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, November 08, 2018

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

November 08, 2018 Edition.
Well the fire and fury have now passed and the US mid-term elections – held on their time Nov 6. are all over This is the most consequential election for a fair while.
The outcome was a split outcome with very high voter turnout! Trump and the Dems both claim victory...
Brexit seems to be grinding on going nowhere and the Italian Budget will cause some probems soon now.
In OZ zilch changes as house prices fall and the population are just biding their time to change the Government. ScoMo continues to wander around Queensland aimlessly. Little good I fear it will do….

Major Issues.

  • Updated Oct 28 2018 at 12:45 PM

Stocks closing in on worst month since the GFC as Donald Trump's trade war bites

Washington | Donald Trump's trade war is disrupting his booming economy, and this has investors jittery as stock markets confront the worst October since the global financial crisis.
Friday's third-quarter US gross domestic product data confirmed the world's biggest economy cooled from the second quarter, with annualised output slowing to 3.5 per cent from 4.2 per cent.
The growth rate is still well above the economy's 2 per cent potential rate, meaning the US Federal Reserve will still be watching for inflationary pressures. The Fed keeps flagging more interest rate hikes - despite the recent market meltdown.

Market correction or market downturn?

24 Oct, 2018

Dr Shane Oliver

Head of Investment Strategy and Economics and Chief Economist, AMP Capital Sydney, Australia
It’s understandable that the recent sharp sell-off on financial markets has left investors feeling particularly nervous. The main concern has been the US Federal Reserve’s shift in monetary policy from low rates and printing money to rising rates and the withdrawal of that printing policy.
But there’s also a lengthy worry list of issues that we hear continuously: the US trade conflict with China, issues around the leadership of President Donald Trump, and the economic and budgetary implications of the populist government in Italy.
  • Updated Oct 28 2018 at 11:00 PM

Labor dividend tax change may boost corporate bonds

Investors may not realise it, but underlying the fight over Labor's plan to wind back the generosity of franking credits is a debate about asset allocation.
The portfolios of investors are massively skewed towards local equities, partly because Australia is almost the only country in the world to offer full dividend imputation.
Domestic shareholders being paid dividends receive a refundable tax credit for the 30 per cent corporate tax paid, even if their personal tax rate is zero. Labor wants to scrap the cash refund of franking credits for low taxed investors like self-managed superannuation funds, except pensioners.
  • Updated Oct 28 2018 at 11:00 PM

PC's super findings miss the mark, experts say

The Productivity Commission is wrong to conclude that industry superannuation funds beat bank-owned ones because they are gun investors, ratings house Chant West says. 
"The main reason why industry funds have performed better is their use of unlisted assets such as property and infrastructure, which have performed very well over many years," Chant West head of research Ian Fryer said.
Chris Brycki, a former UBS portfolio manager who now runs online investment adviser Stockspot, said industry funds performed better because they loaded up their portfolios with risky assets.

Phelps will be good for Wentworth, but it does not represent us

By Amanda Vanstone
28 October 2018 — 11:31pm
At the time of the attempted coup, I pointed out that it took a special kind of stupidity to organise a coup you don’t win. It is also pretty stupid not to turn your mind to what would happen if you did, and thus Malcolm Turnbull, quite reasonably, left Parliament.
Byelections nearly always go against a government, and with a one-seat majority some thinking about this would not have been wasted. The coup organisers wouldn’t have been much of an asset campaigning in the seat of the guy they deposed.
They might have turned their minds to whether the Liberals had a high-profile candidate that Wentworth might warm to. Dave Sharma was an excellent candidate, almost certain to be a future cabinet minister, but he did not have a high profile. A high profile is not only useful in terms of name recognition by voters, it necessarily makes the candidate more likely to get national news coverage, which feeds back into the campaign. Equally importantly, they should have asked themselves, was there any high-profile candidate who might step in and grab the seat? Kerryn Phelps would have been first on the list.

'They were offering false hope': Kerryn Phelps accuses government of breaking byelection vows

By Bevan Shields
28 October 2018 — 11:45pm
Kerryn Phelps has accused the Morrison government of breaking commitments to voters during the Wentworth byelection campaign, in an outbreak of tensions between the Coalition and Australia’s newest federal MP.
As the government grapples with the fallout from last Saturday’s record-breaking swing against the Liberal Party, Dr Phelps also told Fairfax Media the Coalition would be naive to believe concerns over climate change are restricted to voters in progressive seats.
The independent’s shock win in the blue-ribbon electorate once held by Malcolm Turnbull has robbed the government of its majority in Parliament, and suggests the Coalition is on course for a crushing defeat at next year’s election.

Sensible electricity rules await the next government

By Ross Gittins
29 October 2018 — 12:00am
You can call it populism or you can call it desperation. In the case of Scott Morrison’s recent problem-solving efforts, desperation fits better. And wouldn’t you be?
Morrison is probably right in concluding it’s too late in the piece to be worried about carefully considered, long-lasting solutions to the many problems contributing to his government’s unpopularity.
We’ll know soon enough whether his flailing efforts to apply quick fixes will be sufficient to secure his government another term in office.
But only after whichever side wins is facing a clear run of years before the next election will we see how our political class responds to the bipartisan – and world-wide – loss of faith in neoliberalism and its use of deregulation and privatisation to pursue the nirvana of Smaller Government.

Time to help super's left-behinds

29 October 2018 — 12:00am
When then prime minister Paul Keating radically reformed retirement income in 1992 by delivering mandatory superannuation payments by workers, the average life expectancy of an Australian was 77 years.
A quarter of a century later, that has risen to more than 80 years, and the pool of retirement savings has swelled to become the world’s fourth-biggest as the compulsory contribution has increased from 3 per cent of your wage to 9.5 per cent, en route to 12 per cent by 2025.
It’s a hefty amount by any measure. Including voluntary contributions, close to $3 trillion has accumulated – significantly bigger than the capitalisation of the entire Australian sharemarket and of the value of the nation’s total annual output. The magnitude is perhaps best appreciated when one considers that Australia’s population is less than a third of 1 per cent of the global total.

