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Sunday, 21 February

20:07

Turnbull opposes affordable housing John Quiggin

Responding to Labor’s proposals on negative gearing and capital gains tax, Malcolm Turnbull has warned that property values will fall as a result. He is surely correct. To put the same point in different words, Turnbull agrees that Labor policy will make housing more affordable and thinks that this is a bad thing.

There are some obvious electoral advantages in Turnbull’s scare campaign. As I observed when this topic came up during Abbott’s Prime Ministership, most voters own houses and therefore benefit from making housing less affordable. For this reason, Australian public policy has long been to make housing as unaffordable as possible.

The difficulty for Turnbull arises from precisely this point. He has more or less promised to do something about the tax treatment of property. But, from our current starting point, almost any change must make existing owners worse off. So, when and if he does anything, he will be hoist on his own petard.

Labor’s response to Turnbull has been interesting and, I suspect, effective. The line has been to accuse him of a dishonest scare campaign, without explicitly denying that property values will decline with the removal of unjustified tax concessions.

While this is an example of a non-denial denial, it is I think, defensible. Turnbull is mounting a scare campaign, and doing so dishonestly, attacking policies he might otherwise embrace. This is a much fairer use of the term than when it was used to apply to Labor’s reiteration of its longstanding opposition to expansion of the GST at a time when the government was clearly floating the idea. Pointing out that it was never formal government policy is a silly evasion – it wasn’t as though Labor was inventing the idea.

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Saturday, 20 February

18:39

Another fearless prediction John Quiggin

As longterm readers know, my record on political and other predictions is mixed, not as bad as some have made out, but by no means uniformly accurate. Still, I’m going to venture my most fearless prediction in some time.

Bill Shorten will be Prime Minister after the next election.

Like most Australian voters, I have no great enthusiasm for Shorten. But, I’ve come to the view that Turnbull is, as the Fin remarked recently, “all hat and no cattle”, and the same can be said of most of his ministry. In particular, Scott Morrison is the most striking instance of the Peter Principle I’ve seen in some time. Brutally effective as Immigration Minister, he handled the Social Services portfolio quite deftly, but has floundered as Treasurer.

Turning from personality to policy, Labor certainly deserves a win. They have stuck to their guns on issues like carbon pricing, and advanced serious and credible policies on tax and public expenditure, something that hasn’t been attempted since John Hewson’s Fightback! disaster in 1993.

By contrast, the Turnbull government is an enigma. Will it go to the election with the policies Turnbull inherited from Abbott? Or will be asked to “let Malcolm be Malcolm”? Or will we see a continuation of the studied ambiguity of the last five months? No one seems to know.

For the moment, Turnbull’s popularity looks like the trump card. The experience of his last stint as leader suggests that this is a fairly weak reed.

The best hope for the government is that the post-Turnbull surge was not so much driven by support for Turnbull as by an underlying LNP majority, submerged by Abbott’s absurdities.

12:27

Something doesn’t add up here John Quiggin

The papers are abuzz with speculation about an early election. This is one of the favorite games of the political punditariat, and it usually comes to nothing, but the story this time seems to make even less sense than usual. Part of the problem is that there are three different ways an early election could be held, and the proponents seem to be assuming a “unicorn” or “Pixie horse” (to use Scott Morrison’s evocative terminology) that combines the best of all three from the government’s position.

First, we could have an immediate dissolution of the House of Representatives. This would have a chance of achieving the biggest selling point of the early election idea, cashing in on Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity while it lasts. But such obviously cynical moves have failed in the past, as Campbell Newman could tell you. Also, it would (as I understand it) necessitate a separate half-Senate election in the second half of the year. The political class, with the exception of minority and micro-parties, really hates this idea.

Second, we could have a double dissolution, based on the Senate’s failure to pass anti-union laws, and held under the existing rules. Apparently, the election would have to be called the day after Budget Day (11 May), and couldn’t be held until July. So, it would only be a few months early, invalidating the whole idea. And, of course, it would guarantee a Senate with lots of micro and minor party members.

The third idea, is the second, plus a deal with the Greens to reform the Senate voting rules to allow preferential above the line voting. This would kill off the “preference whisperer” deals that have allowed the election of candidates with almost no votes. The reform makes sense, but why on earth would the Greens rush it through to make life easy for the government? All they have to do is hold off until the Budget session and they can get the reform with no possi...

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Friday, 19 February

22:06

A Threat to China’s Debt Ratings? The Diplomat » Pacific Money

How big a deal is China’s growing leverage?

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Wednesday, 17 February

01:04

TPP to stall climate change action: Saturday Paper AFTINET

16 February 2016

The Saturday Paper has published an excellent article critical of the TPP called Trans-Pacific Partnership to stall climate change action.

Written by law journalist Richard Ackland, it's well worth a read.

