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, October 25, 2018

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

October 25, 2018 Edition.
The big news will be how the bye-election in Wentworth finally turns out and what that might mean for the myHR and related topics. It looks pretty tight.
In the US Trump is pulling out of Nuclear Treaties with Russia, wandering around campaigning for the mid-term elections and being equivocal on that he thinks of  the murdering Saudis. Worse for him the world's stockmarkets have crashed and makes him look a less than useful economic manager - might affect the upcoming elections in the US.
Brexit looks to be going to end is a disaster.
In OZ leading up to the bye-election it has been chaos – not stability – so let’s see what happens next. I really believe this Government is near terminal.

Major Issues.

'Australia is in trouble': The plan to fix Australia's tax system

Australia has more than 125 taxes at a state and federal level, but 90 per cent of revenue is raised through just 10 of them. The pressure is now on to tear up the system and start again.
By Eryk Bagshaw
15 October 2018
The tax-free threshold would be scrapped, tax rates would increase for every $1000 of income earned, and savings would be targeted by the tax office under one of the most ambitious blueprints for economic reform seen in a decade.
The proposal has been unveiled as leading economists and powerful lobby groups on either end of the political spectrum - the Australian Council for Social Services and the Business Council of Australia - demand a new wave of reform, warning Australia must overhaul its 20th century tax system or risk leaving workers, welfare recipients and business behind.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers tax plan, released to Fairfax Media, argues for major tax changes given the budget is inching towards a surplus for the first time in a decade and policy-makers have more flexibility than at any time since the global financial crisis.

Fairfax-Ipsos poll: Huge majority of Australians oppose laws banning gay students and teachers

By David Crowe
14 October 2018 — 7:58pm
Australian voters have strongly rejected laws to allow religious schools to discriminate against gay students and teachers, in a widening political storm over special exemptions to be challenged in Parliament this week.
The overwhelming finding widens the row over the power of religious schools to hire and fire teachers on the basis of their sexual orientation, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison vows to end similar rights to expel gay students.
A Fairfax-Ipsos poll shows the Coalition remaining steady, but struggling to gain ground on Labor, a week out from the Wentworth by-election.

The startling fact about Morrison, Shorten and the schools' gay ban

By Sean Kelly
15 October 2018 — 12:10am
Here’s something I hate. A politician gets a question. They’re being asked because it’s top of mind, it’s a big story, everyone wants to know – but the politician says, “I just don’t think the Australian people are interested in that.”
All of them do it, but the most recent deluge came when Scott Morrison took over from Malcolm Turnbull. Repeatedly asked why he was now Prime Minister, Morrison got into the habit of telling us what we were actually interested in: drought, electricity, house prices. Well, yes, but most of us would have ticked "all of the above".
It’s part of a politician’s job to figure out what voters think. But you might hope, after years in which more and more people have decided to vote for anyone but the major parties, their confidence that they know exactly what voters care about – or at least their brazen willingness to boast about it - might have taken a little bit of a dent.

'Winter is coming': global economy is turning into a battleground, fear finance chiefs

By Andrew Mayeda & Enda Curran
15 October 2018 — 7:02am
Global finance chiefs warned that tensions over trade and rising interest rates threaten to turn the world economy into a battleground just as global growth peaks.
A year since they toasted the most synchronised expansion in years, policy makers at the IMF's annual meeting fretted this week that the upswing may come apart as governments turn inward and the Federal Reserve creates ripples by tightening monetary policy.
As scenes from the medieval fantasy TV series "Game of Thrones" played on giant screens above him, Indonesian President Joko Widodo proclaimed 'Winter is coming' - a line from the series underscoring the need for constant vigilance against external threats.

Australia heading for a 'battle royale' on solar power

By Cole Latimer
15 October 2018 — 12:15am
The sharply rising levels of rooftop and grid-level solar power will force difficult discussions as Australia reaches a solar peak, energy chiefs say.
Australia has been installing around 100 megawatts of new solar power every month in 2018 and there are predictions that the country could become the first country in the world where the grid cannot handle the excess level of distributed electricity generated. That would mean the power generated would be wasted as it could not be transported to where it could be used.
 “It’s feast or famine with renewables, they’re all turned on or all turned off at the same time,” EnergyAustralia director Mark Collette told Fairfax Media.

All eyes on Australian review as Facebook wheels out big guns

By John McDuling
15 October 2018 — 12:15am
One of Facebook's most senior American lawyers was in Sydney last week, as Australian regulators prepare to move their world-first inquiry into digital platforms into the next, decisive phase.
Samantha Knox, Facebook's associate general counsel, was flown out from the US for two legal industry events and to meet with Facebook's local lawyers and management in Sydney.
Facebook has discovered a security flaw affecting about 50 million user accounts which could have allowed attackers to take over those accounts.

