2018 — 7:11amfirst published at 12:00am
Today's poll proves anew something that only politicians refuse to believe.
Voters generally care more about the health of the nation than about themselves.
It's a fact that political scientists have long known.
  • May 14 2018 at 11:15 AM

Australia should not blindly follow Trump on China's ZTE

Donald Trump has thrown ZTE a lifeline. The Chinese telecommunications company was heading rapidly towards bankruptcy until the US President took to Twitter on Sunday night.
Trump revealed he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping on a way for ZTE "to get back into business, fast".
"Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done," he tweeted.

Science-nonfiction: Robotics author says AI will affect all children

By Danica Streader
14 May 2018 — 11:33am
A Brisbane robotics expert who says the children of today will interact with A.I. in some point in their lives is putting 1000 textbook guides to artificial intelligence in classrooms around the country.
Queensland University of Technology robotics professor Michael Milford, the author of The Complete Guide to Artificial Intelligence for Kids, said limited resources were available for children to learn about intelligent machines.
 “The thing about artificial intelligence is we don’t know what is going to happen, which ends up being the most exciting and scary aspect of this industry,” he said.

Federal budget: What’s in it for investors

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM May 12, 2018

James Kirby

As the dust settles we come to ­realise this year’s budget key objective was to promise a series of elongated tax cuts and to shorten the pathway to a budget surplus. Under long-term and politically improbable plans the Coalition would introduce a flatter tax system. As the political reality of those objectives play out, investors might concentrate on the changes that actually should come to pass.
One theme is the government’s decision to try to optimise the tax-free status of the family home by adding initiatives on reverse mortgages and at-home aged care. There is also some tweaking of the complex — but still useful — self- managed super fund system and a grab bag of measures aimed at ­either alleviating red tape or policing the system. For the investor, here’s what really happened.
Maximise the value of your home
Your home is a tax shelter and neither the ALP nor the coalition appears willing to challenge this reality. So Scott Morrison offered two measures in the budget that aim to take advantage of existing home values.
  • Updated May 14 2018 at 11:00 PM

Extreme risk in $89b navy ship building plan: Auditor-General

Taxpayers are paying billions of dollars more and face further blowouts because of the "high to extreme" level of risk in building new ships and submarines in Australia in the Turnbull government's rush for voter-friendly announcements to get projects started, the Auditor-General has warned.
Demanding the Defence Department provide an update on the cost of the $89 billion naval shipbuilding plan, the Australian National Audit Office issued a scathing report on Monday attacking key elements of the government's drive to establish a local industry and shore up jobs in Adelaide and Perth.
Auditor-General Grant Hehir's report slammed the government for approving a new fleet of patrol boats without any firm idea of their running costs, while no cost-benefit analysis was conducted on the decision to bring forward start of construction to keep shipbuilding workers in jobs.

Banking royal commission: JPMorgan fears big job losses

  • The Australian
  • 8:50PM May 14, 2018

Michael Roddan

There are renewed fears of economic fallout stemming from the royal commission into the banking sector, as regulators and the government look to overhaul the way fees are paid across the financial services sector.
A crackdown on financial advice — including killing off problematic trailing commissions that were grandfathered in 2013 — could end a significant money spinner for the largest banks and wealth managers as the fallout from the royal commission continues to build.
JPMorgan analyst Sally Auld said the financial sector could face a stunning crash in employment worse than the last ­financial crisis.
  • May 15 2018 at 9:10 AM

RBA's Guy Debelle flags housing risk from tighter lending standards on bank probe

Reserve Bank of Australia deputy governor Guy Debelle has warned a further tightening of lending standards would primarily hit the housing market even as he downplayed the dangers of the coming wave of resets to interest-only loans.
In a speech that again reiterates the central bank's forecast is for a "gradual" pickup in economic growth and inflation, as well as fall in the jobless rate, Dr Debelle emphasised that the official cash rate was likely to remain steady this year and into next.
"If the economy continues to evolve as expected, higher interest rates are likely to be appropriate at some point," he said. "Notwithstanding this, the board does not currently see a strong case for a near-term adjustment in the cash rate. "

An Aussie Trump is not such a remote possibility

By Peter Hartcher
15 May 2018 — 12:00am
The rise of the "strong man" political leader continues to gather force, part of the trend to authoritarianism across the world.
Even when democracy appears to be being rescued – as in Malaysia last week – the rescuer is himself a strongman.
Mahathir Mohamad might have defeated the ruling United Malay Nationals Organisation for the first time since the country's independence in 1957, but Mahathir was the most important figure in entrenching its long dominance. Until he decided to end it now.

