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, February 21, 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.

February 21, 2019 Edition.
Trump has called a National Emergency on the southern USA Border as well as keeping the Government open. This will mean a huge number of law suits – which have already started – on emergency powers and the like.
Brexit remains in limbo.
Border protection seems to have become the major issue again and the Coalition seems now to think it is in with a real chance at the Federal Election planned for May. Time will tell I guess.

Major Issues.

The shift in global economic mood that caused central bankers to blink

By Sam Fleming and Jamie Smyth
Updated Feb 10, 2019 — 1.10pm, first published at 1.00pm
As Donald Trump rhapsodised last week about the "unprecedented economic boom" he is seeing across America, central bankers in Australia, India and the UK were preparing to join a broader retreat from plans to tighten monetary policy.
Hours after the US President finished his State of the Union address, Philip Lowe, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, stood up to warn of an "accumulation of downside risks" – including trade skirmishes between China and the US, rising populism and Brexit. The next move in interest rates could be down, he said, instead of up.
The Reserve Bank of India, which has been under pressure from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ease policy, trimmed rates by a quarter-point a day later. The same day, the Bank of England ditched plans for multiple rate hikes. Their dovish pivots followed what was by far the most significant policy U-turn to date: a decision by Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell on January 30 to shelve any plans to lift rates further because of possible risks to US growth.

'Beware the bounce': clearance rates firm as volumes dwindle

Feb 10, 2019 — 1.50pm
While auction clearance rates have ticked up from their lows last year, including in the biggest markets of Sydney and Melbourne, veteran analysts remain wary of the early bounce.
In the first set of auction results since the Reserve Bank of Australia shifted its stance on the prospect of a rate cut, a preliminary clearance rate of 54.1 per cent was achieved nationally, according to CoreLogic figures.
The preliminary result was recorded from 929 homes listed for auction, an increase on last week's tally of 536 auctions of which 42.8 per cent were sold. The final figure could still fall to the mid-to-low 40 per cent range when all results are collected.

Newspoll: Coalition staring at bruising poll defeat

  • February 10, 2019
The Coalition has held on to the electoral gains made over summer but still remains on course for a significant election defeat despite a lift in Scott Morrison’s approval ratings.
An exclusive Newspoll to be published in The Australian tomorrow shows Labor retaining a commanding lead over the Coalition with a two-party preferred vote of 53/47.
As both parties prepare for a pitched battle over asylum seekers and the economy when Parliament returns this Tuesday, Mr Morrison has maintained his lead over Bill Shorten as the preferred prime minister after widening the gap two points to 44/35 in the latest fortnightly poll.
The Liberal Party leader’s approval ratings have also lifted with a three point upswing to 43 per cent and a drop of two points in those dissatisfied with his performance to 45 per cent.

Coal miners derided climate action 'sideshow'. Now it's the main event

By David Morris and Brendan Dobbie
February 11, 2019 — 12.00am
The nascent field of climate litigation in Australia came of age on Friday. The Chief Judge of the NSW Land and Environment Court, Brian Preston, delivered a landmark judgment refusing to approve a new coal mine because of its impacts on climate change. In the Chief Judge’s words, the mine proposal was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When we first argued that our client, the Groundswell Gloucester, should be a party to this case and put a climate-change ground before the court, the mining companies thought it a laughable proposition, and said it would be “a sideshow”. As it happens, climate change became the main event in this court, as it is elsewhere.
The ramifications are likely to ripple out across Australia and possibly the world. This is climate litigation writ large.

Franking credits policy is coming back to bite Labor

By Tony Walker
February 10, 2019 — 11.50pm
Chris Bowen, the embattled shadow treasurer, is a student of Niccolo Machiavelli, so much so that he quoted the Italian sage in an op-ed for The Australian Financial Review to bolster his argument for tax reform.
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, more uncertain in its success to take the lead in a new order of things," wrote Machiavelli in his advice to politicians of the Florentine court 500 years ago.
You can say that again in this modern age of Australian entitlement, and corrosive politics.

Email errors, rogue staff: How businesses lose control of client data

By Emma Koehn
February 8, 2019 — 2.03pm

Talking points

  • The data breach scheme applies to organisations covered by the Privacy Act. 
  • In the December quarter, 47 per cent of breaches involved financial details.
  • Human error accounts for around one third of all compromised information. 
From losing hard drives to emailing the wrong person, a number of simple mistakes have forced Australian businesses to confess to the information commissioner they have put the data of thousands of customers at risk.
Cybersecurity experts say small businesses can't afford to ignore information about data security risks and still have work to do when it comes to educating their staff about best practice.
One year on from the introduction of the country's notifiable data breach scheme, the office of the information commissioner has received 812 reports of cases where consumer data has been lost, stolen or accidentally disseminated to the wrong people.

'It is understood': How oblique sourcing is hurting Australian media

By John McDuling
February 11, 2019 — 12.00am
 “What is this?” the Slack message, equal parts terse and dumbfounded read. This was a few years back, when I was working for a publication in the US. I'd filed a story I was quite pleased with, involving some as yet unreported but incremental developments in New York media.
Into the story copy I'd inserted a piece of journalese that is commonplace in Australia, but evidently, rarely used in the US. “It is understood... [something, something]” I had written. And my editor at the time had pulled me up on it. “You can’t write that,” she sent me in a subsequent Slack message. “It makes no sense to me, or to a reader”.
Since then I’ve flinched whenever I’ve seen “it is understood”, or “[insert outlet] understands” in a story, which it turns out, is often. The phrase and its variants like "it is believed" or "has learned" have become a proxy for "a source has told me something, but doesn’t want to be named. It’s as good as confirmed. So trust us.”

Warning signs that could sway RBA on rates are flashing amber

By Michael Heath and Garfield Reynolds
Updated Feb 12, 2019 — 9.19am, first published at 6.51am
Sydney | Signs are emerging that a two-year hiring burst that cut Australian unemployment by almost a percentage point is starting to cool.
Labour market resilience has been central to the Reserve Bank optimism, but the prospect of slower hiring and a jobless rate drifting higher would make it tougher to maintain its "glass half full" approach.
Such a turn would erode the likelihood of faster wage growth and inflation heading back toward the midpoint of the RBA's 2-3 per cent target.
Then there's the general election that's set to be called by May. In the lead up to recent ballots, business has hunkered down on hiring and investment to await the electorate's verdict.

Scott Morrison's booklet reveals recipe for a pumped-up scare campaign

By Tony Wright
February 11, 2019 — 4.42pm
It’s an alarming world out there, and if you hadn’t noticed, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is here to remind you.
Why, he’s pumping himself up to scare hell out of all of us.
If it’s not radical Islamic extremism, it’s the scourge of ice. Or organised crime. Or fire. Or flood. Women and children terrorised in their own homes. Sexual predators and bullies. Cyber attack. Criminals who need deporting; thousands of them. An Indo-Pacific neighbourhood that needs propping up to protect our sovereignty. A defence force that needs hundreds of billions of dollars to protect us.
Oh, yes. And borders.

