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Sunday 6th December 2015 - 9:46 pm
Comments Off on Climate:advice from our neighbours

Climate:advice from our neighbours

by Alan Thornhill

As you read this, a delegation of Australian politicians will be flying out to the Pacific to meet local islanders

 

Steven Ciobo, the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, who will be leading the group, said it would be visiting Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Solomon Islands.
He said the delegation would be observing the outcome of Australia’s aid and investment in the region.
Its aim would be to strengthen Australia’s relations with its Pacific neighbours.
But that’s only half of the story.
Members of the delegation may well find themselves spending more time listening than they expect.
Australian aid is welcomed – and highly valued – in the Pacific.
But that has never meant that it is above criticism.
One senior Pacific politician, for example, liked to talk about what he called “boomerang aid.”.

 

His point was that too much of the money that Australia sets aside, to help the people of the Pacific, actually ends up in the pockets of Australian aid workers, instead.

 

So who is going on this trip, for Australia?

 

Mr Ciobo said the members of the bi-partisan delegation he is leading are Nola Marino the Chief Government Whip, Jane Prentice, the Federal Member for Ryan, Sharon Claydon the Federal Member for Newcastle and NSW Senator, Deborah O’Neill.
These are serious people doing an important job, in Mr Ciobo’s view.

 

As he says:“the delegation underlines the strength and breadth of support in Australia for closer relations with our region.”
That declaration will be welcomed in the Pacific.

 

 

Tongans, in particular, often feel their geographically isolated position in the world very keenly.

 

So they won’t be allowing these Australian politicians to fly back home without knowing how they see the great issues of the day.
And for Pacific Islanders, no issue is greater than climate change.

 

For they know, all too well, that if rising sea temperatures, cause the Antarctic ice sheet to melt, many of the beautiful islands they call home, would simply disappear beneath the sea.
The BBC reports that World leaders, meeting in Paris last week, approved a draft text they hope will form the basis of an agreement to curb global carbon emissions.
The 48-page document will be discussed by ministers today.
They will try to arrive at a comprehensive settlement on outstanding issues this month,
Some of them will be tricky.
The French climate ambassador has warned that major political differences still need to be resolved.
Delegates from 195 countries worked through the night at the conference centre in Le Bourget, conscious of a Saturday deadline imposed by the French president.

 

The aim now is to turn this draft text into a long-term agreement.

 

And although they are on the other side of the world, Pacific Islanders are determined to make their voices heard, in support of that objective.

 

With good reason.

 

 

They have already seen what can go wrong, when many people feel compelled to leave home, for whatever reason.

 

 

These include civil war.

 

That’s what happened in the Solomon Islands, when 30,000 islanders from Malaita took to the sea in canoes, intending to settle on the island of Guadalcanal.
That gave the world an early glimpse of what the results of large population movements can be.
So Australia – and the world – have good reason to press  their climate change negotiators for a tight agreement.

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Friday 4th December 2015 - 1:13 pm
Comments Off on We’re spending more:despite tight wages

We’re spending more:despite tight wages

by Alan Thornhill

Wer’e spending more, even though wage rises have been subdued over the past year.

 

The Bureau of Statistics reported today that Australia’s retail sale rose by 0.5 per cent in October, following a 0.4 per cent rise in September, on seasonally adjusted estimates.

 

In trend terms, retail sales were 3.9 per cent higher in October this year than they had been 12 months earlier.

Average weekly eaarnings rose by just 2 per cent over the past year.

 

The Bureau noted that we spent more on food, in department stores and on household goods in October.

 

But it also reported that we curbed our spending in cafes, restaurants and take away food services that month.

 

These figures, taken together, suggest that Australias’s shoppers are finding their confidence again.

 

And this has allowed them to cover the gaps that now exist between tneir spending and their incomes in one of two ways.

 

These are buying more on credit, or drawing on their savings, to buy the things they want.