It’s time for industry super to create a corporate bond market

  • October 29, 2018
Anthony Pratt apparently said last week that 45 per cent of all pension fund money in the United States was loaned to businesses. In Australia, he said, it’s 1 per cent.
He was talking about corporate bonds, of course, at a roundtable to urge super funds to lend to businesses; there was a similar roundtable a year ago, directed at the same purpose. It didn’t work either.
However, with a bit of a fanfare recently, the industry fund-owned IFM Investors lent $100 million for 10 years to Lindsay Fox and Max Beck for their Essendon Fields project, and has now approved $2.2 billion in lending to businesses. If that comes to pass it would be an asset allocation of … yes, a bit more 1 per cent.

The super-squeeze is coming as lending dries up

  • 8:03AM October 29, 2018
One of the reasons the Australian sharemarket underperforms the US is that the impact of the current credit squeeze is gathering momentum.
It’s a credit squeeze without any Australian precedent.
And since the Wentworth by-election, the squeeze’s effects are being multiplied by the fear of ALP policies that were conceived before the squeeze had taken hold. At this stage, the squeeze is restricted to dwelling prices and developers but it’s about to spread to retail and beyond.
  • Oct 30 2018 at 9:24 AM

Sydney's auction market suffers worst result in more than a decade

Sydney's auction market has recorded its worst result in more than a decade, with just 39.4 per cent of homes selling under the hammer the weekend before last.
It took longer than usual for the revised auction results to provide an accurate reading of the market, with many real estate agents initially withholding their poor results.
Two weekends ago Domain Group's preliminary auction clearance rate was 44.5 per cent but one week later, after further results were collected, it was revised down to just 39.4 per cent.
  • Updated Oct 29 2018 at 11:00 PM

The crossbench are the new conservatives

by Richard Denniss
Crossbenchers have become the new conservatives of the Australian Parliament. When the Coalition's "liberals" support discrimination against gay teachers and its "conservatives" support nationalising electricity companies, it's no surprise that once safe Coalition seats keep falling to independents.
It's also no surprise that Kerryn Phelps, Cathy McGowan (who took the Liberal seat of Indi) and Rebekha Sharkie (who snatched the formerly safe Liberal seat of Mayo) all support the creation of conservative institutions like a federal anti-corruption watchdog. They also oppose subsidising coal mines, support tackling climate change and want civility in political debate.
Now that the Liberal-National Coalition has become the party of reactionary populists, conservative voters are shifting to safer pairs of hands. And the weeks leading up to the Wentworth byelection provide a clear demonstration of just how unpredictable the Coalition has become. The Prime Minister floated a radical shift in Australia's foreign policy in the Middle East, without even consulting his cabinet or the Department of Defence, and he did a 180-degree turn on the rights of religious schools to discriminate against students. There is nothing conservative about either of these policy positions or the way they were developed.

At risk: Australian household debt flashes red on Morgan Stanley report

By Piotr Skolimowski
30 October 2018 — 8:40am
Australia's economy is most at risk in the developed world from household debt building up because of weak house prices and potential tax changes, says Morgan Stanley.
That's the conclusion from the bank's Household Deleveraging Risk Indicator, which looks at relative debt and structural weaknesses. The study of the world's 10 leading developed economies puts Sweden and Canada as the second-most at risk, followed by Norway.
"These economies now face a crucial juncture as housing markets weaken, forcing a reappraisal of leverage and wealth, and global financial conditions tighten, increasing the consumption drag from debt service and rising savings," the bank's strategists said in a report.
  • Oct 31 2018 at 9:14 AM

ACCC boss Rod Sims says can't do much about petrol price

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said there was little he could do to help with spiralling petrol prices, other than guard against collusion between oil companies and encourage motorists to "shop around''.
And he says a "big stick" threat by the government to extend forced divestment powers from electricity companies to petrol retailers won't help.
Under pressure from tetchy backbenchers as well as voters, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has begun talking tough against petrol retailers, employing the same rhetoric he has been using against electricity retailers.

Agriculture Minister orders urgent overhaul of own department's handling of live export trade

By Latika Bourke
31 October 2018 — 9:15am
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud will order a complete overhaul of his department - including creating an external watchdog - after a damning report of its handling of the live export industry found the bureaucracy was unwilling to use its powers to protect animals from abuse and prevent their deaths.
Philip Moss' review of the Department of Agriculture performance found it was too focused on promoting the live sheep trade rather than policing it, lacked staff who possess sufficient knowledge of the industry and its regulatory conditions, and adopted animal welfare standards on board that were not based on science.
The report, obtained exclusively by Fairfax Media, linked the department's failure to regulate the sector to budget cuts made by the former Abbott government. In 2013, the then agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce slashed regulations and bodies dealing with animal welfare compliance as part of $25 million in cuts.

Morrison must recover from Jerusalem embassy relocation misstep

  • 12:00AM October 31, 2018
With Bill Shorten offering a prudent and sound foreign policy framework in his major address to the Lowy Institute, the Morrison government faces an agonising moment of truth — a humiliating retreat on the Jerusalem issue or a crisis with Indonesia.
Malcolm Turnbull’s public comments from Indonesia confirm that Scott Morrison has no ­responsible option but the abandonment of his unwise, ill-considered and dangerous pre-Went­worth by-election announce­ment about the option of moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem.
The real issue is obvious: it is Morrison’s competence as Prime Minister and his grasp of Australia’s national interest. The Jerusalem question is a vital test of his judgment. This issue has the ­potential to spiral out of control. The warning signs are everywhere and Morrison needs to listen — if he fails, given the existing adverse political climate, there are dire consequences for his government.
  • Nov 1 2018 at 10:08 AM

Sydney prices fall 7.4 pc, biggest drop since 1990: CoreLogic

Sydney property prices have fallen 7.4 per cent over the year, the largest annual decline since 1990, as credit curbs intended to slow investor buying also hit first-home buyers.
Over the month, prices in the two largest cities fell another 0.7 per cent, contributing to Sydney's 28-year low as well as a 4.7 per cent slide in prices for Melbourne, the latest Corelogic Hedonic Home Value Index shows.
Perth, the only other capital city where prices fell in October, dropped 0.8 per cent in October and 3.3 per cent annually.

