Money & Banking

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Insurance giant moves to exclude patients and doctors from coronavirus cover

<p>A major Australian life insurer has moved to cut off payouts to customers who die from the new coronavirus, including frontline doctors.</p> <p>A document obtained by the <em><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-27/insurer-tal-moves-to-exclude-people-who-die-from-covid-19/12093542">ABC</a> </em>revealed insurance giant TAL has started adding an exclusion clause for COVID-19 in its new insurance policies.</p> <p>According to the outlet, the insurer plans to apply the exclusion to doctors who may be exposed to the virus as well as smokers, people aged over 50, and those with asthma or other respiratory illnesses.</p> <p>“No benefit will be payable under this cover for any claim resulting directly or indirectly from COVID-19, any related condition or infection or any complication thereof,” the internal document read.</p> <p>The exclusion does not affect existing customers or those who take out life insurance through their superannuation.</p> <p>The company, which has about 4 million Australian customers, said the exclusion had so far been added to “only a very small number of new customer policies”.</p> <p>In a statement, TAL said: “If during the underwriting process it has been determined that they have recently travelled abroad, or are showing symptoms of COVID-19, or are in high risk groups (broadly based on current government guidelines), then these customers will be individually assessed, and individual underwriting terms may be offered.”</p>

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Coronavirus: Harvey Norman retail mogul boasts sales increase

<p>Retail mogul and Harvey Norman co-founder Gerry Harvey has dismissed concerns over the new coronavirus outbreak in Australia, describing the pandemic as an “opportunity” that has spiked up sales.</p> <p>As the federal government moved to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-22/coronavirus-australia-live-updates-covid-19-latest-news-lockdown/12078506">close entertainment venues, gyms and places of worship indefinitely</a> to slow the spread of coronavirus, Harvey said he is “not really scared” about getting infected despite being 80 years old.</p> <p>Speaking on <em>60 Minutes </em>alongside health experts and other business leaders, Harvey said, “It’s not the Spanish Flu that killed 15 million people just after the First World War. Why are we so scared about getting this virus?”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">Billionaire retailer Gerry Harvey reckons we should all ‘lighten up’ and not let coronavirus dictate our lives. For a section of the population, “she’ll be right” is the default position, the question is whether that mentality puts ourselves and others at greater risk. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/60Mins?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#60Mins</a> <a href="https://t.co/Q6zApNN934">pic.twitter.com/Q6zApNN934</a></p> — 60 Minutes Australia (@60Mins) <a href="https://twitter.com/60Mins/status/1241677290280345601?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 22, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>He added, “I’ve got to 80 years of age, I’ve had a wonderful life and I think to myself, I’m just going to keep going as if nothing’s happened.”</p> <p>Older people and those with underlying illnesses are most at risk of serious infection. A study from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the death rate of coronavirus patients aged above 80 was <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com.au/coronavirus-death-age-older-people-higher-risk-2020-2">15 per cent</a>, compared with 0.2 per cent for those under 50.</p> <p>The businessman said the pandemic has propelled consumer demand and boosted revenue across his national chain of electronics stores.</p> <p>“You know, this is an opportunity,” he said.</p> <p>“Our sales are up in Harvey Norman in Australia by nine per cent on last year. Our sales in freezers are up 300 per cent. And what about air purifiers? Up 100 per cent.”</p>

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Karl Stefanovic’s desperate plea and heartfelt apology

<p><em>Today</em> show host Karl Stefanovic went on an incensed rant on air over the panic buying crisis currently plaguing the nation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.</p> <p>The <em>Today</em> show host launched a desperate plea after wrapping up an interview with a Coles staff member who urged Australians to “be kind with each other, be patient with teams, today when you are in there, say thank you or give a nice gesture.”</p> <p>“That's good advice,” Stefanovic said in response.</p> <p>“I was in one (supermarket) yesterday, I was walking through the aisles, there was a mother, she had a baby in the pram and she had a toddler right on top of the baby creating all this noise and mayhem and she was looking at the shelves, she had nappies under one arm, she was looking at the empty shelves …</p> <p>“You could see the desperation in her face because the stuff that she wanted wasn’t there.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">Distribution centers around the country are full to the brim of toilet paper but demand levels have slowed the dispersal to supermarkets. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/9Today?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#9Today</a> <a href="https://t.co/oLosSwYk77">pic.twitter.com/oLosSwYk77</a></p> — The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) <a href="https://twitter.com/TheTodayShow/status/1240391109949431810?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 18, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>“These are the sort of things people are experiencing. It is really hard.”</p> <p>The emotional rant follows behind Prime Minister Scott Morrison blasting people across the country for bulk buying essential supplies.</p> <p>He labelled the current issue as “one of the most disappointing things” he’d seem from Aussies in response to the coronavirus pandemic.</p> <p>Karl went on to say: “When the Prime Minister gets tough, they’re the sort of people who really need it, who really need to be able to just give what they can to their kids.</p> <p>“It’s the most basic stuff. I really felt for her.</p> <p>“When he (Mr Morrison) gets tough, I say to everyone, ‘Please bear in mind these mums who are doing their best for their kids,’ and keep all of that in mind as we move forward because it’s really important to look after people who need it most.</p> <p>“Sorry about that. I just had a little rant. I'm ranting a lot. Sorry.”</p> <p>Mr Morrison noted on Wednesday morning that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advises against bulk buying of foods, medicines and other essential goods.</p> <p>“I am seeking Australia’s common sense co-operation with these very clear advisory positions. Stop doing it. It’s ridiculous. It’s un-Australian and it must stop,” the PM said.</p> <p>On Monday, Australia’s four major supermarket chains, Woolworths, Coles, IGA and Aldi, joined together for a joint advertisement titled: “Working together to provide for all Australians”.</p> <p>“Our suppliers and teams are doing everything possible to get as many products onto all our shelves as they can, often under very difficult circumstances,” the ad reads.</p> <p>“So we ask you to please be considerate in the way you shop.”</p> <p> </p>

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Coronavirus: The plans to save Australians from financial hardship