Subprime lending isn’t dead, it’s just moved house

  • 5:15AM October 15, 2018
One consequence of the banking royal commission along with APRA’s crackdown on residential investor lending will be an explosion in non-bank subprime lending.
There are five significant non-bank residential mortgage lenders currently writing $15-20 billion a year. Some estimates put the hole they’ll have to fill next year – left by the retreating banks – at somewhere between $50 and 70 billion.
The non-bank lenders are: Pepper Money, Liberty Finance, La Trobe Financial, Home Loans Ltd and First Mac. They offer a range of home loan products from prime to subprime, including low-doc, low deposit, interest only and SMSF – categories of lending that the banks have now almost entirely abandoned.
That’s not just because they have been monstered by the royal commission, although that is definitely a factor, but because APRA has changed risk-weightings in line with its policy of requiring the banks to be “unquestionably strong”, especially with the property market now in decline.
  • Oct 15 2018 at 1:45 PM

Ten reasons why the world economy will crash by 2020

by Nouriel Roubini and Brunello Rosa
As we mark the decennial of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, there are still ongoing debates about the causes and consequences of the financial crisis, and whether the lessons needed to prepare for the next one have been absorbed. But looking ahead, the more relevant question is what actually will trigger the next global recession and crisis, and when.
The current global expansion will likely continue into next year, given that the US is running large fiscal deficits, China is pursuing loose fiscal and credit policies, and Europe remains on a recovery path. But by 2020, the conditions will be ripe for a financial crisis, followed by a global recession.
There are 10 reasons for this. First, the fiscal-stimulus policies that are currently pushing the annual US growth rate above its 2 per cent potential are unsustainable. By 2020, the stimulus will run out, and a modest fiscal drag will pull growth from 3 per cent to slightly below 2 per cent.

Viral letter to PM shows the people are united

By Dr Sara Townend
16 October 2018 — 12:00am
The Prime Minister’s rejection of the Australian Medical Association’s call for the transfer of the asylum seeker and refugee children and their families off Nauru has been swift but it hasn’t deterred us.
Now, just over two weeks later, more than 5600 doctors and medical students from around the country say they agree.
They’ve signed an open letter to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison. A letter we felt compelled to write because the situation on Nauru is a medical emergency and demands an emergency response.
  • Updated Oct 16 2018 at 11:00 PM

Markets could trigger the next global recession: PIMCO

President Donald Trump will wait until after next month's mid-term elections before seeking a detente in the escalating trade tensions between the US and China, the global economic adviser to one of the world's biggest bond fund managers said.
Joachim Fels of PIMCO, an investment business with $2.4 trillion under management, also warned that a financial market crash "definitely" could trigger a global economic downturn and that the turmoil in financial markets over the past two weeks was "a very early whiff" of this.
"You could argue the last two recessions, in 2008-09 and the one in the early 2000s, were caused by a sharp correction in asset prices rather than the other way around," the California-based Mr Fels told The Australian Financial Review in Sydney on Tuesday.
  • Updated Oct 17 2018 at 8:21 AM

Wages to 'pick up gradually': RBA

A meaningful pick-up in wage growth looks set to remain elusive as economic growth over the next few years gradually reduces spare capacity in the labour market, deputy Reserve Bank governor Guy Debelle said.
The labour market remains in "pretty good shape," Mr Debelle said in a speech in Sydney on Wednesday.
The unemployment rate has dropped 1 percentage point since its recent peak in October 2014 to 5.3 per cent, with falls across all states and territories and age groups.

The reason why our PM shouldn't be picking fights with Saudi Arabia

By Nicholas Stuart
16 October 2018 — 10:00pm
Before he became Prime Minister, Scott Morrison’s education appears to have missed one particularly important point. If you want to keep Australia happy, keep petrol cheap. Never mind about the politics and morals of executions; never mind about whatever happy-clappy religious views you may personally happen to have about the middle east, or if our Israeli embassy should be in Jerusalem – the point is our society will stop without fuel. Australia desperately needs oil.
The strategists know this and that’s why we’re meant to have a 90 day stockpile of this precious substance. Instead, the sell-off of this critical strategic reserve has been continuing despite increasingly urgent warnings from the likes of retired air vice marshal John Blackburn. He’s been pointing out (for years, now, and to a wilfully deaf audience) how we’ve become increasingly leveraged in our dependence on oil. Today this is catastrophically limiting any option for strategic manoeuvre.
Australia may move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, following US president Donald Trump's lead.
  • Oct 17 2018 at 10:49 AM

Politics puts the skids under bull market

Bull markets, it is said, climb a wall of worry. When the last worrier turns into a fully invested optimist, the market has nowhere to go but down. That might be what has just happened: so much optimism was already in the prices of financial assets — in the US, above all — that once worry returned they had nowhere to go but down.
How far might unfolding events exacerbate the worries? A long way, is the answer.
As the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank last week made clear, reasons for concern abound. Above all, a struggle between old and new superpowers has arrived. This may change everything.

'Dirty tricks': Fake email sent to Wentworth voters claims Kerryn Phelps has HIV

By Jenny Noyes
17 October 2018 — 9:11pm
A bizarre fake email scandal has blown up in the final days of the Wentworth byelection campaign after hundreds of voters were falsely informed that Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps was withdrawing from the campaign over an HIV diagnosis.
The email, the source of which is currently unknown, urges its recipients to "divert" their vote to Dave Sharma and "use all your phone, messenger and social media, and show support for Dave Sharma on your facebook too."
A bizarre fake email scandal has blown up in the final days of the Wentworth byelection campaign claiming Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps was withdrawing from the race.

