Many quickly cancel funeral insurance

The TV and radio ads for funeral insurance may be compelling, but most people who sign up end up cancelling the policy.


Many consumers do not understand what they’re getting with funeral insurance and that there are other ways to save and pay for their final farewell, the corporate regulator says.

Ads on television, particularly daytime TV, and radio account for two-thirds of sales of funeral insurance policies and many consumers do not understand what they have signed up for, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission found.

“The high rate of cancellations points to problems not only with cost, but the design, marketing and sales of funeral insurance,” ASIC deputy chair Peter Kell said on Thursday.

“It appears that many consumers do not understand important features of the product until after they have signed up.”

The number of cancellations represented 80 per cent of policies sold in 2013/14 with cost cited as the main reason, an ASIC review found.

Fifty-five per cent of people dropped the policy in the first year.

A large number of the cancellations came outside the cooling-off period, meaning consumers forgo any benefit from the premiums they had paid.

People aged 80 to 84 pay four times more than 50-54 year olds in average premiums, ASIC found.

“Steeply increasing premiums place a burden on ageing consumers at a time when their income is more likely to be fixed or decreasing. Coupled with this is the risk of paying more in premiums that the policy is worth,” it said.

ASIC said many consumers don’t understand key features such as premiums increasing with age, the total cost of the insurance compared with the real cost of a funeral and what will happen if they miss payments.

People were also not aware that they could meet funeral costs by other means, such as pre-paying by instalments or buying funeral bonds.

Why aren’t more women running for office?

David McLennan, Meredith College

With Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina running for president, many might think that women are finally achieving gender equality in politics.


That is not the case.

In North Carolina, California, Kansas and other states, the progress women have made in seeking elected office has reversed in recent years, raising questions about whether women will ever achieve gender equality in state politics.

In 2014, fewer women in North Carolina were running for and serving in elected offices than they were five years ago.

Despite representing 54 per cent of the registered voters in North Carolina, women hold fewer than 25 per cent of all elected offices. In the state legislature, for example, the percentage of women serving has dropped from approximately 26 per cent in 2005 to under 23 per cent currently. This represents a net loss of six seats.

Currently only 38 of the 170 legislative seats are held by women.

Nationally, the number of women serving in state legislatures has also seen a drop, as reported by the Center for Women in American Politics, although nationally the decrease has been less than 1 per cent.

For the last 20 years, I have been researching women in appointed and elected office in North Carolina.

A preference for women

The main reason behind the lack of female representation is not overt discrimination or structural deficiencies in the electoral process. In my survey research, for example, North Carolinians prefer women candidates over men. Instead it’s a simple lack of a steady pipeline of women entering the races.

When women run, women win. In 2014, only 25 per cent of candidates across North Carolina on the ballot were women, but 63 per cent of them won.

At the national level, the number of women candidates has continued to grow steadily. But in North Carolina and in other states, the percentage of women running for offices, like state legislatures, has dropped over the last decade. In 2006, for example, women made up 27 per cent of all the candidates in the 2006 North Carolina elections.

Political scientists Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox argue that the biggest barrier to electoral success for women is their motivation to run. They argue that women are half as likely as men to see themselves as political officeholders and half as likely as men to take the steps necessary to become candidates.

Specifically, their research identifies three significant barriers to women’s candidate emergence: 1) women see themselves as significantly less qualified to run for office; 2) women are encouraged to run for office significantly less by political actors, family members and friends than are men; 3) women disproportionately bear most of the household and childcare responsibilities in the family and see themselves as unable to run for political office.

Although Lawless and Fox’s research describes the fundamental reasons that fewer women run for and serve in political offices, it does not describe why states like North Carolina have seen a decline in women candidates and elected officials.

Today’s political climate of hyper-partisanship is identified by Baer and Hartmann’s (2014) research report for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research for Political Parity as a major factor as to why fewer women are interested in running for office.

They also suggest that the issue of women’s representation in political offices is less prominent in media stories and public discussions than a generation ago.

For example, 1992 was declared the “Year of the Woman” in politics, with numerous headline stories in the media. The focus today seems more on the presidential campaign, with Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina being the focus of attention, rather than women serving in local or state offices.

The solutions to this problem are many and complex.

More public awareness is a start. More systematic recruiting campaigns for women candidates by the political parties and other organisations, with increased emphasis on candidate training, would also help. The most challenging problem is to change the political culture in this country that causes many prospective candidates, particularly women, to never consider running for political office.

David McLennan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Aussies must dominate setpieces:Skelton

Shattered at not being able to help his teammates vanquish New Zealand in this weekend’s Rugby World Cup final, injured Wallabies forward Will Skelton has nominated setpiece domination as a key to Australia beating the All Blacks.


Giant NSW Waratahs lock Skelton was forced home after suffering a torn pectoral in his first start and Australia’s second match of the tournament against Uruguay, after he came off the bench in their opening game against Fiji.

Skelton had mixed feelings about missing out on the Wallabies’ run to the tournament decider at Twickenham.

“I think I came to terms with it pretty early on the flight back, I was reflecting on my journey, what happened,” he said.

“It is bittersweet, I am shattered and I wish I was there playing alongside the guys.

