Dragons serve Golden Googars with their first taste of defeat

DEFENDING Barwon-Darling Water Cup premiers Walgett toppled the previously undefeated Brewarrina 28-26 in the senior match-of-the-round last weekend while Enngonia surged up the table with two weekend wins in a critical round of rugby league.
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The Dragons prevailed in a two-point thriller against the Golden Googars at Geoff New Ovals, Brewarrina on Sunday.

Perennial leading pointscorer Willie Wright was at his best again, the five-eighth scoring a try and booting four decisive goals in the Dragons’ victory.

He was well supported by hard-working lock Richard Dennis in a solid team performance.

Brewarrina had a host of good performers including play makers Charlie McHughes, Duane Gordon, Jack Simpson and Edward Simpson in what is a versatile all-round side.

The Googars boast five players that have scored five tries or more during 2014, and the points were shared around again in a match that boasted 10 individual try-scorers.

Sunday’s result means the minor premiership comes down to this weekend’s final round.

Walgett hosts Collarenebri on Saturday while Brewarrina travels to Bourke to play the Warriors on Sunday.

However top spot and a home major semi-final may not be the best omen for either Brewarrina or Walgett when the two sides clash again in the major semi-final in a fortnight’s time as both have scored away wins against each other during the regular season.

The power plays of the weekend came from the Enngonia who moved rapidly up the ladder with a pair of victories against Goodooga (30-0 on forfeit) and Collarenebri (46-38).

With confirmation the Outlaws and Bourke both received one point for an abandoned round six game, it meant Enngonia picked up five competition points in the last week.

Now on 10 points, Enngonia will collect two points for the round 10 bye.

Victory against Goodooga on Sunday in a deferred match from round two could hand the Outlaws third place on the ladder and a home minor semi-final.

Enngonia made the massive trek to Collarenebri on Sunday (July 20) and did enough to hold out a tired Bulldogs outfit in a high-scoring match.

The Bulldogs were backing up from a 30-4 loss to Bourke on Saturday at Collarenebri.

The Outlaws were also meant to double up but had fresh legs after Goodooga forfeited Saturday’s clash scheduled for Enngonia Sportsground.

On Sunday, Enngonia’s Reuben Barker (three tries and two goals) and Jeremy Edwards (two tries and two goals) had big says in the outcome against the Bulldogs while another youngster in Lochlan Peters (two tries) shone for Collarenebri.

The Outlaws also benefitted from second-rower Samual Shillingsworth’s bustling surges forward.

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Asbestos report sparks action in Donnybrook

A report highlighting 120 WA schools containing asbestos has sparked action to ensure the safety of schools and students at Donnybrook District High School.A REPORT highlighting 120 WA schools containing asbestos has sparked action to ensure the safety of schools and students at Donnybrook District High School.
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The 2013 Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) Audit highlighted 35 of those schools as having asbestos back in 2010. The report was released recently under freedom of information.

“The Barnett Government has failed to keep up with maintenance at our schools and some of these health risks have been known since 2010,” Labor spokesman for the South West Mick Murray said.

Donnybrook District High School was listed in the report as being at the highest risk level. However, this referred to one particular site and not the whole school.

Donnybrook District High School Principal Peter Fitzgerald said as he understood the issue, and he had not been advised to the contrary, the asbestos was in a situation where it was stable and not a risk. It was also in one area of the school and not throughout.

“Where there is risk, we act to the extent that we are enabled to act. I am not enabled to act to remove asbestos. That is managed through other agencies who act on behalf of the department,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“The professionals who do the assessment have deemed it to be safe. The requirement is for us to do nothing; at some future time they may remove it, that’s not a school decision, that’s a decision of the department’s agents.

“My understanding is that it is not a risk in its current state to the health or to the integrity and safety of everyone here.”

Mr Fitzgerald met on Thursday July 24 with a representative of the BMW, an arm of the Department of Treasury and Finance, who are responsible for managing all government buildings.

“He inspected a section of screening at Bentley Street which has attracted a high risk rating and is recommending that action be taken to remove the asbestos product in the screens and that these be replaced with a colourbond type product,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“Once this is approved, and I expect this will happen quickly, then he will put in place a plan to remove the asbestos product.

“This process is done in accordance with industry protocols which involve appropriate notifications, the employment of licensed specialists and adherence to laws relating to disposal. The work itself will happen at a time outside school hours, probably over a weekend.”

Education Minister Peter Collier assured parents statewide following the release of the report that the state government was taking every precaution with children’s health in managing asbestos in schools.

Mr Collier said the Western Australian Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances had advised that exposure to asbestos cement material in WA public schools represented very little risk to health.

“Environmental health experts advise that undisturbed asbestos poses an extremely low risk to health, and where it is located in areas that are unlikely to be disturbed, there is no urgent need to remove it,” Mr Collier said.

