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, January 24, 2019

The Macro View – Economics, and Politics and the Big Picture. News Relevant To E-Health And The Health Sector In General Among Other Things.

January 24, 2019 Edition.
Well it is all the go in the US with the shutdown rolling on – various proposals being floated and virtually no progress. Gridlock of the most amazing kind is now fully in play!
Same in the UK with Brexit.
In Australia it seems the election campaign has begun and the LNP problem with women has just had fuel added to the fire with Kelly O’Dwyer bailing. More gifts to Labor I believe.
The Aged Care Royal Commission has kicked off and it is going to be harrowing.

Major Issues.

PM Scott Morrison's economic 'storm clouds' warning echoes Peter Costello, 2007

13 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned business and voters are facing global economic "storm clouds" this year, ramping up a pre-election attack that Labor's higher taxes will amplify an increasingly uncertain economic outlook.
The shift in the Coalition government's economic narrative was influenced by deepening international economic headwinds and geopolitical tensions, as well as recent house price falls and signs of subdued Christmas season sales for retailers, The Australian Financial Review understands.
Returning from holiday leave to set the economic scene for the election year, Mr Morrison on Sunday said: "As we go into this year, you know, the storm clouds internationally for the economy are stronger this year than they were last year.

US equities aren't signalling a recession just yet

Updated 14 Jan 2019 — 10:51 AM, first published at 10:08 AM
The rout in equities through the December quarter wasn't foretelling an imminent US recession; rather it was a buy signal, some Wall Street strategists now argue.
To the end of last week's trading, the S&P 500 had rallied more than 10 per cent from its December 24 low.
All three major United States benchmarks also were at least 2.9 per cent higher so far this month, even as data last week showed that both US manufacturing and services activity had slowed.

Why Australia is a country that makes a difference in the world

13 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
I might be wrong but it seems our country is starting to lose its sunny optimism. If there is one characteristic that separates Australians from much of the world, it's that belief we are on a mission to create a truly great society. This optimism has been entrenched in our culture; when all does not seem well, we like the phrase "she'll be right, mate". We eschew fancy ideological constructs for practical outcomes. Australians have only once elected a member of the Communist Party to any of our parliaments and fascists don't get a look in.
Above all, Australia has been free of the rather weary cynicism that infects so much of Europe. I asked a friend of mine who works for the Financial Times why British political leaders don't use rousing phrases like "our best days lie ahead of us". He replied dolefully that they didn't; they were in the 19th century! To think that takes a very special mindset!
That mindset might be contagious. Australians are – at least on average – enjoying higher living standards and a better quality of life than ever before. But over the Christmas/new year break I couldn't help but feel the public were unsettled, almost febrile about the state of our nation. That hasn't been helped by the tendency of Labor and Liberal federal politicians to scythe down our prime ministers. And it's not helped by the importation from Europe and the United States of woke post-modernism that postulates that existing power structures need to be destroyed. Some have also caught on to divisive identity politics turning Australian against Australian on the basis of gender, sexual preference, race, culture and class.

Scott Morrison on what ‘everyday’ Australians believe in

Sick of the “angry mob” on social media, Prime Minister Scott Morrison explains what “everyday” Australians actually believe in.
Scott Morrison
news.com.au January 14, 201911:15am
When I called into the Shoalhaven Heads Hotel on the NSW South Coast over the break, it was nice to spend time with Australians from all walks of life who had a positive outlook.
Locals, holiday makers staying at caravan parks, small business people from western Sydney, surf lifesavers, fishing and rural fire service members, professionals, kids, mums, retirees, pensioners. It was refreshing.
I wasn’t there on any political visit, just holidaying with Jen and the girls enjoying the flathead and chips like everyone else.

China trade data turns negative in December as surplus with US spikes to record high

  • Dow Jones
  • January 14, 2019
Both China’s exports and imports in December fell from a year ago as the impact of US tariffs started to kick in and demand weakened, according to official data released on Monday.
China’s exports dropped 4.4 per cent from a year earlier in December, following 5.4 per cent growth in November, data from the General Administration of Customs showed. A Wall Street Journal poll of economists had forecast the value of shipments overseas to grow 2.5 per cent
Imports dropped 7.6 per cent on year in December, compared with a 3.0 per cent increase in November, according to customs data. The WSJ poll had forecast the value of shipments from overseas would grow 3 per cent.
The ASX 200 slid to a two-day low following the release of the weaker-than-expected data.

Robots waging war? Science fiction no more.

How autonomous weapons could change the future battlefield.

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Artificial intelligence has already crept into our cars, our homes, and our phones. It’s changed how nations communicate, but can it transform how they wage war? Maybe. Do we want it to? Maybe not. These questions sound like they came out of a science fiction novel, but autonomous weapons — those that can select and attack targets without human intervention — have been under development for decades.

A robot on the battlefield is no longer a science fiction trope.

We’ve already seen imagined technology become the reality in war — tanks, landmines, nuclear bombs, and long-range missiles are all prime examples of this advancement. Armed forces have been using remotely controlled, unmanned vehicles since as early as World War II. And the development of autonomous military technology has grown rapidly since the Vietnam War. One study at Arizona State University’s Global Security Initiative shows that while there were no weapons with homing capabilities in 1965, there were almost 175 such weapons in 2015.

The confidence of the incompetent

By Angela Fritz
14 Jan 2019 — 4:00 PM
You may have witnessed this scene at work, while socialising with friends or over a holiday dinner with extended family: someone who has very little knowledge in a subject claims to know a lot. That person might even boast about being an expert.
This phenomenon has a name: the Dunning-Kruger effect. It's not a disease, syndrome or mental illness; it is present in everybody to some extent, and it's been around as long as human cognition, though only recently has it been studied and documented in social psychology.
In their 1999 paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, David Dunning and Justin Kruger put data to what has been known by philosophers since Socrates, who supposedly said something along the lines of "the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing". Charles Darwin followed that up in 1871 with "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge".

Lehman's failure destroyed as much as $US63b in value: New York Fed

15 Jan 2019 — 6:20 AM
The collapse of Lehman Brothers destroyed as much as $87 billion in value, according to a new analysis by the Federal Reserve of New York.
"Our estimate of the value destruction from the Lehman bankruptcy is substantial, although some losses were likely due to economic distress, or represented value transfers to other parties," wrote Erin Denison, Michael Fleming, and Asani Sarkar in a post on the New York Fed's Liberty Street Economics blog.
"In particular, we estimate value destruction to be on the order of $US46 billion to $US63 billion ($87 billion), or between 15 per cent and 21 per cent of Lehman's pre-bankruptcy consolidated assets.

The $3 trillion next generation: Why millennials won't invest like their parents

By Elizabeth Knight
15 January 2019 — 8:27am
Whether or not you subscribe to the view that today’s youth are an entitled, smashed avocado-eating, device-obsessed group, it won’t be that long before they move from being just consumers to being investors. And this they will do very differently from their parents and grandparents.
It seems these investors of tomorrow will have a more of a social conscience.
Conventional wisdom says that more than $3 trillion will be transferred from baby boomers to millennials or their demographic older siblings generation Ys, in the next 20 years. It will produce a different kind of disruption than the one technology is currently creating. But its impacts will still be significant.
Understanding how this younger generation will invest is increasingly exercising the minds of those looking to capture this market.

Australians do not want any more migrants: ANU poll

By Shane Wright
15 January 2019 — 12:01am
Support among Australians for a growing population is crumbling amid fears of overcrowded cities and homes priced out of the reach of ordinary people, a new survey by the Australian National University has revealed.
As both the Morrison government and Shorten opposition consider their own approaches to population policy in the run-up to this year's election, the ANU poll found just three out of 10 Australians believe the nation needs more people.
A similar poll conducted in 2010 found support for a growing population at 45 per cent.
The 15 percentage point fall was driven by a huge drop in support among male voters who in 2010 showed majority support for a bigger Australia. Male support has now fallen to 38.4 per cent.

