Australians’ feelings sour towards China: Lowy poll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The attitudes of Australians towards China have soured dramatically in the past year, according to the Lowy Institute’s annual poll released on Wednesday.

Only 32% trust China to act responsibly in the world – which is a drop of 20 points from the 2018 poll and the lowest level in the 15 years of the poll.

Despite this, more Australians have confidence in China’s President Xi Jinping than have confidence in United States President Donald Trump.

Only 25% have confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs (down five points since 2018), compared with 30% for Xi (a fall of 13 points since last year). Among those aged 18-29, none expressed “a lot” of confidence in Trump and 66% had “no confidence at all” in him.

The poll was done March 12-25, of 2130 people.

The results come as Scott Morrison, ahead of attending the G20 in Japan later this week, will address Australia’s relations with China, the increasing US-China tensions and the changing regional power balance in a major foreign policy speech on Wednesday.

He will say that while Australia will be “clear-eyed” about the fact political differences will affect aspects of its engagement with China, “we are determined that our relationship not be dominated by areas of disagreement.”

Lowy senior fellow Richard McGregor, who has previously reported as a journalist from Beijing, said the relentless coverage of China’s political system, allegations of interference in Australia’s politics, and its poor relations with its neighbours “seems to have finally registered” with the Australian public.

The results for China might have been worse if it were not for the Trump factor muddying the picture, he said. “There’s a recognition that we’re in for a much tougher time with China, and that’s accurate,” McGregor said.

On the Lowy “feelings thermometer” Australians’ feelings towards China have cooled nine degrees to 49 degrees since 2018, while their feelings towards the US have fallen four degrees to 63 degrees. The US rates behind both New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Lowy says: “In 2019, trust in and warmth towards China are at their lowest point” in its poll’s history.

“Most Australians say that Australia’s economy is too dependent on China and Australia should do more to resist China’s military activities in our region. Scepticism continues about Chinese investment in Australia and China’s intention in the Pacific.”

Nearly three quarters (74%) agree “Australia is too economically dependent on China”. Almost half (49%) say foreign interference in Australian politics is “a critical threat” to Australia’s vital interests – a rise of eight points from last year.

Some 77% believe “Australia should do more to resist China’s military activities in our region”. This is up 11 points since 2015. Six in ten people would support the Australian military conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China sea.

There remains high concern about Chinese investment, with 68% saying the government is “allowing too much investment from China”, although this is a little lower than the 72% high point of last year.

Reflecting Australians’ mixed feelings as the country balances its relations with the US and China, 50% believe the government “should put a higher priority on maintaining strong relations with the United States, even if this might harm our relations with China”.

But 44% believe it should “put a higher priority on building stronger relations with China, even if this might harm our relations with the United States”.

With Australia’s policy pivot towards the Pacific being driven in substantial part by China’s expanding interest and influence in the region, 55% think that “if China opened a military base in a Pacific island country” this would be “a critical threat” to Australia’s interests. 73% agree “Australia should try to prevent China from increasing its influence in the Pacific” – although views are split about spending more money there.

When people were asked about their confidence in nine leaders, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern rated highest – 88% have a lot or some confidence in her. Behind her are Scott Morrison (58%), then opposition leader Bill Shorten (52%), Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo (34%), Xi (30%), Trump and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi (both on 25%. “This means President Trump is only ahead of Russia’s Vladimir Putin (21%) and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un (7%),” Lowy said.

The Trump factor has complicated attitudes to the US but the alliance retains overwhelming support with 72% saying it is very or fairly important for Australia’s security (down four points in a year). But 66% think Trump has weakened the alliance and only 52% trust the US to act responsibly in the world. This is little changed from last year but the lowest trust in the US since the question was first asked in 2006 and 31 points lower than in 2009.

In other results:

  • climate change is rated highest among the threats to Australia’s vital interests. Nearly two thirds (64%) rated it as a “critical threat”, up six points since last year and 18 points since 2014.

  • 75% say free trade is good for their own standard of living, and 71% believe it is good for Australia’s economy.

  • 47% (a fall of seven points since 2018) say the number of migrants coming is too high.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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Young Australians champion ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ in designing constitutional change



Many high school students are politically engaged. But how would they change the preamble to the Constitution?
AAP/Lukas Coch

Benjamin T. Jones, CQUniversity Australia and John Warhurst, Australian National University

When the Australian constitution was written in the 1890s, the authors did not envision an independent nation, but a self-governing dominion of the British empire. As such, the preamble does not contain flowery language about national values. Instead it is a dry, legalistic introduction simply noting that some of her majesty’s “possessions” have federated. One unsuccessful attempt to change it was made in a 1999 referendum.

In March 2019, 120 high school students from around Australia met in Canberra for the 24th National Schools Constitutional Convention. Their mission was to write a new preamble, with the authors of this article serving as facilitators. Over two days of lively debate, sometimes heated but always civil, a final version was drafted.

In a referendum-style vote, a majority of students and a majority from each state ratified the preamble (83 “yes”, 34 “no”, two voted informal, one abstained). The students’ preamble was presented to the federal Senate on April 2 and entered into Hansard.

The referendum result.

The students’ preamble

We the Australian people, united as an indissoluble Commonwealth, commit ourselves to the principles of equality, democracy and freedom for all and pledge to uphold the following values that define our nation.

We stand alongside the traditional custodians of the land and recognise the significance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in shaping the Australian identity, their sovereignty was never ceded.

