by Alan Thornhill
Julia Gillard has made two popular announcements this week.
Firstly, that most of our troops in Afghanistan will be coming home earlier than expected.
Secondly, that the Reserve Bank will have room to cut interest rates.
Nothing unusual about that, you might think.
Prime Ministers like making popular announcements.
That’s right, of course, except for one odd thing.
The media management.
Both times, the announcement was made in newspaper stories which contained a strange phrase.
“In a speech to be delivered today…”
That kind of thing.
This is worth watching.
It shows that the Prime Minister’s is now on the offensive.
Leaking information, in a way that makes sure it gets the maximum exposure.
As an old reporter, myself, I can assure you that journalists like nothing more than a leak.
Tomorrow’s news today.
Even if the price is repeating the story in tomorrow’s paper, after the speech has actually been delivered.
Just for the record
The fact that the Prime Minister’s office has started doing this now is no accident.
If the polls are right, Ms Gillard must turn things around very smartly, if she is to have any chance of survival in next year’s Federal elections.
And they usually are.
The Queensland elections showed that.
Publicity wise, the Prime Minister has had a wonderful week.
“Yes,” she said, “your son will be home from Afghanistan sooner than you thought.”
“And yes,” she added, “your home loan payments will be cut, too.”
Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey aren’t quaking in their boots yet.
But they are sitting up, taking notice.
There are limits to this kind of thing, of course.
There are, after all, only so many popular announcements to be made.
Julia’s office, though, is finally showing some skill in handling such matters.
by Alan Thornhill
The HSBC bank will change advertising, which a financial watchdog has called “potentially misleading.”
In a statement today the Australian Securities and Investments Commission said the bank’s ads had headlined a claim that consumers could get “up to 0.95 per cent off” a HSBC Home Smart Loan.
“The campaign was widely promoted using online, print and outdoor advertising,” ASIC said.
But, in the fine print, the bank disclosed that only loans of $1,500,000 or more would be eligible for the full cut.
ASIC said the bank had agreed to change the wording of its ads.
by Alan Thornhill
Wayne Swan is now talking of a “balanced” budget.
“This will be a balanced Budget,” he said in a paper just published.
“Balanced in that it charts a responsible middle course and balanced,” he added.
“ In that it gets us back in the black well before our peers.
“Most importantly it’s a Budget right for the challenges we face today and right for building on our unique strengths for a future in the most dynamic region in the world.”
Mr Swan is still promising to produce a surplus in his Federal budget, next month.
Even though he did use the s-word only twice, in his weekly “economic note.”
“ Returning to surplus will also ensure the Reserve Bank has the flexibility for further interest rate cuts if it thinks that’s necessary,” Mr Swan said.
Treasurers never choose their words more carefully than they do in the weeks leading up to a budget, when pre-budget speculation peaks.
Mr Swan is an old hand at all that, now.
So what, really, is his message here?
Elsewhere in his note, Mr Swan warns, yet again, that revenue will be below already forecast levels in the new financial year.
“Since the global financial crisis struck, we’ve been forced to write-down government tax revenues by $140 billion, and as I’ve indicated there will be more write-downs in next month’s Budget.,” he admits.
He declares, too, that job creation is still a prime target for the government.
Mr Swan knows, very well, that there are conflicting elements in his note.
He is inviting his readers to interpret what he is saying.
Our guess is that his underlying message goes something like this.
“Yes, there will be a surplus.
“But it won’t be big.
“Our approach will be balanced.”
Nice word, that.
by Alan Thornhill
More than one Australian in five is poor – and their incomes are still falling further behind the rest of the community.
This is shown in figures the Bureau of Statistics has just released.
Co-incidentally these figures, reflecting the extent of poverty in Australia, were published on the eve of the annual conference of the Australian Council of Social Service.
ACOSS has been arguing vigorously for higher pensions and allowances.
In a report entitled Life on Struggle Street, the Bureau reported that 4.9 million Australians – 22.6 per cent of the population – live in low income households.
That is an average of 2.9 people, living in households with incomes of no more than $465 a week.
That was less than half of the average – of $1,033 a week – for other Australians.
And the poor are still falling further behind.
The Bureau reported that., after adjusting for inflation, the incomes of poor families had risen by 21 per cent between 2003-04 and 2009-10.
The rest, though, had enjoyed an average rise of 27 per cent, over the same time.
Inequalities in wealth, though, are even sharper.
The average wealth of low income families was just $53,000.
For the rest, the average was almost 10 times greater, at $509,800.
Technically, though, the poor are not getting poorer.
The Bureau reports that, after adjustment for inflation, the average level of their wealth had remained flat, in the six years to 2009-10.
Relatively, though, the poor were, indeed, worse off.
Over the same time, the average wealth of other Australians had risen by 29 per cent.
by Alan Thornhill
Wayne Swan has renewed his attack on three mining billionaires, accusing them of using their wealth to push their vested interests.
Addressing the National Press Club, the Treasurer insisted that he was speaking in defence of the Australian concept of “a fair go.”
“If we don’t grow together,” he said, “we will grow apart.”
Mr Swan said he was disturbed by Gina Rinehart’s purchase of media shares, to increase her influence.
Ms Rinehart, the daughter of mining magnate Lang Hancock, recently sought a big stake in Fairfax, which publishes The Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age.
When a reporter reminded Mr Swan him that the family of another mining billionaire – Andrew (Twiggy) Forrest – had decided to devote $50 million a year to “deserving causes,” Mr Swan responded with a biting line.
