by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, says the election of a Labor government is now the only risk to the creation of new jobs in South Australia.
Campaigning on Adelaide Sunday, Mr Turnbull spoke of the new jobs he said would appear in that state, as the Federal government’s submarine building program gets under way.
“The only risk to these jobs starting immediately this year is Labor,” the Prime Minister said.
“Labor failed to commission a single naval ship from an Australian yard in six years of government.
“Labor cut more than $18 billion from defence funding and delayed more than 100 projects.
“Risking critical gaps in capability, Labor’s neglect plunged naval shipbuilding in South Australia into the notorious valley of death.
The Prime Minister said:“ South Australians should think very carefully about whether we can afford more Labor delays and cancellations.”
He said: “Now, our GDP, our economy grew 3.1 per cent in the year to March, faster than any of the G7 economies and well above the OECD average.
“That doesn’t happen by accident.
“You need a clear plan.
“You need strong economic leadership.
’You need a pro-growth, pro-business agenda that drives investment and jobs.
“In the last calendar year, 300,000 new jobs were created and two thirds of these were women.
Mr Turnbull said: “450,000 jobs have been created since the last election.
“But we can and must do more.
We are strongly positioned to gain from growth in the large, dynamic economies of Asia.
“Our export trade deals with China, Korea and Japan are giving farmers a competitive edge and opening doors for our service industries into those expanding markets, Mr Turnbull said.
by Alan Thornhill
Chris Bowen said today that “the Australian people had a right to be disappointed” at the language Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison chose to attack Labor over proposed company tax cuts.
Stepping up their attacks, over the past few days, the Prime Minister and his Treasurer have repeatedly resorted to talk of war.
They did so as the bodies of Australian soldiers, killed in the Vietnam war, were flown back to their homeland.
Mr Bowen is Labor’s shadow treasurer.
Speaking of the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten Mr Turnbull had said: “Bill Shorten has declared war on business.
And he added ” the first casualties of Shorten’s war on business are Australian jobs.”
Asked today, if he would continue to use such provocative words, Mr Turnbull replied: “You have just heard me use them.”
Mr Morrison also accused Mr Shorten of declaring “war on business” and added:-
” “…and using “tax as their bullets.”
These comments were made as the first two RAAF planes carrying the remains of the Australian soldiers touched down on home soil.
Vietnam veterans were not impressed.
The national president of the Vietnam Veterans Association, Ken Foster, said war metaphors shouldn’t be used and “certainly not on a day like today”.
Mr Bowen responded carefully, when a reporter asked him to comment on Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison’s words.
He said: “I think the Prime Minister and Treasurer might want to reflect on the use of that language today.
“ Especially today.
“They might want to reflect on that.
“ I think the Australian people have a right to be disappointed in the Prime Minister’s language.
“ I don’t intend to add anything further to that. I think they might want to just reflect about the use of that language on a day when we are considering war in another context.”
by Alan Thornhill
Malcolm Turnbull sought to reassure West Australians today that high tensile Australian steel will be used in his government’s naval shipbuilding program.
Speaking at the Austal ship building yard at Henderson, Western Australia, Mr Turnbull said this would help to offset job losses that would otherwise come with the nation’s move away from an economy based on a mining boom.
He said: “some of the most sophisticated naval vessels in the world, (were being built) right here in Perth.”
Many had been exported to Amman.
“This yard, Austal ships, has built 250 vessels and 200 of them have been exported,” Mr Turnbull said.
“ This company, Austal, represents exactly what we are seeking to achieve with our defence industry plan,” he added.
“ It sums up the objectives of our national economic plan – jobs and growth, driving advanced manufacturing, exports, technology, jobs and growth,” the Prime Minister said.
At a news conference later, Mr Turnbull denied a reporter’s suggestion that the State’s Liberal Premier, Colin Barnett, had not been invited to the shipyard ceremony today, because he is “on the nose,” politically.
Mr Turnbull said this had simply been because the event was national, not a State one.
He praised the man who has built Austal ships into a successful international business.
“What John Rothwell has done here, as a great leader of Australian industry, as a great ship builder, he has taken Australian technology and created Australian jobs and built a global business,” Mr Turnbull said.
