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June, 2019

Moves mooted to bridge super gender gap

The federal government is mooting changes to superannuation to help boost the super investments of those who have to take time out of the workforce.

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There have also been calls to make superannuation tax benefits more uniform, and to bring down capital gains tax concessions.

There are many reasons a person has to take time out from work: illness, to care for someowne who’s sick or elderly, or having a baby or raising children.

People taking time off on parental leave are not usually contributing to superannuation – it’s one reason why women can find themselves retiring with $85,000 less in super than men.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has presented a proposal to allow women who take time off work to have a child, and carers, to top-up their superannuation deposits when re-entering the workforce without being subject to tax penalties.

He told 2GB Radio the government recognises that women in particular are prone to having their work patterns disrupted, making it harder to build up their superannuation.

“One of the things that has happened over the last 25 years is, I think, that we have become more aware of how things change over a person’s working life. People’s working patterns are far more flexible today and we need to have a superannuation system that, I think, reflects those changes in people’s lives. There are many different pathways to get to where we want them to get to — which is independence in retirement — and the system at the moment can be quite rigid.”

Labor spokesman on financial services and superannuation Jim Chalmers says the fact 38 per cent of the tax concessions go to the top 10 per cent in the superannuation system is also unfair.

Mr Chalmers says the government has cut the low income superannuation contribution and is freezing the superannuation guarantee at 9.5%.

He questions the government’s claims it wants to address the gender-gap in superannuation savings.

“They are cutting the low-income superannuation contribution for 3.5 million Australians, of which 2.2 million are Australian women. They are also freezing the superannuation guarantee which costs the average retirement balance something like $20,000.”

He says they should give Australian women a fair go in the superannuation system by reversing the cuts they are making to their retirement balances.

Mr Chalmers says a senate inquiry is underway to investigate ways to reduce the large retirement income gap between men and women.

He says if women are to improve their savings for retirement, the gender pay gap also needs to be addressed.

Meanwhile, economics advisory agency Deloitte Access Economics has recommended the Government change the way it taxes super contributions to spread the benefits to low income earners.

The study shows that high-income earners, the majority of whom are men, are getting much greater benefits from the current superannuation tax concessions than low income earners.

Deloitte’s Chris Richardson says a flat rate tax discount of 15 percent would not only spread the benefits, but also raise about 6-billion-dollars in government revenue.

“This gives everybody in Australia the same tax break from putting an extra dollar into super, 15 cents to the dollar. Much fairer, (it) would save the government a chunk of money and that, in turn, might unlock the gates to tax reform more widely.”

The Deloitte report also recommends the government reduce tax breaks on capital gains.

It recommends the current tax discount on profits from the sale of property and shares be reduced from a half, to one third.

 

 

 

Marking 30 years since Uluru-Kata Tjuta restored to Anangu

They’re commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the return of native land title to the Anangu people.

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A musical offering as crowds gather to commemorate the handback of 1985.

It’s been 30 years since the historic agreement was made.

The Anangu people are the original inhabitants and traditional custodians of Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

The deal saw the Hawke Labor government hand the land’s native title deeds back to the traditional owners.

Then Governor General, Sir Ninian Stephen, handed over the deeds on the condition the land be leased back to the Commonwealth for 99 years.

Pamela Taylor is an Anangu Traditional Owner.

She’s the daughter of Tony Tjamiwa who was instrumental in working towards the handback in 1985.

She can still remember the scene on the day.

“A huge amount of animals were here. All the animals all the dogs, all the white fellas. You couldn’t move there were so many people here.”

She recalls how she felt at the time.

“We were just so happy. We were so happy that after all that struggle, all the talking, the fight to get it back – that it was finally going to be given back. The word went out and everybody started to realise that it was actually going to happen, so they started coming in. Everybody drew together to celebrate – it was a really happy time.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion says the traditional owners of Uluru have been let down by Australia in the deal.

Mr Scullion says the rock has always belonged to them.

He says the deal isn’t complete because the opportunities have never been provided to the community members in the way they should have been.

“I have to say it’s a bit of a bitter-sweet celebration. It’s a great celebration. It’s a day that celebrates monumental things. It was a great example of an act of justice and an act of generosity within minutes of each other.”

