Economics

  • Labor promises $400 million superannuation boost for women

    Women on maternity or holding several low-paid jobs would receive superannuation payments under a plan unveiled by Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek on Wednesday. On average, women retire with $113,000 less superannuation than men, a gulf of 40% that means older single women are more dependent than men on the age pension, and are the fastest growing homeless age group in Australia. This disparity is due to many factors, including women taking time out of ... ► Read more

  • US imposes further $200 billion tariffs on Chinese imports

    United States President Donald Trump has followed through on his threat to impose a second tranche of tariffs on Chinese imports, this time applying 10% tariffs on about US $200 billion worth of products. In announcing the new tariffs, President Trump warned China against taking retaliatory action against US industry, threatening that the US “will immediately pursue phase three, which is tariffs on approximately US $267 billion of additional imports.” Collection of the 10% tariffs ... ► Read more

  • Death no barrier to charging life insurance premiums, AMP tells Royal Commission

    AMP continued to charge life insurance premiums after being notified customers had died, executive Paul Sainsbury told the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry on Monday. Mr Sainsbury confirmed that in some cases AMP did not stop insurance premiums even when there was no longer a life to insure. He explained that AMP’s system “was coded to refund [premiums] when the claim was admitted”, rather than “stop the premiums ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 9 – 15 September 2018

    Malcolm Turnbull urges Liberal colleagues to refer Dutton to High Court Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed he is urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other Liberal Party colleagues to refer Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to the High Court to clear up questions about his eligibility. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Roman Quaedvlieg demands Dutton withdraw “disgusting” grooming comment Former Australian Border Force Commission Roman Quaedvlieg has demanded that Home Affairs ... ► Read more

  • CommInsure negotiated penalty for misleading heart attack cover advertising

    CommInsure, a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank, made a voluntary $300,000 “community benefit payment” as part of a deal with the corporate regulator to avoid a multi-million-dollar fine for misleading advertising. The insurer failed to adequately disclose in its advertising that its heart attack cover was limited to severe heart attacks, as defined by CommInsure using an out-of-date definition. Instead, customers would have to access and read the product disclosure statement. CommInsure’s managing director Helen ... ► Read more

  • Australian Special Forces deployed to PNG for APEC meeting

    Australia has deployed special forces soldiers to Papua New Guinea (PNG) as part of the effort to secure Port Moresby ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit scheduled for November. Concerns that local military and police personnel are inadequate are behind the deployment. World leaders including United States Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison are expected to attend the two-day summit. “We ... ► Read more

  • Leaders agree to closer ties between China and Russia

    Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Tuesday, agreeing to bolster ties between their countries to counterbalance the United States’ economic power. The leaders have now met three times in 2018, which President Xi told President Putin reflects the “uniqueness and distinction” of the countries’ relationship, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. “Both nations have to oppose unilateralism and trade protectionism, ... ► Read more

  • Freedom Insurance staff wouldn’t take no for an answer, Royal Commission hears

    Freedom Insurance retention officers made it “far too difficult for customers to cancel” insurance policies, the insurer’s Chief Operating Officer Craig Orton told the The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry on Wednesday. Between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018, Freedom Insurance received 37,500 calls from customers wanting to cancel their life insurance policies, but only 28.5% of those were successful in cancelling their policies. Instead, almost half ... ► Read more

  • Freedom Insurance pushed accidental death policy on man with Down syndrome

    Freedom Insurance staff pressured a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome into signing up for an accidental death policy, despite no indication that the man understood what he was agreeing to, the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard on Tuesday. Grant Stewart’s son was sold an accidental death insurance policy by Freedom Insurance in 2016. Mr Stewart told the Royal Commission that while his son has “reasonable” literacy and ... ► Read more

  • Banking Royal Commission reveals ClearView’s abusive sales tactics

    The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard further details of ClearView Direct’s abusive sales tactics on Tuesday. ClearView Direct call centre training materials from 2014 show that its sales staff were encouraged to continue signing up reluctant customers by telling them they could read the policy documents after signing up for life insurance. The insurer’s chief actuary, Gregory Martin, conceded that this was wholly inappropriate. Senior counsel assisting ... ► Read more

  • Massive class action suit launched against Australian banks

    Millions of workers could receive a payout in what is expected to be the largest class action suit in Australian legal history. Law firm Slater and Gordon are preparing for legal action against Australia’s largest banks on behalf of the third of Australian workers believed to have their superannuation invested with the banks. Slater and Gordon “will allege the big bank-backed super funds failed to obtain for members competitive cash interest rates on cash option ... ► Read more

  • ClearView under fire for junk life insurance policies

    A cleaner with a heart problem was sold an inferior insurance product by ClearView after she was told she was not eligible for life insurance, the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard on Monday. A recording of a phone call was played before the Royal Commission, in which the customer was “downgraded” to an accidental death policy as a “backup” option because her pre-existing heart problem made her ... ► Read more

  • Banking Royal Commission: insurers admit substantial misconduct

    On Monday the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry started a round of hearings on life insurance, general insurance, and disaster insurance. This week the Royal Commission will focus on life insurance, including sales, claims, dispute resolution, and superannuation arrangements. Rowena Orr QC, counsel assisting the Royal Commission, raised concerns that insurance claims handling does not come within the Corporations Act 2001, and so the Australian Securities and Investment ... ► Read more

