by Alan Thornhill
Labor says it will revive a valuable support program for apprentices which the Coalition government axed.
The Shadow Minister for Vocational Education, Sharon Bird, said too few Australians are starting apprenticeships and and too many of those who do are dropping out before they finish.
“A Shorten Labor Government will turn this around by giving apprentices real support when they need it by bringing back Tools for Your Trade – the valuable apprentice support program axed by the Abbott-Turnbull Government,” Ms Bird said.
She said Australian apprentices earn between 55 and 90 per cent of a standard wage while they are training, meaning a first year construction apprentice may take home base pay of as little as $420 a week.
This makes it hard to cover the cost of equipment, transport, books and other work essentials.
She said the Tools for Your Trade helps apprentices with these costs throughout their training to get over the hurdles that prevent them from completing.
From 1 July 2017, workers starting an apprenticeship will be eligible for $3,000 in payments throughout their training.
Payments will be spaced to provide support to apprentices as they train and back them all the way to completion.
As well as investing $285 million to bring back this important apprentice support program, Labor will also boost Group Training Organisations to help small and medium businesses take on more apprentices across Australia.
Group Training Organisations help these businesses participate in apprenticeships by managing the administrative and personnel side of hiring an apprentice.
They take care of training, setting up work placements and managing administrative functions like pay, leave and superannuation. This leaves businesses free to focus on developing on-the-job skills with their apprentices.
Labor will invest in Group Training so that these organisations can help to get more apprentices into work, with $10 million a year in new funding over the next four years.
We believe every Australian should have the chance to gain real skills and a good job. Australian apprenticeships have given millions of workers that opportunity over the past few decades.
“Our plan to support apprentices from start to finish comes on top of our commitment to get more apprentices onto Commonwealth-funded projects by setting aside a proportion of the jobs for apprenticeships,” Ms.Bird said.
by Alan Thornhill
The job market figures, that were published today, don’t look too bad.
Indeed graphs that the Bureau of Statistics presented with its May labour force figures appear to show things moving both strongly and in the right directions.
They show Australia’s unemployment rates unmistakably on a downward path.
Total employment, too, is rising strongly.
The Bureau’s integrity, too, is beyond question.
So why, then, does the uncomfortable feeling, that perhaps the monthly labour force figures are no longer capturing the full picture, of Australia’s increasingly complex labour markets, persist?
There are, of course, special cases, as there always will be.
The nation’s latest youth unemployment rate, for example, has not yet been published.
But it will probably turn out to be roughly double the general unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent.
What else, though, is actually going on out there in the real world?
One figure, that the bureau did publish today, offers a clue.
The bureau said Australia’s labour force underutilisation rate was steady in May, at 14.2 per cent.
That means, at the very least, that many workers who have lost “old” jobs, perhaps in the now abandoned car industry, are still waiting around – maybe in part time work – until they can get better “new” jobs – making submarines.
But will that part time work pay their grocery bills?
And what do we mean by full time work, anyway?
There are still many questions to be asked – and answered – about Australia’s new workplace practices.
by Alan Thornhill
Australian shoppers sharply increased their credit card debt, as cold weather approached this year.
The Bureau of Statistics reported today that revolving personal credit commitments rose by 14.2 per cent in April, a traditional time for buying new clothes and shoes.
The bureau also noted that, overall, personal finance commitments rose by 5 per cent in the month.
But housing finance, for owner occupation, rose by just 0.1 per cent in April.
All of these figures are seasonally adjusted
There were some signs of pre-election caution, though, in the bureau’s lending finance figures for April.
Commercial finance, for example, fell by 3.3 per cent in the month.
And lease finance rose by just 0.4 per cent.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is trying to steer the election campaign back to where it started.
That is with his attempt to restore peace in the building and construction industry.
And in a speech to the American Australian Association & US Studies Centre last night, Mr Turnbull also argued that Australia’s increasing involvement with Asia is making this country’s reliance on America more important than ever.
He said the government had launched an unusually long –eight week – campaign for re-election “in order to break the deadlock between the House of
Representatives and the Senate over two critical pieces of legislation relating to industrial relations.
“and one of those is the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission,” Mr Turnbull said.
That aim had – previously – been hardly mentioned during the campaign, which has now passed its half-way mark.
But, last night, Mr Turnbull declared that the course he had chosen is: “the only way we can get the rule of law restored to the construction sector.”
He said the sector employs one million people.
“ and the restoration of law to that sector is a vital economic reform, and part of our economic plan to secure our prosperity.”