Mr Scullion says efforts to create work in tourism for the local people need to be redoubled.

“This has got to be a proper partnership and this has got to be the resetting of this partnership. We are equals in this at best, it’s their land. They should lead and we should support that lead. And that sort of relationship is a respectful and proper cultural relationship and I think that’s failed in the past.”

Aboriginal man and musician Dan Sultan was two years old when he witnessed the hand-back.

He’s returned to the rock to perform at the celebrations.

For Anangu Traditional Owner Nyinku Jingo the hand-back symbolises opportunities that could still arise in the future.

“I think that there should be some really good training facilities developed here for the young ones so that there’s more training and employment.”

It’s a look back into the past, to find a new way forward.

 

 

Blair admits to mistakes in invading Iraq under Hussein

In an interview on United States television, Mr Blair has apologised for mistakes made in planning the war, but he says he does not regret bringing down Saddam Hussein.

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Former British prime minister Tony Blair has apologised for supporting the United States-led invasion of Iraq with intelligence that turned out to be wrong.

Ahead of the invasion, the US, British and Australian leaders based their case partly on intelligence they said pointed to Iraq having weapons of mass destruction.

The Western powers later found none after driving Iraqi president Saddam Hussein out of power.

Tony Blair has now apologised for relying on the false intelligence and for what he calls “planning mistakes”.

“I can also apologise, by the way, for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime. But I find it hard to apologise for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he’s not there than that he is there.

Mr Blair says there are elements of truth, though, in the view that the invasion played a part in the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or IS, also known as ISIS.

“Of course, you can’t say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015. But it’s important, also, to realise, one, that the Arab Spring which began in 2011 would also have had its impact on Iraq today, and, two, ISIS actually came to prominence from a base in Syria and not in Iraq.”

Mr Blair pointed to conflicts in other countries to argue the policy debate on Western intervention remains inconclusive.

“We have tried intervention and putting down troops in Iraq. We’ve tried intervention without putting in troops in Libya. And we’ve tried no intervention at all but demanding regime change in Syria. It’s not clear to me that, even if our policy did not work, subsequent policies have worked better.”

On the streets of Baghdad, many Iraqis have criticised the allied intervention in their country.

Some say they are glad Saddam Hussein was removed from power, but even they criticise Britain and its allies for the deterioration in Iraq’s security situation after his fall.

Civil activist Ali Al-Mandalawi is one.

“Saddam Hussein’s regime was bloody to the Iraqi people, and toppling it was a favour. But after that, what did they (the British) offer? A lot of chaos and more destruction. We didn’t see a real intention to build the state. We didn’t see a beneficial cooperation from the British side to the Iraqi people.”

Ahmed Taher says Mr Blair’s apology should have come years ago.

“Toppling the former regime, that’s right. But after that, they — the British — didn’t make decisions that serve the people. They made it easy for other countries, whether Western or Arab countries, to interfere in Iraq and its politics. So this apology came really late.”

Mr Blair’s decision to send troops to back the US-led invasion is still a live political issue in Britain, where a six-year public inquiry into the conflict is yet to publish its findings.

The leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, says he believes the conflict was illegal.

He maintains Tony Blair should be tried for war crimes if it is shown he broke international law.

 

 

EU summit again strives for answers on humanitarian crisis

Up to 10 European Union and three non-EU states have taken part in the talks, aimed at establishing a gradual and controlled movement of people through the migration route.

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Leaders have also announced plans for EU patrols at Greece’s borders and for sending 400 extra guards to Slovenia.

Wrapping up the emergency summit in Brussels, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has called on countries not to close their borders to migrants and refugees.

Mr Juncker says cooperation between European Union members is vital in response to the crisis.

“Closing burders is not a long-term solution. The solution is to act as Europe, to act responsibly, and we need to combine our tools — our political, legislative, financial and operational tools. Europe isn’t going to be built when we act against each other. We have to work together.”

EU members Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia were among those attending the Brussels summit.

Non-members Macedonia and Serbia are known to have attended.

Turkey was not invited, but German chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists ahead of the summit the crisis could not be solved without Turkey.

