OECD warns of ‘rout’ in house prices

The OECD’s latest review says house prices have increased by 250 per cent – in real terms – over the last two decades.

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It has cautioned that any rapid downturn would be disastrous for the economy.

But Treasurer Scott Morrison has rejected the warning and says the economic survey fails to properly assess the landscape.

“Well I’ve always found with assessments often from northern hemisphere organisations that they don’t always quite appreciate the supply demand and balance here in Australia.”

He added that the Turnbull Government is working on a housing affordability package, but Australians will have to wait for the details be released in the May budget.

The Paris-based body says a continued rise of the market, aided by investor and owner-occupier demand, could result in a significant downward correction that spreads to the rest of the economy.

One it’s biggest concerns is that if iron-ore and coal prices plummet, so too, will property prices which would lift unemployment and mortgage stress.

“The OECD also said something today and they warned about the effect of a housing shock and the only way you get a housing shock in this market is if you’ve got the Labor party’s policy of taking a tax sledgehammer to the housing market. “

The sledgehammer the Treasurer refers to is Labor’s plan to reform negative gearing, the most generous tax concession for property investment in the world.

The Opposition’s Treasury Spokesman Chris Bowen seized on the report pushing Labor’s case for reform, which it says would help young people get into the housing market.

“Right across the country, young people are wondering how they will ever afford to get into the housing market. Commentators, experts have pointed out the budget is in need of repair and negative gearing reform helps repair the budget.”

Mr Bowen said the Government was flipping from policy thought bubble to thought bubble and should work with his side of politics to implement reform.

Treasurer Scott Morrison says that won’t be happening.

“Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen are putting out a very cruel hoax on young Australians who want to buy a house. They’re saying you’ll be able to buy a house anywhere you want for the price you want, and all you have to do is put up taxes. Now I think that is a very simplistic and disappointing view.”

Housing market expert Dr Andrew Wilson says house prices in the hot spot major cities are expected to calm down as they have elsewhere in the country.

“Certainly there’s a multi-speed market. Melbourne and Sydney well ahead of the rest, in fact in Perth we’ve got house prices at three or four year lows at the moment. But there’s no secret that lower interest rates have been the clear catalyst for higher prices.”

Those interest rates are expected to be left on hold when The Reserve Bank meets next Tuesday.

 

 

 

75th anniversary of Japanese attack on Broome commemorated

Off the coast of Broome, when the tide goes out, you can see the bombed out wreckages of 16 Dutch boats.

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They were sunk on the morning of the 3rd of March 1942, 75 years ago, when Japanese planes bombed the town of Broome.

The Dutch boats sitting in Roebuck Bay were an easy target for the Japanese fighter pilots.

On board the boats were Dutch military personnel, their wives and children, fleeing from the Japanese advance on Java, then a colony of the Dutch East Indies.

More than 80 of those who died were Dutch.

Eighty-five year old Ellie Koens survived that day.

“It’s very difficult to say my emotions on it because there were no emotions I just did as I was told.”

Ms Koens was 10 years old at the time, but she remembers that even as fire from the Japanese planes rained down on their boats, she did not want to get in the water.

“I said no mum, I’ve got to take my shoes off and she said that doesn’t matter get in the water and I said no my shoes have got to come off and, of course, my mother was as anxious as could be.”

The bombing has been commemorated at a ceremony in Broome for survivors and their descendants.

Sidney Muller is visiting Broome from the UK.

His father, Jo Muller was a 31 year old radio operator on a plane which was shot down north of Broome.

He walked for three days along with one other survivor of the crash, before finding help.

“It would be nice to understand what went through his mind at that time. But it does bring back to you terror of the war and the conditions they must have gone through with those burning wrecks.”

Mr Muller says the trip to Broome to see where his father’s plane was shot down, has helped him gain a better understanding of who his father was .

“I feel I understand my father more, he is a 31 year old man at the time. To be put through this sort of trial under these sort of conditions, yeah, you sort of can’t have anything put admiration”

 

 

 

EU’s big four meet to seek impetus in face of Brexit

The heads of continental Europe’s biggest economies meet in the gilded splendour of the Palace of Versailles on Monday, seeking ways of strengthening an EU facing Britain’s exit and mounting populism.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande —  whose two countries are often described as the European Union’s “engine” — will be joined by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni.

