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29 April
Comments Off on Boat arrivals cost blows out by $3.2b

Boat arrivals cost blows out by $3.2b

Federal budget 2013: Full coverageSwan puts surplus on holdWinners and losersFederal budget at a glanceTreasurer Wayne Swan’s budget speech
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The asylum seeker budget has blown out by more than $3.2billion since the government’s February forecast, as Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor admitted the  record rate of boat arrivals ”is not acceptable in terms of the risks to human life, or the impact of the budget”.

On top of the $3.2billion extra required to intercept and detain asylum seekers arriving by boat – as well as caring for those  in the community – the government will channel an extra $943million in foreign aid money to supporting asylum seekers over four years.

Australia will divert the foreign aid funding to caring for asylum seekers on Australian soil, capping the amount at $375 million a year.

The budget for the 2013-14 year alone will be $2.8billion, and the government calculates that in the four years to 2015-16, it will spend $8.1billion on asylum seekers.

But the government will also be forced to beef up funding to cover legal expenses increasingly incurred by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship fighting court challenges lodged by asylum seekers against their negative refugee determinations in the courts.

It has allocated an additional $16.6million over two years to help the department fight challenges.

The government will launch a ”comprehensive” review of the refugee determination processes, conceding that a significant  number” of negative findings were being overturned in the courts.

About three-quarters of cases taken to the Refugee Review Tribunal were overturned on appeal between July last year and March.

Mr O’Connor told Fairfax the review would examine how other countries that accepted asylum seekers, including Nordic countries and the US, judged whether people were genuine refugees under the Refugee Convention.

”We accept that we need to abide by the Refugee Convention,” he said. ”We don’t believe we should be doing more than that.”

Mr O’Connor said Australia must be ”warm-hearted but hard-headed” in allocating its 20,000 humanitarian places, and said, while he sympathised with their plight, Australia could not afford to give those places to economic migrants.

He said ”no more powerful message” could be sent to would-be economic migrants than the forced return of more than 1000 failed Sri Lankan asylum seekers. The government will try to develop similar arrangements with other asylum seeker source countries.

The government will also spend $65.8million over four years redoubling its efforts to reduce the flows of asylum seekers to Australia with the support of neighbouring countries. The money will be spent on improving co-operation with asylum seeker origin and transit countries, including Indonesia, and will be used to increase asylum seeker registrations, to reduce the incentive for displaced people to get on boats for Australia by giving them extra humanitarian help in their current countries, encouraging people not found to be refugees to return to their home countries, and to strengthen its capacity to prosecute people smugglers.

Other measures include:$205.8million to combat the current rate of people smuggling to Australia by equipping the nation’s border agencies to manage the expected flow of irregular maritime arrivals.$88.6million to strengthen co-operation with border agencies in our region.$84.8million to increase Australia’s border patrol capabilities, including increasing our maritime and aerial surveillance presence, helping agencies respond to issues such as people smuggling and illegal fishing.

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29 April
Comments Off on Labor to leave with at least some dignity

Labor to leave with at least some dignity

Michael Gordon: Hedging wedgingAdele Ferguson: Politics not economicsMalcolm Maiden: Price cycle taking Swan for a rideTim Colebatch: More pain than gainRoss Gittins: Labor chooses brave way out
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“I don’t make mistakes,” said the British motor racing commentator Murray Walker. “I make prophecies which immediately turn out to be wrong.”

Wayne Swan has framed his sixth and, probably, final budget in this spirit of unapologetic insistence.

But, while last year’s prophecy of a $1.5 billion surplus putrefied into an expected $18 billion deficit, Swan is very unlikely to be around when Tuesday’s prophecy starts to rot.

He is surely hoping that his latest prophecy of a “pathway to surplus” in three years can survive a mere 123 days to the next election. Because this year’s budget is based on the same dangerously brave central assumption as last year’s.

With bookies giving odds of 90 per cent that the Coalition will win the election, it will quickly become Joe Hockey’s problem.

“Swan has always chosen the most optimistic assumptions, and then spent all the money based on it,” observes Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s economist, Saul Eslake.

