Australian household income barely rising

Low-income growth is not something new that has just crept up on the economy and explains why Australian households may be struggling to make ends meet.

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But new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show inequality is only marginally higher.

“When you look at it on a global scale, Australia is still low,” ABS chief economist Bruce Hockman told AAP on Wednesday.

In its two-yearly survey of income and housing, average household debt has almost doubled since the early 2000s, with about three in 10 Australian households considered to be “over-indebted”.

A separate ABS report also shows that while energy costs are at the centre of a heated political debate, education has seen the biggest increase in household spending since the start of the decade.

The ABS found that while the average weekly household income grew by $274 to $982 in the four years between 2003/04 and 2007/08, it grew by only $27 to $1009 in inflation-adjusted terms during the next eight years.

However, average household wealth increased 11 per cent between 2013/14 and 2015/16 to $929,400, largely as a result of rising property values.

At the same time, average household debt rose to $169,000 in 2015/16, up from $94,000 in 2003/04.

One in four households carried debt equal to three or more years’ worth of disposable income and a further two per cent held debt equal to three-quarters of the value of their household assets.

“Based on either of these comparisons, around three in 10 households with a debt in Australia are considered to be ‘over-indebted’,” Mr Hockman said.

Using the so-called Gini coefficient – an international measure of inequality – income inequality rated 0.323 in 2015/16 but within a range of 0.320 and 0.333 that has stood since 2007/08.

Values closer to zero represent higher equality while closer to one represent higher inequality.

Wealth is less equally distributed than income among Australians, scoring 0.605 in 2015/16, the same as two years ago but higher than the 0.573 recorded when it was first measured in 2003/04.

The bureau’s separate six-yearly household expenditure survey found between 2009/10 and 2015/16 spending on education jumped 44 per cent followed by household services and operations such as cleaning products and pest control, which increased by 30 per cent.

Energy and healthcare were joint third, rising 26 per cent, while at the other end of the scale, spending on alcohol, tobacco, clothing and footwear, and household furnishings showed no significant change.

Trengove AFL future at Port up in the air

Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak says he’d be sad if teammate Jackson Trengove leaves the AFL club.

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Trengove is weighing up free-agency offers to return to his native Victoria after being dropped from Port’s team for the last month of the season.

“He has got to make a decision … it’s up in the air,” Boak told reporters on Wednesday.

“This is footy now. Free agency comes around and he has got to look at what is best for him and his family.

“We respect that; we understand that. We as a club love Jacko and Jacko absolutely loves the club but he has got to do what is best for him.”

The Western Bulldogs are believed to be pitching for Trengove, a versatile 153-gamer, while the Power are understood to be keen on Brisbane midfielder Tom Rockliff.

“I don’t even know if we have spoken to him but he’s a quality player … it elevates your midfield if you bring someone like that in,” Boak said of the Lions’ ex-captain.

Boak said he and his teammates were still grappling with their crushing extra-time elimination final loss to West Coast.

Eagle Luke Shuey kicked a goal after the extra-time siren in a result still raw at Port.

“There is no doubt there’s going to be a lot of hurt from that and a lot of burn that will drive a few players,” Boak said.

“It’s probably the worst result and worst loss I have ever been involved in, in a final like that where we controlled the game for a lot of it and wasted opportunities.

“And to go down in extra time, after the siren, is pretty hard to cop.”

The Power skipper downplayed president David Koch’s post-game remarks that players were to blame for not following coach Ken Hinkley’s game plan.

“We (players) have spoken about it,” Boak said.

“We have got to talk about it. We know that we’re all on the same page and all looking for the same outcome.

“He (Koch) is really passionate about the club …there is no doubt every player at out club cares about winning a premiership and that is all they want, and he knows that.”

Floral tribute to Princess Diana mocked online

A floral tribute to Princess Diana in the UK town of Chesterfield has been widely ridiculed as “dreadful” and “a heinous monstrosity”.

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Created as part of a traditional festival for dressing wells in the Derbyshire town, the flower arrangement commemorates the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, The Telegraph reports. 

Chesterfield Borough Council posted photos of the tribute on Facebook, and was quickly inundated with negative comments.

Post by Chesterfield Borough Council.

“What an atrocity. Poor Diana. But hope she is looking down and having a giggle about it bless her,” wrote Jan McCulloch.

“There must have been some local opposition to this heinous monstrosity,” commented Michael Field.

Welbeck Kane wrote: “I live here [Chesterfield] and, let me tell you, I can feel its eyes on me, even now in my house.”

Others suggested the face looked more like British comedy character Father Ted, singers Sir Rod Stewart and Sir Bob Geldof and children’s character Worzel Gummidge.

The council have defended the memorial, which will be displayed in Chesterfield Market Place until the weekend.

“The well dressing is produced by 14 volunteers using the ancient Derbyshire art of well dressing, which involves creating designs from flower petals and other natural materials,” a council spokesman said.

“All art is meant to be a talking point and that certainly seems to be the case with this year’s design.

“The well dressing is designed to attract visitors to the area and if the publicity encourages more people to come and experience our historic market town and local shops then that can only be good for Chesterfield.” 

