National: Negative Gearing Should Favor Lower Income Property Investors, Says Report

Excluding richer property investors from negative gearing can help improve housing affordability, according to a report coming out today.

In a research released today, the Australian Housing & Urban Research Institute (AHURI) said negative gearing reforms that prioritise ordinary “mum and dad investors” could save the federal government $1.7 billion.

A proposed model suggests denying the top quarter of income earners any deductions from rental losses, while the bottom half could continue receiving 100 per cent deductions.

The researchers also propose a reduction of capital gains tax discount to limit negative gearing activities and reduce inequities between higher and lower income investors.

Another option the report models is capping negative gearing deductions to up to $40,000.

“Current negative gearing policies are heavily skewed towards high-income earners, raising concerns about the extent to which these policies exacerbate income and wealth inequality in Australia,” said Alan Duncan, Curtin University economics professor and co-writer of the report.

The negative gearing tax breaks policy has been blamed for the surge in housing prices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The Labor party has advocated for limitation of negative gearing to only new properties and reduction of CGT discount to 25 per cent, but the Turnbull government said the opposition’s proposals would jeopardise the property market.

The report follows Grattan Institute’s review released on Sunday, which found that housing affordability can be improved by cutting CGT discount, getting rid of negative gearing, and building extra 50,000 homes per year.

National: Rare Thomas Edison Cables Unearthed in Brisbane

Excavators in Brisbane have found 134-year-old rare electrical cables with links to light bulb inventor Thomas Edison.

The cables, which were laid under William Street to provide electricity to the parliamentary precinct, were removed on Tuesday to allow the new Queen’s Wharf casino complex development to go ahead.

The “Edison tubes” were designed by the late inventor and built by his American company. Brisbane was the third city to have the technology after London and New York.

“We were the first place in the southern hemisphere to have this technology, and just the third in the world,” said supervising archaeologist Tina King.

“It’s a milestone for Brisbane’s development as a city and we’re making sure to take the utmost care in the conservation of these important artefacts.”

The tubes were made of cast iron casing, asphaltum-based pitches, and two to three copper cores.

Parts of the cables will be housed in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, Brisbane’s Commissariat Store Museum in Brisbane, the Highfields Pioneer Village in Toowoomba, and Parliament House as well as the Science Centre in London and the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in New Jersey, US.

International: The Queen’s Baton Visits Sydney for 2018 Commonwealth Games

The Queen’s Baton is visiting Sydney today as a part of its Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games journey.

Swimmer Ian Thorpe, cricketer Glenn McGrath and Australian rugby union player Shannon Parry are among the baton’s bearer in the city. The relay will begin at Government House from 3pm to go through the Opera House, CBD, King’s Wharf and the Australian Maritime Museum.

The baton will continue its journey to other NSW cities for the next three days, including Penrith, Wollongong, Kiama and Batemans Bay.

Since leaving the Buckingham Palace in March last year, the baton has travelled through about 70 Commonwealth countries and territories.

The baton will reach its final destination on the Gold Coast on April 4, where the Queen or a representative will read the message within to officially open the Games.

National: Apartment Boom Drives Residential Building Growth

Approval rate for apartments continues to rise, boosting the Australian residential building growth beyond expectation.

Latest reports from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that apartment approvals rose by 30.6 per cent in November, while house approvals dipped 2 per cent. The gain was the largest since November 2016.

Victoria contributed the most to this increase, with an 80 per cent surge since October to 6,359 approvals for private-sector dwelling excluding houses while NSW and Queensland experienced month-on-month declines.

Overall dwelling building approvals rose by 11.7 per cent for the month, beating forecasts of 1 per cent fall by Reuters.

National: Amazon Launches in Australia

US retail giant Amazon has finally launched its Australian operations, threatening local retailers with tougher competition.

Amazon’s Australian marketplace now offers items from 23 categories including electronics, toys, clothing, accessories, beauty and household goods.

“Focusing on customers and the long-term are key principles in Amazon’s approach to retailing,” Amazon Australia country manager Rocco Braeuniger said in a statement.

“By concentrating on providing a great shopping experience and by constantly innovating on behalf of customers, we hope to earn the trust and the custom of Australian shoppers in the years to come.”

In the lead-up to Christmas holiday season, Amazon is also offering free shipping for orders over $49 and one-day delivery for select cities. The goods will be sent from the company’s fulfillment centre at Dandenong South, Melbourne.

“Over time, we will create thousands of new jobs and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Australia,” said Braeuniger.

“The result will be an ever-improving customer experience driven by the regular introduction of new products and services that we hope customers will love.”

Politics: Jacqui Lambie to Resign from Senate Over Dual Citizenship

Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie has announced that she will resign from the Federal Parliament following confirmation that she was a UK citizen.

Lambie’s father was born in Scotland, which means that she holds a dual citizenship with the UK and Australia. The UK Home Office clarified Lambie’s status this morning.

“I will be resigning from the Senate, it’s been made quite clear that because of my father I am also Scottish,” Lambie told Grant Broadcasters radio.

The senator indicated that while she would not participate in the upcoming state election, she is interested in running at the next federal election.

