Vertical retirement villages are on the rise, and they’re high-tech too



File 20180614 32304 wub31n.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
High-rise retirement homes in the city are the future for baby boomers.
from www.shutterstock.com

David Tuffley, Griffith University

It is no secret people are living longer, thanks to advances in medical technology. Futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts we are approaching a point of breaking even – where for every year lived, science can extend lifespans by at least that much. And more than 80% of Kurzweil’s predictions have so far proved correct.

But length of life and quality of life are not the same thing. For good quality of life as one ages, there must be optimal retirement options. The default is to stay in one’s current home for as long as possible, or downsize. Some will settle into the quiet life of a retirement village on the urban fringes.




Read more:
How can we best design housing for Australia’s ageing population?


But a growing number of retirees who are leading a more active retirement, perhaps still working part-time, want to live closer to the bright lights of the city. It is here that the next generation of retirement living is becoming established in cities around Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US.

Driving the trend are well-heeled baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) who have been using technology at home and work for years. For some, technology has been integral to their lives. And it seems it might be integral to the future of retirement living.

Vertical retirement communities

The chair of the NSW inquiry into retirement villages, Kathryn Greiner, recently recommended integrating designated seniors’ apartments in medium or high-rise residential developments where people of all ages live. Experts have said such retirement communities are the “way of the future”.

But the future is already here, as greater numbers of vertical retirement communities in high-rise apartment buildings are being built in inner-urban areas around Australia. They offer high levels of luxury with ready access to the kinds of amenities inner-city dwellers have grown accustomed to.

High-rise retirement villages would typically be equipped with various smart technologies that connect with the larger technological infrastructure of the city.




Read more:
Connecting online can help prevent social isolation in older people


Similar to luxury hotel suites, residents would have a spectrum of in-house services and entertainment options presented via internet-connected smart TVs.
Multimedia suites would be there for augmented or virtual reality experiences – travel and education being among them. In-house cinemas would host movie nights.

The future of retirement living has sophisticated in-house cinemas included.
from www.shutterstock.com

Health care

The way we’re heading, technology-enabled, proactive health management will likely be built into the infrastructure of these retirement villages. It will allow people to stay healthy and live independently at an advanced age, forestalling the time when a move to aged care becomes necessary.

The health-maintenance technology available today means retirees hardly need to leave home for a checkup. Telehealth gives on-demand access to doctors via the internet. Visiting nurses have their role in looking after the elderly at home.

Then there are the dozens of smartphone apps that monitor vital signs, some of which send timely warnings before something becomes a problem.

And while high-rise living may not offer the same access to the outdoors for walking and exercise, technology has other options.

“Exergames” – video games that enable physical activity – are a segment of the computer game industry known to be beneficial to people of all ages, including the elderly. Exergames lend themselves well to vertical communities by not needing much space. They are played either alone or with friends in self-contained virtual environments.

In the future, yoga can be practised in a self-contained, virtual environment.
from www.shutterstock.com

Apart from the physical benefits of exercise, exergames have also been shown to improve mental alertness, balance and coordination, all of which contributes to fewer injuries common to the elderly, such as fractured hips from falling.




Read more:
Why hip fractures in the elderly are often a death sentence


Good help is not hard to find now with assistive technologies like Google’s Duplex. These personal assistants fit right into the high-tech home and allow people, wherever they live, to stay independent for longer.

The assistant can keep your diary, make appointments over the phone, buy flowers and have them delivered, turn on the lights, call a taxi and more. Autonomy aids like this could delay the transition to aged care.

A win-win

High-rise apartments are a thorny issue in suburban neighbourhoods, regardless of who is living in them. There are already some objections to high-rise aged-care facilities. But these mainly come from existing low-rise residents who are not happy to have any high-rise buildings in their neighbourhood.

Some are concerned that high-rise communities will lead to social isolation. Traffic congestion is also a concern.

When managed well in an architectural and town planning sense, vertical communities offer high-quality living while occupying a smaller urban footprint than a hundred detached dwellings. They can help reverse the urban sprawl of Australian cities, which are among the largest and least densely settled in the world. We love our big suburban houses, but they do consume vast tracts of countryside.

The ConversationPeople want to live out their days in the freedom of their own home, not in an institution, no matter how benevolent. And it’s in the national interest to relieve pressure on the public health system. Emerging health-optimising technology and vertical communities can enable this. It’s a win-win.