As a nation and indeed community, we are united under the common goal to create a society catered to all, regardless of heritage or identity.

We pledge to champion individual freedom and honour those who have served and continue to serve our nation.

As Australians, we stand for the pursuit of a democratic state that upholds the fundamental principles of human values as set out by this Constitution.

The student’s preamble differs enormously from the one written in the 19th century. It is noteworthy that it includes the words “democratic” and “freedom” twice – neither are in the current preamble or the constitution. From the students’ preamble, three elements emerge that young people want to see enshrined.

Acknowledging First Nations

During the debates, the most contested issue was whether to explicitly recognise First Nations people and if so, how. Ultimately, the students, including a representative group of Indigenous students, voted strongly in favour of constitutional recognition. In particular, the phrase “sovereignty was never ceded” is significant.

It is a rallying cry for many First Nations people and a rejection of assimilation. Indigenous Australians are still fighting for self-determination and the right to be heard. The Voice to Parliament put forward by the Uluru Statement is still being debated. Constitutional recognition that sovereignty was never ceded is a more radical proposal. It suggests that Indigenous justice is important to young Australians.

Egalitarianism is still key

The egalitarian ideal has a long history in Australia. The concept of the “fair go” is mythical in one sense, but a cherished part of the collective imagination.

The first line of the students’ preamble commits the nation to the principle of equality. The third line stresses the importance of a “society catered to all”.

Although not explicitly stated, the word “identity” suggests the LGBT community was in mind. Young Australians overwhelmingly supported the same-sex marriage plebiscite in 2017. The government is currently considering new religious freedom laws in response to the sacking of Israel Folau by Rugby Australia.

It is significant, then, that young Australians place such value on society being catered for all, “regardless of heritage or identity”.

Values matter

What permeates through the students’ preamble is the message that values matter. Unlike the original constitutional writers, young people want their preamble to be a mission statement that articulates the “values that uphold the nation”. The trident of “equality, democracy and freedom” are highlighted.

The preamble also notes the twin priorities of a free state that sit together though sometimes in tension. As the third line notes, Australia is a “nation and indeed community”. But the fourth line tempers this with a commitment to “champion individual freedom”. The ideal democratic state for these young Australians places value on both the individual and the collective.

Dr Benjamin T Jones addresses the convention.

Time for change?

At the 1999 referendum, Prime Minister John Howard, despite being against a republic, campaigned in favour of a new preamble. The one he and republican Les Murray authored did not gain much popularity. But it is significant that even an ardent monarchist like Howard was convinced the preamble needed to be updated.

The authors of the students’ preamble were mainly in Year 11 and too young to vote in the May election. Nevertheless, they are thoughtful, intelligent citizens and the future of our democracy. Their voice is worth listening to.The Conversation

Benjamin T. Jones, Lecturer in History, CQUniversity Australia and John Warhurst, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Australian National University

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

Australians are less interested in news and consume less of it compared to other countries, survey finds



More Australians rely on just one source to get their news.
Shutterstock

Caroline Fisher, University of Canberra; Glen Fuller, University of Canberra; Jee Young Lee; Sora Park, University of Canberra, and Yoonmo Sang, University of Canberra

Australian news consumers access news less often and have lower interest in it compared to citizens in many other countries. At the same time, Australians are more likely to think the news media are doing a good job keeping them up to date and explaining what’s happening.

These findings are contained in the Digital News Report: Australia 2019. In its fifth year, the Digital News Report Australia is part of a 38-country survey coordinated by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

In comparison to the other countries, the survey of 2,010 online adults shows that Australian news consumers:

  • are the “lightest” news consumers out of 38 countries
  • use fewer sources to access news
  • are less interested in news and politics
  • are more likely to subscribe to Netflix than news
  • are less likely to check the accuracy of a story.



Read more:
Australian political journalists might be part of a ‘Canberra bubble’, but they engage the public too


‘Light’ consumers of news

The survey finds almost half (48%) of Australian news consumers are “light” users, who access news once a day or less, whereas the global average across the 38-countries was one-third (34%).

Correspondingly, Australia also has the lowest number of “heavy” news consumers, who access news more than once a day, at 52%. This is compared to an average of 66% across the other countries.

Participants were asked how often they typically access news, meaning national, international, regional/local news and other topical events accessed via any platform (radio, TV, newspaper or online).
Author provided

Reliance on a single news source

Australians also use fewer sources or platforms to access news. Just one third say they get their news from four or more sources, such as online, social media, TV, newspapers, social media and so on. This is well below the 38-country average of 44%.

More Australians rely on just one source to get their news (21%), which is higher than the 38-country average (17%). Only three other countries in the survey (Japan, South Korea and the US) have more people relying on just one source to access news than Australia.

The data tell us that Australians who rely on just one source of news also tend to consume less of it. Those who use four or more sources to get their news, also seek news more often.

Participants were asked which, if any, of the following they have used in the last week as a source of news.
Author provided

Preference for Netflix over news

Globally, news consumers are more likely to pay for video streaming services such as Netflix than news, but Australians have a stronger preference for entertainment over news than consumers in other countries.

More than a third (34%) of Australians say they would prioritise a subscription for a video streaming service, compared to an average of 28% across 16 countries where the question was asked. Only 9% of Australians say they would choose online news first.

This year, survey participants were asked whether they thought the news media in their country was doing a good job across five areas:

  • scrutiny
  • relevance
  • negativity
  • keeping them up to date
  • explaining.

