Frydenberg lashes out at Malaysia’s prime minister for anti-Semitism



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Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad expressed his displeasure to Scott Morrison this week over Australia’s proposed move of its Israel embassy.
Wallace Woon/EPA

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has launched a strong attack on Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, declaring he has “form” in being anti-Semitic.

Frydenberg, who is Jewish, was responding to Mahathir’s criticism of the Morrison government for considering whether to move the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Mahathir said on Thursday he had pointed out to Prime Minister Scott Morrison during their meeting at the East Asia Summit in Singapore that “adding to the cause for terrorism is not going to be helpful”.

Frydenberg told a news conference that Mahathir “has called Jews hook-nosed people. He has questioned the number of people that have been killed in the Holocaust.

“He banned Schindler’s List as a movie being shown (in Malaysia), though it showed the amazing story of a righteous gentile who saved many people from persecution.”

Frydenberg made similar comments earlier in the day to ABC, saying Mahathir had “form” on making derogatory comments about Jews.

Frydenberg said Morrison was “absolutely right” to begin a process of considering where the embassy should be.

Indonesia is also highly critical of any embassy change, which was
reiterated in the talks Morrison had with Indonesian President Joko Widodo this week. The Indonesians have delayed the signing of the free-trade agreement until Australia makes a decision on the embassy.

Taking a decision on the embassy will be difficult and potentially divisive for the government. Members of the right in the Liberal Party and in the commentariat have been urging the move, but the pragmatists and many in the foreign policy establishment believe the government should stick with the status quo.

While saying that “no one is pre-empting the outcome” of the consideration, Frydenberg in effect made a case for moving from Tel Aviv.

“Australia already recognises Israel’s sovereignty over West Jerusalem. It’s where the Israeli Parliament is. It’s where the Australian ambassador presents his or her credentials. It will be the capital of Israel under any two-state solution,” he said.

“People who say ‘do not put the embassy in Jerusalem’ are making the point that we need to maintain more leverage over the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The reality is that those negotiations have frozen. ”

Frydenberg said Israel was the only country in the world where Australia did not put its embassy in the nation’s capital.

He also criticised what he saw as “a double standard within parts of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council when it comes to Israel, compared with the treatment of other countries.

“The UN General Assembly has passed more anti-Israel resolutions than nearly all resolutions against other individual countries combined.”

Frydenberg said it was inevitable Australia and Indonesia would have
different views on the relationship with Israel.

“Indonesia doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Israel. Next year
Australia is enjoying 70 years of diplomatic ties with Israel. Of
course we are going to have a different view about that relationship.”

Morrison, now in Darwin to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, said of Frydenberg’s remarks that he was “filling in the history of (Mahathir’s) record on various issues over time”.

Morrison repeated that Australia decided its own foreign policy, not
other countries.

The 93-year-old Mahathir, recently re-installed as Malaysia’s prime minister, was the object of criticism by then-Prime Minister Paul Keating a quarter of a century ago. When Mahathir refused to attend an APEC summit, Keating condemned him as a “recalcitrant”. Mahathir demanded an apology. The incident embittered relations between the two countries.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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In his first major foreign policy test, Morrison needs to stick to the script



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After a positive start, Morrison’s relations with his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, cooled off after he suggested moving the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Susan Harris Rimmer, Griffith University

Attending a global leaders summit might look easy – all interesting shirts, family-style photos and unusual handshakes – but these occasions can prove extremely difficult for leaders who focus solely on domestic politics or brand new leaders with uncertain electoral prospects.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is both.

Morrison faces a busy week of foreign policy tests in his first big moment on the global stage. He first travels to Singapore for the ASEAN and East Asia Summit, then hosts Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historic visit to Darwin before jetting off for the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea on the weekend. This power week will be followed by the G20 Leaders Summit in Buenos Aires at the end of month.

This week, Morrison will have his first meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, US Vice President Mike Pence and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in addition to new (but not so new) Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.




Read more:
With Bishop gone, Morrison and Payne face significant challenges on foreign policy


So what can we expect from Morrison’s debut summit season and in particular his meetings with Xi?

Pundits have been speculating whether Morrison might try to use the August leadership spill and appointment of new Foreign Minister Marise Payne as a way of pressing the reset button on relations with China.

Payne’s recent visit to Beijing was viewed by both parties as a success, so Morrison should have a more pleasant meeting with Xi than former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull might have.

Payne’s visit to China was the first by an Australian foreign minister since Julie Bishop’s trip in 2016.
Thomas Peter/EPA

But Morrison’s first months in office show a leader who speaks without due care to the reactions of foreign governments – floating the idea of shifting the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is the most glaring example – and a leader with little political capital to spare.

He needs to stick to the script this week.

Danger signs

Morrison has already courted controversy on foreign policy in a short period of time. He skipped the UN General Assembly in September. He also missed the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru, forcing Payne to reassure Pacific neighbours that he wasn’t “snubbing” them.

Morrison did go straight to Jakarta in his first overseas trip as leader to meet with President Joko Widodo and sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with Indonesia.

But he was then accused of playing “straight from Trump’s songbook” when he mused about moving Australia’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem without consulting diplomats or generals beforehand. It was widely seen as a crude attempt to win the Jewish vote in the Wentworth by-election.

One downfall of Australian leaders is they can sometimes look parochial and small-town while on the big stage. For example, then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a cringeworthy speech to G20 leaders in Brisbane in 2014 about GP co-payments and stopping the boats. Opposition leader Bill Shorten described it as “weird and graceless”.

In his case, Morrison failed to realise the negative reception his embassy musings would receive in Indonesia. Now, his meetings with Widodo are likely to be frosty, with no plans to sign the free-trade agreement by the end of the year.

