by Alan Thornhill
Fresh research and removing roadblocks are key points in a National Food Plan, that the Federal Agriculture Minister, Joe Ludwig, launched in Brisbane today.
Speaking at the Rocklea Markets, Senator Ludwig said” “The National Food Plan is a roadmap to create new opportunities for Australia’s food industry.
“Australia’s food is the envy of the world, as we produce more than twice the food we consume, we need to remain focused on finding new markets for our high quality exports,” he added.
Labor promised, before the 2010 elections, to develop a plan of this kind.
Australia’s farmers are delighted.
National Farmers’ Federation President Duncan Fraser said the Plan “responds to many of the challenges set for the Government by the NFF.”
“The Food Plan, at its highest level, is designed to help Australian food businesses overcome their diverse challenges, and benefit from emerging markets in Asia,” he added.
“We are pleased to see today that the Government has listened,” Mr Fraseer said.
Senator Ludwig said: “Our food supply chain has a strong foundation, with high levels of food security and hard working producers.”
But he said there are challenges including climate change, population growth, diet-related health issues, and competition for resources.
“There are also enormous opportunities, including the rise of Asia,” Senator Ludwig said.
He said the National Food Plan is underpinned by the four key themes of ‘growing exports’, ‘a thriving industry’, ‘people’ and ‘sustainability’.
It is also has supported by new initiatives, including:
• $28.5 million for an Asian Food Markets Research Fund to support our agriculture and food industries to capitalise on opportunities offered by growing Asian markets.
• strengthening our trade ties in the Asian region by investing an additional $5.6 million to give our agriculture industries a stronger, government endorsed voice in key overseas markets
• $2 million to develop Australia’s own trusted and recognised food brand, to ensure our trading partners continue to associate Australia with quality, innovative, safe and sustainable food
• a What Asia Wants study to identify food needs and preferences in the region and identify long-term risks and opportunities for the Australian food industry
• a Moving Food study which will analyse food industry trends to help business and governments plan infrastructure to support a growing industry to 2025.
• $1.5 million for a Community Food Grants program to help boost our communities’ connection with food
• $1.5 million to build on our work to grow our young people’s knowledge of food and agriculture and the rewarding career opportunities in the sector by better supporting teachers and career advisers
• a Productivity Commission review to identify priority areas for reforming food supply chain regulations
• establishment of an Australian Council on Food to engage with industry and community leaders on food
• five-yearly State of the Food System reports to monitor the food system and analyse trends.
by Alan Thornhill
Australian shares were sold off today, as shaky trade on Asian markets rattled investors.
That wiped another $23 billion off the value of Australian shares, following a $30 billion slump the previous day.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 76.5 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 4964.3.
This took the index below 5,000 points for the first time since April 22.
Banks and miners were hit.
Investor confidence was shaken by a wild ride in Tokyo, where the Nikkei dropped 3.5 per cent, at one point, before rising to end 0.9 per cent higher.
The Prime Minister also moved to settle local nerves, that were shaken, too, by Ford’s announcement on Thursday that it would close its Australian factories from October 2016.
Ms Gillard said: “Our economy has come out of the global financial crisis strong.
“We’ve got economic growth.
“We’ve got low inflation, low interest rates, relatively low unemployment, and strong public finances.”
But the $A fell sharply today, as global movements, that analysts are now calling “a currency war,” took hold.
It fell to an 11 month low of 95.94 US cents, before rising to 96.81 US cents later in the day.
HSBC said the earlier fall reflected Australia’s entry into the global “currency war.”
Central banks in several countries have printed billions in cash to push their currencies lower.
The Reserve Bank also moved to push down the $A, when it cut its marker interest rate by 25 basis points last month.
The $A had been trading above parity with the US, when that action was taken.
by Alan Thornhill
Almost 100 agricultural experts will meet in Canberra today, to try to map out the future of farming in Australia.
They will discuss supply chain issues, in particular.
The meeting will attempt to fill out the Blueprint for Australian Agriculture, first developed by the National Farmers’ Federation.
So far, some 4,000 farmers – and other people connected to the agricultural sector – have contributed to the plan.
The National Farmers Federation said today’s forum, the first since the Blueprint’s launch in February 2013, aims to seek agreement on the key priorities within the Blueprint, and turn these into tangible actions for the sector.