The best offensive play for wealth creation is to buy well

By Aaron Binsted
Updated 15 Jan 2019 — 3:33 PM, first published at 10:41 AM
Looking into 2019, I'm reminded of the story of a traveller who comes to a fork in the road and, not wanting to make a wrong turn, approaches an old man and asks "Is this the road to Dublin?". To which the old man replies, "Oh, no. If I was trying to get to Dublin, I wouldn't be starting from here."
I suspect a number of investors feel a similar sense of confusion. Markets are under pressure and there are risks aplenty. If building a portfolio, you wouldn't want to start from here.
In the face of difficult markets, it is worth asking how we can protect long-run wealth and even maximise it. This will require a mix of defence and offence. We can defend wealth by avoiding permanent capital loss, and the best offensive play for wealth creation is to buy well.

Global debt now three times size of world economy

16 Jan 2019 — 8:30 AM
Global debt rose 12 per cent in the September quarter to $US244 trillion ($339 trillion), and is now more than three times the size of the world's economic output, according to the Institute of International Finance.
Global debt has risen over 3 percentage points since 2017, exceeding 318 per cent of GDP in the third quarter of 2018, the IIF said in a report, slightly lower than the all-time high of 320 per cent in the third quarter of 2016, helped by the cyclical pickup in global growth.
Most of the rise in global debt levels since 2008—more than 75 per cent—is from non-financial companies and governments worldwide, the institute said.
Total government debt exceeded $US65 trillion in 2018, up from $US37 trillion a decade ago.

The glaring problem with Labor’s dividend franking policy

By Scott Phillips
16 January 2019 — 12:00am
Kudos for announcing it in advance but the Labor Party's franking credit policy is deeply flawed
Labor is going to the election with a three-pronged approach to tax investors.
After a tough few weeks debating their new dividend imputation tax reform, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten assured pensioners they would not be effected by the proposal.

Global politics is turning left as markets swing

  • 8:55AM January 16, 2019
The Brexit rejection vote is a symptom of a world that is set to swing dramatically to the left and a share market that does not fully appreciate the dangers that are lurking below the surface.
Today let’s map this trend to the left and then look at some of the underlying forces causing it.
Step back from the Brexit noise and you find that in the UK, the conservative forces are split. That split creates much of the chaos. Whether the UK has another referendum or leaves the common market without a deal, it’s almost certain that the hard-left leader Jeremy Corbyn is now set to be prime minister.

China claims it has grown first plant on the moon

  • By Tom Whipple
  • The Times
  • January 16, 2019
America may have put the first man on the moon, but it is China that has laid claim to growing its first plant.
Although a cotton seed may seem more like a tiny leaf than a giant leap, scientists said that it was a small step towards proving that humans could settle away from Earth.
When China landed a probe on the far side of the moon this month, it carried a small climate-controlled capsule containing cotton, rapeseed, potato and arabidopsis, which is related to cabbage. It also held yeast and the eggs of fruit flies.

John Bogle, Vanguard founder and index pioneer, a 'hero to investors'

By Christopher Condon
Updated 17 Jan 2019 — 9:53 AM, first published at 9:42 AM
John Bogle, who popularised the low-cost index-based mutual fund as founder of Vanguard Group and insisted that most stock-picking money managers weren't worth the fees they charged, has died. He was 89.
He died Wednesday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, citing his family. The cause was cancer. He suffered the first of at least six heart attacks at age 31. In 1967 he had a pacemaker installed, and in 1996 he received a heart transplant.
By word and example, Bogle proselytised on behalf of patient, long-term investing in a diversified group of well-run companies. He focused his advocacy on index funds, those that buy and hold the broadest mixes of stocks. He cautioned that the pursuit of quick trades and short-term profits typically helped investment advisers more than investors.

Let's end the unlucky $3 trillion super lottery

By Jessica Irvine
17 January 2019 — 12:00am
Not much fuss is being made yet, but at some point later this year, Australia is likely to reach a significant milestone, as our collective super balances swell above the $3 trillion mark.
The collective retirement nest egg of Aussies now stands at a staggering $2.756 trillion, according to the latest official figures for the September quarter. That’s about $110,000 for every Australian alive today.
If savings continue to grow at the same rate as they did over the prior year – and that’s a big "if", with much depending on sharemarket movements – the amount should top $3 trillion some time in the second half of this year.

Why markets should be more nervous about what lies ahead

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
16 January 2019 — 3:30pm
The pre-Christmas implosion in sharemarkets seemed to be signalling something very unpleasant ahead. The New Year bounce back in markets suggests the outlook may not be quite that bad.
That doesn’t, however, mean that markets are sanguine about the prospects for the US and the rest of the world. Financial markets are still pricing in a downturn in real economies, albeit not quite the significant recession, or worse, that they appeared to be foreshadowing in the closing months of last year.
From its late-September peak to its Christmas Eve trough the US sharemarket fell almost 20 per cent. In the post-Christmas period it has recovered about half those losses but remains about 11 per cent off its 2018 high point and about 2.5 per cent below its starting point last year.

Australia could suffer the biggest property price falls in the world this year

By David Scutt
17 January 2019 — 11:25am
Australian home prices are at risk of falling more than 10 per cent in 2019, the largest decline globally of all markets monitored by Citi Research.
 “Among the roughly 60 economies under coverage, only 11 are at significant risk of notable home price falls over the next 12 months, and only one — Australia — might experience year-on-year declines exceeding 10%,” Citi says.
Citi says the downturn underway has been caused by several factors, nominating the impact of tighter macroprudential lending standards, reduced foreign buyer activity and a steep increase in new housing supply.

GetUp survey identifies Peter Dutton as Australia’s most unwanted hard-right politician

Politicians are notoriously unpopular in Australia. But there’s one man who’s really on the nose for Aussie voters and they want him gone.
Charis Chang and Shannon Molloy
news.com.au January 17, 201910:27am
Australia’s most unpopular hard-right politician has been identified as Peter Dutton by a GetUp survey of almost 30,000 people.
This month GetUp asked Australians to vote online for the hard-right MP they most wanted to boot out of parliament at this year’s federal election.
Voting has now closed and the most unwanted politician has been revealed as aspiring prime minister Peter Dutton, followed by former prime minister Tony Abbott and then Queensland MP George Christensen.

Housing finance falls less than expected in November

  • By James Glynn
  • Dow Jones
  • January 17, 2019
Mortgage lending in Australia slowed in November as falling house prices and restricted credit from banks continued to cool the market.
The number of Australian home loan approvals fell a seasonally adjusted 0.9 per cent in November from October, the Bureau of Statistics said Thursday.
Economists surveyed ahead of the announcement had expected a 1.5 per cent fall over the month.

Canada’s pension fund shows how to deliver value for retirees

  • 12:00AM January 17, 2019
The Canadian government’s $500 billion-plus pension fund outperformed Australia’s best industry superannuation funds over the past five years, undermining claims handing over control of the nation’s retirement savings to a Future Fund-style body would potentially hurt some investors.
Over the five years to September 30, the Canada Pension Plan delivered average annual returns of 12.1 per cent, beating every retail and industry super fund in Australia, as well as the Future Fund, which delivered average returns of about 10.4 per cent a year over the same period.
Ratings data compiled by both Chant West and RiceWarner show the Canada Pension Plan was the best performer over the past five years, and that over every time frame the top 10 performing funds were all industry funds, those funds overseen by representatives from employer groups and unions.

Retail fall ‘worst in 20 years’, says Ferrier Hodgson’s James Stewart

  • 12:00AM January 17, 2019
One of the nation’s leading corporate restructuring experts, Ferrier Hodgson partner James Stewart, is warning that the collapse in shopping centre traffic in the two weeks before Christmas is the worst he has seen in more than 20 years, raising the prospect of more retail failures this year.
At a time when most retailers should be swollen with cash from a buoyant trifecta of Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s sales, the latest data has revealed a slump in visitations.
Shoppertrak, an analytical tool widely used in the retail sector, particularly by shopping centre landlords, showed foot traffic in the last two weeks of 2018 was down 15 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.

