Aussie rules makes play for new inner-city club

GROWING: Newcastle City and Terrigal-Avoca battle it out in the Black Diamond grand final last year. Picture: Simone De PeakAFL officials have started planning for a new inner-city Australian rules club to cater for growing demand in Newcastle.
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The NSW/ACT AFL hosted a meeting in Newcastle on Monday to set up a working party which will examine where the team will play, what it will be called and other details.

NSW/ACT AFL Northern NSW regional manager Simon Smythsaid Black Diamond Cup powerhouse Newcastle City had enjoyed a 37 per cent rise in junior player numbers and a 38 per cent increase in seniors from 2013 to 2016. The Blues and the Wallsend Swans, who have several junior teams, are the only Australian rules clubs in the Newcastle local government area.

“The rationale is the growth that we’ve seen within junior, senior and especially women’s AFL across the Hunter Valley, but more specifically Newcastle, and given the projected population growth that we will be seeing in the next 10 or 15 years,” Smyth said.

“We’re just trying to get ahead of the eight-ball and create opportunities for our game to continue to grow in Newcastle, and we think the best way to do that is to have another junior, senior, women’s club in the area.”

Newcastle City president Daniel Gardner, whose club has more than 150 registered seniors across three men’s and two women’s teams, said the Blues supported the idea of a second inner-city team as it would give more players opportunities to play at a highlevel.

The Blues have established themselves as the city’sdominant club on and off the field with drawcard facilities at No.1 Sportsground, although a controversial ban on recruiting players has brought them back to the pack this season.

But Smyth said the push for a new club was not aimed at spreading talent more evenly in the competition.

“That’s certainly not the driving factor. The driving factor is we need to cater for participants. There’s only so many teams we can fit on No.1 Sportsground at the moment,” he said.

“We’ve got the Newcastle City junior club booming and having their surplus teams playing elsewhere just to cater for the demand.

“Even though equalising talent may be a by-product, certainly that’s not the driving factor. We know our game’s growing, and the population of Newcastle will continue to grow,and not all of these players will be able to find a home at Newcastle City in the next five or ten years.”

West Newcastle played out of Wickham’s Hawkins Oval in the Newcastle AFL before merging with Wallsend when the Black Diamond AFL competition began in 2000.

Smyth said representatives from the former club were excited that “their patch of turf could be playing footy again”, although it was too early to say where a new club would play.

“We can’t come in and take over the ground of another sport, even though Hawkins Oval was a ground we used to play at,” he said. “We’ll be in constant communication with the council around opportunities to play at any facility we believe is appropriate in the inner west of Newcastle.

“Obviously Hawkins Oval makes sense from a traditional point of view, but we’re not in a position to go and knock out the current tenants.We understand that we may have to work with council and co-share with another code.”

Smyth said a club name was also open for debate.

“That’ll be up to the working party to decide, and it will come down to whether we’re relocating a club or starting up a new club or rehashing an old club, but certainly we think that having Newcastle in the name is an important thing so that people can play for this club and represent a part of Newcastle.”

The NSW/ACT AFL hopes the new club will have junior and women’s teams playing by next year.

“We want to aim high. That will be the charter of the working party to make those things happen,” Smyth said.

“There is a demand around women’s football at the moment.We know that we could probably start a women’s team tomorrow if we wanted to. And certainly there’s plenty of demand for junior footy and Auskick.

“At a minimum, if we can get a women’s team, some junior teams and some Auskick next year, that’s what we’ll be aiming for.

“If we’re able to get a senior men’s team as well, that’s an added bonus and we’d be very happy with that.”

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Budget fails to relieve the burden of many

The Turnbull Government’s tagline in Tuesday night’s budget touted fairness, opportunity and security for all Australians, but the reality of this statement is of grave concern for vulnerable people and those organisations that support them.
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The 2017 budget has resulted in apprehension for what the government intends to do to stop the increase of poverty in Australia, specifically with no commitment to increasing support payments, family tax benefits and expanding the cashless welfare trial and demerit scheme.

This year’s budget has frozen welfare payments at dangerously low levels, ignoring calls from services providers and the welfare sector to consider increases as a matter of priority.

Unfortunately, a lack of increased investment in support payments always has the biggest impact on those who need the most support to break the poverty cycle- children, young people, families and people with a disability. Poverty is not just about money or starvation. It’s about access to appropriate healthcare, affordable and appropriate housing, education and inclusion in society. Many of these issues were not adequately addressed in the budget and payments remain so low that poverty is a real scenario for many.

It’s particularly disappointing to see yet another attempt to reduce family tax benefits which will affect so many Australians who depend on such support. Families are already experiencing financial stress through the ever-increasing costs of living and it is simply unjust for families to assume the burden of balancing the budget for political gain.

While commitment to childcare and schools funding is a good start for families, it falls short of addressing key issues that result in poverty. As an experienced provider of emergency relief services across regional NSW, Samaritans is acutely aware that pressures on families are increasing. Changes in welfare support not only result in a negative impact on vulnerable people, but on providers who quite suddenly experience increased demand for services and support.