Unemployment rate hits seven-year low

By Alex Druce
18 October 2018 — 11:53am
The unemployment rate edged 0.3 per cent lower to a seven-year low of 5 per cent in September, bettering market expectations.
The number of people with a job increased by 5600 on seasonally adjusted estimates, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show.
Economists had forecast that the unemployment rate would be unchanged.
  • Oct 18 2018 at 11:00 PM

Senate warned over Australia's lack of fuel security

A lack of coherent policy for managing Australia's liquid fuel reserves represents a risk to national security, according to retired Air Vice-Marshal John Blackburn.
Earlier this year, Australia's liquid fuel reserves dropped to 22 days supply for crude oil, 59 days for LPG, 20 days for petrol, 19 days for aviation fuel and 21 days for diesel.
The International Energy Agency expects member countries to keep 90-day supplies of net oil imports, which it says Australia fails to comply with.
  • Updated Oct 18 2018 at 2:00 PM

AMP Capital cuts housing forecast, predicts 20pc decline in Sydney and Melbourne

AMP Capital has cut its outlook for the housing market to predict a peak-to-trough decline of 20 per cent in Sydney and Melbourne.
Persistently low auction clearance rates, along with tighter credit and the prospect of reduced negative gearing and capital gains tax deductions for property investors under a federal Labor government, prompted the financial services group to deepen the fall it expected in prices in the two largest cities from the 15 per cent decline it last predicted in March, chief economist Shane Oliver said on Thursday.
"We are now allowing for a 20 per cent decline in prices in these cities, again spread out to 2020, which would take average prices back to first half 2015 levels," Dr Oliver said.

'Astonishing shambles': Nothing is working for the Morrison government

By David Crowe
19 October 2018 — 12:00am
It seemed fitting that week eight of the Morrison government ended with the lights flickering on the Parliament House computer network and the communications coming to a halt.
Scott Morrison’s new administration was left with frozen screens as everyone waited for emails that never arrived. Those who thought Australian politics was broken suddenly had an online apocalypse to prove it.
Former prime minister John Howard says a protest vote at the Wentworth byelection would make things more difficult for the Morrison government.

'If you want to worry about something ... this is it': Central banks, investors sound alarm

By Paul Colgan
19 October 2018 — 11:28am
The central banks of the UK and Australia have both raised red flags about the rapid expansion of so-called leveraged loans and associated products that have invited comparisons to the toxic debt vehicles that triggered the global financial crisis.
In documents published just days apart, both the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Bank of England have expressed clear concern at the growth in leveraged loans, which have doubled in issuance since the GFC and now stand at over $US1 trillion ($1.4 trillion).
In addition, official statements from both central banks over the past week noted a weakening of lending standards for leveraged loans as the market has ballooned.

Safety in numbers as navy plays a risky game

  • 11:00PM October 18, 2018
The decision to sail a Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate through the Taiwan Strait occurs at a time of rapidly escalating naval competition in the South China Sea. The US Navy and the People’s Liberation Army Navy are bumping elbows in the crowded waterways off China’s southern coast. Both sides are becoming increasingly forthright.
In May, China dispatched ships and aircraft to ward off two US Navy warships that had sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, which China has militarised and claimed as its own. And earlier this month, the USS Decatur was forced to take evasive action after a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer bore headlong towards it, coming within 41m of a catastrophic collision and a full-blown international incident.
These incidents follow years of provocative and unlawful Chinese behaviour that has seen Beijing place missile batteries, radar stations and military runways deep in the South China Sea.

Australians overtake Swiss to lead world in median wealth stakes

By Jessica Irvine
19 October 2018 — 4:51pm
Move over Davos. We might not feel it, but the typical Australian is richer than the typical person in any other country in the world, according to a survey.
Australia has seized from Switzerland the global title of having the highest "median wealth per adult", in Credit Suisse's 2018 Global Wealth Report released on Friday.
Not only are Australians relatively rich by global standards, our wealth is more evenly distributed across the population than many other countries, it finds.

'If it’s good enough for drugs, it’s good enough for tax policy'

Economists are unanimous, the current crop of political leaders have not been able to get the job done. How will the next generation fix Australia's tax system?

By Eryk Bagshaw
20 October 2018 — 12:01am
John Freebairn has a blunt view of the last 10 years of Australian politics: "To be honest, we've done SFA."
Put even more simply: sweet f-- all. In three letters the former advisor on the landmark Henry tax review and the Ritchie chair of economics at the University of Melbourne characterises how many feel about Australia’s lost decade of reform.

Interest rate rises only a matter of time, despite property gloom

By Jessica Irvine
20 October 2018 — 12:15am
Do you reckon the Reserve Bank may be forced to cut interest rates to counter declines in house prices? Allow me to disavow you of that impression.
Of course, a truly precipitous fall in house prices that led to a complete consumer spending freeze, which led to businesses shelving plans to hire staff, could indeed throw a spanner in the works.
But house price declines of the order tipped by most economists - of about 10 to 20 per cent off peak prices - are far from constituting a true "housing crash" - of which there is no accepted definition, by the way.

Wentworth: no excuse for copying Trump on Israel or Iran

  • 11:00PM October 19, 2018
The Wentworth by-election will have an ignominious legacy regardless of its result — witness the profound and panicked foreign policy trauma it has exposed with such manifest damage to Australia’s national interest.
The policy changes foreshadowed this week by Scott Morrison in relation to Israel and Iran are unwise, unjustified and dangerous. These are personal decisions taken by the Prime Minister, yet he singularly failed to make any convincing case for such significant changes in our foreign policy.
The claims by some government apologists that these were desirable steps but undermined by the domestic political motive of the by-election are nonsense. This was appalling process and misconceived policy bordering on the irresponsible. The only issue is how much damage will be done to Australia’s national interests as a consequence of entirely unnecessary decisions.