Jobless rate needs to go lower for wage pressures to emerge: RBA

15 May 2018 — 10:01am
Wages growth has troughed and there are some tentative signs of pressure emerging, but there is a risk it may take a lower unemployment rate than currently expected to generate a sustained move higher, the Reserve Bank of Australia says.
Wage growth is crawling near a record low pace of around 2 per cent annually, even as the labour market tightens. Data out on Wednesday is likely to show wage growth stuck at that level, half the rate enjoyed by workers during the mining boom.
"How much longer is wages growth going to remain at its current low rates?" RBA deputy governor Guy Debelle said in a speech in Sydney on Tuesday. "The experience of other countries with labour markets closer to full capacity than Australia's is that wages growth may remain lower than historical experience would suggest."

Reserve Bank’s Debelle issues new warning on mortgage debt, sees no pressure to raise rates

  • The Australian
  • 10:46AM May 15, 2018

Michael Roddan

Australia’s heavily indebted households and the likelihood of higher mortgage repayments remain a key risk to Australia’s economic outlook, warns Reserve Bank deputy governor Guy Debelle.
In a speech this morning, Mr Debelle reiterated warnings about the “large amount of mortgage debt” held by local households.
He also said although Australia’s economy was on a slowly improving trajectory, it did not make a case for raising interest rates in the near term.

Australians give income tax cuts thumbs up

Consumer confidence has jumped to a 14-week high in response to last week's federal budget which included personal income tax cuts.
Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent
Australian Associated Press May 15, 20183:22pm
It may only be $10 a week but the budget's tax cut has been enough to make Australians happy.
Consumer confidence jumped to the highest level since early February in response to Treasurer Scott Morrison's third budget released a week ago which had personal income tax cuts as its centrepiece.
The three-stage tax plan kicks off with a $530 cut for the average earner and comes at a time of slow wages growth.
  • Updated May 15 2018 at 11:00 PM

Why investors should take notice of rising bond rates

by Mark Draper
Are the bond market ghosts of 1994 coming back to haunt us, or is this as high as long-term interest rates rise? That's unknowable at this stage, but investors should ensure their portfolios can weather rising interest rates.
Investment strategies that worked well while interest rates fell are unlikely to be rewarded when rates rise.
Long-term interest rates, particularly the 10-year US bond rate (also known as the risk-free rate of return), are important to investors as an anchor point against which asset prices such as property and shares are measured. Generally speaking, a higher long-term interest rate results in lower asset prices, in the absence of earnings growth.

'Rich whingers' not as hard done by as Morrison would have you think

15 May 2018 — 2:07pm
As a boy I was interested in magic tricks, reading lots of books and learning to do a few. It taught me two terms that have proved invaluable to me as an economic journalist: “prestidigitation” and “sleight of hand”.
The trick is to draw the audience’s attention towards something else so they don’t notice you palming the coin or grabbing the rabbit you’ll supposedly produce from your top hat.
Politicians and their spin doctors are always trying to divert our attention from some embarrassing stuff-up, but it’s come to something when a treasurer produces a budget as tricksy as Scott Morrison’s effort last week.

Airport ID checks 'authoritarian' and won't improve safety: critics

By Patrick Hatch & Fergus Hunter
15 May 2018 — 5:19pm
New powers allowing police to order anyone in an airport to produce identification has been criticised as an "authoritarian" step that will do little to improve Australia's counter-terrorism efforts.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull conceded on Tuesday that the new powers were a significant step, but necessary for the "dangerous times" in which we live.
Australian Federal Police will be able to ask anyone for ID, with or without reason to suspect them of wrongdoing, and eject them from an airport as part of a security overhaul that will also see the introduction of advanced bag and body scanning machines in terminals across the country.

Three ships but only two options

By Nicholas Stuart
15 May 2018 — 4:50pm
Hold your breath, close your eyes tight, make a supreme effort of will. Is it really is possible to believe the dodgy assumptions and bask in the rosy glow accompanying the budget’s out year projections? Surplus? Sure thing!
Of course it will never happen, certainly not in the projected timeframe anyway, but that’s not really the point, is it? Fairy tales have a greater intersection with reality. Treasury forecasts are simply bedtime stories, designed reassure children and put us to sleep. So let’s leave all that and worry about something real.
This is where the government will splash the cash and spend your money. It also has the prospect of making a significant and real change to the future of our country along the way. Or not. The point is this $35 billion program will not just construct ships: it’s emerging as a critical factor that will shape the future of industry in this country.

