by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government says there has been ‘encouraging” progress with its efforts to reduce the gap between the pay of men and women.
The Minister for Employment and Women , Senator Michaelia Cash, said today this is reflected in the latest average weekly earnings figures published by the Bureau of Statistics.
These showed, on average, that men working full-time earned $1,613.60 a week in May this year, while women were earning $1,352.50.
Although Senator Cash admitted that this still represents a difference of $261.10 a week, she said a close look at the Bureau’s figures also suggests that women are starting to catch up.
For example, she said that: “between May 2015 and May 2016, women’s weekly earnings grew by 3.4 per cent while men’s weekly earnings grew by 1.3 per cent.”
She said there is other evidence, too, that the “gender gap” between the pay of men and women is being trimmed.
The ABS data, for example, also showed that the gap,for full time employees has narrowed to 16.2 per cent, a decrease of 1.7 percentage points from a year ago.
However Senator Cash also said that while this is “encouraging,” the Government’s determination to cut this still “stubbornly high gap is unwavering.”
“Given that less than two years ago the gender pay gap was 18.5 per cent, these figures demonstrate significant progress,” Senator Cash said.
She claimed progress, too, in the government’s efforts to employ more women.
“In the month of July, the level of employment for women rose by 8,100 and is now at a record high of over 5.5 million.
“Furthermore, the participation rate for women has also trended upwards over the last 12 months,” she said.
Senator Cash also said: “the Turnbull Government is working to close the gender pay gap by:
* Ensuring women have the skills and support they need to work in growth industries, with $13 million invested through the National Innovation and Science Agenda in
getting more women into science, technology, engineering and maths
* Shining the light on pay equity through the work of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency
* Setting a new target of men and women each holding 50 per cent of Australian Government board positions and strengthening the BoardLinks program and
* Its scholarship and mentoring programs, improving gender diversity in senior leadership roles
*Partnering with UnitingCare on the Springboard Project to give women the opportunity to train and build a career in the UnitingCare network, while also
providing the flexibility to care for their families
* Supporting Australian women to participate in the workforce through our Jobs for Families Child Care package
* Boosting the superannuation of women who have taken time out of work through the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset.
Senator Cash said it is clear from these latest figures that employers are taking action and this effort is producing results.
“To see these encouraging results continue we all need to maintain our attention on improving gender equality and that applies to Government, employers and individuals – ensuring we achieve true gender equality will require a concerted and lasting commitment from everyone,” she added.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott has missed out on a place in Malcolm Turnbull’s new ministry and Christopher Pyne is to become Australia’s new minister for defence industry.
The Prime Minister has also named Josh Frydenberg Australia’s new environment minister.
This has angered environmentalists who say Mr Frydenberg has always favoured the coal industry over the Great Barrier Reef.
Mr Turnbull’s new ministry and cabinet are to be sworn in next week.
The Prime Minister’s decision to leave his predecessor, Mr Abbott, off his front bench comes as no surprise, even though hard right MPs, within the Liberal Party, would have welcomed such a move.
As he promised do before the election, Mr Turnbull generally avoided unecssary changes changes when he announced his new team today.
But Mr Frydenberg will become minister for the environment and energy.
Mr Turnbull said all his previous cabinet ministers had been reappointed although there had been some changes and expansions in their duties.
He said: “Senator Fiona Nash will add Local Government and Territories to her Regional Development and Regional Communications roles.
“Christopher Pyne will be appointed to the new role of Minister for Defence Industry, within the Defence portfolio.
“Mr Pyne will be responsible for overseeing our new Defence Industry Plan that came out of the Defence White Paper.
“This includes the most significant naval shipbuilding program since the Second World War.
“This is a key national economic development role. This program is vitally important for the future of Australian industry and especially advanced manufacturing.
“The Minister for Defence Industry will oversee the Naval Shipbuilding Plan which will itself create 3,600 new direct jobs and thousands more across the supply chain across Australia.
“Beyond shipbuilding, there is a massive Defence Industry Investment and Acquisition Program on land, in the air and inside cyberspace.
“This is a massive step change set out in the Defence White Paper. This investment in Defence Industry, as you know, is a key part of our economic plan.
“It will drive the jobs and the growth in advanced manufacturing, in technology, right across the country. And I’m appointing Christopher to be the Minister to oversee that and ensure that those projects are delivered.
“As I said at the outset, this is a term of government for delivery.
“We will be judged in 2019 by the Australian people as to whether we have delivered on the plans and the programs and the investments that we have promised and set out and described in the lead-up to the election.
Greg Hunt will move from Environment to become the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, where he will drive the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
“Can I say that Mr Hunt has been an outstanding Environment Minister and he served in that portfolio in Government and indeed, in opposition.
