Disability & Aged


Anger as welfare cuts tied to NDIS

Phoebe Wearne, The West Australian, Tuesday February 14, 2017

The Federal Government has been accused of holding the National Disability Insurance Scheme hostage over billions of dollars in welfare cuts that face being blocked by a hostile Senate. In a move that angered disability advocates yesterday, the Government announced $3 billion in leftover savings from its welfare omnibus Bill would be quarantined for future contributions to the NDIS. Treasurer Scott Morrison warned that should the Senate block the Bill, the NDIS could be underfunded.


Memo Treasurer Scott Morrison: there ain't no NDIS jam jars

Peter Martin, The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday February 14, 2017

What's this about a "locked box"? Treasurer Scott Morrison says the savings that'll be made from cutting unemployment and other benefits will be put into the modern-day equivalent of a jam jar - "a locked box for which the Social Services Minister has full visibility and accountability to ensure that the money that will come from making these changes will go to ensure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme continues to be funded". It came across as a threat: if the Senate didn't support the $3 billion of spending cuts in the clumsily named Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform Bill, the National Disability Insurance Scheme mightn't be properly funded.


ACOSS urges Parliament to reject attempt to cut incomes

Gali Blacher, Third Sector, Monday February 13, 2017

ACOSS has urged the Federal Parliament to stand firm against measures in the new Government Omnibus Bill that will cut the incomes of some of the poorest people, including families, to fund child care reforms. “This is the latest attempt by the Government to push through harsh cuts that will rip $7 billion from the social security budget. It includes previously rejected ‘zombie’ measures, such as the five-week wait for unemployment payments, further cuts to family payments, and abolition of the energy supplement, which will slash the incomes of two million future recipients of income support,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.


Nick Xenophon Team to vote against Malcolm Turnbull’s childcare and family payments reform

Sheradyn Holderhead, The Advertiser, Tuesday February 14, 2017

Malcolm Turnbull’s childcare and family payments overhaul is in tatters because Nick Xenophon has declared that he and his fellow NXT senators will vote against the Government’s entire suite of social service reforms, The Advertiser can reveal. In a huge blow to Mr Turnbull’s attempts to prove he can work with the fractious crossbench, Senator Xenophon told The Advertiser yesterday that the Government’s latest negotiating tactic was “as subtle as a sledgehammer”. Senator Xenophon said that while his team was supportive of the “important” increases in child care subsidies, the reforms could not hinge on cuts to other Australians in need.


Turnbull government ties welfare cuts to NDIS funding

Adam Gartrell, The Canberra Times, Monday February 13, 2017

The Turnbull government is ramping up the pressure on Labor and the Senate crossbench to support its welfare cuts by declaring the savings will be used to help fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The government had already earmarked $1.6 billion from its so-called omnibus bill - which contains cuts to family payments, paid parental leave and the dole - to pay for its new streamlined childcare subsidy system.


Here's a tip: don't pick on disabled people

Laura Tingle, Australian Financial Review, Monday February 13, 2017

Christian Porter is often touted as a conservative contender for future prime minister. He's smart. He's personable. He's got the experience of being a state attorney-general and treasurer under his belt despite his relative youth. What he hasn't got is any political touch. He rather showed that last year when he missed a huge opportunity to parade himself as an innovative policy maker with some interesting ideas - and create a new platform for debating welfare spending - when he instead sold the government's adoption of the New Zealand investment approach to social welfare as yet just another exercise in ways to save eleventy billion dollars in a hundred years time. So here's a tip Christian: don't pick on disabled people.


Childcare changes: Nick Xenophon Team blocks Federal Government's omnibus bill

Matthew Doran, ABC News, Tuesday February 14, 2017

The Nick Xenophon Team has announced it will not support the Federal Government's package of changes to child care and welfare benefits. Last week the Coalition introduced a so-called omnibus bill to try to force nearly $4 billion in savings through the Parliament. The bill included increases to childcare subsidies, and cuts to family tax benefits and paid parental leave. Yesterday, Treasurer Scott Morrison put pressure on the crossbench to support the bill, announcing the Government would redirect $3 billion to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) if the legislation passed.