Howard blueprint shows way

In the 2004 election, the Howard government defied poor polling to defeat Labor. Here’s how Scott Morrison can do the same.
February 11, 2019
Yesterday’s Newspoll ahead of today’s return of parliament suggests the government is near enough if the Liberals and Nationals are good enough.
That was certainly the message in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s National Press Club address yesterday, which included an upbeat assessment of his government’s prospects.
Down 47 per cent to 53 per cent on the two-party vote roughly three months out from an election is not necessarily insurmountable.
John Howard entered a six-week campaign against Mark Latham down 46 per cent to 54 per cent, before increasing his majority on election day.

Mortgage lending plunges 6.1pc in December

  • By James Glynn
  • Dow Jones
  • February 12, 2019
Australian mortgage financing continued to contract in December as falling house prices and tighter regulation around bank lending for homes tightened its grip on the market.
The number of home-loan approvals fell by a seasonally adjusted 6.1 per cent in December from November, the Bureau of Statistics said. Economists had expected a 2.0 per cent fall in lending over the month.
The value of loans for investment housing fell by 4.8 per cent from November, the ABS said.

Business conditions rebound after December dive but economy losing momentum: NAB survey

  • February 12, 2019
Business conditions saw a moderate rebound in January after falling sharply in December, but the Australian economy has lost some momentum, according to National Australia Bank.
Conditions rose to 7 points last month from 3 points in December and confidence crept up to 4 points from 3 points in December, according to NAB’s Monthly Business Survey released today.
The Australian dollar edged 10 basis points higher on the release, rising from around US70.60 cents ahead of the 11.30am (AEDT) release to US70.70c at 11.45am (AEDT).

Retail drags business conditions to barely recover from December lows: NAB

Updated Feb 12, 2019 — 11.45am, first published at 11.31am
​Interest rates will remain on hold until 2020 according to NAB after the bank's latest survey showed business conditions barely rebounded in January after December saw the biggest monthly fall since the global financial crisis.
Business conditions rose 4 points to 7 index points in January, but were weighed down by the retail sector - the only industry that continues to record negative conditions down 14 points on seasonally adjusted terms.
The weak result adds further weight to an interest rate cut with the market already pricing in a 50 per cent chance of a 25 basis point cut by August this year.

Sydney, Melbourne house prices to fall almost 20pc: UBS

Commercial Property Reporter
  • February 12, 2019
House prices are expected to come under further pressure as result of home loans plunging by the most since the global financial crisis, with price falls now tipped to double to about 14 per cent by leading economists at UBS.
The bank’s economics team, led by George Tharenou, has predicted that the Reserve Bank will be forced to cut rates after Australian Bureau of Statistics data revealed homes loans had dropped by 6.1 per cent in December and by about 20 per cent over the past year.
The economists said that homes loans were the key lead indicator in their thesis that credit was tightening.

Scott Morrison suffers historic defeat as border protection election looms

By David Crowe
Updated February 12, 2019 — 8.28pmfirst published at 7.06pm
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suffered a humiliating defeat in Parliament on refugee medical transfers in a rout not seen by any government in decades, sparking an incendiary debate on border protection and questions about an early election.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten secured the support of the Greens and crossbench MPs to overpower the government on the floor of the House of Representatives and pass the legislation over Mr Morrison’s objections.
The government lost a series of votes by 74 to 75 in a defeat on significant legislation that has not occurred in federal Parliament since 1941, leaving the Prime Minister exposed to demands he call an election.

Bill Shorten backs down on huge fines for banks

By John Kehoe
Updated Feb 13, 2019 — 11.21am, first published at 10.58am
Bill Shorten has backed down on Labor's push for uncapped fines for white collar offences at banks and companies, instead opting for a maximum corporate penalty of $525 million.
The penalty limit for civil offences for corporations is still more than double the $210 million maximum the government was proposing.
Labor is also seeking to amend the government bill in the parliament to increase jail time for the most serious corporate crimes to 15 years, from 10 years.

Scott Morrison beefs up border protection, reopens Christmas Island

Feb 13, 2019 — 11.54am
The Morrison government has beefed up its border protection measures and will reopen the Christmas Island detention centre in anticipation of what it claims will be a resumption of the people smuggling trade.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement Wednesday following a meeting of the National Security Committee of Cabinet and just before the Senate ratified the bill backed by Labor, the Greens and independents which facilitates the transfer to Australia of detainees for medical treatment.
He also pledged to reverse the legislation if he won the next election and had a majority.

Sydney vacancy rates rise 40pc since January 2018, SQM says

Updated Feb 13, 2019 — 9.36am, first published at 9.01am
The number of vacant properties for rent in Sydney jumped a staggering 40 per cent from 15,775 last January to 22,426 this year and is expected to further climb.
Sydney recorded a higher year-on-year vacancy rate of 3.2 per cent in January, despite a seasonal drop from 3.6 per cent in December, according to SQM Research.
"Vacancy rates in January were down which was to be expected as university students come back from holidays," Louis Christopher said.

The 9 bad habits of highly ineffective investors

By Shane Oliver
Feb 13, 2019 — 9.12am
In the upside-down world logic that applies to much of investing, there are a bunch of mistakes investors often make which makes it harder for them to reach their financial goals.
Many of them are based on common sense rules of thumb that turn out to be wrong. As investment markets are forward-looking, it's often wise for investors to turn common sense logic on its head.
A key way to avoid many of the mistakes of investing is to have a long-term investment plan that aligns your financial goals with your risk tolerance.

Prime Minister's strength turns into a weakness

By Peter Hartcher
February 12, 2019 — 7.38pm
Scott Morrison was the immigration minister who restored control of Australia’s borders. He is now the prime minister who has lost control of Australia’s Parliament.
He has not lost the constitutional mandate to lead the government and he remains Prime Minister, but he is a diminished figure in a weakened government with a conditional mandate.
Morrison’s great loss was, paradoxically, on his greatest policy achievement, the handling of asylum seekers. This seems to affirm the adage that your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness.

We could be among the world's climate change winners

By Ross Gittins
February 12, 2019 — 11.55pm
In the dim distant past, politicians got themselves elected by showing us a Vision of Australia’s future that was brighter and more alluring than their opponent’s.
These days the pollies prefer a more negative approach, pointing to the daunting problems we face and warning that, in such uncertain times, switching to the other guy would be far too risky.
We’ve gone from “I’m much better than him” to “if you think I’m bad, he’d be worse”. Maybe they simply lack any vision of the future beyond advancing their own careers.

How the first day of the political year threatened to end the Morrison government

By Tony Wright
February 12, 2019 — 6.53pm
In no more than the turn of a dry page of the Australian constitution, the first day of the political year suddenly flared into the potential collapse of the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The day’s passion had been spent upon what might be the fate of a bill designed to grant doctors greater authority to judge when an asylum seeker detained on a distant island was sick enough to require evacuation.
PM Morrison had already made more than clear that he would not countenance such a thing, which he insisted would flag to people smugglers that Australia’s borders were once more open for business.

