by Alan Thornhill
Tourists are coming to Australia in record numbers – and spending more when they get here.
And visitors, coming as students, are adding to the positive impact this is having on the economy.
These developments are confirmed in a report, which the Minister for Tourism and International Education, Senator Richard Colbeck released today.
He said it shows further record international arrivals, visitor nights and spending.
“The report reveals spending reached a new high of $34.8 billion, an increase of 13 per cent or ?$4.1 billion over the year,” Senator Colbeck said.
This was the strongest growth seen since 2001.
“International visitor arrivals increased 7 per cent to 6.7 million while nights were up 10 per cent, reaching 242 million during the year ending September 2015,” he said.
“The Government’s efforts to boost flight capacity, our visa reforms and focused international marketing are increasing Australia’s appeal in the growing global tourism market,” he added.
“We have also made tourism infrastructure one of five National Investment Priorities, backing the growth of a key industry which supports around a million jobs.”
“Australia’s strong international education sector is clearly having a positive impact on our tourism industry; with every international student in Australia attracting visits from friends and family,” he said.
“Visiting Australia for the purposes of education is supporting strong growth, with visitation up 19 per cent and nights up 18 per cent. Total trip spend for education visitors increased by 27 per cent for the year to $8.2 billion, which drove 43 per cent of the overall increase.”
“With approximately 600,000 international students currently enrolled onshore, and growing, that adds up to a significant contribution,” he said
Senator Colbeck said the report shows spending growth in several areas, including:-
-Education visitor spending: up 27 per cent to $8.2 billion
Employment visitor spending: up 26 per cent to $2.8 billion
Visiting friends and relatives spending: up 14 per cent to $5.8 billion and
Holiday visitor spending: up 7 per cent to $13.2 billion
China continues to lead the growth with huge increases.
“Visitor numbers are up 22 per cent to 896,000, nights up 25 per cent to 39.3 million and spend up a huge 43 per cent to $7.7 billion,” he said.
“There was record spending by visitors from 10 of Australia’s top-20 markets: New Zealand, China, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, France and Switzerland.”
“The Cricket World Cup also paid dividends this year with arrivals from India increasing 20 per cent to 213,000, nights up 35 per cent to 13.4 million and spend growing 34 per cent to $1.1 billion.”
“A further eight markets had record visitor arrivals during the year, including New Zealand (up 5 per cent to 1.2 million), the US (up 8 per cent to 551,000) and Singapore (up 4 per cent to 334,000),” he added,
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.
by Alan Thornhill
The Turnbull government has maintained its lead over Labor in the latest Morgan poll.
It would easily win an election held today.
The poll results, published today , give the government 56 per cent support, on a two party preferred basis, to Labor’s 44 per cent.
They also show confidence in the government up 2.5 points to 122, its highest level since March 2011.
Pollster Gary Morgan said the study showed the Turnbull Government’s honeymoon continuing as Australia heads towards Christmas.
This week Prime Minister Turnbull has travelled to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta – his first meeting with the Queen since becoming Prime Minister – and on to the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris.
“However, despite the issues of Global Warming and terrorism dominating the news headlines lately, Turnbull’s most important task as Prime Minister is to ensure a growing Australian economy which provides gainful employment to as many Australians as possible.”
“Ultimately it is job creation and sustainable economic growth in Australia which will decide the success or otherwise of Turnbull’s Prime Ministership,” Mr Morgan said.
“To be a successful Prime Minister Turnbull needs to take advantage of the boost to confidence his ascension to the top job has created …. and not allow Labor and the Greens to obstruct the implementation of overdue reforms to the Australian economy.
“If they continue to hold-up needed reforms, Turnbull must bypass this ‘blackmail’ and let Australian electors decide by calling an election early in 2016.” Mr Morgan added.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government says a new child care package it will bring into parliament this week will help an estimated 3,900 grandparents who care for 6,300 children.
If passed, it would take effect from July 2017.
In a statement today, the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, said that grandparents on income support who provide primary care for their grandchildren would, themselves get subsidised child care under the new Child Care Safety Net.
“One of the greatest practical challenges for grandparents raising grandchildren are the costs associated with that care, which includes child care,” Senator Birmingham said.
He said families on incomes of between approximately $65,000 and $170,000 a year who use child care would be be around $30 a week or $1500 a year better off in 2017, under the proposed legislation which is to be introduced this week,
However the Shadow Minister for Education, Kate Ellis, said the new package would leave one family in four worse off.
She said too, that the package breaches the Coalition’s pre-election promise not to introduce income tests for child care rebates.
“Nothing in the Government’s announcements today changes the fact that as a direct result of their child care package, one in four Australian families will be worse off, “ she added.
“The inconvenient truth remains that this is a Government who is spending billions of dollars to make families go backwards when it comes to accessing affordable child care.”
“We know, through the only modelling that is available – conducted through NATSEM – that thousands of Australian families are going to lose child care subsidies as a result of the Government’s actions,” Ms Ellis said.
by Alan Thornhill
As Malcolm Bligh Turnbull prepares to lead his conservative coalition into the last week of scheduled parliamentary sittings for this year, the honeymoon gloss on his Liberal leadership is starting to crack.
