Thursday, 10 May 2018

In the battle of the tax cuts Bill Shorten is doing well

Bill Shorten outbids Turnbull's tax cut for lower and middle income earners

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Shorten pledged to give bigger income tax cuts for 10 million taxpayers.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has launched a tax bidding war, promising to top the government’s tax relief for lower and middle income earners, as he prepares to fight a string of byelections in Labor seats.

The Labor alternative almost doubles the budget’s relief for these taxpayers, incorporating the early part of the government’s plan and then building on it.

Delivering his budget reply in Parliament on Thursday night, Shorten pledged to give bigger income tax cuts for 10 million taxpayers. Some four million would get A$398 a year more than the $530 under the government’s plan.

Labor’s “Working Australians Tax Refund”, would cost $5.8 billion more than the government’s plan over the forward estimates.

Labor’s alternative comes as debate intensifies about the latter stage of the government’s plan, when a flattening of the tax scale would give substantial benefit to high income earners.

The ALP hardened its position against that change as modelling cast doubt on its fairness. The opposition launched a Senate inquiry which will report mid June on the tax legislation, introduced into parliament on Wednesday.

The government says it will not split the bill, which it wants through before parliament rises for its winter break, but will be under pressure to do so including from the crossbench.

Under Shorten’s proposal, the ALP would support the government’s budget tax cut in 2018-19. Once in power, it would then deliver bigger tax cuts from July 1 2019, when it began the refund.

In Labor’s first budget “we will deliver a bigger better and fairer tax cut for 10 million working Australians. Almost double what the government offered on Tuesday”, Shorten told parliament.

The Labor plan would give all taxpayers earning under $125,000 a year a larger tax cut than they would get under the budget plan.

In a speech heavy on the theme of fairness, Shorten said: “At the next election there will be a very clear choice on tax. Ten million Australians will pay less tax under Labor”.

He also pitched his budget reply directly at the campaign for the byelections.

Read more:
View from The Hill: 'Super Saturday' voters get first say on tax

“This is my challenge to the Prime Minister. If you think that your budget is fair, if you think that your sneaky cuts can survive scrutiny, put it to the test. Put it to the test in Burnie, put it to the test in Fremantle and in Perth.

"I will put my better, fairer, bigger income tax cut against yours. I’ll put my plans to rescue hospitals and fund Medicare against your cuts. I’ll put my plans to properly fund schools against your cuts and I’ll put my plan to boost wages against your plan to cut penalty rates and I’ll put my plans for 100,000 TAFE places against your cuts to apprenticeships and training and I’ll fight for the ABC against your cuts.”

In the Labor model, a teacher earning $65,000 would get tax relief of $928 a year, $398 more than the $530 offered by the government.

A married couple, with one partner earning $90,000 and the other $50,000 would receive a tax cut of $1855, making them $796 a year better off under Labor than under the government.

Shorten said Labor could afford the tax cuts it proposed because it wasn’t giving $80 billion to big business and the big four banks. Also, it had earlier made hard choices on revenue measures.

Read more:
Politics podcast: Mathias Cormann and Jim Chalmers on Budget 2018

An ALP government could deliver “the winning trifecta” – “a genuine tax cut for middle and working class Australians; proper funding for schools, hospitals and the safety net; and paying back more of Australia’s national debt faster”.

Shorten said that the Liberals were proposing to radically rewrite the tax rules in their seven year plan. Research had revealed that $6 in every $10 would go to the wealthiest 20% of Australians, he said .

“Very quickly, this is starting to look like a Mates Rates tax plan”.

“And at a time of flat wages, rising inequality and a growing sense of unfairness in the community”.

Other initiatives he announced include:

· A plan for skills, TAFE and apprentices costing $473 million over the forward estimates.

· Abolition of the cap on university places, re-instating Labor’s demand driven system, at a cost of $140 million over the forward estimates.

· Reversing cuts to hospitals and establishing a Better Hospitals Fund, seeing an extra $2.8 billion flow to public hospitals. This would cost $764 million over the budget period.

· Invest $80 million to boost the number of eligible MRI machines and approve 20 new licences – which would mean 500,000 more scans funded by Medicare over the course of a first Labor budget.

The Conversation· Provide $25m to the Commonwealth Public Prosecutor to establish a Corporate Crime Taskforce. The Taskforce would deal with recommendations for criminal prosecution from the banking royal commission.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Coalition budget - there yesterday, gone today

Under Labor you will pay less in tax because I think that you are more important than multinationals, big banks and big business.
          -Bill Shorten in his budget reply speech
 It is more than 50 times I have been in Canberra and commentated on a federal budget in one form or another. I cannot remember another occasion where the impact of a government's plans has lasted for so short a time. The front pages of the papers this morning told the story. Barely a mention of goodies for the public bar a couple of minor references in the Sydney Daily Telegraph and The Australian.
Tonight Labor's Bill Shorten put budget matters back into the discussion but not in a way that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would like. That conservative commentator Andrew Bolt got it right.

The budget - Helping the rich get richer

Most of the benefits from the budget tax cuts will help the rich get richer

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Chris Samuel/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Robert Tanton, University of Canberra and Jinjing Li, University of Canberra

In the federal budget, Treasurer Scott Morrison promised tax cuts to all working Australians in the form of an offset and changes to tax income thresholds. But our analysis of Treasury data shows that while the government advertised these as payments to low and middle income Australians, most of the benefits would flow through to high income earners in future years.

If all of the stages of the tax plan passed parliament, there would be a sharp increase in benefits for people earning above A$180,000, due to the reduction of their marginal tax rate from 45% to 32.5%.

