Archive for September, 2019

Counting on your super to fund your retirement? Don’t.

28/09/2019

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 07: generic, retirement, seniors , pension, old age, superannuation, nest egg on January 7, 2016 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Glenn Hunt/Fairfax Media)Australians make up barely 0.3 per cent of the world’s population and yet hold $2.1 trillion in pension savings — the world’s fourth-largest such pool. Those assets are viewed as a measure of the country’s wealth and economic resilience, and seem to guarantee a high standard of living for Australians well into the future.
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Other developed nations, aging even faster than Australia and subject to fraying safety nets, have held up the system as a world-class model to fund retirement. In fact, its future looks nowhere near so bright.

Australia’s superannuation scheme is a defined contribution pension plan funded by mandatory employer contributions (currently 9.5 per cent, scheduled to rise gradually to 12 per cent by 2025). Employees can supplement those savings and are encouraged to do so with tax breaks, pension fund earnings and generous benefits.

The gaudy size of the investment pool, however, masks serious vulnerabilities. First, the focus on assets ignores liabilities, especially Australia’s $1.8 trillion in household debt as well as total non-financial debt of around $3.5 trillion. It also overlooks the nation’s foreign debt, which has reached over 50 per cent of GDP — the result of the substantial capital imports needed to finance current account deficits that have persisted despite the recent commodity boom, strong terms of trade and record exports.

Second, the savings must stretch further than ever before, covering not just the income needs of retirees but their rapidly increasing healthcare costs. In the current low-income environment, investment earnings have shrunk to the point where they alone can’t cover expenses. That’s reducing the capital amount left to pass on as a legacy.

Third, the financial assets held in the system (shares, real estate, etc.) have to be converted into cash at current values when they’re redeemed, not at today’s inflated values. Those values are quite likely to decline, especially as a large cohort of Australians retires around the same time, driving up supply. Meanwhile, weak public finances mean that government funding for healthcare is likely to drop, forcing retirees to liquidate their investments faster and further suppressing values.

Fourth, the substantial size of these savings and the large annual inflow (more than $100 billion per year) into asset managers has artificially inflated values of domestic financial assets, given the modest size of Australia’s capital markets. As retirees increasingly draw down their savings, withdrawals may be greater than new inflows, reducing demand for these financial assets. This will be exacerbated by labour market changes, including lower job security and slower wage growth, which will reduce employee contributions into the scheme. Values, which depend on a growing pool of pension savings, will inevitably suffer.

Fifth, the system has accelerated the financialisation of the Australian economy. The large inflows and around 600,000 self-managed superannuation funds feed an industry of financial planners, asset managers, asset consultants, accountants, lawyers and custodians, as well as banks and stockbrokers. The more than $20 billion annually paid in fees and costs is of questionable economic value.

Finally, the system may well fail in its primary objective — that is, to minimise the need for the government to finance retirement. The typical accumulated balance at retirement age is around $200,000 for men and around $110,000 for women. The averages are artificially increased by a small pool of people with large balances, yet they’re still well below the $600,000 to $700,000 estimated to be necessary for homeowning and debt-free couples to finance their retirements, which may last 20 or more years.

The federal government will need to cover the shortfall for a large proportion of the population. In fact, it will lose doubly, having already suffered a loss of revenue from the generous tax breaks provided for the schemes (estimated at $30 billion annually and increasing), which have been used, especially by wealthy individuals, as a way to reduce their tax burden.

Future generations will also be affected adversely, having to finance payments to older generations through higher taxes or additional government debt, reduced wealth transfers from parents, and lower benefits than those awarded to their predecessors. Retirement out of reach for most

The whole system illustrates the fallacy of all retirement schemes, whether underwritten by governments, employers or by individuals themselves.

Such arrangements can only work in an environment of high incomes, strong investment returns and limited post-retirement life expectancy. Alternatively, they are sustainable where a rapidly rising population and workforce finance payments to a smaller group of post-retirement workers.

The real lesson of that experience may be that the idea of retirement is unrealisable for most workers, who will almost certainly have to work beyond their expected retirement dates if they want to sustain their lifestyles.

Governments have implicitly recognised this fact by abandoning mandatory retirement requirements, increasing the minimum retirement age, tightening eligibility criteria for benefits and reducing tax concessions for this form of saving.

