by Alan Thornhill
Labor Premiers are “tarnishing” Australia’s reputation as a safe place to invest, according to the Federal Trade Minister, Andrew Robb.
Mr Robb, who is in Hong Kong, said they were doing that by tearing up major contracts that had already been signed.
Speaking by telephone in a Sky News interview, he said:” it’s been raised with me now consistently over the last three weeks.
“The fact of the matter is, we’re being tarnished – our reputation as a safe haven, as a place to get a solid return, to be predictable with regulations and all of the rest.
“Now they’re saying to me: “‘what is the paper worth on which these contracts are being signed, if premiers are going to rip-up the contracts and then potentially legislate for no compensation.’”
“This feeds into the sentiment,” Mr Robb said.
“There’s a lot of attention coming to Australia.
“There’s been a lot of foreign investment.
“We need the money to take us through the run-down in the resources and energy sector construction phase.
“We need to have plenty of investment in all of the infrastructure that we’ve got in the pipeline in Australia.
“If we don’t maintain our reputation as a predictable and safe place to invest, what we’re going to see is a risk premium put into projects.”
And Mr Robb was prepared to name names.
“And so unwittingly, Dan Andrews for instance in Victoria, he will increase the price of any metro by a billion dollars or more, because of the risk premium that will be put into Victoria and to Australia.
“It will increase the cost of all sorts of finance in the future and the whole of Australia will pay for that because of the reckless, irresponsible action being taken by Dan Andrews and being suggested by Mr Foley.”
Mr Andrews is the Victorian Premier.
Luke Foley is the NSW Opposition leader.
by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, paid tribute today to a man who once gave his country a warning its leaders never forgot.
He described Lee Kuan Yew, who has just died, at the age of 91, as “…a giant of our region.”
And that warning?
Well, back in 1987, Mr Lee said that without economic reform, Australians risked becoming “the white trash of Asia.”
Lee’s own record, converting a former colonial port into a prosperous regional hub, commanded attention.
And Australia has had a great deal of economic reform since 1987.
No doubt Mr Lee’s words played a part in that.
Mr Abbott, who had not yet entered parliament, at the time, confessed later that they had:” …put me into a terrible state of division and uncertainty.”
And former Labor Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said: ” … “Australians respect and enjoy straight talk, adding “….Singapore’s leaders have always given us that…
She also confessed, then:”… we do have a certain fondness” for Mr Lee, not in spite of all his stern words about us, but perhaps because of them.”
In his formal tribute to Mr Lee today, Mr Abbott said:”fifty years ago, Lee Kuan Yew led a vulnerable, fledgling nation to independence.
“Today, thanks to his vision and determination, Singapore is one of the world’s most successful countries.
“In Lee Kuan Yew’s own words, Singapore’s remarkable journey has been from ‘third world to first’.
“Thanks to his leadership, Singapore is now one of the world’s most prosperous nations, a financial powerhouse, and one of the world’s easiest places to do business.
“Our region owes much to Lee Kuan Yew.
“Here in Australia and beyond, leaders sought and learned from his wise counsel.
“…Lee Kuan Yew enjoyed close relationships with successive Australian Prime Ministers and worked with them to establish the strong partnership that Singapore and Australia have today.
“At every stage, Australia and Singapore have stood shoulder to shoulder.
“We continue to do so today, as we salute one of the significant leaders of our time.
“On behalf of the Australian Government and people, I extend my condolences to Mr Lee’s family and to the people of Singapore,” Mr Abbott said.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott has offended the Irish Prime Minister, with a Saint Patrick’s Day message, which associated the Irish with heavy drinking.
Fairfax newspapers are reporting that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told an Irish newspaper he had watched Mr Abbott’s video.
Mr Kenny said he rejected the perception that Ireland was synonymous with alcohol.
Other critics have described Mr Abbott’s message as “patronising.”
Mr Abbott describes St Patrick’s Day, in his message, as the one day when “it’s good to be green”.
He says it is “a great day for the Irish, and the English, the Vietnamese, the Cambodians and everyone who cares to come to a party.”
And he signs off with an apology that “I can’t be there to share a Guinness or two or maybe even three”.
Mr Kenny said he had heard Mr Abbott’s comments and he didn’t agree with them.
“I’ve heard the Prime Minister’s comments.
He made them.
“I don’t agree with that,” he told the Irish Independent.
“I think that it is perfectly in order for so many Irish people in Australia to have an enjoyable celebration of St Patrick’s Day and St Patrick’s week, and to do so in a thoroughly responsible fashion.
“There has been a long-term view of a stage Irish perception.
“I reject that. I think it’s really important that we understand that we have a national day that can be celebrated worldwide, St Patrick’s Day,” Mr Kenny added.
by Alan Thornhill
Liberal MPs returned to Canberra today with heavy hearts, after reading that many Western Sydney voters regard Tony Abbott as “a fool” or “an international embarrassment.”
Those conclusions, resulting from a study commissioned by The Sydney Morning Herald, were published on the day Federal parliament resumes its autumn sittings.
Their publication also came less than two weeks before a NSW State election, and just weeks after the February 9 poll, in which Federal Liberals rejected a spill motion, that would have deposed the Prime Minister.
The vote,then, was 61-32.
The Focus Groups, employed in the SMH study, were asked what their members thought of Mr Abbott.
Their responses included the words “incompetent, an international embarrassment and a fool.”
