by Alan Thornhill
The Australian economy is likely to see brighter times in the months ahead.
This is suggested by a Leading Index that was published today.
Senior Westpac economist, Matthew Hassan said that between December and May there had been a stabilisation in both equity markets and dwelling approvals.
He said the bank’s Leading Index rose by 0.2 points in May to 97.
However Mr Hassan said those improvements had been offset by both falls in both consumer expectations between December and May and aggregate hours worked.
“The Reserve Bank Board next meets on July 5,” Mr Hassan said.
The key considerations are still around the outlook for inflation, with the June quarter inflation report due on July 27.
“We expect no change in the cash rate and no substantive changes in the Governor’s statement accompanying the decision.
“However, it remains our assessment that the June quarter inflation read will reconfirm to the Board that, on a ‘no policy change’ basis, inflation is unlikely to return to the Bank’s 2-3 per cent target over the forecast horizon.
“And… another 25 basis point cut is necessary with that cut being delivered at the Board’s meeting on August 2”, Mr Hassan said.
by Alan Thornhill
The profound changes in the ways in which Australians now work are reflected in detailed figures the Bureau of Statistics published today.
Although they were for February last year, they paint a picture of a modern work scene which still exists today.
It is one which Australian workers, of previous generations would barely recognise.
Full employment was dominant back then.
Not any more.
The bureau reported that in February 2015, when its latest job Participation, Job Search and Mobility survey was conducted, 33 per cent of Australia’s working age population was not in the nation’s work-force.
It estimated then that of the civilian population aged 15 years and over 6.3 million people were not in the labor force, 835,900 were unemployed and 11.7 million were employed.
Of the 6.3 million people not in the labour force:
- 3.7 million (59 per cent were females)
- 1.3 million wanted to work (23 per cent% of females and 18 per cent of males); and
- 15 per cent were aged 15–24 years, 40 per cent were aged 25–64 years and 45 per cent were aged 65 years and over.
Of the 835,900 unemployed people::
- 444,600 (53 per cent) were males;
- 217,200 people had been looking for work for 1 year or more; and
- 21 per cent were aged 25-34.
Of the 11.7 million employed people::
- 10.6 million (91 per cent) were fully employed; and
- 1 million were underemployed.
Of the 1 million underemployed workers:
- 960,700 people who usually worked part-time, but would prefer more hours and were available to start work with more hours either in the reference week, or in the four weeks following the interview; and
- 75,100 usually worked full-time, but worked part-time hours in the reference week due to economic reasons For example, because, no work – or not enough work – was available, or because they had been stood down.
by Alan Thornhill
Bill Shorten sought to inspire Australian voters with a speech he gave today.
Acknowledging that the Labor party he leads polls more strongly among women than men, Mr Shorten opened his speech with a line that reverses an old favourite, of Australian politicians.
“Women and men of Australia,” he declared.
An edited version of his 5,000 word speech is reproduced below.
As expected, Mr Shorten concentrated on traditional Labor themes, health, education and jobs, while attacking the government’s “arrogance.”
And he warned that the Liberals pose a real threat to Medicare .
Mr Shorten said: “ We gather as one united party: ready to serve, ready to lead, ready for government.”
He declared that “a great future is within Australia’s reach” – and said he is “certain that Labor has the plans to grasp it.”
“Labor knows “… that this election can be won…”Mr Shorten said
“Mr Turnbull says he’s got this in the bag, he claims he’s already won it,” Mr Shorten added.
“I say to him – never underestimate Labor.
“You ain’t seen anything yet, has he?”
“… only a Labor Government will build a stronger economy and a fairer society, Mr Shorten said.
Only Labor would:-
*…. fund our schools and protect Medicare.
*….create jobs and build roads, rail and a proper National Broadband Network.
On aborigines, Mr Shorten said:-“I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I pay my respects to elders past and present,“…but let our respect travel past words into action.
“ because as long as a young Aboriginal man is more likely to go to jail than university, words are not enough. Action matters. ”
“Friends, our issues are starting to bite – please, keep up the great work, we count on all of you.
Mr Shorten thanked three previous Labor Prime Ministers, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard who attended his launch and mentioned Kevin Rudd who is overseas.
He said that under Labor “… Medicare stays.”
Mr Shorten also said: “We’ve got the best people, we’ve got the best policies and we’ve got the best plan to pay for them.”
He said Labor would be :” …accountable and responsible for every single dollar.”
It would deliver: “Only policies that we can fund, only policies our country can afford.
“We will not be a big spending government.
“We will be a government for the fair go, fully paid for.
“Bringing down the deficit each and every year.