Representatives from across the sector, including farmers, commodity groups, transporters, input providers, retailers, the banking sector, educators and Government are attending the forum, which is taking place at Manuka Oval, Canberra from 8am to 5pm today.
by Alan Thornhill
Waiting longer for your bills to be paid?
You are not alone.
A new survey, by Dun & Bradstreet, shows that Australian businesses are now, typically, waiting almost eight weeks for their bills to other companies to be paid.
The firm’s latest Trade Payments Analysis shows the average invoice payment time rising to 55 days during the first quarter of 2013.
This figure is up from a national average of 52 days in the previous quarter and 53 days a year earlier.
In New Zealand the average payment time is just 43 days.
D&B says this is putting extra pressure on Australian businesses.
It said 56 per cent of businesses expect cash flow will be an issue for their operations in the quarter ahead.
The D&B survey also showed that some big companies are among the worst offenders.
“…those companies employing more than 500 employees were taking 58 days to settle their accounts in Q1,” the analyst said in a statement.
The study also showed that most invoice payments in Australia are being paid late.
Almost half – 48 per cent – were settled between one and 30 days beyond standard 30 day payment period.
Only 38 per cent were paid on time.
“The state of late payments in Australia is a handbrake on business activity at a time when greater investment and productivity is needed,” Dun & Bradstreet’s CEO Gareth Jones said.
“While we’re seeing more positive signs for consumers, in terms of a strong sharemarket, rebounding house prices and lower debt balances, businesses expectations remain low,” he added.
“In this environment, a slowing cash flow cycle further hits businesses. Their ability to spend money and invest in the growth of their business, and by consequence the economy, is limited when they’re kept waiting for payments.
D&B said late payments are impacting a business’s ability to cover its own costs of operation.
We know that 90 per cent of small businesses failures are caused by poor cash flow,” Mr Jones said.
by Alan Thornhill
Some key Treasury forecasts had held up “reasonably well” Dr Martin Parkinson said today.
However Dr Parkinson, who is Secretary to the Treasury, was careful not to include its revenue forecasts, in this assertion.
Addressing business economists in Sydney, he said: “As you know, and has been much commented on of late, the past few years have been a challenging period for economic and revenue forecasting.”
“Yet, despite considerable global volatility and structural changes domestically, the Budget forecasts for the volume of economic activity and employment – the real economy – have held up reasonably well over this period.”
Dr Parkinson then made a concession.
“The same cannot, however, be said of the forecasts of nominal GDP and tax revenue.”
That is an understatement.
The Federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, promised last year that he would deliver a small surplus, in his 2012-13 budget.
However revenue collections fell $17 billion short of the projections the Treasury made, in last year’s budget.
That was due, mainly, to shortfalls in company tax.
That left Mr Swan with an embarrassing $19.4 billion deficit in 2012-13.
The Treasurer was also forced to admit that the much anticipated surplus would not arrive for another four years.
Dr Parkinson admitted that Treasury’s revenue estimates had left the Federal Government in a difficult position.
“The direct impact of the, now well-known, overestimation in tax receipts is that the Australian Government faces a more difficult fiscal environment than had been anticipated a year ago,” he said.
Then he offered an explanation.
“Today, I want to take you through some of the drivers of recent weakness in nominal GDP growth and the Government’s tax receipts, and consider why the extent of this weakness had not been anticipated,” Dr Parkinson said.
He said these drivers had included:
• the difficulty that we, and other economic forecasters, have had in predicting the future path of global commodity prices, the exchange rate and capital gains and
• the significant structural changes that have taken place since the Global Financial Crisis in the Australian economy and in the Government’s tax base.
by Alan Thornhill
Wayne Swan says the key to Australia’s economic success has been working smarter, not just harder.
The Treasurer made the observation in a post budget speech that he gave to Per Capita, in Adelaide today.
“In 1990, Bob Hawke articulated Labor’s vision for Australia,” Mr Swan said.
“We could no longer be content to be ‘the lucky country’.
“We must aspire to be ‘the clever country’.”
Mr Swan said: “Australia punches above its weight in the global economy because we know the key to our success is working smarter, not just harder.
“It’s no coincidence that education is our 4th biggest export, worth over $15 billion annually to our economy.
“It’s no coincidence that students travel across the world to study at Australian universities – about a quarter of a million this year alone.
