Browsing articles in "education"
Monday 9th November 2015 - 1:01 pm
Comments Off on Chinese visitor numbers surge

Chinese visitor numbers surge

by Alan Thornhill

China is now the fastest growing source country for short term visitors to Australia.

The Bureau of Statistics reported today that, on original figures, 76,600 short term visitors came to Australia from China in September.

That was 2.3 per cent up on the comparable figure for August and 19.7 per cent above that seen in September last year.

The next highest growth, recorded in the Bureau’s figures today, was the 14.6 per cent rise seen in visitor numbers from India.

In both cases, the annual growth rates recorded, were based on trend figures.

The Bureau also said that, on trend figures, a total of 624,600 short term visitors came to Australia in September.

This was a 0.7 per cent rise over the previous month’s figure and a 7.8 per cent rise over the year.

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Thursday 5th November 2015 - 10:48 am
Comments Off on A scientific look at our prospects

A scientific look at our prospects

by Alan Thornhill

Some of Australia’s best scientists say the nation’s economic prospects are bright.


But they also caution that our prosperity in future will depend on the choices we make now.


This advice is offered in the Australian National Outlook report which the CSIRO published today.


Standing back from their test tubes for a moment, these scientists warned bluntly that Australia’s future will be shaped by innovation and technology uptake and the choices we make as a society will be paramount.

They are proud of their report, describing it as “, is the most comprehensive quantitative analysis yet of the interactions between economic growth, water-energy-food use, environmental outcomes and living standards in Australia.”


CSIRO Executive Director Dr Alex Wonhas said the report focuses on the ‘physical economy’ that contributes to about 75 per cent of natural resource use and produces about 25 per cent of Australia’s GDP.


“The National Outlook is a first attempt to understand and analyse the connections in Australia’s physical environment many decades into the future,” Dr Wonhas said.


“It has a particular focus on understanding two aspects: The ‘water- energy-food nexus’ and the prospects for Australia’s materials- and energy-intensive industries.”


National Outlook finds a number of key insights and potential opportunities across the Australian economy.? ?“For example, we find strong growth prospects for Australia’s agri-food production, which are forecast to increase at least 50 per cent by 2050, provided long term productivity improvements can be maintained in line with historical rates,” Dr Wonhas said.


So are we to do?


Dr Wonhas says:”“There’s a ….possibility of a win-win for farmers with potential growth in agri-food exports and new income sources for rural landholders through carbon farming on less productive land.”


What about water?


The report acknowledges that demand for water will grow with population.


But it adds:“Despite projections of a doubling of our water use, Australia could meet this growth as well as enhance urban water security and avoid increased environmental pressures through increased water recycling, desalination and integrated catchment management.”


It says too, that energy and other resources could remain a pillar of the Australian economy well into the future.


And it says our energy intensive industries could be well positioned to continue to grow, even in scenarios where the world is taking global action to significantly limit greenhouse gas emissions.


“The key to this success will be innovation and application of smart technologies,” Dr Wonhas said.


“We hope the National Outlook will help Australia chart its future in an increasingly complex and interconnected world,” he added


The National Outlook explores over 20 possible futures for Australia out to 2050 against the backdrop of the past 40 years.??The work was undertaken by a team of 40 CSIRO experts and university collaborators, and draws extensively on observed data and analysis.


It utilises a world-class suite of nine linked models, includes input from more than 80 experts and stakeholders from over ten organisations and has undergone rigorous international peer review.


National Outlook is underpinned by more than 10 journal papers including a Nature paper published today.  The report is available at outlook

Wednesday 21st October 2015 - 5:37 pm
Comments Off on PM seeks to get families back into the workforce

PM seeks to get families back into the workforce

by Alan Thornhill

Australian families will be encouraged to play bigger roles in the nation’s work force under new measures the Federal government announced today.


These include “restructuring” Family Tax Benefits to fund a $$3.5 billion “Jobs for Families Package.”


