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THE Rudd Government has dumped one of its key election promises, the Grocery Choice price monitoring website, after supermarkets failed to provide enough information to make the site reliable.

After a meeting today with major supermarkets, Competition Minister Craig Emerson announced that the measure – an election promise that was aimed at keeping grocery prices low – would not proceed, The Australian reported.

“Upon close examination of the data requirements for reliable price information, I have formed the view that it is not feasible to generate that information in a timely manner, “ Dr Emerson said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    website cost of living in oz

The scheme had been due to be up and running next week.

The dumping of Grocery Choice comes after the Government last year abandoned FuelWatch after it was defeated in the Senate.

Mr Rudd campaigned heavily prior to the election on easing the cost-of-living pressures on working families and increasing competition in the petrol and grocery sectors.

Both FuelWatch and Grocery Choice were criticised for not putting downward pressure on prices.

Earlier this month it emerged that the consumer advocate Choice would be forced to go it alone on the website as the major supermarket chains continued to drag their feet over supplying price data.

Choice took over the running of the website from the Rudd Government, which launched it after campaigning on easing cost-of-living pressures before the election.

The $13 million site, which originally launched last August, was heavily criticised for displaying information that was too general and outdated to be useful.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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In a welcome move, the Australian Government has said it will legislate to extend the validity period of subclass 410 Retirement visas to 10 years, and remove the working restriction on these visas.

Subclass 410 Retirement visas ceased to be available to new applicants at the end of June 2005, but there are nevertheless some 8,700 410 visaholders in Australia at the moment.

The 410 visa is a long term temporary residency visa, with an initial validity period of 4 years. Initially renewals of this visa were required every 2 years, and there was a no work condition attaching.

Work rights were relaxed in 2003, and relaxations to the health requirements upon renewal of 410 visas were announced later that year.

In 2005 the rollover period for 410 visas was extended from 2 years to 4 years.

Successive Immigration Ministers appear to be sympathetic to the position in which Retirement visaholders find themselves. Many 410 visaholders are now long standing members of Australian communities, and granting permanent residency is a natural next step – the present Minister appears willing to listen to representatives of the 410 cohort, and in extending the renewal period to 10 years is (we would submit) providing quasi-permanent residency to affected individuals.

Full access to Medicare appears to be the main issue with this visa category, together with an ongoing requirement to maintain private health insurance.Indeed, with temporary visaholders being able to structure their personal tax affairs such that overseas source income (including UK source pensions) are not subject to tax in Australia, some would contend that 410 visaholders are in a good place visa and tax wise.If you are a subclass 410 visaholder and would like to discuss your personal tax and financial position please contact us at our Perth or Geelong office. Go Matilda Accounting and Tax is one of the few firms of advisors that have consultants with knowledge across the UK and Australian jurisdictions, and are therefore ideally placed to assist with the preparation and lodgment of UK and Australian Tax Returns, and to provide strategic advice on personal tax planning.

We also recommend that Retirement visaholders visit the internet discussion group that lobbies for the interests of individuals holding subclass 410 visas – British Expat Retirees In Australia, or BERIA: see the weblink below.

  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BERIA/  Source : www.gomatilda.com 

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lending moneyTHE Rudd Government will give the $21 billion margin lending industry three weeks to digest a proposed overhaul of the regulatory and legislative regime.
The Minister for Corporate Law Nick Sherry will today release a draft copy of the legislation with a view to introducing it into parliament next month.

The legislation includes new national laws to regulate margin lending under a standard national regime, reports The Australian.

Margin lending is not currently regulated in Australia and is considered to have been one of the main destroyers of investor wealth as the stockmarket collapsed last year.

It cost some investors their homes as their margin lending accounts blew up, triggering margin calls many couldn’t afford to pay.

Mr Sherry said yesterday taking out equity on a family home was a key area of interest to the Government.

“One area where we have had a high level of concern has been where people have been advised to take equity out of their family home and then to use this debt to leverage into buying shares through a margin loan.

“This double-debt trap, with a home as security, is of serious concern,” he said.

“Under our new responsible margin lending laws the lender will be required to assess a person’s true loan-to-value ratio

“This means the lender can no longer assume the money brought to the table is not itself debt, a major new improvement” that would reduce the risk of people losing their homes.

Properly geared margin lending, backed by full disclosure, had a place, but the Rudd Government would not tolerate ordinary Australians being misled into grossly inappropriate margin loans that could cost a family everything they owned, including their home, he said.

Under the new laws, lenders will be regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and be required to hold an Australian Financial Services Licence, be members of low-cost external dispute bodies, clearly disclose fees and commissions before lending, and lend under a tailored margin-lending-specific set of responsible lending obligations.

Between June last year and December 30, the number of margin calls received by 205,000 Australians with margin loans increased 458 per cent, as the share market dropped 40 per cent.

http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/money/story/0,26926,25441887-5015860,00.html

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