Browsing articles in "rural"
Friday 9th May 2014 - 1:00 pm
Comments Off on RBA sees hope in China – and at home

RBA sees hope in China – and at home

by Alan Thornhill

The Reserve Bank sees fresh signs of strength in Australia’s best customer, China.

But it warned that prices for Australia’s major commodities might be soft for some years.

And it warned that the expected downturn in mining investment is now occurring at a faster rate than previously anticipated.

In a quarterly statement on monetary policy released today, the bank also notes that both household and business spending now seem to be rising faster than expected.

On China, the bank said: “There are some signs that the recent slowing in China may be temporary.

“And the Chinese authorities have indicated a willingness to support investment growth, if needed, to achieve their target for output growth,” it added.

The bank then turned to domestic economic conditions, saying: “Household consumption
has also strengthened as have some measures of business conditions.

“While there have been signs of improvement in the labour market over recent months, a fair degree of spare capacity remains.

Over the next couple of years, growth in activity is expected to pick up gradually but it is likely to be some time before unemployment declines consistently.

“This should see domestic costs remaining contained, which will be necessary to help offset the ongoing effect on prices of the depreciation of the exchange rate over the past year.

“ The balance of these forces on consumer prices is expected to see inflation remain consistent with the inflation target through the forecast period.”

The bank noted that low interest rates are boosting Australia’s housing markets.

And it repeated an observation it made Tuesday, when it said rates are likely to remain low for some months yet.

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Monday 5th May 2014 - 7:30 pm
Comments Off on Farmers welcome court action against Coles

Farmers welcome court action against Coles

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s farmers have welcomed action Federal authorities are taking against Coles, alleging “unconscionable conduct” in the treatment of the supermarket’s suppliers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission told the Federal court today that Coles had sought to boost its earnings by demanding ongoing rebates from many of its suppliers, including farmers.

It has also alleged that Coles threatened those who resisted with “commercial consequences.”

The President of the National Farmers’ Federation, Brent Finlay, said the case, raises serious concerns across the Australian farm and small business sectors.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council also welcomed the action.

Mr Finlay said: “In Australia, the supermarkets have considerable power when it comes to dealing with suppliers.

“And unfortunately, suppliers and farmers don’t often have that same bargaining power.”

He said the Federation supports transparency, in these matters.

Friday 11th April 2014 - 4:04 pm
Comments Off on PM hopeful on Chinese trade deal

PM hopeful on Chinese trade deal

by Alan Thornhill

Tony Abbott has welcomed the Chinese Premier’s promise to accelerate talks on a free trade agreement between the two countries.

Addressing an Australia Week function in Shanghai, the Australian Prime Minister recalled that there will soon have been 20 rounds of talks on the agreement, since his predecessor, John Howard, first proposed such an agreement back in 2005.

“Soon, officials will begin the 20th – yes 20th – round of negotiations since Prime Minister Howard proposed an FTA way back in 2005,” Mr Abbott said.

“I welcome Premier Li’s commitment to accelerate these talks and hope that they might be concluded by the time President Xi visits Australia in November,” he added.

“Australia hopes for much more Chinese investment – on the same basis that we welcome investment from our other FTA partners such as the United States,” the Prime Soon, officials will begin the 20th – yes 20th – round of negotiations since Prime Minister Howard proposed an FTA way back in 2005.

“I welcome Premier Li’s commitment to accelerate these talks and hope that they might be concluded by the time President Xi visits Australia in November.

“Australia hopes for much more Chinese investment – on the same basis that we welcome investment from our other FTA partners such as the United States,” the Prime Minister said.

He has already reached trade agreements this week with both Japan and South Korea.

Mr Abbott also said: “We now appreciate that most Chinese state-owned enterprises have a highly commercial culture.

“They’re not the nationalised industries that we used to have in Australia.

“That’s why Australia has never rejected any investment application from a Chinese SOE and recently approved a large SOE investment in critical infrastructure.

“Australia and China have complementary strengths,” Mr Abbott said.

Thursday 6th March 2014 - 9:27 am
Comments Off on CSIRO urges irrigation development

CSIRO urges irrigation development

by Alan Thornhill

A new study shows big gains could be made through irrigation in Northern Australia.

The CSIRO study showed that irrigation development in the region could boost returns from beef cattle production by as much as $200 million a year.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss said that the CSIRO had found that most cattle stations in the region have suitable soil and sufficient water to irrigate part of their land to grow fodder crops.

“By developing small-scale irrigation units on selected parts of pastoral stations, a range of forage crops could be grown to provide cattle feed,” Mr Truss added.

He is also Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.

“Irrigation has the potential to transform beef cattle enterprises by providing a ready supply of feed grown on site.”

Mr Truss said the CSIRO assessed the dry pastoral areas of northern Australia and found enough ground water to irrigate up to 120,000 hectares.

“This amount depended on irrigation efficiency and the type of forage crop grown,” he said.

“At optimum efficiency, beef production across the north could be boosted by up to six per cent.”

Mr Truss said one of the key advantages of irrigating small scattered areas on cattle stations is the ability to locate irrigation where it best meets the needs of the individual enterprise.

“The study provides valuable information for the beef industry, which is a major part of the economy, culture and landscape of northern Australia,” he added.

Wednesday 26th February 2014 - 11:11 am
Comments Off on New drought relief package announced

New drought relief package announced

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has announced a new $320 million assistance package, to help drought stricken farmers in New South Wales and Queensland

Mr Abbott said the government would bring forward more generous income support arrangements for farmers and their families.

