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, June 13, 2019

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

June 13, 2019 Edition.
The big news this week has been Trump’s on again, off again attack on poor old Mexico. The principle of using the threat of tariffs as a diplomatic Swiss Army Knife is deeply alarming. Trump sadly is now threatening tariffs on almost the whole world because he thinks they are so great.
In the UK Theresa May is out and we await a successor. No one has a clue where Brexit is up to. The Conservative Party is trying to sort out a new leader - and Boris J. is looking like the front runner!
In OZ it is all about the AFP and attacks on the freedom of the press. Even those to the right of ScoMo are pretty worried – as we all should be! It also looks like the coal lovers have won and the huge Adani mine will go ahead  at 1/6 its original size I understand.

Major Issues.


Albanese unveils new Labor team

Andrew Tillett Federal Political Correspondent
Jun 2, 2019 — 2.03pm
Bill Shorten has been handed responsibility for the National Disability Insurance Scheme after new Labor leader Anthony Albanese unveiled his frontbench.
Mr Shorten had sought health but that will instead go to his fellow victim of Labor's election loss, former shadow treasurer Chris Bowen.
Mr Shorten has spoken frequently of helping initiate the NDIS when he put the idea on the agenda as a junior frontbencher in the Rudd government.
"This is the right job for Bill Shorten. He looks forward to it with enthusiasm and he will do the job well," Mr Albanese said.

Fundies seek to run down cash exposure, buying the dip

Sarah Turner Reporter
Jun 1, 2019 — 11.14am
Fund managers are running down their exposure to cash and eyeing selective opportunities in the sharemarket despite high valuations for equities and concerns about slowing economic growth.
The Reserve Bank of Australia is widely expected to reduce the official cash rate to 1.25 per cent on Tuesday, from the current level of 1.5 per cent, in what the financial market expects could be the first of three rate cuts.
Lower official rates imply reduced returns available from cash holdings for investors. But in times of market uncertainty, investors rush to cash to protect their portfolios from losses.

Global trade tensions bolster prospect of further rate cuts

William McInnes Reporter
Jun 2, 2019 — 5.39pm
The United States' escalating global trade rifts have given markets even more reason to believe that the Reserve Bank will cut its cash rate past 1 per cent by the middle of next year due to slowing global economic growth.
On Friday, Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexico and terminated Washington's preferential trade status for India, which had exempted billions of dollars of the country's products from tariffs.
With the US-China trade war still intensifying, the moves only added to global growth fears and could force the RBA's hand further than most had previously been anticipating.

$13b hit but Australia to avoid worst of trade war: JPMorgan

Updated May 28, 2019 — 7.13pm, first published at 6.11pm
The trade war between the United States and China will shave just 0.07 of a percentage point off Australia's gross domestic product in the next two years – five times less than Canada and three times less than the global economy, new modelling by JPMorgan shows.
Australia is likely to be less affected by the trade war than other countries because of  iron ore exports feeding into China's construction sector and their potential fiscal stimulus, as well as likely cheaper imports from excess Chinese products hurt by US tariffs.
The Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe said last week that "the big uncertainty remains trade policy", and his views were swiftly supported by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who said escalating trade wars could slow the economy.

There's never been a better time to own bonds

Sarah Turner Reporter
Jun 2, 2019 — 10.00pm
As a bond investor, Vimal Gor naturally leans to a more pessimistic view of the world. But he is downright enthusiastic about some of the opportunities he sees in the bond market if interest rates continue to head lower in developed markets.
“I am very bullish on bonds, even at these levels, very bullish. Probably the most bullish I have been in my entire life,” says Gor.
With a career spanning 25 years to date in the UK and Australian financial markets, Gor now manages about $17 billion in bond, income and defensive strategies for Australian investment management giant Pendal.

Sydney, Melbourne 'in pretty deep correction territory'

Jun 3, 2019 — 10.37am
Property prices in Sydney and Melbourne have recorded the smallest monthly declines in 12 months, with values falling 0.5 per cent and 0.3 per cent respectively, as a succession of positive news reverberates through the weak market.
Sydney prices have now fallen 14.9 per cent from its peak in mid-2017 and Melbourne prices have dropped a total of 11.1 per cent, which is the biggest fall seen since 1980, according to CoreLogic's latest hedonic home value index.
"Both Sydney and Melbourne are now in pretty deep correction territory, so they are substantial falls but not as big as the 20 to 25 per cent drops some people talk about," CoreLogic senior research analyst Cameron Kusher said.

How to finish off manufacturing: become the world’s biggest gas exporter

Ross Gittins
Economics Editor
June 3, 2019 — 12.00am
Did you know Australia has now over taken Qatar to be the largest exporter of natural gas in the world? But, thanks to private profiteering and government bungling, this seeming triumph comes at the risk of further diminishing manufacturing industry in NSW and Victoria.
It’s yet another example of naive economic reformers stuffing things up because real-world markets don’t work the way they do in textbooks.
Last week Dow Chemical announced it would close its Melbourne manufacturing plant due, in part, to high gas prices. This came after RemaPak, a Sydney-based producer of polystyrene coffee cups, and Claypave, a Queensland-based brick and paving manufacturer, went belly-up citing rising gas prices as an important contributing factor.

'The next world shock, we don't escape': Australia's record-breaking economic run in jeopardy

By Michael Heath
June 3, 2019 — 9.42am
Investors are giving up on the developed world's most enduring economic growth story.
Australia hasn't recorded two straight quarters of economic contraction since the first half of 1991, but with home prices sinking, households swimming in record debt and the escalating US-China trade war eroding confidence, bond and foreign exchange traders are betting that streak is now in jeopardy.
The Reserve Bank of Australia's cash rate last stood this far below the Federal Reserve funds rate in 1983 - when Paul Volcker was wrapping up his campaign to slay inflation and an economic reform era Down Under was just about to begin. And it's headed lower: Traders are betting RBA Governor Philip Lowe will cut at least twice to underpin employment and return inflation to target, with the first move expected Tuesday.
"Australia's had the housing boom and commodity boom and there's a question mark hanging over what drives growth next," said Su-Lin Ong, head of economic and fixed-income strategy at Royal Bank of Canada in Sydney.

Stronger English language standards help protect our universities

June 3, 2019 — 12.05am
A move by the re-elected Coalition government to protect the integrity of Australia's lucrative tertiary education sector by stiffening language requirements for international students seems reasonable and prudent. So too does an associated buttressing of mental health protection and support for students.
There is a crucial balance, requiring constant monitoring and occasional recalibration, between academic standards and the economic benefits of tertiary education in terms of, first, immediate earnings, and second, a well-educated and skilled workforce. There are widespread concerns that lax language levels, which suggest an inflated commercial desire to attract high-fee-paying foreign students, will undermine the industry in the long term.
There are more than 400,000 international students in Australian universities, of which more than a third are Chinese. That's an expansion of almost 15 per cent in a single year. The number enrolled has been growing rapidly, generating close to $35 billion last year, making tertiary education Australia's third biggest export earner behind iron ore and coal.

Chinese warships dock in Garden Island

  • 10 minutes ago June 3, 2019
Three Chinese warships have asked to dock in Sydney Harbour today in a dramatic display of Beijing’s naval power.
It is understood the vessels docked at Garden Island this morning with the approval of the Morrison government.
Scott Morrison says the arrival of three Chinese warships into Sydney Harbour is a “reciprocal visit” and says the timing of the dramatic display of the People’s Liberation Army’s naval power was “subject to a bit of overanalysis.”
The three ships have arrived at Garden Island as the Prime Minister conducts his first post-election trip to the Pacific and on the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Australian aluminium dodges Trump tariff bullet for now

Jun 3, 2019 — 2.01pm
Washington/Canberra | Australia's aluminium exporters have dodged for now a push from elements of the Trump administration to kill off a coveted tariff exemption after shipments from US producer Alcoa surged during the first quarter.
It is understood a more than three-fold leap in Australian-sourced aluminium was largely caused by the US giant, which is subject to tariffs on the metal it produces at its Canadian smelters.
The spike in first-quarter shipments from Australia - which now accounts for 6 per cent of all aluminium imported to the US - drew the ire of some of Donald Trump's top trade advisers, including Robert Lighthizer, who urged him to retaliate by scrapping the exemption.

