Quote Of The Year

Quote Of The Year - Paul Shetler - "Its not Your Health Record it's a Government Record Of Your Health Information"

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Macro View – Health, Economics, and Politics and the Big Picture. What I Am Watching Here And Abroad.

June 20, 2019 Edition.
Trump seems to be having some trouble just keeping up with all the issues that are swirling around him. The most worrying at present is the problem with various ships being attacked near Iran which the US is blaming on Iran. The truth is hard to sort out at present and we will need to wait and see. As far as the Trade War is concerned we have entered a high period where we could wind up with a permanently fractured world. Trump is just not fit to be President IMVHO! What is even worse his campaign for 2020 election has just begun - 500 days of agony to go!
In the UK we await a new Conservative Party leader – Boris seems to be the front runner and his budget plans are a disaster to say the least – trying to buy rich conservative votes.
In OZ Parliament comes back July 2. Until then I suspect we will have a phoney war and posturing.
It is fascinating watching the Australian newspaper try to inflame the culture wars to push ScoMo even further to the right. I hope he knows governing from the centre is how he will do best!

Major Issues.


University bosses admit self-censorship and no-platforming a 'problem' on campus

By Michael Koziol
June 10, 2019 — 12.26am
The heads of Sydney's two leading universities have warned about growing "self-censorship" and attempts to shut down controversial speakers, but have maintained there is no freedom of speech crisis on Australian campuses.
They have also expressed reservations about implementing a "model code" on freedom of speech urged by the Morrison government and recommended by a recent review by former High Court chief justice Robert French.
University of Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence, whose institution was embroiled in a political controversy involving protests against author Bettina Arndt, acknowledged it was a "problem" that students were censoring their own views out of fear of repercussions.
But this was not a problem peculiar to universities - rather, it resulted from a breakdown in civil discourse at all levels of Australian public life and existed on both sides of the political spectrum, he said.

Ex-spy boss Dennis Richardson fears China Cold War

  • 12:00AM June 10, 2019
Former Defence secretary Dennis Richardson has warned of a “technological Cold War” ­between China and the West marked by the emergence of rival communication networks for 5G and beyond.
Mr Richardson, a former ­director-general of ASIO and ­ambassador to Washington, said the consequences for Australia could be negative, with the country­ denied access to some of the best available technologies.
He also argued that Beijing was on track to eclipse the US as the dominant military power in the western Pacific, but argued Australia would “get it wrong” if policymakers responded by treating Beijing as a threat.
 “There is a risk that we are going to move into a technol­ogical Cold War,” Mr Richardson told The Australian. “What you see happening is the Chinese and Huawei on the one hand and the US on the other.”

ABBA was right: Rockonomics shows why the winner often takes it all

Ross Gittins
Economics Editor
June 10, 2019 — 12.15am
Why do we live in the era of superstars – whether people or businesses? Why is there such a thing as winner-take-all markets? Why do the top 1 per cent of households get an ever-bigger slice of the pie?
Short answer: because the digital revolution is disrupting far more of the economy than we realise.
It’s explained in the new book, Rockonomics: What the music industry can teach us about economics and life, by Alan Krueger, and summarised in his article in the New York Times, from which I’ll quote. Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton University, died in March at the age of 58.
Krueger says the first economist to explain the growing income gap between superstar businessmen and everyone else was the great English economist Alfred Marshall, in the late 1800s.

Investing in mortgages: the other side of property market

James Gerrard
There are benefits and drawbacks to both pooled or stand-alone mortgage funds.
  • 12:00AM June 8, 2019
With term deposits now cut further still, it is inevitable investors will turn to high-yield opportunities outside the sharemarket.
Traditionally, one of the most common alternatives is what are called “mortgage funds”, where the investor directly funds property mortgages and gets rewarded for that risk. There has been a sharp increase in advertising for high-yield, mortgage-backed investments in recent times, but how do you look at it and judge it on its merits? Unlike the sharemarket, which is transparent, there is a dangerous spectrum of risk in this area.
Financial adviser Xavier Lo says: “Mortgage investments are offered by firms that provide loans to property owners, and fund these loans by monies provided from investors, who are paid a regular amount of interest.

The easy money on the ASX is over

The post-election relief rally added billions of dollars to Aussie stock values, yet some 'perplexing contradictions' remain.
Jun Bei Liu
Jun 10, 2019 — 10.48am
The recent election win by the Coalition was a surprise for many, but overall in a good way. We can now look ahead to policy stability without looking over our shoulders for uncertain and potentially disruptive policies that, left unchecked, could have led to an imminent recession.
Since the election result, share prices have rallied across domestic-facing cyclical companies, and even the banks have had a meaningful uplift to their equity valuations. In all, billions of dollars have been added to the market capitalisation since the election result, making the Australian market among the best performing equity indices across the developed world. Incredible performance indeed.
Two weeks in, however, and many investors like ourselves are now left wondering: what next?

The regulatory 'dark matter' slowing down business

By Eryk Bagshaw
June 10, 2019 — 3.38pm
Businesses are being swamped by up to eight pages of regulations and guidelines for every page of related legislation, a report has found, lending weight to the Morrison government's call for "congestion busting" in the bureaucracy.
Australia's corporate, banking and competition regulators had published 75,976 pages of quasi-regulation as of May 6, compared with 9524 pages of enabling legislation.
The figures, from a report due to be released on Tuesday by conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, showed the impact of regulatory "dark matter" on productivity, IPA research fellow Kurt Wallace said.
"While regulation passed by Parliament is subject to a transparent democratic process, regulatory dark matter is being imposed by the regulatory state with little democratic oversight," he said.

Rick Morton exits The Australian

Myriam Robin Columnist
Jun 11, 2019 — 12.00am
Social affairs writer Rick Morton hasn't been published in The Australian since May 18. And while a four-week holiday isn't normally enough to raise any eyebrows, this absence will be lengthy, if not permanent. After seven years, he has left The Australian, and is working on his next book.
The timing is rather pointed, coming shortly after Morton told a bunch of journalism students that “there is a real kind of mood that something has gone wrong” at his employer.
It isn't how his ultimate boss sees it. Michael Miller told his new media editor Leo Shanahan only last week that News Corp's newspapers were "connected to the mind and mood" of the Australian population. An answer to in-house critics such as Morton, Anthony Klan, Alan Kohler and Nikki Savva, not to mention News alumni like Tony Koch. And those are just the ones that went public …

Vatican rejects 'transgender' term in official guidance on gender identity

11 June, 2019
The Vatican has issued an official document rejecting the idea that people can choose or change their genders, a statement which was immediately denounced by LGBT Catholics.

Key points:

  • Advocacy groups said the document would further confuse individuals and contribute to bigotry and violence against gay and transgender people
  • The Vatican called gender fluidity a symptom of the "confused concept of freedom" and "momentary desires"
  • It is the first attempt to put the Vatican's position into a comprehensive, official text
The document, published during LGBT Pride Month, insists on the sexual "complementarity" of men and women to reproduce.
Advocacy groups said it would further confuse individuals questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation and at risk of self-harm, and as contributing to bigotry and violence against gay and transgender people.

80pc of savers face negative interest rates

Duncan Hughes Reporter
Jun 11, 2019 — 12.00am
Interest rates on more than 80 per cent of savings and 44 per cent of term accounts are below the headline rate of inflation, with more cuts on the way following last week's reduction in cash rates, analysis shows.
The record low rates are a blow to 3 million households that rely on interest rates to make ends meet, such as retirees and other pensioners, and will force more than 1 million households to dip into their capital, according to analysts.
These negative real rates are also expected to force many savers from cash into riskier investments, ranging from housing to stocks, particularly high dividend paying income stocks, in search of bigger returns.

