Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has abruptly gone on personal leave until the end of June, after a horror day in which he shifted the onus to partner Vikki Campion for the widely-criticised sale of their TV interview.
Facing a mounting public backlash from colleagues, Joyce blamed media intrusion and said Campion had felt “screwed over” by it.
A clip of the interview, for which Channel 7 reportedly paid $150,000, was shown on Tuesday night, with a emotional Campion saying “I couldn’t help it. You can’t help who you fall in love with.”
The full interview, which features the couple and their new baby Sebastian, will be aired on Sunday. They say the money will be put in a trust fund for Sebastian.
Joyce looked visibly under strain during the day and sources said he was not in a good head space.
He sought leave from the Nationals whip, Michelle Landry, and he has been granted a parliamentary pair by Labor – which means the numbers in the House of Representatives will not be affected.
He will miss the June sittings, not returning to parliament until it resumes in August, after the winter recess. Government sources said his actual leave from work was until the end of June.
He immediately drove from Canberra on Tuesday evening.
Joyce said that he would not charge for an interview if it was just with him as a politician.
But “they wanted an interview obviously to get Vikki’s side of the story and like most mothers she said, ‘seeing as I am being screwed over and there are drones and everything over my house in the last fortnight, paparazzi waiting for me, if everybody else is making money then [I am] going to make money out of it’,” he told the Australian.
He said they had “tried just burning this out and that didn’t work,” and argued privacy protections were inadequate.
“If we had a proper tort of privacy we would never have had to do this.”
Senior Coalition figures, picking up the public reaction, have come out in open criticism of the deal. Prime Minister Turnbull, speaking on Tasmanian radio station LAFM, said the paid interview was “not a course of action that I would’ve encouraged him to take”. Turnbull said he would leave the matter for a “private discussion” with Joyce. But in the event, the two did not talk on Tuesday.
Revenue Minister Kelly O’Dwyer told the ABC “most Australians are pretty disgusted” by Joyce’s action.
Nationals leader Michael McCormack said “I wouldn’t do it”, telling Fairfax Media: “At the end of the day all politicians are judged by the court of public opinion and that is what people think of them at the ballot box on election day.”
McCormack had particular reason to be angry at Joyce – the controversy took attention from the recruitment of crossbench senator Steve Martin to the Nationals, which was announced on Monday.
In this series – Budget policy checks – we look at the government’s justifications for policies likely to be in this year’s budget and measure them up against the evidence.
In this piece we look at the need for personal income tax cuts.
A large proportion of any cut in personal income tax – especially if the cuts were skewed towards lower and middle-income households with a higher propensity to spend – would likely provide a greater direct stimulus to the Australian economy than an equivalent cut in company tax.
Cutting personal income taxes seems likely to provide much more of a boost to the Australian economy than cutting company income tax. As the government’s own published modelling shows, the benefits of its proposed cuts to the company income tax rate are small relative to their cost.
Do we need income tax cuts to provide relief from financial hardship?
The treasurer and I have been working on how we can provide more tax relief for hard-working middle income Australian families.
– Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Over the last five years, household spending has grown by just 2.6% per annum in real terms, on average – of which more than half has been the result of population growth – compared with an average of 3.6% per annum over the preceding 12 years. Even with that lower growth rate in their spending, households have reduced their saving rate, from around 7% of disposable income five years ago to around 2.5% in 2017. That’s the lowest saving rate since before the financial crisis.
The key reason for this “squeeze” on household spending and saving is of course the ongoing weakness in the growth rate of household disposable income. Over the past five years, real per capita household disposable income has grown at an average annual rate of just 0.4%, compared with an average of 2.6% per annum over the preceding 12 years.
One reason for this is that Australian households have been paying an increasing proportion of their income in taxes. In the years prior to the onset of the financial crisis, almost every budget included personal income tax cuts in some form or other.
By contrast, there have been no changes to Australia’s personal income tax scale since 2008 – apart from the increase in the tax-free threshold (paid for by an increase in the bottom rate) in 2012, the temporary surcharge on top-rate taxpayers which applied between 2014-15 and 2016-17, and the increase in the threshold for the second-top rate (from A$80,000 to A$87,000) which took effect in the 2016-17 financial year.
As a result, in 2017, Australian households in aggregate paid 19.5% of their taxable incomes in income and other direct taxes – the highest proportion since 2005, and continuing a steady rise since 2011.
Households are also spending almost two and a quarter percentage points more of their after-tax disposable incomes on education, health, insurance and other financial services, and utilities than they did five years ago.
