PM vows a budget to fulfil people’s dreams

Malcolm Turnbull has promised his government’s second budget will help Australians “realise their dreams”.

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And he has a three-word slogan to go with it: fairness, opportunity and security.

The prime minister wants to ensure Australians have the opportunity to get ahead through economic growth that provides a better-paying job, or helps them start and grow a business.

“To realise their dreams,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

New economic figures suggest people may already be on the brink of achieving those goals with business confidence striking its highest point since 2010 and job ads pointing to a sustained period of employment growth.

“In time this should be reflected in a pick-up in wage growth,” ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank says.

Mr Turnbull toured a forensics complex in Canberra to announce a $321 million boost for the Australian Federal Police’s domestic operations, the biggest increase in a decade in a further attempt to beef up national security.

The government will reportedly divert money from its aid pool to deliver this extra funding to the AFP and other security agencies.

“Once again it is a government robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Canberra.

A day before the budget Treasurer Scott Morrison asked the Productivity Commission to hold a year-long inquiry aimed at ensuring Australia’s financial system is competitive and innovative.

The commission will consider how to improve consumer outcomes, the productivity and international competitiveness of the financial system and economy more broadly.

It will look at the level of concentration in key segments of the financial system while examining competition in the provision of personal deposit accounts and mortgages, as well as services and finance to small and medium businesses.

“It is important … that we understand what are the barriers and what are the things preventing customers getting a better deal,” Mr Morrison said.

The government announced a $100 million funding package for manufacturing, aimed at Victoria and South Australia which have suffered the brunt of the demise of car-making.

“We are absolutely committed to supporting the Australian manufacturing sector,” Mr Turnbull said.

The prime minister, who has just returned from the US after his first face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump, said increased investment in US manufacturing was down to the prospect of lower taxes and affordable energy there.

That’s why he was taking decisive action to ensure Australia had affordable and adequate gas supplies, and why the government was sticking with 10-year plan to cut company taxes.

Meanwhile, Mr Morrison received some blunt advice from Australia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart – cut spending.

The multi-billionaire mining magnate wants reductions in red tape regulations, compliance burdens and tax rates.

“It’s very frustrating that there’s wastage going on and that so little attention, real attention, is given to making ourselves attractive for investment,” she told News Corp.

Court unable to determine whether Whiteley art is forged

Brett Whiteley’s former wife says three paintings that were part of Australia’s biggest art fraud case are fakes while the judges who acquitted two men of forging them say they have no idea if they’re real or not.

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Art restorer Mohamed Aman Siddique, 68, and dealer Peter Stanley Gant, 61, were acquitted on April 27 after prosecutors conceded their convictions were unsafe.

They had been convicted of obtaining and attempting to obtain financial advantage by deception over three contested Whiteley paintings.

The Court of Appeal on Monday said its reasons for quashing their convictions do not rely on “any affirmative finding” that Whiteley created the paintings.

“To be clear, we make no such finding. Nor are we equipped to do so,” Justices Mark Weinberg, Phillip Priest and Stephen McLeish said.

Mr Gant and Mr Siddique were acquitted after prosecutors conceded their grounds of appeal against conviction and admitted there was a good chance the pair might be innocent.

It’s unclear what will happen to the three paintings.

Blue Lavender Bay was purchased in late 2007 by Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham for $2.5 million, while Orange Lavender Bay went for $1.1 million.

A third painting, Through The Window, was listed for sale for $950,000.

Wendy Whiteley maintains her view that the paintings are fakes.

“I feel sorry for the people who bought the artworks in good faith and I feel sorry for the whole Australian art world,” she told AAP on April 27.

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A Victorian Supreme Court jury found Mr Gant and Mr Siddique guilty in May 2016 of faking and selling Blue Lavender Bay and Orange Lavender Bay following a four-week trial.

The pair were also found guilty of trying to sell Through The Window.

During the trial, Guy Morel gave evidence that in 2007 he took photos of what appeared to be several Brett Whiteley paintings in mid-production at Mr Siddique’s Collingwood studio.

The prosecution alleged the paintings shown in Morel’s photos were passed off as genuine Whiteleys produced between 1988 and 1989 and sold as such by Mr Gant.

But the Court of Appeal said once the defence was able to show the reasonable possibility the paintings existed before 2007, they effectively ended the prosecution’s “narrow” and “quite specific” case.

“The Crown nailed its colours to the mast in that particular respect,” the justices said.