David Tuffley, Senior Lecturer in Applied Ethics and Socio-Technical Studies, School of ICT., Griffith University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Advertisements

Erdogan’s victory will have far-reaching implications for Turkey and the Middle East



File 20180626 19404 1mhb7ev.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets supporters after winning with 52% of the vote in the Turkish election.
AAP/Turkish president press office handout

Mehmet Ozalp, Charles Sturt University

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the incumbent president and main political actor in Turkish politics for the last 16 years, has won yet another election with a majority vote of 52%.

The election was held in the climate of a two-year state of emergency, Erdogan’s considerable weight on Turkish media, and his ruling party’s dominance of the election process. This was no ordinary election and will have historic ramifications for Turkey, its relations with the West and the Middle East.

The election has put in effect the terms of 2016 constitutional changes and ended the fragile Turkish parliamentary democracy that has been in place since 1950. As of June 24, Turkey has ventured into a democratic league of its own.

In the new executive presidential regime, there will be elections and multiple political parties. Once elected, though, the system unifies powers in one person, the president, rather than enforcing the all-important principle of separation of powers in a liberal democracy.




Read more:
Stakes are high as Turkey, Russia and the US tussle over the future of Syria


Erdogan will form the government by appointing ministers from inside or outside the parliament. His presidential decrees will be equal to legislation. As the leader of the ruling AKP party, he will hold the majority vote in the parliament – in effect, he will control the legislative branch.

Erdogan will appoint half of the top council, which appoints judges and prosecutors. The other half will be appointed by the parliament he controls. He will have sweeping powers to abolish the parliament and declare a state of emergency any time.

The new constitution stipulates two five-year terms. If an early election is called during the second term, the incumbent president can be nominated for a third term. This means Erdogan could possibly be in power until 2034.

Erdogan wins elections with an Islamo-nationalistic populism that is a cross between Trump and Putin. Like Trump, he promises to make Turkey great again as a global economic and political power, reviving the past glories of the Ottoman Empire.

Similar to Putin, Erdogan follows a confrontational approach in foreign policy, takes bold military steps in Syria and rallying the population behind him in a nationalistic fervour.

The key lies in Erdogan’s almost absolute control of the Turkish media. This not only raises questions about the fairness of elections in Turkey, but also explains the diffusion of a powerful narrative behind Erdogan’s political success.

The formula is simple: undertake large-scale road, bridge and airport building projects and launch them with media fanfare. This makes even the reluctant supporters say about the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), “they are corrupt, but they also work”.

Secondly, anything that goes wrong in Turkey is explained as a Western conspiracy. If rating agencies drop Turkey’s credit rating, it is not because of poor economic and political policies controlled by Erdogan for the last 16 years. Rather, it is explained as Western subversion to undermine the Turkish economic success.

A case in point in illustrating the appeal of the Erdogan narrative is the Dirilis (Revival), a state-funded television series that narrates the foundational story of the Ottoman Empire in the 13th century.

The hero of the series, Ertugrul Bey, father of the founder Osman Bey, often clashes and wins against Byzantine and Crusader forces who are determined to pillage Muslim land and kill innocent Muslim populations. It is the Muslim version of Games of Thrones, watched by millions around the world.

Many see Erdogan as the modern-day personification of Ertugrul Bey, fighting imperialistic forces against all odds to revive Islamic civilisation and become a voice for oppressed Muslims around the world.

His supporters are convinced Erdogan is the greatest leader in Turkish history, one who would make Turkey a world power and bring back pride for Turks and all Muslims. The narrative is intoxicatingly attractive to traditionally religious Turks and masses of Muslims around the world.

This sets the scene for what to expect in Turkey-West relations. The West, the European Union and the US are the antagonists in Erdogan’s narrative, and will continue to be so. He is not likely to mend relations with the EU, let alone make the necessary reforms to gain EU membership.

Aiming to have a growing influence in the Middle East, Erdogan will intensify his relationship with Russia over Syria. Putin will use Turkey to undermine the NATO alliance. This will further stretch EU-Turkey relations, which are already in tatters over the purchase of Russian S-400 missiles.




Read more:
Syria, Russia and Turkey – the uneasy alliance reshaping world politics


Erdogan’s dilemma is that the EU is Turkey’s largest economic partner and he needs funding from Western banks to service Turkey’s growing USD$450 billion foreign debt. This is increasingly worrying Turkish businesses.

During his election campaign, Erdogan travelled to the US and UK to convince lenders and business investors to continue to fund the Turkish government and economy. Erdogan is likely to play out a love-hate relationship with the West.