Taxes in most countries are progressive. This means that the more you earn, the higher your marginal rate (the additional amount you pay for each dollar earned).

There are good reasons for this - progressive tax systems mean those on a lower income pay a lower average tax rate, while those on higher incomes pay a higher average tax rate. This reduces income inequality - as you earn more, for each dollar you earn, you will pay more in tax than someone on a lower income.

With the 2018-19 budget, the proposal is for a “simpler” tax system from 2024-25. This means a reduced number of tax brackets, and a lower rate of 32.5% to those earning between A$87,001 and A$200,000.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said following the budget:

Well, you’ve still got a progressive tax system. That hasn’t changed. In fact, the percentage of people at the end of this plan, who are on the top marginal tax rate is actually slightly higher than what it is today.

However this new tax system from 2024-25 is less progressive than the current system. It means higher income inequality - the rich get more of the tax cuts than the poor.

As part of the new proposal, low and middle income earners get a tax offset in 2018-19, with high income earners getting very little. This part of the plan is progressive - more money goes to lower income earners.

However, by 2024-25, the tax cuts means high income earners gain A$7,225 per year, while those earning A$50,000 to A$90,000 gain A$540 per year, and those earning A$30,000 gain A$200 per year.

Of course, another factor of tax cuts is that they only benefit those who are employed. Tax cuts don’t benefit people like the unemployed, pensioners, students (usually young people) and those on disability support pensions.

The conversation Australians need to have is how we should be spending the revenue boost we are seeing over the next few years. We can either spend this windfall gain on benefits to high income earners, in the hope that this will flow through spending to everyone else; or maybe we should encourage young people into housing through an increase to the first home owners grant, or increased funding for our schools, universities and health system.

The ConversationWe’ve developed a budget calculator so you can see how your family is affected by the 2018 budget.

Robert Tanton, Professor, University of Canberra and Jinjing Li, Associate Professor, NATSEM, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The media should ignore all budget events expected to occur further out than a year.

The Owl finds it hard to take seriously all those predictions and projections about what will happen in two, three, five or even 10 years because of this budget.
The one thing for certain is that most of the outcomes will be very different to what the budget documents say.
The media would do its customers a favour by ignoring all events expected to occur further than a year away.

Wendy and Peter give a singalong version of the federal Australian budget

Peter where do you live
It's a secret place.
Please, tell me!
Would you believe me if I told you?
I promise.
For sure.
For sure!
I have a place where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
It's not on any chart,
You must find it with your heart.
Never Never Land.
It might be miles beyond the moon,
Or right there where you stand.
Just keep an open mind,
And then suddenly you'll find
Never Never Land.
You'll have a treasure if you stay there,
More precious far than gold.
For once you have found your way there,
You can never, never grow old.
And that's my home where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
Just think of lovely things.
And your heart will fly on wings,
Forever in Never Never Land.
You'll have a treasure if you stay there,
More precious far than gold.
For once you have found your way there,
You can never, never grow old.
And that's my home where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
Just think of lovely things.
And your heart will fly on wings,
Forever in Never Never Land

Monday, 7 May 2018

The steady and substantial decline in the average hours worked every month

When the Australian Bureau of Statistics started collecting the figures back in 1979 the average worker was working 153 hours a month. The latest ABS figures for March this year show that the average has dropped 139 hours a month.

That 9% fall in hours worked is one reason why the employment growth the government will no doubt congratulate itself on in Tuesday night's budget is not resulting in much wages growth.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Singalong to "Road to Nowhere" with the bankster spokesperson Anna Bligh

Anna Bligh told Leigh Sales on 7.30 tonight that Commonwealth Bank customers should now be pleased to clutch the APRA report into their bank as a roadmap. The Owl thinks this makes Talking Heads the appropriate commentators.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Those running a campaign against Labor for the Business Council would be wise to be getting their fees upfront rather than relying on success fees.

PHOTO: Jennifer Westacott says the Business Council felt it had "no choice" but to get more involved in political campaigning. (ABC News)
It would be difficult to think of a more difficult environment than that in Australia today for an employer group like the Business Council of Australia to be mounting a bid to persuade people to vote for the federal Coalition government. The banks and other financial institutions are giving the free enterprise system a bad name. Labor has successfully been plugging the idea that tax cuts for "the big end of town" will come at the expense of services for the rank-and-file. The collection of advisers recruited by the BCA to run its campaign would be wise to be getting their fees upfront rather than relying on success fees.
There was one aspect of Laura Tingle's debut performance as a 7.30 pundit that particularly amused me. The BCA's chief executive, Jennifer Westacott was reported saying that its television advertising campaign which it says will "focus on two basic truths — business provides and generates jobs; and big and small businesses rely on each other to be successful" would involve paying Sky News $1 million for showing a series of panel discussions. And then:
Ms Westacott would not comment on how much money was involved but said the two organisations had a commercial arrangement in support of jointly held views [emphasis added] about the need to promote policy discussions.
That's something for the Murdoch conspiracy theorists to get their minds around!

Treating children a collateral damage and other editorial views from around the world

Treating children as collateral damage - Washington Post

INFANTS, TODDLERS, tweens, teens — Trump administration officials are less interested in the age of an unauthorized child migrant than they are in removing the child from his or her parents as a means of deterring illegal border-crossers. ... The United States has a legitimate interest in deterring illegal border-crossing. It is within its rights to detain and deport individuals and families who fail to make a persuasive case for asylum. But to splinter families and traumatize children in the name of frightening away migrants, many of whom may have a legitimate asylum claim, is not just heartless. It is beyond the pale for a civilized country.

