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Tuesday 21st June 2016 - 2:33 pm
Comments Off on Jobs:Australia’s outsiders

Jobs:Australia’s outsiders

by Alan Thornhill

The profound changes in the ways in which Australians now work are reflected in detailed figures the Bureau of Statistics published today.

 

Although they were for February last year, they paint a picture of a modern work scene which still exists today.

 

It is one which Australian workers, of previous generations would barely recognise.

 

Full employment was dominant back then.

 

Not any more.

 

The bureau reported that in February 2015, when its latest job Participation, Job Search and Mobility survey was conducted, 33 per cent of Australia’s working age population was not in the nation’s work-force.

 

It estimated then that of the civilian population aged 15 years and over 6.3 million people were not in the labor force, 835,900 were unemployed and 11.7 million were employed.

 

Of the 6.3 million people not in the labour force:

  • 3.7 million (59 per cent were females)
  • 1.3 million wanted to work (23 per cent% of females and 18 per cent of males); and
  • 15 per cent were aged 15–24 years, 40 per cent were aged 25–64 years and 45 per cent were aged 65 years and over.

Of the 835,900 unemployed people::

  • 444,600 (53 per cent) were males;
  • 217,200 people had been looking for work for 1 year or more; and
  • 21 per cent were aged 25-34.

Of the 11.7 million employed people::

  • 10.6 million (91 per cent) were fully employed; and
  • 1 million were underemployed.

Of the 1 million underemployed workers:

  • 960,700 people who usually worked part-time, but would prefer more hours and were available to start work with more hours either in the reference week, or in the four weeks following the interview; and
  • 75,100 usually worked full-time, but worked part-time hours in the reference week due to economic reasons For example, because,  no work – or not enough work – was available,  or because they had been stood down.
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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.

Sunday 19th June 2016 - 7:04 pm
Comments Off on Shorten sharp:Labor chief’s warnings

Shorten sharp:Labor chief’s warnings

by Alan Thornhill

Bill Shorten sought to inspire Australian voters with a speech he gave today.

 
Acknowledging that the Labor party he leads polls more strongly among women than men, Mr Shorten opened his speech with a line that reverses an old favourite, of Australian politicians.

 
“Women and men of Australia,” he declared.

 

An edited version of his 5,000 word speech is reproduced below.

As expected, Mr Shorten concentrated on traditional Labor themes, health, education and jobs, while attacking the government’s “arrogance.”

And he warned that the Liberals pose a real threat to Medicare .

Mr Shorten said: “ We gather as one united party: ready to serve, ready to lead, ready for government.”

He declared that “a great future is within Australia’s reach” – and  said he is “certain that Labor has the plans to grasp it.”
“Labor knows “… that this election can be won…”Mr Shorten said

“Mr Turnbull says he’s got this in the bag, he claims he’s already won it,” Mr Shorten added.

“I say to him – never underestimate Labor.

“You ain’t seen anything yet, has he?”

“… only a Labor Government will build a stronger economy and a fairer society, Mr Shorten said.
Only Labor would:-

*…. fund our schools and protect Medicare.
*….create jobs and build roads, rail and a proper National Broadband Network.
On aborigines, Mr Shorten said:-“I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I pay my respects to elders past and present,“…but let our respect travel past words into action.
“ because as long as a young Aboriginal man is more likely to go to jail than university, words are not enough. Action matters. ”
“Friends, our issues are starting to bite – please, keep up the great work, we count on all of you.
Mr Shorten thanked three previous Labor Prime Ministers, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard who attended his launch and mentioned Kevin Rudd who is overseas.

He said that under Labor “… Medicare stays.”
Mr Shorten also said: “We’ve got the best people, we’ve got the best policies and we’ve got the best plan to pay for them.”
He said Labor would be :” …accountable and responsible for every single dollar.”

It would deliver: “Only policies that we can fund, only policies our country can afford.
“We will not be a big spending government.
“We will be a government for the fair go, fully paid for.

