by Alan Thornhill
Farmers and shopkeepers see little benefit for them in tonight’s budget.
Industry leaders are sceptical, too.
Patients say there is little hip pocket relief for them, either.
The National Farmers’ Federation says it is pleased that agriculture has been spared from major cuts in the Budget, but is disappointed that the Government is simply moving funds around within agriculture and other portfolios, rather than committing additional funds to new projects.
The Australian Retailers Association says the Federal Budget does little to take cost pressure off retailers, and fails to wind back government spending to rid the nation of deficits. Its Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said the association is disappointed the budget offered no obvious support for small business.
The Australian Industry Group says the government is avoiding tough calls as reality bites. Its Chief Executive, Innes Willox said the budget confirms industry concerns about a slowing economy, but risks being too optimistic about Australia’s growth prospects, our terms of trade, corporate tax receipts and the recovery of housing construction.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce says the federal budget does little to take cost pressure off the private sector, especially small business and fails to wind back government spending to rid the nation of deficits and allow future investment in the economy. Its Chief Executive, Peter Anderson, said “Over the next year, there is still more spending than saving.”
The Consumers’ Health Forum says patients with cancer or needing new medicines will benefit. “But there is little relief from hip pocket pain in tonight’s budget,” the Forum’s CEO Carol Bennett, said.
by Alan Thornhill
Julia Gillard says she will bring legislation, to increase the Medicare levy, into Parliament before the elections on September 14.
The Prime Minister made the commitment after the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said he would support the increase, to clear the way for the proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The Prime Minister proposed earlier this week that the Medicare levy be increased by 0.5 per cent, to back the new insurance scheme.
Early today, Mr Abbott declared his support for the scheme and said he would – at least temporarily – support the 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare levy.
That was enough for the Prime Minister.
Just hours later, she told reporters in Tasmania that, as a result: “ I will bring to the Parliament the legislation to increase the Medicare levy by half a per cent.
“I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition has made his statement today,” Ms Gillard said.
“We will continue to get on with building DisabilityCare and I look forward to the launch sites for DisabilityCare coming into operation on 1 July, including the launch site here in Tasmania.”
Mr Abbott had also said earlier the levy, which the government would apply to the new scheme would not be permanent, if he became Prime Minister on September 14.
In a statement issued through the Coalition he leads, Mr Abbott said: “People with a disability should not have to wait any longer than is necessary for the support they need.
“For these reasons, the Coalition is prepared to consider providing support for the Government’s proposed increase to the Medicare levy.”
He said, also, that; “the Coalition has supported the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme every step of the way.
“We want the NDIS to be a success and we want is to belong to all Australians. It is too important to become a partisan football.
“We want to ensure that the NDIS is a reality as soon as possible,” Mr Abbott added.
“The legislation to give effect to the Government’s increase to the Medicare levy and the full NDIS package must be introduced and voted on in the current parliament,” he said.
“The legislation must establish how the Scheme will work and who will be eligible,” Mr Abbott added.
Senior figures in the government, at first, responded cautiously, to this statement, describing the Opposition Leader’s support for the new scheme as “conditional.”
They accused Mr Abbott of “playing games.”
by Alan Thornhill
Facing acute debt pressures on your farm?
A combination of lower land prices, falling commodity prices and high input costs – flowing largely from the strong $A – have left many – otherwise viable – Australian farmers in this plight.
But help may be at hand.
Over the weekend, the Federal government has announced a new Farm Finance plan which will puts concessional loans – worth up to $60 million over two years – on the table in each State and in the Northern Territory.
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and Agriculture Minister, Joe Ludwig, who announced the scheme, said: “under this program eligible farmers will be able to receive concessional loans of up to $650 000.
“Concessional loans will only be made available to viable farm businesses.
“ Loan recipients will need to demonstrate financial need, participate in a farm business planning exercise, and demonstrate their capacity to meet a debt repayment schedule.
“The Government encourages State and NT Governments to support this package and consider matching the efforts the Federal Government is making,” the two ministers said.
The program has four main features.
• concessional loans to help restructure debt and invest in productivity
• extra rural financial counsellors to work directly with farm businesses
• progressing a nationally consistent approach to debt mediation across the country and
• enhancing the Farm Management Deposits Scheme.
The two ministers said: “the Government will support our farmers so they can seize the opportunities of the future, support jobs in regional Australia and continue to feed the nation and the world.”
The Independent MP, Bob Katter, helped the government design the scheme, which the National Farmers’ Federation welcomed.
The Federation’s President, Brent Finlay, said: “….it was good to see the Government listening to farmers’ vocal calls for action on rural debt….”
by Alan Thornhill
Australia chalked up a $178 million trade deficit in February on seasonally adjusted figures that the Australian Bureau of Statistics published today.
