Premier League promote local perks of lucrative tours

Champions Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are due to play friendlies in the region, including games in Australia, Thailand and Malaysia, while the league’s official Asian Trophy, featuring Arsenal, Stoke City and Everton, will he staged in Singapore in July.

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The arrival of the English sides over the coming weeks will cause a halt to the Southeast Asian leagues and falls either side of the start of the next phase of World Cup qualifying matches in the region.

Some fans in Malaysia, long used to the arrival of European clubs for lucrative fixtures, have labelled the Spurs and Liverpool matches “circus games” and called for a boycott.

Their malcontent is fuelled by the fixture disruption and a perceived apathy towards the national team, who wallow at 166th in the FIFA rankings, their worst ever position.

Across the border in Singapore, the Premier League arrived to open arms from the local football association on Tuesday as they announced ticketing prices for their event and local initiatives they hope will keep everyone happy.

“For us it is about leaving the best possible impression on behalf of the Premier League,” its director of sales and marketing Richard Masters told Reuters on Tuesday.

“We will be doing knowledge transfer work shops, we will be trying to improve the standard of refereeing, Mike Riley is coming to host a referee workshop, and we are going to be making an announcement in the next few weeks with the Singapore FA about an investment we are making out here.

“They are small things but helpful and we think they are important.”

39TH GAME

Masters said it was not for the league to offer touring advice to its clubs when presented with the reports of Malaysian unrest at Spurs and Liverpool’s visit and whether teams should just play overseas in the official Asia Trophy competition.

He did, however, promote the values of the two-day four team biennial tournament that launched in 2003 and has been played in Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and China.

Masters said the tournament could be expanded to take place in multiple locations biennially and added the controversial 39th game, a Premier League overseas match, was not completely ruled out but off the agenda for now.

But the arrival of the Asian Trophy comes at a difficult time for Singaporean soccer, with discussions taking place about disbanding the underwritten domestic league which struggles for media interest and barely registers amongst the football-obsessed public.

Their interest frequently cast west to the European leagues, and mainly England, where the invention of multi-lingual social media club websites coupled with complete television access and slick production has gazumped all rivals.

Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin told reporters it was an honour to host the event and a once in a lifetime opportunity for a Singapore Select XI before cancelling interviews and leaving early.

Masters believed Singaporean football would benefit from the Premier League’s arrival.

“We think a strong interest in football is good for football generally and therefore it shouldn’t have a negative effect on the development of football, it should help,” he said.

“There is space for everybody so our view would be we wouldn’t come if we weren’t welcome by local football authorities.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)

Aid to Indonesia slashed by 40 per cent

Tuesday’s federal budget confirmed a mid-year review decision to reduce the overall aid program by an unprecedented $1 billion to $4 billion in 2015-16.

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Aid to Indonesia – the biggest beneficiary of Australia’s largesse – will be cut from $605.3 million to $366.4 million.

But Treasurer Joe Hockey insists Indonesia has not been singled out for special attention in the wake of Jakarta’s decision to execute Bali Nine drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in April.

“Not at all,” he told reporters ahead of his speech to parliament on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had gone through a proper process in deciding which nations would be supported, taking into account their economic growth, the needs of the region and whether countries were aid donors themselves.

The executions fuelled speculation that aid to Indonesia could be targeted as a possible retaliatory measure.

However, most experts were predicting Indonesia would get less assistance anyway, even before the Australian pair faced the firing squad.

Ms Bishop has always insisted the Asia-Pacific region should be Australia’s aid priority.

While aid to Pacific islands faced only tiny tweaks in the budget, east Asian countries fared badly with Vietnam, Burma, Laos and the Philippines facing 40 per cent cuts.

But Cambodia, which is about to resettle refugees on behalf of Australia, and East Timor’s aid budget were left largely unscathed.

Overall aid to earthquake-ravaged Nepal will be cut from $33.9 million to $26.8 million.

But Vanuatu, hit by a cyclone earlier in 2015, gains an extra $500,000 this financial year with $60.9 million in overall aid.

Papua New Guinea, which hosts the Manus Island immigration detention centre, will receive five per cent less in aid but now becomes Australia’s top aid recipient pocketing $553.6 million next financial year.

Aid to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh and Sub-Sahara Africa will be cut by 40 per cent.

Funding to non-government organisations will be slashed from $203.9 million to $176 million slightly less than the 20 per cent cut many were anticipating.

Australia’s aid budget is set to plummet to 0.22 per cent of national income by 2016-17 well below the United Nation’s push for countries to donate 0.7 per cent.

Hockey unleashes business potential

Joe Hockey has thrown $5 billion of tax relief at small business and farmers and announced $4.

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4 billion in support for families in a bid to stimulate the economy and kickstart the coalition’s hopes of staying in office.

“This is a budget that unleashes our nation’s potential,” the Treasurer declared as he delivered his second budget on Tuesday.

A deficit of $35.1 billion for 2015/16 defied economists’ expectations of a figure in the 40s, and the government still expects to return to surplus in 2019/20 despite tough economic conditions.

But worryingly the budget papers still forecast a jobless rate of six per cent or over until 2018/19, despite a 0.5 per cent lift in economic growth.

The government would achieve its aims through sensible savings, prudent spending and redirected funding to small business, child care, infrastructure to boost growth and jobs, Mr Hockey said.