Labor's housing tax changes will help cure our property addiction

By Jessica Irvine
31 October 2018 — 4:21pm
It seems a requirement of modern political scare campaigns that they be not only breathless, but logically inconsistent.
And so it is with the mounting fear campaign being waged against Labor’s policy to, if elected, reform the tax treatment of investment properties.
Labor’s changes would, we hear, both accelerate price falls under way in Sydney and Melbourne AND also choke the supply of new homes.
Come on, guys.
You can have one, but you can’t have both. Either the changes reduce supply, exerting upward pressure on prices. Or they increase new supply, pushing down prices.
  • Updated Nov 1 2018 at 9:32 PM

Extortionists target Aussie defence shipbuilder after cyber security breach

Australia's biggest defence exporter has been targeted by extortionists who launched a successful cyber attack to breach the company's data management systems.
ASX-listed Austal, a major shipbuilder for both Australia and the US Navy, said on Thursday that it referred the breach and extortion attempt to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) and the Australian Federal Police.
It is understood the hackers accessed ship designs. Austal has confirmed details of staff addresses and mobile telephone numbers were compromised.

Problem with Tehan's 'pub test' for academic research

By Duncan Ivison
1 November 2018 — 3:16pm
You can’t always predict when research is going to be useful. Some of the greatest discoveries and insights emerge when you least expect them or in ways you can’t anticipate. This is especially pertinent in humanities research.
This is why Education Minister Dan Tehan’s proposal to add a "national interest" test to the approvals process for Australian Research Council grants is unwise. It’s tempting to see this proposal as a polite version of the proverbial Australian pub test.
Tehan suggested the proposal after news broke that Simon Birmingham had intervened when he was education minister to veto $4.2 million in approved grants for research projects in the humanities and arts. Considered in this light, the proposal is really a fig leaf aimed at providing cover for continued attacks on humanities research.

Snowy Hydro dumps coal for wind and solar to pump its water

By Cole Latimer
2 November 2018 — 12:05am
Snowy Hydro will use wind and solar energy not coal to support its pumped hydro storage generators in a deal the company says will help cut households power bills from 2020.
“This agreement will put significant pressure on wholesale electricity prices which will lead to downward pressure on retail – household – energy prices,” Snowy Hydro chief executive Paul Broad said.
Pumped hydro storage works by using water power within a closed looped system, where the water generates energy by draining from a dam at the top of a hill down through turbines to a reservoir at the bottom and is then pumped back to the top dam again to restart the cycle.

Health head turned Crown director says gambling not as bad as smoking

By Hamish Hastie
1 November 2018 — 6:24pm
One of Crown Resorts' newest directors has hailed her presence on the board as a positive for gambling harm minimisation.
Jane Halton, the former head of the federal Department of Health and Ageing and current independent chair of the Council on the Ageing Australia, told shareholders at Crown's AGM in Perth on Wednesday, while she would never sit on a tobacco company board she would use her public health expertise at Crown.
At the meeting Crown shareholder and spokesman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform Stephen Mayne questioned how Ms Halton could sit on the board of one of Australia's biggest gambling enterprises.
  • Updated Nov 2 2018 at 8:27 PM

Brand Australia needs overhaul after year of bank scandals and political upheaval

Let's hope The Economist's front cover this week celebrating Australia as a model for the world is not the kiss of death for our economy.
As a senior finance executive confides, in past years when they ventured overseas to international meetings, the standard question from foreign peers was often, "What is the secret to Australia's success?"
This year with another change of prime minister, the scandal-plagued banks on trial at the royal commission and even our national cricket team outed as cheats, the question more recently has been, "What is wrong with Australia?"

Nationals ban 22 members for life after investigation into neo-Nazi links

By Michael Koziol
2 November 2018 — 4:01pm
The NSW Nationals have banned 22 people for life after an investigation into alleged links to neo-Nazi and fascist groups, but has acknowledged the need to stay "vigilant" against infiltration by extremists.
A total of 19 people have now resigned from the junior Coalition partner, and the party has written to another three members insisting they resign or face expulsion.
All 22 will be banned from ever becoming members of the Nationals again.

Weak competition may be key to economy's problems

By Ross Gittins
3 November 2018 — 12:15am
If you think there isn’t enough competition between the big four banks, the big three power companies, the big two airlines, the big two supermarkets and in a lot of other industries, Andrew Leigh agrees with you.
He has evidence the “concentration” within our industries is increasing. What’s more, he thinks it could be part of the reason we – and the rest of the developed world - are suffering from slower economic growth and productivity improvement.
Dr Leigh is a Harvard-trained former economics professor at the Australian National University and now the federal opposition’s spokesman on competition.

A solution to the high price of living in the Land of Ozzigopoly

By Peter Hartcher
3 November 2018 — 12:00am
This week it's anger at rising petrol prices. Last week it was anger at high electricity prices. In a couple more weeks the royal commission will no doubt arouse fresh anger at bank rip-offs. In the months to come it will be anger at rising road tolls, health insurance premiums, and electricity. Again.
What's the common element? There are two. First, they're all about the cost of living, the topic that Australians list as their biggest concern, ahead of health care, ahead of crime, ahead of the economy, according to pollsters Ipsos. Second, they all have a common cause. They're all caused, in part, by a lack of competition.
The long-time Liberal Party pollster Mark Textor used to say that the party that works out how to do something about the cost of living will have found the Holy Grail of politics. It may be that the Holy Grail is hiding in plain view.

Why Australia will struggle to escape the next global slowdown

By Michael Heath & Jason Scott
2 November 2018 — 8:05am
Australia's record run of economic growth may struggle to survive the next global downturn.
The nation's vulnerability to increasing external risks was the overriding concern of a panel discussion held Thursday between Heather Ridout, chair of Australia's largest pension fund; Chris Bowen, who opinion polls signal will be the country's next treasurer; and Sally Auld, JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s local head of fixed-income and currency strategy.
Their main conclusions: the US will probably tip into recession in the next 12 to 18 months, any escalation of the US-China trade dispute will buffet Australia's open economy, and the nation won't benefit from a repeat of the Chinese stimulus it enjoyed a decade ago.

