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Monday 1st July 2013 - 9:53 pm
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New poll puts Labor ahead

by Alan Thornhill

A new poll puts Kevin Rudd in a strong position to win the now imminent Federal elections.

It is the first to do so.

The poll, by Roy Morgan Research, is the second this organisation has conducted, since Mr Rudd was restored to Labor leadership last Wednesday.

The first was a snap poll.

Tonight’s count reflects another swing to the Labor party and puts its tally – on a two party preferred basis – at 51.5 per cent – against 48.5 per cent for the Liberal-National party Coalition led by Tony Abbott.

Mr Abbott admitted, before the poll was published, that he expected the contest to “tighten” before the upcoming election.

In a statement accompanying the publication of its research, the Roy Morgan organisation said: “If a Federal Election were held today the result would be a close ALP win.”

Gary Morgan said: “Rudd’s return as leader and the immediate improvement in the ALP’s support clearly puts the pressure on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, to explain the Coalition’s policies better and put a case for why he should be elected at the coming Federal Election.

“Particularly important will be the Coalition’s Industrial Relations policies and also the Coalition’s plans for getting the Australian economy moving again – both issues referred to by Rudd in his pre-ballot speech.

“The question is will Rudd call an August election and rely on his honeymoon or take longer so as to outline his ‘new’ policies which tackle a ‘failing’ economy – massive real unemployment and under-employment and falling business confidence and consumer confidence – so far ignored by both the Federal Government and the Opposition,” Mr Morgan said.

Electors were asked: “If an election for the House of Representatives were held today — which party would receive your first preference?

The multi-mode Morgan Poll on Federal voting intention was conducted over the last few days via Face-to-Face, Internet and SMS interviewing, June 28-30, 2013 with an Australia-wide cross-section of 3,438 Australian electors aged 18 or more.

Only 1.5 per cent of those surveyed did not name a party.

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Monday 17th June 2013 - 7:05 pm
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Abbott quiet on polls

by Alan Thornhill

Perhaps wisely, Tony Abbott refused today to comment on what he called “the ups and downs of opinion polls.”

But he must have been tempted. At that point, the latest poll showed the Coalition up, at 57 per cent, and Labor trailing on just 43 per cent, on a two party preferred basis.

Fairfax papers, which published that poll, attributed Labor’s fall, from 46 per cent the previous week, to male voters turning away from the party, after Julia Gillard’s contentious remarks last week on abortion and pale blue ties.

However the Morgan poll, published later in the day, had a different story to tell.

It showed L-NP support down 2.5 per cent in a week, to 53.5 per cent, and Labor’s up, by the same amount, to 46.5 per cent, also on a two party preferred basis.

Either way, if figures like these were replicated in the September 14 elections, Mr Abbott would become Australia’s next Prime Minister.
However, the commentary accompanying the Morgan poll was interesting.

It was headed: “Female support rises strongly for the government, after Howard Sattler’s interview with the Prime Minister.”
In that – widely condemned – interview the – subsequently sacked – West Australian shock – jock, had asked Ms Gillard if her partner, Tim Mathieson, is gay.

The Fairfax poll, though, concluded that the Prime Minister, had gained no ground with women, at all, by attempting to make both abortion – and misogyny – election issues.

Take your pick.

Sunday 9th June 2013 - 1:53 pm
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The economics behind the chatter

by Alan Thornhill

John Keynes had some useful advice for Australians, as they prepare to vote in the Federal elections on September 14.

“Practical men,” he said, “ who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

As Keynes, himself, has now joined the “invisible choir” of “defunct economists,” it is now up to us, to work out what those thoughts might mean for us now.

Keynes came up with a revolutionary idea, during the Great Depression.

He argued that governments should spend more, to keep economies going, when others, for whatever reason, stop spending.

That, apparently simple, idea has divided politicians and economists ever since.

That’s still happening, both in Australia and overseas.

The Nobel Prize winning US economist, Paul Krugman, an unreconstructed Keynsian, has been calling other economists, who advocate austerity in post crisis times, “deficit scolds.”

He argues, with some force, that we should not believe that “a fairy” will make everything right, if only we get spending back into balance.

But other US economists, including Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, say Krugman has been “spectacularly uncivil.”

