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.
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.
by Alan Thornhill
Australia has had great success in attracting visitors over the past year, particularly from South Korea and Japan.
The Bureau of Statistics reported today that, in trend terms, the number of visitors arriving from South Korea increased by 30.8 per cent, in the 12 months to the end of May, while arrivals from Japan rose by 30.6 per cent.
Overall, too, the number of arrivals also rose strongly in this time, chalking up a 10.9 per cent increase.
Visitor numbers from the United States rose by 18.4 per cent.
Relatively new markets are also rapidly gaining strength, too, in Australia.
On trend figures, for example, 99,400 visitors arrived in this country from China, during May this year.
That number was 18.6 per cent higher than that seen 12 months earlier.
The Statistician also reported that the number of Australians travelling overseas, as short term visitors rose by 3.4 per cent, over the 12 months to the end of May this year.
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.
by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s trade deficit rose $433 million in May to $2,218 million.
This is shown in figures published by the Bureau of Statistics today.
The bureau also reported that Australia’s retail sales rose by 0.2 per cent in that month.
The bureau said that, on seasonally adjusted figures, Australia’s exports had been worth $26,170 million in May.
But imports had been worth $28,387 million.
So our trade deficit that month was 24 per cent bigger than that of the previous month.
Why did that happen?
Our exports rose by 1 per cent in May.
However our imports rose by 2 per cent in the month, on seasonally adjusted figures.
The Statistician also reports that we spent more in food stores and in Australia’s cafes and restaurants in May than we did in April.
But trade in Department stores was flat and we spent less on shoes and clothes in May than we had in April.
by Alan Thornhill
Business confidence in Australia was weak before two recent shocks.
A survey, by Dun and Bradsreet, showed that expectations for sales and selling prices, in the three months to the end of September, had hit their lowest levels since 2014.
Stephen Koukoulas, an economic adviser to the firm, said this result should be treated with caution, as the survey was conducted before both the British vote to leave the EU and the inconclusive result of last Saturday’s Federal elections.
However Mr Koukoulas added: “the slide in business expectations over the past year appears to have been arrested in the most recent survey.”
And he added: ““there were some mildly encouraging signs, with expectations for capital expenditure edging up from the recent low point.”
But he said: “there were, worryingly, signs of further weakness in expected sales and selling prices…”
The Business Expectations Index is an aggregate of the survey’s measures of sales, profits expected sales and selling prices.
He said the low price expectations confirmed by the survey, “points to ongoing low inflation.”
The survey also showed that: “profits, Employment and Selling Prices” in Australia’s construction industry, have all been “plunging into negative territory.”
It also revealed that: “the Retail industry fared poorly for the first three months of the year, with its Actual Sales and Actual Employment indices falling to -3.9 points and -4.3 points respectively
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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.
by Alan Thornhill
“…The Labor party is back,” its leader, Bill Shorten declared triumphantly, after the result of the first night’s count in yesterday’s Federal election was known.
However his conservative rival, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull was insisting that he could still form a government.
Independent observers, though, were saying that the results, so far, are so close that voters may still have to wait days to find out which of these two men will be Australia’s Prime Minister for the next three years.
One thing is already certain, though.
Malcolm Turnbull has lost the gamble he took, when he called a double dissolution election, months early, in the hope of winning clear control of the Senate.
He did that in the hope of restoring peace in the building and construction industry, by reviving the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
The final outcome in the Senate will take even longer to decide than that in the House of Representatives.
However one thing is already clear.
The new Senate will be peppered with independents and others who may well prove troublesome to the incoming Prime Minister.
by Alan Thornhill
The number of public sector job vacancies in Australia has been rising rapidly.
Trend figures that the Bureau of Statistics released today showed that there were 16,500 public sector job vacancies available in Australia in May.
This represented a 4.1 per cent rise from the February level and a 26.2 per cent rise over the year.
But most opportunities are still to be found in the private sector.
The Bureau also reported that there were 155,400 private sector vacancies in May this year.
This represented a 0.6 per cent rise from the February level sand a rise of 8.1 per cent over the year.
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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