Mr Shorten said: “… the difference in competing economic visions has never been sharper or starker:
“A Labor party investing in people, in productivity, in infrastructure and technology.
“And a Liberal party asking for three more years on the back of one bad idea.
“A $50 billion giveaway to big business, $30 billion of which goes straight overseas.
“This is not a plan for the Australian economy – it is foreign aid for foreign companies.
“Treasury has put a final figure on the economic benefits, such as they are.
“A growth dividend of 0.1 per cent a year.
“Zero. Point. One.
“$50 billion dollars for a benefit that rounds down to zero.
“But at least Mr Turnbull has already told us already how he is going to fill the void it that will leave in the Budget – a 15 per cent GST, on everything.
“Or ripping every single Commonwealth dollar out of every single government school.
“And letting the states loose to charge their own income tax.
“Make no mistake, if the Liberals win, we shouldn’t be worried about Mr Turnbull breaking his promises, we should be worried about him keeping his promises.
“Mr Turnbull’s plan, such as it is, means a $7.4 billion windfall for Westpac, ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank and NAB.
“Three out of four of these are under investigation for rigging the interest rates of Australians trying to save for a home, pay-off a mortgage or plan for a self-funded retirement.
Mr Shorten said: “The Australian economy needs a real jobs plan.”
And he said that was what Labor would provide. (see earlier story)
Mr Shorten also said: “… the two most important things for an economy in transition are: public investment in infrastructure and education.
‘Building and teaching.
“Labor will do both.
“We will turbo-charge Infrastructure and create a new ‘Concrete Bank’.
“We will clear away the market blockages that hold back our superannuation investing in good projects.
“We will build if given the opportunity by the Australian people, the Perth Metronet, AdeLINK, the Melbourne Metro and of course Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail.
“And we will build the Western Sydney Rail Line connecting fast growing communities.
“We’ll back this up with 15,000 new places for apprentices – of all ages – right across the nation.
“And we will clean-out the dodgy private colleges undermining vocational training in this country.
“Politics, as you understand, is about choices,” Mr Shorten said.
“We choose TAFE.
“We choose local content.
“We choose the apprenticeship system.”
“We choose renewable energy and Australian steel because we believe advanced manufacturing has a future in this country.”
On schools, Mr Shorten said: “We will build – and we will teach.
“And our future as a knowledge economy depends upon the National Broadband Network, “ Mr Shorten said.
“It’s vital to small businesses in the regions engaging in our region.”
But Mr Turnbull has made a horrible mess of the NBN.
The cost is now double what he promised – and it’s going to take as twice as long to build.
Australia’s ranking has collapsed from 30th to 60th in the world in global internet speeds.
“I suppose, this was the perfect preview for his time as Prime Minister.
“Over-promise, under-deliver and take forever to get to the point.
“Australia deserves so much better than this.
“A new Labor Government will connect up to 2 million more homes and businesses to a first-rate fibre National Broadband Network.
“Equality for women will be a national mission for my government,” Mr Shorten added.
“That would mean:-
A minimum of 18 weeks paid parental leave, guaranteed.
Better childcare, sooner – for 800,000 working families.
He said, ,too, that Family violence is not a family matter – it is a national disgrace.
Mr Shorten also said, Labor would provide “…will provide the leadership in the Parliament to deliver marriage equality within our first 100 days.”
And he added: “There is a hidden story in our country.
“Teenagers are taking days off school to attend the funerals of classmates who have taken their own life.
“Parents sitting at kitchen tables, numb with incomprehension, shattered by grief, trying to write a eulogy for their child. No parent should ever bury their child.
“Yet seven Australians die every day at their own hand.
“Every single day.
“We can do better than this.
“A new Labor Government will start by providing $72 million for 12 regional suicide prevention project, Mr Shorten said.
He said the election on July 2 would be “ a referendum on the future of Medicare.
“Medicare is the community standard, it’s the gold standard, it speaks to Australians about who we are,” he added.
“And Medicare costs Australia far less than other countries pay, and we get better care,” Mr Shorten said.
And he added:”The Liberals have given the Productivity Commission new riding instructions, to investigate privatising human services and Americanising Medicare.
“This is Mr Turnbull’s second strike on Medicare and we know he won’t stop, he won’t rest,” Mr Shorten added.
by Alan Thornhill
Bill Shorten says Labor will offer small business tax cuts to create new jobs.
The Labor leader said this policy had been designed to particularly help two groups that have often been finding it very hard to get work.
That is both younger and older workers.
He put the cost at $257 million and said it would help up to 30,000 Australians find a job each year.
But he said the cost of the tax cut would be fully offset from the existing wage subsidy program, which is not working as well as it should be.
So how would it work?