This year’s Rental Affordability Snapshot released by Samaritans and Anglicare in April showed that in the past five years, there has been no relief for people seeking affordable rental. We welcomed the budget’s announcement of funding measures to making housing more affordable and address homelessness. The bond aggregator for community housing is great news for the welfare sector.

Samaritans Specialist Homelessness services listed family breakdown, domestic violence and housing affordability and availability stress as the top three reasons for people seeking support in the past 12 months.

The biggest win from the 2017 budget was the government’s move to secure the future of the NDIS through the Medicare Levy and there was also welcome news of investment in the mental health space. News of the government’s commitment to helping people with mental health-related disabilities under the NDIS is a huge win for vulnerable people.

After this budget, we’re looking to the Turnbull Government to truly deliver on their promises of a fair and secure Australia, with adequate opportunity for all.

At Samaritans, we’re encouraging all levels of Government to work together to end the poverty trap and create a safe and secure community for everyone.

Peter Gardiner is the chief executive of the Samaritans Foundation.

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When terrorism strikes, we must unite

TRIBUTES: Whether the attack occurred in Manchester, Sydney or Iraq, victims of terrorism and their families deserve empathy and compassion, not judgement.I HAVE seen that a 12-year-old Australian girl is among the victims of a terrorist attack in Baghdad while she was buying ice-cream with her family on holiday.
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We should be all responding to her loss with compassion, but instead I have witnessed many statements by members of our society filled with hatred and anger and posing questions such as ‘why was she even there?’, ‘why wasn’t she at school?’ and ‘what kind of family would take her there?’.

I am disgusted to see the hatred towards this innocent girl and her family who are going through their toughest time. We did not question why concert-goers at the tragedy in Manchester were there, so why are we responding with zero compassion for this young girl? In these horrific situations we should respond to the loss with compassion and empathy for families and friends of the victims, always.

The facts are clear. Terrorism can and will occur anywhere. It is no longer something that occurs far away, or only in third-world countries. It occurs right here at home, and everywhere else. However, we should not let terrorism define our way of life. We should not let terrorism define whether we attend events or not. We should not let terrorism define whether we participate in activities or not. We should not let terrorism define whether we leave the house today or not. We must not let terrorism divide our community, both local and global. We must unite.

My deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims in recent attacks.

Bradley Burns,CardiffListen on light railTODAY we read that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has put the Fire Levy “on hold” until a further review is undertaken (‘Berejiklian delays fire levy’, Herald,31/5).

Gladys is quoted as saying: “We are a government that listens and we have heard the concerns of the community and will take the time to get this right.”

Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case with the plans for the light rail route here in Newcastle.Enough people have spoken out against the route of the light rail over the past couple of years and I would like to hear Gladys’ reason for not listening to her government’s Newcastle constituents in this case, as our voices seem to fall on deaf ears.

The cost of this “folly” to Novocastrians is just as important as the cost factor used as a reason for Gladys to act on the Fire Levy.

Come on Gladys, be the good Premier a lot of us believe you can be by using that “listening device” touted in the case of the Fire Levy for the case of Newcastle’s light rail route. Let’s not waste money raised from the lease of the Port of Newcastle. The savings to be made by taking the logical route for the light rail here in Newcastle can be used elsewhere, maybe in some other regional centre which is missing out, or even to offset the proposed Fire Levy.

Rod Faulkner,MarylandMore detail neededPERHAPS Supercars should head to Bunnings and purchase a moral compass.

Representative Cole Hitchcock appears to be telling residents they should make a decision for themselves about whether to stay or go during the event (‘Demand for noise plan’Herald,30/5). How can anyone decide without the relevant information? What if, like many, you don’t have the option to leave? Basically I think it boils down to Supercars trying to force people out. That way Supercars wouldn’t have to compromise or compensate for making 200 homes and hundreds of apartments unlivable.

Destination NSW and Newcastle City Council simply defer to Supercars when questioned over responsibility for noise. And all the while Supercars maintain the right to stay silent.

Mark Sampson, NewcastleDangers of drug misuseKERRY Redman (Letters, 31/5) rightly points out the dangers of marijuana.

The drug that causes society the most death, and damage, is alcohol, which sadly is legal and widely advertised.

All drugs, legal and illegal, are dangerous when misused. The problem with illegal drugs is that the user has no idea what they are consuming. Imagine if alcoholic drinks had no content on the label. We would have overdoses even more often that we do now.

It is no wonder there are deaths from illegal drugs. Sadly, we also have tens of thousands of deaths from the misuse of prescription drugs, tobacco, and alcohol: all currently legal.

Joan Lambert, AdamstownConcerning conditionsI HAVE read the terms and conditions of entry into the Supercars compound which will be applied to residents who decide to accept ‘free’ residents access tickets.In order to access our homes, we will be required to sign the terms, set out by Supercars and, presumably approved by Destination NSW. There are many parts of the terms which cause us extreme concern. I will list just a few of the more obvious ones.

Paragraph 5 states: “Warning – motor sport activities, the event and activities associated with the event are inherently dangerous and accidents can happen. There is significant risk of an accident causing injury, disability, death or property damage or economic loss.”

Is this not an explicit admission from Supercars that this is an inappropriate event to be held in an inner city suburb where homes are within two to three metres of the track?