Dear Scott Morrison, downward slide is about to get steeper

  • 11:00PM October 19, 2018
I didn’t get around to making the observation that I used to as a matter of course when somebody first became prime minister or premier — usually, in those “good old days’’, when they did so by winning an election — when Scott Morrison ascended to the top job.
That is: Congratulations prime minster/premier, you are enjoying the best day in the rest of your life; it’s unfortunately all downhill from here. And if I felt particularly inclined to be gratuitous, I might have added something like: you do know, this can only and will end badly?
Maybe, I got out of the habit when we “replaced’’ the “old-fashioned’’ process with the sparkling new 21st century model of switching especially PMs between elections. Maybe, because it was or should have become so blindingly self-evident: none of them ended well.
  • Updated Oct 20 2018 at 9:07 PM

Kerryn Phelps elected, Liberals punished in Wentworth bloodbath

Australia has its second hung Parliament this decade after voters in the seat of Wentworth punished the Liberal Party for dumping Malcolm Turnbull as leader and elected independent Kerryn Phelps in a bloodbath.
In what looms as the biggest byelection swing in Australian political history, the rout was even worse than the government feared.
With over 40 per cent of the vote counted, the seat the conservatives had held for 117 years was lost, and Scott Morrison and his fledgling government was dealt a severe blow. Mr Morrison said voters had punished the party for dumping Mr Turnbull. Dr Phelps said it was a signal voters wanted "decency, integrity and humanity" in politics.

Wentworth hiding puts Morrison government on course for general election catastrophe

By David Crowe
20 October 2018 — 8:54pm
This was a swift and savage message to Scott Morrison that puts him in a diabolical position in Parliament and sets him on course for catastrophe at the next election.
The Prime Minister now faces an immense challenge in running the government until an election in May next year when he has lost his majority in Parliament, making an early election a possibility.
Worse, he governs with an unsteady party room of Liberal MPs who will bicker over anything and make their leader’s job impossible.

Progress Scott Morrison doesn't want to advertise

By Peter Hartcher
20 October 2018 — 12:00am
After years on Nauru, 15 asylum seekers, all in families, flew to Australia on Monday. Three more families travelled on Tuesday. Yet more left on Wednesday. And another seven families on Thursday, according to a briefing that Immigration Minister David Coleman gave crossbench members of Parliament this week. All families, all with kids, all travelling on medical advice that they need treatment in Australia.
With dozens of asylum seekers arriving this week, a Greens senator, Nick McKim, said that the "the whole edifice is crumbling before our very eyes". The government had "lost control". At the same time, Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie used question time to ask Scott Morrison to bring all the remaining children from Nauru to Australia temporarily for medical treatment. Would he?
Dr O'Connor from Médecins Sans Frontières says refugee children have presented with depression and anxiety, with children as young as nine attempting suicide. Many children are also suffering traumatic withdrawal syndrome, unable to eat

Why the big questions about Barnaby Joyce are so important

By Jacqueline Maley
21 October 2018 — 12:03am
An attempt by Barnaby Joyce to reclaim the Nationals’ leadership seems increasingly a matter of when, not if.
Nationals leader Michael McCormack is regarded within the party as a good man, but placid and largely unknown to voters. Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is well respected for his intelligence and integrity, but he will not challenge the leader, and at 42, it is in his interests to wait for his own time.
Part confessional, part profile piece; the controversial interview for which Barnaby Joyce and his partner Vikki Campion were paid $150,000 for their new son Sebastian attempted to set the record straight on 7's Sunday Night.

Financial Services Royal Commission Issues.

  • Updated Oct 14 2018 at 11:00 PM

Banks, AMP facing $6 billion bill for customer refunds, reviews and litigation

Leading banking analyst Brett Le Mesurier has put an estimate of at least $6 billion on consumer refunds, reviews and litigation for the big four banks and AMP.
It comes as investors speculate that National Australia Bank will release some updated figures for its compensation scheme ahead of a grilling in the House Economics Committee on Friday.
The other big banks took some of their medicine last week in the lead-up to their appearance in parliament, where they apologised profusely for any number of things.

Big four scandal costs top $1.3 billion

By Clancy Yeates
16 October 2018 — 8:51am
The big banks have set aside at least $1.3 billion to cover the cost of a string of scandals for the latest financial year, and some predict they will face higher charges in the year ahead, as lenders pay the price after a slew of compliance failures.
National Australia Bank on Tuesday became the final big bank to release details of the hit to its profits from scandals being scrutinised by the Hayne royal commission, announcing a new provision of $314 million relating mainly to customer compensation costs.
The provision centres on failings in its wealth management business, and is for the financial year that ended on September 30. UBS analyst Jonathan Mott said the charge implied NAB would have a dividend payout ratio of 96 per cent if it kept the dividend flat at 99¢ a half, and the bank might need to cut its dividend if the credit cycle worsened.

Lifetime accounts the real fix to lost super

By John Collett
17 October 2018 — 12:00am
The total amount of lost and unclaimed super was reduced by more than $420 million in 2017-18, but there is still $17.5 billion waiting to be claimed, figures from the Tax Office show.
While the Tax Office is having some success at repatriating super accounts to their rightful owners, the annual rate of reduction is small.
On the current trajectory, it could take decades to reduce it to a reasonable level. It will never be zero under the current system, given people will always leave their jobs or change their addresses and not tell their super funds.