While Erdogan has no qualms about resorting to anti-Western rhetoric, his supporters forget that it was the same West that hailed Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership as a new hope in the post-9/11 world. Turkey was portrayed as a leader and a model for the Muslim world, where Islam and liberal democracy could harmoniously co-exist.

Turkey could show the world it was possible to stay true to Islamic values and identity while being a first-grade democracy with freedoms and affluence. Other Middle Eastern countries would follow the Turkish success, rising above the seemingly perpetual political turmoil, social discord, economic ruin and inevitable suffering of ordinary Muslim people.

The ConversationBut, 16 years on, Turkey has become just another typical Middle Eastern country.

Mehmet Ozalp, Associate Professor in Islamic Studies, Director of The Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation and Executive Member of Public and Contextual Theology, Charles Sturt University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

New research shows Australians have wrong idea on foreign aid spending


Jonathan Pryke, Australian National University

Two months ago, the Australian minister for international development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, argued that “80% of Australians do not support any further spending on foreign aid”.

This was reflected in the 2017 Lowy Institute Poll where, when the Australian respondents were told exactly how much Australia invested in aid, $3.8 billion, only 22% supported an increase.

But dollar amounts can be misleading, so the 2018 Lowy Institute Poll took a different approach to the question of public support for Australian aid. Instead of asking Australians whether our current aid investment was right, we asked how much they thought we invested. The results, which back up other research into public opinions on foreign aid, are in striking contrast to reality, revealing how fraught polling of public perceptions on foreign aid can be.

Our 2018 results show that Australians have a highly inflated perception of the size of our aid program. The average Australian believes we invest about 14% of the federal budget on foreign aid and that we should actually invest about 10%. In reality, we invest 0.8%.

On average, Australians think we invest 17.5 times more than we actually do, and would like us to be 12.5 times more generous than we are. Only 6% of respondents guessed anywhere close to the actual number. If that’s how much they think we invest, it’s no wonder there is little support to increase it.


https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/n3yMU/1/


When told how much we actually invest, be it $5 billion (1.2% of federal expenditure) in 2015 or, after significant cuts, $3.8 billion (0.8% of federal expenditure) in 2017, the results are remarkably sticky. The majority thought it sounded reasonable, and only 21% in 2015 and 22% in 2017 supported an increase. When given no baseline, they think we invest more than we do, and think it should be less.

How do we reconcile these results, which appear completely at odds with one another?

To me, this shows how little Australians think about foreign aid. We think of ourselves as a generous nation and expect that to be reflected in our aid program. We don’t give any real thought to it, and in the end trust the government to do what’s right.




Read more:
FactCheck: What are the facts on Australia’s foreign aid spending?


But the government is not doing what is right. Since the Coalition government came to power in 2013, Australian aid has been cut by close to 25% when adjusting for inflation.

Australian aid is now at its lowest point in our history, when measured as a proportion of national income. As peers like the United Kingdom and New Zealand are rapidly stepping up, we are slipping into the bottom third of rich country donors.

We are the fifth-most-prosperous country in the OECD but rank 21st in generosity. By 2021, our donor peers down the bottom will be Spain, the United States, Portugal, Slovenia, Greece, Korea, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovak Republic and Hungary.


https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/IUKrg/1/


Why is this the case?

For me, the answer is that the Abbott and Turnbull Coalition governments do not see the efficacy and importance of aid. They don’t see the critical national interest of our aid program in building goodwill and strong institutional linkages with our immediate neighbours, or the impact it has on improving people’s lives.

They know it will only ever be a marginal election issue, and what few votes there are for it tend to sit on the other side of the aisle. If MPs don’t believe in its importance and don’t see any election implications or widespread public outcry at the cuts, it starts to make sense why the aid program has been such an easy target for this government.

Fierravanti-Wells instead argues forcefully that it is impossible to increase the aid budget when the public does not support it.

Academic literature points to this being a critical flaw of foreign aid. Normal feedback mechanisms of domestic government expenditure that promote effectiveness and support do not apply to foreign aid. Taxpayer money is collected in one country and spent in another, with taxpayers having little knowledge of, or interest in, how it is being spent.

Beneficiaries of aid, on the other hand, have a strong interest in aid, but no direct political influence or voice to advocate for it. These flaws result in a marginal constituency for foreign aid, reflecting its marginal place in government expenditure.

What’s surprising about foreign aid is the public scrutiny it receives from our political class over other investments in Australia’s national interest. Our diplomatic, defence and intelligence expenditure receive less public scrutiny despite far larger (and growing) sums.