Australia-Indonesia relationship faces months of uncertainty

By James Massola & Karuni Rompies
3 November 2018 — 12:00am
Jakarta: Should Australia move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
It's now more than two weeks since Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged the proposal on the eve of the Wentworth byelection, and the diplomatic repercussions are still being felt.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has warned that relocating Australia's embassy in Israel would be met with a 'very negative reaction' in Indonesia.
While there is little doubt that such a move would please US President Donald Trump - were he to notice it - as it would align Canberra with Washington's decision to move their embassy earlier this year, the proposal has roiled the Australian foreign policy establishment because of the potential impact on our relationship with near-neighbour Indonesia.
  • Updated Nov 3 2018 at 12:52 AM

Whether it's worth staying in or getting out of volatile markets

Key Australian share indices can take nearly six years to return to pre-crash levels after a major correction, demanding searching questions from investors during the current global market turmoil about staying in or getting out of the market, particularly those nearing retirement.
It took the S&P/ASX 300 nearly 70 months to recoup losses after the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008 unleashed the global financial crisis (GFC), according to analysis by asset consultancy Frontier Advisors.
Global funds and property trusts remained underwater for more than seven years, with many never resurfacing, while emerging markets took up to six years to recoup their losses for investors who stuck with their holdings, according to Frontier and MSCI.

Former UN climate chief says world doesn't need Australia's 'toxic' coal

By Nicole Hasham
3 November 2018 — 3:57pm
Former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres has repudiated Australian mining giant BHP for its refusal to stop mining coal, suggesting the decision is uneconomic and poor nations do not need the “toxic” and “expensive” fossil fuel.
BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said this week the company is “not going to move away from coal mining”.
BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie says the company will continue to mine coal, despite climate change concerns.

Financial crisis hit young men hard - and they're yet to recover

By Matt Wade
4 November 2018 — 12:58am
There’s been plenty of good news about jobs lately. Australia's unemployment rate has been in decline all year and reached a six-year low of 5 per cent in September. There’s every chance it will go lower still. But an important new study paints a less rosy picture for young Australian workers.
Melbourne University researchers Lyn Craig and Brendan Churchill tracked trends in employment for 20- to 34-year-olds between 2001 and 2016. They found that in the boom years before the 2008 global financial crisis, young men and women were pulled into the jobs market, especially with full-time employment.
But the crisis triggered a lasting decline in employment for young people, particularly with regards to full-time work. This has not been the case for older workers.

The pressure of living under the weight of debt

By Georgina Dent
4 November 2018 — 12:00am
When it comes to debt Australian households are global champions. We are more indebted than any other English-speaking nation, and we are in front by a very clear margin.
Our household debt-to-income ratio has hit nearly 200 per cent, a rate that ranks among the highest in the world.
Low interest rates, burgeoning property prices and easy credit are among the reasons, but the reality for many Australians struggling under the weight of debt is that it’s stressful and unsustainable.

Liberalism is dead, Stephen Fry tells Festival of Dangerous Ideas

  • November 4, 2018
Stephen Fry has declared liberalism dead, issuing a call for kindness and understanding in the face of two threats bearing down on the world.
Delivering the inaugural Festival of Dangerous Ideas keynote event The Hitch, named after the late British intellectual Christopher Hitchens, writer and activist Fry lamented the dire state of public debate.
“A grand canyon has opened up in our world and the crack grows wider everyday,” Fry told audiences at Sydney’s Town Hall.

Western civilisation is not served by pandering to populism

  • 12:00AM November 3, 2018
The revelation at Senate estimates that former education minister Simon Birmingham ­vetoed Australian Research Council grants without giving reasons for doing so was very poor form.
That new Education Minister Dan Tehan is planning a jingoistic ­“national interest” test for future grants is even more ­concerning — not simply because it is a lowbrow, knee-jerk reaction. What will happen to important ­research with international implications under a “national ­interest” test? Research that perhaps challenges the current ­“national interest”?
Here’s some context. It was once thought the White Australia policy served the national interest. Or denying women the vote. Or denying indigenous Australians citizenship rights. Some states still think the national interest is served by criminalising abortion: what happens to ­research that challenges those laws under a ­national interest test? Or given ­euthanasia is banned across the nation other than Victoria, what about research into whether it has a role in public policy?

Financial Services Royal Commission Issues.

  • Oct 28 2018 at 5:42 PM

Hayne backwash: Managing distrust of big business after banking royal commission

It is increasingly clear that the parade of sham and shame revealed by the Hayne commission into the banks and financial services sector will require a much broader base of renewal of public standing and social licence.
The confidence-sapping disrespect released by an executive cohort blind to its own shortcomings and therefore to the moral disintegration of their individual organisations is rippling across the wider Australian business landscape.
One lead indicator of this compounding erosion of trust is the language and tactics of government. We now have, for example, a supposedly conservative federal government sitting in competitive alignment with arguably the nation's most left-wing state government on electricity prices.
This would have been unthinkable just 18 months ago and would have been avoided had the federal government not disintegrated rather than embraced the opportunity of an energy policy that aligned security of supply with climate outcomes.
  • Updated Oct 28 2018 at 11:00 PM

Royal commission erodes trust in banks: new poll

Only one in five Australians believes banks act ethically and only one in four thinks banks take responsibility for mistakes and keep their promises to customers, according to the damning findings in a new national survey.
The survey underlines that the job of repairing customer trust in the wake of the Hayne royal commission will be a long and challenging road.
The inaugural Deloitte Trust Index - Banking 2018 has found the public's dim view of banks is not influenced by major political party persuasion, class or gender. Nor are branch customers any more trusting than those banking over the internet.
  • Updated Oct 28 2018 at 11:00 PM