<p><span>A larger economic “safety net”, including mortgage and income guarantee schemes, is being considered as calls mounted for the Coalition government to safeguard businesses and households from financial hardship amid the coronavirus outbreak.</span></p> <p><span>Speaking at his press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggests a second round of economic stimulus in the form of a multibillion-dollar “safety net” package is in the works.</span></p> <p><span>Victorian premier Daniel Andrews later told reporters the federal government is considering guaranteeing mortgages, income and employment as well as “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/19/australian-government-plans-coronavirus-safety-net-package-as-fresh-rate-cut-tipped">underwriting mortgages, potentially</a>”.</span></p> <p><span>“We have many businesses who have zero income. Offering them a tax cut doesn’t necessarily do it,” Andrews said.</span></p> <p><span>“If we are going to have some businesses close their doors, if we want to avoid them collapsing altogether and if we want to make sure they are there at the end of this virus, we need to be providing that sort of emergency capital, that sort of emergency cash. We are doing some work, we will have more to say about that.”</span></p> <p><span>The upcoming stimulus follows the $17.6 billion stimulus package launched last week in response to the pandemic.</span></p> <p><span>The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is also tipped to announce an emergency rate cut on Thursday amid its contingency planning to offer <a href="https://www.afr.com/policy/economy/rba-plots-cheap-bank-loans-20200317-p54aw8">billions of dollars in cheap long-term loans to commercial banks</a>.</span></p> <p><span>Business groups and economists have urged the government to establish more measures to assist firms and workers amid pressure from social distancing measures.</span></p> <p><span>Businessman Tony Shepherd said employees should have their compulsory superannuation payments added into their pay packages for the next six months.</span></p> <p><span>“Employers pay compulsory superannuation. Why not freeze that for six months and give that money to wage earners so they get an instant pay increase?” he told <em>The Daily Telegraph</em>.</span></p> <p><span>The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry called on the government to provide Newstart-sized payments to businesses with a “material reduction in revenue either directly or indirectly attributable to COVID-19” to keep their workers employed.</span></p> <p><span>The Australian Industry Group said the government should improve access to income support by waiving waiting periods and assets and income tests for workers who have their hours reduced or lose their jobs.</span></p>

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​"Selfish scumbag" attacked online for massive toilet roll price gouging

<p>NSW police will begin patrolling toilet paper aisles in supermarkets in a big to stop panic buying of essential groceries. </p> <p><em>The Daily Telegraph</em> has reported that law enforcement will be visible to all shoppers after a meeting with supermarket bosses. </p> <p>NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Jeff Loy told the public they should be able to go about their daily business and bad behaviour was not acceptable.</p> <p>It comes while Australians have unleashed on “selfish” hoarders caught trying to sell essential products like toilet rolls, nappies and hand sanitiser for inflated prices online.</p> <p>The coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented fear among shoppers all across the country as they race to supermarkets in a panic buying frenzy.  </p> <p>A man caused chaos on Facebook when he announced he was selling individual toilet rolls for $5 each – and packs of 24 rolls for a surprising $100.</p> <p>“Inbox me for toilet paper, Hand sanitiser, nappies, baby formula and antiseptic wipes. Lots of stock. Happy to express post, no pickups,” the post reads.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, the offer caused a flurry of backlash, with many Facebook users branding the man “selfish” and a “scumbag”.</p> <p>“Should be ashamed of yourself. Clearly you're not. Hopefully you'll realise that what you're doing is a disgrace...” one outraged Facebook user wrote.</p> <p>Another labelled the man a “piece of garbage”.</p> <p>The man’s offer comes just hours before Woolworths announced a major change to its buying restrictions list, by introducing a blanket two limit rule on everything in-store unless stated otherwise.</p> <p>Coles has also capped the sale of chilled milk at two units per shopper.</p> <p>So far, Australia has 560 confirmed cases of coronavirus across every state and territory.</p> <p>Six people have died so far.</p> <p>An ACCC spokesperson told<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://over60.monday.com/boards/63889387/pulses/news.com.au" target="_blank">news.com.au</a> </em>they are unable to “prevent or take action to stop excessive pricing, as it has no role in setting prices”.</p> <p>However, the spokesperson said in some “limited circumstances” excessive pricing can be deemed “unconscionable”.</p> <p>“If a business makes misleading claims about the reason for price increases, it will be breaching the Australian Consumer Law,” the spokesperson said.</p>

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Warnings over coronavirus-related scams

<p>Australia’s competition watchdog has urged people to be wary of coronavirus-related scams as the government escalates its efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.</p> <p>The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said its Scamwatch website has received 45 reports of alleged coronavirus-related fraud since the beginning of the year.</p> <p>“Unfortunately, scammers are using the spread of coronavirus to exploit and play on the fears of consumers across Australia,” an ACCC spokesperson said.</p> <p>“Scammers are using tactics such as falsely selling coronavirus related products online, and using fake emails or text messages to try and obtain personal data.”</p> <p>Some known scams included phishing emails and text messages claiming to be the World Health Organisation, the Australian government, travel companies or other official entities, with links designed to steal personal information.</p> <p>“Be very wary of any communication, whether it comes by email or phone call, in relation to anything to do with coronavirus,” Nick Savvides, the chief information security officer for Asia Pacific at Forcepoint told <em><a href="https://9now.nine.com.au/a-current-affair/coronavirus-scams-and-bogus-products-targeting-australian-shoppers-during-covid19-pandemic/0a14863d-6467-436f-9c9c-2cf00e277603">A Current Affair</a></em>.</p> <p>“We are extra vulnerable during times of crisis because people are at a heightened state of urgency.”</p> <p>Also among the reported scams were fake traders and shops.</p> <p>“Be careful of online shopping sites requesting unusual payment methods such as up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin,” the ACCC spokesperson said.</p> <p>“Always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall [and] do not open attachments or click on links in emails, text messages or social media messages you’ve received from strangers – just press delete.”</p> <p>The Australian watchdog’s warning came as a UK police force issued an alert on a scam targeting seniors.</p> <p>Camden Police said a “small number of reports” were made about a shopping scam exploiting self-isolating elders.</p> <p>“We have recently received a small number of reports of individuals offering to go shopping for the elderly within our community as a means to then keep their money,” the force said in a <a href="https://twitter.com/MPSCamden/status/1239833098449190913">Twitter post</a>.</p> <p>“As ever, please ensure you or those more vulnerable in your circles treat such invitations with caution.”</p>

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Why one man's bulk buying hand sanitiser scheme failed