Morrison’s meetings with Xi, Putin and Modi

In his recent headland speech, Morrison seemed to adopt a Malcolm Turnbull-style line on taking a middle path with the US and China, noting that a confrontation between the two powers:

risks unimagined damage to economic growth and the global order. Damage where no-one benefits. Lose-lose.

Nevertheless, the speech was strong on values, many of which China does not share.

It is also not clear how Xi will view the recent Pacific push from Morrison, though he seemed to offer the possibility for partnership in the region.

Morrison’s meeting with Putin at the East Asia Summit will likewise be interesting to watch. This is Putin’s first time at the summit, but by no means his first rodeo. His presence is perhaps indicative of Russia’s intention to pivot more attention towards the Indo-Pacific region, taking advantage of Trump’s absence.




Read more:
Russia is a rising military power in the Asia-Pacific, and Australia needs to take it seriously


In yet another foreign policy stumble, Abbott once famously vowed to “shirtfront” Putin over the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Putin enjoys such displays of toxic masculinity; hopefully, Morrison can restrain himself.

Australia wants to enhance its partnership with India, so we should see Morrison make a beeline for Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the ASEAN meeting, hoping for one of Modi’s signature hugs.

Before meeting Modi, Morrison will hopefully have carefully read the India Economic Strategy to 2035, authored by the former high commissioner to India and head of DFAT, Peter Varghese.

Modi got a hug of his own from Abbott during his high-profile visit to Australia in 2014.
Tracey Nearmy/AAP

Our Pacific family

Last week, Morrison made perhaps his most important foreign policy speech – a major strategic announcement on the Pacific. He said Australia would open five new embassies and launch an infrastructure bank in the region to the tune of A$2 billion, and declared the Pacific “our patch”:

This is our part of the world. This is where we have special responsibilities. We always have, we always will. We have their back, and they have ours. We are more than partners by choice. We are connected as members of a Pacific family.

The announcement came after he signed a deal for a joint naval base in Papua New Guinea. Both this and the infrastructure bank were seen as ways of countering Chinese influence in the Pacific, but Morrison did refrain from using any anti-China rhetoric.




Read more:
For Pacific Island nations, rising sea levels are a bigger security concern than rising Chinese influence


This is noteworthy. Tess Newton Cain has pointed out that Australia often misses the right tone of respect and partnership in its announcements to the region.

But despite this new push for Pacific engagement, Australia is still seen as weak on climate policy – a hugely important issue to Pacific leaders. This could result in difficult conversations for Morrison at APEC, as PNG has invited many Pacific nations to attend for the first time.

Sit down, be humble

Even if Morrison puts his best foot forward to overcome his poor start on foreign policy, he will still have difficulty standing out in the crowd.

Even leaders require some political capital to stand out in those big rooms.

The churn in Australian prime ministers means that some foreign leaders may not consider it worth the time or energy to build a relationship of personal trust with Morrison if they view him more like a caretaker. Former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had spent 10 years building up this diplomatic trust and stability in her various roles, but that was severed abruptly.

My advice to Morrison? Stay humble and listen. Read the briefs, listen to the diplomats and do everything Payne and DFAT Secretary Frances Adamson say to do, to the letter.The Conversation

Susan Harris Rimmer, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Griffith Law School, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

One in four Australians are lonely, which affects their physical and mental health



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Younger Australians struggle more with loneliness than older generations.
Toa Heftiba

Michelle H Lim, Swinburne University of Technology

One in four Australians are lonely, our new report has found, and it’s not just a problem among older Australians – it affects both genders and almost all age groups.

The Australian Loneliness Report, released today by my colleagues and I at the Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne University, found one in two (50.5%) Australians feel lonely for at least one day in a week, while more than one in four (27.6%) feel lonely for three or more days.

Our results come from a survey of 1,678 Australians from across the nation. We used a comprehensive measure of loneliness to assess how it relates to mental health and physical health outcomes.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Andrew Giles on the growing issue of loneliness


We found nearly 55% of the population feel they lack companionship at least sometime. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Australians who are married or in a de facto relationship are the least lonely, compared to those who are single, separated or divorced.

While Australians are reasonably connected to their friends and families, they don’t have the same relationships with their neighbours. Almost half of Australians (47%) reported not having neighbours to call on for help, which suggests many of us feel disengaged in our neighbourhoods.

Impact on mental and physical health

Lonely Australians, when compared with their less lonely counterparts, reported higher social anxiety and depression, poorer psychological health and quality of life, and fewer meaningful relationships and social interactions.

Loneliness increases a person’s likelihood of experiencing depression by 15.2% and the likelihood of social anxiety increases by 13.1%. Those who are lonelier also report being more socially anxious during social interactions.

This fits with previous research, including a study of more than 1,000 Americans which found lonelier people reported more severe social anxiety, depression, and paranoia when followed up after three months.

Older Australians are less socially anxious than younger folks.
Fabio Neo Amato

Interestingly, Australians over 65 were less lonely, less socially anxious, and less depressed than younger Australians.

This is consistent with previous studies that show older people fare better on particular mental health and well-being indicators.

(Though it’s unclear whether this is the case for adults over 75, as few participants in our study were aged in the late 70s and over).

Younger adults, on the other hand, reported significantly more social anxiety than older Australians.

The evidence outlining the negative effects of loneliness on physical health is also growing. Past research has found loneliness increases the likelihood of an earlier death by 26% and has negative consequences on the health of your heart, your sleep, and levels of inflammation.




Read more:
Loneliness is a health issue, and needs targeted solutions


Our study adds to this body of research, finding people with higher rates of loneliness are more likely to have more headaches, stomach problems, and physical pain. This is not surprising as loneliness is associated with increased inflammatory responses.