Something will have to give in financial advice

By John Collett
15 May 2018 — 3:44pm
Revelations from the banking royal commission concerning financial advice will see changes in the way that advice is delivered.
The vertical integration business models of the banks, the "wealth" managers like AMP and some of the independently owned financial planning businesses, will likely be the focus of the royal commission's recommendations concerning financial advice.
This is where the financial institution makes the financial products and also employs the advisers, or is aligned to the advisers who distribute the products.

'We have a lot more work to do': Facebook has disabled 583m fake accounts in 2018

Updated16 May 2018 — 6:50amfirst published at 5:36am
Facebook revealed Tuesday that it removed more than half a billion fake accounts and millions of pieces of violent or obscene content during the first three months of 2018, pledging more transparency while shielding its chief executive from new public questioning about the company's business practices.
The findings, its first public look at internal moderation figures, illustrate the gargantuan task Facebook faces in cleaning up the world's largest social network, where artificial-intelligence systems and thousands of human moderators are fighting back a wave of offensive content and abuse.
"My top priorities this year are keeping people safe and developing new ways for our community to participate in governance and holding us accountable," wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a post, adding: "We have a lot more work to do."

Wages growth in first quarter smaller than forecast

  • James Glynn
  • Dow Jones
  • 11:33AM May 16, 2018
Australian wages rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.5 per cent in the first quarter from the final three months of 2017, and rose by 2.1 per cent from a year earlier, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Wages growth remains largely flat despite strong job additions across the economy in 2017.
Spare capacity in the job market remains elevated, with strong increases in participation preventing a fall in the unemployment rate over recent months.
  • Updated May 16 2018 at 8:09 AM

David Graeber's new book 'Bullshit Jobs: A Theory' calls time on your career

by Miranda Purves
If you voted for Bernie Sanders, have sea-punk green hair, and wear a pin declaring "Capitalism Is the Crisis", you may already be familiar with David Graeber's writings on the takeover of our lives by bullshit jobs.
Graeber, an anthropology professor at the London School of Economics, was a mover and shaker in the Occupy Wall Street movement and is well known for his approachable critiques of neoliberal free market ideology. His new book, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (Simon & Schuster; $US27), sprang from a shorter essay he published in 2013 in a feminist-activist magazine called Strike, which quickly struck a nerve. (One that kept thrumming: on a Monday morning in 2015, an anonymous group plastered the London Underground with quotations from the writings.)
"Huge swathes of people spend their days performing jobs they secretly believe do not really need to be performed," Graeber writes. The rise of automation has meant that fewer humans are needed in manufacturing and farming, but instead of this freeing up our time, we've seen those jobs replaced by "the ballooning of the administrative sector up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources and public relations."
  • Updated May 16 2018 at 11:00 PM

Labor's franking policy ignores behavioural response

Labor's franking credit policy will raise $550 million a year less than what Bill Shorten anticipates because of changes in investor behaviour, claims an alliance of shareholders, seniors and self-managed retirees.
The grand alliance, which includes the Australian Shareholders' Association, National Seniors Australia and SMSF Association, cites new Rice Warner analysis that suggests revenue gains will be weaker than the $10.7 billion that Labor expects in the first two years.
"There is going to be a strong behavioural response so I have concerns the tax revenue projections the ALP has done may not stand up," said alliance spokeswoman Deborah Ralston, who is chair of the SMSF Association, a non-executive director with Mortgage Choice and a professorial fellow at Monash University.

ASIC vows to use 'every inch' of its powers to ramp up bank scrutiny

By Clancy Yeates
17 May 2018 — 10:33am
The corporate watchdog will ramp up its surveillance of the wealth management arms of Australia’s major banks and AMP as it slammed the industry for failing to act in customers' interests and manage conflicts of interest.
After shock revelations at the royal commission in recent weeks, Australian Securities and Investments Commission chair James Shipton said the inquiry had highlighted “unacceptably poor” behaviour.
In a strongly-worded speech in Sydney, Mr Shipton said the finance sector’s failure to deal with conflicts of interest was “verging on a systemic issue,” and this lay at the heart of many of the finance sector’s problems.

