The Ticker: Modern business life

Alert and alarmed: Half a million metadata requests is the norm, not the exception, working women are behind Australia’s rising retirement age and not even the federal election could save Aus Post's letters business.

On today's blog:

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3.10pm - China promises to repeal Aussie coal tariff Once Free Trade Agreement finalised

By Scott Murdoch, BusinessNow

China has promised to repeal the newly introduced tariff on Australia coal imports once a free trade agreement between the two countries is finalised.

Treasurer Joe Hockey met with Chinese Foreign Minister Lou Jiwei in Beijing today ahead of the APEC Finance Minister’s meeting tomorrow.

China made the surprise move a fortnight ago to introduce levies of 3 per cent on coking coal and 6 per cent on thermal coal for countries with which it did not hold an FTA.

“We want to see our way through it and the answer that we agreed upon was the free trade agreement,” Mr Hockey told The Australian. “Once we get a free trade agreement it will be abolished. “The quicker we get an FTA the quicker the tariff will go.”

2.40pm - Not even the Federal Election could save Aus Post’s letters business

Regardless of the outcome elections are good news for Australia’s flagship postal carrier, Australia Post. Think about it: all the mail-outs and packages sent as a result of the poll generate an uptick in business for our carrier.

But it seems not even last year’s tense battle between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott could halt the trending decline of Australia Post’s letters business.  As you can see in the graph below, the event only slightly slowed the decline of its letters business. 

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Australia’s postal service appears to be operating a couple of years behind the trend seen with the US service. This graph from The Atlantic paints a similar picture. While package deliveries are on the rise, the internet has pretty much nixed the need for posted letters.  

1.10pm - Working women are behind Australia’s rising retirement age

Assistant governor Chris Kent made an interesting, albeit glossed-over point in his talk yesterday about Australia’s ageing population. Here’s what he said:

“Many types of workers have been retiring a little bit later in life over recent years and participation rates among older people have been rising over a long period of time."

“Changing social norms more generally -- particularly for women -- have also made a contribution to rising labour force participation.”

As the table below shows, he’s right on the first point.

But he’s understating the second. Here’s the average retirement age of women in the 1990s, courtesy of the ABS. 

And here’s how the trend looks now. Excuse the leap in time in the graph; we worked with the data we could find from the ABS.

Read more about Chris Kent’s speech and its implications for the Australian economy here.

In short, the main factor driving up the average age (which the ABS currently pits at 53.8 years) is being pushed up by increased female participation in the workforce.

Read more about Chris Kent’s speech and its implications for the Australian economy here.

12.40pmPutin vs Obama through the eyes of their citizens

By Chris Kohler, BusinessNow

The last year has seen Vladimir Putin’s approval rating shoot through the roof, while President Obama is at its lowest level to date.

11am - Alert and alarmed: Half a million metadata requests is the norm, not the exception

As The Guardian reported yesterday, there have been over half a million telecommunication data requests in the past year. The finding comes from the Australian Media and Communications Authority’s latest annual report and exceeds estimates from the Attorney-General’s office, which claimed there were over 300,000 requests for metadata.

But a closer look at ACMA’s annual reports reveals that half a million requests per year is the trend, not the exception. 

It gets worse. This data doesn’t even come close to matching the figures provided in the Attorney-General’s annual reports into the use of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access Act) 1979.

A little more transparency and an explanation as to why there are big discrepancies between the two datasets wouldn’t go astray, especially as some of these requests could include potentially unwarranted access to metadata. 

9.35am - Twitter tributes flow for Gough Whitlam 

From our news editor Mitchell Neems:  

Former prime minister Gough Whitlam has died, aged 98.

A statement from the Mr Whitlam's children -- Antony, Nicholas, Stephen and Catherine -- this morning confirmed the passing, recalling their "loving and generous father".

"He was a source of inspiration to us and our families and for millions of Australians," the statement said.

A private cremation will be held, followed by a public memorial service. 

Mr Whitlam served as prime minister of Australia from 1972 -- leading Labor back to power for the first time in over two decades -- until 1975, when he was infamously dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr. 

He led the Labor Party for a decade between 1967 and 1977 and is considered by many to be a defining figure of the modern Labor Party. 

Mr Whitlam's wife Margaret died in 2012. 

And here's what Twitter had to say: 

9am - Interesting reads from around the web

We like to shake things up on The Ticker, so we’re trying something new today. We’re ditching the three stories you need to know, because, to be honest, you can see them all on the Business Spectator homepage anyway. Instead, we’re focus on providing you with a list of interesting links from elsewhere.

As always, we would like your feedback on this. Email me at or reach me on Twitter.

Interesting reads from around the web

The founder of the first Pirate Party in Sweden argues why copying has always created jobs. So, by his logic, copyright is a form of protectionism.

Sweden is set to become the world’s first cashless society. But it may not happen until 2030.

Scallops vs potato cakes. Here’s a map of the different words used around the country to describe various things.

Possibly the best career ever. Meet the team of South Koreans who just won $1 million for playing the computer game League of Legends.

China just won’t let its companies die. And by resurrecting moribund businesses, it’s driving up it’s national debt to a concerning level.

Here’s one infographic which sums up the history of Ebola. It’s actually quite detailed and long, despite the fact that the disease was only discovered in 1976.

Talking about Ebola, Nigeria has been officially declared Ebola free.

The thought police cometh. An interesting take from our columnist Rob Burgess on the blurring of the distinction between public life and private thoughts.

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