“The idea is to try to give political momentum to the four nations,” a French diplomatic source said.

The meeting comes in the run-up to celebrations on March 25 of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which founded what is now called the EU.

That date, combined with last year’s referendum in Britain on leaving the EU and the rise of populist and nationalist figures, has triggered a wave of angst about Europe’s future.

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The EU faces legislative elections in The Netherlands this month, followed by presidential elections in France in April and May.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and paymaster, holds legislative elections in September.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is widely forecast to reach the runoff in the French vote, while the party of firebrand anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders is expected to perform strongly in the Dutch race. Merkel, meanwhile, is facing pressure from the hard-right populist party Alternative for Germany.

Of the five options that European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed in a White Paper on the bloc’s post-Brexit future, ranging from a simple single market to even deeper integration, Paris and Berlin have already made their choice: a “multi-speed” Europe.

In this scenario, countries wanting to move ahead on issues such as economic growth, border protection and defence could form smaller groupings, leaving reticent members behind.

“We certainly learned from the history of the last years that there will be as well a European Union with different speeds, that not all will participate every time in all steps of integration,” Merkel said after a summit in Malta last month.

Berlin and Paris say the challenges of Brexit, coming after the eurozone crisis, migration and the Ukraine conflict, make a fresh drive to bolster the EU’s authority more urgent than ever.

Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg have signed on to the multi-speed idea, as they worriedly eye the rise of anti-European parties.

But to avoid antagonising member states who resist the idea, including many in eastern Europe, no concrete project is planned to be announced after the meeting in Versailles, which will be followed by a working dinner.

 

 

Barnett downplays One Nation relationship

West Australian premier Colin Barnett says neither he nor his state take One Nation leader Pauline Hanson seriously, despite his party having signed a preference deal with her.

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As Senator Hanson was touring south of Perth on Monday, Mr Barnett was trying to downplay any suggestion of a relationship between their two parties, other than an arrangement in the mechanics of vote distribution.

“We are just simply trying to maximise the Liberal vote and the Liberal result, as simple as that,” he said.

“Its a decision made by the party. I support the decision that the Liberal Party made, but its not a decision that I have any involvement in…I’ve got no relationship with One Nation at all.”

Mr Barnett moved to distance himself from the controversial One Nation leader’s comments on vaccination and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, telling reporters he had never met Senator Hanson.

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“I do not take Pauline Hanson’s comments seriously, and can I tell you the vast, vast majority of Western Australians don’t either,” Mr Barnett said.

“Pauline Hanson is not the opinion maker of Australia and my opponent is the Labor Party and Mark McGowan, that’s my only concern.”

Senator Hanson arrived in Perth on Sunday night in a cloud of controversy, standing by her praise of President Putin and defending remarks she made about childhood vaccination, encouraging parents to do their own research on the topic.

Speaking in Mandurah on Monday, Senator Hanson reiterated her party was not in the election to boost Mr Barnett or Opposition Leader Mark McGowan, but said a deal was done with the Liberals to get One Nation seats in the upper house.

Senator Hanson said voters were fed up with the major parties and were looking for change.

She described her candidates as down to earth, upfront and honest “grassroots Australians” who had had enough.

Mother charged with murder over Murray River drowning

A NSW mother accused of trying to drown her two sons in the Murray River has now been charged with murder as well as attempted murder.

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The 27-year-old was last week charged with attempted murder after she allegedly took her two sons, aged five and nine, to the river on Thursday evening and tried to hold both boys underwater. The nine-year-old boy wriggled free.

A body believed to belong to the five-year-old was recovered on Saturday, and his older brother remains in a stable condition in the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne after suffering bites from a dog that intervened.

The mother’s matter was heard briefly in Deniliquin Local Court again on Monday morning and she was additionally charged with murder.

A psychiatric report has been requested, and the woman is due back in court in Deniliquin on May 2. 

The boys’ heartbroken grandmother has accused child protection services of “miserably” failing the family.

