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by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s political leaders will be hitting their phones this week, trying to scrape together enough support to give the country stable government for the next three years.
The main rivals, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who heads a conservative coalition and Bill Shorten, who leads the Labor party both found themselves short of the 76 seats they would need, in the House of Representatives, to govern in their own right, at the end of the initial, but still incomplete, count.
Late yesterday, Labor had 67 seats, the Coalition 65, others 5 and 13 were still in doubt.
The Australian Electoral Commission had counted 78.2 per cent of the votes cast, at that point.
It will not resume the count until Tuesday, and the final result, for the House, will probably not be known until some time next week.
Mr Turnbull had made much of the need he saw for stability, during the late stages of the eight week election campaign, particularly after Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
However the swing to Labor, evident in Saturday’s election, showed that voters were more impressed with Mr Shorten’s warning that only Labor could be trusted to protect Australia’s health insurance system, Medicare.
Mr Turnbull had sought support for a plan centred on tax cuts for big companies and high income earners.
He had warned that a big spending Labor government could not be trusted to manage Australia’s economy responsibly.
And, at a news conference today, he welcomed a question from a reporter who asked him if the election result could threaten Australia’s TripleA credit rating.
He thanked the reporter and said: “This is why it is very important … for me to explain what is happening at the moment.”
“We are simply going through a process of completing a count,” Mr Turnbull said.
The Prime Minister also said that he could still form a new government, for the next three years.
However Bill Shorten greeted the initial count with a triumphal declaration.
He conceded that the public might not know the outcome of Saturday’s election : “…for some days to come.”
“But there is one thing for sure – the Labor Party is back.” he said.
But which of these two men is likely to be Australia’s Prime Minister over the next three years?
The answer to that question will depend, very much, on their relative telephone skills.
by Alan Thornhill
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, set out his objectives for a Labor government after July 2, in his final speech of the current campaign to the National Press Club in Canberra today.
He said: “We are setting our markers for the Australia of 2030.”
- Strong, universal, affordable Medicare
- A school system back in the top 5 in the world
- 50 per cent renewable energy
- A first-rate, fibre NBN, putting us at the centre of the Asian Century
- Revitalising advanced manufacturing and apprenticeships
- Building the nation building, productive infrastructure unclogging our cities and joining our economic operations
- 3 per cent of our GDP dedicated to science, research and technology
- 300,000 more women in work
- Halving the national suicide rate, and
- Reducing the rates of ovarian cancer.
He said all of this would be matched with an economic and fiscal plan for the next decade, ” to fully-fund our investments in the future.”
This would mean: “Delivering the needed structural savings and tax reforms that will bring the budget back to balance in the same year as our opponents forecast, and build stronger, more sustainable surpluses in the years that follow.
“Achieving these goals over the next decade means starting work next week.
“My team and I have a clear set of priorities for our first 100 days.
“A new Labor government will hit the ground running:
– Offering certainty to Arrium in South Australia – and protecting jobs in Laverton, Rooty Hill and Acacia Ridge
– Setting up our transition fund to support 200,000 automotive supply chain jobs
– Developing the Financing Mandate for our new $10 billion Concrete Bank, so we can get private investment flowing into public infrastructure
– Drawing up the terms of reference and appointing a Royal Commissioner to investigate the rip-offs, scams and credit card interest rate rorts in the banking sector
– And convening a National Crisis Summit on Family Violence, an assembly of the frontline: counsellors, law enforcement, community legal centres, state governments and – most importantly – survivors.
These are the people who know, better than anyone, what is wrong with our system and what we need to do to end family violence.
“Underpinning all of this – our long-term objectives and our immediate plans for action – will be an old-fashioned focus on good public policy.
“A careful and considered approach – recognising that government is a most serious business, a long-term policy institution.
He said a Labor government would be “Dealing honestly with the challenges we face and being upfront about our plans.”
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government is aiming to save $1.1 billion a year, by targeting “leakage, waste and abuse” in the welfare system.