Given all this, it’s little wonder that household spending in more “discretionary” areas has been so weak in recent years.
Well-targeted personal income tax cuts could thus help to ameliorate this multi-faceted “squeeze” on household incomes, and provide a direct boost to the economy.
Do we need income tax cuts to make up for the fact that we haven’t had a pay rise in a while?
It’s been a long time since any Australians had a decent pay rise…this is a real pressure on Australians…we can give them some relief when it comes to their personal income tax.
– Treasurer Scott Morrison
The other major reason for the very slow growth in real household disposable income over the past few years has been the unprecedented slowdown in wages growth. Wages have risen at an average annual rate of just 2.2% over the past five years (only 0.3 of a percentage point above the inflation rate), down from 3.7% per annum over the preceding 12 years.
Although, as RBA Governor Phillip Lowe noted in a speech that “the latest data suggest that the rate of wages growth has now troughed”, he went on to warn that the pickup which the RBA expects “is likely to be only gradual”.
Recent experience in other advanced economies clearly suggests that the unemployment rate needs to be lower for longer than in previous business cycles before wages growth starts to pick up. So even assuming that Governor Lowe is right, it may be one or two years before Australian households can expect any meaningful improvement in their financial position from faster growth in their wages or salaries.
Well targeted personal income tax cuts could help provide at least some offset to this likely continuing stagnation in wages growth over the next year or so.
What’s the verdict?
Targeted personal income tax cuts could reduce the squeeze on households and make up for persistent low wages.
Of course, it remains crucial that any cuts in personal income tax be sustainable – that is, that they are not funded by bigger deficits, and do not materially detract from the task of putting the nation’s public finances on a sounder footing. This is so we are better placed to withstand any unforeseen economic shocks.
And it’s important to remember that government spending has moved to what appears to be a permanently higher level as a proportion of GDP since the financial crisis. The government’s underlying cash payments averaged 25% of GDP from 2011-12 through 2017-18, up from 24% from 2001-02 through 2007-08. That also represents a constraint on the scope for tax cuts.
However, the apparently greater improvement in the budget so far this financial year, compared with what was forecast as recently as last December’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, could give the government a little more latitude for financially sustainable personal income tax cuts in the upcoming budget.
Perhaps the most sustainable way of providing the “relief” which the treasurer says many Australian households need, would be to abandon the tax cut for companies turning over more than A$50 million a year. The government hasn’t been able to get these through the Senate. These cuts would do far less to boost the Australian economy than well-targeted personal income tax cuts of a similar order of magnitude.
Alarm bells are ringing a mere three months into Donald Trump’s presidency. The two global flashpoints, Syria and North Korea, are worrying enough.
More troubling still are America’s relations with Russia and China. These are now mired in angst, uncertainty and mutual suspicion. They underlie the failure to create a viable system of crisis prevention and crisis management.
Global power shift
Trump’s first 100 days as president have dramatically demonstrated this failure. For all the rhetoric about “making America great again”, Trump is rapidly discovering that the US has limited capacity to impose its will on the rest of world.
The trend is visible everywhere – in international trade and finance, diplomacy, and numerous conflicts around the world.
In Russia and China, the US now faces two centres of power that are no longer willing to comply with America’s interests and priorities.
Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has been busy reasserting its influence after years of humiliation following the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Starting from a low base, China has sustained over the last three decades the most remarkable rate of economic growth in modern history. Now it is seeking to exert the political influence commensurate with its new economic status.
America’s relative political decline goes back to its military defeat in Vietnam. Temporarily obscured by the end of the Cold War, it became fully apparent during the Bush and Obama years. But Trump is the first president to have run on a platform openly stating that the US is in decline and promising to reverse the trend.
We will make America strong again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And we will make America great again.
The nationalist card – the one unifying plank of his otherwise chaotic discourse before and since his election – is meant to strike a chord with the many disenchanted Americans hankering for a “golden age” that has long since passed. Trump now faces the immense challenge of delivering on this pledge despite intractable problems at home and abroad.
On the international stage, he has chosen to rely on showing off America’s unmatched military might. This position is supported by some of the most powerful voices in the US military and political establishment.
Soon after taking office, Trump gave the military expanded authority in the conduct of operations against Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. In support of the Saudi bombing campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen, the US carried out 70 airstrikes in March alone. This is more than twice the number for all of 2016.