If the world’s best pension system can’t succeed, we’re going to have to rethink retirement itself.

Satyajit Das is a former banker whose latest book is “A Banquet of Consequences.” He is also the author of “Extreme Money” and “Traders, Guns & Money.” He lives in Sydney.

Bloomberg

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Ten new cockroach species uncovered in Tasmania

28/09/2019

Ten new cockroach species uncovered in Tasmania DISCOVERY: QVMAG natural sciences collections officer Simon Fearn displays some of the 10 new cockroaches discovered in Tasmania since 2014. Picture: Phillip Biggs
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DISCOVERY: QVMAG natural sciences collections officer Simon Fearn displays some of the 10 new cockroaches discovered in Tasmania since 2014. Picture: Phillip Biggs

TweetFacebook Discover the new cockroaches found in TasmaniaPictures: Phillip BiggsMost people squirm even atthe word cockroach, but did you know 10completely new species have been discovered in Tasmania since 2014.

Three of the new specieswere found inQVMAG natural sciences collections officer Simon Fearn’s backyard.

While some might be turning away in disgust at the thought of more cockroaches, Mr Fearn said the bad rap was not justified.

About five out of 5000 species of cockroaches were pests, contaminating food and spreading disease.

MORE MISUNDERSTOOD SPECIES:

Tasmania has an ‘enormous’ snake population but low bite riskTasmanian-produced documentary Sixteen Legs showcases survivors“Most of these never come into your house, they just live in the bush and they play a vital role in breaking down nutrients and leaf litter, and pollinating plants,” Mr Fearn said.

“Just a handful of urban, introduced cockroaches are giving the whole group a bad name, whereas the majority are actually doing us a service.”

The new species have never been recognised by science before because no one ever noticed them, Mr Fearn said.

“They have yet to be formally described by a taxonomist.”

That was whennew species were given a scientific name after a taxonomist compared the species with all other specimens of species, which was a lengthy, scientific process.

It was a crucial point as it meant it would be established and recognised as a new species by the scientific community

“As you can imagine, there are not a lot of taxonomists in the world whospecialise in cockroaches.”

He estimated only two or three people in the world, and only one in Australia, who were able to scientifically describe cockroaches as someone needed to have a comprehensive knowledge of the entire species.

“We are constantly finding cockroaches in our field work that have yet to be named.”

It might take years for any of them to be named, Mr Fearn said.

He has also discovered several mainland cockroaches in Tasmania after they hitching a ride across Bass Strait.

As for the other crittershe has found in his quarter acre block, Mr Fearn said he has already documented 700 different species.

“At the rate tropical forests are being cleared around the world, there would be no question that there would be lots and lots of insects becoming extinct.”

The Examiner

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$2.5m centre for medical cannabis

28/09/2019

Funding success: University of Newcastle clinical pharmacologist Professor Jennifer Martin will lead a national approach to medicinal cannabis research.Newcastle will leadthe national approach to research into medicinal cannabistreatments.
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The University of Newcastle hasbeen granted $6 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council for various projects.

Of this money, $2.5 million was allocated to setting up a the Australian Centre for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence.

Professor Jennifer Martin said thenational infrastructure, governed fromNewcastle, could”rapidly translate the [cannabinoid] research into practice and into policy”.

Professor Martin, a clinical pharmacologist at UoN, will head-up the centre with Professor Nadia Solowij from the University of Wollongong.

The initiativeis a partnership between theUniversity of Newcastle,Hunter Medical Research Institute, Hunter-New England Health and teams fromseveral universities across Australia.

“It’s essentially saying we need a nationally integrated, collaborative framework, where as soon as we receive data from avariety of clinical trials with any of the cannabinoid productsfrom around Australia,or indeed new datafrom overseas, we can rapidly translate that intopolicy andpractice,” she said.

Professor Martin said a coordinated, national strategy was “really important” in turning research intopractice.It was particularlyimportant, she said, tohave a national, coordinatedresearch andpolicy strategy acrossthe states and commonwealth.

She expected, where evidence was shown, to see cannabinoid treatments “much moreavailable in Australia within the next five years”.

“We have had some community input from patients in the community that have access to cannabis and who have found that those products are helpful.

“We’ve had a lot of patients and family advocates that have really pushed that from the Hunter area.Now we need to get the supporting evidence to guide practice,” Professor Martin said.