The development community has in part allowed this to happen by failing to build and maintain a bipartisan political constituency for Australian aid by selling the importance of foreign aid as a critical investment in Australia’s national interest. It is an important complement to our investments in diplomacy and defence, particularly because we are surrounded by developing nations that have significant financing challenges.




Read more:
Savage budget cuts pull Australia down in foreign aid rankings


Having just a few political champions can do more than any campaign to deepen public support for Australian aid. Our politicians have the loudest megaphone to support the aid program, but at the moment are choosing not to use it.

There are ways out of this. Aid advocacy efforts could be professionalised and targeted at members of parliament. There should be more study tours for politicians, like those run by Save the Children with the support of the Gates Foundation, to see Australian aid in action in supporting the unprecedented humanitarian and development needs in our region. More effort should be made to highlight the foreign policy and strategic imperative for Australian aid, particularly in response to the growing competition from China, which has finally captured the attention of Australian media in the Pacific.

The ConversationThe Australian aid program is at a disappointing low point, and our poll shows that there is expectation for us to be doing more. It’s time for some political leadership to turn things around.

Jonathan Pryke, Research Fellow and Director of the PNG Network, Melanesia Program, Lowy Institute for International Policy; Centre Associate at the Development Policy Centre, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

What’s driving Chinese infrastructure investment overseas and how can we make the most of it?


Shahar Hameiri, The University of Queensland

Chinese infrastructure investment in Australia has rarely left the headlines lately. It’s reported that telecommunications giant Huawei will likely be banned from building Australia’s 5G network on national security grounds. Hong Kong-based company CK Infrastructure’s bid to buy APA Group’s gas pipeline network is also proving controversial.

Scrutiny of the national security implications of infrastructure has been upgraded. The new Critical Infrastructure Centre is assisting the Foreign Investment Review Board in this. Though not made explicit, the main focus is China.




Read more:
Explainer: why Chinese telecoms participating in Australia’s 5G network could be a problem


Greater scrutiny of investment projects is welcome, especially if community and environmental concerns are also considered. However, Australia could benefit from the availability of Chinese infrastructure financing.

Australia’s north has significant infrastructure needs. And in the major Australian cities, public transport systems are inadequate, leading to ever-longer commuting times. China also possesses world-class expertise in high-speed rail, which could be harnessed to better connect cities on the eastern seaboard.

Given the state of relations with China and Australia’s pressing infrastructure needs, the Australian government must develop a clear strategy for Chinese infrastructure investment. Instead of passively scrutinising bids, the government should proactively identify worthwhile projects and engage Chinese counterparts to finance and implement them.




Read more:
Australia risks missing out on China’s One Belt One Road


Belt and Road isn’t just a political ploy

A proactive approach could benefit Australia because Chinese infrastructure investment is not as strategically directed as many assume. This is clear if we examine the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – the centrepiece of China’s global infrastructure financing spree.

The Australian government, on security officials’ advice, has not joined the BRI. However, Belt and Road is not a carefully planned “grand strategy”. It is largely driven by the diverse activities of state-owned enterprises competing for projects and financing.

President Xi Jinping has undoubtedly used the BRI to signal China’s rise to “great power” status. But its main drivers are domestic and commercial. At its core, the BRI is an effort to alleviate China’s industrial overcapacity problem in key sectors, such as steel, glass, cement and aluminium.

Overcapacity has worsened since the global financial crisis, as Beijing sought to maintain growth by encouraging an infrastructure construction boom. State-owned enterprises (SOEs) spearheaded this. After profitable domestic opportunities had dried up, international expansion became attractive, to keep SOEs working and to find more productive outlets for China’s huge foreign currency reserves.




Read more:
As its economy changes, China is starting to export its real estate ideas too


The BRI’s implementation has reflected competition, lobbying and compromises among ministries, provinces and SOEs. Its masterplan document – “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road” – is a case in point. It contains 50 “priority areas”. These cover virtually every governmental and non-governmental activity, showing little actual prioritisation.

Early statements suggested a BRI focus on Central and Southeast Asia. But since 2015 the initiative has been formally opened to all countries. This was again due to intense lobbying from provinces, SOEs and some foreign governments. All are keen to get some of the action, suggesting little strategic direction.

The vague and loose Belt and Road plan has enabled considerable scope for interests within the Chinese party-state to use it for their own, economically motivated, agendas, with little consideration for Beijing’s wider diplomatic objectives. This has generated a rather chaotic, “bottom-up” process for selecting and funding projects.