  • NAB puts mortgage rates on hold to ‘re-build trust’

    National Australia Bank (NAB) has announced it will keep its standard variable mortgage rates at 5.24% despite Westpac, ANZ and the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) lifting their rates over last few weeks. In a statement, NAB said if home loan rates had increased by 15 points — approximately the same as the other three big banks — a customer on a $500,000 mortgage would have had to pay an extra $47 per month. “We are listening and acting differently,” NAB ... ► Read more

  • Government drops policy to raise pension age to 70

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday that the Government will abandon its long-standing policy to raise the pension age to 70. Instead, the pension qualifying age will increase to 67 in 2023 as scheduled, and stay there. “I don’t think we need that measure any longer when it comes to raising the pension age, and it is one of the things I will be changing pretty quickly,” Mr Morrison told the Nine Network on ... ► Read more

  • Westpac to pay $35 million settlement in irresponsible home loan case

    Westpac has agreed to settle a case with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) involving more than 10,000 loans that allegedly breached responsible lending laws. As part of the settlement, the bank will pay a $35 million civil penalty for irresponsible lending. ASIC commenced proceedings in March 2017, alleging that Westpac’s use of the Household Expenditure Measure (HEM) to calculate loan applicants’ living costs led to customers being approved for loans that they would ... ► Read more

  • EU and UK clash over Brexit negotiations

    Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, “strongly” opposes key parts of the British Government’s proposals for a future trade deal between the United Kingdom and the EU. Mr Barnier’s comments follow an article penned by British Prime Minister Theresa May and published in The Sunday Telegraph, in which the Prime Minister insisted she will not make compromises on the Government’s plan to leave the EU that are against the “national interest”. Included in ... ► Read more

  • Scott Morrison to finalise Indonesia free trade deal

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison will leave for Indonesia on Thursday to conclude free trade talks with President Joko Widodo. Mr Morrison said the talks in Jakarta will focus on enhancing economic and security ties between the two G20 nations. “Our close collaboration across economic, security and strategic domains makes both countries stronger, safer and more prosperous,” Prime Minister Morrison said. “I look forward to working with Indonesia’s President to lay the foundation for the next ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 19 August – 25 August 2018

    Scott Morrison wins leadership spill Scott Morrison has won Friday’s Liberal leadership spill, clearing the way for him to become Australia’s 30th Prime Minister. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Government instability in the wake of leadership challenge Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition government was rocked by turmoil following Tuesday’s unsuccessful leadership challenge by former Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Trump warns American economy would crash if he ... ► Read more

  • Trump warns American economy would crash if he was impeached

    United States President Donald Trump has warned that any attempt to impeach him could result in the crash of the American economy. The President made the claim as the White House struggles to manage the fallout after Mr Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, entered into a plea deal on behalf of Mr Trump’s former campaign chairperson, Paul Manafort, who was convicted of financial offences this week. The President, who is incensed at Michael Cohen’s ... ► Read more

  • Kalashnikov takes on Tesla with new electric concept car

    Russian arms manufacturer Kalashnikov unveiled on Thursday (local time) a new electric concept “supercar” it says will rival Elon Musk’s Tesla. Based on the body of the Soviet-era Izh hatchback, Kalshnikov’s CV-1 has a 90 kilowatt hour battery which offers a range of 350 kilometers. The vehicle can accelerate from 0 kph to 100 kph in six seconds, according to the arms company. Kalashnikov spokesperson Sofia Ivanova told Russia’s RBC that the CV-1 would compete directly “with ... ► Read more

  • ‘If they have their dollars, we have our God’: Erdogan doubles down on rift with US

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has doubled down on the detention of an American pastor which sparked diplomatic fallout with the US, saying Ankara will not bow before those who set up their “own order by exploiting the world” and make Turkey their “strategic target”. “They were not able to make us collapse and they will never be,” Mr Erdogan told supporters on Saturday (local time). “If they have their dollars, we have our God.” While ... ► Read more

  • AMP to refund super customers

    Financial services company AMP will refund superannuation customers whose cash investments were eroded by fees and charges, the banking royal commission has heard. AMP’s superannuation trustees will cut fees and refund $5 million to approximately 12,500 customers who have $43 million invested in AMP super accounts and who chose cash as their investment option. The firm will also refund around $27 million to AMP Capital superannuation members who were wrongly charged fees. AMP Superannuation chairman Rick ... ► Read more

  • Restrictions on foreign ownership of housing would be welcomed in Australia

    Australians have long been enthusiastic about property ownership. By 1945, with a population of 7.39 million, 50% of Australians owned their own homes. The end of World War II saw Australian ex-servicemen, who had previously been living through the Depression, finally have a substantial bank balance due to receiving their accumulated military pay. Many turned that bank balance into their own part of the Great Australian Dream by purchasing a property. Following the Baby Boom ... ► Read more

  • Dutton reportedly urged to challenge Turnbull for Prime Ministership

    The Daily Telegraph has reported that some anonymous government backbenchers are urging Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton to challenge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for leadership of the Liberal Party and the country. A small group of government MPs are opposed to the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), a policy to address electricity affordability, reliability, and emissions, that was adopted by the Coalition party room on Tuesday. Those MPs opposed want more done to cut prices ... ► Read more