The surprisingly high vote for the spill motion, back in February, suggests that these sentiments are not entirely unknown within the Federal Liberal party itself.
However another challenge to Mr Abbott’s position, at least before this year’s May budget, is considered unlikely.
Even though many Liberal MPs now concede that the party’s unpopularity started with last year’s tough Federal budget, drawn up by the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, on Mr Abbott’s watch.
The newspaper said four focus groups had been used in its study.
It said:” all of the participants were selected because they had switched their vote from Labor to Liberal at the 2011 NSW election which saw the ALP thrown out of government with a historic 16.5 per cent swing.”
And it added: ” In none of the four seven-person focus groups did anyone say anything positive about the Prime Minister.”
Mr Abbott’s unpopularity is thought to have been a factor in Labor’s recent surprising win, in recent Queensland State elections.
However, pundits believe the popularity of the NSW Premier, Mike Baird, will help him avoid a similar result in that State.
That view is supported in comments made by focus group members.
“Tony is ridiculously arrogant where Mike Baird is a little bit more up front,” one man told the group.
Another participant said whereas Mr Abbott was “a little bit stiff” Mr Baird was quite the opposite.
Others were very critical of the Prime Minister, seeing him as unreliable and untrustworthy.
“He doesn’t present well,” said one participant.
“He doesn’t give you … no matter what he’s talking about, you don’t feel confident.”
One woman declared: “He could be talking about the weather and you’d still think, oh… I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, in Sydney yesterday, the Prime Minister urged Labor Senators to support government proposals for mandatory sentences for people convicted of trafficking in illegal firearms.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott says he expects to announce details of an expanded training commitment for Australian soldiers in Iraq very soon.
The Australian Prime Minister was speaking to reporters in Auckland after talks with his New Zealand counterpart, John Key.
“What we are now considering is joining New Zealand on an additional training mission with the Iraqi regular army,’ Mr Abbott said.
“We still have to finalise our processes in Australia and I expect that that will happen in the next few days,” he added.
“I want to make it very clear that our interests as well as our values are at stake here,” Mr Abbott said.
“The death cult has horrified the world, the way a new dark age has descended upon so much of Syria and northern Iraq.
“The crucifixions, the beheadings, the mass executions, the sexual slavery are horrific, horrific – horrific – beyond words.
“And yet we see them every day on our TV screens. Australia is proud to be part of an international coalition working to disrupt and degrade and ultimately destroy this death cult.
New Zealand has already announced an expanded commitment.
In a joint statement, after their meeting, the two leaders said the contribution both countries are making would help to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL forces in Iraq.
Their statement also covered a broad range of other issues, including regional co-operation in the Pacific, fishing rights, trade and closer co-operation between Australia and New Zealand.
The two leaders also confirmed their intention to visit Turkey, for commemorations marking the Centenary of the Centenary of the Gallipoli campaign.
“We will pay tribute to the men and women of our two nations who have served, and continue to serve our countries with honour and sacrifice,” they said.
by Alan Thornhill
An local Muslim leader says Tony Abbott was “incredibly reckless” in the speech he gave about terrorism on Monday.
Samier Dundan, President of the Lebanese Muslim Association, also said the Prime Minister had “displayed a profound lack of awareness” of what local Muslims had done.
“The antagonistic rhetoric used by the Prime Minister is politically opportunistic and exacerbates the atmosphere of Islamophobia and intolerance,” Mr Dundan said.
The issue “of greatest concern” was the Prime Minister’s suggestion that Muslim leaders “must do more” to vocally and explicitly condemn violent extremism – and be more practical in promoting Islam as a religion of peace.
Mr Dundan said Muslim leaders and the Muslim community had gone to great lengths to illustrate that their faith “is completely dissociated from violence committed in its name.”
But the Prime Minister had shown “a worrying lack of comprehension of the ongoing engagement and work of the Muslim community.”
“Few would fail to see this new found focus on ‘national security’ as anything other than an attempt at gaining public approval, especially in the light of the contemporary political climate,” Mr Dundan said.
“The combination of divisive language and lack of acknowledgement only serve to further distance the Muslim community from the government,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, says the Martin place siege shows that Australians “cannot wait” to tackle terrorism suspects.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s speech on terrorism, Mr Shorten said:” the Martin Place siege report makes it clear that we cannot wait for “at-risk individuals [to] develop into high level threats.”
“We must aim for a deeper level of prevention, pulling out the roots of extremism and stopping its growth.”
Mr Shorten had said earlier that he believes it is not beyond “the wit and wisdom” of parliament to mount a balanced response to terrorism.
He did not retreat from that position in his speech today.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, declared today that his government would take action against what he called “hate preachers.”
He said he could not guarantee that there would never be another terrorist attack on Australian soil.
But he declared:”My government will never underestimate the terrorist threat.”
And he said Australians could look forward to the stronger Australia, that they had a right to expect.
Mr Abbott was delivering a statement on terrorism to the Australian people.
He was expected to do that in Federal parliament.
However, he chose to do so in the Australian Federal Police conference room in Canberra instead.
His speech was centred on the Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney, in which two hostages – and an Islamic terrorist – died.
That was in mid-December.
Mr Abbott appealed to relatives and friends of those attracted by Islamic terrorist propaganda to contact the police and other agencies.
He said the authorities could not do their job, without that help.
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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