Small business will get a corporate tax rate cut of 1.5 per cent, an annual five per cent tax discount of up to $1000 a year for unincorporated businesses and, from budget night, an immediate tax deduction for all items purchased by a small business up to $20,000.

This means business owners will be able to buy new kitchen equipment, or a van, or computer and get an instant tax deduction.

Start-up companies will be able to deduct the costs of starting a new business, with employee share schemes encouraged through tax breaks.

Farmers will get an immediate tax deduction for new investment in water facilities and new tax breaks for fodder storage and fencing.

Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory will share in a new $5 billion northern Australia infrastructure facility providing cheap loans for new ports, pipelines, electricity and water infrastructure.

The coalition’s unpopular idea of blocking under-30s from getting the dole for six months has been dumped and replaced with a four-week waiting period for under-25s.

A $4.4 billion families package includes a simplified child care subsidy to start from July 1, 2017, with a top-up fee for disadvantaged children.

Paid parental leave “double dipping” – accessing both employer and government schemes – will stop from July 1, 2016, but the measure is expected to be blocked in the Senate as it is linked to family tax benefit cuts.

The budget confirmed changes to the age pension assets test from January 1, 2017 – easing pressure on the $44 billion annual spending on pensions.

Tax receipts have been downgraded by $52 billion since the 2014 budget, $20 billion due to falling iron ore prices.

In a bid to recoup some of this, tax-avoiding multinationals will be chased down, fringe benefits on meals and entertainment will be capped, foreign investors will pay fees and working holiday visa holders will pay more tax.

As Australian troops and intelligence agencies deal with the threat of Islamic State, the national security budget will be boosted by $1.2 billion including new computers and an online campaign against extremists.

Fifty-five road projects will start construction in 2015, but a $3 billion recommitment to Victoria’s East West Link flies in the face of the Andrews’ government opposition to the major road project.

Following the debacle of last year’s Medicare co-payment, changes to health are more modest – a review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule, $1.6 billion for new drug listings including cancer treatments and the first payment from the medical research future fund of $100 million.

Research Peter robbed to pay Paul

Last year, the government gave the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy a year’s extra funding, tying the $150 million price tag to its controversial higher education reforms.

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In Tuesday’s budget it gave the 1700 researchers who rely on the program another year’s reprieve with a second $150 million allocated for 2016/17.

But the Sustainable Research Excellence grants take a $150 million haircut in the same year to pay for this, and lose another $112.5 million over the following two years.

The government’s also cutting nearly $27 million from co-operative research centres and $131 million from the education department.

Funding for The Conversation, a website publishing columns and research by Australian academics, won’t continue past this financial year.

Meanwhile, the government intends pushing on with its plan to overhaul higher education and bank the savings.

“We are absolutely determined to put it back to the Senate,” Treasurer Joe Hockey told reporters in Canberra of the twice-rejected package.

WHAT’S IN THE BUDGET FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

* No mention about the future of university fee deregulation.

* Extend National Collaborative Research Infrastructure funding for one more year at cost of $150 million

* Cut $150 million from Sustainable Research Excellence grants funding to redirect to research infrastructure

* Cut $131 million from education department, including abolishing the internal Office of Learning and Teaching and set it up at a university instead

* Cut $26.7 million from co-operative research centres

* Pursue HECS debts from people who move overseas, saving $26 million over four years

* $4 million to establish Bjorn Lomborg’s Australia Consensus Centre think tank

Under 25s in four-week dole wait

The federal government has ditched an unpopular 2014 budget measure quarantining welfare for job seekers under 30, relaxing it to those under 25 and reducing the wait period to four weeks.

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Under measures revealed in Tuesday’s budget, young people will also be the focus of a wage subsidy scheme to encourage employers to hire them.

Businesses that take on job seekers under 30 years old who’ve been on benefits for six months will get up to $6500 over a year starting from November 1, 2015.

The subsidy will be paid to employers as soon as the job seeker start working, instead of having to wait six months.

Meanwhile, young people at risk of long-term welfare dependency will be the target of a $330 million jobs package.

It includes $212 million in funding for community workers in high unemployment areas to assist those who are not working or learning.

That will be supplemented by $106 million for an intensive support program to help vulnerable people get mentoring, literacy and numeracy training, and counselling and transition into work.

However, there will be more obligations for early school leavers if they want to continue getting welfare: they must do 25 hours studying or part-time work a week.

In an extension of the work-for-the-dole program, about 6000 job seekers will also get work experience under an $18 million program.

Those over 18 years old will be able to sign up to a work experience placement of up to 25 hours per week while receiving benefits, and get an additional $20.80 a fortnight to the cover costs of participating.

WHAT’S IN THE BUDGET FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

* Unemployed under 25s will have to wait four weeks instead of six months for welfare.

* $330 million in youth employment strategy target those at-risk of long-term welfare dependency.

– $212 million for youth transition to work program for those not studying or working, and $14 million for early school leavers.

– $106 million intensive support program for vulnerable.

– $18 million for work experience program over four years for 6000 job seekers

* Those over 18 to get work experience placement of up to 25 hours per week while receiving benefits, and additional $20.80 a fortnight to cover costs

WHAT EMPLOYERS CAN ACCESS:

* Up to $6500 subsidy for hiring those unemployed for six months.