The fatal assumption? Swan and his Treasury last year prophesied that the economy would grow at 5.1 per cent. This is not the inflation-adjusted growth that’s usually described as “real” growth. It’s the economic growth that the Tax Office extracts taxes from, the growth in the economy that we all live and work in, the “nominal” economy.

In Tuesday’s budget the Treasury said that it now expects this will actually be 3.25 per cent. This may seem like a small difference to quibble about, a mere 1.85 percentage points.

But it’s the main reason that last year’s prophecy was so dramatically wrong. It accounts for about $9 billion in revenue that “vanished” from the budget this year. And now Swan and the Treasury have done it again, predicting nominal economic growth of 5 per cent or more in each of the next four years. Of course, they might turn out to be right. It’s just very unlikely.

“As John Howard had windfalls in his later budgets, this Treasurer and the next will have shortfalls,” says a former Treasury budget analyst, Stephen Anthony, of the consultancy Macroeconomics.

It’s just that this Treasurer is plainly hoping and expecting that it will be the next treasurer who has to deal with it.

Still, this budget could have been worse. In a standard election year, it would have been.

A government heading to likely defeat typically is tempted to try to buy its way back into the people’s hearts. This is exactly what the Howard government did.

But once the electorate has turned against a government, handouts, bonuses and cash splashes will not impress it. The election bribe does nothing but waste money. Kevin Rudd led Labor to power denouncing Howard’s recklessness and promising to spend less.

The Gillard government gets credit for resisting this standard political impulse. It has fought back the rising political panic. Or perhaps it has resigned itself to the reality that it is most unlikely to win.

Even the national headquarters of the Labor party itself is planning to lose – it has budgeted that it will receive public funding at the election based on winning 32 per cent of the primary vote. In other words, it is running its internal budget in expectation of a wipeout.

This budget sets the Gillard government up for an exit with something it has rarely shown – a modicum of dignity.

Instead of disappearing beneath the electoral landslide desperately waving a fistful of dollars, the government is acting with remarkable restraint.

Faced with yawning revenue shortfalls, it has cancelled a planned tax cut, dumped a planned increase in family payments, and dreamt up no new handouts.

Instead, it has risked even greater unpopularity by dispensing with the baby bonus, a piece of populism that deserved to go in these straitened times.

It has imposed some new taxes on companies, and especially on multinationals, that are defensible and reasonable. And it has decided to increase the Medicare levy from 1.5 per cent to 2.

The government is not going to the election empty-handed, however. It does have two offerings, and they are enormous – the extra schools funding that will amount to about $5 billion a year when fully deployed, and the DisabilityCare scheme that ultimately will cost another $10 billion a year.

But while they are enormous, they are also practical investments in national wellbeing. There is a big question of timing – whether this is the right moment to create big new spending schemes? But they are quality schemes nonetheless.

One result of the government’s overall restraint? There is net new spending in the first year of this budget of a scant $700 million. For an election year, this is commendably responsible.

Where there is life, there is hope. The Gillard government is still hoping that its budget will wreak some mischief for Tony Abbott’s opposition.

For a start, Labor knows that the Coalition has had spirited internal arguments about trimming the cost of the baby bonus. Where the government had earlier proposed prudent trimming, the Coalition had been unable to bring itself to endorse this.

Labor trusts and hopes that the Coalition will erupt over whether to accept or reject the budget decision to do away with the baby bonus.

Likewise, the government expects that, now that it’s announced how it will pay for the schools funding and DisabilityCare, the opposition will be forced into declaring its position. Abbott will have to either accept Labor’s plans, or find difficult new savings of his own.

Overall, Australia is better served by a government hoping to force the opposition into error by matching responsibility than by outbidding irresponsibility.

Swan’s advertised “pathway to surplus through responsible savings” is highly vulnerable to forecasting error, or prophecy failure. But the budget does look to be Labor’s pathway to defeat with dignity.

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29 April
Comments Off on Howard baby bonus out but $2.4b in savings is in

Howard baby bonus out but $2.4b in savings is in

baby baby
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The Gillard government has dumped the baby bonus, one of the Howard government’s signature reforms, and replaced it with a less generous scheme.