“That said, the state government has an ongoing program of asbestos removal in schools where it presents a possible risk, and last financial year we spent approximately $2million on associated repairs and maintenance.”

Further, he said all asbestos roofing on Western Australian schools had long since been removed and replaced.

Mr Collier said the thorough Building Condition Assessment reports carried out at every school provided a clear picture of where asbestos was located, and identified those spots where there could be a greater chance of the material being disturbed.

“Out of nearly 800 schools, there were only 14 schools where inspectors found one or two spots in the school where the risk rating was 1, meaning the asbestos is probably weathered and has a higher chance of being disturbed and exposed,” he said.

“Let me stress, this does not mean the whole school is at high risk.

“In those cases, the Department of Education acts quickly and assesses the best way to minimise any hazard.

“That may involve removing the asbestos altogether, which is done under controlled conditions and when no students or staff are present, or it may involve other work such as cutting off a tree branch that is brushing up against an asbestos panel, or sealing and enclosing the asbestos.

“Schools are in regular contact with the department if they have any health and safety concerns about their facilities, and experts can be dispatched quickly to assess the issue and fix it if necessary.”

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NSW Governor Dame Marie Bashir opens new school gym

Bashir house students Mikayla Lilli, Katelin Koprivec and Alexia Mihalopoulos meet Dame Marie Bashir at the opening. Picture: GREG TOTMANNSW Governor Dame Marie Bashir was humbled to be invited to open the new buildings at St Mary Star of the Sea College in her role as patron of house Bashir at the school.
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At an opening ceremony on Thursday morning, Dame Marie told the crowd of students and special guests how touched she was to take part in the celebrations.

She later told the Mercury she felt “humble” that many of the young women, including Bashir house captain Alexia Mihalopoulos, considered her a role model.

“I feel very humble about that,” she said.

“It’s an absolutely indescribable honour because it’s about young people, which are the joy of my life, and it’s about education, which as Nelson Mandela said is the most powerful weapon of all.

“Of course educated young women in Australia, for centuries virtually, have helped build the nation.

“They’ve gone into every field and we see them now going into things like aeronautical engineering, extraordinary things because of their courage and the encouragement of a good society.”

Dame Marie said she was pleased to see the continued work of The Sisters of the Good Samaritan, who founded the college.

Bishop Peter Ingham was on hand to bless the $11 million facilities, which include a new gymnasium, sports science area, cafeteria and learning spaces.

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Household debt climbing, but we can take it

Australian households have a well-deserved reputation for taking on large amounts of debt – and recent numbers show why.
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According to the Bureau of Statistics, household debt has now increased to $1.8 trillion, or $79,000 for each person in the country.

After adjusting for inflation, this is higher than it’s been at any time in the last 25 years, despite the global financial crisis causing consumers to be much more cautious.

The ratio of debt to disposable assets has also started to climb again, and is at a three-year high of 148 per cent. Debt to total income is also higher than in a bunch of wealthy countries including the UK, US, Japan, Germany, Canada and France.

What is more, the ratio of debt to assets has been steadily climbing for the last 25 years, nearly doubling to just under 20 per cent at the end of 2013.

Scary stuff, right?

They are certainly big numbers, and Australia’s debt habit shouldn’t be ignored. Some of the more pessimistic investors see it as a serious weak spot in the economy.

But before being carried away, these figures need to be seen in context of whether we can afford the debt. And on this front, things are a bit less worrying then they may seem.

Perhaps most importantly, recent trends suggest Australian households are taking a more conservative approach to borrowed money.

For one, we are no longer increasing our borrowing at a quicker pace than our income as we did between 1993 and 2007 – something which was clearly unsustainable. In the last few years, debt has been growing at 2 per cent per person, which is slower than average pay.

Second, low interest rates make it easier to pay off the bank more quickly. The total amount of interest paid by households has fallen to 7 per cent of disposable income, down from the record high of 12 per cent around the global financial crisis.

Finally, economists reckon that debt would only become a serious concern for the country if people were unable to meet their repayment obligations. The most likely cause of this would be a big rise in unemployment – but that doesn’t look likely.

Indeed, the Reserve Bank last week even floated the prospect of unemployment starting to decline – though that’s far from certain.

All up, we should be alert to the rising debt load but it looks less concerning than it did a few years ago. Further gearing up would be a bad idea, but it seems many of us are getting the message.

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Bank of Queensland delicately placed

  Photo: Glenn Hunt  
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Bank of Queensland is a significant second-tier bank which, unlike some of its big four cousins, is trading well below its pre-financial crisis highs. This week’s chart, produced by Mark Umansky, a councillor with the Australian Technical Analysts Association and a certified financial technician, plots the progress of BoQ over seven years using monthly intervals.