Please Stay, Justice Kennedy. America Needs You. - New York Times

Dear Justice Kennedy,
As you have no doubt heard, rumors of your impending retirement are, for the second year in a row, echoing around Washington and across America. While you and your colleagues on the Supreme Court were listening to the final oral arguments of the term in recent days, those rumors were only growing more insistent.
How can we put this the right way? Please don’t go.

From here to normality  - Kathimeri, Greece

It is indeed time for Greece to become a normal country again, but an official exit from a system of austerity and supervision alone is not enough to make this happen. ... For Greece to return to normalcy, it first needs a normal government that believes in reforms which will unleash the country’s productive capabilities and put an end to the vulgar mentality of old-school politics that currently prevails. And the faster we get this normal government, the better.

Don’t let these smug stooges derail Brexit - Daily Mail, London 

TREACHERY is a very grave charge. But it is hard to think of any other that adequately describes today’s plot by Remainer peers to deprive their country of its strongest card in the Brexit talks.
In any negotiation, whether over business or diplomacy, the ultimate bargaining tool is the threat to walk away from the table if the terms are unfavourable. As Theresa May has put it succinctly: ‘No deal is better than a bad deal.’
Yet in the most flagrant bid to derail Brexit so far, today’s proposed Lords amendments would rob Britain’s team of this trump card – dreaded by our partners, who stand to lose more than the UK if talks collapse, since they sell much more to us than we do to them.
Instead, they would force our negotiators to keep going backwards and forwards to Brussels in quest of an agreement acceptable to the Europhile majority in Parliament, while opening the way for a second referendum before we can leave.

China needs to act as a responsible creditor - Financial Times, London 

With power comes responsibility. China is already a great power, not least as a lender for development, notably in support of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese institutions and multilateral bosies under its influence have become significant creditors of emerging and developing countries. This role can only grow. How China handles it, not least how well it co-ordinates the management of lending and debt relief with the traditional creditors is increasingly important.

Hope comes to a peninsula - Globe and Mail, Canada 

The hostilities of the Korean War ended in 1953, but eastern Asia’s longest ongoing conflict has never been officially resolved – until, it seems, now. When North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un stepped on South Korean soil on Friday, it was the first time a leader from the North had done so. The thaw between Mr. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae In is momentous. But it prompts a question: Can it really be this easy?
Maybe. We have been at or near this point a few times, most recently in 2000 when Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, hosted South Korean president Kim Dae Jung in Pyongyang. ... But the details matter, and history tells us North Korea is devilishly hard to pin down. ... And then there is U.S. President Donald Trump, the only politician who can rival the Kim dynasty for bombast and unpredictability. Historians may remember his bold offer to hold a summit with Mr. Kim as a pivotal moment, but there is no way of knowing whether or not he can see this through to the end.

With Sophie Mirabella its a case all about a push or a shove so singalong with the Grateful Dead

An intriguing case that hinges on a push and shove so singalong with:

The Owl wonders what Sophie's current employer Gina Rinehart thinks of Sophie's practice of secretly recording conversations like she did when talking with Ken Wyatt.

Economics has the awkward distinction of being both the most influential and the most reviled social science and other news and views

Economics: the view from below - Marion Foucade in theSwiss Journal of Economics and Statistics
In the course of the twentieth century, economists have been able to establish a remarkable position for themselves, as experts in local and national governmental organizations, in independent agencies and central banks, in international institutions, in business and finance, and in the media. They supplanted lawyers in government and historians in the public sphere. As such, they have been involved with some of the most consequential decisions that societies make—decisions having to do, for instance, with the level of unemployment that might be left unattended, because it should be considered “natural”; with whether or not to authorize the purchase and sale of untested financial products or with how to organize the delivery of clean water, vaccines or electricity. This involvement has come at a cost. As Robert Chernomas and Ian Hudson put it, “economics has the awkward distinction of being both the most influential and the most reviled social science”. We might add: economics may be the most reviled social science precisely because it is the most influential. ...
One Nation voters’ changed habits prompt Newspoll rethink - The Australian
A reassessment of One Nation preference flows prompted a change by Newspoll late last year to the way it calculates the two-party-preferred vote in its regular poll of Australian voting intentions, published exclusively by The Australian. ... YouGov Galaxy managing director David Briggs said the new methodology had been in place since before Christmas.
Jacinda Ardern: ‘we should not expect women to be superwomen’ - Financial Times, London
New Zealand’s PM on Trump, being pregnant in office and whether she’s too nice to lead 
The politics of pill testing: even the ACT Chief Minister is over it - The Mandarin
Australia’s first trial of pill testing at a music festival came and went over the weekend, but one can’t say the same for the political argument that it somehow means the government is endorsing or encouraging recreational drug use.
Despite So Much Winning, The Right Feels Like It's Losing - NPR
At the core of the problem for many American conservatives is a feeling that the culture war has been irrevocably lost to their ideological opponents.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Societal challenges such as obesity and unhealthy lifestyles cannot be legislated away plus other news and views