Royal commission ‘dishonesty’ drags confidence in big business to all-time low: Origin’s Gordon Cairns

  • October 17, 2018
Origin Energy had conceded confidence in big business has sunk to an all-time low as the impact of the banking royal commission spreads across corporate Australia.
Chairman Gordon Cairns, also a director of Macquarie Bank and a former board member of Westpac, said it was critical for the energy operator to have the right culture including a “noble purpose”, a vision and appropriate values.
“At a time when confidence in big business is at an all-time low, and when the keynote message coming out of the royal commission into banking is ‘dishonesty’, this is an imperative,” Mr Cairns said at its annual general meeting in Sydney today.
  • Oct 18 2018 at 1:15 PM

Big four banks get shameful Lafferty Global report card

The failure to address entrenched problems in Australia's banking system has led a UK research house to deliver a scathing report card that shows our biggest banks are lagging the rest of the globe.
Lafferty Global founder Michael Lafferty said his study of 500 banks that uses a range of qualitative and quantitative measures that  Australian banks were among the worst performers.
"This is serious stuff and its a great worry because Australia's banking system is an important part of the global system. Somehow or other, something awful has happened there in the last 20 years," Mr Lafferty said.
  • Oct 19 2018 at 10:00 AM

NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn reminds bank investors of their role

National Australia Bank chief executive Andrew Thorburn has provided bank investors with a subtle but important reminder of the role they have played in creating the "profits before people" culture that has landed the sector in its royal commission malaise.
As the last of the Big Four bank chief executives to front the House of Representatives' standing committee on economics – it was a week since Shayne Elliott's grilling – Thorburn was perhaps in a position to take a slightly different tack to his colleagues.
Where their opening statements had focused on apologies, Thorburn sought to offer a diagnosis of the causes of the banking sector's problems.

ASIC boss comes out swinging, slams government for stalled legislation

By Sarah Danckert
19 October 2018 — 10:15am
Australian Securities and Investments Commission boss James Shipton has called for a radical increase in the regulator’s funding and slammed delays to legislation that will dramatically increase penalties against business crooks.
Appearing at a parliamentary hearing in Canberra, Mr Shipton made his strongest speech since being appointed to the top job at the regulator last year.
Mr Shipton told the hearing that the stalled legislation to increase corporate penalties by up to 10 times was essential for ASIC to be able to do its job properly.

National Budget Issues.

  • Oct 14 2018 at 1:46 PM

Fewer than half of all properties sell at auction as credit hits spring market

More than half of all homes auctioned likely failed to sell for a third week running, as tight credit curbs hit buyers and threatened to slow the market further.
The preliminary national clearance rate of 50.7 per cent for the week to Saturday undershot the previous week's 53.7 per cent rate – subsequently reduced to 49.5 per cent – and was likely to lead to the third straight week of sub-50 per cent clearance rate in the peak spring selling season, data provider CoreLogic said on Sunday.
"It's credit," said Belle Property Annandale real estate agent Maria Magrin. "People are finding it very, very difficult to get credit across the line in time for an auction."
  • Updated Oct 14 2018 at 3:28 PM

IMF ranks Australian government balance sheet among world's best

Washington | A new attempt by the International Monetary Fund to comprehensively measure the health of government balance sheets has given Australia one of the world's top rankings.
In a study prepared for last weekend's Group of 20 finance ministers' meeting in Bali, Indonesia, that challenges some of the concerns about the nation's historically high debt levels, the IMF finds that among advanced economies only Norway has a stronger fiscal position.
And it suggests the Scandinavian nation may lose its crown because of its surging welfare and pension burden.
  • Updated Oct 14 2018 at 11:00 PM

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg warns global 'headwinds' require budget restraint

Nusa Dua, Bali | Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned the US-China trade war and emerging market debt challenges due to rising US interest rates are economic "headwinds", so Australia must ensure budget discipline approaching the federal election in case of a global financial downturn.
In an interview at the conclusion of three days of meetings with world finance leaders in Bali, the Treasurer said record high global public and private debt were a worry because most other governments had limited fiscal and monetary firepower to respond to economic weakness.
Seeking to define the economic battle lines ahead of an election expected in the first half of next year, Mr Frydenberg issued a warning against Labor's "tax and spend" agenda.

Health Issues.

Overdiagnosis is harming patients and action is required, says chief medical officer

By Kate Aubusson
15 October 2018 — 12:00am
Australia’s chief medical officer has backed moves to protect patients and safeguard the sustainability of the health system against the growing problem of too much medicine.
Overdiagnosis is exposing healthy people to tests and treatments that are at best useless, and at worst trigger aggressive procedures with devastating side effects, a formidable alliance of peak doctors colleges, researchers, advocates and public health experts warned.
The alliance - forged by the Wiser Healthcare research collaboration - is developing a world-first national action plan to curb overdiagnosis across the medical spectrum, from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to cancer. Reversing the harms of too much medicine was becoming a healthcare priority, members of the emerging alliance wrote in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday.

TGA scoops 'dishonourable mention' in national quackery awards

The regulatory body's now-notorious list of complementary medicine indications was deemed worthy of recognition
15th October 2018
The TGA’s controversial list of permissible clinical indications for complementary medicine, including ‘warming’ Yang, has received a dishonourable mention at the Bent Spoon awards for “enshrining pseudomedicine” in legislation.
Every year, the Australian Skeptics — a loose coalition of anti-quackery groups — name the winner of the award for the “most preposterous piece of pseudoscientific or paranormal piffle”.
Although the TGA did not win, being outdone by holistic health YouTuber and podcaster Sarah Stevenson, the medicines watchdog was recognised for a list of more than 1000 official clinical indications it endorsed earlier this year.