Sydney, Melbourne 'in pretty deep correction territory'

Jun 3, 2019 — 10.37am
Property prices in Sydney and Melbourne have recorded the smallest monthly declines in 12 months, with values falling 0.5 per cent and 0.3 per cent respectively, as a succession of positive news reverberates through the weak market.
Sydney prices have now fallen 14.9 per cent from its peak in mid-2017 and Melbourne prices have dropped a total of 11.1 per cent, which is the biggest fall seen since 1980, according to CoreLogic's latest hedonic home value index.
"Both Sydney and Melbourne are now in pretty deep correction territory, so they are substantial falls but not as big as the 20 to 25 per cent drops some people talk about," CoreLogic senior research analyst Cameron Kusher said.

The 'finest economist of his generation' steps up to the plate

Patrick Commins Columnist
Jun 3, 2019 — 11.00pm
At Philip Lowe's speech at the annual Anika Foundation charity lunch in August, the Reserve Bank governor took the microphone after some light ribbing from the host on what was by then a record run of holding the cash rate steady.
"We might not have changed interest rates for two years, but I don’t feel like I’ve been sitting on my hands," the ever-affable Lowe joked. With a tip of his hat to the lighthearted jokes made at his expense, the governor agreed that since replacing Glenn Stevens in the top job in September 2016 he had indeed been "very busy doing nothing".
Lowe, who has been at the bank since 1980, has prevailed as boss over a record stretch of steady rates: it has been 33 months since Stevens cut rates to a record low of 1.5 per cent in August 2016.

Scott Morrison 'not troubled' by federal police raid on journalist's home

By Michael Koziol
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he is not troubled by a federal police raid on the home of a political journalist, arguing all Australians must abide by national security laws.
The Australian Federal Police raided the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst on Tuesday in connection with a 2018 story she authored concerning top-secret plans to expand surveillance of Australian citizens.
Police executed a search warrant granted by an ACT magistrate allowing them to search the reporter's home, computer and mobile phone as part of an investigation into unauthorised disclosure of national security information.
News Corp condemned the raid as heavy-handed, outrageous and "a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths".

The bond market may never return to 'normal'

Jonathan Shapiro Senior Reporter
Jun 5, 2019 — 4.20pm
It was a day for the doves.  Hours after Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe told a business audience in Sydney his historic interest rate cut was likely to be followed by further reductions, Federal Reserve Bank chair Jay Powell strongly hinted he may also be moving rates lower. 
The shift in rhetoric, pre-empted by a fast and fierce decline in global bond yields, is remarkable.
This time last year, interest rate traders were anticipating that the Reserve Bank cash rate would be 16 basis points higher (a 63 per cent chance of a hike) while the Federal Reserve was expected to have hiked three times.

Australia may well be world's most-secretive democracy

No other democracy holds as tight to its secrets and the ABC raid is the latest example of how far the Coalition goes to 'scare reporters into submission'.
Damien Cave
Jun 6, 2019 — 8.04am
One journalist is being investigated for reporting that several boats filled with asylum-seekers recently tried to reach Australia from Sri Lanka. Another reporter had her home raided by authorities this week after reporting on a government plan to expand surveillance powers.
Then on Wednesday, the Australian Federal Police showed up at the main public broadcaster with a warrant for notes, story pitches, emails, and even the diaries for entire teams of journalists and senior editors — all in connection with a 2017 article about Australian special forces being investigated over possible war crimes in Afghanistan.
The aggressive approach — which Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended — fits with a global trend. Democracies from the US to the Philippines are increasingly targeting journalists to ferret out leaks, silence critics and punish information sharing — with President Donald Trump leading the verbal charge by calling journalists "the enemy of the people."

A recession may be inevitable - even desirable

John Hewson
Columnist and former Liberal opposition leader
June 6, 2019 — 12.00am
Our economic luck is fast running out. All the Morrison election spin about a strong economy and the commitment to keep it strong are already wearing thin. Economic fundamentals always ultimately expose the shallowness of political rhetoric.
Our economy is in the most precarious position it has been in for nearly three decades, and the policy authorities are strapped for options to respond to a significant shock, domestic or global.
Essentially the political focus of economic management has been short-term "jobs and growth”, irrespective of the longer-term social, environmental and inter-generational consequences. Mounting longer-term structural challenges have basically been ignored. Scott Morrison was mostly seen as better – that is, less risky – than Shorten.
The crude political call behind this strategy is to keep our economic car going as long as possible, but if the wheels ultimately fall off, then they’ll hopefully be able to blame the global economy and global actors. But what if the next economic crisis is home-grown, as it certainly could be?

Journalists in the firing line after AFP changes statement on media raids

By Michael Koziol
June 6, 2019 — 11.17am
The Australian Federal Police has corrected a statement on its raids against media outlets in such a way that opens up the possibility of journalists being prosecuted.
In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, the AFP said search warrants executed on News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst and the ABC - which relate to separate matters - were conducted as part of investigations into alleged breaches of Part 6 of the Crimes Act.
At the time of the respective publications, Part 6 of the act related only to unauthorised disclosure of information by Commonwealth officers - public servants - not the journalists and editors involved in publication.
But the ABC had said it was being pursued in relation to alleged breaches of section 79 of the act, which fell under Part 7 and related to "official secrets".

Malcolm Turnbull canned any idea of allowing the ASD to spy on Australians

By David Wroe and Michael Koziol
June 5, 2019 — 11.45pm
Malcolm Turnbull told senior colleagues he would not allow the nation's electronic spy agency to target Australians after an explosive leak of discussions between officials about expanding the organisation's overseas powers to home soil.
The Australian Federal Police on Tuesday raided the Canberra home of Annika Smethurst, the News Corp journalist who revealed the discussions, sparking an outcry from media organisations, legal groups and unions.
Smethurst reported on confidential correspondence between Department of Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo and Defence Department secretary Greg Moriarty about how the Australian Signals Directorate could be used against cyber-enabled crime.
Multiple sources have confirmed that in a meeting of the national security committee of cabinet in the days after the publication of the leak, the then prime minister swiftly put to bed any thoughts of using the international spy agency to monitor Australians.

If you aren't worried about the ABC raids, here's why you should be

Waleed Aly
Columnist, co-host of Ten's The Project and academic
June 6, 2019 — 12.15pm
Hands up who's worried about the fact that the Australian Federal Police has spent a good portion of this week raiding journalists who've published stories that are clearly in the public interest. That isn't a rhetorical point, by the way. I'd really like to know, because I suspect that if the entire nation were gathered in a room, there would be very few hands raised.
I suspect this because I see a public culture that has systematically become less and less interested in the very idea of excessive state power. Thanks to a cravenly bipartisan political scene and a media landscape increasingly without the resources or inclination to scrutinise dull legislation, there's almost no public debate of anything that can be vacuumed up under the heading of "national security".
It's the least demanding, most invincible justification in our public life. And that's possibly why the federal police used it – without elaboration – to defend its raid on News Corp's Annika Smethurst. Smethurst had published a story revealing a plan for the Australian Signals Directorate to spy on Australian citizens directly by hacking into critical infrastructure without a warrant. The story was strongly denied at the time. Now it is the basis of a raid. We're simply not told how it compromises our national security to learn of such things. The same might be said of the ABC story that triggered the other raid, which revealed how Australian special forces in Afghanistan allegedly killed civilians and covered it up.

AFP on the rampage

Scott Morrison wasn't expecting the eruption of problems stemming from the AFP's heavy handed raids on journalists - but it's something he has to deal with, sensibly.
Jennifer Hewett Columnist
Jun 6, 2019 — 7.00pm
The Australian Federal Police may have started out trying to chase potential criminal offences via the leaking of top secret information. They have ended up looking like over-zealous officials with little appreciation of the role of a free press or the appropriate response.
Even as acting federal commissioner Neil Gaughan sternly defended his officers’ actions in raiding the home of a News Corp journalist and the offices of the ABC on succeeding days, the main impact was to demonstrate the dangers of overreach as well as holes in the current laws.
It’s the eruption of a problem the Morrison government wasn’t expecting right now. Nothing to do with us, Scott Morrison, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Attorney-General Christian Porter all lined up to insist. They had no advance knowledge of the AFP operations, they announced, and nor should they have been informed.

