Inflation drives cut in growth

Treasurer Jim Chalmers will today reveal significant downgrades in economic forecasts, driven by new data showing Australia is suffering its highest inflation rate in decades.

What we know:

  • Chalmers will revise projections of 4.25% growth in 2021-22 down to 3.75% in a budget and economic outlook to be delivered to parliament (The Conversation); 
  • The treasurer said he expected real wage growth “in this term of the parliament” but made it clear it would not occur any time soon as inflation outpaces wage increases, primarily blaming international headwinds;
  • “It’s been turbocharged by a decade of domestic failures on skills, on energy and on supply chains, which just aren’t resilient enough,” he said;
  • New Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed the Consumer Price Index rose 6.1% over the 12 months to the June 2022 quarter (AFR $); 
  • It is the fastest inflation since the introduction of the GST raised many prices by 10% overnight;
  • On a quarterly basis however, the rate of inflation is slowing — prices rose 1.8% in the June quarter, slightly below the March quarter inflation rate of 2.1%;
  • Fruit and vegetable prices jumped 5.8% in the quarter in the wake of floods and higher input prices (The Conversation); 
  • Housing rose by 2.5%, primarily due to a large rise in the cost of new dwellings on account of shortages of workers and materials;
  • The Reserve Bank fears that “inflation psychology” could lead to wage-price and “price-price” spirals as suppliers of goods increase the price of the inputs used to make other goods.
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Closing the Gap targets widen

New data reveals only four of the 17 Closing the Gap targets are on track, as the federal government unveils funding to preserve Indigenous culture and languages.

What we know:

  • The Productivity Commission found the gap is worsening across adult imprisonment rates, deaths by suicide, out of home care rates, and children being developmentally ready once they reach school age (The Guardian); 
  • Four of the 17 targets are on track: the birth weights of Indigenous babies, preschool kids attending early childhood education, and youth detention rates are trending in the right direction, while gains are being seen in land and sea rights;
  • The federal government meanwhile will invest $57m to increase the number of languages being spoken and preserve culture across the country — one of the targets under the Closing the Gap agreement (ABC); 
  • $41m of that will go to First Languages Australia, the national peak body for teaching, preserving and documenting Indigenous languages across the country;
  • “Speaking languages and embracing artistic expression empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to connect to Country and community, which is crucial for our being,” said Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney;
  • It comes as three First Nations women delivered their maiden speeches in parliament this week, with a record 11 First Nations members in the new parliament (SBS); 
  • Senator Pauline Hanson on Tuesday meanwhile drew widespread criticism for angrily leaving the senate chamber during the opening Acknowledgement of Country after dismissing its validity (NITV). 
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Big four still backing big emitters

Westpac and NAB have left the door open to financing new oil and gas projects as they detail their respective climate plans.

What we know:

  • Westpac will pressure corporate borrowers to cut carbon emissions by setting new targets for clients in electricity generation, cement manufacturing and oil and gas (SMH); 
  • However, the bank said it would consider financing new oil and gas projects if the federal government said such projects were needed for energy security;
  • NAB is set to announce a new chief climate officer role, and has placed a cap of $3.2bn on oil and gas lending, and won’t finance new or expansions of coal-fired power plants;
  • NAB will finance gas projects if the federal government declares a new project crucial to national energy security;
  • The ANZ and Commonwealth banks have also not ruled out lending to new oil and gas projects;
  • As part of its negotiations over its climate bill, Labor will make it more challenging for key government agencies to spend public money on coal and gas projects, but has not ruled it out (SMH); 
  • New analysis finds the carbon impact of new fossil fuel projects planned in Australia would vastly outweigh any gains by Labor’s climate plan (Renew Economy). 
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NBN bid to lift prices fails

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has rejected a regulatory proposal from NBN Co that would dramatically increase the cost of internet access.

NBN Co was seeking approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to immediately increase wholesale prices and gain full discretion to increase prices year-on-year (The Age). 

NBN Co wanted to overhaul price regulation in response to competition from companies that run low-earth orbit satellites and the rise of 4G and 5G fixed wireless services.

Telecommunications coalition Commpete stated the proposal was “an appalling response to the pressures and problems” and “displays a monopolist’s mentality” (ARN). 

The NBN builder has formally withdrawn the proposal, with a new one to be put forward by August.

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Colonic irrigation swimming in bacteria

Most water tanks used by colonic irrigation clinics harbour colonies of bacteria at levels exceeding those allowed in public swimming pools, according to an audit of practitioners in NSW.

The South Eastern Sydney Local Health District led an audit of 11 colon irrigation clinics in the region, and found nine of the 13 samples taken exceeded maximum bacteria levels allowed in swimming pools (The Guardian). 

The audit also found that staff largely failed to wear an impervious apron as required, and that training was inconsistent with no standard requirements.

Colonic irrigation involves inserting a tube up the rectum and flushing large quantities of water sometimes mixed with herbal substances through the colon.

Alternative medicine practitioners say colonic irrigation can flush toxins from the body and improve health and wellbeing.

There is little evidence that it has any health benefits however, and has been associated with stomach pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, and liver failure (Live Science).

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Having four legs allows it to move over the terrains that are just off-limits to our tracked or wheeled robots.

WA Police unveils a robot dog that officers say will be used to investigate potentially explosive packages. It comes as a video goes viral of a robot dog shooting targets with a machine gun. What could possibly go wrong (Pedestrian).

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Postscript: Playphrase.me

Travel and explore the world of cinema. The largest collection of video quotes from movies on the web (Playphrase.me).

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

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