Politicians with hopeless legislation will not fix the obesity epidemic - London Sunday Telegraph ($)
In the eyes of many politicians, it isn’t important that regulations deliver results so long as it feels like a good idea and authorities are seen to be doing something. ... Even the most apparently obvious policy solution to a problem – introduced in good faith and with the best intentions– creates ripples impacting on people’s lives in ways politicians may well have been unable to predict, particularly when it comes to lifestyle issues. It is therefore of paramount importance to exercise caution when legislating, and to proceed only when there is overwhelming evidence to suggest the measure will deliver.
The problem is that politicians are increasingly expected to provide a solution for every problem under the sun as we look to the state to replace the influence of other institutions – family or religion, for example – in our lives. It requires a significant amount of self-awareness and moral fortitude to recognise and accept that the power to legislate over people’s lives doesn’t necessarily translate into the wisdom ideally required to do so. Especially when there is a rising tide of voices telling legislators that it is a moral responsibility of the state to act.
A truly wise politician knows to resist the siren call. Societal challenges such as obesity and unhealthy lifestyles cannot be legislated away. To try and do so is unwise and irresponsible.
The Military Doesn't Advertise It, But U.S. Troops Are All Over Africa - NPR
When U.S. troops were ambushed in Niger last October, the widespread reaction was surprise: The U.S. has military forces in Niger? What are they doing there? Yet in many ways, the Niger operation typifies U.S. military missions underway in roughly 20 African countries, mostly in the northern half of the continent. They tend to be small, they are carried out largely below the radar, and most are focused on a specific aim: rolling back Islamist extremism.
The U.S. Has No Clear Strategy For Africa. Here's Why It Really Needs One  - NPR
What needs better explaining is why it is necessary for U.S. diplomatic, military and other government agencies to provide support to our partners on the continent. U.S. policymakers and senior leaders in the military and State Department have known for decades that Africa is a nexus of extremist groups, criminal networks and illicit trafficking, yet the government has inadequately addressed the root causes of instability in parts of Africa.
EU bans pesticides linked to declining bee numbers - Financial Times
Environmentalists welcome ban but agrochemicals industry calls for further research 
Today, Francis is increasingly embattled. The political climate has shifted abruptly around the world, empowering populists and nationalists who oppose much of what he stands for. Conservative forces arrayed against him within the Vatican have been emboldened, seeking to thwart him on multiple fronts.
Yet a close look at his record since becoming pope and the strong reactions he has engendered also shows that Francis continues to get his way in reorienting the church. And his supporters say that the backlash against his views has only made his voice more vital in the debate inside and outside the church over the issues he has chosen to highlight, like migrants, economic inequality and the environment.
But even they concede that Francis’ message has fallen decidedly out of sync with the prevailing political times, in contrast to, say, Pope John Paul II, who provided the spiritual dimension for Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s battle against communism.
When Russia Becomes the U.S.S.R. on Steroids, Israel Can Become a Target Too - Haaretz
Russia has returned to the international stage and considers itself an equal to the United States, despite Washington’s huge economic and military advantage.
And to gain dominance once again, the Russians are increasingly using all the tried and true methods of the Cold War (not that the Americans are innocent of using very similar methods). Cyberattacks, along with sophisticated propaganda and disinformation on social media, ramp up the consequences. This is already the Soviet Union on steroids, both because its rivals’ secrets are more accessible than in the past, and because it’s easier today to spread the messages to the general public.
At the same time, the Russians are helping to weaken Westerners’ confidence in the effectiveness and justness of their democracies. When Russia’s RT television films Syrians who deny that a chemical slaughter was carried out by the Assad regime, when on Twitter the Russian ambassador in London mocks the claims about the poisoning of the former spy, the purpose is the same. The propaganda isn’t designed to convince Westerners of the justness of the Kremlin’s ways, it’s to confuse their perception of reality to the point where they’ll no longer believe in anything.

Only snobbery stops ABBA being ranked with the Beatles and other editorial opinion from home and abroad

Abba: the debate rages - London Sunday Telegraph

ABBA have announced they are reforming to record new material, and fans are deliriously happy. So they should be. The Swedish pop group was one of the greatest bands of the 20th century, and only snobbery stops them being ranked with The Beatles. The harmonies were exquisite, the music innovative and the lyrics mostly comprehensible. Debate still rages, however, over whether in a verse of Super Trouper, Anni-Frid Lyngstad sings “All I do is eat and sleep and sing” or “All I do is eat and sweep and sing”. The mystery deepens when instead of calling her lover from Glasgow, she appears to say, “I was sick and tired of everything/ When I called you last night from Tesco.” Some believe the song is the lament of a pop singer exhausted by life on the road, prefiguring Abba’s split in 1983. Others say it’s about a bored shelf-stacker. The answer is found in the chorus: “Super Trouper/ Beans are gonna blind me.” If one stacks tins of baked beans too high, it’s an accident waiting to happen.

What's the deal? - The Territorian, Darwin

WHY do cyclists have a right to use both the road and the path? Riding a bike is a good thing. It keeps you fit, it’s good for the environment and it costs a lot less to run than a petrol and maintenance-hungry car. But cyclists need to decide whether they belong on the road and therefore should follow the road rules or belong on the path and should follow pedestrian rules. You can’t do both by weaving on and off the footpath and then go to the front of the queue at stop lights when it suits. Be predictable to motorists, be safe.

Macron deserves credit for global vision - The Observer, London

Macron, whose first anniversary in office falls next month, made a splash in Washington partly because his youthful self-confidence (he is still only 40) appeals to a country where energetic brashness is counted a virtue. But there were other, more substantive reasons. One was recognition that Macron is a leader who knows what he believes in. Another was the evident fact he is ready to fight for it.

