Tax and Welfare Bills

The government was forced to ditch its massive $65 billion company tax cut at the last minute this week. Apparently it just wasn’t going to pass the Senate. Turnbull is saying he’s confident he can get it through after the Budget is announced in May. The delay is due to two independent senators, Derryn Hinch and Tim Storrer, who are waiting for a better deal.

But the government had a big win this week when it’s major welfare reform bill passed. New systems will be put in place for job-seekers, who will be punished if they fail to apply for jobs or engage in study or training. Wait times for unemployment payments will increase. And the unemployed won’t be back-paid to the date they made the claim. Alcohol and drug dependence will no longer be a viable excuse. Provisions that allowed for personal circumstances which might stop you from completing a Centrelink form (such as being in hospital, being homeless, escaping domestic violence) are scrapped. The most controversial element – to drug test all welfare recipients – was ditched in the negotiating process. The Greens and the Australia Council of Social Service have identified 80,000 people who are in danger of being cut off from their welfare payments under the new laws adding to Australia’s homeless.

The government says the measures are better suited to finding those who are attempting to get a free ride out of the welfare system.

Cricket

This is one of those stories you’ll either care about or you won’t at all. And if you care about it, you already know. Basically, a good chunk of the Australian cricket team cheated last week in South Africa. Steve Smith, the captain, admitted that after talking with other players, he got the most inexperienced player on the team, Cameron Bancroft, to rub the ball on a piece of tape (or sandpaper maybe) hidden in his pocket. It’s been a long week of revelations, publicity stuff-ups, and finger pointing. David Warner has also come under heavy fire as the potential architect of the plan. Warner and Smith have received 12 months suspensions. Bancroft has received 9. Cricket has this incredibly moralistic vibe around it – it’s more than a game, it’s a religion. And the Aussie players have committed a cardinal sin. Tsk tsk.

Peter Dutton Again

I promise you – if I could go a week without writing about Peter Dutton I would – but here we are. This week, Parliament made a lot of noise about a decision Peter Dutton made back in 2015. Apparently, he personally intervened in an immigration case, granting a visa to an au pair who was detained in Brisbane airport after her tourist visa ran out. Dutton insists it was in the national public interest. He categorically denied the idea that the au pair worked for him personally. The Australian Associated Press has attempted to obtain documents about the case under freedom of information laws, but key information has been redacted due to privacy concerns. Basically, no one knows why this case was special enough for Dutton to personally intervene.

A Brief Trump Catch-up

While we’re here, we may as well take a couple of minutes to do a whip-around on Trump’s last few weeks. Ready? Deep breath:

  • A lot of people were surprised and slightly concerned when he said he’d be willing to sit down with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un. And then…Kim Jong-Un agreed. Kim Jong-Un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, and Trump tweeted that he had received a message from Jinping letting him know that Jong-Un was looking forward to the meeting with him. Latest pictures obtained by the New York Times suggests the North is nearing completion on a new nuclear reactor.
  • Staff turnaround in senior positions remains at a historic high. Trump’s just replaced his National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, suggesting that Trump’s foreign policy is up in the air. You can get a full timeline of Trump’s staff turnover mess here.
  • He’s pushing ahead with hardline tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. Australia, South Korea, and a few other countries have managed to negotiate exemption from the tariffs. Importantly, China is not exempt. The tariffs will affect as much as $60 billion worth of Chinese goods. The White House called China ‘an economic enemy’, citing China’s ‘intellectual property theft’ of American technology and intelligence. China is threatening to retaliate with equally harsh economic sanctions. Global markets have reacted how the global markets always react…emotionally.
  • The United States Congress has passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill, and Trump signed it, just hours after threatening that he would veto it. His list of complaints about the bill was large. They included not properly funding his wall along the border of Mexico.
  • Two women have come forward this week saying they’ve had affairs with Trump, who’s remained silent on the matter. One is former Playboy model Karen McDougal,the other is a porn actress, Stormy Daniels. Both women are now suing to be released from agreements that they say are no longer valid. They were paid in excess of $100,000 each to keep silent on their dealings with Trump. In an interview with CNN this week, Stormy Daniels said she was repeatedly physically threatened to stay quiet on Trump by shadowy, anonymous men who followed her.

Where the dark matter at?

Scientists have found a distant galaxy completely devoid of dark matter. It’s not like scientists have ever directly observed dark matter anywhere anyway, but apparently they can tell that it’s really not in this bit of black sky and that’s a big deal. Read more here.

Enjoy Easter. We’ll be taking a break and won’t supply you with a deep dive on Tuesday, but we’ll return with another week’s summary at this time next week.

If you enjoy this blog, share it around.

Peace and love.


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