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.
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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 Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, set out his objectives for a Labor government after July 2, in his final speech of the current campaign to the National Press Club in Canberra today.
He said: “We are setting our markers for the Australia of 2030.”
- Strong, universal, affordable Medicare
- A school system back in the top 5 in the world
- 50 per cent renewable energy
- A first-rate, fibre NBN, putting us at the centre of the Asian Century
- Revitalising advanced manufacturing and apprenticeships
- Building the nation building, productive infrastructure unclogging our cities and joining our economic operations
- 3 per cent of our GDP dedicated to science, research and technology
- 300,000 more women in work
- Halving the national suicide rate, and
- Reducing the rates of ovarian cancer.
He said all of this would be matched with an economic and fiscal plan for the next decade, ” to fully-fund our investments in the future.”
This would mean: “Delivering the needed structural savings and tax reforms that will bring the budget back to balance in the same year as our opponents forecast, and build stronger, more sustainable surpluses in the years that follow.
“Achieving these goals over the next decade means starting work next week.
“My team and I have a clear set of priorities for our first 100 days.
“A new Labor government will hit the ground running:
– Offering certainty to Arrium in South Australia – and protecting jobs in Laverton, Rooty Hill and Acacia Ridge
– Setting up our transition fund to support 200,000 automotive supply chain jobs
– Developing the Financing Mandate for our new $10 billion Concrete Bank, so we can get private investment flowing into public infrastructure
– Drawing up the terms of reference and appointing a Royal Commissioner to investigate the rip-offs, scams and credit card interest rate rorts in the banking sector
– And convening a National Crisis Summit on Family Violence, an assembly of the frontline: counsellors, law enforcement, community legal centres, state governments and – most importantly – survivors.
These are the people who know, better than anyone, what is wrong with our system and what we need to do to end family violence.
“Underpinning all of this – our long-term objectives and our immediate plans for action – will be an old-fashioned focus on good public policy.
“A careful and considered approach – recognising that government is a most serious business, a long-term policy institution.
He said a Labor government would be “Dealing honestly with the challenges we face and being upfront about our plans.”
by Alan Thornhill
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?
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.
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.
by Alan Thornhill
Consumer confidence has eased in Australia, but it is still strong.
The Westpac bank, which published this assessment, with its June consumer confidence figures today, also predicted that another rate cut would “prove to be necessary, ” probably next year
It said optimists still outnumber pessimists, among Australian consumers.
However its index of consumer sentiment fell 1 per cent in June, to 102.2 per cent.
The unusually high level of 103.2 per cent seen in May followed the surge that occurred after the Reserve Bank unexpectedly cut interest rates.
Westpac Senior Economist, Matthew Hassan, said that: “coming after an 8.5 per cent surge in May, the small decline in June mostly represents a consolidation at improved levels.”
“Last month’s surprise rate cut from the RBA was the main catalyst behind May’s rally and although confidence has slipped back a touch in June this is a fairly common pattern following an interest rate driven bounce,” Mr Hassan said.
He said, too, that: “responses to additional questions on ‘news recall’ point to a somewhat calmer backdrop compared to March.
However the majority of consumers still assessed news as being unfavourable.
The highest recall levels were for news on ‘economic conditions’ (27.8 per cent) and ‘Budget & tax’ (25 per cent), he said.
But both were noticeably lower than in previous quarters.
That is despite the May Budget and campaigning in the lead up to next month’s Federal election.
News on ‘international conditions’ was also much less prominent (at 10 per cent).
This was the lowest read on this item in more than a decade.
Unsurprisingly, there was higher recall for news on interest rates at 16.5 per cent, Mr Hassan said.
“Responses to additional questions on the ‘wisest place for savings’ showed a slightly less risk averse tone but attitudes still appear to be more conservative than seen throughout 2015.
The proportion of consumers nominating ‘pay down debt’ fell from 24.4 per cent in March to 20 per cent in June.
Consumers also continue to heavily favour ‘safe’ options as well, with the proportion nominating bank deposits rising from 27.4per cent in March to 29.5 per cent in June.
That contrasts with continued lower readings for the proportion nominating real estate (15.8 per cent in June vs an average of 25.4 per cent in 2015).
“Consumer views on housing also consolidated in June.
“ The ‘time to buy a dwelling’ index declined 2.7per cent but the retracement followed a strong 12.1 per cent surge in May,” Mr Hassan said.
Price expectations also firmed in the month with the Westpac Melbourne Institute Index of House Price Expectations up 3.6 per cent to the highest level since September 2015.
“However, both buyer sentiment and price expectations are still well below the readings seen a year ago,” Mr Hassan said.
He said, too, that:“the Reserve Bank Board next meets on July 5.
Mr Hassan said a move at that meeting is highly unlikely.
In fact, he suggests that the next rate cut might not occur this year.
The key considerations for the Bank are around the outlook for inflation, he said.
On its current forecasts the RBA does not expect inflation to return to the bottom of the band until 2017.
And that is on the assumption of a further rate cut given that the Bank’s forecasts are based on ‘market pricing’ for rates.
The most important and immediate information about whether the RBA’s May assessment is correct will come from the June quarter inflation report which prints on July 27, after the July Board meeting but ahead of the August 2 convention,” Mr Hassan said.
“It is our assessment that the information in this report will confirm to the Board that another cut is indeed necessary”, he added.
by Alan Thornhill
There has been a sceptical response to the Federal government’s offer to spend $1 billion to save the Great Barrier Reef.
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and his Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, made the offer official today, with a joint announcement in Queensland.
Mr Turnbull said the reef had long been “…a great passion for both Greg Hunt and myself.
“As one of his predecessors as Environment Minister I took a great interest in the Great Barrier Reef years ago and always have done,” the Prime Minister said.
“Now what we are announcing today is the largest single investment in protecting the reef in particular in addressing these land side problems of run off,” he added.
“This is to allocate a $1 billion fund from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which will be available for projects that will both reduce emissions, use clean energy and, of course, protect the ree,” Mr Turnbull said.
But Labor’s environment spokesman, Mark Butler, was not convinced.
“Malcolm Turnbull claims he has made the biggest ever investment in the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Butler said.
“But it is really just the biggest ever con job.
“It provides no new investment.
“It is just a redirection of existing resources.
“This is spin and political desperation on a grand scale.
“For three years we have seen the Abbott-Turnbull Government duck, weave and avoid doing anything meaningful to address climate change,” Mr Butler said.
The Greens and a citizens’ organisation shared that view.
The Deputy Leader of the Greens, Queensland Senator Larissa Waters, said: “this is a sneaky attempt by the Turnbull Government to try to distract from the damage it is doing to the Reef by approving coal mines to export out through the Reef and cook its corals.
“All of this money is taken from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the government hasn’t specified how much will go to clean energy and how much will go to water quality,” Senator Waters added.
The Solar Citizen’s organisation was also unimpresse3d.
“No matter what they try and tell the Australian public, this government has no coherent plan for the shift to clean renewable power beyond 2020.
“These sort of politically driven, piecemeal policies will end up with us responding to emergencies rather t saidhan building a decent plan for our future energy needs,” Claire O’Rourke, National Director of Solar Citizens.
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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