Reduced carbon emissions would save Australian economy $550b: report

Tom McIlroy Political reporter
Jun 7, 2019 — 12.00am
The Australian economy would be $550 billion better off by 2030 through reducing carbon emissions to stem the impact of damaging climate change, a new report has found.
Described as the first comparison of the costs of emission reduction relative to the potential damages from climate change under current policy settings, the report by the Melbourne Sustainable Societies Institute at the University of Melbourne finds Australia is on track for $535 billion in economic damage within a decade, if global emissions continue at their current rate.
The cost – growing to more than $5 trillion in cumulative damages by 2100 – can be avoided with a “negligible” impact on GDP of 0.14 per cent,  estimated at $35.5 billion from 2019 to 2030.
The report’s authors say the costs are conservative and exclude the bulk of the impact from floods and bush fires, pollution, damage to environmental assets and biodiversity losses.

How did Australians become so rich and unhappy?

We're more wealthy than the Swiss and a champagne-drinking super-power. So why the long face, Australia?
Angus Grigg National Affairs Correspondent
Jun 6, 2019 — 10.21am
I’m just back from 10 days in Jakarta accompanied by chafe, sore lungs and the usual bout of affection for Australia. The Big Durian is certainly no hardship assignment – who can argue with a country where fried food is a breakfast staple? – but its competition is Australia, a “lifestyle superpower”, as the BBC’s Nick Bryant told us in 2013.
We didn’t believe him, of course, but the numbers and my survey (of one) support the idea we have it pretty good. This is not a misty-eyed realisation from someone who missed almond milk piccolos for a few days, but an opinion I have been fomenting since returning to live in Sydney from China 18 months ago.
Australia's per capita consumption of champagne is the highest outside Europe. 
For starters, we’re loaded. Yep, last year Australia surpassed Switzerland as having the highest median wealth in the world – a revelation apparently so unsurprising it ran on page eight of AFR Weekend.

Home lending weaker than feared in April: ABS

  • By James Glynn
  • Dow Jones
  • June 7, 2019
Housing finance fell in April from March with the economy slowing ahead of a federal election in May, while falls in house prices and tight clamps on mortgage lending continued to cool the market.
The number of home-loan approvals, excluding the refinancing of existing loans, fell a seasonally adjusted 1.1 per cent in April from March, the Bureau of Statistics said.
Economists surveyed ahead of the announcement had expected no change for the month.
The value of loans for investment housing fell 2.2 per cent from March, the ABS said.
Housing research firm CoreLogic confirmed this week that the current downturn in house prices is now the worst on record, with prices nationally down 8.2 per cent since the market peaked in September 2017. The fall outstrips the slide seen during the global financial crisis a decade ago.

Evans Dixon model under scrutiny as stocks plunge

Jun 7, 2019 — 12.00am
When David Hall retired after a career working on global banking IT projects, his intention was to live off the revenue generated by his self-managed superannuation fund.
But it has not gone to plan for the 66-year old from the Sydney harbour-side suburb of Neutral Bay, and he blames SMSF specialists Dixon Advisory.
He has taken his fight against the wealth advice firm to the financial ombudsman.
Dixon, he says, advised him in late 2015 to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in its ASX-listed US residential property fund, URF, along with a suite of other Dixon funds.

Sex, lies and manuscripts: The academic hoax with a serious purpose

Robert Bolton Education Editor
Jun 7, 2019 — 11.38pm
It was the article about "rape culture and queer performativity in urban dog parks" which gave it away.  The Wall  Street Journal began sniffing around an unusually absurd academic essay and blew the whistle.
Academics Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian had written a series of nonsense essays and got them published in serious journals. One included a random selection of excerpts from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf which was published by Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work. 
That was after it had been peer reviewed by other academics, one of whom said, "I am very sympathetic to the core arguments of the paper, such as the need for solidarity and the problematic nature of neo-liberal feminism."
The trio's hoax began in 2017 as a poke at academic "grievance studies" but it has now taken on a life of its own. Post-exposure, Pluckrose edits a magazine based on evidence and reason-based argument, is writing a book, and a documentary is being made about her.

Why the RBA isn't panicking about the economy

The RBA would believe that without some extra monetary stimulus unemployment would ultimately be higher and inflation lower.
John Kehoe Senior Writer
Jun 8, 2019 — 12.00am
The Reserve Bank of Australia cut interest rates to a new historic low of 1.25 per cent on Tuesday because governor Philip Lowe had decided he could no longer sit on his hands and do nothing.
While the RBA boss has a glass half full view of the economic outlook due to low unemployment, imminent personal income tax cuts and upbeat business investment plans, Lowe decided those factors would not be enough.
The RBA will almost certainly cut the official cash rate to 1 per cent in the next couple of months, before considering if the economy requires any more monetary stimulus.

Exposed: a second-rate country unwilling to defend press freedom

Geoffrey Robertson
Human rights barrister and author
June 8, 2019 — 12.00am
What an irony. As the free world celebrates D-day and the heroes who kept it free from the Gestapo’s “knock on the door”, the international news on the BBC leads with the spectacle of the police raid on the ABC offices.
This could not happen in other advanced democracies, which all have constitutional protections for journalists and their sources of information, although of course it does go on in Istanbul and Rangoon – and now in Sydney. How did we become so out of sync on press freedom, invasions of which are the sign of a second-rate country?
The government can only say that police are independent. So they may be, but independence is no protection against police incompetence, illegality or plain stupidity (see, for example, the Victorian Police and “lawyer X”).

Morrison's choice: be exceptional or a time-server

Peter Hartcher
Political and international editor for The Sydney Morning Herald
June 8, 2019 — 12.00am
Scott Morrison has been immersed in the D-Day celebrations this week. Ordinary men and women were remembered for rising to the challenge of their time and committing heroic deeds. Perhaps he could take a quiet moment to reflect on the possibilities of his own prime ministership. Newly elected, this is his moment of maximum opportunity to shape an agenda.
Bob Hawke has been much lauded recently as a great prime minister, and, by some reckonings, the greatest. He will be praised once again next week at his state memorial service at the Sydney Opera House. He was, after all, a "national icon and political giant", in Morrison's words.
Why is Hawke so well regarded? He had nice silver hair, a common touch and a way with a yard of beer, but his great accomplishment was that he rose to the overarching challenge of his time. Together with his treasurer, Paul Keating, he thoroughly rejuvenated an exhausted economic structure. This set the country up for the 28 years of unbroken expansion that we are enjoying to this day.

After the hype, our economy's grim reality setting in

Ross Gittins
Economics Editor
June 8, 2019 — 12.00am
The grim news this week is that the weakening in the economy continued for the third quarter in row, with economic activity needing to be propped up by government spending.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ “national accounts” showed real gross domestic product – the nation’s production of market goods and services – grew by just 0.3 per cent in the September quarter of last year, 0.2 per cent in the December quarter and now 0.4 per cent in the March quarter of this year, cutting the annual rate of growth down to 1.8 per cent.
That compares with official estimates of our “potential” or possible growth rate of 2.75 per cent a year. It laughs at Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s claim in the April budget – and Scott Morrison’s claim in the election campaign - to have returned the economy to “strong growth”, which will roll on for a decade without missing a beat.
It suggests Frydenberg’s boast of having achieved budget surpluses in the coming four financial years – and Labor’s boast that its surpluses would be bigger – are little more than wishful thinking, manufactured by a politicised Treasury.

Balancing act: national security collides with freedom of the press

By David Wroe and Fergus Hunter
June 7, 2019 — 4.22pm
The Australian Federal Police officers who searched News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst's Canberra apartment on Tuesday morning split into two groups. One team did a physical search, the other an electronic one.
The physical team found nothing, Smethurst says, though "they weren't going to die wondering".
They went through everything — clothes, her bathroom, handbags, books, even old newspaper clippings of Smethurst's stories from her early years as a reporter.
The other team found electronic material that is now the subject of discussions between the AFP and lawyers for News Corp, for whom Smethurst works as the Sunday papers' political editor.

AFP raids add to picture of a Morrison government emboldened

By Jacqueline Maley
June 9, 2019 — 12.00am
Remember February? Let me refresh you: the government had been plunged into minority status.
Following a series of reports about preventable deaths and the suffering of children in offshore detention, a group of independents and Greens were negotiating to pass the “Medevac” laws.
The laws would allow asylum seekers to be transferred to the mainland for medical treatment, if certain criteria were met.
The government was weakened, lagging in the polls, and everyone, including Coalition MPs, believed it was on track to lose the election.

