Browsing articles in "Politics"
Tuesday 5th July 2016 - 4:25 pm
Comments Off on Glenn Stevens drops a hint

Glenn Stevens drops a hint

by Alan Thornhill

The Reserve bank left interest rates on hold today, but hinted that there could be another rate cut soon.

 

After a meeting of the bank’s board today, its Governor Glenn Stevens noted that Australia’s inflation is low – at 1.3 per cent – and likely to remain so.

 

 

Then he added:  “Over the period ahead, further information should allow the Board to refine its assessment of the outlook for growth and inflation and to make any adjustment to the stance of policy that may be appropriate.”

 

Mr Stevens also said:  “Several advanced economies have recorded improved conditions over the past year.”

 

However he added:  “but conditions have become more difficult for a number of emerging market economies.

 

He said:  “China’s growth rate has moderated further, though recent actions by Chinese policymakers are supporting the near-term outlook.”

 

 

The bank last cut its marker interest rate from 2 per cent, to a new record low of 1.75 per cent, in May.

 

Mr Stevens said:  “Commodity prices are above recent lows, but this follows very substantial declines over the past couple of years.”

 

 

“Australia’s terms of trade remain much lower than they had been in recent years.”

 

He also noted the impact of Britain’s Brexit decision to leave the European Union but said nothing about Australia’s cliffhanger election, last Saturday.

 

Mr Stevens said global financial markets had been “volatile recently as investors have re-priced assets after the UK referendum.

 

 

“But most markets have continued to function effectively,” Mr Stevens added.

 

“Funding costs for high-quality borrowers remain low and, globally, monetary policy remains remarkably accommodative.

 

“Any effects of the referendum outcome on global economic activity remain to be seen and, outside the effects on the UK economy itself, may be hard to discern,” he concluded.

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Tuesday 5th July 2016 - 1:51 pm
Comments Off on Trade deficit blows out:ABS

Trade deficit blows out:ABS

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s trade deficit rose $433 million in May to $2,218 million.

 

This is shown in figures published by the Bureau of Statistics today.

 

The bureau also reported that Australia’s retail sales rose by 0.2 per cent in that month.

 

The bureau said that, on seasonally adjusted figures, Australia’s exports had been worth $26,170  million in May.

 

But imports had been worth $28,387 million.

 

So our trade deficit that month was 24 per cent bigger than  that of the previous month.

 

Why did that happen?

 

Our exports rose by 1 per cent in May.

 

However our imports rose by 2 per cent in the month, on seasonally adjusted figures.

 

The Statistician also reports that we spent more in food stores and in Australia’s cafes and restaurants in May than we did in April.

 

But trade in Department stores was flat and we spent less on shoes and clothes in May than we had in April.

 

 

Tuesday 5th July 2016 - 12:12 pm
Comments Off on Business outlook bleak before those shocks

Business outlook bleak before those shocks

by Alan Thornhill

Business confidence in Australia was weak before two recent shocks.

 

A survey, by Dun and Bradsreet, showed that expectations for sales and selling prices, in the three months to the end of September, had hit their lowest levels since 2014.

 

Stephen Koukoulas, an economic adviser to the firm, said this result should be treated with caution, as the survey was conducted before both the British vote to leave the EU and the inconclusive result of last Saturday’s Federal elections.

 

However Mr Koukoulas added: “the slide in business expectations over the past year appears to have been arrested in the most recent survey.”

 

And he added: ““there were some mildly encouraging signs, with expectations for capital expenditure edging up from the recent low point.”

 

But he said: “there were, worryingly, signs of further weakness in expected sales and selling prices…”
The Business Expectations Index is an aggregate of the survey’s measures of sales, profits expected sales and selling prices.
He said the low price expectations confirmed by the survey, “points to ongoing low inflation.”

 

The survey also showed that: “profits, Employment and Selling Prices” in Australia’s construction industry, have all been “plunging into negative territory.”

 

It also revealed that: “the Retail industry fared poorly for the first three months of the year, with its Actual Sales and Actual Employment indices falling to -3.9 points and -4.3 points respectively

Monday 4th July 2016 - 8:46 am
Comments Off on Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

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.