Evans Dixon tries to reassure clients as shares, funds fall further

Jun 11, 2019 — 12.00am
The head of Evans Dixon's wealth unit has written to clients to assure them the firm has acted in their best interests when it has advised them to invest in in-house funds that have since slid sharply in value.
Late on Friday evening Evans Dixon managing director of wealth advice Lyle Meaney emailed the 4800 odd clients of Dixon Advisory following a report in The Australian Financial Review that revealed a former client, 66-year old David Hall, had escalated his dispute with the company to the financial ombudsman.
Following the report, the sell-off in Evans Dixon-linked securities accelerated. Shares in the Evans Dixon-managed US Residential Masters Fund (URF) fell 7 per cent to 93¢, while shares in the parent management company plunged 9 per cent to 92¢.

US rate cut now seems inevitable

Rich Miller and Steve Matthews
Jun 11, 2019 — 8.21am
Washington | Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues face three decisions when it comes to reducing interest rates: whether to do it, when to do it, and by how much.
Fed watchers say an unexpectedly weak reading on the US jobs market in May makes it increasingly likely that the central bank will lower rates this year -- in spite of President Donald Trump's decision late Friday to call off his threatened tariffs on Mexico.
What's less certain is when the Fed will act and how big any cut will be -- a more traditional 25 basis point move or a bolder, 50 basis point reduction designed to get a bigger bang for the buck.

This country's treatment of whistleblowers has strong echoes of Orwell

By Adele Ferguson
June 11, 2019 — 12.01am
It has been a confronting week for whistleblowers, journalists and democracy.
It began on last Monday when ATO whistleblower Richard Boyle and his wife Louise Beaston spoke out about the toll on his life since being raided by the Australian Federal Police then charged with 66 offences equivalent to a 161 year prison sentence if found guilty.
ATO whistleblower Richard Boyle faces more than 160 years in prison.
What followed next was a series of AFP raids on two media outlets, News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst and the ABC, using the fig leaf of protecting our national security.

'The heart of our democracy': Crikey's investigative arm INQ launches

Max Mason Media & Marketing Editor
Jun 11, 2019 — 12.05am
Private Media chairman Eric Beecher says investigative journalism is core to Australian democracy and last week’s police raids at the ABC and at the home of a News Corp journalist only highlight the importance of the fourth estate.
Mr Beecher’s Private Media will on Tuesday launch its new investigative journalism team, INQ, with a staff of 12 – two editors and 10 journalists – who will focus on deep reporting across a range of topic areas as an extension of independent digital news publisher Crikey.
 “Inquiry or investigative journalism, and not just by a dedicated team, but by journalists much more broadly, is at the heart of our democracy. We’re supposed to have a really strong virile democracy in Australia and yet what’s happened [last week] makes it seem much more like a totalitarian kind of country,” Mr Beecher told The Australian Financial Review.
“The role of journalism and particularly this kind of inquiry journalism just gets highlighted by that.”

Business conditions deteriorate: NAB

Jun 11, 2019 — 11.41am
Business conditions have deteriorated with declines in both forward orders and profitability, according to the NAB Business Survey.
But business confidence has experienced its biggest monthly uptick in almost three years, according to the survey which was sent out four days before the federal election.
NAB group chief economist Alan Oster said the federal election result and firming expectations that the Reserve Bank would cut rates in June spiked confidence but that result could be shortlived.

Cautious Platinum retreats to GFC positioning

Liz Main Reporter
Jun 12, 2019 — 12.00am
Platinum Asset Management chief executive Andrew Clifford is as conservatively positioned as he was when the world was on the brink of a global financial crisis in 2007.
Although Mr Clifford would not go so far as to say Platinum saw the GFC coming, he said the investment house's traditionally cautious, patient approach to investing had placed it in good stead.
"We were concerned about the world and pretty conservatively positioned and we were pretty spot on," he said.
As talks between the US and China, and between the US and Mexico, began to break down last month, Mr Clifford said Platinum had once again "dramatically" brought down its net invested position by about 20 per cent to about 55 per cent.

Why savers are being screwed

Savers have battled deposit rates fractionally above inflation since 2016, and the RBA cut means depositors are now going backwards in real terms. But the RBA says their pain is for the greater good.
Jonathan Shapiro Senior Reporter
Jun 12, 2019 — 12.00am
For those who are ultra-careful with their money, the billboards outside bank branches in 2009 advertising 8 per cent deposit rates must have felt like a welcome reward for conservatism.
The financing squeeze in the aftermath of the global financial crisis left banks scrambling for household deposits, which were considered the most stable and reliable source of funding.
It was the start of a so-called "deposit war", when the banks paid savers a margin well above the prevailing cash rate to lure in their money.

Savers to be slugged $1.3b by rate cut

James Frost Financial Services Writer
Jun 12, 2019 — 12.00am
Savers collectively will be $1.3 billion worse off if banks pass on the full 25-basis-point cut to at-call cash accounts – and face even more pain as economists forecast further cuts by the end of the year.
AMP, Suncorp, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Bank Australia and others have already hit customers with cuts to interest rates for at-call cash accounts of between 7 bps and 30 bps, according to research house Canstar.
Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe said last week the central bank recognised many Australians relied on interest payments and understood why they would be disappointed with its decision to cut rates.
"The board considered what was best for the overall economy. Our judgment is that lower interest rates will help the economy as a whole," Dr Lowe said.

Global emissions rose the most in 7 years: BP

Jeremy Hodges
Jun 12, 2019 — 5.42am
London | Global carbon emissions jumped the most in seven years in 2018 as energy demand surged, according to BP's annual review of world energy, indicating the world is falling behind in its efforts to rein in climate change.
The report, one of the most closely watched surveys of global energy trends, found that primary demand rose at the fastest pace this decade in 2018 even though economic growth weakened. China, India and the US were responsible for two thirds of the 2.9 per cent increase in consumption.
Urgency is building around the world to contain a global increase in the temperature, which has risen 1 degree Celsius since the start of the industrial revolution and is on track to at least double that increase by the end of the century. It marks the quickest change in the climate since the end of the last ice age some 10,000 years ago.

World making heavy weather of carbon pricing

The Lex Column
Jun 12, 2019 — 10.16am
Floods, fires and violent storms inflate insurance losses. No wonder Munich Re wants more action on climate change. The world’s largest reinsurer this week called for a fivefold rise in the cost of emitting carbon. It wants a bigger incentive for European business to move away from fossil fuels.
Sweden is the inspiration — and not just because of snazzy carbon-friendly projects like its radiator-free high-rise flats, warmed by body heat. It has a $US139 per tonne carbon tax — the highest in the world.
Sweden boasts that it has decoupled emissions from economic growth. But it helps that four-fifths of its electricity production comes from nuclear and hydroelectric power. And the record on road transport emissions is not dazzling. They declined only 4 per cent from 1990 — the year before the carbon tax was introduced — to 2015.

Japan alliance ‘vital’ to counter China away from our shores

  • 12:00AM June 12, 2019
Australia must enter a formal defence alliance with Japan as part of a larger strategic push into Southeast Asia that would allow the military to fight a potential Chinese adversary as far from Australia’s shores as possible.
A leading defence think tank, the Australian Strategic Policy ­Institute, has called for a complete overhaul of Australia’s defence posture, arguing the traditional emphasis on controlling the air and sea gap to the north is outmoded and would be swiftly overwhelmed by advancing Chinese weaponry.
In a doctrine reminiscent of the forward defence strategy of the 1970s in which Australia configured its forces to fight land wars in Asia, the ASPI report calls on defence planners to forward-­deploy Australian assets to bases in places such as Japan, Guam and Papua New Guinea, where Australia is busy co-developing a new naval facility.

