by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey might well have spent the weekend humming the 1966 Seekers’ hit “we shall not be moved.”
The Prime Minister certainly echoed those thoughts, in Auckland on Saturday, when he declared not only that he would continue to lead the Liberal party now, but that he would face the people again late next year.
We shall all see about that on Tuesday, if not before.
There will be many disgruntled backbenchers among the 102 Liberal MPs who will gather in Canberra then for a party that day.
And Federal Cabinet, which meets on Monday, may well try to avoid an undignified scramble then by declaring that – yet another – ballot will be held on the Liberal leadership.
Mr Abbott, himself, declared, at the weekend, that we are living in “querulous” times, seeing our glasses as “half-empty” rather than “half full.”
That’s hardly surprising.
Economic growth – in the US – has been one of the few bright spots in a mostly dull global economy.
But even that was scaled back – to 2.2 per cent – from a previous estimate of 2.6 per cent – on official figures, released shortly after Mr Abbott had spoken.
So far, that hasn’t hit the all-important “animal spirits” driving the world’s biggest economy, too hard.
As the BBC reports:” Investors initially took the revised figure in their stride, with the Dow Jones opening unchanged, but the index slipped in afternoon trading to end the day down 0.5 per cent at 18,133.”
There could be a similar downward revision in Australia’s economic growth figures, which are to be published on Wednesday.
We chalked up 2.7 per cent growth, in the 12 months to the end of September.
However Westpac economist, Andrew Hanlan, is tipping that this will slip back to just 2.5 per cent, when the December quarter figures are out.
The Reserve Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens, might well beg for a sneak peek the day before.
That’s when his board meets, to review interest rates.
Another cut – of 25 basis points – like the one we saw last month – would not surprise anyone.
That’s because the spirits of both shoppers and business people in Australia have been quite subdued.
Even the big falls we have seen in fuel prices – and that rate cut last month – haven’t been enough to lift us.
So the Reserve Bank board might well decide that we need a little more encouragement, even at the risk of inflaming the Sydney property market.
But if the former News Corporation boss John Hartigan is right, even that might not be enough.
He says our all-too-evident political instability is now impeding Australia’s economic recovery.
Mr Hartigan says, too, that Tony Abbott’s “opportunity has gone.”
He is far from alone in that assessment.
So don’t be shocked if Australia finds itself with a new Prime Minister this week.
That could happen amid the inevitable confusion that will come with a slew of fresh statistics in key areas.
These include business indicators, balance of payments, building approvals, national accounts, retail trade and international trade.
And Mr Hockey expects to cap it all, on Thursday, with a report that he says will cause Australians to “…fall off their chairs” in surprise.
That, of course, will be the government’s long-awaited “Intergenerational Report, Australia in 2055.”
So strap yourself in, Thursday.
by Alan Thornhill
Labor says the “real extent” of the Federal government’s cuts to disability services was exposed, at a Senate Estimates Committee hearing in Canberra today.
The Shadow Minister for Family Services and Payments, Jenny Macklin, said that under questioning from Labor Senators, the Department of Social Services had revealed that, under the Liberals the:
· Australian Federation of Disability Organisations has lost $307,000
· Blind Citizens Australia has lost $197,000
· Brain Injury Australia has lost $164,000
· Deafness Australia has lost $197,000
· Disability Advocacy Network Australia has lost $164,000
· Deafness Forum has lost $197,000 and the
· National Council for Intellectual Disability has lost $164,000
Ms Macklin said that unless other funding is found, every one of these organisations is at risk of closure.
“The Abbott Government is ripping out the heart of the disability sector, at a time when that sector is more important than ever,” she said.
“As the National Disability Insurance Scheme is rolling out across the country, the government should be supporting the voices of people with disability to ensure the scheme is rolled out as effectively as possible.
“Instead, organisations will close, employees will lose their jobs and people with disability will no longer have the variety of representation they once enjoyed.
“This is just appalling,” Ms Macklin said.
“The Government should reverse these cuts immediately.”
by Alan Thornhill
Labor is urging the Federal government not to use a report – that is due to be released today – to slash welfare payments.
The McClure report is expected to recommend a major simplification of Australia’s complex welfare system.
But Labor fears the government might want more.
Jenny Macklin, the Shadow Minister for Families and Payments, is urging restraint.
She says:” Vulnerable Australians do not deserve another round of Abbott cuts.
Ms Macklin said Australians are “rightly concerned that the McClure Review will be used by the Abbott Government as justification for another round of savage cuts to vulnerable Australians.
“It looks almost certain that people with disability will be the big losers, as the Government moves to push them onto different levels of payments,” she said.
“Scott Morrison must immediately rule out leaving any Australians worse off as a result of the McClure Review,” she said, referring to the Social Security Minister.
“He must also guarantee that there will be no cuts to payment rates or benefits that go to the most vulnerable Australians.
“And he must explain how the Abbott Government’s response to this review will tackle poverty, spread opportunity and provide support to people who need it.
“To prove they are serious about supporting low income Australians, the Liberal Government should also use this opportunity to drop its $5.5 billion worth of cuts to family payments, its cuts to pension indexation and its savage attack to rip unemployment benefits away from jobseekers for six months at a time, currently before the parliament.
“Nine months after the Abbott Government’s horror budget last year, vulnerable Australians are still reeling,” Ms Macklin said.
“Tony Abbott has already attacked the living standards of pensioners, young people on Newstart and low and middle income families,” she added.
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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