We see that after an all-time high closing price of $18.10 in October 2007 BoQ, along with the rest of the market, fell almost 64 per cent. It reached a low of $6.55 in February 2009, a price last seen six years earlier. This level then became a support for almost six years and has not been tested for some time.

Institutional investors saw the share price almost double between February 2009 and April 2010, and there were two attempts to breach $12.07, which has emerged as a major resistance level. Since then, BoQ has basically traded in a congestion band bordered by $6.55 and $12.07.

Recently BoQ broke out of the congestion pattern to the upside at point 3 on the price chart. However the breakout was shortlived, with the stock falling back into the congestion band causing what looks at the moment like a failed breakout.

The recent rise on the chart is supported by a series of higher peaks and troughs as the price progressed through points 1, 2 and 3. However, there has been a negative indicator since November 2013 with stochastic oscillator turning down, creating divergence with the share price. A similar divergence occurred in 2009 and 2010, presaging heavy falls in the share price.

The stochastic oscillator expresses the closing price in relation to the high-low range over a set number of periods. It measures the speed or momentum of changes in price.

So BoQ is sitting in a delicate position. Traders wanting to profit from a breakout to the upside could buy in once the stock goes through point 3 on the price chart with a stop loss set at the bottom of the trough formed by the new share price spike.

If the price continues to fall, those with open positions could close them and wait till a new trend emerges. Short sellers could also enter the market with protected positions in case of a turnaround.

Surmising likely scenarios in advance gives investors strategies that can be deployed immediately, preventing loss of opportunity through analysis time lags.

BoQ recently raised $400 million at $10.75 a share to finance its purchase of a loan book and other assets from Investec Australia. However, the daily price was trading well above that, at around $12, at the time of writing.

This column is not investment advice. [email protected]南京夜网, ataa南京夜网.au

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Little to lean on for Victorians

There was more pain than gain in this budget for Victorians – a fact Premier Denis Napthine will be acutely aware of heading to November’s state election.
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Joe Hockey described us as a ”nation of lifters, not leaners”. Those waiting for a train, visiting a doctor, or finding themselves unemployed will have little to lean on in Victoria.

This was never going to be a great budget for us – we share the pain more evenly than we share the cash from Canberra.

Victoria carries a heavy load with GST, paying more than it gets back. This burden is not reflected in the state’s share of infrastructure spending.

NSW and Queensland had almost twice as much committed for infrastructure investment – western Sydney had its own infrastructure plan with expenditure in the forward estimates of $1.2 billion.

The cuts are heavy in this budget; money will missed from everywhere – local government, health, education.

”Our economic action strategy is not about cutting government spending; it is about spending less on consumption and more on investment so we can keep making decent, compassionate choices in the future,” the Treasurer said.

Some of those compassionate choices are likely to occur in a federal budget closer to the next election.

This was a tough budget, and some of the most vulnerable in society will be hit hardest.

Mr Hockey said ”the age of entitlement is over. It has to be replaced, not with an age of austerity, but with an age of opportunity.”

Those under 30 will have to wait six months before getting unemployment benefits. Does this take away the opportunity for people to eat and have a roof over their heads?

And what will it mean allowing universities to set their own tuition fees? The Treasurer said ”some course fees may rise and some may fall”. Few will fall.

The Abbott government has lived up to its commitment to be a roads government, with billions of dollars for road projects around the country.

What is not clear is the impact of federal funding on projects such as the $14 billion to $18 billion East West Link or the $11 billion WestConnex motorway project in Sydney.

There is little doubt federal cash makes the projects more attractive to investors and speeds up construction – but would roads such as the tolled East West Link have been built anyway given the federal government is providing only about 20 per cent of the expected cost?

Can the same be said for major rail projects that have been snubbed?

There is no money for the Napthine government’s $8.5 billion to $11 billion Melbourne Rail Link from Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross, South Melbourne, Domain and South Yarra.

The state government has committed just $40 million to this project before the election and $830 million in the following years. Can the public have confidence the project will proceed when tens of millions of dollars were spent on planning the now abandoned Metro rail tunnel project?

The last major rail project to get off the ground in Victoria was the Regional Rail Project. It received billions of dollars in federal funding and enjoyed bipartisan support.

It is hard to see where the other $10 billion for the Melbourne Rail Link will come from.

Infrastructure Australia considered the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel beneath Melbourne’s CBD a ”shovel-ready project”.

This time last year the Gillard government was committing $3 billion for the tunnel.

Much changes in a year. Gillard is gone, the money is gone, the project is gone and now the budget papers reveal the Infrastructure Australia Council will be gone, replaced by a new Infrastructure Australia Board.

The budget infrastructure report quoted the Productivity Commission’s draft report on public infrastructure that identified poor project selection and inadequate planning as major constraints on building infrastructure in Australia.

Without a full business case for the East West Link released, it is hard to see how this issue has been tackled by the federal budget.