However the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, who announced this crackdown today, said people who are entitled to welfare payments would continue to get them.
He was announcing the Coalition’s financial targets, for the three years following the July 2 election.
However the Greens ridiculed Mr Morrison’s statement, saying he was urging that Australia’s social security system be automated and upgraded even though its staff cannot even answer their phone calls.
Senator Rachel Siewert – the Greens spokesperson on Community Services – said Mr Morrison is advocating that Australia’s social security system be “automated and upgraded” when his staff cannot even answer their phones.
“After 22 million missed calls last year amongst other issues, there are many Australian’s accessing income support of some form, be it Family Tax Benefit, Paid Parental Leave, Disability Support Pension, Youth Allowance, Newstart, Carers Allowance, who feel extremely frustrated,” Senator Siewert said.
“The missed calls are just the tip of the iceberg,” she added.
by Alan Thornhill
Malcolm Turnbull says: “the shockwaves in the past 48 hours from Britain’s vote to exit the European Union are a sharp reminder of the volatility in the global economy.”
Delivering his policy speech in Sydney for the July 2 elections, the Prime Minister also spoke of the need for stable majority government, experienced economic leadership and a national economic plan.
An edited copy of his 4,000 word speech is reproduced below.
After praising senior Liberals who attended the launch, Mr Turnbull said Australia needs a national economic plan which “recognises the nature of our times – both the opportunities and challenges – and gives us the resilience we need to succeed.”
“Only the Liberal National Coalition can deliver that plan, that security, that leadership,” he added.
“Everything we seek to achieve, all of our hopes, our dreams depend on strong economic growth, “ Mr Turnbull said.
In a strong economy, business is confident and prepared to risk investing, expanding and hiring.”
Mr Turnbull said: “Our business tax cuts encourage small and medium businesses to do just that.
“A strong economy means a mum whose kids are now at school and wants to work a few more days, or work full time, will have plenty of opportunities to do so,” Mr Turnbull said.
“And our childcare reforms will make it easier for her to do so too,” he added.
“It means that young men and women who have left school and are looking for a job will find an employer who is hiring and is happy to give them a start.”
“Our PaTH program with job training and internships will provide additional support to youth employment,”Mr Turnbull added.
A strong economy means we can fund our Innovation and Science Agenda to ensure our kids learn the digital skills of the 21st century, our research is commercialised to create jobs here at home and investors support start-up companies.
A strong economy means that senior Australians know their children will be in good jobs, their investments will deliver better returns and that Government will have growing revenues to support their pensions and health care.
It means that the farmer is getting much better prices for his cattle and can afford to hire a local contractor to replace his fences, clean out a dam or build a new hay shed.
It means the cafe, the restaurant, the hotel has more tourists and they hire more staff to cater for them.
All thanks to our export trade deals.
A strong economy means that builders will be hard at work on new homes and tradesmen will have more jobs.
It means that a manufacturer has more export orders, can buy more equipment, hire more workers and expand their business.
A stronger economy means we can fund over $50 billion in 21st century road, rail and other infrastructure including the Western Sydney Airport and the 39,000 jobs it will create.
“A stronger economy means we can afford to fund world-class education and health services, including Medicare, without weighing down our children and grandchildren with more debt and deficits,” Mr Turnbull said.
A strong economy means we can meet and beat our international obligations to address climate change and do so without massive hikes in electricity prices as Labor would do.
“We have a national economic plan because the prosperity and security of 24 million Australians depend on it,” he said.
Mr Turnbull said success in the 21st Century cannot be taken for granted.
“Always expect the unexpected.”
“We will need to renegotiate vital trade deals with Europe and Britain,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We concluded five in the last three years – Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and the Trans Pacific Partnership.
“In six years Labor concluded none,” he said.
“We have carefully considered what we need to do to succeed, to make the transition from an economy fired up by a once in a century mining construction boom to one that is more diverse, more innovative, smarter, more productive – an economy that wins, and keeps on winning.”