It has been real enough.
Over recent weeks, his Liberal-led coalition has consistently been in a position in the polls which suggests that it would easily win a Federal election, if one was held now.
That has been a sharp turn-around from the previous situation, which saw the Labor opposition persistently ahead, over many months.
But the next scheduled election is not due until late next year and – with quite ordinary delays – it could easily be held over until early the following year.
Between now and then Mr Turnbull’s leadership will be thoroughly tested.
There will be a big test this week, when the still new Turnbull administration takes what are – essentially – Tony Abbott’s climate change policies to Paris.
If he has any new ones, in this area, no word of them has leaked out yet.
That would be unusual, for Canberra.
After all, the other international leaders, who will be attending the Paris talks on climate change are not likely to be impressed by policies based on the principle of subsidising big polluters in the hope that they will mend their ways.
Why should they?
Australian leaders are no longer dismissing concern over climate change as “absolute crap,” as Tony Abbott once did.
But it is still seen internationally as a friend of heavily polluting fossil fuels, like coal and petroleum.
So Mr Turnbull could easily find himself branded, even more deeply, this week as yesterday’s man in this area.
It is arguable, at this point, that even some of world’s biggest energy companies are taking the very real threat of global warming more seriously than the Australian government.
For, as the BBC reports, the leaders of 10 of the world’s biggest oil companies have offered their qualified support for a new global treaty on climate change.
The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, which made this commitment, represents major producers including BP, Shell, Saudi Aramco and Total among others.
Predictably, Green groups are sceptical, saying arsonists don’t make good fire-fighters.
But there would be political risks for Mr Turnbull, too, if he allowed himself to be seen globally as a climate change denier.
It is, also, conventional wisdom in Canberra that “disunity is death” in politics.
Traditionally, that warning has been uttered most frequently, in relation to Labor.
However, there are signs now that it might be applicable to the Liberals, as well.
Tony Abbott, certainly, has not been taking his loss of leadership gracefully.
Nor have his supporters, in the Liberal party’s hard-right, like Cory Bernadi and Eric Abetz.
They, too, could present Mr Turnbull with serious problems next year.
Which, in all likelihood, will be an election year,
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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
Need a new fridge?
Or perhaps you have been looking at a pre-paid funeral plan?
The smooth talking rip-off merchants are still out there.
And some are – effectively – charging interest rates as high as 884 per cent.
That’s often hard to spot.
Those running these scams often target unsophisticated people.
Like poorly educated Centrelink clients.
Labor says some scammers have even been allowed to use a government agency, Centrepay, to help them do it.
Even though attempts to stop that have now been under way for months.
Labor Senator Doug Cameron issued a statement today, calling for a crackdown on these practices.
“Having been shamed into removing unregulated leases and funeral plan companies from Centrepay in May 2015,
albeit with a luxuriously long sunset of July 2016, the Minister should do the right thing and ban consumer leasing companies of
all kinds from Centrepay,” Senator Cameron said.
He says it’s big business.
There are still 198 consumer leasing companies operating in Centrepay, with 123,000 customers, with contracts to the value of $350m a year, Senator Cameron warned.
Don’t sign anything you don’t understand.
No matter how good it looks.
And if you need advice, get it.
by Alan Thornhill
Will your child enter the nation’s workforce as a digital dunce?
That’s a real risk according to a large employer organisation, which questions the kind of educations young Australians are now getting.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry sounded its warning after the release of a report showing a significant decline in the digital proficiency of secondary schoool students.
The report from the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was part of its 2014 National Assessment Program .
It showed that at Year 6 and Year 10 the proportion of students meeting the information and communications technology literacy standards has fallen compared to the previous assessment in 2011.
Kate Carnell AO, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: “We have heard plenty of talk about the importance and science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but this assessment shows that merely talking about these issues does not improve the digital literacy of our students.
“Many young people are frequent users of digital technology, but this report shows we need to improve the teaching of these skills in our schools rather than assuming that students will naturally achieve strong digital skills.”
“Young people need to be taught how digital technology works, not just how to use it,” she said.
“We need to prepare for the future and ensure we are not a nation of digital dunces,”Ms Carnell added“
The report reveals significant disparities between different parts of the country and different year levels.
“The data shows that at both Year 6 and Year 10 level, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory perform above the national average, while New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory were below it.”
She said too that Western Australia is well below average for Year 6 but tops the nation at Year 10.
“By identifying the reasons for the differences across the country we can guide policy and the allocation of resources so that we can ensure the workers of the future have the digital literacy they need for Australia to be globally competitive.”
Ms Carnell also said:”These concerning results come at the same time as falls in Australia’s literacy and numeracy performance compared to other nations,” she said.
” We need to act quickly to arrest the falling standards of our schools.”
” This declining performance comes despite substantial additional funding for the school system. Education ministers from across the country need a take firm action to address these problems, starting with a plan based on the evidence,”Ms Carnell 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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