It would also extend concessional loans to eligible drought affected farm businesses, provide funds for water infrastructure and pest eradication and money for counselling support services for farmers.

“Farming is a very significant part of our economy and will play a critical role in our economic future,” Mr Abbott said.

“This is a government determined to stand by the people of Australia in good times and bad,” he added.

The Prime Minister said that as part of the package:
• More generous criteria for accessing income support will be made available to farmers from 3 March 2014 instead of 1 July 2014.
• Drought Concessional Loans totalling $280 million will be allocated to give eligible farm businesses the resources to recover from the effects of drought.
• To assist drought affected farms to access water, $12 million will be added to existing emergency water infrastructure schemes, including supplementing those in NSW and Queensland.
• $10 million in assistance will be available for pest management in drought affected areas.
• $10.7 million will help increase access to social and mental health services in communities affected by this drought.

“Farm businesses and farm families across Australia are suffering financially and emotionally as a result of the prolonged drought,” Mr Abbott said.

“This drought assistance package is to support farm businesses, families and communities that are experiencing hardship and to help them recover when the current drought ends,” he added.

Thursday 20th February 2014 - 6:10 pm
Comments Off on Tony Abbott’s wage policies attacked on three fronts

Tony Abbott’s wage policies attacked on three fronts

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government’s wage policies came under fire on three fronts today.

The Greens Deputy Leader, Adam Bandt, accused the government of planning to reintroduce aspects of John Howard’s Work Choices policies, something Tony Abbott said he would never do.

Union leaders said SPC executives had told them that the government had vowed that it would not give the Shepparton cannery financial support, unless it put its workers back on award rates.

And the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, described the government’s reported demands, to SPC executives as “sterile and desolate.”

In a statement today, Mr Bandt said: “it is becoming clearer by the day that the new industrial relations laws to be introduced into Parliament next week aim to undermine penalty rates and could reintroduce the equivalent of AWAs.”

Australian Workplace Agreements, or AWAs, were at the core of John Howard’s Work Choices policies.

The Age reported today that the Abbott government had pressed SPC Ardmona to slash pay for workers by as much as 40 per cent under a radical bailout plan for the food processor.

It quoted three union officials who said they had met the company’s managing director Peter Kelly before Christmas.

They said Mr Kelly had told then that he was being pressured by the Abbott government to put workers on the award if the company wanted a $25 million subsidy.

The Federal government ultimately rejected the company’s request for that assistance.

Mr Shorten was questioned on that report at the Melbourne Press Club today.

He replied: “how desolate and sterile is a vision of the Abbott Government that they say someone on $50,000 should take a pay cut to $33,000 a year?

“It’s not a plan, that’s just a knee jerk reaction.

“The Goulburn Valley should be the centre of our food processing and value adding our food processing,” Mr Shorten said.

So far the government has not replied to these charges.

Monday 17th February 2014 - 6:41 am
Comments Off on Rain hits PM’s drought tour

Rain hits PM’s drought tour

by Alan Thornhill

Tony Abbott’s visit to outback areas hit by drought was interrupted today – for the best off all possible reasons – heavy rains.

“… obviously today is good soaking rain,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Bourke, a region which has suffered an 18 month drought.

“It doesn’t mean that the drought is over but nevertheless it is very encouraging, it is very hopeful, but of course it takes time to recover from a period of very intense drought,” Mr Abbott added.

In saying that, Mr Abbott was acknowledging arguments that local farmers and pastoralists had put to him.

The Prime Minister promised relief.

“…it is still important, whatever might happen with rain in the next few days and weeks, that there be a significant drought position adopted by the Government and that is what will happen.”

Mr Abbott signaled that drought affected farmers would not have to wait too long to find out what that relief would be.

“I am confident that we are close to announcing a drought package which is both fair and economically responsible because for the people living in drought affected areas it is really akin to a natural disaster,” he said.

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, promised support, saying Labor is “open for business” on drought relief.

However Labor also said that the government had already missed an opportunity to provide relief to drought stricken farmers.

The Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon said he had been disappointed by the fact that the first parliamentary sitting week has passed without the Government introducing a farm household support bill.

He said this had delayed relief that drought stricken farmers needed urgently, because no legislation could be passed now, before the Senate starts sitting again on March 3.

Friday 14th February 2014 - 11:55 am
Comments Off on The $A may be heading for a “correction:” RBA chief

The $A may be heading for a “correction:” RBA chief

by Alan Thornhill

A Reserve Bank chief says the $A may be due for a “correction.”

The bank’s Assistant Governor, Economic, Christopher Kent, made the observation in a speech to the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia in Sydney today.

Mr Kent spoke of the impact of “historical behaviour” on exchange rates.

Then he said: “This suggests that a correction in the exchange rate might be in prospect.

“However, assessing how much might occur, is subject to considerable uncertainty.”

Mr Kent’s speech was cast against the passing of Australia’s resources boom, and the impact this is likely to have on interest rates.

The bank has been pressing for a lower $A for some time, partly because the high Aussie dollar is making life hard for the nation’s exporters.

The $A has been trading around the 90US cent mark.

Mr Kent said: “There were good reasons to think that the Australian dollar has for the past couple of years been on the high side of fundamentals.

“ In particular, the decline in the terms of trade from late 2011 and the transition from the investment to the production phase of the mining boom imply lower returns to capital in Australia and a lessening of demand for Australian factors of production relative to the rest of the world.

“ Moreover, the decline in mining investment means that a decline in an important source of capital inflow over recent years is in prospect.

“Given all of this, it was not so surprising that the Australian dollar has declined over the past year,” Mr Kent said.

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Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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