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Thursday 14th July 2016 - 10:00 am
Comments Off on Inaction on coal “still polluting our skies”Climate Council

Inaction on coal “still polluting our skies”Climate Council

by Alan Thornhill

Australia is making too little progress in tackling climate change, according to the Climate Council.

 

The council’s CEO Amanda McKenzie said this is confirmed by new data.

 

She said a new survey, by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows coal’s market share has barely moved over the past three years., slipping only marginally from 65.3 per cent to 64.9 per cent

 

Yet burning coal to generate electricity is one one of the major drivers of climate change.

 

Ms McKenzie noted that renewable power generation has increased from 9.6 per cent to 12 per cent, according to the survey.

 

However,  shr said the true test of a climate change policy is how much emissions are reduced.

 

And  the US is doing much better than Australia in this regard.

 

“In the U.S, emissions from the electricity sector fell 18 per cent in 2014 and coal-fired power generation fell from 39 per cent in 2014 to 33 per cent in 2015,”   Ms McKenzie said.

 

She said  also that the fact that electricity generation from coal has barely moved in Australia, is a sign of two things.

 

One, the renewable energy industry is not growing at anywhere near the rate we need it to in order to tackle climate change.
“That’s because of the chopping and changing of policy.

 

“We’ve got enough renewable energy resources to power the country 500 times over – but we are not capitalising on it.

 

‘And two, it’s a sign that there is our climate policy is not robust enough to reduce emissions at the source.

 

“We must introduce climate policy which reduces our fossil fuel emissions if we are to effectively tackle climate change and protect the Great Barrier Reef,” Ms McKenzie said .

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Tuesday 12th July 2016 - 1:42 pm
Comments Off on PM’s “get out of jail” card

PM’s “get out of jail” card

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

 

What happens now that Malcolm Turnbull has at least the 76 lower house seats that he needs to form majority government?

 

We can expect to see tight government, as the Prime Minister takes up the reins, to start his fresh three year term.

 

Not quite as tight, though, as the independent Bob Katter has suggested.

 

 

Mr Katter warned, not altogether seriously, that a government with a majority of one, might lose a critical vote, if he left Parliament to attend his mother’s funeral, or to respond to a call of nature.

 

That’s not a worry

 

Australian parliaments, thankfully, have civilised arrangements called “pairing” to deal with exigencies like these.

 

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, though, did raise as serious matter, when he warned of divisions in the Liberal party, particularly those involving the hard right, which supported Tony Abbott against Malcolm Turnbull, last September.

 

They have not forgotten or forgiven.

 

That became clear this week, when one member, Cory Bernardi, sent e-mails to supporters, urging them not to “… allow the political left to keep eroding our values, undermining our culture and diminishing our important institutions.”

 

The ratings agency, Standard and Poors, delivered the biggest challenge Mr Turnbull will face late last week, though, when it put Australia’s triple A credit rating on “negative watch.”

 

It cited both uncertainties which then existed about the July 2 election results and high levels of both domestic and international debt.

 

This means that the agency might well downgrade Australia’s presently excellent credit rating, if we don’t get those issues under control, over the next two years.

 

An astute Prime Minister might see it as more than that, too.

 

A “get out of jail free card” in fact.

 

Even governments which want to keep their pre-election promises often find it very difficult to do so.

 

So what could Mr Turnbull do, if he finds himself in that all-too-likely position?

Mr Shorten warned, during that eight week election campaign, that this is no time to be giving big companies $50 billion worth of tax cuts, over 5 years, even if they are to be phased in slowly.

 

And a report funded by Getup and published just days before the election said big miners and cigarette companies would be among the main winners, from that policy, which Mr Turnbull repeatedly said would create more “jobs and growth.

 

The miners, perhaps.

 

The cigarette companies.

 

Never.

 

So some adjustments can be expected there.

 

Nick Xenophon might also  be in for some disappointment when he comes to Canberra, seeking more money, to protect the jobs of steel workers, in his home State of South Australia.

 

Mr Turnbull might even be able to convince voters that some restraint in these areas is virtuous, as well as necessary, to avoid extra interest rate pain, for home buyers and others.

 

 

If he is astute enough.

 

 

Sunday 10th July 2016 - 7:09 pm
Comments Off on PM claims victory

PM claims victory

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, claimed victory today in the Federal elections that were held on July 2.

 

He said the Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, had telephoned him earlier today and congratulated him on being re-elected as Prime Minister.

 

Then he added: “Mr Shorten said earlier today that he looked forward to seeking to reach common ground.

