The row between the Turnbull government and Australia’s largest banks has intensified over the government’s insistence that bank CEOs sign non-disclosure agreements before seeing draft legislation on the proposed bank levy. While Treasurer Scott Morrison maintains the requirement is standard practice for commercial representatives invited to review bills, Australian Bankers’ Association CEO Anna Bligh said yesterday the government is “going to extraordinary lengths to keep this tax hidden” and that the levy must be “tested in the public sphere”.
Another budget measure pitting the sector against the government will require the five big banks to share confidential information with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on methods used to set interest rates. The regulator, which was granted more than $3 million in last week’s budget to set up a banking task force, will publish the information regularly in a bid to determine market competitiveness.
Medical associations have spoken out against the private health insurance sector’s soaring profits. In February the government approved a 4.8 per cent rise in private health insurance premiums, further bolstering an industry that registered an 18 per cent year-on-year profit increase in March. Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon told Fairfax that “Australians are openly questioning the value of private health insurance”, and that it’s “time for some serious questions” about the state of Australia’s private health system. Australian Society of Ophthalmologists president Michael Steiner said the industry’s profits are “absolutely obscene when you see ... the effect they're having on health”, accusing private funds of putting shareholder returns ahead of providing better services.
Bus services across Sydney will be disrupted today as transport workers go on a 24-hour strike. The Rail, Tram and Bus Union called the snap action yesterday to protest the Berejiklian state government’s plans to privatise bus routes in Sydney’s inner west, one of only four regions in the state where bus services are still run by the State Transit Authority. While an after-hours hearing at the Industrial Relations Commission last night ruled that the strike is illegal, the RTBU has showed no signs of abandoning its stance. Transport Minister Andrew Constance warned “anyone who takes part in an illegal strike will not be paid”, while RTBU bus secretary Chris Preston laid the blame at Constance’s feet for “plac[ing] the future of 1200 bus drivers and depot staff in limbo”. Details on how the strike may affect commutes can be found here.
And former US soldier and whistleblower Chelsea Manning has walked free after seven years in military prison. Manning was jailed in 2010 for leaking hundreds of thousands of diplomatic communiques to digital activist group Wikileaks, some of which revealed US soldiers killed 12 Iraqi civilians in 2007. Most of Manning’s 35-year sentence was commuted in the final days of the Obama presidency. Despite legally changing her name and beginning gender transition surgery, Manning was held in all-male prisons for the duration of her sentence. Taking to Instagram in the hours after her release, Manning’s first move was to get a slice of pizza.