  • New Zealand passes law banning foreign non-residents from buying houses

    The New Zealand Parliament yesterday passed the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill 2018, which bans many non-resident foreigners from buying existing housing, as part of the Labour Government’s election promise to tackle housing affordability. During the election campaign last September, now-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pledged to stem rising house prices and reduce growing homelessness, partly by banning foreign buyers. Associate Finance Minister David Parker, who introduced the bill in December last year, described the bill’s passing ... ► Read more

  • China matches US tariff hike

    China will respond in kind to the United States’ decision to impose 25% tariffs on USD $16 billion (AUD $22 billion) worth of Chinese imports, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced on Wednesday. The new tariffs will take effect from 23 August — the same day the US’ tariffs take effect — and will target products including fuel, steel, cars, bicycles, medical equipment, fish meal, wood waste, paper, and scrap metal. Both the US and ... ► Read more

  • Former ACCC chief calls for consumer watchdog to take over ASIC banking powers

    Former chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Professor Allan Fels has called for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to be stripped of its regulatory powers over banks, and those powers handed to the ACCC. Criticising ASIC for being ineffectual in dealing with banking misconduct, Professor Fels told ABC’s AM programme that “ASIC is not feared, unlike the ACCC.” According to Professor Fels, transferring bank supervisory powers from ASIC to the ... ► Read more

  • Commonwealth Bank cash profit drops 4.8% to $9.2 billion

    The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) posted annual cash profits of $9.23 billion for the last financial year, a drop of 4.8% compared to the previous financial year. The drop was mostly a consequence of the record $700 million penalty paid to Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, after the bank admitted to 53,700 violations of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism funding legislation. CBA also paid $155 million in costs relating to the Royal Commission into ... ► Read more

  • Homeopathy all but eradicated from National Health Service in England

    Publicly-funded homeopathy is all but over in England, after Bristol’s Clinical Commissioning Group decided to cease providing homeopathic treatments under the National Health Service (NHS). Bristol was the last place in England to offer NHS-funded homeopathic treatment, and it will now be provided only in exceptional circumstances. Homeopathy uses treatments based on the idea that “like cures like” — that minute doses of natural substances that produce similar symptoms as an illness can be used ... ► Read more

  • AMP first half profits plummet following Royal Commission revelations

    Embattled financial service company AMP has reported a 74% drop in first half profits to $115 million after it set aside $290 million to compensate customers it overcharged or charged for no services. The company’s revenue for the past six months also dropped by 6% to $7.17 billion. AMP’s underwhelming results are the first since it was revealed through the banking Royal Commission that the company engaged in widespread misconduct including charging fees for no ... ► Read more

  • Global trade war escalates as US threatens sanctions against trading with Iran and increases Chinese tariffs

    United States President Donald Trump has threatened to impose trade sanctions on countries that continue to trade with Iran, after the US reimposed sanctions on the Middle Eastern country this week. “Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States,” President Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday (local time). “I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!” The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ... ► Read more

  • Australia’s population will hit 25 million tonight, claims Bureau of Statistics

    According to projections from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s population will reach 25 million tonight, with net migration continuing to increase faster than births. Australia’s population currently increases at about one person every minute and 23 seconds, and the new record is expected to be set at about 11:00 pm. Author and political commentator George Megalogenis said that the 25 millionth person will most likely be a young female Chinese student or skilled worker, ... ► Read more

  • Canadian ambassador expelled as relations with Saudi Arabia rapidly deteriorate

    Canadian ambassador Denis Horak has been expelled from Saudi Arabia after Canada called for the release of human rights activists. Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists. — Foreign Policy CAN (@CanadaFP) August 3, 2018 Saudi Arabia has also frozen all trade with Canada and its state airline ... ► Read more

  • Rouhani on new sanctions: US ‘psychological warfare’ illogical

    On Monday (local time), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the United States’ plan to re-impose sanctions an attempt at “psychological warfare” that “doesn’t make sense”. During an interview on state television Mr Rouhani said: “If you’re an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife.” It is Mr Rouhani’s first response to US President Donald Trump’s ... ► Read more

  • Australian industry groups urge governments to support the National Energy Guarantee

    Seven groups that represent Australian industry have urged the federal, state, and territory governments to get behind the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). In a joint statement issued on Monday the Business Council of Australia, Australian Industry Group, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Council of Small Business Organisations, National Farmers’ Federation, Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, and Australian Energy Council called on Australian leaders to “put aside politics and support the implementation of the ... ► Read more

  • Apple now the first US company to reach $1 trillion in market value

    Apple is now the first US company in history to reach $US1 trillion ($1.4 trillion) in market value despite slowing sales, heavy regulation, and tariffs. The tech company hit the milestone early this morning when its stock crossed $207.05 per share at 11.48am (ET). While reaching the $1 trillion mark is an achievement that will not soon be forgotten, the tech market is volatile, according to OPMG’s Chief Editor, meaning that Apple may not stay ... ► Read more

  • Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Bill would cost $32.6 trillion, working paper claims

    A working paper published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University claims that US Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposed Medicare for All Bill (“M4A Bill”) would cost approximately USD $32.6 trillion over the first decade of implementation (2022–2031). According to the paper’s author, Charles Blahous, the “projected increase in federal healthcare commitments would equal approximately 10.7% of GDP in 2022, rising to nearly 12.7% of GDP in 2031 and further thereafter.” The increased costs would ... ► Read more