Here's my big dangerous tax idea: let us keep our money

By Peter Martin
16 May 2018 — 9:32pm
Suddenly we’ve wised up. As far back as any of us can remember, all the way back to the beginning of income tax, we’ve been easy to bribe.
Here’s how it has worked in every election and in almost every budget: “You’ve been working hard and paying too much tax. We feel your pain. We’ve magically found some money from somewhere. We’re pulling a tax cut out of a hat. You can thank us later.”
That the rabbit was our own money, taken from us in ever-increasing amounts through an automatic process known as bracket creep, and then only partly returned, was the trick we weren’t invited to dwell on.

'Dangerous times, Neil': Turnbull's two-word explanation for impingement on our liberty

By Jacqueline Maley
18 May 2018 — 11:00am
It’s safe to assume Malcolm Turnbull has never been on the wrong side of an encounter with police.
If a radio interview he gave on Tuesday is any indication, our Prime Minister has a delightfully rosy understanding of police operations, in which coppers extend to persons of interest the same sort of courtly regard you might find among patrons of a gentleman’s club.
On Tuesday, Turnbull and his Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced new powers allowing police to stop people at airports and demand identification.

Ciobo makes 'symbolic' China address as businesses face difficulties

By Kirsty Needham
18 May 2018 — 4:50am
Shanghai: Trade Minister Steven Ciobo delivered a conciliatory speech overnight on the relationship between Australia and China, but businesses working China are complaining that the strains were evident.
Ciobo's address to 500 business people came as tension in the bilateral relationship was blamed for causing a slow-down in customs clearances for Australian products.
"When there is tension in the relationship, there is tension at the port," said an Australian business executive in Shanghai with several decades experience in China.
  • May 18 2018 at 4:00 PM

RBA taps into inflation fears in the US by going back to the 1960s

In the mid-1960s the Beatles were top of the pop charts, US President Lyndon Johnson was fighting the Vietnam War and the world's largest economy was heading for inflationary trouble.
Reserve Bank of Australia deputy governor Guy Debelle this week invoked the aforementioned era to signal some striking economic similarities to today that pose risks.
Over the six years to 1964, US inflation had been dormant.
Today inflation has been persistently tame since the 2008 global financial crisis, with only tentative signs of a recent firming.

Morrison's tax cuts aim way above the middle

18 May 2018 — 11:04pm
One thing to be said in favour of Scott Morrison’s complex three-step, seven-year tax plan is that his small tax cuts for the deserving middle income-earners are more likely to actually happen than the huge tax cuts for the undeserving high income-earners.
For the latter to eventuate, Malcolm Turnbull will have to be re-elected at least twice before July 2024. By contrast, the smaller cuts will start in six weeks’ time. For once it’s the rich who’re being promised pie in the sky (hopefully) before they die.
This means it’s wrong to simply compare the $530-a-year saving for people on middle incomes with the $7225-a-year saving for all of us struggling to get by on more than $200,000 a year.

Forget fixing corporate culture: here are four ways to curb misconduct

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM May 19, 2018

Adam Creighton

If I hear about culture, leadership or trust one more time I think I’m going to tear my hair out. The royal commission into financial misconduct has unleashed a barrage of calls for better, stronger and more resilient leadership and culture at the nation’s major financial institutions.
The new chief of the corporate regulator, James Shipton, gave a speech on Thursday emblematic of this trend, suggesting the “trust deficit” in finance could be improved by “rebuilding culture from deep within”, more “sustained engagement” and “active stewardship of assets by investors”, alongside “more intensive and dedicated supervision”.
“It’s time for Australia’s financial services sector to remember its purpose,” he declared, in words unlikely to ruffle a feather anywhere.

Simple piece of technology saving lives

By Patrick Walker & Daniel D'Hotman
20 May 2018 — 12:01am
Radiology has always been a highly skilled area of medicine; these doctors spend thousands of hours reading scans to identify health issues that no one else can see. However, they now have a new competitor: artificial intelligence.
Enlitic, run by Australian data scientist Jeremy Howard, has created AI that can diagnose lung cancer more accurately than board-certified radiologists. The best of the best are no longer just that.
This is only one example of the way technology is disrupting healthcare. Rapid technological advances in medicine recently led public intellectual Aubrey De Grey to state that the first person to live to 1000 years has already been born.

Is talk of Australia's 'anti-China' bias a weaponised narrative?