Mr Shorten said under Labor’s New Jobs Tax Cut, small businesses will be able to claim a tax deduction of up to $20,000 per worker to offset the wages of up to five new employees.
Businesses would be able to claim a 40 per cent deduction on top of the amount they can currently claim for their employees.
“Central to Labor’s positive plan to support small business is cutting red tape – making it easier and simpler for small business owners to support Australia’s economy and create jobs,” Mr Shorten said.
“This is a real jobs plan that offers a responsible tax cut to small businesses – the backbone of our economy,” he added.
To qualify for the deduction, the employees will need to be a net addition to the company’s average full-time equivalent staffing level for the previous year.
An employer will deduct 140 per cent of the wages expenses of a new employee when doing their accounts.
Mr Shorten said: “ Labor’s policy will be targeted to small businesses with turnover of less than $2 million which have been operating for more than two years.
“Importantly, the New Jobs Tax Cut will be available to businesses hiring Australians who face real barriers to finding work,” Mr Shorten said.
He said these would include:-
* Unemployed job seekers aged under 25 or over 55 and
* Parents or carers returning to work after more than six months away.
“Just like the previous Labor Government’s instant asset write-off, businesses will be able to claim the New Jobs Tax Cut as part of their regular tax return,” he said .
“ This minimises paperwork for busy employers and means they do not have to deal with yet another agency in order to help someone back into work,” Mr Shorten added.
Labor is arguing that its job creation scheme will be more effective – and much less expensive – than that being offered by the government.
That would cost $50 million over 10 years, mostly in tax cuts going to big companies.
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
The Australian economy – outside mining -is continuing to show signs of a steady recovery – as the July 2 elections approach, according to a new survey.
The National Australia’s monthly business survey for May, which has just been published, cautioned, though, that the full impact of this improvement is not yet showing up in the nation’s job market.
The bank’s Chief Economist, Alan Oster, said: “the Survey is suggesting further improvement for the non-mining sectors going into Q2, with some evidence that growth is becoming more broad-based”.
Mr Oster said business conditions had remained strong strong on the activity side.
However he added “…firms continue to be relatively restrained in terms of their demand for labour”.
“But most industries did record an improvement in business conditions for May.
“Service industries continue to lead the way, which now includes distributional services such as retail.
“But mining and construction remain quite weak.
Mr Oster said this was”partly a reflection of the ongoing downturn in spending on resource projects” Mr Oster added.
However, he noted too, that: “despite elevated business conditions, firms are reporting slightly lower levels of confidence.
The confidence index eased 2 points to +3 index points in May, pushing the index further below its long-run average.
And he added: “the RBA’s cut to interest rates did not help lift business confidence as we had hoped, even as sales activity continues to improve”.
He said, though, that “uncertainty around the upcoming election might be a factor here, but mixed results across industries suggest that other factors are at play”.
by Alan Thornhill
There has been a sceptical response to the Federal government’s offer to spend $1 billion to save the Great Barrier Reef.
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and his Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, made the offer official today, with a joint announcement in Queensland.
Mr Turnbull said the reef had long been “…a great passion for both Greg Hunt and myself.
“As one of his predecessors as Environment Minister I took a great interest in the Great Barrier Reef years ago and always have done,” the Prime Minister said.
“Now what we are announcing today is the largest single investment in protecting the reef in particular in addressing these land side problems of run off,” he added.
“This is to allocate a $1 billion fund from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which will be available for projects that will both reduce emissions, use clean energy and, of course, protect the ree,” Mr Turnbull said.
But Labor’s environment spokesman, Mark Butler, was not convinced.
“Malcolm Turnbull claims he has made the biggest ever investment in the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Butler said.
“But it is really just the biggest ever con job.
“It provides no new investment.
“It is just a redirection of existing resources.
“This is spin and political desperation on a grand scale.
“For three years we have seen the Abbott-Turnbull Government duck, weave and avoid doing anything meaningful to address climate change,” Mr Butler said.
The Greens and a citizens’ organisation shared that view.
The Deputy Leader of the Greens, Queensland Senator Larissa Waters, said: “this is a sneaky attempt by the Turnbull Government to try to distract from the damage it is doing to the Reef by approving coal mines to export out through the Reef and cook its corals.
“All of this money is taken from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the government hasn’t specified how much will go to clean energy and how much will go to water quality,” Senator Waters added.
The Solar Citizen’s organisation was also unimpresse3d.
“No matter what they try and tell the Australian public, this government has no coherent plan for the shift to clean renewable power beyond 2020.
“These sort of politically driven, piecemeal policies will end up with us responding to emergencies rather t saidhan building a decent plan for our future energy needs,” Claire O’Rourke, National Director of Solar Citizens.
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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