by Alan Thornhill
That was quite a trick.
The Australian economy grew by 1.1 per cent in the first three months of this year.
And by 3.1 per cent over the year to the end of March.
What is particularly remarkable about these seasonally adjusted figures, produced by the Statistician today is that this growth, which was boosted by our exports, was achieved, as the prices we were getting for them were falling.
Quite sharply, in fact.
Indeed the Statistician also reports that our terms of trade dropped by 11.5 per cent over the year, including a 1.9 per cent fall in the March quarter itself.
So how did we do it?
Overwhelmingly, by selling quite a lot more of the stuff that we do produce well.
Mining products, for example.
The Bureau notes that their value rose by 6.2 per cent in the quarter.
And our household consumption spending rose by 0.4 percentage points in that time.
Impressive figures, certainly.
Especially for uncertain times, like the present.
But we shouldn’t read too much into them.
And they can bounce around quite around quite a bit.
So we shouldn’t be too surprised if we find our political leaders differing a little in their views of these developments.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, told voters tonight that growth is necessary for Australia.
He said that is fundamental.
And – taking care to appear Prime Ministerial – Mr Turnbull said his government had a plan to achieve growth that would produce new jobs and prosperity.
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, responded by saying that fairness is needed for growth.
And he said the government’s plan to give big foreign companies $50 billion worth of tax cuts over the next 10 years is not fair.
He said a well educated population, with access to good health care, is essential.
The two leaders were speaking in the second of their debates in the current election campaign, leading to national elections on July 2.
Tonight’s debate was the first to be televised publicly.
The first was carried only on pay television.
Although both leaders were criticised tonight for not giving enough detail about their policies, both would probably be reasonably happy with their performances.
Both managed to avoid embarrassing mistakes.
And both stuck to carefully considered strategies.
Mr Turnbull sought to re-assure those who share his philosophies and to convince doubters that voting for a reckless spending Labor government on July 2 would be just too risky.
And Mr Shorten, who realises that he is less well known than his rival, took care to present himself as a moderate responsible leader, who will advance thoroughly thought out policies, in this campaign which still has five weeks to run.
by Alan Thornhill
Malcolm Turnbull cant’ fund schools or Medicare because he is giving $50 billion worth of tax cuts to big business, a senior Labor figure said today.
Speaking on ABC television, the shadow finance minister, Tony Burke also hinted that the opposition might be able to announce some changes, that would leave
Australian families better off, before the election on July 2.
“….and we’ll have more to say about that later in the campaign,” Mr Burke added.
However he kept the strongest words, in the interview, for an attack on the Prime Minister.
“His tax cut is effectively the biggest single give away of the election campaign,” Mr Burke said
“We’re talking about $50 billion to some of the biggest businesses in the country,” he added.
” Now, the impact of that, in the first instance, means that is why Malcolm Turnbull is making the decision he can’t fund Medicare and he can’t fund schools.”Mr Burke said.
“What does it mean for Australian shareholders? Australian shareholders,” he asked.
Mr Burke said local shareholders – including anyone with a superannuation account – would “receive a fraction of the benefit that goes to foreign shareholders.”
He said the changes Labor is proposing, to tax and other laws, would in make sure that “we have proper investment in education.”
“That’s not only school education, that’s university as well.
” It’s in higher education.
“It’s in making sure you have a better skilled work force.
” Now – bizarrely – in this election campaign, the Liberal Party have wanted to argue somehow there’s no productivity improvement for having a better trained and skilled work force,” Mr Burke said.
by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s trade performance last year wasn’t quite as bad as we all feared.
This became clear today when the Bureau of Statistics published revised figures for the nation’s services trade in 2015.
These showed that the deficit in Australia’s services trade last year was $10.1 billion.
That was 1 per cent smaller than the deficit originally reported.
Although the revision was based on technical factors, it will encourage Australia’s economists.
They have been looking for an improvement in Australia’s services trade to offset some of the losses incurred when mineral prices fell.
The Bureau explained that it is now using a more accurate method of accounting for sea freight charges.
This is now sourced from Bloomberg and the World Shipping Register, instead of the direct commissions data that was previously used.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, announced new measures today to protect the Great Barrier Reef and other Australian tourist attractions.
He also said he had not been told in advance of plans by the Federal police to raid a Labor party office and homes in Melbourne searching for leaked material, about the woes of his troubled National Broadband network.
The broadcaster, David Attenborough, who recently completed a series of programs on the Great Barrier Reef, said later that it is mad to think that unlimited growth is possible in a finite world.
Mr Turnbull, who will face elections on July 2, said that before European settlement rainwater had sunk into Australian soils, and had been cleaned naturally before it reached the sea.