Fewer stay-at-home mothers will now qualify for a lump-sum payment on the birth or adoption of a child and those that do qualify will receive thousands of dollars less. The baby bonus will be replaced by a one-off increase in Family Tax Benefit Part A.

Under the bonus, which will be scrapped on March1 next year, stay-at-home mothers in families with incomes of up to $150,000 received a $5000 payment on the birth or adoption of their first child and $3000 for each subsequent baby.

But now $2000 will be paid for the birth or adoption of a first child or each child in multiple births, and $1000 for second or subsequent children. Families will receive an initial payment of $500, the remainder to be paid in seven fortnightly instalments.

The threshold at which families qualify for the baby bonus will drop considerably. Under the new scheme couples earning over $101,000 will not be eligible for a payment for their first baby. The threshold for a second baby will be about $112,000.

The budget papers said the new scheme “more closely reflects the essential costs of having a baby and better targets this assistance now that Australia has a national paid parental leave scheme”.

Women who receive the government’s paid parental leave while having a baby are not eligible for either the baby bonus or its replacement.

The budget also made changes to the government’s paid parental scheme. At present women must work for 10 of the previous 13 months to qualify for the government’s paid parental leave. This is known as the work test period. Now parents will be able to count time on government-paid parental scheme where it occurs in the work test period for a subsequent child, just like employer-funded parental leave can be counted now. This change will mean more women will be able to access government paid parental leave when they have another baby.

Mr Swan said the changes would improve the sustainability of the family payments system.

Economist Chris Richardson, from Deloitte Access Economics, said scrapping the baby bonus was good policy.

“We now have policies to support parents that are better because they achieve the same purpose in better ways,” he said.

Mr Swan confirmed the government would not proceed with an increase to Family Tax Benefit Part A that would have added up to $600 a year for families with children. The government announced last week that the payment, due to apply from July 1 this year, would be scrapped because of an unexpected shortfall in revenue. This will save the government $2.5billion over the next four years.

The government will freeze the top income thresholds at which families qualify for family payments and supplements for three more years. This will maintain an upper-income test limit of $150,000 for Family Tax Benefit Part B, the dependency tax offsets, the Paid Parental Leave Scheme and Dad and Partner Pay.

Also, from the beginning Family Tax Benefit Part A will only be paid to families up to the end of the calendar year in which their teenager is completing school. Families will have one year, not two years, to lodge their Family Tax Benefit entitlement or Child Care Rebate. Changes to family payments will save almost $2.4 billion.

29 April
Comments Off on Super changes create $800m saving

Super changes create $800m saving

Federal budget at a glanceTreasurer Wayne Swan’s budget speech Full budget 2013 coverage
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The government expects to save more than $800 million from the recently announced changes to the taxation of superannuation over the next four financial years, but has largely quarantined the $1.5 trillion sector from further changes in the federal budget.

The budget papers show that savings from April’s politically fraught changes to taxation of super will be $821 million over the four years to 2016-17, compared with estimates of $900 million.

The budget does not include any changes to negative gearing, capital gains tax, first-home buyers accounts, or reduced taxes on savings accounts.

Groups including accounting body CPA Australia have argued for a cut on taxes on deposit accounts to encourage national savings and reduce the country’s reliance on superannuation.

But the budget does forecast revenue of $130 million over the 2016 and 2017 financial years from the transfer of lost super accounts to the Tax Office.

The budget shows a technical amendment to the Low Income Superannuation Contribution – which provides up to $500 for people earning less than $37,000 to compensate them for tax paid on super – will cost $15 million over five years. But the Coalition has vowed to repeal the payment due to Labor linking it to the mining tax.

The Superannuation Complaints Tribunal will receive $2.6 million over four years, to be offset by an increase in the levy on Australian Prudential Regulation Authority regulated super funds.

There is a one-off payment of $3 million to establish a Tax Studies Institute at the Australian National University and $5.4 million set aside over four years for financial literacy measures.

Following Treasury warnings on the ballooning cost of super tax concessions, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten in April announced a ”modest” package of super change, one Mr Shorten has described as getting the balance right.