“… I am delighted that we are supporting Austal and they are providing these 19, up to 21 Pacific Patrol Boats.
“ and they’ll be built right here.
“ and we expect the Offshore Patrol Vessels, of course after the first two are built in Adelaide, they will be built here at Henderson as well,” Me Turnbull said.
He is campaigning for re-election in a vote to be held on July 2.
by Alan Thornhill
Australia may soon be seeing more students from Singapore.
This is part of the adjustment that this country has been forced to make to the collapse in iron ore and coal prices.
We are now looking to expand service industries – like education – instead.
Australia’s Trade and Investment Minister, Andrew Robb, who is now in Singapore to drum up business is well aware of all that.
In a statement today Mr Robb said he would be seeking both to assess the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and to advance progress with it,
The Prime Ministers of both countries launched the partnership last June.
It marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Mr Robb said the new partnership identifies a wide range of initiatives across the economic, foreign affairs, defence and security fronts.
“One of the many initiatives identified was an early review of the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), which entered into force back in 2003,” he added.
“ The review is scheduled for completion by July this year,” he said.
“Other economic initiatives include expanding two-way investment flows and exploring investment opportunities in sectors such as food, agribusiness and infrastructure in areas like northern Australia.”
Mr Robb also spoke of increasing the flow of skilled labour and visitors; joint tourism cooperation; building additional research and development partnerships and enhancing aviation and maritime connectivity.
“There are also various initiatives to deepen defence cooperation in areas such as military training, exchanges and postings; intelligence sharing, counter-terrorism, organised crime and cyber-crime,” he said.
“A strong focus has also been placed on deepening links between our educational, scientific and research institutions, including new opportunities for students under the New Colombo Plan,” he said.
“There will also be more cooperation between our arts institutions,”Mr Robb added.
He said, too, that a shared strategic perspective and complementary economies are the cornerstones of the Australia-Singapore relationship.
“To me our ambition for deepening our relationship and economic integration should be akin to the close relationship we enjoy with New Zealand,” he added.
Mr Robb said the FTA is an important component of our economic relationship, and the review provides an opportunity to further strengthen our bilateral trade and investment links with our fifth largest trading partner and foreign investor.
“The review of the FTA is timely and consideration is being given to enhancements in areas such as goods trade, services, investment and government procurement,” he said.
“There are significant opportunities to build on our relationship across a range of sectors including in science and research, advanced manufacturing, agribusiness and infrastructure.”
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, continues to face rising pressure from critics, who are pressing him for an inquiry into the attitudes of his
Health Minister, Peter Dutton, towards women.
However another senior Minister, Barnaby Joyce, has taken a different line, saying he hopes that politics don’t become “sterile” in the wake of this mounting criticism.
One Federal Minister, Jamie Briggs, resigned from Mr Turnbull’s front-bench last week,after allegations that he had become overly-affectionate towards a female public servant, while both were on duty in a Hong Kong bar.
Mr Dutton was also criticised after he sent a female reporter a text message, in which he described her as “a mad f… witch.”
Critics have been urging Mr Turnbull to order an inquiry to establish who leaked a photograph of the woman who complained of Mr
Briggs’ behaviour to the media, saying this had involved a breach of her privacy.
Mr Turnbull initially resisted, arguing that leak inquiries rarely produced useful results.
However criticism of alleged sexism among senior members of the Turnbull cabinet, peaked the following day, when the Greens joined the critics.
The Greens Leader Richard Di Natale said he would call on Mr Turnbull to “show leadership” “by removing the sexist culture from senior ranks within his Ministry.”
So far, Mr Turnbull has remained silent about his intentions.
He has warned his minsters, though, that he expects them to display the highest standards behavior at all times.
Meanwhile the Acting Leader of the Opposition, Stephen Conroy, has said that Mr Turnbull now has a ready-made list of New Year Resolutions.
He urged Mr Turnbull, firstly, to rule out any increase in the GST.
He should also restore the $80 billion worth of cuts the Abbott and Turnbull governments had made to education and health.
Thirdly he should join Labor by committing to build, maintain and sustain Navy’s future submarines in Australia.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
by Alan Thornhill
This is the statement on national security that the PM Malcolm Turnbull has just made to Federal parliament.