Pull back from the brink of overwhelming stress and find workplace peace

  • By Peta Bee
  • The Times
  • 12:00AM June 12, 2019
The World Health Organisation recognised burnout as a legitimate medical condition last month. In an update of its International Classification of Diseases handbook, a benchmark for doctors’ diagnoses, burnout is described as “a syndrome” that arises “from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.
Not since the 1980s have so many of us felt overworked and overwhelmed. Last year researchers at the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence estimated up to 20 per cent of “highly engaged” employees are at risk of burnout.
“It’s important to recognise that feeling a bit stressed does not mean you are burnt out or close to it,” says Peter Olusoga, a sport and exercise psychologist at Sheffield Hallam University.

How savers can quadruple their returns

Duncan Hughes Reporter
Jun 13, 2019 — 12.21am
Savers can more than quadruple returns on $50,000 in savings by shopping around for the best rates, an analysis of top online, mutual and major bank accounts shows.
“With rates at such lows, people have to get their money working a lot harder and think beyond the bank branch on the next corner,” said Steve Mickenbecker, group executive for Canstar, which monitors rates and terms.
For example, savers seeking a 340 per cent increase on their $50,000 online saver account will need to switch from any of the big four banks, which are paying 50 basis points, to Move Bank express saver’s 2.20 per cent. Move Bank is the former Railways Credit Union. That's comfortably ahead of the 1.3 per cent inflation rate.   

Kmart downgrade latest sign of flagging consumer strength

Wesfarmers had earlier warned that the strong sales growth Kmart enjoyed last year was very difficult to replicate.
Jun 13, 2019 — 9.34am
Two years ago, Credit Suisse analyst Grant Saligari came up with the left-field idea that Wesfarmers should sell its then-thriving discount department stores chain Kmart.
His reasoning was that Kmart was at or near the peak of its valuation – he put the “blue sky” price tag at as much as $7.4 billion – given it then commanded 75 per cent of the department store profit pool in Australia and 17 per cent of the expanded department store, clothing and soft furnishings profit pool.
The discount department store game went in cycles, Saligari argued, and if Wesfarmers wanted to fix Target it would need to take it more into Kmart’s patch. Better to sell Kmart for maximum profit and use those resources to fix Target, than to potentially hurt both.

Just on the QE, RBA looking at extreme options if economy turns sour

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
June 13, 2019 — 12.00am
With the Reserve Bank’s cash rate expected to be reduced to 1 per cent, if not lower, later this year it isn’t surprising there is discussion about the prospect of the RBA deploying unconventional measures if the economy continues to slow.
Quantitative easing (QE) – the purchases of bonds and mortgages in response to the global financial crisis – is still being undertaken in the United States, Europe and Japan, although the US Federal Reserve Board has been steadily reducing the scale of its activities.
RBA deputy governor Guy Debelle acknowledged in a speech late last year the bank had studied the offshore experience of QE and, while he hoped it would never have to be implemented here, said it was a policy option should it be required.

Top government adviser lists reforms needed to kickstart economy

By Jessica Irvine
June 13, 2019 — 12.00am
Abolish stamp duty, replace fuel excise with congestion charging, axe the "better off overall" test in workplace agreements and overhaul vocational education.
The government’s chief productivity adviser has outlined a “fresh agenda” for national economic reform in an extensive interview.
 “I think the opportunity is there to prosecute a fresh agenda for economic reform. I think the community will respond," said Michael Brennan, who took the helm at the Productivity Commission in September.

Jobless rate will have to fall much further to boost economy: RBA

By Shane Wright
June 12, 2019 — 7.01pm
Unemployment may have to fall below levels last seen at the height of the mining boom to stimulate wages growth and inflation, the Reserve Bank of Australia has signalled as more signs point to consumers' anxiety about the state of the economy.
RBA assistant governor Luci Ellis used a speech in Melbourne on Wednesday evening to argue the jobless rate at which inflation posed a risk to the economy had fallen in a development that suggests a long future of low interest rates.
The bank sliced official interest rates last week to an all-time low of 1.25 per cent in a bid to drive down the unemployment rate which is currently at 5.2 per cent. The Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday will release the May jobless figures with markets expecting the recent election to have temporarily lifted the number of people in work.

New threat of hybrid warfare must be tackled: Linda Reynolds

  • 12:00AM June 13, 2019
Australia needs new technolog­ical capabilities to deal with the growing threat of “hybrid warfare” — a military strategy blending traditional hard power with tactics such as hacking and fake news.
In her first major domestic speech as Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds will declare today that Australia’s sovereignty is facing­ the greatest pressure since World War II, requiring a whole-of-government effort to protect the ­nation’s interests.
“The rapid pace of military modernisation in the region is stretching the Australian Defence Force’s traditional technological edge, as well as its presence within and beyond our long maritime borders,” she will say, according to an advance copy of her speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s War in 2025 conference.

Unemployment rate higher than expected

  • Dow Jones
  • June 13, 2019
Australia’s unemployment rate was higher than expected in May, stoking the case for a cut in interest rates in coming months as policy makers move to support an economy growing at its slowest pace in a decade.
The elevated jobless rate came despite a strong rise in employment as more people looked for work last month.
The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.2 per cent in May from April, although economists had expected an unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent. Underemployment rose to 8.6 per cent last month from 8.5 per cent in April.

BlackRock looks to five 'megatrends' to expand its ETF business

Rachel Evans
Jun 14, 2019 — 7.37am
New York | BlackRock is tired of the conversation about cost.
The world's largest asset manager, which runs some of the cheapest investment products available, plans to place a greater focus on the quality of the engineering, construction and management of its funds going forward, according to Armando Senra, who recently took over as head of the firm's exchange-traded fund business for the US, Canada and Latin America.
"There's too much emphasis purely on cost," said Senra, speaking at a press event on the "megatrends" that BlackRock sees driving global growth. "We don't talk enough about quality. That's not to say we're not going to be competitive -- we have to be competitive, this is a competitive industry -- but I would move away from just a low-cost conversation."

Dangerous waters: The world’s most important oil route is under threat

By Stanley Reed
June 14, 2019 — 5.44am
The Strait of Hormuz, sometimes described as the world's most important oil choke point, is a gateway for almost a third of all crude oil and other petroleum products carried by tanker.
But it is also an increasingly dangerous place because of recent attacks on tankers, raising fears that the route is vulnerable to assaults that could threaten and destabilise oil prices.
After the apparent attack Thursday on two tankers just outside the strait, tanker operators were quick to voice concerns.

Jobs data moves RBA closer to another rate cut

By Shane Wright
June 14, 2019 — 12.00am
If the Reserve Bank of Australia was hoping the latest jobs report would give it a reprieve from making a tough decision about interest rates at its next meeting, it has been disappointed.
Outwardly, the creation of 42,000 jobs and an unemployment rate at 5.2 per cent would be welcomed by the RBA and officials inside the Treasury and federal government.
Instead, markets and economists lifted their expectations of a rate cut in July as the gap widened between what the RBA and policy makers want and what they're getting.