“We’ve got a community advisory group… but we’ve also got a very strong clinical network of lead clinicians around Australiawith which to guide this centre.”

As part of the $6 million funding allocation, the university also received money for several other projects, mostly fellowships for researchers across a range of medical fields.

The Herald, Newcastle

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Geelong an unlikely new home for Watts: Cats

28/09/2019

Geelong are playing down their chances of landing Melbourne’s Jack Watts, claiming a deal for him remains unlikely to be done.
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While the Cats’ stance on Wednesday sent Watts a step closer to Port Adelaide, Fairfax Media understands Geelong could still be a player in the trade, depending on what compensation they receive for a departing Steven Motlop.

After Watts’ tour of the Cats’ facilities on Tuesday, which included meetings with coach Chris Scott and superstar Patrick Dangerfield, the race appeared to be down to two clubs.

While Geelong are still some hope of landing Watts, Port Adelaide are now firmly in the box seat.

Cats list manager Stephen Wells said at this stage they wouldn’t be able to compensate the Demons with a suitable trade.

“We’ve met with Jack as an information-gathering exercise and my conversations with both Jack, Paul Connors and also with the Melbourne Football Club, we’ve had to say at the moment that we’re unlikely to be able to do a deal for Jack to come to Geelong,” he told the league’s website.

“But that doesn’t mean we won’t see something change in that regard in the next week or so, but we haven’t offered Jack a contract at this stage.

“The main reason is because we don’t like to commit to a player as far as attracting them to Geelong unless we think we can get the deal done.

“We’ve had good conversations with Melbourne and Todd Viney has made it clear what they’d be expecting for Jack from us and at this stage we don’t think we’d be able to do that deal, so we’re not going to give Jack any false hope or waste anyone’s time.”

Geelong have picks 21 and 34 (after Brisbane received a compensation pick for Tom Rockliff) in the second round of the upcoming draft and at this stage remain unwilling to part with either of them in exchange for Watts.

That could change, however, if and when they receive a compensation pick for Motlop, which is likely to be either 22 or 35.

Fairfax Media understands that a decision about Watts’ preferred destination isn’t likely to be made public this week.

Sydney remain interested in the departing Demon, but the Swans would have to make room in their salary cap before entertaining a trade.

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[email protected]: Flat start in store for ASX

28/09/2019

The information of stocks that lost in prices are displayed on an electronic board inside the Australian Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, July 24, 2015. The Australian dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg MARKETS. 7 JUNE 2011. AFR PIC BY PETER BRAIG. STOCK EXCHANGE, SYDNEY, STOCKS. GENERIC PIC. ASX. STOCKMARKET. MARKET.
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Stock information is displayed on an electronic board inside the Australian Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, July 24, 2015. The Australian dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

The local sharemarket is set to open flat as investors turned cautious on Wall Street.

FOMC minutes of the September FOMC meeting where the Fed was shown as still uncertain on the persistence of low-inflation factors. The probability of a Fed hike of the reference rate at the December meeting remained around 75% after the meeting though USD and UST bond yields remained lower while equities in the US remained positive. Beyond US equities, other major indices pushed to record levels with the AS51 closing at 2-month highs, and the Nikkei 225 closing at the highest level since 1996 in a further showing that global sentiment is synchronised and investors remain in a buying mood.

1. ASX: Futures are pointing to a two-point drop at the open as Wall Street inched higher. Yesterday, the AS51 rose to the highest close since August 17 thanks to a 10 of 11 subgroups moving higher, which was led by technology as a key contributor alongside banks. The chorus of equity buying has been a global event as implied volatility from major markets continue to sit at historic lows thanks in large part to faith that much of the global risk scene remains under control.

2. Australian dollar: The Australian Dollar remains near the lowest levels since July against the US Dollar and is working toward the lowest level against the EUR since summer of 2016. The weakness in the AUD is likely a delight to the RBA who has consciously decided to step out of the normalization conversation of other central banks. This move by the RBA has allowed the Aussie to weaken despite the globally synchronized acceleration of economic data. This weakness seems to have caught hedge funds off as the net-long positioning per the CFTC’s Commitment Of Traders report recently showed the largest bullish exposure anticipating AUD strength since 2013.