NAB says Reserve Bank will keep rates on hold well into next decade

By Shane Wright
February 12, 2019 — 11.30am
Another of the nation's biggest banks has changed its forecast on the direction of interest rates with the NAB saying the Reserve Bank is likely to leave them on hold for an extended period because of growing softness in the economy.
In the wake of its latest monthly business survey, which showed a slump in confidence across the east coast and a worrying deterioration in capacity utilisation by the nation's businesses, the NAB believes there is a chance the RBA may be forced into cutting interest rates within months.
The NAB had believed the next move in rates would be up, probably in the second half of next year.

Queenslander dies from infectious disease caused by floods

By Jocelyn Garcia
February 12, 2019 — 6.04pm
A person has died in Townsville of melioidosis, which is caused by bacteria from floodwater, during the clean-up and recovery process.
There were also two more confirmed cases of the infectious disease, rising the number of cases to 10 by Tuesday.
Health authorities in Townsville have confirmed a person has died after contracting a deadly disease in the wake of the North Queensland Floods.

Welcome to the accidental iron ore boom

By Elizabeth Knight
February 13, 2019 — 12.11am
Even a month ago it would have seemed fanciful for anyone to suggest iron ore prices would be heading towards $US100 per tonne ($A141.33). But the market dynamics have changed.
Welcome to the accidental mining boom. There is a lot at stake in this latest boom for the profits of BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue not to mention the potential swell to the federal government’s coffers.
Just how meaningful the uplift will be for all involved depends on how long the current boomtime prices are sustained.

Housing investor exodus ‘to prompt RBA to cut interest rates’

  • 12:00AM February 13, 2019
An exodus of investors from the housing market in the lead-up to Christmas has increased chances that the Reserve Bank will cut ­official interest rates later this year, despite a modest improvement in business confidence.
National Australia Bank dumped its expectation of a rate increase yesterday after new home loan data showed approvals dropped 6 per cent in December — triple the decline analysts had expected — while the value of loans to investors in the same month was 28 per cent lower than a year ago.
“While our central case is for the cash rate to remain on hold, based on the balance of risks, the next move in rates could well be down — potentially as soon as the second half of this year,” chief economist Alan Oster said, referring to a “relatively sharp decline in residential building activity related to the cooling in housing”.

Independent review into live exports was softened after department criticised draft findings

By Latika Bourke
February 14, 2019 — 12.00am
A draft version of the review into the embattled live exports industry declared the Department of Agriculture had "failed" to regulate the trade and referred to "corruption" risks, but the criticisms were removed after being shown to public servants.
The revelation raises questions why Philip Moss' independent examination of the Department of Agriculture's regulation of the live exports trade was provided to the department ahead of its completion, and why some of the suggested changes appear to have been accepted.
Documents obtained by Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi show Mr Moss submitted several drafts of his review to the department before it was publicly released in September.

Getting to the dark heart of our asylum seeker hysteria

By Jessica Irvine
February 13, 2019 — 11.13pm
It is a difficult task, indeed, to diagnose the precise cause of the unique hysteria that grips Australians over the issue of asylum seekers.
It’s all too easy to chalk up the widespread alarm at our quaintly named “illegal maritime arrivals” to casual racism or a deep rooted fear of "other".
Or could it be compassion that drives us?
More recently, harsh border protection measures have been sold to a willing public as necessary means to avoid the disastrous ends of vulnerable people being coerced into  leaky boats to die at sea.

PM attempts to rescue his sinking boat with a sea of fear

By John Hewson
February 13, 2019 — 4.00pm
Scott Morrison is attempting to create some electoral victory from the jaws of his historic parliamentary defeat by launching a scare campaign being headlined as “Blame Shorten for boats”.
Clearly, if any boats do arrive between now and the May election, the Prime Minister will make absolutely sure Labor leader Bill Shorten wears it.
However, I suspect border security is no longer the issue Morrison would want it to be, with yet another scare campaign on this issue adding to the mounting perception that he and his government are off the pace, increasingly out of touch with mounting electoral sentiment.

Medivac bill: Scott Morrison turns tactical parliamentary defeat into strategic advantage

  • 9:10AM February 14, 2019
In politics momentum is everything. Labor doesn’t have any right now and needs to find a way to restart its campaign. Over the last two years Bill Shorten has consistently shaped the agenda, which is not something opposition leaders usually do.
Very few governments find themselves beholden to the agenda being set by their political opponents. Even Tony Abbott managed to control the agenda, only brought down by his internal mismanagement and public stumbles such as knighting Prince Philip.
Yesterday Labor used question time to try and switch the focus to the banks and the government’s failure to allow adequate sitting days between now and the election to implement the Royal Commission reforms. On any other day it would have secured headlines and the attention of the press gallery. Under the circumstances, however, it was ignored in the way the politics of the day was reported, because the Prime Minister managed to turn his tactical parliamentary defeat into a strategic advantage.

Shorten should have called for an election immediately

By David Crowe
February 14, 2019 — 2.11pm
Arthur Fadden wasted no time when the House of Representatives voted against his budget in October 1941. He knew two independents, Arthur Coles and Alexander Wilson, were moving against his young government and was not surprised when they voted with John Curtin to amend the budget by a single pound.
 “When the vote was called the two independents, Coles and Wilson, crossed the floor to join the Opposition and the government was defeated,” Fadden wrote. “I returned my commission to Lord Gowrie and advised him to send for Curtin.”
That’s it. Fadden, a country accountant before entering Parliament, told the tale in his autobiography without thundering about the vote or agonising over his fate. Lord Gowrie, the Governor-General, named Curtin the Prime Minister. Fadden’s public statement praised the “complete patriotism” of his successor.

$7 trillion question: how low will house prices go

By John Collett
February 14, 2019 — 3.54pm
Industry experts say property prices in Sydney and Melbourne, which have led a slump in Australia's $7 trillion residential property market, are likely headed lower before they hit rock bottom.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures this week showing new lending to owner occupiers fell 6.4 per cent during December last year, outpacing the fall in lending to property investors, which dropped by 4.6 per cent.
The total value of new lending to households has now dropped 19.8 per cent in the past year — the biggest annual fall in home loans since the height of the global financial crisis.

The asylum seeker story you should have read this week

Updated Feb 15, 2019 — 4.23pm, first published at 3.47pm
The cacophony of dire warnings from the Morrison government over asylum seekers this week, as it sought to turn a defeat in the parliament into a political victory, meant two major developments in the policy and politics of border protection policy have been largely overlooked.
The first involves an extraordinary story which, in any other week, would have (should have) dominated the news.
The second involves what has happened on the politics of asylum seekers on the side of politics that has shifted, rather than one that is going back to its usual shtick.