I think Cecilia Gimenez has been at it again. #PrincessDi #BeholdtheMonkey pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/N5KnWjc7p2

— Natalie Mitchell (@Mitchell_Nat) September 12, 2017Chesterfield’s Princess Diana floral tribute is drunk and wants to fight you苏州美甲培训学校,长沙SPA,/mcPuhEd3Pf

— Emma Richards (@EmmaRichards85) September 12, 2017#Chesterfield you are lucky no one can be sent to the tower for your dreadful memorial#KensingtonPalace no one had the guts to say NO

— Amber Zoe (@AmberZoe12) September 12, 2017I don’t know what the fuss is all about, this new memorial looks just like @rodstewart. #Dianapic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/fp42M4Yck5

— Anthony Minto (@anthonymminto) September 12, 2017

But others defended the tribute.

Its a tribute. I loved Di. I think its lovely! 💜💜BBC News – Chesterfield’s ‘awful’ Princess Diana tribute mocked 苏州美甲培训学校,长沙SPA,/dEYIg6B8LS

— The Feed Bags (@TheFeedBags) September 13, 2017Absolute masterpiece from my hometown, #Chesterfield, commemorating the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/fTXMHnwfqf

— Tom J Newell (@tomjnewell) September 12, 2017Love that Diana memorial and glad the council didn’t buckle and apologise, or even worse remove it. It was made by volunteers!

— John Baker (@jpbaker) September 12, 2017

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We’ve got a long way to go on North Korea: Bishop

Australia is playing down North Korean threats to inflict the “greatest pain” on the US following additional sanctions on the rogue nation.

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“On this scale of threats, intimidation and insults it’s probably just par for the course from North Korea,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Wednesday.

The sanctions reflected the international community’s view that maximum economic pressure would force the regime to change its calculation of risk.

“To change its behaviour, deter it from carrying out illegal tests and bring it back to the negotiating table,” Ms Bishop said.

0:00 North Korea sanctions ‘nothing compared to what will have to happen’: Trump Share North Korea sanctions ‘nothing compared to what will have to happen’: Trump

The measures approved by the security council this week build off sanctions across numerous sectors of the North Korean economy imposed in early August.

“They were the toughest and most comprehensive set of sanctions that had been imposed on North Korea to date,” Ms Bishop said.

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The latest sanctions include a complete ban on the export of textiles from North Korea – an almost one billion dollar hit to the regime’s economy.

They also reduce by about a third the amount of oil North Korea can import.

The foreign minister, who will be in New York next week for UN leadership meetings, called on all nations to fully implement the sanctions.Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop arrives to speak at a Tourism & Transport Forum Leadership Summit at Parliament House in Canberra, September 13.AAP

“It’s overwhelmingly in Australia’s interests to ensure there is a peaceful resolution to the tensions on the Korean peninsula,” Ms Bishop said.

Three of Australia’s four largest trading partners are in north Asia and at risk of economic fallout if hostilities erupt.

Ms Bishop denied sanctions only stirred the pot when it came to the North Korean leadership.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop speaks at a Tourism & Transport Forum Leadership Summit at Parliament House in Canberra, September 13, 2017.AAP

“The alternative would be to allow a rogue regime to continue down an illegal path that is in direct defiance of the UN security council. That is not acceptable,” she said.

Australia was not considering options beyond diplomatic, political and economic measures but Ms Bishop acknowledged: “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Stillbirth discovery gives hope to women

Stillborn deaths could soon plummet on the back of a breakthrough discovery by Australian researchers.

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A simple blood test to identify babies at risk of dying in the womb could be just three to five years away after scientists pinpointed the role ageing placentas play in stillbirths.

The researchers discovered that placentas, which deliver oxygen and nutrients to unborn babies, age rapidly in the final weeks of pregnancy.

Crucially, they also found deteriorating placentas emit an enzyme called aldehyde oxidase, which ends up in the mother’s blood.

That’s the exciting part because it means a blood test might be able to identify at-risk babies, who can be delivered early before their lifelines fail.

“This is very exciting and I have to say it’s big,” says Professor Roger Smith, of NSW’s Hunter Medical Research Institute.

The blood test is already being developed.

Prof Smith was driving to work one morning about five years ago when he had a light-bulb moment.

He doesn’t like to listen to the radio or music during his commute. For him, it’s valuable thinking time.

That’s how the came to be mulling over the mathematical definition of ageing.

“Most people would say they know what ageing is but it’s difficult to define and there is a mathematical definition – that the risk of death increases with time.”

He was soon at work poring over data with a new perspective and what he found surprised him.

“When I looked at the data on stillbirths – with that definition of ageing in mind – it screamed to me that stillbirth is related to the ageing of the placenta,” he said.

“That was the key idea but then we had to test it. “

Prof Smith and his colleagues Kaushik Maiti and Zakia Sultana started looking at placentas from 37-week pregnancies and compared them with placentas from 39 and 40 weeks, looking for biochemical markets of ageing.

“We found dramatic changes in those last few weeks of pregnancy,” he said.

While the focus now is on the blood test – including how often mums should be tested for the enzyme – other related research ambitions are already taking shape.

Prof Smith and his team also plan to investigate ways to suppress the enzyme if placentas start to age and deteriorate early in pregnancy, but that’s something that could take a decade.

About one in every 150 pregnancies in Australia ends with stillbirth, but the figure is much higher in most other places.

The team’s discovery will be published in the coming edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.