Preparing for Armageddon: Why gold is such a delusional investment

By Garry White
June 14, 2019 — 11.02am
Gold has just had its longest winning streak in 18 months, as investors get nervous about the impact of the Trump trade wars on economic growth, and the US Federal Reserve looks likely to cut rates. Once again, excitement surrounding the "quasi-currency" metal is building - and the gold bugs are out in force talking the price higher. But is this excitement really justified?
Gold is one of the strangest "investments" there is. There's a fevered devotion to the precious metal in some quarters, particularly in the US, that borders on delusional. Devotees claim the end of fiat currency is nigh and the global currency system will collapse - with holders of gold emerging from the ruins as the victors of this financial Armageddon. For some, buying gold is a way of prepping for the end of the world as we know it. It's the investment equivalent of buying guns and heading for the hills with a bug-out bag.
The fact that gold has been rising, recently hitting a 14-month high, is partly down to its status as a safe haven in times of trouble - but mostly down to the outlook for US interest rates. The dollar has moved off highs as markets bet on a series of interest rate cuts by the US central bank that could cause the greenback to weaken further. Because gold is priced in dollars, a falling greenback makes the precious metal cheaper for buyers in other currencies and it can therefore boost demand. This is why the gold price and the dollar tend to have an inverse relationship.

Recession-like conditions: Kmart and Target are being infected by Australia's retail malaise

Stephen Bartholomeusz
Senior business columnist
June 14, 2019 — 12.05am
The downgrades to Kmart and Target department store sales and earnings that Wesfarmers announced ahead of its annual strategy briefing today is consistent with the depressed state of consumer confidence and a weakening economy and adds to the pressure on the Morrison government to take action to stimulate growth.
Wesfarmers’ chief executive, Rob Scott, presented the negligible improvement in Kmart’s sales and decline in Target’s as a continuation of a trend but it’s not a positive or encouraging trend.
Kmart’s comparable store sales are down 0.2 per cent and Target’s 0.7 per cent for the year to date, even though Kmart’s performance has picked up modestly. In the first half of this financial year, its comparable stores sales were down 0.6 per cent.
Target, however, after posting growth of 0.5 per cent in first-half comparable store sales, has seen them decline 2.3 per cent between January and end-May and is down 0.7 per cent for the year to date.

‘That was just nuts’: Kevin Rudd rants against former PM Malcolm Turnbull over China

Kevin Rudd has lashed out at a former Australian leader, who he accused of sending us “down the gurgler” in an abrupt rant.
news.com.au June 14, 201912:09pm
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has lashed out at Malcolm Turnbull during a public Q&A on Australia’s relationship with China.
Mr Rudd, who is now the director of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, appeared at the Lowy Institute in Sydney last night for a discussion on Xi Jinping’s China and its growing trade war with the United States.
Asked about the Asian powerhouse’s difficult relationship with Australia, Mr Rudd said the relationship had always been tricky. “Certainly in our period in office … there were rolling tensions with the Chinese government on a range of different things. But we still managed to prosecute a balanced relationship.”

Australia should view Hong Kong law with alarm

  • 12:00AM June 14, 2019
The disturbing scenes of protests this week in otherwise peaceful Hong Kong about the planned ­expansion of the territory’s extradition laws are a serious worry for Australia.
They are a sign that Hong Kong, home to 100,000 people with Australian citizenship, more than 600 Australian companies and a key gateway for doing business with China, is changing ­inexorably; it is falling more under the influence of Beijing.
If the legislation is passed, it will inevitably affect Australian businesses in Hong Kong and ­potentially the thousands of Australians, including Hong Kong-born Australians, who go there each year on business or as tourists. It could affect the way Australia does business with China, its largest trading partner.

Cash flow strategies for retirees as interest rates plunge

Worried about diminishing cash returns? We outline four strategies to help you navigate even lower interest rates.
Duncan Hughes
Jun 15, 2019 — 12.00am
More than $300 billion could be in flux as millions of households consider what to do with their savings and investments as interest rates continue to fall.
That's the amount invested in discretionary savings and investments (not including super) that's likely to be moved around as households juggle how to generate income or spend their capital, says Martin North, principal of Digital Finance Analytics.
"This is creating an existential crisis," says North, as returns on more than 80 per cent of savings accounts and 44 per cent of term deposits slip below the headline rate of inflation, with more cuts on the way after the recent RBA reduction in official cash rates to 1.25 per cent.
Much of this money is likely to migrate to different banks, high-yielding property funds, real estate, infrastructure funds or global equities over coming months. "Households are questioning how and where to find a better return on their money and, if so, what risks they might face," North says.

Pope backs carbon pricing to stem global warming

Jun 14, 2019 — 11.46pm
Vatican City | Pope Francis said on Friday that carbon pricing is "essential" to stem global warming - his clearest statement yet in support of penalising polluters - and appealed to climate change deniers to listen to science.
In an address to energy executives at the end of a two-day meeting, he also called for "open, transparent, science-based and standardised" reporting of climate risk and a "radical energy transition" away from carbon to save the planet.
Carbon pricing, via taxes or emissions trading schemes, is used by many governments to make energy consumers pay for the costs of using the fossil fuels that contribute to global warming, and to spur investment in low-carbon technology.

Top uni wants to lower entry standards to counter student exodus

By Jordan Baker
June 15, 2019 — 12.00am
One of Sydney's top universities wants to lower its entry standards for year 12 students and delay lifting English language requirements for overseas students to battle a multi-million dollar revenue shortfall.
"A below-the-radar approach is recommended to protect reputation," said one of the slides presented to staff and obtained by the Herald.
The University of New South Wales lost $14.2 million after more than 800 domestic students dropped out before or early in term one and the number of first year international students fell by 222, documents show.
University executives responded by proposing to cut entry requirements for local students by reviewing subject prerequisites and reducing ATARs for some courses, staff were told during a strategy briefing late last month.

'Levels not seen since the GFC': NAB calls the retail recession

By Carolyn Cummins
June 14, 2019 — 4.01pm
The bell has tolled for the ailing retail sector, with the National Australia Bank declaring the industry is "clearly in recession".
Instead of end-of-financial-year sales, landlords and tenants will be waving white flags.
Adding to the sector's woes is the unseasonably warm Sydney weather at a time when retailers are trying to sell excess winter stock to make way for spring arrivals.
The foe of online shopping is also looming larger despite the best efforts of bricks-and-mortar owners and tenants to entice customers.
Corio Central is a prominent shopping centre in Geelong, Victoria, being sold by Vicinity Centres.

Why the AFP media raids are even more sinister than many thought

By Tony Koch
June 15, 2019 — 12.00am
The Australian Federal Police raids on a Newscorp journalist and the Sydney offices of the ABC are much more sinister than they are being portrayed.  Firstly, understand a little about the history of the federal police.
In the 1990s I was employed by The Courier Mail and later The Australian newspapers and during that time wrote several hundred articles about ATSIC – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation.
At the time it had a budget of about $1.2 billion and there was huge disquiet that nothing was being achieved. The theory behind the establishment of ATSIC was honourable, but the problem was that many of its administrators were not so honourable.

It's the budget, not interest rates, that must save our sagging economy

Ross Gittins
Economics Editor
June 15, 2019 — 12.00am
According to a leading American economist, there are two views of the way governments should use their budgets ("fiscal policy") in their efforts to manage the macro economy as it moves through the business cycle: the old view – which is now wrong, wrong, wrong – and the new view, which is now right.
In late 2016, not long before he stepped down as chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and returned to his job as an economics professor at Harvard, Jason Furman gave a speech in which he drew just such a comparison.
The Reserve Bank has cut interest rates to a new record low of 1.25 per cent.
I tell you about it now because, with our economy slowing sharply, but the Reserve Bank fast running out of room to cut its official interest rate so as to stimulate demand, it’s suddenly become highly relevant.

Could Australia run out of fuel?