Wednesday 2nd December 2015 - 11:54 am
Comments Off on Say g’day to a a big spending tourist

Say g’day to a a big spending tourist

by Alan Thornhill

Tourists are coming to Australia in record numbers – and spending more when they get here.
And visitors, coming as students, are adding to the positive impact this is having on the economy.

 

These developments are confirmed in a report, which the Minister for Tourism and International Education, Senator Richard Colbeck released today.

 

He said it shows further record international arrivals, visitor nights and spending.
“The report reveals spending reached a new high of $34.8 billion, an increase of 13 per cent or ?$4.1 billion over the year,” Senator Colbeck said.

 

This was the strongest growth seen since 2001.

 

“International visitor arrivals increased 7 per cent to 6.7 million while nights were up 10 per cent, reaching 242 million during the year ending September 2015,” he said.

 

“The Government’s efforts to boost flight capacity, our visa reforms and focused international marketing are increasing Australia’s appeal in the growing global tourism market,” he added.

 

“We have also made tourism infrastructure one of five National Investment Priorities, backing the growth of a key industry which supports around a million jobs.”

 

“Australia’s strong international education sector is clearly having a positive impact on our tourism industry; with every international student in Australia attracting visits from friends and family,” he said.

 

“Visiting Australia for the purposes of education is supporting strong growth, with visitation up 19 per cent and nights up 18 per cent. Total trip spend for education visitors increased by 27 per cent for the year to $8.2 billion, which drove 43 per cent of the overall increase.”

 

“With approximately 600,000 international students currently enrolled onshore, and growing, that adds up to a significant contribution,” he said
.
Senator Colbeck said the report shows spending growth in several areas, including:-
-Education visitor spending: up 27 per cent to $8.2 billion
Employment visitor spending: up 26 per cent to $2.8 billion
Visiting friends and relatives spending: up 14 per cent to $5.8 billion and
Holiday visitor spending: up 7 per cent to $13.2 billion

 

China continues to lead the growth with huge increases.
“Visitor numbers are up 22 per cent to 896,000, nights up 25 per cent to 39.3 million and spend up a huge 43 per cent to $7.7 billion,” he said.

 

“There was record spending by visitors from 10 of Australia’s top-20 markets: New Zealand, China, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, France and Switzerland.”
“The Cricket World Cup also paid dividends this year with arrivals from India increasing 20 per cent to 213,000, nights up 35 per cent to 13.4 million and spend growing 34 per cent to $1.1 billion.”
“A further eight markets had record visitor arrivals during the year, including New Zealand (up 5 per cent to 1.2 million), the US (up 8 per cent to 551,000) and Singapore (up 4 per cent to 334,000),” he added,

Tuesday 1st December 2015 - 3:28 pm
Comments Off on Rates:Glenn Stevens explains

Rates:Glenn Stevens explains

by Alan Thornhill

At its meeting today, the Reserve bank. Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 2.0 per cent.

In a statement afterwards the bank’s Governor, Glenn Stevens, said the global economy is expanding at a moderate pace.
He noted that there had been some softening in conditions in the Asian region,.

But Mr Stevens also said there had been “continuing US growth and a recovery in Europe.”

He said:” Key commodity prices are much lower than a year ago.”

Mr Stevens said, this reflected “increased supply, including from Australia, as well as weaker demand.”
He warned:“Australia’s terms of trade are falling.”
Mr Stevens said:“ (the)Federal Reserve is expected to start increasing its policy rate over the period ahead, but some other major central banks are continuing to ease monetary policy.”

Hoowever, her added:“Volatility in financial markets has abated somewhat for the moment.
“ While credit costs for some emerging market countries remain higher than a year ago, global financial conditions overall remain very accommodative,” Mr Stevens said.

“In Australia, the available information suggests that moderate expansion in the economy continues in the face of a large decline in capital spending in the mining sector.”

“ While GDP growth has been somewhat below longer-term averages for some time, business surveys suggest a gradual improvement in conditions in non-mining sectors over the past year.”

