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AN MP wants Queenslanders to be buried in cardboard coffins in natural bush cemeteries where the decomposing bodies can promote vegetation growth.

coffinThe “green in death” approach has been advocated by Labor’s Barbara Stone who told Parliament about a body’s “natural nutrients.”

 

She suggested that more local authorities follow the lead of the Gold Coast City Council which is planning the state’s first natural bushland cemetery.

 

“The site will be an old quarry to be filled with suitable soil so that bodies can decompose and provide valuable nutrients that encourage the rejuvenation of native flora,” she said. 

Body disposal should have as little impact on the environment as possible after taking into account the deceased’s personal, cultural or traditional practices, Ms Stone said. If someone wanted to be buried in a cardboard box “under a shady tree” this should be permitted.

Ms Stone, who represents Springwood, said responsible Queenslanders should go to their grave in eco-friendly coffins made from fibre waste.

“Testing has shown that they release half the emissions of a standard coffin,” she said.

Of the 24,500 coffins used in Queensland last year, less than 100 were made from this alternative material.

This represented a waste of timber and valuable metals and exposed the environment to toxic embalming chemicals.

New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania have bushland cemeteries where only native stone can be used as burial markers.

But Ms Stone said that if there was no stone the “savvy techno can have a GPS device placed in their hands so their families can return to honour the bushland settings and their loved ones”.

Queensland bans burials on private land although there are some exceptions – former premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen is at rest in the grounds of his home Bethany, near Kingaroy.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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Treasurer Wayne Swan has taken aim at Australia’s biggest home lender, labelling it selfish for lifting its mortgage and business lending rates.  swan_rudd_hand_400

Other banks have refused to rule out following the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA’s) surprise decision to lift its home and business loan rates by 10 basis points to offset higher funding costs.

The opposition said the government’s huge debt burden was putting pressure on interest rates, while a prominent market economist said it may force the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to cut the official rate again to counter any impact from CBA’s move.

CBA said it took Friday’s decision “reluctantly”, but at a standard variable mortgage rate of 5.74 per cent, up from 5.64 per cent, it was still the lowest on the market.

The rate hike will add $18 a month to repayments on a $300,000 home loan over 25 years.

The bank said it had absorbed as much of its additional funding costs for as long as it could.

“Unfortunately, we have seen the bank’s wholesale funding costs remain high and continue to increase as previous long term funding matures and is replaced with new funding at significantly higher cost,” CBA group executive of retail banking services Ross McEwan said in a statement.

Such reasoning drew no sympathy from the treasurer.

There are ups and downs when it comes to those decisions over time, but there are few decisions I can think of that are more selfish than this one,” Mr Swan told reporters in Brisbane.

“I think Australians, rightly, will be furious with the Commonwealth Bank.”

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd echoed those sentiments during a speech to a business lunch in Brisbane.

“We are all in this together – businesses, workers, government and the Reserve Bank – and today’s decision by the Commonwealth Bank runs counter to this nationwide effort,” Mr Rudd said.

The other three major banks – ANZ, National Australia Bank and Westpac – said their rates were constantly under review.

NAB said it had no current plans to raise its home loan rate but noted “all Australian banks” had been incurring significantly higher funding costs for some time.

Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said the government was putting pressure on interest rates by running up a huge debt.

“Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan feigned outrage about this interest rate increase, yet they are directly responsible for it,” Mr Hockey told reporters in Sydney.

“This is the beginning. You will end up with higher interest rates directly as a result of the spending binge of the Rudd government and the massive debt they are accruing.”

Home buyers may be enjoying the lowest mortgage rates in 41 years, but have already missed out on about 30 to 40 basis points of the RBA’s total 425 basis points of official rate cuts, with banks refusing to pass on the cuts in full because of the cost of funding.

For small businesses it has been even worse, being short changed by about 140 basis points.

The CBA’s decision comes in a week that saw massive boosts to both consumer and business confidence, as well as data showing sustained growth in home lending – sucked in by low mortgage rates and a more generous first home owners grant.

April mortgage data showed loan demand has grown for seven straight months to a 14-month high, as well as record demand from first home buyers and the strongest interest from investors in nearly two years.

It also showed that the banks have cornered more than 92 per cent of all loans – a 33-year high.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans said CBA’s decision could well be countered by another cut by the RBA.