Robo-debt: government plain wrong and misleading, says Andrew Wilkie

Noel Towell, The Canberra Times, Monday February 13, 2017

The Coalition government has misled the Australian people about its conduct of the Centrelink "robo-debt" debacle, according to MP Andrew Wilkie. The Tasmanian independent delivered a scathing blast to the Turnbull government in Parliament on Monday morning, accusing it of being "incompetent, cruel and uncaring" over the "terrible terrible episode". Mr Wilkie was frank about his goal of keeping pressure on the government over the program, which sees debts raised by an automated system that matches data given to Centrelink with that provided to the Tax Office.


The government's company tax cut policy has two major problems

Greg Jericho, The Guardian, Tuesday February 14, 2017

The government argues its plan to cut company tax will drive investment and create jobs, but a new report by progressive think tank, the Australia Institute, questions that assumption. The report’s authors argue that 15 of Australia’s largest companies – which would receive around a third of the cost of the tax cuts – are unlikely to invest in areas that would drive either economic growth or employment. The government’s case for why we need company tax cuts has always rather struggled to match rhetoric with evidence. The primary argument for why we need the tax cut is that because other nations have been cutting rates, we need to follow suit. The governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Phillip Lowe, alluded to this point in a speech last week when he noted that Australia needs “to make sure that our tax system is internationally competitive. One example of this complication is in the area of corporate tax”.


Closing the Gap: Ninth report card on Indigenous disadvantage set to be a mixed bag

Dan Conifer and Caitlyn Gribbin, ABC News, Tuesday February 14, 2017

The Federal Government's report card on Indigenous disadvantage is today expected to show patchy progress, as Indigenous leaders demand a new relationship with the Government. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will this afternoon deliver the ninth Closing the Gap update to Parliament. It will show insufficient progress in some areas while highlighting improvement in others. It will outline positive signs in health, including reduced rates of smoking and infant mortality. The report is also expected to reveal advances in reading and numeracy.


Close the Gap: millions are wasted and indigenous people get scraps

Amos Aikman, The Australian, Tuesday February 14, 2017

Que Kenny looks back on a decade’s worth of Close the Gap targets, policies, rhetoric and protestations and sighs. Out in her little community of Hermannsburg, “there have been some positive changes, but there’ve been a lot of negative ones, too”. “There’s been more negative than positive,” she says when asked to weigh the results. “A lot of things the government thinks are good for us really are not.” Hermannsburg, an old mission settlement about an hour’s drive west of Alice Springs, ought to be a place where good policies can ­really bite. Instead, Ms Kenny says, successive decisions centralising control have left locals feeling betrayed and ignored.


The Turnbull Government Can't Stop Blaming Renewables

Karen Barlow, The Huffington Post, Monday February 13, 2017

A weekend of scorching record temperatures, horrendous fire conditions and rolling power blackouts across Australia's south-east has focused minds -- and sweaty bodies -- on energy security. It's a subject the Turnbull Government wants to talk about in 2017 as it pushes back an increasingly confident Labor Opposition and the Greens on their "mindless" renewable energy policies.


Extreme vetting plan for Australian citizenship

Joe Hildebrand, News.com.au, Monday February 13, 2017

Immigrants to Australia should be subjected to an “extreme vetting” test before they become citizens or receive welfare, according to a radical proposal by libertarian Senator David Leyonhjelm. Senator Leyonhjelm has put together a 15 question test that he believes will weed out those who do not share Australian values, including questions on attitudes towards women, child sex and blasphemy. Senator Leyonhjelm, the Liberal Democrat senator for NSW, does not mention any nationality or religion specifically, however he does openly emulate the “extreme vetting” approach taken by the new Trump administration for asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island as well as seven Muslim-majority countries. “I believe we should apply extreme vetting to applicants for citizenship,” he told news.com.au.


