by Alan Thornhill
The Reserve Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens, is warning that Australia could be headed for an economic downturn.
Mr Stevens told The Wall Street Journal that this country has been”building up this myth of 22 years of uninterrupted growth.”
But he added: “We would be foolish to think that we have found the secret of completely eliminating the (business) cycle, because we haven’t.”
However his predictions were not catastrophic.
“… if we are sensible and prudent and just a bit lucky, we can have cyclical downturns that are not so deep,” Mr Stevens said.
“It is the deep ones that are damaging,” he added.
“It is the deep ones that cast a long shadow on unemployment for years after,” Mr Steven said.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, left a message for the Australian people today, before he flew to South Africa, for the funeral of Nelson Mandela.
After acknowledging, on social media, that Mr Mandela had been “one of the great figures of the last century” Mr Abbott appealed directly to the public for support, in his campaign to abolish the carbon tax.
In his recorded message, the Prime Minister said this is: “… the last sitting week of the year.
“It’s the week when the Senate will consider the legislation to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax.”
On present indications, Mr Abbott’s bills, to abolish the carbon tax, appear headed for defeat in the Senate, at the hands of Labor and the Greens.
If that happens, the first step towards a double dissolution of Federal parliament – and fresh elections – will have been taken.
But a double dissolution is still far from likely.
Mr Abbott could avoid a fresh election, quite simply.
All he has to do is wait until July 1, when the new Senators, elected on September 7, will take their plush red seats in the upper house of parliament.
Mr Abbott will then have a good chance of getting the numbers he needs in the Senate to abolish both taxes.
Especially with the support of the Palmer United Party.
Will he wait, though?
Patience is not Mr Abbott’s most conspicuous virtue.
But the crash through, or crash alternative, of seeking a double dissolution, won’t be all that attractive, either.
Especially as recent opinion polls suggest that Mr Abbott might well lose an early election.
The prospective gain isn’t that great, either.
After all, Section 57 of the Constitution is blunt about that.
It says a disputed bill has to be blocked twice in the Senate – at intervals at least three months apart – to justify a double dissolution election.
So waiting would be a wise choice.
But, to misquote Shakespeare: “Some men are born wise; some achieve wisdom and some have wisdom thrust upon them.”
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott was in a forgiving mood today, after two Indonesians were caught trying to smuggle galahs and parrots out of Australia.
The Indonesians, both military personnel, were part of an air crew that came to Australia to take possession of an old Hercules military aircraft, that Australia has given to their country.
They were caught, at Richmond air base, loading five galahs and two parrots into the plane, hidden in bags.
Two more parrots were found when the Hercules landed at Darwin, to refuel.
Australian Customs officers questioned the two Indonesians, but no charges were laid.
Mr Abbott told reporters in Adelaide that the investigation had been appropriate.
But he was forgiving.
“From time to time Australians do things in Indonesia,” the Prime Minister said.
“And it shouldn’t be a complete surprise that occasionally it’s a two-way street.”
by Alan Thornhill
Bills to abolish the carbon tax have now passed the lower house of Federal parliament, the House of Representatives.
They will now go to the upper house, the Senate, where they are likely to be blocked by a combination of Labor and Green votes.
The lower house vote, though, was a clear victory for the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
Mr Abbott said afterwards that this was an important vote for Australian families – because the repeal of the Carbon Tax will create a stronger economy with more jobs and will save families $550 a year on average.
“The people have voted against the Carbon Tax and now the House of Representatives has joined them,” Mr Abbott said.
“I want the repeal of the Carbon Tax to be passed by Christmas – and to give Australian families and businesses the help they need,” the Prime Minister added.
The Climate Institute reported earlier today that the old laws, with a carbon tax, would be six times as effective, in reducing pollution, as the direct action plan the government is proposing.
That consists mainly of subsidising big polluters.
by Alan Thornhill
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, declared today that the Federal government of “ignoring the wellbeing of Australian children,” as it moves to abolish the carbon tax.
Mr Shorten also warned that the Abbott government will make Australia’s “mum and dad taxpayers” subsidise big polluters under its “direct action” plan to tackle carbon pollution.
“They will risk the economic and environmental wellbeing of your children and mine with their refusal to act on the science,” Mr Shorten said.
He argued, too, that the government has no plan to cap emissions.
“Not only do they have no cap, but they will make mum and dad taxpayers in Australia pay their hard-earned taxes to large polluters.
“That is the only idea they have,” Mr Shorten said.
He labelled Mr Abbott a climate change “denialist” and said he had described the issue as “absolute crap.”
Parliament was debating 11 bills that Mr Abbott has introduced to abolish the carbon tax and for related matters.