Australians delivered a mixed report card on these questions and the results vary compared to the global average. On a positive note, two-thirds of Australian news consumers (66%) agree the news keeps them up to date, which compares favourably to the global average of 62%.

But Australian news consumers are also more likely to think the news is too negative (44%) compared to the country average (39%). Australians are also slightly more likely to agree that the news is not relevant to them (28%) compared to the international average of 25%.

Participants were asked to indicate whether they thought the news media in their country was doing a good job or not according to five criteria.
Author provided

According to the data, perceptions of news performance are strongly influenced by age and gender. Younger news consumers are the least likely to feel the news is relevant to them, particularly Gen Z women. This points to opportunities for more content that speaks to this age group.

Significantly, Australian news consumers who rely on legacy media for their main source of news, such as TV and newspapers, are more likely to think journalism is performing well. This highlights the ongoing importance of well-resourced traditional news brands as part of the hybrid mix of online and offline news sources.




Read more:
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Australians are less interested in politics

The lower rates of news consumption in Australia can perhaps be explained by the fact that Australian news consumers are less interested in both news and politics.

58% of Australians say they have a high interest in news, which is below the 38-country average (60%). When compared to other English-speaking democratic countries (UK, US, Canada and Ireland), Australians and Canadians are the least interested in news, and Americans and UK news consumers are the most interested (67%).

Australians are also slightly less interested in politics. Two thirds of Australians (65%) said they have little or no interest in politics, compared to 63% across the other countries. In contrast, Turkish news consumers have the highest interest in politics (67%) and Malaysians the lowest (19%).

When compared to other English-speaking democratic countries Australians are the least interested in politics, and news consumers in the US are the most interested (59%).

Participants were asked how interested, if at all, they would say they are in politics.
Author provided

Analysis of the data clearly shows that interest in politics is one of the strongest indicators of engagement with news. Those who are interested in politics are more likely to have a high interest in news, access it often, use more sources, have higher trust in it and are more likely to pay for it.

Participants were asked their MAIN source of news, how interested they would say they are in news, and how interested they would say they are in politics.
Author provided

The connection between political interest and news interest is supported by a range of academic studies examining citizen participation in politics and the role of the news media. Generally speaking, the research finds a reciprocal relationship, but some types of news consumption inspire greater interest in politics than others.

A 2018 study found those who rely on commercial TV for news, rather than a public broadcaster, have lower interest in politics. Given the high rates of commercial TV news consumption in Australia this might help partly explain the lower interest in both news and politics – but this requires further research.

Interest in news by age and gender

It’s possible that people’s interest in news and politics has been displaced. Rather than adverse events causing people to disconnect, their interest and attention has been drawn to other things. This is the primary thesis of the “attention economy”, and we see evidence of this in the levels of interest in news between genders and generations, and the platforms they tend to get news from.

Participants were asked how interested, if at all, they would say they are in news.
Author provided

Women and Gen Z have lower interest in news, but they are also more likely to get their news from social media than men, and older generations. Whereas, men and older generations are better conditioned to engage with politics and news via traditional channels.




Read more:
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Trust in news and politics is low overall

A further contributor to Australians’ low interest in news could well be the general malaise among the Australian population toward the news media and politics. Research shows trust in politics, politicians and the news media to be at an all-time low.

This year’s Digital News Report also finds general trust in news is low, at 44%. Trust in news found on social media (18%) and search engines (32%) is even lower. Given that more Australians (57%) use online sources as the main source for news, this isn’t surprising.

Over the past year, there has been a lot of turbulence in the news media, with takeovers, closures, job losses and a leadership crisis at the national public broadcaster. This general turmoil in the news media was echoed in the corridors of power, with a third prime minister installed in as many years.

This overall climate of instability reflects a degraded political and news environment, which can be seen in some of the findings this year.The Conversation

Caroline Fisher, Assistant Professor in Journalism, University of Canberra; Glen Fuller, Associate Professor Communications and Media, University of Canberra; Jee Young Lee, Research Associate; Sora Park, Associate Dean of Research, Faculty of Arts & Design, University of Canberra, and Yoonmo Sang, Assistant Professor, University of Canberra

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

Control, cost and convenience determine how Australians use the technology in their homes



File 20190408 2935 1p2qvl7.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Who’s the boss in a smart home?
Shutterstock/Tracy ben

Kate Letheren, Queensland University of Technology; Rebekah Russell-Bennett, Queensland University of Technology; Rory Mulcahy, University of the Sunshine Coast, and Ryan McAndrew, Queensland University of Technology

We have access to plenty of technology that can serve us by automating more of our daily lives, doing everything from adjusting the temperature of our homes to (eventually) putting groceries in our fridges.

But do we want these advancements? And – importantly – do we trust them?

Our research, published earlier this year in the European Journal of Marketing, looked at the roles technology plays in Australian homes. We found three main ways people assign control to, and trust in, their technology.




Read more:
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Most people still want some level of control. That’s an important message to developers if they want to keep increasing the uptake of smart home technology, yet to reach 25% penetration in Australia.

How smart do we want a home?

Smart homes are modern homes that have appliances or electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by the owner. Examples include lights controlled via apps, smart locks and security systems, and even smart coffee machines that remember your brew of choice and waking time.

But we still don’t understand consumer interactions with these technologies, and to speed up their adoption we need to know they type of value they can offer.

We conducted a set of studies in conjunction with CitySmart and a group of distributors, and we asked people about their smart technology preferences in the context of electricity management (managing appliances and utility plans).