Keating government adviser Vince FitzGerald slams Labor's 'horrible' dividend tax

Updated 17 Jan 2019 — 5:32 PM, first published at 5:17 PM
Labor's plan to scrap cash refunds for franking credits to low-taxed investors is a "horrible" complication of the tax system that will unfairly penalise self-managed superannuation funds, says the economist who led the Keating government's review of national savings.
Vince FitzGerald slammed Labor's move and said there were better ways to extract more tax from wealthy retirees like himself who enjoyed tax-free superannuation withdrawals.
"We're about to get a Labor government to get this ridiculous proposition that franking credit refunds will be denied to self-managed super funds," Dr FitzGerald said.

Funds end in the red after a horror year

  • 12:00AM January 18, 2019
Australian fund managers have experienced their worst annual returns in nearly a decade, buffeted by heightened volatility and sharp falls in global markets.
The vast bulk of long-only Australian share funds tracked by Mercer ended last year with a loss, taking the median annual loss to 4.2 per cent and sharply underperforming the benchmark S&P/ASX200 Accumulation index’s loss of 2.7 per cent for the year.
The performance of share funds is critical in the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars of investment mandates, but the figures underscore the downbeat outlook for Australian superannuation funds after a year of wild market swings. The figures are also expected to put further downward pressure on fees as active fund managers compete against the so-called passive index funds.

Future Fund debate could shape election

Updated 18 Jan 2019 — 10:57 AM, first published at 9:50 AM
Since we kicked off the recent debate about whether Australians should be able to select a conflict-free, public superannuation option (like the Future Fund) given they are forced to save a big chunk of their income via this system, there has been unsurprisingly vocal support from the left and right.
Yet just as inevitably, there have been unfounded criticisms from the (many) vested interests that stand to be adversely impacted by this overdue policy reform. The first is the notion that offering consumers a public super investment alternative is tantamount to "nationalising" super.
This overlooks the fact that superannuation is already nationalised: were it not for government dictate, it would not exist. We nationalised savings when we decided to give everyone no choice but to set aside one-tenth of their earnings in a super fund they cannot touch until they retire.

She won't be right: the economic storm our leaders ignore

By John Hewson
18 January 2019 — 12:00am
"It’s the economy, stupid" – a slogan and a focus that largely won the US presidency for Bill Clinton in 1992. He then went on to reap the benefits of Bush senior’s economic management, not yet evident at the time of the election.
The issue of economic management is usually a significant issue at our federal elections, with polling consistently suggesting the LNP has an edge as “better economic managers”.
Perceptions matter in politics, but realities are ultimately determinant. Even though both our major parties have warned recently of global storm clouds ahead for our economy this year, neither is actually prepared to spell out the full significance of the risks, particularly systemic risks, and neither is the Reserve Bank of Australia or Treasury.

Dead fish could stink up the election campaign

By Shane Wright
17 January 2019 — 3:33pm
The Australian climate has interceded in national politics more than once.
Malcolm Fraser went to the electorate in 1983 at the height of one of the harshest droughts on record.
The previous year's wheat crop had been the worst in decades for much of the east coast, while many graziers were forced to destroy livestock left without feed or water.

ALP dividend tax plan is 'big risk' for bank investors

By Clancy Yeates & Stephen Miles
18 January 2019 — 12:00am
Labor's controversial pledge to revamp tax benefits on dividends has sparked a warning from a leading fund manager that the policy was a "big risk" for investors in the nation's banks.
The federal opposition has vowed if it wins this year's election to end a situation where taxpayers receive a cash refund if they receive tax breaks on their dividends that reduce their tax bill below zero.
Mark Freeman, managing director at the $7 billion Australian Foundation Investment Company (AFIC) and three associated funds which are worth another $1.3 billion, said the proposed change was significant for companies that paid large fully-franked dividends, especially the major banks.

Are we headed towards high noon for democracy?

  • 12:00AM January 18, 2019
In 1923, as the Weimar Republic struggled with chaos, the German polymath Carl Schmitt wrote a short but enormously influential book, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy. Schmitt later destroyed his reputation through his collaboration with the Hitler regime. But if his work is increasingly cited, it is because its contemporary resonance is undeniable.
To say that is not to suggest that today’s circumstances resemble those that drove ­Europe into the horrors of totalitarianism. Yet with the US government plunged into a shutdown that only a presidential declaration of a state of emergency is likely to end, and Britain in a crisis that seems ­irresoluble, Schmitt’s warnings cannot simply be ­dismissed.
The notion of “liberal democracy”, he ­argued, was fundamentally ill-conceived. Liberalism and democracy had certainly been allies in the battle to rein in the power of monarchs. But that accomplished, the tensions between them had burst to the surface and would inevitably worsen as societies ­developed.

ATO worried about $12b in SMSF loans

Updated 18 Jan 2019 — 8:37 PM, first published at 8:15 PM
The Tax Office has raised the alarm over the one-third of $39 billion in property loans by self-managed super funds that are guaranteed by assets outside super, such as the family home.
If the property market collapses, SMSF trustees in this situation will be hit by a double-whammy of losses to both their retirement savings and personal assets.
Regulators have been increasingly concerned about property speculation by SMSFs and Labor has pledged to ban what is known as limited recourse borrowing arrangements (LRBAs).

The first big political messages for 2019 were there for all to see this week

Updated 18 Jan 2019 — 4:33 PM, first published at 3:30 PM
The first big political messages for what will be a torrid year were out there for all to see this week.
The Prime Minister was in the Pacific, making perhaps the most significant rapprochement with Fiji in decades, and telling Vanuatu that we were reliable friends, no matter how friendly the Chinese might have been there lately.
There were agreements on everything from defence to football and, significantly from an economic perspective, Fiji's entry into the Pacific labour scheme. Along the way, the Prime Minister had to listen to the complaints in the Pacific about climate change. But if you lead a party that finds it impossible to endorse a credible climate and energy policy, them's the breaks.

Great political middle must take back control

18 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
Brexit has destroyed the centre ground of British politics. At the last minute, the centre may be reasserting itself as Theresa May tries to line up a new alliance of Brexit moderates of all parties to avoid a car crash exit. But remaking the political middle is now the task of democratic politics around the world. These politics will be made from different materials than before. Britain's new divide is not between Labour and Tory, workers and capital, but Leavers and Remainers: it's class mixed with culture, age, geography, attitude - slippery to define but powerful in effect - and in striking new combinations around the world. In Australia, the drive for the banking royal commission came from both trendy Greens and traditionalist Nationals. The plebiscite vote against gay marriage was strongest in Labor seats with large ethnic populations. Shrill social media drives these interests, which can move on rapidly.
Centrist politics are above all about getting practical things done for voters, inside stable political systems and well-managed economies. That idea has taken a battering in the strained post-globalisation and post-GFC world. Many voters have turned their backs on remote, elitist technocratic administrations of old, of which the EU is a poster child. Now they have to be resurrected within the noisy world of new identity politics where populists, or the populist wings of mainstream parties, do best with their simple solutions for the resentments that too often define identity. From Donald Trump to France's yellow jackets, they all have visceral allegiances in local roots and defensive nationalism rather than airy ideas like technologically-optimistic prosperity for all. And if right-wing populism gets mugged by economic reality that won't deter their left-wing versions in Jeremy Corbyn, the Sanders/Warren Democrats, and even Labor's Bill Shorten.

Heed the lesson of 2016: don't ignore the disempowered

By Simon Cowan
19 January 2019 — 12:00am
This week saw British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal defeat, then confidence-vote victory, all in the space of 30 hours. In the United States, the government has been shut down for almost a month, while both President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponents remain defiant.
Despite the obvious differences, Brexit and the Trump presidency remain as inexorably linked, and important, as they were in 2016: signposts of the re-emergence of an overlooked and misunderstood force in Western politics.
After eight days of debate, the vote on the Brexit deal was lost by 432 to 202, and Theresa May's government now faces a vote of no confidence called by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Cheer up, Australia, we're not Britain or France or the US or ...