Lisa Murray Senior writer
Jun 14, 2019 — 11.34am
Even before two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman this week, retired major-general and reluctant outgoing senator, Jim Molan, was raising concerns about Australia's fuel reserves.
Since 2012, Australia has been in breach of its international obligations because we hold 55 days worth of fuel imports as opposed to the 90-day minimum set by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The Australian government is in the middle of a Fuel Security Review, with a final report due in the second half of this year but there are growing calls for urgent action.
“There is no point in having 12 fantastic submarines and 75 F-35s if you’ve got no bloody fuel for them," warns Molan.

Australian dollar tumbles amid global rate repositioning

Timothy Moore Online editor
Jun 15, 2019 — 5.11am
The local currency has dropped sharply in the wake of expectations that the Reserve Bank is far from cutting interest rates and that and the US Federal Reserve need not rush to do so.
The Aussie slid 0.6 per cent to US68.72¢ in New York on Friday; the dollar has fallen near 2 per cent in a little more than a week. It touched an overnight low of US68.61¢.
The Australian dollar is caught in a downdraft. Bloomberg
Part of the reason for the slide was the latest US retail sales report, which came in at a 0.5 per cent rise in May, with a revision for April to positive 0.3 per cent from negative 0.2 per cent.

Retirees worldwide may run out of money 10 years before they die

By Ben Steverman
June 16, 2019 — 12.10am
One of the toughest problems retirees face is making sure their money lasts as long as they do.
From the US to Europe, Australia and Japan, retirement account balances aren't increasing fast enough to cover rising life expectancy, the World Economic Forum warns in a report published on Thursday.
The result could be workers outliving their savings by as much as a decade or more.
"The size of the gap is is such that it requires action" from policymakers, employers and individuals, said report co-author Han Yik, head of institutional investors at the World Economic Forum.

Federal Election.


Labor’s post-material push cannot conquer the nation

  • 12:00AM June 12, 2019
Early data suggests the great paradox of the election — richer suburban and inner-city seats voted Labor against their class interests while poorer outer-suburban and regional seats voted Coalition against their class interests, ignoring Labor’s “soak the rich” appeal.
So what is happening?
There are three trends at work. First, occupational-based class voting is dying, which means more low-paid workers are ready to vote for the Coalition. Second, wealth­ier and highly educated people attuned to progressive norms vote on a post-material basis for Labor (and the Greens) because of climate change, refugee rights and cosmopolitan values. Third, as Australia becomes a broader asset-owning democracy — think family home, investment properties, superannuation, share ownership and retirement assets — any conflict over tax treatment of assets becomes a test of aspirational values and a potential vote turner. And this election saw Labor’s tax assault on the asset class.
The bigger picture is a nation fragmenting along crisscrossing economic, social and cultural divides. The party that wins an election is the party best able to form a voting coalition that spans these divides. Constructing such coalitions is essential yet high-risk.

National Budget Issues.


Scott Morrison's $158 billion tax cuts in limbo as Pauline Hanson says 'no'

By David Crowe
June 10, 2019 — 8.45am
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has rejected the government’s plea to pass the full $158 billion income tax cut unveiled in the federal budget, putting the final stage of the tax plan in limbo.
Senator Hanson said she was not in favour of the third and final stage of the ten-year tax plan "at this stage" when government money should be spent instead on building new coal-fired power stations and water projects.
Pauline Hanson has revealed she will not support the Coalition's proposed $158b income tax cuts plan in full.

RBA has extreme stimulus measures on standby

As the RBA nears the limit of interest rate cuts, attention is turning to the central bank resorting to less conventional stimulus measures such as quantitative easing, writes John Kehoe.
John KehoeSenior Writer
Jun 11, 2019 — 3.00pm
The Reserve Bank of Australia is approaching the limits of interest rate cuts, so financial market attention is turning to the possibility of it resorting to an unconventional stimulus known as quantitative easing.
Undoubtedly, this would be an extraordinary step for the RBA. It probably wouldn’t do so lightly, unless the economy was in trouble.
Yet a fact overlooked by many outside the RBA is that quantitative easing would not be unprecedented in Australia. The RBA conducted a version of it during the 2008 global financial crisis.

Tudge ready to fasttrack small projects

Mark Ludlow Queensland Bureau Chief
Jun 12, 2019 — 10.02am
Federal Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge said the Morrison government was keen to bring forward smaller infrastructure projects, from commuter car parks, bridges and traffic lights, to help kickstart the economy.
Although some of the multi-billion dollar commitments made in the $100 billion promise in the April budget would take years to be "shovel ready", Mr Tudge said he was working with state and territory governments to fast-track smaller projects.
"We want to see these smaller-scale projects done as quickly as possible," Mr Tudge told The Australian Financial Review National Infrastructure Summit in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Why the rate cut could lead to riskier investing

Sarah Turner Reporter
Jun 12, 2019 — 4.41pm
Australia's first interest rate cut for almost three years is likely to push investors ultimately into riskier assets and fire up the corporate bond market.
The Reserve Bank of Australia cut its official cash rate by 25 basis points to 1.25 per cent on June 4, effectively reducing the returns that savers receive on cash in the bank and on similarly low-risk investments such as term deposits.
"Obviously, the Aussie consumer isn’t receiving that income,"  Fidelity International's new global cross-asset investment specialist, Anthony Doyle, said, adding that he believed the hunt for yield would now become fierce.

Josh Frydenberg says surplus more important than stimulus despite weakening economy

By Latika Bourke
June 14, 2019 — 8.07pm
London:  Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has ruled out delaying the budget surplus even if the economy continues to weaken.
On Friday, the NAB declared Australia's retail sector already in recession and some economists fear the entire economy could next year fall into recession, ending the country's much-vaunted 28-years of economic growth.
Mr Frydenberg told a business audience in London that the biggest threat to Australia's economic conditions remained US-China trade tensions.
"From Australia's perspective, we call for cool heads to prevail," Mr Frydenberg told the Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce at Macquarie Bank's headquarters in the Square Mile.

Tax plan split would help economy now, says Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers

  • By Agencies
  •  June 16, 2019
There are increasing signs of a political stand-off over personal income tax cuts when the new federal parliament sits for the first time next month. The government has repeatedly knocked back the idea of splitting the tax cuts bill that would see changes out to 2022 and 2024, saying it was the plan it took to the recent federal election which it now has a mandate to implement in full. The total tax plan amounts to $158 billion, a figure the Labor opposition and some crossbenchers have baulked at given the uncertain economic outlook. Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers says splitting the tax bill, so low and middle income earners can get immediate relief, would likely be supported unanimously in parliament.
He noted the Reserve Bank has called for tax cuts in the near term to boost consumption.
“The biggest problem in our economy is not actually international conditions at the moment, as (Treasurer) Josh Frydenberg has been pretending,” Dr Chalmers told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.

Health Issues.


Instagram over ethics: ego-driven plastic surgeons put on notice

By Kate Aubusson
June 9, 2019 — 12.00am
Greed-driven plastic surgeons putting profits before patients are behaving more like social media influencers than doctors, their own colleagues warn.
The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has admonished self-aggrandising surgeons peddling misleading marketing over medical ethics, and damaging the reputation of the entire profession.
The Chair of ASPS Ethics Committee has issued an excoriating rebuke of his own specialty, describing “a worrying deterioration of standards” and “erosion of trust in the community”.
“At best unethical behaviour can be inadvertent … at worst it is driven by greed and ego where the patient becomes a commodity to be exploited," Dr Richard Theile wrote in an editorial published in the Australasian Journal of Plastic Surgery.