THE PRIME MINISTER
When innocent people are dying at the hands of violent extremists, no matter where in the world this is happening, hard questions are asked of societies like our own — hard questions for which there are no easy answers.
For all freedom-loving nations, the message could not be clearer: if we want to preserve the values that underpin our open, democratic societies, we will have to work resolutely with each other to defend and protect the freedoms we hold dear.
Following the recent mass killings of innocent civilians in Paris and around the world, I take this opportunity to update the House on Australia’s global, regional and domestic policies to respond to terrorist attacks.
Let me start by once again expressing my condolences to all the victims. Our hearts go out to the families who have lost their loved ones and to those recovering from their injuries.
We should grieve and we should be angry.
But we must not let grief or anger cloud our judgment. Our response must be as clear eyed and strategic as it is determined.
This is not a time for gestures or machismo.
Calm, clinical, professional, effective.
That’s how we defeat this menace.
The threat from ISIL is a global problem that must be addressed at its source, in the Middle East, by ensuring our involvement in coalition efforts in Syria and Iraq is resolute and effective.
ISIL aims to overthrow all the existing governments in Muslim societies, and beyond. It regards as apostates any who will not submit to its own perverted view of Islam.
Strategically, ISIL wants to create division by fomenting resentment between non-Muslim populations and Muslims.
ISIL emerged as an extremist, terrorist group out of Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria. Their territorial gains in Syria and Iraq have fed into their narrative of conquest.
By most measures, however, ISIL is in a fundamentally weak position.
We must not be fooled by its hype. Its ideology is archaic, but its use of the Internet is very modern. ISIL has many more smartphones than guns, more twitter accounts than fighters.
It does not command broad-based legitimacy even in those areas under its direct control. It is encircled by hostile forces. It is under military pressure.
And, through its depraved actions, ISIL has strengthened the resolve of the global community, including Russia, to defeat it.
The 60 nation-strong coalition’s objective is to disrupt, degrade and ultimately to defeat ISIL. This will require a patient, painstaking full spectrum strategy. Not just military, but financial, diplomatic and political.
This involves a combination of air strikes in both Syria and Iraq and support and training for Iraq’s army.
Australia’s contribution to coalition forces on the ground in Iraq is second only to that of the United States and large relative to our population and proximity to the conflict.
Larger, for example, than any European nation, larger than Canada or any of the neighbouring Arab States.
We have six FA-18s involved in missions in that theatre, with 240 personnel in the air task group, 90 special forces advisers, and around 300 soldiers training the Iraqi army at Taji.
The special forces are authorised by our Government to advise and assist Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service in the field at headquarters level.
However the Government of Iraq has not consented to any of our defence forces being deployed outside the wire on ground combat operations.
The Government of Iraq believes that large scale Western troop operations in its country would be counterproductive.
Australia’s servicemen and women are making a significant contribution to the Coalition campaign and we will continue to support our allies as our strategies evolve in what is likely to be an extended campaign.
In Iraq, ISIL’s momentum has been halted.
Its capabilities degraded.
Kurdish and Iraqi forces have won back territory with coalition support.
I have to report to the House that the consensus of the leaders I met at the G20, at APEC and at the East Asia Summit is that there is no support currently for a large US-led Western army to attempt to conquer and hold ISIL-controlled areas.
In Syria, the broader conflict and the absence of a central government that the West can work with makes action against ISIL even more complicated.
Following the destruction of the Russian airliner over the Sinai and the Paris attack, Russia and France have raised their operational tempo against ISIL.
Ultimately a political solution is needed in Syria. Only this would allow attention to turn more fully to eliminating ISIL as a military force. We support the negotiations in Vienna to find a pathway to a political resolution in Syria.
Under the circumstances I have outlined, and mindful that Australia has a range of security priorities across the globe and in our own region, there are currently no plans for a significant change in the level or the nature of Australia’s military commitment in Iraq and Syria.
No such change has been sought by our allies – if one were we would of course carefully consider it.
We will always proceed on the basis of the considered advice of our military professionals in the Australian Defence Force, just as we rely on the advice of our counter-terrorism experts domestically.
