Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bank fights and bus strikes

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.

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My familys slave

“Her name was Eudocia Tomas Pulido. We called her Lola. She was 4 foot 11, with mocha-brown skin and almond eyes that I can still see looking into mine – my first memory. She was 18 years old when my grandfather gave her to my mother as a gift, and when my family moved to the United States, we brought her with us.” the atlantic

How the pro-Trump media responds to a crisis

“The pro-Trump media operates as a mirror image of its mainstream counterpart with its own ‘alternative facts’, audience, and interpretation of truth. And perhaps never has this been clearer than in its response to Monday’s news. Below is a timeline and breakdown of how – in just 17 hours and 4 steps – the Upside Down media flipped the script on a particularly thorny news cycle.” buzzfeed

In Stevens Point, Wisconsin, the questions are trivial – but the pursuit is not

“The occasion was the start of an annual tradition in Stevens Point: Trivia, the self-proclaimed world’s biggest trivia contest, in which thousands of players compete on hundreds of teams to answer eight questions every hour, for 54 hours straight. Unlike in other trivia competitions, teams here are free to leverage any resource they want – including Google. As a result, in recent years the competition has turned into a showcase for some of the world’s most skilled internet users.” the outline



How sick is Clive Palmer really?

“Mr Palmer said he was recovering from pancreatitis and was on a morphine-based medication, which he said made him lose his memory. He had hobbled into court clutching a sick bag, with a breathing apparatus, pillow and blanket in tow. Before proceedings began, Mr Palmer rested on a couch outside the courtroom, using the breathing device.”   abc


You be the judge.

“It seems Clive Palmer has made a remarkable recovery less than 24 hours after claiming he shouldn't be forced to give evidence in the Federal Court because he's too unwell. ”  ten news queensland


and finally:

If Americans can find North Korea on a map, they’re more likely to prefer diplomacy

“Americans’ inability to identify countries and places is not new. A Roper survey in 2006 found that, in the midst of the Iraq war, six in 10 young adults could not locate Iraq on a map of the Middle East; about 75 percent could not identify Iran or Israel; and only half could identify New York state.” new york times

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor, and a former editor of Junkee.