3. Japan: Japanese equities saw their highest close since 1996 as the Nikkei 225 Index, which has gained 9% so far on the year added another 0.3% on Wednesday to overcome the early 2015 high. The smooth run-up is expected to have a difficult time holding should a shocking outcome develop in the October 22 snap election cause Shinzo Abe to lose a majority holding of the lower-house. The move higher in equities has not been helped by the JPY much as USD/JPY, historically positively correlated to the Nikkei 225 remains more than 5% lower on the year.

4. Copper: The price of Copper traded to the highest level in 1-month and is close to the daily range of the extreme day of 2017 reached in early September when the price hit an intraday level of 6970 on the LME. The rally in copper has been a bright spot in base metals as other key base metals involved in steelmaking like Iron Ore have fallen below $60 in Dalian on demand concerns on the back of an environmental crackdown in China as Beijing has asked for an output curb through the seasonally weak winter heating season that runs through to March.

5. Wall Street: Wall Street was higher barely after FOMC Minutes showed Fed members do not see the weakness in inflation as only transitory. Looking ahead, this seems to communicate that hikes by the Fed beyond December are not set in stone. Recently, we’ve heard from two voting members of the Federal Reserve, Dallas’ Robert Kaplan and Chicago’s Evan’s who both said it is too early to decide on a December hike. Specifically, Kaplan noted that he is keeping an open mind on US rate hikes and continues to look for evidence that momentum is building in US cyclical forces to ensure as much as possible that the structural headwinds of tighter monetary policy are offset. Such comments from voting Fed members communicate that USD strength is not a given to continue despite the rally in September.

6. Economic Storm clouds continue to gather above the UK: The U.K.’s Office for Budget Responsibility published a report on Tuesday titled the “Forecast Evaluation Report,” explains the group’s downward revisions of predictions to upcoming UK economic data. The timing of this report is worth pointing out as it comes within a handful of weeks ahead of the November 2 meeting where the Bank of England has been expected to engage in raising rates which traders and investors have priced in with a 76% probability indicating they are convinced such a hike will happen. The larger catch is that such a hike would be done in the light of growing signs of economic weakness as opposed to strength.

7. Europe: Confidence in the European economy was not swayed by thanks to the acute concerns of Catalonian independence fading after the Catalan leader put independence on hold for now. Now the focus has shifted to the Oct. 26 ECB meeting where the Governing Council is set to agree upon the future of the bond-buying program for 2018. Derivatives markets have shown a prevalent demand for European assets and options with tenors greater than one month saw that highest premium paid for upside protection (EUR strength) since 2009. Equity market optimism has centered around the EuroStoxx 50 (SX5E) that appears set to test the 2015 highs near 3,800.

8. Market Watch:

SPI futures down 2 points to 5743

AUD/USD moved -0.0001 to 0.7777.

On Wallstreet: Dow Jones 0.07%, S&P 500 0.04%, Nasdaq 0.09%.

In New York: BHP -2.08%, Rio -1.39%.

In Europe: Stoxx 50 0.24%, FTSE 100 -0.06%, CAC 40 -0.02%, DAX 30 0.17%.

Spot Gold moved -0.1% to US$1286.75 an ounce.

Brent Crude moved 0.32% to US$56.79 a barrel.

US Crude Oil moved 0.61% to US$51.23 a barrel.

Iron Ore moved -1.25% to CNY434.5 a tonne.

Dalian Iron Ore moved -2.23% to US$59.65 a tonne.

LME Aluminium moved 0.95% to US$2163 a tonne.

LME Copper moved -0.01% to US$6760 a tonne.

10-Year Bond Yield: US 2.34%, Germany 0.46%, Australia 2.82%.

This column was produced in commercial partnership between Fairfax Media and IG

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Teachers, bad grades, ‘boring school’ driving youth out of mainstream schools: study

28/09/2019

Bad grades, teachers and being “bored” at school are some of the factors driving young Queenslanders out of the mainstream education system, an Australian Research Council funded report has found.
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More than 200 surveys taken from youth support workers, teachers, volunteers and young people across the state were collected to build on a 2010 Youth Affairs Network Queensland (YANQ) study that found many students who rejected mainstream schooling were prepared to make efforts to attend “alternative schools” or “flexi schools”.