Sunday 3rd July 2016 - 8:09 am
Comments Off on “..Labor party is back” Shorten declares

“..Labor party is back” Shorten declares

by Alan Thornhill

“…The Labor party is back,” its leader, Bill  Shorten declared triumphantly, after the result of the first night’s count in yesterday’s Federal election was known.

 

However his conservative rival, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull was insisting that he could still form a government.

 

Independent observers, though, were saying that the results, so far, are so close that voters may still have to wait days to find out which of  these two men will be Australia’s Prime Minister for the next three years.

 

One thing is already certain, though.

 

Malcolm Turnbull has lost the gamble he took, when he called a double dissolution election, months early, in the hope of winning clear control of the Senate.

 

He did that in the hope of restoring peace in the building and construction industry, by reviving the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

 

The final outcome in the Senate will take even longer to decide than that in the House of  Representatives.

 

However one thing is already clear.

 

The new Senate will be peppered with independents and others who may well prove troublesome to the incoming  Prime Minister.

 

 

 

Thursday 30th June 2016 - 6:46 pm
Comments Off on Job vacancies:where to find them

Job vacancies:where to find them

by Alan Thornhill

 

The number of public sector job vacancies in Australia has been rising rapidly.

 

Trend figures that the Bureau of Statistics released today showed that there were 16,500 public sector job vacancies available in Australia in May.

 

This represented a 4.1 per cent rise from the February level and a 26.2 per cent rise over the year.

 

But most opportunities are still to be found in the private sector.

 

The Bureau also reported that there were 155,400 private sector vacancies in May this year.

 

This represented a 0.6 per cent rise from the February level sand a rise of 8.1 per cent over the year.

Thursday 30th June 2016 - 5:50 pm
Comments Off on Medicare:The big sleeper?

Medicare:The big sleeper?

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

 

 Labor has been talking about Medicare again in the dying days of our eight week Federal election campaign.

 

The shadow minister for health, Catherine King, did that when she said:  “Today there is yet more evidence of the overwhelming damage of Mr Turnbull’s Medicare cuts.”

 

This was shown by the Victorian Government’s “dire warning” that his Medicare rebate freeze will rip $230 million out of the pockets of Victorians and see more patients crowding into hospital Emergency Departments in that State, she declared.

 

Labor’s repeated warnings that Medicare’s future  will be threatened if the Turnbull government is returned on Saturday, is one of the few that looked like catching fire, in that otherwise dull campaign.

 

Especially as the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, still believes that he has extinguished Labor’s Medicare threat, under a blanket of strong words.

What, though, if the issue has simply become a sleeper, instead?

 

Let’s look at it, one last time.

 

All parties agree  that Australian voters place a very high value on universal access to health care.

 

Our  politicians agree, too, that voters deserve much more than empty, rattling semantics from their leaders.

 

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, for example, was able to encapsulate the debate very neatly by holding up a Medicare card.

 

He would then declare that this piece of green plastic, not a Visa card, should be all that is required, to get medical treatment.

Mr Shorten would then add that only a Labor government would protect Medicare.

 

Mr Turnbull responded buy branding this “the most outrageous lie” of the entire campaign – and asserting that Medicare would be preserved, if the government he leads is returned on Saturday.

 

He was helped when Labor’s campaign stumbled, because a major medical association refused to endorse th ALP’s warning that a fresh Turnbull government would threaten Medicare’s future.

That is where the semantics kicked in.

We now know that

 

Labor has been talking about Medicare again in the dying days of our eight week Federal election campaign.

The shadow minister for health, Catherine King, that when she said:  “Today there is yet more evidence of the overwhelming damage of Mr Turnbull’s Medicare cuts.”

She said this was shown by the Victorian Government’s “dire warning” that his Medicare rebate freeze will rip $230 million out of the pockets of Victorians and see more patients crowding into hospital Emergency Departments in that State.

Labor’s repeated warnings that Medicare’s future  will be threatened if the Turnbull government is returned on Saturday, is one of the few that looked like catching fire, in that otherwise dull campaign.

Especially as the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, still believes that he has extinguished Labor’s Medicare threat, under a blanket of strong words.

What, though, if the issue has simply become a sleeper, instead.