The one bright light on a grim day was news of a $20 billion medical research future fund. Melbourne must be in the box seat to get a big slice of that funding given its world class medical researchers.

But the good news was swamped by the bad.

Buried deep in the budget papers there was a $215 million saving by ”not proceeding with funding for the General Motors Holden next generation vehicles project following Holden’s decision not to proceed with the project and to cease vehicle manufacturing in Australia by the end of 2017”.

The Cuban cigars will not be burning in Spring Street tonight.

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Energy disconnections on the rise as gas prices surge

Surging energy prices have pushed electricity disconnections to record levels, with the planned increase in gas prices expected to undermine the longstanding cost advantage of gas over electricity, a forum was told on Tuesday.
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The NSW pricing regulator, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, has flagged price rises for regulated gas users of 17.6 per cent from July 1, although the increase will be less if the carbon tax is removed.

The planned price increase will put more pressure on households, which are already struggling to pay their energy bills, as signalled by a surge in electricity disconnections. As many as 17,051 households were disconnected in the six months to December, according to data from the Australian Energy Regulator. The full year to June figure is set to top 34,000, a senior policy officer with the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW, Chris Dodds, told the public forum into planned gas price rises on Tuesday.

This is substantially more than the 24,800 disconnections recorded in the year to June 2013. Another 2695 households were cut off from gas supplies in the half.

At the same time 20,798 households received government assistance in paying their bills as of the end of December, the most recent data. Additionally, moves by the government to shift the number of households on to the Newstart allowance from other forms of welfare, will see cuts to their benefits, which will push up the number of households unable to pay their gas and electricity bills, Mr Dodds said.

”These are real and significant price increases,” he said, as domestic gas prices move closer to levels where gas will lose its advantage over electricity for home and water heating.

Pushing gas prices higher is the development of a number of gas export projects in Queensland, which are lifting domestic prices to international levels.

Some lobby groups have called for gas to be set aside, or reserved, for domestic users, which would help to insulate them from the surge in gas prices.

However IPART chairman Peter Boxall said any such policy would not be ”cost-free”.

”If export opportunities arise … if business doesn’t take advantage of that, that’s income forgone,” Dr Boxall told the forum.

”To put in place [a reservation policy] is not cost-free.”

Any such policy decision is for government to make and beyond the powers of the tribunal, he said. ”We cannot solve everything.”

Gas retailers were also told that the surge in prices could lead to a ”death spiral” for the industry if households were forced to move away from using gas as it became less competitive with electricity.

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Malamay’s Chinese feast back on menu

Amy Tran: “We want everyone to get in there and get messy with the dishes.”
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Lobster tail in aged wine, chicken oil and rice noodles. Photo: Graham Tidy

Malamay restaurant, Barton. Photo: Supplied

Lobster tail in aged wine, chicken oil and rice noodles. Photo: Graham Tidy

It’s designed to be a scene out of a National Geographic special – dozens of villagers gathered in a courtyard, tucking in to noodles and big communal dishes. That’s the premise behind Malamay’s special ”Family Feast” dinner later this month, anyway.

Though instead of a courtyard, the dinner will take place in the slick interior of the restaurant at the Burbury Hotel in Barton and instead of Chinese villagers, it will be the restaurant’s Canberra clientele. Dressing up for the event is strongly encouraged.

It’s a repeat of a similar feast that was held last October at Malamay. That time the Chairman Group, which owns Malamay and Chairman and Yip, flew in a chef from its Hong Kong restaurant, also called the Chairman, to cook for the Canberra crowd. And he’s coming back this year.

Amy Tran, who’s a partner in the business with Josiah Li, says the dinner is meant to evoke a traditional Chinese family banquet. The menu is being developed in the Hong Kong and Canberra kitchens and will include a vegetable plate featuring the four seasons in pickled vegetables. It’ll be followed by ”auspicious” Chinese-style tapas (think wontons). ”Next we’re doing long-life noodles from Chinese banquets and we’re sort of pimping ours out a bit with some lobster and shrimp roe, so very fancy longevity noodles.” And no banquet is complete without servings of pancakes. ”These are do-it-yourself pancakes that will go in the middle [of the table],” Tran says. ”We want everyone to get in there and get messy with the dishes.”

The brains behind the Chairman’s Hong Kong restaurant is Danny Yip (the Yip in Chairman and Yip), who is using the Family Feast dinner as an excuse to pop back to Australia and catch up with his Canberra mates. He says the dinner draws on communal dining. ”In Chinese villages, everyone knows everyone, often somehow related, with the same surname,” he says. ”They work, support, hang around like one big family. They can always find ways to celebrate something, to party and to dine together. Food is designed to share, to pass around, to be playful even, to have fun.”