How to fix the banking system in the aftermath of the royal commission

As submissions pour into the royal commission looking at ways to fix a broken system after decades of unfettered greed drove poor – and sometimes illegal – behaviour, those at the coal face of the human cost are calling for real solutions not just tweaks.
The hope is when the final report is released by Commissioner Kenneth Hayne the recommendations won't become a political football in an election battle.
The royal commission has had a profound impact on some organisations. ASIC has become tougher, some organisations have banned grandfathered commissions, divisions have been shutdown, dodgy products cancelled and compensation is on offer. Executive remuneration packages have been trimmed and there has been a shakeup in some senior ranks including at AMP and NAB.
  • Updated Oct 28 2018 at 11:00 PM

Weaker revenues and higher repayments to weigh on bank results

Bank profits will continue to get squeezed by a number of structural and cyclical factors according to analysts.
Three of the big four banks – ANZ, NAB and Westpac – will deliver annual results to September 30 over the next eight days.
The results will follow the full-year result from Commonwealth Bank in August (which operates on a regular financial year), which saw cash profit fall for the first time – falling 4.7 per cent to $9.4 billion – since the GFC as it forked out for a series of one-off regulatory penalties and dealt with higher funding costs.

The banks are writing fewer loans. Is it a full-blown credit crunch?

By Clancy Yeates
30 October 2018 — 11:00am
There have been plenty of worrying headlines lately about banks putting the brakes on lending to home buyers, and the threat this poses to the economy.
What's more, this trend probably has further to run, as the royal commission into financial misconduct prompts banks to more thoroughly check whether borrowers can afford their loans.
But at a time when other parts of the economy are going well - just how severe is the tightening in the $1.7 trillion mortgage market?
  • Oct 30 2018 at 1:16 PM

Misconduct a 'permanent' hit to bank profits: RBA

The Reserve Bank has warned that the costs to the banks of dealing with their misconduct will "permanently impact" their profits as they are forced to change their business models.
Assistant governor Michelle Bullock said that while the fines paid by the big four were relatively small compared to their $30 billion of combined profits, the cost of remediation, class actions and compliance will weigh on the lenders.
"More broadly, there has been very little share price growth over recent years which has had an impact on shareholder returns. And changes to business models to address the risk of future misconduct could more permanently impact banks' financial performance," Ms Bullock told an audience of financial market professionals hosted by the Commonwealth Bank.

APRA to look at more 'actively' curbing misconduct

By Clancy Yeates & Sarah Danckert
31 October 2018 — 6:11pm
The banking regulator concedes it must think about how it can play a more active role in dealing with misbehaviour in financial institutions, after it faced blunt criticism from the Hayne royal commission.
In a submission responding to the commission's interim report, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority said its response to misconduct had been "broadly appropriate," given its main focus was the financial health of banks.
However, it agreed there was "scope" for "further action" in how it and other regulators dealt with governance, culture and incentives. APRA's submission followed harsh criticism of the regulator over a lack of action in the interim report for the royal commission.

National Budget Issues.

UPDATE: Australia's federal budget position is recovering at an astonishing rate

Oct 29, 2018, 8:50 AM
  • The federal budget position is around $9 billion better than the government’s own forecasts made five months ago.
  • It’s largely due to very strong revenue from company taxes, helped by strong commodity prices.
  • While some caution is needed on the figures, the improving outlook gives politicians on both sides room to adjust their spending plans ahead of the next election.
A surge in company tax receipts is driving an astonishing improvement in the Australian government’s budget bottom line, with official data showing the fiscal position is some $9 billion better than expected just five months ago.
Figures released last week showed the underlying cash balance sat at a deficit of $10.5 billion. The budget, delivered in May by then-treasurer Scott Morrison, projected a deficit of $19.5 billion at this point.

Australia triggers $222b trade pact as fears grow over Indonesia deal

By David Crowe
30 October 2018 — 11:59pm
Australia has triggered a trade pact worth $222 billion in a long-awaited move to ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership, putting the regional agreement into force just as new doubts emerge over a landmark deal with Indonesia.
The Australian decision launches the TPP sooner than expected for all its 11 member nations, cutting overseas tariffs for farmers and other exporters while increasing access to new markets such as Canada and Mexico.
While US President Donald Trump has slammed the TPP, the regional deal is backed by 11 countries and comes into force when ratified by at least six of the signatories – with Australia becoming the sixth to do so.

Health Issues.

  • Oct 30 2018 at 10:12 AM

Former Australian Medical Association boss Brian Owler to run for Labor in Bennelong

Former Australian Medical Association boss Brian Owler will contest Labor preselection for the seat of Bennelong, setting up a high profile contest with Liberal MP John Alexander.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten praised the Sydney neurosurgeon, endorsing Dr Owler to become Labor's candidate in the suburban Sydney seat after endorsed candidate Lyndal Howison withdrew from the race.
Bennelong is held by the former tennis great with a more than 4.8 per cent margin, after Labor secured a 5.6 per cent swing in a byelection held in December.

Cries for help: NSW public health workers bullied and harassed

By Kate Aubusson
31 October 2018 — 12:00am
A toxic culture of bullying and harassment among public healthcare workers is threatening the welfare of patients, leading doctors warn.
A government survey of more than 65,600 health employees revealed bullying, harassment and a distrust of managers pervades the state's public health system, with more than one in three staff reporting that they had witnessed bullying in the past 12 months.
Former Mental Health Commissioner Ian Hickie said doctors and nurses would desert the public system for the private sector unless the "culture of blame" was stamped out.

Infection every expectant mother feared 'eradicated' in Australia

By Aisha Dow
31 October 2018 — 12:01am
An infection once feared by pregnant women has been all but wiped out in Australia thanks to a vaccine that has been a fixture of childhood vaccinations for almost three decades.
The World Health Organisation on Wednesday declared that rubella, also known as German measles, had been eliminated in Australia, according to its official threshold.
Nationally there have been just eight reported cases so far this year (including two in Victoria and one in NSW) and they were most likely as a result of people bringing in the illness from overseas.
“The science is in and the medical experts’ advice is absolute - vaccinations save lives and protect lives,” said Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Millions of dollars to be saved through fewer doctors’ scripts

  • 12:00AM October 31, 2018
More than a quarter of the savings to government from new restrictions on foreign doctors will come from fewer scripts being written and filled for drugs, particularly in metropolitan areas.
Under the unprecedented budge­t initiative, which signals an end to the nation’s doctor shortage, a new agency will be set up with the power of veto over applic­ations to recruit overseas-trained GPs.
It is forecast to deliver net saving­s of $415.5 million over four years by preventing those GPs from accessing government sub­sid­­i­es and rebates. Newly release­d figures reveal the gross benefit to health is in the order of $455.3m, with larger savings over time.

