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Thursday 28th July 2016 - 5:51 pm
Comments Off on Who are our subs really protecting?

Who are our subs really protecting?

by Alan Thornhill

 

Analysis

 

 

 

A submarine led recovery?

 

That’s not advocated in any respectable economic text book.

 

Yet it is precisely the path the Federal government is taking us down.

 

At a cost of some $800 million over 10 years

 

Money the Productivity Commission says might well have been better spent elsewhere.

 

The government’s decision to build our new subs in Australia is being accompanied by the slow spread of what might well be called a ”barbed wire broadband.”

 

That is one based on copper wire, rather than the then superior fibre to the node system, that Labor was proposing when the two choices were first offered.

 

 

The slower copper wire system, that Malcolm Turnbull pushed, also ended up costing more than the snazzier Labor model.

 

 

Even though the man who is now Prime Minister said it would be substantially cheaper

 

 

And the man appointed to run it, has since described the Turnbull alternative as a “colossal mistake.”

 

 

However, as Mr Turnbull’s lieutenant, Christopher Pyne,  has since explained “Australians don‘t need a faster internet.”

 

So that’s alright, then.

 

The government has its explanations.

 

 

Mr Pyne, for example, also says it will make Australia “a defence hub.”

 

 

But the Productivity Commission won’t have a bar of it.

 

 

It notes that building a sub in Australia means that it will cost 30 per cent more than simply buying one overseas.

 

 

While necessarily based on hypothetical data, because of time differences, its example reveals that the effective rate of assistance provided to Australia’s submarine industry might well exceed that provided to tne nation’s vehicle industry and its textile, clothing and footwear indsustries,  while those payment  were s their respective peaks.

 

The commission also notes that paying more to have the subs built in Australia without getting sufficient value in return  diverts productive resources  such as labour, capital and land away from  more efficient uses that need less assistance. .

 

 

This damages Australia’s capacity to get the best possible benefits from the community’s resources.

 

Its report  leaves no room for its  readers to doubt about the fact that the commission regards the Federal government’s decision to promote with submarine construction in Australia was a dreadfully dud deal.

 

So why did it happen?

 

The commission notes that “iconic” factories were closing and local areas, particularly in South Australia and Victoria, were doing it tough, as a closely fought election, on  July 2, approached.

 

And those who suspect that political, not economic judgements prevailed in this case, won’t get much argument from the Productivity Commission.

 

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Friday 22nd July 2016 - 6:38 pm
Comments Off on Federal government acts on steel jobs

Federal government acts on steel jobs

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government says it has “struck a deal” to secure the jobs of South Australian steel workers.

 

In a joint statement late today, the Prime Minster, Malcolm Turnbull, said  his government “is delivering” on its its “election commitment to support South Australia’s steel sector and workers at Arrium .“

 

He said the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation would provide a loan of $49.2 million for new machinery at the Iron Knob and Iron Baron mines.

 

This would be done under the National Interest Account.

 

Mr Turnbull said this would enable Arrium’s OneWhyalla business to process iron ore to export quality and is expected to boost Arrium’s cash flow by more than $200 million over the next five years.

 

The Prime Minister said this investment would build on his government’s ongoing commitment to support Australia’s steel industry.

 

He said the measurers already announced included:-

  • Using Australian steel across our naval shipbuilding program
  • Upgrading 1200 kilometres of rail line between Adelaide and Tarcoola, a project worth approximately $80 million to Arrium
  • Strengthening Australia’s anti-dumping system.

 

 

Mr Turnbull  said his government would continue to work closely with the administrators as they prepare Arrium’s businesses for sale.

Wednesday 20th July 2016 - 9:09 am
Comments Off on Australia:the entepreneurial

Australia:the entepreneurial

by Alan Thornhill

Thinking of starting a new small business?

 

You are not alone.

 

A new survey, that the National Australia Bank published today, shows that one Australian in three shares your ambition.

 

The bank says this shows that the start-up culture is alive and well, in this country.

 

So what did the survey find?

 

The key conclusions, according to the bank, were:-

 

  • Around 1 in 3 Australians would like to own their own business with young Australians clearly the most aspirational (nearly 1 in 2)
  • Over 1 in 2 men and 41 per cent of women say they have “good” to “excellent” levels of entrepreneurship
  • The most popular new businesses are cafés and retail, followed by IT and personal services
  • Most budding entrepreneurs would go it alone or with their spouse or partner
  • Around 40 per cent of budding entrepreneurs and 75 per cent of existing business owners need or needed less than $50,000 to get their business off the ground
  • Over 1 in 3 aspirational and existing business owners would be keen to be part of “community” of other entrepreneurs

 

The NAB’s Executive General Manager for Micro and Small Business Leigh O’Neill said a healthy start-up sector is critical to fostering a new wave of growth for the Australian economy.

