Monday, May 13, 2013

Wayne Swan's Budget to be a sea of red ink as debts rise

When the ALP took over, Australia had ZERO Federal debt

DEBT is expected to soar over the next four years to a peak of $185 billion as the Federal Budget struggles to get back into the black, putting the nation's prized AAA credit rating in jeopardy.

Treasurer Wayne Swan's Budget this week is tipped by economists to be a sea of red ink.

This year's deficit may even run as high as $22 billion some analysts claim despite last-minute attempts to rein-in runaway spending.

Mr Swan was on Sunday forced to deny his sixth Budget would hold little credibility after the broken promises and significant forecast disparities in previous years.

In an interview with Channel Nine's Laurie Oakes, Mr Swan repeatedly rejected claims last year's Budget was "hilarious reading" or akin to a "stand-up comedy act" as he dismissed suggestions he was "smoking something" for thinking Labor could win the election.

This comes as forecasters grow increasingly worried the Federal Budget will remain in the red for a decade.

HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham is tipping this year's deficit will be $22 billion on Tuesday night and the prospects of a balanced Budget are "limited" over the medium term which will push up debt and put pressure on Australia's AAA credit rating.


10,000 new jobs if penalty rates go

MORE than 10,000 new jobs would be created around Australia should the nation's penalty rate structure be successfully revised, an independent audit has found.

In an application to be lodged later today by Restaurant & Catering Australia, new modelling has proposed the standard award wage be paid for the first five shifts in any week, regardless of whether they fell on a weekday or weekend, with penalty rates from the sixth shift onwards over a seven-day period.

Prepared by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the proposal found - if adopted - the nation would see an increase of up to 3814 additional jobs in the industry in the first year, and a further 7849 additional jobs by 2030.

John Hart, CEO of Restaurant & Catering Australia said penalty rates were pricing restaurants out of the market and threatening the employment prospects of workers.

"An award that adds 70 per cent to a Saturday wage bill and 100 per cent to an hourly rate on a Sunday is forcing owners to earn less than the minimum wage or simply close their doors," Mr Hart said.

The modelling suggested an additional 6953 jobs would be created across all industries in the first year and would also contribute towards a fall in CPI, greater economic activity and an increase in GDP.

Australian Workers Union assistant secretary Stephen Bali said it would be a "horrendous change of culture" if businesses stopped paying penalty rates.


School lunchbox bans driving parents nuts

PARENTS are in revolt over school lunchbox restrictions with four out of five complaining schools are overly concerned about food bought to school and one in three objecting to the banning of nuts.

Even the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Association says school-wide bans on nuts in lunchboxes aren't effective and the president of the Primary Principals Association Norm Hart says they are "wrong" and can't be enforced.

However Marita Ishac, the mother of seven-year-old Stephanie who suffers from a severe allergy to pistachio nuts, says nuts should be banned.

"The reaction comes on so quickly it's scary," she said. "They should be more sensitive. If they want their kids to have nuts serve them at home," she said.

The widespread angst about school food bans was uncovered in a Galaxy survey conducted on behalf of health fund Medibank Private's 24/7 advice line for Food Allergy Week.

It found 79 per cent of the 1000 people surveyed believed schools were overly concerned about the food bought in by pupils and 30 per cent disagreed with banning nuts from packed lunches.

At the same time nearly 40 per cent of respondents admitted they wouldn't know the signs of someone suffering a serious reaction to food and 47 per cent said they wouldn't know what to do if it happened.

"Lunchbox restrictions are an acutely hot topic but this must not be allowed to dilute the seriousness of food allergies," Georgia Karabatsos, Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line Medical Director says.

The president of the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Association Marita Said said there was a "lot of hysteria" about food bans and her organisation did not promote them.

"I think schools have thought this is the answer, they are petrified because we have had children die at school or on school camps," she said.

Such bans often saw children with allergies stigmatised and bullied and they allowed a handful of parents to focus on the ban rather than the restrictions of the child who had the allergy, she said.

Instead of a school-wide ban schools should look at implementing voluntary restrictions in the allergic child's class and only if they were too young to be fully aware of their diet restrictions, she said.

One in 10 children now developed a food allergy in their first year of life and schools should try to educate all students about allergy problems, how to read the signs and what to do if an emergency happened, she said.

The president of the Primary Principals Association Norm Hart said schools were taking more interest in what was in student's lunchboxes because they wanted parents to work in partnership with teachers to educate children about how to eat a healthy diet.

However, he said school wide bans on nuts were "wrong" because they gave a false sense of security to the families of children with an allergy and other parents.

"You can't enforce it, and if you say a place is free of whatever and its not you have a problem," he said.

Marita Ishac says she discovered Stephanie's allergy to pistachios when she reacted badly after eating a Lebanese sweet at the age of two.  "I hadn't given her nuts before and she had an itchy throat, then started blotching and her ears started to swell," she said.

Mrs Ishac now carries an epipen at all times and has given one to the school in case her daughteR has an attack while at school.

Marita Said says the anaphylactic reactions that are most dangerous are those where there are breathing difficulties or any swelling of the tongue or throat and onlookers should immediately administer an epipen or call an ambulance if they encountered a person suffering these symptoms.


Classy pepper from Tasmania

A native pepper bush

ACROSS Tasmania, native bushes are being stripped of their spicy black fruit as the state's pepper industry makes inroads into pantries around the world.

Native pepper, or pepperberries, grow in cool, wet habitats around Tasmania and every autumn Diemen Pepper harvests tonnes of the pea-sized fruit that is later cleaned, dried and exported.

Chris Read, from Diemen Pepper, grows some of the native pepper shrubs at his farm at Birchs Bay.

The rest is gathered from properties at Waratah and Hellyer Gorge in the North-West and Pyengana in the North-East.

"Almost every landowner around Waratah has pepper berries on their property. The spice had been largely ignored, but I put the word out and got the response I was hoping for," Mr Read said.

The native shrubs are not irrigated or sheltered and the harvest can vary greatly between seasons. "It is a good year this year, but last year the harvest was about zero, it really is hit and miss," Mr Read said.

About 80 per cent of spice packaged by Diemen Pepper is exported to North America and Europe. Local sales make up only about 1 per cent while the mainland market is growing.

The spice is now becoming a niche product among those who want to use native ingredients in Australian cuisine.

Native pepper is many times more expensive than conventional pepper.

Mr Read said he was one of only a handful of pepperberry merchants in Tasmania.  "But we are now on the cusp of a commercial enterprise for Tasmania and we are looking to perhaps invest in orchards ," he said.


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