“This has been accompanied by stronger growth in employment and a steady rate of unemployment.”

“Inflation is low and should remain so, with the economy likely to have a degree of spare capacity for some time yet.”

“Inflation is forecast to be consistent with the target over the next one to two years.”

“n such circumstances, monetary policy needs to be accommodative.”
“ Low interest rates are acting to support borrowing and spending. While the recent changes to some lending rates for housing will reduce this support slightly, overall conditions are still quite accommodative.”
“ Credit growth has increased a little over recent months, with credit provided by intermediaries to businesses picking up.”

“Growth in lending to investors in the housing market has eased.”
“Supervisory measures are helping to contain risks that may arise from the housing market. “
Mr Stevens said:“The pace of growth in dwelling prices has moderated in Melbourne and Sydney over recent months and has remained mostly subdued in other cities.”
“ In other asset markets, prices for commercial property have been supported by lower long-term interest rates, while equity prices have moved in parallel with developments in global markets.”

“The Australian dollar is adjusting to the significant declines in key commodity prices.”
“At today’s meeting the Board again judged that the prospects for an improvement in economic conditions had firmed a little over recent months and that leaving the cash rate unchanged was appropriate.”
“Members also observed that the outlook for inflation may afford scope for further easing of policy, should that be appropriate to lend support to demand.”
“The Board will continue to assess the outlook, and hence whether the current stance of policy will most effectively foster sustainable growth and inflation consistent with the target,” Mr Stevens said.
For Immediate Release
Statement by Glenn Stevens, Governor: Monetary Policy Decision
At its meeting today, the Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 2.0 per cent.
The global economy is expanding at a moderate pace, with some softening in conditions in the Asian region, continuing US growth and a recovery in Europe. Key commodity prices are much lower than a year ago, reflecting increased supply, including from Australia, as well as weaker demand. Australia’s terms of trade are falling.
The Federal Reserve is expected to start increasing its policy rate over the period ahead, but some other major central banks are continuing to ease monetary policy. Volatility in financial markets has abated somewhat for the moment. While credit costs for some emerging market countries remain higher than a year ago, global financial conditions overall remain very accommodative.
In Australia, the available information suggests that moderate expansion in the economy continues in the face of a large decline in capital spending in the mining sector. While GDP growth has been somewhat below longer-term averages for some time, business surveys suggest a gradual improvement in conditions in non-mining sectors over the past year. This has been accompanied by stronger growth in employment and a steady rate of unemployment.
Inflation is low and should remain so, with the economy likely to have a degree of spare capacity for some time yet. Inflation is forecast to be consistent with the target over the next one to two years.
In such circumstances, monetary policy needs to be accommodative. Low interest rates are acting to support borrowing and spending. While the recent changes to some lending rates for housing will reduce this support slightly, overall conditions are still quite accommodative. Credit growth has increased a little over recent months, with credit provided by intermediaries to businesses picking up. Growth in lending to investors in the housing market has eased. Supervisory measures are helping to contain risks that may arise from the housing market.
The pace of growth in dwelling prices has moderated in Melbourne and Sydney over recent months and has remained mostly subdued in other cities. In other asset markets, prices for commercial property have been supported by lower long-term interest rates, while equity prices have moved in parallel with developments in global markets. The Australian dollar is adjusting to the significant declines in key commodity prices.
At today’s meeting the Board again judged that the prospects for an improvement in economic conditions had firmed a little over recent months and that leaving the cash rate unchanged was appropriate. Members also observed that the outlook for inflation may afford scope for further easing of policy, should that be appropriate to lend support to demand. The Board will continue to assess the outlook, and hence whether the current stance of policy will most effectively foster sustainable growth and inflation consistent with the target.

Monday 30th November 2015 - 8:08 pm
Comments Off on The economy stirs

The economy stirs

by Alan Thornhill

The Australian economy has stirred over recent months.

