Browsing articles in "Environment"
Saturday 15th October 2016 - 6:02 pm
Comments Off on Australia’s chances improve

Australia’s chances improve

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government is expecting no more than moderate economic growth in the short to medium term.

But its economists, like those in the private sector, have been looking – with some interest – at the higher than expected prices Australian miners have beeen receiving for their coal, over recent times.

As well they might.

For if the higher prices last, government revenues will increase, and the job of getting the Federal budget back into order will become much easier.

However, no-one is singing in the basement of the Federal Treasury, just yet.

Economists, working for the National Australia Bank, have also been studying this situation very closely.

And, in an an assessment published last week, they concluded that Australians can still look forward to moderate economic growth – and possibly some further rate cuts.

However there are also some risks in sight.

They said their real forecasts for economic growth ( GDP) “are largely unchanged’.

They have been left at 3.0 per cent in 2016, easing to 2.8 per cent in 2017 and 2.6 per cent in 2018.

But they added: “the unexpectedly high settlement for Q4 coking coal prices however will provide a boost to Australia’s terms of trade, nominal GDP and government revenues.

They were not overwhelmed by those higher prices just yet, though.

“…this is unlikely to be sustained,” they said.

“And we retain our view that the recent surge in coal prices reflects short-term supply constraints and government initiatives offshore which will not continue,” they added.

So the real question now is just how long these higher prices will last.

How long will the surge be sustained?

Well, at least, we might say that Australia’s chances are looking better than they have for some time.

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Monday 15th August 2016 - 7:46 pm
Comments Off on Whale nursery “at risk” environmentalists warn

Whale nursery “at risk” environmentalists warn

by Alan Thornhill

 

The world’s most important  Southern Right whale nursery will threatened if BP is allowed to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, environmentalists say.

 

The Wilderness Society said the South Australian government had “finally admitted” that this risk is real.

 

The society’s South Australian Director Peter Owen this was confirmed when  the State’s Transport Department had updated its South Australian Marine Spill Contingency Action Plan.

 

This had been done to match an increased risk of spills resulting from from oil exploration in the Bight.

 

 

Mr Owen said the department had finally admitted that:-

 

* oil drilling “will significantly increase the risk to South Australia

 

* The spill could affect all of southern Australia’s coast, from WA across to Victoria and Tasmania and

*BP plans to drill in Commonwealth marine park’s benthic (sea floor) protection zone

 

Mr Owen also said:   “The Bight’s pristine waters are home to 36 species of whales and dolphins, including the world’s most important southern right whale nursery.

 

The Bight is also home to     ”…many humpback, sperm, blue and beak whales,” Mr Owen said.

 

 

“The Bight also supports sea lions, seals, great white sharks, giant cuttlefish, some of Australia’s most important fisheries and migratory seabirds that Australia has international obligations to protect,”  he added.

 

 

“Not only does BP’s oil drilling threaten these amazing creatures.

 

” BP wants to drill in Australia’s most biologically significant sea floor, the Great Australian Bight’s benthic protection zone,” he warned.

 

“The original Commonwealth marine park’s benthic protection zone was designed to protect the huge variety of creatures that live on the Bight’s sea floor, including sea urchins, sea squirts, starfish, shellfish, sponges and lace coral. The Bight has the highest levels of benthic biodiversity and endemism anywhere in Australia, more than in the Great Barrier Reef,” he added.

Wednesday 3rd August 2016 - 9:47 pm
Comments Off on PM confronts banks

PM confronts banks

by Alan Thornhill

Malcolm Turnbull directly challenged Australia’s big banks today, saying they should pass on the rate cut the Reserve Bank announced earlier this week in full, or explain why.

 

So far the banks have been passing on about half of the 0.25 per centage point cut.

 

That has left families with $300,000 mortgages some $20 a month out of pocket.

 

The Prime Minister said Australia had needed a period of economic transition after its huge mining construction boom.

 

“That’s why we have the big trade export deals, the big deals, the big free trade deals,” he said.

 

However the shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen disagreed.

 

He said the government was simply “chest beating” on the rate cut.