The grandmother, through her lawyer, has said she holds police and corrective services responsible because the daughter was essentially “off-loaded” on her after being released from prison.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said agencies will urgently look into the family circumstances and make sure “any response is appropriate”.

She said there would be a thorough investigation into what she called “a human tragedy of the highest proportion”.

The dog involved in the incident was taken by the local council under a police order last week and its owners have started an online petition demanding its return.

The pitbull cross, named Buddy, had no history of biting anyone before the incident, the petition said.

“He has clearly seen a child in distress and attempted to help.”

A police spokeswoman on Monday said police no longer required the animal.

The Murray River Council is yet to comment on the matter.

Liberal MP calls for courage on housing

The federal government needs to pluck up the courage and do something meaningful to curb Australia’s soaring house prices, one of its backbenchers says.

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Outspoken Liberal MP John Alexander has put forward a number of ideas, including letting young people access their superannuation.

“The sportsman in me says, ‘No guts, no glory’,” he told ABC TV on Monday.

“It’s time to have some courage. It’s time to put ideas and plans and vision forward.”

Australia, of all countries, should be able to lead the world in the area but politics was interfering with policy development, Mr Alexander suggested.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has promised to make housing affordability a key issue in his second budget – but it won’t be centred on cash handouts.

He says the Victorian government has had a “good crack” at trying to ease housing affordability pressures, but he still believes supply is the key issue.

The state’s housing package announced on the weekend includes scrapping stamp duty for home purchases under $600,000, taxing vacant housing stock and a shared ownership plan with the government so buyers don’t need as big a deposit.

“Good on them for having a good crack at this,” Mr Morrison told Ray Hadley on 2GB radio on Monday.

“But at the end of the day, if that just means people just bid up more at the auction because they can borrow more because they don’t have to pay stamp duty then obviously that will take prices in one direction … without addressing the supply issues.”

There was a great risk of developers and vendors being the only beneficiary of the Victorian move, and that’s why the federal government abolished first home owners grants some time ago.

“You have got to get more houses built,” Mr Morrison said.

And not just on the fringes of cities, but right across the board.

Australia has an older generation looking for a certain type of accommodation and low-income earners struggling to pay their rent, the treasurer said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreed, saying there’s a need to free up zoning and planning to get more dwellings approved, especially around transport infrastructure such as railway stations.

“It is a big challenge, but it is one that we are absolutely focused on,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

Labor mocked the treasurer’s latest thoughts, labelling him as “Scott Morrison 10.0”, who has had “more versions than iTunes”.

“He keeps on rebooting himself desperately hoping he can come up with something to provide traction,” shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh told Sky News.

The treasurer talked about home ownership but had ruled out changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount.

They were issues most economists say inflate the housing market by tilting the hand towards investors and away from first home owners, Dr Leigh said.

Asked on 3AW radio what would be in the federal budget for housing affordability, Mr Turnbull flagged using the government’s “cities agenda” to tie funding to opening up more land for housing development.

“What we are doing as we set up our city deals … is reach agreement so that as commonwealth funding is made available for road or rail or whatever that is then part of a deal and a commitment to deliver, for example, more dwelling approvals,” Mr Turnbull said.

He said housing approvals had been “very slow”.

Hanson stirs controversy over vaccines, Putin, Islam

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has spurred a furious response from the medical profession after saying parents should not be “blackmailed” into vaccinating their children.

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In a 20-minute interview on the ABC on the weekend, Senator Hanson compared it with the moves of a dictatorship.

“What I don’t like about it is the blackmailing that’s happening with the government. Don’t do that to people. That’s a dictatorship. And I think people have a right to investigate themselves. Have a test, and see if you don’t have a reaction to it first, then you can have the vaccination, you know? But I hear from so many parents. Where are their rights? Why aren’t you prepared to listen to them?”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was quick to respond.

He says the categorical advice from medical experts, based on decades of research and evidence, is that vaccinations save lives.