“Charity is not a substitute for paying taxes,” he said.
Mr Swan also criticised Clive Palmer, who reportedly said his responsibilities were to his shareholders and his workers, and that he did not have a public responsibility.
Mr Swan said no one grows wealthy alone.
“That is a clear example of what I am talking about,” Mr Swan said.
Then he repeated his central warning.
“I think we are on the cusp of losing a fair go, if we are not careful,” he declared.
Senior Coalition figures have attacked Mr Swan over his campaign, on this issue, accusing him of promoting class warfare.
However the Treasurer dismissed their attacks, noting that Mr Palmer is a big contributor to the Liberal party.
He then accused the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott of “singing for his supper.”
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, stamped her new authority on her Cabinet today, naming her preferred candidate, Bob Carr, as Australia’s new Foreign Minister.
Mr Carr will be taken into Federal Parliament, in the place of Senator Mark Arbib, who is resigning.
“As a public servant, I said yes,” Mr Carr, a former New South Wales Premier, told reporters, explaining his decision to accept Ms Gillard’s offer.
Stephen Smith, who had been tipped to replace Kevin Rudd in the post will stay in his present post of Defence Minister instead.
Ms Gillard’s statement, explaining her appointments is set out below:-
“I have put together a team that will best equip my Government to pursue our priorities for the nation.
Bob Carr will join the Senate, and will take on the role of Minister for Foreign Affairs. Until he takes his place in the Senate, Craig Emerson will continue to act as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Craig Emerson will also take on an expanded role of Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, paying particular attention to increasing Australia’s international economic competitiveness, with a focus on the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper.
Brendan O’Connor moves into Cabinet to take the position of Minister for Small Business, as well as Minister for Housing and Homelessness. Small businesses are central to Australia’s economy and deserve Cabinet-level representation.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon will take on the additional portfolio of Emergency Management, which as I have made clear I believe must be a Cabinet-level appointment.
Tony Burke will take on the additional role of Vice-President of the Executive Council.
Kate Lundy is promoted to Minister for Sport and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, as well as Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation.
David Bradbury is promoted to the Ministry as Assistant Treasurer, and in the newly-created position of Minister Assisting for Deregulation.
Jason Clare will take on the additional portfolio of Minister for Defence Materiel.
Kim Carr will move to the crucial services delivery portfolio of Human Services. Minister Greg Combet will continue to be responsible for manufacturing at a Cabinet level.
I wish to thank Robert McClelland for his many years of service in the Ministry.
I am also announcing a number of changes to Parliamentary Secretary responsibilities.
Parliamentary Secretary changes
Jan McLucas will become Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister in addition to her existing duties, and Richard Marles will assume wider responsibilities with the additional title of Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
Bernie Ripoll becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, while Sharon Bird becomes Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills.
Jacinta Collins will become Manager of Government Business in the Senate following Mark Arbib’s retirement.
I want to thank all Ministers who have served the Government so well in their current portfolios.
I will recommend to Her Excellency the Governor-General that the new Ministry be sworn in on Monday 5 March 2012.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government says final approval of the separation of Telstra means that Australians will get the best possible deals on their communication services.
The Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that approval, by the ACCC is “a major landmark for the nation’s telecommunications industry.”
“This means for the first time in Australia’s history, telecommunications providers will compete on a level playing field,” Ms Gillard said.
“Consumers are set to benefit from this competition as retailers compete evenly and fiercely to give customers the best and most innovative services, at the best price,” she added.
“By structurally separating Telstra, the Government has finally fixed the wrongs of past governments.
“Telstra was structured and sold in a way that was bad for consumers, bad for competition and bad for the economy.
“For consumers, this means the Government has secured the best outcome for their telecommunications services by locking in maximum competition – now and into the future,” Ms Gillard said.
by Alan Thornhill
Julia Gillard says the time for distractions is over.
The Prime Minister made that declaration, while speaking to reporters, after her commanding 71-31 win against her challenger, Kevin Rudd.
“The last week has seen us, the women and men of the Labor Party focused inwards, focused on ourselves,” Ms Gillard said.
“ At times it’s been ugly.
“ I understand that,” she added.
Then she made her declaration to Australians “one and all.”
“I can assure you that this political drama is over and now you are back at centre stage where you should properly be.
“And you will be the focus of all of our efforts.”
Within hours, though, reality took over.
A hard line Right wing warrior, Mark Arbib, announced that he would be resigning from Federal parliament, as a conciliatory gesture, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Mr Rudd will return to the back bench.
“I accept the caucus’s verdict, without qualification and without rancour,” he said.
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, asked how the public could have confidence in Julia Gillard when 31 of her MPs and almost a quarter of her Cabinet did not.
He said the vote was likely to be “merely a stay of execution” for the Prime Minister.
The real test for Julia Gillard, though, will come with the next Federal election, which is due to be held in the second half of next year.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Sunday December 8
The Dow Jones index rose 198.69 points (Friday, New York time) to 16,020.20
Australia’s first same sex marriages take place in Canberra, but may over-ruled by the High Court Thursday
ACCC puts a cap on the fuel shopper dockets offered by Coles and Woolworths.
Qantas shares placed in trading halt
|Aud To Usd||0.9102||N/A||N/A|
|Bhp Blt Fpo||36.750||-0.030||-0.08%|
|Anz Bank Fpo||30.990||-0.200||-0.64%|
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