Malcolm Turnbull to reshuffle front bench, face superannuation critics in party room meeting

PM Malcolm Turnbull faces his first party room meeting after the election on Monday. Photo: Michele MossopPrime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will unveil a reshuffled frontbench on Monday afternoon that boosts the number of Nationals MPs in the ministry and is tipped to promote younger conservative talent.
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The changes, driven by the loss of Assistant Ministers Wyatt Roy and Peter Hendy and the likely loss of Tourism Minister Richard Colbeck, will be announced after the Liberal party room and then Coalition party room meet in Canberra for the first time since the July 2nd federal election.

Several Coalition MPs told Fairfax Media they expected colleagues to vent their anger about the government’s $6 billion package of superannuation changes contained in the May budget, with particular concern to be raised about a proposed $500,000 cap on non-concessional super contributions, which has been backdated to 2007.

Liberal campaign director Tony Nutt​ and pollster Mark Textor​ will also address the gathered MPs about the Coalition’s campaign and, in the words of one, “they will have to show remorse” for the party’s reduced majority.

Mr Turnbull indicated on Friday that the junior Coalition partner, the Nationals, would pick up two ministries as their proportional share of MPs in the party room had grown following the defeat of a swag of Liberal MPs but wholesale changes to the front bench are not expected.

Nationals senator Matthew Canavan​ is widely tipped to move from the outer ministry to the cabinet but on Sunday, Coalition MPs were speculating about whether the Nationals would pick up an additional spot in the outer ministry or assistant ministry, or even two assistant ministry positions.

Some Nationals told Fairfax Media on Sunday they believed assistant minister Michael McCormack could be promoted to the outer ministry, while others said that one or two of Andrew Broad, David Gillespie, Bridget McKenzie or George Christensen could instead be promoted from the back bench to the assistant ministry.

And while the junior Coalition partner jostled for positions, Liberals said the Prime Minister had to be mindful of the need to promote younger conservative MPs such as Zed Seselja​ or Michael Sukkar​ after closing the door – repeatedly – on a return to the front bench for former prime minister Tony Abbott.

One MP said that promoting two conservative Liberals would “keep the wolves away from the door” for the Prime Minister, but any less than that could trigger further unrest in the party room.

Some changes to ministerial portfolios are also tipped, with suggestions that Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer​ could lose her small business portfolio to the Nationals – though she would remain in cabinet – while Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is tipped to return to cabinet’s national security committee, which he sat on until the September 2015 leadership change.

Cabinet and the outer ministry are limited to a total of 30 places, while there can be no more than 12 additional assistant ministers.

Mr Turnbull confirmed again on Sunday that Mr Abbott would not be returning to the front bench and added that “such changes as there are to the ministry will be announced tomorrow afternoon”.

Ahead of the party room meeting Liberal senator David Johnston, who looked set to lose his seat in the upper house once counting is finalised, said the prime minister “should reassess” backdating the $500,000 cap to 2007, amid reports that Treasurer Scott Morrison could broaden exemptions on the cap.

Mr Turnbull has previously said that there would be no changes to the “ironclad” suite of proposals, despite some Liberals claiming the policies hurt the party’s base, cost donations and even votes during the election.

But on Sunday the prime minister, who lost a swag of seats in the election and will hold at most 77 in the 150 member lower house if Herbert MP Ewen Jones hangs on, said he was listening “very keenly” to the concerns inside his party.

“The reforms are important, but in the implementation and transition, there is work to be done,” Mr Turnbull said. “There always is with tax changes. They will go through the normal cabinet and party room process.”

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Tax man threatened Peter Bond’s grip on Dunk Island paradise

The next stage of the battle begins for colourful Queensland entrepreneur Peter Bond as the Queensland government takes control of Linc Energy’s controversial underground coal gasification pilot site and pursues Bond for millions to cover the cost of the environmental clean-up.
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But it looks like Bond’s troubles did not start with the slow collapse of Linc Energy.

Bond’s Dunk Island paradise – which he bought for $7.5 million in 2011 and spent another $20 million turning it into a high-end wellness spa – was targeted by the tax man last year over some unpaid bills.

Queensland’s Commissioner of State Revenue tried to wind up Bond’s Family Islands Group Pty Ltd (FIG) in July last year.

Dunk Island’s website names FIG as the purchaser of the resort, which is operated by a sister company to Family Islands Operations Group (FIOG).

It looks like Bond managed to sort it all out. The application to wind up the company was withdrawn in September, by which time Bond’s troubles at Linc must have been heating up.

