by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott told Liberal party delegates today that his government is “repaying the faith” that voters placed in it at the last Federal election.
Addressing the New South Wales Liberal Party’s State Council in Sydney, the Prime Minister said: “I can tell you that we are repaying the faith that you placed in us – that the Australian people placed in us – in September of 2013. ”
He named – and praised – several members of his ministry, then said:-
“We went to that election with a very clear message.
“We said we’d scrap the carbon tax, we’d stop the boats, we’d build the roads of the 21st century and we’d get the budget back under control.
“And that is exactly what we have done and what we are doing.
“The carbon tax has gone – and every Australian household is better off to the tune of $550 a year.
“The mining tax has gone – and Australia is once more a safe place to invest.
“No less than $1 trillion – $1 trillion, $1,000 billion – worth of new projects have been given environmental approval since the election by this Government and there could be no more clearer demonstration of the fact that this country is well and truly open for business than that.
“The boats have stopped.
“We all know what was happening under our predecessors.
“Under the Rudd-Gillard government, more than 50,000 illegal arrivals by sea, almost 1,000 boats.
“Shamefully, more than 1,000 deaths at sea.
“And yes, over $11 billion worth of border protection budget blow-outs.
“Well, I can say that under this Government, as far as we know, there have been no deaths at sea and for almost 12 months.
“There have been no boats whatsoever.
“We will keep this country safe.
“And keeping our country safe starts with keeping our borders secure.
“And that is exactly what this Government has done.
“That is exactly what this Government will always do,” Mr Abbott said.
by Alan Thornhill
Like all savants, our economists study signs.
They saw some bad ones, last week, in the latest capex figures, published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
These showed new private capital spending fell by 4.4 per cent, in the first three months of this year, to a level 5.3 per cent below that seen 12 months earlier.
Disturbingly, they also showed that this kind of spending – in the new financial year – which dawns on Monday this week – will be 24.6 per cent below that seen in the old financial year – on which the sun sets this evening.
Already, some economists have warned that we are in a pre-recessionary pit.
That’s what they see in our immediate future.
But they won’t stop there.
Paid-up members of the Economists’ Coven will be also be watching very closely, on Wednesday, when the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases its national growth figures for the first quarter of this year.
The devil, as always, will be in the detail.
Westpac economist, Andrew Hanlan, has already been studying the prospects.
He is expecting a “… fourth consecutive quarter of subdued growth.”
Mr Hanlan noted that the incomes of business, households and government all “remained under pressure” early this year,
“Australia’s terms of trade fell by 1.2 per cent in the quarter, to be 10 per cent lower over the year,” he said.
That’s the kind of thing that happens, when the prices we receive for our major exports, like iron ore and coal, fall as sharply as they have over the past year.
“Nominal GDP, crunched by the sharply lower terms of trade, is forecast to grow by 0.8 per cent (in the quarter) and 1.5 per cent (year),” he added.
“Key domestic headwinds are public demand, associated with budget pressures and business investment, as mining investment declines from record highs.”
The brightest star, in this dark economic dawn, is the building industry.
But home prices in Sydney, have been rising so fast that the Reserve Bank has been looking at measures beyond traditional monetary policies, to curb them.
So have other Australians.
Very few turned out, though, for a planned weekend protest in Sydney, designed to discourage rich Chinese investors from “inflating” Harbour City property prices.
Their protest that had a distinct whiff of nasty racist attitudes about it.
The Chinese, themselves, have a few wise words, for situations like this.
Their traditional curse – “may you live in interesting times” – is not least among them.
But what does the government have to say about all this?
And, more importantly, what is it doing?
The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, is fond of saying that job creation, under the Abbott government, is proceeding at three times the rate seen under the previous Labor government.
That’s as may be.
But it is also true that job creation still isn’t keeping pace with population growth.
So unemployment levels are rising.
Young Australians, in particular, are suffering disproportionately in the nation’s weak job market.
The government is planning to boost the economy, by expanding its infrastructure investment program.
But as the previous government found, with its home insulation scheme, stimulus measures, however well justified, can be tricky.
Mr Hockey has been scathing, in this regard, in his comments on the Victorian government’s decision to scrap the proposed East-West link, in Melbourne.
He told Federal parliament, only last week, that this State government’s obduracy, will cost no less than 6,000 jobs.
But Mr Hockey is not easily deterred.
In a statement last Friday, he proudly announced that the Federal government had appointed a British executive, Christopher Heathcote, to head the Sydney based Global Infrastructure Hub.
“As President of the G20, Australia put infrastructure investment at the centre of an agreement to lift global growth by 2 per cent by 2018,” Mr Hockey explained.