But he added: “As there is more development, you get more runoff.
“You get more nutrients in the water.
“And you see what’s called the wrack, the weeds, you see along the foreshore there and a deterioration of the quality overall.
He was speaking in the Tuggerah Lakes district, a series of three interconnected lagoons, on the New South Wales central coast.
Mr TurnbullHe said the government’s new policy: “… means installing more and better pollutant traps so that large, as you know, large bits of rubbish don’t float into the lakes.
Mr Turnbull said that – as they had developed their communities – European settlers had allowed water to rush through, rush down drains and storm water pipes, far too quickly.
“So the key is to slow it down< Mr Turnbull said. He said: "... one of the big priorities of the Great Barrier Reef, for example - is to build swales *along streams. (my dictionary says swales are "... low tracts of land, especially ones that are moist or marshy. The term can refer to natural landscape features or a human-created ones It says artificial swales are often designed to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration). “So when the run-off comes off fields, particularly with fertilisers, instead of rushing straight into the water-course, it is slowed down, settles and sinks into the ground and is then naturally cleaned through the environment,” Mr Turnbull said. He also confirmed that his Communications Minister, Senator Mitch Fifield, had known about the Federal police investigation into the NBN leaks some months ago but did not tell him. “...yes, that’s right,” Mr Turnbull said when questioned on the matter. “I think it’s entirely appropriate,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says new figures, produced by the Statistician today, show that Australia’s job market is stable.
She also said: “… today’s data reflects a resilient Australian labour market and highlights the need to continue with the Coalition’s plan to strengthen the economy and stimulate further jobs growth.”
However Labor’s employment spokesman, Brendan O’Connor, said the bureau’s figures showed that 50,000 full time jobs had been lost, under the Turnbull government, this year.
And the bureau of statistics, itself, still has some doubts.
It said its April Labour force figures show that trend employment growth in Australia is still easing.
They had shown that trend employment had risen by just 4,100 – or 0.03 per cent – during the month.
“This monthly growth rate was below the monthly average over the past 20 years – 0.15 per cent – and down further from the recent peak of 0.26 per cent in October 2015,” the bureau said.
That left Australia with a trend unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent for the month.
Australia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April was also 5.7 per cent.
However part time employment is still surging, with 10,500 new part time jobs appearing in the month.
General Manager of ABS’ Macroeconomic Statistics Division, Bruce Hockman said this was: “.. “the eleventh consecutive monthly increase of more than 10,000 persons in part time work.
“In contrast, trend full-time employment decreased by 6,400 persons, its third consecutive monthly decrease,” he added.
Mr Hockman said this change is also reflected in the trend monthly hours worked in all jobs series.
This fell by 5.6 million hours (0.3 per cent) to 1,628.9 million hours, he said.
by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s new vehicle sales rose by 0.3 per cent in April on trend figures published by the Bureau of Statistics today.
However the bureau’s seasonally adjusted figures registered a 2.5 per cent fall over the same time.
It added that its trend tables showed that there were 98,460 new vehicle sales in April.
The Bureau said Canberra had recorded Australia’s biggest increase in trend sales over that time.
That was 1.8 per cent.
Queensland had seen the nation’s biggest fall, with sales in that State falling by -0.5 per cent in trend terms during April.
by Alan Thornhill
Australians are not eating properly, according to new data that the Bureau of Statistics published today.
In the first publication of its kind, the bureau compared what we do eat with the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines.
They recommend minimum serves for vegetables, fruit, dairy products, lean meats and alternatives, and grain-based foods.
The comparison suggests that we are getting little more than half the vegetables we need.
The Bureau’s Director of Health, Louise Gates said that adults and children over eight consumed an average of 2.7 serves of vegetables, rather than the 5 serves recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Ms Gates said this is shown by the latest results from the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey.
“Less than 4 per cent of the population consumed enough vegetables and legumes or beans each day,” Ms Gates said.
Ms Gates said, too, that only “One in 10 was meeting the guidelines for dairy products, while one in seven consumed the minimum number of serves of lean meats and alternatives per day.”
“Among the five food groups, fruits and grains had the best compliance, with nearly one in three people consuming the minimum recommended number of serves for each group.’
“ However, one-third of the fruit serves was from juice and dried fruit, and two-thirds of the grains and cereals were from refined grains rather than whole grain or high fibre sources,” Ms Gates added.
The report also found that over one-third of the population’s total daily energy intake came from energy-dense, nutrient-poor ‘discretionary foods’ such as sweetened beverages, alcohol, cakes, confectionery and pastry products.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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