“He has a keen understanding of innovation, he has a keen understanding of science and technology and he will give new leadership to that important portfolio and those important agendas so central to our economic plan.
“Josh Frydenberg will move to the expanded Environment and Energy portfolio combining all the key energy policy areas.
“These include energy security and domestic energy markets for which he has been previously responsible in the current portfolio. Renewable energy targets, clean energy development and financing and emission reduction mechanisms which are part of Environment.
“Senator Matt Canavan will be promoted to Cabinet as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and I welcome Senator Canavan to the Cabinet in this key economic development role,” Mr Turnbull said.
by Alan Thornhill
Confidence in Australia’s property market has eased since the Reserve Bank cut the nation’s interest rates in May.
A survey that the National Australia Bank published today shows that the easing is particularly pronounced among property professionals.
In the first NAB Residential Property Survey since the RBA cut the official cash rate in May this year, housing market sentiment amongst property professionals softened.
The bank said its residential Property Index fell to +3, from +6 in Q1 2016, to remain below its long term average of +13.
“Sentiment moderated in all states except SA/NT, which rose 19 points,” it added.
New South Wales joined Victoria as the best performing state, followed by Queensland, the bank said.
“Confidence has however improved, with the national index rising to +29 next year, and +36 in two years’ time,” it added.
The bank said its residential Property Survey for Q2 2016 also found that respondents expect Victoria and Queensland to provide the best capital returns over the next one to two years.
“It’s still a mixed picture across Australia, with house price expectations for the next 12 months holding up well in the eastern states whilst staying flat in SA/NT and continuing to fall sharply in WA,” the bank’s Chief Economist Alan Oster said.
The bank said it had also revised its national house price forecasts for 2016 upwards to 5.1 per cent (from 1.5 per cent). Unit price forecasts were revised up to 3.6 per cent for 2016.
“Our upwards revisions in price forecasts reflects the strength in prices to date.
Over the last six months, Sydney and Melbourne prices have increased by an annualised rate of nearly 19 per cent and 12 per cent respectively,” Mr Oster said.
“However, while there is significant amount of uncertainty over the outlook for prices, we expect that this renewed momentum in the housing market is unlikely to be sustained over the longer term.”
Looking out to 2017, NAB forecasts prices to be flat across most capital cities, with falls particularly in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane.
While the declines in Perth largely reflect economic conditions, the falls in Melbourne and Brisbane can be partly attributed to added supply and weaker investor demand.
“NAB is forecasting a much softer residential property market, with 0.5 per cent growth in house prices and nearly 2 per cent decline in unit prices in 2017,” Mr Oster said.
NAB Economics continues to hold the view that residential property prices are unlikely to experience a sharp ‘correction’ without a trigger from a shock that leaves unemployment or interest rates sharply higher.
The Residential Property Survey series also measures foreign buyer activity in the Australian housing market.
Market share of foreign buyers in new Australian housing markets fell for the third straight quarter in a row – to 10.4 per cent.
A sharp fall in foreign buyer activity in Queensland was offset by growth in Victoria and a modest rise in NSW.
Market share of foreign buyers in established markets was unchanged at 7.2 per cent.
About 230 property professional participated in the Q2 Survey, the bank said.
by Alan Thornhill
The financial services giant IOOF will be required to accept a measure of external surveillance, under arrangements announced today by the industry watchdog, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
However ASIC stopped short of taking further action against IOOF, which offers superannuation products, financial advice and many other similar products.
It noted that, in July last year, it had commenced inquiries into allegations made against I.O.O.F. Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries (IOOF), including issues raised by a former employee of IOOF.
It said the allegations have been the subject of several media articles and an inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services.
And it added: “ASIC has now finalised its inquiries.”
It had investigated several issues, including allegations of insider trading,raised by a former employee of IOOF.
ASIC said the allegations had also been the subject of several media articles and an inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services.
“ASIC has now finalised its inquiries,” the commission said.
It said the allegations of insider trading concerned an IOOF staff member’s involvement in insider trading before research reports became public.
The commission found that although this did occur it failed to move the share price enough to warrant action.
ASIC’s inquiries also included a review into allegations relating to corporate governance and licensee breaches by IOOF.
It said: “This review identified a number of concerns relating to IOOF’s compliance arrangements, breach reporting, management of conflicts of interest, staff trading policy, disclosure, whistleblower management and protection and cyber security.
And added:” We have raised these concerns with IOOF.
“We have also advised IOOF that in our view the corporate culture at that time within IOOF contributed to these issues occurring.”
Then the commission said: “Concurrent with ASIC’s inquiries, IOOF appointed Price Waterhouse Coopers to conduct an independent review of its regulatory breach reporting policy and procedures and the control environment within its research team.
And it added: “IOOF has made significant changes to their policies and procedures as a result.