Current advice to the Government is that the unilateral deployment of Australian combat troops on the ground in Iraq or Syria is not feasible or practical.
As a supplement to our already significant military commitment, our interests – and those of the countries and people in the region – are served by supporting stability in countries neighbouring Iraq and Syria, particularly Jordan. We will continue to look for ways to further strengthen cooperation with Jordan.
The rise of ISIL and the conflict in Syria have increased the threat environment in Southeast Asia. I have discussed this issue at the East Asia Summit and in depth with the leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.
We are working more closely than ever to share intelligence and counter messaging strategies.
From an Australian perspective, we see a real risk that terrorist groups in the region might be inspired by attacks such as we have seen in Ankara, Beirut, Bamako and Paris and we are very
mindful of the fact that hundreds of thousands of Australians visit Southeast Asia every year, for business, study or holidays.
Just as Australia cannot fight any military conflict against ISIL unilaterally, we cannot counter violent extremism alone, particularly online. In my recent discussions with regional colleagues at the East Asia Summit and APEC I further committed Australia as a leading partner in this area.
We look forward to supporting the new Malaysian counter messaging centre and to further cooperation with Indonesia, beginning with the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, who is also the Minister assisting me on Counter Terrorism, shortly taking up an offer to visit Indonesia in December to hold discussions focused on furthering our countering terrorism and violent extremism efforts in the region.
The Paris attacks demonstrate ISIL has an ability to launch concerted attacks in Western cities. It was also a reminder that, while coordinated, there is not much sophisticated planning required for armed fanatics to slaughter unarmed civilians with military assault rifles and suicide vests.
As Prime Minister, and speaking on behalf of the heads of ASIO and the AFP, as well as the Chief of the Defence Force, I want Australians to be aware that a terrorist incident on our soil remains likely but also that Australians should be reassured our security agencies are working diligently and expertly to prevent that happening.
In addition to being the most successful multicultural society in the world, Australia, as an island continent, has some natural advantages over Europe, which is currently facing the uncontrolled movement of hundreds of thousands of people.
Unlike the Europeans we are in control of our borders. For example, people who successfully enter Greece are moving at will throughout much of the EU.
We are an island nation. The people smugglers’ business model has been broken. The boats have been stopped.
We also have very strong gun laws that make access to weapons more difficult and play a vital role in keeping our public safe.
As your Prime Minister my highest duty, and that of my government, is to keep Australians safe.
We cannot eliminate entirely the risk of terrorism any more than we can eliminate the risk of any serious crime. But we can mitigate it. We will continue to thwart and frustrate many attacks before they occur.
We are examining closely the implications of the Paris attacks for our own domestic arrangements. I am receiving updated intelligence on this every day. We are working more closely than ever with our European partners.
Public safety is the highest priority. And a major part of this is to be as open and transparent with Australians as possible about both the threat and what everyone can do to help.
In September last year, the alert level was raised to HIGH, and it has remained there ever since. We have subsequently seen terror attacks against police officers in Melbourne, the Sydney Siege and the murder of a police worker in Parramatta by a radicalised young man.
The tempo of our domestic counter terrorism efforts has increased and our capabilities have been tested. Since September 2014, 26 people have been charged as a result of 10 counter terrorism operations around Australia. That’s more than one-third of all terrorism related charges since 2001. Counter Terrorism Units at our airports are also stopping people leaving for, and returning from, the conflict zone.
The fact that there has to date been no mass casualty attack owes much to the vigilance of our security agencies.
ASIO and the Federal Police have advised me that there is no evidence that the recent attacks, including Paris, will materially affect the threat level in Australia but we are constantly on watch for any evolving or emerging threats.
The Council of Australian Governments agreed in July to develop a new threat advisory system to make it clearer to the public what our security experts believe to be the current threat from terrorism.
The new framework, recommended by ASIO, has been subject to extensive consultation and review.
I can inform the House that the National Threat Assessment Centre (or NTAC) that sits within ASIO will this week transition to the new National Terrorism Threat Advisory System.
The new system will provide the public with more information on the nature of the threat we are facing. The adoption of a five-tiered threat system will also provide ASIO with greater flexibility in determining threat levels, reflecting the need to adapt to an evolving security environment.