Belt and Road project ideas usually emerge from state-owned enterprises’ in-country subsidiaries. After spotting an opportunity, they try to build support in the recipient government. Occasionally, this includes bribing officials. They also often seek to obtain the local Chinese embassy’s support to improve lobbying back home.

Once agreement with the recipient government is reached, the SOE or the recipient government applies for financing from China’s policy or commercial banks. The banks determine whether to extend credit after assessing repayment capacity. The central government’s involvement is typically limited to the National Development and Reform Commission’s formal approval.




Read more:
The Belt and Road Initiative: China’s vision for globalisation, Beijing-style


Australia still needs to manage the risks

Chinese infrastructure projects are not risk-free. The potential for misuse of key infrastructure to serve Chinese strategic agendas is clearly the Australian government’s foremost concern. But there are more immediate issues too.

Chinese banks’ lending standards are well below world “best practice”. They give limited consideration to social, environmental and labour protections when awarding financing to projects.




Read more:
China’s green planning for the world starts with infrastructure


Tough competition between Chinese companies means they have strong incentives to cut corners and promote projects that recipients do not need. The latter can be saddled with unnecessary infrastructure and potentially unsustainable debt. Furthermore, Chinese central agencies’ capacity to regulate SOEs’ offshore activities is weak, so they cannot be relied upon to manage these problems.

Closer scrutiny of investment proposals is, therefore, clearly necessary. So, too, is tight regulation of project implementation. Australian regulators should also ensure Chinese projects adequately resolve social, environmental and labour concerns.

The fragmented nature of Chinese investments provides opportunities, however, for selective engagement that could serve the wider public interest. This should form part of a clear Australian strategy towards China based on a nuanced analysis of both the threats and opportunities of this multifaceted relationship.


The Conversation


Read more:
Canada’s disturbing lack of vision on dealing with a rising China


Shahar Hameiri, Associate Professor of International Politics, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Labor would quash tax cuts for businesses with $10-$50 million turnover


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Bill Shorten has said a Labor government would repeal already-legislated tax cuts for companies with an annual turnover between A$10 million and $50 million, but left its position up in the air for those between $2 million-$10 million.

The decision, announced in response to questions at a news conference on Tuesday, does not appear to have gone through shadow cabinet. Nor did Shorten mention it when he addressed caucus on Tuesday morning.

It opened the opposition leader to immediate attack from the government and business.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said it was Shorten’s “captain’s call”.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said there were 20,000 businesses between $10-50 million turnover, with an average of 75 employees in those businesses.

“This is terrible news for 1.5 million Australians who work in those businesses that will have to face higher taxes under Labor if Labor is elected,” Morrison said. Shorten had turned former leader Mark Latham’s “ladder of opportunity” into “the snake of envy”, Morrison said.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO, James Pearson said Labor had sent a “very bad signal to business today”.

The opposition has had a long-standing policy of leaving the cuts in place for the smallest businesses – with turnovers less than $2 million. But by failing to clarify its position for companies up to $10 million, Shorten has left uncertainty for many smallish businesses.

A spokesperson for Shorten said: “We’ve never supported these tax cuts for big businesses – we voted against them and we haven’t changed our position.

“We’ve always supported tax cuts for small businesses.

“As Bill said, we’re considering a threshold of $2 million or $10 million turnover. That will be decided by the shadow cabinet, in the normal way.”

Shorten’s announcement comes days after the speech by frontbencher Anthony Albanese in which he advocated the Labor strike a better relationship with business. The speech was seen as Albanese differentiating himself from Shorten on a number of fronts and positioning on leadership ahead of the Super Saturday byelections.




Read more:
Anthony Albanese sets out his blueprint for Labor


Asked about the decision apparently not having gone to shadow cabinet, ALP sources argued it had been generally known that a Labor government would not leave in place company tax cuts above the $10 million threshold.

But shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, asked in May how long Labor was going to wait to give certainty to middle-level companies, said for companies above $2 million turnover “it is right and proper that we take some time to carefully work that through. We will be announcing our position, which will be crystal clear, not only to the voters but to the businesses of Australia,” Bowen said.

Labor earlier committed to repealing the tax cuts for big business, now before the Senate, in the event the government manages to legislate them. There is still no indication it can do so.

Whether a Labor government could get any repeals through would depend on the attitude of the Senate of the day.

Shorten’s announcement also comes as he faces criticism over Labor’s controversial advertisement, running in the byelections, that targets Malcolm Turnbull’s personal wealth and how he would benefit from the tax cuts for large companies.