We conducted 45 household interviews involving 116 people across Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, and Tasmania. Then we surveyed 1,345 Australian households. The interviews uncovered and explored the social roles assigned to technologies, while the survey allowed us to collect additional information and find out how the broader Australian population felt about these technology types.

We found households attribute social roles and rules to smart home technologies. This makes sense: the study of anthropomorphism tells us we tend to humanise things we want to understand. We humanise in order to trust (remember Clippy, the Microsoft paperclip with whom we all had a love-hate relationship?).

These social roles and rules determine whether (or how) households will adopt the technologies.

Tech plays three roles

Most people want technology to serve them (95.6% of interviewees, about 19 out of 20). Those who didn’t want any technology were classified as “resisters” and made up less than 5% of the respondents.

We found the role that technology can play in households tended to fall into one of three categories, the intern, the assistant and the manager:

  • the intern (passive technology)
    Technology exists to bring me information, but shouldn’t be making any decisions on its own. Real-life example: Switch your Thinking provides an SMS-based tip service. This mode of use was preferred in 22-35% of households.

  • the assistant (interactive technology)
    Technology should not only bring me information, but add value by helping me make decisions or interact. Real-life example: Homesmart from Ergon provides useful data to support consumers in their decisions; including remotely controlling appliances or monitoring electricity budget. This mode of use was preferred in 41-51% of households.

  • the manager (proactive technology)
    Technology should analyse information and make decisions itself, in order to make my life more efficient. Real-life example: Tibber, which learns your home’s electricity-usage pattern and helps you make adjustments. This mode of use was preferred in 22-24% of households.

Who’s the boss?

According to our study, while smart technology roles can change, the customer always remains the CEO. As CEO, they determine whether full control is retained or delegated to the technology.

For example, while two consumers might install a set of smart lights, one may engage by directly controlling lights via the app, while the other delegates this to the app – allowing it to choose based on sunset times when lights should be on.

Roles for consumer and smart technology – the consumer always remains the CEO, but technology can be viewed as an intern, assistant, or manager.
Natalie Sketcher, Visual Designer

Notably, time pressure was evident as justification for each of the three options. Passive technology saved time by not wasting it on fiddling with smart tech. Interactive technology gave information and controlled interactions for busy families. Proactive technology relieved overwhelmed households from managing their own electricity.

All households had clear motivation for their choices.

Households that chose passive technology were motivated by simplicity, cost-effectiveness and privacy concerns. One study participant in this group said:

Less hassle. Don’t like tech controlling my life.

Households prioritising interactive technology were looking for a balance of convenience and control, technology that provides:

A good support but allows me to maintain overall control and decision-making.

Households keen on proactive technology wanted set and forget abilities to allow the household to focus on the more important things in life. They sought:

Having the process looked after and managed for us as we don’t have the time to do it ourselves.

This raises the question: why did we see such differences in household preference?

Trust in tech

According to our research, this comes down to the relationship between trust, risk, and the need for control. It’s just that these motivations that are expressed differently in different households.

While one household sees delegating their choices as a safe bet (that is, trusting the technology to save them from the risk of electricity over-spend), another would see retaining all choices as the true expression of being in control (that is, believing humans should be trusted with decisions, with technology providing input only when asked).




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This is not unusual, nor is this the first study to find the importance of our sense of trust and risk in making technology decisions.

It’s not that consumers don’t want advancements to serve them – they do – but this working relationship requires clear roles and ground rules. Only then can there be trust.

For smart home technology developers, the message is clear: households will continue to expect control and customisation features so that the technology serves them – either as an intern, an assistant, or a manager – while they remain the CEO.

If you’re interested to discover your working relationship with technology, complete this three-question online quiz.The Conversation

Kate Letheren, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology; Rebekah Russell-Bennett, Social Marketing Professor, School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, Queensland University of Technology; Rory Mulcahy, Lecturer of Marketing, University of the Sunshine Coast, and Ryan McAndrew, Social Marketer & Market Researcher, Queensland University of Technology

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

Why are Australians still using Facebook?


Deborah Lupton, UNSW

This weeks marks 15 years since Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg first set up the platform with his college roommate Eduardo Saverin. Since then, Facebook has grown into a giant global enterprise.

The platform now has more than 2.32 billion monthly users and ranks fifth in terms of market value among the world’s top internet companies.

Facebook hasn’t escaped without scandal. It’s been subject to data breaches and allegations that it has failed to protect user privacy. Reports suggest that numerous Facebook users have responded to these incidents by giving up the platform.

But the data say otherwise. Preliminary findings from my recent research suggest that although Australian Facebook users do care about the privacy and security of their personal information, this is not enough to drive them to leave the platform.




Read more:
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The scandals: Australians didn’t leave Facebook

One of the most prominent scandals Facebook has been caught up in involves allegations made in March 2018: that analytics company Cambridge Analytica was using personal data from Facebook users to help political parties in their election campaigns.

This, and other news stories about Facebook’s use of user data, received widespread international attention, including significant coverage in Australia. Numerous news reports claimed that large numbers of Australians were deleting their Facebook accounts as part of the #DeleteFacebook trend. As one news story contended:

Many Australians are for the first time discovering just how much Facebook knows about them and many are shocked, leading them to quit the platform.