Alternative schools are facilities that support students from marginalised backgrounds and/or who have been failed or left the mainstream school system to continue their education.

These schools can be an annexe to mainstream high schools or run independently, through community or charity groups.

Photo: Louise Kennerley

Researchers from Griffith University and the University of Queensland surveyed 154 students learning across 15 alternative schools and found the top three reasons they left mainstream schooling was due to teachers (50 per cent), school being “boring” (43 per cent) and/or poor school results (41 per cent).

A survey of 36 young people not in any form of education found they had similar reasons for leaving mainstream schooling and included suspension and/or expulsion as another driving factor.

Of those in alternative education, 66 per cent were aged 16 or under and 8.78 per cent identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Half of the young people surveyed not in any form of education were aged 15 or under and 41.67 identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Researchers found the large number of Indigenous people who completed the survey was indicative of the lack of cultural diversity in structural organisations.

“There are well documented issues in relation to the mainstream’s ability or willingness to meet the needs of Indigenous students, and we would suggest that unless the system develops appropriate responses to these needs that there will be more young Indigenous people turning to alternative schools for their education,” the report read.

At the launch of the Engaging Students in Engaging Schools: lessons from Queensland’s alternative education sector report at Parliament on Wednesday, Queen, a 19-year-old mother enrolled at an alternative school at Sunnybank, said she left her mainstream school to have her baby.

“I took some time off but I really wanted to go back to school so I looked into what options I had,” she said.

“I feel like at other schools you have to go there and adjust to what they do and how they see things and they are not really understanding or try to get to know you and your circumstances.”

The report found 69 per cent of youth not enrolled in any form of school indicated they would like to go to an alternative school.

Of those who attended an alternative school, 53 per cent did so to attend courses for work qualifications, 41 per cent to attend courses in normal school subjects and 32 per cent did so for social reasons.

The report also found a number of challenges existed in regional, rural and remote areas for young people including a lack of schooling choices and race, ethnicity, culture and gender issues.

The manager of a Neighborhood Youth Centre in one of Queensland’s small mining towns said in the survey that transport also posed an issue.

“You can go to primary school out at the gemfields but then every one of those kids who live out there, once they go into Grade 8, they have to get on the bus and come in,” he said.

“But if you have got behavioural problems, the bus driver can cancel you off the bus, so therefore you can’t go to school.”

A youth program coordinator from a regional Queensland city who was surveyed and estimated at least 10,000 young people “under the radar” and not engaged with any form of schooling.

In its observations, the report identified the difficulty in determining how many young Queensland eople were disengaged from school.

A range of recommendations were put forward in the report for schools, youth workers and researchers to improve the attendance rates of young people in some form of education.

It called for better access to education, an improved “tracking of students” to stop them getting lost” in the system, a way to assess the quality of alternative educational provisions, a greater awareness of triggers for educational disengagement and better communication and relationships between schools, youth workers, families and communities.

“At this stage we are of the view that these (alternative) schools currently meet the needs of the most marginalised in the community and that they have become a real necessity because of the current system of schooling,” the report concluded.

“However, it is also our view that these schools could, in some cases, represent a first choice for students and not just those who are struggling with the mainstream.

“There are elements of these schools, as we indicate in the case study sections of the report, which if implemented in the mainstream, could improve schooling all students.”

Youth Affairs Network Queensland director Siyavash Doostkhah said the report was “evidence” we can have a schooling system that leaves no young person behind.

“Young people not only deserve this, they have a right to this, education is a human right and as such it is non-negotiable,” he said.

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NAB slashes rewards points in major credit card shake-up

28/09/2019

NAB has taken the knife once again to the value of its reward points on its credit cards. The bank will soon no longer offer American Express companion cards and, from February 21, 2018, NAB American Express Cards can no longer be used with customers told to “cut up” the cards.
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There will also be a major shake-up of NAB rewards credit cards effective from November 13, which will lead to the value of rewards points plummeting by up to 47 per cent on the NAB Qantas Rewards Premium Card and NAB Velocity Rewards Premium Card, says Kirsty Lamont, a director of comparison site Mozo.

NAB’s latest changes follow a swath of cuts to credit card rewards programs from the major banks, Lamont says.

“In March this year, ANZ became the first big bank to completely scrap the dual card account,” she says.