“If parents choose not to vaccinate their children, they are putting their children’s health at risk and every other person’s children’s health at risk, too. The health of our children, the health of the nation, depends on vaccination, and that has to be as close to 100 per cent as possible. It is a vital health objective to ensure that everybody is vaccinated. And that’s why, from the beginning of last year, we introduced the ‘no jab, no pay’ policy, or, as you know, if kids aren’t vaccinated, then their parents won’t get access to various childcare and other benefits.”

Health Minister Cameron Dick says Senator Hanson is speaking about an issue she does not understand.

“Immunisation has proven to be one of the miracles of modern medicine. Millions of lives have been saved, so everyone in public life has a responsibility to promote vaccination, including Mrs Hanson.”

Likewise, the health program director at the Melbourne-based Grattan Institute, Dr Stephen Duckett, has told the ABC he is angry about Senator Hanson’s remarks.

“I was absolutely disgusted. This is a situation where we’ve got a popular politician with a significant following who’s actually giving crazy, crazy medical advice. Vaccines are safe. I cannot stress how angry it makes one feel that she is putting lives at risk, kids who need vaccinations, even older people who need vaccinations in winter to avoid getting the flu and so on. She is putting all these people at risk without any evidence whatsoever.”

Senator Hanson also drew more criticism after opening up about her respect and admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“I respect the man. He is very patriotic towards his country, the people love him, he’s doing so well for the country. So many Australians here want that leadership here in Australia. They want a leader here to stand up for the people and fight for this nation.”

The One Nation leader dismissed suggestions President Putin was responsible for Russia’s role in the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine.

Investigators have found the plane was shot down by Russian-backed rebels, killing almost 300 people, including 38 Australians.

She debates that.

(Hanson:) “If he was, have you got the proof that he did it?”

(Interviewer:) “No, no, but they did say the missile came from Russia, and he is the leader.”

(Hanson:) “Well, did he push the button? See, there’s a lot of things here, Barrie. You’re … you know … we say these things.”

Malcolm Turnbull has flatly rejected those remarks, too.

“Vladimir Putin’s Russia is subject to international sanctions, to which Australia is a party, because of his conduct in shooting down the MH17 airliner in which 38 Australians were killed. Let’s not forget that. That was a shocking international crime. He’s also invaded his neighbour, Ukraine, seized its territory, breaching international law. So Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not, and should not be, an object of admiration in any respect.”

Senator Hanson is also not pulling back on her views on Islam, which she says is a political ideology rather than a religion.

“It’s purporting to be a religion, but I believe it is a political ideology, (that they) want to impose their sharia law and impose their way of life and their thoughts, processes, on the rest of our society. They hate Western society. They want to change us. Do you want to be changed? Do you want to become, you know … would you be happy under Islam?”

Former Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Kuranda Seyit says it is disappointing she is using such divisive language.

“It’s really sad, because these people are genuine people who have come to Australia to make it a better place, like all the thousands of migrant stories we have, and including people who are refugees and asylum seekers. They’ve come here because they’re fleeing violence. They’re not here to create more violence. They’re not here to change our way of life.”

 

 

Melbourne lake drowning victim named

A tribute has been written on a bollard next to a Melbourne lake where two men died after a drunken night swim turned to tragedy.

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Haydyn Gibbons, 19, and another man in his 30s, died when they got into trouble while swimming in a lake on Redleap Reserve at Mill Park on Sunday night.

A large floral tribute, with a bottle of beer and a can of whiskey and dry, has been left on a small pier next to the lake, a message written on a bollard in black texta.

It reads: “To our little brother Haydyn, may you rest in peace beautiful boy. We love you always, forever young’.

Friend Chelsea Ruby Nesci said Mr Gibbons he had been living with her family for the past four years.

“Nobody could prepare me for what has unfolded tonight,” Ms Nesci wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

“Never did I think I’d be coming home to your empty bedroom – I’m sitting here wide awake, still in shock that you’re no longer with us.”

Witnesses were heard screaming for more people to help on Sunday night, including one man who jumped into the water and began frantically searching for his friends.

Neighbour Nathan Henderson heard the panicked calls, and helped police try to save the men.

“A police officer arrived and jumped in. So I sprinted home, grabbed a surfboard so we had something to float on… and then we started searching the lake,” he told the Nine Network.

