SAFE AS HOUSES
First homeowners could raid their superannuation up to 40% (a maximum of $50,000) to buy a house, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged. They’d have to put it back when the house sold, ABC adds, along with some capital gains. It was the big announcement of his election campaign launch yesterday, branded a “last-ditch” effort to lure young voters by The Australian ($). But the compound interest that would be lost on $50,000 is staggering, and it’s sure to hurt women the most, who retire with 40% less super than men due to pay inequality and career breaks for child-rearing.
Labor slammed the policy. Housing spokesperson Jason Clare says first home buyers usually have the smallest super balance, and besides, it would send housing prices skyrocketing (although for some of the landed gentry, that would be considered a good thing). The SMH also points out that it would be a can kicked down the road twice for first home buyers — when they sell their homes, they end up with fewer capital gains, setting them back financially again. Former Labor PM Paul Keating called it a “frontal assault” from the Liberal Party on our retirement savings. But the Coalition was ready with ancient receipts: the government started circulating a 29-year-old Labor election promise that would’ve seen all homebuyers fund up to 49% of a deposit using super, The Conversation continues.
A remote Indigenous community that has been drinking uranium-contaminated water for a decade will get a new treatment plant — by the end of the year, that is — the NT Government has announced. Residents who are some of Australia’s poorest people are paying $12 for boxes of water while they wait, Guardian Australia reports. The plant was meant to take 40 weeks when it was announced by Minister for Remote Housing and Town Camps Chansey Paech in October, but no work has started yet. Residents told Guardian Australia last year that when they drink the water, it makes them sick — an expert said the radioactive exposure also increases their risk of cancer.
Also in the NT, the government has greenlit a geothermal exploration permit — it could see billions of dollars worth of green hydrogen (and ammonia) while creating 3000 jobs, the NT News reports. They’ll know if they’re successful if they can generate more than 300 degrees Celsius of heat from wells, without needing to frack or pump. Each well (about a square metre wide) can electrify 4000 homes. Speaking of electricity — AGL Energy is still ploughing ahead on a plan to de-merge, even though majority shareholder tech billionaire Mike Cannon–Brookes is urging against it. And yet AGL faces even more hurdles, the AFR reports — investor backing would be crucial, and major players like UK-based Snowcap (who were talking to AGL in February) have said they are “underwhelmed” by 356 pages of documentation not containing “one good reason why AGL should split in two”. Ouch.
A LIBERAL ATTITUDE
Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) member Michael Manetta has told Guardian Australia he was benched for deciding against the government too much. The AAT basically reviews the government’s administrative decisions (it’s where robodebt was first fought) and it was recently stacked with Coalition friends, as The Saturday Paper writes. Manetta says he isn’t allowed to hear social security cases anymore — he claims former Liberal and AAT deputy president Karen Synon was worried about how much the government was appealing against his decisions, and benched him to get consistency between members. Synon denies she did anything untoward.
Meanwhile, another Liberal with an alleged identity crisis — Labor has asked the AEC to look into Liberal candidate for McEwen Richard Welch over whether he gave false information about where he lives, The Age reports. The outer-Melbourne candidate wrote a Wallan address on his nomination — but he lives 50km away from there in the electorate of JagaJaga. He told the paper and Nine News two slightly different reasons for it — one that his landlord sold the Wallan house, the other that his family hadn’t moved into the new Wallan house. Yikes.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
It’s been a week of triumphs on Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. Up the freezing peak went Kenton Cool (the dad jokes write themselves) for the 16th time last week, a new record for the most ascents by a non-Nepali. It was made all the sweeter as Cool was told he would never walk again in 1996 — he had shattered both of his heel bones in a rock climb gone wrong. Another record was set when Lhakpa Sherpa made her ascent up the world’s tallest mountain for the 10th time last week, making her the first woman to do so. She had humble beginnings — the Nepalese single mother was born in a cave, didn’t go to school, and worked as a cleaner. But once she made her first trip up, life was never the same. “I felt like I’d changed Sherpa culture, the status of Sherpa women and Nepali women,” she said.
And Nepali mountaineer Kami Rita Sherpa takes the top gong with a staggering 26 times up Mount Everest, the most of anyone ever. He actually beat his own record about a week ago, as well as the world record. Everest, which is nearly 9km up, has only been scaled 10,657 times — and 311 people didn’t make it back down. That might’ve been on Cool’s mind when he spoke to reporters via satellite phone before the final leg of his journey, saying: “Overconfidence on a mountain like Everest is a dangerous thing, so nothing is assured until you’re back down at base camp”. His message rings true, folks: it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
Wishing you the steely resolve of Kenton Cool, Lhakpa Sherpa, and Kami Rita Sherpa to get you through the election week ahead.
There is a policy where you can only have two wheelchair travellers on one aircraft in many airlines — these sorts of policies are negative and limiting … We’re always the exception to the rule, we’re always the group of people that has to have a particular type of treatment.