Speaking of the impending Queensland Government trouble, should we read anything into the fact that Bondy resigned a few weeks back as a director of both Family Islands companies that own and operate Dunk Island?

Not that Bondy would care. And not just because he doesn’t believe the contamination exists.

“I was reasonably well off before Linc and if you had asked me as a 25-year-old whether I would be happy with a big house by the water, Aston Martins in the garage and an aeroplane and a tropical island I would have said ‘F— yeah!'” he told the Queensland press a few months back.  Mending fences 

CBD would like to think a bit of karma was at work on Thursday evening. There was our newly re-elected PM Malcolm Turnbull, and Lucy, forced to spend a bitterly cold night at the SCG watching the Sydney Swans lose a thriller to the Hawks.

And was that Tony Shepherd sitting alongside our PM? And if so, what hat was he wearing?

Presumably he was not attending as chairman of the Swans’ cross-town rivals, the Greater Western Sydney Giants. How about in his role as chairman of the SCG Trust? Possibly.

There are other possibilities, of course.

Shepherd has stepped back from his role as chairman of the controversial WestConnex Delivery Authority, but maybe the former chairman of Tony Abbott’s National Commission of Audit has a more ambitious infrastructure project in mind – building bridges between Turnbull and Abbott.  Softly, softly

On Monday, one of the most uncontroversial bank hirings of the year, Michelle Jablko, starts her official duties as ANZ Group’s chief financial officer – the first female to hold that role with one of our big four banks.

Let’s not spoil things by saying anything further, shall we?  Let’s wait for her new boss, Shayne Elliott, to tweet about it.   Bet a Bong

As if we needed more proof that our betting shops have gone to the dogs.

Just a few weeks ago the NSW liquor and gaming regulator pinged Tatts-owned UBet for an ad that promotes drinking and gambling. Liquor & Gaming NSW said UBet “published a video advertisement on youtube上海龙凤419m called UBET Punters Academy”.

These students are shown “holding partly filled glasses of alcohol and one is using his mobile phone” while being advised on how to make a “head-to-head” bet.

UBet was hit with $7800 in fines and court costs, while the NSW regulator said the case “served as a warning to betting agencies of the need to comply with NSW legislation relating to both advertising that induces gambling and advertising that promotes alcohol consumption while gambling”.

It makes you wonder if the girls and boys at Liquor & Gaming have seen the ads from Paddy Power-owned Sportsbet.

Sportsbet has a very animated character by the name of Betman who offers gossip and his tips on various matches. One post, dating to March 2013, which is still available on its website, shows our betting guru smoking an implement that appears to be a bong. What does NSW’s Betting and Racing Regulations have to say about gambling while stoned? 

Got a tip? [email protected]上海龙凤

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Liberals ignore the moderate middle at their peril

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes time out with local member Natasha Griggs in Darwin. Photo: Andrew MearesIt’s amazing to realise that the greatest threat to the success of the Turnbull government comes from the Liberal Party. Malcolm Turnbull’s biggest enemies are inside his own government, not outside.
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If he’s to make sufficient progress with controlling the budget and reforming the economy to warrant re-election in three years’ time, he needs to mix budget restraint with fairness, and combine efficiency with equity.

This, after all, was the formula the Hawke-Keating government used to stay in government for 13 years, despite all the things it did to get the budget back to surplus after the deep recession of the early 1980s and all the controversial reforms it made to open up the economy.

Remember that the people with the most reservations about those reforms – deregulating the banks, floating the dollar, removing protection – were its own supporters.

Only much later did Labor’s true believers adopt Paul Keating as one of their heroes. And it was only by making uncharacteristic changes that Hawke-Keating came to be remembered as one of our greatest governments.

The people making trouble for Turnbull within the Liberals seem to have learnt none of that. They haven’t even learnt the lesson of their latest near-death experience: low and middle income-earners won’t vote for you in sufficient numbers if they suspect you don’t represent their interests.

It’s much easier to argue that Turnbull lost votes because his party had pushed him too far to the right than because he wasn’t as far to the right as a noisy minority thought he should be.

Turnbull lost votes partly because, to get the party’s permission to rescue it from certain defeat under Tony Abbott, he had to agree to leave untouched various extreme policies the whole country knew he didn’t believe in.