Statistics on Australians’ use of Facebook, however, show no change in numbers since the Cambridge Analytica scandal first received public attention. There were 15 million active monthly Facebook users 12 months ago (just before the scandal erupted) and this figure remained steady over the course of the year. Facebook is still far and above the most highly used social media platform in Australia.

The study: what I wanted to know

In September and October 2018, I conducted a study involving in-depth telephone interviews with 30 Australians who were current or past Facebook users.

An equal number of females and males participated across a broad age distribution (10 participants aged 18-40, 10 participants aged 41-60, and 10 participants aged 61 and over) and geographical distribution (10 participants living in rural towns or areas, 20 participants living in cities or major towns).

During the interview, the participants were asked:

  • whether they were bothered or concerned about Facebook’s use of information about them
  • if they had ever changed their use of Facebook or privacy settings in response to these concerns
  • what kinds of personal information they would not want internet companies like Facebook or apps to access or use
  • what steps these companies should take to protect users’ information.

In the interview questions there was no direct mention of Cambridge Analytica or any other scandal about Facebook. I wanted to see if participants spontaneously raised these events and issues in their responses.




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The benefits: it’s all about connecting

The findings show people continue to use Facebook for a wide variety of reasons. For some people, their business depended on their active Facebook use, so they could advertise their offerings and connect with potential clients:

I know that if I did delete it, I’d be harming myself and my business, so yes, so that’s kind of the main reason I keep it.

For most people, however, the key incentive was the desire to connect with family and friends. This included being able to find old friends and reconnect with them, as well as maintaining ties with current friends and family members.

Several people commented that using Facebook was the best way of knowing about the lives of their adult children, grandchildren or other young relatives.

That’s the only thing that’s kept me on there – because my kids are on there and I just want to see what they’re doing, and what and who they’re hanging around with.

For others, being part of a community (for example, a health-related group) was an important way of alleviating isolation and loneliness.

These comments suggest Facebook is an important tool to support social interactions in a world in which people are more dispersed and physically separated from friends and family.

The drawbacks: mundane trivia, too many ads

The drawbacks of being on Facebook reported by participants included feeling annoyed by aspects such as having to see other people’s mundane trivia, random friend requests or too many ads:

Sometimes there’s a lot of nonsense that goes up on there, people posting you don’t want to get involved in, or I think it’s stupid or rude or whatever it may be.

Some people also talked about not liking feeling that you are being watched, and their anxiety about their personal information being accessed and identity theft or bank details being stolen. However, these issues were not considered serious enough for them to leave Facebook.

Apart from targeted advertising, most people were unsure how Facebook might use their personal information. Very few participants mentioned the Cambridge Analytica scandal or related issues, such as the use of Facebook for political campaigning or to disseminate “fake news”. Even when they did refer to these issues, they had difficulty explaining exactly how personal data were involved:

Well, I know Facebook collected the data for that Cambridge business and they collected it via a quiz with an app, and then passed it on to other parties. So I think that’s all they do. I think it’s just maybe for them to earn money off it. I don’t really know.

Data privacy: employing workarounds to stay on Facebook

Most people thought they were careful in not revealing too much information about themselves on Facebook, and therefore protected their data. They reported engaging in practices such as avoiding uploading details about themselves, limiting their number of friends or the type of friends, blocking or unfriending people who annoyed them, clearing their history regularly and being very selective about what photos to upload (including of their children).

Several people mentioned they had recently checked and changed their privacy settings, often in response to a prompt from Facebook to do so:

I keep my personal stuff to myself, and then I share what I want to share through my friends. And I’ve got strict privacy things in place so that I only get things to people that I know, rather than people I don’t know. So that’s fine with me.




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These findings show it’s not so much that Australian Facebook users don’t care about their personal data privacy and security. They do think about these issues and have their own ways of managing them.

Australians think Facebook serves them well. They consider other people’s over-sharing or having to see too many ads as more of a problem than alleged political manipulation or other misuse of their information by Facebook.The Conversation

Deborah Lupton, SHARP Professor, UNSW

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

Australians’ trust in politicians and democracy hits an all-time low: new research


Mark Evans, University of Canberra; Gerry Stoker, University of Canberra, and Max Halupka, University of Canberra

Over the past four years, we have conducted a range of attitudinal surveys with the Social Research Institute at Ipsos on the relationship between trust in the political system and attitudes towards democracy in Australia.

Our latest research, conducted in July 2018 (prior to the Liberal Party’s leadership spill), includes a quantitative survey of a representative sample of 20 focus groups and 1,021 Australians from a wide range of demographic backgrounds. We understood political trust in this survey as “keeping promises and agreements”.

Our findings should give all democrats pause for thought. We continue to find compelling evidence of an increasing trust divide between government and citizens. This is reflected in the decline of democratic satisfaction and receding trust in politicians, political parties and other key institutions (especially media). We also found a lack of public confidence in the capacity of government to address public policy concerns.

Democratic decline and renewal

Australians should rightly be proud of their hard-won democratic traditions and freedoms and the achievement of stable government, which has delivered social and economic well-being for its citizens.

The majority of Australians dislike the conflict-driven politics of the federal parliament, but don’t dislike democratic values or democracy as a system of government.

When asked to select three aspects of Australian democracy that they liked the most, the top three in 2018 were (in order):

  1. “Australia has been able to provide good education, health, welfare and other public services to its citizens”
  2. “Australia has experienced a good economy and lifestyle”
  3. “Australian elections are free and fair”.