“If it does have an impact, particularly on confidence in the housing market, which has been the most encouraging source of recovery in the Australian economy, it may bring a rate cut back on the table at the Reserve Bank,” Mr Evans told Sky News

Source  :  www.thedaily.com.au

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WESTERN Australia’s Liberal Government has handed down its first Budget, delivering a $647 million surplus but warning the state will be in deficit by 2012.

Treasurer Troy Buswell today delivered his first Budget since the Liberal Government came to power last year.

He said the 2008/09 surplus of $647 million would shrink to $409 million in 2009/10, and just $23 million the following year.

By 2011/12 the state will be in deficit to the tune of $513 million.

“Over the past months, as the global economy has been in decline, the state has been hit by large downward revisions to projected taxation revenue, GST grants from the Commonwealth and mining royalties,” Mr Buswell told parliament.

“Since the mid-year review, the Budget has lost a massive $4 billion in forecast revenue from these sources.”

Last year, then treasurer Eric Ripper delivered a surplus of more than $2 billion on the back of a booming commodities sector.

Economic growth remained high at 8 per cent for the 2008/09 financial year.

But forecasts predicted growth would fall into negative territory in 2009/10, with unemployment expected to peak, and business investment to fall by 17.5 per cent.

Mr Buswell said the Government would provide a one-year payroll tax rebate to small businesses with payrolls of up to $3.2 million to help protect jobs.

“Some 6,700 small businesses will be eligible for this payroll tax rebate, which will fully offset payroll tax for around 68,000 employees,” he said.

“The cost of this rebate is estimated at $100 million.”

A $47 million jobs training and skills package, and a $8.3 billion spend on infrastructure in the next financial year are key components of the Budget.
Mr Buswell said law and order were also strong focuses, in line with the Government’s election promises to boost funding for police and pump more money into prisons

Mr Buswell said the Government’s election promise to toughen up sentencing laws and introduce mandatory sentencing for people who assault police was underpinned in the Budget by a significant investment in prison capacity.

 

A total of $655 million will be invested in 2012/13 to create an extra 1657 prison beds across the state.

A record $5.1 billion spend on health services in the next year – rising 5.9 per cent, or $282 million from last year – will include the fast tracking of forward works for a new children’s hospital, the construction stage of the Fiona Stanley Hospital, and new hospitals in two regional centres.

Mr Buswell said the Government would push ahead with public sector reforms in a bid to achieve improved performance and efficiency.

The first stage of the economic audit committee promised by the Government during the last election was complete and a range of hard decisions had delivered $7.6 billion over the forward estimates, Mr Buswell said.

“I am looking forward to the second stage of the economic audit to identify strategies for broader reform over the longer term, so we can ensure the budget stays in surplus,” he said.

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Fertility doctors are worried they will be under pressure to implant multiple embryos into women who cannot afford ongoing treatment due to new financial safety net caps, a leading IVF specialist says

Having two embryos implanted into the uterus instead of one raises a woman’s chance of having a multiple birth, says IVF Australia chairman Professor Michael Chapman.

As part of Medicare Safety Net restrictions unveiled in Tuesday’s budget, payments for IVF will be capped at different rates for each stage of treatment once a person reaches the safety net threshold for out-of-pocket medical expenses, which is $1,111.60, or $555.70 for those on low incomes.
This could hit women with an extra $1,500 to $2,000 of out-of-pocket costs per IVF cycle.

There are also caps on safety net payments in other areas including obstetrics, varicose vein and cataract surgery.                                                        embryo

Under the changes, pregnant women who choose to see a private obstetrician will be out of pocket by $550 unless doctors lower their fees.

“That is why the government is urging women to question their doctors about their fees,” Health Minister Nicola Roxon said.

An average of $4.5 million of taxpayers’ money is paid to the top 10 per cent of IVF specialists each year.

But Prof Chapman said the government, which says it wants to crack down on specialists who charge exorbitant fees, was using the figures for political gain.

“For every doctor that gets money, there are 10 staff members, the scientists, counsellors and nurses, they get funded through the rebate,” he told AAP.

Prof Chapman said he accepted there had been a 40 per cent rise in IVF fees over the past five years but said that it was in line with general medical inflation.

Current Medicare rebates, which work out to about $4,200 per child, go towards employing about 2,000 people in private IVF clinics nationally and investing in research and facilities, Prof Chapman said.

He estimated out-of-pocket costs for patients would rise from $1,600 to between $3,000 and $3,500 when the safety net caps come into effect on July 1, 2010.