Crowdfunding for cancer surgery? In the US we paid next to nothing

Helen Pitt
June 9, 2019 — 12.00am
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we, as one Sydney surgeon called it last week: whether brain surgery on a patient diagnosed with a terminal illness is valid or not. Let me backtrack first …
Sydney neurosurgeon Charlie Teo has been in the media following criticism of the six-figure sums charged for his brain surgery expertise at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital. On Twitter, University of Sydney professor of surgery Henry Woo, who is also the director of uro-oncology at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, said there was something “seriously wrong if a terminally ill girl with a brain tumour has to raise $120K to have surgery’’.
Dr Teo defended his prices, saying he only received $8000 of a $120,000 bill and the majority went to the private hospital, and the broader issue of cost in Australia’s public/private healthcare system “needs to be discussed”.
Woo argued: “If it was valid surgery, it could/should be performed in the public system under Medicare.”

Greg Hunt warns of 'excessive' medical fees amid Dr Charlie Teo debate

By Dana McCauley and Patrick Begley
June 10, 2019 — 12.00am
Health Minister Greg Hunt has sounded a warning to medical specialists over "very excessive" fees after brain surgeon Charlie Teo defended charging large medical bills for risky procedures.
The high-profile Sydney doctor has accused the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons of trying to "purge" him, amid criticism over an operation on a 12-year-old girl whose family set a crowdfunding target of $100,000 to cover the expense.
Dr Teo has explained in cases where a surgery cost $120,000, about $80,000 went to the private hospital, while the remaining $40,000 was shared between himself, a radiologist, an anaesthetist and others.
He said he would receive about $8000 to $15,000 himself and the high private fees were charged because desperate interstate patients had to go outside their own public system.

NSW upper house to hold inquiry into Northern Beaches Hospital

By Alexandra Smith
June 6, 2019 — 6.36pm
The trouble-plagued Northern Beaches Hospital will be scrutinised by a NSW parliamentary committee, with the power to subpoena past and present staff.
Labor says it pushed for the parliamentary inquiry because the Auditor-General cannot examine the performance or operations of the $600 million hospital as it is a public-private partnership.
The 488-bed hospital was opened in late-October last year but from day one was marred by reports of shortages of essential drugs and medical equipment, understaffing and industrial disputes

APRA ramps up merger pressure for private health insurers

By Colin Kruger
June 6, 2019 — 12.00am
Health insurers face the prospect of forced mergers or even closures as the sector's watchdog ramped up its warnings over the impact rising premiums was having on their viability.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) said on Wednesday it had started talks discussions with health insurers facing "sustainability challenges" because of the declining affordability of health insurance and ramped up its threat to force mergers if necessary.
APRA head of insurance policy development Peter Kohlhagen said that declining affordability represented an unprecedented challenge for the industry and the regulator had identified insurers who were not rising to the challenge.
7 June 2019

Another political spendathon – and for what purpose?

Posted by Dr Joe Kosterich
When writing columns there is a time lag between when it is written and when it appears. Events occurring in this window period may render what you write irrelevant.
This was written before the federal election and you are reading it well after the result is known.
But one thing which can be stated, is that for general practice it makes no difference who forms the next government. Neither side has promised anything. The track record of both sides of politics for the last seven years has been to freeze rebates or increase them at a minimal amount, all the while crowing about bulk-billing rates.
In contrast, a proposal in April for patients to have two months of medication dispensed at once was quickly killed off after objections from the Pharmacy Guild. The contrast between the success of the pharmacists in protecting their interests and the failure of GPs to even hold ground is stark.

Pharmacists at The Alfred to mix lethal dose and hand deliver to patients

By Melissa Cunningham
June 9, 2019 — 2.39pm
Three pharmacists at The Alfred hospital have been given the job of mixing and delivering the lethal dose to be taken by Victoria’s first voluntary euthanasia patients.
The pharmacists will personally deliver the substance, made from a cocktail of drugs already legal in Australia, in a locked box to terminally ill people across the state.
"No matter where they are in Victoria, they will dispense the medication to them. If there is any medication remaining, they will collect that and take it back," Victoria's Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.
The historic laws will come into force on June 19 and will allow terminally ill adults who only have about six months to live and meet other eligibility criteria – such as being able to give informed consent – access to a lethal substance.

Youth mental health service gets $2.8m boost

  • 12:00AM June 11, 2019
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce a $2.8 million cash injection today for a leading mental health organisation as part of his government’s promise to improve youth and indigenous mental health services.
The funding boost will be used to expand batyr’s services by enhancing their online presence, which “supports youth mental health through safe and effective storytelling in schools”, a statement from the Prime Minister’s office reads.
Established in 2011, batyr conducts workshops across Australia in an aim to challenge the stigma surrounding mental illness and to equip participants with the skills and confidence needed to share their stories.

Treatment times blow out at overcrowded emergency departments

By Kate Aubusson
June 12, 2019 — 12.00am
Record numbers of patients are swamping emergency departments across NSW, with critically ill patients needing treatment within 10 minutes waiting over an hour at a major Sydney hospital.
The rising numbers – above population growth – show no sign of slowing as the state enters the winter flu season. Even if patient numbers stabilise, more than 3 million people will present at NSW emergency departments this year.
The latest Bureau of Health Information quarterly report shows that, for the first time, ED attendances tipped over three quarters of a million (756,259) in just three months, according to the figures for the January-March period.

Resistance to immunity - why vaccination isn't a personal choice

Gavin Francis
Jun 14, 2019 — 9.58am
Not far from the hospital in Edinburgh where I work there’s a graveyard; it can be a calm, if morbid, place to reflect after a tough shift. Passing it acts as a “memento mori” on days when I need to be reminded of the value of medical practice – which for all its modern complexity remains the art of postponing death. Benches are set out in the shade of trees, between red-shingle walkways and rows of Victorian tombstones. Many of the stones commemorate dead children, but there’s a memorial near the entrance that always stops me short. It’s dedicated to Mary West, a woman who died in 1865, at the age of 32 – two years before Joseph Lister published his groundbreaking work on antisepsis. The reason for her death is unrecorded. Beneath her own name are listed the names of her six children in their order of death – at ages 2, 11, 4, 12 and 14. Only one lived to adulthood.
The death of any child is a tragedy, but to lose so many is now almost unthinkable. In the Victorian period, when infectious diseases were rife, it was routine. I trained in medicine through the 1990s and never saw a case of one of the most virulent, measles, though my tutors told me to learn about it from textbooks. Yet working in the emergency room recently I saw a girl with a rash, fever, conjunctivitis, swollen lymph glands – all classic symptoms of the measles virus. “Do you know if she has had her MMR [measles, mumps and rubella] vaccine?” I asked her father. He nodded, but something made me doubt his sincerity.

Expert warning over growing number with chronic liver disease

By Stuart Layt
June 14, 2019 — 12.01am
The rate of chronic liver disease in Queensland is rising, with experts warning the state has only dealt with the “tip of the iceberg” if more is not done to combat the debilitating condition.
Researchers from QIMR Berghofer medical research institute looked at every patient admitted to hospital in Queensland with chronic liver disease over a nine year period from 2008 to 2016.
Over that time, there was a 62 per cent increase in the number of patients being treated for the chronic liver condition cirrhosis at Queensland hospitals, from 2701 admissions in 2008 to 4367 in 2016.