These were imposing a 15 per cent tax on the earnings above $100,000 from retirement accounts, and making people earning more than $300,000 a year pay 30 per cent contributions tax instead of the 15 per cent paid by everyone else.

From July 1 this year, anyone aged 60 and over will have an increased concessional contribution cap of $35,000 from $25,000. From July 2014, the higher cap will apply to anyone aged 50 and over.

Further changes, recently put into draft legislation, are taxing excess concessional contributions at a person’s marginal tax rate, plus an interest charge, following complaints by the super industry and self-managed investors of exorbitant penalties for exceeding contribution rates.

Other personal finance changes include reducing payments for new parents, a freeze on the indexation of various family payments, and reducing the amount of time a family can be temporarily overseas and still receive payments from three years to one.

The government added that despite the 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare levy to help pay for DisabilityCare, ”Australians will be paying $19.7 billion less in tax in 2014-15 than they otherwise would have under the tax scales in place when the Coalition left office”.

29 April
Comments Off on Military the big winners, but jobs cull continues

Military the big winners, but jobs cull continues

THE PUBLIC SERVICEMilitary expands, though civilian agencies will lose another 1262 full-time staff next year.Frontline agencies such as Centrelink and Medicare to cop the most job losses.Crackdown on overly spacious offices, unnecessary air travel and duplication of services such as accounting and HR.Study commissioned to examine the benefits of a centralised, government-wide pay deal.
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The Gillard government has softened its squeeze on the bureaucracy, though it will continue to cull public service jobs.

The government says it will employ about 750 extra full-time-equivalent staff in 2013-14, yet that growth is confined to military personnel.

Civilian agencies, such as government departments and statutory authorities, are expected to lose 1262 full-time employees over the next 12 months.

The continuing cuts follow an austere year for federal public servants. Most workplaces were forced to offer redundancies during 2012-13 to accommodate Labor’s economy drive.

Finance Minister Penny Wong says she will now focus on culling middle management and the top ranks of the public service – the mostly Canberra-based staff who earn more than $100,000 a year.

However, the budget papers suggest Centrelink and Medicare, which are the bureaucracy’s biggest employers of junior, lower-paid staff, will cop most of the job losses.

The two frontline agencies are part of the Department of Human Services, which has been told to reduce its 30,000-strong workforce by 1341 full-time employees.

The department is already struggling to shed staff as a result of cuts imposed this financial year, and was forced to delay its voluntary-redundancies program because it was too costly.

In contrast, two workplaces that have been among the fast-growing over the past decade – domestic spy agency ASIO and foreign aid manager AusAID – will continue to expand, albeit marginally.

Further changes to the way public servants work loom as part of the government’s hunt for $580 million worth of new savings over the next four years.

Senator Wong has already unveiled a crackdown on overly spacious government offices, saying she wants to reduce the target amount of space per worker from 16 to 14 square metres. The last audit found most staff had more than 20sqm.

She hinted agencies might, after a preliminary study, share corporate services such as accounting and human resources.

The government will also buy more videoconferencing equipment, to cut the money public servants spend on air travel and accommodation.

“We have driven efficiency reforms across government, including in travel, advertising, property management and IT,’’ Senator Wong said.

‘‘Our approach is in stark contrast to the opposition, who would slash public service jobs by 20,000 and threaten the services Australians rely on.’’

The budget also funds a two-year study of the costs and benefits of rationalising the federal bureaucracy’s maze of wage agreements.

Presently, the salaries of public servants who are employed at the same level can differ by tens of thousands of dollars, as a result of the more than 100 different pay deals.

The Community and Public Sector Union has campaigned unsuccessfully for years to return to a single, centralised wage deal that covers all government staff.

The budget also reveals plans to introduce a standard government contract for all goods or services valued at $200,000 or less, in an effort to cut wasteful spending on legal services.

29 March
Comments Off on Filly on track for Oaks

Filly on track for Oaks

KRIS LEESPREMIER Newcastle trainer Kris Lees is giving Queensland Oaks favourite Express Power every chance of gaining group1 glory.
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Express Power is the $4.50 favourite on TAB fixed odds betting in the $400,000 classic for three-year-old fillies on June1 over 2400metres.

