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Archive for March, 2019

01 March
Comments Off on Swan puts surplus on hold

Swan puts surplus on hold

Wayne Swan Treasurer Wayne Swan poses for the media with the 2013 budget at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares
Nanjing Night Net

Swan unveils $19.4b deficitBaby bonus scrapped from 2014Full budget 2013 coverage

Middle income families, parents to be, and smokers will lose out in Wayne Swan’s sixth budget designed to repair the debt-ridden bottom line and convince voters of Labor’s economic management credentials.

Declaring the budget to be about ‘‘consistency’’, Mr Swan has eschewed the traditional pre-election spendathon, opting to challenge the opposition to ‘‘choose between making motherhood statements about ending the age of entitlement, or putting their words into action’’ by backing savings initiatives.

Faced with an expected $60 billion shortfall in revenue over four years to 2015/16, the budget confirms billions in new spending on popular disability insurance and education reforms and sets out $24 billion in infrastructure projects – although not all of that represents new spending.

But it carries the political risk that its tiny projected surplus in year three will not be believed by voters, and that its savings will be seen as harsh on business and on middle-income households.

Families in the middle income bracket stand to lose some family entitlements as well as promised carbon tax compensation, while incurring new costs for higher education when scholarship grants are converted to loans.

Smokers too are to be slugged by higher costs per packet when the federal excise and customs duty is pegged to average weekly ordinary time earnings rather than inflation.

Some older Australians will benefit from the rapid fiscal consolidation via a new trial program to encourage them to bank the proceeds of downsizing to smaller homes without affecting their aged pension availability.

Outlining a plan to deliver a tiny surplus of less than $1 billion in the third year of the budget cycle, after a larger than expected deficit nearing $20 billion for 2012/13, the Treasurer has revealed the $5000 baby bonus will be scrapped from March 1, 2014, to be replaced by a lower $2000 supplement payable only to recipients of Family Tax Benefit (A).

The Family Tax Benefit upper income cut-offs – which have been traditionally indexed to take account of inflation – have also been frozen until July 1, 2017, meaning fewer families will remain eligible as their incomes grow.

The two measures will save $2.3 billion over four years as part of a claimed aggregate saving total over five years of $43 billion.

In a surprise to markets and economic commentators, even after being softened up with pre-budget warnings of a current $17 billion revenue write-down, Mr Swan has revealed a fiscal shortfall for 2012/13 of $19.4 billion  in place of what was forecast to be a budget surplus of $1.1 billion.

Business, which has made no secret of its antipathy for Labor in recent months, stands to pay more  under a suite of changes headlined ‘‘protecting the corporate tax base’’.

These include tightening the rules on profit shifting, where multinational companies load up their local arms with debt while shifting profits offshore, usually to low tax jurisdictions. Other changes include removal of immediate deductibility for expenditure on exploration. The measures will secure nearly $4.2 billion for the budget over four years.

Delivering what might well be his last budget, Mr Swan said next year’s balance sheet would show a similar deficit of $18 billion, shrinking to $11 billion in 2014/15, and tipping into the black by just $0.8 billion in 2015/16.

The wafer thin surplus is as much a political gesture for Mr Swan, who has been on the back foot since abandoning his iron-clad commitment to a surplus come-what-may in 2012/13, just before Christmas.

‘‘Because of our deep commitment to jobs and growth, we have taken the responsible course to delay the return to surplus, and due to a savage hit to tax receipts, there will be a deficit of $18 billion in 2013/14,’’ he told Parliament.

‘‘To those who would take us down the European road of savage austerity, I say the social destruction that comes from cutting too much, too hard, too fast, is not the Australian way. Instead we’re making targeted, sustainable savings of $43 billion over the forward estimates.’’

The budget forecasts slower economic growth of 2.75 per cent in 2013/14 before recovering to 3 per cent trend growth thereafter.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

01 March
Comments Off on Wedging, hedging

Wedging, hedging

ANALYSIS
Nanjing Night Net

The opening sentence of Wayne Swan’s budget speech last year was so charged with chutzpah that it invited guffaws of derision from Coalition MPs the moment he uttered it. “The four surpluses I announce tonight are a powerful endorsement of the strength of our economy, resilience of our people, and success of our policies,” he said.

The opening of this year’s speech was altogether more circumspect, less declaratory and even chastened. “Tonight this Labor government makes the choice to keep our economy strong and invest in our future to support jobs and growth in an uncertain world …”

Usually, election budgets are viewed in isolation and are replete with giveaways. This one is joined at the hip to the one that spent money it didn’t yet have, and failed to anticipate the second-biggest revenue writedown since the Great Depression. But it’s an election budget just the same.

This is not a give-away budget, but its purpose is to force Tony Abbott to nominate what he will take away.

It’s about the choices Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard have made – and the choices Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey will have to make. Will they restore the baby bonus (and, if they will, how will they fund it)? Will they reverse the decision to spend $3 billion on public transport in Melbourne (and upset the new Liberal premier and a host of commuters in marginal seats)? Will they deny New South Wales billions in funding to improve schools (and give Labor ammunition in the state where it faces a wipe-out)?