“Bringing down the deficit each and every year.
Mr Shorten said: “… the difference in competing economic visions has never been sharper or starker:
“A Labor party investing in people, in productivity, in infrastructure and technology.

“And a Liberal party asking for three more years on the back of one bad idea.
“A $50 billion giveaway to big business, $30 billion of which goes straight overseas.
“This is not a plan for the Australian economy – it is foreign aid for foreign companies.

“Treasury has put a final figure on the economic benefits, such as they are.

“A growth dividend of 0.1 per cent a year.

“Zero. Point. One.

“$50 billion dollars for a benefit that rounds down to zero.

“But at least Mr Turnbull has already told us already how he is going to fill the void it that will leave in the Budget – a 15 per cent GST, on everything.

“Or ripping every single Commonwealth dollar out of every single government school.

“And letting the states loose to charge their own income tax.

“Make no mistake, if the Liberals win, we shouldn’t be worried about Mr Turnbull breaking his promises, we should be worried about him keeping his promises.

“Mr Turnbull’s plan, such as it is, means a $7.4 billion windfall for Westpac, ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank and NAB.

“Three out of four of these are under investigation for rigging the interest rates of Australians trying to save for a home, pay-off a mortgage or plan for a self-funded retirement.

Mr Shorten said: “The Australian economy needs a real jobs plan.”

And he said that was what Labor would provide. (see earlier story)

Mr Shorten also said: “… the two most important things for an economy in transition are: public investment in infrastructure and education.

‘Building and teaching.

“Labor will do both.

“We will turbo-charge Infrastructure and create a new ‘Concrete Bank’.

“We will clear away the market blockages that hold back our superannuation investing in good projects.

“We will build if given the opportunity by the Australian people, the Perth Metronet, AdeLINK, the Melbourne Metro and of course Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail.

“And we will build the Western Sydney Rail Line connecting fast growing communities.

“We’ll back this up with 15,000 new places for apprentices – of all ages – right across the nation.

“And we will clean-out the dodgy private colleges undermining vocational training in this country.

“Politics, as you understand, is about choices,” Mr Shorten said.

“We choose TAFE.

“We choose local content.

“We choose the apprenticeship system.”

“We choose renewable energy and Australian steel because we believe advanced manufacturing has a future in this country.”

On schools, Mr Shorten said: “We will build – and we will teach.

“And our future as a knowledge economy depends upon the National Broadband Network, “ Mr Shorten said.
“It’s vital to small businesses in the regions engaging in our region.”

But Mr Turnbull has made a horrible mess of the NBN.

The cost is now double what he promised – and it’s going to take as twice as long to build.

Australia’s ranking has collapsed from 30th to 60th in the world in global internet speeds.

“I suppose, this was the perfect preview for his time as Prime Minister.

“Over-promise, under-deliver and take forever to get to the point.

“Australia deserves so much better than this.
“A new Labor Government will connect up to 2 million more homes and businesses to a first-rate fibre National Broadband Network.

“Equality for women will be a national mission for my government,” Mr Shorten added.

“That would mean:-
A minimum of 18 weeks paid parental leave, guaranteed.
Better childcare, sooner – for 800,000 working families.
He said, ,too, that Family violence is not a family matter – it is a national disgrace.
Mr Shorten also said, Labor would provide “…will provide the leadership in the Parliament to deliver marriage equality within our first 100 days.”

And he added: “There is a hidden story in our country.

“Teenagers are taking days off school to attend the funerals of classmates who have taken their own life.

“Parents sitting at kitchen tables, numb with incomprehension, shattered by grief, trying to write a eulogy for their child. No parent should ever bury their child.

“Yet seven Australians die every day at their own hand.

“Every single day.

“We can do better than this.

“A new Labor Government will start by providing $72 million for 12 regional suicide prevention project, Mr Shorten said.

He said the election on July 2 would be “ a referendum on the future of Medicare.

“Medicare is the community standard, it’s the gold standard, it speaks to Australians about who we are,” he added.