By Tom Switzer
19 January 2019 — 12:00am
After another year of high drama in Australian politics, there are massive anxieties about the state of the nation. Those looking for sound public policy have been left sorely disappointed. Politicians seem incapable of making a positive argument for anything. We decry the revolving door to the prime minister’s office.
It is difficult to overestimate the public’s declining respect for our institutions. The banking royal commission badly damaged trust in the corporate sector. Add to this the poor form of the Wallabies and the Australian cricket team, and it’s perhaps no surprise the public is enveloped in a dank pessimism.
All these concerns are understandable and we are right to focus on our problems.
However, if Australians enter the election year in a fit of self-doubt, we should at least recognise we are experiencing far less instability and turmoil than most Western nations.

Kelly O'Dwyer quits politics in shock for government

Updated 19 Jan 2019 — 3:04 PM, first published at 2:03 PM
Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O'Dwyer, one of the government's most senior females, has shocked colleagues by quitting politics.
Ms O'Dwyer, who has been at times critical of the government's direction since Malcolm Turnbull was deposed in August last year, will not recontest her Melbourne seat of Higgins at the next election, due in May.
Ms O'Dwyer said the reasons were personal and she could not honestly recommit to another term.

Dead-cat bounce: Why Wall Street's rally may be a mirage

By Samuel Potter & Ksenia Galouchko
19 January 2019 — 10:31am
Beneath the sea of green in risk assets right now is a rippling tide of doubt and anxiety.
On the surface, the picture is approaching perfect. The S&P 500 Index, off to its best start since 1987, just posted a fourth weekly gain. It's up 13 of 17 days since Christmas and the moves are being matched step-for-step by global stocks. Volatility keeps receding. Commodities and emerging-market equities have surged. Leveraged loans advanced again. High-yield bonds did, too.
Yet 2019's stellar start still lacks something to prove it's more than a dead cat bounce in a new downtrend: conviction.

Royal Commissions And Similar.

After Hayne royal commission, who can restore faith in our financial system?

13 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
For anyone associated with the Australian banking and finance industry, last year was one they won't forget, much as they would like to.
It didn't quite rival the sheer terror of 2008, but the revelations of the Hayne royal commission left ordinary Australians astounded at how badly they had been let down by those they relied on to run the system.
Beyond the brutalised big end of town, the year should have been equally shameful for those who operate in the lower rungs.

Big banks lobby APRA over $75b 'too big to fail' capital requirements

13 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
The big four banks are trying to convince the prudential regulator to reconsider its proposal to force them to raise an additional $75 billion of so-called Tier II bonds to meet "too big to fail" capital requirements.
They will argue that the global market for Tier II bonds may not be large enough for them to raise up to 7 per cent of their risk weighted assets via this type of debt, in responses to an Australian Prudential Regulation Authority consultation paper that are due at the end of January.
That APRA paper, released on November 8 said the banks should raise additional Tier II funds to comply with global 'total loss absorbing capital' rules intended to limit future taxpayer bail-outs by "bailing in" private investors.

Super needs a fresh vision after 25 years

14 January 2019 — 12:05am
More than a quarter of a century after compulsory superannuation was introduced in Australia, it is fair to ask whether the system is truly set up to meet the needs of the workers whose nest eggs underpin the estimated $2.7 trillion industry.
In short, it isn’t. In its comprehensive report into the superannuation industry, the Productivity Commission found substantial structural, competitive and efficiency flaws. And the system’s layers of rules, bewildering investment options and fees is so complex that it defeats millions of member-beneficiaries.
Some flaws can be fixed easily and relatively immediately. The Productivity Commission suggests one move could be eliminating trailing commissions to financial advisers, and not waiting until they expire naturally. That would recoup up to $400 million a year for members who, in years past, relied on advisers and whose fund selections pre-date the 2013 legislative changes abolishing trailing commissions for new accounts.

The Productivity Commission’s best in show super plan could turn out ugly

  • 6:50AM January 14, 2019
The Productivity Commission’s deep dive into super has borne some decent, if obvious, fruit: it has provided a clear account of the unfairness of people being defaulted into different funds with different returns, so there are wide differences in retirement outcomes through no fault of their own.
However the commission’s solution, it seems me, would be only marginally less messy and unfair, and the report fails in one very important respect.
Instead of 105 MySuper default funds, an expert panel would choose the 10 best and they would be the default funds, except they wouldn’t really be default funds because employees would have to choose one, and they could choose any fund they want, including their own.

Regulators sound alarm over SMSF property speculation

  • 12:00AM January 14, 2019
A surge in property speculation by leveraged self-managed super funds amid sliding house prices in the nation’s biggest cities has sparked concerns among the powerful Council of Financial Regulators that many may be in over their heads.
Confidential documents, obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information rules, reveal a renewed rush by SMSFs to take out mortgages for property investment despite an increasing crackdown by the major banks to close off the problematic credit products.
Documents collated for the regulator show the total value of property investment loans held by SMSFs has raced to $39 billion — more than 5 per cent of all assets in the $700bn self-managed super sector by the end of the June quarter.

Blame game on care of elderly

Aged care providers report thousands of incidents ahead of royal commission

  • 12:00AM January 14, 2019
Tens of thousands of cases of abuse, neglect and substandard care will be revealed at the aged-care royal commission when it opens this Friday as a blame game erupts between doctors and ­nursing homes over the prescription of antipsychotics for chemical restraint.
The Australian can reveal the largest aged-care providers in the country have already self-­reported incidents of “substandard care” at each of their services for the past five years after a data request by commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs with between 20,000 and 30,000 separate entries ranging from mild to severe.
Smaller providers have been given a deadline of February 8 to respond and were warned the commission could compel them to give information if it was not given up willingly.

Aged-care advice often well worth the cost

By Rachel Lane
12 January 2019 — 11:26pm
The most common phrase I hear when I tell people to seek financial advice about entering aged care is “I can’t afford advice”.
In reality, most people can’t afford not to get advice, with the cost normally significantly outweighed by the benefits.
In a classic example of this, one reader contacted me, and I referred her to a specialist adviser, following my column “You need to know how to avoid an aged care OMG letter”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced the royal commission into aged care will report back to the government by April 2020 and conduct a wide-ranging investigation into the future of the scandal-plagued sector.

Nursing homes turning residents into 'zombies', aged care royal commission to hear

Staff urged to reduce dependency on sedative medication amid reports more than 60% of elderly residents taking psychotropics drugs
The royal commission into the aged care sector will examine whether nursing homes are unnecessarily turning elderly residents into “zombies” amid high rates of sedative medication use.
The first hearing is scheduled for Adelaide on Friday and commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs will outline their vision for how the inquiry will operate.
Their main task is to examine evidence of substandard aged care, abuse, systematic failures and draw up recommendations for improvement. The controversial practice of “chemical restraint” in aged care homes will also be examined.
16 January 2019

Aged care probe will open Pandora’s box

Aged Care General Practice TheHill
Posted by Julie Lambert
AMA President Dr Tony Bartone says the royal commission into aged care starting this week will highlight GPs’ frustrations and put unprecedented pressure on politicians to invest in better care for the elderly.
“From what I’ve seen and heard, I expect this royal commission to be as big as the banking royal commission in terms of media surveillance and reporting,” Dr Bartone said, referring to the likely impact on the lead-up to the next election.
“This is a problem the next government will have to deal with. The outcomes of the royal commission will be significant and will highlight the issues we’ve been banging on about for a long time.