By Chris Zappone
20 May 2018 — 12:15am
Since the Turnbull government flagged plans to implement new national security laws last year, talk of Australia’s "hostility" to China and Chinese people has risen.
Just last month, China’s ambassador Cheng Jingye warned that trade with China could be affected and cited worries that Chinese students in Australia had been subjected to “irresponsible and malicious allegations” and “security and safety incidents”.
Julie Bishop hits back at former Australian ambassador to China, Geoff Raby, who claimed that relations with Beijing can only improve with the foreign minister's sacking.

National Budget Issues.

Budget tax cuts the worst piece of tax policy design in recent history

By Jessica Irvine
14 May 2018 — 12:01am
Let’s not beat around the bush. The package of income tax cuts announced in last week’s budget is the worst piece of tax design in recent history. It’s not tax reform. Far from it.
In the early years, it’s a retrograde piece of policy design that adds to the complexity of the system and produces new disincentives to work, particularly for part-time working women (Happy Mother's Day, by the way).
In the out years, it is the most seriously regressive assault on Australia’s highly targeted tax and transfer system in many a decade – a fundamental reshape of our social contract, sprung out of nowhere on an election eve.

Morrison’s budget ‘to leave us better off’

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM May 14, 2018

Simon Benson

Scott Morrison’s third budget has been strongly backed by voters, according to the latest Newspoll, which found more people ­believed it would leave them ­financially better off rather than worse off.
This is the first time since Peter Costello’s final budget, delivered in 2007, that more people than not believed their own circumstances would be improved.
However, the Turnbull government has ground to make up with its own voter base, with ­retirees and pensioners declaring that they stand to be worse off, with little in the budget for them.

Compare Labor and Liberal personal tax plans

By Caitlin Fitzsimmons
12 May 2018 — 4:22pm
The political battle lines have been drawn over tax.
You've no doubt heard the federal budget handed down on Tuesday includes personal tax cuts. You may also have heard Labor is backing some of it but has its own plans as well.
So how do the two tax policies stack up side by side?
The Coalition has dropped plans to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme through a permanent increase in Medicare levy and unveiled an ambitious schedule of tax cuts to take place in three stages over seven years.

Labor’s plan to restore ‘lost’ hospital funding

  • The Australian
  • 11:09AM May 15, 2018

Sean Parnell

Bill Shorten’s $2.8bn public hospitals pledge does not commit a future Labor government to alter the underlying funding formula that sparked the Opposition’s ongoing attacks on the Coalition.
Instead, the extra money — which Labor calculates is the difference between the Commonwealth funding 50 per cent of growth, as it once promised, or 45 per cent as occurs now — will be set aside. It is still unclear where that money will be spent.
As Mr Shorten visited the Logan hospital in Queensland yesterday, Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King would only say Labor remained committed to activity-based funding, not that it would alter the Commonwealth’s contribution to growth.

Budget tax cuts not enough to boost consumer sentiment

Shane Wright, Economics Editor The West Australian
Wednesday, 16 May 2018 11:17AM
Consumer confidence fell in the wake of Scott Morrison’s third Budget, with a majority of Australians expecting it to do nothing or even hurt their own finances.
The Westpac-Melbourne Institute measure of consumer sentiment edged down by 0.6 per cent in May. It was its second consecutive drop in the measure.
Respondents were asked about the expected impact of the Budget on family finances.
Just 10 per cent said they expected their own finances to improved, 58 per cent said it would have no impact while 19 per cent said it would worsen their overall finances.

Chris Bowen ‘pleads guilty’ to paying for policies following Scott Morrison’s retirees claim

  • The Australian
  • 9:23AM May 16, 2018

Rachel Baxendale

Labor treasury spokesman Chris Bowen says he “pleads guilty” to paying for his policies, after Treasury and Parliamentary Budget Office estimates suggested about a third of his party’s proposed new tax revenue will come from scrapping dividend imputation credit refunds.
As The Australian revealed today, the scrapping of franking credit refunds form the biggest revenue raiser in Labor’s $30 billion short-term tax measures, prompting Treasurer Scott Morrison to accuse the opposition of using older Australians to fund a spending splurge.
Mr Bowen, who will today outline Labor’s plan to match the government’s early return to surplus and tackle national debt in an address to the National Press Club, said Mr Morrison’s claims showed he was now accepting Labor’s figures on the dividend imputation policy.