 

“And I welcome that remark, I welcome that.

 

“Because it is vital that this Parliament works.

 

“It is vital that we work together and as far as we can, find ways upon which we can all agree, consistent with our policies that we have taken to the election, consistent with our political principles, that we meet the great challenges Australia faces.

 

“We need to ensure that we have a strong economy in the years ahead,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

The newly re-elected Prime Minister then set out broad objectives, for his second term.

 

He said: “We need to ensure that we maintain a successful transition from the economy fuelled up by the mining construction boom, to one that is more diverse.

 

“We need to ensure that Medicare and education, our health services, and all those vital government services are provided for and Australians feel secure that they are provided for and guaranteed.

 

“And at the same time, we have to ensure that we bring our Budget back into balance.

 

“These challenges are not easy, there’s no simple solution to them.

 

“But that’s why they need our best brains, our best minds and above all, our best goodwill in this new Parliament to deliver that.,” he said.

 

 

He also dismissed a reporter’s suggestion that he might have more trouble with the new Senate than he had with the old, saying there were always cross benchers in the Senate  and there would only be one more in the new Senate.

 

Mr Turnbull also signalled, very clearly, that he would  not be taking his predecessor, Tony Abbott, back into Cabinet.

 

He said: “I have obviously given consideration to the Ministry both before and after the election and as you know I have said that the Ministry I lead – I led to the election, will be the Ministry I lead after the election.

 

“Regrettably several ministers have not been returned and so there will be some changes.

 

” but you shouldn’t anticipate large scale changes. ”

 

 

 

 

Friday 8th July 2016 - 1:29 pm
Comments Off on ASIC tightens its watch on IOOF

ASIC tightens its watch on IOOF

by Alan Thornhill

The financial services giant IOOF will be required to accept a measure of external surveillance, under arrangements announced today by the industry watchdog, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

 

However ASIC stopped short of taking further action against IOOF, which offers superannuation products, financial advice and many other similar products.

 

It noted that, in July last year, it had commenced inquiries into allegations made against I.O.O.F. Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries (IOOF), including issues raised by a former employee of IOOF.

 

It said the allegations have been the subject of several media articles and an inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services.

 

And it added: “ASIC has now finalised its inquiries.”

 

It had investigated several issues, including allegations of insider trading,raised by a former employee of IOOF.

 

ASIC  said the allegations had also been the subject of several media articles and an inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services.
“ASIC has now finalised its inquiries,” the commission said.
It said the allegations of insider trading concerned an IOOF staff member’s involvement in insider trading before research reports became public.

 

The commission found that although this did occur it failed to move the share price enough to warrant action.

 
ASIC’s inquiries also included a review into allegations relating to corporate governance and licensee breaches by IOOF.

 

It said: “This review identified a number of concerns relating to IOOF’s compliance arrangements, breach reporting, management of conflicts of interest, staff trading policy, disclosure, whistleblower management and protection and cyber security.

 

And added:” We have raised these concerns with IOOF.

 

“We have also advised IOOF that in our view the corporate culture at that time within IOOF contributed to these issues occurring.”
Then the commission said:  “Concurrent with ASIC’s inquiries, IOOF appointed Price Waterhouse Coopers to conduct an independent review of its regulatory breach reporting policy and procedures and the control environment within its research team.

 

And it added:  “IOOF has made significant changes to their policies and procedures as a result.
The commission said:  “While ASIC welcomes such initiatives and steps taken by IOOF to rectify these issues, ASIC has also reached an agreement with IOOF to engage an external compliance consultant to conduct an expanded, broader and more comprehensive review of compliance arrangements within all IOOF business units.”

 
“ASIC will continue to monitor and work cooperatively with IOOF and its board to ensure the necessary changes are properly effected,it added.

Wednesday 6th July 2016 - 2:30 pm
Comments Off on Visitor numbers up

Visitor numbers up

by Alan Thornhill

Australia has had great success in attracting visitors over the past year, particularly from South Korea and Japan.

 

The Bureau of Statistics reported today that, in trend terms, the number of visitors arriving from South Korea increased by 30.8 per cent, in the 12 months to the end of May, while arrivals from Japan rose by 30.6 per cent.

 

Overall, too, the number of arrivals also rose strongly in this time, chalking  up a 10.9 per cent increase.

 

Visitor numbers from the United States rose by 18.4 per cent.

 

Relatively new markets are also rapidly gaining strength, too, in Australia.