Weak retail spending an 'unintended consequence' of banking royal commission

Updated 16 Jan 2019 — 3:07 PM, first published at 2:25 PM
First it was home loans, now retail spending appears to have fallen victim to the crackdown on credit in the wake of the financial services royal commission.
Veteran retail adviser James Stewart says weak retail spending is another "unintended consequence" of the royal commission as consumers worried about the value of their homes and small businesses struggling to borrow money cut back on discretionary purchases.
"Mums and dads are now in a situation where they are potentially seeing the value of their house, at least in major metropolitan areas, fall 10 to 15 or even 20 per cent - it's been more than 20 years since the average Australian has seen the value of their house drop," he said.

Royal commission, retirement village changes: could aged care improve in 2019?

17 Jan 2019 — 12:00 AM
It has taken a lot of heartache and angst to get to this point, but 2019 may just be the moment of truth for how we look after our elderly.
The year is starting with a new code of conduct for retirement village operators, a new complaints and quality assurance agency for residential and home-based care and, of course, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Fingers crossed that with all the spotlight shining on the sector, public concerns will be addressed and fundamental changes will be made to the type of accommodation available to people and the way care is delivered.

Ken Wyatt announces crackdown on physical and chemical restraints in aged care

  • January 17, 2019
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt has announced he will prepare “regulations” to protect older Australians in nursing homes against misuse of physical and chemical restraints, including the abuse of antipsychotic medication revealed by The Australian earlier this week.
“Today I’ve asked my department to prepare regulations that will protect senior Australians within residential care. They’ll undertake that work and as soon as we’re ready we will announce those regulations,” he said.
Mr Wyatt said he has been working on the proposal for some time but was no longer prepared to wait.
 “I said I want a regulation designed, developed for implementation. There is no going back from that point,” he told reporters in Perth.

GP exodus from aged care homes

  • 12:00AM January 18, 2019
Doctors have blamed falling numbers of GPs seeing patients in nursing homes on poorly trained and overworked nursing staff, younger colleagues opting out and Medicare rebates that are too low to cover the cost of visits.
On the eve of the royal commission into aged care quality and safety, the blowtorch has turned on nursing home providers and doctors over residents who fail to receive proper care because of gaps between the two professions.
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt yesterday scrambled to ­announce new regulations to crack down on the overuse of physical and chemical restraints in homes, before witnesses have begun giving evidence to the commission.

Aged care has been a profitable short for Monash Investors

Updated 17 Jan 2019 — 7:04 PM, first published at 7:00 PM
Monash Investors principal Simon Shields has warned aged care investors to prepare for a torrid year that will weigh on the share prices of Estia Health, Japara Healthcare and Regis Healthcare as the royal commission kicks into gear.
Not that he is worried. Short-selling the sector's three main players has been a profitable bet for Mr Shields and he's not ready to close out his positions yet, saying there is nothing but "downside" for the companies as they stare down the barrel of a year-long digging exercise into the $20 billion sector's ills.
Short-sellers profit when share prices fall by selling borrowed shares and buying them back at lower prices.

Aged care royal commission: Younger patient stories set for inquiry attention

Updated 17 Jan 2019 — 5:41 PM, first published at 4:54 PM
At just 34, Kate Skene watched all the colour drain out of her world when she was consigned to live in a nursing home for the foreseeable future, back in 2010.
She had spent three months in a hospital bed recovering from a bladder removal. Kate, already diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, couldn't return to her home due to accessibility issues and was unprepared for the spectrum-shifting turn her life would take.
"I'll always remember that coded door," she says of her 15 months in the aged care sector. "To go through those bloody coded doors, all the colour just drained out of my world.

Aged care royal commission: Funding key area for industry

Updated 17 Jan 2019 — 6:48 PM, first published at 6:22 PM
The aged care royal commission has wiped more than $527 million off the market capitalisations of the top listed players, Regis, Japara and Estia, before it has even held its first hearing on Friday.
The inquiry, announced three months ago, will take 18 months, six months longer than the banking royal commission, and is widely expected to result in a major shake-up of the $20 billion industry.
The harrowing personal stories of neglect and abuse that will be told at the royal commission will throw light on the need to fix key issues including the funding model and the pending housing crisis.

Aged care royal commission begins with emphasis on 'rising torrent of concern'

Commissioners warn nursing homes and government not to try and deter whistleblowers
There has been “a rising torrent of concern that the system is faltering” and may not be fit for purpose, the first hearing of the aged care royal commission has been told.
Commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs outlined how the inquiry would operate on Friday morning, in a hearing that lasted just over an hour.
Briggs acknowledged there were many positive examples of high-quality care within the sector.

Aged Care Royal Commission warns the industry to cooperate

By Carrie LaFrenz
Updated 18 Jan 2019 — 1:18 PM, first published at 1:08 PM
The aged care royal commissioner has warned the $20 billion industry that it was illegal to take action against whistleblowers as the inquiry sought evidence from operators, staff and patients.
The inquiry, which was announced in September, has sent questions to all 1982 aged care providers seeking information about what works and what doesn't but only about 83, or 4 per cent, have bothered to reply so far.
Commissioner Richard Tracey warned operators on Friday that the inquiry has "extensive powers of compulsion" and he would be "gravely concerned" if operators instructed staff not to talk to the commission or to withhold information.

GPs 'pressured' to sedate aged care residents

The RACGP hits back at claims GPs are 'stupefying' their patients
18th January 2019
Nursing home staff are pressuring GPs to sedate difficult residents to compensate for inadequate staffing levels, RACGP president Dr Harry Nespolon says.
The misuse of psychotropic drugs is expected to be a key focus of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality, which is having its first public hearings in Adelaide on Friday.
But the blame-game over the prescription of sedatives appears to be already beginning, after Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt publicly chastised doctors at a press conference on Thursday, telling them to stop “stupefying” their patients.

Royal commission: inquiry into aged care outlines its targets

  • 12:00AM January 19, 2019
The royal commission into aged care will target nursing homes where wound infections lead to death, antipsychotic sedatives are overused, medication is mismanaged and where the simple but pervasive problem exists of older Australians calling out for help and waiting too long for it to arrive.
Aged-care providers have also been put on notice by commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs and told to stand clear of employees giving evidence as they would be “gravely concerned” if there was any effort to withhold information from the inquiry.
The landmark commission, which is the deepest investigation into the system in Australian history, held its first hearing in Adelaide yesterday where, for the first time, senior counsel assisting Peter Gray QC disclosed 83 providers with about 2000 nursing homes and home-care services have ­responded to a request for information covering all incidents of substandard care over a five-year period.

$15 Million Extra to Support Senior Australians to Live at Home

The Australian Government is helping senior Australians stay in their own homes for longer, with an additional $15 million to support independent living.
Page last updated: 17 January 2019
The Liberal National Government is helping senior Australians stay in their own homes for longer, with an additional $15 million to support independent living.
“This means many more people will be able to live safely at home, secure in the knowledge they can remain in the communities they know and love for as long as possible,” said Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt AM.
“Hundreds of Commonwealth Home Support Program providers will now be able to complete thousands more home modifications across the country.

National Budget Issues.

How canny treasurers keep the tax we pay out of sight

By Ross Gittins
14 January 2019 — 12:15am
We can be sure that tax and tax “reform” will be a big topic (yet again) this year, but what will get less attention is how behavioural economics explains the shape of the existing tax system and makes it hard to change.
I read that this year we may attain the economists’ Holy Grail of replacing state conveyancing duty with a broad-based annual tax on the unimproved value of land under people’s principal residence.
Economists regard taxing homes whenever they change hands as highly economically inefficient because it discourages people from moving when they need to move, whereas taxing the ownership of land as highly efficient because it’s hard to avoid and is naturally “progressive”, hitting the rich harder than the poor.