Why Nanosonics could be the next Cochlear

Yolanda Redrup Reporter
Jun 14, 2019 — 11.30am
When Michael Kavanagh agreed to take on the top job at Nanosonics in October 2013, it came as a shock to many of his colleagues at Cochlear, where he was already establishing a strong executive career.
At the time, hearing device maker Cochlear was worth $3 billion, while Nanosonics was only a $200 million company. The jump was perceived as a big risk for Kavanagh.
Now, investors and analysts think he might be right (and not just because Nanosonics now inhabits Cochlear's old office in Sydney's Lane Cove).

The 'eight-minute' cure: how transvaginal mesh sentenced thousands of women to a life of pain

Up to 18,000 Australian women have suffered mild to horrific complications from the insertion of transvaginal mesh devices. How did the health system let them down so badly?
By Amanda Hooton and Joanne McCarthy
June 15, 2019
Grace Irvine has blue eyes, pale skin, and short hair that fluffs up at the back like a baby chick's. She is 29 years old. Three years ago, she was a healthy mother of three boys living in a small town in Victoria. She worked as a dental assistant, and wanted to study nursing.
After her second son, Sammy, was born in 2013, Irvine noticed what felt like an uncomfortable lump in her vagina when she sat down. This is a common symptom of pelvic organ prolapse (POP), a condition that, at some point, affects about half of all women who've had children. It happens when organs of the pelvis – bladder, rectum, uterus – drop or press into the vagina. She also noticed "a bit of leakage" during exercise, caused by stress urinary incontinence (SUI). This is a separate condition to prolapse, but both are socially disabling – and cause serious health problems if very severe – and Irvine was only 24.

Women don't get the treatment they need after a heart attack

Jill Margo Health Editor
Jun 14, 2019 — 4.37pm
It is almost an article of faith that Australian women are better at looking after their health than men, but the reverse is true when it comes to looking after their hearts.
While women are less likely to recognise their symptoms, they are also less likely to attend rehabilitation after a heart attack, take their medication regularly or make changes necessary for good health.
Three times more Australian women die of heart disease than breast cancer. 

International Issues.


A million take to Hong Kong streets to say no to Beijing

By Kirsty Needham
June 10, 2019 — 5.42am
Beijing: Over a million people marched through Hong Kong city streets on Sunday evening in a massive protest against a bill that would allow people to be extradited to mainland China.
Violence erupted after midnight, as thousands of students attempted a sit-in outside Hong Kong’s legislative council after the march, but were dispersed by police in riot gear using pepper spray and batons.
The organiser's estimate of 1.03 million people marching the three kilometres from Victoria Park would make it the biggest protest since the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.
At handover, China and Britain had agreed Hong Kong would operate under "One Country, Two Systems", allowing Hong Kong's limited government control over immigration, borders and a separate legal system.
But the extradition bill has raised fears that Beijing is gradually eroding Hong Kong's special autonomy.

Why Australians should be worried about Hong Kong’s new extradition laws

By Felicity Lewis
June 7, 2019 — 10.46am
In the same week that 180,000 people attended a vigil in Hong Kong to remember victims of China’s Tiananmen Square massacre, controversy has reached boiling point in the city over moves to fast-track changes to Hong Kong’s extradition laws.
The changes would mean that people accused of a crime could be surrendered by Hong Kong to authorities, including those in mainland China which is currently excluded from extradition agreements with the former British colony.
The new moves are being pushed through at a dizzying pace, before the Hong Kong legislature’s July summer recess. Animated debate between angry pro-democracy legislators and their pro-Beijing counterparts continued this week, having already erupted into physical argy-bargy last month. Thousands of people marched in protest in April and more are expected to take to the streets on June 9, with protests also planned in Australia.

Trump levels new tariff threat against China if Xi doesn't meet him

By Damian Paletta
June 11, 2019 — 7.08am
Washington: US President Donald Trump on Monday threatened to impose large tariffs on $US300  billion ($431 billion) in imports if Chinese leader Xi Jinping did not meet with him in Japan later this month.
Trump, in a wide-ranging and apparently impromptu interview with CNBC, said he was "scheduled to have a meeting" with Xi during the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, but Chinese officials have refused to publicly confirm the gathering.
"We do not want a trade war, but we are not afraid of fighting one," said Geng Shuang, spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "If the US is ready to have equal consultations, our door is wide open. But if it insists on escalating trade frictions, we will respond to it with resolution and perseverance."

Hong Kong's last fight is lost

Peter Hartcher
Political and international editor for The Sydney Morning Herald
June 11, 2019 — 12.00am
The people of Hong Kong on the weekend exercised their freedom to turn out in record numbers against yet another tightening of the Chinese Communist Party's fist around the territory. Surely Beijing cannot ride roughshod over such a mass display of dissent? According to the organisers of the mass rally, about 1 million people marched in Hong Kong's oppressive heat.
Even if the true figure is half that, it would still represent one of every 15 people in Hong Kong. That's an immense statement of concern in any city, and especially for a people who are reputed to be interested only in business, indifferent to politics.
A peaceful mass protest in Hong Kong over an extradition bill descended into violence in the early hours of Monday as several hundred protesters clashed with a similar number of police outside the city's parliament.

Changing gender goes against nature, says Catholic Church

  • By Kaya Burgess
  • The Times
  • June 11, 2019
The Vatican has rejected the idea that people can change or choose their gender, suggesting the movement aims to “annihilate the concept of nature”.
The Vatican office that oversees Catholic schools and universities published a guidance document for priests and teachers yesterday called Male and Female He Created Them.
It describes an “educational crisis” around gender and criticises the view that gender and sexuality can be “fluid”, saying such theories are “founded on a confused concept of freedom”.

Donald Trump is making America scary again

Gideon Rachman
Jun 11, 2019 — 10.23am
Donald Trump’s domestic critics have often compared him to a mafia boss. James Comey, who Mr Trump fired as head of the FBI, said that dealing with the US president reminded him of his earlier career, “as a prosecutor against the mob”.
Mr Trump made his career in construction in New York and casinos in New Jersey, which may explain why his mannerisms seem strangely familiar to fans of The Godfather or The Sopranos.
But this is not merely about style. The president’s way of conducting foreign policy also seems to owe something to the mob. There is the emphasis on personal relations between bosses; the sense that only his own family members are completely trusted; the willingness to switch suddenly from warm words to threats and back again; the tendency to treat alliances as a form of protection racket — pay up, or we’ll stop protecting the neighbourhood; the preference for the offer you can’t refuse, rather than a genuine negotiation.

Fasten your seatbelts, China has drawn its red lines against Trump

By Kevin Rudd
13 June, 2019
This time last month, I was having breakfast with a Chinese friend in Chengdu, the prosperous provincial capital of Sichuan, discussing the increasingly toxic US-China relationship. The only newspaper available that morning was the less-than-world-renowned Chengdu Commercial Daily. But the headlines that day took my eye, particularly the bright red-lined box high on the front page, announcing publicly for the first time China’s three new red lines in the ongoing US-China trade war.
Mysteriously these also happened to be the headlines in every newspaper in China that day. I hadn’t seen such editorial discipline since Murdoch’s coverage of the Australian elections.
It was clear we were now in a whole new world of pain in bringing an end to an increasingly debilitating trade war. China would not now be budging on America’s insistence on retaining tariffs for a period after the deal’s signing; nor would it accept the US unilaterally reimposing tariffs in the future if the US deemed China not to be complying, while denying China the right to take retaliatory measures; nor President Trump’s ever-inflating “purchasing order” for American goods that China would be required to buy to bring down the bilateral trade deficit to a number of Trump’s choosing.

Watch Hong Kong and ask: Will we be China's partner or servant?