It can often take more than one IVF cycle for a woman to fall pregnant.

“Certainly, patients are going to be more out of pocket for IVF than they have been in the past,” Prof Chapman said.

He warned doctors would be under pressure to implant more than one embryo per cycle into women as a result of safety net restrictions, increasing the chance of multiple births.

“Over the last five years in Australia the twin rate has dropped dramatically because we have been able to put one embryo back,” he said.

“But if patients think they won’t be able to afford the next cycle they will put a lot of pressure on the doctor to put two embryos back.”

Ms Roxon said her department would work with medical professionals to restructure the system to better reflect stages in a treatment cycle.
www.sbs.com.au

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Wall StreetTHE share market has opened marginally stronger the morning after the federal budget was handed down, and following a mixed lead from Wall Street.
At 10.15am (AEST), the benchmark S&P/ASX200 was up 12.1 points, or 0.31 per cent, at 3889.3, while the broader All Ordinaries gained 8.7 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 3872.3.

The four major banks were mostly higher at the open.

ANZ gained 4cents to $16.01, NAB was up 14 cents at $22.00 and Westpac was up 10 cents at $20.48.

The Commonwealth Bank, which reported cash earnings for the March quarter of about $1.15 billion, generating a cash return on equity of over 15 per cent, was down 20 cents at $36.40.

Resources weren’t as lucky, opening lower in morning trade.

Mining giant BHP was down five cents at $34.26, while rival Rio Tinto lost 4.41 per cent to $65.46.

Wall Street wobbled to a mixed finish on Tuesday as investors paused to assess gains from a long rally and mulled the new efforts to raise capital by banks and other firms.

The markets also digested better-than-expected data on the US trade deficit and reassuring comments from Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, about the health of the banking system.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 50.34 points, or 0.60 per cent, to settle at 8,469.11.
The tech-dominated Nasdaq dropped 15.32 points, or 0.88 per cent, to 1715.92 while the broad-market Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 0.89 point, or 0.1 per cent, to settle at 908.35.

On the Sydney Futures Exchange, the June share price index contract was trading 17 points higher at 3885 on volume of 4900 contracts.
www.news.com.au

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carpenter-full
THE federal Government has cut the skilled migration intake by a further 6900 people to help protect local jobs during the economic crisis.

But it will increase the number of people allowed to migrate to Australia for family reunions, the Government said yesterday as part of Budget 2009.

In March, the Government shed 18,500 skilled migration places in response to growing unemployment, which is forecast to hit 8.25 per cent in 2009-10.

The latest cut, the second to be made this year, brings the program down to 108,100 places in 2009-10.

Overall, the Government has slashed previous planning levels by close to 20 per cent.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the cuts would not be made to professions on the critical skills shortage list such as IT.

The migration intake in the coming year reflects the economic climate while ensuring employers can gain access to skilled professionals in industries still experiencing skills shortages,” Senator Evans said in a statement. The Government will provide more opportunities for family reunions by increasing the family component of the migration program by 3800 places to a total of 60,300 in 2009-10.

“This boost … will benefit Australians who seek to have their parents, partners or children join them to live here permanently,” Senator Evans said.

Overall, the migration program will total 168,700 for 2009-10.

www.news.com.au

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site_1_rand_1864622680_swan_budget_l_1205_aap

The Economy
Deficit $57.593 billion
Unemployment 8.25 per cent
Economic Growth -0.5 per cent of GDP
Inflation 1.75 per cent
First Home Owners Boost continued for six months
Small Business and General Tax Break increased to 50 per cent for order this calendar year

Infrastructure spending

A total of $22 billion including $8.5 billion for road, rail and port.
$3.2b for West Werribee to Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station
$40m towards design of Melbourne’s East-West rail tunnel
$365m for light rail corridor for the Gold Coast
$20m for planning new corridors in Brisbane
$294m to upgrade Adelaide’s Gawler line
$291m to extend Noarlunga to Seaford line
$61m to extend O-Bahn track in Adelaide
$236m towards central city section of Perth to Fremantle line
$91m for design work on Sydney West metro from Central to Westmead Road ($3.4b)
$1.5b for Hunter Expressway linking the F3 and New England Highway in NSW
$618m towards dual carriageway bypass of Kempsey on the Pacific Highway, NSW
$488m to replace 25km of Bruce Highway between Cooroy and Curra in Qld
$844m to upgrade Ipswich Motorway, Qld Ports ($389m)
$50m for Port of Darwin’s East Arm
$339m for development of common facilities at Port of Oakajee in