Express Power will have her final lead-up to the Oaks on Saturday in the group3 Doomben Roses at Doomben over 2020m.

Lees has Express Power stabled at the Gold Coast while in Queensland.

Early yesterday morning she was taken to Doomben for a vital trackwork gallop on the course proper.

‘‘The Gold Coast was very heavy so I took the chance to give Express Power a look at the track before Saturday’s race,’’ Lees said.

‘‘She has never seen Doomben before, and she really took to the place.

‘‘Jimmy Cassidy will stick with her on Saturday, but I asked his brother Larry to ride her in the gallop.

‘‘He worked her on the outside of the course proper. The track was rain-affected, but in any case she wasn’t sent out to go against the clock.

‘‘My foreman, Cameren Swan, watched the work and he was more than happy with what the filly did.’’

Express Power became favourite for the Oaks after a dominant win in the Gold Coast Bracelet (1800m) on May4. Ridden off the pace from an awkward barrier, the filly was too strong over the concluding stages for stablemate Soapy Star.

Soapy Star, which will also run in the Doomben Roses, returned to Newcastle after the run at the Gold Coast.

Lees thought about running her at Scone over the cup carnival. But she will be floated to Queensland later in the week in preparation for her run in the Doomben Roses.

‘‘We will give Soapy Star another chance on Saturday to see whether we also proceed to the Oaks with her,’’ Lees said.

A track gallop at Broadmeadow this morning will determine whether Lees has a third Doomben Roses representative. Impressive Newcastle winner Masroora has been entered for both the Roses and Sunday’s Warwick Farm meeting.

While Express Power heads fixed odds Oaks betting at $4.50, Soapy Star is at $21 and Masroora $34.

‘‘I want to have a look at Masroora tomorrow morning before deciding which way to go with her,’’ Lees said yesterday.

‘‘She is also showing staying promise and if I do get three runners in the Oaks that would be great.’’

29 March
Comments Off on GT: Port shows off its mussels

GT: Port shows off its mussels

THE Anchorage Port Stephens will show off its mussels when it hosts its first beer degustation on the marina on Fridaynight.
Nanjing Night Net

Merretts Restaurant executive chef Luke Carpenter has prepared a degustation menu brimming with mussels to accompany a selection of craft beers from Port Stephens-based Murray’s Craft Brewing Co.

Surrounded by boats bobbing on the water under the stars, guests will be treated to Carpenter’s three-course dinner on the boardwalk. The dinner costs $60 per person. Bookings are essential on 49842555.

Cafe showcases Aussie beer

BEER lovers, rejoice. The highly anticipated The Grain Store is opening its doors in Newcastle’s east end this week.

The iconic Scott Street site formerly known as The View Factory has reopened as a ‘‘craft beer cafe’’ selling 100per cent Australian beer. It is the brainchild of Corey Crooks and his wife Kristy, who previously held the licence at the Albion Hotel in Wickham.

Bacchus degustation dinner

THEY say great minds think alike, and that two heads are better than one.

If that is the case then the next winemakers dinner at Bacchus should not be missed.

Bacchus head chef Tim Montgomery and Alex Head, of Head Wines, have joined forces to create a five-course degustation dinner at the King Street restaurant on May 30.

Head worked with the likes of Tyrrells in the Hunter Valley, as well as Torbreck, Laughing Jack and Cirillo Estate Wines in the Barossa Valley, prior to acquiring a producer’s licence and releasing his first wines.

The dinner will highlight his current releases which will be matched with Montgomery’s fine food. The 6.30pm dinner costs $120 per person. Book on 49271332.

Subo owners take holiday

AFTER earning a coveted hat in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide Awards, as well as a bunch of other accolades in the past year, Suzie and Beau Vincent of contemporary Newcastle bistro Subo are set to take a well-earned holiday.

The couple will briefly close their popular restaurant from June 24 until July 10 to enjoy their first big break since opening in November 2011.