In signing on for the pass, we will also be required, in paragraph 6 to agree that: “Upon entering the event, each patron provides this release…: SCA and the associated entities are not liable to me or to any person with me for (regardless of how or when the liability is caused, or by whom it is caused….): a. my death, injury to me or the injury or death of anybody else with me; b. damage to, destruction of, theft of or unauthorised delivery up of any of my property or equipment…; c. or damage to, destruction of, theft of or delivery up of any of my clothing or other personal items.”

So Supercars are requiring us to absolve them of damage to our person, our death, injury (including hearing loss, presumably), regardless if it is the race itself, persons associated with the race or other visitors who cause such damage. Our question is: where are the protections to our property?

The critical question is: what will Supercars do if we refuse to sign? We are allowing this organisation into our suburb to conduct an event which by their own admission carries extraordinary risk.We have put this to Supercars, as usual, without response.

Kate Napthali, Newcastle East

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There’s something in the air in Canberra – they should test for it

You’d be hard-pressed to judge who had the worst job in Canberra on Wednesday.
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Christian Porter or Anna Bligh?

Mr Porter is the Social Services Minister.

He’s spent the past few years furiously selling the unsellable: the courageous, in the Yes Minister sense, savings measures proposed by former treasurer Joe Hockey when he was preparing his 2014 budget with a crayon and a tablecloth while out to lunch.

Ms Bligh is the chief lobbyist for Australia’s big banks. She is a glutton for punishment – her last job was Labor premier for Queensland, a state that tends to eat its premiers with all the delicacy of, say, Joe Hockey out to lunch at a steak restaurant.

Poor Mr Porter had the job of delivering a mercy killing to those measures from the 2014 budget that he’s been nurturing all this time: things like changes to paid parental leave, waiting periods for the dole and varied family welfare cuts.

Everyone but Mr Porter called them the Zombies – they’ve been the walking dead ever since they emerged. The Senate wouldn’t offer them the ghost of a life, but Mr Porter was required until just a few days ago to insist they had a perfectly splendid heartbeat and would be delivered in great health any time now.

Alas for the minister. PM Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison, terrorised by polls into an attack of common sense, dumped the Zombies at Tuesday’s budget.

Thus emboldened – and leaving poor Mr Porter to slink into Parliament on Wednesday morning and, ahem, “discharge” four packages of legislation containing the Zombies, there to be harried unmercifully by triumphal socialists – the Prime Minister and the Treasurer decided on a thrilling new adventure.

They set upon the big banks, sticking the boot into their most delicate spot, the profit centre. No boot is big enough to cause serious damage to the profit centre of any of Australia’s big banks, of course, but the surprise that a Coalition government would be so impolite as to try was so great the cries of horror could be heard on Mars.

Which left Ms Bligh looking approximately as thrilled as the day she and her Queensland government were reduced to the size of a meeting in an outdoor dummy a couple of state elections ago.

Could it be that the banks had blundered by choosing a former Labor luminary to tango with a Coalition government in Canberra, which was suddenly making merry with its choice of extracting billions of dollars in tax from a sector it once courted with a fervour bordering the gruesome?

How could it all have come to this?

For insight, you could hardly do better than consult the Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie, who has a theory about almost anything.

Senator Lambie noted the government’s proposal to employ random drug testing on welfare recipients and said such scrutiny ought to be extended to politicians.

“If you think it’s drug free up here you’re kidding yourselves,” Senator Lambie said.

She could be on to something.

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Housing market ‘may have peaked’ call sends CSR shares diving

Shares in construction materials major CSR closed sharply lower on Wednesday following comments by the company that the home building market may have peaked as “lead indicators … are pointing to a softening”.
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The shares may also have been hit on concerns CSR has hedged its exposure to the price of aluminium too early, missing some of the recent gains.

Shares in the construction materials major ended the day down a heavy 12 per cent at $4.54, closing near the day’s low of $4.50 in active trading.

“While residential construction markets appear to have peaked from recent record levels of activity, construction currently under way will support demand for CSR’s products in the year ahead,” the company’s chief executive, Rob Sindel, said.

“Lead indicators including building approvals are pointing to a softening in activity in residential markets,” the manufacturer said in a statement, but the “non-residential market remains benign”.

He was speaking after releasing the company’s latest earnings, which disclosed a rise in the net profit to $183.8 million for the 12 months to March, up from $177.9 million earned a year earlier.

Despite the concerns, Mr Sindel said the continued high level of immigration and natural population growth would continue to support a buoyant level of housing starts, with activity strongest in the leading states of NSW and Victoria, which are markets where the company has a strong presence.

Discussing the share price rout, Mr Sindel said the shares had rallied hard in recent weeks, which may have prompted some reflexive selling.

Additionally the disclosure CSR has hedged much of its near-term exposure to the price of aluminium may have encouraged some investors to sell, on concerns that the company may have missed some of the upside in the price of the metal.

“With the hedging, we’re comfortable that it has de-risked a lot of the business,” he said. iFrameResize({enablePublicMethods : true, heightCalculationMethod : “lowestElement”,resizedCallback : function(messageData){}, checkOrigin: false},”#pez_iframeA”);

Over production of aluminium metal by Chinese producers has caused widespread pain for other producers, forcing a global restructuring of the industry.