 Stopping the S-300 - Jerusalem Post

Russia’s S-300 surface-to-air missile platform is one of the most sophisticated air defense systems in the world. It is for that exact reason that Israel and the United States have worked tirelessly over the years to prevent its delivery to Iran and why Israel is now working to stop it from getting to Syria. The real question concerns Russia’s intentions and why it recently announced its intention to deliver the system to the Bashar Assad’s military. ...
Russia should not be allowed to get away with whatever it wants in Syria. US President Donald Trump has already accused Vladimir Putin of responsibility for allowing Assad to gas his own people, but he needs to keep the pressure on the Russian leader to stop the delivery of the S-300. It is in Israel’s interest that Syria be stabilized, but it is in the world’s interest that weapons do not proliferate to terrorist groups and terrorist regimes. Giving the Syrian military the S-300 achieves the exact opposite. The world needs to act now to stop that from happening.

The strange state of the Victorian Liberal Party

It seems mighty strange to the Owl that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was not at Saturday's annual conference of the Victorian Liberal Party. Federal parliamentary leaders normally give a major speech at such a gathering.
This time it was Mr Turnbull's Liberal Party deputy Julie Bishop who did the honours. And, if the tweet by former Tony Abbott staffer Terry Barnes is true, Ms Bishop in 30 minutes managed to avoid mentioning the name of her boss.
That's even stranger.
Something is very much amiss in the Victorian Liberal ranks.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

The Owl is an old footy writer for Tassie Truth - hence the choice of The Mercury's editorial at the top of his daily review of opinion from around the world

AFL should show it cares - The Mercury, Hobart

WE have said it before, and we will say it again and again: every time an AFL game is played in Tasmania it is a reminder that as a state we should never rest until we have our own team in the “national” competition.
The State Government’s estimated $7 million annual investment in North Melbourne and Hawthorn is a worthwhile one, in that it ensures a good number of elite-level footy games are being played in Tasmania each year.
But that cash should be considered as nothing more than a down payment on a team that actually calls Tasmania home. ... 
Tonight at UTAS Stadium in Launceston, Tasmanians will again turn out in big numbers to demonstrate their love for footy. It really is time the AFL responded in kind, and demonstrated in a meaningful way its love for Tassie.

The US President trumps his critics - The Daily Telegraph, London

Asked to account for the detente that led to yesterday’s meeting of Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s foreign minister said: “Credit goes to President Trump.” That will infuriate his critics. To them he is a blustering fool, and some Britons intend to protest when he visits the UK in July. They should stay at home and watch Wimbledon instead. Whatever one thinks of Donald Trump personally – and there is much to object to – Britain needs the friendship of the most powerful man in the world. Especially given the sense of possibility he is bringing to the global order.

Reforms on rape - San Francisco Chronicle

Victim after victim is sounding a harsh note that San Francisco’s leaders should hear. Rape cases aren’t getting the handling they demand, allowing assailants to escape justice and leaving victims unheeded and alone. It’s a situation that demands serious attention.
A Chronicle investigation and searing testimony at City Hall are illuminating the difficulties women face in getting medical and legal help. The response too often is an official shrug, with evidence uncollected, skeptical police questioning or prosecutions slow walked to nothingness.
The personal experiences of victims willing to speak publicly are painful to hear. In response, the city is promising results in the form of new policies and better training. Those pledges must be watched for genuine results.

A Reckoning for Cosby — Now for Others? - New York Times

... Over the past six months or so, in what has come to be called the #MeToo movement, women — and some men — have come forward with long-repressed and long-ignored accusations that powerful men abused and harassed them with impunity. Some of the most famous men in entertainment, journalism and other fields have been defenestrated, often after years of predatory behavior.
Some people might see cause for hope in the Cosby verdict, since he was the first celebrity convicted in the #MeToo era.
But since it happened only after scores of women suffered in silence for decades, and only in the midst of a global reckoning with sexual violence, even a “victory” like this verdict suggests that the abused still face a desperately uphill battle. ...
Ms. Constand fought for years to get to this day. While she won a $3.38 million settlement from Mr. Cosby in 2006, that came only after prosecutors in Pennsylvania declined to charge him earlier. His first trial ended with a hung jury last year. The conviction was won this time after those five women were allowed to bolster Ms. Constand’s testimony, demonstrating his signature pattern of abuse.
In a sense, this exception both proves the rule — power provides protection — and shows that that shield is not impenetrable. The verdict and the prosecution should make clear that women need to be listened to and their accusations need to be taken seriously.

China flexes its maritime military muscle - The Japan Times

China’s leadership has decided that the country’s status, interests and assets demand advanced armed forces that can protect and defend them. It is up to Japan, working with allies and partners, to make it clear to decision-makers in Beijing that the use of that military for anything but defense of the Chinese homeland is a mistake.

Indonesia's president goes populist in preparation for next year's election plus other news and views

Jokowi Turns to Populist Policies Ahead of Tough 2019 Election - Jakarta Globe
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo still enjoys high public approval, with recent surveys giving him a double digit lead over his main rival, former general Prabowo Subianto. ... Now, less than a year from an expected hard-fought 2019 election, Jokowi has made a "strategic policy shift," say senior government officials, dropping nearly $20 billion of infrastructure projects to focus on social welfare. The government has also slapped price controls on staple goods such as fuel, power, rice and sugar — moves that will surely be welcomed by voters.
Dear Barnaby, it's time to shut your mouth - Sydney Morning Herald

China opposes U.S. resolution on Tibet issue - Xinhua

China on Friday expressed opposition to a U.S. Senate resolution on the reincarnation of Dalai Lama, saying it has interfering in China's internal affairs. ... The U.S. Senate on Thursday agreed to a resolution which claimed that the responsibility for identifying a future 15th Dalai Lama only rest with officials of the 14th Dalai Lama's private office and any interference from the Chinese government is invalid.
Peta Credlin and Sky’s caustic panels - The Saturday Paper
Murdoch’s cable channel Sky News has an undue influence in Canberra, but it is defined by a sour and second-rate discourse. 