Senator lashes attempt to 'shut down' media and whistleblowers

By Eryk Bagshaw
June 9, 2019 — 12.01am
Federal police raids on Australian media organisations will muzzle whistleblowers in the private and public sectors, a key crossbench senator says, as he ramps up calls for public-interest protections.
Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick, on whom the Coalition could be forced to rely to get its policies through Parliament, said raids last week on the ABC and the apartment of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst were an attempt by the government to shut down the "third arm" of transparency.
Senator Patrick said Australia already had extremely restrictive freedom-of-information laws that allowed "cavalier" departments to redact vast portions of material and was vigorously pursuing internal whistleblowers through the courts.

Federal Election.


Political purgatory awaits those that belittle religious voters

Faith alone did not win ScoMo the 2019 election. But just too many Labor activists actively sneer at the religious.
Alexander Downer Columnist
Jun 2, 2019 — 10.21pm
It’s not often that religion seeps into the secular world of Australian political dialogue. But its presence is more pervasive than many commentators imagine.
Let’s cast our minds back 31 years ago to the Hawke government. It introduced in the Parliament a number of proposals to alter the Constitution. One of them addressed the issue of religion. In what was called the Constitution Alteration (Rights and Freedoms) Act 1988 it proposed to make a minor change to extend Section 116 of the Constitution to the states and territories. That’s the section that guarantees freedom of religion. A whopping 70 per cent of the public rejected the proposal. That is, by any standards, a huge majority. Many church leaders opposed the amendment fearing it could threaten public funding for faith-based schools, an argument that was far-fetched to say the least. Some also argued the amendment could threaten the power of governments over faith-based schools. That also seems a little far-fetched.

It may yet turn out that this was a good election to have lost

Tony Walker
Columnist and award-winning foreign correspondent
June 2, 2019 — 11.42pm
Scott Morrison may believe in miracles. He may go along with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack’s statement that the Coalition has the “wind at our backs’’.
Morrison may be urging colleagues to “burn’’ for voters, whatever that means.
But in the real world, miraculous outcomes, biblical allusions and meteorological metaphors don’t necessarily correspond with reality.
As the Reserve Bank of Australia meets on Tuesday to consider lowering interest rates to stimulate a faltering economy, what is clear is that a Coalition government has been re-elected at an awkward moment for the country economically.

'Top end of town' were Shorten's only converts

The poor and the middle classes swung to the Coalition and the rich to Labor, according to new data that provides a remarkable insight into why Bill Shorten lost.
Aaron PatrickSenior Correspondent
Jun 5, 2019 — 3.35pm
During his failed campaign to become prime minister, Labor leader Bill Shorten frequently promised to curtail the advantages of what he called "the top end of town".
Turns out "the top end of town" was the one group of voters who moved in Shorten's direction.
A political economist at the Grattan Institute, Carmela Chivers, has analysed the "swing" to and from the Labor Party in 4500 polling booths on a two-party preferred basis, which factors in the result after preferences have been allocated.
She then compared the change in votes with three measures of social class: income, education and distance from the centre of their capital city.

Federal election count draws near to end

The Australian Electoral Commission could complete its count of votes in lower house seats by the end of next week, with more Senate results in coming days.
Paul Osborne
Australian Associated Press June 7, 2019 11:33am
More than two-thirds of seats in the House of Representatives will be finalised by this weekend, with the complete results possible by the end of next week.
On Friday morning, the Australian Electoral Commission had formally declared 96 out of 151 seats.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to govern with 77 seats to Labor's 68, with six MPs on the crossbench.
More Senate results are expected to be formally declared in coming days, following the finalisation of Northern Territory results on Thursday.
The 76-seat upper house to start on July 1 is likely to comprise 35 coalition members, 26 Labor, nine Greens, two One Nation, two Centre Alliance, one Australian Conservatives and Jacqui Lambie from Tasmania.

'Embarrassed' pollster ripped up poll that showed Labor losing election

By Michael Koziol
June 9, 2019 — 12.00am
A leading market research agency tore up a poll showing Labor was in a much worse position than widely believed because it was worried the results did not match other published polls.
In a revelation that sheds light on why the nation's pollsters failed to accurately predict the outcome of the election, Lonergan Research boss Chris Lonergan admitted junking the poll because he was "embarrassed" it was radically different to those of his competitors.
"No one wants to release a poll that is wildly out of step ... we didn't want to be seen as having an inaccurate poll," he said.
The robopoll, which was conducted twice and measured voting intention in the key state of Queensland, showed the ALP on a primary vote close to the 26.7 per cent it received in that state, and the Liberal-National Party headed for a "strong victory".

Royal Commissions And Similar.


Shrinking financial advice sector in turmoil

There will be a lot of pain as the industry transitions. But winning back trust doesn’t come cheap.
Adele Ferguson Investigative journalist and columnist
Jun 2, 2019 — 10.45pm
There are few industries facing as many apocalyptic events as the country’s 24,000-plus financial advisers, who look after billions of dollars of their clients’ money.
There are also few industries grappling with as many trust issues after being at the centre of a string of financial scandals over the past decade, which has prompted a clean-up.
For the newly appointed Financial Services Minister, Jane Hume, it will be a lot to get her head around as she is lobbied from all and sundry.

Josh Frydenberg preparing for super crackdown

  • 12:10PM June 6, 2019
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg heads off today for a 12-day trip to learn first hand about the slowing global economy and just how his counterparts offshore are responding.
First stop is Fukuoka in Japan for a G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governor, with the Bank of China’s Yi Gang and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in attendance.
The Treasurer will then head to Europe for talks in the UK and Germany, in the wake of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s trip.
Frydenberg rejects criticism that he has no long-term agenda for the economy, noting that infrastructure projects cited in the budget would create another 20,000 jobs Sydney’s WestConnex and NorthConnex projects alone.

National Budget Issues.


Government should crack down on useless insurance

  • 12:00AM June 4, 2019
Most Australians wouldn’t know it, but they are sending about 1 per cent of their annual salary to an insurance company which they probably couldn’t name.
Most wouldn’t even know they had consented to doing so.
In a compulsory superannuation system that charges savers for life insurance on an automatic opt-out basis, it was a situation more or less bound to happen.
But with Scott Morrison firmly back in the prime ministership, one legacy from the 45th parliament that will be carried over into the new government is tackling the fee-gouging rife in the $2.7 trillion super system.

Media Release Statement by Philip Lowe, Governor:
Monetary Policy Decision

Number 2019-15
Date 4 June 2019
At its meeting today, the Board decided to lower the cash rate by 25 basis points to 1.25 per cent. The Board took this decision to support employment growth and provide greater confidence that inflation will be consistent with the medium-term target.
The outlook for the global economy remains reasonable, although the downside risks stemming from the trade disputes have increased. Growth in international trade remains weak and the increased uncertainty is affecting investment intentions in a number of countries. In China, the authorities have taken steps to support the economy, while addressing risks in the financial system. In most advanced economies, inflation remains subdued, unemployment rates are low and wages growth has picked up.
Global financial conditions remain accommodative. Long-term bond yields and risk premiums are low. In Australia, long-term bond yields are at historically low levels. Bank funding costs have also declined further, with money-market spreads having fully reversed the increases that took place last year. The Australian dollar has depreciated a little over the past few months and is at the low end of its narrow range of recent times.

RBA governor sees rates at 1pc

Jun 4, 2019 — 7.30pm
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe has set up financial markets to expect a further easing bias to 1 per cent suggesting the only way the bank can achieve employment growth and inflation targets is through cutting rates.
Dr Lowe said the bank's decision to cut rates to an historic low of 1.25 per cent from 1.5 per cent had been driven by a failure to see enough wage growth and inflation, and not because of a deterioration in the economic outlook since the bank last met.
"Are interest rates going to be reduced further? The answer here is that the board has not yet made a decision, but it is not unreasonable to expect a lower cash rate," Dr Lowe said.
"Our latest set of forecasts were prepared on the assumption that the cash rate would follow the path implied by market pricing, which was for the cash rate to be around 1 per cent by the end of the year," Dr Lowe said.

A sophisticated nation at foot of Asia shouldn't rely on cheap money

Australia’s credible central bank, has plunged Australia into a new era, pushing the limits of what it can reasonably be expected to achieve.
Jun 5, 2019 — 12.00am
Governor Phil Lowe has made a start, but only a start, in providing a compelling rationale for taking the Reserve Bank’s monetary policy into risky and uncharted territory, cutting its cash rate to a record low of 1.25 per cent and signalling a further reduction to 1 per cent within months. And, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, he has made just a start on forcing attention onto what needs to be done elsewhere to revive Australia’s economic growth performance: onto “structural policies that support firms expanding, investing, innovating and employing people”. That is, the sort of reforms to the tax system, to workplace regulation and to energy policy that were mostly ignored during last month’s election campaign. In the meantime, Australia is being dragged into a disturbing ultra-low interest rate world more than a decade after the global financial crisis. As The Australian Financial Review said on Monday, this is pushing Australia’s credible central bank to the limits of what it can reasonably be expected to achieve, potentially undermining the macro-policy foundations of Australia’s modern prosperity. Last night, Dr Lowe agreed, saying there “are certain downsides from relying just on monetary policy” and that “there are limitations on what, realistically, can be achieved”.