Read more:
Labor makes company tax fight all about Malcolm Turnbull’s money


Shorten doubled down on the attack in the caucus meeting, saying that Turnbull “has no clue about how people actually live, and I do believe his wealth is connected to that”.

The ConversationHe also told caucus that the Longman byelection was very close and Braddon was “very difficult”.

Business size in Australia.
Australian Taxation Office, Taxation statistics 2015/16

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tony Abbott loses traction in his fight on energy



File 20180626 112611 1a35dbv.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Before the Coalition party room meeting Abbott had again publicly left the way open to cross the floor when legislation comes to parliament, assuming Frydenberg gets a deal at the COAG Energy Council in August.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg had clear Coalition party room support on Tuesday to decisively stare down a fresh sortie by Tony Abbott on the National Energy Guarantee.

The frustration many government MPs feel about the ongoing argument was epitomised by the comment of marginal seat holder Ann Sudmalis who told colleagues, “The more that people stuff around with this issue, the greater the risk I won’t be here”.

Before the meeting Abbott had again publicly left the way open to cross the floor when legislation comes to parliament, assuming Frydenberg gets a deal at the COAG Energy Council in August.

Asked whether, if the premiers sent back a plan he didn’t like, he was committed enough to cross the floor, Abbott said: “The short answer is yes. I think that I have an obligation to keep faith with the position that the government took to the people in 2013.”

“My anxiety about the national energy guarantee is that it’s more about reducing emissions than it is about reducing price,” he said.

But Frydenberg has been actively mobilising pro-NEG forces in the Coalition to counter Abbott – last week, several MPs spoke out publicly – as well as to lock in backbench support before the final push with the energy ministers.

Ahead of the party room, industry representatives briefed a backbench committee meeting attended by more than 30 government MPs. Their message was that the NEG was the only realistic option available to restore investment confidence.

Those present were Jennifer Westacott, CEO, Business Council of Australia;
Innes Willox, CEO, Australian Industry Group; Mark Vasella, CEO, BlueScope; Arnoud Balhuizen, Chief Commercial Officer, BHP; Vanessa Guthrie, chair, Minerals Council of Australia, and Fiona Simson, president, National Farmers Federation.

Government sources said the briefing, which saw many questions, went well for the NEG supporters.

At the later party meeting, 16 backbenchers spoke.

Two, including Abbott, wanted Frydenberg to bring the detail that he planned to take to the August meeting to the party room first. Two urged greater focus on pricing in the NEG. The four dissidents were Abbott, Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly and former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce.

Among the rest, according to the government briefer, there was strong support for both the policy and the process.

Turnbull stressed the importance of getting on with the policy and said that anything from the meeting with the states and territories would come back to the party room.

Frydenberg said the corner had been turned on prices. There was no silver bullet but the NEG was an important part of dealing with prices.

Turnbull declared Frydenberg had the confidence of the party room.

Abetz, speaking on Sky later, said his main concern was to keep prices down. He said the business leaders had told the backbenchers they were still sorting out details of the NEG with the government. Abetz said he didn’t like “signing blank cheques”.

He said that if there was to be a NEG there needed to be a reasonable place for coal, and urged that there should be “a commitment to retrofit some of our existing coal operations or build a new one”.

The ConversationAsked on Tuesday night whether he would cross the floor on legislation Joyce dodged the questioning, saying it was a hypothetical.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Poll wrap: Labor and LNP tied in Longman, Sharkie’s massive lead in Mayo, but can we trust seat polls?



File 20180625 152176 n46jnx.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Centre Alliance’s Rebeka Sharkie looks to be a strong contestant in Mayo’s by-election.
AAP/Kelly Barnes

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Longman and Mayo are two of the five seats that will be contested at byelections on July 28. ReachTEL polls for the left-wing Australia Institute had a 50-50 tie between Labor and the LNP in Longman, and a massive 62-38 lead for the Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie over the Liberals’ Georgina Downer in Mayo.

These polls represent a two-point gain for Labor in Longman since a late May ReachTEL for Sky News, and a four-point gain for Sharkie since early June. Both polls were conducted with 720 to 740 respondents on June 21 – the day the Coalition passed its complete income tax cuts package through the Senate.

Primary votes in Longman were 39.1% Labor, 34.9% LNP, 14.7% One Nation, 4.4% Greens, 3.7% Other and 3.2% undecided. With Labor well ahead on primary votes, the LNP is benefiting from a strong flow of One Nation preferences.

