Browsing articles in "agriculture"
Wednesday 6th July 2016 - 9:12 pm
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by Alan Thornhill

Malcolm Turnbull’s belief that he would win the July 2 election was understandable.

 

His chief rival, Bill Shorten, had to win 21 seats to claim both victory – and Australia’s top job – a difficult task, at the best of times.
And with 81 per cent of the vote now counted, Mr Turnbull’s Coalition seems  to be “edging towards victory” – tonight.

 

The ABC was giving the Coalition 72 seats, at that point, Labor 67 and others five.

 

That left 6 seats in doubt.

 

The Coalition could still win the 76 seats it would need, to govern alone.

 

Labor can’t.

 

So a hung Parliament – and minority government – are still possible, even likely.

 

And both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten still have a real chance of emerging from this political confusion as Australia’s Prime Minister.

 

Who, though, could provide the nation with stable government, over the next three years?

 

That’s a very interesting question.

 

 

Mr Shorten alluded to it, indirectly, today when he told reporters that if  Mr  Turnbull  “scrapes home” his problems would have “just begun.”

 

There would be a price.

 

Senator Nick Xenophon, for example, is already talking about extra assistance for the steel industry, to save more than 6,000 jobs in South Australia.

 

It is also an open secret in Canberra that Mr Turnbull had to agree, before the election to specific demands made by the Nationals,  the junior partner in his Coalition, to get their support.

 

Then there is the hard right, in his own loosely named Liberal party, led by men like Cori Bernadi.

 

So what some call “the real Malcolm Turnbull,” who attends Mardi Gras marches in his own electorate, probably won’t be putting up his hand, anytime soon.

 

There are, of course, a few things that might also be said about Bill Shorten.

However as Mr Turnbull, at present, looks to have the better chance of leading the nation after this cliff-hanger election, perhaps  his prospects that should be examined first.

 

Then, of course, there is the little matter of a new Senate, peppered with independents, that either man would have to face, as Prime Minister.
However, our electoral officials say they might not have a clear result, in that house, until August.

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Tuesday 5th July 2016 - 4:25 pm
Comments Off on Glenn Stevens drops a hint

Glenn Stevens drops a hint

by Alan Thornhill

The Reserve bank left interest rates on hold today, but hinted that there could be another rate cut soon.

 

After a meeting of the bank’s board today, its Governor Glenn Stevens noted that Australia’s inflation is low – at 1.3 per cent – and likely to remain so.

 

 

Then he added:  “Over the period ahead, further information should allow the Board to refine its assessment of the outlook for growth and inflation and to make any adjustment to the stance of policy that may be appropriate.”

 

Mr Stevens also said:  “Several advanced economies have recorded improved conditions over the past year.”

 

However he added:  “but conditions have become more difficult for a number of emerging market economies.

 

He said:  “China’s growth rate has moderated further, though recent actions by Chinese policymakers are supporting the near-term outlook.”

 

 

The bank last cut its marker interest rate from 2 per cent, to a new record low of 1.75 per cent, in May.

 

Mr Stevens said:  “Commodity prices are above recent lows, but this follows very substantial declines over the past couple of years.”

 

 

“Australia’s terms of trade remain much lower than they had been in recent years.”

 

He also noted the impact of Britain’s Brexit decision to leave the European Union but said nothing about Australia’s cliffhanger election, last Saturday.

 

Mr Stevens said global financial markets had been “volatile recently as investors have re-priced assets after the UK referendum.

 

 

“But most markets have continued to function effectively,” Mr Stevens added.

 

“Funding costs for high-quality borrowers remain low and, globally, monetary policy remains remarkably accommodative.

 

“Any effects of the referendum outcome on global economic activity remain to be seen and, outside the effects on the UK economy itself, may be hard to discern,” he concluded.

Monday 4th July 2016 - 8:46 am
Comments Off on Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s political leaders will be hitting their phones this week, trying to scrape together enough support to give the country stable government for the next three years.

 

The main rivals, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who heads a conservative coalition and Bill Shorten, who leads the Labor party both found themselves short of the 76 seats they would need, in the House of Representatives, to govern in their own right, at the end of the initial, but still incomplete, count.

 

Late yesterday, Labor had 67 seats, the Coalition 65, others 5 and 13 were still in doubt.

 

The Australian Electoral Commission had counted 78.2 per cent of the votes cast, at that point.

 

It will not resume the count until Tuesday, and the final result, for the House, will probably not be known until some time next week.