Yip will be flying in with his Hong Kong chef in late May to put the final touches on the menu and test out the dishes they’ve developed with the Malamay chefs. Tran says the international collaboration is often a test. ”Everyone is always WhatsApping pictures of their dishes to each other.” They’ve been trying out dishes for several months, sending recipes and notes back and forth between Hong Kong and Canberra, and Tran’s looking forward to seeing the results soon – ”everyone in the same room at the same time, tasting the same food”. A bit like a family meal.

Details: The Chairman Family Feast is held from May 29-June 7. Tickets $98.50 in tables of four or more. Bookings 6162 1220, malamay.chairmangroup南京夜网.au

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No wallets spared in hunt for savings

It’s hard to find a hip pocket spared by the Abbott government’s first budget.
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Every motorist will pay more at the petrol bowser. More than two million families will be affected by a major overhaul of the family tax benefits system. High income earners will pay more tax. New charges will apply to GP visits and the purchase of medicines.

The government will raise an extra $2.2 billion over four years by re-introducing the biannual indexation of fuel excise. That will push up bowser prices by about 1 cent a litre next financial year, adding about $16 to the average annual fuel bill. If inflation rises in line with the official target for the next five years, motoring groups estimate that fuel excise will rise from its current rate of 38.143 cents a litre to 43.684 cents a litre, increasing the average annual fuel bill by about $81.

Expenditure surveys show filling up the car with fuel is the single biggest weekly purchase made by Australian households. Residents of outer suburbs will be hit harder than most because they tend to use much more. Then Prime Minister John Howard dumped fuel excise indexation in a bid to revive his political fortunes prior to the 2001 election.

Tighter eligibility requirements for the $19 billion a year family tax benefits system will hit millions of household budgets and exclude many upper-middle income families from the system altogether.

“Families who can support themselves will receive less assistance from the government,” the budget papers say.

The rates for family support payments will be unchanged until mid-2016 and the thresholds that determine the level of Family Tax Benefit Part A will be frozen until mid-2017. That means many families will receive lower payments as their incomes rise. Families with a single earner with an income over $100,000 will no longer be eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part B and it will no longer apply when the family’s youngest child turns six.

The effect on families from these changes depends on a household’s income and number of children but a Deloitte Access Economics budget specialist, Chris Richardson, said the reforms target middle Australia.

“Most of the heavy lifting is in the middle income range – that is families on about $100,000 to $150,000 a year,” he said.

“They have tried to protect the bottom end.”

The government has made a point of targeting high income earners with a “Temporary Budget Repair Levy”. That will lift the top marginal tax rate by 2 percentage points for the next three financial years. Those with annual earnings of $190,000 will pay an extra $200 a year, those on $250,000 will pay an extra $1400 and those earning $500,000 a year will pay an extra $6400.

Families will also have to find more money to fund their own health care. A new $7 co-payment for GP visits from July next year will cost a typical family of four $140 a year if each member visits the doctor five times.

Patients will also pay an extra $5 towards the cost of each prescription under the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme from January 1 (or 80 cents if they are on a concession card).

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States face huge shortfall in funding

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The federal government will rip $80 billion from schools and public hospitals in the next decade, as Commonwealth spending earmarked for the states and territories is slashed due to the rejigging of indexation arrangements and the abandonment of guarantees for public hospital funding.

Likely to enrage state and territory leaders, the massive hit on funding to the second tier of government runs counter to the Coalition’s pre-election promise that health and education would be quarantined from cuts, although the new indexation measures won’t begin to take effect until 2017, after the next federal election.

It also sets the scene for a potentially radical realignment of federal-state financial relations, with the states and territories under immense pressure to make up for the funding shortfall by increasing their own taxes and levies, or introducing new ones.

If they don’t, they may be forced to close schools and hospitals to make up the difference.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said the changes were necessary because the previous Labor government had ”built in massive growth in structural spending” that was simply unsustainable.

Moreover, the government believes that federal spending on schools and hospitals – which it does not manage – is not only unaffordable but ”blurs accountabilities”.

Up until 2024-2025, the cuts will amount to a cumulative $80 billion.

Based on population size, NSW schools and hospitals can expect to suffer a cumulative $25.5 billion reduction in funding over the next decade.

In Victoria, the cut will be $19.9 billion over the same period.

By 2024-25, the federal government will spend $25 billion a year on schools, as opposed to $30 billion if the existing arrangements had remained in place.

For hospitals, the difference is even larger – $25 billion versus $40 billion.

Underpinning the cuts is the change to indexation, which will see funding rise only to reflect the growth in population and inflation, rather than the previous formula which based federal funding on the growth in ”activity” in the health and education systems.

The government promised to maintain health and education funding before the election, although it reserved the right to re-allocate money within the overall funding ”envelope”.

But Treasury officials in the budget lock-up said none of the cuts to schools were being re-allocated elsewhere in the education portfolio.