In her closing address to the jury, prosecutor Susan Borg also suggested gallery assistant Rosemary Milburn and Jeremy James were honest witnesses who were somehow mistaken when they said they had seen Blue Lavender Bay and Orange Lavender Bay in 1988 and 1989 respectively.

“Such speculation, which the prosecutor effectively invited by the manner in which she couched her closing address to the jury, may well have contributed to the error in the jury’s verdict,” the appeal judges said.

Hodge and Hawks all about development

It’s a topsy-turvy AFL season when anything is possible, but Hawthorn appear not to be thinking about finals football.

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The decade’s dominant side recorded a second win of the season on Sunday, edging Melbourne by three points at the MCG.

In doing so, the Hawks played their part in a remarkable round where every winning side were ranked lower than their opponents.

Hawthorn (2-5) sit two wins outside the eight and have a golden chance to improve their record against wooden spoon favourites Brisbane (1-6) on Saturday.

But given the scale of their defeats this season, club legend Luke Hodge was loath to suggest the Hawks would starting a winning streak.

“Considering last week was a 75-point loss, it’s a bit hard (to say we’ve turned the corner),” Hodge told reporters on Monday.

“We’re at this stage where it’s about developing.

“It’s good that we’re able to blood a few younger guys (and) we’re still (blooding in) blokes in from other sides.

“There’s a lot of work to do.”

Hodge said it would be folly to lock in a win over Brisbane despite their winless run dating back to the opening weekend of the season.

“If you look at the ladder we’re not too much higher than them,” he said.

“The AFL will be rapt with how the footy is going at the moment.

“If a team’s a little bit off, they can get beaten. I wouldn’t have had too many tips (right) on the weekend.”

Key recruit Jaeger O’Meara wasn’t able to play against the Demons, with the club confirming he needs an extending training run to treat his knee.

Hodge said the 23-year-old – who has suffered debilitating knee injuries in the past – could take his time away from the side.

“From what we’re hearing from (fitness boss) Andrew Russell and Jaeger it’s not his old issues,” he said.

“It was a knock that he copped (in) the Suns game.

“We’re in no rush with Jaeger.

“It’s not about getting him on the park, it’s about getting his body right and getting his mind right.”

ADHD prescription rates under spotlight

Where a child lives in Australia seems to determine if they’re medicated for ADHD or not, raising concerns children from socially disadvantage areas are missing out on effective treatment.

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Prescription rates for ADHD vary widely both within and across states, with the highest rate of prescriptions 75 times more than the lowest rate, according to data presented at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) annual Congress in Melbourne on Monday.

The first Australian Variation in Healthcare Atlas shows NSW had the highest rate of prescription at 13,588 per 100,000 children aged 17 or under.

South Australia had the lowest usage with 5,541 per 100,000 children.

Professor Harriet Hiscock from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne says the prescription of ADHD medication is a complex issue and doctors aren’t just to blame for the variations.

“Often prescribing doctors – in this case paediatricians and child and adolescent psychiatrists – are called out as the key factor as to why variations exist. My research suggests that there are multiple reasons as to why this is happening.”

One of those factors is inequitable access to psychologists, Prof Hiscock suggests.

“If we just look within Victoria, for example, we know that children in low socio-economic areas are more likely to meet criteria for ADHD but we are not necessarily seeing more prescribing in those areas, so there is a mismatch between prescribing and where we think kids with ADHD live,” she told AAP.

While Medicare does partly reimburse families for up to 10 visits to a psychologist every year, it doesn’t always cover the costs.

“Anecdotally we are hearing that those families will therefore space out those appointments with a psychologist to be able to afford to see them and we know for some kids they’re not getting enough therapy and time, it becomes too diluted,” she said.

ADHD is estimated to affect seven per cent of all Australian school children and the decision to medicate a child has attracted much debate.

At this stage, it’s too early to say if the variation in medication use is a good or bad thing, says Prof Hiscock.

“That’s a big elephant in the room,” she acknowledged.

“What we lack in Australia is good outcome data for these kids, so we can’t actually say at the moment if some kids are being under-treated or over-treated,” Prof Hiscock said.

However there is some evidence, she says, that shows medication can be beneficial.

“The international data would suggest that certainly for kids with moderate to severe ADHD if you don’t treat them then they are more likely to drop out of school and end up in drug and crime related activity. They are also more likely to end up in emergency departments with injuries and accidents if they are not on medication,” said Prof Hiscock.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists says deciding to prescribe kids with antipsychotic drugs is always taken with great care and after thorough discussions with parents.