 

Mr Turnbull had made much of the need he saw for stability, during the late stages of the eight week election campaign, particularly after Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
However the swing to Labor, evident in Saturday’s election, showed that voters were more impressed with Mr Shorten’s warning that only Labor could be trusted to protect Australia’s health insurance system, Medicare.

 

Mr Turnbull had sought support for a plan centred on tax cuts for big companies and high income earners.

 

He had warned that a big spending Labor government could not be trusted to manage Australia’s economy responsibly.

 

And, at a news conference today, he welcomed a question from a reporter who asked him if the election result could threaten Australia’s TripleA credit rating.
He thanked the reporter and said: “This is why it is very important … for me to explain what is happening at the moment.”

 

“We are simply going through a process of completing a count,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

The Prime Minister also said that he could still form a new government, for the next three years.

 

However Bill Shorten greeted the initial count with a triumphal declaration.

 

He conceded that the public might not know the outcome of Saturday’s election : “…for some days to come.”

 

“But there is one thing for sure – the Labor Party is back.” he said.

 

But which of these two men is likely to be Australia’s Prime Minister over the next three years?

 

The answer to that question will depend, very much, on their relative telephone skills.

Thursday 30th June 2016 - 1:49 pm
Comments Off on Our wealth: the $13.2 billion hit

Our wealth: the $13.2 billion hit

by Alan Thornhill

Australians have suffered their first fall in household net wealth since the September quarter of 2011.

 

This is shown in figures that the Australian Bureau of Statistics published today.

 

The Bureau said that during the quarter, household net worth fell by $13.2b.

 

“During the quarter, household net worth decreased by $13.2b, its first decrease since September quarter 2011,” the Bureau said.

 

It said the fall was  driven by “holding gains (real and neutral)  -of -$44.1b.”

 

Holding losses on financial assets, like shares, in the quarter were $46.5b.

 

These were driven by valuation decreases in the listed equities market ($17.8b) and insurance technical reserves (driven by superannuation assets) of $37.3b.

 

Households recorded holding losses of $2.2b on land and dwellings during March quarter.

 

This was their second consecutive quarterly loss, following holding losses of $8.0b in December quarter.

 

The Bureau put our household net worth at $8,640.6b at the end of the March quarter.

 

It said this was made  up mainly of $5,904.7b of land and dwelling assets and $4,305.2b of financial assets.

 

But they were set against $2,234.9b of household liabilities.

 

The Bureau  also said transactions in net worth were driven by net capital formation of $11.9b, of which net acquisitions of land and dwellings were $10.9b while other non-financial assets amounted to $1.0b.

 

It said net financial transactions were $11.3b, of which net acquisition of financial assets were $38.5b and net incurrence of liabilities were $27.2b.

 

The major contributors to financial assets transactions were net equity in reserves of pension funds ($17.7b) and deposits ($12.8b).

 

Households incurred liabilities predominately through long term loan borrowings ($26.3b).

The Bureau said holding losses on financial assets in the quarter were $46.5b.

 

These were driven by valuation decreases in the listed equities market ($17.8b) and insurance technical reserves (driven by superannuation assets) of $37.3b.

 

Households recorded holding losses of $2.2b on land and dwellings during March quarter 2016, their second consecutive quarterly loss, following holding losses of $8.0b in December quarter 2015.

Tuesday 28th June 2016 - 1:59 pm
Comments Off on Australian tax revenue “going up in smoke” – report

Australian tax revenue “going up in smoke” – report

by Alan Thornhill

A new report says big miners  – and  tobacco companies –   would be among the main winners from the Federal government’s proposed tax cuts.

 

The report, funded by the Get Up organisation, concluded that shareholders in the USA, UK and Japan would collect 15 per cent of the offshore benefits.

 

The authors described these as the “most significant” gains produced by the proposed scheme, which they described as the “centerpiece” of the Turnbull government’s economic plan.

 

It was produced in consultation with corporate tax experts, including  Associate Professor Roman Lanis, Dr Brett Govendir and Mr Ross McClure from the University of Technology Sydney, with help from to Mikhail Shashnov.

 

The government has yet to comment on the report.

 

Its authors reviewed the 250 largest payers of corporate tax in 2013-14 – the most recent year for which Tax office data was available.

 

It was used to identify the percentage of overseas-based shareholders and calculate the proportion of the corporate tax cut that would flow to them in the form of increased dividend payments.

 

 

A detailed analysis of the top 20 corporations was then undertaken.

 

The results were then assessed to determine who the main beneficiaries of the corporate tax cut were.