<p>A man in America, Noah Colvin, bought 17,700 bottles of hand sanitiser with the intention of reselling them on Amazon for a profit, but the tech giant has put a stop to that immediately.</p> <p>Amazon has cracked down on pandemic price gouging, which resulted in the company suspending Colvin’s account.</p> <p>He drove over 2,000 kilometres across Tennessee, stocking up on hand sanitiser and sanitary wipes but is now unable to get rid of the excess of goods.</p> <p>He’s not the first account to be suspended, with Amazon removing hundreds of thousands of listing of people trying to price gouge items others are looking for, including respiratory masks.</p> <p>Colvin said to<span> </span><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/15/technology/matt-colvin-hand-sanitizer-donation.html" target="_blank"><em>The New York Times</em></a><span> </span>that the whole experience has been a “huge amount of whiplash”, as he was able to sell 300 bottles at a markup before the company suspended his account.</p> <p>However, Colvin has since donated all of the supplies on Sunday just as the Tennessee attorney general’s office began investigating him for price gouging.</p> <p>He helped volunteers from a local church load two-thirds of the stockpile of hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes into a box truck that will distribute the goods across the state to those who need them.</p> <p>“I’ve been buying and selling things for 10 years now. There’s been hot product after hot product. But the thing is, there’s always another one on the shelf,” he said.</p> <p>“When we did this trip, I had no idea that these stores wouldn’t be able to get replenished.”</p> <p>After receiving hate mail and death threats after<span> </span><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/14/technology/coronavirus-purell-wipes-amazon-sellers.html" target="_blank"><em>The New York Times</em></a> published an article about him, Colvin has since expressed remorse for his actions.</p> <p>“It was never my intention to keep necessary medical supplies out of the hands of people who needed them,” he said, crying. “That’s not who I am as a person. And all I’ve been told for the last 48 hours is how much of that person I am.”</p> <p>Tennessee’s price gouging laws are strict and prohibit charging “grossly excessive” prices for a range of items, including medical supplies. People can be fined up to $1,000 per violation, and the attorney general’s office sent Colvin a cease-and-desist letter as well as opening up an investigation.</p> <p>“We will not tolerate price gouging in this time of exceptional need, and we will take aggressive action to stop it,” Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III of Tennessee said in a news release.</p>

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Petrol prices to drop amid coronavirus outbreak

<p>Petrol prices could drop to as low as $1 a litre across Australia after Saudi Arabia started an oil price war with Russia.</p> <p>Global oil prices are expected to continue falling after Saudi Arabia and Russia failed to agree on oil production targets over the weekend, prompting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to announce an increase in the country’s production from nine million barrels to 11 million barrels per day.</p> <p>Brent crude prices dipped 29 per cent from US$45 a barrel on Friday to US$32 a barrel on Monday.</p> <p>Some analysts predict oil prices could plummet to US$20 per barrel.</p> <p>The prices were already under pressure from COVID-19, which had reduced demand from China.</p> <p>Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Monday he had asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to monitor the prices at the bowser.</p> <p>“They have assured me that they will not only maintain their monitoring role and the vigilance that that involves, but they’ll also be calling out any energy companies that don’t pass on the reduction in the wholesale price to the Australian consumer,” Frydenberg said.</p> <p>NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury said the plunge was “certainly positive for motorists”.</p> <p>“We think the next [price drop] in the capital cities will be about 10 cents a litre for regular unleaded,” he told <em><a href="https://thenewdaily.com.au/finance/consumer/2020/03/09/oil-price-petrol-collapse/">The New Daily</a></em>.</p>

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The coke bottle money trick that will revolutionise the way you save

<p>A thrifty Sydney mother has revealed her game changing hack that has revolutionised the way she saved $1000. </p> <p>This simple saving trick ended up paying for her flights to Hawaii with her husband.</p> <p>Chantal Llamas, 35, says filling a simple 600 ml Coke bottle with $2 helped her change her spending habits and save money without even realising.</p> <p>Ms Llamas told <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-advice/tips-tricks/mum-explains-coke-bottle-trick-that-got-her-a-family-holiday-to-hawaii/news-story/2903229b12ece03241fdbbd5f80a2f21" target="_blank"><em>news.com.au</em></a> she was surprised when $20 worth of $2 coins barely filled any space in the bottle.</p> <p>“I teach finance literacy at different high schools to help kids be more aware of the responsibility of money and smart ways to save,” she explained.</p> <p>“I was telling them about different tips that I do to save money and then asked them if they had any tricks. That’s when one student told me about the Coke bottle challenge.</p> <p>“I didn’t believe just filling a 600ml bottle could give you $1000 or anywhere near that. I told my husband about it, and he said, ‘Well, let’s try it then, how hard could it be?’”</p> <p>As the Coke bottle began to fill up, Ms Llamas revealed she and her real estate agent husband Daniel, 32, began obsessing about obtaining as many $2 coins as they could.</p> <p>“We became really savvy at getting $2 coins,” she said.</p> <p>“My husband would get a small coffee everyday instead of a large, so he would get change from a $5 note.</p> <p>“If I got two $1 coins, I’d always ask if they could please swap it for a $2. They must have thought it was strange.</p> <p>“We got so excited every time we got a $2 coin. The more we filled the bottle, the more excited we got and the more we wanted to top it up.</p> <p>“It seems easy, but then you realise how small the coins actually are.”</p> <p>After nine months of the gold coin-filled bottle sitting in the back of Ms Llamas closet, filling slowly, the couple managed to rack up $880 in coins.</p> <p>For just $900, they found they were able to book themselves to Hawaii and back, while their two-year-old son, Zachary, flew for free.</p> <p>They spent eight “fantastic” days in Hawaii on their first family holiday.</p> <p>“It was amazing to see we’d saved almost $900 without even really noticing,” Ms Llamas said.</p> <p>“I’d recommend this to others for sure. It’s a great thing to try and save for a goal.</p> <p>“It’s such an easy thing to do. Even if you’re a terrible saver or don’t have a huge income, it’s very doable. You don’t really miss a $2 coin. They’re just thrown into the bottom of a bag or on the floor of your car.</p> <p>“I hope this might inspire others to give it a go. It might take some longer than others, but when it fills up it will all be worth it.”</p>

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Royal Mint unveils the most expensive coin ever