“And it’s not just our world class universities that set Australia apart.
”We also boast some of the most highly regarded scientific and research institutions in the world – with some great stories to tell.
Like the CSIRO.
“Many Australians wouldn’t know that the wireless technology we now take for granted on our laptops or mobile phones grew out of the pioneering work of the CSIRO on radio astronomy.”
Mr Swan’s remarks, at this time, are no accident.
The government is basing its bid for re-election, on September 14, largely on its plan to spend an extra $16.2 billion on Australian schools, over the next six years, under the Gonski plan.
by Alan Thornhill
The Reserve Bank now believes that economic activity and inflation over the months ahead will both be a little below previous expectations.
This assessment, just published in the minutes of the bank’s board meeting, earlier this month, leaves the door open for further rate cuts later this year.
However the bank cautioned that the effects of earlier rate cuts are still working their way through the Australian economy.
It said demand for high density housing had increased, but noted that approvals for detached homes had not.
The bank also sought to explain its decision, earlier this month, to cut Australia’s marker interest rate by 25 basis points to 2.75 per cent.
It said: “With inflation contained and domestic economic activity forecast to be below trend over the period ahead, the Board had maintained the cash rate at a level consistent with borrowing rates being close to previous lows.”
But it added: “Increasingly, the household sector had shown signs of responding to these low rates.
“Wealth had been bolstered by higher equity and dwelling prices.
“Measures of consumer confidence were above average.
“Housing and personal loan approvals had been rising, although credit growth remained subdued to date.
“And dwelling construction activity was growing.
“ At the same time, however, conditions in the business sector, as assessed in surveys, generally had remained below average, possibly in part because the exchange rate had remained high despite lower export prices and interest rates,” the bank said.
by Alan Thornhill
Is the best man for the job actually a woman?
A new report suggests that more women in traditionally male-dominated industries would lead to an improved economy.
The Australian Human Rights Commission calls the report, which it published today, “Women in male-dominated industries: A toolkit of strategies.”
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, has the mining, utilities and construction industries in her sights.
She says the underrepresentation of women in male-dominated industries like these is not only undermining gender equality in Australia, but is having negative impacts s on industry performance and our economy.
“The Toolkit was developed to help address this problem,” Commissioner Broderick said.
“This is not merely a report, but an interactive website developed to encourage dialogue, engagement and sharing of approaches about increasing women’s representation in male-dominated industries,” she added.
“It encourages employers, employees, government, community, and unions to think about the contribution women can make and to actively share strategies for attracting, recruiting, retaining and developing women’s skills in traditionally male-dominated fields.”
“In Australia’s general workforce, women represent almost 46 per cent of employees,” Commissioner Broderick said.
“However, in the industries of construction, mining, and utilities, women account for only around 12 per cent, 15 per cent, and 23 per cent of employees respectively.
Recent figures suggest that increasing women’s employment rates could boost Australia’s GDP by 11 per cent,” Commissioner Broderick said.
“Australia ranks fourth in the world in talent shortages and many male-dominated industries are suffering a lack of skilled workers,” she said.
“Encouraging greater women’s participation in these industries is one solution that could go a long way to addressing these skills shortages.”
“Our Toolkit is divided into the areas of attraction, recruitment, retention and development of women’s skills in industries that have traditionally remained dominated by male leadership and employees,” Ms Broderick added.
“Users can work through or contribute to discussion in all four areas or any of the four that are most relevant to them.”
In developing the Toolkit, the Australian Human Rights Commission, with the support of the Minister for the Status of Women and FaCHSIA, brought together members of these male dominated industries to gather information on their experience and knowledge.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Saturday May 25
The Dow Jones Index rose 8.60 points to 15,303.10
- Sharon Coulton on Proposed family tax benefit scrapped
- Pete on Rudd government had entered “paralysis:” Gillard
- Liam Knuj on The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s, New Year’s Message
- Change is for the better,change is where your heart grows stronger on Family Assistance boost
- Harry on The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s, New Year’s Message
|Aud To Usd||0.9651||N/A||N/A|
|Bhp Blt Fpo||34.360||-0.520||-1.49%|
|Anz Bank Fpo||27.680||-0.450||-1.60%|
|Qbe Insur. Fpo||15.650||-0.580||-3.57%|
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- What went wrong:Treasury chief explains
- Working smarter works:Swan
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