Professor raises concerns over flaws in anti-vitamin D study

She has urged caution with the interpretation of finding that supplements don't prevent fractures or falls
15th October 2018
A leading Australian vitamin D researcher has urged caution in the interpretation of a major review that has found no evidence that the supplement preserves bone health or prevents falls.
According to the systematic review and meta-analysis of 81 randomised controlled trials covering 53,000 participants, vitamin D supplements do not prevent fractures or falls, nor have any clinically meaningful effect on bone mineral density.
But Professor Rebecca Mason, professor of endocrine physiology at the University of Sydney, criticised the research for “lumping together” studies of high- and low-dose vitamin D, and those investigating vitamin D in people with and without adequate calcium intake.

Cancer without chemo: The new test that could revolutionise treatment

By Aisha Dow
17 October 2018 — 12:00am
When Anne Acciarito lost all her hair through chemotherapy, people would tell her “don’t worry, it will grow back”.
Easy for them to say. It was not their shoulder-length locks coming out in clumps.
“You commonly hear that it is a very empowering thing to shave your head, but I can’t say it is,” Mrs Acciarito said.

Abortion will no longer be a crime in Queensland after historic vote

By Felicity Caldwell
Updated17 October 2018 — 9:19pmfirst published at 7:50pm
Abortion will no longer be a crime in Queensland, after state MPs voted on Wednesday night to remove the procedure from the criminal code.
The historic reforms were passed in the Queensland Parliament on Wednesday night via a conscience vote, with the support of LNP members Tim Nicholls, Jann Stuckey and Steve Minnikin helping to ensure its success at the second reading and final vote.
The Termination of Pregnancy Bill removes the procedure from the criminal code, allows abortion on request up to 22 weeks and introduces safe access zones of 150 metres around clinics to shield women from harassment.

What the doctor shouldn’t order: $500m a year wasted

  • By Sheena Jack
  • 11:00PM October 16, 2018
It is natural to assume that medical procedures recommended by your doctor are proven to benefit your health. What other reason could there possibly be?
The fact is there is a range of incentives and drivers at play that do not always result in the most efficient use of services or the best range of patient outcomes.
Health policy researchers from the University of Sydney — funded by the HCF Research Foundation — recently looked into 21 medical procedures that, in some circumstances, are regarded as low value.
  • Oct 18 2018 at 10:00 PM

The prosthesis that can read your mind and move your limbs

by Jill Margo
The prosthesis aims to offer a universal digital language to convert thoughts into actions for people who, through illness or injury, cannot control their movement or their speech.
It is a master prosthesis that, without any brain surgery, will hopefully help people to control their other prosthetics with their minds alone.

'Terrifying' symptoms: Nauru medical records expose delays in transfers for treatment

By Kate Aubusson
20 October 2018 — 12:00am
Chronically ill refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru have waited years for overseas medical transfers recommended by their doctors, a dossier of medical records shows.
An audit of 83 medical records for refugees and asylum seekers - including 17 children, four under the age of five - reveals doctors' recommendations and requests for patients to be transferred overseas for treatment is going unheeded.
The deidentified data, seen by Fairfax Media, includes any recommendation for an overseas medical transfer that a doctor notes in a patient's medical records as well as official requests lodged with the governments of Nauru and Australia.

International Issues.

  • Updated Oct 15 2018 at 12:34 AM

Donald Trump’s China ‘poison pill’ may hit Australia as US pressures allies

A China "poison pill" prescribed by Donald Trump for close US trade partners should send a shudder through Australian business boardrooms.
The renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, tacitly agreed to this month, gave the US virtual veto rights over Canada and Mexico signing free trade deals with China.
After decades of generally supporting China's integration into the global economy, Washington is now in the formative stages of trying to dislocate commercial supply chains between Beijing and America's foreign partners.

Blow to Merkel as far-right AfD enters Bavarian state assembly

By Michael Nienaber & Paul Carrel
Updated15 October 2018 — 5:26amfirst published at 3:37am
Berlin: Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies suffered their worst election result since 1950 on Sunday, bleeding votes to the far-right in a setback that risks widening divisions within Germany's crisis-prone national government.
The Christian Social Union (CSU) won 37.3 per cent of the vote, preliminary results showed, losing its absolute majority for only the second time since 1962 – an outcome sure to stoke infighting in the party, already a difficult partner for Merkel in Berlin.
The result, which saw the pro-immigration Greens come second and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) enter the state assembly for the first time, means the CSU will need to form a coalition – a humiliation for a party used to ruling alone.

Saudi Arabia responds to US threats over missing journalist with angry warning

SAUDI Arabia has issued a blistering attack on the US after the disappearance of a journalist created an international crisis.
news.com.au October 15, 2018 9:36am

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi: Could an Apple watch be the key to his disappearance?

SAUDI Arabia has issued a furious response to the West in the face of mounting international pressure over the disappearance of a Saudi journalist.
Prominent Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi vanished almost two weeks ago while visiting the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey, sparking global outrage over speculation the Saudi government was behind his disappearance.
The Saudi kingdom rejected the accusations, warning yesterday it would “respond with greater action” to any threats of economic or political pressure from the West.
In a furious opinion piece published last night, Turki Aldakhil, general manager of the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel, warned the US “will stab its own economy to death” if it tried to impose sanctions.
  • Updated Oct 14 2018 at 11:00 PM

