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Tuesday 28th June 2016 - 7:25 pm
Comments Off on Bill Shorten sets his “markers”

Bill Shorten sets his “markers”

by Alan Thornhill

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, set out his objectives for a Labor government after July 2, in his final speech of the current campaign to the National Press Club in Canberra today.

 

He said:   “We are setting our markers for the Australia of 2030.”

 

These were:-

 

  • Strong, universal, affordable Medicare
  • A school system back in the top 5 in the world
  • 50 per cent renewable energy
  • A first-rate, fibre NBN, putting us at the centre of the Asian Century
  • Revitalising advanced manufacturing and apprenticeships
  • Building the nation building, productive infrastructure unclogging our cities and joining our economic operations
  • 3 per cent of our GDP dedicated to science, research and technology
  • 300,000 more women in work
  • Halving the national suicide rate, and
  • Reducing the rates of ovarian cancer.

 

He said all  of this would be  matched with an economic and fiscal plan for the next decade, ” to fully-fund our investments in the future.”

 

This would mean: “Delivering the needed structural savings and tax reforms that will bring the budget back to balance in the same year as our opponents forecast, and build stronger, more sustainable surpluses in the years that follow.

 

“Achieving these goals over the next decade means starting work next week.

 

“My team and I have a clear set of priorities for our first 100 days.
“A new Labor government will hit the ground running:

–    Offering certainty to Arrium in South Australia – and protecting jobs in Laverton, Rooty Hill and Acacia Ridge

–    Setting up our transition fund to support 200,000 automotive supply chain jobs

–    Developing the Financing Mandate for our new $10 billion Concrete Bank, so we can get private investment flowing into public infrastructure

–    Drawing up the terms of reference and appointing a Royal Commissioner to investigate the rip-offs, scams and credit card interest rate rorts in the banking sector

–    And convening a National Crisis Summit on Family Violence, an assembly of the frontline: counsellors, law enforcement, community legal centres, state governments and – most importantly – survivors.

 

 

These are the  people who know, better than anyone, what is wrong with our system and what we need to do to end family violence.

 

“Underpinning all of this – our long-term objectives and our immediate plans for action – will be an old-fashioned focus on good public policy.

 

“A careful and considered approach – recognising that government is a most serious business, a long-term policy institution.

 

He said a Labor government would be “Dealing honestly with the challenges we face and being upfront about our plans.”

 

 

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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.

Sunday 26th June 2016 - 3:23 pm
Comments Off on PM urges Australians to vote for “stability”

PM urges Australians to vote for “stability”

by Alan Thornhill

Malcolm Turnbull says:  “the shockwaves in the past 48 hours from Britain’s vote to exit the European Union are a sharp reminder of the volatility in the global economy.”

Delivering his policy speech in Sydney for the July 2 elections, the Prime Minister also spoke of the need for stable majority government, experienced economic leadership and a national economic plan.

An edited copy of  his 4,000 word speech is reproduced below.

After praising senior Liberals who attended the launch, Mr Turnbull said Australia needs a national economic plan  which “recognises the nature of our times – both the opportunities and challenges – and gives us the resilience we need to succeed.”

“Only the Liberal National Coalition can deliver that plan, that security, that leadership,” he added.

“Everything we seek to achieve, all of our hopes, our dreams depend on strong economic growth, “ Mr Turnbull said.

In a strong economy, business is  confident and  prepared to risk investing, expanding and hiring.”

Mr Turnbull said:  “Our business tax cuts encourage small and medium businesses to do just that.

“A strong economy means a mum whose kids are now at school and wants to work a few more days, or work full time, will have plenty of opportunities to do so,” Mr Turnbull said.

“And our childcare reforms will make it easier for her to do so too,” he added.

“It means that young men and women who have left school and are looking for a job will find an employer who is hiring and is happy to give them a start.”

“Our PaTH program with job training and internships will provide additional support to youth employment,”Mr Turnbull added.

A strong economy means we can fund our Innovation and Science Agenda to ensure our kids learn the digital skills of the 21st century, our research is commercialised to create jobs here at home and investors support start-up companies.

A strong economy means that senior Australians know their children will be in good jobs, their investments will deliver better returns and that Government will have growing revenues to support their pensions and health care.

It means that the farmer is getting much better prices for his cattle and can afford to hire a local contractor to replace his fences, clean out a dam or build a new hay shed.

It means the cafe, the restaurant, the hotel has more tourists and they hire more staff to cater for them.

All thanks to our export trade deals.

A strong economy means that builders will be hard at work on new homes and tradesmen will have more jobs.

It means that a manufacturer has more export orders, can buy more equipment, hire more workers and expand their business.

A stronger economy means we can fund over $50 billion in 21st century road, rail and other infrastructure including the Western Sydney Airport and the 39,000 jobs it will create.

