Australian Politics 2018-06-18 15:50:00

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ZEG

In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is overjoyed at the thought of the ABC being abolished





Budget bonanza: Free hampers gifted to new parents to ease cost of living

Baby boxes originated in Finland and were widely used by the Finnish government to help impoverished mothers amid the difficult economic circumstances immediately after WWII. Finland is now of course a prosperous country but Finnish mothers still look forwad to getting their box.

The practice has been much imitated in other places in the UK and the USA but usually seems to be discontinued after a time on cost grounds.  It is argued that the mothers could be better assisted in other ways.  But while it lasts it should be popular and the package described below does seem well thought-out



EVERY baby born in NSW will receive a free “lifesaving” hamper containing a sleeping bag, wrap, nappies, change mat and children’s book to help ease the burden on new parents.

Valued at around $150, the “baby bundle” is part of a $157 million parenting package to be unveiled on Tuesday when Treasurer Dominic Perrottet hands down the last state budget ­before the election in March.

With polling showing cost of living dominating voter concerns, relief for families is set to be a key theme of the budget, which will also focus on funding key infrastructure projects.

The hampers, which also include washable breastpads, a thermometer, sanitiser, toothbrush and nappy rash cream, are meant to encourage parents to read key health messages contained within the package, covering topics such as dental care, breastfeeding, child-proofing a home and a child’s key developmental stages.

The sleeveless sleeping bag is ­designed to help reduce the risk of bedclothes covering a baby’s face, a contributor to sudden infant death syndrome, while the children’s book is aimed at encouraging parents to start reading to their babies from the very beginning of their lives.

The items will be in addition to the child health and development “blue book” that has been handed out to new parents since 1988.

Around 90,000 babies are born in NSW each year.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the baby bundle was designed to encourage parents to consume important health messages.

“It will not only help reduce some of the initial costs faced by new ­parents, but it will also support positive health and development outcomes for babies and their families,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Other measures in the parenting package will include funds to expand the Newborn Bloodspot Screening program, with NSW becoming the first state to test for the life-threatening disease Congenital Adrenal ­Hyperplasia.

The government will also allocate $9.3 million for 100 new midwives, $4.3 million to pay for more nurse home visits, $5 million towards childhood cancer research and $2 million to improve play spaces for children in, mostly regional, paediatric wards.

Pregnant women and mothers with severe mental illness will also benefit from $1.1 million funding towards increased specialist peri-natal and infant mental health services.

The package will include $2.2 million for the Tresillian parent advice organisation to establish five Family Care Centre Hubs across regional NSW and the government will fund an update of its booklet Thinking Of Having A Baby. There will also be a $1.5 million boost to improve transport for pregnant women who need higher levels of care.

Mr Perrottet said cost of living is a key theme of the budget, which had shifted its focus to invest in people.

“Smaller investments can sometimes make a real difference in ­people’s lives, such as this baby-care bundle,” he said. “We want to make sure parents get the help they need in a heartbeat, which is why we are ramping up mental health services, midwife numbers and home visits.

“As we know, those first few days, while joyous, can also be tough.”

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Treasury finds $10bn hole in Shorten’s retirees plan

Bill Shorten is facing a $10 billion black hole in his key savings plans to axe franking credit refunds for retirees, with a Treasury study confirming Labor had failed to calculate the expected changes in investment strategies among ­people hit by the tax changes.

The Treasury modelling, based on a two-month external review of the policy, revealed investors and retirees were likely to change their behaviour, resulting in $1bn less revenue being collected over the budget forward estimates than the opposition had banked on.

This immediate shortfall rises to a $9.9bn black hole over the 10-year period with Treasury calculating the policy would raise $45.8bn rather than the $55.7bn Labor claimed.

The modelling suggested ­people with larger refunds and self-managed super funds were likely to shift their investments into other income streams, ­including foreign equities.

The discovery of the funding shortfall in one of Labor’s key tax measures comes as the opposition this week will be forced to decide whether to back the government’s full $140bn 10-year income tax plan or face accusations of denying low-income earners a tax break from July 1.

As parliament resumes today for the final sitting fortnight ­before the July 28 by-elections, the government is expected to force a vote on both its income tax cut and company tax cut plans as well as passing key national security legislation.