  • Australia and Japan join US Indo-Pacific infrastructure initiative

    Australia and Japan have formed a trilateral partnership with the United States to invest in infrastructure and development projects in the Indo-Pacific region, it was announced on Tuesday. The announcement follows months of talks regarding a joint scheme to respond to China’s Belt and Road Programme. Initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Belt and Road is a massive infrastructure investment programme across Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific, but has been criticised for spreading Chinese political influence ... ► Read more

  • Qatar bid team accused of sabotaging rival bids for 2022 FIFA World Cup

    Allegations of a “black-ops” campaign by Qatar’s bid team for the 2022 FIFA World Cup have sparked controversy as accusations of extensive sabotage emerge. The Qatar bid team is accused of using ex-CIA connections and public relations firms to run a fabricated propaganda campaign against rival US and Australian bid teams. The scandal emerged after a confidential source provided documents to The Times (UK), detailing how the Qatar bid team undermined support for hosting the ... ► Read more

  • Julie Bishop arrives in East Timor after five year diplomatic drought

    Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop arrived in East Timor on Sunday marking the first visit by an Australian government minister to the country in five years. Tensions between Australia and East Timor have now eased after a five year diplomatic drought. The rift between Canberra and Dili, East Timor’s capital, mostly resided in a bitter dispute over maritime boundaries. East Timor accused Australia of trying to steal a large supply of oil and gas that lies between the two ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 22 – 28 July 2018

    Nine Network to takeover Fairfax Media The Nine Network will takeover Fairfax Media in a deal rumoured to be worth around $4 billion, Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood announced on Thursday morning. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Greece declares state of emergency as lethal wildfires rage near Athens Greece has declared a state of emergency after two separate wildfires raged through towns near its capital Athens, killing at least 20 people, injuring over 100 ... ► Read more

  • Facebook loses AUD$162 billion in historic market value plunge

    Social media giant Facebook has experienced a 19% drop in market value wiping out around USD$120 billion (AUD$162 billion), following a disappointing second-quarter earnings report. Investors reportedly took issue with sales and subscriber numbers, which was not helped by the company warning of a growth slowdown on Wednesday (local time). The plummet is Facebook’s largest single-day drop since it started trading publicly in 2012, and marks the worst drop in US stock-market history. Facebook’s market ... ► Read more

  • BREAKING: Nine Network to takeover Fairfax Media

    The Nine Network will takeover Fairfax Media in a deal rumoured to be worth around $4 billion, Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood announced on Thursday morning. In a statement, Mr Hywood said over the past eight years his company “has gone from being at the mercy of the non-stop global media revolution to being the best of its breed”, and that “there will be plenty of Fairfax Media DNA in the merged company and the board.” ... ► Read more

  • US Government will provide $12 billion in financial assistance to farmers affected by trade disputes

    United States Secretary of Agriculture Sunny Perdue announced in a press release on Tuesday (local time) that the Department of Agriculture will “authorise up to $12 billion in programs [to] assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets.” Mr Perdue said that the department “will take several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation”, referring to tariffs imposed by China and other markets. US President Donald Trump directed ... ► Read more

  • Ivanka Trump shuts down her namesake clothing brand

    Ivanka Trump is officially closing down her namesake clothing brand due to her work in Washington. Ms Trump, daughter of US President Donald Trump, made the announcement on Tuesday along with a senior White House advisor, saying her “focus for the foreseeable future will be the work I am doing here in Washington” and called the company’s closure “the only fair outcome for my team and partners”. The company, which was based in New York’s Trump ... ► Read more

  • NAB will cease charging penalty interest rates for drought-affected farmers

    National Australia Bank (NAB) Chief Executive Andrew Thorburn announced on Monday evening that the bank will cease charging drought-affected farmers penalty interest rates for missed repayments, bowing to pressure from the public, Federal Government, and the banking Royal Commission. “The royal commission and other inquiries reveal that in some cases we have lost touch,” Mr Thorburn said in a public address to 120 customers at the International Hotel in Wagga Wagga. “Such customers go through ... ► Read more

  • G20 summit: no consensus over resolving trade disputes

    Despite calling for increased dialogue to resolve trade tensions, financial officials ended a two-day G20 summit without agreement as to how to handle the ongoing disputes over the United States’ tariff actions. Meeting in Buenos Aires at the weekend, finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s 20 largest economies warned that growth will be hampered due to the waves of recent tariffs, and was already becoming less synchronised, with downside risks increasing over the ... ► Read more

  • Comcast drops bid for 21st Century Fox assets paving the way for Disney

    American telecom giant Comcast has dropped out of its pursuit to attain 21st Century Fox’s film and television assets, leaving Disney as the sole bidder to acquire content such as Avatar and X-Men. Comcast says it will now focus on its bid for Sky, a pan-European satellite broadcaster which, like Fox, is also owned by billionaire media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. Disney has recently raised its offer for Fox’s entertainment assets to $71 billion, surpassing Comcast’s ... ► Read more

  • Google appeals $5 billion dollar fine imposed by the EU

    Google is appealing a €4.3 billion (AUD $6.8 billion) fine imposed by the European Union, ordering the company to stop using its search system to block competition rivals. The EU official in charge of competition policy, Margaret Vestager, told reporters in June that Google parent Alphabet Inc had artificially and illegally promoted its own price comparison service in searches, denying its customers real choices as well as blocking other competition from being able to operate ... ► Read more