The Macron Dilemma: Why Merkel Must Act on Paris' Eurozone Reform Proposals - Der Spiegel
Germany has been sitting on eurozone-reform proposals from French President Emmanuel Macron for months. If Berlin doesn't act soon, a historical opportunity may go to waste. And that could spell doom for the common currency.

Japan’s rules and regulations for customers at integrated resorts are based on those of Singapore, which are, compared to other countries, quite strict. However, it was not something those in Osaka expressed a great deal of concern about.

Friday, 27 April 2018

And another addition to the early election forecasts but next year remains the bookies favourite.

Paula Matthewson in The New Daily has joined the chorus.
Pay no attention to those who claim the next federal election is still 12 months away. All the signs point to the election being held in August or September this year.
The Owl recommends to Ms Matthewson that she hops in and takes the $3.40 being offered at Sportsbet about the election being in 2018.
A 2019 election is the $1.25 favourite.

Singalong for the silent Anna (Get Your Gun) Bligh after she asks for the banksters enquiry to limit itself when asking questions about doin' what comes naturally

Alfie’s story has not been black and white but full of grey – and emotional pain plus other editorial comment from home and abroad

Turnbull’s cash top-up is a welcome boost for WA’s needs - The West Australian

The penny has dropped. Or in this case, the dollars and cents.
For what seems like an eternity, this newspaper, and to be fair, WA politicians of both Liberal and Labor stripes in Canberra and in the house on the hill here, have been making the point that WA is being ripped off when it comes to our share of the GST kitty.
And while we do not want to count our chickens just yet, it seems that at long last, the message has got through to Canberra.
It would be nice if the recognition that WA has been missing out on its fair share was based purely on what is fair and right — and indeed, of benefit to the nation.
But there can be no escaping the reality that some of the attention we are getting is to do with the Federal Government and Opposition getting their houses in order ahead of the next election.

US' investment policies target China's tech drive: China Daily editorial - China Daily

The United States talks a good game about "unfair" trade practices. But the actions it has taken belie its words.
On the one hand, it is demanding China open its market to US companies. On the other, it is creating obstacles for Chinese investments in the US that do not accord with the principle of fairness, equality and reciprocity that it says it is upholding.
That it is unwilling to compete on a level playing field has been revealed once again by reports that the US Treasury is reportedly considering ways to set limits on Chinese investments in the country's high-tech fields by invoking an emergency powers law and bringing forward security review reforms for corporate acquisitions.
For years Chinese companies have invested in the US, creating jobs and deepening relations between the world's two largest economies. Yet that mutually beneficial momentum has met strengthening headwinds due to the increasingly tougher regulatory environment encountered by Chinese enterprises with plans to invest in the US.
To rationalize its increasingly unfriendly investment policies toward China, Washington is trying to give Beijing a bad name, accusing it of being a thief of intellectual property. But this accusation is both unfair and unfounded.

Put wealth back into the commons The Straits Times, Singapore

The Commonwealth, by contrast, remains a potentially influential exponent for free trade. It is approximately 19 per cent cheaper to trade within the group, than it would be outside. Moreover, its members are bound together by the English language, and similar legal systems and largely common financial systems that help to make their economic transactions politically predictable and reliable. Britain could now help reinvent the Commonwealth and make it, if not quite a trade bloc - which might be a stretch politically - then a powerful voice championing free trade. Britain’s decision to leave the EU could have many downsides. But Brexit also affords the country an opportunity to resume its historical role as a free-trading nation and revive the prospects in like-minded countries. 

Alfie’s case cannot be decided by law alone - Daily Telegraph, London 

Who can read the story of Alfie Evans’s young life without feeling the most profound sympathy for his parents? Tom Evans and Kate James have sought what any mother and father would want for their sick child: to give him a chance to live. Yet they were told by doctors that his unexplained, debilitating brain disorder leaves him no likelihood of survival – and that it would be wrong to continue keeping the 23-month-old baby alive artificially with such a bleak prognosis. The courts agreed and blocked his parents from taking Alfie abroad to the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome. There, he would be kept on life support, which Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool, where he was treated, no longer thinks is appropriate.
The medical practitioners and judges who have grappled with this case since last December believe Alfie is going to die and should do so in the UK. His parents accept that he might die, but have argued for their right to try something else as a final, desperate measure. ...
Ultimately, Alfie’s story has not been black and white but full of grey – and emotional pain. Public opinion is on the side of Alfie’s parents because most of us can imagine their torment and their desire to keep their child alive. This is about more than the calculated application of the law. Most people share an overwhelming sense that the parents should be allowed to try everything to save their son, yet the law has apparently made this impossible. That does not seem just.

Further stirring of the early election pot

Good to see the brass of The Australian joining in the game.
Now, they wouldn't have an angle to promote would they?

Who would you believe - Sharri Markson in the Daily Telegraph or the OECD?

Sharri Markson in this morning's Daily Telegraph:
Australians are among the highest-taxed citizens of any country in the world.
We pay more personal income tax as a share of all tax revenue than any other OECD country except for Denmark.

A report from the OECD released over Night:

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Tax for Australian workers just below the OECD average and other news and views

Workers in OECD countries pay one quarter of wages in taxes - OECD
Workers in OECD countries paid just over a quarter of their gross wages in tax on average in 2017, with just over half of countries seeing small increases in the personal average tax rate, according to a new OECD report.