“A stronger economy means we can afford to fund world-class education and health services, including Medicare, without weighing down our children and grandchildren with more debt and deficits,” Mr Turnbull said.

A strong economy means we can meet and beat our international obligations  to address climate change and do so without massive hikes in electricity prices as Labor would do.

“We have a national economic plan because the prosperity and security of 24 million Australians depend on it,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said success in the 21st Century cannot be taken for granted.

“Always expect the unexpected.”

“We will need to renegotiate vital trade deals with Europe and Britain,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We concluded five in the last three years – Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

“In six years Labor concluded none,” he said.

“We have carefully considered what we need to do to succeed, to make the transition from an economy fired up by a once in a century mining construction boom to one that is more diverse, more innovative, smarter, more productive – an economy that wins, and keeps on winning.”

“So there is a clear cut choice at this election,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We present our fellow Australians with a national economic plan every element of which supports more investment, stronger economic growth and more jobs.

“Our plan invests $1.1 billion to promote leading-edge innovation in our industries and to prepare our children for the jobs of the future.”

Our plan promotes export trade deals to generate 19,000 new export opportunities, giving our businesses premium access to the biggest economies in our region.

Our plan invests in local defence industries to ensure every defence dollar possible supports advanced manufacturers and thousands of Australians jobs.

Our Enterprise Tax Plan provides tax relief to tens of thousands of small-to-medium family businesses now and to all companies over time so they can invest, grow and hire more Australians.

“On the other hand, our opponents in the Labor Party have no economic plan.”

“Labor believes its best hope of being elected is to have trade union officials phone frail and elderly Australians in their homes at night, to scare them into thinking they are about to lose something which has never been at risk,” Mr Turnbull said.

“That’s not an alternative government, that’s an Opposition unfit to govern.”

Every element of Labor’s platform would discourage investment and employment.

He described it as: “a recipe for economic stagnation.”

“If returned at this election, we will convene a joint sitting to restore the rule of law in the construction industry and reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, Mr Turnbull said.

So Australians could  have the building infrastructure  they need  “at a price they can afford.”

He said:  “housing values would fall in a fragile property market and rents would rise, because of Labor’s investment destroying ban on negative gearing and 50 per cent hike in capital gains tax.

“This threat is real.

“ So we need to be crystal-clear about what our votes will mean,” Mr Turnbull said.

“If your local vote is for Labor, Greens or an Independent, and you are in one of the 20 or so key battleground seats across the country, it is a vote for the chaos of a hung Parliament, a budget black hole, big Labor taxes, less jobs and more boats,” he warned.

Only a Liberal or National vote ensures stable government, a clear economic plan, real funding for the aged, Medicare and education; more jobs and strong borders.

Mr Turnbull urged Australians to: ““Vote for your local Liberal or National in the House and in the Senate.”

“In the last calendar year, there were 300,000 new jobs,” the Prime Minister said.

“Our unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent is well beneath what was anticipated when the Coalition came to office,” he added.

None of this happens by chance. Strong economic leadership supporting hard-working Australians means that, even with difficult global headwinds, we continue to grow our economy and expand our workforce.

And, today, I can announce additional policies from our Coalition team to support our national economic plan for jobs and growth.

Mr Turnbull said his government is determined to ensure none of our regional communities are left behind as we make the transition to a stronger new economy.

“… our regions must be at the frontline of the drive for innovation, jobs and growth,” Mr Turnbull said.

Our ‘Regional Jobs Fund’ is a major commitment… he added.

“As we build a stronger economy, it is vital that we also do all we can to ensure all Australians, especially young Australians, are not left behind,” he added.

So the Coalition woulds deliver a record $73.6 billion over the next four years for all Australian schools,” he said.

“Today, I can announce an additional $48 million for scholarships under the Smith Family’s Learning for Life program, to help disadvantaged students to complete year 12 and transition to work or further education and training,” he added.

“The Coalition will also invest $31 million in programs to encourage more girls and women to study and work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Mr Turnbull said.

It would also help older Australians get smartphones.

He said only about one household in five, with people aged 60 or above, had a smartphone.

“To make their lives easier, to help them retain their independence, and to keep them connected to families and friends, I am announcing today a $50 million Coalition strategy to assist seniors who want to improve their digital literacy skills,” he said.

“And as announced earlier today, my Government will be investing $192 million more in front line mental health services including twelve suicide prevention sites around Australia and ten more headspace centres; and at the same time using smart phone and other technology to make these services more accessible,” he said.

This complements our support for Veterans’ mental health programs, itself a reminder that we best honour the diggers of Gallipoli and Fromelles by supporting the veterans and their families of today.

Mr Turnbull said; “only a strong Australia can be a safe Australia.

“After six years of abject Labor neglect and indecision, our continuous shipbuilding strategy will ensure Australia retains a sovereign capability to build and sustain naval vessels, securing thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs for decades to come,” he added.

