Christopher Pyne rejects Abbott’s schools ‘loser’ remark

A senior Turnbull government minister has rejected Tony Abbott’s claim the coalition is “on a loser” if its schools funding plan disadvantages the Catholic sector.

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The former prime minister expects the package – labelled Gonski 2.0 – will be vigorously debated by Liberal and Nationals MPs when parliament resumes next Tuesday.

Labor has seized on coalition dissent as it ramps-up opposition to the government plan.

Watch: ‘Stare-down’ over Gonski 2.0

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“It should be junked – any proposal that takes more than $22 billion away from our schools over the coming decade will hurt Australian children,” opposition education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek told reporters in Sydney.

After earlier casting doubt on Labor’s commitment to restore the lost funding, Ms Plibersek said the opposition would “fight until the last day” for the $22 billion.

“Judge us on our record and you will know that we will restore funding to our schools.”

Ms Plibersek confirmed Labor would support the government’s cuts to 24 wealthy schools and reduced funding for 353 other schools.

Mr Abbott waded into the debate during a visit to Mandurah Catholic College south of Perth on Thursday, telling students any move to “relatively disadvantage” independent and Catholic schools and advantage public schools was wrong.

“Knowing a little bit about politics I suspect that the government will decide that it’s on a loser if it does anything that looks like it’s disadvantaging Catholic schools,” he said.

Watch: Catholic education sector upset at cuts

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But cabinet minister Christopher Pyne insisted Catholic schools would pocket a billion dollar increase in spending over the next 10 years.

“So how anybody could feel they are losing when they are getting a billion dollars extra is beyond me,” he told Nine Network.

Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce denied any coalition MPs had contacted him to express concerns about the plan, adding it was a matter for the joint party room.

The government’s package will ultimately increase federal money for schools from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $30.6 billion by 2027.

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Golf – Presidents Cup returns to Royal Melbourne in 2019

Melbourne also holds the distinction as the site of the lone International Team victory in 1998, when Peter Thomson’s squad defeated Jack Nicklaus’s U.

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S. Team 20.5 to 11.5.

In 2011, Fred Couples captained the U.S. Team to a 19-15 win over Greg Norman and the Internationals.“We’re thrilled to once again be returning to the prestigious and storied Royal Melbourne Golf Club,” PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.

“Our history there speaks volumes about not only the course and its ability to host world-class competitions, but also the surrounding area in Melbourne as a destination for our fans and players.

“Returning to such a storied course for this event, especially as both teams have been victorious there, is a special privilege and sets both teams up for an even playing field to break the tie.”The oldest golf club in Australia, Royal Melbourne was founded in 1891 and moved to its current location in 1926, becoming the Alister MacKenzie-designed anchor of what is now known as the Sandbelt.

The event will be played on a composite of holes from the club’s East and West courses.

“Royal Melbourne is delighted to be chosen to host the 2019 Presidents Cup,” said David Thomas, Captain of Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

“Past encounters have invariably included many fine matches, with players from both teams displaying finely honed golfing skills and exhibiting outstanding sportsmanship in a team environment.”

The 2017 Presidents Cup takes place at the Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey from Sept 28 to Oct 1 with Steve Stricker leading the home side and Zimbabwean Nick Price captaining the tourists.

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Construction boosted by property in April

Conditions in the residential construction sector remain solid and engineering work has also rebounded, Ai Group says.

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The Ai Group and Housing Industry Association Performance of Construction Index (PCI) rose 0.7 points to 51.9 points in the month, from 51.2 points in March, remaining above the 50-point level indicating expansion.

Ai Group head of policy Peter Burn said house, apartment and engineering construction all expanded in April, but commercial building work declined for the sixth consecutive month.

“April saw a modest lift and more balanced performance for the Australian construction sector,” he said in a statement.

“In contrast to the previous month when house building was the only improving sub-sector, in April further – though less spectacular – growth in stand-alone residential dwellings was backed by a steep bounce in apartment building and a rebound in engineering construction.”

Housing Industry Association senior economist Harley Dale noted that house building activity expanded for a fourth consecutive month in April, while apartment building pickup for the first time since July 2016.

He said that indicated conditions in the wider housing construction sector were still solid.