Lowe ushers in a new era of easy money

John Kehoe Senior Writer
Updated Jun 5, 2019 — 7.30am, first published at 12.00am
Philip Lowe is ushering in an unprecedented era of ultra-easy monetary policy and has signalled he will again “adjust” interest rates even lower within months.
Reassuringly, the historic cash rate cut on Tuesday to 1.25 per cent reflects that the Reserve Bank of Australia is most concerned about weak inflation, rather than the economy faltering.
Philip Lowe is placing faith in the recent United States experience. David Rowe
“At its core, today’s decision was taken to support employment growth and to provide greater confidence that inflation will be consistent with the medium-term target,” Lowe said in a speech on Tuesday night.
“I want to emphasise that the decision is not in response to a deterioration in our economic outlook since the previous update was published in early May.”

Dividend 'bonanza' could ease the pain of lower rates

Top income funds are yielding double-digit returns but the trick for investors is to identify companies and unit trusts with sustainable performance.
Duncan Hughes Reporter
Jun 4, 2019 — 2.48pm
A "dividend bonanza" is delivering 12-month returns on Australian income funds of up to 20 per cent, offering a compelling alternative to bank accounts for yield-starved investors after the RBA's 25 basis point interest rate cut on Tuesday.
But the trick will be for investors to identify the companies and funds that can provide a sustainable return rather than dangle bait for the income-desperate or gullible.
By contrast, minimum rates on flexible and bonus saver accounts range between zero and 75 basis points, which is less than half the rate of inflation and a fraction of annual increases in health and fuel costs. Term deposits for a minimum $25,000 average between 1.53 per cent for one month and 2.55 per cent for five years. These are set to fall after the rate cut.
Many bonus and promotional accounts include a range of strict conditions from making a minimum monthly deposit and no – or very few – withdrawals to having a linked transaction account with the same bank or credit union or setting up an automatic savings plan with a regular debit from a linked transaction account.

ANZ and Westpac should have waited for Reserve Bank's message

Stephen Bartholomeusz
Senior business columnist
June 5, 2019 — 11.44am
If ANZ and Westpac had waited to hear Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe’s speech on Tuesday evening, would they have passed on the entire 25 basis point cut to the RBA’s cash rate?
Lowe’s highly unusual, and unusually emphatic, declaration that the banks should pass the full reduction in the cash rate through to mortgage borrowers was a clear call for them to relegate their self-interest to the greater good.
One could quibble with his rationale that a fall in wholesale funding and deposit costs meant that the banks could afford to pass through the entire amount. But his statement that a full passing through of the rate cut would mean the economy received the full benefit of the RBA's decision was almost a plea that the banks consider the needs of the wider economy.
ANZ, which decided to pass on only 18 basis points to variable rate home loans, and Westpac, which opted for 20 basis points, could only try to justify their decisions by pointing to all their stakeholders, including savings depositors and shareholders.

Australian economy weakest in a decade: ABS

  • By James Glynn
  • Dow Jones
  • June 5, 2019
Growth in Australia’s economy cooled to its slowest annual pace in almost a decade in the first quarter, as consumer spending remained constrained and the global economic outlook darkened amid a worsening trade dispute.
The economy grew 0.4 per cent in the quarter and by 1.8 per cent from a year earlier, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Economists had expected 0.5 per cent growth on quarter and a 1.8 per cent on-year.
The Australian dollar dipped briefly on the announcement before climbing to US70.02 cents at 11.45am (AEST).
During the quarter, weak consumer spending and a fall in dwelling investment was only partially offset by strong growth in government spending.

No need for panic, but the government may need another economic plan

By Shane Wright
June 5, 2019 — 7.30pm
The economy is tanking. The Reserve Bank is slicing rates to a level not even considered during the Great Depression. And Donald Trump is playing tariff roulette with China.
But none of this is going to have the freshly re-elected federal government panicking. Yet.
The national accounts released on Wednesday were, by any measure, poor. A 0.4 per cent lift in the March quarter, half of which was statistical noise, took annual growth to its lowest level since the GFC.
Yet Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg cannot show any sign of panic given just three weeks ago they were telling voters the economy's fundamentals were sound under their watch.

US-China trade tensions ‘spell Cold War risk’

  • 12:00AM June 7, 2019
Josh Frydenberg will meet world finance ministers and central bank governors in Japan today armed with a warning that the global economy faces the most significant strategic and political risk since the Cold War.
The gloomy assessment of the weakening global outlook comes as Scott Morrison arrives in Singapore on the last leg of his first overseas trip since the election for talks on bolstering the bilateral relationship amid growing regional ­instability.
In an interview with The ­Australian before the G20 finance leaders meeting in Osaka, the Treasurer said the global risk was increasing and it was now critical that Australia strengthen bilateral partnerships to weather the storm.
The meeting this weekend of the world’s leading economies follows a public demonstration of a strengthened alliance between China and Russia in the face of growing isolation from the West.

Health Issues.


Campaign wants patients to have more influence on PBS

  • 12:00AM June 3, 2019
Australian patients should be given greater say in the medicines that receive government reimbursement as consumers become more empowered to take charge of their healthcare.
That is the argument made in a new report out today, commissioned by drug company BMS Australia, which makes a push for patients to become more involved in discussions about what treatments should be reimbursed through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Jo Waton, chairman of the health department’s health technology assessment consumer consultative committee, said, as witnessed across all sectors of healthcare, there was wide recognition of putting the patient at the centre of their care.

Age and Sydney Morning Herald guidelines for reporting medical research

June 3, 2019 — 11.22am
At The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald we will focus on medical research that is peer-reviewed and published in reputable journals.
We require full copies of the research before we report on it, not just press releases or summaries.
When we report ongoing research or papers presented at conferences we will make clear it has not yet been peer reviewed.
We will examine and disclose conflicts of interest, where relevant.

'Two converging fronts' spark fears for end-of-life doctors

By Lucy Stone
June 3, 2019 — 2.40am
Doctors in palliative and aged care facilities may be walking away from their fields out of fear of being punished for overprescribing opioids or accused of facilitating voluntary assisted dying.
Anecdotal evidence of a "perfect storm" of "two converging fronts" - a national crackdown on high prescription rates for opioids, and fears of palliative care being misconstrued as assisted dying - shows some practitioners are scared of being falsely accused when trying to provide quality care to their patients.
Queensland Professor Geoffrey Mitchell, along with peers from QUT, the University of New England and the University of Technology Sydney studied the consequences of these two issues in a new paper.

'Liquid biopsy' may predict breast cancer's return

By Sally Wardle
June 3, 2019 — 12.56pm
Chicago: A new blood test could help predict whether women with breast cancer will respond to treatment before it begins.
Scientists at London's Institute of Cancer Research said the "liquid biopsy" could detect genetic changes in the tumours of patients and indicate if they are less likely to respond to a new targeted drug.
These genetic changes could also predict whether a patient's disease is likely to return.
"Cancer's ability to evolve to become resistant to treatment is the greatest challenge we face in improving patients' survival and quality of life," said Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the institute.

Mind the gap: how do medical specialist fees work?

Why do we have out-of-pocket costs for specialist services? Who decides what patients pay? What are rock star specialists? What’s an appropriate fee and when are specialists gouging patients?

June 2, 2019
Eye-watering out-of-pocket specialist fees have become big, expensive concerns for Australian patients.
Massive and unexpected costs can hobble low-income families, especially when patients need long-term medical care.
And surprise gap payments are enough to make many people wonder why they bother paying for private health insurance at all, and why crowd-funding sites are flooded with hundreds of patients pleading for donations to pay thousands of dollars in specialist fees.