Mr Turnbull said:”Labor’s abandonment of John Howard’s proven border protection policy opened the door to the people-smugglers:

The results had included:-

  • 50,000 unauthorised arrivals on 800 boats,
  • 1200 deaths at sea, of which we know,
  • Over 8000 children put into detention,
  • 17 detention centres opened, and
  • An $11 billion border protection budget blowout.

“In contrast, the Coalition has restored security at the border, integrity to our immigration program – and with it, public trust,” he said.

“I am proud to announce that today marks 700 days without a successful people-smuggling venture to our country,” he added.

“I am also very proud to announce that we have removed every child from detention in Australia,” Mr Turnbull said.

Labor had failed Australia before.

“The people-smugglers are looking for the earliest sign that an Australian government will waver,” he added.

Mr Turnbull said: “our policies are tough.

“But  these policies have stopped the drownings at sea, and restored the integrity of, and trust in, our large but orderly immigration and refugee programs,” he added.

To further strengthen our domestic security I announce initiatives that go to that most fundamental of liberties – the right to live without fear of violence.

Mr Turnbull also said: “my first announcement as Prime Minister was a new $100 million package to encourage all Australians to confront squarely and honestly the ugly truth of violence against women and children in our society.

“Today, I can announce a $64 million commitment to crack down on the trafficking of illegal firearms on our streets, in particular by criminal gangs,” he added.

He said he is asking Australians to make a clear choice — to back a strong and stable Coalition majority government that can press ahead with its plan for a stronger new economy.

That would deliver the economic security that enables Australians to fulfill their aspirations.

“That is why I am asking my fellow Australians at this election to support our Coalition’s National Economic Plan for a Strong New Economy,” he said.

Wednesday 22nd June 2016 - 4:55 pm
Comments Off on Brighter times ahead

Brighter times ahead

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.

 

 

Tuesday 21st June 2016 - 4:15 pm
Comments Off on RBA looks at China

RBA looks at China

by Alan Thornhill

Weakness in the Chinese industrial sector has continued, the Reserve Bank said today.

 

The bank made this observation, in the minutes of its Board meeting, on June 7  which it published today.

 

It added though that:  “policy measures to support activity appeared to have been providing some offset”

 

However it said: “growth in industrial production remained relatively subdued.”

 

The bank noted too, that:  “…and growth in private sector) fixed asset investment in China..

.” had declined further.

 

However it added:  “…public-sector investment (particularly in infrastructure) had grown strongly and government spending remained at an elevated level.”

 

The bank said, too, that:  “conditions in (China’s) real estate sector had strengthened over recent months.”

 

This had followed, following earlier measures by the Chinese authorities to support demand for housing.

 

“Growth in real estate investment had increased, following a prolonged period of weakness and the level of floor space sold had risen further,” the bank said.

 

It noted too, that:  “growth in India increased to around 8 per cent in year-ended terms and inflation remained around 5 per cent, which was the Reserve Bank of India’s target for 2016.

Tuesday 21st June 2016 - 1:05 pm
Comments Off on Apartment prices ease as elections approach

Apartment prices ease as elections approach

by Alan Thornhill

Apartment prices fell – by 0.2 per cent – early this year for the first time since the September quarter of 2012.

 

The Bureau of Statistics said the fall was registered on its Residential Property Price Index.

 

It occurred as the July 2 elections approached.

 

The index covers the nation’s eight capital cities.

 

The bureau said attached dwellings, such as apartments, largely drove price falls.

It said the attached dwellings price index fell 0.8 per cent in the March quarter.

 

Falls were recorded in Melbourne (-1.3 per cent), Sydney (-0.6 per cent), Perth (-1.1 per cent), Canberra (-1.1 per cent) and Adelaide (-0.4 per cent).

 

But there were also rises.

 

In Brisbane apartment prices rose 0.7 per cent, Hobart prices rose  2.3 per cent and those in Darwin rose 0.1 per cent.

Established house prices for the eight capital cities were flat.

The total value of Australia’s 9.7 million residential dwellings increased $15.4 billion to $5.9 trillion.

 

 

The average price of dwellings in Australia is now $613,900.

Wednesday 15th June 2016 - 12:58 pm
Comments Off on Confidence strong – and a rate cut “coming”

Confidence strong – and a rate cut “coming”

by Alan Thornhill

Consumer confidence has eased in Australia, but it is still strong.

The Westpac bank, which published this assessment, with  its June consumer confidence figures today, also predicted that another rate cut would “prove to be necessary, ” probably next year

It said optimists still outnumber pessimists, among Australian consumers.

However its index of consumer sentiment fell 1 per cent in June, to 102.2 per cent.

The unusually high level of 103.2 per cent seen in May followed the surge that occurred after the Reserve Bank unexpectedly cut interest rates.

