Worst of inflation pressure behind us: Treasurer
By Rachel Clun
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the worst of the inflation pressure is behind us, after ABS figures showed inflation rose by 7 per cent in the year to March, down from 7.8 per cent over 2022.
“Inflation began building our economy early in 2022. The biggest monthly increase in inflation was in the March quarter of 2022 before the election, and it’s now easing in our economy,” Chalmers said.
“Now while inflation is still unacceptably high, we do welcome the fact that some of these price pressures in our economy have started to ease but even as these pressures ease a bit, we understand that Australian households and small businesses are still under … cost of living pressures.”
Chalmers said next month’s budget will contain cost of living relief that prioritises vulnerable Australians, including through energy bill relief to people on welfare payments and pensions.
He also pointed to today’s announcement that people will have cheaper access to common medicines through 60-day scripts.
Watch: Treasurer Jim Chalmers speaks in Sydney
Treasurer Jim Chalmers will speak in Sydney shortly, following the release of the inflation figures.
Watch back below:
Inflation easing, but rents, energy prices still rising
By Rachel Clun
Inflation has broadly fallen from its December peak (down to 7 per cent in the 12 months to March, from 7.8 per cent in December), but in some areas its still rising to some of the highest rates in decades.
Goods inflation fell thanks to cheaper clothes, furniture and fuel, but inflation for services reached its highest level since the introduction of the GST in 2001, ABS head of price statistics Michelle Marquardt said.
It rose to 6.1 per cent, driven by more expensive holiday travel, and increase to health services, restaurant meals and rents.
In Sydney and Melbourne, rents continued to grow. Both cities recorded their largest annual increase since 2012, with Sydney rental inflation up 4.8 per cent and Melbourne’s up by 3.1 per cent.
But around Australia, rents recorded the largest increase since 2010 driven by ultra-low vacancy rates and high demand, rising by 6.5 per cent over the last year in the remaining capital cities.
Rental inflation is up 4.9 per cent across the country.
And power bills are still pricier. In the 12 months to March, gas prices rose 26.2 per cent – the largest annual rise on record. Electricity prices were up 15.5 per cent.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers is expected to speak soon, and will address the latest figures.
NSW premier cans ‘ridiculous’ amount of pilot programs in schools
By Lucy Cormack
Turning to state news, NSW Premier Chris Minns put the brakes on 41 administrative pilot programs due to roll out across schools as term two resumed today.
He said the move would cut red tape and give teachers more time with children in classrooms.
Minns said the decision was central to the government’s plan to improve education results in the state, to make it competitive with countries across South East Asia.
“No one joins the teaching profession to fill out paperwork, but that’s exactly what’s happening in NSW public schools,” Minns said, visiting Parramatta East Public School today.
“We’re in this ridiculous situation where there’s currently 41 pilot programs that the department [due to] roll out over the term…that is way too much for an entire workforce to get their head around when they’ve got all the other responsibilities of discipline, teaching the curriculum and getting young Australians ready for a multi-changing and complicated workforce.”
The government has directed senior education department officials to conduct an audit of almost 200 policies and procedures that burden teachers with additional work.
Acting Department Secretary Murat Dizdar said the department acknowledged its shortcomings in setting up schools for success.
“The biggest in-school contributing factor to student success is teacher quality, [and] teacher capacity. We have the balance wrong in the department,” he said.
“We need to be transparent around that, and we need to improve that balance.”
He said the department would focus on removing unnecessary policies, which could include ones about attendance, excursions, professional learning and in-service programs.
AFL executive rejects suggestions the sport should have CTE policy
By Peter Ryan
The AFL’s top legal executive rejected a suggestion the sport should have a policy for chronic traumatic encephalopathy despite acknowledging the links between the disease and head trauma.
Stephen Meade is appearing at the Senate’s public hearing into concussion and repeated head trauma in contact sports, which is being held in Melbourne today.
CTE is associated with traumatic brain injuries and can only be diagnosed after death.
The AFL adopted the position on CTE in line with the National Institute of Health in the US.
“I don’t think we need to have a policy to show how seriously we take CTE in our sport,” Meade told the Senate inquiry in response to a question from Senator Lidia Thorpe.
Meade said the AFL had a range of policies in place and were continuing to evolve their policy.
Dr Michael Makdissi, the AFL’s chief medical officer, said the league’s 12-day concussion protocol was not based on a specific paper but on assessment of literature, and observations from doctors and player recovery time.
He said the protocol was misunderstood and that no player could return earlier than 12 days following a concussion.
“We should focus on stages of recovery,” Makdissi said.
Representatives for the AFL Players’ Association and Cricket Australia will also appear at the hearing, as will Anita Frawley, the widow of St Kilda champion Danny Frawley who died by suicide and was diagnosed with CTE posthumously.
Inflation at 7 per cent, driven by health and education increases
By Rachel Clun
The cost of living rose 1.4 per cent over the first three months of the year, the slowest quarterly rise since December 2021, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Inflation rose by 7 per cent over the year to March, but ABS head of price statistics Michelle Marquardt said inflation slowed over the March quarter.