“And Medicare costs Australia far less than other countries pay, and we get better care,” Mr Shorten said.

And he added:”The Liberals have given the Productivity Commission new riding instructions, to investigate privatising human services and Americanising Medicare.

“This is Mr Turnbull’s second strike on Medicare and we know he won’t stop, he won’t rest,” Mr Shorten added.

Sunday 19th June 2016 - 4:39 pm
Comments Off on Labor unveils its jobs plan

Labor unveils its jobs plan

by Alan Thornhill

Bill Shorten says Labor will offer small business tax cuts to create new jobs.

The Labor leader said this policy had been designed to particularly help two groups that have often been finding it very hard to get work.

That is both younger and older workers.

He put the cost at $257 million and said it would help up to 30,000 Australians find a job each year.

But he said the cost of the tax cut would be fully offset from the existing wage subsidy program, which is not working as well as it should be.

So how would it work?

Mr Shorten said under Labor’s New Jobs Tax Cut, small businesses will be able to claim a tax deduction of up to $20,000 per worker to offset the wages of up to five new employees.

Businesses would be able to claim a 40 per cent deduction on top of the amount they can currently claim for their employees.
“Central to Labor’s positive plan to support small business is cutting red tape – making it easier and simpler for small business owners to support Australia’s economy and create jobs,” Mr Shorten said.
“This is a real jobs plan that offers a responsible tax cut to small businesses – the backbone of our economy,” he added.
To qualify for the deduction, the employees will need to be a net addition to the company’s average full-time equivalent staffing level for the previous year.
An employer will deduct 140 per cent of the wages expenses of a new employee when doing their accounts.
Mr Shorten said: “ Labor’s policy will be targeted to small businesses with turnover of less than $2 million which have been operating for more than two years.
“Importantly, the New Jobs Tax Cut will be available to businesses hiring Australians who face real barriers to finding work,” Mr Shorten said.

He said these would include:-
* Unemployed job seekers aged under 25 or over 55 and

* Parents or carers returning to work after more than six months away.

“Just like the previous Labor Government’s instant asset write-off, businesses will be able to claim the New Jobs Tax Cut as part of their regular tax return,” he said .

“ This minimises paperwork for busy employers and means they do not have to deal with yet another agency in order to help someone back into work,” Mr Shorten added.

Labor is arguing that its job creation scheme will be more effective – and much less expensive – than that being offered by the government.

That would cost $50 million over 10 years, mostly in tax cuts going to big companies.

Friday 17th June 2016 - 6:19 pm
Comments Off on PM says Medicare safe

PM says Medicare safe

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

 

 

An industry watchdog did Malcolm Turnbull no favours when it alleged there had been dirty work at the cross-roads as the Federal government moved to sell off Medibank Private.

 

Its action, just weeks before a Federal election. allowed some to suggest that Medicare, too, might soon be on the auction block.

 

The Medicare Private sale had been profitable, raising  almost $5.7 billion, which the Federal government said would be spent on infrastructure projects.

 

Now, though, that watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused Medibank of “engaging in misleading conduct,” to raise that very tidy sum.

 

Although the case has yet to be decided, unions have been out in the streets of Australian cities today, handing out brochures warning that the Federal government is now planning to sell Medicare as well.

 

The Prime Minister responded angrily, rejecting that accusation “absolutely” and accusing Labor of “frightening” old people, in particular, by telling them “disgraceful lies.”

 

Scare campaigns are not entirely unknown, in Australian elections.

 

Both sides, at times, have accused their rivals of indulging in them.

 

This time, though, the tension evident in Mr Turnbull’s voice, as he rejected that allegation, showed that he recognises that Medicare might still become a decisive issue, in the present campaign.

 

Speaking in a radio interview, he said his government would: “absolutely, completely, unequivocally guarantee Medicare will not be privatised – will never be privatised. ”

 

“It is a core government service,” he said.

 

“It will always be provided entirely by the government,” the Prime Minister added.

.