WA energy

$4.5b on new clean energy initiative

Education

$5.3b on tertiary education, research and innovation
$934m for 11 teaching, eight research and 12 vocational training projects
$901m for 21 research projects in space, marine, climate and nuclear science
$750m for future funding rounds of the Education Investment Fund
$491m to uncap number of university places from 2012
$437m over four years to provide university education for the disadvantaged
$500m to encourage research, development and commercialisation of ideas
$512m to help universities fund research

Health

$2.5b over five years to drive hospital and health workforce reform
$3.2b from Health and Hospitals Fund to modernise hospitals and improve cancer facilities
$121m over four years to relieve pressure on maternity services
$134m on rural health workforce strategy
Private health insurance rebate reduced for higher income earners
Medicare Levy Surcharge increased
Families

$731m over five years for paid parental leave scheme

Superannuation

Halving of salary sacrifice into super to $25,000 a year for those under 50 and to $50,000 a year for those over 50.

Cut in Government super contribution from $1,500 to $1,000 for those earning less than $60,000 a year

Aged

Pension age increased progressively to 67 years by 2023
Rate at which the pension is withdrawn with private income increased to 50 cents in the dollar
Single Pensioners to get extra $32.49 per week
Couple pensioners to get extra $10.14 per week
New $600 a year Carer Supplement for all Carer Payment recipients, on top of an increase in their pension
Carer allowance recipients to get extra $600 a year for each person in their care

Immigration

Skilled migrant intake slashed by 20 per cent
Extra $650m in funding for border protection

Public broadcasting

ABC to get extra $150m in funding over next three years
SBS to get extra $20m over next three years

www.sbs.com.au

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fhog%20imageFirst home buyers now comprise a record proportion of the residential housing market after responding to low interest rates and the government’s revamped assistance package, economists say.

First home buyers made up 27.5 per cent of all home loans in March, a record since the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) began the data series in 1991, and compared with 26.5 per cent of the total market in February.

The ABS data also showed that the housing market has recovered to its February 2008 levels, when interest rates were still being raised by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) before a series of monthly cuts since September to a 49-year low last month.

The number of home loans for owner-occupied housing jumped to a 13-month high of 59,793 in March.

The 4.9 per cent rise in March was even sunnier than economists’ forecasts of a 4.5 per cent increase.

“The housing industry is one of the more interest rate sensitive sectors and its a positive that the response has so far been rapid,” ICAP senior economist Adam Carr said.

“The result clearly ads weight to the argument that the Reserve Bank of Australia has done enough.

“It’s lost on many that other central banks around the world are cutting aggressively to counteract a breakdown in the transmission mechanism. This isn’t the case here.”

Between September and March, the central bank cut official interest rates by 400 basis points to 3.25 per cent in a bid to stimulate a flagging economy.

In early April, the RBA cut the cash rate by a further 25 basis points to a 49-year low of three per cent.

The ABS data found that total housing finance by value rose by 6.7 per cent in March, seasonally adjusted, to $20.688 billion, while loans to investors rose by 4.7 per cent from a year earlier.

“It’s particularly positive that investors are coming back into the market from low levels,” Mr Carr said.

Housing construction rose 13.9 per cent, or 5,565, year on year.

Lending for new dwellings climbed 2,610, or 8.8 per cent, while lending to buy established homes climbed 51,619, or 3.8 per cent, since March last year.

JP Morgan economist Helen Kevans said the boost to the federal government’s first home buyers grant has lifted demand for housing, particularly for new homes.

“As expected, demand for home loans again was underpinned by first home buyers, owing to the attractive grant and improved housing affordability, stemming from lower interest rates and falling house prices,” Ms Kevans said.

“The bigger grant for new building largely explains the solid 8.8 per cent rise in loans issued for the purchase of new dwellings in March.

“In coming months, we believe grants will continue to underpin demand for home loans, particularly during the June quarter given expectations that the expanded grant will end on June 30, as originally planned,” she said.

The government’s first $10.4 billion stimulus package, unveiled in October, doubled the first home buyer grant for established homes to $14,000, and tripled it to $21,000 for newly-constructed dwellings.

There is speculation the grant for brand new housing will be maintained in this year’s budget while the subsidy increase for established homes is scrapped.