Global economic storm clouds gathering

  • 12:00AM January 14, 2019
Financial markets have been behaving as if the world economy were Wile E. Coyote with legs spinning fast in thin air, momentarily defying the inevitable gravitational plunge into the canyon below. Share prices dived 12.5 per cent in the last three months of 2018 in Australia and by a similar amount in the last four weeks of the year in the US. The S&P/ASX 200 is showing no capital gain since late 2006.
The economy will be at the centre of the political struggle as Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten return from holidays in the run-up to the election campaign. Mr Morrison has warned of international “storm clouds” ahead, promising to preside over a strong economy without increasing taxes. As for Mr Shorten, he is pitching a range of new taxes as well as superannuation changes with a calculated appeal to low and middle income earners while delivering larger budget surpluses as insurance against a global downturn. Ahead there is uncertainty and risk.
Investors have been selling shares and looking for safety in government bonds, with strong demand pushing the interest yield on Australian 10-year government bonds below 2.2 per cent last week — the lowest in two years and a full 0.5 per cent drop since November. US government bond yields have fallen by a similar amount.

Will the Morrison government nationalise the $2.7trn super industry?

15 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
The Morrison government appears to be inching inexorably closer to a full nationalisation of the country's $2.7 trillion superannuation system.
The nation's capital may be experiencing a scorching heatwave, but senior Liberal ministers are hard at work, coming up with fresh plans that would wrest control of the country's retirement savings away from the union-affiliated industry funds.
As they struggle to come up with a feasible scheme, it's slowly dawning on them what the brightest people in the industry have long known: that there is no half-way position for the government when it comes to super.

Has Australia fallen into recession?

Yahoo Finance 15 January 2019
There is no doubt the Australian economy was weaker in late 2018 than it was during the first half of the year. It seems to have kicked off 2019 on a similarly weak note.
Recent economic news has been unambiguously poor and it follows the dismal GDP results released last month which showed per capita GDP falling 0.1 per cent in the September quarter. That was a poor result and forced most thinking economists to revise down their assessments of Australia’s economic health.
If the upcoming December quarter GDP result, which is due for release in early March, reveals another drop in per capita GDP, the economy on a per capita basis will be going backwards.

Consumer confidence plunges

16 January 2019
Worries about decline in housing prices and US-China tensions has pushed consumer confidence lower
Consumer confidence has suffered its largest monthly fall in more than three years, weighed down by a number of factors including the decline in house prices and global trade wars.
The Westpac/Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index fell 4.7 per cent in January to 99.6 points, pushing it below 100 points and indicating there are more pessimists about the economy than optimists.

Pressure on household finances hits consumer confidence in January

There are signs Australian consumers are reining in their spending as worries about the economy grow.
  • January 16, 2019
A widely watched gauge of Australia’s consumer confidence has taken its biggest monthly fall in more than three years as pressure on family finances grows.
Westpac’s consumer confidence index for January turned negative, with the number of pessimists outweighing the number of optimists for the first time since November 2017.
The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment fell 4.7 per cent to 99.6 in January from 104.4 in December, in what was the biggest monthly fall in more than three years.

Health Issues.

GP interns to go bush and save millions

  • 12:00AM January 14, 2019
Allowing junior doctors to fill rural vacancies that might otherwise have gone to overseas-trained GPs could save Medicare more than $70,000 a year for each staff swap.
Documents obtained by The Australian under Freedom of ­Information laws show the financial windfall for the federal government as one aspect of its training and workforce overhaul.
The government already expects to save $415.5 million over four years by restricting visas for overseas-trained GPs in metropolitan areas.

New medicine research gets $25m injection

  • By Rebecca Gredley
  • Australian Associated Press
  • January 14, 2019
A new research centre aimed at hastening the process of developing medicines is set to receive a $25 million funding injection from the federal government.
Cutting edge robotics equipment will be used at the Drug Discovery Centre at Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, allowing researchers to easily screen chemicals for their medical abilities.
The centre will open in June to help researchers develop drugs to treat common and rare diseases and improve the quality of life of many Australians, Health Minister Greg Hunt says.

Health insurers’ poor prognosis

  • 12:00AM January 15, 2019
Australia’s health insurance sector is in a downward performance trend, warn industry leaders, as the spotlight on insurers is set to intensify during the federal election campaign.
The stock price of the listed health insurance companies — Medibank and NIB — are off about 30 per cent from their peaks.
John Van Der Wielen, chief executive of Perth-based not-for-profit fund HBF, said a share price fall “says a great deal” given the market factored in downward pressures in advance. “I think the downward cycle will be for at least three years and likely the next five,” Mr Van Der Wielen said.

Author Ned Beauman bursts some myths – but not his appendix

By Ned Beauman
13 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
Over the past few years I've spent a lot of time in New York, in theory to promote the American editions of my novels, in practice to eat tacos and drink bourbon. Many of the people I've met there are freelancers or artists of some description, and they tend to be pretty alarmed about the prospect of President Trump getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, to replace it with "something terrific" of his own design.
Americans with nine-to-five jobs get their health insurance through their employers. Before Obamacare, if you didn't have an employer, and you didn't have a union, and you weren't eligible for any government programs – if you were a struggling novelist in Brooklyn, say – insurance was probably out of your reach.
The American healthcare system is the most expensive in the world, and gets about 5 per cent more expensive every year. This means that if you come down with something serious, need hospital treatment and don't have insurance, the bills can leave you destitute.

Health insurer HBF to give itself a check-up

  • 12:00AM January 16, 2019
Australian health insurer HBF is conducting a wide review of its services, promising to voluntarily address any concerns rather than wait for a future royal commission to force change.
The action by HBF comes as the country’s top health insurers say they were keeping a close eye on the royal commission into financial services and note that community expectations must be met. It also comes as health insurers prepare for a future Labor government to order a review of the sector.
HBF chief executive John Van Der Wielen said the Perth-based insurer was half way through a “member promises” review with Deloitte.
 “It is a review of all of our services to members,” he said.

American College of Physicians Ethics Manual: Seventh Edition Free

Lois Snyder Sulmasy, JD; Thomas A. Bledsoe, MD; for the ACP Ethics, Professionalism and Human Rights Committee *
Medicine, law, and social values are not static. Reexamining the ethical tenets of medicine and their application in new circumstances is a necessary exercise. The seventh edition of the American College of Physicians (ACP) Ethics Manual covers emerging issues in medical ethics and revisits older ones that are still very pertinent. It reflects on many of the ethical tensions in medicine and attempts to shed light on how existing principles extend to emerging concerns. In addition, by reiterating ethical principles that have provided guidance in resolving past ethical problems, the Manual may help physicians avert future problems. The Manual is not a substitute for the experience and integrity of individual physicians, but it may serve as a reminder of the shared duties of the medical profession.

$1.45 billion for mental health removes uncertainty for local services

By Kate Aubusson
16 January 2019 — 12:00am
Mental health services across Australia will share in $1.45 billion under a funding model shake-up that offers local organisations, staff and patients greater long term certainty.
The federal government announced its new funding for the country's 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs), which coordinate the health services needed to respond to the specific needs of communities, such as youth and indigenous services, suicide prevention and treatment for severe psychiatric conditions.
Ross Gittins tries to dispel some of the common myths surrounding mental illness with help from the OECD report, Sick on the Job.

Funding boost for mental health services in bush

  • 12:00AM January 16, 2019
Primary health organisations will be given more money to spend on targeted mental health services after raising concerns about their ability to improve community wellbeing and prevent suicide.
The Morrison government will today announce $1.45 billion in mental health funding for its 31 primary health networks, which is $170 million more than under its current three-year package.
The funding will flow from July and allow each PHN to direct services to the areas most in need. This is in addition to recent funding top-ups for youth services, telehealth in the bush, and for GPs who work in residential aged care.

Meet the average-sized American

By Nicholas Bakalar
Updated 17 Jan 2019 — 10:50 AM, first published at 10:45 AM
Meet the average American man. He weighs 89.8 kilograms and stands 1.75-metres tall. He has a 102-centimetre waist, and his body mass index is 29, at the high end of the "overweight" category.
The average woman? She is roughly 1.6-m tall and weighs 77.5kg, with a 99cm waist. Her BMI is close to 30.
That's not at all how Americans used to look. New data shows men and women gained a whopping 10.8kg on average from 1960 to 2002; through 2016, men gained an additional 3.6kg, and women another 3.1kg.