 

“Small businesses are so important to creating future jobs and economic growth, and understanding their motivations and needs means we can help support the right ecosystems for growth,” Ms O’Neill said.

 

“We’ve got a huge community of budding entrepreneurs eager to get their ideas off the ground, and it’s clear that they need more than money.”

 

The release of the research coincides with the launch of NAB Startup, a service that allows aspiring small business owners to become operational quickly, with guidance on setting up an ABN, ACN, business and domain name registrations, as well as website creation and invoicing functionality.

 

“We see plenty of small business owners juggling full time jobs while setting up their new ventures.

 

 

“They have huge amounts of excitement and energy, but very little time, so they need things to be simple, quick and connected,” said Ms O’Neill.

 

“Services like NAB Startup, our new unsecured $50,000 QuickBiz Loan and digital marketplace for small business Proquo, help entrepreneurs get their business ideas off the ground more quickly and connect with other small businesses.”

 

The full survey ‘The Lure of Entrepreneurship – Australia’s Start-up Culture’  in available at www.news.nab.com.au.

Thursday 14th July 2016 - 1:29 pm
Comments Off on Trend unemployment “steady” at 5.7 per cent:ABS

Trend unemployment “steady” at 5.7 per cent:ABS

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose by 0.1 per centage points in June  to 5.8 per cent.

 

However the Bureau of Statistics reported today that its “more reliable” indicator of unemployment, the trend series, had stayed steady at 5.7 per cent.

 

Th bureau said our participation rate also remained steady at 64.8 per cent.

 

As always, the detail of the Bureau’s employment figures were important last month.

 

And it said employment grew by 0.07 per cent in June, consistent with the average growth rate over the last six months, on trend figures.

 

The bureau added that, over the past month,, trend employment increased by 8,300 people to 11,933,400.

 

Trend full-time employment increased by 700  after falling for the previous four months.

 

Part-time employment increased by 7,600 persons, its weakest monthly growth since August 2014.

 

The Bureau also said that the hours worked by employed people fell, but not by as much as in previous months.

 

“This reflects the small increase in trend employment,”  bureau said.

The trend unemployment rate remained steady at 5.7 per cent. The participation rate also remained steady at 64.8 per cent.
 

“Trend series smooth the more volatile seasonally adjusted estimates and provide the best measure of the underlying behaviour of the labour market,” Mr Hockman said.

The seasonally adjusted number of persons employed increased by 7,900 in June 2016.

 

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for June 2016 increased 0.1 percentage points to 5.8 per cent and the seasonally adjusted labour force participation rate increased by less than 0.1 percentage points to 64.9 per cent.

Tuesday 12th July 2016 - 4:48 pm
Comments Off on Borrowing “not immoral” RBA chief

Borrowing “not immoral” RBA chief

by Alan Thornhill

 

Too little credit can present risk to an economy, a Reserve Bank chief warned today.

 

Luci Ellis,who heads the bank’s financial stability department said this is something policymakers need to keep in mind.

 

Addressing a seminar in Sydney, Ms Ellis said the dangers of too much credit are well known.

 

“Over-exuberant lending and borrowing can mean that some people are getting loans that they have little prospect of being able to repay even in good times,” she said.

 

But she added:  “Less well appreciated are the costs of having too little credit available.

 

“The point here is simply that in recognising that too much credit can be dangerous, we should not instead fall into the trap of thinking of all borrowing as illegitimate or somehow immoral,” Ms Ellis said.

 

“Less credit isn’t always and everywhere better.

 

“ The low levels of credit available in economies in the regulated era of past decades are not the benchmark we should be evaluating ourselves against now when we try to assess the risk in the system.”

 

“ Some activities can and should be financed with at least some debt, even in bad times – even though there are plenty of others that should not.”

 

Ms Ellis then said:  “in their efforts to protect the real economy, policymakers need to ensure that credit is still being supplied to good borrowers even in bad times.

 

A healthy and resilient banking sector can help achieve that;” Ms Ellis said

 

“Indeed, it would be difficult to manage it without one,” she added

 

She said though that Australia is not facing a credit squeeze.

 

“Let me be clear that Australia is not anywhere near having this problem,” Ms Ellis said.