“Westpac retained its American Express card but significantly lowered its earn rates, while the Commonwealth Bank moved to slash higher Amex earns rates unless overseas, or at specific merchants,” Lamont says.

Even before the latest move by NAB, Mozo estimated there had been a decrease in rewards credit card value of 63 per cent during the past 12 months. The average rewards cardholder is now spending $19,000 to earn just $27 in rewards.

The big banks blame the cuts on interchange fee regulations introduced by the Reserve Bank that took effect from the middle of this year.

CBA has responded to criticisms of credit cards, saying it would introduce a new credit card with a purchase interest rate of 9.9 per cent. Its current lowest rate card is 13.24 per cent.

From November, all CBA’s credit card holders will be able to receive alerts through the CommBank App reminding them that a credit card payment is due.

And from mid-2018, credit card holders will be able to pay off their credit card debt in fixed monthly instalments.

While the big banks have recently removed, or soon will remove, their ATM fees, consumers are paying almost twice as much in credit card fees even as the value of rewards points falls.

A report earlier this year by comparison site Finder estimated that Australians fork out nearly $800 million a year in ATM withdrawal fees.

ZipMoney, a provider of “buy now, pay later” digital wallets, used its own data and Reserve Bank figures to estimate that Australians are paying about $1.5 billion in total credit card fees, or almost twice that of ATM fees.

Over the past 20 years, credit card fee revenues for Australian financial institutions have increased from $125 million in 1997 to $1.5 billion in 2016, an annual growth rate of 15 per cent.

Credit card holders are hit with fees for cash advances, late payments, drawing more than their credit limit, account keeping, transfers and even fees for being a joint card-holder.

The ZipMoney analysis of 19 financial institutions finds the biggest fee category is for international transactions, which makes up almost 40 per cent, or $600 million, of the $1.5 billion in credit card fees.

The fees are incurred when travellers use their credit card to pay for something when they are overseas or buying goods from overseas.

The ZipMoney analysis estimates credit card holders shell out almost as much in annual fees. Cards with the highest annual fees are usually those with rewards points. Sydneysiders pay most

The ZipMoney analysis shows Sydneysiders paid the most in credit card fees in 2016 of $311, on average, followed by Brisbane at $303, and Perth at $302. Melburnians paid $277 in fees.

Brisbane credit card holders pay the most in international transactions fees, at $89, and pay the most in cash advance fees.

The credit card holders of Adelaide are the most frugal in terms of overall credit card fee spend, but Canberra-based card holders incur the lowest cash advance fees.

Card holders in Perth and Sydney opt for credit cards with higher annual fees, at $99 each.

Andy Mitchell, ZipMoney’s chief of growth and innovation, who produced the research, says the pace of revenue generated by credit card fees nationally has moderated in the past five years as consumers become more discerning around the use of credit cards.

He says there has also been a decline of the average interest-accruing balance, dropping from $2500 to $2000 during the past five years.

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Kathy Griffin replaced as co-host of CNN’s NYE Live

28/09/2019

American talk show host and television executive Andy Cohen will replace ousted comedian Kathy Griffin as co-host of CNN’s New Year’s Eve Live broadcast.
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Griffin and Cooper have co-hosted CNN’s New Year’s Eve Live since 2007, however she lost the gig earlier this year in the wake of a photo scandal in which she was pictured holding a replica of the bloodied head of US president Donald Trump.

Cohen and Cooper are friends; they perform a series of speaking gigs together and Cooper is a regular guest on Cohen’s US talk show.

Talk show host and television executive Andy Cohen will replace Kathy Griffin as co-host of CNN’s New Year’s Eve Live broadcast. Photo: Charles Sykes

It was during an interview with Cohen that Cooper first addressed the rift between he and Griffin in the wake of the scandal, during which Cooper had denounced the photo stunt.

“We’re still friends,” Cooper said. “I didn’t think [the photo] was appropriate but I wish her the best and I hope she bounces back.

“She’s incredibly funny and a lot of people love her, and I think she’ll bounce back from this.”

Griffin, however, told Fairfax Media later that her friendship with Cooper was essentially over.

Kathy Griffin was fired from CNN following her controversial Trump severed head stunt. Photo: Twitter

“I don’t think I paid a price. I think he did,” she said. “I’m sorry to say that because I loved him. He wasn’t just my friend I liked. He was my friend I loved. That part just hurts.”