Taxing Wages 2018 shows that the “net personal average tax rate” – income tax and social security contributions paid by employees, minus any family benefits received, as a share of gross wages – was 25.5% across the OECD. This OECD-wide average rate, calculated for a single person with no children earning an average wage, has remained stable in recent years, but it covers country averages that range from below 15% in Chile, Korea and Mexico to over 35% in Belgium, Denmark and Germany. 

The Trump Administration Is Decimating the State Department - Slate

Inaction over live sheep exports reveals our politicians are losing their moral compass - Fairfax

'We're doomed': Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention - The Guardian
The 86-year-old social scientist says accepting the impending end of most life on Earth might be the very thing needed to help us prolong it
Germany's Incredibly Shrinking Role on the World Stage - Der Spiegel
With a wayward president at the helm in the United States, the world has become a more dangerous place. In response, though, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is once again steering Germany to the foreign policy sidelines, clearing the way for French President Emmanuel Macron.
Terry McCrann: Michael Kroger wastes $3m, seeks re-election  - Herald Sun
It defies all common sense that the state Liberal Party could consider re-electing a president at its council this weekend who has thrown away up to $3 million of increasingly precious party funds in absolutely pointless legal action.
Indeed, it gets even more bizarre, because the way the legal action has ended up — with a decision pending after the weekend vote — the “best” the party can now hope for is to lose the case and lose comprehensively and totally.
Because then it might have thrown away only $2 million!
What Happens if Trump Pulls Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal? - Haaretz
As France's Macron offers a 'new deal' in bid to salvage the JCPOA, what would the U.S. gain by pulling out and how might Iran react? 

A Minister's aide selling sex on line is a security threat and other editorial views from around the world

US-french bromance blossoms - The Scotsman

Macron has found a way to become Trump’s biggest critic and best friend on the world stage
Emmanuel Macron has crushed Donald Trump’s hand in a vice-like grip, publicly snubbed him by swerving away to greet Angela Merkel first, cheekily repurposed the US president’s favourite slogan in the cause of climate change, and even made a public appeal to US scientists to move to France because of the Republican tycoon’s antiscience rhetoric.
And yet, there the French president was, giving a speech to the US Congress in Washington, on the first official state visit of the Trump presidency. In a tweet before the address, Trump said this was “a great honour and seldom allowed to be done … he will be GREAT!”
Somehow Macron seems to have managed to become Trump’s greatest critic, but also perhaps his greatest friend on the global stage and certainly within the European Union. Somehow, he’s become the world’s “Trump whisperer”.

A tempest in an oil patch - The Globe and Mail, Canada 

Yet another Canadian university is in an uproar over a controversial figure’s imminent presence on campus. Only this time it’s not coming from the left. Instead, it’s the University of Alberta’s deans of business and engineering, of all people, denouncing the school’s decision to give an honorary doctorate of science to the environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki.
To read their public letters protesting the decision, you might think the university had invited Robert Mugabe to give its convocation address.
The dean of business, Joseph Doucet, said he understood that many alumni and supporters were feeling not just “disappointed” but “betrayed.”
Dean of Engineering Fraser Forbes called the controversy “the worst crisis… we’ve faced in more than three decades.”
“I am not surprised by the level of outrage being expressed across the entire breadth of our engineering community,” he went on. “Surely such is to be expected when one’s fundamental values are so directly questioned!”

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath, shall we? Yes, Mr. Suzuki can be strident. He wants the oil sands to be “shut down.” His views on economics are crude. We do not agree with his extreme approach to curbing climate change.
But he is also an impressive and accomplished figure. ... Mr. Forbes makes a telling claim when he says the decision to honour Mr. Suzuki has “directly questioned” the “fundamental values” of the engineering community.
Even if he were right, isn’t questioning fundamental values exactly what universities are supposed to be about?

Private risk to security - Daily Mirror, London 

HISTORY is littered with political sex scandals. Some are mere tittle-tattle, others, such as the Profumo Affair, are matters of greater seriousness.
Our expose today falls into the second category. We reveal that an aide to a senior Government minister has a lucrative second income from working for a “sugar daddy” website.
How people conduct themselves in private is not generally a matter of public interest. But it is if she’s a civil servant with access to confidential documents concerning matters of state, and who boasts she runs a minister’s life.
There are implications for national security when someone at the centre of Government leaves themselves open to threats of blackmail.
Then there is the question of whether the recruitment process and vetting procedures for Whitehall staff are sufficiently robust.
You cannot put too high a premium on the importance of national security.
If there is a risk of it being compromised then it is right the public should know.

The truth about Tony Abbott's tongue - it's not reptilian, he's saving on brain power

Keen viewers of The Project  would have noticed this view of Tony Abbott in France:

But why is it so? Why does the former PM so often get captured in photos with his tongue out? Photos like these:

For an answer the Owl has turned to Science Focus - the Online Home of BBC Focus Magazine.

Why do I stick out my tongue when I concentrate?

The answer won't surprise you when you find out how much brain power that muscle uses

Much of your brain is devoted to your tongue. It is a huge muscle, constantly moving, that has to keep out of the way of your teeth, help you swallow and avoid choking you. It’s covered with densely packed touch receptors that constantly update the mental map of the shape of your mouth. And your tongue is connected to the brain’s language centres so it often moves to partly form word shapes as you think. All this sends a huge stream of data to your brain. Sticking your tongue out or biting it, reduces its movement and cuts down on this torrent, which leaves more brain-power available to concentrate.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Horror scenario! Is Kevin Rudd planning a political comeback? Let's sing.