Moody's just cast doubt over the Australian government's plan to deliver an earlier budget surplus

May 16, 2018, 3:37 PM
  • Australia’s federal government expects to deliver a budget surplus in the 2019/20 fiscal year, 12 months earlier than previously forecast.
  • Moody’s Investors Service says an earlier return to surplus is unlikely, citing concerns about the government’s expenditure and revenue projections.
  • It still believes the budget underscores Australia’s fiscal strength, noting this is a key support for retaining Australia’s Aaa sovereign credit rating with a stable ratings outlook.
Treasurer Scott Morrison delivered Australia’s federal budget last week, including news the government now expects to deliver a budget surplus in the 2019/20 fiscal year, 12 months earlier that projected 12 months ago.

$3 billion in lost super to be reunited in NSW and Victoria

By Eryk Bagshaw
19 May 2018 — 12:01am

In numbers

·         People impacted by fee and administration cost ban in NSW 1.64 million
·         People impacted by fee and administration cost ban in Victoria 1.25 million
·         Reduction in insurance premiums Australia-wide $3 billion
·         Number of people to have super accounts reunited in NSW and Victoria 1.5 million
·         Amount to be reunited Australia-wide $6 billion$6 billion
More than 1.5 million workers in NSW and Victoria will have multiple superannuation accounts combined into one as part of a major revamp of the sector that will force Labor to decide if it will support powerful union-backed industry funds.

Health Budget Issues.

Pneumococcal vaccination: acts of omission

Authored by Robert Menzies, Heather Gidding, Anthony Newall
ACTOR Bob Hoskins died from pneumonia aged 71 years in 2014, as did ABC Radio National presenter Alan Saunders (57) in 2012, actor/singer Brittany Murphy (32) in 2009, the “godfather of soul” James Brown (73) in 2006, cricket legend Sir Donald Bradman (92) in 2001, American cosmologist Carl Sagan (62) in 1996 and actor Fred Astaire (88) in 1987. While some of these identities had other concurrent illnesses, others did not. Some were elderly, some were not.
Far from “the old man’s friend”, pneumonia ends lives prematurely, even in wealthy countries in the 21st century with access to the best health care. The most common cause of pneumonia – Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus – is estimated to cause around 20% of pneumonia in Australia and more than 15 000 GP visits, 8000 hospitalisations and 2000 deaths in Australians aged 65 years and over each year

ACCC renews pursuit of Medibank over out-of-pocket charges

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM May 16, 2018

Sean Parnell

The consumer watchdog will today launch a renewed bid to prosecute health fund Medibank over changes to its coverage of in-hospital pathology and radiology services, amid an ongoing debate over the value of insurance.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has ­accused Medibank of making false, misleading or deceptive representations and engaging in unconscionable conduct by failing to adequately inform members of changes.
But Federal Court judge David O’Callaghan last year concluded there had been no sufficient requirement for, or commitment by, Medibank to notify members beforehand.

High costs, big gaps driving Australians away from health insurance

By Esther Han
16 May 2018 — 1:46pm

In numbers

·         Australians who decided not to renew their private health insurance 256,000
·         Those with no insurance who said it was too expensive 53%
·         Cumulative premium price hike since 2008 70%
A quarter of a million Australians did not renew their private health insurance in the past year, a new survey shows.
An ongoing Roy Morgan survey involving 50,000 face-to-face interviews every year found 256,000 Australians who had health insurance at some point in their lives chose not to renew it in the year to March 2018.
This won't hurt a bit: More than 250,000 Australians didn’t renew private health insurance over the past year.

Private health insurance figures look sickly

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM May 18, 2018

Sean Parnell

Private hospital insurance coverage has fallen to its lowest level since June 2011, with not even a seasonal increase in health fund members enough to stop the ongoing decline.
According to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, 45.5 per cent of the population had hospital cover in the March quarter, down from a high of 47.4 per cent three years ago, with value-for-money issues still a major concern.
While a net increase of 10,481 members kept the decline to 0.1 per cent, it was half the quarterly surge experienced in previous years.

Autism to face cutbacks in NDIS as secret plan revealed

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM May 19, 2018

Rick Morton

A secret plan to restrict the access of autistic people to the $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme would prevent them from qualifying “automatically” for taxpayer-funded support as part of a sweeping overhaul to rein in costs.
The Weekend Australian has confirmed bureaucrats have been working on a strategy since late last year to pare back the number of people with autism receiving funding packages.
The agency running the NDIS accidentally published part of its plan to restrict access for autism cases on Monday when it updated a list of pre-qualifying conditions for the scheme. It later suggested it had “incorrectly” posted the wrong document.
A mid-ranking National Disability Insurance Agency staff member, without the knowledge of the deputy chief executive ­responsible, altered a list of conditions for autism spectrum disorders, which was not meant to be made public.

