Call to recognise First Australians in constitution
A proposal to recognise Indigenous Australians in the constitution will soon be put to a referendum. In his first address to the National Press Club as the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt will pledge to ‘bring forward a consensus option’ recognising Indigenous Australians as the nation's First Peoples in the constitution within the next three years. Mr Wyatt is treading carefully, saying ‘whatever words you insert into the constitution, they can have significant implications way beyond the simple wording’. Mr Wyatt is the first Indigenous Australian to hold a cabinet position since federation.
KHALIL: Country Not on Verge of Collapse, But Situation Challenging
09 Jul 2019
Lebanon - Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said "Regardless of the report of the International Monetary Fund, we need to take structural reform steps to rationalize public spending in the sectors of electricity, tax evasion and customs, and to impose reform measures on the administration."
"The 2019 budget is not enough to achieve all the reforms, but it is a good first step," Khalil said in a TV interview.
He pointed out that "there was no issues with the army topic, but a difference of views which will be resolved in the last session. (...) I confirm that we are not a bankrupt country, and that there is a clear intention to join ranks to manage the financial and banking situation in cooperation with the Central Bank. We are able to withstand and continue, but this does not exempt the House of Representatives and the government from taking reform measures starting with the budget of 2019. Political stability remains essential to maintain investors' confidence."
"We are not on the verge of collapse, even if we are in a difficult situation. The budget is a watershed for a bigger reform project. We are confident of our ability to continue," the Finance Minister confirmed.
"Sanctions concern all the Lebanese, even if they are under Hezbollah's name. The measures taken by Lebanon and the laws issued by international bodies, make these sanctions unjustified and detrimental to financial stability. We are committed to all the legal standards related to this issue. Lebanon and its banks are committed to all legislations, and there is no justification whatsoever to amplifying these sanctions," he stressed.
JREISSATI After Bloc Meeting: State Has Final Say
09 Jul 2019
Lebanon - "He who works for his people and not for his popularity is worthy of shouldering such responsibility," said Minister of State Salim Jreissati in the wake of the Strong Lebanon bloc meeting.
"Communication between Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Prime Minister Saad Hariri is still ongoing, because the rule of the mighty and the biggest settlement are our responsibility together."
"The State has the final say," Jreissati assured.
"We hold on tight to the loyal proponents, so we can all stand together and resolve the economic crisis we are suffering from. The issue of the Judicial Council belongs to the Council of Ministers concerned with the referral decree which describes the bloody and dangerous security event which put the life of a minister at risk, and jeopardized security," he said.
"The so-called specificities of regions have vanished with the proportionality representation. Sectarian, regional and vocational 'reserves' are contrary to the State project," he assured on behalf of the bloc.
EU powers take first step to punish Iran for breaking N-deal
BERLIN: European powers took their first step on Tuesday towards punishing Iran for breaking its nuclear agreement, triggering the deal’s mechanism to resolve breaches.
The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, plus the foreign affairs chief of the European Union, said in a statement that Iran was “pursuing activities inconsistent with its commitments” under the deal, known as the JCPoA.
“These compliance issues must be addressed within the framework of the JCPoA, and a Joint Commission should be convened urgently,” they said.
The three European powers are the remaining Western signatories to Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement, which was abandoned by the United States last year.
Convening a joint commission of signatories — the Europeans plus Russia and China — is the first step in a process foreseen in the agreement that could eventually lead to a “snapback”, bringing back the international sanctions lifted by the deal.
“Iran has stated that it wants to remain within the JCPoA. It must act accordingly by reversing these activities and returning to full JCPoA compliance without delay,” the European countries said.
The 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers offered Iran access to world trade in return for agreeing to curbs on its nuclear programme.
The future of the pact has been in doubt since last year when the United States pulled out of it and reimposed unilateral sanctions. Iran has said it wants to continue to abide by the agreement but cannot do so indefinitely if US sanctions prevent it from receiving any of the promised economic benefits.
The deal’s fate has come to a head in the past 10 days, after Iran announced steps that were in violation of its central commitments — it announced that it had amassed more enriched uranium than allowed under the agreement and said it had refined uranium to a higher purity.
Tehran argues that its steps are permitted under the deal as a response to US non-compliance. It has said it could take new steps in 60 days, including restarting dismantled centrifuges and purifying uranium to a sharply higher threshold.
The nuclear diplomacy is a central issue in a wider confrontation between the United States and Iran, which has escalated since the start of May when Washington tightened sanctions with the aim of halting all Iranian oil exports.
The dispute took on a military dimension, with Washington accusing Tehran of attacks on ships in the Gulf. Last month Iran shot down a US drone, prompting President Donald Trump to order retaliatory air strikes, only to call them off minutes before impact. — Reuters
Indonesia to return Australian waste
Indonesia is shipping a further eight containers of toxic waste back to Brisbane following last week's decision to return contaminated recycling materials. The country's customs agency has seized more than 200 tonnes of Australian rubbish at a major port. The haul is supposed to contain paper for recycling, but officials say dirty nappies, water bottles and plastic sheets are clearly mixed in. Indonesia has declared the shipment is toxic and is preparing to export it back to Brisbane.