Coroners lack understanding of pharmacists’ safety role: researchers

Study shows asking about patient allergies can save lives
3rd June 2019
Coroners may not have a good understanding of the role pharmacists can play in preventing medication-related deaths, according to a review by former PSA president Dr Shane Jackson and colleagues.
They looked at coronial findings for 33 non-opioid and non-benzodiazepine deaths over a five-year period, and found pharmacists were being forgotten in coroners’ recommendations.
The deceased generally had several coexisting conditions, with anxiety and depression the most common (12 cases), followed by other mental health conditions (11 cases), the researchers wrote in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research.

Would Aussies call paramedics for a paracetamol overdose?

Survey reveals gaps in Australians knowledge about when to dial 000: researchers
4th June 2019
Most Australians would hold off calling an ambulance for chest pains, a box jellyfish sting, snake bite or paracetamol overdose, but one in five would dial 000 for a woman in early labour, a survey suggests. 
More than one-third of those in the study failed to recognise that a 77-year-old man with signs of a stroke needed an ambulance, and only 6% thought a child with meningitis symptoms warranted an emergency call.
Researchers said the findings revealed gaps in Australians’ knowledge in identifying medical emergencies and when it was appropriate to dial triple zero. 
“The results of this research suggest that the typical lay person could likely benefit from further education clarifying what medical circumstances truly classify as a medical emergency,” said the researchers from the Edith Cowan University’s School of Medical and Health Sciences, Perth. 

How breast cancer patients are finishing radiation faster

By Kate Aubusson
June 4, 2019 — 12.18pm
Cranked-up doses of radiation therapy are enabling women with early-stage breast cancer to finish their treatment faster, with fewer trips to hospital.
Growing numbers of NSW patients are being offered hypofractionated radiotherapy, which uses more intense doses of radiation in fewer sessions (or fractions).
It’s now the gold standard of care in Australia and internationally for women with early breast cancer after they’ve had breast-conserving surgery, rather than mastectomies (in which the whole breast is removed).

Staring down the barrel of pain and debt: endometriosis' untold cost

By Kate Aubusson
June 5, 2019 — 10.57am
Twenty thousand dollars. That's how much endometriosis will cost Jessica Duncan in one year.
There are $2700 in surgeons' fees, $3500 in hospital admissions and doctors' consultations, $4500 for a laparoscopy, $5000 for medication, $1600 in fuel for the eight 1260 kilometre round trips between Moree and Sydney, $2500 for accommodation, meals and other transport as well as the bills for pathology tests and allied health services.
It has also cost her a medical degree, her ability to function without debilitating pain or a wheelchair for months at a time, up to $8000 in credit card debt and untold mental anguish.

Surgeon college backs sanctions, opposes crowdfunding over excessive fees

By Kate Aubusson
June 5, 2019 — 12.00am
Australia’s peak surgeon body would back moves to reprimand specialists charging exorbitant fees that risk financially crippling patients and families.
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) has echoed public concerns over patients crowdfunding, re-mortgaging homes and draining superannuation to cover tens-of-thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical bills.
Australia’s chief medical officer Dr Brendan Murphy has also flagged discussions with the medical board, and specialist groups to consider whether doctors “at the very extreme end of excessive billing practice should be considered unethical”.
If adopted, regulators could choose to punish these "unethical" billers.

The gene therapy revolution is here. Medicine is scrambling to keep pace

June 5, 2019 1.30pm AEST


  1. Elizabeth Finkel
Vice-Chancellor's Fellow, La Trobe University
This article is an edited extract from Elizabeth Finkel’s address Gene therapy: cure but at what cost? to the National Press Club June 5 2019.
We’re publishing it as part of our occasional series Zoom Out, where authors explore key ideas in science and technology in the broader context of society and humanity.

Gene therapy – for so long something that belonged to the future – has just hit the streets.
A couple of weeks back, you might have picked up a headline alerting us to the most expensive drug in history – a one off gene therapy cure for spinal muscular atrophy. Novartis have priced the drug Zolgensma at A$3 million (US$2.1 million).
Traditionally a parent of a baby with spinal muscular atrophy was told: take your baby home and love her or him. Have no false hope, the baby will die paralysed and unable to eat or talk by the age of two.

Specialist groups 'appalled' by egregious billers within their ranks

By Kate Aubusson and Dana McCauley
June 6, 2019 — 12.00am
Specialist groups with some of the biggest billers within their flock are backing moves to rein in exorbitant fees, as the peak body for private health insurers demands doctors justify their prices.
The head of Private Healthcare Australia (PHA) has warned of specialists spruiking payday loans and crowdfunding campaigns to fund treatments with “absolutely no evidence that the surgeon’s outcomes are better than their peers”.
Urologist and plastic surgeon societies also admonished egregious practices, giving their in-principle support to sanctions for the worst offenders.
On Tuesday, Australia's chief medical officer flagged whether extreme billers should be considered "unethical", and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons echoed concerns over crowdfunding, re-mortgaging homes and draining superannuation to cover out-of-pocket medical bills.

Cost of a healing touch

Charlie Teo is at the centre of a debate about the price of his skills.
June 7, 2019
Of all the technical, blunt and confusing words uttered by doctors, variations of the same short sentence prove the most devastating: “We did all we could.”
This is medicine having the final say, and, if accepted, leaves those most affected to utter only tender goodbyes.
That same short sentence ­underpins the motivation of everyone confronted with a diagnosis that might be terminal, none more so than parents of sick children. Do all you can to beat it. Find the best doctors, find the best treatments, do whatever it takes. Borrow money, mortgage the house, fundraise, quit your job, whatever.
If you can’t beat it, squeeze whatever life you can out of whatever time you have left. Make sure that when the end comes, you can say to yourself, and your loved ones, that you did all you could.

Clash of surgeons starts unhealthy online debate

  • 12:00AM June 7, 2019
When Charlie Teo went on Nine’s Today show, after The Australian revealed the debate about people fundraising to afford his services, the brain surgeon appeared frustrated.
Teo was still working that week, including operating on Perth girl Amelia Lucas, whose fundraising had caught the attention of urological surgeon Henry Woo, sparking the debate.
In a series of carefully worded tweets, Woo had questioned the “really disturbing” trend of patients having to raise tens of thousands of dollars for procedures that, if valid, could be performed without charge in public hospitals.
The night before his Today appearance, Teo took a somewhat conciliatory tone about the tweets, even suggesting Woo had been right to draw attention to private sector costs and public sector bureaucracy.
5 June 2019

Gene-directed prescribing coming to general practice

Drugs General Practice Genetics
Posted by Dr Linda Calabresi
It’s been around for some time now. The idea of checking a person’s genes to guide appropriate prescribing is not new. It is pretty much standard practice when treating many, if not most, cancers.
But pharmacogenomics in general practice? Looking at an individual’s genetic variants to work out the best treatment for their depression, high cholesterol or gout? Yes – it’s coming.
As authors of a recently published review in the AJGP say, all practising clinicians will have had the experience of patients responding differently to medications.
It is known that certain genes that regulate the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) of medications are commonly responsible for this difference in response, as these genes can vary between individuals. Researchers have also identified another group of genes that can influence medication responses directly, which, while less common can have important implications for prescribing.

'Would you like to pay with Afterpay?': Buy-now-pay-later company to bankroll patients' health bills

By Kate Aubusson
June 8, 2019 — 12.00am
Buy-now-pay-later company Afterpay is expanding its footprint into GP clinics, radiology and pharmacies, raising fears vulnerable patients will be left with bigger out-of-pocket costs.
Patients at their family doctor or diagnostic imaging service will soon be asked 'would you like to pay with Afterpay?' as the provider expands its operations.
The pay scheme allows users to spread the full cost of a scan, consultation or pharmacy purchase over four fortnightly payments interest-free.
It follows Afterpay's rollout to over 1100 dentists and optometrists nationally over the past 10 months.
But health economists and consumer advocates warn the move could lead to creeping out-of-pocket costs for financially vulnerable patients.

WHO warns of rise in sex diseases

  • AFP
  • 12:00AM June 8, 2019
The World Health Org­anisation has expressed alarm at the lack of progress on curbing sexually transmitted diseases, while one of its experts warned of complacency as dating apps spur sexual activity.
The UN health agency said in a report released late on Thursday that every day globally there were more than one million new cases of treatable sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
WHO found there were more than 376 million new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, tricho­moniasis and syphilis registered around the world in 2016 — the latest year for which data is available.
That is basically the same number as WHO reported in its previous study, based on data from 2012.

International Issues.