Griffin said she felt Cooper had been pulling away from the friendship for some time.

“He’s been kind of pulling away for a couple of years and obviously I wouldn’t talk about that publicly because we still [had] a show to do, you know what I mean?” she said.

“I still had the most fun ever during that evening and even if we weren’t necessarily close and the last couple years… and even if we weren’t tight, I always loved making him giggle.”

CNN has aired its New Year’s Eve Live program since 2001; Cooper took over as host in 2002.

It is traditionally hosted from Times Square in New York, but included crosses to CNN correspondents at other locations and musical performances.

It is broadcast on the US CNN service and the CNN International channel, which is broadcast in 190 countries including Australia.

In the US it is watched by around three million viewers; its global audience is not measured but would be significantly larger.

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Xenophon gambit: state v federal power

28/09/2019

Nick Xenophon’s decision to leave the Senate came out of the blue but has rattled the political elites in his home state, South Australia, and stirred the pot nationally. His gambit not only has some immediate state and federal implications but also raises larger questions about the future of Australian politics.
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Xenophon has gambled on leaving the leadership of his party’s three-member Senate team plus one House of Representatives MP to return to South Australian politics. He plans to stand for the Liberal-held lower-house seat of Hartley, leading a large team of candidates for his new state party, called SA Best.

This fresh gambit is not about returning to South Australia’s upper house, the Legislative Council, where Xenophon his political teeth for a decade before switching to the Senate 10 years ago. He is not aiming to strengthen his party’s upper-house crossbench position but to forge a new lower-house balance-of-power position at the next state election early next year. He will confront the struggling long-term Labor government of Premier Jay Weatherill and the ever-hopeful Liberal opposition led by Stephen Marshall.

Xenophon has a remarkable electoral record and considerable political momentum after the 2016 federal election (winning 22 per cent of his state’s Senate vote). However, he is one of those caught up in section 44 dual-nationality problems and has not been quite the force in the current federal parliamentary term that he was in the previous one. His party, the Nick Xenophon Team, has suffered disunity and defections at the state level, where his critics have accused him of being dictatorial. The big question is whether he can repeat his recent barnstorming federal effort at the March 2018 state election.

One obvious immediate implication is for South Australian politics. If SA Best proves to be as popular as most commentators predict, then neither of the main parties will be able to form a majority government in the 47-seat lower house. This has happened several times to state Labor under Mike Rann and Weatherill recently, but each time Labor performed Houdini-like escapes to create stable coalition governments with a variety of unlikely partners. But the challenge is much greater this time given the government’s problems and Xenophon’s popularity. He may even lead a large group of SA Best MPs, somewhat like One Nation did when it broke through dramatically in Queensland in 1998.

Another implication is for federal politics. The Nick Xenophon Team will suddenly become very inexperienced without its leader because the others were first elected at the last election. This further weakens the Senate’s crossbench, following the resignations of Bob Day and the two Green senators, Scott Ludlum and Larissa Waters. Experience is always difficult to factor into parliamentary negotiations, and Xenophon may still be a part-time guiding presence as his party’s leader and founder, but his absence will still hurt the Senate’s ability to hold the government to account.

The larger question for Australian politics is whether Xenophon is correct to rate a decisive lower-house role in South Australia ahead of being an influential player on the Senate crossbench. If so, it flies in the face of the general presumption that federal politics is always more important than state politics and federal MPs are inevitably more powerful than their state counterparts.

The attraction for a party of a place in the Senate is that it offers a national role and visibility. But the weakness of Senate power is that it is within a house of review, not the house of government.

Xenophon is only able to contemplate this shift because his party has strong regional appeal rather than being spread more evenly across the nation like most other minor parties, such as the Australian Democrats and the Greens.

If he is successful, it may portend a more fragmented federal system, in which genuine regional parties contend effectively with the major national parties. The name SA Best points towards such fragmentation, as it clearly has only state appeal.

A good illustration of this contradiction between state and federal power can be found in the Greens. Their nine senators, led by Richard di Natale, certainly have a greater national profile than their state counterparts and they play a role in developing national policies. But it is at the state level that the party can get its hands directly on the levers of power. The Greens have shown they can regularly take part in government in Tasmania and the ACT if they win lower-house seats.