Labor’s Medi-scare was effective because Abbott’s attempt to dismantle bulk-billing with his $7 co-payment exposed the party’s lifelong antipathy to Medicare that a chastened and wiser John Howard had cloaked with his claim that the Libs were the best friend Medicare ever had.

Turnbull’s policy for the reform of superannuation tax concessions was the epitome of the carefully balanced policies we need more of if we’re to have reform without fear of electoral defeat.

It was a micro reform in that it reduced the tax system’s distortion of saving choices, and it will contribute significantly to reducing the budget deficit, but do so in a way that reduces the concession to the undeserving well-off (including me) while making the scheme fairer to low income-earners and women.

And yet the Liberal dissidents’ greatest push is to modify the super reforms in favour of a relative handful of high-flyers. If Turnbull – and the more moderate, sensible elements of the parliamentary party – let this push succeed there could be no better demonstration of the party’s instability and its continuing commitment to governing in favour of its well-off cronies, not ordinary voters.

The first rule of Australian politics is that Aussies won’t vote for extreme parties. That’s why, over the decades, both sides have moved towards the middle ground.

But it’s remarkable to realise that, while Labor has been working hard to house-train its left wing, the Libs have been drifting further to the right, allowing extremists to dominate its state branches and more and more hard-liners to be elected to the parliamentary party.

Although the pragmatist faction still has most adherents in Parliament, much of the party is now out of step with the community on social issues and obsessed with furthering the economic interests of the well-off, not the punters.

Too many in the party have become self-indulgent and inward-looking. Let’s play favourites between Tony and Malcolm. Let’s let the old men continue blocking the talented young and the female. Let’s make the party utterly unattractive to the younger generation.

In short, too many in the party have lost touch with electoral reality. In this they’ve been led astray by noisiness of their media cheer squad and the libertarian think-tanks. The Murdoch press has yet again demonstrated its inability to deliver the tabloid voter.

In this election the Coalition stuck its neck out by making an unpopular cut in company tax its main policy proposal. And yet big business seems to have failed to offer much support in the way of donations.

If that doesn’t give the Liberals pause for thought, nothing will. Apparently, big business thinks itself so virtuous – so synonymous with the nation’s interests – that even the Libs owe it a living.

Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.

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Snack bars marketed with images of fruit contain minimal actual fruit: CHOICE

Choice found snack bars by Kellogg’s and Aldi were misleading for using images of real fruit on their packaging. Photo: Choice Jane Martin, executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition. Photo: Ken Irwin
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Big-brand snack bars with images of fruit on their packaging contain minimal actual fruit ingredients and often fail to disclose added sugars, a review by consumer group Choice has found.

The review of 224 snack bars identified brands like Kellogg’s and Aldi as some of the worst offenders, when it came to disguising excessive added sugars as fruit.

Choice head of media Tom Godfrey described the fruit content of some products as “farcical”.

“If you’re putting your kid’s lunch box together, you’d be far better off with fresh fruit and some wholegrain crackers,” he said.One of the lowest-ranked snack bars in the review was Aldi’s Hillcrest Chewy Muesli Bars in Strawberry & Yoghurt flavour.

While the box depicts fresh strawberries, the fruit content is in fact “strawberry-flavoured fruit pieces”, made up of fruit puree concentrates, flavour and a range of additives.

A spokesperson for Aldi said the product had a place in a healthy diet “when included as an occasional snack in the recommended serving size”.

“We are proud of our truthful and transparent on-pack labelling across all our products and we encourage our consumers to look at the nutritionals and ingredients stated on our product’s packaging,” she said.

In another example, Choice found Kellogg’s K-Time Twists in Raspberry and Apple claimed to have “raspberry and apple fillings” however they contained no actual raspberry, rather raspberry juice concentrate and 2 per cent apple.

“K-Time Twists are packed with sugar, juice concentrate (a form of added sugar), apple powder, fructose (another added sugar), brown sugar (more added sugar), a range of thickeners and other additives. It’s a stretch to depict actual fruit on pack,” Mr Godfrey said.

However a Kellogg’s spokesperson said new packaging that had been rolled out in the past eight weeks showed minimal fruit on the labelling, and disputed the Choice findings for reviewing old packaging.

“Our new packaging clearly says the product is raspberry and apple flavour. We are not suggesting they are a replacement for fruit. Any images of fruit are to show the flavour you can expect,” she said.

Executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition Jane Martin said all brands had a responsibility to be open with consumers about the nutritional qualities of their products.

“The use of a real raspberry on a product suggests to consumers that the product contains real fruit,” she said.