“the only way we can get that passed is through this double dissolution and getting the numbers collectively in the House and the Senate to pass that law and restore rule of law through a joint sitting of the parliament,” Mr Turnbull said.
“ That’s our commitment,” he added.
Mr Tunbull also paid tribute to a previous Liberal Prime Minister, John Howard, who attended last night’s function.
He said: “John understood that the United States is the irreplaceable anchor to the global rules-based order – an order built upon shared political values and common economic and security interests.
“The truth of his insight has been affirmed by every subsequent Prime Minister of Australia.
“Earlier this year I visited and thanked our men and women serving alongside US forces in Afghanistan, in what is now the longest commitment in our military history.
“And also our forces in Iraq, where we are together with the United States and other allies jointly pushing back, rolling back the brutality and barbarity of Daesh or ISIL.
“And not a day, truthfully not a minute, goes by without our intelligence agencies working together – saving lives – in the fight against terrorism.
“Our ANZUS alliance and broader relationship is anchored in a history that is even deeper and richer than many of us realise,” Mr Turnbull concluded.
by Alan Thornhill
More than one million Australian families will benefit from child support changes Labor is proposing, the party claimed today.
The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, and the Shadow Minister for Early Education, Kate Ellis, made the claim in a joint statement.
The plan is based largely on in increases to the annual cap on the present Child Care Benefit.
Mr Shorten and Ms Ellis declared: “the annual cap on the Child Care Rebate will be increased from $7,500 to $10,000 per child, leaving families up to $2,500 per child per year better off.”
And they added: “Low and middle income families will benefit from an increase to the Child Care Benefit of 15 per cent.
“Every one of the 813,000 families that rely on the Child Care Benefit will be better off – an increase up to $31 per child per week, or up to $1,627 per year, will provide much needed relief for the family budget.
“Right now, too many Australian women have their pay packet eaten up by the costs of child care,” they added.
“Labor’s plan will take pressure off the family budget and help grow the economy by keeping more parents in work.
“Better child care is essential to a growing economy,” they said.
“It’s central to Labor’s plan for fairer growth, real jobs and greater opportunities.”
“Families who rely on child care need a better deal now – and that’s what Labor will deliver,” they said.
“By boosting the current system Labor will ensure that all children continue to have access to two days of vital early education,” they said.
Labor’s plan will also include:-
– Cracking down on unjustified price increases
– New transparency and accountability standards
– Extra powers to investigate unjustified price increases and stop price gouging.
– Supporting flexible Family Day Care – Investing an additional $50 million to support improvements to the Family Day Care system, including flexible options for families and enhancing the education, investigation and compliance programs.
– Better services for Indigenous children and children in remote areas –
– Increasing support for children in Budget Base Funded Services by 15 per cent, in line with the increase to the Child Care Benefit.
– Valuing our early education workforce – $150 million investment towards developing the early education workforce – developing a new Early Years’ Workforce Strategy
-And establishing a national Educator Professional Development Program,”
” Labor will also make submissions to the Fair Work Commission proceedings in support of professional wages for early childhood educators,” they said.
They also claimed that Labor’s plan compares more than favorably with the Liberal alternative.
“And it is affordable,” they added.
by Alan Thornhill
Anxiety remains a big problem for young women in Australia.
This is confirmed in new research carried out by the National Australia Bank.
It is reported today in the bank’s Quarterly Australian Wellbeing Index.
The bank says that around 1 in 6 “highly” anxious Australians are not coping and young women are struggling most
It identifies anxiety as the main detractor of personal wellbeing in Australia.
The bank says this mirrors results in many other advanced countries.
However it notes that some of us are managing our anxiety much better than others.
“In this report, we asked how well “highly” anxious Australians think they are managing their anxiety,” the bank said.
“ On average, around 60 per cent of highly anxious Australians believe they are coping well, around 25 per cent are managing but around 16 per cent are not coping.”
“The survey also reveals significant differences in how well different groups are coping with their anxiety,” it added.
”While both young men and young women identify as having high levels of anxiety, around 1 in 3 young women who have “high” anxiety say they are not managing their anxiety well,” the bank said.
It said this is “ by far the biggest share of any group.
“In contrast, fewer than 1 in 10 young men with “high” anxiety believe they are not managing it well. ”
The bank’s Chief Economist, Alan Oster, said:“ while this is clearly a concern, it is unclear to what extent young women feel more comfortable speaking about their ability to cope with anxiety than young men”.
The bank said:” around 1 in 4 highly anxious singles and defactos are also not managing their anxiety well.