Health research hub to aid elderly

January 15, 2019 10:00pm
Elderly Australians would stay in their own homes for longer under a federal Opposition plan to trial radical new health approaches in Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula.
Around-the-clock monitoring of elderly Australians and more rehabilitation services in the home and community would be trialled in a major bid to keep people out of nursing homes.
The $48 million trial would be based in the Peninsula and include innovative new plans for aged care, mental health and substance addiction.

Public patients forced into caesareans as ancient birth practice declines

By Aisha Dow
18 January 2019 — 8:21am
The ancient practice of delivering babies bottom first is a “dying art” in Victoria’s hospitals and could cease entirely because younger doctors no longer have experience in this kind of birth.
The Royal Women’s Hospital is one of a number of major maternity hospitals no longer routinely offering planned vaginal breech births, it is understood.
About 4 per cent of babies enter labour in the breech position, which means their bottom or feet instead of their head is facing the birth canal.

Morrison won’t risk dental funding showdown states with before poll

  • 12:00AM January 18, 2019
The Morrison government will seek to avoid having to negotiate a new adult dental agreement with the states before the next election.
In August, the Council of Australian Governments Health Council, at the urging of NSW Liberal Health Minister Brad Hazzard, resolved to begin “formal negotiations to achieve fair, long-term public dental funding ­arrangements”.
The $240 million adult dental agreement is to end on June 30, while state and territory access to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule — which has paid out more than $1.4 billion over the past five years — is secured only until ­December 31.

Melanoma blazes treatment trail for other cancers

18 Jan 2019 — 11:00 PM
If Alexander Menzies had to have a seriously advanced cancer, he says he would choose melanoma.
His choice is worth noting because, as a medical oncologist and cancer researcher, he knows the field well. Traditionally people with late-stage melanoma have been regarded as doomed, but he says this cancer is emerging from its dark past.
Not so long ago, the vast majority of those diagnosed with stage IV disease – the final stage – would be dead within a year. Their cancer would have spread to distant parts of the body and very few would have survived beyond two years.

How much is preventing a heart attack worth?

By Liam Mannix
20 January 2019 — 12:00am
A newly developed family of drugs could cut cholesterol by up to 75 per cent and prevent thousands of strokes, heart attacks and deaths.
But there’s a catch: the drugs cost about $8000 per patient per year.
Unless the manufacturer cuts prices, subsidising it for the hundreds of thousands of Australians with high cholesterol could blow out the health budget.
The new drugs, called PCSK9 inhibitors, pose a big dilemma for health authorities around the world: how much is preventing a heart attack worth?

International Issues.

UK Conservatives on the brink of imploding over Brexit

By Edward Malnick
13 January 2019 — 1:52pm
London: Senior British Conservatives are warning that the Tories are on the brink of a historic split as Brexiteers and Remainers threaten to torpedo the government if they don't get their way.
Pro-European Union MPs claimed that a third of the cabinet would resign if Prime Minister Theresa May pursues a no-deal Brexit in the face of almost certain defeat over her deal, as they threatened a walkout of backbenchers that would obliterate the gvernment's Commons majority.
British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered an early defeat to her Brexit plans on Wednesday, when members of parliament demanded the government come up with a plan B within days if she loses a vote on her deal to leave the European Union.

Revealed: Commons plot to seize control from Theresa May ahead of Brexit vote

Former ministers plan to hijack Brexit on Tuesday
Tim Shipman, Political Editor
January 13 2019, 12:01am, The Sunday Times
Theresa May has been warned that her government “will lose its ability to govern” after Downing Street uncovered a bombshell plot by senior MPs to seize control of Brexit negotiations and sideline the prime minister.
A cross-party group of senior backbenchers — including former Tory ministers — plan what one senior figure branded a “very British coup” if May loses the crunch vote on her Brexit deal on Tuesday.
At least two groups of rebel MPs are plotting to change Commons rules so motions proposed by backbenchers take precedence over government business, upending the centuries-old relationship between executive and legislature.

Theresa May warns of 'catastrophe' if no Brexit, Labour wants new elections

By Kylie MacLellan
Updated 14 Jan 2019 — 7:53 AM, first published at 7:45 AM
London | British Prime Minister Theresa May warned lawmakers on Sunday (Monday AEDT) that failing to deliver Brexit would be catastrophic for democracy, in a plea for support two days before parliament is expected to reject her deal with Brussels.
With the clock ticking down to its March 29 exit from the European Union and parliament deadlocked, Britain faces a hugely uncertain path that could lead to a disorderly exit or even remaining in the bloc.
May, who postponed a vote in parliament on her deal in December after admitting she was set to lose it, said lawmakers must not let down the people who backed Brexit in a June 2016 referendum.

China hands death penalty to Canadian drug smuggler in retrial

By Kirsty Needham
15 January 2019 — 1:55am
Beijing: A Chinese court has sentenced a Canadian man to death after he was convicted of involvement in a drug ring that attempted to send 200 kilograms of methamphetamine to Australia.
The conviction of Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, announced on Monday after a one-day retrial in Dalian Intermediate Court, will worsen diplomatic strains between China and Canada.
As China sentenced a Canadian man to be executed for drug smuggling, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused China of using the death penalty arbitrarily.

'That's what worries me the most': As the world economy stumbles, eyes turn to China

By William Schomberg
15 January 2019 — 7:11am
Ten years after China helped stave off the threat of a global depression with a huge stimulus plan, investors are looking once again towards Beijing as the world economy heads for a slowdown, or worse, in 2019.
Booming China has accounted for about a third of the growth in the global economy in recent years.
So recent signs that it is losing momentum is unsettling when the US boom, turbo-charged by President Donald Trump's tax cuts of 2017, seems to have peaked and Europe's heavyweights are stalling.

In his trade war with China, Donald Trump has secret allies

By Andrew Browne
15 January 2019 — 12:39am
In his tariff war with China, US President Donald Trump has some hidden allies. Just about every complaint US trade negotiators raised in Beijing last week – not to mention their doubts about the sincerity of China's concessions – are shared by Chinese entrepreneurs, who feel as under-appreciated and unwelcome as their foreign counterparts. Their common enemy: the Chinese industrial state, an animus summed up in China by the lament "guo jin, min tui" – the state advances, the private sector retreats.
This reality underscores how tough it will be for the Trump administration to roll back a set of statist industrial policies that are rooted more in politics and ideology than economics. At the same time, it presents Trump with an opportunity – to leverage internal Chinese pressure to open doors both for international investors and a domestic Chinese constituency with a vital stake in playing by global trading rules.
In his efforts to ensure Communist Party control over every facet of Chinese life, Chinese President Xi Jinping has smothered the animal spirits of the country's private businessmen, who account for more than 60 per cent of economic output and 80 per cent of employment. Even though the party welcomed capitalists to join in 2001, they've long had an uneasy relationship with state authority. Many have been caught up in Xi's anti-corruption campaign, paying the price for a pervasive rent-seeking culture in which bribing officials was necessary to secure business deals, land and bank loans.

British parliament shoots down PM Theresa May's Brexit plan

Updated 16 Jan 2019 — 9:05 AM, first published at 5:11 AM
London | The British Parliament has meted out a devastating defeat to Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan, rejecting it by a margin of 230 votes, forcing her back to the drawing board with her domestic critics and the European Union, and dealing a further blow to her already shaky authority.
More than 100 Conservative Party rebels sided with opposition MPs to defeat her motion on the withdrawal agreement she had struck with the European Union, with 432 votes against and just 202 in favour – the biggest margin of defeat for a government motion in at least a century.
The pound jumped against the US dollar after the vote, as traders bet that the March 29 deadline for Brexit would now be extended.