He said the Hub would “help unlock $2 trillion in investment and create millions of new jobs.”
Those jobs, of course, won’t all be in Australia.
But Mr Hockey, clearly, is hoping that we will get our fair share.
Providing, of course, that State Labor governments – in places like Victoria and Queensland – which Mr Hockey regards as uncooperative – don’t stand in the way – again.
by Alan Thornhill
Labor has welcomed Nissan Australia’s commitment to keeping its casting and parts manufacturing plant open in Australia well beyond 2020.
The Shadow Industry Minister, Kim Carr, noted reports that Nissan would continue to manufacture from its Dandenong South facility after it was decided the site would supply parts to 38 models internationally including the Nissan Leaf electric car which is currently touring Melbourne.
The reports shocked the automotive manufacturing industry.
They confirmed the future of Nissan’s casting and parts factory is secure “well beyond 2020.”
“Manufacturing is far from dead in Australia and we’re proof of this,” Peter Jones, the managing director of Nissan Casting Australia said.
“Amid the turmoil that’s been reported about our country’s manufacturing sector, especially in the local automotive industry, Nissan’s been working away in the background.”
Senator Carr said:”This commitment from Nissan demonstrates their confidence in the skills and expertise in Australia’s auto industry.
“It is a huge vote of confidence from a major international investor.”
Senator Carr said the government’s automotive industry policies are shortsighted.
“Despite the efforts of the Abbott Government to drive auto investment and jobs offshore, Australia’s auto industry remains a great repository of manufacturing capability and design skills,” he said.
“These automotive jobs, skills and capabilities are what we must now strive to retain.
“The Senate is currently holding an inquiry into the future of Australia’s automotive industry. Labor welcomes public debate on the future of the industry’s size and the scope of its capabilities,” he added.
“In Government, Labor co-investments of almost $4 million through the Green Car Innovation Fund and the Clean Technologies Food and Foundries Program enabled Nissan to win a global contract to manufacture complex powertrain castings for Nissan’s Leaf and make major upgrades to its facilities in Dandenong South to become more energy efficient,” Senator Carr said.
“Nissan’s announcement demonstrates that when the right decisions are made and governments actually have a plan for the manufacturing industry as Labor did, firms like Nissan continue to thrive into the future, to create new jobs or ensure coordinated support is provided for the tens of thousands of workers who are currently employed directly and indirectly in vehicle manufacturing.”
“Labor will fight to keep high-skill high-wage automotive sector jobs in Australia and stop the Abbott Government sending them offshore,” Senator Carr said.
There has been no response, so far, from the government.
by Alan Thornhill
Bill Shorten has now sketched the policies he will take to the next Federal election.
Addressing Labor’s National Policy Forum in Sydney today, Mr Shorten set out several goals, saying:-
“We’ve put forward a costed and tested plan to close tax loopholes and crack down on profit-shifting to make sure that multinational companies pay their fair share.”
He said this would ensure:”…a reasonable, equitable revenue measure, raising more than $7 billion over the next decade.
“We’ve called for a national crisis summit on family violence, and promised to convene one within our first 100 days, as part of our determination to ensure every Australian woman is safe in her home, not at the mercy of a postcode lottery of uncertain support,” Mr Shorten added.
And he said:” we’ve offered a constructive proposal for building the next generation of submarines here in Australia – an investment in our national security and our high-skill manufacturing sector.”
The Labor leader said, too, that:” we’ve offered a way forward for our renewable energy sector –providing certainty for investment and jobs in an industry where we should be using our natural and competitive advantages.
“We’ve worked co-operatively on national security, striking the right balance between the liberty of the individual and the safety of our people.
“We’ve urged faster progress on Constitutional Recognition for the first Australians, including a national gathering of Indigenous leaders to build consensus for change.
“And we have committed to a new community-centred focus on reducing Aboriginal incarceration, including a new justice target in Closing the Gap.”
Mr Shorten said his party had now reached the end of the consultation phase, on its policies.
But it would be calling on its members to think deeply, in the months ahead, on the development of its policies.
by Alan Thornhill
The Abbott government’s “incompetence and dishonesty” has “almost destroyed” Australia’s renewable energy industry, Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, says.
In a joint statement with his Shadow Environment Minister, Mark Butler, today Mr Shorten said this was confirmed by figures the Bureau of Statistics published yesterday.
The two men said:” more than 2000 clean energy jobs have been lost since 2011-12.”
And they blamed this on:”…the uncertainty caused by the Liberal Government’s broken promise on the Renewable Energy Target.
“Employment in renewables has slipped 15 per cent since it reached a peak of almost 15,000 full-time workers under Labor, when it increased by 44 per cent,” they added.
So far, the government has not responded to these charges.