Respondents were least likely to choose features that praised (or showed engagement) with current democratic politics. The findings suggest that Australians are happy with the underlying democratic infrastructure of Australian society that allows them to achieve a high standard of living, but are less positive or engaged about day-to-day political operations.

Australians are deeply unhappy with democratic politics

Fewer than 41% of Australian citizens are satisfied with the way democracy works in Australia, down from 86% in 2007. Public satisfaction has fallen particularly sharply since 2013, when 72% of Australian citizens were satisfied. Generation X is least satisfied (31%) and the Baby Boomers most satisfied (50%).

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

At a time of the “#Metoo” movement, women are generally less satisfied with democracy and more distrusting of politicians and political institutions.

In general, levels of trust in government and politicians in Australia are at their lowest levels since time-series data have been available.




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Just 31% of the population trust federal government. State and local governments perform little better, with just over a third of people trusting them. Ministers and MPs (whether federal or state) rate at just 21%, while more than 60% of Australians believe the honesty and integrity of politicians is very low.

The three biggest grievances people have with politicians are:

  1. they are not accountable for broken promises
  2. they don’t deal with the issues that really matter
  3. big business has too much power (Liberal and National Party voters identify trade unions instead of big business).

The continued decline of political trust has also contaminated public confidence in other key political institutions. Only five rate above 50% – police, military, civic well-being organisations (such as Headspace or community services), universities and healthcare institutions.

Trust was lowest in political parties (16%) and web-based media (20%). Trust in banks and web-based media has significantly decreased since the last survey. This reflects the impact of the banking royal commission and the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

People who are more likely to feel satisfied with the status quo include those aged over 55 (Baby Boomers), those earning more than $200,000 a year and those who vote for the National or Liberal parties. They are more likely to be male and an immigrant, because those born overseas tend to be more satisfied with Australian politics than native-born.

Those who are most likely to be unhappy are Australian-born, female, aged in their 40s (Generation X) and struggling on less than $50,000 a year. They are more likely to identify with minor political parties like One Nation, Centre Alliance or independents.

The perfect storm for independents

Levels of social trust are also in decline. Social trust between people has fallen below 50% for the first time to 47%. A majority, though, still believe that people in their neighbourhood would help others out – except for the very rich (47%).

Four attitudinal shifts are on display here.

First, many voters care more about effective and competent government than promises of more dollars in their pockets.

Second, there is a group of voters who are completely disconnected from traditional politics. They are deeply distrustful not just of politicians but almost every major institution and authority figure listed in the survey, except for their local GP.

Third, we can identify an increasingly large group of Australians who are deeply critical of the main political parties and are looking for an alternative across the ideological spectrum.

And fourth, there is a group of Australians who vote independent for tactical reasons, either to secure greater resources for their communities or to register a protest vote against the two-party system.

Appetite for democratic reform is extremely strong

Our survey revealed a significant appetite for reform. Nine out of 15 proposed reforms received net agreement rates above 50%. The top five reforms favoured in the survey were:

  1. limiting money donated to parties and spent in elections
  2. the right for voters to recall ineffective local MPs
  3. giving all MPs a free vote in parliament
  4. co-designing policies with ordinary Australians
  5. citizen juries to solve complex problems that parliament can’t fix.

Reforms aimed at improving the practice of representative politics were the most popular, followed by reforms aimed at giving citizens a greater say. There was also strong support for reforms aimed at creating a stronger community or local focus to decision-making. Only reforms aimed at guaranteeing the representation of certain groups failed to attract majority support.

Remarkably, accessing more detailed information about innovative reforms led to greater support for those reforms. This is an important finding, revealing the importance of strategic communication in winning the war of ideas.

We are at the tipping point

Liberal democracies are founded on a delicate balance between trust and distrust. Our survey findings suggest we may have reached a tipping point due to a deepening trust divide in Australia, which has increased in scope and intensity since 2007.




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Yet citizens still appear to value the overall stability of their political system, even if the lack of political trust means they doubt its ability to deliver, especially on more challenging policy issues.

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Australians imagine their democracy in a way that demonstrates support for a new participatory politics but with the aim of shoring up representative democracy and developing a more integrated, inclusive and responsive democratic system. In the light of this discovery, we believe an effective path to reform is not about choosing between representative and participatory democratic models, but finding linking arrangements between them.The Conversation

Mark Evans, Professor of Governance and Director of Democracy 2025 – bridging the trust divide at Old Parliament House, University of Canberra; Gerry Stoker, Fellow and Centenary Professor, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra, and Max Halupka, Research Fellow at the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra, University of Canberra

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.




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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.




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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.




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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.

Accurate. Objective. Transparent. Australians identify what they want in trustworthy media



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Trust in media is low in Australia, which is why traditional news values like accuracy and objectivity matter.
Shutterstock

Sacha Molitorisz, University of Technology Sydney

In an age of social media and smartphones, people are accessing more news than ever. The problem is, they don’t believe much of it.

Three-quarters of Australian news consumers say they have experienced “fake news” and are very concerned by it. In the US, two-thirds of adults get their news from social media, but more than half of people expect this news to be “largely inaccurate”.

This is in stark contrast to public trust in journalism before the rise of the internet. In the 1970s, more than two-thirds of Americans trusted news media. By 2016, that figure had fallen to less than one third.

This question motivated new research at the Centre for Media Transition at UTS, which was funded by Facebook as part of the company’s APAC News Literacy initiative, but conducted independently by my colleagues and me.

Our findings suggest that what Australians want most from their news media is accuracy and objectivity, not necessarily accessibility and friendliness – the hallmarks of social media.