Let’s look at it, one last time.

 

We now know that many patients will have to pay for blood tests, Pap smears, X-rays and other scans for the first time from July when the government axes the incentive it pays providers to bulk bill patients.

 

The present government has also extended a Medicare rebate freeze that the previous Labor government had introduced as a temporary measure.

We can confidently expect to see more economy measures like these next year if the Turnbull government is returned.

 

Of course Mr Shorten has also said that he is prepared to “modernise” Medicare, if necessary.

 

Where does all this leave, understandably confused, voters?

Take those now vanishing rebates on those tests, for example.

 

They might well be a bargain all round, if they show that patients, often with quite troubling symptoms, don’t need expensive stays in hospital, after all.

Labor, essentially, is arguing that Medicare faces death by a thousand cuts, under a Turnbull government.

 

Mr Turnbull, himself, denies that, saying Medicare is “core business” for any Federal government.

Voters, though, have already confronted him by pointing out that the last Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, promised that there would be no spending cuts to health or education, if he won office.

Politicians, on all sides though, do find it hard to keep promises like that.many patients will have to pay for blood tests, Pap smears, X-rays and other scans for the first time from July when the government axes the incentive it pays providers to bulk bill patients.

The present government has also extended a Medicare rebate freeze that the previous Labor government had introduced as a temporary measure.

We can confidently expect to see more economy measures like these next year if the Turnbull government is returned.

Of course Mr Shorten has also said that he is prepared to “modernise” Medicare, if necessary.

Where does all this leave, understandably confused, voters?

Take those now vanishing rebates on those tests, for example.

They might well be a bargain all round, if they show that patients, often with quite troubling symptoms, don’t need expensive stays in hospital, after all.

Labor, essentially, is arguing that Medicare faces death by a thousand cuts, under a Turnbull government.

Mr Turnbull, himself, denies that, saying Medicare is “core business” for any Federal government.

Voters, though, have already confronted him by pointing out that the last Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, promised that there would be no spending cuts to health or education, if he won office.

Politicians, on all sides though, do find it hard to keep promises like that.

Thursday 30th June 2016 - 1:49 pm
Comments Off on Our wealth: the $13.2 billion hit

Our wealth: the $13.2 billion hit

by Alan Thornhill

Australians have suffered their first fall in household net wealth since the September quarter of 2011.

 

This is shown in figures that the Australian Bureau of Statistics published today.

 

The Bureau said that during the quarter, household net worth fell by $13.2b.

 

“During the quarter, household net worth decreased by $13.2b, its first decrease since September quarter 2011,” the Bureau said.

 

It said the fall was  driven by “holding gains (real and neutral)  -of -$44.1b.”

 

Holding losses on financial assets, like shares, in the quarter were $46.5b.

 

These were driven by valuation decreases in the listed equities market ($17.8b) and insurance technical reserves (driven by superannuation assets) of $37.3b.

 

Households recorded holding losses of $2.2b on land and dwellings during March quarter.

 

This was their second consecutive quarterly loss, following holding losses of $8.0b in December quarter.

 

The Bureau put our household net worth at $8,640.6b at the end of the March quarter.

 

It said this was made  up mainly of $5,904.7b of land and dwelling assets and $4,305.2b of financial assets.

 

But they were set against $2,234.9b of household liabilities.

 

The Bureau  also said transactions in net worth were driven by net capital formation of $11.9b, of which net acquisitions of land and dwellings were $10.9b while other non-financial assets amounted to $1.0b.

 

It said net financial transactions were $11.3b, of which net acquisition of financial assets were $38.5b and net incurrence of liabilities were $27.2b.

 

The major contributors to financial assets transactions were net equity in reserves of pension funds ($17.7b) and deposits ($12.8b).

 

Households incurred liabilities predominately through long term loan borrowings ($26.3b).

The Bureau said holding losses on financial assets in the quarter were $46.5b.

 

These were driven by valuation decreases in the listed equities market ($17.8b) and insurance technical reserves (driven by superannuation assets) of $37.3b.

 

Households recorded holding losses of $2.2b on land and dwellings during March quarter 2016, their second consecutive quarterly loss, following holding losses of $8.0b in December quarter 2015.

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Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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