“So there is a clear cut choice at this election,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We present our fellow Australians with a national economic plan every element of which supports more investment, stronger economic growth and more jobs.
“Our plan invests $1.1 billion to promote leading-edge innovation in our industries and to prepare our children for the jobs of the future.”
Our plan promotes export trade deals to generate 19,000 new export opportunities, giving our businesses premium access to the biggest economies in our region.
Our plan invests in local defence industries to ensure every defence dollar possible supports advanced manufacturers and thousands of Australians jobs.
Our Enterprise Tax Plan provides tax relief to tens of thousands of small-to-medium family businesses now and to all companies over time so they can invest, grow and hire more Australians.
“On the other hand, our opponents in the Labor Party have no economic plan.”
“Labor believes its best hope of being elected is to have trade union officials phone frail and elderly Australians in their homes at night, to scare them into thinking they are about to lose something which has never been at risk,” Mr Turnbull said.
“That’s not an alternative government, that’s an Opposition unfit to govern.”
Every element of Labor’s platform would discourage investment and employment.
He described it as: “a recipe for economic stagnation.”
“If returned at this election, we will convene a joint sitting to restore the rule of law in the construction industry and reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, Mr Turnbull said.
So Australians could have the building infrastructure they need “at a price they can afford.”
He said: “housing values would fall in a fragile property market and rents would rise, because of Labor’s investment destroying ban on negative gearing and 50 per cent hike in capital gains tax.
“This threat is real.
“ So we need to be crystal-clear about what our votes will mean,” Mr Turnbull said.
“If your local vote is for Labor, Greens or an Independent, and you are in one of the 20 or so key battleground seats across the country, it is a vote for the chaos of a hung Parliament, a budget black hole, big Labor taxes, less jobs and more boats,” he warned.
Only a Liberal or National vote ensures stable government, a clear economic plan, real funding for the aged, Medicare and education; more jobs and strong borders.
Mr Turnbull urged Australians to: ““Vote for your local Liberal or National in the House and in the Senate.”
“In the last calendar year, there were 300,000 new jobs,” the Prime Minister said.
“Our unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent is well beneath what was anticipated when the Coalition came to office,” he added.
None of this happens by chance. Strong economic leadership supporting hard-working Australians means that, even with difficult global headwinds, we continue to grow our economy and expand our workforce.
And, today, I can announce additional policies from our Coalition team to support our national economic plan for jobs and growth.
Mr Turnbull said his government is determined to ensure none of our regional communities are left behind as we make the transition to a stronger new economy.
“… our regions must be at the frontline of the drive for innovation, jobs and growth,” Mr Turnbull said.
Our ‘Regional Jobs Fund’ is a major commitment… he added.
“As we build a stronger economy, it is vital that we also do all we can to ensure all Australians, especially young Australians, are not left behind,” he added.
So the Coalition woulds deliver a record $73.6 billion over the next four years for all Australian schools,” he said.
“Today, I can announce an additional $48 million for scholarships under the Smith Family’s Learning for Life program, to help disadvantaged students to complete year 12 and transition to work or further education and training,” he added.
“The Coalition will also invest $31 million in programs to encourage more girls and women to study and work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Mr Turnbull said.
It would also help older Australians get smartphones.
He said only about one household in five, with people aged 60 or above, had a smartphone.
“To make their lives easier, to help them retain their independence, and to keep them connected to families and friends, I am announcing today a $50 million Coalition strategy to assist seniors who want to improve their digital literacy skills,” he said.
“And as announced earlier today, my Government will be investing $192 million more in front line mental health services including twelve suicide prevention sites around Australia and ten more headspace centres; and at the same time using smart phone and other technology to make these services more accessible,” he said.
This complements our support for Veterans’ mental health programs, itself a reminder that we best honour the diggers of Gallipoli and Fromelles by supporting the veterans and their families of today.