The government will refuse to buckle to Labor’s demands that it separate the tax component for high-income earners, leaving the crossbench to break the impasse when a Senate committee on the tax plan reports back today, with debate due to begin immediately.

The opposition’s own tax and spending measures will be ­exploited by the government following the release of the Treasury costings of Labor’s franking credit policy. The modelling that would form the basis of Treasury’s ­advice to Labor if it won government was conducted externally by Treasury with independent ­advisers. It found that Labor’s budget projections had not taken into account significant behavioural changes.

It puts Treasury at odds with the Parliamentary Budget Office, which also provided costings for Labor’s policy, which the opposition has refused to release.

The behavioural modelling found self-managed super funds would rebalance portfolios away from franked dividend-paying shares to “other forms of income to compensate for the fall in after-tax returns on shares in the ­absence of refundability”. These were expected to include fixed-­income assets, property trusts, managed funds or offshore equities.

“The main mechanism by which individuals are expected to respond is through rebalancing their portfolios away from franked dividend paying shares,” the report said.

The report said it assumed the behavioural response increased with SMSF wealth to reflect ­factors such as the quality of ­financial advice. “This response increases over time to reflect ­investors’ shift away from investments previously attracting refunds in favour of alternative investment strategies,” it said.

Labor had originally claimed that its policy to abolish franking credit refunds would amount to $59bn in savings over 10 years, which the government claimed was a tax grab on retirees.

Mr Shorten was forced to ­rewrite the policy within weeks of its release by exempting pensions and welfare recipients after it was discovered many would be caught in the tax net. This reduced the number to $55.7bn over the decade and from $11.4bn to $10.7bn over the forward estimates.

The Treasury modelling has shaved a further $1.1 billion off the costings over the forward estimates, reducing Labor’s real take to $9.6bn and potentially undermining its spending commitments. It also revised the longer-term numbers down to $45.8bn, leaving Labor’s policy with a $9.9bn black hole.

Scott Morrison accused the ­opposition of building its entire spending program on a “house of cards” and compared it with the previous Labor’s government’s mining tax, which failed to recoup a fraction of the revenue it was ­designed to.

“This just highlights the vagaries and uncertainty of Labor’s revenues,” the Treasurer said.

“Treasury’s costing of Labor’s retiree tax proposal confirms concerns raised at the time Labor ­announced their proposal that they had overestimated the revenue they expected to collect. Labor’s retiree tax is far and away Labor’s biggest revenue measure over the forward estimates.”

Mr Morrison said Treasury’s advice confirmed that Labor’s revenue estimates for the retiree tax over the medium term were “particularly unreliable”.

“Yet Labor will seek to bank these unrealistic estimates and will bake into the budget long-term spending commitments,” he said.

“The government requested the costing and is releasing it in the interest of the public debate because yet again Labor chose not to release the detailed costing of their proposal by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office.”

Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen has admitted that the opposition always expected a “tough debate” over the policy.

Labor has stood by the numbers despite having to revise them down less than two weeks after the policy was first released in March.

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PC brigade in a hate speech class of their own

The politically correct class in Australia has always been particularly zealous in its defence of provisions such as section 18C of the federal Racial Discrimination Act and similar provisions in the anti-discrimination laws of the states and territories.

These statutes make it unlawful to publish material that, in many cases, does no more than offend the sensibilities of various groups in the community. What these laws do is place a higher value on hurt feelings than on the rigorous public debate of political, social and economic questions.

It is under one of those laws that the Nine Network and Sonia Kruger face legal proceedings, starting ­tomorrow, alleging racial vilification. In a morning TV show, Kruger attempted to discuss the question of whether there was any correlation between Muslim immigration and terrorist incidents in various countries.

When it comes to its own participation in public debate, however, the politically correct class often has few limits on offensive and insulting statements.

When two members of the Senate proposed the amendment of section 18C in 2016, they were described by the chief political correspondent of The Sydney Morning Herald as “hate-speech apologists”. In addition one was said to be “a boorish, supercilious know-all with the empathy of a Besser block” and the other “an absurdist fringe-dweller”. Both were “self-promoting misanthropes”.