S&P says housing biggest risk for banks as Fitch downgrades NAB

Updated Feb 15, 2019 — 5.27pm, first published at 4.45pm
The main risk facing banks is the housing downturn and not the banking royal commission, which will make lenders cautious but have no lasting impact on reputations or funding costs, credit experts say.
"We see a scenario where the rapid unwind [of housing] is the most plausible scenario for what can go wrong for banks in Australia," S&P's director of financial institutions ratings, Sharad Jain, said.
"We think house prices will continue to slide down, which is partly about momentum, and partly a realisation as it gets played out in media repeatedly that house prices are

Super fights to continue as Labor vows to axe first home buyer scheme

By Shane Wright
February 16, 2019 — 12.00am
Labor will axe the Morrison government's program that allows first home buyers to access their superannuation, vowing to follow through with a key recommendation from the Financial Services Inquiry to use super solely to look after Australians in retirement.
With new figures showing the First Home Super Saver Scheme is attracting a small fraction of new entrants into the property market, shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has confirmed Labor will phase out the scheme while also legislating an objective for super.
The scheme, which enables first time buyers to access extra savings put into their superannuation account, was introduced in the 2017 budget by then treasurer Scott Morrison. He argued it would help young people accelerate their savings to buy into markets in which prices were growing at double-digit rates.

The great boat scare gathers steam amid a sea of ironies

  • 12:00AM February 16, 2019
Although I find the Coalition’s campaign tactics to unpick Labor on border protection more than a little sickening, it is hard to feel sorry for the opposition. What goes around comes around.
Labor’s Mediscare campaign at the last election was perhaps the most blatant distortion I have seen in modern Australian politics, and it profoundly influenced the following term of government. History may be about to repeat itself.
Malcolm Turnbull looked set to win a small but comfortable majority before Bill Shorten frightened voters with a disingenuous campaign claiming that the Coalition planned to “privatise Medicare”. The argument was so laughable that at first government strategists considered it barely worth a response.
Medicare is hardly a profit-making enterprise. To privatise it you’d need to find a buyer, and that is only the first absurdity. Throw in that the Coalition never suggested such a thing and Turnbull explicitly ruled it out, and the notion was a complete joke.

Investors count cost of ALP plans

  • 12:00AM February 16, 2019
As Australian investors struggle to digest the sweep of the ALP’s planned economic changes, the sheer ambition of a potential Bill Shorten-led government is only now percolating through to the wider world.
One of the ironies brought about by the high-profile battle over franked dividend payments to retirees is that a wider manifesto, which is probably the most challenging since the Howard government took office in 1996, has flown below the radar.
This week the global markets woke up to the reality that an ALP government is likely to be with us by mid-year. Zurich-based investment bank Credit Suisse fired the first warning shots to inter­national investors when it examined what might happen to the Australian sharemarket should the Coalition be booted out of ­office in a May election.

Just when you think politics can't get any lower, someone introduces a bodily fluid

By Jacqueline Maley
February 17, 2019 — 12.00am
Remember the honeymoon period? Bathed in the moonlight of Islamophobia, made spicy by burqa costume play? The relationship between senators Pauline Hanson and Brian Burston goes back 20 years. Together they have survived everything from One Nation’s bait-n-switch pivot from Asians to Muslims, a falling out in the late '90s that was something to do with David Oldfield (we think), and the bain maries of the Rooty Hill RSL.
The latter venue, incidentally, is where Burston says Hanson made an overture to him, which he says is part of a pattern of sexual harassment. Burston made his accusations against Hanson last week (accusations Hanson denied), right after Hanson stood up in the Senate to outline sexual harassment complaints made against an un-named, married, male senator.
One Nation has now met the #MeToo movement. Welcome to your 2019, people. It’s OK if you need to take a lie-down.

Millennial socialists chip away at the virtues of liberalism

  • By The Economist
  • 12:00AM February 16, 2019
When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, many consigned socialism to the rubble. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union were interpreted as the triumph not just of liberal democracy but of the robust market-driven capitalism championed by Ronald Reagan in the US and Margaret Thatcher in Britain.
The West’s Left embraced this belief, with leaders like Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Gerhard Schroder promoting a “third way”. They praised the efficiency of markets, pulling them further into the provision of public services, and set about wisely shepherding and redistributing the market’s gains.
Men such as Jeremy Corbyn, a hard-Left north London MP as far from Blair in outlook as it was possible to be, and Bernie Sanders, a left-wing mayor in Vermont who became an independent congressman in 1990, seemed as thoroughly on the wrong side of history as it was possible to be.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was not quite four weeks old when the wall fell. Her childhood was watched over by third-way politics; her teenage years were a time of remarkable global economic growth. She entered adulthood at the beginning of the global financial crisis. She is now the youngest woman to serve in the US congress, the subject of enthusiasm on the Left and fascinated fear on the Right. And, like Corbyn and Sanders, she explicitly identifies herself as a socialist.

Besieged PM to consider disability inquiry

  • 12:00AM February 15, 2019
Scott Morrison says he will ­consider a call for a royal commission into abuse of people with a disability, as Labor and the Greens sought unsuccessfully to force a second defeat on the government within days with a motion demandin­g the inquiry.
The first week of parliament for the year ended in uproar yesterday, with a new record for the duratio­n of question time — 148 minutes — and a heckling senator reprimanded by the House of ­Representatives Speaker.
Greens senator Jordon Steele-John was a guest in the House of Representatives chamber to witness what he expected would be a vote on his earlier successful motio­n in the Senate calling for a royal commission into violence against disabled people.

Royal Commissions And Similar.

Aged care funding boosted ahead of inquiry

Marnie Banger AAP
Sunday, 10 February 2019 1:35PM
On the eve of a royal commission into Australia's aged care industry that is widely expected to uncover some ugly truths, the federal government has announced more fresh funding for the sector.
But Labor says the $662 million windfall is simply too little, too late.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday announced every Australian living in residential aged care will have an extra $1800 spent on their care by June as part of the funding, with $320 million set to be rolled out to residential facilities in the coming months.

APRA review to focus on financial stability and risks

Feb 11, 2019 — 12.00am
An independent review of the prudential regulator led by Graeme Samuel will work to ensure the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority can respond effectively to emerging financial stability risks at banks, insurers and superannuation funds, the Morrison government says.
Leading businesswoman Diane Smith-Gander and former New Zealand central banker Grant Spencer will join Mr Samuel, a former chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, on the three-person review panel, The Australian Financial Review can reveal.
The "forward-looking" APRA capability review is another response by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to the 76 recommendations by financial services royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne, who in his final report released last week said: "A capability review should be undertaken for APRA as soon as is reasonably practicable."

