Closing The Gap ‘Abandoned’
The ‘Closing The Gap’ policy was first put forward by Kevin Rudd as a measure to reduce inequalities in health, education and employment. The yearly report card from the Campaign Steering Committee has accused the government of effectively abandoning the policy. This time last year, the 2017 report indicated six of the seven key measures were not on track. Since then, the Turnbull government has dismissed the all-important Uluru statement and has not made any significant improvements under the Closing The Gap strategy. From this year’s report:

“A revolving door of prime ministers, Indigenous affairs ministers and senior bureaucrats have all but halted the steady progress hoped for by First Peoples. After the initial funding commitments made for the Closing the Gap strategy … the strategy was effectively abandoned with the extensive cuts, over $530 million, made to the Indigenous affairs portfolio in the 2014 federal budget.”

We’ve done previous deep dives into the current state of Australian indigenous affairs.

Plans for the Murray-Darling Basin

Parliament is back this week, and at the heart of contentious debate is a plan to protect the Murray-Darling Basin, one of Australia’s largest river systems.It’s a tussle between farming, environmentalists and all sides of government. After the disturbing deep dive this week into Cape Town running dry, next week we’ll look at the plans for the Basin and what it means for Australia’s water future.

SpaceX launches Falcon Heavy

Billionaire Elon Musk, who made his money from early business success in internet companies such as PayPal, has been listed as the 50th richest person in the world. He now owns Tesla (leading the industry on electric cars) and SpaceX, whose ultimate goal is to launch humans to Mars by the mid 2020’s. To do that, the company’s building a new-generation of rocket that he’s called ‘BFR’ – which stands for, say it with me…big fucking rocket. (Not kidding.)

This week, SpaceX successfully launched Falcon Heavy. The super-charged rocket carried a Tesla Roadster, an electric convertible, and a mannequin wearing a space suit strapped to the driver’s seat. The mannequin, called ‘Starman’, will orbit the sun for hundreds of millions of years.

The significant leap forward here is Falcon Heavy’s load capability. The rocket can lift 140,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit.

Dow Jones Has a ‘Correction’ 

The Dow Jones had a tough week. For those who have always wondered but never asked, the Dow Jones is a stock bundle of thirty major US companies. The average stock market value of those companies gives us the Dow Jones, i.e. an indication of the overall health of the US Stock Market (as much as thirty big companies can ever indicate anything about that enormous market). At the start of the week the Dow Jones took a massive tumble. It’s slowly recovered over the last few days. Generally speaking, economists are seeing the volatility as a ‘market correction’. A jobs report from the US’s Labor Department showed solid wage and jobs growth. That triggered worries that inflation and interest rates were set to go up, and the stock market, being the emotional teenager that it is, had a tantrum.

Trump – who once said that any sitting President should be fired if the Dow Jones went down more than a 1,000 points in a single day (it went down over 1,100 early in the week) – tweeted in response: “In the “old days,” when good news was reported, the Stock Market would go up. Today, when good news is reported, the Stock Market goes down. Big mistake, and we have so much good (great) news about the economy!”

So there.

Spoiler: Banks are unfair

The productivity commission released a report this week on Australia’s big four banks. Spoiler: they exploit their customers. The report confirmed what PM Turnbull has long denied (but everyone else fully expected), that the $6.2 billion bank levy (extra tax), announced last year by the government, would end up costing the bank’s customers more money.

Plus, the Turnbull government bungled an attempt to cool down the housing market in Sydney and Melbourne, inadvertently creating an extra $500 million for banks out of taxpayers pockets. In March 2017, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, on advice from the government, wanted to curb the volume of interest-only mortgages (because the uber rich who own multiple properties are dominating the Sydney and Melbourne property markets. These guys are more likely to have multiple interest only mortgages). So banks duly raised the interest rates on these loans. But it didn’t stop investors. In fact, because interest on these loans are tax deductible anyway, banks used the opportunity to entice more investors, creating a $500 million windfall.

The Royal Commission into the sector begins next week.

And if you didn’t follow that, don’t panic. As the Commission heats up, we’ll do a deep dive into the banking sector, and we’ll all learn about mortgages and interest rates together. SEXY.

George Brandis Leaves Parliament

Attorney-General George Brandis left Parliament this week after 18 years. A key member of the Liberal Party and major presence in the Senate, Brandis used his farewell speech to take a swipe at the right of his party. The Sydney Morning Herald:

He observed “powerful elements of right-wing politics” had abandoned the liberal tradition in favour of “a belligerent, intolerant populism which shows no respect for either the rights of individual citizens or the traditional institutions which protect them”.

He credited the passing of same-sex marriage legislation as one of the hi-lights of his career. Across the table, Labor Senate Leader Penny Wong offered a light-hearted farewell of her long-time opponent, saying he had become, at critical junctures “an extraordinarily eloquent advocate for liberalism and democracy”.

Lord Mayor Of Melbourne Resigns

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle resigned this week after being admitted to hospital. He is facing multiple allegations of sexually harassing and indecently assaulting women, which he strenuously denies.

Earthquake Hits Taiwan

Taiwan was struck by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday near the coastal city of Hualien. More than ninety weaker earthquakes were measured along the coast in the week leading up to Hualien’s quake. Six people died and dozens were trapped. Earthquakes are common in the region, but Chen Kuo-chang, the acting director of the Central Weather Bureau’s Seismology Centre, described the quick succession of quakes as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘not a normal release of energy’.

Barnaby Joyce Under Fire

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce had an affair with a staffer who is now pregnant. There is ongoing debate about the media’s role in broadcasting the private lives of politicians. It’s hard to ignore the arguments against keeping the matter private, as Barnaby previously campaigned actively for the ‘no’ vote in last year’s same-sex marriage survey, repeatedly referring to the sacred rite of marriage.

Regardless, there you are, Slow News Weekly’s reported on it. But it’s my sincerest hope that you’re more concerned about the Closing The Gap report than the minuscule matter of Barnaby’s amoral willy.

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This week’s posts are brought to you by Linda, who became a Patreon supporter this week. Bloody legend!

I don’t make money through Slow News Weekly. But I love it and believe it can do good in the world. If you feel the same way, I’d love you to consider becoming a Patron. For as little or as much as you want, you can unlock rewards and make a meaningful contribution to this little project and my life. Click here for more. 

Photo at the top from the New York Times.

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