 

This had shown that if the corporate tax rate was cut to 25 per cent, in the planned five year period,  those companies would get a total tax benefit of $5.526 billion per annum.

 

The report also said: “an astonishing 40 per cent – at least $2.176 billion – would be lost to offshore investors in dividend payments.”

 

It said too, that:- : “corporations operating in the finance and materials sectors receive the lion’s share of total tax benefits at 38 per cent and and 30 per cent respectively.

 

“This includes banks, insurance, and mining companies.

 

“Seven of the top 20 corporations are mining and energy corporations.

 

“They receive a $1.56 billion windfall, of which 63 per cent would flow offshore.

 

“This is on top of the $7.7 billion the industry receives each year in taxpayer-funded fossil fuel subsidies.

 

It also said two  of the top 20 beneficiaries are Big Tobacco companies – British American Tobacco and Philip Morris.”

 

The report said these companies  stand to receive a combined benefit of $88.5 million, of which 100 per cent would flow offshore.

Monday 27th June 2016 - 9:17 am
Comments Off on PM’s speech: the lustre and bluster

PM’s speech: the lustre and bluster

by Alan Thornhill

Anlysis

 

 

 

Malcolm Turnbull’s policy speech yesterday was a polished performance.

 

He managed to suggest, for example, that something very like the Brexit disaster could well sink Australia, too, if we don’t vote the right way on July 2.

 

Without actually saying so.

 

So is there a danger, in his message that might not be immediately apparent?

 

Arguably.

 

Is the lustre, of his carefully crafted message, for example, brighter than its bluster?

 

The Prime Minister assured voters, constantly, throughout his speech, that his Coalition has a plan to deal with all eventualities, that might arise over the next three years.

 

Without saying, too specifically, what it was

 

He also boasted that some 300,000 new jobs had been created, on his government’s watch.

 

Without mentioning that most of them are part time positions, with pay rates that don’t cover grocery bills

 

This has left many Australians, particularly the young and the old, without a place in Australia’s modern work-force

 

So it might well be worth looking again at just what the Turnbull forces are planning to do, as well as what Mr Turnbull, himself, is actually saying.

 

Tax cuts, both for Australians on high incomes – and the big corporates – are at the heart of his plan.

 

It may well be worth remembering, at this point, that much of the vote for Britain’s exit, from the EU, came from poor areas, in Britain’s north.

 

That is  from the very people who have suffered most, over the years, from the austerity that came with Thatcherism, and its successors.

 

Eminent economists, like America’s Paul Krugman are not impressed by arguments that rising wealth for the rich will produce more jobs for the poor.

 

Krugman says that’s like relying on “the austerity fairy” to overcome unemployment.

 

However that argument still appeals, even if its strongest appeal is to those who benefit most from it.

Sunday 26th June 2016 - 3:23 pm
Comments Off on PM urges Australians to vote for “stability”

PM urges Australians to vote for “stability”

by Alan Thornhill

Malcolm Turnbull says:  “the shockwaves in the past 48 hours from Britain’s vote to exit the European Union are a sharp reminder of the volatility in the global economy.”

Delivering his policy speech in Sydney for the July 2 elections, the Prime Minister also spoke of the need for stable majority government, experienced economic leadership and a national economic plan.

An edited copy of  his 4,000 word speech is reproduced below.

After praising senior Liberals who attended the launch, Mr Turnbull said Australia needs a national economic plan  which “recognises the nature of our times – both the opportunities and challenges – and gives us the resilience we need to succeed.”

“Only the Liberal National Coalition can deliver that plan, that security, that leadership,” he added.

“Everything we seek to achieve, all of our hopes, our dreams depend on strong economic growth, “ Mr Turnbull said.

In a strong economy, business is  confident and  prepared to risk investing, expanding and hiring.”

Mr Turnbull said:  “Our business tax cuts encourage small and medium businesses to do just that.

“A strong economy means a mum whose kids are now at school and wants to work a few more days, or work full time, will have plenty of opportunities to do so,” Mr Turnbull said.

“And our childcare reforms will make it easier for her to do so too,” he added.

“It means that young men and women who have left school and are looking for a job will find an employer who is hiring and is happy to give them a start.”

“Our PaTH program with job training and internships will provide additional support to youth employment,”Mr Turnbull added.

A strong economy means we can fund our Innovation and Science Agenda to ensure our kids learn the digital skills of the 21st century, our research is commercialised to create jobs here at home and investors support start-up companies.