Three ministers  sought to explain this complex strategy in a joint statement they issued this afternoon.


The Opposition had made rival claims, earlier in the day, saying it had forced the Federal government to “back away” from its threat to freeze Family Tax Benefits.


In their  statement,  the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, Social Services Minister, Christian Porter and the Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, outlined the government’s revised strategy.

They said: “The Turnbull Government will restructure Family Tax Benefit (FTB) payments to give better targeted assistance to families, encourage workforce participation and fund the Government’s $3.5 billion Jobs for Families package.


The Government has already introduced the necessary bill into Parliament to change Family Tax measures first flagged in its unpopular 2014 budget.


The three ministers said their had been extensive talks on the changes proposed now.


“The Turnbull Government is committed to protecting taxpayers by responsibly funding our spending commitments, ” Mr Morrison said.


“We are ensuring that additional funding measures are offset by responsible savings.”


Mr Porter said the Government is committed to helping Australian families in a generous but sustainable welfare system.


“These reforms will give families greater on-going day-to-day financial assistance and will help ensure children get the best possible start in life,” the Social Services Minister said.


These measures will replace the unlegislated 2014-15 FTB measures including maintaining FTB rates, limiting FTB-B to children under six years of age and maintaining eligibility thresholds, he added.


The new measures will provide FTB-B to families with children under the age of 13, encouraging workforce participation for parents with children in high school.


Single parents and grandparents with children over the age of 13 will receive an FTB-B payment of $1,000 a year.


From July 2016, all eligible families with a youngest child under one year will receive an extra $1,000 a year through an increase to their FTB-B standard rate.


In addition, from 1 July 2018, for families with a child aged up to 19 years, the maximum rate of FTB-A will be increased by about $10 per fortnight.


“Significantly, we’re also increasing the fortnightly rates of Youth Allowance and Disability Support Pension so they’re aligned with the new FTB-A rate,” Mr Porter said.


“This is an important step towards simplifying and harmonising our complicated welfare system,” he added.


As part of the reforms, the Government will phase-out the end of year FTB supplements.


Mr Porter said the end-of-year supplements were introduced in 2004 substantially to help families manage FTB overpayments (because of underestimation of income).


“The great majority of FTB recipients are never overpaid or are overpaid a small amount and this is an issue that will be substantially addressed by technical changes scheduled for 2018-19,” Mr Porter said.


The money saved by phasing out the supplements will be redirected to increasing fortnightly payments and providing more affordable child care.


Senator Birmingham said: “We are investing almost $40 billion in child care over the next four years, including an extra $3.5 billion into the Jobs for Families package, to make child care simpler, more flexible, and more accessible.


“As a result of the new child care package, families using child care services from July 2017, on incomes of between $65,000 and $170,000, will be on average of $30 a week better off.”


Senator Birmingham described increased access to child care as an important productivity measure that will boost workforce participation.


“By better supporting parents who want to work or work more hours, Jobs for Families will encourage an estimated 240,000 families to increase their involvement in paid work, including almost 38,000 jobless families.


“Our Government’s new child care package supports parents as they balance work and family responsibilities, whilst protecting those most vulnerable, and continuing to ensure high-quality early learning,” Senator Birmingham added.


Mr Porter said: “We believe our new package of reforms strikes the right balance between equity and sustainability.”

Monday 19th October 2015 - 7:19 pm
Comments Off on It’s just a honeymoon:Labor

It’s just a honeymoon:Labor

by Alan Thornhill

A senior Labor MP, Anthony Albanese, says he expected the “honeymoon” that the new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is enjoying in the polls.


The latest – a Morgan poll – published today confirmed that the Coalition is well ahead of Labor, with 56-44 per cent lead on a two party preferred split.


This trend has also been evident in other recent public opinion polls.


It would give the government an easy victory in an early election, if one were held now.


That is a major reversal.