“China has announced curtailments [of aluminium production] in three of the past four years,” Mr Sindel said, “but it never eventuates.”

Mr Sindel reiterated he would like to offload his minority holding in the Tomago aluminium smelter in the Hunter Valley, but as this is only a small part of the much larger portfolio of aluminium assets operated by Rio Tinto, achieving a sale will not be easy.

Even though the residential construction market may have peaked, a continued high level of immigration will sustain activity in the industry, he said, which is being led by activity in NSW and Victoria with Western Australia remaining weak, with Queensland also showing recent softness.

Citi warned clients that the company is exposed to the slowing in the housing market, as it reiterated a 12-month price outlook for CSR shares of $4.32.

“The outlook for building products appears more subdued than in the past and we continue to contend that leading indicators of Australian residential demand will trend down,” Citi analyst Simon Thackray told clients in a research note.

The group’s Viridian glass unit continues to disappoint, he said.

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‘Aussie has little to recommend it to investors’

The Australian dollar hovered near multi-month lows against the greenback on Wednesday, looking vulnerable as investors turned sour on the currency.
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The dollar was fetching US73.62?? in late trade, after having plumbed a four-month low of US73.29?? following the release of the federal budget on Tuesday evening.

The currency has slid nearly 2 per cent this month, pulled down by a commodity price reset that has hit iron ore and oil in particular, as well as weak Chinese financial markets.

Metals prices have retreated amid concerns that growth might be slowing faster in China than expected, therefore limiting demand at a time when there remain high supplies of some raw materials.

It was also knocked this week following disappointing building approvals and retail sales figures at home, as well as a resurgent US dollar. The US dollar index climbed to a 12-session high overnight, helped by weaker commodities, a weaker euro and hawkish comments from Federal Reserve officials. New cyclical lows ‘possible’

“The Australian dollar has little to recommend it to investors, a razor-thin yield advantage over the US dollar and a sluggish equity market,” said Greg Gibbs, director of independent research house Amplifying Global FX Capital.

“It is possible to see the dollar slump to new cyclical lows.”

ThinkMarkets senior market analyst Matt Simpson said a test of US73?? seemed imminent, adding that upward resistance appeared to be just below the US74?? mark.

Mr Simpson said he expected the US Federal Reserve to lift rates twice more this year and that would knock the wind out of the dollar.

“Whilst the June hike is practically a given, we firmly believe a third hike will materialise, which traders are yet to fully price in.”

Two more hikes this year would cancel out the positive yield that the Reserve Bank of Australia has over the Fed and send the dollar below US70??, Mr Simpson said.

Fed funds futures pricing shows investors are almost universally expecting the Federal Reserve to raise US overnight interest rates at its next meeting, with close to a 90 per cent perceived chance of an increase next month.

Yields on US two-year notes, the tenor most sensitive to rate hike expectations, also rose overnight, climbing to eight-week highs. Budget impact positive

For the most part the budget was modestly positive for the local currency.

“There was a quick dip in the Australian dollar against the US dollar at 730pm Tuesday down through the lows seen shortly after yesterday’s poor retail sales data, seemingly on the announcement that the current year ‘underlying cash balance’ and ‘net operating balance’ were both a bit more negative than in last December’s MYEFO,” NAB head of foreign exchange strategy Ray Attrill said.

“But this quickly reversed when the numbers over the forward estimates (through 2021) were seen to ahead slightly better than MYEFO (and indeed the net operating balance is now projected to return to surplus in 2019-20 not 2020-21,” he said. “The ratings affirmation also helped.”

While rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s said the budget had no major impact on Australia’s triple A ratings, Standard & Poor’s has yet to comment.

It put Australia’s top ratings on negative watch last July, citing weakened prospects for improvement in budgetary performance.

with Jens Meyer

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ASX enjoys post-Budget boost

A broad ASX rally overwhelmed more losses in the big banks, as investors reacted positively to Tuesday night’s pro-growth federal budget.
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The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index closed up 0.5 per cent to 5875 points and the broader All Ordinaries Index closed 0.6 per cent higher at 5911 points.

The pledge to pour $75 billion into infrastructure projects saw investors snap up shares in companies such as Boral, which jumped 4.2 per cent, and Lend Lease, which added 2 per cent. CIMIC Group jumped 4.8 per cent after the company announced its UGL business has been awarded a $117 million contract to design and build two new solar farms.

“The pipeline of new projects that may find their way to private investors in the future just got even bigger, and the boost they create for the economy should not be underestimated,” 4D Infrastructure global equity strategist Greg Goodsell said.

“[The Budget] is a very exciting one for infrastructure spend and should create numerous opportunities for investors over the next few years and indeed decades.”

A knee-jerk reaction by investors as they digested the impending tax on bank profits saw the big four banks sell-off sharply first thing in the morning. However, investors reversed this position throughout the day with ANZ managing to close up 0.8 per cent. NAB and Westpac ended the day 0.7 per cent lower, and CBA 0.4 per cent down. Macquarie, which will also be subject to the new government levy, fell 0.6 per cent.