  • Energy Market Operator predicts significant reduction in coal-fired power stations by 2040

    In its inaugural Integrated System Plan released on Tuesday, the Australian Energy Market Operator says that between 2030–40 a “significant amount” of coal-fired power stations will reach the end of their technical life and be retired. Although the AEMO noted that “costs of new renewable plant continue to fall, and advances and availability of storage technologies … are emerging as core components to a low cost and reliable energy future” it warned that prematurely closing ... ► Read more

  • WTO: China files complaint against US, US files complaint against everyone else

    China has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the United States, responding to the Trump Administration’s plan to impose new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, measures that China says are protectionist and in breach of international law. In a statement on its website, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced it is pursuing remedies against the US, saying: “The slander of the US against China about gaining extra advantage through ... ► Read more

  • China threatens retaliation after US threatens tariffs

    In an escalation of their ongoing trade war, China has accused the United States of “typical bullying” and has warned it will hit back after the Trump administration threatened to impose 10% tariffs on USD $200 billion (AUD $270 billion) of Chinese imports. China’s Ministry of Commerce said it is “shocked” by the “completely unacceptable” measures and intends to complain to the World Trade Organisation. On Tuesday the US Government released a list of thousands ... ► Read more

  • Tax office says Australians underpay $8.7 billion a year

    The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has estimated that Australians underpaid taxes by almost $9 billion in 2014–15. The tax gap — the difference between the amount collected and the amount that should have been collected — rose to $8.7 billion for individual taxpayers over the 2014–15 financial year. The ATO has called for taxpayers to take extra care when lodging their returns, and has said it will be paying close attention to tax returns this ... ► Read more

  • ACCC says increased electricity competition could lead to household savings

    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says households could save up to $415 a year on power bills if its call for a boost to competition in the electricity market is implemented. In a report released on Wednesday, the ACCC blames low competition and policy mistakes for increases in power bills, and criticises the current state of the electricity market for being “unacceptable and unsustainable”. “It is clear that most households are paying too ... ► Read more

  • The plastic bag ban and what it means

    Single-use plastic bags are being banned and phased out across Australian supermarket and grocery-store chains. Supermarket giant Woolworths introduced a nationwide ban on these bags at all of its stores on 20 June (including BWS liquor stores and Big W), and rival supermarket Coles followed on 30 June. Consumers now need to bring their own reusable bags with them to the shops, or purchase them for an additional charge at the checkout. Many shoppers remain ... ► Read more

  • Government unveils new plan to employ university-level maths and science teachers in high schools

    Every high school in Australia will have to employ maths and science teachers who have studied the topics at a university level under a new Federal Government plan. The Government has stated that currently not enough teachers are passionate and knowledgeable about the subjects. Statistically, the Government said that in 2013 one in five science teachers who taught years 7–10 had not completed even one year of university study in that area. Education Minister Simon ... ► Read more

  • European Parliament reopens debate on controversial copyright directive

    The European Parliament voted to reopen debate on the controversial Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market on Thursday, giving Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) more time to debate the directive ahead of another vote in September. The directive is part of a bundle of proposed legislative measures to harmonise certain aspects of copyright law across the European Union’s member states. Copyright owners, creators, publishers, record labels, journalists, and their respective representative industry ... ► Read more

  • Australian Government rejects recommended changes to GST revenue distribution

    Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Wednesday that his government has rejected the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to refocus how GST revenue is distributed. The Productivity Commission’s report on Horizontal Fiscal Equalisation (HFE), which was provided to the Government on 15 May 2018 and publicly released on Thursday, recommended that “[t]he objective of the HFE system should be refocused to provide the States with the fiscal capacity to provide services and associated infrastructure of a ... ► Read more

  • Former PM Tony Abbott urges withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement

    Tony Abbott is calling for Australia to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, despite signing up to the agreement in 2015 when he was Prime Minister. In a speech to a group of climate sceptics on Tuesday night, Mr Abbott said that he would not have signed up to the Paris Agreement if he had known the US would withdraw from it. He said Australia needs to pull out of the treaty to end “the ... ► Read more

  • Government scalded over pollie pay rise as penalty rate cuts take effect

    Outrage against the Australian Government has surfaced after politicians received a pay rise on Sunday, the same day penalty rate cuts affecting over 700,000 workers across Australia came into effect. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has scalded the Government, saying that is “appalling” that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is receiving a pay rise when low-earning workers in retail and hospitality are faced with another penalty rate cut. The cuts, which took effect on ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 24–30 June 2018

    Labor announces, reverses, plan to repeal legislated tax cuts After announcing on Tuesday that Labor would repeal the tax cuts legislated by the Government for businesses with a turnover of $10 to $50 million if they won government, Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten has reversed his position, stating that the proposed repeal was “creating great uncertainty”. See the ABC’s coverage of this story here. Government concedes final stage of tax cuts won’t pass Senate ... ► Read more

  • WTO rules for Australia in tobacco plain packaging dispute

    Australia’s Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 has contributed to improving public health, a World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel ruled on Thursday. The panel rejected arguments brought by Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Indonesia that alternative measures would be equally effective, and disagreed that Australia’s law unjustifiably limited the exercise of intellectual property rights. The four complainant countries alleged that Australia had breached article 2.2 of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, which prohibits ... ► Read more