What can we do about it?

Researchers are just beginning to understand the detrimental effects of loneliness on our health, social lives and communities but many people – including service providers – are unaware. There are no guidelines or training for service providers.

So, even caring and highly trained staff at emergency departments may trivialise the needs of lonely people presenting repeatedly and direct them to resources that aren’t right.

Increasing awareness, formalised training, and policies are all steps in the right direction to reduce this poor care.

For some people, simple solutions such as joining shared interest groups (such as book clubs) or shared experienced groups (such as bereavement or carers groups) may help alleviate their loneliness.

But for others, there are more barriers to overcome, such as stigma, discrimination, and poverty.

Shared interest groups can help some people feel less alone.
Danielle Cerullo

Many community programs and social services focus on improving well-being and quality of life for lonely people. By tackling loneliness, they may also improve the health of Australians. But without rigorous evaluation of these health outcomes, it’s difficult to determine their impact.

We know predictors of loneliness can include genetics, brain functioning, mental health, physical health, community, work, and social factors. And we know predictors can differ between groups – for example, young versus old.

But we need to better measure and understand these different predictors and how they influence each other over time. Only with Australian data can we predict who is at risk and develop effective solutions.




Read more:
The deadly truth about loneliness


There are some things we can do in the meantime.

We need a campaign to end loneliness for all Australians. Campaigns can raise awareness, reduce stigma, and empower not just the lonely person but also those around them.

Loneliness campaigns have been successfully piloted in the United Kingdom and Denmark. These campaigns don’t just raise awareness of loneliness; they also empower lonely and un-lonely people to change their social behaviours.

A great example of action arising from increased awareness comes from the Royal College of General Practitioners, which developed action plans to assist lonely patients presenting in primary care. The college encouraged GPs to tackle loneliness with more than just medicine; it prompted them to ask what matters to the lonely person rather than what is the matter with the lonely person.

Australia lags behind other countries but loneliness is on the agenda. Multiple Australian organisations have come together after identifying a need to generate Australian-specific data, increase advocacy, and develop an awareness campaign. But only significant, sustained government investment and bipartisan support will ensure this promising work results in better outcomes for lonely Australians.The Conversation

Michelle H Lim, Senior Lecturer and Clinical Psychologist, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

State governments can transform Australia’s energy policy from major fail to reliable success


Tony Wood, Grattan Institute and Guy Dundas, Grattan Institute

This week we’re exploring the state of nine different policy areas across Australia’s states, as detailed in Grattan Institute’s State Orange Book 2018. Read the other articles in the series here.


Energy policy in Australia is a major failure. The federal government has been unable to forge an effective policy to ensure affordable, reliable and low-emissions electricity. It’s time for the states to step up.

Internationally, responsibility for climate change policies rests with national governments. The federal government says it remains committed to Australia’s target under the Paris Agreement, but it has abandoned the emissions-reduction obligation of the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). This leaves Australia’s electricity sector, which is responsible for 34% of our overall emissions, with no credible policy to reduce those emissions.

The states should fill this policy vacuum if it persists. They should work together on a nationwide emissions reduction scheme through state-based legislation, independent of the federal government. A Commonwealth-led national policy would be best, but a state-based policy is far better than none.




Read more:
The too hard basket: a short history of Australia’s aborted climate policies


In October 2018 the COAG Energy Council agreed to continue work on the reliability element of the NEG. The states and territories should maintain this support and implement this policy with the Commonwealth government, and so support the reliability of the National Electricity Market during a challenging transition.

The Grattan Institute’s State Orange Book 2018 shows that there is also much the states can do to reduce energy prices. Consumers are understandably upset – household retail prices have increased by more than half in the past decade, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (see page 7 here).

How your state measures up on energy.
Grattan Institute State Orange Book 2018

The federal government is certainly focused on price – Prime Minister Scott Morrison has referred to Energy Minister Angus Taylor as the “minister for getting electricity prices down” – but many important pricing policies depend on state action.

Retail pricing is the obvious example. Poorly regulated retail electricity markets have not delivered for consumers. Retail margins are higher than would be expected in a truly competitive market. Many consumers find the market so complicated they give up trying to understand it.




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


State governments should work alongside the federal government to help consumers navigate the retail “confusopoly”. Governments should require retailers to help consumers compare offers and get the best deal. They should also stop retailers using excessive pay-on-time discounts (which tend to confuse rather than help consumers and can trap lower-income households), and ensure vulnerable customers do not pay high prices.

However, governments should resist the temptation to use price caps as a quick fix. If set too low, price caps could reduce competition and drive longer-term price increases.




Read more:
Capping electricity prices: a quick fix with hidden risks


Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, which have not yet adopted retail competition, should move in that direction – while learning from the mistakes of others.

Network costs make up the biggest share of the electricity bill for most households (see page 8 here) and some small businesses. This is particularly an issue in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, where network values increased substantially under public ownership and those costs were passed on to consumers.

These states should write down the value of their overvalued networks or provide rebates to consumers, so the price of the networks is more closely aligned to the value they provide to consumers. Given the poor performance of publicly owned networks, any network businesses still in government hands should be privatised.

Responsibility for setting network reliability requirements should be transferred to the Australian Energy Regulator to prevent risk-averse state governments from imposing excessive reliability standards, which would drive up network costs again.




Read more:
Amid blackout scare stories, remember that a grid without power cuts is impossible… and expensive


Until recently, it seemed state governments had learned the lessons from the bad old days of excessively generous subsidies for rooftop solar. That was until August 2018, when the Victorian government committed more than A$1 billion to pay half the cost of solar panels for eligible households and provide an interest-free loan for the remainder. Most of these systems would pay for themselves without subsidy. The Victorian government should abandon this waste of taxpayers’ money.