Regional banks performed well, with Bendigo and Adelaide Bank closing up 3.9 per cent and Bank of Queensland up 3.6 per cent. Treasurer Scott Morrison made a point on Tuesday night of suggesting customers look towards regional players rather than persist with the big four, and investors took note.

Elsewhere, Quintis shares plunged 39 per cent after the sandalwood grower said that a supply deal was terminated in December last year, but admitted this information was not conveyed to the board or top management. Stock Watch: CSR

Investors fled CSR on Wednesday, with the stock closing down 11.8 per cent. The construction materials company suggested that the home building market may have peaked and that recent data points to a softening in the broader market. CSR released its latest earnings, showing a rise in the net profit to $183.8 million for the 12 months to March, up from $177.9 million earned a year earlier. Investors have given CSR considerable buying support over the last few weeks and traders’ suggested Wednesday’s selloff was impulsive. Market MoversChinese inflation

Chinese inflation numbers came in a bit higher than expected. CPI rose 1.2 per cent over the year through April, up from a 0.9 per cent gain in March and outpacing expectations of a 1.1 per cent rise. Producer price inflation (PPI) jumped 6.4 per cent, but that was lower than last month’s 7.6 per cent rise and also below forecasts of a 6.7 per cent rise. PPI cooled for a second straight month as iron ore and coal prices tumbled further, pressured by fears that domestic demand will not be strong enough to absorb surging supplies of steel. Steel

Shanghai steel futures were up for a third straight day, supported by worries over tighter supply after China’s leading steel-producing city launched a fresh campaign to improve air quality. Tangshan in northern Hebei province said steel mills that fail to meet emission standards face suspension and heavy fines. The campaign runs from May 9 to 31. The most-active rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange was up 1.5 per cent at 3,047 yuan ($US441) a tonne. NAB downgraded

Analysts wasted no time assessing the effect of the new tax on bank earnings, but no-one has been harsher than Macquarie, which took the unusual step of hitting NAB with a double downgrade. The fall in earnings due to the tax is likely to put pressure on NAB’s dividend, Macquarie said: “We see increased likelihood of a dividend cut.” The bank’s rating was cut from outperform to underperform and the price target cut to $31.50, from $34.00. Macquarie also downgraded CBA, to underperform from neutral, with a price target of $81, from $85, saying the stock looks relatively expensive. Japanese stocks

Japanese shares added more than $285 billion in value in less than a month, sending the Nikkei 225 index within touching distance of 20,000.The Nikkei was up 0.3 per cent at 19,900 in late Wednesday trade, after earlier in the session rising to 19,939 in mid-morning trade, the highest since December 2015. The head of a dynamic investment fund at AMP Capital Investors has been pulling money from emerging markets to invest more in Tokyo shares. His logic is simple: the market is undervalued after lagging behind peers for much of 2017, the yen is set to fall, and the concerns that held the Nikkei 225 back earlier this year have receded.

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Housing affordability measures ‘more a feather than a scalpel’

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek and Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen listen as Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce speaks during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 14 February 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex EllinghausenA first home buyer would save only 1 per cent of the median property price in Sydney or Melbourne under the government’s new super deposit scheme, federal budget figures have revealed, as economists question the benefits of the policy for areas hit by the housing affordability crisis.
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Spruiking the Turnbull government’s first home super scheme in Parliament on Wednesday, Treasurer Scott Morrison said the government would “enable people who are saving for their home to get there 30 per cent faster”.

But in a best-case scenario, an analysis of the government’s own figures show a couple who saved the maximum of $30,000 each would gain an extra $12,000 over three years under the government’s new salary sacrifice scheme.

By the time they had finished saving they would have earned half of an average deposit, but if Sydney and Melbourne house prices continue climbing at their present rates, by then they would be 30 per cent higher, wiping out the $12,000 gain.

The rate of return mirrors the Rudd government’s failed First Home Saver Accounts program, where less than 50,000 were opened before it was abolished by the Abbott government in the 2014 budget.

UNSW professor of economics Richard Holden said the move would cost the government $250 million and “do nothing to help first home owners”.

On Wednesday, CoreLogic’s head of research Tim Lawless warned there was also a risk the contribution could fuel further price growth by adding to demand, but said the scheme was likely to improve demand gradually and encourage savings.

He said investment demand would taper further as the government cracked down on investors claiming depreciation on home assets such as dishwashers and slugging foreign buyers with a $5000 levy on properties that are left vacant for six months.

There is no data available on the number of homes left vacant by foreign buyers, who purchase one in five new homes NSW and Victoria each year, and enforcing a levy by inspecting empty homes could prove difficult despite the Grattan Institute saying it had “anecdotal evidence” of homes being left vacant. iFrameResize({checkOrigin:false},’#pez_iframe3′); var frame = document.getElementById(“pez_iframe3”);

Overall, economists have been cautious on how much the government can dampen demand through the suite of measures, which also includes banning developers from selling more than half of a development to foreign buyers, releasing Commonwealth land for housing development and encouraging seniors to downsize through superannuation concessions.

Analyst Greg Travers said the measures are only a “feather to fixing housing affordability”.