The commission said: “While ASIC welcomes such initiatives and steps taken by IOOF to rectify these issues, ASIC has also reached an agreement with IOOF to engage an external compliance consultant to conduct an expanded, broader and more comprehensive review of compliance arrangements within all IOOF business units.”
“ASIC will continue to monitor and work cooperatively with IOOF and its board to ensure the necessary changes are properly effected,it added.
by Alan Thornhill
The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced today that he is planning to resign before a Conservative Party conference in October.
His statement follows the failure of a referendum he promoted to keep Britain in the European Union, which it joined 43 years ago.
The loss sent global currency and share markets into chaos and pushed the British pound to its lowest point in 25 years.
The BBC put the number of votes urging Britain to leave the EU at 17,410,742 or 51.9 per cent of the total cast.
It said, too, that 16,141,241 votes were cast, by those who want Britain to stay in the EU.
This was 48.1 per cent of the total vote.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said: “ This is a momentous and historic decision and we respect the wishes of the British people, expressed through this referendum“
However he added: “I want to say that Australians….will be concerned by the uncertainty and instability in global markets, falls in currencies, including the Australian dollar and in equity markets.”
But Mr Turnbull said, too, that: “it is important to remember that the Australian economy is strong and resilient and has weathered global shocks before and weathered them well.”
“So there is no cause for Australians to be alarmed by these developments,” Mr Turnbull said.
But he said there would be a “… a period of uncertainty and some instability in global markets.”
“ I’ve no doubt that European leaders will provide reassurance and leadership that will in due course, settle many if not all of those uncertainties,” Mr Turnbull said.
However he added: “…now more than ever Australia needs a stable majority Coalition Government .”
He said the nation also needed a strong economic plan that sets Australia up for a prosperous future.
This would enable Australia to take advantage of new opportunities and resiliently meet the challenges and the headwinds “that we cannot always anticipate and that we cannot always influence.”
“But but they will always be there,” Mr Turnbull said.
by Alan Thornhill
The investment watchdog has launched court proceedings against Macquarie Investment Management.
In a statement today, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission said Macquarie had been the responsible entity of the van Eyk Blueprint International Shares Fund (VBI Fund).
ASIC said the proceedings involve investments of $30 million made by the VBI Fund in 2012 into a Cayman Islands based fund.
It said that fund was known as Artefact Partners Global Opportunities Fund (Artefact).
ASIC also said the VBI Fund was one of the Blueprint series of funds of which van Eyk Research Pty Limited (now in liquidation) was investment manager.
And MIML was responsible entity, the commission added.
It said: “MIML has admitted to five contraventions of the Corporations Act and the parties have filed an Agreed Statement of Facts.”
Commissioner Greg Tanzer said, ‘The Corporations Act places important obligations on responsible entities which protect the interests of investors.”
He said: “Those obligations require responsible entities to have a supervisory and monitoring role in relation to funds, even where external investment managers have been appointed.
“ ASIC will take action against responsible entities when they fail to meet their obligations,” he added.
The Supreme Court of New South Wales will be asked to set apropriate penalties.
An early hearing is expected.
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.
by Alan Thornhill
Lending to property investors surged in March, according to the Housing Industry Association.
The HIA, which based its statement on figures released earlier by the Bureau of Statistics, said lending to investors who are building new housing, rose by 54.1 per cent during the month
“While total home lending edged marginally lower in March, lending to investors in the new housing market jumped by 54.1 per cent,” HIA economist, Diwa Hopkins said.
“This moderated the effect of declining lending that occurred in each of the other components of housing finance,” she added.
Total housing finance in March 2016 was worth some $32.74 billion, with lending to investors constructing new housing accounting for $1.83 billion of this total.
Lending to investors is heavily influenced by negative gearing and capital gains tax laws.
These have become contentious in the present election campaign, with the Turnbull government promising no changes if it is re-elected and Labor saying it would introduce new restrictions.
Ms Hopkins said the value of home lending fell by by 1.2 per cent in the March quarter to a level 3.7 per cent lower than in the March 2015 quarter.
“Today’s housing finance results add to a string of positive updates for the residential construction sector that indicate 2016 will represent another healthy year of activity,” she said.
She said, too, that the number of loans to owner occupiers constructing or purchasing new homes in the March 2016 quarter was higher than in the March 2015 quarter in five of the eight states and territories.
These were:- New South Wales (+7.6 per cent); Victoria (+3.7 per cent); South Australia (+12.7 per cent); the Northern Territory (+25.7 per cent) and; the Australian Capital Territory (+7.4 per cent).
Elsewhere, there were declines over this period: Queensland (-0.9 per cent); Western Australia (-23.5 per cent) and; Tasmania (-31.3 per cent), Ms Hopkins said.
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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