In the first two weeks of April, the Trump administration:
announced plans to increase US military spending (already four times greater than China’s and nine times greater than Russia’s) by US$54 billion;
Yet the utility of military power is diminishing. As one centre of power declines and another rises, new faultlines and tensions emerge, and with them new uncertainties. This helps explain why the US finds it so difficult to set a clear policy direction for relations with Russia and China.
Hoping to deflect attention from his campaign’s links with Russia, Trump has allowed relations with Russia to continue on their downward slide. Perhaps it was never his intention to reset the US-Russia relationship.
In any case, he is under considerable pressure from his most senior security advisers to act tough with Russia. Almost certainly, he failed to appreciate that his actions and statements on Syria would provoke Putin’s fury.
The end result is clear. In Trump’s words, US relations with Russia have reached “an all-time low”. Not surprisingly, he has now reversed his previous position on NATO, and announced the alliance is “no longer obsolete”.
Russia, for its part, remains unbending in its support of the Assad government in Syria. It has mercilessly denounced the illegality of the US missile attack, and used its veto power to block a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his use of chemical weapons.
And now Russia has forced the US to accept a significant watering down of the UN Security Council resolution condemning North Korea’s latest missile launch.
During his election campaign, Trump repeatedly lambasted China for its currency manipulation and threatened to apply tough restrictions on Chinese exports. Before and immediately after his election he flaunted America’s commitment to Taiwan’s security, and challenged China’s military build-up in the South China Sea.
Yet the tone has since changed markedly. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the US became an occasion to discuss differences on trade and agree to a 100-day plan for reducing the current US trade deficit with China.
At least in public, Xi stuck to his script about the virtues of bilateral co-operation. Trump presented the talks as forming the basis for “an outstanding relationship”.
The North Korea crisis has exposed the limits of US power. Neither increased US economic sanctions nor the threat of military action are likely to force the North Korean regime into submission.
The US needs China’s help to have any chance of reining in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. China’s response has been to increase pressure on North Korea while issuing a stern warning to both parties.
And so, the relationship remains at best unpredictable. As much as China and the US need each other, the hawks in the Trump administration – and there are many – will not easily abandon their plans to contain China, challenge its claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea, and maintain the US military’s pre-eminence in the region.
However, none of this will halt China’s rise.
What does the future hold?
The months ahead are less than promising. The use and threat of force will do nothing to resolve any of the longstanding conflicts in the Middle East or east Asia.
The projection of military muscle and modernisation of nuclear arsenals are far more likely to produce greater local and regional instability, and heighten the risk of miscalculation from any of the three major centres of power.
Pursuing “America First” or “Russia First” policies in conditions of such mutual vulnerability is an exercise in futility.
A more profitable course for these three centres of power is to recognise each other’s legitimate interests, expand the opportunities for economic and diplomatic co-operation, and develop a co-ordinated approach in the management of actual and potential flashpoints.
To bear fruit, such efforts need to have solid foundations – in particular decisive steps to eliminate nuclear weapons, enhance the effectiveness of international law, and strengthen the UN’s capacity for conflict management and peace-building.
Professor Camilleri will explore these issues in depth at a keynote lecture to be delivered at St Michael’s on Collins, Melbourne, on May 9 and 16.
The ALP has completed its quest for personal destruction by sticking with Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd ruling himself out as leading the ALP ever again. It is a sad day for the ALP, except for the fact that the ALP doesn’t realise it is. In my view they have ensured they will be in opposition following the federal election, completely ignoring the views of those they are asking to vote for them. I anticipate that the ALP will now suffer an enormous hiding unless ALP supporters can somehow see past the disregard that the party has shown to them and votes for a Prime Minister they don’t want.
The link below is to an article covering the latest dramas unfolding in Canberra throughout the day:
The following article reports on the personal religion of Barack Obama. What is clear from the interview is that the answers given to questions that were asked of President Obama, is that Barack Obama is not a Christian as far as the Bible definition of a Christian goes. He may be regarded as a ‘Christian’ in some sort of typical western religious manner, but as far as true Christianity goes, he is not.
Karnataka, India, April 15 (CDN) — Police on April 10 arrested a pastor and other Christians of the New India Church in Mysore after some 25 Hindu extremists from the Sreeram Sena attacked their Sunday service, accusing them of forcible conversions, reported the Mathrubhumi daily. Pastor Vinod Chacko was leading the service when the Hindu nationalists barged into the church, stopped the prayer service and complained to police of alleged forcible conversions. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the extremists along with police detained the worshippers inside the church building, including 20 women and 10 children, taking down personal details about them and asking them whether they were paid money or otherwise lured to attend. Police also seized vehicles belonging to the church and those attending the service. Police charged Pastor Chacko, his wife Asha and others identified only as Sabu, Simon and Sayazu under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code with “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings.”