There are some faint echoes, in all this, aren’t there?

Especially if we count Wayne Swan as a Keynsian.

That seems fair enough, as he has been stimulating the Australian economy since the Global Economic crisis struck, back in 2008.

Tony Abbott, though, is attracted by austerity.

He sees budget surpluses – however distant – as compelling milestones on the proper path to prosperity.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is, perhaps, the world’s most conspicuous champion of austerity.

So – for want of a better word – we might class Mr Abbott as a slave of “Angelanomics,” even though Ms Merkel is neither an economist nor, thankfully, defunct.

So how does all this work out, in the real world?

To differing degrees, both the Obama administration in the United States, and the Rudd/Gillard government in Australia, have been stimulating their respective economies, since the global crisis struck, in 2008.

With some success, too.

The US stock market, now, is hovering around record heights.

And Australia’s unemployment rate – at 5.6 per cent – is the envy of the developed world, even though spectacular adjustments, like Ford’s announced closure, from late 2016, are making many people nervous.

What of Angelanomics?

It might also be spectacularly uncivil to blame Ms Merkel for the present plights of Greece, Ireland and Spain.

But austerity has been advocated, at different times, as a remedy for all three.

The unemployment in Greece, at last count, stood at 27 per cent. Spain’s was even higher, at 27.2 per cent, while Ireland’s unemployment rate was 13.7 per cent.

Monday 3rd June 2013 - 9:05 am
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Are you ready for broadband?

by Alan Thornhill

Is your business ready to take advantage of high speed broadband?

A new report, ordered by the Australian Industry Group, reveals that many are not.

Confidence levels, in the small business sector, are particularly low.

The report “Ready or Not? Technology investment and productivity in Australian Business” makes that clear.

It is based on a survey of nearly 350 CEOs and discussion groups with business leaders around the country.

The report found that: “”While Australia is making a significant and important public investment in high-speed broadband, less than half of businesses are confident they can take advantage of it.

“Small to medium enterprises are the least confident, with 40 per cent of medium-sized companies and 47 per cent of small companies expressing confidence compared with 70 per cent of larger companies.

“Also disturbing is the finding that business investment in new technologies is expected to decrease in 2013 due to an uncertain economic outlook and rising cost pressures.

“ Only 22 per cent of all companies surveyed are looking to invest in new technologies in 2013.

“ This is a ten percentage point drop compared with 2012.

“Around a quarter of businesses (26 per cent) expect to reduce expenditure on new technologies.

“This is a fifteen percentage point rise compared with 2012.”

Sunday 26th May 2013 - 7:09 pm
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Gambling ads banned

by Alan Thornhill

Broadcasts of live betting odds are to be banned on Australian television and radio.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced the ban today.

And commercial television stations declared, shortly afterwards, that they would comply.

Ms Gillard said: “The public have had enough of odds and betting promotions being shoved down their throats while listening to and watching sport.”

She added: “Younger Australians, in particular, should continue to talk about which is the best football team, best netball team, or best rugby team, not which team is at the shortest odds to win a game.”

This means:-
• All promotion of betting odds on broadcast media will be prohibited during live sports matches. This includes by gambling companies and commentators.

• All generic gambling broadcast advertisements will be banned during play. Advertisements of this sort would only be allowed before or after a game; or during a scheduled break in play, such as quarter-time and half-time.

• Banner adverts, sponsorship logos, and other broadcast promotions must not appear during play.

• When crossed to, representatives of gambling companies must not be at or around the venue. They also must not appear with the commentary team at any time and must be clearly identified as a gambling representative.

• The Government will monitor the intensity of generic gambling advertisements within the allowed periods. If it is found to go beyond reasonable levels, the Government will impose a total advertising ban.

Television stations accepted the government’s decision.

”These are unprecedented restrictions for broadcasters but we accept the government has acted in response to community concern,” Free TV CEO Julie Flynn said.

”We recognise that these are difficult issues and we will submit a revised code within the next two weeks in line with the Prime Minister’s announcement.”

Tony Abbott said the government had accepted the Opposition’s initiative, on this matter.

It had signaled, some weeks ago, that it would take similar action, if elected on September 14.