Read more:
Policy overload: why the ACCC says household solar subsidies should be abolished


Finally, Australia’s gas market is adding to the price pain of homes and businesses. As international prices rise, there is no easy way to avoid some painful decisions. But some state policies are making matters worse.

The Victorian and Tasmanian governments’ moratoria on gas exploration and development constrain supply and drive up prices. The moratoria should be lifted. Instead, these states should give case-by-case approval to gas development projects, with safeguards against specific risks.

Australia needs reliable, affordable electricity to underpin our 21st-century economic prosperity. That must be protected while we also decarbonise the energy sector.

Energy market reform was at the forefront of national competition policy in the mid to late 1990s. But reform has since slowed, and the states are partly responsible. The states can rekindle the fire by pursuing a clear, nationally consistent action plan for affordable, reliable and low-emissions electricity.

Australia’s households and businesses – and the environment – are relying on the states to step up.The Conversation

Tony Wood, Program Director, Energy, Grattan Institute and Guy Dundas, Energy Fellow, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ideas of home and ownership in Australia might explain the neglect of renters’ rights



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People should be able to feel at home regardless of whether they own the place they live in.
Halfpoint/Shutterstock

Bronwyn Bate, Western Sydney University

In Australia, when we think of home, we think of ownership. This normalisation of home ownership is reflected in the “Great Australian Dream”, the belief that it’s the best way to achieve financial security. This “dream” is based on the premise that if you work hard you will one day be able to buy a home. Home ownership is an important goal for many Australians. Home ownership implies success.

Linked to the importance of home ownership are our conceptions of home – what home means and the ways home can and should be made. Popular understandings of home suggest that feelings of home are most easily created between a house and the person who owns it.




Read more:
‘Just like home’. New survey finds most renters enjoy renting, although for many it’s expensive


What is home?

So ingrained is this relationship between home and ownership that in my recently published paper I argue that research rarely considers the ways non-owners make and think about home. This is problematic, given recent housing trends.

Recent changes in housing, particularly the increased cost of home ownership and curbing of public housing, have created a greater demand for rental housing. As a result, there is an undersupply of privately rented housing in Australia.

Australian tenancy laws add to the insecurity of the private rental sector. Tenancy laws and policy reflect cultural norms in Australia, where private renting is seen as a form of short-term, transitional housing.

Recently, significant media and public attention has been directed at the impact of state-based tenancy legislation. It is argued that tenancy laws need to be changed to reflect current housing trends and the needs of many tenants to have long-term, secure housing.




Read more:
When falling home ownership and ageing baby boomers collide


Rental insecurity is a persistent source of stress for many tenants. It’s a key reason that many tenants struggle to feel at home in their rental property. A person’s ability to identify feelings of home with their dwelling has been shown to impact psychological health and overall well-being.

My research findings suggest that while tenancy law affects the ways we understand and make home, likewise, our meanings of home affect how we shape and understand tenure and policy. Australian tenancy law reflects broader cultural values that associate the meaning and making of home with home ownership.

While researchers and policymakers focus on how tenancy law can negatively affect or restrict renters within their homes, the actual practices of home-making by renters are often overlooked. Current understandings of home typically reference what home means to home owners. My research points to the importance of understanding the ways private renters make home – and make home meaningful – so that any changes to tenancy law reflect the needs of tenants.




Read more:
Life as an older renter, and what it tells us about the urgent need for tenancy reform


Is having a home a right or a privilege?

While there is no doubt that small changes are being made, perhaps the lack of consideration for tenants in tenancy laws and policy is indicative of our larger beliefs about what it is to “feel” at home and make a home. The “Great Australian Dream” is based on the belief that hard work will eventually lead to home ownership. Yet owning a home is becoming impossible for many people, irrespective of how hard they work.

If we understand home to be a basic right, then we will have policies that reflect this. If we understand home to be a privilege, reserved only for those who manage to achieve home ownership, then we will forever live in a country where tenure security and a feeling of being “home” are reserved for those who are able to buy a house. Consequently, our policies will continue to support the idea that, ultimately, a rental property cannot be “home” to a tenant.

The question then remains: do we consider home a right or a privilege? This issue is at the very heart of Australia’s housing crisis. Until we change our meaning of home by separating it from ownership, we will never be able to “fix” Australia’s housing crisis.




Read more:
What do single, older women want? Their ‘own little space’ (and garden) to call home, for a start


The Conversation


Bronwyn Bate, PhD Candidate, Urban Research Program, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Attention economy: Facebook delivers traffic but no money for news media



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A lawsuit has been filed against Facebook, because it allegedly overstated its video statistics for years.
from http://www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-ND

Merja Myllylahti, Auckland University of Technology

Facebook and quality journalism are uneasy companions. Recent headlines suggest the platform’s “lies” about video metrics “smashed” journalism and the platform “crashed and burned” news companies’ referral traffic after it changed its algorithm in January.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is currently holding a digital platform inquiry to investigate what kind of impact social media platforms, search engines and other content aggregators have on the local media market. In the United Kingdom, the Cairncross review is assessing similar issues, looking for ways of sustaining high-quality journalism in a changing market.

My research suggests these enquiries should pay attention to the impact of Facebook and the lessons we’ve already learned about the social platform.




Read more:
Class action against Facebook over facial recognition could pave the way for further lawsuits


Lesson one: overstated metrics

You should not trust all the metrics platform companies offer.

A recent article in The Atlantic revealed that a lawsuit has been filed against Facebook, because it allegedly overstated its video statistics for years, “exaggerating the time spent watching them by as much as 900% percent.”

The article asserts that “hundreds of journalists” lost their job after Facebook lured news companies to invest in video. However, Facebook has denied these claims.