For hospitals, savings will be redirected to the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund that will finance investment in new medical technologies and techniques, but only until 2019/2020.

Moreover, the states and territories will lose another $569 million in health funding from the states in the next four years, with the federal government to pull out of national partnership agreements on improving hospital services and preventative health.

In a terse statement, the federal government said: ”The states will be expected to continue contributing to these arrangements at their expense.”

One final hit to state and territory finances came with the termination of the agreement where the federal government financed some of the benefits received by seniors card holders, such as cheaper public transport fares.

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China’s financial reform process will take time, economists warn

China’s latest blueprint for widespread financial market reforms by 2020 has boosted equities and supported commodity prices this week, but fund managers predict the rally is over for now, and economists warn the implementation of the ambitious plan will be a long and difficult process.
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Among the proposed reforms is the intention to streamline the approval process for new issues and open Chinese companies to foreign investors. This will help companies sourcing funds in China’s shadow banking sector to refinance their existing debt with equity capital.

The reforms are an important step towards a more innovative and creative private sector in China, Westpac senior economist Huw McKay said.

“Attracting more foreign investors will help Chinese companies dig themselves out of a rapid growth in debt, by exchanging that debt for equity, in a market-based transaction,” Mr McKay said.

Deltec chief investment officer Atul Lele agreed the reforms should reduce the risk of corporate defaults and help China in the long term, but cautioned that they did not address near-term risks.

”Indebtedness within the corporate landscape, the potential impact of contagion across the financial system from trust products, the types of assets that they allow to be used as collateral for financing, such as commodities – there’s a long list of reforms that need to take place,” Mr Lele said.

Commodity markets heavily linked to China’s finance sector, such as iron ore and copper, were mostly higher on Tuesday as traders digested the news that China would develop commodity trading tools and also relax its capital market restrictions. Nickel surged 5.1 per cent to $US20,898 per mega tonne, but analysts said a supply shortage – following an export ban in Indonesia and Vale suspending production in New Caledonia – was the main driver.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng both broke above their 50-day moving average this week after China’s State Council released updated guidelines on Friday for developing open capital markets.

The Shanghai Composite has lost 8.4 per cent over the past one year, and the Hang Seng is down 3.2 per cent amid a slowdown in growth and fears about how the Chinese economy will cope with a raft of ambitious policy reforms. Shanghai shares eased on Tuesday following disappointing industrial production and retail sales numbers. “Typically, Chinese stocks get an immediate boost when the state announces any progress with its program of financial market reforms, but this tends to be very short-lived,” Kevin Bertoli, portfolio manager at PM Capital, said.

Friday’s announcement builds on ideas posited by the state in November and plans unveiled last month to create greater links between the mainland and Hong Kong markets, and has been warmly received by economists.

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Pension whittled away, but super untouched

Many people will be going back to their drawing boards when it comes to planning retirement.
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That is because the age pension may not be part of the retirement plans of a larger slice of people younger than their mid-50s.

In his budget speech, Joe Hockey said: “Currently, an individual with a home and almost $800,000 in assets still qualifies for the age pension; a couple with a home and almost $1.1 million in assets also qualify for the age pension.”

The government believes access to the age pension is too generous. Mr Hockey said the age pension needs to be better placed to meet the “challenge of a significant increase in demand”.

The family home is safe, and remains outside of the age pension assets test.

While the government has moved decisively to bring the growth of age pension outlays under control, it is leaving reform of superannuation tax concessions, which are growing more quickly than outlays to the age pension, to another time.

Not only will most of us have to wait beyond our 65th birthdays to qualify for the age pension and pensioner discounts, but access to the pension will be tightened and the rate at which pension payment is indexed will be slowed.

As already signalled, the pension age will rise to 70 from July 1, 2053, from 65 now. That means a pension age of 70 for everyone born after 1965.

But the change will be phased in. Those born between July 1, 1952, and December 31, 1953, will have an age pension age of 65.5. The wait rises progressively until hitting age 70 in 2053.

Rather than tighten the ”taper” rate that the pension falls with each additional dollar of income, from September 2017, the thresholds for deemed income will be lowered. This is where income from investments is deemed to earn a certain amount of interest, regardless of the actual income.

A home-owning pensioner couple, for example, is deemed to have earned 2 per cent on the first $77,400 of assets and 3.5 per cent on the rest. From September 2017, the 2 per cent will apply only on the first $50,000 and 3.5 per cent on the rest.

The government estimates that more than 500,000 age pensioners will be affected by the change, with most losing only a few dollars of the age pension each fortnight.

The government is planning to allow bracket creep to eat away at the numbers of people who can qualify for the age pension.

From July 1, 2017, all pension assets test and income test thresholds will be frozen for three years, instead of adjusted for inflation.