<p>The Royal Mint has revealed a new gold coin as part of its new James Bond collection that is a one-of-a-kind collector’s item.</p> <p>The seven-kilo gold coin has a face value of £7,000 ($A$13,655) and features an engraving of an Aston Martin DB5 with its famous BMT 216A licence plate surrounded by a gun barrel.</p> <p>Currently, there has been no indication on the retail price of the coin but those interested are being advised to call the mint to discuss.</p> <p>The coin is the largest coin with the highest face value the Royal Mint has ever produced in its 1100 year history.</p> <p>The item is part of a coin and gold bar collection which launched before the 25th James Bond film,<span> </span><em>No Time To Die</em>, with Daniel Craig playing the iconic Brit for the last time.</p> <p>The collection also has a smaller two-kilo gold coin, with a value of £2,000 ($A3901) but has a recommended retail price of £129,990 ($A253,577).</p> <p>The collection is available to buy from mid-March and also includes three smaller coin designs in gold and silver.</p> <p>The smaller coins are part of a set and when put together reveal the famous 007 motif and feature famous cars from the Bond films including the Aston Martin DB5 and the submarine car from<span> </span><em>The Spy Who Loved Me</em>.</p> <p>According to the Royal Mint, there are 15,017 of the £1 ($A1.95) James Bond coins, while 8,517 of the £2 ($3.90) pieces have been minted.</p> <p>The £1 ($A1.95) are priced at £65 ($A126.80) while the £2 ($A3.90) has a retail price of £88 ($A171.67).</p>

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Woman’s genius online shopping trick goes viral

<p>How many times have you purchased something online, only to wish that you could try it with a specific outfit first?</p> <p>Or maybe you’ve ordered something, feeling overly confident about your amazing new purchase only for it to arrive and look completely different to what you had imagined.</p> <p>If you’re one of those people, then this clever hack is one you want to try.</p> <p>One woman, named Megan who works for the radio station ZM in Auckland, revealed her trick in a video which was posted to the station’s Facebook page.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FZMonline%2Fvideos%2F824812757981482%2F&amp;show_text=0&amp;width=269" width="269" height="476" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allowfullscreen="true"></iframe></p> <p>Megan prints out a full length photo of herself and cuts off the feet so she can see how the outfit looks with various different shoes.</p> <p>“Megan’s online shoe shopping trick it too good,” said the caption of the video.</p> <p>Many commenters agreed labelling the hack “genius” and “game-changing”.</p> <p>The cut out is laminated, ensuring it lasts a while so she can get the most use out of it.</p> <p>The clip quickly went viral, gaining over 14,000 likes, 45,000 comments and over 2.5 million views.</p> <p>And even though it won’t help with testing the comfort of online shopping purchases, it will minimise the risk of making some terrible fashion choices.</p>

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Rates going up? That’s not the only thing increasing

<p>With a rate rise just around the corner, private health funds are preparing to raise their premiums by an average of 2.92% on April 1 2020. Though it’s set to be the lowest hike in 19 years, the premium rises will mean a single person will pay an average of $35.36 extra per year, and a family will pay $103.48 more, annually.<sup>1</sup></p> <p><strong>Here's how you save</strong></p> <p><strong>Step 1:</strong> Select your current <strong>life stage below</strong>.</p> <p><strong>Step 2:</strong> Once you select your preferred coverage options, you will have the opportunity to compare quotes from multiple health funds.</p> <p><a href="https://healthinsurancecomparison.com.au/form/step1-choosewell/?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=sponsoredarticle&amp;utm_campaign=mar2020-raterise&amp;utm_content=rates-going-up&amp;utm_term=widget"><img style="width: 500px; height:444.36619718309856px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7834829/screen-shot-2020-02-26-at-40042-pm.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/c6e2f115ed2045b2931686df805e5819" /></a></p> <p>But there’s one key piece of information that your health fund may not want you to know. Not all funds will pass on these higher costs to their customers. In 2019, some policies increased by only 1.64% while others skyrocketed by a staggering 5.91%. Yet most Aussies will simply absorb this extra cost, never knowing how easy it is to start paying less.</p> <p>At <span><a href="https://healthinsurancecomparison.com.au/form/step1-choosewell/?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=sponsoredarticle&amp;utm_campaign=mar2020-raterise&amp;utm_content=rates-going-up&amp;utm_term=in-text">Health Insurance Comparison</a></span>, we believe Australians deserve better value from their health insurance. That’s why we’re committed to delivering more options when comparing health insurance for our customers. By comparing with us, Australians were able to save an average of $356.70 on their yearly premiums last year alone, and <strong>families with health insurance were able to save $600.31</strong>.<sup>2</sup> Finding affordable health cover quickly in 2020 has never been more simple.</p> <p>Consumers have been lowering their policies or scrapping them all together in the face of rising premiums, as higher out of pocket costs are placing even more pressure on household budgets.</p> <p>In an attempt to make health cover more accessible, the new bands of Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic hospital covers was introduced in early 2019. Some health insurers, including NIB, implemented discounts of up to 10% for 18 to 29 year olds. Similarly, higher hospital excess will now be a choice offered to many members, both new and existing.</p> <p><strong>Get started now</strong></p> <p><strong>Step 1:</strong> Select your <strong>state below</strong>.</p> <p><strong>Step 2:</strong> After answering a few questions, you will have the opportunity to compare quotes in your area and could be eligible for significant savings.</p> <p><a href="https://healthinsurancecomparison.com.au/form/step1-choosewell/?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=sponsoredarticle&amp;utm_campaign=mar2020-raterise&amp;utm_content=rates-going-up&amp;utm_term=widget"><img style="width: 395.33898305084745px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7834821/4-1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/74cdb0d25c22438daca68a39a6f25ffb" /></a></p> <p>In a November 2018 review, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found more Australians are downgrading or dumping their private health insurance because of rising premiums.</p> <p><span><a href="https://healthinsurancecomparison.com.au/form/step1-choosewell/?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=sponsoredarticle&amp;utm_campaign=mar2020-raterise&amp;utm_content=rates-going-up&amp;utm_term=in-text">In early 2019, a Health Insurance Comparison</a></span> spokesperson stated: “We believe in helping our customers find affordable options to take better care of their health. That’s why we’ve worked hard to partner with internationally renowned healthcare group, Bupa, to deliver even greater value and more options to our customers.”</p> <p>The company will be offering a range of Bupa’s products, making them one of only two comparison services in Australia that allows customers to compare a wide variety of the health insurance products Bupa offers.</p> <p>Health Insurance Comparison believes in delivering lifelong health insurance services for all Australians. “We are proud to announce this partnership with Bupa, creating a wider range of choice when comparing health insurance” said Leane.</p> <p><strong><em>“We’ve found that older Australians are especially vulnerable to falling victim to the common health insurance traps like staying on an outdated policy, being talked into a higher level of cover and fund loyalty incentives.”</em></strong></p> <p>Because Australians are responsible for monitoring their own insurance, over the years these simple mistakes can mean thousands of dollars down the drain. That’s why our team of friendly advisers are available to answer any questions you may have and assist you in the comparison process.</p> <p>If you’re surprised at just how easy it is to overpay for health insurance, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to <span><a href="https://healthinsurancecomparison.com.au/form/step1-choosewell/?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=sponsoredarticle&amp;utm_campaign=mar2020-raterise&amp;utm_content=rates-going-up&amp;utm_term=in-text">join the thousands of clever Aussies who are already paying less</a></span> for their premiums and beating the upcoming rate rise.</p> <p>You can join them with <span><a href="https://healthinsurancecomparison.com.au/form/step1-choosewell/?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=sponsoredarticle&amp;utm_campaign=mar2020-raterise&amp;utm_content=rates-going-up&amp;utm_term=in-text">just a few clicks</a></span>. Hurry! Your health cover savings are just minutes away.</p> <p><em>This article is opinion only and should not be taken as medical or financial advice. Check with a financial professional before making any decisions.</em></p> <p><em>This article is made in partnership with Health Insurance Comparison.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Why this rare $1 coin could have you pocketing thousands

