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: 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.

International: Australia’s Healthcare One of the Best in the Developed World, Study Finds

Australian healthcare system has been ranked as one of the best in the developed world while the US’ is the worst, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by American thinktank Commonwealth Fund, found that the United Kingdom has the healthcare system out of 11 developed countries, while Australia ranked second, the Netherlands third and the US last.

The researchers found that the US performed poorly in terms of access, equity and healthcare outcomes, despite having the biggest spending in healthcare. It not only had “the poorest performance of all countries on the affordability subdomain”, but also on “population health outcomes such as infant mortality and life expectancy at age 60”.

The report concluded by encouraging the US to take important lessons from the top three nations on universal health insurance coverage. “All three provide universal coverage and access, but do so in different ways, suggesting that high performance can be achieved through a variety of payment and organizational approaches,” the report said.

The study’s results came amid the Republican Party’s attempt to repeal former president Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms.

The Senate is set to vote on the legislation in a few weeks. Two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Susan Collins, have said that they will not be voting for the repeal bill.

Sources: ABC, The Hill

National: ASIO Warns Parties About Chinese Donations

Australia’s intelligence agency ASIO has warned major political parties against taking donations from two billionaires with links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

A Four CornersFairfax investigation found that ASIO has briefed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott as well as opposition leader Bill Shorten about the threat of CCP influence.

ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis also briefed officials from the Coalition and Labor parties privately in 2015 about billionaire property developers Huang Xiangmo and Chau Chak Wing, who have made a total of around $6.7 million in political donations along with their associates. While Lewis did not tell the parties to reject the funds, he said that the CCP has influence over businessmen, and donations might come with strings attached.

However, the parties went on to accept the money anyway. Since then, the Coalition has taken $897,960, while Labor took $200,000.

Labor senator Sam Dastyari was also found to have repeatedly assisted Huang in his citizenship application, which is currently temporarily blocked while ASIO investigation is still ongoing.

In light of the report, Turnbull ordered a major inquiry into espionage and foreign interference laws.

“The threat of political interference by foreign intelligence services is a problem of the highest order and it is getting worse,” Attorney General George Brandis said in a statement.

“Earlier this year the Prime Minister initiated a comprehensive review of Australia’s espionage and foreign interference laws, which he asked me to lead. I will be taking legislative reforms to Cabinet with a view to introducing legislation before the end of the year.”

National: Air Pollution Alert Issued for Sydney as Ozone Levels Rise

An air pollution alert has been issued for Sydney residents as ozone levels continue to rise beyond government standards.

New South Wales Health said the ozone excess, which causes “poor” air quality on Tuesday, could affect people with respiratory conditions.

Ozone is a pungent gas resulting from chemical reactions between atmospheric gases and nitrogen oxides from car-vehicle exhausts, which can cause chest pain, coughing and throat irritation when inhaled. Hot weathers could exacerbate ozone pollution levels, a statement by NSW Health said.

Dr Ben Scalley, Director of Environmental Health Branch at NSW Health said parents are advised to keep watch on their children when ozone levels are high.

“Ozone levels are higher outdoors than indoors, so parents should limit the time their children with asthma play outside as they are more susceptible to the effects of ozone pollution,” said Scalley.

Scalley reminded that people should remain alert to the link between high temperatures and ozone pollution.

 

For more information on local air quality forecast and hourly air quality updates, visit the Office of Environment and Heritage website: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/index.htm

 

For more information about air pollution and health, visit the NSW Health website: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/air/Pages/default.aspx​

National: Barnaby Joyce Accuses ALP of Communism

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has accused the Labor party of “communism” in a speech at the National Farmers’ Federation Congress in Canberra.

Joyce said foreign ownership was a threat to patriotism, and that Labor’s policies, including native vegetation management, would result in “dispossession” and therefore communism.

“I thought about how Labor dispossess people of their private assets with tree-clearing guidelines – ‘vegetation management’ as it’s euphemistically called,” Joyce said.