But not everyone is pleased.

The Greens – and Nick Xenophon – said the government had not gone far enough.

The South Australian independent asked why the government hadn’t gone further ”rather than stopping a third of the way.”

And the Greens spokesperson on gambling Senator Richard Di Natale, said said the ban would do nothing to end the bizarre loophole that allows gambling ads to be shown during children’s viewing times.

Friday 3rd May 2013 - 11:25 am
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Money worries:what others are doing

by Alan Thornhill

Do money worries leave you feeling stressed?

If so, you are not alone.

A new survey has revealed that even when things are going well, almost 40 per cent of people ‘stress out’ about money.

The survey was conducted by the ANZ Bank and Pacific Magazines.

Even in the good times Australians worry about money.

The survey also found that:-

* Women tend to worry more than men, with 51 per cent saying they find dealing with money stressful and overwhelming, compared to just 37 per cent of men.

* One third of respondents say worrying about finances causes sleepless nights, while 39 per cent feel anxious.

* 37 per cent of respondents talk to their partner or spouse to alleviate financial stress and one in three exercise.

* While the vast majority say it’s important to have a long term financial plan (84 per cent), just one in five respondents say they currently use a financial planner or adviser (21 per cent).

* 83 per cent of those not confident about their future financial security either “procrastinate” or “try not to think about it” when it comes to putting a financial plan in place.

* Most respondents say they have some form of financial fear; with the most common financial fears being not having enough money to live comfortably in the future (48 per cent), and not being able to maintain their current lifestyle in the future (28%).

* 44 per cent of respondents agree that “dealing with money is stressful and overwhelming”.

Wednesday 27th March 2013 - 10:52 am
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More cash for start ups

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government says it will invest at least $200 million in early stage, high growth Australian companies.

The Minister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation, Greg Combet, said this would  be done through three new venture capital funds supported by the Gillard Government’s Innovation Investment Fund.

He said this is a key Government vehicle for providing small and medium sized enterprises with access to venture capital.

“This is a huge boost for Australian start-ups,” Mr Combet said.

“These funds will invest at least $200 million of new capital in start-up businesses.”

He said the  IIF continues to commercialise leading Australian research to produce new technologies, products and services that will be sold around the globe.

“These new fund managers will provide crucial equity capital and essential management expertise to a whole range of promising companies across the economy.

“Venture capital helps turn ideas into successful businesses and new jobs. It is a vital part of our innovation system which is why the Government, as part of its Plan for Australian Jobs, has announced a new $350 million round of the IIF Program.

“Successful start-ups are essential to creating new products, jobs and economic growth. The IIF will continue to co-invest government capital with private investor capital into early-stage Australian technology based companies.”

The IIF commenced in 1998. Over three rounds, the IIF has established 16 funds and has co-invested in new companies including Seek, Bionomics, Pharmaxis and Benthic Geotech.

Details on the successful fund managers and examples of successful IIF investee companies are available at www.ausindustry.gov.au.

More information on the IIF program can also be accessed through the AusIndustry Hotline on 13 28 46 or email VentureCapital@innovation.gov.au/IIF

 

 

Monday 25th February 2013 - 12:11 pm
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How others see us:A BBC reporter’s view of Australia

by Alan Thornhill

From an article by BBC  reporter Madelaine Morris

 

Australia has managed to come out of the global financial crisis without a recession. But as a result of its booming economy, the cost of living is extremely high.

It was the limes that finally tipped me over the edge.

In the sleepy Australian seaside village where my parents live, not that far away from several citrus orchards, I was in a supermarket staring at a sign:

Limes: $2.25.

Two Australian dollars, twenty-five cents.

That’s £1.50 (US$2.30). Not for a bag. Not for a pair. Each. One lime cost £1.50. Infuriated, I stormed out of the shop, limeless.

“The country has lost it,” I fumed to my mum and dad over dinner that night. “How can anyone afford to eat in this country?”

“Darling,” my father replied. “Look around. People here are rolling in money. We live in an unbelievably wealthy nation.”

And he is right. In the 12 years since I last called Australia home, it has changed. It was always the lucky country, blessed with fertile land, abundant sunshine and plentiful natural resources……

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Alan Thornhill

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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