<p>One minor mistake to a $1 coin could be worth thousands of dollars.</p> <p>The Royal Australian Mint made an error when making the “Mule Dollar” coins meaning small amount of $1 coins from the year 2000 were designed using the wrong print.</p> <p>The Mule dollar has a double rim around the edge while a standard regular $1 coin has just one. </p> <p>A Melbourne mum excitedly revealed the fun find on social media.</p> <p>“We found the famous MULE Dollar” she wrote in a post on Instagram, under the username @melbournewithkidz. </p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B8h1QVzAhCo/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="margin: 8px 0 0 0; padding: 0 4px;"><a style="color: #000; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none; word-wrap: break-word;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B8h1QVzAhCo/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">We found the famous MULE Dollar. 🙌 What's a Mule dollar? It's a small number of the year 2000 $1 dollar coins that had been minted using the incorrect obverse die (heads side) and released into circulation by mistake and only discovered a year or two later. The Royal Australian Mint accidentally minted the coins using the smaller 10 cent obverse die (head side) by mistake. With just a 1.4 millimetre difference in diameter between the 10 cent and $1 coin you can clearly see a double rim circle going around the edges of the coin. These errors are worth anywhere from $500 to $3000! Check your change and empty out the kids piggy bank!!!!!!! You could be sitting on a winner! Let us know if you have found any interesting coins in your change. Disclaimer: for use of images or content please contact us contact@melbournewithkidz.com #australiancoins #coincollecting #rarecoins</a></p> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;">A post shared by <a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/melbournewithkidz/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank"> Tanya / Melbourne With Kids</a> (@melbournewithkidz) on Feb 13, 2020 at 5:20pm PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>“Royal Australian Mint accidentally minted the coins using the smaller 10 cent obverse die (head side) by mistake.”</p> <p>How to spot a real Mule Dollar</p> <p>Mule dollars have a unique look and design, including its year make which can only be 2000.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/BuLtwpTl54n/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BuLtwpTl54n/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Drake Sterling Numismatics (@drakesterling)</a> on Feb 22, 2019 at 3:51am PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>For the rare coin to be legitimate it must also have a clear double rim around most or all of the heads side of the coin, about 0.5mm wide, according to<span> </span>Australian Coins.</p> <p>“With just a 1.4mm difference in diameter between the 10 cent and $1 coin you can clearly see a double rim circle going around the edges of the coin.”</p> <p>She said the coins are worth anywhere from $500 to $3000. </p> <p>One commenter left a handy tip to anyone who might find themselves in luck with a real mule dollar, and urged people NOT to wash the coin as it can result in its value decreasing dramatically.</p>

Money & Banking

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On the brink of collapse: George Calombaris holds crisis talks over crumbling empire

<p>The restaurant empire of former<span> </span><em>MasterChef Australia</em><span> </span>judge George Calombaris is on the verge of collapse, according to reports.</p> <p>The business, Made Establishment, will meet this afternoon to decide whether to appoint a voluntary administrator, as reported by<span> </span><em>The Age</em><span> </span>and the<span> </span><em>Herald Sun</em>.</p> <p>The decision could jeopardise the jobs of 500 employees – but they will be fully compensated if the restaurants decide to close their doors for good.</p> <p>The development comes six months after the company was embroiled in an underpayment scandal, which garnered negative media attention especially for Calombaris.</p> <p>A Fair Work investigation into Made Establishment discovered it had underpaid over 500 workers a colossal $7.8 million.</p> <p>Calombaris issued an apology and was ordered to make a $200,000 “contrition payment”.</p> <p>Shortly after, Calombaris lost his biggest gig of all after Channel 10 dumped the celebrity chef from his role on<em><span> </span>MasterChef</em><span> </span>due to the scandal.</p> <p>Made Establishment is comprised of 18 Greek restaurants and fast-food outlets, all based in Melbourne.</p> <p>The business incorporates Greek street food joints Gazi and Jimmy Grants, and Brunswick East eatery Hellenic Republic, recently rebranded as Crofter Dining Room.</p>

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Superannuation as a retirement income system doesn't work