The report also updates NAB’s Wellbeing Index for the March quarter 2016.
Wellbeing fell to 64 in Q1 2016 (64.4 in Q4 2015), with all measures rated lower, except anxiety.
Among key demographic groups, wellbeing was highest in Tasmania, capital cities, for high income earners (+$100K), men, over 50s, widows, two person households, those without kids and professional and part time workers.
In contrast, wellbeing was lowest for singles, young Australians (particularly women), low income earners (less than $35,000) and labourers.
by Alan Thornhill
More rate cuts?
What, really, are Australia’s economic prospects?
These are questions are critical, now that the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has visited government house, seeking the Governor General’s approval for an early double dissolution elections on July 2.
Puzzling ones, too, as this election will be held against a background of falling prices.
Not the inflation that most of us have come to know well.
So this will be a rare experience.
We will need the best possible information.
A chance to look behind what our politicians are telling us, in a fiercely fought election campaign.
Fortunately, the experts who have the best access to that information are much more generous in sharing it than they used to be.
They include people like the Reserve Bank’s Glenn Stevens, and the Secretary to the Treasury, John Fraser.
Of course, having good information, provides no guarantee that people will be right, in their conclusions.
A former Treasurer, Paul Keating, pointed that out quite forcefully, in a current book by Kerry O‘Brien, called Keating.
He was speaking there of the troubled times, in the late 1980s following the global economic crisis.
But it’s just as worthwhile consulting the experts now, as it was back then.
Even though they are still careful to avoid saying anything which might be regarded as politically partisan.
So what are they saying, now?
Mr Stevens issued statements, on Tuesday and Friday last week, explaining why the Reserve bank had cut its marker interest rate by 25 basis points, to a new low of 1.75 per cent.
Friday’s 66 page statement goes into some detail.
(And it is just the right length for downloading onto your Ipad, if you haven’t done so, already).
It notes, for example, that we appear to be spending more than we earn, at present.
“Growth in consumption is forecast to be maintained at a pace that is a little above average despite only modest growth in wages,” it concludes.
There is lot more like that on Australia’s present – and likely future – economy, in the Reserve Bank’s latest statement on monetary policy.
You’ll find it at www.rba.gov.au.
John Fraser, the Treasury Secretary, also had some interesting things to say last Friday, when he appeared before the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, to comment on the 2016-17 Budget estimates.
He noted, for example, that there “will be opportunities for Australia” in the current transition from a commodities based economy, to something much broader.
If you’d like to grab some of those opportunities, for your business or yourself, the Treasury website is also worth a visit.
You can see it at www.treasury.gov.au.
Even if all you want is a little help in deciding how you will vote on July 2.
by Alan Thornhill
Bill Shorten revealed much about Labor’s plans for fighting the July 2 elections, when he delivered his budget reply speech in Federal parliament last night.
These include mobilising money held in superannuation funds to advance major public transport projects, such as the Melbourne Metro, the Western Sydney rail line and Perth’s Metronet.
His speech also cleared the way for the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to visit the Governor General, to seek his permission to call the early election.
Mr Shorten also promised that a Labor government would restore the $80 billion that the Turnbull government had cut from Australia’s hospitals and schools.
In fact it would “go beyond” that on education, Mr Shorten added.
“Over the next ten years , Labor will spend $37.3 billion to ensure that every school in Australia receives fair funding on the basis of need,” he said.
“We will deliver on the Gonski promise – and go beyond,” Mr Shorten said.
He attacked the budget that the Liberal Treasurer, Scott Morrison, had brought into parliament on Tuesday night, saying overseas shareholders are the only ones who would win, as a result of it.
Mr Shorten also promised that a Labor government would also put “the great Australian dream of home ownership back within the reach of working and middle class families who have been priced out of the market by taxpayer subsidised speculators.”
He said a Medicare card – not a credit card – should guarantee Australians access to the health care they need.
Mr Shorten also said:” Full employment and creating better paid and better-protected jobs is Labor’s economic priority.
“The jobs of the future will be powered by infrastructure and renewable energy,” he said.
“taking real action on climate change will create new jobs, attract new international investment and power our industries and services.
“Of course, advocating climate action is hard, and running a scare campaign against it is easy,” Mr Shorten said.
Mr Turnbull should know – “you’ve done both,” he added.
But delaying action on climate change will be a hit on Australians’ cost of living, a drag on our nation’s economic growth and an attack on our farmers’ way of life,” Mr Shorten warned.
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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