Westpac Senior Economist, Matthew Hassan, said that: “coming after an 8.5 per cent surge in May, the small decline in June mostly represents a consolidation at improved levels.”

“Last month’s surprise rate cut from the RBA was the main catalyst behind May’s rally and although confidence has slipped back a touch in June this is a fairly common pattern following an interest rate driven bounce,” Mr Hassan said.

He said, too, that: “responses to additional questions on ‘news recall’ point to a somewhat calmer backdrop compared to March.

However the majority of consumers still assessed news as being unfavourable.

The highest recall levels were for news on ‘economic conditions’ (27.8 per cent) and ‘Budget & tax’ (25 per cent), he said.

But both were noticeably lower than in previous quarters.

That is despite the May Budget and campaigning in the lead up to next month’s Federal election.

News on ‘international conditions’ was also much less prominent (at 10 per cent).

This was the lowest read on this item in more than a decade.

Unsurprisingly, there was higher recall for news on interest rates at 16.5 per cent, Mr Hassan said.

“Responses to additional questions on the ‘wisest place for savings’ showed a slightly less risk averse tone but attitudes still appear to be more conservative than seen throughout 2015.

The proportion of consumers nominating ‘pay down debt’ fell from 24.4 per cent in March to 20 per cent in June.

Consumers also continue to heavily favour ‘safe’ options as well, with the proportion nominating bank deposits rising from 27.4per cent in March to 29.5 per cent in June.

That contrasts with continued lower readings for the proportion nominating real estate (15.8 per cent in June vs an average of 25.4 per cent in 2015).

“Consumer views on housing also consolidated in June.

“ The ‘time to buy a dwelling’ index declined 2.7per cent but the retracement followed a strong 12.1 per cent surge in May,” Mr Hassan said.

Price expectations also firmed in the month with the Westpac Melbourne Institute Index of House Price Expectations up 3.6 per cent to the highest level since September 2015.

“However, both buyer sentiment and price expectations are still well below the readings seen a year ago,” Mr Hassan said.

He said, too, that:“the Reserve Bank Board next meets on July 5.

Mr Hassan said a move at that meeting is highly unlikely.

In fact, he suggests that the next rate cut might not occur this year.

The key considerations for the Bank are around the outlook for inflation, he said.

On its current forecasts the RBA does not expect inflation to return to the bottom of the band until 2017.

And that is on the assumption of a further rate cut given that the Bank’s forecasts are based on ‘market pricing’ for rates.

The most important and immediate information about whether the RBA’s May assessment is correct will come from the June quarter inflation report which prints on July 27, after the July Board meeting but ahead of the August 2 convention,” Mr Hassan said.

“It is our assessment that the information in this report will confirm to the Board that another cut is indeed necessary”, he added.

Friday 10th June 2016 - 12:08 pm
Comments Off on Why we risked all:PM

Why we risked all:PM

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is trying to steer the election campaign back to where it started.

That is with his attempt to restore peace in the building and construction industry.

And in a speech to the American Australian Association & US Studies Centre last night, Mr Turnbull also argued that Australia’s increasing involvement with Asia is making this country’s reliance on America more important than ever.

He said the government had launched an unusually long –eight week – campaign for re-election  “in order to break the deadlock between the House of

Representatives and the Senate over two critical pieces of legislation relating to industrial relations.

“and one of those is the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission,”  Mr Turnbull said.

That aim had – previously – been hardly mentioned during the campaign, which has now passed its half-way mark.

But, last night,  Mr Turnbull declared that the course he had chosen is: “the only way we can get the rule of law restored to the construction sector.”

He said the sector  employs one million people.

“ and the restoration of law to that sector is a vital economic reform, and part of our economic plan to secure our prosperity.”

“the only way we can get that passed is through this double dissolution and getting the numbers collectively in the House and the Senate to pass that law and restore rule of law through a joint sitting of the parliament,” Mr Turnbull said.

“ That’s our commitment,” he added.

Mr Tunbull also paid tribute to a previous Liberal Prime Minister, John Howard, who attended last night’s function.

He said: “John understood that the United States is the irreplaceable anchor to the global rules-based order – an order built upon shared political values and common economic and security interests.

“The truth of his insight has been affirmed by every subsequent Prime Minister of Australia.

“Earlier this year I visited and thanked our men and women serving alongside US forces in Afghanistan, in what is now the longest commitment in our military history.

“And also our forces in Iraq, where we are together with the United States and other allies jointly pushing back, rolling back the brutality and barbarity of Daesh or ISIL.

“And not a day, truthfully not a minute, goes by without our intelligence agencies working together – saving lives – in the fight against terrorism.

“Our ANZUS alliance and broader relationship is anchored in a history that is even deeper and richer than many of us realise,” Mr Turnbull concluded.

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