“While the government feels it has taken a scalpel to the housing affordability crisis, the reality is it’s more of a feather,” said the William Buck tax director. “They have danced around the edges and failed to address the big issues.”

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen described the package as a “joke”.

“This is a diversion from the fact that the government won’t reform negative gearing and capital gains tax, which are the two biggest things you can do to improve housing affordability in Australia,” he said.

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Morrison warns big banks to absorb new tax

Treasurer Scott Morrison addressed the National Press Club in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 10 May 2017. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew Meares
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The federal government and Australia’s five largest banks are on a collision course, with Treasurer Scott Morrison demanding they “pony up” for budget repair and the banks threatening to hit households with higher costs.

In an extraordinarily blunt message from a federal treasurer, delivered during Mr Morrison’s post-budget National Press Club address, Westpac, ANZ, NAB, Commonwealth and Macquarie Group were challenged not to pass on the cost of the tax, which will raise $6.2 billion.

Instead, Mr Morrison said, the banks should be mindful of their $30 billion annual profits and absorb the cost of the new levy – just as small businesses and families do with their rising costs.

The 0.06-percentage-point levy on money the big banks borrow to fund their lending excludes deposits of less than $250,000.

The banks have already started to fight back, warning that borrowers and shareholders could be forced to pay the cost of the tax, which could be passed on to customers.

And former prime minister John Howard has delivered a less-than-enthusiastic response to the budget, telling a PwC post-budget briefing in Melbourne he was “troubled” by powers given to a new Banking Executive Accountability regime by the Turnbull government, while arguing the document was created to pass a “recalcitrant” Senate.

The banking levy, he said, “was a tax on banks” that would be impossible for the Labor Party and the Greens to vote down.

His treasurer Peter Costello, at a separate budget briefing in Canberra, said the budget was politically smart and said the banking industry was “completely blind-sided by this, which shows how much influence they have in Canberra and how tapped in they are in Canberra”.

The banks’ warnings came as a surprised Labor Party indicated it would back the bank levy, which means it is certain to pass the Parliament.

Mr Morrison’s message to the banks – families have to absorb costs, and so should the banks – will likely resonate with voters.

“The banks want to send a message to their customers about how much they value them? Don’t do what they may be contemplating doing [raising rates or reducing returns]. Don’t do it.”

“They already don’t like you very much. Prove them wrong. Don’t confirm their worst impressions. Tell them another story. Tell them you will pony up and help fix the budget.

Mr Morrison also flagged personal income tax cuts to tackle bracket creep, which pushes taxpayers in to the next-highest tax rate as wages grow with inflation, in the next four years.

And he spoke at length about his brother-in-law, Garry Warren, who has multiple sclerosis, and his wife Michelle Warren, during the speech, as he outlined why the government had decided to raise the Medicare levy to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The decision to take on the five biggest banks and hit them with a new tax was a major surprise on budget night and is one of a number of measures that underscores a significant shift by the Turnbull government away from the austere policies of the Abbott-Hockey 2014 budget and towards new spending on infrastructure, health and schools.

???Politically, the Turnbull government will be hoping the shift to the political centre will blunt Labor’s attacks over fairness and equity, while arresting its slide in the polls.

Australian Bankers Association chief executive Anna Bligh said the banks would meet with Treasury officials on Thursday to receive more details and and added: “I don’t believe the Treasurer has thought through the implications of this tax”.

“Right now, the major banks of Australia are very angry; they feel they have had a tax imposed on them uniquely that does not apply to any other part of the business community,” she said.

Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer said the levy was a “stealth tax” that would reduce the international competitiveness of the sector, while flagging a possible increase in interest rates for borrowers, job cuts, or a reduction in returns to shareholders.

Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev said there had been a “lack of detail and the absence of any consultation” about the tax.

“However, as every business owner or employee knows, every extra cost needs to be borne by customers or shareholders, or a combination of both.”

NAB chief Andrew Thorburn said the tax “cannot be absorbed”.

“This tax is borne by these people. It is not possible to impose a tax without an impact on people,” he said.

Deutsche Bank analysts estimated the impact on profitability of the five banks would be 3-6 per cent.

When news of the levy leaked on Tuesday ahead of the budget, investors wiped $14 billion from the value of banks stocks. Their share prices fell further on Wednesday.

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‘Absurd, ridiculous’: Joe Gutnick denies trying to hide assets

Joseph Gutnik appearing at the Federal Court in Melbourne. 27th April 2017. Photo by Jason South Photo: Jason South
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Bankrupt businessman Joseph Gutnick has denied taking steps to hide assets from his future creditors ahead of his bankruptcy last year.

The former Rich-lister has also taken another swipe at “fake news” about his bankruptcy and a dispute last year about the eviction of his brother from a home he once owned.

Mr Gutnick told the Federal Court during the public examinations into his bankrupt estate that he refuted the allegations that were made by his brother Abraham Gutnick in a separate legal matter.

Last year, lawyers for Abraham Gutnick told the Supreme Court of Victoria there were “rumours within the family that Joseph Gutnick was trying to hide assets” as early as 2015.

“I refute all of his absurd and ridiculous allegations,” Mr Gutnick told the Federal Court on Wednesday.