Banking royal commission: what SMSF investors need to know

By Tim Mackay
Updated Feb 11, 2019 — 9.16am, first published at 9.00am
The final report of the royal commission comprised 1069 pages spread across three volumes. For those counting, a grand total of 332,927 words.
Of those 332,927 words, only five related to self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs). And those five related to defining an SMSF or giving background information on superannuation.
So it's fair to say SMSFs were not a primary or even secondary focus of Kenneth Hayne's report. This is a great relief for SMSF investors – SMSFs weren't perceived as an area of concern and they won't be subject to major change from the commission's findings.

Why we’d be better off without mortgage brokers

  • 6:18AM February 11, 2019
Unexpectedly, the most controversial and disruptive bit of the Hayne royal commission’s final report is about mortgage brokers.
The paragraphs naming and shaming NAB were life-changing for Ken Henry and Andrew Thorburn, of course, but the most surprising thing about the royal commission is that, as the dust settles, and we await any criminal charges that may be brought, the whole thing has turned into a worthwhile debate about mortgage brokers.
Everyone else, apart from the aforementioned NAB gents, pretty much dodged the bullet, so far at least.
The question before the house is whether destroying the business model of mortgage broking – for that is essentially what Hayne proposes - would be a good idea or not.

Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

With the first week of hearings due to commence on Monday 11 February, we thought it was timely to reflect on the preliminary hearing in mid-January and to give you some insights into what you should expect next week and moving forward.
General observations from our attendance at the preliminary hearing
The preliminary hearing was held on Friday 18 January before Commissioners Richard Tracey AM RFD QC and Lynelle Briggs AO.
The Commission made it clear it intends to focus on the instances of substandard care and abuse and the failings in the present system. Through considering these issues, recommendations will be made as to how to prevent instances of abuse and generally improve the aged care system.
Guiding themes for the Commission
  • Quality and safety
  • Access and inclusion
  • Young people with disabilities
  • Interfaces and transitions
  • Future challenges and opportunities
  • How to deliver quality care in a sustainable way.

How removing two letters could have hurt financial system

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
February 12, 2019 — 12.00am
One of the biggest fears that the banks had in the early stages of the royal commission, stemming from its focus on responsible lending, was that they could end up with a lot more responsibility for the outcomes of their lending.
The banks were criticised, harshly, in the hearings for alleged breaches of the National Consumer Protection Act and the responsible lending provisions in that legislation.
Those provisions stipulate that the banks shouldn’t enter into a credit contract without making reasonable inquiries about the borrower’s financial situation and verifying the information. They are also prohibited from entering a credit contract or increasing a credit limit if the contract is unsuitable for the borrower.

Aged-care royal commission: most providers fail to report abuse

  • 12:00AM February 12, 2019
More than half of all aged-care providers have missed a deadline by the royal commission to provide a list of all incidents of abuse and neglect going back five years despite clear warnings they will face “careful scrutiny” if they fail to comply.
As the first witness hearing of the aged-care inquiry began in Adelaide yesterday, commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs heard evidence about a broken funding model for the sector that has been doctored by successive governments and compromised the quality of care.
But the opening testimony came from Barbara and Clive Spriggs, the wife and son of Oakden nursing home resident Robert “Bob” Spriggs, who died in June 2016 with 10 times the dose of the antipsychotic drug Seroquel in his system and bruising across his body due to physical restraints. His room was like a prison, Ms Spriggs told the inquiry, and she lamented the fact nobody saw what she did when she first encountered the facility.

Simple solution for the mortgage broker commission problem: Choice

Updated Feb 14, 2019 — 12.22am, first published at Feb 13, 2019 — 11.00pm
There is a simple solution to the mortgage broker commission problem that should satisfy both sides of the intense debate triggered by the recommendations of royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne.
It involves copying the mortgage remuneration model used in the United States where the borrower is given the choice between paying an up front fee of up to 2 per cent of the value of the loan or opting for the lender to pay an up front commission of 1.25 per cent of the value of the loan.
There are no prizes for guessing that the vast majority of American borrowers get the lender to pay the 1.25 per cent commission. It would seem borrowers in the US are as conscious as Australians are of how hard it is to save for a deposit.

Villages to be given time limits to ditch fees, sell units after retirees leave

By Rachel Clun
February 14, 2019 — 12.01am
The NSW government will force retirement villages to stop charging fees for indefinite periods, and to sell units within a fixed time after residents leave to save retirees potentially thousands of dollars.
While the moves have been welcomed by some, others say the policy changes need to address some key issues for them to work.
In an election pitch, NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said the government wanted to stop retirement villages from "taking advantage of retirees".

New STRC can help you get back on your feet

By Rachel Lane
February 13, 2019 — 11.59pm
In last year’s federal budget, the government announced funding of $58 million to expand the Short Term Restorative Care (STRC) program, the first of the new 775 STRC places commenced at the beginning of this month.
So what is STRC, who is eligible to receive it and what does it cost?
STRC services include cooking, cleaning, medication management and transport as well as occupational therapy, podiatry, speech therapy and psychology services.
Short Term Restorative Care is an eight-week program designed to help people avoid long-term care. It can be used to help you transition from hospital to home or recover following an accident or illness.

Evidence to the aged care royal commission

Key evidence to the royal commission into aged care during the first three days of evidence in Adelaide.
Australian Associated PressFebruary 13, 20194:55pm
* Geriatrician Edward Strivens has told the inquiry that psychotropic drugs, including antidepressants and sedatives, are too often used as the first resort to treat dementia patients in aged care.
* Nursing officials have told how nurses leaving the aged care sector are complaining of workloads that are unsafe and untenable.
* Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW policy manager Paul Versteege says inadequate nourishment is one of several recurring safety breaches in the sector with 50 per cent malnutrition rates very common in care facilities.
* Waiting times for home care packages are blowing out to as long as two years. Older Persons Advocacy Network chief executive Craig Gear says wait times should be cut to something under three months.

Aged-care royal commission: ‘side-effect for dementia patients is death’

  • 12:00AM February 14, 2019
A significant overuse of psychotropic medication on dementia sufferers within Australia’s residential care facilities has resulted in a range of negative outcomes, including increased rates of death, the aged-care royal commission has heard.
The president of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine, Edward Strivens, told the commission in Adelaide yesterday about 80 per cent of people in residential care with dement­ia were being prescribed at least one psychotropic drug.
These include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and sedatives.
Yet Professor Strivens said as few as 10 per cent of people bene­fited and the use of such drugs was too often viewed as a first option, rather than a last resort.

ASIC eyes 'extremely harsh' sanctions against banks

Updated Feb 15, 2019 — 10.09am, first published at 9.45am
The corporate regulator's chief prosecutor, Daniel Crennan, QC, has warned the government has empowered him to pursue "extremely harsh civil penalties and criminal sanctions against banks, their executives and others" after the Senate passed tough new rules for white-collar offences.
Corporate executives could face maximum jail terms of 15 years for criminal offences and companies could cop fines of up to $525 million per civil offence, after the Morrison government agreed to Labor's amendments to toughen the Coalition's bill on Thursday night.