Mr Turnbull said; “only a strong Australia can be a safe Australia.
“After six years of abject Labor neglect and indecision, our continuous shipbuilding strategy will ensure Australia retains a sovereign capability to build and sustain naval vessels, securing thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs for decades to come,” he added.
Mr Turnbull said:”Labor’s abandonment of John Howard’s proven border protection policy opened the door to the people-smugglers:
The results had included:-
- 50,000 unauthorised arrivals on 800 boats,
- 1200 deaths at sea, of which we know,
- Over 8000 children put into detention,
- 17 detention centres opened, and
- An $11 billion border protection budget blowout.
“In contrast, the Coalition has restored security at the border, integrity to our immigration program – and with it, public trust,” he said.
“I am proud to announce that today marks 700 days without a successful people-smuggling venture to our country,” he added.
“I am also very proud to announce that we have removed every child from detention in Australia,” Mr Turnbull said.
Labor had failed Australia before.
“The people-smugglers are looking for the earliest sign that an Australian government will waver,” he added.
Mr Turnbull said: “our policies are tough.
“But these policies have stopped the drownings at sea, and restored the integrity of, and trust in, our large but orderly immigration and refugee programs,” he added.
To further strengthen our domestic security I announce initiatives that go to that most fundamental of liberties – the right to live without fear of violence.
Mr Turnbull also said: “my first announcement as Prime Minister was a new $100 million package to encourage all Australians to confront squarely and honestly the ugly truth of violence against women and children in our society.
“Today, I can announce a $64 million commitment to crack down on the trafficking of illegal firearms on our streets, in particular by criminal gangs,” he added.
He said he is asking Australians to make a clear choice — to back a strong and stable Coalition majority government that can press ahead with its plan for a stronger new economy.
That would deliver the economic security that enables Australians to fulfill their aspirations.
“That is why I am asking my fellow Australians at this election to support our Coalition’s National Economic Plan for a Strong New Economy,” he said.
by Alan Thornhill
The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced today that he is planning to resign before a Conservative Party conference in October.
His statement follows the failure of a referendum he promoted to keep Britain in the European Union, which it joined 43 years ago.
The loss sent global currency and share markets into chaos and pushed the British pound to its lowest point in 25 years.
The BBC put the number of votes urging Britain to leave the EU at 17,410,742 or 51.9 per cent of the total cast.
It said, too, that 16,141,241 votes were cast, by those who want Britain to stay in the EU.
This was 48.1 per cent of the total vote.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said: “ This is a momentous and historic decision and we respect the wishes of the British people, expressed through this referendum“
However he added: “I want to say that Australians….will be concerned by the uncertainty and instability in global markets, falls in currencies, including the Australian dollar and in equity markets.”
But Mr Turnbull said, too, that: “it is important to remember that the Australian economy is strong and resilient and has weathered global shocks before and weathered them well.”
“So there is no cause for Australians to be alarmed by these developments,” Mr Turnbull said.
But he said there would be a “… a period of uncertainty and some instability in global markets.”
“ I’ve no doubt that European leaders will provide reassurance and leadership that will in due course, settle many if not all of those uncertainties,” Mr Turnbull said.
However he added: “…now more than ever Australia needs a stable majority Coalition Government .”
He said the nation also needed a strong economic plan that sets Australia up for a prosperous future.
This would enable Australia to take advantage of new opportunities and resiliently meet the challenges and the headwinds “that we cannot always anticipate and that we cannot always influence.”
“But but they will always be there,” Mr Turnbull said.
by Alan Thornhill
The Australian economy is likely to see brighter times in the months ahead.
This is suggested by a Leading Index that was published today.
Senior Westpac economist, Matthew Hassan said that between December and May there had been a stabilisation in both equity markets and dwelling approvals.
He said the bank’s Leading Index rose by 0.2 points in May to 97.
However Mr Hassan said those improvements had been offset by both falls in both consumer expectations between December and May and aggregate hours worked.