Business loans dip as property slides: CFR
Slipping property values may have contributed to the recent fall in loans to small businesses, the country's four main financial regulatory agencies say.
"Demand for housing credit has been subdued, though there has also been some tightening in credit supply," the Council of Financial Regulators said in a statement summarising their meeting on July 5.
The CFR - comprising the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Treasury - said loans to small businesses had declined during the past year.
In a French palace, the most eclectic group of people imaginable gathered for the party of the year.
"Lenders are themselves applying stricter verification of expenses and income to small businesses and lending may be affected by declining collateral values as housing prices decline," the CFR said on Wednesday.
Third Sydney unit block evacuated
A third Sydney apartment block is under scrutiny over building and safety issues after it was revealed its residents were evacuated late last year.
The units at 19 Gadigal Avenue in Zetland, in Sydney's inner south, were evacuated by the building owners in late 2018, according to City of Sydney.
Council staff who inspected the building in February "found the building to be vacant with extensive and severe water damage", a spokesman says.
"The water damage caused the failure of the internal fire-rated construction throughout several apartments," he said in a statement on Wednesday.
Minister rules out selling NBN to Telstra
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has ruled out selling the national broadband network to Telstra when the rollout of the $51 billion project is finished.
Telstra raised the prospect of acquiring the network or striking a deal with the government over the network last year.
Mr Fletcher pointed to safeguards within existing laws preventing a retail telco like Telstra from owning the network, saying the measures were good public policy.
“There are many challenges,” Torbey said.
Lebanese banks can absorb shocks: Torbey
Jul. 05, 2019
BEIRUT: Lebanese banks are able to absorb any shocks, a leading banker said Thursday, thanks to their liquidity and full compliance with international rules. “As a result of the financial crisis, Lebanese banks in general have proved their ability to absorb shocks and suffered less damage compared to international banks,” Joseph Torbey, president of the executive committee of the Union of the Arab Banks, said at the opening of an annual forum for the heads of risk management of Arab banks, held at the Coral Beach Hotel.
He added that due to an effective regulatory framework and best risk management practices, with the issuance of the Basel III standards, Lebanese banks had completed their path toward strong growth in their activities while raising their capital levels and improving quality beyond the minimum requirements, and even several years before the final Basel III commitment period in January 2019.
Lebanese banks “had sufficient liquidity to cope with future obstacles and any potential crises in the short term through high liquidity coverage,” Torbey said.
He also commented on the banks’ compliance with the International Financial Reporting Standards.
“As for IFRS 9, which has been mandatory since the beginning of last year, I would like to pay tribute to the role of Arab banks in general, and Lebanese in particular, which have successfully committed themselves to these new standards.
“There are many challenges. The most important of these challenges is the need to strengthen coordination among specialized units within the institutions,” Torbey said.
He added that the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision had issued a final paper containing a set of amendments to the standard approaches to the measurement and management of credit risk and operational risk, which is the final revision of Basel III, or so-called Basel IV.
“These revisions and amendments are based on reducing the gap between standard approaches and internal approaches to credit risk and imposing a new approach to calculating capital requirements to cover operational risks,” Torbey said.
He noted that the Basel committee had finalized the final amendments to the methods of calculating market risk in January this year.
“All these amendments are expected to come into effect by January 2022. I would like to point out that these amendments would put pressure on the capital of international banks in general and Lebanese in particular,” he said.
Torbey added that the amended Basel III required banks to make a commitment to recycle a large part of their profits, improve the quality of their risk-weighted assets, raise levels of hedging and adopt a more selective lending and investment policy in various domestic and international markets.
Hong Kong’s extradition bill is ‘dead’
Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill has officially been scrapped. Chief Executive Carrie Lam confirmed the complete withdrawal of the measure, which would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China, in an address where she described the government’s push for the bill as a ‘complete failure’. ‘The bill is dead,’ she said. Colossal crowds numbering more than a million participated in violent rallies against the bill over the past three weeks where protestors called for Ms Lam’s resignation.
Minister wants 'positive spin' on homeless
July 9, 2019
Assistant Housing Minister Luke Howarth insists he wants to put a "positive spin" on homelessness figures, despite lord mayors demanding more action to tackle the issue in capital cities.
Mr Howarth, who was recently promoted to the role, said the more than 116,000 homeless people made up just 0.5 per cent of Australia's population.
"I want to put a positive spin on it as well and not just say Australia's in a housing crisis when it affects a very, very small percentage of the population," he told ABC Radio National on Tuesday.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers branded the comments an "absolute disgrace", saying he had set a new low in the way homeless people were talked about.
"This guy is not the minister for homelessness, he's the minister for hopelessness," he told reporters in Brisbane.
"Scott Morrison's message via his minister to 116,000 homeless Australians is that they should be happier and more upbeat about it."