The Spinoff, a digital native media company in New Zealand, recently posted a story with a similar analysis of the platform’s impact, saying that Facebook’s fake video statistics “smashed New Zealand journalism” because when it encouraged news companies to invest in online video production, they followed.

New Zealand media were collateral damage in Facebook’s obsessive desire to grow at all costs.




Read more:
How to stop haemorrhaging data on Facebook


Lesson two: traffic dependency

You should not rely on Facebook traffic.

A recent report by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism shows that in the United States, news companies have a substantial presence on Facebook. The report found that roughly 80% of the local news outlets are using the social platform.

Additionally, two recent studies demonstrates how news companies rely on Facebook to drive their traffic. My own research of four New Zealand news companies shows that 24% of their traffic came from social media, and most of that came from Facebook. Together social and search drove 47% of New Zealand news sites’ traffic.

A larger study of 12 newspapers and broadcasters in Europe, conducted by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, notes:

… news organisations are making major investments in social media and report receiving significant amounts of traffic” from social media.

These studies confirm news companies’ Facebook dependency in terms of traffic, although the level of dependency differs between media outlets. The Reuters study found that Facebook’s algorithm changes in January had a severe impact on some of the news companies’ traffic. However, the severity of impact differed between media outlets. For example, Le Monde saw its interactions drop by almost a third, but for The Times these grew.

In New Zealand, The Spinoff suffered a substantial drop in its traffic after Facebook’s algorithm tweaks: its traffic from the platform dropped from 50% to 30%. We have seen similar drops in other markets, too.

The Nieman Lab, which reports on digital media innovation, found that following Facebook’s algorithm change, the drop in referral traffic was not universal. Some not-for-profit media organisations benefited.

Bottom line: The decline in referrals to publishers from Facebook is not universal, and in the face of those declines, other sources of traffic are more important than ever.

Indeed, it would be wise for all news outlets to grow their direct traffic which delivers better user engagement and monetisation.

Lesson three: don’t do it for the money

You don’t make much money on Facebook.

My research suggests if news companies abandoned Facebook, they would hardly lose any money. For the companies studied, social media traffic made up 0.03%–0.14% of their total revenue, and social shares 0.009%–0.2% of total revenue. These figures don’t take into account advertising income from platforms or subscription conversion.

The reason news companies continue to distribute their content on social media platforms is because they gain attention. News companies believe they can turn this attention into money, but so far with little success.

However, some news publishers have reported that they have gained digital subscriptions from the platforms. The Reuters study notes Facebook delivers news companies audience engagement that is “considered more cost effective at driving digital subscription sales.”

The bottom line is there is no data yet to verify how well news publishers manage to convert social media attention to digital subscriptions. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are all offering, or are in the process of offering, digital subscription services to news publishers, but how well these will work for news companies remains to be seen.The Conversation

Merja Myllylahti, Research Fellow, Auckland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why we should worry less about retirement – and leave super at 9.5%


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Most retirees are financially secure. Many earn more than they did while working, the Grattan Institute finds.
Shutterstock

Brendan Coates, Grattan Institute; John Daley, Grattan Institute, and Jonathan Nolan, Grattan Institute

It’s conventional wisdom that Australians don’t save enough for retirement. Most workers themselves think they won’t have enough to retire on, and their concerns are rising.

But the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Our new report, Money In Retirement: More Than Enough shows that most people who are actually retired feel more comfortable financially than the Australians younger than them who are still working.

Retirees of today tend to slow their spending as they age, tend to keep saving in retirement, and often leave an legacy almost as big as the nest egg they had on the day they retired.




Read more:
The myth of the ageing ‘crisis’


When surveyed today the retirees of the future might be worried about their retirement, but economic growth means they will almost certainly be on even higher incomes than retirees today.

These findings might seem surprising: they contradict the repeated messaging from the financial services industry that Australians won’t have enough for retirement.

But that industry’s claims are based on research that overlooks two important points.

Retirees spend less over time

Much of the research assumes that retirees need to save enough to enable their incomes to keep climbing throughout their retirement in line with general wage growth.

Implicitly, it assumes that a retiree needs to spend 25% more at age 90 than at age 70, after accounting for inflation.

But our analysis shows that retired Australians tend to spend less over time, even those who have money to spare.



Young retirees might chalk up frequent flyer points, but they do it less as they get older.

Spending tends to slow at around the age of 70, and falls rapidly after age 80, to just 84% of what was spent at retirement age.

Even the wealthiest retirees spend less as they age. At the other end of the scale, pensioners receive discounts on everything from car registration to rates.

Our research finds that retirees spend less over time on food, alcohol, tobacco, clothes, furnishings, transport and recreation.



They spend more on health care as they age, but Medicare largely shields them from the full costs. The modestly higher out-of-pocket costs they do pay are mainly due to rising premiums for private health insurance.

Not only do most retirees not draw down their savings throughout retirement, many add to them.

Even among pensioners, one recent study found that the median (typical) pensioner still had 90% of what he or she retired on after eight years.




Read more:
Poor and rich retirees spend about the same


This means that calculations about the adequacy of retirement savings ought to be based on whether they are enough to maintain buying power (at best) rather increase it in line with wage growth.

Many prominent studies also ignore non-super savings, which are material, especially for wealthier households.

They lead to misguided calls for ever-higher super contributions in order to ensure reach the point where super alone is enough to provide an adequate retirement income, even though many households will have income from other sources.

Most will have enough super

Our modelling shows that people starting work today will have adequate retirement incomes: workers of all income levels will retire on incomes at least 70% of their pre-retirement earnings – the so-called replacement benchmark used by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Mercer Global Pension Index.