International Issues.

Trump set toughest test yet for Europe

By Andrew Hammond
13 May 2018 — 3:06pm
London: Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, says Europe is “determined to keep the Iran deal in place”, in complete contrast with US President Donald Trump's determination to scrap it.
Germany is ready to help its firms continue doing business in Iran, its economy minister said on Friday, as the US envoy to Berlin called into question the morality of such transactions.
The clash between the United States and the EU is exacerbating  transatlantic tensions that may  be difficult to manage, not least with separate bilateral battles over trade issues in play too.

Donald Trump's freewheeling deals are starting to hurt the economy, say analysts

By Tim Wallace
Updated14 May 2018 — 10:10am first published at 10:00am
Donald Trump's freewheeling policies are beginning to damage the American economy as exuberance over tax cuts turns to fear on trade and oil prices, it is claimed.
Crude costs are approaching $US80 per barrel, their highest level since 2014, and analysts fear the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal will make the situation worse. "If a new Iran deal is not reached in the next six months or Opec/Russia extend production cuts into 2019, global oil markets would likely tighten further," said Francisco Blanch at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Oxford Economics has raised its forecast for oil prices to an average of $US72 for 2018, which it fears could have serious repercussions for the economy.

Indonesian church attack family had returned from Syria: police

By Amilia Rosa
14 May 2018 — 11:47am
Jakarta: The family suspected of the trio of church suicide bombings in Indonesia had recently returned from Syria before the attack, Indonesian authorities said.
Motorbikes in a parking lot went up in flames after suicide bombers attacked churches in Indonesia's second-largest city of Surabaya, killing at least six and wounding more than 35 others.
Indonesia's police chief, Tito Karnavian, said the family of six suspected in the attacks on three Christian churches in Indonesia's Surabaya city on Sunday morning had recently returned from the war-torn Middle Eastern nation.
  • Updated May 14 2018 at 5:30 AM

US secret report: China 'debt trap' on Australia's doorstep

Chinese loans worth hundreds of billions of dollars are saddling Australia's smaller regional neighbours with unsustainable debts and giving Beijing crucial economic leverage to gain strategic and military power, warns a new independent report written for the US State Department.
The US report identifies 16 states vulnerable to China's so-called "debtbook diplomacy" and economic coercion, including Vanuatu, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Tonga and Micronesia.
The paper, obtained by The Australian Financial Review, says Papua New Guinea has "historically been in Australia's orbit" but there is alarm that PNG has been "rapidly taking on Chinese loans it can't afford to pay and offers a strategic location in addition to significant LNG and resource deposits".
  • Updated May 14 2018 at 11:00 PM

China relations can only be unfrozen with Julie Bishop's sacking

Once again Australian foreign policy seems to be missing in action. As events unfold at remarkable speed in our area of most strategic interest – north-east Asia – Australia finds itself unable to engage with the key participant at the centre of those events: namely China.
Since Australia decided to adopt a policy of strategic mistrust towards China, any semblance of influence has waned to the point where relations are now in the freezer.
In terms of Australia's geopolitical interests, the freeze on our relationship with China could not have come at a worse time. It was once widely understood in Canberra, but apparently no longer, that we need to have good and close relations with China not just for trade and commercial reasons but because China is critical to all the major international issues of interest to Australia and none more so than peace and stability in north-east Asia.

Hillary Clinton's warning to Australia on Chinese influence

By Jenny Noyes
14 May 2018 — 9:03pm
Hillary Clinton has issued a warning to Australia not to be complacent about foreign interference, especially from China.
Appearing on ABC's 7.30 on Monday night, the former US presidential candidate spoke about the issue of Russian interference in the election she lost to Donald Trump in 2016.
Ms Clinton was pressed by host Leigh Sales on what she would do differently, and what advice she would give to the next Democratic presidential candidate. Her answer: "I would not let anything go unanswered" – meaning, in particular, the proliferation of fake news propaganda being spread via Facebook and "paid for in roubles".