“The Reserve Bank Board next meets on July 5,” Mr Hassan said.
The key considerations are still around the outlook for inflation, with the June quarter inflation report due on July 27.
“We expect no change in the cash rate and no substantive changes in the Governor’s statement accompanying the decision.
“However, it remains our assessment that the June quarter inflation read will reconfirm to the Board that, on a ‘no policy change’ basis, inflation is unlikely to return to the Bank’s 2-3 per cent target over the forecast horizon.
“And… another 25 basis point cut is necessary with that cut being delivered at the Board’s meeting on August 2”, Mr Hassan said.
by Alan Thornhill
Labor has targeted tax breaks enjoyed by Australians on high incomes, in the Federal budget revisions that it announced today.
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, the Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen and Shadow Finance Minister, Tony Burke, said these would include negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions on property purchases.
They said they were advancing a budgdet repair plan “which is fair.”
But many will not agree.
In a joint statement the three Labor leaders said: “Labor has been announcing budget repair measures over the last two years to improve the budget and support our investments in schools and Medicare.
“Today we are announcing a $10.1 billion improvement to previously-announced budget measures, as a result of 2016-17 Budget update.
“This includes boosts to our negative gearing and capital gains reforms, and VET-FEE HELP loan caps.
“Labor’s announced savings from these measures now total $122 billion over the medium term,” they added.
Then they said: “Labor is today announcing a further $6.1 billion in budget improvements through measures that better target the Private Health Insurance (PHI) rebate, reduce wasteful spending and better target family payments.
These measures have been designed to limit the impact on the household budgets of low and middle income families.
They saiid the savings would include:-
*$3.0 billion from better targeting the PHI rebate over the medium term, by continuing the Government’s 2016-17 threshold freeze and removing the rebate from natural therapies.
*Reforming Industry Growth Centres, saving $0.5 billion over the medium term.
*Re-directing DFAT spending to other budget priorities, including the abolition of the Innovation Xchange which focussed on purchasing bean bags. This saves $0.4 billion over the medium term.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is trying to steer the election campaign back to where it started.
That is with his attempt to restore peace in the building and construction industry.
And in a speech to the American Australian Association & US Studies Centre last night, Mr Turnbull also argued that Australia’s increasing involvement with Asia is making this country’s reliance on America more important than ever.
He said the government had launched an unusually long –eight week – campaign for re-election “in order to break the deadlock between the House of
Representatives and the Senate over two critical pieces of legislation relating to industrial relations.
“and one of those is the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission,” Mr Turnbull said.
That aim had – previously – been hardly mentioned during the campaign, which has now passed its half-way mark.
But, last night, Mr Turnbull declared that the course he had chosen is: “the only way we can get the rule of law restored to the construction sector.”
He said the sector employs one million people.
“ and the restoration of law to that sector is a vital economic reform, and part of our economic plan to secure our prosperity.”
“the only way we can get that passed is through this double dissolution and getting the numbers collectively in the House and the Senate to pass that law and restore rule of law through a joint sitting of the parliament,” Mr Turnbull said.
“ That’s our commitment,” he added.
Mr Tunbull also paid tribute to a previous Liberal Prime Minister, John Howard, who attended last night’s function.
He said: “John understood that the United States is the irreplaceable anchor to the global rules-based order – an order built upon shared political values and common economic and security interests.
“The truth of his insight has been affirmed by every subsequent Prime Minister of Australia.
“Earlier this year I visited and thanked our men and women serving alongside US forces in Afghanistan, in what is now the longest commitment in our military history.
“And also our forces in Iraq, where we are together with the United States and other allies jointly pushing back, rolling back the brutality and barbarity of Daesh or ISIL.
“And not a day, truthfully not a minute, goes by without our intelligence agencies working together – saving lives – in the fight against terrorism.
“Our ANZUS alliance and broader relationship is anchored in a history that is even deeper and richer than many of us realise,” Mr Turnbull concluded.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
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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