‘‘We’re just closing for a couple of weeks,’’ Suzie said. ‘‘We are going to Japan for 10 days, just for fun and some inspiration.’’

Laneway dining popular

PATRONS of Newcastle’s Caffestry have been enjoying more alfresco dining since the Pacific Street cafe introduced laneway dining.

With a Melbourne-esque vibe, the laneway between Caffestry and the Backpackers By The Beach has been filled with patrons enjoying the great outdoors since summer.

‘‘We are just making use of any available space we have in order to give people somewhere comfortable to sit and enjoy a coffee, some nice food and the atmosphere,’’ Caffestry’s Kynan Smyth said.

In conjunction with Podspace, the cafe has hosted film screenings, a mural artist and a jazz guitarist in the laneway.

TOP PAIRING: Chef Luke Carpenter with a bowl of mussels at The Anchorage, which will host its first beer degustation on Friday night. Pictures: Peter Stoop

29 March
Comments Off on GT: Feeding the family

GT: Feeding the family

HECTIC: Curtis Stone has become a dad.CURTIS Stone thought he had a busy life – then his son was born.
Nanjing Night Net

Now he totally understands the dilemma facing families who juggle work, kids and cooking good, healthy meals each night.

‘‘You think you have a busy life before you have kids – because you do – and then you have a child and you’re like, ‘My god, now I know what a busy life’s all about’,’’ he said.

And for now, at least, Stone has only one child. His son Hudson is 18months old and hasn’t even begun to utter the phrase so often heard by parents: ‘‘What’s for dinner?’’

But that is why it’s the title of his latest book.

‘‘When you get asked that question, ‘What’s for dinner?’, you’re not trying to create some gourmet experience; you’re trying to feed your family healthy, delicious food. It’s that simple,’’ he said.

Stone is a trained chef who has worked for the acclaimed Marco Pierre White, and run busy restaurants in London, but it’s the family side of cooking that Stone is happy to focus on.

‘‘I’ve been in touch with home cooks for a long time – I am one myself,’’ he said.

Stone understands how mothers and fathers sometimes have to cook with one hand, holding the baby on the other hip.

‘‘In this book I’m not trying to show off how great I am, I’m trying to produce recipes that home cooks will use – it will sort of turn into their bible,’’ he said.

After cooking in hundreds of different homes around the world, Stone said he realised that no matter what the nationality, one challenge common to all was that almost everyone was busy.

‘‘It’s time, it’s money, it’s the washing up, it’s being healthy – so I’ve written a book around those challenges and offering recipes that solve those problems,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re all busy, and we’ve put so much on our plates, literally, that it’s time to get back to that important part of a family’s life, and that’s a home-cooked meal.

‘‘Imagine walking into a home and you open the front door and you smell that someone’s been cooking. You appreciate that person, you co-operate with the rest of the family by setting the table and doing the washing up afterwards, you communicate through dinner. There are all these loving family qualities that happen because of the home-cooked meal.’’

It’s clear Stone is a family man, too. During the interview he waves to his mum and dad, who are upstairs with his wife Lindsay and Hudson.

At the end of his book he thanks his mum, who he calls Lozza, for teaching him the importance of sitting down to a family meal and making him such a good cook.

Stone always includes one of his mother’s recipes in his books, and this time it’s her sticky toffee ice-cream.

The down-to-earth Melbourne-born Stone now lives in Los Angeles, and has done very well in the US, hosting several cooking shows.

With his blond spiky hair

and surfie look, there’s no doubting why he’s been able to win over the likes of talk-show queens Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres.

But he’s a true-blue Aussie and says he’ll always pronounce ‘‘tomato’’ the Australian way – although he admits he has to call a capsicum a pepper when talking to Americans.

‘‘I’ve been lucky in the States to have a few opportunities come my way, and I guess I’ve made the most of them,’’ he said.

But whether it’s a pepper or a capsicum, Stone said he’d never lose his Aussie accent.

His book has already been released in the US and is about to hit shelves in Australia.

What’s For Dinner is divided into eight logical and practical chapters.

It starts off with Motivating Mondays – a selection of healthy meals that start the week off properly.