  • BAE Systems wins $35 billion Hunter class frigate contract

    Australia’s largest peacetime warship building programme has gone to BAE Systems. The British company will be tasked with creating nine anti-submarine frigates to replace the Anzac class frigates first put into commission in 1996. BAE Systems was one of several competitors in the tender process, beating Spain’s Navantia with its Hobart Class/F-100 design and Italy’s Fincantieri with its FREMM, to secure the $35 billion SEA 5000 contract. The new ships are BAE System’s Type 26 ... ► Read more

  • Denpasar airport closed as Bali’s Mount Agung erupts

    Flights to and from Bali have been cancelled or delayed, following another eruption of the Indonesian island’s Mount Agung volcano. Clouds of volcanic ash have spewed more than two kilometres into the air. Ngurah Rai International Airport, near Bali’s chief city of Denpasar, was closed at 3:00 am (local time), and is not due to open until at least 7:00 pm. Meteorologists and pilots continue assessing the weather conditions. Virgin Australia and AirAsia have cancelled ... ► Read more

  • Australian stars push for streaming service local content investment quota

    High profile Australian actors, writers and directors have urged the Government to mandate a local content investment quota for streaming services such as Netflix. Stars such as Judy Davis, Richard Roxborough and 30 others, told politicians — including Minister of Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield — that the the local screen industry is under dire threat and could be wiped out by the new streaming services. Andrew Knight, the writer of hit television series Jack ... ► Read more

  • Major British supplier rations beer, cider and soft drinks due to CO2 shortage

    Britain’s biggest food and drink wholesaler has begun limiting beer, cider and soft drink sales to pubs, bars, restaurants and shops, as Europe’s carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage continues. Initially caused by maintenance work and unplanned CO2 plant shutdowns, the shortage of food-grade CO2 has worsened due to increased demand caused by the Royal Wedding and the FIFA World Cup, and may deteriorate further during a predicted heatwave. Booker, which was recently acquired by supermarket chain ... ► Read more

  • Donald Trump outraged by plan to move Harley-Davidson production abroad

    US President Donald Trump has voiced strong opposition to Harley-Davidson motorcycles being built abroad, saying that the company’s plan to move some production overseas to avoid European tariffs is the “beginning of the end”. Harley-Davidson’s proposed shift of production from the US to Europe is due to spiralling costs imposed by European Union tariffs. Mr Trump expressed his outrage about the move on Twitter on Tuesday. A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never! ... ► Read more

  • Bureau of Statistics: record levels of Australians are leaving the country

    Record levels of Australian residents are leaving the country to live abroad, according to new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Almost 85,000 people formally left Australia in the final three months of 2017, increasing the figures by almost 9,000 during the same period in 2016. Experts are not certain as to why the numbers are increasing so dramatically. The ABS defines a “resident of Australia” as someone who has lived within ... ► Read more

  • Senate approves Turnbull Government’s income tax plan

    Personal income tax will be cut by $144 billion over the next seven years, after the Senate voted to pass the Government’s Treasury Laws Amendment (Personal Income Tax Plan) Bill 2018 on Thursday. The bill passed 37 to 33 with nine cross-bench Senators voting with the Government; Labor, the Greens, and independent Senator Tim Storer voted against. Those opposed to the Bill argued that it was too generous to high-income earners, who Labor Senator Penny ... ► Read more

  • Coalition $144 billion tax cuts set to pass as One Nation, Centre Alliance give support

    One Nation and Centre Alliance have all but secured the passing of the Government’s personal income tax cuts worth $144 billion, with both parties announcing they will support the seven-year plan. Speaking to the ABC’s AM programme, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said her party would back all three stages of the plan. “Yes, we are supporting the personal tax cuts … we are pleased to do so,” Senator Hanson said. Ms Hanson said it ... ► Read more

  • Audi chief executive now the highest official arrested for emissions cheating scandal

    The chief executive of luxury auto manufacturer, Audi, was arrested on Monday morning on the suspicion of fraud in relation to the German car maker’s emissions cheating scandal. Rupert Stadler, 55, was detained a week after his residence was searched. German prosecutors have stated that Mr Stadler was a focus of their probe into any manipulation of Audi emission controls. The arrest has thrown parent company Volkswagen (VW) into further turmoil since it has attempted ... ► Read more

  • Negotiations for Australia-EU trade deal under way

    Australia and the European Union are starting negotiations on Monday for a free trade deal which could give Australian products open access to a market of half a billion people. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is in Canberra for meetings with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. “I think we know where we are, we know the difficulties, we know the challenges, but also we know that in ... ► Read more

  • Predictions for the near future

    As humans, it is natural to contemplate and plan for the future. Whether that be with optimism or pessimism, we have an obsession with the future, and often worry about it. Obviously, it is impossible to predict the future with pinpoint accuracy; however, experts and theorists for many years have continued to try their hand at determining what the future for civilisation may hold. From self-driving cars to the food we consume, the work of ... ► Read more

  • CBA to pay $700 million fine for breaching anti-money laundering, counter-terror financing laws

    The Commonwealth Bank will pay a $700 million fine for breaching anti-money laundering and counter-terror financing laws. It comes after the financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC accused the bank in 2017 of serious and systemic breaches of the laws. According to a statement made by AUSTRAC, CBA has admitted to the late filing of 53,506 reports on transactions above $10,000 made through its intelligent deposit machines (IDMs), and that 149 suspicious matter reports were either filed ... ► Read more