“(One of their friends) was just rolling on the floor, crying, and just devastated.”

Three police officers who arrived first on the scene spent 15 minutes in the water trying to find the pair before a full-scale search began.

The mens’ bodies were pulled from the water around 10pm on Sunday.

Friends and family of the 19-year-old victim were there as rescuers recovered his body.

Senior Sergeant Mark Smith said the men were affected by alcohol.

“Unfortunately because of the effects of alcohol, two of them have got into trouble while swimming across the lake,” he said at the scene.

Sims dismisses Wayne Bennett critics

Reports of Wayne Bennett’s demise as an NRL coach have been greatly exaggerated, says Korbin Sims.

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The Brisbane forward didn’t mince his words when asked about reports Bennett had lost his aura and player-support this season.

“He’s Wayne Bennett,” he said.

“It’s pretty simple.

“He hasn’t lost any aura in my eyes.

“And the talk of him losing the playing group is absolute bulls..t.”

Brisbane did their best to silence critics with a 26-18 NRL season-opening win over defending champions Cronulla.

But Broncos captain Darius Boyd did not expect the pressure on his club to ease any time soon.

“I just think that comes with being at this club, as a Bronco,” he said of the scrutiny.

“With the proud history that this club has, there is always pressure whether you are captain or coach or whoever.

“But we don’t focus on that sort of stuff.

“We have a hard enough job performing on the field each week.”

Meanwhile, Kiwi international Jordan Kahu has played down a training health scare for standout Brisbane centre Tautau Moga.

The former Cowboys flyer reportedly suffered a heart complaint at training after his inspired Broncos debut in the NRL season-opener.

Tom Opacic was considered to be on standby for Moga ahead of Friday’s blockbuster derby against North Queensland at Suncorp Stadium.

But Kahu said on Monday he expected Moga to play.

“I think that was just precautionary,” he said of Moga leaving training.

Moga was named Broncos players’ player after he notched 112m from 12 runs in his first NRL game in Brisbane colours.

Turkish president accuses Germany of reverting to Nazism over rally cancellations

In April Turkish voters will be asked whether they back a new constitution, said to transform the country from a parliamentary republic into a presidential one.

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Among the proposed changes are those giving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who now holds a largely ceremonial role – sweeping new powers, including over the national budget.

The president would also have a greater say in the appointment of ministers and judges, as well as the authority to dismiss the parliament.

Around 1.4 million Turkish citizens live in Germany.

The Turkish government had planned to send ministers to address rallies in several cities in a bid to win support for its position among those eligible to vote in the referendum.

But German authorities last week withdrew permission for two events, citing security concerns.

President Erdogan criticised the decision at a public rally in Istanbul.

“Germany, you have no relation whatsoever to democracy and you should know that your current actions are no different to those of the Nazi period. When we say that, they get disturbed. Why are you disturbed? This is what you’re doing.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested The Netherlands has followed in Germany’s footsteps.

“I thought the era of Nazism was over in Germany, but I see now that it’s going on. Everything is clear. One of my ministers who was scheduled to meet your minister, wanted to give a speech. Why are you bothered? Now I see the Netherlands has made a similiar statement. You poor things.”

Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas described the comments as “absurd, disgraceful and outlandish”.

The incident has further strained relations between the two NATO member states, amid mounting public outrage over the arrest in Turkey of a Turkish-German journalist.

And there have been growing calls for a tougher response to Mr Erdogan’s actions from Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Public polls accuse the German government of being too accomodating to Turkey, with which it signed an agreement to help stem the arrival of asylum seekers from Syria and elsewhere to Europe.

In Austria, meanwhile, Chancellor Christian Kern is calling for a European Union-wide ban on political campaigning by Turkish politicians.

And the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders says the entire Turkish cabinet should be banned from visiting the Netherlands.

“I think that coming here to advocate the change of the Turkish constitution that will only strengthen the Islamo-fascist leader Erdogan of Turkey more than parliament, Turkish parliament is the worst thing that could happen to us. So I would say if I would be prime minister today I would declare, at least until half of April when they have this referendum in Turkey, I would call the whole cabinet of Turkey persona non grata for a month or two.”