Ms Kevans expects the RBA to cut the cash rate by 50 basis points to 2.5 per cent in the second half of 2009.

www.thewest.com.au

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pensioners

Bet and Bob Poole, Coogee

Healthcare and getting by are key concerns for Bet and Bob Poole, who are war veteran pensioners courtesy of Bob’s service as a merchant marine in World War II.

The retired, married couple receives $957.80 a fortnight in pension payments from the Federal Government.

“We’ve been married for 62 years – you don’t get that for murder – and I’ve felt like murdering him a few times,” Bet quips.

“If we have a banana, we’ve got to share it, because we can’t afford two.

“Because you get about $75 extra each if you’re a single pensioner, we know a few of them who are living together and saying they’re separated, which is all well and good as long as you don’t get caught.”

Bet has a heart condition that needs four prescriptions costing $21.20 per month to treat. Bob relies on two prescriptions for another ailment, which cost him $10.60. The couple’s income includes a combined monthly rebate of $10 for prescriptions.
Bet and Bob say any decrease in their combined $11.20 prescription gap would be most welcome.

The couple has private health insurance, which they say they will have to surrender if Treasurer Wayne Swan cuts the 30 per cent private health insurance subsidy.

“If the Government wipes that 30 per cent, I won’t be able to be in it,” Bet says.

“Sooner or later, I am going to have to have my main (heart) valve replaced, and even if I have got private insurance that will cost thousands and thousands to replace.”

Bet says a push by the Pensioners’ League for an extra $30 per week income for single pensioners would not help her or Bob.

“We’re not going to get anything because we’re married, so if I divorce him, I’ll get $30,” she says.

Regardless, she resents that a pay rise for pensioners is even in question when federal politicians have just received one.

“They’re going to give themselves $90 per week and they’re trying to lower that $30 right down to nothing, and that stinks,” Bet says.

Electricity, gas and water prices are going through the roof.

“If we don’t get something in the budget, it means a lot of the pensioners are not going to eat.”

Bob says there should be greater health support for his former comrades injured in war.
www.watoday.com.au

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budget 09TONIGHT’S Federal Budget will be about three things – jobs, nation building and a path back to surplus.

That was the message from Treasurer Wayne Swan this morning as he again repeated the Government’s mantra that there would be “difficult decisions” and “no easy answers”.

Just hours from delivering a in Budget ravaged by a $200 billion writedown revenue, Mr Swan said he was working in the “most difficult set of circumstances in 75 years”.

But he dodged questions about the likely impact on Labor in the polls, saying: “What we have to do is the right thing in the nation’s long-term economic interests”.

Wealthy retirees emerged as the latest group to pay the price for that stance today.

The Daily Telegraph reported they could have their pensions cut to help fund a $30-a week increase for almost one million single age pensioners.

The Government is expected to tighten the taper rate on the age pension, a method by which it claws back the welfare payment from retirees with an independent income.

It is just one of a number of cutbacks the Government is expected to outline as it tries to rein in an expected almost $60 billion Budget deficit.

The 30 per cent tax rebate for private health insurance coverage will be means tested, payouts for obstetric and IVF services under the Medicare Safety Net will be cut back and the increase in the first-home owners grant will be wound back.

Wealthy Australians will have their tax break on superannuation contributions cut in half and government superannuation co-contributions for low income earners will be slashed from $1500 to $1000 a year.

The “sin taxes” on alcohol and cigarettes could be increased.

But the Budget will announce an 18-week paid maternity leave scheme.

And it is expected to include a big-spending jobs package to combat an expected increase in unemployment to 8.5 per cent as a result of the global financial crisis.

The Opposition said the Budget cutbacks were made necessary by the Government’s irresponsible big-spending stimulus packages in response to the global financial crisis.

The $30-a-week rise in the pension will go only to single age pensioners and will see the weekly pension rate rise from $284.90 to $315 a week.

It will answer criticism that the payment left in poverty those who relied solely on the pension.

The rise is also expected to be extended to single veterans and disability pensioners but will not go to single mothers.

The pension rise will cost more than $3 billion, and to help pay for it, the Government is expected to tighten means testing of pensions.

Currently, single pensioners can earn up to $41,000 and still receive a small pension payment.

They also qualify for a range of concessions on medicines, council rates, electricity bills and telephone allowances worth up to $10,000 a year.

Couples can earn up to $68,000 and still get access to these valuable concessions.

http://www.news.com.au

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