  • Trump reported to impose ban on European luxury car imports

    US President Donald Trump wants to issue a ban on the import of German luxury cars such as Mercedes-Benz, according to a new report from CNBC and German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.  Mr Trump reportedly told French President Emmanuel Macron last month during a state visit that he wants to maintain his trade policy with the aim of stopping Mercedes-Benz from driving down Fifth Avenue in New York. The report from the German magazine did not give any more ... ► Read more

  • Banking Royal Commission continues with focus on small business loans

    Spotlight on small businesses Michael Hodge QC, senior counsel assisting the Royal Commission, said that during this fortnight of hearings the Commission will seek information to answer three questions: What responsible lending obligations should apply to loans to small businesses? When would a bank taking action against a default on a small business loan be unfair, unconscionable, or fall below community standards? How have banks and regulators responded to calls for fairer dealings with small ... ► Read more

  • One Nation leader Pauline Hanson withdraws support for company tax cuts

    Image credit: The Guardian Australia One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has dealt a hefty blow to the Turnbull Government’s company tax cut by revoking her promise to support the cut. The Government planned to reduce the company tax rate from 30% to 25% but has struggled to find support in the Senate since its proposal. Last March, senator Hanson struck a deal with the Coalition to support the tax cuts in exchange for an apprenticeship ... ► Read more

  • Liberal MP Sussan Ley introduces bill to ban live sheep exports

    Image credit: The Guardian Australia Liberal MP Sussan Ley is introducing a private member’s bill to Federal Parliament that proposes to phase out live sheep exports to the Middle East within five years. “This has been a trade marked by disaster following debacle and that’s gone on for 33 years, it’s had a very sad history, a very dismal history,” Ms Ley said. Support for a ban has continued to gain momentum, with Shadow Agriculture ... ► Read more

  • US-China trade war ‘on hold’ as White House pauses tariffs

    The US-China trade war has been put “on hold” after the two economic powerhouses agreed to come up with a broader trade agreement, according to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Mr Mnuchin and top White House economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, said the agreement set up a framework for negotiators to address trade imbalances. “We are putting the trade war on hold. Right now, we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try ... ► Read more

  • AMP faces two shareholder class actions

    Two separate class actions have been launched against AMP, ahead of the financial services company’s annual general meeting on Thursday. The actions are being instituted on behalf of aggrieved shareholders, in response to the damaging revelations of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. Current and former shareholders can register their interest with both law firms. Persons who held shares in AMP between 24 May 2013 and 13 April ... ► Read more

  • The OPMG Budget Roundup

    The Federal Budget for the 2018/19 Financial Year has been handed down in Canberra. Here’s a round-up of the information you might want to know. In 2018/19, the Government projects that the deficit will be $14.5 billion dollars. net debt will reach $349.851 billion dollars. This is down from $18.2 billion last year. The budget is expected to return to a surplus of $2.2 billion by the 2019/20 year. This is up from $341.003 billion last year. ... ► Read more

  • The 2018–19 budget: what can we expect?

    Image credit: Alice Workman Tonight at 7:30 AEST, federal Treasurer Scott Morrison will unveil the Australian Government’s proposed budget for 2018–19. Maintaining tradition, the Treasurer has been typically cagey about what will be in the budget, giving few hints as to the content in the customary Budget Day doorstop interview. “Wherever you are today in Australia, the economy we all will live in in this country over the next 10 years will determine so much ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 29 April – 5 May 2018

    Cartoon Story of the week CBA lost statements of 20 million accounts, didn’t alert customers The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) admitted to losing the statements of 19.8 million accounts and deciding not to tell customers in an effort to prevent unecessary alarm. While the bank insists the information did not get into the wrong hands and was most likely destroyed, it has attracted harsh criticism propelled by recent revelations of widespread misconduct in the fianance sector, ... ► Read more

  • Turnbull Government reveals $50 million seed funding for space agency

    The Turnbull Government has announced that they will inject $50 million into the federal budget to establish an Australian space agency. Next Tuesday, the Government will unveil seed funding to boost Australia’s efforts within the areonautical industry that aims to generate thousands of jobs in the future. Not only will the funding provide an agency, but it will also focus on enhancing GPS technology, which can be used for mapping, aviation and broad-scale farming projects. ... ► Read more

  • Cambridge Analytica files for bankruptcy, closes down

    The political consultancy firm at the centre of the Facebook privacy scandal, Cambridge Analytica, will shut down immediately and begin bankruptcy proceedings. In a statement, Cambridge Analytica said it “has been vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas.” According to the firm, negative press coverage “has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers. As ... ► Read more

  • CBA lost statements of 20 million accounts, didn’t alert customers

    The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) has admitted to losing the statements of 19.8 million accounts and deciding not to tell customers in an effort to prevent unecessary alarm. While the bank insists the information did not get into the wrong hands and was most likely destroyed, it has attracted harsh criticism propelled by recent revelations of widespread misconduct in the fianance sector, uncovered by the banking royal commission. CBA’s Angus Sullivan said it was “unacceptable” but ... ► Read more