A strong economy means that senior Australians know their children will be in good jobs, their investments will deliver better returns and that Government will have growing revenues to support their pensions and health care.

It means that the farmer is getting much better prices for his cattle and can afford to hire a local contractor to replace his fences, clean out a dam or build a new hay shed.

It means the cafe, the restaurant, the hotel has more tourists and they hire more staff to cater for them.

All thanks to our export trade deals.

A strong economy means that builders will be hard at work on new homes and tradesmen will have more jobs.

It means that a manufacturer has more export orders, can buy more equipment, hire more workers and expand their business.

A stronger economy means we can fund over $50 billion in 21st century road, rail and other infrastructure including the Western Sydney Airport and the 39,000 jobs it will create.

“A stronger economy means we can afford to fund world-class education and health services, including Medicare, without weighing down our children and grandchildren with more debt and deficits,” Mr Turnbull said.

A strong economy means we can meet and beat our international obligations  to address climate change and do so without massive hikes in electricity prices as Labor would do.

“We have a national economic plan because the prosperity and security of 24 million Australians depend on it,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said success in the 21st Century cannot be taken for granted.

“Always expect the unexpected.”

“We will need to renegotiate vital trade deals with Europe and Britain,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We concluded five in the last three years – Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

“In six years Labor concluded none,” he said.

“We have carefully considered what we need to do to succeed, to make the transition from an economy fired up by a once in a century mining construction boom to one that is more diverse, more innovative, smarter, more productive – an economy that wins, and keeps on winning.”

“So there is a clear cut choice at this election,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We present our fellow Australians with a national economic plan every element of which supports more investment, stronger economic growth and more jobs.

“Our plan invests $1.1 billion to promote leading-edge innovation in our industries and to prepare our children for the jobs of the future.”

Our plan promotes export trade deals to generate 19,000 new export opportunities, giving our businesses premium access to the biggest economies in our region.

Our plan invests in local defence industries to ensure every defence dollar possible supports advanced manufacturers and thousands of Australians jobs.

Our Enterprise Tax Plan provides tax relief to tens of thousands of small-to-medium family businesses now and to all companies over time so they can invest, grow and hire more Australians.

“On the other hand, our opponents in the Labor Party have no economic plan.”

“Labor believes its best hope of being elected is to have trade union officials phone frail and elderly Australians in their homes at night, to scare them into thinking they are about to lose something which has never been at risk,” Mr Turnbull said.

“That’s not an alternative government, that’s an Opposition unfit to govern.”

Every element of Labor’s platform would discourage investment and employment.

He described it as: “a recipe for economic stagnation.”

“If returned at this election, we will convene a joint sitting to restore the rule of law in the construction industry and reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, Mr Turnbull said.

So Australians could  have the building infrastructure  they need  “at a price they can afford.”

He said:  “housing values would fall in a fragile property market and rents would rise, because of Labor’s investment destroying ban on negative gearing and 50 per cent hike in capital gains tax.

“This threat is real.

“ So we need to be crystal-clear about what our votes will mean,” Mr Turnbull said.

“If your local vote is for Labor, Greens or an Independent, and you are in one of the 20 or so key battleground seats across the country, it is a vote for the chaos of a hung Parliament, a budget black hole, big Labor taxes, less jobs and more boats,” he warned.

Only a Liberal or National vote ensures stable government, a clear economic plan, real funding for the aged, Medicare and education; more jobs and strong borders.

Mr Turnbull urged Australians to: ““Vote for your local Liberal or National in the House and in the Senate.”

“In the last calendar year, there were 300,000 new jobs,” the Prime Minister said.

“Our unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent is well beneath what was anticipated when the Coalition came to office,” he added.

None of this happens by chance. Strong economic leadership supporting hard-working Australians means that, even with difficult global headwinds, we continue to grow our economy and expand our workforce.

And, today, I can announce additional policies from our Coalition team to support our national economic plan for jobs and growth.

Mr Turnbull said his government is determined to ensure none of our regional communities are left behind as we make the transition to a stronger new economy.

“… our regions must be at the frontline of the drive for innovation, jobs and growth,” Mr Turnbull said.

Our ‘Regional Jobs Fund’ is a major commitment… he added.

“As we build a stronger economy, it is vital that we also do all we can to ensure all Australians, especially young Australians, are not left behind,” he added.

So the Coalition woulds deliver a record $73.6 billion over the next four years for all Australian schools,” he said.

“Today, I can announce an additional $48 million for scholarships under the Smith Family’s Learning for Life program, to help disadvantaged students to complete year 12 and transition to work or further education and training,” he added.