 

Manufacturing sales rose 0.8 per cent – on seasonally adjusted figures – in the September quarter – after six quarters of falls.

 

However this small rise – on a volume basis – seen in figures published by the Bureau of Statistics – was dwarfed by a 5.1 per cent fall over the year.

 

A survey, also published today showed business confidence fading in recent months as results failed to meet expectations.
The fall in business optimism was reflected  in the results of the  latest Dun & Bradstreet’s Business Expectations Survey.

 

These suggest a fairly subdued outlook for the first quarter of 2016.

 

However Westpac Economist, Andrew Hanlan, said the tone of the bureau’s business indicators’ survey had been more positive than anticipated.
Adam Siddique, the Head of Group Development at Dun & Bradstreet, broadly concurred.

 

He said business confidence remains historically strong,.

 

However he warned that cooling in housing market activity might present challenges in the year ahead.

 

“There can be no doubt the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets are now slowing down, which is to be expected after a period of spectacular growth,” Mr Siddique said.

 

The firm also reported that, as the new year approaches, business are reporting lowered expectations for activity across sales, profits, employees and capital investment.

It said that in the September quarter, the percentage of  businesses reporting an actual increase in activity minus percentage of businesses reporting an actual decrease fell short of expectations a across all components, except selling prices,

 

That exceeded expectations by a marginal 0.33 points.

 

Meanwhile, the actual increase in both selling prices and employment exceeded expectations for the September quarter:

Twenty five point 2 per cent of businesses reported an increase in selling prices for Q3, compared to the 24.2 per cent that had expected an increase, while 23.0 per cent of businesses reported an increase in employees for the quarter, compared to the 21.1 per cent that had expected an increase.

 

D&B said the muted outlook came despite an improvement in actual indices for profit, capital investment and selling prices in the September quarter over the June quarter.

 

Only the actual sales index decreased; while the actual employees Index remained unchanged since the previous quarter.

Monday 30th November 2015 - 2:00 pm
Comments Off on Business confidence fades as results weaken

Business confidence fades as results weaken

by Alan Thornhill

Business optimism falls away
Business optimism has weakened as results fail to meet expectations .
This is reflected in the latest Dun & Bradstreet’s Business Expectations Survey.

 

The results of the survey, which were published today, suggest a fairly subdued outlook for the first quarter of 2016.

The firm reports that, as the new year approaches, business are lowering their expectations  sales, profits, employees and capital investment.
It said, too,  that in the September quarter, the percentage of businesses reporting an actual increase in activity minus percentage of businesses reporting an actual decrease fell short of expectations a across all components, except Selling Prices,

 

That exceeded expectations by a marginal 0.33 points.

 

Meanwhile, the actual increase in both Selling Prices and Employees exceeded expectations for the September quarter.

 

The firm said 25.2 per cent of businesses reported an increase in selling prices for q3, compared to the 24.2 per cent that had expected an increase.

 

It noted too that  23.0 per cent of businesses had reported an increase in employees for the quarter, compared to the 21.1 per cent that had expected an increase.

The firm said the muted outlook comes despite an improvement in Actual Indices for Profit, Capital Investment and Selling Prices in the September quarter compared to the June quarter.

 

Only the actual sales index decreased; the actual employees index remained unchanged from the previous quarter.

Adam Siddique,  the Head of Group Development at Dun & Bradstreet, said business confidence remains historically strong,.

 

However he warned that  the cooling in housing market activity might present challenges in the year ahead.

 

“There can be no doubt the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets are now slowing down, which is to be expected after a period of spectacular growth,’ he said.

 

In light of the Treasury’s recent cut to its growth forecast, from 3  per cent to 2.75 percent, it will be interesting to see how business confidence fares if this key driver of economic activity begins to fade,” Mr Siddique said.
“Housing, along with construction and other related activities, has underpinned growth following the end of the mining boom.”