Both sides of politics fight to be toughest on biz

Feb 14, 2019 — 7.00pm
Unlike some other modern-day politicians, NSW Nationals senator John Williams can genuinely vouch that he entered Parliament to help others.
Not for factional power, a confected ideology, or simply because no-one else would give him $200,000 a year, 15 per cent super and a free car, but because he wanted to help those who had been done over by financial institutions.
Two decades before entering Parliament, Wacka, as he is universally known, fell victim to the foreign currency loan scandal. A silver-tongued banker talked the Williams family into borrowing Swiss francs in 1985. It resulted in a decade of infighting and legal action and culminated in the end of five generations of family farming, and a heavy personal toll.

Senate banking inquiry launched after banking victims complain of 'kick in the guts'

By Eryk Bagshaw
February 14, 2019 — 4.40pm
The big four banks will face another Parliamentary inquiry in the immediate aftermath of the banking royal commission, as victims groups criticise royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne and the Morrison government for failing to provide meaningful redress for thousands of customers.
Labor passed the terms of reference for the Senate inquiry on Tuesday after securing the support of the crossbench. It will examine whether financial service providers have used the legal system to pressure customers into accepting settlements and whether the bank-funded Australian Financial Complaints Authority is doing its job.
Farmers and small business owners have been left disappointed by the royal comission's 76 recommendations, which focused heavily on structural issues, but offered few salves to those who have had millions tied up in disputes over decades.

White-collar crooks face up to 15 years in jail under new penalties

By Sarah Danckert
February 15, 2019 — 5.40pm
Banking executives face up to 15 years in jail under tough new laws to stamp out white-collar crime as the corporate regulator prepares to crackdown on misconduct in the sector.
On Friday the Senate passed a long-awaited bill that drastically increases the penalties for white-collar crime.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission deputy chairman enforcement Daniel Crennan, QC, welcomed the passing of the bill on Friday.
"Now ASIC will be in a position to pursue extremely harsh civil penalties and criminal sanctions against banks, their executives and others where they have breached the corporate laws of Australia designed to protect its citizens," Mr Crennan said.

National Budget Issues.

Boomers’ Howard-era tax breaks punishing the young

  • 12:00AM February 12, 2019
Our athletes weren’t the only group to win gold on home soil in 2000. In the year of the Sydney Olympics, baby boomers snared world-beating tax breaks. Indeed, they’ve been so potent the share of seniors who pay income tax has collapsed since, falling to about 15 per cent from 27 per cent in 1995.
As the postwar generation eyed retirement, the Howard government introduced the first of two rounds of extra­ordinary tax concessions that overwhelmingly favoured seniors, blo­wing massive holes in the ­budget.
It wasn’t just, in a world first, enacting unlimited refundability of franking credits; the government in 2000 also snuck in the seniors and pensioners tax offset (SAPTO). This little-known reform furnished over-65s with a $32,000 tax-free threshold, higher than in any other OECD country, and about 70 per cent higher than what younger Australians face.

Health Issues.

Immunotherapy to target 'evil' immune cells protecting breast cancers

By Kate Aubusson
February 10, 2019 — 12.00am
Immunotherapy to kill off one the most aggressive types of breast cancer? A Sydney scientist is trying to pull it off.
Dr Fatima Valdes Mora at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research is attempting to unleash the power of immunotherapy to treat triple negative breast cancers.
Almost one in four women with triple negative breast cancer will die within five years of being diagnosed, compared to 7 per cent of women with other breast cancer types.
The aggressive tumours account for roughly 15 per cent of all breast cancers and do not have any of the three receptors – oestrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) – that can be treated with targeted therapies.

New projects aim to address poor wellbeing of junior doctors

By Natassia Chrysanthos
February 10, 2019 — 5.51pm
The NSW government has attempted to address poor statistics surrounding junior doctors' wellbeing with eight projects to be introduced across the state over three years.
A government survey of junior medical officers conducted in late 2018 revealed only 55 per cent of junior doctors felt their hospital or training site valued their wellbeing.
Of the 2097 respondents, which represent almost a quarter of the junior medical officer workforce, 46 per cent felt fatigue was not substantially affecting their performance at work and 52 per cent said they had time for a meal break on most days.

The big factor stopping thousands of women from starting a family

By Deborah Snow
February 11, 2019 — 12.00am
At 28 going on 29, Felicity Lochhead and her husband Hayden, 30, are at a stage in their lives where family and close friends are becoming curious about whether they plan to start a family.
But for Ms Lochhead, whether or not to have a child is a decision increasingly overshadowed by her worry about the impact of climate change.
 “It’s definitely something I have thought about when considering making that very big decision,” she said. “It’s not the only factor, of course, but it's a big factor because I want to consider the future for that potential child and if it's looking like it will be very damaging, then it’s going to be something I [weigh up] before deciding to bring them into the world.”

Shop around for health fund discount: minister

  • 12:00AM February 11, 2019
Australians not offered a youth discount on health insurance have been told to shop around for a new fund, after it was revealed some insurers won’t pass on a Morrison government reform aimed at keeping young people in the system.
Not-for-profit funds HCF and HBF are among the insurers not introducing a youth discount to members, while others have decided to only implement it to some policies.
The country’s biggest insurers, Medibank, Bupa and NIB, have committed to introduce the discount to all members aged between 18 and 29.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Greg Hunt said the youth discount was part of a package of reforms introduced by the government to make private health insurance simpler and more affordable.

Queenslander dies from infectious disease caused by floods

By Jocelyn Garcia
February 12, 2019 — 6.04pm
A person has died in Townsville of melioidosis, which is caused by bacteria from floodwater, during the clean-up and recovery process.
There were also two more confirmed cases of the infectious disease, rising the number of cases to 10 by Tuesday.
Health authorities in Townsville have confirmed a person has died after contracting a deadly disease in the wake of the North Queensland Floods.

Health reform move a welcome first step

The Consumers Health Forum welcomes Labor’s plan to establish a national health reform commission as a timely step towards improvement and innovation of Australia’s health system.
“It is 35 years since the last big change, Medicare, and it is now well past time for a more contemporary Medicare to reflect the deep changes that have swept health care in that time,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.
“Labor’s reform commission proposal opens the way to the potential of a more integrated and long-term approach to resolve pressing health challenges including prevention, obesity, primary care and chronic disease and to overcome the current disjointed reality of federal-state divisions.
“Improving health systems and services takes time and is often confounded by the time-constraints in our political cycle.  If this commission’s primary job is to oversee reform implementation, ensure it is done well and to ensure change is enduring, this is a good move.

HCF reveals out-of-pocket fees

  • 12:00AM February 14, 2019
Health insurer HCF is arming its members with details on the out-of-pocket fees charged by a range of specialists as the industry awaits the release of a government report on the issue.
The not-for-profit fund has developed a new tool in partnership with digital health platform HealthShare to help its members avoid or minimise gap payments.
Grattan Institute health program director Stephen Duckett said the number of complaints about unexpected out-of-pocket costs was increasing.
 “That issue is one of the cases of dissatisfaction with health insurance, so it is in health insurers’ interest to provide this information to consumers,” he said.