Trump's Mexican bombshell: 'He's acting like an emperor'

Jacob Greber United States Correspondent
Jun 2, 2019 — 1.04pm
Washington | As with the British Empire before it began its inexorable decline, the sun no longer sets on Donald Trump's tariff wars.
In a sharp escalation late last week the President stunned pretty much everyone by announcing a rising schedule of tariffs on Mexico unless it curbs the flow of Central American refugees to the US border.
Starting at 5 per cent on June 10, by October 1 the impost will hit 25 per cent.
Based on last year's $US346 billion ($498 billion) of shipments from Mexico to the US, that would be the equivalent of slugging American consumers with an extra $US85 billion a year.

China blames US for trade breakdown

Michael Smith China Correspondent
Jun 2, 2019 — 2.10pm
Shanghai | China has blamed the United States for the breakdown in trade talks as it prepares to release a list of "unreliable entities" expected to include American technology companies in retaliation against the White House's blacklisting telecoms giant Huawei.
China said on Sunday that Washington should take "sole responsibility" for the breakdown in trade talks and accused the United States of making unreasonable demands after it agreed to make concessions.
A mobile phone shop in Shenzhen. Few US companies are more vulnerable to a trade war with China than Apple. AP
China outlined its official position on the breakdown of trade talks in a white paper on Sunday, warning it was "not afraid" of a trade war but remained open to resuming talks. Officials had earlier warned Beijing would release a list of "unreliable" companies, organisations and individuals which is expected to target US firms. Officials said that list would be published "soon" but did not give further details

China says war with US would be a disaster as tensions mount

Defence minister Wei Fenghe said China would ‘fight to the end’ on trade issues but was open to talks
Guardian staff
Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe criticised the United States on Sunday for its support for self-ruled Taiwan and for naval operations in the disputed South China Sea, but said conflict or war between the two countries would be a disaster.
Wei told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Asia’s premier defence summit, that China would “fight to the end” if anyone tried to split China from Taiwan, which Beijing considers a sacred territory to be taken by force if necessary.

Tariff Man unchained

  • By WSJ Editorial Board
  • 12:39PM June 2, 2019
The biggest economic risk of a Donald Trump Presidency has always been that his trade obsessions would swamp the benefits of tax reform and deregulation. For two years he has kept his worst protectionist impulses mostly in check, but as he seeks a second term we are now seeing Tariff Man unchained. Where he stops nobody knows, which is bad for the economy and perhaps his own re-election.
Mr. Trump’s trade talks with China have broken down and both countries are escalating their rhetoric. The U.S. is blocking Huawei from buying U.S. products, while China is threatening to block the export of rare-earth minerals that are crucial to many U.S. industries. A trade deal that looked imminent weeks ago now looks months away, if it happens at all. Mr. Trump’s threat of 25% tariffs on foreign autos also hangs over Europe and Japan.
Then out of the blue late Thursday Mr. Trump announced escalating tariffs up to 25% on U.S. imports from Mexico for alleged sins on immigration. The first 5% levy would hit June 10, with 5% increments through Oct. 1. “Mexico must step up and help solve this problem,” Mr. Trump declared in a statement charged with political rhetoric. “For years, Mexico has not treated us fairly — but we are now asserting our rights as a sovereign Nation.”

US trade aggression against China will hurt the world economy

  • By Cheng Jingye
  • 12:00AM June 3, 2019
Over the past several months, the trade disputes between China and the US, triggered by the latter, have made every country deeply anxious about the prospects of their own economy and that of the world.
Every time the US declared its intention to raise tariffs on Chinese goods, the financial markets of major economies would roil in succession, causing harm to many businesses and people.
What the US has done not only hurts the others but wounds itself as well.
Some US economists estimated tariff hikes had cost US companies and consumers $US4.4 billion ($6.3bn) a month. This is the inevitable consequence of wilful neglect of the rules of the market and of international trade.

Morgan Stanley sees recession within a year if trade war gets worse

William Mathis
Jun 3, 2019 — 6.38am
London | Investors may still be underestimating the full risk to the global economy from a trade war, even after US stocks capped the worst month of the year.
A recession could begin in as soon as nine months if US President Donald Trump pushes to impose 25 per cent tariffs on an additional $US300 billion of Chinese imports and China retaliates with its own countermeasures, according to Chetan Ahya, chief economist and global head of economics at Morgan Stanley.
The rift between the Trump administration and China has escalated as each side blames the other for the breakdown in talks. Over the weekend, Trump celebrated his trade policies and the recent move to impose tariffs on Mexican goods in response to illegal immigration.

How Trump can bring China to its knees

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
June 3, 2019 — 10.48am
China's leaders are tormented by the "Malacca Dilemma". Their country is the world's largest importer of oil and natural gas. It is acutely vulnerable to an energy squeeze on seaborne supplies.
More than 82 per cent of China's total crude shipments and much of its liquefied natural gas passes through the Malacca Strait between Sumatra and the Malay Peninsular. The US navy has supremacy over this maritime choke-point, though not necessarily for long. Energy security has long been a nagging worry among China's defence strategists. They have studied the Royal Navy's "limited blockade" of the Falkland Islands in 1982 as the modern textbook case of how maritime powers can tighten their grip.
The issue became all too real last week when Fu Chengyu, ex-head of the state oil giant Sinopec, said the country must prepare for the awful possibility of a US oil blockade. "It is not to be alarmist. It is an urgent reality," he told a forum in Shanghai.

'We stopped the turbulence': Tiananmen crackdown was 'correct', says China

By Kirsty Needham
June 3, 2019 — 12.00am
Hong Kong:  China was "correct" to send the army into Tiananmen Square in 1989 because it led to "stability", China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe has declared.
The public comments on the eve of a sensitive 30th anniversary of the crackdown have broken the usual silence from Beijing about the Tiananmen Square bloodshed that resulted in the deaths of thousands of students. It showed the confidence of the Chinese military to say that "pressure worked", said one analyst.
At a defence summit in Singapore, Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe says that the Beijing government was 'justified' in its violent June 4, 1989 crackdown on the student protests in Tiananmen Square.
General Wei is the first Chinese defence minister to attend the ShangriLa security summit in Singapore in a decade, where senior defence figures from 20 nations gathered.

China shows it has no regrets over the Tiananmen slaughter

By Peter Hartcher
June 2, 2019 — 6.06pm
With the thirtieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre approaching, why would China's defence minister decide to defend the Communist Party's day of infamy?
Not only did he justify the military's murder of untold numbers of peaceful student protesters in the centre of Beijing's national square in 1989, he reversed the onus of moral scrutiny: "How can you say that China handled it improperly?" General Wei Fenghe demanded of an international audience in Singapore on Sunday.
The topic has long been taboo in China, rigorously scrubbed from history, censored from any media mention, commemorations banned.
Sure, Wei was asked about it. Would the People's Liberation Army "finally recognise" what had happened in Tiananmen Square when it took arms against unarmed students?

Cool rationality replaced by US-China fight club

Peter Hartcher
Political and international editor for The Sydney Morning Herald
June 4, 2019 — 12.00am
It was once affectionately known as the global rules-based order. Now we could better call it Fight Club. The US is throwing punches wildly at smaller powers, imposing trade penalties in breach of the global rules. China is grabbing the maritime territories of smaller neighbours and building military bases on them, in stunning disregard of the international order.
"Neither the current occupant of the White House nor of Zhongnanhai is convinced of the merits of the rules based order," says the Lowy Institute head, Michael Fullilove, in measured understatement. Zhongnanhai is Beijing's red-walled leadership compound.
And, not content to hit smaller nations, the two biggest powers increasingly are going at each other. Not only are they directly hitting each other with trade sanctions and bulking up for actual warfare, they are starting to wall off the world economy into competing blocs.
It's not a Cold War, where two separate ideological spheres stand in readiness to annihilate each other. The flow of commerce between the US and China remains the biggest on earth.  But the trend is all one way. Not yet a Cold War but a cooling peace is under way. Quite abruptly, globalisation is a quaint old notion.

Recession watch: Trump and markets could be set for a brutal reckoning

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
June 4, 2019 — 10.33am
America's manufacturing industry suffered the sharpest slowdown last month since the depths of the global financial crisis, prompting calls for emergency rate cuts to avert a spiral into recession.
IHS Markit's momentum gauge fell to the lowest level since September 2009 as America's fortress economy succumbed to fading fiscal stimulus and mounting damage from trade wars with China, Europe, and Mexico.
Chris Williamson, the group's chief economist, said US profit margins are being squeezed. Manufacturers are cutting output and laying off staff. "Surging order book growth just a few months ago has now turned into contraction, the first such decline seen in the series' 10-year history," he said.
Michael Darda from MKM Partners said: "There is still time for the US Federal Reserve to right the ship, but time is running out."