<p>Discussions about Australia’s retirement income system typically begin by reciting the political slogan that there are “three pillars” to the system — the age pension, compulsory super, and voluntary savings.</p> <p>It was the way the Abbott and Turnbull government’s <a href="https://slideplayer.com/slide/4872297/">tax inquiry</a> looked at retirement incomes, and a frame of reference used by this government’s <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-11/c2019-36292-v2.pdf">retirement income system review</a>.</p> <p>Missing is discussion of what makes something a “retirement pillar”.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/313028/original/file-20200131-41495-b580y4.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/313028/original/file-20200131-41495-b580y4.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption"></span> <span class="attribution"><a href="https://slideplayer.com/slide/4872297/" class="source">Treasury tax white paper slideshow, 2015</a></span></p> <p>It’s possible to think of other retirement pillars. Moving to India for a cheap lifestyle would be one.</p> <p>Requiring retailers to <a href="https://www.fresheconomicthinking.com/2020/01/the-easiest-retirement-system-retiree.html">provide the elderly free goods and services</a>, with the cost absorbed in the prices paid by others could be another.</p> <p>To be a pillar, something would have to allocate goods and services in retirement to people who are no longer earning wages.</p> <p>In my <a href="https://www.fresheconomicthinking.com/p/scrap-superannuation.html">recently released report</a> I argue that superannuation fails this test.</p> <p><strong>Super isn’t a retirement pillar</strong></p> <p>Among other things, super can be spent many years before retirement, beginning anywhere from age <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/Super/Self-managed-super-funds/Paying-benefits/Preservation-of-super/">55 to 60</a>, even though the retirement age specified the pension legislation is <a href="https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/age-pension/who-can-get-it">66 to 67</a>.</p> <p>Many financial planners advise intending retirees to spend a lot of their super quickly in order to shelter it in income-test-exempt assets <a href="https://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/finance/property/how-upsizing-protects-your-pension">such as housing</a> and qualify for the pension.</p> <p>The super system also can’t guarantee retirement incomes for people who are self-employed, casually employed, homemakers, have chosen their super fund unwisely or lost the proceeds in things such as online romance scams.</p> <p>As a system, super comes with unnecessary financial risks, such as suddenly losing 21% of its funds, as happened between September 2007 and March 2009 during the global financial crisis.</p> <p>It is better thought of as a growth-sapping, resource-wasting, tax-advantaged asset purchase scheme aimed at the already wealthy, which is <a href="https://theconversation.com/myth-busted-boosting-super-would-cost-the-budget-more-than-it-saved-on-age-pensions-119002">unlikely to do much</a> to reduce reliance on the age pension.</p> <p>We would be better off abandoning it and letting workers spend or save their money as they see fit.</p> <p><strong>The super system is inefficient</strong></p> <p>The superannuation system employs <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6291.0.55.003">55,000 people</a> at a cost of <a href="https://www.selectingsuper.com.au/superannuation-fees-fall-for-the-first-time-in-six-years">A$32 billion</a> per year to produce <a href="https://www.apra.gov.au/quarterly-superannuation-statistics">$40 billion</a> per year in retirement incomes. This is nearly as many people as the enlisted Australian Defence Force (58,000) with a similar total cost ($34 billion).</p> <p>The rest of Australia’s entire welfare system, including administering the age pension, disability, unemployment benefits and Medicare, costs just $6 billion per year and employs <a href="https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018/10/8802-1810-annual-report-web-2017-2018.pdf">33,000 people</a>, while providing <a href="https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018/10/8802-1810-annual-report-web-2017-2018.pdf">$45 billion</a> in pension benefits.</p> <p><strong>It directs money where it isn’t needed..</strong></p> <p>Each year the superannuation system takes in <a href="https://www.apra.gov.au/quarterly-superannuation-statistics">$117 billion</a> and spits out <a href="https://www.apra.gov.au/sites/default/files/Quarterly%20Superannuation%20Performance%20Statistics%20September%202019_0.pdf">$80 billion</a> in payments (including lump sum withdrawals), leaving $38 billion in asset markets, sapping spending and economic growth. That’s roughly as much as the <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/saving-the-nation-20090203-7wsb.html">$40 billion</a> stimulus package introduced during the 2009 financial crisis. Unlike it, the super system depresses rather than stimulates the economy.</p> <p>Unlike the super system, the age pension system is likely to stimulate the economy because it takes purchasing power away from high-income taxpayers with a relatively low likelihood of spending extra dollars to to lower-income pensioners with a high likelihood of spending them.</p> <p><strong>…and away from those who do need it</strong></p> <p>Unlike the age pension system, the super system can’t provide poverty relief, or broadly adequate retirement incomes.</p> <p>For the bottom 40% of earners it does the opposite of smoothing income, making them poorer than they would have been while working, and somewhat <a href="https://theconversation.com/super-shock-more-compulsory-super-would-make-middle-australia-poorer-not-richer-120002">richer</a> than they would have been while on the pension and retired.</p> <p>The <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/publication/p2020-51153">$18 billion</a> of tax breaks on super fund contributions and <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/publication/p2020-51153">$20 billion</a> of tax breaks on super fund earnings are predominately directed to <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/programs-and-initiatives-superannuation/distributional-analysis-of-superannuation-taxation-concessions">high income earners</a>.</p> <p>In a comprehensive study released this week the Grattan Institute has demolished the claim that super contributions come out of employers pockets. Instead it finds that, on average, <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/no-free-lunch/">80%</a> of each super contribution comes out of what would have been wages.</p> <p><strong>Here’s how to escape it</strong></p> <p>Scrapping the system altogether would massively improve Australia’s economic performance, including the performance of our only true retirement income system, which is the age pension.</p> <p>It can be done by forcing employers to pay what are now super contributions directly into wage accounts and allowing super fund holders to withdraw up to a maximum amount each year during a transition period, after which all super balances would receive no special tax treatment.</p> <p>The tens of billions saved in the budget could be used to enhance the size and scope of the age pension. It could incorporate <a href="https://theconversation.com/fall-in-ageing-australians-home-ownership-rates-looms-as-seismic-shock-for-housing-policy-120651">appropriate rent assistance</a> and begin at age 60 instead of 67.</p> <p>It’s possible. Certainly, there would be job losses, but in other industries we have come to accept that there is no point in continuing to pay people to do things that aren’t needed, and especially no point in making those payments compulsory.</p> <p>It’d be one of the best things we could do to enhance the working of our economy.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/130191/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/cameron-murray-172480">Cameron Murray</a>, Research Fellow - Henry Halloran Trust, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/superannuation-isnt-a-retirement-income-system-we-should-scrap-it-130191">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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5 ways to protect yourself from identity theft

