OECD: HOUSE PRICES CONCERN

House prices have made headlines again, this time because the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Dev­elopment has weighed in with a warning that Australia’s booming property market could be a threat to the economy. According to the Economic Survey of Australia, released every two years, house prices have increased by 250% in real terms over the past 20 years, and we face the prospect of a crash:

“A continued rise of the market, fuelled by both investor and owner-occupier demand, may end in a significant downward correction that spreads to the rest of the economy.”

The Fairfax papers report:

“Its biggest concern is that Australia’s two biggest risks feed on each other as slides in iron ore and coal prices ‘lift unemployment sharply, which would result in a significant fall in consumption and rising mortgage stress and falling house prices.'”

The Australian Financial Review writes:

“The warning — which comes after this week’s national accounts showed the economy rebounded strongly in the fourth quarter thanks to a surge in global commodity prices and surprisingly resilient household spending – puts renewed onus on the federal government to prepare for a potential shakeout caused by a house price crash.” 

TUDGE REFERRED TO POLICE OVER CENTRELINK INFO

Labor’s Linda Burney has asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate Human Services Minister Alan Tudge after it was revealed yesterday that he released personal information about a woman who had been critical of Centrelink to the media. In Senate estimates yesterday Department of Human Services officials defended the release of information to a Canberra Times journalist, saying it was legal under exemptions in social security law. The information related to blogger Andie Fox, whose info was released after she wrote about her experiences with the welfare agency chasing her for debts. It was revealed that journalist Paul Malone was given separate statements from both the department and the minister’s office.

In other Centrelink news, The Guardian reports the minister’s office has twice sent personal details to journalists by sharing internal briefings as attachments to emails. Estimates also revealed yesterday that 28 million calls to Centrelink between July 2016 and January 2017 had received busy signals. And those short wait times they keep talking about? That’s because the timer resets every time someone is referred to another department.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Government MPs could lose seats unless PM intervenes on penalty rates: new polls

Joyce slaps down Christensen over 18C

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Melbourne: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be at the Avalon Airshow for events to spruik the F35 Joint Strike Fighter (it’s Crikey‘s favourite junk heap), which are set to do a flyover today. The F35 seems to be a jobs boon everywhere — both the Adelaide Advertiser and the Herald Sun are reporting the $17 billion fleet of planes will be good news for their states. In the Addy:

“ADELAIDE-based defence companies are in line to win hundreds of millions of dollars worth of work as the Federal Government’s purchase of 72 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft creates thousands of jobs across Australia.”

and the Herald Sun:

“VICTORIA is set to reap the benefit of the nation’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to the tune of up to 5000 jobs over the next two decades.”

Melbourne: Julie Bishop and her French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault will sign the “Joint Statement of Enhanced Strategic Partnership between Australia and France”.

Canberra: Labor will hold a National Health Policy Summit, with speeches by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King this morning.

Canberra: NAB boss Andrew Thorburn and chief operating officer Antony Cahill will front up to the government’s committee looking at the banks.

Canberra: Indigenous Affairs is the last area to be covered in Senate estimates this week.

Sydney: A directions hearing in the case between Seven West Media and former employee Amber Harrison is scheduled for today. As The Australian‘s Margin Call column writes, the case to rule on an injunction order against Harrison is likely to be a two-day hearing, but today is mostly just procedural.

Sydney: Former prime minister John Howard will speak at a forum on NSW’s economic and political outlook for 2017. Will he be asked about penalty rates?

Adelaide: South Australian MPs will hold a forum on medical cannabis to consider the prospect of an industry for the product in the state.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Canberra: lots of hot air, but a desperate shortage of gas — Laura Tingle (Australian Financial Review $): “Gas, over the years, has been cited by almost everybody as the answer to all our various energy problems. Yet we have got ourselves into the bizarre situation where we are so successfully selling gas offshore, and invested $200 billion in infrastructure to do so, that now we really, seriously, don’t have enough for domestic use. Prices, as a result, are soaring.”