Xenophon is not necessarily a one-off. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation is another example. Though it is more genuinely national than Xenophon’s federal party, with its senators from three states, Queensland is its heartland.

Perhaps Hanson is pondering Xenophon’s gambit; her One Nation party threatens to win a big swag of seats again in the forthcoming Queensland election. Is she wondering whether she would be better off as party leader in Queensland than a team leader in the Senate?

If she did a Xenophon and flipped to state politics, she would ensure that One Nation did even better in the state election than it is already likely to do, and she would become the kingmaker Xenophon hopes to be. The ABC election analyst Anthony Green has even suggested the outside possibility of Xenophon becoming South Australian premier. In Queensland, Hanson may dream of becoming deputy premier in a Liberal-National-One Nation coalition government after campaigning on a “make Queensland great again” slogan.

John Warhurst is an emeritus professor of political science at the Australian National University.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Leading US academic warns NAPLAN computer marking could damage learning

28/09/2019

Computers will mark NAPLAN writing tests from next year. A leading US education academic has warned that it would be “extremely foolish” and even damaging to student learning if NAPLAN writing tests were marked by computers next year, as education ministers across Australia back a move to online marking.
Nanjing Night Net

Les Perelman, an internationally renowned expert in writing assessment from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said a report on automated marking of NAPLAN was “so methodologically flawed and so massively incomplete” that it could not be used to justify any use of automated essay scoring of NAPLAN.

A group of year 9 students at Cerdon College in Sydney’s west were asked how the new NAPLAN tests, which they will be required to pass to receive their HSC, will affect both their current education and their prospects.

Dr Perelman was commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation to review a report by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) into automated NAPLAN marking of persuasive writing tests.

ACARA’s report, released in late 2015, said a “significant body of literature” confirmed that automated essay scoring met or surpassed the quality of human markers. But Dr Perelman’s review said a major failing of the ACARA report was that it “completely ignores” any research that was critical of automated essay scoring.

“Until these critical studies are completed and carefully evaluated, it would be extremely foolish and possibly damaging to student learning to institute machine grading of the NAPLAN essay, including dual grading by a machine and a human marker,” Dr Perelman wrote.

The release of Dr Perelman’s review comes as ministers at September’s meeting of the federal Education Council gave in-principle support for NAPLAN writing tests to be marked by a computer and a human in 2018.

Stanley Rabinowitz, general manager of assessment and reporting at ACARA, said all NAPLAN writing tasks completed online next year would be marked by a person as well as an automated scoring system.

“This is to provide reassurance that automated marking achieves scores comparable to human markers, but faster,” Dr Rabinowitz said.

Dr Rabinowitz said ACARA had done further research since the 2015 report, including work based on Dr Perelman’s research, which would be released next month.

He defended ACARA’s report and said Dr Perelman and the Teachers Federation “are known critics of automated marking systems and the report findings should be viewed with this in mind.”

The acting president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Gary Zadkovich, said parents, teachers and principals had not been consulted about the “radical plans” to move to online marking.

“The federal agency in charge of NAPLAN is rushing through with plans to have robots mark next year’s NAPLAN tests despite their justifications being discredited by world-leading research,” Mr Zadkovich said.

Mr Zadkovich urged education ministers to reject ACARA’s plan to “bring robots into the marking of extended pieces of children’s work”.

Mr Zadkovich said Dr Perelman’s report warned that computers could only detect “low grade attributes of writing” and cannot detect “the most important elements of a text”.

Automated marking can discriminate against some social groups and is even flawed when it comes to grammar checking, he said.

Robyn Cox, the president of the Primary English Teaching Association Australia, said she did not oppose the role of artificial intelligence in education but warned that its ongoing involvement in areas such as writing could have negative consequences.

“My concern is that this will serve the needs of the computer and not the needs of humanity,” Dr Cox said.

“It won’t take us long before big corporations or text book publishers start developing software or text books that prepare kids for the writing task that a computer wants to see.”

The ACARA said the number of schools taking part in the double marking had not yet been confirmed but the Education Council was told that the move will deliver a “significant increase in costs”.

The ministers also agreed to extend the timeline for all schools to transition to NAPLAN online to 2020. All year 3 students will do NAPLAN writing tasks with pencil and paper regardless of when their school moves online.

The Sydney Morning Herald

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