Michael Pence calls for confrontation with China over co-operation

Hugh White in his controversial 2010 book, China Choice, warned Australian policymakers that with the rise of China, the time would come when the US would have to make a choice as to whether to withdraw gradually from east Asia and allow China strategic space for its continued expansion or to take a stand and seek to limit China's rise.
In many ways, White was stating the obvious. It is a variant of the Thucydides Trap thesis, whereby conflict is likely to occur between an ascendant and a dominant power.
In the case of the Peloponnesian War, which Thucydides was observing, it was the dominant power, Athens, that attacked and eventually was defeated by the ascendant power, Sparta.
  • Updated Oct 16 2018 at 12:04 AM

Mike Pompeo heads to Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi disappearance

by Kareem Fahim and Souad Mekhennet
Istanbul | US President Donald Trump says he has spoken with Saudi Arabia's King Salman about missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and that he is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with the king immediately.
Mr Trump also said King Salman denied "any knowledge of whatever may have happened" to Mr Khashoggi, who vanished after going to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, and told him the Saudis are working closely with Turkey on the case. 
Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow Turkish investigators to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Monday, 13 days after Mr Khashoggi's disappearance

World has been slow to wake up to Saudi depravity

By Peter Hartcher
16 October 2018 — 12:00am
It's reassuring to see that the Western world still has the capacity to be outraged at the abuse of human rights. Specifically, a government that appears to have murdered a journalist.
The Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into a Saudi consulate in Turkey two weeks ago. He was a critic of the Saudi dictator and living outside his home country for his safety.  By setting foot in a Saudi diplomatic property to pick up marriage papers he was putting himself at risk. The risk seems to have been fatal. The government of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stands accused of ordering the torture, murder and dismembering of Khashoggi inside the consulate. For the great crime of criticising the prince.
US President Donald Trump dispatched the Secretary of State after a phone conversation with Saudi King Salman, who denied Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in Turkey.

In year two of Trump, US budget deficit balloons to highest level in six years

16 October 2018 — 6:56am
The federal budget deficit has surged to $US779 billion ($1.09 trillion) in fiscal 2018, its highest level in six years as President Donald Trump's tax cuts caused the government to borrow more heavily in order to cover its spending.
The Treasury Department said Monday that the deficit climbed $US113 billion from fiscal 2017. Debt will likely worsen in the coming years with the Trump administration expecting the deficit to top $US1 trillion in 2019, nearly matching the $US1.1 trillion imbalance from 2012.
The deficit worsened because tax revenues are not keeping pace with government spending. The government's fiscal year runs from October to September, unlike calendar years that begin in January. Tax revenues were essentially flat in fiscal 2018, while spending increased 3.2 per cent as Congress gave more funds for military and domestic programs.

'Complete chaos and a total mess': MPs deliver Brexit verdict to May

By Nick Miller
16 October 2018 — 7:14am
It’s a grand tradition going back to Shakespeare’s Henry V. At an appropriate lull in a fight against the French, you give a rousing speech telling everyone to stick with it.
And so Theresa May went to the House of Commons on Monday, to deliver the Brexit equivalent of ‘once more into the breach’.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is facing growing pressure to rethink her plan for leaving the EU after Brexit talks reached a stand-off at the weekend over the so-called Irish backstop.

Stephen Hawking's last warning from beyond the grave

An insular, Trump-age mindset won't help solve challenges like climate change and population growth, warns physicist Stephen Hawking from beyond the grave.

By Nick Miller
16 October 2018 — 2:43am
London: Acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking’s last message to the universe is a plea for unity in the "isolated and insular" age of Brexit and Trump, and his fear that a "global revolt against experts" might get in the way of finding the next Einstein to solve our biggest problems.
Hawking’s family gathered at London’s Science Museum on Monday to launch his last book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, which he began but did not finish before his death in March, aged 76.
With tears in her eyes, Lucy Hawking listened to her father's narration over an animation explaining his insights into the paradoxes of black holes: a problem that he was investigating – and publishing research on – right up to his death.
  • Updated Oct 16 2018 at 5:56 PM

Donald Trump begins a conscious uncoupling from China

by Richard McGregor
It is barely a decade since the publication of The World Is Flat, the Thomas Friedman book that painted globalisation as a seemingly unstoppable trend along with the enmeshment of the world's giant economies, the US and China.
But if the world was ever flat, as the New York Times columnist insisted, it doesn't look that way any more. In Washington at least, since the election of Donald Trump, the world has begun to buckle.
For evidence of this mega-trend, look no further than the phrase that has become the talk of Washington, of a "de-coupling" between the US and China.
  • Oct 17 2018 at 5:56 AM

Donald Trump is stomping the brakes and accelerator at the same time

Washington | Already the great stock meltdown of early October 2018 looks to be a thing of the past - so last week!
Wall Street is back in its happy mode, with the Dow Jones finishing up 547 points, or 2.2 per cent, on Tuesday afternoon (Wednesday AEDT), paring a good slice of the damage.
Banished, it would seem, are all those worries that Trump's trade war with China and his expansionary fiscal policy will force the Federal Reserve to haul on its monetary lever even harder than expected to prevent a blow-out in inflation.