This was well down on the deficit of $1,215 million seen in the previous month.
Exports rose by 3 per cent in February, while imports fell by 1 per cent.
The Bureau said exports of rural goods rose by rose by 7 per cent in the month, while exports of other goods rose by 4 per cent.
Imports of capital goods fell by 4 per cent in February.
by Alan Thornhill
Disaster relief will be made available in eleven local government areas in New South Wales that were hit by severe coastal storms at the weekend.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and State Premier, Barry O’Farrell, made the announcement today.
In a joint statement, the two leaders said:”This is the second major flood event northern NSW has experienced this year and it is important we support the region’s local communities as they recover.
“The damaging winds and heavy rainfall along the east coast of NSW has resulted in severe wind damage and major flooding in a number of areas along the coast between Byron and Kiama,” they added.
The areas declared are:-
- Clarence Valley
- Coffs Harbour
- Port Macquarie Hastings
The two leaders said their declaration triggers a number of disaster assistance schemes to help with the cost of storm relief and recovery.
by Alan Thornhill
Our butter should be cheaper – and our roads safer – because of a series of changes announced today.
These give extra force to the requirement, in the Constitution, that trade and intercourse between Australia’s States must be free.
The Federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, made the announcement, after five years of what he admits were “intensive” talks, with State leaders.
So what are the results?
And how will they help?
Mr Albanese said the “historic reforms” he announced would “slash red tape for transport operators.”
This would: “free up the movement on interstate trade and boost national income by $30 billion over the next two decades, he added.
At first glance, the reforms might seem like little more than the creation of big new bureaucracies.
There will, for example, be a “new National Heavy Vehicle Regulator” based in Brisbane.
That will certainly be welcome news, in the Sunshine State, where the Premier, Campbell Newman, has been cutting his own public service jobs, by the thousands.
There will also be a new Adelaide-based National Rail Safety Regulator.
These will open their doors today.
But that’s not all.
A third national regulator, the existing Australian Maritime Safety Authority, will assume its greater regulatory responsibilities for all commercial vessels operating in our waters in March.
So what will all this mean?
Mr Albanese offered an explanation.
“More than a century after Federation, Australia will finally have a truly national transport system,” he said.
So how will you benefit?
“By the end of this year, the existing 23 separate State and Federal regulators covering heavy vehicles, rail safety and maritime safety, along with their costly and confusing array of regulations, will be gone,” Mr Albanese said.
“ In their places will be just these three national bodies each administering one set of modern, nationwide laws.”
A more efficient transport system should make not only the butter, in your local supermarket cheaper, but reduce price pressures on many other goods, as well.
And safer roads?
“Long distance truck drivers will no longer need worry about whether
their vehicle or load is still legal as they cross state and territory borders, or whether they have met the multitude of requirements which vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,” Mr Albanese said.
He said the reforms would also mean: “A greater uniformity in road access arrangements, making it easier for drivers to find a suitable rest stop or negotiate minor roads to reach refuelling points.”
With B triples likely to appear on some Australian highways soon, as well as already awesome B doubles, these changes appear timely.
by Alan Thornhill
Farmers are leaving their fields.
The Bureau of Statistics reports that the number of farmers in Australia fell by more than 100,000 – or 40 per cent – between 1981 and 2011.
Those that are left work hard.
The Bureau also reported that half of Australia’s farmers work at least 49 hours a week, even though their median age is 53.
And almost one in four has already reached, or passed, the age of 65.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government is to set up a foreign ownership register for agricultural land.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, made the announcement while addressing farmers in Canberra today.
It was immediately welcomed by the National Farmers Federation.
Ms Gillard said the government believes politics should be taken out of foreign ownership.
“Foreign investment is not a new thing,” she said.
“It has helped build Australian agriculture over the last two hundred years.
“And it is important for the future as we seek to boost food production and food security.”
Ms Gillard said foreign direct investment in Australia’s agriculture, forestry and fishing accounts for just 0.1 per cent of the nation’s total foreign investment.
“And 89 per cent of our agricultural land is entirely Australian owned, with a further 6 per cent majority-owned by Australians.”
Ms Gillard said these levels are roughly similar to what they were 30 years ago.
“But we also understand the need for more information to foster an informed public debate,” she added.
The NFF President, Jock Laurie, described the announcement as a win for Australian farmers.
“…it means greater transparency around this much debated issue,” Mr Laurie said.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Wednesday May 22
The Dow Jones Index rose 52.07 points to 15,387.30
At least 24 die in Oklahoma tornado
Unions are seeking a rise of $30 a week in the National Wage Case, which opens today
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