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It’s hard to guarantee total protection against hackers and with more people losing money to scammers, it’s important to do your best to stay vigilant.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Recent Scamwatch figures show that in 2019, Aussies lost $4.3 million to scammers, which is almost three times more than was lost the year before.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With scams becoming more sophisticated, the onus is on you to stop your money from being stolen.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here are five ways to protect yourself from identity theft. (</span>AN: will number later, just hate doing it in a word doc as it doesn’t copy properly to umbraco) </p> <p><strong>1. Always check your emails</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In order to get into your accounts, a hacker will try many different passwords or sometimes reset it. If you see a password reset email and you can’t remember requesting one, this can be a major red flag.</span></p> <p><strong>2. Set up two-factor authentication</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is a two-step process that you can add to your account login. This increases security on your account as it requires a different piece of information outside your password.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is usually a temporary code which is sent as a text message to your phone.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">How does it work?</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After you enter your password, you’ll be asked to enter in the code that has been sent to your phone. Some websites have a time limit on the code so if you don’t enter it before the time limit expires, the code will no longer work.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This also means that if hackers gain access to your password, they won’t receive the temporary code and won’t be able to get into your account.</span></p> <p><strong>3. Consider a PO box</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Having an outdoor mailbox makes you more vulnerable to identity theft as anyone can help themselves to the personal documents that are sent to your home.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Your mail provides information like your full name, bank account details, tax file number and your address. Hackers can also steal bank cards if they’re sent to your home address.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you decide to get a PO box, your mail will be kept in a secure place under lock and key.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, if you don’t want to get a PO box, you can request to send personal documents and bank cards to a secure location.</span></p> <p><strong>4. Monitor your credit report</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Every time you apply for a loan or a credit card, it’s listed on your credit report. You are able to check your credit for free every few months to make sure all listing are correct.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you notice any suspicious activity, contact the relevant bank or lender and let them know that the listing is fraudulent.</span></p> <p><strong>5. Check your transaction history</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Review your purchases every couple of weeks to make sure there aren’t any suspicious transactions.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you notice any transactions that aren’t yours, put your card on hold and contact your bank immediately. You may also need to cancel your existing card and order a replacement.</span></p>

Money & Banking

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Australia's drought relief package misses the bigger point

<p>There are two basic components to the Morrison government’s latest A$1 billion package response to the drought affecting large parts eastern Australia. One part involves extra subsidies to farmers and farm-related business. The other involves measures to create or upgrade infrastructure in rural areas.</p> <p>Unfortunately, most funds will be misdirected and the response is unlikely to secure the long-term prosperity of regional and rural communities. This is a quick fix to a political problem, appealing to an important constituency. But it misses the point, again, about the emerging economics of drought.</p> <p><strong>Hitting the political target</strong></p> <p>The bulk of the A$1 billion package is allocated to a loan fund. The terms of the ten-year loans are more generous than what has been offered in the past. They are now interest-free for two years, with no requirement to start paying back the principal till the sixth year.</p> <p>Farmers will be able to borrow up to A$2 million. In addition, loans of up to A$500,000 will also be available to small businesses in drought-affected towns.</p> <p>Because recipients are not having to pay the full cost, these loans are in practice a form of subsidy.</p> <p>Subsidies are used by government to make more people undertake an activity than would otherwise be the case. In this case the government is offering a subsidy to keep farmers and small businesses owners doing what they’ve been doing, even though from an economic point of view this might not be very wise at all.</p> <p>The question that should be asked is: “do we want more or fewer people to be involved in a farming activity that is vulnerable to drought?”</p> <p>Most farming in Australia is completely reliant on rainfed crops and pastures. Rainfall is already highly variable. All the indicators from climate science is that rain will be even more unreliable in the future.</p> <p>In addition, the agricultural industries currently drought affected are not just at the whims of rainfall. These industries are constantly changing and being affected by new technologies and market forces.</p> <p>For most agricultural produce the key market force is price. Sure, some farms and farmers can carve out niche markets, but most farm businesses depend on producing at lowest cost. Increasingly, the farms that survive in a highly competitive global environment do this by exploiting economies of scale. Big farms are thus more profitable than small ones in the good times (such as when it rains); and during the tough times (such as during drought) they have more resources and deeper reserves to ride it out.</p> <p>Ultimately, this means successful farms are continually getting bigger and small farmers are getting squeezed out.</p> <p>The data also support the view that the farmers who survive and are simultaneously exposed to drought <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-8489.12195">ultimately become even more profitable</a>, because of what they learnt about managing in a difficult environment.</p> <p>This is not to argue drought is a good thing for any farm, but it does raise a serious question about any government policy that effectively encourages more people to keep doing something when global and technological forces would point to it being unsustainable.</p> <p><strong>So what’s the point?</strong></p> <p>The second component of the Morrison government’s relief response involves directing about A$500 million from existing regional infrastructure funds into building roads and other things into affected communities.</p> <p>While many will welcome this on top of the the extension of loans to small business in country towns, the policy detracts from the serious questions that confront rural and regional communities.</p> <p>The economics of agriculture has flow-on effects to towns, but it would be wrong to think all are impacted in the same way.</p> <p>As a general rule, when farmers sell up, they tend to leave from the small communities first. The upshot is that small communities get smaller, older and poorer as those least mobile are left behind. These people also generally require more, not less, public support. Mid-size communities tend to level out, while continuing to age. Large regional centres tend to grow and prosper.</p> <p>The point is that each community requires different things from government. Genuine public goods like roads, health services and education are desperately needed and undersupplied in many cases. Providing cash to a few select businesses and grading a gravel road in this situation belies the complexity of the long-term challenges and fails to address serious issues.</p> <p>An elderly retiree in a rural town might well ask why their local road or bridge is only upgraded during a drought. Surely, government should focus on providing legitimate public goods for the long term, regardless of the weather.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/126583/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lin-crase-9904">Lin Crase</a>, Professor of Economics and Head of School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/australias-drought-relief-package-hits-the-political-spot-but-misses-the-bigger-point-126583">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How Aussies value volunteer firefighters