Hope for coeliacs as gluten-free vaccine trial underway

  • AAP
  • October 31, 2018
Bread could soon be back on the menu for those who suffer from coeliacs disease.
An international trial is underway to test a vaccine scientists hope will end the need for coeliacs to adhere to gluten-free diets.
News Corp Australia says the trial comes eight years after a Melbourne-designed injection was shown to be safe in the first patients.

Veganism ‘helps diabetics lose weight and control blood sugar’

  • By Kat Lay
  • The Times
  • October 31, 2018
Vegans have long championed the health benefits of their diet and now they can point to research suggesting that cutting out meat and dairy can keep type 2 diabetes in check.
Patients following a mainly plant-based or vegan diet had better blood-sugar control and lost nearly twice as much weight as those on other diets, according to the review of studies.
There was also evidence that eating mainly plant-based foods improved people’s moods and may slow progressive nerve damage associated with diabetes, the researchers said.

Health head turned Crown director says gambling not as bad as smoking

By Hamish Hastie
1 November 2018 — 6:24pm
One of Crown Resorts' newest directors has hailed her presence on the board as a positive for gambling harm minimisation.
Jane Halton, the former head of the federal Department of Health and Ageing and current independent chair of the Council on the Ageing Australia, told shareholders at Crown's AGM in Perth on Wednesday, while she would never sit on a tobacco company board she would use her public health expertise at Crown.
At the meeting Crown shareholder and spokesman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform Stephen Mayne questioned how Ms Halton could sit on the board of one of Australia's biggest gambling enterprises.

Owler attack has Libs fearing another Mediscare campaign

  • 12:00AM November 3, 2018
The man being touted as Labor’s Mr Medicare — high-flying ­Sydney neurosurgeon Brian Owler — has come out swinging, warning voters that the government “will stop at nothing to destr­oy the foundations of our healthcare system, including Medicare”.
In his first public statement as the Labor candid­ate for Bennelong, Dr Owler told The Weekend Australian yesterday he had “led the fight” against the Abbott government’s savage health cuts as president of the Australian Medical Association in 2014.
“The compulsory co-payment proposed (then) … was a full-­frontal assau­lt on Medicare,’’ Dr Owler said. “This, combined with their freeze to Medicare rebates, convinced me the Liberals were not committed to a universal health system.’’

No talks before policy cap plan

  • 12:00AM November 3, 2018
The Financial Services Council, the lobby group for the life ­insurance sector, failed to consult with Treasury, the Health ­Department, or genetics experts before announcing a proposal that would cap policies for people disclosing adverse tests for genetic diseases at $500,000.
The newly announced “moratorium” by the FSC, which MPs instructed to be modelled on a legal framework in Britain, has already fallen under criticism for limiting insurance at levels lower than what is ­required to ensure claimants can properly provide for their dependants.
While the British system applies an insurance limit of £500,000 ($900,000) only to policyholders who have tested positive for Huntington’s disease, the FSC’s proposal places far harsher limits on people who choose not to disclose adverse results for any disease discovered by genetic tests, or even that they may be vulnerable to such diseases.

Prognosis poor on GP graduate rates

  • 12:00AM November 3, 2018
Medical graduates are shunning a career in general practice amid the ongoing political debate over Medicare, with an unexpected decline in people taking up training positions this year and next.
As Health Minister Greg Hunt continues to work with the GP groups on funding reforms, with announcements expected before the next election, his department is talking to the sector about the sudden drop in interest in becoming a GP.
In five of the past six years, the number of registrars who accepted training positions through the Australian General Practice Training Program exceeded the number on offer.

International Issues.

  • Updated Oct 28 2018 at 11:00 PM

Trump's vengeful prose is a whole new era in US politics

by Janet Daley
America was deeply at odds with itself in the 1960s too. But this time, the fear and loathing is coming directly from the White House.
As I write, a suspect, Cesar Sayoc, has been charged for allegedly sending 13 crude but viable explosive devices to various individuals in the United States. Those individuals all had one thing in common: they were critics or political opponents of Donald Trump.
Mr Trump's first response was to call for an end to this campaign of attempted murder which was, he suggested, largely the fault of the media. By which he did not mean the talk show-cable news army which has supported him in the most inflammatory possible way. No, he specifically cited the mainstream media as being the guilty ones – that is to say, the networks which criticise him, like CNN, which also received a bomb and had to evacuate its main broadcasting studio live on air. This was the President's tweeted statement, including the gothic use of capital letters which he favours: "A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!"

Right-wing Jair Bolsonaro wins Brazil's presidential race

By Jake Spring and Anthony Boadle
Updated 29 October 2018 — 9:38am first published at 7:51am
Brasilia: Former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil's presidential election on Sunday, riding a wave of frustration over corruption and crime that brought a dramatic swing to the right in the world's fourth-largest democracy, official results show.
Brazilians propelled right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency, marking a dramatic swing to the right in the world’s fourth-largest democracy.
With 94 per cent of the ballots counted, Bolsonaro had 56 per cent of the votes in the run-off election against left-wing hopeful Fernando Haddad of the Workers Party (PT), who had 44 percent, according to the electoral authority TSE.