Finally, the way that the age pension is indexed will change. At present, the age pension rises in line with average male earnings, which grow about 1.5 percentage points a year faster than inflation. From September 1, 2017, the age pension will be in indexed to inflation.

The change will also affect the disability support pension (DSP). In several years’ time, after the change starts, the amount of the age pension and the DSP could be expected to be more than $100 a fortnight less than it would have otherwise been under current indexing.

In last year’s budget, the Gillard government doubled the 15 per cent tax on salary sacrificed into super to 30 per cent for those earning more than $300,000 a year.

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


The ABC of investing

Laura Henschke, 28, has different aspirations to her father Mark when it comes to buying a home. Photo: Tamara DeanYou didn’t need the budget to tell you that you are on your own, although a reminder every now and then never goes astray.
Nanjing Night Net

To get ahead, you must invest, especially while interest rates are low, where they are destined to remain for some time.

An online saving account is not going to hack it. The return is low, it is taxed and it is eroded by inflation.

Where and how should you invest? The cardinal rule is know thyself. If the thought of shares jumping up and down willy-nilly worries you, consider property.

If you don’t want to tie your money up in something that is always requiring attention or repairs, then the sharemarket might be a better fit. If neither appeals, read on. You might surprise yourself.

Oh, and if you want to borrow, the interest component of your repayments is tax deductible whether you buy shares or property.

However, remember, just as using other people’s money can boost your returns because there is more on the line, it will exaggerate any losses.

And don’t negatively gear. Paying out more than you earn in rent is for fools. It is a losing strategy that will bring you undone more quickly than it will the Tax Office.


Registering with a broker – CommSec is the most popular by a country mile – is easier than opening a bank account. It will only take a few minutes and you can buy shares straight away.

However, don’t rush it. The best way for beginners to get used to the sharemarket is to do some pretend or paper trading for a few months.

The ASX also has an online simulated share game that teaches you about the market.

Brokerage is payable on buying and selling and is based on the value of the trade. It costs as little as $11 a trade at CMC Markets, the cheapest broker.

One of the biggest beginners’ mistakes is in thinking a 50-cent stock is better value than a $50 one, says Dale Gillham, chief investment analyst at Wealth Within, which runs the only accredited diploma in share trading.

”They believe they get more shares and, as such, are more likely to get a better return, which is simply untrue,” he says.

Another is not having a selling price in mind when you buy. If nothing else, this concentrates the mind wonderfully, because it will force you to put a value on the stock, which in turn will mean doing some homework.

”Your exit price is more critical than the buying price,” Gillham says.

So where do you start?

Go for any of the stocks in the top 20. They will be blue chip and have stood the test of time.

”Anybody can throw a dart and pick shares, but managing risk is the most important aspect of investing.

”Preserving your capital and your profits from downturns in the market is critical to long-term success. If you don’t lose on a stock, then you don’t have to find a way to make up for it,” Gillham says.

Top blue chips are less volatile and always fare better, which is not to say they are immune from any market bad-hair day.

However, there are other ways to get into the sharemarket without having to pore over annual reports yourself.

One shortcut is a managed fund, usually bought through a financial adviser, where it is all done for you. Since it does not trade on the ASX, you will not know how it is faring day to day unless you specifically ask. This might not be such a bad thing.

You can get the same thing in listed investment companies, or LICs, which also manage a share portfolio. You will know what the LIC is worth every second of the day, like any other share, and they are easy to get into and out of.

Their annual fee is also cheaper than a managed fund’s.

But cheapest of all is an exchange-traded fund (ETF), a sort of cross between the two. LICs and managed funds are actively managed, whereas an ETF follows a predetermined index such as the ASX top 20.

One other thing is that managed funds and ETFs are always valued at what their portfolios are worth, but LICs can stray, and do most of the time, from their real value.

Sometimes that is an advantage – you can buy them for less than their portfolios are worth – but at the moment many are trading at a premium to their underlying value.

Speaking of which, are shares reasonably priced at the moment?

Only just, going by the price-to-earnings (p/e) ratio.

The market’s p/e is about 15, which means shares trade on 15 times companies’ earnings for the financial year. That is right on its long-term average.

Over time, you can expect the market to average a 10 per cent-a-year return including dividends.

Average is the operative word: it is hardly ever that in any particular year.

And here is a sobering thought. A 50 per cent drop in price requires a 100 per cent increase just to get back to where you were.

Fixed interest

Investing in bonds, debentures or anything else that pays interest for a set term is not going to make you wealthy, but it might stop you from becoming poor.

They are the safe ground between shares and cash – not high risk, a better yield, and the chance of a capital gain. As it turns out, some listed companies also issue bonds, although it is hard for ordinary investors to get their hands on them and even then you need to go to a fixed-interest dealer.

Fixed-interest investing also requires a slightly different mindset.