Powell tips rate cuts if tariff wars crunch US economy

Jacob Greber United States Correspondent
Jun 5, 2019 — 5.08am
Washington | Jerome Powell may follow Philip Lowe into official rate cuts sooner than many expect after signalling a willingness to ease US monetary policy if Donald Trump's trade wars crunch the economy.
In a speech that sent stocks surging on Wall Street, which is enjoying its biggest one-day leap since early January, the Fed chairman said he would "act as appropriate to sustain the expansion".
While policy makers don't know "how or when" the trade disputes will be resolved, they are "closely monitoring the implications of these developments for the US economic outlook", he said.
Mr Powell's remarks were followed up a short time later by Federal Reserve vice chairman Richard Clarida who again said the central bank would act if things deteriorate. "We will put in policies that need to be in place to keep the economy, which is in a very good place right now, and it's our job to keep it there," he told CNBC.

180,000 in Hong Kong remember Tiananmen as fear of Beijing grows

By Kirsty Needham
June 5, 2019 — 5.49am
Hong Kong: It was the first time Wing Or had come to the June 4 vigil, and it was concern that Beijing is tightening its grip on Hong Kong that was the spur.
Accompanied by his daughter, Wing was among a huge crowd of180,000 people to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre at Victoria Park on Tuesday evening, holding candles and singing.
His daughter was born and raised in Sydney because the family left Hong Kong for Australia as the 1997 handover from Britain to China loomed.
Now, those earlier fears of Beijing encroaching on Hong Kong's liberties may be realised, Wing said. Many others at the vigil expressed similar concerns.

Prepare for the 100-year war between the US and China

Today’s attack on China is the wrong war, fought in the wrong way, on the wrong terrain.
Martin Wolf Financial Times
Updated Jun 5, 2019 — 11.23am, first published at 10.30am
The disappearance of the Soviet Union left a big hole. The “war on terror” was an inadequate replacement. But China ticks all boxes. For the US, it can be the ideological, military and economic enemy many need. Here at last is a worthwhile opponent.
That was the main conclusion I drew from this year’s Bilderberg meetings. Across-the-board rivalry with China is becoming an organising principle of US economic, foreign and security policies.
Whether it is Donald Trump’s organising principle is less important. The US president has the gut instincts of a nationalist and protectionist. Others provide both framework and details. The aim is US domination. The means is control over China, or separation from China.

'Self-inflicted wounds': IMF says US-China trade war will wipe $653 billion off GDP in 2020

By David Lawder
June 6, 2019 — 8.06am
Current and threatened US-China tariffs could slash global economic output by 0.5 per cent in 2020, the International Monetary Fund warned on Wednesday as world finance leaders prepare to meet in Japan this weekend.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a blog and briefing note for G20 finance ministers and central bank governors that taxing all trade between the two countries, as President Donald Trump has threatened, would cause some $US455 billion ($653 billion) in gross domestic product to evaporate - a loss larger than G20 member South Africa's economy.
"These are self-inflicted wounds that must be avoided," Lagarde said in an IMF blog post. "How? By removing the recently implemented trade barriers and by avoiding further barriers in whatever form."

My 'best friend' Putin: Xi Jinping in panda diplomacy in Russia

By Stepan Kravchenko and Henry Meyer
Updated June 6, 2019 — 12.43pmfirst published at 11.03am
Moscow: Chinese President Xi Jinping has hailed Russia's Vladimir Putin as his "best friend", with the two nations signing off on 30 cooperation agreements, including a mobile network pilot in Russia by Huawei.
During his three-day visit to Russia on Wednesday, Xi presented two pandas to Moscow's zoo at a ceremony with Putin, in a gesture the Russian President described as a sign of deepening trust and respect between the two powers.
Beijing has loaned the pandas - named Ru Yi and Ding Ding - to Moscow for 15 years as part of a joint research project.
Xi's visit to Russia comes as Moscow's ties with the West reach post-Cold War lows and with Beijing's relations with the US strained over a trade war. Both powers are eager to show they are strengthening ties.

Hang on. Didn't Theresa May quit? There's a good reason she's still PM

By Nick Miller
June 7, 2019 — 8.16am
London: Like Brexit, Theresa May's departure is a promise, an argument and a competition - but not yet a reality.
Q: Hang on, didn't she resign two weeks ago?
Yeah but no.  On the morning of Friday May 24, having been persuaded she had no chance at getting her Brexit deal through Parliament, May stood at the lectern in Downing Street choking back emotion.
"I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen," she said.
She was expected to go through with that promise.

Trump heralds deal with Mexico, averts new tariff war

Makini Brice and Diego Ore
Jun 8, 2019 — 5.27am
Washington | US President Donald Trump said Mexico's government had reached a deal with the United States to avert a tariff war by pledging to take "strong measures" to contain migration of mostly Central Americans crossing the southern US border.
Trump had threatened to impose 5 per cent import tariffs on all Mexican goods from Monday if Mexico did not agree to his demands to tighten its borders, and his announcement of a deal came after three days of Mexico-US negotiations in Washington.
"The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended," Trump said on Twitter on Friday evening (Saturday AEST).
"Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border. This is being done to greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States," Trump added.

US economy adds 75,000 jobs in May

Lucia Mutikani
Jun 8, 2019 — 4.08am
Washington | US job growth slowed sharply in May and wages rose less than expected, raising fears that a loss of momentum in economic activity could be spreading to the labour market, which could put pressure on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates this year.
The broad cool-off in hiring reported by the Labor Department on Friday was even before a recent escalation in trade tensions between the United States and two of its major trading partners, China and Mexico. Analysts have warned the trade fights could undermine the economy, which will celebrate 10 years of expansion next month, the longest on record.
Adding a sting to the closely watched employment report, the economy created far fewer jobs in March and April than previously reported.

Republicans give up on free trade as Russia, China claim the mantle

By Lisa Mascaro
June 8, 2019 — 11.04am
Washington: With President Donald Trump threatening to slap tariffs on goods from Mexico, his transformation of the Republican Party's trade policy looked almost complete.
Republican lawmakers usually don't like tariffs. They're viewed as a tax on consumers and unwanted government intervention in free trade. But many Republicans, unwilling to buck Trump, were prepared to follow the president's lead and support 5 per cent tariffs on Mexico in his dispute over illegal immigration.
It's a crossroads for the party as the White House is taking it in a new direction, with Trump's tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum and goods from China and other allies.
Trump announced late on Friday, Washington time, that he had reached an agreement with Mexico to indefinitely suspend threatened tariffs. But the threat of tariffs alone had sent ripple effects into a jittery economy.

Crackdown on Chinese tech giant Huawei has global ramifications

  • 12:00AM June 8, 2019
Cold War 2.0 is heating up as Washington continues to push back against predatory Chinese behaviour widely perceived in the US as an existential threat to the country’s technological pre-eminence and national security.
In a devastating blow to Huawei likened to a digital missile salvo, the Trump administration last month effectively barred the Chinese leviathan from access to the US telecommunications system and difficult-to-replace technology. President Donald Trump upped the ante this week by warning his British hosts that the US could restrict the flow of intelligence if the UK government allowed Huawei into its 5G network.
The repercussions for Huawei are likely to be extremely damaging for its reputation and commercial prospects despite attempts by its ex-People’s Liberation Army founder to downplay the impact and prepare for such an eventuality by stockpiling crucial components for its smartphones.

Poker-style tactics test limits of US power

The Economist
  • 12:00AM June 8, 2019
When Donald Trump arrived in the Oval Office he promised to resto­re America’s might. His method has turned out to be a weaponisation of economic tools.
The world can now see the awesome force that a superpower can project when it is unconstrained by rules or allies.
On May 30, the US President threatened crippling tariffs on Mexico after a row over migra­tion. Markets reeled, and a Mexican delegation rushed to Wash­ington to sue for peace.
 (In a new development overnight Trump announced that he had suspended plans to impose tariffs on Mexico, tweeting that the country “has agreed to take strong measures” to stem the flow of Central American migrants into the US. However, the deal the two neighbours agreed to falls short of some of the dramatic overhauls the U.S. had pushed for)
A day after the shock Mexico move, preferential trading rules for India were cancelled. Its usually macho government did not put up a fight and promised to preserve “strong ties”.
I look forward to comments on all this!

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