Other Top Stories

Bid to put Aust on trial over refugees

PAA. 9 NKews, Monday February 13, 2017

Human rights lawyers are seeking to put Australia on trial for crimes against humanity over the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers on two Pacific islands. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has been asked to examine the use of offshore camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus where hundreds of men, women and children are detained indeterminately. In a 100-page submission, the International Human Rights Clinic at the Stanford Law School in the US and the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) have summarised practices on the islands over the last decade and harrowing accounts of conditions.


Australia Just Made A Significant Advance In The Protection Of Human Rights

Gillian Triggs, The Huffington Post, Monday February 13, 2017

Last week's announcement that the Government intends to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment -- otherwise known as OPCAT -- is the most significant advance in the protection of human rights in Australia since the creation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights some years ago. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2002, the Protocol seeks to prevent the torture and other cruel acts against those held in detention. Critically, OPCAT provides not only for a national monitoring regime of detention facilities, but it also establishes an international regime of independent scrutiny. The scope for monitoring under the protocol is wide. The definition of 'detention' includes prisons, immigration detention facilities, youth detention centres and other facilities where, for example, those with cognitive disabilities are held.


Bankwest cuts negative gearing benefits from home loan assessments

Michael Janda and Peter Ryan, ABC News, Monday February 13, 2017

Bankwest has confirmed that property investors are no longer able to include the tax benefits of negative gearing when applying for a home loan from the institution. In an emailed statement, a Bankwest spokesman said its loan serviceability calculators were updated on Friday to remove negative gearing tax benefits, "in line with regulatory guidance". "This change aligns Bankwest with industry best practice and guidance from regulators, specifically APG 223 within the Residential Mortgage Lending prudential practice guide," the spokesman added.


Rudd warns against a second ‘stolen generation’ by default

Michelle Grattan, The Conversation, Tuesday February 14, 2017

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has warned against the creation of a second “stolen generation” by default, on the eve of Malcolm Turnbull’s release of the 2017 Closing the Gap report on Tuesday. Rudd called for more to be done to halt the increasing number of Indigenous children being removed from their families, and to ensure that those who had to be removed were placed appropriately. In 2006, 6,497 Aboriginal children were in out-of-home care nationally. By mid-2015, the most recent data, this had risen to 15,432.


Noel Pearson's model for recognition wins support

Michael Gordon, Sydsney Morning Herald, Tuesday February 14, 2017

Indigenous Australians have strongly backed Noel Pearson's call for a new Indigenous body recognised by the constitution to have a voice to the national Parliament. Aborigines from the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia met last weekend and emphatically backed the proposal to give them greater say in government decision-making on matters that affect them and their rights.


Tony Abbott 'disappointed' Coalition scrapped week in a remote Indigenous community

Katharine Murphy and Melissa Davey, The Guardian, Tuesday February 14, 2017

Ahead of the release of the ninth Closing the Gap report on Tuesday, the former prime minister Tony Abbott said he was concerned that Malcolm Turnbull was no longer taking the government to spend a week each year in a remote community. Speaking to the ABC radio on Monday evening, Abbott defended his record in Indigenous affairs, and described his practice of spending a week in an Indigenous community when he was prime minister as a “very important indication to our country” about priorities. He said it was “a little disappointing” that the intergovernmental pilgrimage to a remote community was no longer happening under Turnbull, who scrapped the visits when he took the Liberal leadership.


Turnbull ignored advice that renewable energy not to blame for SA blackouts

Gareth Hutchens, The Guardian, Monday February 13, 2017

Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to link last year’s blackout in South Australia to the state’s high renewable energy target was made directly against confidential public service advice. Freedom-of-information documents reveal a senior bureaucrat at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was so concerned about the spreading of misinformation in the immediate aftermath of last September’s SA storm that she emailed officials in the Departments of Environment and Agriculture asking for help. “Helpful if we can have some information on the cause and why the system responds as it did,” the senior bureaucrat wrote in an email time-stamped 8.31pm on Wednesday 28 September 2016. “I listened to the premier who repeatedly indicated the outage is not generation related but some are suggesting related to renewables.