Rapid developments in communications technology present both opportunities and challenges for our agencies; modern messaging and voice applications are generally encrypted in transit. Human intelligence, relationships with communities, are more important than ever.
I have therefore asked that ASIO and other relevant agencies work with our international intelligence partners to address the challenge of monitoring terrorist groups in this new environment.
I will be meeting with my State and Territory colleagues next month. Co-operation between all tiers of government and state and federal agencies is vital in the counter-terrorism effort.
At COAG on December 11, I will continue our discussions with Premiers on how to best counter violent extremism. I will raise with them initiatives under consideration to address the problem of radicalisation in prisons.
I have also asked that our law enforcement agencies test their responses to a mass casualty attack. Such an attack leaves little, if any, room for negotiation.
This work is in addition to the extensive reform of our national security laws which has already seen the introduction of five tranches of legislation. These laws ensure our agencies have all the tools required in the effort to keep us safe.
Within Australia, our Counter-Terrorism Strategy calls for partnerships between all levels of government, community and the private sector.
It emphasises the need to limit the spread and influence of violent extremist ideas.
The root cause of the current threat we face is a perverted strain of Islamist extremist ideology. Not all extremism ends in violence but all politically motivated violence begins with extremist ideology.
Any war with ISIL is not just one in a military sense, but also a war of ideas. Through their extensive use of social media, they seek the maximum propaganda advantage from any territorial gains as cover for their fundamental military weakness and the barbaric nature of their mindset.
The Government’s investment in Countering Violent Extremism programs has tripled over the past four years to more than $40 million.
The Government’s approach has four tiers:
- maintaining a strong, multicultural society
- helping institutions and sectors of our community combat violent extremist ideology where it emerges
- challenging and undermining the appeal of terrorist propaganda, especially online, and
- intervening to divert individuals away from their violent extremist views.
Importantly, governments cannot win this battle alone. Community leaders and groups have great responsibility both in denouncing violent extremism and teaching unity in diversity, mutual respect instead of hatred.
The condemnation of ISIL and the promotion of authentic, modern and tolerant Islam by the leaders of big majority Muslim nations – including Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia – has been especially important.
To this end, I thank all those Muslim groups and leaders who made statements denouncing the Paris attacks.
A strong and trusting relationship between the government and communities is crucial to ensuring the right messages reach the hearts and minds of those who might be vulnerable to the propaganda of terror groups.
Part of the message is promoting the truth that Australia not only does its part in the military coalition to defeat ISIL but in the humanitarian cause.
Australia has committed to accepting over four years an additional 12,000 people who have fled the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Australia has also provided around $230 million in humanitarian assistance since 2011 to support Syrians and Iraqis affected by the conflict.
This is a significant humanitarian initiative by Australians. We have one of the strongest records of any nation for resettling people facing persecution in their homelands. Since the end of World War Two, Australia has resettled more than 825,000 refugees and others in humanitarian need.
The focus of the 12,000 intake of Syrian and Iraqi refugees is on persecuted minorities and those assessed as being most vulnerable – women, children and families with the least prospect of returning to their homes.
All applications are rigorously assessed on an individual basis – in line with Australia’s existing refugee and humanitarian policies.
Our national security interest is always the first and abiding priority.
Strict security, health and character checks will not be compromised.
In Iraq and Syria, ISIL must be defeated militarily – enabled by a durable political settlement in both countries that will reduce the capacity of the extremists to recruit and mobilise.
The threat of ISIL-inspired terrorism must be addressed through domestic, regional and global counter-terrorism efforts; as an ideological threat, it needs to be confronted globally.
There are no quick fixes.
We will redouble our efforts in support of domestic and regional counter-terrorism efforts.
Across the region, our engagement will intensify, pursuing collective counter-terrorism objectives by better prioritising and coordinating with regional partners.
We will defeat these terrorists.
And the strongest weapons we bring to this battle are ourselves, our values, our way of life.
Our unity mocks their attempts to divide us.
Our freedom under law mocks their cruel tyranny.
Our mutual respect mocks their bitter intolerance.
And the strength of our free people will see off these thugs and tyrants as it has seen off so many of their kind before
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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