New Delhi – A mob of about 150 Hindu extremists on April 9 attacked a Christian worship meeting in Bhajanpura, East Delhi, beating Christians with clubs and stones, including women and children. Pastor Solomon King told Compass that the Assembly of God church organized an open-air “Festival of Deliverance” meeting at which he was speaking; there were about 150 people in the arena when he arrived with 40 choir members. After the meeting began at about 6 p.m., some present suddenly shouted “Jai Shri Ram [Praise Lord Ram]” and started beating the Christians. Two Christians identified only as Prabhu and Abhisek sustained head injuries and received hospital treatment. Pastor King, his wife and other Christians also suffered bruises. The intolerant Hindus also destroyed furniture, a sound system, a generator and some Christians’ vehicle. The Christians had received permission from government officials to conduct the worship meeting, and five police officers were on duty to protect it; the Hindu extremists also severely beat them. The attack lasted for about an hour before police reinforcements arrived, and the extremists fled. Police were able to arrest two of the assailants.
Madhya Pradesh – An enraged mob of Hindu extremists on April 7 stormed into the prayer meeting of a Christian Assembly house church shouting anti-Christian slogans and filed a police complaint of forceful conversion against those present in Sagar. The Hindu extremists accused Pastor Joy Thomas Philip of forceful conversion, Pastor C.P. Mathew of Bhopal told Compass. Police arrived and took Pastor Philip and three other Christians into custody for questioning but claimed it was a protective measure. After area Christian leaders’ intervention, the Christians were released on bail on April 9.
Karnataka – Mulki Circle police officials on April 4 forcibly took church documents from Hebron Assembly Church in Mulki and told the pastor not to allow any Hindus to enter. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that officials identified only as Inspector Shivaprakash and Sub-Inspector Neelakanta, along with five police officers, verbally abused Pastor I.D. Prasanna and harshly denigrated church activities. Police officials questioned Pastor Prasanna for three hours, telling him what church activities he can and cannot undertake, and threatening to close the church if he disobeyed. They also ordered the pastor to give detailed information about the families that attended the church service.
Karnataka – Police in Shimago on April 3 detained Pastor Abraham K.G. and a Christian identified only as Eerappa for their faith in Christ. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that Hindu extremists led by area Bajrang Dal member Subbraya Shetty interrupted the worship meeting of the Jehovah Nizzi church and warned them to stop meeting. The extremists had been harassing the pastor since March 27, reported the GCIC. As the April 3 service started at about 10:30 a.m., a sub-inspector from the Hosanagara police station arrived in a Jeep with three other police officers to make the arrests. When the Christians asked about the reasons, the officials said without basis that the Christians were using abusive language. Later that evening, police released the Christians without charges after taking a statement from them pledging that they would conduct no future worship meetings – and that they should leave the area.
OK, so a personal question. How many times have I been in love? Well, I guess we can eliminate what I would call crushes, infatuations, not particularly serious relationships, etc – that being the case I would say twice (and it didn’t work out the way I would have liked at the time – twice also).
Hindsight can be a blessing I suppose – the first time I’d say in hindsight it was probably a good thing. Actually, no probably. Still think she’s a great girl, but wasn’t the right choice for me for a number of reasons (which I’m not getting into).
The second time the girl was the wrong choice for me also, but was most certainly the love of my life if I may be so bold as to say that. It was a tragic ending this time round and I still haven’t got over her. She was very dear to me.
District judge bows to pressure of local Muslims, handing down stunning sentence to Christian.
LAHORE, Pakistan, November 13 (CDN) — Attorneys for a Christian mother of five sentenced to death by hanging for allegedly speaking ill of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, have filed an appeal of the verdict, they said.
Bowing to pressure from Muslim extremists in Pakistan, according to the Christian woman’s husband and rights groups, a district court judge handed down the stunning sentence to Asia Noreen on Monday (Nov. 8). Additional District and Sessions Judge Naveed Ahmed Chaudhary of Nankana Sahib district delivered the verdict under Pakistan’s controversial “blasphemy” statute, the kind of law that a resolution before the United Nations condemning “defamation of religions” would make legitimate internationally.