What can be done to restore trust in news media?

In the first stage of our research, we compiled an extensive, annotated bibliography of the academic and non-academic literature focusing on trust and the news media. That bibliography includes more than 200 titles and many more authors.

Among these authors is Rachel Botsman, who argues that institutional trust in the media has largely been replaced by what she calls “distributed trust”. Where people used to trust banks, the church, the government and the news media implicitly, she argues, they now tend to trust their friends, family and even strangers.

This is evident in the success of social media, but more obviously in the rise of companies such as Uber and Airbnb, which exemplify the “gig economy” and “collaborative consumption.”.




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Drawing on Botsman and other authors, we postulated that today’s news consumers want a different type of news media: one that is more peer-to-peer and less top-down. And so in the second stage of our research, we held four qualitative workshops in Tamworth and Sydney to ask participants about their relationship with the news media.

In one exercise, we asked participants to design their ideal news source by choosing from a list of 13 characteristics, including “interactive”, “accurate”, “transparent”, “easy to access”, “objective” and “vulnerable” (by admitting and correcting mistakes). We also included “like a friend” and “less ‘voice of god’”. These last two, we suspected, might well be popular, especially among the young. (Of our participants, half were under the age of 35.)

But the results surprised us. Overwhelmingly, participants both young and old did not want their ideal news source to be like a friend or less like the “voice of god”. These two attributes were the least popular. Conversely, top of the list were three highly traditional journalism values: accuracy, objectivity and being in the public interest.

A closer look, however, revealed that participants did value some elements of a peer-to-peer news media – they also wanted their ideal news source to be transparent, easy to access and interactive.

Trust goes deeper than the source

If our participants are typical, these results suggest that Australians want the news media to be aligned foremost with traditional journalistic values, but also enable consumers to be part of the news-sharing, and sometimes even news-making, process.

In other words, Australians seem to want news that blends elements of institutional and distributed trust.

The workshop participants repeatedly expressed grave concerns about trusting news on social media. However, our results also suggest that Australians believe the trust problem is not wholly the fault of social media. According to our participants, part of the problem is that journalists themselves need to be better at accuracy, objectivity and working in the public interest.




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This corresponds with the results of the Digital News Report: Australia 2018, published earlier this year, which found the most common form of “fake news” encountered by Australians is “poor journalism”.

In another exercise, we asked our participants to rate six trust-enhancing strategies currently being trialled by media outlets in various forms.

Tellingly, the most preferred option was “go behind the story”, which involves informing readers why a story was written and what the journalist was unable to find in his or her reporting, among other details. The second preferred option was a clear labelling of news, comment and advertising.

Clearly, consumers want a higher degree of transparency from their news sources.

People will pay for media they trust

The good news emerging from research globally is that there has been a rebound in trust in journalism. Currently, 50% of Australian news consumers trust the news, up from 42% last year. By contrast, only 24% of people trust the news they find on social media.

In his 1995 book Trust, US political scientist Francis Fukuyama argued that high-trust societies tend to be thriving societies. And this is where the media play a crucial role. As philosopher Onora O’Neill says:

If we can’t trust what the press report, how can we tell whether to trust those on whom they report?

Our workshops suggest that Australians want to trust the media, but are suspicious. This must be addressed, not least because, as the Digital News Report: Australia 2018 found, there is a strong link between trust in news, concern about fake news and people being prepared to pay for their news.

This raises an interesting prospect: if we can successfully address the issue of trust and news media, we might even begin to solve journalism’s revenue crisis.The Conversation

Sacha Molitorisz, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Media Transition, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney

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

Australians support universal health care, so why not a universal basic income?


Brian Howe, University of Melbourne

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In Australia, the idea of a universal basic income has floated in and out of our political arena for years, but remains only that, an idea.

The concept of a universal basic income has always been controversial. This notion – that the government should pay everyone a regular payment to meet their basic needs, despite their income – has been touted as a solution to inequality.

In the 1970s, the idea of a universal basic income looked as though it could become more.




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In 1972, the inaugural Director of the Melbourne Institute, Applied Economic and Social Research, professor Ronald Henderson, chaired the Australian government’s poverty inquiry. It was tasked by then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, to investigate all aspects of poverty affecting Australians, including race, education, health and law.

Professor Henderson’s work led to what is now widely referred to as the Henderson Poverty Line, which measures the extent of poverty in Australia in terms of the income of families and individuals relative to their essential living costs; and he advocated a guaranteed minimum income scheme for Australia, similar to a universal basic income .

More than 40 years after professor Henderson began his report of the Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry into Poverty with the line:

“Poverty is not just a personal attribute: it arises out of the organisation of society.”

The suggestion of a guaranteed minimum income scheme

At the heart of the Henderson inquiry’s final recommendations was a guaranteed minimum income scheme, in which payments to pensioners (at a high rate) and payments to all other income units (at a lower rate) would be balanced by a proportional tax on all private income. The report states:

We believe that these reforms are the best way of reconciling the conflicting ends of policy on income support… They recognise that disabilities which hinder the earning of a private income warrant favoured treatment, but also provide support for people without disabilities in this sense, and who may still easily become poor – particularly the large family. Again, support is provided in a way which does not discredit those who claim it… so that income support may be seen as a right rather than a favour.

Professor Henderson was strongly in favour of universality in social policy – as exists in Medicare today in Australia. And that’s tangible in his idea of a universal minimum payment which would have ensured that incomes for individuals and families were in excess of the poverty line.