 

On trend figures, for example, 99,400 visitors arrived in this country from China, during May this year.

 

That number was 18.6 per cent higher than that seen 12 months earlier.

 

The Statistician also reported that the number of Australians travelling overseas, as short term visitors rose by 3.4 per cent, over the 12 months to the end of May this year.

Tuesday 5th July 2016 - 12:12 pm
Comments Off on Business outlook bleak before those shocks

Business outlook bleak before those shocks

by Alan Thornhill

Business confidence in Australia was weak before two recent shocks.

 

A survey, by Dun and Bradsreet, showed that expectations for sales and selling prices, in the three months to the end of September, had hit their lowest levels since 2014.

 

Stephen Koukoulas, an economic adviser to the firm, said this result should be treated with caution, as the survey was conducted before both the British vote to leave the EU and the inconclusive result of last Saturday’s Federal elections.

 

However Mr Koukoulas added: “the slide in business expectations over the past year appears to have been arrested in the most recent survey.”

 

And he added: ““there were some mildly encouraging signs, with expectations for capital expenditure edging up from the recent low point.”

 

But he said: “there were, worryingly, signs of further weakness in expected sales and selling prices…”
The Business Expectations Index is an aggregate of the survey’s measures of sales, profits expected sales and selling prices.
He said the low price expectations confirmed by the survey, “points to ongoing low inflation.”

 

The survey also showed that: “profits, Employment and Selling Prices” in Australia’s construction industry, have all been “plunging into negative territory.”

 

It also revealed that: “the Retail industry fared poorly for the first three months of the year, with its Actual Sales and Actual Employment indices falling to -3.9 points and -4.3 points respectively

Monday 4th July 2016 - 8:46 am
Comments Off on Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s political leaders will be hitting their phones this week, trying to scrape together enough support to give the country stable government for the next three years.

 

The main rivals, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who heads a conservative coalition and Bill Shorten, who leads the Labor party both found themselves short of the 76 seats they would need, in the House of Representatives, to govern in their own right, at the end of the initial, but still incomplete, count.

 

Late yesterday, Labor had 67 seats, the Coalition 65, others 5 and 13 were still in doubt.

 

The Australian Electoral Commission had counted 78.2 per cent of the votes cast, at that point.

 

It will not resume the count until Tuesday, and the final result, for the House, will probably not be known until some time next week.

 

Mr Turnbull had made much of the need he saw for stability, during the late stages of the eight week election campaign, particularly after Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
However the swing to Labor, evident in Saturday’s election, showed that voters were more impressed with Mr Shorten’s warning that only Labor could be trusted to protect Australia’s health insurance system, Medicare.

 

Mr Turnbull had sought support for a plan centred on tax cuts for big companies and high income earners.

 

He had warned that a big spending Labor government could not be trusted to manage Australia’s economy responsibly.

 

And, at a news conference today, he welcomed a question from a reporter who asked him if the election result could threaten Australia’s TripleA credit rating.
He thanked the reporter and said: “This is why it is very important … for me to explain what is happening at the moment.”

 

“We are simply going through a process of completing a count,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

The Prime Minister also said that he could still form a new government, for the next three years.

 

However Bill Shorten greeted the initial count with a triumphal declaration.

 

He conceded that the public might not know the outcome of Saturday’s election : “…for some days to come.”

 

“But there is one thing for sure – the Labor Party is back.” he said.

 

But which of these two men is likely to be Australia’s Prime Minister over the next three years?

 

The answer to that question will depend, very much, on their relative telephone skills.

Sunday 3rd July 2016 - 8:09 am
Comments Off on “..Labor party is back” Shorten declares

“..Labor party is back” Shorten declares

by Alan Thornhill

“…The Labor party is back,” its leader, Bill  Shorten declared triumphantly, after the result of the first night’s count in yesterday’s Federal election was known.

 

However his conservative rival, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull was insisting that he could still form a government.

 

Independent observers, though, were saying that the results, so far, are so close that voters may still have to wait days to find out which of  these two men will be Australia’s Prime Minister for the next three years.

 

One thing is already certain, though.

 

Malcolm Turnbull has lost the gamble he took, when he called a double dissolution election, months early, in the hope of winning clear control of the Senate.

 

He did that in the hope of restoring peace in the building and construction industry, by reviving the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

 

The final outcome in the Senate will take even longer to decide than that in the House of  Representatives.

 

However one thing is already clear.

 

The new Senate will be peppered with independents and others who may well prove troublesome to the incoming  Prime Minister.

 

 

 

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Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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