by Alan Thornhill
The Australian dollar slid below 74US cents this morning as signs of an early US rate rise strengthened.
As office workers in Sydney and Melbourne switched on their computers – at 9am local time today – they saw that the $A was trading at 73.80 US cents.
By 4pm it had slipped again to just 73.59 US cents.
The little Aussie battler had already touched a six year low overnight, when it slid to 74.54 US cents.
These developments will delight the Reserve Bank and Australian exporters.
The bank has been warning for some time now that – in its view – the $A has been overvalued.
And if present trends continue, Australian exporters will find that their products will become more competitive in world markets.
But these developments are not good news for everyone.
Australians planning to buy a new car, in the months ahead, are likely to find that its price has risen.
So what is going on?
The once-almighty US dollar leapt overnight, as Janet Yellen, who heads that country’s Federal Reserve, signaled that it could raise interest rates as early as September.
Her remarks, in parliamentary testimony, confirmed existing market expectations.
Ms Yellen said US job markets are strengthening.
She testified, too, that recent market turmoil in Greece and China is not likely to have a big impact on the US economy,
by Alan Thornhill
Malcolm Turnbull called tonight for a cool, objective assessment of the threat posed by Daesh, in televised remarks seen as more veiled criticism of the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
He said Australians “need to be very objective, very measured and very balanced” in what they say about Islamic State or Daesh.
Mr Abbott has been much less restrained in his warnings of the dangers posed by Islamic State.
He told told a conference in Sydney last month that – if it could – IS – or Daesh – would come for every person and government with one message: “Submit or die”.
“This is terrorism with global ambitions.” Mr Abbott said then.
Mr Abbott has also placed IS among the greatest threats Australia has ever faced.
However appearing on the ABC’s 7.30 Report tonight, the Communications Minister said “there is in politics, often, a vocabulary of hyperbole, whereby:-
“…there is never a problem:there is always a massive problem.”
“…there is never a threat:it is always the biggest threat you have ever encountered.”
But with DAESH, they are seeking to recruit, Mr Turnbull said.
“including recruiting Australians.
“and one of the things they use is the image of triumph:”the image of invincibility.”
Mr Turnbull said Daesh wants people to believe that they are concrete, they are powerful and they are frightening the West.
“So the bigger they can appear, the more successful they think they will be with their recruiting.” he said.
This was not the first time Mr Turnbull, a former Liberal leader, had offered lightly veiled criticism of what Mr Abbott has been saying about IS.
The Prime Minister has said that the threats it poses are among the biggest Australia has ever faced.
But Mr Turnbull said, pointedly, that it was not to be compared with those posed either by Hitler’s army or Tojo’s forces.
by Alan Thornhill
Greece still faces an uncertain future, despite an apparently strong vote in Sunday’s referendum for rejection of a bail-out offer from its creditors.
With two thirds of ballots counted, the country’s interior ministry reported that at least 61 per cent were against accepting the deal offered, while only 39 per cent voted yes.
These creditors, led by Germany, had declared last week that a vote against accepting their offer would lead to Greece leaving the European Union.
There would be no further talks.
However the Greek Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis disagrees.
He said, in radio interview, that a bailout deal between Greece and its creditors is almost finalised.
He has also hinted that the two sides are still in private discussions.
It is not yet certain, though, that Greece’s creditors will, ultimately, accept the outcome of any talks of this kind.
If they don’t Greece would not merely be left out on its own, trying to repay its debts.
It could also be caught in a downward debt spiral, as it struggles with that heavy burden.
Those campaigning for a yes vote, in the referendum, had warned that a no vote could lead to Greece’s expulsion from the EU.
Greek banks have been shut since last week and capital controls put in place.
But many automatic teller machines still ran out of cash.
Even though withdrawals at them have been limited to €60 ($A88) a day.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government moved in parliament today to prevent Australians with dual citizenship returning to this country if they join foreign terrorist forces overseas.
They would, effectively, be stripped of their Australian citizenship.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, had described this – in a television interview earlier in the day – as a “modern form of banishment.”
He also said shortly before his controversial bill was tabled in Parliament, that the government is still discussing what should be done, in cases in which the person involved holds only Australian citizenship.
Mr Abbott originally wanted to give his immigration minister power to revoke citizenship without conviction, in such cases.
However that plan was revised amid concerns it might breach the constitution.
Under the government’s revised bill, Australians will automatically renounce their citizenship if they train, recruit or finance terrorists inside or outside Australia.
It will be examined by the Parliament’s security and intelligence committee.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott says he is “very, very concerned” about terrorist organisations using social media to recruit fighters and jihadi wives
Speaking on commercial television today, the Prime Minister also said that, at times, the ABC seems to be “on everybody’s side but Australia’s.”
However he refused to confirm reports that he had told Liberal party colleagues yesterday that the national broadcaster is a “lefty lynch mob.”