Then it’s Time-Saving Tuesdays – when dinner can be on the table in 15 to 40minutes.

One-Pot Wednesdays feature dishes that are made in one pot, pan, frying pan or barbecue – which means less washing up.

The Thrifty Thursday chapter is exactly that – meals on a budget – and then it’s Five-Ingredient Fridays for fun recipes to kick off the weekend. For the weekend it’s Dinner-Party Saturdays for something a bit more extraordinary, and then the ever-important Family Supper Sundays – a chapter Stone feels strongly about. Food made with lots of love. AAP

What’s for Dinner? Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life, by Curtis Stone, is published by Random House Australia. RRP $39.95. For your chance to win a copy, go to page 26 of today’s Good Taste.

29 March
Comments Off on GREG RAY:  Feral Budgit at bedtime

GREG RAY:  Feral Budgit at bedtime

DADDY, what’s a Feral Budgit?
Nanjing Night Net

You what? What’s that? A feral who?

I was listening to the radio and they were all talking about the Feral Budgit.

Oh, oh yes, that. Umm, it’s like this great big horrible monster in Canberra. It lives inside Parliament House and it drinks blood and has an ugly face that nobody can stand to look at. It’s like a Bunyip, only more horrible.

Really? Is that true or are you being silly?

I’m not being silly at all. It’s perfectly true. Look it up on the internet if you don’t believe me.

Where did the monster come from, Daddy?

Sorry, what monster?

The Feral Budgit, you know!

Umm, it was a sort of experiment that went wrong. Radiation and stuff. There was this giant budgie in Canberra and it got crossed with a burly griffin, like in Alice in Wonderland.

Did they smuggle it?

What?

Did they smuggle the budgie to Canberra?

Why are you asking me that?

On the radio they were talking about this man, he was at a party and they said it was liberal and he smuggled a budgie. Was that the giant budgie, Daddy?

Err, well, no, this budgie was even bigger than that one. It was there long before anybody started smuggling budgies. It was there before the white men came and the Aborigines knew better than to disturb it. They left it alone, but when white people came they wouldn’t listen to the warnings and they dug the top of its hill and put Parliament House there. Then the experiment went wrong and now we are stuck with the Feral Budgit.

Why didn’t they stop the boats, Daddy?

Sorry, what boats was that?

The Aboriginal people. Why didn’t they stop the boats so the white people couldn’t wake up the giant budgie and make it cross with the burly griffin like in Alice in Wonderland?

Umm, why would they do that? The white people came to Australia looking for a better life and the Aboriginal people agreed to share their country.

Really? Is that really true Daddy?

Well, probably. Parts of it. It was a long time ago.

So, how come everybody wants to stop the boats now? Is it to keep the budgie smugglers out?

Of course not. It’s just because the, umm, because … is that your Mum calling?

Angela’s Daddy said the budgie smugglers will be running Australia soon.

Did Angela tell you that?

Yes, she said her Daddy said that. Tell me more about the Feral Budgit.

No, I’m tired and trying to watch TV.

Please. I want to know about the Feral Budgit. On the radio they said they are locking people up with it in Canberra. Why are they doing that? Did those people do a bad thing?

Those people are reporters, they are always doing bad things. But they are being locked up with the Budgit so they can tell us what it wants from us this year.

What does the Budgit want from us, Daddy?

Oh, the usual stuff. We have to make sacrifices to please the Feral Budgit and keep it in a good mood. If it gets unbalanced it does stupid awful things and starts eating people up.

I’m scared of the Budgit Daddy. Will it eat us?

Well it might, but usually if you pay it a lot of money it will go away and just eat some public servants.

What does it do with all the money?

Nobody really knows, it just disappears.

I know, it goes into the Budgit’s Black Hole.

Where did you get that from, the radio?

Yes, that man who smuggled the budgie into the party said the Feral Budgit had a big black hole. That’s where it puts all its money.

That sounds about right to me. Now, how about saying goodnight to everybody and hopping off to bed.

Daddy . . .

What is it now?

Daddy, what’s a State Budgit?

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.