“The biggest fall in clean energy jobs was in Queensland, which has lost 1300 jobs (34 per cent) since 2011-12,” they said.
They noted, too, that the Bureau had warned that more job losses could be expected.
They said the the Business Council of Australia, Australian Industry Group, Clean Energy Council, Labor, unions and the finance sector all want an end to the uncertainty.
“Since Tony Abbott was elected, investment in Australia’s renewable energy industry has fallen 88 per cent,” they added.
That had occurred while investment in renewables – around the world – rose by 16 per cent.
“Labor has always been guided by the science when it comes to tackling climate change, which why we established Australia’s Renewable Energy Target to drive investment in clean energy alternatives,” they added.
by Alan Thornhill
Employment in Australia’s renewable energy industries has fallen sharply over recent times.
The Bureau of Statistics reported today that direct full time employment in these industries fell by 15 per cent – or 2,300 jobs – between a peak – of 14,890 – in 2011-12 and 2013-14.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, once described predictions of harmful climate change as “absolute crap,” a view he has since moderated.
He was elected in September 2013.
However the Bureau reported that Australians still held 12,590 full time jobs in the nation’s renewable energy industries in 2013-14.
It said this figure is an increase of 3,840 – or 44 per cent – on the employment level of 8,750 recorded for 2009-10.
by Alan Thornhill
Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited insists that it is paying a “substantial” amount of tax on its operations in Australia.
In its submission to the Senate Economics Committee, its Chief Executive Officer, Julian Clarke, said News Limited had paid a total of $417.3 million in tax, over the past five years.
This includes withholding tax.
The Committee, which met in Sydney today, is inquiring into allegations of large scale corporate tax evasion and tax minimisation.
Mr Clarke also said News Limited employs “close to 9,000 Australians and paid an additional $900 million in Australians goods and services, fringe benefit and payroll taxes.
He said it provides 15 million Australians with news and information services each week.
A weekend report, in rival 10 Fairfax newspapers, said $4.5 billion had been “siphoned off” from News Limited operations in Australia “virtually tax” free, over the past two years.
A union based organisation, United Voice, told the Committee today that almost a third of the nation’s top 200 firms pay an effective tax rate of 10 per cent or less.
Australia’s corporate tax rate is a flat 30 per cent.
David O’Byrne of United Voice told the Committee that many wealthy corporations are now paying lower rates of tax than their employees.
The Tax Commissioner, Chris Jordan, who also appeared before the Committee today, spoke of disputes the Tax Office now has with several companies, particularly in the communications industry.
“We have 12 significant, deep audits going on right now with 12 major tech companies, challenging what they’ve been putting to us over the years under existing laws,” Mr Jordan said.
But he refused to name the companies involved.
Three global IT giants, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook are also listed to appear before the Committee today.
The Committee will continue its work with hearings in both Canberra and Sydney later this week.
In a statement this afternoon, the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, said:”this Government is working hard to ensure multinationals pay taxes in Australia on the income they earn here.
“Under our leadership, G20 Finance Ministers will continue to tackle base erosion and profit shifting and increase transparency to crack down on tax evasion.
“We have also taken a leadership role in the automatic exchange of tax information, recently signing an agreement with Switzerland, based on the OECD’s common reporting standard.
“We are working closely with other tax administrations, mapping the global operations of multinationals operating in the digital economy.”
Mr Hockey said:”the ATO has strong investigative powers to ensure that multinational companies operating in Australia are paying their fair share of tax.
“With additional resources, the ATO is undertaking more extensive inquiries and audits of multinational companies considered a risk to Australian tax collections.
“The ATO is embedded in the offices of dozens of multinationals operating in Australia.
“By 30 June 2015, the ATO will have conducted around 200 reviews of the highest risk multinationals.
“We need to promote and support this work, not put it at risk,” the Treasurer said.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government is seeking submissions on Australia’s next greenhouse gas emissions reduction target after 2020.
In a statement today, the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, said:” we are determined to reduce emissions – but without a carbon tax and without destroying jobs.”
He said all countries have agreed to propose their national post-2020 emissions reduction target before the United Nations climate change conference in Paris in December 2015.
“This government is committed to tackling climate change through direct action measures and will announce Australia’s post-2020 emission reduction target in mid-2015,” Mr Abbott said.
“Today, the Government has released an issues paper inviting views on the post-2020 target.
“The issues paper provides the context for setting Australia’s post-2020 target and the key considerations that will inform the Government’s decision-making process.
“We recognise the importance of consulting widely on this issue, and the views of the Australian community will be considered in setting the next target,” he added.
Mr Abbott said the issues paper and further information on the submissions process can be found at www.dpmc.gov.au.
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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