“This is no normal European Council meeting. You can see this in the fact that 10 member states are here today and three countries who are not EU members. This means that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”

Slovenia’s Prime Minister, Miro Cerar, says the European Union risks falling apart if it cannot work together on the crisis.

“Europe is at stake now, and, if we don’t do all we can together to find a common solution and to deliver it, then this is the beginning of the end of the EU and Europe as such.”

People are continuing to travel through the western Balkans and west into Slovenia after Hungary closed its borders.

Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says his country is ready to take its share of refugees, even though it is not in the European Union.

“And we are ready to take our part, and we are ready to take that kind of a burden on our shoulders, but we need to see what would be a comprehensive solution. What would be an end to the crisis? Are we going to protect EU borders? Are we going to deal with this stuff separately or not? There are a lot of questions and a lot of issues in front of us today.”

Nearly 250,000 migrants have passed through the Balkans since mid-September, and neither cold weather nor the colder waters off Greece is deterring more.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn says more than 20 million refugees are presently in Europe.

He says high numbers are expected to continue to come as increased military action in Syria pushes more people from their homes.

“We’re at the beginning of the bad season. Wintertime, we have to provide shelters. The European Union is ready to provide additional financial resources, also equipment, but this has to be, I have to say, based on needs assessment, on serious needs assessment.”

 

 

Free Syrian Army rejects Russian proposal to help

Russia has offered to help the rebels with air support against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or IS, if the United States provides information about rebel positions.

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But opposition groups have been quick to reject the idea, saying Russia cannot be trusted.

For almost a month now, Russia has been carrying out air strikes in Syria, claiming it is bombing mainly IS targets.

But the Free Syrian Army says it has been a target of Russia’s air strikes, so it has been quick to reject an offer of help from Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

“The Americans’ refusal to coordinate their anti-terrorist campaign with us is a big mistake. We’re seriously prepared for such a coordination, and we’re ready to give air support to the patriotic opposition, including the so-called Free Syrian Army. But we need to get in contact with the people who have the authority to represent certain armed groups.”

The Free Syrian Army’s Issam al-Reis says Russia’s offer has no credibility because the Russians, contrary to their claims, have not been targeting IS, also known as ISIS.

He has likened Russia’s intervention in Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad to its failed invasion of Afghanistan back in the 1970s.

“From the beginning, they are not serious and they are targeting non-ISIS areas, so how could we trust their involvement now? We don’t need their help. The way how Assad brought the Russians was like the same way and the same manner that the Afghani government invited the Soviets in the 1970s. And they didn’t leave (on) their own, and we consider that they will do the same for Syria.”

As Syria’s main ally, Russia says it wants Syria to prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections.

President Assad says he is willing to take part and is ready to run himself for president.

His position is unchanged after almost five years of conflict.

He insists a political solution to end the war is possible but says it will depend on eliminating what he calls “terrorist” groups.

The deputy of Russia’s State Duma Federal Assembly, Sergei Gavrilov, met with President al-Assad and has reiterated that position.

“The first aim is the struggle with, and victory over, terrorism. And after that, the elections, parliamentary and presidential elections. But first of all, we must reach peace on Syrian land. And all countries at first — Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela — must help the Syrian people to get peace and economic reconstruction.”

Issam al-Reis from the Free Syrian Army says Russia’s involvement is only helping prolong the conflict.

“Mr Vladimir Putin, he’s assisting a regime that indiscriminately kills its own people. How could we trust the Russians to help? If the Russians are serious to come and find a solution to Syria, they should push Assad out of power, because he is the generator who produced all the extremists in Syria.”

Louay Al-Safi, a member of the Syrian opposition, has told Al Jazeera television President Assad cannot be allowed to remain in power as part of any peace process.

“To begin with, he is now an alleged war criminal, because of the destruction he has brought to the country. I don’t think a foreign power would have made as much destruction as he has done in Syria. So there is no possibility for Syrians to reconcile with the one who killed their kids and destroyed their cities.”

United States Secretary of State John Kerry has met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Riyadh to discuss the Syrian conflict.

The US State Department says Mr Kerry and King Salman reaffirmed their commitment to a unified, pluralistic and stable Syria without President Assad as its leader.

They also promised to continue, and intensify, support to what they call the “moderate” Syrian opposition while the political track is being pursued.