Mr Shorten has said previously that Labor will agree to abolish the tax from July 1 next year if the government agrees to replace it with an emissions trading scheme.
However the government is planning to introduce what it calls a “direct action” plan, based largely on subsidies to big polluters.
Mr Shorten attacked that plan.
“It represents their well-known disregard for science,” Mr Shorten said.
“ It demonstrates their willingness to put short-term politics ahead of long-term national interests.”
“Today in the legislation we are seeing being debated, Tony Abbott is lining up with the militia of climate change denialists,” Mr Shorten declared.
“And he is taking the Coalition government with him.”
And in Sydney today a cinema roof has collapsed at Hornsby Westfield after a severe storm cell hit the suburb, bringing down trees, crushing cars and closing roads.
Contains: This article contains a video.
by Alan Thornhill
“Australia has always had bushfires,” fireman David Livingtone declared.
“But our parents didn’t see anything like this.
Addressing a climate change rally in the national capital, Canberra, Mr Lvingstone described Australia’s recent fires as “some of the most dangerous in our history.”
These have included unseasonally early – and devastatingly widespread – fires in the Blue Mountains region of Australia’s most heavily populated State, New South Wales.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 2,000, at one of at least 100 similar rallies throughout Australia, another speaker, spoke also of the catastrophic typhoon, Haiyan – which struck the Philippines – and recalled that scientists had warned, 25 years ago, that we would soon be seeing such events.
“And it is happening now,” he said.
The crowds – at rallies throughout the nation – exceeded an estimated 40,000.
Typhoon Haiyan, which had devastated the Philippines just days before, with the loss of almost 4,000 lives, added urgency to the rallies.
Organisers declared that the aim of these demonstrations was to “turn the Prime Minister’s weathervane in the right direction,” on climate change.
Australia’s newly elected Conservative Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is an arch climate change sceptic, who once famously declared the whole issue to be “crap.”
Although he had moderated his language since then, Mr Abbott has not retreated from his core belief.
In this, he differs sharply from his Conservative counterpart in Britain, David Cameron, who is making no secret of his concern about the warnings scientists are giving, on climate change.
Mr Abbott, by contrast, has abolished the Climate Authority set up by the previous Labor government and is presiding over hundreds of forced retrenchments at the nation’s premier scientific organisation, the CSIRO.
He has also abolished the post of Science Minister.
Mr Abbott has confirmed his Coalition’s policy of cutting Australia’s carbon emissions by 5 per cent, by 2020.
But his “direct action” plan, to reach that target, has attracted no visible support from scientists, as it consists largely of subsidising the nation’s big polluters.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, will ask Federal parliament today to abolish the “toxic” carbon tax.
He intends to introduce a bill, designed to achieve this objective, shortly after 9am.
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, says he will support abolition of the carbon tax, if the government agrees to replace it with an emissions trading scheme.
But Mr Abbott says he opposes both fixed and floating carbon taxes.
He is planning, instead, to replace the carbon tax with a “direct action” policy to tackle carbon pollution.
That involves subsidising big polluters.
The Prime Minister says a carbon tax is simply “socialism masquerading as environmentalism.”
Mr Shorten says Mr Abbott’s direct action policy won’t work.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, said today that “everyone’s bills would be lower” if “electricity Bill” Shorten would pass a bill Mr Abbott himself will introduce into parliament, to scrap the carbon tax.
Mr Abbott was speaking to reporters in Canberra, in the first day of a new session of Parliament.
This is the first session he has faced as Prime Minister.
Today’s proceedings, though, are essentially ceremonial.
However Mr Abbott confirmed again today, that the first business he will bring into the new parliament would be bills to scrap both the carbon tax and the mining tax.
He confirmed, also, that he will not accept Labor’s attempt to put a lower cap on government debt, than the government, itself is proposing.
Mr Abbott said Treasury’s advice had been that this was the best way to deal with the debt situation that now confronts the government.
He said this would also be the best way to put the past, that the previous government had left, behind us.
“From tomorrow, the legislative agenda of the new government will be dealt with by the parliament,” Mr Abbott said.
He described his bill, to abolish the carbon tax, as “an absolutely vital piece of legislation.”
Mr Abbott also confirmed that his government remains committed to its target of a 5 per cent reduction in carbon emissions.
“We want to stand lightly on the earth,” he said.
However the Prime Minister said he would not move towards a more ambitious target, before other countries did.
And he said there is no sign of that happening.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Thursday December 12
Australia’s unemployment rate rises slightly to 5.8 per cent in November 2013 (seasonally adjusted):ABS
The Dow Jones index fell 129 points to 15,844
The High Court upholds a Commonwealth government challenge to an ACT law permitting same sex marriages. Some 30 couples will now find their marriages void.
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