Ultimately, it’s about the choice the voters will make on September 14.

Indeed, this is not so much a budget as an election battle plan. No wonder Abbott was wary of booby traps.

Aside from wedging the Coalition, the aim is to rekindle the credibility lost by charting a sensible “pathway” back to surplus and identifying some $43 billion in savings that will pay for the big-ticket Labor reforms to school funding and disability insurance.

The budget handed down on Tuesday makes a commendable start, but it is hard to overstate the self-imposed degree of difficulty.

On the one hand, Swan is confident he has a good story to tell and, when it comes to the macro economy and the rest of the world, the evidence is there to support him. An unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent, gross domestic product tipped to be 3 per cent next financial year and inflation under control are not contested – and are broadly in line with last year’s forecasts (though GDP this year is a little less than what was predicted).

The most impressive chart Swan cited in the budget lock-up was one showing that, by 2015, the Australian economy will have grown by 22 per cent since the global financial crisis.

The equivalent figure is 9 per cent for the United States and 2 per cent for Japan, while Europe will be yet to enter positive territory.

On the other hand, the problem for Labor is that credibility is earned by what you do, not what you say you are going to do, and even Labor’s successes tend to be sullied by declarations it didn’t have to make, and were generally driven by poor political judgment.

“There will be no carbon tax,” is the stand-out example, but DisabilityCare is also a case in point. Along with the plan to improve school funding, it is the centrepiece of what, almost certainly, is Labor’s swan song budget. Both policies were crafted after thorough reviews, meaningful consultations and painstaking deliberation.

But what should be Labor’s finest example of world best-practice in policy formulation is weakened because the Prime Minister ruled out an increase in the Medicare levy to pay for the national disability insurance scheme until the scale of the revenue black hole became apparent – when this was always the most logical and sensible approach to take.

Thanks to the plethora of unequivocal declarations in last year’s speech (like “meandering back to surplus would compound the pressures in our economy and push up the cost of living for pensioners and working people”), the credibility gap is even greater when it comes to this year’s pledge to balance the budget by 2015-16 and return a very modest surplus the following year.

The irony is that it was apprehension about Abbott’s ability to wound the government that goaded Gillard and Swan into making the very declarations that have eroded public trust because they didn’t come to pass – and will now be exploited ruthlessly, relentlessly, by the Coalition.

The Opposition Leader gave a taste of his post-budget attack in question time yesterday, when he questioned how 10-year funding commitments on DisabilityCare and school funding could be taken seriously (citing Swan as an authority) and asked if the Prime Minister intended apologising for the broken surplus promise.

Indeed, so toxic are the politics that speaker Anna Burke took the unusual step when Parliament resumed on Tuesday of warning MPs on both sides that she will take a zero tolerance attitude to those who would interrupt Swan’s televised budget speech or Abbott’s reply on Thursday.

Aside from an opposition that can already taste victory, Labor faces an increasingly hostile business community – whose disaffection will have only increased by plans to reap $4 billion by “closing loopholes in the corporate tax system” – and an electorate that has stopped listening.

Will this budget transform the contest? Hardly. Does it give Gillard a foundation to wage a campaign? Yes, it does. Will it instil confidence into a caucus that is bracing itself for a crushing defeat? This is doubtful.

The lesson from last year’s budget is that the real test of how this one stacks up will be in 12 months time, by which time a new Treasurer expects to be in the chair – and blaming Labor’s poor management for the tough calls he has to make.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

01 March
Comments Off on The federal budget at a glance

The federal budget at a glance

More money for schools.ECONOMY
Nanjing Night Net

Budget deficit of $18 billion, balanced by 2015/16 and in surplus by 2016/17

Economic growth of 2.75 per cent, unemployment of 5.75 per cent, inflation forecast at 2.25 per cent

Move to floating carbon price in July 2015, projected to be about $12 a tonne

TAXATION

Tax receipt write-downs of $17 billion in 2012/13 and $60 billion over the four years to 2015/16

Government to address loopholes in corporate tax system to save over $100 million in 2013/14 and $4.2 billion over four years

SPENDING

$9.8 billion in new school funding

$64.6 billion on health funding including $14.3 billion for disability care funded by Medicare levy increase of 0.5 per cent

$3.7 billion on “Living Longer. Living Better” aged care package

$1 billion plan for Australian jobs, with $500 million to create Industry Innovation Precincts

$24 billion for new road and rail infrastructure

$6.2 billion over five years for disaster relief

Defence spending increase to $113 billion over four years

Funding for centenary of Anzac including $25 million for veterans’ mental health services

Funding of $434.1 million over four years for the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse

$75.3 million to reformed Australia Council to support the Arts

SAVINGS

Planned increase to family payments scrapped saving over $600 million.

Baby bonus abolished saving over $150 million.