“The longevity of the current home building upturn in Australia is being sustained by the environment of very low interest rates and continued gains in employment,” Mr Dale said.

“Delivering a sufficient supply of new dwelling stock over the long run is vital to Australia’s future prosperity and we look forward to positive proposals in next week’s federal budget with respect to unlocking more affordable housing solutions.”

The index showed new orders grew in April after falling to a five-month low the previous month, and deliveries lifted solidly to the strongest rate of expansion in almost two-and-a-half years.

Ai Group said pressure on builders from rising wages and input prices were continuing to be passed on through selling prices, while strong competition in tender pricing was trimming profit margins last month.

Sydney GP jailed for at least 20 years over insulin murder of wife

A Sydney GP has been jailed for at least 20 years and three months for murdering his second wife with a lethal dose of insulin.

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While Brian Kenneth Crickitt gave no visible reaction after Justice Clifton Hoeben imposed the sentence on Friday, the victim’s brother David called out “hear hear judge” while people around him clapped.

The 63-year-old GP was found guilty in December of murdering Christine Crickitt late on New Year’s Eve 2009 or early on New Year’s Day 2010.

His third wife, Julie, who supported her husband throughout his judge-alone trial, left the NSW Supreme Court complex without making any comment.

The judge had found the GP somehow tricked Christine Crickitt, who was not a diabetic, into agreeing to be injected in the buttock for health reasons.

But he used a lethal dose of fast-acting insulin after becoming fed up with his marriage and besotted with his new lover, Linda Livermore.

In sentencing him to a maximum of 27 years, Justice Hoeben referred to the breach of trust involved due to Crickitt being the victim’s husband and also her treating doctor.

“The deceased was left to die a painful death alone by someone whom she trusted to care for her,” he said.

“The offender’s motivation to murder his wife was essentially based on self-interest and what he perceived would make his life better in the future.”

The judge referred to the need for a strong element of “general deterrence” in sentencing in this case.

“The abuse of trust which characterised this offence is not be tolerated in our community,” he said.

“Medical professionals and doctors, such as the offender, who misuse the trust placed in them by those to whom they provide treatment and care by committing serious criminal acts against them, should know that they will be held accountable and will be met with heavy punishment.”

Levy rise may fund GP rebate changes

Ending the freeze on Medicare rebates for doctor visits could be paid for by raising taxes on high-income earners in next week’s federal budget.

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Labor and health advocates have put the coalition under political pressure to lift a four-year freeze on Medicare rebates for GP visits.

The government has been seeking a way to pay the estimated $1.8 billion over four years required to lift the freeze.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans says one possibility is extending the Medicare levy surcharge to high-income earners with private health insurance.

The surcharge now only applies to those without such insurance.

The measure could raise around $4 billion over four years, which could also be used to cover other government costs in the health and welfare area.

While it is understood the coalition has considered the surcharge hike, there is also speculation the Medicare levy itself could be raised.

Equity Economics’ Angela Jackson said any lifting of the Medicare rebate freeze would be welcomed by patients and doctors.

Analysis released last year showed patients were due to be out of pocket by $5.50 per visit by 2020 if the freeze remained in place.

“This is the same as introducing a co-payment,” Ms Jackson told AAP on Friday.

“In addition to equity, the freeze is leading to a reduction in health care use which will lead to longer-term health care costs and a reduction in preventative health care like immunisations.”

The key to containing health care costs was keeping people out of hospitals, not out of the GP surgery.

The Australian Council of Social Service has long advocated removing the exemption from the Medicare levy surcharge for those holding private health insurance.

A spokesman for Health Minister Greg Hunt declined to comment ahead of the budget.

The levy surcharge starts at $90,000 income for singles without private health insurance and $180,000 for families.

It starts at one per cent of income and rises to 1.5 per cent for the highest earners on more than $140,000 as a single or more than $280,000 as a family.

The Medicare levy itself is two per cent of taxable income, but there is an exemption for the lowest income earners, seniors and pensioners.

Labor says the government must ditch all of its cuts to health care, and a partial unfreezing of the Medicare rebate won’t be enough.

“The test for Malcolm Turnbull is to not pick and choose which of his freezes and cuts to the health care system he intends to undo – he needs to undo them all,” health spokeswoman Catherine King said.