Instead of means testing – which he opposed as it creates a separate system for the disadvantaged that can be stigmatising – he wanted to use the tax system to withdraw income from higher earners, rather than means testing pensions and benefits.

But this didn’t happen.

Instead, the Whitlam government was dismissed in 1975 – around six months after the inquiry delivered its final report, and the new government, headed up by Malcolm Fraser, hardly considered its recommendations.

Far from universality

At the time of professor Henderson’s pivotal work, post-war Australia had pursued the creation of an industrial economy where male workers played the dominant role. For the most part, employment then meant permanent full-time jobs in industry regulated and protected against foreign competition.

But, since that time, the country has pursued a very different course.

The key challenge is how Australia can maintain its commitment to fair and equitable wealth generation and distribution, in a modern world.

The precarious nature of modern labour markets puts enormous pressures on families and households, making it important to create a system that works in the interests of the truly disadvantaged.




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Professor Henderson distrusted a targeted social security system, and therefore recommended a basic income so that “income support may be seen as a right rather than a favour” for Australian citizens.

Since then, despite the example of universality in the key public institution of Medicare, to which all are entitled, the social security system has become more conditional, and arbitrary, with benefits now well below the poverty line.

There is growing evidence, for example, that social security payments for unemployed people, like Newstart, now barely meet the necessities of life – let alone cover expenses involved when people are looking for work.

In this country, we increasingly celebrate entrepreneurial self-reliance, but for disadvantaged people, the certainty of an adequate income is a fundamental foundation. It may not be sufficient, but it is necessary.

The ConversationAs professor Henderson said during a speech at a Remembrance Day rally in 1984 “we all have a right to a decent minimum income: to a fair share”.

Brian Howe, Professorial Associate in the Centre for Public Policy, University of Melbourne

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

Young Australians will wear the costs of Turnbull’s middle income tax cut


Danielle Wood, Grattan Institute and Hugh Parsonage, Grattan Institute

Malcom Turnbull has promised tax cuts for middle-income earners in the next budget or even earlier. The short-term political benefits of pre-election tax cuts are not in doubt. But unless the government is willing to increase taxes elsewhere to pay for these sweeteners, there will be longer-term costs for the budget and the economy. And younger Australians will wear these costs.

Young people will pay the price

If the government goes ahead with tax cuts and nothing else changes, we can look forward to the announcement in the 2021 budget of Australia’s 13th successive budget deficit. This is despite the fact Australia is in the midst of the longest period of uninterrupted economic growth anywhere in the developed world. And the unlucky recipients of this legacy of poor budget management are the young.

Grattan Institute research shows that each year the government runs a A$40 billion deficit, it increases the lifetime tax burden for households headed by a person aged 25 to 34 by A$10,000. This is based on the share of debt they would have to repay – with interest – over time. With each successive budget deficit, the tab grows for today’s young Australians.

And the government is magnifying the cost of future economic downturns. Australia was well placed to respond to the global financial crisis because of its healthy fiscal position. But with net debt now sitting at A$322 billion (18.4% of GDP), the government has less room to respond if there is another serious downturn.

Middle-income earners are hit by bracket creep

In the 2017-18 budget, the government was clear: if the senate won’t support spending cuts, then tax increases will have to do the “heavy lifting” on budget repair. And this heavy lifting is largely happening through bracket creep – growth in income taxes as a share of wages.

Middle-income earners are particularly hurt by bracket creep. Based on the wages growth projected in the 2017 budget, the average tax rates for people in middle-income groups will increase by between 1.9 and 2.9 percentage points by 2021. For example, a person earning A$50,000 a year will go from paying an average tax rate of 17.1% in 2017 to 19.5 % in 2021 – and that’s before the government’s proposed increase in the Medicare levy.

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No government likes to go to an election with taxes going up, so the temptation to “give back” bracket creep was always going to prove irresistible in next year’s pre-election budget. And as the prime minister flagged, there is also an economic case for such tax cuts. High marginal tax rates for middle income earners can significantly affect incentives to participate in the workforce, particularly for for women with children in childcare.

Tax cuts will blow the surplus

But the kicker is the effect of the promised tax cuts on the budget bottom line. The Australian government has been running budget deficits since 2009. In the last budget, the treasurer promised a return to surplus in 2021.

That promised surplus always relied on optimistic assumptions: strong wages growth, healthy growth in profits, government spending restraint, and, importantly, no cuts to income taxes. The government’s proposal is light on details, but even modest cuts to tax rates could eliminate the forecast surplus.

For example, if the government was to reduce the tax rate only in the middle bracket (A$37,000-$80,000) from 32.5% to 30%, the cost to the budget bottom line would be about A$7.3 billion in 2021, almost wiping out the promised A$7.8 billion surplus.

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If Malcolm Turnbull wants to cut income taxes but is still serious about delivering on his commitment to return the budget to surplus, then he will need to look elsewhere for revenue. Winding back the capital gains tax discount or negative gearing, better targeting of superannuation tax concessions and tax breaks for older Australians, or increasing or broadening the GST are just a few policies we could suggest.

The ConversationBut if the PM pursues the sugar hit of tax cuts without the difficult work on paying for them, then politics will once again have trumped policy and the economic future of today’s young Australians.

Danielle Wood, Program Director, Budget Policy and Institutions, Grattan Institute and Hugh Parsonage, Associate, Grattan Institute

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