Khashoggi case shows faltering US clout in Middle East

By Peter Apps
18 October 2018 — 6:27am
London: When it comes to defining America’s quandary on Saudi Arabia, US President Donald Trump’s description is mercenary in the extreme. If Washington doesn’t stay close to Riyadh and sell it arms, he told reporters in the Oval Office this weekend, the Saudis will turn to Moscow or Beijing instead. Given that, he seemed to be suggesting, the United States should just keep its plans for a $US110 billion arms deal and the 450,000 jobs he says it would bring.
He has a point – and one that also speaks to the broader geopolitical and moral issues at stake. Across the Middle East, from Turkey to Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and beyond, the more the United States attempts to inflict its will on often increasingly autocratic governments, the more they simply turn elsewhere. The messy aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring – in which governments in the region felt the Obama administration turned on them in the face of popular revolt – has seen US influence there nosedive. That in turn makes it ever harder for Washington to influence events, let alone urge democratisation and restraint.
  • Updated Oct 19 2018 at 6:43 AM

Donald Trump is amazing. Here's the science to prove it.

by Cass Sunstein
This column is really good. Actually it's amazing. In less than 650 words, it will explain the success of US President Donald Trump - and also show how to beat him.
Behavioural scientists like to emphasise the role of heuristics, or mental shortcuts, in our thinking. Lacking statistical knowledge, we use rules of thumb. In deciding whether a product or activity is risky, people tend to ask: Do I know about situations in which someone actually got hurt? That's the "availability heuristic" in action.
One of the least well-known rules of thumb is called the "confidence heuristic", which was initially explored in 1995. The central idea is simple. When people express beliefs to one another, their level of confidence usually reflects how certain they are. It tells us how much information they have. When we are listening to others, we are more likely to be persuaded by people who seem really confident.

China is not a currency manipulator, says the US through gritted teeth

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
18 October 2018 — 2:26pm
The US Treasury Department has determined that China is not manipulating its currency - but that is at odds with the tone that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his department adopted in the commentary accompanying that conclusion.
Looking at the objective evidence, China was never going to be declared a manipulator because, of the three criteria the department uses to assess whether its trading partners are intervening inappropriately, the only one that it met was that it has a trade surplus with the US greater than $US20 billion ($28 billion).
The other pre-conditions for a declaration are that the country has a current account surplus of more than 3 per cent of its gross domestic product, and that there is evidence of repeated interventions in currency markets.

The rancid politics of Brexit: request for extension draws anger

By Nick Miller
Updated18 October 2018 — 5:37pmfirst published at 5:35pm
London: ‘Another year in Brexit limbo?’ sighed the Daily Mail’s front page on Thursday.
On the scale of Mail outrage this ranks as a wistful lament rather than full-on assault.
But it was channelling the anger of Brexiters in response to the news that British Prime Minister Theresa May has reportedly asked for another year of transition beyond March 29, before the effects of Brexit are felt.
Professor Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe, says May is trapped by the “rancid politics” of Brexit.
  • Updated Oct 19 2018 at 11:36 AM

UK businesses despair as a no-deal Brexit looms, EU silent on contingency plans

Chaotic. Cliff-edge. Disastrous. Cataclysmic. Crashing out. Abyss. These are some of the words used in the past week to describe Britain leaving the European Union without a Brexit deal. They don't exactly fill the onlooker with confidence.
Does a no-deal Brexit sound alarming? In Brussels this week, it came a step closer to reality. After earlier raising hopes that a fix was imminent, European leaders walked gingerly away from a summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May early on Thursday (AEDT) saying that it might take until December to land a deal. But there is no solution in sight to the lingering stalemate over the Irish border so nobody can say what that deal might be, and nobody can be completely sure if it is achievable at all.
And even if there is a deal, May would then have just three months to push it through her fractious, intractable parliament – a second and equally daunting hurdle. Little wonder that bookmaker Paddy Power is now offering an evens bet (that is, a 50 per cent probability) that Britain and the EU won't make it to a deal by Brexit day on March 29. And that Britain will, as they say, crash out.
  • Oct 20 2018 at 9:34 AM

Saudi Arabia says Jamal Khashoggi dead, 18 people detained

Saudi Arabia's King Salman removed a key royal adviser and a senior intelligence official as the public prosecutor said an initial probe showed that journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.
King Salman removed Saud al-Qahtani, a top adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The monarch also relieved deputy intelligence chief General Ahmed al-Assiri of his duties and ordered the formation of a committee headed by Prince Mohammed to restructure the intelligence agency.
The public prosecutor, Attorney General Sheikh Saud al Mojeb, said Khashoggi died after 'discussions' at the consulate 'developed into an argument."

'Unacceptable': Saudi account of Khashoggi killing is widely denounced

21 October 2018 — 6:23am
Istanbul: Turkey will "never allow a cover-up" of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, a senior official in Turkey's ruling party said Saturday, reflecting international scepticism over the Saudi account that the writer died during a "fistfight."
The comment was one of many critical reactions to Saudi Arabia's announcement of the writer's violent death, indicating the kingdom's efforts to defuse a scandal that has gripped the world were falling short. US President Donald Trump, however, was an exception. Asked whether he thought the Saudi explanation was credible, he replied: "I do. I do."
Despite widespread outrage over the killing of theWashington Post columnist, it is unclear to what extent the top leadership of Saudi Arabia, a key US ally and a powerful player in a volatile region, would be held accountable for what human rights activists describe as an extrajudicial killing by Saudi agents.

Khashoggi case: Donald Trump not satisfied with Saudi explanation

By Jeff Mason
21 October 2018 — 8:59am
Elko: US President Donald Trump says he is not satisfied with Saudi Arabia's handling of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, and says questions remain unanswered.
Saudi Arabia said early on Saturday that Khashoggi, a critic of the country's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had died in a fight inside its consulate in the Turkish city.
Riyadh provided no evidence to support its account, which marked a reversal of an initial statement that Khashoggi had left the consulate the same day he entered on October 2 to get documents for his upcoming marriage.
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