“If you are trying to extort assets that don’t belong to you, you say these things,” he said.

Lawyers for Abraham Gutnick made the allegations last year while trying to stop Abraham Gutnick and his family being evicted by the new owners of a property he had long rented from one of his brother’s companies.

The property was sold to newly formed company Balaclava Heights in 2015 and shortly after it sought to evict Abraham Gutnick.

The property sale came just after Joseph Gutnick lost a legal battle in Singapore on May 7, 2015, brought by the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-operative (IFFCO) that would end up costing him $54 million and sending him bankrupt.

Joseph Gutnick told the court on Wednesday that his brother remained at the property but he no longer pays the rent for his sibling.

“It is unfortunate that our family feuds have been splashed all over the newspapers and will be again,” Mr Gutnick said.

“A question like that could have been asked privately. But that’s life,” Mr Gutnick said.

Mr Gutnick was also taken through several transactions between his family’s Hoydu Family Trust No.1 and other entities and parties. Hoydu is listed as one of Mr Gutnick’s largest creditors with the fallen mining magnate owing the family trust $42 million.

The court heard the Hoydu debt was accrued through daily expenses including charitable cash handouts to visiting members of the Jewish community to the Gutnick home, a donation to an Israeli politician, payments to friends of his son and to family friends as well as his brother’s rent and car registration.

Carl Moller, lawyer for Mr Gutnick’s bankruptcy trustee Gess Rambaldi from Pitcher Partners, told the court all of these expenses and many more were recorded as loans to Mr Gutnick.

“They’re friends, you help friends out. You help brothers out. You don’t expect something in return.”

The court also heard Mr Gutnick paid rent on his primary residence and a beach house using funds from a family trust or associated company by way of a loan to the family companies that owned the properties.

Responding to the questions, Mr Gutnick said: “I don’t always understand why they (his financial advisers) make entries. A businessman like myself relies on lawyers and accountants.”

The examination continues.

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‘I’m not saying no to Gary’: Treasurer reveals personal struggle behind NDIS decision

Scott Morrison has delivered one of the least conventional, and most effective, post budget sales pitches in memory – and ratcheted up the pressure on Bill Shorten in the process.
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Budget week is governed by set plays and one of the more important is the speech the Treasurer delivers to the National Press Club the day after the night before.

Usually, it is more a slide show than a speech, with the Treasurer taking his audience through the more important tables and projections in the budget papers before taking questions from reporters.

Usually, it is one for the pointy heads in the room, not the mums and dads watching TV at home.

But not this time. ScoMo spent much of the first 15 minutes relating the story of his brother-in-law, Gary Warren, a former fireman who was in the audience, and his long battle with a very aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.

“It’s not flash being disabled,” Morrison recalled Warren saying, “but, if there is anything good about it, it’s that you’re disabled in Australia.”

What the story amounted to was a justification for the Coalition government increasing the Medicare levy by 0.5 percentage points to fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. “I’m not saying no to Gary, and the 500,000 Australians counting on this,” the Treasurer declared.

Forget Labor-lite, this was Morrison channelling Gough Whitlam.

It is one thing to attempt to neutralise Labor strengths, as this budget has done in tick-a-box fashion on health, education, housing affordability, infrastructure and more.

It is another to go after easy targets to reduce the national debt, as this government is doing in a massive way with the big banks (who are less likely to bite back than the mining giants).

But it is something else altogether to go further than Labor to ensure a $55.7 billion funding gap over the next 10 years will be closed, and to guarantee that the NDIS will be fully funded by committing to a new tax.

The political cleverness is reflected in the initial response. Labor was like a boxer confronting a wily opponent in the ring: probing away with jabs, looking for an opening, but not yet finding one.

Shorten’s first question was to ask why the government was giving millionaires a tax cut while every other Australian would have to pay more through the higher Medicare levy.

The answer is that it would have been a breach of faith to continue the “temporary” budget repair levy Tony Abbott introduced in July 2014 for a fixed, three-year period, and that the increase in the Medicare levy will not begin for two years and has a very different purpose.

As Morrison told his National Press Club audience: “This is an insurance levy. We’re all affected by it. I’ve shared with you my personal story on this today from my family. I can go to every table I suspect and get a similar story or an associated story. This is all of our responsibility.”

Whether Turnbull and Morrison will reap a political dividend will become clear soon enough. Will voters reward the Coalition for their Medicare “guarantee” and their embrace of needs-based funding of schools, or see the commitments as half-hearted? Will their projections on wages growth prove hopelessly optimistic?

More broadly, will they accept that the outfit that delivered the 2014 budget is now utterly pragmatic and has entered the “era of the achievable”? Will they believe the man who ruthlessly politicised refugees for political gain is now sincere when he declares: “We’ve got to stop looking at these issues as conflicts”?

One measure of Morrison’s confidence was a joking aside during his speech. After describing Peter Costello as the country’s finest treasurer, he conceded he was not troubling Costello on this front yet. “Might take 10 years, but l’ll give it a crack,” he quipped.

A bit premature, I reckon.