“The Coalition will also invest $31 million in programs to encourage more girls and women to study and work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Mr Turnbull said.

It would also help older Australians get smartphones.

He said only about one household in five, with people aged 60 or above, had a smartphone.

“To make their lives easier, to help them retain their independence, and to keep them connected to families and friends, I am announcing today a $50 million Coalition strategy to assist seniors who want to improve their digital literacy skills,” he said.

“And as announced earlier today, my Government will be investing $192 million more in front line mental health services including twelve suicide prevention sites around Australia and ten more headspace centres; and at the same time using smart phone and other technology to make these services more accessible,” he said.

This complements our support for Veterans’ mental health programs, itself a reminder that we best honour the diggers of Gallipoli and Fromelles by supporting the veterans and their families of today.

Mr Turnbull said; “only a strong Australia can be a safe Australia.

“After six years of abject Labor neglect and indecision, our continuous shipbuilding strategy will ensure Australia retains a sovereign capability to build and sustain naval vessels, securing thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs for decades to come,” he added.

Mr Turnbull said:”Labor’s abandonment of John Howard’s proven border protection policy opened the door to the people-smugglers:

The results had included:-

  • 50,000 unauthorised arrivals on 800 boats,
  • 1200 deaths at sea, of which we know,
  • Over 8000 children put into detention,
  • 17 detention centres opened, and
  • An $11 billion border protection budget blowout.

“In contrast, the Coalition has restored security at the border, integrity to our immigration program – and with it, public trust,” he said.

“I am proud to announce that today marks 700 days without a successful people-smuggling venture to our country,” he added.

“I am also very proud to announce that we have removed every child from detention in Australia,” Mr Turnbull said.

Labor had failed Australia before.

“The people-smugglers are looking for the earliest sign that an Australian government will waver,” he added.

Mr Turnbull said: “our policies are tough.

“But  these policies have stopped the drownings at sea, and restored the integrity of, and trust in, our large but orderly immigration and refugee programs,” he added.

To further strengthen our domestic security I announce initiatives that go to that most fundamental of liberties – the right to live without fear of violence.

Mr Turnbull also said: “my first announcement as Prime Minister was a new $100 million package to encourage all Australians to confront squarely and honestly the ugly truth of violence against women and children in our society.

“Today, I can announce a $64 million commitment to crack down on the trafficking of illegal firearms on our streets, in particular by criminal gangs,” he added.

He said he is asking Australians to make a clear choice — to back a strong and stable Coalition majority government that can press ahead with its plan for a stronger new economy.

That would deliver the economic security that enables Australians to fulfill their aspirations.

“That is why I am asking my fellow Australians at this election to support our Coalition’s National Economic Plan for a Strong New Economy,” he said.

Friday 24th June 2016 - 9:30 pm
Comments Off on UK PM quitting after referendum fails

UK PM quitting after referendum fails

by Alan Thornhill

 

The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced today that he is planning to resign before a Conservative Party conference in October.

 

His statement follows the failure of a referendum he promoted to keep Britain in the European Union, which it joined 43 years ago.

 

The loss sent global currency and share markets into chaos and pushed the British pound to its lowest point in 25 years.

 

The BBC put the number of votes urging Britain to leave the EU at 17,410,742 or 51.9 per cent of the total cast.

 

It said, too, that 16,141,241 votes were cast, by those who want Britain to stay in the EU.

 

This was 48.1 per cent of the total vote.

 

Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said:  “ This is a momentous and historic decision and we respect the wishes of the British people, expressed through this referendum“

 

However he added:  “I want to say that Australians….will be concerned by the uncertainty and instability in global markets, falls in currencies, including the Australian dollar and in equity markets.”

 

But Mr Turnbull said, too, that: “it is important to remember that the Australian economy is strong and resilient and has weathered global shocks before and weathered them well.”

 

“So there is no cause for Australians to be alarmed by these developments,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

But he said there would be a “… a period of uncertainty and some instability in global markets.”

 

“ I’ve no doubt that European leaders will provide reassurance and leadership that will in due course, settle many if not all of those uncertainties,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

However he added:  “…now more than ever Australia needs a stable majority Coalition Government .”

 

He said the nation also needed a strong economic plan that sets Australia up for a prosperous future.

 

This would enable Australia to take advantage of new opportunities and resiliently meet the challenges and the headwinds “that we cannot always anticipate and that we cannot always influence.”

 

“But  but they will always be there,”  Mr Turnbull said.
 

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Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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