Energy Australia boss 'worried' for customers over power bills after heatwave

Elysse Morgan, ABC News, Tuesday February 14, 2017

Energy Australia has joined the chorus of big business, unions, welfare and environmental groups calling for an end to Canberra's blame game over renewables. "I am worried about our customers and what will happen with their bills," Energy Australia's managing director Catherine Tanna told The Business. "We've seen that customers over the weekend in some places in Australia used 25 per cent more than usual. In a couple of months when these bills turn up they are going to get a surprise and I am worried about that because I know that the cost of living is a concern for them."



Closing the Gap: this coolamon carries a special baby

Jackie Huggins, The Australian, Tuesday February 14, 2017

Today, when he delivers the ninth Closing the Gap report to parliament, Malcolm Turnbull — and many elected members — will likely express disappointment at the lack of progress in closing the indigenous disadvantage gap. But this disappointment will be as nothing compared to what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel at the repeated news that our lives are still shorter, sicker and poorer than those of other Australians. It is disappointment born from a failure of successive governments to look to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for solutions on matters that deeply affect us. It is we who witness our elders pass before their time, our children placed in out-of-home care, and our young people locked up rather than educated. We see our women’s continued experiences of family violence, and wait for our brothers and sisters to have their disabilities diagnosed and supported.


We need a comprehensive housing approach to deal with heatwaves

Wendy Miller, The Conversation, Tuesday February 14, 2017

Heatwaves across much of the country this summer have revealed a serious problem with our national housing stock. Stressed electricity networks that can’t guarantee supply have led to politicians advising people not to go home, but to go to the movies instead. The risk is that houses aren’t built to mitigate the health risks of this kind of heat. We are using air conditioning as a band-aid instead of identifying the cause and seriousness of the condition. Australia’s continued lack of planning to solve the problem is a risky strategy.


Where are the credible energy policies?

Editorial, Australian Financial Review, Monday February 13, 2017

Australia is rich in gas, coal, sunshine, and wind. It is one of the world's top energy exporters. So it must be the mother of all policy shambles when the country struggles to keep the lights on and the air conditioners humming at home. Last week parts of South Australia were once again left without power, and the most populous state of NSW was put on alert to expect the same. The details of Wednesday's outage in SA are still murky. Did the Australian Energy Market Operator order the French owner of the Pelican Point gas fired power station to start providing backup power into the grid? Did Engie refuse, and even then, was it even technically capable of doing so? For SA, which has suffered four substantial power outages since September, the issue is pretty basic: its own energy grid has been overloaded with unreliable renewables and most of its fossil-fuelled generation capacity has shut down, leaving the grid literally at the mercy of the wind.


Labour 'flexibility' has come at a cost: underemployment

Clancy Yeates, Brisbane Times, Monday February 13, 2017

For all the signs that our economy is on the mend, two influential reports on Friday also highlighted the soft underbelly of Australia's labour market. Sure, economic growth is forecast to return back towards its long-term average, unemployment has probably peaked, and the era of ultra-low interest rates is nearing an end. But that is little comfort for the many workers who simply aren't getting enough hours.


The IMF is showing some hypocrisy on inequality

Christopher Sheilk, Frank Stilwell, The Conversation, Monday February 13, 2017

“I hope people will listen now” said Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month. Lagarde was alluding to the wave of reactionary populism that’s currently sweeping the developed economies, and was harking back to her speech at Davos in 2013 when she warned that economic “inequality is corrosive to growth; it is corrosive to society”. The IMF has been expressing public concern about inequality since 2010, but this has not translated into concrete action within the IMF’s own policies and programs, according to new research by British political economists, Alex Nunn and Paul White.


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