Barnaby Joyce
June 14, 2019 — 12.00am
In its entire post-First Fleet history, Australia has not had to contend with the larger intercontinental political issues in isolation from its cultural and philosophical alliances. We’ve always had a larger, stronger partner. In the future we may have our own unique dilemmas as we deal with our response alone.
Aboriginal Australia had no occasion to deal with the encroaching global grab for territory until 1788 when Australia became part of the global naval power of the day, England. With England, Australia remained until it morphed seamlessly during World War II into a close collaboration with the United States.
This was not sycophancy; it was necessity as we would naturally ally ourselves with a stronger partner of similar democratic and liberal views against militaristic, autocratic aggression.

Hundreds of companies decry tariffs in letter to Trump

June 14, 2019 — 9.22am
New York: More than 600 companies and trade associations, including Walmart and Target, have signed a letter telling President Donald Trump that an escalating trade war with China will hurt families, jobs and the US economy.
The letter, dated Thursday and organised by a business coalition called Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, comes as the US Trade Representative's office is set to hold public hearings Monday that will consider extending the 25 per cent tariffs to practically all Chinese imports not already hit with levies, including toys, shirts, household goods and sneakers.
Trump has already imposed 25 per cent tariffs on $US250 billion ($361 billion) of goods from China.

'Unprecedented': Watchdog calls for White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway to be fired

By Kevin Freking
June 14, 2019 — 6.02am
Washington: A US federal watchdog agency recommended on Thursday that President Donald Trump fire one of his most ardent defenders, counsellor Kellyanne Conway for repeatedly violating a law that limits political activity by government workers.
The US Office of Special Counsel, which is unrelated to Rusia probe special counsel Robert Mueller's office, said in a letter to Trump that Conway has been a "repeat offender" of the Hatch Act by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.
Special Counsel Henry Kerner's letter to Trump states: "Ms Conway's violations, if left unpunished, send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act's restrictions. Her actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system - the rule of law."

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders leaving job at end of month

By Justin Sink
June 14, 2019 — 6.20am
Washington: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving the Trump administration after a turbulent tenure marked by attacks on the media, dissemination of false information and the near-disappearance of the daily press briefing.
"After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas," President Donald Trump said Thursday in a tweet.  [Trump has been president for two-and-a-half years].
Sanders, 36, took over the role as top White House spokeswoman after her predecessor, Sean Spicer, abruptly resigned in July 2017.
While Sanders proved a more effective and composed carrier of President Donald Trump's message than Spicer, she maintained the administration's publicly antagonistic approach to reporters and regularly ran afoul of the facts.

Everything we don’t know yet about the Gulf tanker explosions

By Adam RasmiJune 14, 2019
Two oil tankers caught fire today in the Gulf of Oman, off the Iranian coast. The US navy’s Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, said it responded to two distress calls from the tankers, between 6 and 7am local time, over a “reported attack.” The British navy was more circumspect, at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran, and urged “extreme caution.”
The exact source of the fires on the ships remains unknown (paywall), but reports suggest torpedoes, projectiles, and even naval limpet mines (paywall) might be at play.
If it sounds like a convoluted mess, it is.

With protests, Hong Kong approaches Beijing's 'red line'

By Kirsty Needham
June 14, 2019 — 3.30pm
Hong Kong: Dressed in a delicate yellow dress with sandals on her feet, Tse, 26, began crying when she contemplated what was happening around her in Hong Kong’s Central district on Wednesday night.
The spectacular lights of the city’s skyscrapers cast a surreal glow over the thousands of protesters, many younger than Tse, who were corralled onto Connaught Road as riot police stood a few hundred metres away.
9News Asia Correspondent Renae Henry has spoken with a hunger strike protester amid the tensions in Hong Kong.
“I don’t think she will change her mind,” she sobbed, referring to Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam. “I ask myself, do I have to accept this?

Rare earths give China leverage in trade war with US, at a cost

The Economist
  • 12:00AM June 15, 2019
It looks at first like a classic Chinese painting: water-soaked paddies nestled against endless green hills. But then the brown begins. Abandoned brown pits on the hilltops. Brown gashes down their sides. Brown sludge in the streams.
Ganzhou, until a few years ago, was southern China’s mining country. The damage done in the name of economic growth involves an industry that has given China leverage in its trade war with America. The rocks extracted are rich in rare-earth minerals, used in everything from planes to smartphones. It is a dirty business that China dominates.
Rare earths, covering 17 elements on the periodic table, are in fact common. But China holds two-fifths of global reserves. In 1992, Deng Xiaoping quipped that “the Middle East has oil, China has rare earths”.

Latin lives on via centuries of gradual change in other languages

  • By The Economist
  • 12:00AM June 14, 2019
Cicero, the Roman statesman whose prose is thought to represent the peak of style in Latin, was also a bit of a snob about it. Few others, he complained in a tome written in 46BC, used the language properly any more.
His gripes would be worse today. At a recent mass at the Vatican attended by your columnist, some of the Latin used by Pope Francis was impeccable. But much of it was downright dismal; it would have been incomprehensible to Cicero. Strangely, the Pope’s remarks were translated into several other species of terrible Latin.
That is because the Pope’s dismal Latin is also known as Italian. Francis’s native language, Spanish, is another kind of deformed Latin. The French in which his interpreter greeted some of the faithful is yet another variety.
Family trees of languages typically show Spanish, French and Italian descending from Latin in the same way that you are descended from your mother. But this is misleading. There was no birth of Italian, nor any definitive death of Latin. Instead, there were centuries of infinitesimal changes. Those who noticed them would, like Cicero, have considered them mistakes.

Global order is crumbling, but even without Trump it was doomed

Tom Switzer
June 15, 2019 — 12.00am
One of America’s great 20th century intellectuals Walter Lippmann once warned: “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” This advice is especially justified when the prevailing dogma is wrong, which is the case with respect to what is called the rules-based international order.
It is widely believed that the world in which we live – the institutions of governance, the rules and norms – is largely inspired by the kind of global leadership the US has exercised for decades and that the liberal order has been a profoundly positive force for promoting peace and prosperity. How the US-led wars in Vietnam and Iraq helped enforce those ideals is far from clear.
In any case, the “rules-based international order” itself has become a popular expression only in recent times. A Factiva research search of the world’s newspapers and news wires shows that in the three decades from 1985 to 2015 the expression was used on 319 occasions. Since Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign four years ago this weekend (June 16, 2015), the term has been used a whopping 5,855 times.

Hong Kong suspends controversial extradition bill

Michael Smith China Correspondent
Jun 15, 2019 — 8.40pm
Hong Kong | The Hong Kong government has suspended the introduction of controversial new extradition laws indefinitely in a major backdown aimed at heading off more violence in the city after police clashed with tens of thousands of protesters.
While resisting calls for her resignation, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam admitted the government had done an "inadequate" job explaining the changes that would have allowed criminals to be extradited to China.
She told a packed news conference that legislative work on the new laws, originally due to be introduced next month, had been suspended and no deadline had been set to re-introduce the bill.  Beijing later said it backed her decision and she had the full support of the Chinese government.

Saudi crown prince accuses Iran of twin tanker attacks

  • By Agencies
  • June 16, 2019
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he “won’t hesitate” to tackle threats to the kingdom, in his first comment amid ongoing tensions with rival Iran following attacks on oil tankers in a vital Gulf shipping channel.
“We do not want a war in the region … But we won’t hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests,” Prince Mohammed said in excerpts published early Sunday of an interview to pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.
“The Iranian regime did not respect the presence of the Japanese prime minister as a guest in Tehran and responded to his (diplomatic) efforts by attacking two tankers, one of which was Japanese,” Prince Mohammed told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, referring to the attacks in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.
I look forward to comments on all this!