I believe this is the first Longman poll that has asked for candidate names, rather than just parties. Labor’s MP Susan Lamb resigned over the citizenship fiasco, but will recontest. The LNP’s candidate is Trevor Ruthenberg, former MP for the state seat of Kallangur, which is close to Longman. Both major party candidates are likely to be well-known to Longman voters.

In Mayo, primary votes were 43.5% Sharkie, 32.7% Downer, 9.0% Greens, 8.2% Labor, 4.1% Other and 2.6% undecided. I discussed potential problems with Downer’s candidacy here.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Coalition’s record Newspoll losing streak, and Rebekha Sharkie has large lead in Mayo


The ReachTEL Australia Institute polls for both Longman and Mayo repeated a question on the company tax cuts that I criticised in the above article.

National Ipsos: 53-47 to Labor (54-46 respondent allocated)

A national Ipsos poll for the Fairfax papers, conducted June 20-23 from a sample of 1,200, gave Labor a 53-47 lead by 2016 election preferences, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the post-budget Ipsos in mid-May. Primary votes were 35% Coalition (down one), 35% Labor (down two), 12% Greens (up one) and 6% One Nation (up one).

Labor’s 54-46 lead in the post-budget Ipsos was an outlier, with other polls showing better results for the Coalition. This week’s Ipsos is in line with other polls by 2016 election preferences.

Almost all polling this term has given the Coalition a better position in respondent allocated polling than using the previous election method. This Ipsos poll is an exception, with a 54-46 lead for Labor using respondent preferences, a point better for Labor than the previous election method.

Ipsos is the only current Australian pollster that uses live phone polling. It tends to have weaker primary votes for the major parties than other polls, and stronger primary votes for the Greens and Others.

50% (down one) approved of Malcolm Turnbull’s performance, and 44% (up five) disapproved, for a net approval of +6. Bill Shorten’s net approval was -13, down one point. Turnbull led Shorten by 51-33 as better PM (52-32 in May). Ipsos gives Turnbull stronger ratings than other pollsters, particularly Newspoll.

Turnbull led Shorten on nine of 11 attributes; the exceptions were on social policy and confidence of his party. The largest Turnbull leads were on economic policy (67-48) and foreign policy (64-45). Since April 2016, attribute scores have moved in Shorten’s favour.

In additional questions from last week’s Newspoll, voters favoured Turnbull over Shorten on asylum seekers by 47-30, down from a 52-27 margin in December 2017. 37% thought Labor would open the floodgates to asylum seekers if it wins the next election, 26% thought Labor would improve the current policy, and 24% thought there would be no difference.

ReachTEL’s large error in Darling Range (WA) byelection

On Saturday, the Liberals won the byelection for the Western Australian state seat of Darling Range by a 53.3-46.7 margin against Labor, a 9.1% swing to the Liberals since the 2017 state election. The byelection was caused by the resignation of Labor MP Barry Urban over allegations of fraudulent behaviour. You can read more at my personal website.

The major implication of this byelection to the July 28 federal byelections is that individual seat polls can be very wrong. Just one week before the Darling Range byelection, a ReachTEL poll for The West Australian gave Labor a 54-46 lead, so there was a seven-point error in this poll.

The Darling Range poll was skewed to Labor, but in general seat polls have had large misses in both directions. The Poll Bludger reviewed the performance of seat polls at the last federal election in a July 2016 article. National and state-wide polls have been far more accurate in Australia.

If a seven-point error is applied to the Longman and Mayo polls, then Labor’s two party vote in Longman could be between 43% and 57%, and Sharkie could be between 55% and 69% in Mayo.

Another concern about the Longman poll is the unbelievable age breakdowns. Young people nationally are the strongest demographic for Labor and the Greens, but ReachTEL gave Labor just 20.4% among those aged 18-34, behind One Nation’s 23.0% and the LNP’s 38.8%. Among those aged 51-65, Labor had 53.8% and the LNP just 25.8%.

In brief: Turkish President Erdoğan re-elected

In Sunday’s Turkish election, incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has dominated Turkish politics since 2002, was re-elected with 52.6% of the vote, avoiding a runoff election. Erdoğan’s AKP party lost its single-party parliamentary majority, but will form a coalition with a right-wing ally.

The ConversationIn April 2017, a constitutional referendum granted far more powers to the president at the expense of parliament. Erdoğan will arguably now have powers comparable to a feudal king.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

If you need a PhD to read your power bill, buying wisely is all but impossible



File 20180622 26567 u4uu4e.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Energy bills are becoming to complex to understand.
Shutterstock

Bruce Mountain, Victoria University

A recent survey found that Australia’s power companies are less trusted than media companies, banks and telcos. Customers hate electricity bills – not least because they are so complicated. But we can learn much by analysing them closely.