  • AMP Chair Catherine Brenner resigns

    AMP chairwoman Catherine Brenner has stepped down amid allegations of misconduct by the company’s staff, sparked by evidence presented at the banking royal commission. In addition to Ms Brenner’s resignation, a statement issued by AMP says directors will take a 25% pay cut until 2019 as a result of the commission’s findings. It is still considering disciplinary measures for staff directly involved in charging fees for no services. General counsel and company secretary Brian Salter ... ► Read more

  • Second round of Banking Royal Commission hearings wrap up

    Senior counsel Rowena Orr QC gave her closing statement to the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry on Friday afternoon. Ms Orr summarised the hearings: “Over the last two weeks the Commission has heard evidence of misconduct, and of conduct falling below community standards and expectations in relation to the provision of financial advice by employees and authorised representatives of financial service entities.” Ms Orr then proceeded to review ... ► Read more

  • Financial planning regulator puts members before their clients

    The Financial Planning Association (FPA), which regulates financial planners, appears to have put the interests of their members above the interests of their members’ clients, the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard on Thursday. This follows testimony from Fair Work Commissioner Donna McKenna on Tuesday, during which Ms McKenna told the Royal Commission that financial advisors Henderson Maxwell gave advice that would have lost her $500,000 in a ... ► Read more

  • ANZ executives failed to act on reports of significant misconduct

    ANZ’s head of wealth solutions and partnerships Kieran Forde appeared before the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry on Monday afternoon to answer questions about five financial advisors who are accused of fraud, misappropriation, and misleading or deceiving customers. An ANZ financial advisor known as “Mr A” advised his clients to invest in property. Mr Forde said Mr A should not have given this advice, but Mr A convinced ... ► Read more

  • NAB failed to report financial adviser fraud

    NAB did not report instances of financial advisers falsifying documents to either the corporate regulator or Financial Planning Association, allowing employees who were terminated for misconduct to find work elsewhere, the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard on Tuesday morning. NAB senior executive Andrew Hagger resumed his evidence from Monday afternoon, being questioned by senior counsel Rowena Orr QC about why NAB failed to alert the Australian Securities ... ► Read more

  • ANZ, AMP financial planners gave inappropriate advice; AMP allowed planners to continue despite failing audits

    ANZ had a leaderboard that displayed the revenue generated by financial planners, the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard today. After asking why ANZ needed financial law reform to “to tell it to emphasise the best interests of the client over the growth of the business”, senior counsel Rowena Orr QC wryly asked Kylie Rixon, chief risk officer of ANZ’s wealth division, whether the bank had considered establishing ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 15–21 April 2018

    Story of the week ‘Disturbing’ revelations from Banking Royal Commission hearings This week showed a marked change in the nature of the hearings of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. While previous hearings have uncovered relatively minor misconduct coupled with incompetent levels of oversight, this week’s hearings have ranged from tedious to absurd, revealing that the industry is riddled with systemic fraud and misconduct. In previous hearings the ... ► Read more

  • Banking Royal Commission: CBA charge dead people, Westpac admits giving poor advice

    The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard on Thursday that deceased customers of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) were being charged fees for services they did not receive. Court Financial, a subsidiary of CBA, charged these fees despite being aware that the customer had died — in one instance Court Financial was charging fees for more than a decade after the customer’s death. These revelations followed testimony ... ► Read more

  • AMP and CBA charged fees for no service and misled corporate regulator

    It has been a busy and revealing two days of hearings for the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. On Tuesday the Royal Commission heard that AMP was deliberately charging customers fees without actually providing any services, and had told the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) that these charges were mistakes. Anthony Regan, AMP’s Head of Financial Advice, admitted to the Royal Commission that he had lost count ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 1-7 April 2018

    Australia Commonwealth Games kicks off on the Gold Coast Image credit: Dan Mullan (Getty Images) The 2018 Commonwealth Games kicked off this week on the Gold Coast, with athletes arriving from all across the Commonwealth to compete in the multi-sport event. The opening ceremony drew a nationwide television audience of over two million to Channe 7—a record number for 2018. While most enjoyed the ceremony which explored Australia’s 65,000-year history and featured an indigenous smoking ... ► Read more

  • Clive Palmer charged with aiding breach of Corporations Act

    Image credit: Australian Associated Press Australian businessman Clive Palmer has been charged over a breach of the Corporations Act, the latest development in an ongoing Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) investigation. ASIC detailed the charges in a statement earlier today, with the charges themselves revealed for the first time at a quick mention in the Brisbane Magistrates Court this morning. Mr Palmer was not in attendance. The charges relate to the takeover of Timeshare ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 18-24 March 2018

    Story of the week Trump signs $60 billion tariff memo US President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday, potentially imposing tariffs on up to US $60 billion worth of imports from China. The move comes as a push to combat the $486 billion goods trade deficit with China, and China’s “state-led market-distorting” violations of US intellectual property rights. The terms of the memorandum direct US Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to propose tariff increases ... ► Read more

  • Royal Commission uncovers rife fraud and misconduct in Esanda car loans

    Finance company Esanda, a former subsidiary of ANZ but now owned by the Macquarie Group, suffered from rife misconduct and fraud, the Royal Commission into Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard on Thursday. Car dealers have been pushing up interest rates for customers in order to secure commissions, and brokers have been swapping customers’ details with those of the guarantor in order to get loan approvals. It has ... ► Read more