In fact the median (typical) worker can expect a retirement income of 91% of his or her pre-retirement income.

This means that many low-income Australians will actually get a pay rise on retirement.

Even workers in their 40s and 50s today – many of whom didn’t benefit from the present high rate of compulsory super contributions for their entire working lives – can expect a retirement income of about 70% of their pre-retirement incomes.

So compulsory super can stay at 9.5%

It means that that there is no obvious case to lift compulsory super contributions from 9.5% to 12% of salary as presently legislated.

Doing so might further boost retirement incomes (especially among those low and middle earners unable to compensate for the higher contributions by winding back other savings), but at the expense of providing lower incomes while working.

As the Henry Tax Review noted, higher compulsory super contributions are ultimately funded by lower wages than would have been the case, meaning lower living standards while in work.

As it happens, higher contributions would do little to change the retirement incomes of low and middle income Australians. Their extra superannuation income they provided would cut their age pension payments.




Read more:
The superannuation myth: why it’s a mistake to increase contributions to 12% of earnings


Higher compulsory contributions would also damage pensions in another way.

The age pension is indexed to wage growth which would be lower if employers diverted a steadily increasing proportion of their employee budget to super.

It means the most fervent opponents of a lift in compulsory super contributions from 9.5% to 12% ought be those people presently on the age pension.

The government ought to oppose it as well. Diverting more of what would have been wages to more lightly taxed super will strain its budget. Scrapping the proposed increase would save it an impressive A$2 billion a year.

We can find better ways to help retirees

Even if governments did feel it necessary to boost retirement incomes, lifting compulsory super contributions would be one of the worst ways to do it.

Loosening the age pension assets test taper could boost retirement incomes of around 20% of retirees, climbing to more than 70% over time. It would cost the Budget just A$750 million a year – less than half the cost to it of the proposed increase in compulsory super.

The real priority – by far the biggest bang for the buck in alleviating poverty in retirement – should be boosting Commonwealth rent assistance by 40%, providing an extra $1,410 a year for retired singles and $1,330 for retired couples.




Read more:
Renters Beware: how the pension and super could leave you behind


Senior Australians who rent privately are much more likely to suffer financial stress than homeowners. And renting will become more widespread as younger generations on low incomes find themselves less able to afford homes.

Australians have been told for decades that they’re not saving enough for retirement. Such claims are inconsistent with the facts. Most of today’s workers can already expect a comfortable retirement. Forcing them and future workers to save more money for retirement that they’ll never spend is simply a recipe for larger bequests.The Conversation

Brendan Coates, Fellow, Grattan Institute; John Daley, Chief Executive Officer, Grattan Institute, and Jonathan Nolan, Associate, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Renters Beware: how the pension and super could leave you behind



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Super and the pension treat most retirees well, but not renters.
Shutterstock

Rafal Chomik, UNSW

How we fund retirement in an ageing century ought to worry all of us.

But one group of us should be much more worried than the rest.

In a new set of research briefs published by the Centre of Excellence of Population Ageing Research, we report that most people do well out of our retirement income system and that the living standard of retirees has improved over the past decade.

In international comparisons, our system ranks highly, for good reason.

Most retirees do well

About 60% of older Australians can afford a lifestyle better than that deemed to be “modest” by widely used standards.

Households headed by baby boomers reaching retirement age between 2006 and 2016 did so with incomes 45% higher than those who retired a decade earlier.

Typical boomer households aged in their late 60s earn almost as much as they did when they were still working – only 20% less, that is, with about 80% of their working income maintained.

And their needs are lower. Lower spending in retirement is common because older households need to pay less for transport, less for working clothes, and have more time to cook.

Many continue to save while in retirement.




Read more:
Please, not another super scheme, Mr Keating. It’s what the pension is for


And they tend to spend less over time, rather than more over time as benchmarks publicised by the superannuation industry assume.

When we included the value of living rent-free for the 80% or more of retirees who own their own home (about A$10,000 per year on average), we found older Australians live in no more poverty than working age Australians.

But not renters

The living standards of those who rent in retirement are very different. Only about 15% of older renters can afford a lifestyle better than “modest”.

Single renters are particularly badly off.

Among all older people only about 10% fall below the poverty line set at half the median income.

Among older Australians who rent, 40% fall below.

Among older Australians who rent alone, it’s more than 60%.


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


If that relative poverty measure seems too abstract, an absolute dollar figure might help.

Alarming research aired on the ABC in September found that, on average, aged care homes were spending $6.08 per day on food per resident.



Our research finds that among pensioners who rent alone, one quarter spend even less than that per day.

And it’s getting worse

The pension has always favoured home owners.

On the one hand it is insufficient for renters and on the other it doesn’t cut pension payments to the owners of very valuable homes, because the value of any home – no matter how big – is excluded from the pension means test.




Read more:
Let’s talk about the family home … and its exemption from the pension means test


Rental assistance, introduced to complement the pension in the 1980s, was meant to alleviate this, and to some extent it does.

But it climbs only in line with the consumer price index every six months, which usually fails to keep pace with rents.




Read more:
Life as an older renter, and what it tells us about the urgent need for tenancy reform


Sydney rents have doubled over the past two decades. The consumer price index has climbed 68%.

As a result, rental assistance is less effective in reducing financial stress than it was when it was introduced, and is set to become even less effective if rents continue to climb more quickly than the price index.

And more of us look set to rent

Households headed by Australians aged 35 to 44 are now 10 percentage points less likely to own their own home than were households headed by people of the same age a generation earlier.

They might be merely postponing buying homes until they are older as more of what would have been their income is sequestered into super and they enter the workforce and retire later.




Read more:
Explainer: what’s really keeping young and first home buyers out of the housing market


If so, they might end up owning and paying off homes by retirement at the same rate as boomer households did before them.