President Xi tells military to ‘concentrate preparation for fighting a war’

CHINA’S leader has issued an ominous order to his generals as tensions increase over disputed hot spots near the rising global power.
Jamie Seidel
News Corp Australia Network October 29, 201812:09pm
CHINESE media is reporting President Xi Jinping has told his military commanders to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war” as tensions continue to grow over the future of the South China Sea and Taiwan.
China Central Television presented a speech from President Xi, who earlier this year claimed the position in perpetuity, at the weekend — several days after it was made during a tour of Guangzhou province.
“We need to take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly,” President Xi told the officers of the Southern Theatre Command.
  • Updated Oct 29 2018 at 10:00 AM

Market minds: China's biggest miscalculation was to underestimate Donald Trump

by Vimal Gor
If my daughter wins a hundred-metre dash by hiding the other kids' runners whilst giving herself a pair of jet-powered wheelies, I'd credit her cunning and ingenuity, but I'd hardly applaud her sprinting skills.
That kind of winning also describes what's currently fuelling the narrative of US "exceptionalism". By itself, the fiscal stimulus that the US has been enjoying since the end of last year doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Not only has it been a pro-cyclical use of fiscal policy, but outside times of war and recession, this is the largest stimulus the country has seen in its economic history.
  • Oct 30 2018 at 3:33 AM

Germany's Angela Merkel steps down as CDU party leader, won't run for re-election

by Andreas Rinke and Paul Carrel
Berlin | German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would not seek re-election as party chairwoman and that her fourth term as chancellor would be her last, heralding the end of a 13-year era in which she has dominated European politics.
Merkel, 64, has been chairwoman of her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) since 2000 and chancellor since 2005. Her decision to step down as chairwoman comes after her party suffered its second regional election setback in as many weeks.
Merkel made the announcement a day after Sunday's vote in the state of Hesse, at which the CDU came first but suffered a slump in support from the last election there in 2013.
  • Updated Oct 30 2018 at 7:34 AM

Britain hits big tech firms with £400m-a-year turnover tax

London | The British government will slap a 2 per cent tax on the turnover of digital businesses including Amazon, Google and Facebook, aiming to raise £400 million ($723 million) a year and setting an international precedent.
The move will be watched with interest by the Morrison government, which has publicly shared Britain's frustration with the slow pace of international efforts to widen the tax net on the digital industry, and has launched its own consultation on whether to push ahead with a turnover tax on the sector.
"It's clearly not sustainable, or fair, that digital platform businesses can generate substantial value in the UK without paying tax here in respect of that business," Chancellor Philip Hammond told parliament in his budget speech. "It is only right that these global giants, with profitable businesses in the UK, pay their fair share towards supporting our public services."

Goodbye to Australia's dangerous delusion

By Peter Hartcher
30 October 2018 — 12:00am
Australia has wasted most of the last decade under the delusion that it could sit passively and "balance" between the US and China.  One of the reasons that this is such a dangerous idea is that it encourages the inherent Australian temptation to succumb to a complacent inertia.
The main political parties have awoken to the need to shore up Australia's strategic hinterland, otherwise known as the Pacific.
It's not like a world-scale episode of MasterChef where Australia can sit back and see what delicious offerings the Americans and Chinese are going whip up for us, and "balance" a morsel from one against another while judging the winner.

'The crash is going to be violent': Italy headed for crisis, warns banker

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
29 October 2018 — 11:11am
Italy's economy is already on the cusp of recession and faces an imminent credit crunch as Brussels piles on the pressure, with increasingly dangerous knock-on effects for the rest of Europe.
Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi, chairman of Societe Generale and a former member of the ECB board, said events were repeating the onset of the eurozone debt crisis in 2011, when surging bond yields caused a contraction in credit. "Italy is going straight into a wall," he said.
"The economy risks tipping into recession in the fourth quarter. The banks have already cut loans over the summer, as soon as the spreads began to rise. The Italian government has not understood this.
  • Oct 30 2018 at 3:19 PM

BHP cuts US, China growth targets on trade tensions

BHP has downgraded its economic growth forecasts for the world's two biggest economies in what it says is a "lose lose" outcome from rising trade tensions.
The miner's chief commercial officer Arnoud Balhuizen said the recent trend toward protectionism would have negative impacts on both the Chinese and US economic growth over the next two years.
"Our modelling indicates that the negative impact of Sino-US trade protection on Chinese GDP growth will fall in the range of a half (0.5) to three quarters (0.75) of a percentage point," he said.

Fear of 7: China could be about to unleash one of its economic weapons

By Keith Bradsher
31 October 2018 — 7:07am
As the United States and China swap threats and mete out increasingly punishing tariffs, the world is watching to see whether Beijing turns to one of its most potent economic weapons. It involves the number 7.
China's currency, the renminbi, has been gradually losing value since mid-April, and on Tuesday it was at its weakest point in a decade. If the currency weakens any further, it could fall below the psychologically important level of 7 renminbi to the US dollar. The last time it took more than 7 renminbi to buy a dollar was in May 2008, as the world was slipping into a financial crisis.
Fears of an all out US-China trade war have been stoked by a report that the US is preparing to announce tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports by early December if talks between presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping falter.

The rise of the extreme right in Brazil

By Tracy Fenwick
30 October 2018 — 10:00pm
On October 28, an extreme right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro from the Social Liberal Party (PSL), won the Brazilian general elections with 55 per cent of the total vote in the second round against leftist frontrunner Fernando Haddad. Why? Similar to other observers of Brazilian politics, I keep asking myself what explains this victory? First Haddad’s campaign and discourse was not very persuasive. As the successor of Brazil’s well-regarded economic and social policies that were achieved under the Worker's Party's (PT) Lula Inacio da Silva, Haddad had a tough road ahead. He came in late to the game and it was a game that few expected him to enter, never mind get to the second round. But he was, why? There simply were few alternative candidates whose political parties and reputations had not been tarnished by Brazil’s long entrenched corruption scandal.
Who is Bolsonaro? A wild-card candidate that up until March did not even have affiliation with the political party whose label he competed under, the PSL. He legitimises everything from racism, misogyny, to homophobia, to outright violence against society. There is simply no potential of ‘diversity’ within his conception of ‘national unity’, which appeared in his victory speech today. Forget the Trump comparison, this is not the US. In Brazil, sliding down an authoritarian road is not ‘the fear of the unknown’. So why did over 50 per cent of the population elect him?
  • Updated Nov 1 2018 at 7:59 AM

Donald Trump, Theresa May call for an end to devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen

by Robert Burns anda Matthew Lee
Washington | The Trump administration is calling for an urgent halt to the Saudi-Iran proxy war in Yemen and the start of negotiations in November toward a political settlement of a conflict that has pushed millions to the brink of starvation in the Arab world's poorest country.
The renewed push for a political solution in Yemen comes amid growing criticism of US military support for Saudi Arabia's Yemen air campaign and American arms sales to the Saudis, in the aftermath of the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged a ceasefire, specifically citing both missile and drone strikes into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates by Iran-backed Houthis and the airstrikes in populated areas of Yemen by the US-backed Arab coalition.