<p>Australia’s unprecedented bushfires have cemented its rural firefighters at the heart of the nation’s identity.</p> <p>It’s not just that these men and women put themselves in the line of fire. It’s that these “firies” are almost all volunteers, battling blazes for sheer love of their local community.</p> <p>Relying on volunteers isn’t unique to Australia’s rural firefighting brigades. Other countries with large numbers of volunteer firefighters include Austria, Germany, France, the United States, Japan and China.</p> <p>But Australia arguably relies on these volunteers to an extent unparalleled in the world, due to the country’s sheer size and the extent to which it is <a href="https://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/community-safety/bushfire">prone to bushfire</a>. In terms of sheer scale of fires, only the vastness of Russia and Canada can compete, and neither has a climate and ecology quite so primed to burn.</p> <p><strong>Almost 1% of the population volunteers</strong></p> <p>About 195,000 Australians volunteer with the nation’s six state and two territory bushfire services. The most populous state, New South Wales, has the largest number (71,234). The Australian Capital Territory has the fewest (a little more than 400).</p> <hr /> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/311321/original/file-20200122-117911-1kpb21a.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption"></span> <span class="attribution"><a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/" class="license">CC BY-ND</a></span></p> <hr /> <p>The numbers reflect how many people live in rural areas and the degree to which those communities face bushfire risk. Thus Tasmania has 5,000 volunteer fighters despite having a smaller population than the ACT, because relatively more live in small towns.</p> <p>On raw figures, Australia has the ninth-largest number of volunteer firefighters by nation, after China, Russia, the United States, Japan, Vietnam, Germany, Poland and Austria.</p> <hr /> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/311526/original/file-20200123-162228-1xm2nl8.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/311526/original/file-20200123-162228-1xm2nl8.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption"></span> <span class="attribution"><a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/" class="license">CC BY</a></span></p> <hr /> <p>Comparing raw national figures doesn’t necessarily capture the special place of rural firies in Australia. Austria and its neighbours, for example, have cultures of volunteer municipal firefighting brigades that go back <a href="http://www.aeiou.at/aeiou.encyclop.f/f311018.htm;internal&amp;action=_setlanguage.action?LANGUAGE=en">nearly a thousand years</a> and cover structural fires as well.</p> <p>Australia’s voluntary fire brigades are focused on bushfires. If we were to exclude <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/2071.0%7E2016%7EMain%20Features%7ESmall%20Towns%7E113">the 71% of the Australia population</a> that live in major cities, the proportion of Australia’s rural population volunteering with a bushfire service is more like 4.5%. This indicates how central these brigades are to local communities.</p> <p>It hard to put a precise number on the value volunteer firefighters make to Australia’s economy, but it is significant. The amount and quality of volunteer work is, of course, variable. But let’s assume each volunteer gives 150 hours of their time a year. This is likely conservative, given estimates of <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2019-12-27/volunteer-firefighters-approaching-100-days-ask-for-help/11829100">the time volunteers have given up this season</a>. At the average weekly Australian wage (including superannuation guarantee), the volunteers contribute about A$1.3 billion to the community.</p> <p><strong>Operations and funding</strong></p> <p>Even though most firefighters in the rural fire services are volunteers, there are still significant costs. The NSW Rural Fire Service, for example, maintains more than 2,000 brigades with their own stations, vehicles and other running costs. It also employs 965 paid staff in administrative and operational roles. Capital investment of $42 million for stations and equipment was made in 2018-19 in addition to running costs.</p> <p>The following breakdown is indicative of the running costs facing every state or territory service.</p> <hr /> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/311316/original/file-20200122-117962-tsdgu2.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/311316/original/file-20200122-117962-tsdgu2.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption"></span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Michelle Cull/The Conversation</span>, <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/" class="license">CC BY</a></span></p> <hr /> <p>While funding depends on the individual state or territory, in general the services are funded by levies, imposed through state and territory laws.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/309863/original/file-20200114-103954-kujjhx.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/309863/original/file-20200114-103954-kujjhx.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=237&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption">Sample of a rates notice including the fire services levy for Murrindindi Shire Council, Victoria.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Murrindindi Shire Council</span></span></p> <p>Victoria’s Country Fire Authority, for example, is funded under the <a href="http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/cfaa1958292/">Country Fire Authority Act (1958)</a> through a <a href="https://www.sro.vic.gov.au/fire-services-property-levy">property levy</a>. It is collected by local councils and passed on to the state government, which then distributes it to the authority. The levy includes a fixed component plus a variable rate based on a property’s market value.</p> <p>New South Wales also has a levy tied to council rates (under the <a href="https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/act/1997/65">Rural Fires Act 1997</a>). But most funding comes from a levy on insurance payments (imposed under the <a href="https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/act/2017/32/full">Emergency Services Levy Act 2017</a>). In the 2018/19 financial year these levies raised about $440 million combined. State and federal governments kicked in a further $50 million, with $26 million in “other income” – mostly recouped costs from interstate and overseas deployments and use of its aircraft by other agencies.</p> <p><strong>The role of donations</strong></p> <p>Donations have not historically been a major funding source for any state or territory fire service. But in times of crisis the public often want to do their bit by giving money.</p> <p>In the 2017-2018 financial year, for example, the <a href="https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/about-us/fundraising%3C/u">NSW Rural Fire Service &amp; Brigades Donations Fund</a> received $768,044 in donations. Now it has $50 million or so coming its way due to comedian <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-14/celeste-barber-facebook-fundraiser-is-complicated/11861146">Celeste Barber’s bushfire appeal</a>.</p> <p>It’s possible many of those giving to Barber’s fundraiser didn’t realise their money would only go to New South Wales brigades. It’s also possible many thought they might help volunteers directly, such as through reimbursements for taking leave without pay. Others want to ensure volunteers don’t <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-11/nsw-bushfires-firefighters-raise-money-to-buy-face-masks/11790096">have to buy their own equipment</a>.</p> <p>Volunteers won’t necessarily benefit directly in the way <a href="https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6554386/australians-should-consider-a-national-bushfire-levy/">donors might like</a>. This is not to say donations won’t help, though. Volunteer brigades might benefit from money for new vehicles or computers, for example.</p> <p>The sacrifices made by Australian volunteer firefighters have only added to the “firies” mythos. Fire services have been flooded with <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/the-feed/we-asked-volunteer-firefighters-what-they-need-to-get-through-this-bushfire-season">record numbers of applications</a>. As the threat of bushfires increases, the national love affair with volunteer firies is likely to only intensify.</p> <p>Which is something no elected politician would be wise to ignore.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Correction: the infographic “Top 10 nations with volunteer firefighters” has been updated to correct an error. The estimated population of Poland in 2019 was 37,887,768, not 8,955,102 as originally stated. 8,955,102 was Austria’s estimated population.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/129881/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michelle-cull-340911"><em>Michelle Cull</em></a><em>, Senior Lecturer in Accounting and Financial Planning, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/value-beyond-money-australias-special-dependence-on-volunteer-firefighters-129881">original article</a>.</em></p>

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