“While prices continued to rise for most goods and services, many of these increases were smaller than they have been in recent quarters,” she said.
The biggest contributors to inflation in the first months of the year were medical and hospital services (up 4.2 per cent), tertiary education (up 9.7 per cent), gas and household fuels (up 14.3 per cent) and domestic holidays (up 4.7 per cent).
Marquardt said medical and education costs typically rise in the first quarter of the year – as health providers review consulation fees, and as tertiary education fees are indexed.
Annual inflation was driven by new dwellings, up 12.7 per cent over the year to March; domestic holiday travel and accommodation, up 25 per cent, and electricity, up 15.5 per cent in the 12 months to March.
The March figures are down on the 7.8 per cent annual rate of inflation recorded over 2022. The quarterly figures are lower than the 1.9 per cent inflation recorded in the three months to December 2022.
Overcome NIMBYs and build where people want to live
By Shane Wright, Rachel Clun and Craig Butt
Staying with the latest on housing, with reporting from Shane Wright, Rachel Clun and Craig Butt on the issue.
They write the solutions to Australia’s housing problem are well known, but there is a political danger for those who take on huge vested interests.
The agenda to fix the nation’s housing crisis reads like a long political suicide note.
Tax changes hitting millions of people. Taking power away from local councils to prevent development. Greater housing density. More loans by banks to “risky” business propositions.
The solutions to making housing more affordable, and reducing the distortion to the economy caused by the property sector, are largely agreed upon. But also agreed upon is the near impossibility of winning broad political support for any substantial change.
Australian National University demographer Liz Allen says without change, the situation will only become worse.
But the politics of change are almost too much for any party.”
PM says Greens plan to block housing fund are ‘illogical’
By Caroline Schelle
Circling back to the prime minister, who was quizzed about the Greens’ plans to block the government’s planned housing fund unless states were forced to freeze rents.
Greens leader Adam Bandt will use his speech at the National Press Club today to outline policies designed to boost affordable housing.
My colleague James Massola reports this would include blocking the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund in the Senate, unless the federal government forces states to freeze rents.
Anthony Albanese said the plans made him question what the Greens political and thought processes are.
“They are out there saying they want more investment in social and affordable housing and their strategy to do that is to block $10 billion to create a fund for investment in social and affordable housing that is on top of the Commonwealth state housing agreements, on top of all the other investments that the federal government will be making in housing,” he said.
“This is completely illogical.”
He said the Greens were entitled to vote however they wanted.
“But they will be held to account for it and any of their rhetoric about housing issues will be regarded as just farcical if they vote against this fund,” Albanese said today.
Ken Henry says it’s ‘cruel’ not to lift JobSeeker allowance
By Caroline Schelle
Earlier, former treasury secretary Ken Henry also commented on the push to raise the unemployment benefit ahead of the budget on May 9.
He said up to 80 per cent of people on JobSeeker relied on it for more than 12 months, despite Australia’s labour market being the tightest in 50 years.
“If this tells us one thing, it should tell us that being cruel to people doesn’t work,” Henry told ABC News Breakfast this morning.
He said it was cruel not to increase the benefit, which worked out to $50 a day.
“The people we’re talking about here need to have some respect shown to them during the period in which they are out of work, and they need help to find a job,” he said.
He said it wasn’t in the interests of the economy to keep those receiving JobSeeker on that amount of money.
“The principle, in fact the only economic argument for keeping people on such low payments while they’re out of work, is to give them an incentive to get a job,” Henry said.
“Now, here we are with an unemployment rate as low as what has been seen at any time in the past 50 years and yet there are still about a million people who are reliant upon these payments to meet their needs.”
He said the government should be discussing raising JobSeeker to 70 per cent of the aged pension.
“Maybe a figure less than that would be sensible in the present economic circumstances and the present fiscal circumstances, maybe, but that’s the figure we should be talking about. That’s the discussion we should be having,” Henry said.
Albanese probed about raising JobSeeker payments
By Caroline Schelle
The prime minister wouldn’t comment on whether the unemployment benefit would be increased in the budget.
He was questioned about plans for the JobSeeker payment, after four Labor backbenchers broke ranks on social security policy and joined hundreds of advocates, who are calling for an increase in the rate.
“We will continue to engage with people in various sectors who are making their arguments of what they think should occur in the budget,” Anthony Albanese told reporters in Sydney this morning.
He said he wouldn’t be speculating about what was in the budget before it was handed down on May 9.
“I understand that people are under real pressure. I certainly understand that, I know what it is like to grow up in a household reliant upon a pension … it is unsurprising that people in the Labor Party want to do more, as all of us do,” Albanese said.
“What we will be doing in the budget is balancing up the need to provide cost of living relief for people with making sure that we show restraint as well, so we don’t add to inflationary pressure,” he said.
The prime minister was also quizzed about issues on the single-parent payment, as some are pushing to restore income support for single parents until their youngest child turns 16.
“We are still finalising the budget and that is business as usual, but what we are doing is working through issues methodically in a way that consults people as well,” he answered.
“The budget now is less than two weeks away, so you don’t have long to wait, and I am very confident that that will be a budget that will serve Australia’s national interests,” he said.
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