“I have got candidates running out there for the state election — I’m going to put on my Jacqui Lambie Network jacket and I’ll be right beside them,” said Lambie. “[But] you can’t keep a Lambie down.”

The former Palmer United Party member also said the first thing she would do after resigning was “renounce my [British] citizenship”.

Lambie has become the latest parliamentarian who fell victim to the section 44(i) of the Australian constitution, which rules that people who hold dual citizenship are disqualified from federal political office.

Lambie is set to table her resignation today.

National: Telstra to Offer Refund for Slow NBN

Telstra has offered refunds to around 42,000 customers who experienced slow National Broadband Network (NBN) speeds.

The service provider admitted that it may have made false or misleading representations in its advertising, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

An analysis by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found that 26,497 people, or 56 per cent of the paying customers, were not getting the speeds that were promised by the NBN advertising, which claimed download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of up to 40 Mbps.

“Our investigation revealed many of Telstra’s FTTN and FTTB customers could not receive the maximum speed of their plan,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.

Telstra will offer customers the opportunity to switch to another plan with refunds, or cancel their plans at no charge.

Sims said while he is happy the ACCC took the initiative to come forward and notify the consumer watchdog about the issue, it remains a problem industry-wide.

“It is an industry problem where consumers are often not getting the speeds they are paying for … We will continue to investigate other retail service providers selling broadband plans over the NBN and take enforcement action where appropriate.”

Source: SBS, ABC, AFR

National: Real-Time Bank Transfers to be Available from January 2018

Fund transfers between accounts from different banks could be done in real-time starting January, thanks to a billion-dollar infrastructure upgrade.

Instant payments will be available for 80 per cent of accounts in Australia, including all customers from the big four banks, starting Australia Day 2018. More international and smaller banks are also expected to join the system soon.

“The core benefit at launch is the faster receipt of money in real time, and that will happen 24/7, 365 days a year,” said Adrian Lovney, chief executive of the New Payments Platform initiative, which built the technology.

“Through the weekend, public holidays, at 3 o’clock in the morning — funds will arrive in the recipient’s bank account in about 30 to 45 seconds.”

Lovney said while the old way of batch processing transfers helps with preventing frauds, customers are looking for immediacy in their financial services.

“They expect things to happen instantly, with a mobile phone, in a 24/7 digital economy they expect if I’m going to send you money that you’ll receive it today and not next week,” said Lovney.

However, he said banks will continue to keep their fraud mechanisms up to task after the upgrade is finished.

International: $70 Million Resettlement Deal for Manus Island Detainees Approved

A compensation deal worth $70 million for over 1,300 current and former Manus Island detainees has been approved by Victoria’s Supreme Court.

The class action settlement, reached with Australia’s federal government and the Island’s Regional Processing Centre operators, sought to compensate the detainees for the illegal detention and negligence in housing and protection.

“I am comfortably satisfied that a figure of $70 million to be distributed without deduction of costs amongst participating group members is a fair and reasonable sum,” said Justice Cameron Macaulay on Wednesday.

“[We wanted] to put an end to this fiction the Commonwealth seeks to maintain for political purposes that it’s PNG [that] holds these people, that PNG has the duty of care for these people,” said Rory Walsh of Slater and Gordon, the firm who led the legal action.

“The Commonwealth settled this case and paid $70 million not to have that fiction tested in court.”

Out of 1,923 former and current detainees who are eligible for the compensation, 1,383 have registered to get their share by Monday.

However, more than 160 detainees have objected to the compensation amount, saying that it would not address the plights of those who remained in the Island. About 800 men are expected to remain at Manus Island after the detention centre closes next month.

“Getting that money is not the issue. It is not the matter of the amount of money,” Iranian refugee Amir Taghinia told ABC’s AM.

“We are still in the same situation, we are still suffering from the same conditions, under the cruel regime of the defendant, and the case is finished, the case says ‘yeah, that’s it, it is already settled’ … It is absolutely not in favour of any of the detainees in here, but it is in favour of the law firm and the defendant.”

International: Melbourne Named As World’s Most Liveable City for Seventh Year Running

Melbourne has again been named as the world’s most liveable city for the seventh year in a row.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) annual Liveability Index ranks 140 cities around the world based on healthcare, education and infrastructure – for which Melbourne received perfect scores this year – as well as stability, culture and environment. Overall, Melbourne scored 97.5 out of 100 points.

“This world record is an amazing feat that all Melburnians should be extremely proud of today,” City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said.

“This accolade is an important selling point for Melbourne internationally: for businesses to invest or move here, for the best and brightest people to make Melbourne their home and for tourists to visit us.”

Vienna in Austria followed in the second spot, while Vancouver in Canada came third. Adelaide established itself as Australia’s second most liveable city at number five, while Perth came seventh. On the other hand, Sydney’s position dropped from the seventh place last year to the eleventh with a score of 94.9.

“Sydney in Australia is another city that has seen a decline in its ranking, reflecting growing concerns over possible terror attacks in the past three years,” the Global Liveability Report 2017 stated.

Damascus in Syria was ranked as the least liveable city, followed by Nigeria’s Lagos and Libya’s Tripoli.