Instead he told his interviewer: “Karl, you know I treat the confidentiality of the Party Room very seriously.
He was speaking just hours before he was to introduce a bill into parliament which will allow his government to strip people with dual citizenship of their Australian citizenship, if they leave this country to fight with a terrorist organisation.
Mr Abbott said these people would not be allowed back into Australia and said his proposed legislation would set up “a modern form of banishment.”
He said community negotiations, on what the government could do, in the case of Australians without dual citizenship, are continuing.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott told Liberal party delegates today that his government is “repaying the faith” that voters placed in it at the last Federal election.
Addressing the New South Wales Liberal Party’s State Council in Sydney, the Prime Minister said: “I can tell you that we are repaying the faith that you placed in us – that the Australian people placed in us – in September of 2013. ”
He named – and praised – several members of his ministry, then said:-
“We went to that election with a very clear message.
“We said we’d scrap the carbon tax, we’d stop the boats, we’d build the roads of the 21st century and we’d get the budget back under control.
“And that is exactly what we have done and what we are doing.
“The carbon tax has gone – and every Australian household is better off to the tune of $550 a year.
“The mining tax has gone – and Australia is once more a safe place to invest.
“No less than $1 trillion – $1 trillion, $1,000 billion – worth of new projects have been given environmental approval since the election by this Government and there could be no more clearer demonstration of the fact that this country is well and truly open for business than that.
“The boats have stopped.
“We all know what was happening under our predecessors.
“Under the Rudd-Gillard government, more than 50,000 illegal arrivals by sea, almost 1,000 boats.
“Shamefully, more than 1,000 deaths at sea.
“And yes, over $11 billion worth of border protection budget blow-outs.
“Well, I can say that under this Government, as far as we know, there have been no deaths at sea and for almost 12 months.
“There have been no boats whatsoever.
“We will keep this country safe.
“And keeping our country safe starts with keeping our borders secure.
“And that is exactly what this Government has done.
“That is exactly what this Government will always do,” Mr Abbott said.
by Alan Thornhill
Australians are deeply worried by the threat of Islamic terrorism.
So worried, in fact, that most support Australia’s military involvement in Iraq, even though they believe it raises that risk.
Both developments are evident in the results of a poll conducted by the Lowy Institute.
It found that 69 per cent of Australians rate the emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’ as a high risk to Australia’s security in the next ten years.
It also found that 55 per cent rate terrorist attacks on Australians overseas as a high risk, while 53 per cent regard domestic terrorism as high risk.
The poll found, too, that:” Most Australians (69 per cent) support Australia’s participation in military action against Islamic State in Iraq, even though a majority (55 per cent) believe that participation increases the risk of terrorism to Australia now, and only 20 per cent think it makes us safer from terrorism in the future.”
It also suggested that Australians will accept tighter security measures to offset these threats.
“Australians appear to accept some intrusions on their privacy in the interests of fighting terrorism and protecting national security”, Dr Michael Fullilove, the Institute’s Executive Director said.
Asked about ‘legislation which will require Australian telecommunication companies to retain data about communications such as phone calls, emails and internet usage, but not their content’, 63 per cent of Australians say this is ‘justified as part of the effort to combat terrorism and protect national security.
“Only one-third (33 per cent) say it ‘goes too far in violating citizens’ privacy and is therefore not justified,” Mr Fullilove added.
by Alan Thornhill
Bill Shorten says this week’s Federal budget is a “fraud,” but he is urging the government to offer small business even bigger tax breaks.
Delivering his budget reply speech in Parliament last night, Mr Shorten also advocated greater attention to digital technologies in Australian education.
“Digital technologies, computer science and coding – the language of computers and technology – should be taught in every primary and every secondary school in Australia,” the Opposition Leader said.
“And a Shorten Labor Government will make this a national priority,” he declared.
“The test for this Budget was to plan for the future, to lift productivity, to create jobs, to boost investment, to turbo-charge confidence for the years and decades ahead,” Mr Shorten said.
“To restore hope.
“But this Budget fails every test.
It is a hoax, a mirage, a smokescreen.
“To the extent that the Treasurer pretends this Budget is in any way remedial to the Australian economy, it is a hoax,” Mr Shorten added.
However he urged the government to join Labor in developing a plan to cut the small business tax rate from 30 to 25 per cent.
“Not 28.5, 25 per cent,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the government’s second budget – like its first – displayed a mean spirit.
“The meanness of spirit in the last Budget lives on in this one,” Mr Shorten said.
“The same spitefulness in all things great and small.”
He cited several examples:-
– $2 billion in cuts to health and aged care, hidden in the fine print.
– $100 million cut from Indigenous housing.
– $70 million cut from dental care for Veterans and $130 million from dental care to children.
– And $1 million cut from a program that puts seatbelts in school buses in our regions.”
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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