Labor had been consistently ahead in the polls, until Mr Turnbull successfully challenged Mr Abbott for Liberal leadership last month, defeating him 54-44 in the subsequent party room ballot.


But Mr Albanese said Australians are just pleased that the previous unpopular Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has gone.

With a Federal election due next year – or early in 2017 – the Coalition’s resurgence in the polls   has left some Labor people wondering if the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, really is the right person for the job.


However Mr Albanese, who stood against Mr Shorten in the most recent ballot for Labor leadership, said he is certain that there will not be a fresh challenge to Mr Shorten.


Speaking on ABC radio, Mr Albanese said people would soon realise that although there had been a change of leadership, the government is still working on its old  inadequate policies.


“I think what people are interested in is policy solutions for Australia,” Mr Albanese said.

Monday 21st September 2015 - 9:03 am
Comments Off on These are “exciting times” PM

These are “exciting times” PM

by Alan Thornhill

There has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian,” the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull said today.

Speaking in an ABC radio, he said that was because of the amount of opportunity available.

However, he also warned that Australia must increase its productivity, if it is to remain a high wage, prosperous country.

Otherwise it would go backwards.

Mr Turnbull warned, too, that talk of governments taking “back flips” could be counter-productive.

He said governments had to be flexible and able to change their policies when that was necessary.

He was speaking in an interview he gave on the new cabinet he announced yesterday.

He said Australia still faces security challenges.

“And we have great agencies to protect us,” Mr Turnbull said.

Saturday 19th September 2015 - 4:35 pm
Comments Off on International students:Australia overhauls the rules

International students:Australia overhauls the rules

by Alan Thornhill

Australia is to streamline provision of its international education services, cutting the red tape and duplication now required from those who provide it.
The Education Minister Christopher Pyne explained as he introduced the necessary legislation into parliament today that education is now Australia’s biggest non-resource export.

He said the new law would streamline regulation, remove duplicative requirements and cut red tape for Australia’s international education providers.
Mr Pyne said the Education Services for Overseas Students (Streamlining Regulation) Amendment Bill 2015 removes unnecessary reporting from the ESOS Act while protecting the high quality of Australia’s international education sector.
“International education is Australia’s largest non-resource export and generates an estimated 130,000 jobs throughout the country,” Mr Pyne said.
“The Government is committed to growing our international education sector while ensuring high levels of student protection and quality assurance.

“The Bill I have introduced today will generate an estimated $76 million a year in deregulatory savings for our education institutions.”
Mr Pyne said the reforms to the ESOS Act would enhance the quality of Australia’s international education institutions and create a more appropriate and efficient regulatory framework.
He said the Government had undertaken extensive consultation and  worked closely with the international education community, peak bodies and national quality assurance agencies in preparing the reforms.
“This Bill demonstrates the Australian Government’s commitment to cutting red tape while improving Australia’s reputation as a high quality, world class destination for international students,” Mr Pyne said.

AlanThornhill has just published his e-novel Weathercoast. 


Seven young Anglican Christian brothers were killed, as spies, during recent “tension troubles” in the Pacific, for trying to bring peace to their troubled Pacific homeland, the beautiful Solomon Islands. Yet the sacrifice of these brave men, martyrs in the truest sense of that once honorable word, is barely recognised, if at all, in the wider world. How did that happen? Alan Thornhill, who attended the trial of their killers, attempts to explain – and looks at the lessons – in his e-novel, Weathercoast.It’s available at


Lukim Iu




Monday 14th September 2015 - 2:07 pm
Comments Off on Leadership speculation rising in Canberra

Leadership speculation rising in Canberra

by Alan Thornhill

Speculation about a leadership challenge was, once again rising in Parliament House, Canberra,, today.

That is a politicians’ nightmare at any time.

Particularly so when a by-election is imminent.

Yet that is the situation the Liberals face now.

But Tony Abbott is having none of it.

The Prime Minister said – once again – this morning:” I am just not going to play Canberra games.”