00:41

People around the world unite against TPP AFTINET

16 February 2016

People around the world are uniting against the TPP. Watch this video bringing together voices from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Peru, Mexico, Chile, the US, Canada, Japan and beyond!

Whatever your reason for opposing the deal, take action by sending a message to your Senators and MP here.

Thanks to AFTINET members the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association for helping with this international video!

00:26

MPs' critical responses on TPP AFTINET

15 February 2015

Many MPs responded critically to the Government’s National Interest Analysis of the TPP tabled in Parliament last week.

Read responses by Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, and ALP MHRs Kelvin Thompson, Melissa Parke and Alannah McTiernan via the links.

 

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Monday, 15 February

00:00

New Trade Minister - Steve Ciobo AFTINET

15 February 2016

A cabinet reshuffle over the weekend has named Steve Ciobo as the new Australian Trade Minister.

Andrew Robb, who will be retiring at the next election, now has the title of special Trade Envoy. He will continue to be involved in current trade negotiations until then.

At this stage there is no indication that there will be any policy change on trade.

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Saturday, 13 February

02:02

Push for RCEP “convergence” with TPP AFTINET

12 February 2016

When Trade Minister Andrew Robb signed the TPP he told the Fairfax press that he was now setting his sights on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The two deals combined would create “a vast trade agreement architecture” for the world, he said.

As RCEP talks continue in Brunei this week, Robb is not the only one pushing for the RCEP and for it to set similar rules as the TPP does.

RCEP includes the 10 ASEAN countries, including Japan and Korea, who are both also signatories to the TPP. They want to see some convergence between the deals, including stronger monopolies on life-saving medicines and inclusion of foreign investor rights to sue governments over domestic legislation (ISDS).

Read the full story in our latest Bulletin

 

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Friday, 12 February

08:09

TPP: What you need to know & what you can do about it AFTINET

The Trans-Pacific Partnership – or TPP – is a massive trade deal covering 40 per cent of the world’s economy, between the US, Australia and 10 other Pacific Rim countries.

Except it’s not only – or even mainly – about trade. It is about rules for global corporations, which could prevent future governments from protecting the public interest.

The TPP allows foreign corporations to bypass our courts and sue our governments in international tribunals if they can argue that future laws could harm their investment (read: their profits). There are increasing numbers of cases against governments trying to protect the environment, access to medicines, and even over an increase to the minimum wage.

The TPP also gives more monopoly rights to big pharmaceutical companies, so that they can charge higher prices for medicines for longer.

Here in Australia this means our health system could pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year more for lifesaving biologics medicines (the kind that can treat serious diseases like cancer). In developing countries it means millions of people will simply go without the treatment they need.

The TPP gives extra copyright protections for big corporates at the expense of consumers and internet users.

The TPP was negotiated behind closed doors with detailed input from US corporate adv...

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Thursday, 11 February

07:01

Scathing criticism of DFAT’s TPP analysis AFTINET

11 February 2016

Crikey has published a scathing criticism of the TPP’s 'National Interest Analysis' from Bernard Keane, titled "Whoo boy, trade agreement to save Australian business a whopping … $150k”

Mr Keane argues that the only “hard evidence” for benefit presented in the analysis is that “businesses will save less than $150,000 on paperwork”.

“Perhaps DFAT was ashamed of its document, because there isn’t a single sentence of actual analysis in the dozens and dozens of pages of the document or its attachments,” he writes.

You need a subscription to read the full article, but if you have one you can read it here 

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Wednesday, 10 February

05:00

Record number of ISDS cases in 2015 AFTINET

10 February 2016

As the world prepares for a massive expansion of the investor-state dispute settlement  (ISDS) system through the TPP, startling information has come to light.

As the world prepares for a massive expansion of ISDS thanks to the TPP, startling new information has come to light: it’s been revealed by UNCTAD that foreign investors launched  70 new ISDS cases against governments last year, more than any prior year.

This is twice the number of new cases than were launched just five years earlier. The total number of outstanding cases is now almost 700.

They also report that foreign investors have launched more ISDS cases in each of the last five years than in the first three decades of the ISDS system combined, and that more than half of all concluded cases have resulted in either settlement or loss for the government involved. 

04:55

TPP tabled in Parliament AFTINET

10 February 2016

Trade Minister Andrew Robb tabled the National Interest Assessment of the TPP  in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. The National Interest Assessment is done by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which negotiated the agreement and is not independent.

He was again criticised for seeking ratification of the TPP without a proper, independent cost-benefit examination of the deal and its impacts on Australians.

The agreement will now be examined by parliamentary committees. The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties will be receiving submissions until the 11th of March.

Tuesday, 09 February

08:22

Cancer patients arrested during peaceful TPP protest AFTINET

8 February 2016

Two cancer patients in the US were arrested on World Cancer Day for linking arms and refusing to leave the lobby of PhRMA, the trade association which pushed for extreme medicine monopolies in the TPP.

Watch the powerful video by by Global Trade Watch:

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