About the same time, in a ­Herald cartoon of Malcolm Turnbull speaking at the UN about refugees, he was shown as wearing three badges inscribed with: “Hate makes the world go around”, “Hate will find a way”, and “All you need is hate”.

One of the most flamboyant examples of this sort of rhetoric occurred last March when Julian Burnside posted on Twitter an image of the federal Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, in a Nazi uniform. This was a particularly striking example because Burnside is not from the fringes of Australian society. He is the product of Melbourne’s most prestigious private school, a Queen’s Counsel at the Victorian Bar and a member of the Order of Australia.

It would have been unthinkable in the fairly recent past that such an establishment figure would be involved in these kinds of guttersnipe exchanges, but the tenor of public debate in Australia has certainly changed in a relatively short space of time.

More recently there were the comments of a history professor at Sydney University who asked whether The Australian’s Greg Sheridan and Chris Kenny “think that Western countries are succumbing to a poisonous cocktail of multiculturalism, Muslim immigration, political correctness and cultural Marxism”, and added: “It seems that, much like Anders Breivik and Steve Bannon, they do.”

Putting aside this categorisation of former Trump staffer Bannon, Breivik was the person who murdered 77 people on one day in Norway in July 2011. This material was published in, of all places, the ABC’s religion and ethics website, but the reference to Breivik was later removed by the ABC. The professor said: “I think some people have overreached themselves with their incendiary rhetoric.” Quite so.

Sydney University staff have no monopoly on inflammatory statements. An edition of the student newspaper in May carried a photo on the cover of a female ­suicide bomber who had killed many Israelis, describing her as a “martyr” in the struggle against “Israeli colonisation”.

When the Australian Union of Jewish Students complained, the student representative council passed a motion condemning them and congratulating those who had worked on the newspaper “for their brave and highly defensible cover depicting a pro-Palestine freedom fighter”.

The domination of universities in Australia by the politically correct class is, of course, not a recent phenomenon. But their influence is just as pervasive in most public institutions and many private ones, including the boards of many public companies, often seemingly more concerned with taking a political stance than making a profit for their shareholders.

What is interesting, however, is the contrast between this group’s view of themselves as the moral guardians of society and their ferocious intolerance for anyone who expresses a view contrary to their own. It is as if those contrary views represent a threat to their role as moral guardians, whereas they occupy most of the commanding heights of Australian ­society and are, unfortunately, not at all threatened.

One thing they have done, however, is to lower the tone of public debate with virulent attacks on their opponents that reflect the deep intensity of their sanctimonious opinions.

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Cash is no longer king in Australia

More consumers are dumping cash and cheques when it comes to paying up, and are using cards and their smartphones instead.
Updated Updated 1 hour ago
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Australian consumers are accelerating their shift towards digital payments and away from cash and cheques, with new figures showing paying by card has surged while people make fewer trips to the ATM for cash.

Consumers made more than 8.3 billion card payments in 2017 - equal to a rate of almost 23 million transactions a day, according to a report from electronic payments industry group AusPayNet.

The bulk of those card payments - 5.6 billion - were made on debit cards, AusPayNet said, with credits tending to be used on more expensive purchases but still showing an increase in volume and value.

At the same time the number of cheques used fell almost 20 per cent to 89.7 million for the year, and the number of ATM withdrawals made fell 5.9 per cent to 610.1 million.

AusPayNet CEO Leila Fourie said the high uptake of technology and internet use in Australia, where almost 90 per cent of the population own a smartphone, was behind the increase in new ways of conducting transactions.

"This is driving uptake in digital payments and laying down a powerful base for the next wave of payments innovation," she said.

AusPayNet said more 60 per cent of consumers with a smartphone used their device to make payments.

Among the technological shifts aiding the uptake of digital payments is the New Payments Platform launched in February - a digital and near-real-time payments system allowing instant peer-to-peer payments.

AusPayNet also found Australia has a relatively high number of EFTPOS terminals and low number of ATMs compared to other countries.

Australia has 39,337 EFTPOS terminals per million inhabitants and 1,355 ATMs, while Canada has 38,892 EFTPOS terminals and 1,888 ATMS, the report said.

Australia ranked above Canada, Italy, Singapore and the UK on EFTPOS point concentration, while it lagged Korea, Canada, Belgium and Russia on the ATM count.

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Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here