Super raid for first home buyers

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled a plan to allow first home buyers to use their superannuation to purchase a property, in a late election pivot to housing affordability.

What we know:

  • Morrison revealed the policy at the Liberal Party’s campaign launch in Brisbane, just six days before election day (ABC); 
  • The scheme would enable first home buyers to put up to 40% of their super, capped at $50,000, towards buying a home;
  • The buyer must have saved another 5% of their deposit separately, and live in the home for at least 12 months, but there are no age, property or income thresholds;
  • Morrison also announced that over 55s would be able to sell their homes and invest an extra $300,000 in their super, claiming it would encourage downsizing (The Guardian); 
  • The policy is the latest Coalition announcement to benefit the wealthy retirees it is targeting for the election (The Saturday Paper); 
  • Labor committed to match the proposal for over-55s, but opposed the super scheme, arguing that those most struggling to buy a home have the least super to use;
  • Shadow Housing Minister Jason Clare described the policy as the “last desperate act of a dying government” that would “add fuel to the fire” of house prices;
  • Former prime minister Paul Keating, who introduced compulsory super, said the proposal would hurt young people when they retire and amounted to “another frontal assault” on superannuation (The New Daily); 
  • Labor will instead take to the election a housing plan that allows the government to contribute 30-40% of the cost of a home, with equity to be paid back when the property is sold (yourmortgage.com.au). 
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Crypto collapse after Terra attack

Cryptocurrency traders have been left reeling after a market collapse that has been compared to the 2008 financial crash.

What we know:

  • The crash was triggered by a financial “attack” on the stablecoin Terra, which is supposed to match the US dollar but is presently trading at just 18 cents (Mint); 
  • The complex attack involved placing multiple trades in the crypto market in an attempt to trigger effects that caused Terra to fall, which in turn brought its partner coin Luna down too;
  • The episode has renewed concerns about potential cracks in other stablecoins, which are supposed to offer a modicum of safety in the volatile world of cryptocurrency (AFR $); 
  • This caused a mass sell off, with the entire crypto market down 30% in the space of a week, and slashed by more than half since November from $2.9tn down to  $1.2tn (BuzzFeed News); 
  • Bitcoin dropped about 25%, and is down more than 50% in the last six months;
  • The crash has prompted calls for more regulation to safeguard against risks to global financial stability.
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Netflix binges on tax-free profits

Netflix paid just $868,000 in tax in Australia last year, despite raking in an estimated $1.6bn from Australian subscribers.

Filings with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show Netflix made a $1.5m profit after tax in 2021, on the back off $30.7m in revenue (The Age).

However, the revenue figures do not take into account income from Netflix’s millions of Australian subscribers, and only cover back office services such as payment processing and engineering support.

Australian Netflix users are billed by the company’s Netherlands-based entity, and so the revenue from the subscriptions, which could be as much as $1.6bn, is not counted for tax purposes.

From January 1, Netflix Australia started to bill its customers onshore after subscriptions surged during lockdowns, prompting the company to set up a local office.

Globally the company recorded its first loss of subscribers in a decade, and will look to cut content spending and potentially introduce ads (Hollywood Reporter). 

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Blue Mountains tunnel ploughs ahead

The NSW government has committed to building Australia's longest road tunnel through the Blue Mountains.

The planned 11km tunnel will stretch from Blackheath to Little Hartley, bypassing Mount Victoria (ABC). 

The tunnel will run 100m underneath Mount Victoria and 30m below Blackheath.

It will be part of the $8bn Great Western Highway upgrade, which is set to duplicate the 34km of road from Lithgow to Katoomba with dual carriageways.

Construction on the road will start in early 2023, with work on the tunnel section to start at the end of 2024 and be operational by 2027/28.

The project has raised concerns about Aboriginal heritage and platypus populations in the Lithgow region.

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Sweden and Finland to join NATO

Sweden and Finland have confirmed they will apply to join NATO, as both countries seek to shore up security in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In Sweden, the governing Social Democrats backed joining the security alliance, and a formal application is likely within days (BBC). 

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced that Finland, which shares a 1300km border with Russia, will also join the alliance (CNN). 

The move must be ratified by the parliament before Finland can formally apply, with a vote expected in the coming days.

Both countries have long avoided joining military alliances, and during the Cold War were particularly cautious about provoking Moscow.

Russian president Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart that joining the alliance would be a “mistake”.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday that the process for Finland and Sweden to join could be very quick.

One obstacle could be alliance member Turkey, which would require the two countries to stop supporting the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which it views as a terrorist organisation (DW). 

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“I was given child support percentage work, which is effectively the latrine duty of the division.”

Adelaide barrister Michael Manetta thinks something smells a bit off about his removal from welfare debt cases at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, claiming it was because he made too many decisions against the government (ABC).

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Postscript: hey guy, nice ass: Utrecht gives street harassment a female twist

Men walking around the centre of Utrecht will be shouted and hissed at by a woman on a computer screen, as part of a campaign to combat street harassment. “We hope this campaign will make men feel how uncomfortable and sometimes even threatening street harassment is,” said mayor Sharon Dijksma. “Not all men intimidate women, but they are an important link in the fight against street harassment” (DutchNews).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.