PM pays penalty for lack of evidence as Labor attack hits the mark — Dennis Shanahan (The Australian $): “Despite all the disadvantages and dangers, the ALP has won the political argument on negative gearing changes by linking it ­successfully with housing affordability. It’s winning the penalty rate argument by linking it wage cuts for the lowest paid.”

I’m a waitress and I don’t care about the penalty rate cuts — Claire Thurstans (Sydney Morning Herald): “I’ve worked in Hobart, Sydney, Byron Bay and Melbourne. During my 12 years of experience, I have worked under dozens of employers. Less than 10 per cent of my employers paid me penalty rates.”

TODAY IN TRUMP

Another day, another cabinet pick in hot water.

Donald Trump‘s Attorney General Jeff Sessions is facing calls from both Democrats and Republicans to recuse himself from overseeing an investigation into Russian interference in the US election after it was revealed he had contact with the Russian ambassador before the election. Just weeks ago, Sessions told a confirmation hearing: “I did not have communications with the Russians.”

On the upside for the President, former presidential candidate and the man who once forgot he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy on live television, Rick Perry, been confirmed by the Senate as Trump’s Energy Secretary.

THE WORLD

The US has bombed Yemen for the first time since a bungled raid in January left one US Navy Seal and civilians dead. The 20 strikes targeted al-Qaeda militants and killed nine people. They came as al-Qaeda confirmed one of its top leaders, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, had been killed by a US drone strike in Syria. — Reuters

Former leader Hosni Mubarak has been acquitted by an Egyptian court over the deaths of hundreds of protesters during the uprising that removed him from power in 2011. Now 88 years old, Mubarak has spent most of his post-leadership life in military hospitals after being sentenced to three years in prison for corruption. — Al Jazeera

Police in the Phillipines are “routinely” planting evidence on drug suspects to justify shootings, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The report calls for a full UN inquiry into Rodrigo Duterte‘s campaign of extrajudicial killings and says gunmen responsible for many of the 7000 estimated deaths appear to be working closely with police. — The Guardian

Eight men have been convicted of raping a German tourist in Vienna during New Year’s celebrations. The case has drawn significant attention as the men involved, aged between 22 and 48, are Iraqi migrants and refugees. They were sentenced to between nine and 13 years in prison. — BBC

The company behind “disappearing photo app” Snapchat has sold 200 million shares in its initial public offering. The company made a net loss of $515 million US last year but is valued at $20 billion. — Bloomberg

WHAT WE’RE READING

Saudi Arabia is redefining Islam for the world’s largest Muslim nation (The Atlantic): “Beyond LIPIA, hundreds of Indonesians receive scholarships to study at Saudi universities every year. A few decades in, alumni of these programs are becoming nationally influential in their home country. “

Trump, Putin, and the new Cold War (The New Yorker): “Putin’s resentment of the West, and his corresponding ambition to establish an anti-Western conservatism, is rooted in his experience of decline and fall — not of Communist ideology, which was never a central concern of his generation, but, rather, of Russian power and pride.”

Centrelink sinks to a new low in growing debt fiasco (New Matilda): “To make things crystal clear, the government has doxxed a critic. The responsible department has warned welfare recipients that it will retaliate if they take their concerns to the media.”

Uber is more fragile than other major tech companies (Vox): “Uber has a lot of problems, and it has gotten into the bad habit of trying to paper over those problems with money. It attracts customers by offering them below-cost taxi rides. It built up its base of drivers by offering them a variety of promotions and bonuses. It attracts employees by offering them hugely valuable stock options — and then makes it impossible to cash out early.”

Leaked Snapchat emails: Gun safety charity told to pay or NRA ads may appear on videos (Tech Mic): “Snapchat told a gun safety charity it might run NRA ads on the charity’s anti-gun violence awareness campaign — which would have featured videos starring families who lost their loved ones to firearms — if the charity didn’t pay Snapchat for advertising, emails provided to Mic by a source close to the exchange show.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

 

Peter Fray

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