”You’re looking for survivability of a company. With shares, you look at growth,” says Elizabeth Moran, director of education and fixed income research at FIIG Securities, a bond dealer which offers $10,000 parcels of bonds as part of a $50,000 investment.

Qantas is a classic example. You wouldn’t want to buy its shares, but there is no question of it meeting its financial commitments. Its bonds with a face value of $100 mature in 2020 and have an interest yield of 6.5 per cent a year.

A bond yield is the fixed-interest version of dividend yields: in this case the interest divided by the price you paid. So the more the bond costs, the lower the yield.

If you think rates are going to drop you would want a bond, because its price will rise.

A rate rise would lower the price but all is not lost. Some bonds have a floating rate tied to the money market and are usually adjusted quarterly. When rates rise, so does your return, without hurting the bond’s price. It might even rise, because the bond will be paying more.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s floating bond is yielding about 5.6 per cent, Moran says.


With rates so low, property has never had it so good. Perhaps too good, because by any stretch it’s expensive. The average rental yield is 4.7 per cent, the equivalent of the sharemarket’s p/e or payback period of 21 years.

Even for owner occupiers, mortgage repayments are approaching the highest proportion of income ever, according to the Reserve Bank. Then again, the unique thing about property is that every home is its own separate market.

But there are some things a good investment property needs. It should match the demographic of the area. In the inner city or close to a university, for example, a unit will be more in demand from tenants than a house.

And you want to buy in an area with a rapidly rising population.

The more sought-after units are close to transport, shops and parks or beaches. For houses, you could add proximity to a high-rating NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) school.

Look beyond your own backyard. The ideal investment property might not be in your street, city or even state.

It will be where there is ”a population growing faster than the national average, a median household income growing faster than inflation, strong infrastructure plans designed to provide extended and appropriate services to the growing population [such as transport, schools, roads and shopping precincts] and a local government with progressive town plans and money to commit to the area,” property expert and author Margaret Lomas says.

”There is still a little bit of life left in Western Sydney. After that, I really like Brisbane suburbs. Nundah, Albion, Runcorn, Upper Mount Gravatt and the Logan shire, to name a few. In Melbourne: Narre Warren, Epping and Meadow Heights.”


The best investment you can make is salary sacrificing into superannuation. Not that super is an investment as such. It is a tax dodge for things you would invest in anyway.

Most super funds have more in shares than anything else, and for good reason. Your super has to provide a nest egg for you at the end of your working life and then, hopefully, many years of retirement. Earning interest alone is just not going to cut it.

Also, blue-chip shares come with franked dividends and, because super earnings are taxed at 15 per cent, whereas franking has a 30 per cent credit, it means more money flowing in courtesy of the Tax Office.

By the same token, you need diversity, because the sharemarket may not be there when you need it. Just ask all those baby boomers who had to postpone retirement because they were hit by the global financial crisis.

The typical balanced fund, which is what you are in unless you told your boss otherwise, has shares, fixed interest, some cash, international investments and probably some property.

It is like a one-stop shop for an investment portfolio, but with tax breaks. These include 15 per cent taxes on salary-sacrificed contributions and the fund’s earnings – in both cases instead of your marginal rate.

Even so, it doesn’t suit everybody. If you are under 40, you are probably better off in a growth option which will stick more in shares, but if you are over 50, something more conservative might be better.

Or you can always run your own fund along with more than half a million others, but you need to have at least $200,000 in it for it to be worth the accounting, auditing and government levy fees.

There are also strict limits to how much you can salary sacrifice a year, which is not helped by the fact that your boss’s 9.25 per cent contribution counts towards the ceiling as well.The generation gap

Most baby boomers think the younger generation will do it tougher financially than them – but the Henschke family suggests perhaps not.

The two generations have quite different aspirations about buying a home. According to a survey of ”affluent investors” by asset management firm Legg Mason, 70 per cent feel ”investment prospects would be worse for future generations”. And fewer than half of them are convinced they’re saving enough for retirement.

Legg Mason’s Matt Schiffman’s advice is to ”invest early in life and make sure you understand what you’re investing in”.

At 28, Laura Henschke, says: ”Time is getting on. I’ve worked hard to pay off my debts and am now able to consider investing.”

Although she and her partner, Michael, will invest in property, they aren’t keen to buy a place to live in. Yet, at her age, baby boomers were typically already buying their dream home.

Her retired dad, Mark, who runs his own super fund, says: ”For my generation it was ‘buy a home’, and that was it.”

But Laura, a laywer, says the couple prefers ”to invest at this stage. I don’t have a desire for a big house. We’d rather invest wisely. Eventually in our late 30s or early 40s we might get a house.”

Mark says if he had his time over again he’s not sure he would have bought a home first. ”Maybe there would be different choices,” he says.

Read David Potts in Weekend Money, in the paper each Sunday.


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