Noreen is the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s widely condemned law against defaming Islam.
Noreen’s lawyer, Chaudhry Tahir Shahzad, said that among other allegations, she was accused of denying that Muhammad was a prophet.
“How can we expect a Christian to affirm a Muslim belief?” Shahzad said. He added that he and lawyer Manzoor Qadir had filed an appeal against the district sessions court’s verdict in the Lahore High Court.
Asia (alternately spelled Aasya) Noreen has been languishing in isolation in jail since June of last year after she argued with fellow field workers in Ittanwali village who were trying to pressure her into renouncing Christianity. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, told Compass that the argument began after the wife of an Ittanwali elder sent her to fetch water in Nankana Sahib district, about 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Lahore in Punjab Province.
The Muslim women told Noreen that it was sacrilegious to drink water collected by a non-Muslim, he said.
“My wife only said, ‘Are we not all humans?’ when the Muslim women rebuked her for her faith,” Masih, a field laborer, told Compass by telephone. “This led to an altercation.”
Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) General Secretary Katherine Sapna told Compass that the women told Muslim cleric Muhammad Salim about the incident, and he filed a case with police on the same day, June 14, 2009.
On June 19, 2009, Masih said, the Muslim women suddenly raised a commotion, accusing Noreen of defaming Muhammad.
“Several Muslim men working in the nearby fields reached the spot and forced their way into our house, where they tortured Asia and the children,” said Masih, who confirmed that his wife is 45 years old and that they have five children – four girls and a boy, the oldest daughter 20.
Police arrived and took his wife into custody, presumably for her own protection, he said.
“They saved Asia’s life, but then later a case was registered against her under Sections 295-B and C [blaspheming the Quran and Muhammad, respectively] at the Nankana police station on the complaint of Muhammad Salim, the local imam [prayer leader] of the village,” he said. “Asia has been convicted on false charges. We have never, ever insulted the prophet Muhammad or the Quran.”
Salim reportedly claimed that Noreen confessed to speaking derogatorily of Islam’s prophet and apologized. Under immense pressure from local Muslims, according to Masih, CLAAS and Sohail Johnson of Sharing Life Ministry, local judge Chaudhary ruled out the possibility that Noreen was falsely accused. In spite of repeated efforts by the Muslim women to pressure her into renouncing her faith, the judge also reportedly ruled “there were no mitigating circumstances.”
Chaudhary also fined her 100,000 rupees (US$1,150), according to CLAAS.
Ataul Saman of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) said that lower court verdicts in blasphemy cases are usually overturned by higher courts. He said lower court proceedings take place under intense pressure, with local Muslims gathering outside and chanting slogans to pressure judges. Saman added that NCJP research showed that up to 80 percent of blasphemy charges are filed against people to settle personal scores.
Rights groups have long criticized Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as too easily used to settle grudges or oppress religious minorities, such as the more than 4 million Christians that Operation World estimates out of Pakistan’s total population of 184.7 million. To date no one has been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, as most are freed on appeal after suffering for years under appalling prison conditions. Vigilantes have killed at least 10 people accused of blasphemy, rights groups estimate.
Noreen was convicted under Section 295-C of the defamation statutes for alleged derogatory comments about Muhammad, which is punishable by death, though life imprisonment is also possible. Section 295-B makes willful desecration of the Quran or a use of its extract in a derogatory manner punishable with life imprisonment. Section 295-A of the defamation law prohibits injuring or defiling places of worship and “acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class of citizens.” It is punishable by life imprisonment, which in Pakistan is 25 years.
Between 1986 and August 2009, at least 974 people have been charged with defiling the Quran or insulting Muhammad, according to the NCJP. Those charged included 479 Muslims, 340 Ahmadis, 119 Christians, 14 Hindus and 10 from other religions.
Johnson of Sharing Life Ministry, which is active in prisons and has been following Noreen’s case from the onset, said he was impressed by her continued faith.
“A week before the verdict, I went to visit Asia in jail,” he said. “I asked her what she was expecting. She told me that Jesus would rescue her from this fake case.”
The verdict was shocking in that no one was expecting a death sentence for a woman, he said. Masih agreed.
“Asia was hoping that the judge would free her and she would come home to be with us, but this conviction has dashed our hopes for now,” Masih said.
He said that since the sentencing, authorities have not allowed him or other members of their family to visit his wife.
“We don’t know yet how she is, but we trust the Lord,” he said. “Asia is suffering for Jesus, and He will not forsake her.”