“This essentially took away ownership from private individuals and gave it to the community. The dispossession of the individual for the community benefit, without the community paying for it.

“While I was marking my 184th lamb that I’d just picked up, I thought, ‘there’s a word for this — it’s called communism’.”

Joyce closed his speech by repeating his statement on opposing foreign ownership of agricultural land. “It’s the whole essence of patriotism, the love of one’s country is best delivered when you own that country,” Joyce said.

“The love of one’s country is best delivered when you own that country. I may like your car but I love mine. Likewise, I find your house very interesting but I want to go home to mine … And believe me, there’s one thing that people are not keen to do and that is die for a rented country.”

When asked whether his speech was too harsh given the presence of Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye in the congress, Joyce told ABC, “China more than anybody is moving towards a market economy. Ever since (former leader) Deng Xiaoping decided that was the direction they should go, they’ve been exceptionally good at it and private ownership fundamentally underpins your attachment to an asset.

“I love the fact that if my daughters want to, they can go on to the farm that I bought – that’s my aspiration, that’s what makes Australia a great place, and it does build up this idea of patriotism – the love of the earth that you stand on because your indelible connection to it and I’m sure a lot of indigenous Australians would agree with me as well.”

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon said Joyce’s populist statement on foreign ownership “is a zero sum game”.

“Overcoming those challenges and capitalizing on the opportunities will take new thinking, hard work and co-operation,” Fitzgibbon said.

“And it will require all of us to spend more time talking in positive rather than in negative tones.”

Finance: Phasing Out Coal Won’t End Aus Economy, Says Australia Institute

Phasing out of coal production would not hurt Australia’s economy, according to an Australia Institute research.

The study found that the national economic impact would be insignificant if the Government put a moratorium on coal mines opening and expansion, although it could hurt regional areas relying on the industry.

“The world outlook for coal is fairly bleak. We don’t see much likelihood of strong market conditions for coal over the longer term,” said the research’s leader at Victoria University’s Centre Of Policy Studies, Professor Philip Adams to ABC’s AM. “There is enough coal in mines that are operating or will be operating to continue the level of exports that we see now.

“But, thereafter, coal production will slow as new mines which otherwise would come on are not allowed to come on.

“Is this a bad thing for Australia? The answer is no.”

Australia Institute chief economist, Richard Dennis said the impacts of a moratorium on the economy will be “trivial… Literally, when you graph the economy with a moratorium and without a moratorium, you need a microscope to find the difference.”

The report concluded with calls for a moratorium on new coal mines and expansions, and that the Government “should expect minimal economic disruption from doing so.”

The mining industry has rejected the study’s findings. The Chief Executive of the World Coal Association, Benjamin Sporton said coal still plays an important role in providing energy to the world, with coal currently providing 41 per cent of the world’s electricity and 90 per cent of Australia’s eastern seaboards.

“To try and say we’re going to move away from a fuel that provides that much of the world’s electricity, I just don’t think is realistic,” said Sporton.

The Executive director of Minerals Council of Australia, Greg Evans said the report is “a nonsense” and “just more anti-coal rhetoric, not analysis”.

“Only the green movement and their mouthpieces such as the Australia Institute (TAI) would be able to contend shutting down Australia’s second largest export industry would have limited economic impact,” said Evans in a statement.

“Annual coal exports at $38 billion in 2014/15 are almost twice those of beef, wheat, wool and wine combined so under their logic eliminating those great industries would also have negligible consequences.

“There are also 44,000 direct jobs in the coal sector and including related jobs, the number is around 150,000 and the majority of those are in regional areas. The TAI should travel to the Hunter Valley and Bowen basin coal towns and promote their economic thesis that the coal industry doesn’t matter.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has previously rejected calls for a moratorium, saying that it would not help “one iota” to relieve climate change if coal exports were to be stopped.

Construction appears to be holding the Aus economy in the green so far with increased foreign spend on property leading to more capital expenditure on equipment sales. The advent of price comparison sites like equipment hunt issuing excavator quotes for free make the market more competitive with buyers getting the best deals.