Labor finally unveils its primary care policy

A permanently funded commission would use the failure of Health Care Homes to guide future reforms, says Catherine King
14th February 2019
Shadow health minister Catherine King.
Labor has finally unveiled its long-awaited plan to fix primary care: by establishing a health reform commission.
In a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, shadow health minister Catherine King said primary care reform would be a top priority of a Labor government, along with boosting funding for public hospital outpatient clinics.
She announced that if Labor were elected this year, it would create a permanently funded Australian Health Reform Commission to develop long-term health policy.

Private health cover at 11-year low

  • 12:00AM February 15, 2019
The proportion of the population with private hospital cover is the lowest it has been in 11 years, despite federal government reforms aimed at making policies more affordable and transparent.
With only 44.6 per cent of the population covered, and premiums to rise again next month, the Coalition will go to the election unable to stop the exodus and with Labor promising a cap on premium increases and a Productivity Commission inquiry.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority data yesterday showed another 12,370 ­people dropped their cover in the December quarter, leaving insurers with the lowest share of the population since September 2007.

A GP's guide to accessing home care

Assisting patients to access their entitlements can be complicated
Zilla Efrat
15th February 2019
Last December, the Federal Government released 10,000 more high-level home care packages enabling more patients older than 65 — or Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders older than 50 — to obtain home-based services.
The $287 million expansion in funding came on top of an extra 20,000 home care packages added to the Department of Health’s aged care scheme over the previous 12 months.
The scheme funds much-needed services such as personal care, transport, modifications to the home such as hand rails or ramps, nursing, physiotherapy, meals and help with cooking, household jobs like cleaning or gardening, equipment such as walking frames, and social activities to combat isolation.

International Issues.

Trump and Brexit have ended up remarkably similar. Here’s why

By Simon Kuper
Updated Feb 11, 2019 — 9.28am, first published at 9.18am
Like identical twins raised in different homes, the Trump and Brexit projects have ended up remarkably similar. They were similar in their advertising in 2016 and are now similar in the way they actually work — even if the advertising isn't similar to the way they work.
Both have broken down over the issue of a hard border with a neighbouring country. Both are flirting with a trade war. Neither looks able to pass any more legislation.
It's common to lump all contemporary populisms together. But Anglo-American populism is a unique variant: a mixture of wronged superpower vengeance plus buccaneering capitalism. Here is the Trump-Brexit governing philosophy, as revealed in power:
  • Destroying the status quo might be better than the status quo. You never know until you try.
  • The revolution will recreate the glorious past. So there's no need to waste time planning for coming developments, such as climate change or artificial intelligence. The future of our countries is the older people who backed the revolution.

Why South America is the battlefield in a new cold war

By Hal Brands
February 11, 2019 — 3.23am
Washington: The political crisis in Venezuela has pitted the US against a dictator who refuses to leave office, but the crisis has a broader significance: it shows that Latin America has again become an arena in which rival powers struggle for influence and advantage.
Major European nations joined the United States in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president on Monday, heightening a global showdown over Nicolas Maduro’s socialist rule.
As the US faces surging geopolitical rivalry around the world, its position is also coming under pressure in its own backyard.

Hungary to give lifetime tax exemption to women who have four children

February 11, 2019 — 3.41am
Budapest: Hungary's anti-immigration Prime Minister said the government would increase financial aid and subsidies for families in a bid to boost the country's population.
The measures announced during Prime Minister Viktor Orban's annual state of the nation speech are designed to encourage women to have more children and to reverse Hungary's population decline.
They include a lifetime income tax exemption for women who give birth to at least four children.
Orban said such policies – and not immigrtaion – were "Hungary's answer" to downward demographic trends

Democrats struggle with identity after sex, race scandals

By Nicole Hemmer
February 10, 2019 — 11.12pm
The Democratic Party is in a bind, one that became excruciatingly clear last week as the top three officials in Virginia – a former Republican stronghold that is becoming reliably Democratic – have become embroiled in controversies around racism and sexual assault. These incidents have sparked calls for resignation from across the Democratic Party.
Virginia's attorney general admitted to having worn blackface at a college party, becoming the state's third high-ranking Democrat caught up in scandal since the release of a racist photo from Governor Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook
The events in Virginia have been so cataclysmic because in recent years the party has developed a base that is far more diverse than any in American history. And that base is starting to hold party leaders accountable.

Donald Trump faces biggest test of presidency over wall funding

  • 9:40AM February 11, 2019
Donald Trump and the Democrats are now facing their moment of truth. After months of chaos and dysfunction caused by disagreements over funding for a border wall, the next few days will determine which path US politics will take.
The collapse of talks at the weekend over a funding package on border security is a grim portent but it doesn’t mean a last-minute deal won’t be struck before the Saturday (AEST, Friday US time) deadline.
Much will depend on whether the Democrats are serious about making a deal that President Trump can tolerate. He has accused them of wanting another government shutdown after Democrats made a surprise demand to limit the number of detention beds for illegal immigrants. This issue was unrelated to the most contentious issue of a border wall and it does beg the question of how serious the Democrats are about striking a compromise deal which would avoid another government shutdown.

UK navy to push into Asia-Pacific with 'increased lethality', minister says

By Nick Miller
February 12, 2019 — 3.22am
London: The UK military is planning a major eastern expansion including a "littoral strike group" in the Indo-Pacific and a new permanent base in the Asia-Pacific region, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said on Monday.
The moves were part of a mission to "increase lethality" and make post-Brexit "global Britain" a reality, he told the Royal Unified Services Institute, a defence and security think tank in London.
But Williamson’s speech came as a new report on global security warned national leaders should act prudently as the world entered a time of instability and uncertainty and a "new era of great power competition".

How bad is China’s slowdown?

  • By Austen Hufford and Theo Francis
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • February 12, 2019
To gauge the scope of China’s economic slowdown, begin with forklifts.
The factory workhorses are a barometer of the manufacturing sector’s fitness. Changes in demand can ease or worsen concerns about China.
By that measure, EnerSys sees trouble.
The US maker of batteries that power forklifts said those sales in China fell in the latest quarter after rising 10 per cent or more earlier in the year.

Prosperity doesn't come with Rudd's easy labels

Feb 12, 2019 — 11.00pm
In a 20,000-word essay on Australia's future published on his own website, former prime minister Kevin Rudd writes that "the editor of The Australian Financial Review … has run an editorial line for the better part of a decade that has consistently been one of the most right wing in the country". Mr Rudd labels those who don't always agree with him as "hard-right" conservatives or "faux left". Both are in an unholy "rolling pincer movement" against his earnest nation-building ideal Labor.
But "conservative" is a relatively new label in Australian politics. Conservatives used to be fusty British empire Tories. Now they are nationalistic cultural warriors. Lost in this classification is the earlier contest among Liberals between economic rationalists or dries and the interventionist wets. From then until now, The Financial Review has championed an open economy (against the protectionists on the left and the right), leant against the growth of government, campaigned for less regulated labour markets and pushed for tax reform that sharpens rather than dulls incentives. So did Mr Rudd at one stage, when he called himself an economic conservative, promised to stop the Coalition's reckless spending and suggested he could cut the top marginal income tax rate to 40 per cent.