If not, more and more of them could end up in poverty in retirement.The Conversation

Rafal Chomik, Senior Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Don’t give up on politics. It’s where the fight for the fair go must be won



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Governments have made a difference to inequality in the past, as Roosevelt’s New Deal did in the 1930s, and could do so again if citizens acted to ensure their voices are heard.
Wikimedia

Marc Stears, University of Sydney

This article is the third in the Reclaiming the Fair Go series, a collaboration between The Conversation, the Sydney Democracy Network and the Sydney Peace Foundation to mark the awarding of the 2018 Sydney Peace Prize to Nobel laureate and economics professor Joseph Stiglitz. These articles reflect on the crisis caused by economic inequality and on how we can break the cycle of power and greed to enable all peoples and the planet to flourish. The Sydney Peace Prize will be presented on November 15 (tickets here).


Deepening economic inequality is a scourge across most of the world’s democracies. For decades now, the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest has been widening. This has very real and very dangerous consequences for people’s mental and physical health and for the cohesion of our communities. So why isn’t anything serious being done about it?

Reversing this trend, or at least ameliorating it, would not be difficult. Economists around the world have spent the last few years laying out some fairly straightforward policy solutions. These range from reform of the rules governing how pay is set in the big corporations to sustained investment in the foundational social services that everyone but the very richest relies upon, including public education, health and housing.

Despite this clarity, very few of these initiatives are being pursued in any of the developed democracies. Instead, political action remains focused on tax cuts that favour the wealthy or big business, on immigration restrictions that can hinder economic growth, and on public subsidies for a handful of old industries, even where there are environmental reasons to be transitioning away from them.




Read more:
The fair go is a fading dream, but don’t write it off


Why the inaction on inequality?

The question that matters more than almost any other when it comes to inequality right now, then, is not whether it is a problem or how to resolve it, but what is it that’s holding us back from doing what we need to do?

The answer to this question cannot lie in an absence of practice, knowledge or understanding. Most countries successfully initiated inequality-tackling reforms in previous generations. And they often did so in far more pressing political and economic circumstances, such as the Great Depression of the 1930s or the immediate aftermath of the second world war.

Joseph Stiglitz.
Bengt Oberger/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

Even where there is not previous experience to draw upon, politicians and their advisers can draw upon a host of more recent studies of the causes, consequences and potential responses to the rise of inequality. This includes the work of this year’s Sydney Peace Prize recipient, Joseph Stiglitz. There is no shortage of expertise for a new generation of egalitarian reformers to draw upon.

Nor does the answer lie in entrenched public unwillingness to tackle the problem. It is true that in the 1980s and 1990s, electorates the world over were often skittish about interventionist economic policy proposals. They favoured tax reductions over public service investment and were anxious about government’s efforts to “pick winners” in the economy.

But such anxiety has greatly lessened right now. Indeed, polling consistently suggests that even in countries without a sustained tradition of government action against inequality, a large public appetite now exists for measures to tackle it. Such measures, stretching from sharp increases in minimum wages to the nationalisation of major public utilities, enjoy majority support in many democracies.

We have also witnessed electorates across the world take bold and risky decisions in their voting behaviour. This includes support for extremist political movements motivated partly by a desire fundamentally to shift away from the status quo.

The problem lies with our politics

If the problem does not lie in knowledge or public support, it must lie somewhere that does not currently get enough attention: in our processes of policymaking – in short, our politics.

Political life in the developed democracies has been radically transformed in the last few decades. Usually this is told in a storybook version, with an endless rise of openness and inclusivity.

In the early decades of the 20th century, this narrative goes, women and the poorest won the vote. In the middle of the century, trade unions and civil society organisations exerted increasing influence on national political decision-making. And as the century aged, other groups including LGBTQI action groups, minority and indigenous populations began to find some long-denied political influence.

But there is another, far darker story to tell. The last few decades have witnessed the rise of another way of doing politics. The anthropologist Janine Wedel brilliantly describes that way in Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom, and Security (2014).

It is the world of the professional lobbyist, of the revolving door between global corporations and the highest levels of government, of uneasy relationships between public decision-making and private profit, and of the capture of elite thinking by norms and expectations that owe too much to the practices of the financial services sector.

Meet the New Influence Elites, a 2016 IPR Public Lecture by Professor Janine Wedel.

All of this has happened at the same time, of course, as a sharp decline in the organisations that used to do much to hold these tendencies back. Union membership has fallen rapidly in the advanced democracies, for instance. And formal mechanisms that guaranteed that governments had to explain their policy decisions to multiple stakeholders have been eroded across the world.




Read more:
To tackle inequality, we must start in the labour market


As a result, the salience of issues such as “what the public thinks” and “what the public needs” when it comes to the economy have been significantly eroded as well.

What all of this means is that economic decision-making increasingly responds to a narrower and narrower section of society. In such circumstances, it is no wonder that almost no concerted action has been taken to halt the rise of inequality.

Fight for the fair go is political first

What it also means, though, is that the action we need to restore the fair go cannot begin with the economy. It must instead begin with policymaking and politics.

We need to make sure the voices of those affected by inequality are genuinely heard and heeded. This commitment should run through everything we do: from supporting our local trade union to opening up scholarly resources to those people in need, from demanding action to rein in corporate lobbying and special access to generating exciting and innovative ideas for using new technologies to accentuate the voice of those without access to formal power.

These ideas are where our energy needs to be. If we want to see greater equality, we need to spend time working out precisely how our political life can become truly responsive. And then we must campaign to make those changes real.


You can read other articles in the series here.