“But everyone is picked there to do a job and this is just not part of my journey at the moment.”

He said consistency in every area was required to beat New Zealand.

“Not backing off in the scrum, not dropping the ball,” Skelton said.

“I think if they can be clinical in those areas, especially dominating in setpiece, getting our maul going forward, things will work out really good in our way and we can get the result.”

Skelton admits he quickly feared the worst after suffering the injury.

“At the time I thought it was a big injury because I don’t usually come off the field if it’s anything minor, I came off in pain,” Skelton said.

He said his rehabilitation after surgery was going well and doubted it would affect his pre-season work with the Waratahs.

“I’m three and a half weeks post op, so I get the sling off in a week or so,” Skelton said.

Despite an early end to his first World Cup campaign, Skelton described his time at the tournament as “awesome.”

On Thursday morning, he was at the Sydney Opera House to help publicise its sails will be lit up in the Wallabies’ green and gold on Friday and Saturday nights.

Skelton stressed the Wallabies were well aware of the level of support they were getting back home.

“I’ve been texting the boys and keeping in contact and they are well aware of the support behind them and it will really lift them for a big occasion on the weekend,” Skelton said.

Death toll continues to rise from Afghan quake

More than 360 people are known to have died, most of them in Pakistan, and at least 2,000 were injured on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.


Attention is now turning to preventing the outbreak of disease.

The earthquake hit north-east of Kabul in Afghanistan’s Badakhstan province, one of the poorest regions in the country.

Mass burial ceremonies have been conducted in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, with officials warning the death toll could rise sharply in the oncoming winter conditions.

Along with the hundreds of people already known dead, the earthquake has destroyed thousand of homes, while triggering landslides and knocking out communication lines.

One survivor in Badakhstan has described what he felt inside his family home when it hit.


“I was praying when the earthquake happened. I didn’t move at first. When it got worse, my father and sister moved out, and I got stuck inside the house with my mother and couldn’t move out. My father kept calling for me to come out, but, when the walls collapsed, we got caught inside the house.”


The 7.5-magnitude quake, which appears to have caused the most death and damage in Pakistan, was felt as far away as India and Tajikistan.

World Health Organisation spokesman Christian Lindmeier says the WHO is expecting a range of health problems as a result of the quake.


“Apart from the immediate trauma and injuries, we can expect to see a number of health risks, such as waterborne diseases, diarrhoea, dysentery, Hepatitis A and E, acute respiratory infections, other vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, pertussis, tetanus and so on, so forth. Then, of course, we have post-traumatic stress disorders, wound infections, injuries, malaria, dengue and so on and so forth.”


It is the second major earthquake this month to hit northern Afghanistan, where security issues are also preventing humanitarian aid from reaching survivors.

Afghan deputy presidential spokesman Zafar Hashimi says the government will provide emergency funding to those affected.


“The Afghan government provided an emergency fund of 50 million Afghanis for these nine provinces and other aids. That include blankets, tents and food, so that people who are in their relatives’ houses and other places of shelter could get emergency food.”


The Taliban, which has conducted a renewed campaign against the Western-backed government across the country this year, is urging aid agencies not to hold back delivering relief.

They have indicated they will not stand in the way of aid efforts and say they have ordered their fighters to help the victims.



Alleged Stocco victim dead for three weeks

The body of a man allegedly murdered by father and son duo Gino and Mark Stocco was in a shallow grave in rural NSW for three weeks before being discovered, police will allege.


Court documents say the Stoccos murdered 68-year-old caretaker Rosario Cimone on October 7 at Pinevale, the Elong Elong property northeast of Dubbo where they were arrested on Wednesday.

The pair was excused from appearing in Dubbo Local Court on Thursday on 17 charges each, including murder and three counts of shooting with intent to murder.

It’s alleged the pair shot at three police officers while trying to avoid arrest at Mangoplah near Wagga Wagga on October 16.

Magistrate Andrew Eckhold ordered that both Gino and Mark Stocco return to Dubbo Local Court in January and be held in custody until then.

Mark Stocco was wearing shackles as officers from the Corrections High Risk Transport Unit collected the pair from Dubbo Police Station where they had been held overnight.

“They will be initially conveyed to Wellington Prison and then from there assessed and most likely will be transferred to another prison,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Clint Pheeney said.

It’s believed the pair will be held at Goulburn Supermax prison until their next court appearance.

Their arrest at Pinevale came after a tip off from a local who reported seeing a suspicious vehicle in the nearby Goonoo State Forest.

A missing person’s report in Sydney was the final piece of the puzzle police needed to locate them, ending their eight years on the run from authorities in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

Officers hid at the property from Tuesday before arresting the Stoccos on Wednesday.

Both men were treated at Dubbo Base Hospital for minor injuries suffered as a result of failing to comply with police orders during their arrest.

Other charges against the pair include the theft of a white Toyota LandCruiser, a silver Nissan Navara and possession of other items including numberplates, power tools, camping equipment and towels.

While police have not revealed if they uncovered weapons or ammunition from the Elong Elong property, they are both charged with possessing a Remington 12 gauge shotgun and ammunition without permits.

Lawyers appeared in court on behalf of both men but neither made release applications.