'No doubt': Brexit uncertainty has sapped the British economy

Updated Feb 12, 2019 — 12.14pm, first published at 12.02pm
London | Brexit gloom has dragged Britain's economy to its slowest rate of growth since the global financial crisis, as falling investment and declining manufacturing and construction output kept growth to a meagre 0.2 per cent.
Full-year growth in 2018 was 1.4 per cent, the slowest since 2012, and hasn't been weaker since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis in 2009. The quarterly slowdown was most acute in December.
Continued expansion in the services sector, of 0.4 per cent quarter-on-quarter, while slower than previous quarters, was enough to offset a 1.1 per cent drop in production, a 0.3 per cent decline in construction and a 1.4 per cent slump in business investment.

Jerome Powell isn't the only one confused by the peculiar market behaviour

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
February 12, 2019 — 11.55pm
When it signalled its shift in strategy last month, the Federal Reserve board’s Jerome Powell said the US central bank was "patiently waiting for clarity". The Fed isn’t the only market participant confused by the context in which they operating.
The Fed, and other central banks – our Reserve Bank, the Bank of England, the European Central bank and even the Bank of India – are all shifting stance pre-emptively, worried about what might happen rather than current conditions.
The biggest known unknown is the outcome of the Trump administration’s trade policies – whether it can strike a deal with China and whether the conflict with China is followed by an escalation of its disputes with Europe.

Overseas tariffs sour US whiskey exports

US whiskey exports have suffered after retaliatory tariffs were imposed by Canada, Mexico, China and the European Union.
Reuters February 13, 201912:53pm
American whiskey makers are feeling the pain after their major overseas markets imposed hefty duties on their liquor in retaliation against US President Donald Trump's tariffs on aluminium imports.
US global whiskey exports, which include rye and bourbons, recorded a nifty 28 per cent year-over-year increase in the first six months 2018, the Distilled Spirits Council said.
But once levies from Canada, Mexico, China and the European Union took effect, the collective whiskey exports from 37 US states fell by 8 per cent in the period from July to November last year, compared with the same five months in 2017, according to the Washington-based industry trade group.

'Scrape the mould off': Theresa May's unusual advice horrifies Brits

By Nick Miller
February 14, 2019 — 3.09am
London: Forget Brexit, it’s Theresa May’s handling of breakfast that has the UK united in horror.
On Tuesday, according to the Daily Mail, the British Prime Minister advised a Cabinet meeting that she “will not throw away a jar of jam if it has gone mouldy on top”.
Instead, the newspaper reported, “she scrapes off the mould and eats the good preserve left underneath”.
May considered the rest of the jam to be “perfectly edible”, a Whitehall source told the Mail, and instead of binning food past its best-before date shoppers should “use common sense” to check if it’s edible.

Mars rover Opportunity pronounced dead after 15 years of service

By Marcia Dunn
February 14, 2019 — 9.52am
Cape Canaveral: NASA's longest-running rover on Mars, Opportunity, has been pronounced dead, 15 years after it landed on the red planet.
The six-wheeled vehicle was built to operate for just three months.
Scientists announced Wednesday that the Mars Opportunity Rover has officially ended its illustrious 15-year career of scientific exploration. NASA lost touch with 'Oppy' on June 10, 2018 following a global dust storm.
But it kept going and going after its 2004 landing until it was finally doomed by a ferocious dust storm eight months ago.

Apple and Google under fire for Absher app that helps Saudi men track wives

By Ben Hubbard
Updated Feb 15, 2019 — 8.53am, first published at 8.32am
Beirut | A Saudi mobile application that lets men track and restrict the movements of women in the kingdom has come under increased scrutiny this week with a US senator and rights groups urging Apple and Google to remove it from their platforms, accusing the technology giants of facilitating gender discrimination.
Saudi "guardianship laws" give women a legal status similar to that of minors in many areas of their lives. Every Saudi woman, regardless of age, has a male "guardian," usually her father or husband, but sometimes her brother or son, who must give his permission for her to get a passport, travel abroad, undergo certain medical procedures or get married.
The app in question, called Absher, was launched in 2015 by the Saudi government. It allows men to manage the women under their guardianship by giving or revoking their right to travel through airports, tracking them by their national identity cards or passports. The men can turn on notifications that alert them with a text message any time a woman under their guardianship passes through an airport.

Cuba says US moving special forces, preparing Venezuelan intervention

February 15, 2019 — 6.50am
Havana: Cuba said on Thursday the United States was moving special forces closer to Venezuela as part of a covert plan to intervene in the chaotic South American country using the pretext of a humanitarian crisis.
A “Declaration of the Revolutionary Government” alleged that recent events in Venezuela amounted to an attempted coup that had so far failed.
US President Donald Trump's administration has been trying to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down and hand over power to Juan Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly.
Guaido invoked a constitutional provision to assume the presidency three weeks ago, arguing that Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.

Donald Trump to sign border bill, declare national emergency

By Erik Wasson, Laura Litvan and Anna Edgerton
February 15, 2019 — 7.45am
Washington: President Donald Trump will sign legislation that would avert another government shutdown and declare a national emergency to get more money for a border wall from other parts of the federal budget.
"President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action - including a national emergency - to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
President Donald Trump will sign a border security bill to avert another government shutdown, but also declare a national emergency to obtain funds for a wall along the southern border, the top Senate Republican said.

Donald Trump declares national emergency at US southern border

By John Wagner, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta
Updated Feb 16, 2019 — 6.14am, first published at 5.38am
Washington | President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces "an invasion of our country".
Trump is seeking to secure about $US6.5 billion ($9.1 billion) more in funding than Congress approved in a bill passed Thursday to avert another partial government shutdown.
In a Rose Garden news conference, Trump did not mention of signing the bill but his acting chief of staff told reporters he intends to do so.

Emergency declaration a shattering step, even for Trump

By Matthew Knott
February 15, 2019 — 2.20pm
New York: The phrase "norm-shattering" is used regularly to describe Donald Trump. From his aggressive tweeting to refusing to release his tax returns, Trump is happy to throw tradition to the wind.
The presidential norms Trump breaks are usually rhetorical or stylistic. Most probably will not have long-term consequences.
That changed on Friday Australian time when Trump said he was about to declare a national emergency in order to free up billions of dollars to build a wall on the Mexican border.
This is norm-breaking of a truly profound kind, with ramifications that go far beyond the issue of border security. Trump's move could transform the power dynamics in Washington DC for decades to come, expanding the authority of the president at the expense of Congress.
I look forward to comments on all this!

No comments: