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Australia

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) has issued a notice opposing a "merger" proposal involving TPG Telecom Limited (TPG) and Vodafone Hutchison Australia Pty Ltd (Vodafone). The reasons include that TPG has been "disruptive" in a complacent market and is "the best prospect Australia has for a new mobile network operator to enter the market." But it's a far more complex picture than that.

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Australian financial services giant AMP and its solicitors Clayton Utz have "surrendered" in their objections to producing notes of meetings which they claimed were subject to legal professional privilege. ASIC's position is simple: it has wide ranging powers to compel the release of documents and it will accept only a narrow and strict definition of legal professional privilege.

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Australia has long been in conflict with foreign discounters marketing, amongst other things, by internet. It all started with a fight over the price of books.

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Starting point: banks in Australia have behaved appallingly. The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission, ACCC, has been shown up as .. pick a negative adjective and it's probably been used. The ACCC, along with other regulators who have been shown up as wanting are now doing their best to prove they are "across it," as Australians say. Today, they say that they have produced a "final report" from their residential mortgage price inquiry. But.. has the ACCC now moved from ensuring good behaviour to managing how banks do business? It raises risk management questions, liquidity issues and even the stability of the housing market which has been in an accelerating downturn for a while and is showing all the signs of turning into a bit of a crisis.

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If enough people get to see it, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's press conference in Bourke Street, Melbourne this morning will go down as one of those jaw-dropping moments in politics. It was a no-holds barred, balls-out, unequivocal challenge to "communities" in Melbourne to identify and report indicators of extremism for the sake of Australia and, importantly, for their own sake. A straight-talking poli? Strewth.

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Last year it was FinTech. 2018 was scheduled to be the year of RegTech but the crazy inflation in the value of crypto-currencies at the end of 2017 hijacked that and this year became the year where no sentence was complete without the word "blockchain" somewhere in it, or so it seemed. But the love affair is already turning sour as reality sets in and the buzzword junkies are at last being shown for what they are: opportunists who will be onto the next big thing as soon as someone tells them what it is.

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The iconic fashion boots UGG are famously Australian.

Or so consumers were falsely told by Ozwear Connection, a wholesaler of footwear and accessories in Australia.

And then there's the question of exactly what is an "ugg" boot.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has announced that in an agreed settlement before the Federal Court, Australian financial services group Westpac will pay a civil penalty of AUD35 million after admitting breaches of Australia's responsible lending rules. The door-of-the-court settlement avoids a lengthy trial that should have started yesterday.

*** Update: see Westpac's new best friend? Australian Federal Court rejects settlement with regulator ***

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Australia's ASIC has undertaken an extensive review of so-called "reverse mortgages" which are actual mortgages with potentially catastrophic long-tail results, which may be one of the things that borrowers did not understand. The findings of the review are startling.

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The attacks on a mother over parenting, culture and her love for her child demonstrate that political correctness is bullying, unthinking, brash and racist. And the racists chose the most accepting venue of all - Australian Masterchef - to demonstrate the worst side of so called progressivism and liberalism.

There's bound to be some head-scratching going on after the announcement of a cartel case relating to blood and body tissue. Before the "yuk" factor makes you turn the page, we should explain: it's all about stem cell preservation.

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The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) has this morning issued a warning about kidnap and ransom threats made against, in particular, Chinese residents in Australia with more than 1,700 cases reported so far in 2018.

There's a huge amount of excitement in Australia about the prosecution of several bankers for colluding in a share support scheme where a share issue did not fully sell out. Instead of being charged with market manipulation, itself a serious offence, federal prosecutors have taken the alternative of charging them with cartel offences. There's a lot of people spinning like tops, having panic attacks about what it means for investment banking and the professional support services like lawyers and accountants that are a central part of all public offers. But there is nothing complex about the fundamentals of the case.

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For the past week, all the news in Australia has been about the huge give-aways planned for today's budget. Every single news broadcast since Thursday has had the story up front and pushed a message that for the first time in years, there is money in the kitty and the government intends to spend it. But the big stories are about tax reform and measures against tax evasion including banning large cash transactions. That's the headline. It's not quite the reality and, as always, a budget speech is a declaration of intent not fully reasoned legislation. Even so - it's a significant move. (edited)

On 19th April, Australia's newest national bank, Members' Equity Bank a.k.a. ME Bank, announced that it was to increase its interest rates on existing home loans, with effect from 19th April. Then it made a silly error. Given that the banking sector in Australia is under the most intense scrutiny and that it would be logical to assume that, if at any time, this is the time where banks will double, triple even quadruple check their actions, the stupidity of the error raises a serious question: is the financial sector in Australia simply under-skilled and, therefore, unfit for purpose?

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