The Prime Minister is letting it be known that he expects to lead the Coalition into the Canning by-election next Saturday – and beyond.

Yet even he must have been shaken by a poll in Fairfax newspapers today, showing Labor heading for the swing of more than 12 per cent it would need to win that seat .

Restive Liberals have been saying little, if anything, on the issue today.

However there was a mood of expectation in Parliament House, Canberra, this morning as MPs and staffers started gathering for a fresh week’s sittings.

The Prime Minister, himself, was in South Australia spruiking big new infrastructure projects.

He, once again, dismissed talk of a leadership spill when he met reporters today.

Mr Abbott said he expects to lead his Coalition into the next General election late next year.

And until then, he and his government would be doing what they had been elected to do.

That is governing for the good of all Australians.






Sunday 13th September 2015 - 8:13 pm
Comments Off on How they are traveling in Canning

How they are traveling in Canning

by Alan Thornhill

As the critical campaign for the Canning by-election enters its final week, Tony Abbott has become bolder.

He declared, on arrival in Perth at the weekend, that the Liberals would win this contest next weekend.

“Well, we’re not going to lose the Canning by-election, ” he said

“We’ve got an outstanding candidate.”

“We’ve run a strong campaign.”

“And I think the people of Canning are going to ask themselves ‘who is going to look after them?'”  he said.

A reporter had asked him whether he would stand down, as Prime Minister, if the Coalition lost the seat, which was vacated when a popular local member Don Randall died.

But Mr Abbott probably wouldn’t get that choice, if the Liberals do lose, or even fail to produce a respectable result next Saturday.

That’s because the party would, most likely, make the decision for him, giving Mr Abbott his marching orders.

So Mr Abbott clearly decided he might as well be bold.

Even though there is already talk of his overthrow, anyway.

There was also a flurry of announcements, over the weekend about the good things that can be expected in this electorate if the Liberals do win well next Saturday.

These include at least one road duplication, to make traffic flow more smoothly in a notorious black spot near the southern suburb of Armadale.

There will also be a new road bridge at Byford, not far away.

The popular seaside city of Mandurah could also look forward to the installation of more CCTV cameras, as a public safety measure.

The Federal Justice Minister said the Coalition government is prepared to contribute $150,000 to a community safety project, planned by the City of Mandurah.

He made the announcement while visiting the site, with the Liberal Candidate for Canning Andrew Hastie, saying the funding  will be delivered under the Coalition’s Community Development Grants Program.

Mr Keenan also let it be known, while campaigning with Mr Hastie at the weekend, that young people in  Armadale would get improved mental health services.

That would happen with the opening of an Australian Government-funded Headspace centre.

It would provide access to a range of support services for people between the ages of 12 and 25.

These include mental health care, related physical health care, services associated with alcohol and other drug use and social and vocational support.

Labor hasn’t been idle, either.

The Federal Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, was also in Western Australia at the weekend, on one of several visits he has made, to support his party’s by election candidate, Matt Keogh.

He urged voters in the electorate to support Labor, to protect their penalty rates, which he accused Mr Abbott and senior Federal ministers are attacking.

Mr Shorten said this is a live issue in the campaign.

“Today we see members of the community, many people who go to work and don’t earn a lot of money just saying enough is enough Mr Abbott and the Liberals, please stop attacking our penalty rates.

“The future of Australia doesn’t depend upon cutting the wages and conditions of millions of Australians. ”

“We can have a bright future in this country if we properly fund our schools and our health care, if we stand up for new jobs and infrastructure, and most importantly if we don’t divide the country. Retail wages in this country are not high, hospitality and tourism rates are not high.

“Many of the people who depend upon penalty rates be they nurses, ambulance officers, people who look after our quality of life.”

“They need these penalty rates.”

“The future for Australia is in high skilled, reasonably paid jobs where we’re all working together,” Mr Shorten said.

My book

wx 2

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

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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