Overseas development assistance target date deferred by a year to 2017/18

7¢ increase in a pack of 25 cigarettes

AAP

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

01 March
Comments Off on TOPICS: It’s money for nothing

TOPICS: It’s money for nothing

TOPICS keeps being reminded by politicians’ email ‘‘alerts’’ that the budget is in chaos, with deficits ‘‘as far as the eye can see’’.
Nanjing Night Net

So it’s time to raise revenue, and do it fairly. We propose the following measures.

Roundabout abuse toll

Collected from drivers who stop at roundabouts when nothing’s coming, and those who whiz up the left lane to push in front of other cars.

Revenue from the toll will fund local infrastructure. Merewether will have a new hospital and helipad within a month.

Apostrophe misuse tax

To be levied on those who throw in apostrophe’s that shouldn’t be there, and on peoples errant lack of them.

Redundant ‘‘what’’ levy

Also known as the Man of the Match tax – ‘‘We defended better than what they did’’ – this mechanism will also target politicians and such sentences as ‘‘Our economy is better than what it was last year’’.

A Topics government would also look at taxing unwanted hairdresser chat, buying a round at the bar using eftpos, and people who can only talk about work.

Which behaviour would you tax?

Frog fridge tops Tub

WHAT’s the scariest thing in a Hunter fridge?

Previously, Topics ran a photo of the heinous contents of The Tub inside our home refrigerator (old whipped cream is the latest theory).

Some colleagues thought it was the work fridge, leading to a hygiene crackdown from the top. Uh, sorry guys. That explains the glares in the lunch room.

The smart folks at the University of Newcastle reckon they can top The Tub.

‘‘The scariest thing in the University of Newcastle’s environmental biology laboratory’s fridge,’’ says one who emailed us, ‘‘is the frogs, who love their specially designed, temperature-controlled fridge.’’

Topics couldn’t confirm if any French researchers use the lab.

Mysterious artist

IT’s a daydream of many of us that tucked away in our homes, in a dank, forgotten corner, lies a treasure.

Topics doesn’t just mean a set of quoits gathering mold beneath the stairs, unless they belonged to Ned Kelly. We’re talking a relic that goes under the hammer for a life-changing amount, or at least gets you on Antique Roadshow.

Margery Howison, of Arcadia Vale, has four paintings.

They’re strikingly similar, depicting a lush, lakeside scene, and two of them carry the artist’s signature: ‘‘C Arnold’’.

Mrs Howison found two of the works in her late aunty’s house at Merewether, and her son Adam happened to pick up the other two in Newcastle.

‘‘It was a bit eerie, seeing how similar they are,’’ Mrs Howison says.

She doesn’t know if they’re significant but buoyed by tales of priceless art plucked from deceased estates, she’s not about to die wondering.

One of the unsigned paintings is labelled ‘‘The Great North Road, Wyong’’. The other is marked ‘‘Como Road’’.

These seemed like telling clues, except that Wyong Shire Council doesn’t list a Como Road.

REDDIT: Frogs enjoy refrigeration. Apparently.

Can anyone help Mrs Howison solve the mystery of the four paintings? Who’s C Arnold, and where’s Como Road?

PRICELESS: A roundabout abuse toll would raise millions quickly. Picture: Phil Hearne

01 March
Comments Off on Boat with 150 Rohingya Muslims capsizes off Myanmar

Boat with 150 Rohingya Muslims capsizes off Myanmar

Bangkok: A boat carrying up to 150 Rohingya Muslims has capsized off Myanmar’s coast as a cyclone heads towards tens of thousands of others living in refugee camps in low-lying flood-prone paddies and coastal areas of the country.
Nanjing Night Net

An unknown number of people on the boat are missing amid fears many have drowned, UN officials say.

Tropical cyclone Mahasen moving across the Bay of Bengal is expected to hit Myanmar’s western coast late on Thursday with storm surges that could barrel into camps where about 80,000 Rohingya have been living since deadly racial violence forced them from their homes last year.

Human Rights Watch urged Myanmar authorities to immediately evacuate people to higher ground.

“The Burmese (Myanmar) government didn’t heed the repeated warnings by governments and humanitarian aid groups to relocate displaced Muslims ahead of Burma’s rainy season,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

“If the government fails to evacuate those at risk, any disaster that results will not be natural but man-made,” he said.

Human Rights Watch said Myanmar authorities made limited evacuations as the cyclone grew in intensity earlier this week and numerous camps remain occupied with no apparent plans to move people.

According to the UN more than 140,000 people were displaced in Rakhine state last year and at least half of them are living in low-lying shelters unable to withstand severe storms.

The boat hit rocks off Pauktaw township and sank on Monday night as its passengers “were travelling to another camp ahead of the cyclone,” said a spokeswoman for the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The UN and aid agencies have warned for months of the danger this year’s monsoon season poses to displaced people in Rakhine where about 800,000 Rohingya are stateless and have been described by the UN as among the world’s most persecuted people.

In the past 12 months thousands of Rohingya have attempted the perilous journey by boat south towards Thailand and Malaysia.

Scores are believed to have drowned.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.