Medicare & NDIS

The Turnbull Government is ditching its plan to increase the Medicare levy (tax). The levy was originally in place to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but Treasurer Scott Morrison says we’re $5 billion better off than anyone expected, thanks to a ‘jobs boom’ and business profits.

It’s a bit odd – given that the levy was a signature part of their budget in 2017. They said the levy was ‘absolutely’ necessary last year, as Labor had left a massive hole in their plans on how to fund the NDIS when they left office.

The disability sector doesn’t particularly care where the money comes from, but just wants a firm assurance that the NDIS is indeed funded.

Stuffing up Banking

If you read last week’s news summary, you’re across the long list of scandals and surprises that have emerged out of the Royal Commission into Australia’s banks and financial institutions. Early this week, criticism turned to the Turnbull government, who had stalled on instigating the Royal Commission for over a year. Just a few hours after minister for financial services Kelly O’Dwyer gave a disastrous interview on Insiders where  she refused to acknowledge that the delay was a bad move, Prime Minister Turnbull came forward and admitted an error.

Labor used the moment to call for a compensation scheme for victims of banking misconduct.

The end of live exports?

A couple of weeks ago, damning video footage emerged of 2,500 sheep suffering from rampant mistreatment as they were left on a ship to swelter in Middle Eastern heat. Exported live from Australia, pressure has since been mounting on the government to respond to an industry that is riddled with animal welfare concerns and systematic failures. One bill is going so far as to propose the end of live sheep exports altogether. The industry has suggested lowering the amount of animals on each of the ships, and is supporting a move to institute an independent inspector general of animal welfare. A port in Fremantle, WA, handles about 88% of live sheep exports, and the WA agricultural minister has warned local farmers to prepare for massive changes, which may render the live export trade ultimately unprofitable.

Uni Rankings are Broken

Chief scientist Alan Finkel has called for a complete overhaul of the Advanced Tertiary Admission Rank system – or ATAR. The system has been called “outdated” and “largely irrelevant.” There’s a whack of debate about how it should be fixed, but universities are saying they’ll need more government funding to make a substantial change.

The NEG is at the next stage

The National Energy Guarantee, Australia’s next generation energy policy, (our deep dive here) is proceeding to the next stage of work as energy ministers from across the country meet today. Earlier this week federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg urged everyone to get along nicely, but Nationals leader and transport minister Michael McCormack has said he would not support “unrealistic [emissions reduction] targets that are going to force people off the roads”.

The federal government’s approach to energy has been plagued by criticism on both sides for over a year. Environmentalists say it doesn’t go far enough, and conservatives – like McCormack – say it’s too drastic.

Korea Closer To Peace

Apparently peace between North and South Korea is very possible – a statement which no one predicted was possible just six months ago. As you’re reading this, the leaders of North and South Korea are meeting. If all goes well, Trump and Kim Jong-un will have their own meeting within the next couple of months. On the agenda for the Korean leaders are the North’s missile program, and an official end to the Korean War.

The US, France and Iran

This week, Trump’s had a bromance with a couple of guys. There’s Kanye West (we’ll get to him in a minute) and French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump singled he’d be open to a new deal to keep the Iran Nuclear Agreement in tact with European Allies. Trump’s stance on Iran has been cause for concern amongst international political experts. We’ll do a deep dive on Iran, and the United States history with their nuclear program, next week.

Toronto Attack

There was a horrific attack in Toronto, Canada this week. Alek Minassian, 25, drove a van through a busy street, killing ten people and injuring another thirteen. Police have said the attack doesn’t appear to be a terrorist action, but haven’t ruled it out.

Um, where did those dead bodies come from?

In Sydney at the moment is an exhibition called Real Bodies, billed to be the largest collection of dead bodes and human specimens ever to be found in Australia. Cool. But things have become pretty awkward when someone bothered to ask where the bodies have come from.

China, is the reply.

That concerns some human rights advocates: Were the bodies ethically obtained?

Don’t worry – they’re “unclaimed corpses”, which means they’ve said in a hospital for 30 days and no one’s claimed them.

…except the process of plasticisation used to preserve the bodies had to of commenced wishing 48 hours of death.

There’s evidence that the bodies and organs have come from executed political prisoners.

Calls to close down the exhibition are so far going unanswered.

Kanye Tweets

Rapper Kanye West has gone on a tweeting rampage this week – with occasionally hilarious/disturbing results. A tweet from yesterday:

“You don’t have to agree with trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.”

An hour later:

“my wife just called me and she wanted me to make this clear to everyone. I don’t agree with everything Trump does. I don’t agree 100% with anyone but myself.”

His wife, if you don’t know, is Kim Kardashian.

Dragon Energy.

Is Apu racist? 

Here’s an incredibly wrinkly 2018-style problem. Around six months ago, filmmaker Hari Kondabolu released a documentary titled “The Problem With Apu”, examining the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on The Simpsons. Mr Kondabolu described Apu – voiced by white actor Hank Azaria with a heavy accent – as “a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.” After months of criticism and discussion, Hank Azaria announced this week that he’d be perfectly willing to step aside from the job, which he’s held for almost thirty years.

ANZAC Day Celebrated

ANZAC Day was celebrated across the country this week. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was over in France, where he opened a tribute to the diggers in the new Sir John Monash museum. Former French Prime Minster Edourad Philippe gave a speech that brought the house down:

He began with a quote from the novel All Quiet On the Western Front:

“He is entirely alone now with his little life of 19 years, and cries because it leaves him.”

Mr Philippe paid tribute to the Aussie soldiers who defended the French land “as if it was their own country.”

“And it is their own country. For many young Australians, this earth was their final safe place. For many of them, this earth was the final confidante of a thought or a word intended for a loved one from the other side of the world. Loved ones who would only learn the sad news several months later. We cannot relive these stories.  The mud, the rats, the lice, the gas, the shellfire, the fallen comrades — we can never truly imagine what it was like. So we must tell them. We must show them — again and again. Lest we forget”


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Photo at the top courtesy of Guardian Media Services. 

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