 

“Whatever the concerns about concentration and competition in the Australian financial system, there is plenty of finance readily available to lower-risk customers.

 

“ But some recent examples overseas show the damage that can be done when there isn’t enough credit available

Thursday 7th July 2016 - 6:13 pm
Comments Off on Politicians squabble over Triple A warning

Politicians squabble over Triple A warning

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government and opposition differed sharply today, after a major ratings agency, Standard and Poors, put Australia’s prized triple A status on negative watch.

 

It did so citing both the still unresolved Federal election result and high levels of both household and external debt.

 

The Treasurer, Scott Morrison, said the agency’s move, “reaffirmed the government’s fiscal direction and the need to “stick to the plan” the Coalition set out in its last budget.”

 

However the shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, said it underlined the government’s “fiscal failure” and cast further doubt on its budget projections.

 

 

The agency’s warning means that  Australia’s AAA credit rating might be slashed in future  if there is no improvement in its budgetary performance.

 

 

This  could  increase  government borrowing costs and weaken international investment.

 

Mr Bowen said S&P statement is “sombre reading.”

 

He said the agency  “…calls out the Government on three years of fiscal failure, based on unrealistic Budget revenue forecasts and savings measures that will never pass the Parliament.

 

“S&P makes it clear that it doesn’t have much faith in the Government’s Budget revenue forecasts – a point Labor has consistently made since the Budget in May,” Mr Bowen added.

 

However Mr Morrison took a different view.

 

 

He said the agency’s warning reinforces the government’s message that Australia must “live within its means”.

 

 

He said S&P were clearly concerned about the outcome of the election and that “the pace of fiscal consolidation may be postponed”.

 

Mr Morrison said it would be irresponsible to increase the deficit over the next few years, because “that increases the debt and you can’t get that money back”.

Tuesday 5th July 2016 - 4:25 pm
Comments Off on Glenn Stevens drops a hint

Glenn Stevens drops a hint

by Alan Thornhill

The Reserve bank left interest rates on hold today, but hinted that there could be another rate cut soon.

 

After a meeting of the bank’s board today, its Governor Glenn Stevens noted that Australia’s inflation is low – at 1.3 per cent – and likely to remain so.

 

 

Then he added:  “Over the period ahead, further information should allow the Board to refine its assessment of the outlook for growth and inflation and to make any adjustment to the stance of policy that may be appropriate.”

 

Mr Stevens also said:  “Several advanced economies have recorded improved conditions over the past year.”

 

However he added:  “but conditions have become more difficult for a number of emerging market economies.

 

He said:  “China’s growth rate has moderated further, though recent actions by Chinese policymakers are supporting the near-term outlook.”

 

 

The bank last cut its marker interest rate from 2 per cent, to a new record low of 1.75 per cent, in May.

 

Mr Stevens said:  “Commodity prices are above recent lows, but this follows very substantial declines over the past couple of years.”

 

 

“Australia’s terms of trade remain much lower than they had been in recent years.”

 

He also noted the impact of Britain’s Brexit decision to leave the European Union but said nothing about Australia’s cliffhanger election, last Saturday.

 

Mr Stevens said global financial markets had been “volatile recently as investors have re-priced assets after the UK referendum.

 

 

“But most markets have continued to function effectively,” Mr Stevens added.

 

“Funding costs for high-quality borrowers remain low and, globally, monetary policy remains remarkably accommodative.

 

“Any effects of the referendum outcome on global economic activity remain to be seen and, outside the effects on the UK economy itself, may be hard to discern,” he concluded.

Tuesday 5th July 2016 - 1:51 pm
Comments Off on Trade deficit blows out:ABS

Trade deficit blows out:ABS

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s trade deficit rose $433 million in May to $2,218 million.

 

This is shown in figures published by the Bureau of Statistics today.

 

The bureau also reported that Australia’s retail sales rose by 0.2 per cent in that month.

 

The bureau said that, on seasonally adjusted figures, Australia’s exports had been worth $26,170  million in May.

 

But imports had been worth $28,387 million.

 

So our trade deficit that month was 24 per cent bigger than  that of the previous month.

 

Why did that happen?

 

Our exports rose by 1 per cent in May.

 

However our imports rose by 2 per cent in the month, on seasonally adjusted figures.

 

The Statistician also reports that we spent more in food stores and in Australia’s cafes and restaurants in May than we did in April.

 

But trade in Department stores was flat and we spent less on shoes and clothes in May than we had in April.

 

 

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Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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