The former Disability Discrimination Commissioner says he’s sick to death of the discrimination that people with a disability receive at airports, after he says he was treated badly yet again while in transit — this time, at Adelaide Airport’s security section. The airport has apologised, but Innes says he is prepared to go to court.
The Liberal Party is beyond reform. That’s why this former Liberal minister says you should vote independent
“I once intended this article to be about how the Liberal Party could reform itself — away from unrepresented power-hungry types, who to further their own vested interests have inserted supporters into Liberal branches, and back towards the party of Menzies and Fraser, the party I served as a minister, a party which put the electorate first, not its powerful mates.
“But I realise the Liberal party can’t reform itself. I simply can’t write that article. The rot is set in too deep; the need for a total restart too great. As my former colleague Fred Chaney recently wrote, the focus of the Liberal Party is now on daily cheap political arguments not on long-term vision for Australia.”
“In a recognition that purchasing housing had become more difficult, Morrison announced what he called a ‘comprehensive housing plan’. The changes to superannuation will allow more seniors to direct $300,000 from the sale of a family home into superannuation by dropping the age limit to 55. It will also allow seniors to hold proceeds from house sales for two years without it affecting their pension.
“Morrison has also adopted a policy — long pushed by enemies of superannuation within Liberal ranks — of allowing superannuation to be accessed to buy homes: first-home buyers will be able to raid their super balances by up to $50,000 or 40% of their account balance to buy homes. This will pump billions in superannuation into the housing market, significantly pushing home prices up.”
“Compared to much of the rest of the world, Australia’s position at this stage of the pandemic is a strong one. We have one of the highest vaccination rates and lowest COVID death rates around. Unemployment is, as the PM pointed out, at historic low levels, and despite very real cost of living pressures, other comparable Western countries are arguably doing it tougher.
“But despite the government’s desperation to make that comparison, it still looks like voters could abandon the devil they know next week. Will ScoMo 2.0 convince them otherwise? Will a controversial housing measure dropped six days out from the election make voters forget three years of policy vacuum? Even when adopting the pretence of having an agenda, Morrison’s vision for Australia remains strikingly small and unimaginative.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
How Australia saved thousands of lives while COVID killed a million Americans (The New York Times)
Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 81 (Al Jazeera)
[US] CEO pay packages rose to $14.7m in 2021, a new high (The Wall Street Journal) ($)
Somalia elects next president, but terrorists hold true power (The New York Times)
Why women should vote for the Coalition — Roshena Campbell (The Age): “Albanese frequently appears with his female frontbenchers. Yet watching them together will have brought back memories of the worst days in the office for many professional women. In week one, when Albanese couldn’t name either the unemployment or cash rate, he swiftly put his ALP finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher in the hot seat before the press. She correctly answered both. Albanese reassured us in future he would ’fess up’ when mistakes were made and fix them.
“Yet only days later he told reporters Labor’s GP clinics policy had been fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. It had not. It was left to Gallagher to explain that one too. It doesn’t take a focus group of female professionals to tell you the one thing they hate is a boss too lazy to get across the detail who then leaves them to clean up his messes … But then anyone who is truly concerned about gender pay equity must surely be scratching their heads to work out why Anthony Albanese is paid over $100,000 more than Katy Gallagher given recent events.” (Crikey ed note: he is the party leader)
No thanks, Ma’am. For LGBT campaigners like me, your jubilee is nothing to celebrate — Peter Tatchell (The Guardian): “As a lifelong republican and a thorn in the side of the establishment, I was gobsmacked to receive a letter from the organisers of the Queen’s platinum jubilee pageant inviting me to join the finale on June 5 outside Buckingham Palace, as one of a select group of ‘National Treasures … celebrated, respected and admired people’. What, me? Surely some mistake. As a supporter of the campaign group Republic, I’ve urged the abolition of the monarchy and its replacement by a democratically elected head of state. For decades, I’ve championed a fair deal for everyone, against the elitism and privilege epitomised by royalty …
“I do not wish to participate in a pageant that celebrates a monarchical regime based on hierarchy, deference and inherited wealth, status and power. It is a leftover from feudalism that defies modern aspirations for democracy, egalitarianism and meritocracy. The royals are steeped in a history of war, colonialism and slavery. The crown estate derives much of its assets – including properties and some of the crown jewels – from past royal conquest and exploitation … As far as I know, the words lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender have never publicly passed her lips since she ascended the throne in 1952.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)
The Sydney Writers’ Festival kicks off today, with hundreds of event across the city’s venues with the 2022 theme of Change My Mind.
Maths educators Eddie Woo and Greg Ashman will discuss how we can improve maths standards and help teachers better engage with their students, held at the Centre for Independent Studies.
Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)
The APPEA Conference and Exhibition 2022 will explore and challenge the thinking of the oil and gas industry, held at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.
Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)
Crossbench MPs Zali Steggall (independent), Adam Bandt (Greens), Craig Kelly (United Australia Party), and Rex Patrick (independent) will speak at the National Press Club.