Turkish prosecutor says Khashoggi was strangled, dismembered in embassy

By Mehmet Guzel & Suzan Fraser
1 November 2018 — 3:07am
Istanbul: Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul as part of a premeditated killing, and his body was dismembered before being disposed of, a top Turkish prosecutor said on Wednesday.
Chief Istanbul prosecutor Irfan Fidan's office also said in a statement that discussions with Saudi chief prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb yielded no "concrete results" despite Turkey's "good intentions to uncover the truth".
Istanbul's chief prosecutor's office said journalist Jamal Khashoggi was suffocated as soon as he entered Saudi Arabia's consulate on Oct. 2 in a pre-planned killing, and his body was then dismembered and disposed of.

There's a 50-50 chance Trump is about to trigger a global oil shock

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
1 November 2018 — 11:11am
The slowing world economy is not strong enough to handle an oil supply shock. At this juncture it would trigger a full-blown slump. Yet that is exactly what we risk as Donald Trump tries to drive every last barrel of Iranian crude oil off the market.
A spike in Brent oil to $US120 by early next year would probably be enough to tip the eurozone and Japan into recession, and would be the coup de grace for large parts of the emerging market nexus.
It would amplify the effects of monetary tightening by the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank already in the pipeline, and which will hit with full force in the first quarter of 2019.
October 31 2018, 5:00pm, The Times

Identity politics are tearing America apart

While the US has suffered many periods of bitter civil conflict, this time there’s no obvious hope of any resolution
Bernice and Sylvan Simon loved the country that allowed them, as Jewish immigrants from Germany, to worship and live as they chose. The front door of their home in Pittsburgh sported three stickers: “Support Our Troops”, “God Bless America” and “America The Beautiful”.
Last Saturday Mr and Mrs Simon were shot dead at their synagogue. The name of their alleged murderer, Robert Bowers, an otherwise unmemorable man, will live on as yet another footnote in the long and baleful history of antisemitism.
The murder of the Simons and nine other worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue was the worst act of antisemitic violence in US history, apparently carried out by a man who claimed Jews were trying to eliminate white Americans through mass immigration. Their deaths came at the end of a week in which two black men were killed in Kentucky by a white gunman with a history of racist behaviour, and a Florida man was accused of mailing what seemed to be explosive devices to a dozen or more leading Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump.
  • Updated Nov 1 2018 at 6:41 PM

China and US are locked in a new cold war

China and the United States are locked in the early stages of a new cold war that is set to disrupt the region for at least the next five years and force countries to choose sides.
This bleak geopolitical assessment was given by Minxin Pei, an expert in China-US relations from the Claremont McKenna College, at an Asia Society conference on Thursday.
Speaking ahead of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's first major speech on foreign policy, Professor Pei said only a miracle in Argentina later this month – where Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to meet Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G20 – could end their strategic conflict.

Trump knows his conspiracy theories incite violence. He keeps pushing them anyway.

By Greg Sargent
2 November 2018 — 2:53am
It is no longer an open question: President Donald Trump knows full well that his rhetoric and conspiracy theories are putting people's lives in danger - and in one case may have already helped incite mass murder - yet he continues to push them, anyway.
News site Axios just posted a new exchange from an interview with Trump that is set to air this weekend. It is profoundly awful to witness Trump blithely shrug at his own role in inciting violent behaviour and more broadly at the deep damage he is doing to this country.
Here's the exchange, with reporter Jim VandeHei:
VandeHei: "To be honest, what scares the crap out of me is that when, if you're saying, 'enemy of the people, enemy of the people'-"
Trump: "Well I have to fight back. You're right -"
  • Updated Nov 2 2018 at 1:50 PM

America's 2018 midterm elections: a referendum on democracy as much as Trump

America feels like a country on the brink, which is exactly where Donald Trump wants it.
You sense it in the drawn faces of neighbours of the Washington area suburb we live in where the kids go to schools with large proportions of jewish students.
You hear it in the gloom-filled musings of American co-workers in the city's centre, and from long-time political lobbyists who see this as the new normal.
  • Updated Nov 3 2018 at 6:47 AM

US job growth soars; annual wage gain largest since 2009

by Lucia Mutikani
Washington | US job growth rebounded sharply in October and wages recorded their largest annual gain in 9-1/2 years, pointing to further labor market tightening that could encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates again in December.
The Labor Department's closely watched monthly employment report on Friday also showed the unemployment rate was steady at a 49-year low of 3.7 per cent as 711,000 people entered the labour force, in a sign of confidence in the jobs market.
Sustained labour market strength eased fears about the economy's health following weak housing and business spending data. President Donald Trump cheered the robust jobs report, which came less than a week before the midterm elections that will decide who controls the US Congress.

It's Trump v Obama as President admits possible losses

By Peter Baker
3 November 2018 — 3:51pm
Miami: Former president Barack Obama's voice has a way of lifting into a high-pitched tone of astonishment when he talks about his successor, almost as if he still cannot believe that the Executive Mansion he occupied for eight years is now the home of President Donald Trump.
For most of the past two years, he stewed about it in private, only occasionally speaking out. But as he hit the campaign trail this fall, Obama has vented his exasperation loud and often, assailing his successor in a sharper, more systematic way arguably than any former president has done in three-quarters of a century.
Former US President Barack Obama on Friday made a veiled attack on President during a campaign event for Democrat Andrew Gillum, who is vying to become Florida’s first black governor.
I look forward to comments on all this!

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