 

So, this is a Government which is being exposed for a lack of economic leadership, for a lack of economic plan,” Mr Bowen said.

 

He said the government had no plan to increase investment in the non-mining sector, to ensure that we have jobs for the future. “

 

Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are simply not up to the job,” Mr Bowen said.

Saturday 23rd July 2016 - 6:20 pm
Comments Off on Shorten names his shadows

Shorten names his shadows

by Alan Thornhill

The main appointments Mr Shorten made to his new ministry and cabinet include:-

 

Deputy Opposition Leader and shadow minster for education Tanya Plibersek.

 

Shadow foreign affairs minister, and Senate Opposition Leader Penny Wong.

 

Shadow special minister of state and Deputy Senate Opposition Leader, Stephen Conroy

 

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen

 

Shadow minister for families and social services Jenny Macklin

 

Shadow minister for the environment and water Tony Burke

 

Shadow minister for climate change and energy Mark Butler

 

Shadow minister for defence Richard Marles

 

Shadow minister for finance Jim Chalmers

 

Shadow minister for employment and workplace relations Brendan O’Connor

 

Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus QC

 

Shadow minister for immigration and border protection Shayne Newman

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.

 

 

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.

Tuesday 28th June 2016 - 6:10 pm
Comments Off on Government plans a $1.1 billion crackdown on welfare

Government plans a $1.1 billion crackdown on welfare

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government is aiming to save $1.1 billion a year, by targeting  “leakage, waste and abuse” in the welfare system.

 

However the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, who announced this crackdown today, said people who are entitled to welfare payments would continue to get them.

 

He was announcing the Coalition’s financial targets, for the three years following the July 2 election.

 

However the Greens ridiculed Mr Morrison’s statement, saying he was urging that Australia’s social security system be automated and upgraded even though its staff cannot even answer their  phone  calls.

 

Senator Rachel Siewert – the Greens spokesperson on Community Services – said Mr Morrison is   advocating that Australia’s social security system be “automated and upgraded” when his staff cannot even answer their phones.

 

“After 22 million missed calls last year amongst other issues, there are many Australian’s accessing income support of some form, be it Family Tax Benefit, Paid Parental Leave, Disability Support Pension, Youth Allowance, Newstart, Carers Allowance, who feel extremely frustrated,” Senator Siewert said.

 

“The missed calls are just the tip of the iceberg,” she added.

Monday 27th June 2016 - 9:17 am
Comments Off on PM’s speech: the lustre and bluster

PM’s speech: the lustre and bluster

by Alan Thornhill

Anlysis

 

 

 

Malcolm Turnbull’s policy speech yesterday was a polished performance.

 

He managed to suggest, for example, that something very like the Brexit disaster could well sink Australia, too, if we don’t vote the right way on July 2.

 

Without actually saying so.

 

So is there a danger, in his message that might not be immediately apparent?

 

Arguably.

 

Is the lustre, of his carefully crafted message, for example, brighter than its bluster?

 

The Prime Minister assured voters, constantly, throughout his speech, that his Coalition has a plan to deal with all eventualities, that might arise over the next three years.

 

Without saying, too specifically, what it was

 

He also boasted that some 300,000 new jobs had been created, on his government’s watch.

 

Without mentioning that most of them are part time positions, with pay rates that don’t cover grocery bills

 

This has left many Australians, particularly the young and the old, without a place in Australia’s modern work-force

 

So it might well be worth looking again at just what the Turnbull forces are planning to do, as well as what Mr Turnbull, himself, is actually saying.

 

Tax cuts, both for Australians on high incomes – and the big corporates – are at the heart of his plan.

 

It may well be worth remembering, at this point, that much of the vote for Britain’s exit, from the EU, came from poor areas, in Britain’s north.

 

That is  from the very people who have suffered most, over the years, from the austerity that came with Thatcherism, and its successors.

 

Eminent economists, like America’s Paul Krugman are not impressed by arguments that rising wealth for the rich will produce more jobs for the poor.

 

Krugman says that’s like relying on “the austerity fairy” to overcome unemployment.

 

However that argument still appeals, even if its strongest appeal is to those who benefit most from it.

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Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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