Fully loaded pigeons have come home to roost

  • Clive Williams
  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM May 15, 2018
Three church bombings in Surabaya during Sunday services, killing at least 18 people and wounding more than 40, and the bombing of a police station in the same city yesterday killing 10 are merely the latest manifestations of an increase in terrorist ­activity in Indonesia.
Attacks on two other churches were planned for Sunday, but those bombs failed to detonate. The church attacks apparently were carried out by members of one family. Yesterday’s attack involved members of another family.
Churches are targeted by Indonesian extremists who oppose the practising of other religions there. But this is the first attack on places of worship since 2011. The worst attack on churches in the past 20 years was on Christmas Eve 2000, when co-ordinated bombings of churches in Jakarta, Pekanbaru, Medan, Bandung, Batam Island, Mojokerto, Mataram and Sukabumi killed many worshippers.
  • Updated May 15 2018 at 8:09 AM

Italy's new coalition government sets up a 'eurozone accident waiting to happen'

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
If followers of Italy's neo-anarchist Five Star Movement, popularly known as Grillini, had combined with anti-euro Lega nationalists two or three years ago to form an insurgent government, it would have set off panic in the bond markets.
At the weekend, Luigi di Maio, head of the Five Star Movement that garnered more than 30 per cent of the vote in Italy's March election, and Matteo Salvini, head of the Lega, or League, said they were working to form a coalition government. 
Bow that this twin-headed populist hydra is upon investors, risk spreads have barely moved. Yields on two-year Italian bonds ended last week at minus 0.10 per cent.

Unintended consequences: How Trump is threatening the US dollar

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
15 May 2018 — 2:38pm
The erratic nature of policy-making in the Trump era may produce unintended consequences.
Trump’s fixation with America’s trade deficit and the nature of the sanctions imposed on Russia and Iran could, for instance, aid China’s long-term ambition to erode the status of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency.
Today, the US dollar is used on one side of nearly 90 per cent of all global foreign exchange transactions and the world’s central banks hold about 63 per cent of their reserves in US dollars. About 40 per cent of global trade is denominated in US dollars. US trade deficits are an outcome of the world’s demand for US dollars – the need to acquire US dollars because it is the primary global medium of exchange.
  • Updated May 16 2018 at 11:45 PM

Democracies no longer have a strategy

by William Hague
To be Britain's foreign secretary is to live in a whirl of rushed meetings, urgent calls, fast-moving cavalcades and waiting aircraft. You become adept at trying to hold a calm phone conversation with one foreign counterpart while another one sits next to you in a car lurching around with sirens blaring and yet another presidential palace recedes in the mirror.
Eventually, you crave discussing what matters most with people you really trust, and with no agenda or deadline. So it was a relief to me when sometimes the foreign ministers of Australia or Canada would say "Let's have a bottle of wine and discuss the strategy of the Western world", which we would proceed to do. In my time in office, which was pre-Trump, this was a discussion I could also have with the US secretary of state. I recall Hillary Clinton, another one who sometimes proposed the quiet chat and glass of wine, vehemently advocating a strong lead from America to defend Western values with a unifying approach - all with more passion and animation than the voters ever got to see in her.

Anwar walks free from prison and into political limelight

By James Massola
16 May 2018 — 1:46pm
Kuala Lumpur: Anwar Ibrahim, the man who has been a symbol of hope for Malaysian anti-corruption and democracy campaigners for 20 years, walked free from custody on Wednesday and vowed to support newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his own wife, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah.
Anwar, 70, left a Kuala Lumpur hospital at 11.30am local time, after receiving a long-awaited royal pardon just an hour earlier.
The former Malaysian opposition leader had been imprisoned on politically-motivated sodomy charges.
  • Updated May 18 2018 at 7:58 AM

Gina Haspel confirmed by US Senate as first woman CIA director

The US Senate confirmed Gina Haspel to be director of the CIA, ending a bruising confirmation fight centred on her ties to the spy agency's past use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation techniques.
Haspel, who will be the first woman to lead the CIA, is a 33-year veteran at the agency currently serving as its acting director. The tally was 54-45 in favour of her nomination in the 100-member chamber, where a simple majority was required for confirmation.
Six Democrats joined President Donald Trump's fellow Republicans in voting for Haspel, and two Republicans voted no.

Truth and post-truth appear to be on brink of collision in Trump saga

By Nick O'Malley
17 May 2018 — 1:53pm
Truth and post-truth appear to be at the brink of collision.
New details about Alexander Downer’s accidental role in launching the Mueller investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin have emerged at a critical time for the ongoing inquiries into the 2016 election and its aftermath.
US President Donald Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the 2016 election needs to end.

Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon

By Damian Paletta & Josh Dawsey
19 May 2018 — 9:14am
President Donald Trump has personally pushed US Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.
Brennan has so far resisted Trump's demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a group of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.
Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery.
I look forward to comments on all this!

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