Read more:
Why are unions so unhappy? An economic explanation of the Change the Rules campaign


The Conversation


Marc Stears, Professor and Director, Sydney Policy Lab, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Poll wrap: Coalition, Morrison slip further in Newspoll; US Democrats gain in late counting



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The polls are not moving in the right direction for Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
AAP/Ben Rushton

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted November 8-11 from a sample of 1,800, gave Labor a large 55-45 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 40% Labor (up one), 35% Coalition (down one), 9% Greens (steady) and 6% One Nation (steady).

This is the second consecutive Newspoll drop for the Coalition, after they recovered somewhat from the post-spill fallout to trail 53-47 four weeks ago. In Malcolm Turnbull’s final four Newspolls as PM, the Coalition trailed by just 51-49; the situation is far worse for them now.

Labor’s primary vote in this poll has returned to 40%, a level only exceeded in the first two polls after Turnbull was ousted. Before those two polls, Labor’s support in Newspoll had only been at 40% or more once since Julia Gillard’s early days as PM.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Turnbull tells Liberals to answer that unanswerable question


39% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (down two), and 47% were dissatisfied (up three), for a net approval of -8, down five points. Bill Shorten’s net approval dropped two points to -15. Morrison led Shorten by 42-36 as better PM (43-35 last fortnight).

By 48-40, voters were opposed to Australia becoming a republic, a dramatic shift from a 50-41 margin in favour of a republic in April. This is the first time since the republic referendum in 1999 that those opposed have outnumbered those in favour. The popularity of Princes Harry and William (see Essential below) probably explains this shift.

This Newspoll was the fifth to gauge Morrison’s ratings. Turnbull’s net approval peaked at +38 in his fifth Newspoll, in November 2015, before starting a long decline. Morrison’s net approval peaked at +7 in his third Newspoll, and he has lost a net 15 points since that peak.

I have said before that the Coalition under Morrison would probably have problems with the educated people who were drawn to Turnbull. To compensate, Morrison needs to outperform Turnbull among those without high levels of educational attainment.

For these people, personal economic fortunes are probably a key concern. As long as wages growth remains low, Labor and the unions will be able to win support from this group. In my opinion, the Coalition’s only realistic chance of re-election is for wages to improve strongly by the time the next election is due in May 2019. The ABS will release data for wages in the September quarter on Wednesday.

Essential: 54-46 to Labor

In last week’s Essential poll, conducted November 1-4 from a sample of 1,028, Labor led by 54-46, a one-point gain for Labor since three weeks ago. Primary votes were 39% Labor (up two), 36% Coalition (down two), 10% Greens (steady) and 6% One Nation (down one). Rounding probably assisted the Coalition in this poll. While it is not as bad as Newspoll for the Coalition, the movement in Essential agrees with Newspoll.

Morrison’s net approval was +4, down 11 points since October. Shorten’s net approval was -6, up six points. Morrison led Shorten by 41-29 as better PM (42-27 in October).

By 44-32, voters supported Australia becoming a republic with its own head of state (48-30 in May). Over 60% had favourable opinions of Queen Elizabeth and Princes Harry and William, but opinion was split 33-30 favourable on Prince Charles.

By 39-35, voters approved of government support for new coal-fired power stations. Just 8% said they had a high interest in horse racing, while 44% said they had no interest.

Queensland Galaxy: 50-50 tie federally, 53-47 to state Labor

A Queensland Galaxy poll, conducted November 7-8 from a sample of 839, had a federal 50-50 tie in Queensland, unchanged from August when Turnbull was still PM. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (up one), 34% Labor (steady), 9% Greens (steady) and 9% One Nation (down one).

This poll would be a 4% swing to Labor from the 2016 election in Queensland, so it is not good news for the Coalition (the national swing in Newspoll would be just over 5%). One of the reasons given for replacing Turnbull was that he was on the nose in Queensland. Under Morrison, the Coalition is matching its position in Queensland compared to Turnbull, but it is performing far worse in the rest of Australia.

The same poll gave state Labor a 53-47 lead, a two-point gain for Labor since August. Primary votes were 36% Labor (up one), 34% LNP (down three), 11% Greens (steady) and 10% One Nation (steady).

46% (up five) approved of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and 37% (down one) disapproved, for a net approval of +9, up six points. Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington had a +6 net approval, up one point. Palaszczuk led as better Premier by 43-26 (44-23 in August).

Late counting strongly favours Democrats in US midterms

Late counting for the November 6 US midterm elections has heavily favoured the Democrats, and they have reversed some election-night Republican leads in House and Senate seats.




Read more:
Democrats take House at US midterm elections, but Republicans keep Senate; Labor well ahead in Victoria


The House is likely to finish at a 234-201 Democrat majority, which would be a net gain of 40 for the Democrats since the 2016 election. That would be Democrats’ highest number of gains in a House election since 1974 – despite the strong US economy and Republican gerrymandering.

The Senate is likely to finish at a 53-47 Republican majority, a two-seat net gain for the Republicans since the 2012 election, the last time these seats were contested; Democrats had a great year in 2012. Democrats lost North Dakota, Indiana, Missouri and likely Florida, but gained Nevada and likely Arizona. A Democrat win in Arizona would be their first Arizona senator elected since 1988.

I wrote in August that Trump’s ratings were well below where they should be given the strong US economy. If he had not been so blatantly right-wing on many issues, Trump’s ratings would probably have been far better at the midterms, and the Republicans would have held the suburban seats that they lost.




Read more:
Polls update: Trump’s ratings held up by US economy; Australian polls steady


Democrats currently lead in the House popular vote by 6.5 points, and it is likely to end at about an eight-point Democrat margin. Rasmussen polls, which always give Trump far better ratings than other pollsters, had Republicans winning the House popular vote by one point.The Conversation

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

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.