Scaremongering over Brexit risks talking the economy into recession

By Jeremy Warner
Updated 16 Jan 2019 — 10:07 AM, first published at 9:17 AM
Beware - according to the theory popularised by the economist John Maynard Keynes - "the paradox of thrift".
So far, the UK economy has proved remarkably resilient to the tortures of Brexit, which though they have resulted in slower growth and a profound political crisis, have not yet transmogrified into an economic shock.
The underlying reasons for this are worth revisiting, for they provide clues as to why, even in the event of a chaotic, no-deal exit, the hit to the UK economy may not be as bad as official forecasts and some business lobbies predict.

Theresa May's Brexit failure extends to Britain's political class

By Nick Miller
16 January 2019 — 9:11am
London: By the end of eight days of debate even Theresa May appeared not to like her own deal.
She described it as a compromise that was bound to disappoint people.
She was right.
May had presented a practical solution to an idealistic project. The pope had asked for the Sistine Chapel to be painted, and Theresa May turned up with a wide brush and five litres of Dulux Brilliant White.
The true believers hated it. Just about everyone else didn’t see the point.

British parliament backs PM May to press on with search for Brexit deal

Updated 17 Jan 2019 — 10:17 AM, first published at 6:28 AM
London | Britain's embattled Prime Minister Theresa May scraped through the parliament's first no-confidence vote in 24 years, clearing the way for her to try and cobble together a revamped Brexit deal.
Just one day after suffering the biggest parliamentary defeat in British history over her Brexit deal, Mrs May secured 325 supportive votes early on Thursday (AEDT), defeating the 306 MPs who backed Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn's no-confidence motion against her.
She then immediately went into late-night talks with the leaders of the minor parties, and said she and other senior government figures would hold intensive discussions in the coming days to find a Brexit proposal that could make it through parliament.

Trump ordered me to rig election polls, says former lawyer Cohen

18 January 2019 — 1:56am
Washington: Michael Cohen, a former personal lawyer for US President Donald Trump, said on Thursday he paid a firm to manipulate online polling data "at the direction of and for the sole benefit of" Trump.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen had paid the data firm Redfinch Solutions to manipulate two public opinion polls in favour of Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen appeared to confirm the newspaper report via Twitter.

IT firm hired to create fake Twitter account to portray ex-Trump lawyer as a sex symbol

Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer reportedly paid a man to create a fake Twitter account which portrayed him as a sex symbol.
Natasha Christian and AFP
News Corp Australia Network January 18, 201912:50pm
Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen reportedly hired a man to create a Twitter account which portrayed him as a sex symbol, as well as rigging online polls to sway towards the president.
Mr Cohen has confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that in early 2015 he paid the head of a small technology firm, Redfinch Solutions, to write computer script that would place multiple votes for Trump in an online poll of news broadcaster CNBC.
They repeated the effort in an online poll of website Drudge Report, which is popular with conservatives.

'We are at impeachment': Trump hit by most damaging story of his presidency

By Matthew Knott
19 January 2019 — 9:45am
New York: The Trump administration has been rocked by bombshell reporting that the President instructed his former personal lawyer to lie to Congress about his business dealings in Russia, a development that has dramatically increased the likelihood he will be tried for impeachment.
A report in BuzzFeed alleges that Donald Trump instructed his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to mislead Congress about his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, a claim that has been denied by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Trump's hand-picked nominee for attorney general, William Barr, told Congress this week that persuading a person to commit perjury amounted to obstruction of justice.

Jewish guests confronted by Germany's new generation of neo-Nazis

By Vic Alhadeff
19 January 2019 — 12:00am
The cry was as jarring and intrusive as it was unexpected. Huddled against a bracing Frankfurt morning, the delegation of Jewish leaders from centres as diverse as Novosibirsk, Siberia, and Santiago, Chile, was listening to an outdoor briefing about the turbulent history which lay behind a sign that simply said "Judenmarkt".
Just metres away was an elongated grey wall, its surface punctuated by tiny metal boxes – simulated coffins? – each bearing biographical details of one of the 11,500 Jews of Frankfurt who were murdered in the Holocaust. Suddenly, a cream-coloured Mercedes taxi raced towards us; as it passed, the driver lowered his window and yelled "Alles luege!" – which translates, unfortunately, to "All lies!"
The irony that the invective occurred during the final presentation on the final day of a week-long government program titled "Jewish Life in Germany" was not lost on the international visitors, while visibly rattling our guide's composure. A commendable initiative of the German Foreign Ministry, the comprehensive schedule of briefings, site visits and participation in Holocaust memorial ceremonies immersed us in the fraught situation in which the German Government and the nation's 250,000 Jews currently find themselves.

BuzzFeed's Michael Cohen story, if true, looks to be the most damning to date for Trump

19 January 2019 — 3:54am
Predicting President Donald Trump's imminent demise has made fools of people since the moment he launched his presidential campaign. But the latest blockbuster story about the Russia investigation is different.
If Robert Mueller III has the evidence he reportedly has - that Trump asked Michael Cohen to lie to Congress for him - it could present something that's been missing thus far from the public domain: An event so cut-and-dried that even Republicans would be hard-pressed not to consider impeachment.
BuzzFeed News broke the story on Thursday night about the alleged Trump request. The lie Cohen told is the one he has pleaded guilty to: about when efforts to secure a Trump Tower Moscow concluded. BuzzFeed reports that not only did Cohen tell Mueller's team that Trump told him to lie, but that Mueller had evidence of this even before confronting Cohen.

Theresa in wonderland

  • 12:00AM January 19, 2019
This past week in British politics has been as divisive as it has been spectacularly dysfunctional. The long-awaited meaningful vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday delivered a wipeout that in any other situation would have been catastrophic for a leader. This was the vote Mrs May withdrew before Christmas and then presented afresh with a veneer of additional comfort from Brussels.
“No Mrs May. This is lipstick on a pig” was the resounding message. In a 650-seat parliament, May lost by a staggering, unprecedented 230 votes, the largest Commons defeat in British political history. By the end of the week, the Prime Minister, bloodied but unbowed, found herself scrabbling to secure some new lowest common denominator consensus across political parties which themselves are bitterly divided.
In Australia, the Liberal Party has been split apart by division on energy policy, while Labor stands united. In Britain, Brexit has brutally divided both the Tories and Labour, creating political dysfunction.

Lessons for MPs as Brexiteers fail to learn from EU’s resolve

  • 12:00AM January 19, 2019
 If nothing else, the Brexit debacle is a lesson for Australian conservatives about the need for unity and doing your policy homework, and not relying on slogans that might appeal to the “base”.
The British Conservative Party government was pushed into a referendum on EU membership by its far-right faction, which had believed the malarky in sections of the media that they could have their cake and eat it — that is, have free movement of goods and services with Europe without free movement of people.
That was never possible: the notion pushed by Brexiteers that they could swiftly negotiate a free-trade agreement with Europe that covered only goods and services to replace EU membership was ­fanciful.

Donald Trump moves to end shutdown, offers compromise on border security

  • January 20, 2019
Donald Trump has put a new offer to Democrats to break the deadlock which has shut down the US government by offering temporary protection for some immigrants in exchange for funding for his border wall.
But in an address from the White House, the President refused to give ground on his key demand that any spending bill include $5.7 billion for a wall — a demand which has been the key sticking point with Democrats.
His new plan was rejected immediately by Democrats with house speaker Nancy Pelosi releasing a statement ahead of President Trump’s address, saying the proposal was a “compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good-faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives.”

Everything that’s screwed by the US government shutdown

As Donald Trump prepares to make a speech to the nation this morning, here are all the ways America is screwed right now.
Emma Reynolds and Reuters
news.com.au January 20, 20198:47am
US President Donald Trump has proposed an immigration deal in a bid to end a 29-day partial government shutdown, after House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats had already said they rejected the plan.
Trump stuck to his demand that $US5.7 billion for this year to fund a US-Mexico border wall be part of any bill to fully reopen the government, an ultimatum Democrats oppose.
But the president had hoped that offering new protections for some undocumented immigrants could end a month-long impasse with Congress.
I look forward to comments on all this!

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