 The interviewer, Neil Mitchell, then said: “So you are just selling off the support area?”

 

Mr Turnbull replied: “It is one of the most disgraceful lies the Labor Party is telling.

 

“And they have trade union officials ringing up people, selective, they are ringing up in particular older Australians and frightening them with this lie.”

 

“ Medicare is a core government service.”

 

“It will always be provided by the government.”

 

““ It will never be privatised,” Mr Turnbull said.

Friday 17th June 2016 - 5:02 pm
Comments Off on Medibank Private sale worries Labor

Medibank Private sale worries Labor

by Alan Thornhill

Labor says it is “deeply concerned” by allegations that Medibank Private deliberately deceived its members to get a better price, when it was privatised.

 

The Shadow Minister for Health, Catherine King, said: “While the allegations will be tested in court, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused Medibank of “engaging in misleading conduct, making false or misleading representations and engaging in unconscionable conduct” by failing to tell Medibank members about a decision to limit benefits paid to members for in-hospital pathology and radiology services.”

 

She aslo said: “Labor is particular concerned at the ACCC’s allegation that Medibank Private kept consumers in the dark about the change in order to maximise its sale price.

 

 

“If proved, this would mean Medibank members were penalised at the benefit of the Federal Government, with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann publicly stating that the sale raised almost $5.7 billion.
Ms King said:”today’s events come only months after the newly-privatised Medibank reported a massive increase in profit for the first half of the 2015-16 financial year of $271.7 million, up $100 million or almost 60 per cent in just one year.
She said: “the Abbott- Turnbull Government consistently failed to make the case for the sale of Medibank, and today’s ACCC action indicates the privatisation has provided no benefit to either the health system or health insurance policyholders.
And she added: “…today is just another stark reminder of the danger to patients if the Turnbull Government is re-elected and continues to press ahead with its plans to privatise Medicare, putting profits before patients across the entire health system.
“Only a Shorten Labor Government can be trusted to protect Medicare. “ Ms King said.

Friday 17th June 2016 - 8:23 am
Comments Off on Labor promises to revive support for apprentices

Labor promises to revive support for apprentices

by Alan Thornhill

Labor says it will revive a valuable support program for apprentices which the Coalition government axed.

 

The Shadow Minister for Vocational Education, Sharon Bird, said too few Australians are starting apprenticeships and and too many of those who do are dropping out before they finish.
“A Shorten Labor Government will turn this around by giving apprentices real support when they need it by bringing back Tools for Your Trade – the valuable apprentice support program axed by the Abbott-Turnbull Government,” Ms Bird said.
She said Australian apprentices earn between 55 and 90 per cent of a standard wage while they are training, meaning a first year construction apprentice may take home base pay of as little as $420 a week.
This makes it hard to cover the cost of equipment, transport, books and other work essentials.

 
She said the Tools for Your Trade helps apprentices with these costs throughout their training to get over the hurdles that prevent them from completing.
From 1 July 2017, workers starting an apprenticeship will be eligible for $3,000 in payments throughout their training.

 

Payments will be spaced to provide support to apprentices as they train and back them all the way to completion.

 
As well as investing $285 million to bring back this important apprentice support program, Labor will also boost Group Training Organisations to help small and medium businesses take on more apprentices across Australia.

 
Group Training Organisations help these businesses participate in apprenticeships by managing the administrative and personnel side of hiring an apprentice.

 

They take care of training, setting up work placements and managing administrative functions like pay, leave and superannuation. This leaves businesses free to focus on developing on-the-job skills with their apprentices.
Labor will invest in Group Training so that these organisations can help to get more apprentices into work, with $10 million a year in new funding over the next four years.
We believe every Australian should have the chance to gain real skills and a good job. Australian apprenticeships have given millions of workers that opportunity over the past few decades.
“Our plan to support apprentices from start to finish comes on top of our commitment to get more apprentices onto Commonwealth-funded projects by setting aside a proportion of the jobs for apprenticeships,” Ms.Bird said.

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.

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Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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