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Senator calls on police to investigate budget leak

Australian Federal Police officers lockdown the ministerial entrance to Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 22 September 2014. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew MearesSenator Derryn Hinch has called for the Australian Federal Police to investigate a leak that led to $14 billion being wiped off banking stocks in the hours before the federal budget.
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“The biggest story today wasn’t the super tax on banks, it was the leak,” Senator Hinch told Fairfax Media.

The independent senator wrote to AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin on Wednesday accusing the government of insider trading and requested a full investigation into the release of market sensitive information hours before the budget.

“It appears to me to be a classic case of criminal insider trading involving the federal government,” he said. “It is a very serious thing, it could be a politician.”

Senator Hinch said the AFP should investigate who shorted bank shares on Tuesday in the lead up to the budget.

Reports of a bank levy were first aired on Sky News on Monday night, triggering a 3 per cent fall for the country’s biggest bank, the Commonwealth Bank, when the market opened on Tuesday before stabilising.

It shed another percentage point on Tuesday afternoon as more detailed reports of the levy started to emerge.

At 12.20pm on Tuesday – seven hours before the budget was officially announced and in the middle of market trading- the Australian Financial Reviewpublished details of the policy, quoting “banking sources” who confirmed the tax would apply to banks’ aggregate liabilities and come out of retained profits. All of the details contained in that report, including the $6 billion revenue figure, were later confirmed in the budget.

By market close the other big four banks and Macquarie all fell several percentage points, wiping $14 billion from their value

A Macquarie spokeswoman said that “while there was media speculation earlier yesterday of the possibility of a bank levy”, the bank only learnt of the government’s policy as the budget was being delivered and after the market had closed.

Macquarie was in compliance with ASX disclosure rules, she said.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said on Wednesday at his National Press Club address he had “not seen any evidence” of a leak and suggested the media had fuelled the market through “budget speculation”.

“I’ve worked out how it works with the media. You work out every potential scenario that could possibly happen in the budget, you write it in the paper and at the end of the day, you predicted dawn,” he said.

He added that if there were any serious issues that needed to be addressed, “the [Treasury] secretary and I will be addressing them appropriately on the basis of the evidence.”

Senator Hinch has called on the AFP to investigate leaks in the hours leading up to the lock-up.

It is understood Treasury monitors laptops and smartphones capable of transmitting information during the lock-up, which begins at 1.30pm, and it has no knowledge of any budget leaks. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},”#pez_iframe_tipstar_348″);

Dean Paatsch, director at the governance advisory firm Ownership Matters, said “anyone with half a brain” would have known that news of the policy would move the market.

He said it was worth investigating whether traders were selling based on the media reports or if they were acting on more detailed leaks of the policy.

“There’s plenty of people who knew, there’s plenty of opportunities for leaks,” Mr Paatsch said.

“It’s worth investigating who knew what when, and whether that actually impacted on trading. We can’t run a market based on what an advisor might have whispered to someone.”

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Shorten to fight for deficit levy in class-warfare budget reply

Labor leader Bill Shorten will accuse the Turnbull government of waging class warfare in the 2017 budget, arguing in his budget reply speech that it favours millionaires over middle income earners.
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Labor will make keeping the $1.2 billion budget repair “deficit levy” on high income earners one of the first major, post-budget political fights.

Mr Shorten targeted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull personally on Wednesday during question time, asking how it was “a millionaire will receive a $16,400 tax cut” on July 1 while all Australians will pay more tax because of the budget’s plan to raise the Medicare levy to 2.5 per cent pay for the NDIS.

That prompted a furious response from Mr Turnbull, who accused Mr Shorten of ripping off Cleanevent workers while a union leader, and arguing the ALP “has no concept of fairness”.

The Opposition Leader’s budget reply speech will go further, flagging plans to force the government to keep the deficit levy – or re-introduce it under a future Labor government.

An ALP strategist said “all options are on the table” to keep the deficit levy, which raised the tax rate from 47 to 49 per cent for people earning more than $180,000 per year.

It is due to expire on July 1, three years after its introduction by Joe Hockey.

Mr Shorten’s fourth budget reply speech will also reject characterisations of the budget – which increased spending on infrastructure, schools, health and hits banks with a new tax – as a “Labor lite” document.

The Turnbull government has also dumped a series of politically unpopular so-called “zombie” savings measures that date back to the 2014 budget, and tacked back to the political centre ground.

According to draft speech notes seen by Fairfax Media, Mr Shorten will argue “this Prime Minister has chosen multinationals and millionaires over middle and working-class families. And he’s chosen his own political survival over everything else”.

“Only this Prime Minister could vote to give himself and his frontbench a personal tax cut, on the same day that 700,000 Australian workers will have their penalty rates cut. Only this Prime Minister could imagine that was ‘fair’.”

He will point out the 2017-18 budget deficit, at $29.4 billion, is 10 times the $2.8 billion forecast in the first Abbott-Hockey budget in 2014-15.

“At a time when the government is asking every other working Australian to pay a higher rate of tax – Labor will not support spending at least $1.2 billion each year on the wealthiest 2 per cent.

“It is not fair that – under this government – someone on a million dollars will be over $16,000 better off, ever year – while Australians on $30,000 and $40,000 will have to pay more.”

The move to keep the deficit levy is in line with the party’s 2016 election policy costings.

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