“At a time when 63 per cent of Australian adults and 27 per cent of children are overweight or obese, we want to see food manufacturers adopt the health star rating system to help consumers make more informed food choices.”

The spokesperson for Kellogg’s said the brand was continuing to roll out health star ratings on all its products over the next 12 to 18 months.

Sugar can currently be listed under more than 40 different names on a product’s ingredient list, including fruit puree, syrup, fruit concentrate or malt.

This has prompted calls from the consumer sector for legislation requiring Australian food companies to disclose all added sugars on packaging.

“Food manufacturers should be required to provide [this] information on the label,” Ms Martin said.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand is undertaking a technical evaluation on whether ‘added sugars’ should be included in ingredients lists and will report to the Ministerial Forum in late 2016.

Among other bars found by Choice to be high in sugars, salt and saturated fats were Coles Nut Bars Choc Coated Nut, Kellogg’s LCM’s Split Stix Yoghurty and Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Bars.

Healthier snack bars recommended included Goodness Superfoods Better for U Cereal Bars Wild Berries and Yoghurt, Uncle Toby’s Farmer’s Pick Roasted Macadamia & Almond and Emma & Tom’s Chia Bar Cacao.

A Coles spokesperson said all Coles Brand products include detailed nutritional and ingredient information, including the Health Star Rating System. Latest consumer news

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RBA would need extreme event to trigger QE

Emergency policy measures studied by the Reserve Bank of Australia would only be needed if China’s financial system collapsed or a similarly-dramatic event seized up global markets, says a leading expert.
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Perpetual Investment’s head of investment strategy Matt Sherwood said on Sunday simmering geopolitical tensions, even if they hit growth in Australia, wouldn’t be enough to force the RBA’s hand.

Quantitative easing (QE) – central bank bond-buying to stabilise long-term rates and push money into other assets – would only help if the world had another huge financial crisis.

“QE is not about economic stimulus; it’s about financial market stability,” Mr Sherwood said.

“It is only successful when markets are dysfunctional; markets at the moment are functioning quite normally.

“RBA QE would only come under the extreme of worst-case scenarios, where the Chinese economy was collapsing, for example, and there were flow-on effects across the rest of the world.”

His comments follow revelations last week that the RBA had drawn up an emergency playbook to follow the central banks of the US, Japan, Europe and the United Kingdom in embracing extreme monetary policy if needed.

An Australian-style QE would be aimed partly at forcing foreign investors out of the government’s $450 billion bond market, which would weaken the local currency and help stimulate export-driven sectors of the economy.

This happened in the US, where the Federal Reserve spent more than $US3.5 trillion between early-2009 and late-2014 on fixed-income and asset-backed securities to hold interest rates steady and squeeze investor demand into other areas.

The extreme policy move was initially a response to market distortions wrought by the global financial crisis, but a second and third phase became synonymous with frothy equity markets and the US’s stop-start economic recovery.

“QE I in the US did work, because it helped stabilise the markets, whereas QE II and QE III had no effect, other than a financial market effect,” he said.

Examples of QE across the northern hemisphere have had mixed results, although most commentators attribute the broad decline in market volatility in recent years partly to central bank asset-buying.

Although Britain’s shock vote to leave the European Union three and a half weeks ago unleashed a fresh bout of market turmoil, equities, bonds and other assets have quickly recovered.

Rising tensions in the South China Sea, last week’s bloody outrage in Nice and the weekend’s coup attempt in Turkey are expected to have only a limited impact on markets this week.

​BT Investment Management’s head of income and fixed interest Vimal Gor on Sunday ascribed market sanguinity in the face of heightened geopolitical tensions partly to QE.

“Five years ago a lot of this would have caused massive market responses, but it’s pretty much ignored now,” he said.

However, he said some of the global flashpoints themselves had flared partly because of the currency fallout from ultra-low interest rates and QE.

“People have been in conflict economically for a long time now, and this is starting to feed through into geopolitics as well,” he said.

“And I think that’s partly a function of two things: the lower GDP growth we’ve seen across the world and the beggar-thy-neighbour currency policies that people are now undertaking that puts everyone in direct conflict with everyone else.”

With global economic uncertainty hard to shake off,  the RBA’s study of QE showed it wanted to be ready in case of another financial crisis, Mr Sherwood said.

“What this shows is the central bank of Australia actually preparing for crises rather than what they did in 2008 – when the crisis hits and they go ‘OK, what’s the solution?’ ” he said.

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