 

“The lack of business investment in non-mining areas of the economy suggests there will be no obvious candidates to pick up the slack should this turn into a sustained easing in the housing market.”
“The recent trend of Actual and Expected results gradually aligning in the headline and component indices has continued, and this is something we’ll track with interest as we head into 2016,” Mr Siddique added.

Friday 27th November 2015 - 7:30 am
Comments Off on Malcolm;s big statement

Malcolm;s big statement

by Alan Thornhill

Some might call it a mini-budget.

 

All the Prime Minister said, in an interview with Leigh Sales on the ABC last night, though, is that his government would release “an innovation statement” within the next two weeks.

 

Well, perhaps he did add a little dressing, to make the prospect enticing.

 

How?

By promising, for example, that he would would “set out a very large number of substantial measures. to drive the innovation that would ensure that Australians, their children and grandchildren, will have great jobs.”

 

“…better jobs in the future that will drive our economy,” he added.

 

Then he laid it on the line.
“I don’t think anybody has any doubt that if we are to remain the high wage, generous social welfare net country, first world country that we want to be then we need to be more innovative, more competitive, more productive and the innovation statement will be a good example of the measures the government is undertaking to achieve that.”

 

Yet Mr Turnbull, himself, has some catching up to do in this regard.
He saddled Australia with the pursuit of an internet system which, even if achieved, would offer speeds be well below those of many other first world countries, such as France.
Of course, with its vast expanses to connect, Australia does have difficult – and expensive – problems to overcome, in building anything that could – even remotely – be called a fast internet system.

 

Yet the picture emerging from Mr Turnbull’s attempt to do so – on the cheap – has not been impressive, so far.

 

Long waits for connection.

Cost over-runs.

 

There can be no doubt about one thing.

 

This “innovation statement, when it appears, will be drawn up to underwrite Mr Turnbull’s bid for re-election next year.

 

Politically, his situation has its difficulties, despite what some are calling his initial “honeymoon” period.

 

He is still the man who became Prime Minister, without a popular mandate.

 

And he is not short of opponents who stand ready to remind him of that fact, if he starts making mistakes, as most Prime Ministers do, as they start to settle into office.

Mr Turnbull also declared during his interview last night that he is “comfortable” in his new job.

 

But make no mistake.

 

His handling of the Brough affair is already being watched very closely.

Sunday 15th November 2015 - 5:57 pm
Comments Off on UN Climate conference will go on:PM

UN Climate conference will go on:PM

by Alan Thornhill

Malcolm Turnbull expects the United Nations conference on climate change to proceed despite this weekend’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

 

The conference is due to start in Paris on November 30.

 

Speaking in an ABC television interview early today, the Prime Minister declared that he would attend.

 

“….if it goes ahead, which I’m sure it will, I will certainly be there, as indeed will other ministers,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

He also declared that Australians stand solidly with the French in their fight against terrorism.

 

“To the people of France, I say on behalf of the Australian people: as we have on so many occasions in the past, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you.”

 

“ Your battle is our battle. “

 

“Your battle for freedom is our battle for our freedom.”

 

The attack in Paris was an attack on all humanity.”

 

“We are in a common cause and we have a single common purpose – to defend our values and our way of life, and to defeat these terrorists and their assault upon us. “

 

Then he added:“To the Australian people, I can say this: we are a strong nation.”

 

 

“We are a united nation.”

 

“We are the most successful multicultural nation in the world.”

 

“And we are so because of being united in defence of our values, our values of freedom.”?

 

“We have strong and capable security services.”

 

“They keep us safe at home and, so far as they can, when we are abroad.”

 

However he added:“…there’s no reason to be complacent.”

“But we have every reason to be assured that our nation is safe.”

 

“We will always be alert to threats as they develop.”

 

“But we can be assured that our police, our security services, are working hard to keep us safe,” Mr Turnbull said.

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Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill

A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.

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Alan Thornhill

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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