The appearances are getting more and more frequent. Kevin Rudd was back on the ABC again tonight giving us all the benefit of his great wisdom.
This time he was big noting about his friendship with Harry Harris who was going to be, and now isn't going to be, the US Ambassador in Canberra. Kevvie thinks that the US decision to reassign the Admiral to South Korea shows that @realDonaldTrump is in danger of taking Australia for granted.
Time for a song.

A very churlish Prime Minister Turnbull

A very small minded effort by Malcolm Turnbull in France for the opening of the Villers-Bretonneux memorial. A bigger man than our current Prime Minister would have allowed his predecessor to say a word or two. It was, after all, Tony Abbott's idea.
But no. Our Tony was left to skulk around on the outskirts wearing his plastic poncho.
The hostility in the Liberal Party is clearly too great for even a semblance of civility.

Why do banks always put customers last and other editorial comment from Australia and abroad

Why do banks always put customers last? - Daily Mail, London

ON its website, TSB boasts: ‘We’re always open and honest, with no nasty surprises.’ Paul Pester, the bank’s £2million-a-year boss, should try telling that to the 1.9million of his customers who’ve been suffering some of the nastiest surprises of their lives since the weekend.
Many have lost all access to their money, unable to pay bills or employees’ wages or shop for essentials. Others have seen unexplained sums withdrawn or credited to their accounts.
In a glaring threat to security, hundreds report logging on to TSB, only to see strangers’ accounts. Now we’re told some problems won’t be fixed until the end of April.
Indeed, this is an IT meltdown on a mammoth scale – caused, it appears, by pressure from the bank’s Spanish owners to save money by switching to a new system before it was ready.
Why, in the financial sector, do customers always come last? Of those affected, many were with Lloyds before they were told out of the blue their accounts were being moved to TSB under orders from the European Commission. Nor were they consulted when TSB was sold to Spain’s Sabadell three years ago.
Like other banks’ customers, meanwhile, they were bullied into banking online – to suit not them, but lenders wanting to close branches. Now this.
But then what better have we come to expect of a sector which puts greed above all else? Indeed, the TSB meltdown coincides with a damning survey on the treatment of borrowers and savers, conducted by consumer group Which?.
This finds lenders were quick to increase rates on loans when the base rate last rose. Yet only one in ten passed on the full increase to savers within five weeks – while some offered worse returns than before.
Is this the thanks taxpayers get for bailing out the City to the tune of £1trillion?
The Mail urges regulators to make an example of TSB – not just forcing it to pay full compensation, but fining it heavily for causing so much grief. Somehow the message must be rammed home that bankers must start putting customers first.

The price of failed gun policies - Washington Post

The shooting at a Waffle House outside Nashville shows the need for a change in Congress this election year.
Voters should elect a Congress that will undertake comprehensive gun law reform. Reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons is a must. So, too, is restricting magazine capacity. That the shooter at the Waffle House apparently stopped to reload gave a quick-thinking patron, James Shaw Jr., the chance to disarm him, thus saving countless lives. In a few months, Americans will have a chance to vote for candidates for Congress who support constitutional limits on weapons of war, and against candidates who remain complicit in letting peaceable Waffle House patrons be terrorized by them.

The customs union is imperative for Britain’s future prosperity - Financial Times of London 

Ever since she became prime minister in July 2016, Theresa May’s government has flannelled and prevaricated on a central question of Brexit: whether Britain should join a customs union with the EU, thus maintaining a common external trade tariff against the rest of the world.
The UK is now approaching the point at which decisions need to be made. The UK and EU authorities meet in June to agree the outlines of the UK’s post-transition relationship with the bloc. The House of Lords has already signalled support for a customs union; a majority in the House of Commons would probably back one, too. Mrs May’s equivocation is becoming ever more untenable.
The conclusion of a lengthy debate among policymakers, customs and trade experts and businesses should be clear. Both to fulfil its promises to keep the Irish border open, and to maintain Britain’s sophisticated just-in-time supply chains with the continent, the UK should seek a new customs union with the EU that in essence replicates current arrangements. On top of this, it should seek to keep those EU regulations, particularly in food and agriculture, needed to reduce the need for hygiene inspections as well as checks for customs tariffs and rules of origin.

The Guardian view on the EU customs union: the start of the Brexit crunch - The Guardian

Theresa May has promoted the pyrrhic freedoms of a fantasy Brexit for too long. It is time for compromises that protect manufacturing and Northern Ireland
London's Daily Telegraph

Lawless south - Jerusalem Post

Beduin lawlessness in the Negev is nothing new. And our law enforcement institutions are fighting an uphill battle. ... Clearly a large part of the problem of lawlessness in the Negev stems from the Beduin’s feeling of disenfranchisement from the Jewish state. And this is a vicious circle: The state of lawlessness strengthens the feeling among Beduin that they are outside the state’s purview, which deepens their alienation.
Organizations intent on bashing Israel for its “racist” settlement policy in the Negev are a radicalizing element, as are Arab Knesset members who regularly take the side of the lawless Beduin squatters against the state.
Part of the solution is to double down on enforcement so that the rule of law is not undermined in the Negev. ...
The challenges facing Israel in integrating its Arab and Beduin citizens is not unlike Europe’s difficulty dealing with the waves of immigrants from Muslim states, many of whom are refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria. In both cases, democratic societies are grappling with a radicalized Muslim minority that feels alienated in part because it does not share the values of the majority culture.
There are no easy answers to this state of affairs. But a good place to start is enforcing the rule of law, which is the basis for every healthy democracy.