One feature that deserves close scrutiny is the all-pervasive discount. In electricity retailing, all but 3 of the 28 active retailers use discounts in their retail offers.

In any kind of retailing, discounts give customers the impression that they are making a smart buy. This is often true, particularly in cases where it is easy to see and compare the discounted prices. But if it’s not easy to compare, customers may not realise if they’ve been duped.




Read more:
Australian household electricity prices may be 25% higher than official reports


With electricity bills, it is all but impossible for customers to know whether their discounted price really represents a good deal. This is because the discounts are ludicrously complicated – as are the base prices themselves.

Large businesses do not complain about retail electricity markets. This is because they have the capacity, either in-house or through consultants, to evaluate complex retail price structures. Advances in data science may yet make such expertise available to everyone.

Eye-wateringly complex

To fairly compare your bill, you must be able to adjust for the discount in your current bill, and also in all the alternative competing offers. Having worked with thousands of bills, I know the myriad ways discounts are calculated make this terribly difficult.




Read more:
A high price for policy failure: the ten-year story of spiralling electricity bills


Let us count the ways a discount may be applied:

  • some discounts are worked out as a percentage of usage charges while others are on the total bill

  • some discounts are before the receipt of concessions, others after

  • some discounts are before solar feed-in receipts, others after

  • few bills actually clearly state the discount rate, and some don’t state the rate at all

  • some discounts are only received on subsequent bills (so that if the customer leaves, the retailer avoids discounting their last bill)

  • some retailers offer several discounts in the bill but sometimes some apply after other discounts are taken off first

  • some will discount controlled load consumption, others not

  • some discounts are payable as rebates when the customer transfers to the retailer; other rebates are paid out over months and even years

  • some offer discounted amounts which are contingent on advance purchases of electricity, but the discount is not achieved unless purchases exceed the contingent amounts

  • some discounts in bills are not actually calculated in customers’ bills as the retailers say they are calculated

  • some retailers take up-front payments from customers and then feed those payments back to customers on each subsequent bill as if they are discounts

  • most discounts are conditional on customers doing something (usually paying the bill on time) but some are unconditional. Some bills have both conditional and unconditional discounts; others just one or the other.




Read more:
You’re paying too much for electricity, but here’s what the states can do about it


If that isn’t enough, electricity tariffs in Australia are stunningly complex commercial arrangements. They have daily charges and a wide range of methods for charging for consumption: flat rates; daily, monthly or quarterly block rates; time-of-use rates with two or three bands; combinations of time-of-use and block rates; one or more separate rates for controlled loads of different types; consumption rates that are seasonal; and now some bills with peak demand charges.

Solar feed-in rates offered by retailers often (but not always) vary depending on the receipt of subsidies. Most recently, some retailers have offered block rates for solar feed-in, or different prices for the first tranche of solar power feed-in.

What can you do?

It is no surprise that few customers have the time or skill needed to choose wisely. While this is not a peculiarly Australian phenomenon – evidence from abroad shows that lots of money is left on the table even when customers try to buy well – we think it is worse here. Our research is working to quantify this in Australia.




Read more:
FactCheck: does South Australia have the ‘highest energy prices’ in the nation and ‘the least reliable grid’?


Government price comparison sites, like Energy Made Easy, are often advanced as solutions. But a 2017 competition review found that these have had limited success in Australia and elsewhere.

Complexity trips up governments too, and retailers work hard to persuade the regulators and policy makers to their point of view.

Regulating complexity away through standardisation is also suggested. Tight regulation can work well; think of the excellent market for bread and patisserie in France. But standardising the sale of electricity often comes at the expense of incentives for retailers to discover customers’ needs, and may increase rather than reduce average prices.

Policymakers want both customer protection and incentives to innovation. But the desire to have one’s cake and eat it can lead to half-baked solutions that make matters worse.

The solution may be to master the complexity rather than trying to regulate it away. Many existing price comparison websites offer limited coverage of the market of competing offers, or look at only the energy consumption portion of a customer’s existing bill.

However advances in data science now make it cost effective to provide small customers with on-going analysis of their usage and their retailer’s charges in order to ensure that they are always on the best deal for them. Businesses using this approach overseas are well established, and the scope for further innovation is very large.

The ConversationOvercoming the complexity of the retail market will take away the wool that retailers have a powerful incentive to pull over their customers’ eyes.

Bruce Mountain, Director, Victoria Energy Policy Centre, Victoria University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.