Browsing articles in "Media"
Tuesday 8th May 2012
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Julia Gillard’s horror:a tied vote

by Alan Thornhill

The Gillard government was embarrassed by a tied vote today, after the opposition sought to have Peter Slipper replaced as Speaker, by his predecessor, Harry Jenkins.

As question time was due to begin, in the House of Representatives today, the Manager of Opposition Business, Christopher Pyne, moved suspension of standing orders, so that the proposed replacement could be debated.

Mr Pyne said the Parliament had been “seriously compromised” by the government’s decision to allow Mr Slipper to simply stand aside from the post, while allegations against him are unresolved.

Speaking earlier, Mr Slipper had strenuously denied the allegations made  by a former staffer, James Ashby.

These included claims of sexual harassment and misuse of Cabcharge documents.

Mr Slipper insisted that  he is entitled to a presumption of innocence, until these matters are dealt with properly.

And he said: “It is unfortunate that trial by media seems to have become the order of the day in this country.”

The Coalition rejected that.

“The standing of the Parliament has never been lower in the minds of the public,” Mr Pyne declared.

He moved suspension of standing orders, so that the House could debate replacing Mr Slipper with the former Labor speaker, Harry Jenkins.

Mr Pyne said the Prime Minister had arranged for Mr Slipper – a Liberal – to replace Mr Jenkins last November,  to strengthen Labor’s vote in the House.

“What the Parliament needs right now is a Speaker who has demonstrated that he is fair and honest,” Mr Pyne said.

Mr Jenkins, who was sitting on Labor’s back bench, smiled at this point.

However, a senior minister, Anthony Albanese, who responded for the government, said the opposition’s proposal would violate both House of Representatives practice and the Constitution.

A Speaker could not be appointed that way.

Mr Albanese said there are proper judicial procedures for dealing with allegations, like those made against Mr Slipper, and they must be followed.

The vote on Mr Pyne’s motion was tied, at 72 for and against.

To have succeeded, though, it would have required an absolute majority, of 76 votes.

That was not attainable, because of absences, form Parliament.

And the Acting Speaker, Anna Burke, declared that, because of that, she would not use her casting vote.

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Tuesday 8th May 2012
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Speaker attacks “trial by media”

by Alan Thornhill

The Speaker of the Federal Parliament, Peter Slipper,  attacked “trial by media” when the House of Representatives resumed today for its budget sittings.

In a brief speech before he vacated the Speaker’s chair, Mr Slipper noted that James Ashby had made allegations against him.

These included claims of sexual harassment and misuse of Cabcharge documents.

Mr Slipper said the new sitting had given him his first opportunity in Parliament  to strenuously deny the charges brought against him.

He said, too, he believes he is entitled to a presumption of innocence, in the circumstances.

But he added: “It is unfortunate that trial by media seems to have become the order of the day in this country.”

Mr Slipper then stood down, and allowed the Deputy Speaker to take the chair.

Thursday 3rd May 2012
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High Court rattles boardrooms

by Alan Thornhill

The High Court  has just sent a shiver throughout Australia’s boardrooms.

It  ruled that seven former James Hardie directors had issued a misleading statement, in 2001, declaring that a compensation scheme, for asbestos victims, was fully funded.

Just two years later, the scheme found to have been underfunded by more than $1 billion.

Meredith Hellicar, a former chair of James Hardie Industries – and six colleagues -  now face penalties, to be decided by the NSW Court of Appeal.

That court will consider issues of liability, penalty and disqualification, at the direction of the High Court.

The corporate watchdog, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission took the latest case to the High Court, after a rash of  legal actions, lasting years.

ASIC Chairman Greg Medcraft welcomed the High Court’s decision, saying it reinforces the behaviour expected of company directors and other market gatekeepers.

‘We made it clear when launching these proceedings that the action was in the public interest,” he said.

‘The case brought into sharp focus the fundamental responsibilities of both executive officers and non-executive directors who are ultimately responsible for significant public company decisions, and the release of information concerning those decisions, to the share market, employees, creditors and the public, Mr Medcraft added.

Tuesday 1st May 2012
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Tony Abbott “slippery” on Speaker affair:Swan

by Alan Thornhill

Wayne Swan says the Coalition has “questions to answer” about its role in the Slipper affair – and he has accused the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, of giving “slippery answers” on  the scandal.

The Treasurer’s attacks follow a report that Coalition frontbencher, Christopher Pyne, met James Ashby “for a drink” a month before the scandal broke.

The affair, which forced Peter Slipper to stand down as Speaker of Federal parliament, broke after Mr Ashby made two serious allegations against Mr Slipper.

The former staffer in Mr Slipper’s office, accused his his previous employer of misusing Cabcharge documents and sexual harassment.

A journalist asked Mr Swan today about the report of a meeting between Mr Ashby and Mr Pyne, who is also manager of opposition business.

Mr Swan said he believes both Mr Pyne and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, still have questions to answer about their roles in the affair.

The Treasurer alleged that Mr Abbott, in particular, had given unsatisfactory replies to questions about his part in the matter.

“I think when you have listened to Mr Abbott’s slippery answers he has not fully answered that (question),” Mr Swan said, adding:”I think Mr Pyne has many questions to answer.”

Sunday 22nd April 2012
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We’re “keeping the pressure off” – Swan

by Alan Thornhill

Wayne Swan says the budget surplus he will produce next month will keep the pressure off prices.

The Treasurer also said it would give the Reserve Bank more room for further cuts in Australia’s interest rates.

He said the planned surplus will  “ensure we’re not adding to price pressures in the economy.”

“This would give the Reserve Bank the maximum flexibility to cut interest rates if it thinks that’s necessary,” Mr Swan said, in his weekly economic note.

Meanwhile, the National Australia Bank says it is expecting the Reserve Bank to cut rates again, when the RBA board  meets on May 1 to review its marker rate.

The NAB also admits, though, that the March quarter inflation figures,  that the Bureau of Statistics is expected to produce on Tuesday, will be a key factor.

“We expect a fairly soft core inflation reading of 0.6 per cent in the March quarter,” the NAB said.

That would leave Australia’s underlying inflation rate at 2.3 per cent over the year, a level well within the Reserve Bank’s target range of 2-3 per cent, over the course of a business cycle.

However the NAB does not expect any further rate cuts this year.

“In the longer run, we remain unconvinced that further rate cuts will be necessary in 2012, unless activity and the labour market weakens by more than we expect.”

Mr Swan said price stability will be important for families and businesses that are now “under financial pressure.”

But he said the government’s good economic management, in the wake of the global financial crisis, had already produced results.

“After back-to-back rate cuts at the end of last year, a family with a $300,000 variable mortgage is now paying around $3,000 a year less in repayments since Labor came to office,” he said.

“ That’s proof of the benefits of sound budget management,” Mr Swan said.

Thursday 19th April 2012
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Julia’s new media management

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.

Wednesday 18th April 2012
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HSBC rapped over home loan ads

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.

Sunday 15th April 2012
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Wayne Swan’s new message

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.”

Don’t panic.

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.




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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