Browsing articles in "rural"
Monday 18th November 2013 - 11:58 am
Comments Off on Small business still suffering, but…

Small business still suffering, but…

by Alan Thornhill

Small business owners are facing tougher conditions, even though their confidence improved with the election of the new Federal government.

And – in a separate development – the government has welcomed a new code of conduct the giant supermarket chains have negotiated with their suppliers.

The Federal Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson, described this as a “historic” and “very significant” step.

However a new survey, shows that the trading conditions most small business owners face continued to deteriorate in the September quarter.

The chamber’s chief economist, Burchell Wilson, said: “The only real positive, reflected in the survey conducted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry was ‘a marked improvement’ in small business expectations.

However Mr Wilson, said all actual indicators, except labour costs, had been mired in contractionary territory since the global financial crisis.

And they are still showing no convincing signs that they starting to bottom out.

Meanwhile Mr Billson noted that Woolworths, Coles and the Australian Food and Grocery Council had “collaboratively developed a supermarket industry code.”

Farmers and other suppliers have long complained that the two supermarket giants exert crushing pressures on them, when purchasing their produce for resale.

Mr Billson noted that talks between these parties had been under way for a long time now and he said these negotiations had been derailed under the previous government.

But he added: “We’re back on track now to see an important part of our economy establish mutually respectful collaborative relationships that are good for retailers, good for the suppliers and good for consumers.”

“….we welcome that development today,” Mr Billson said.

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Tuesday 12th November 2013 - 11:21 am
Comments Off on Saputo’s bid: Hockey decides

Saputo’s bid: Hockey decides

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey, has approved Saputo’s bid to take over Warrnambool Cheese & Butter Factory Company Holdings Limited.

In his announcement today, Mr Hockey said: “No conditions have been placed on this approval.

“The future ownership of WBC is ultimately a matter for the shareholders but this decision provides certainty in relation to Saputo’s bid.

“Australia is open for business and we welcome foreign investment when it is not contrary to the national interest,” Mr Hockey declared.

However the Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, said the government is still hopelessly divided over foreign investment.

National Party MPs – and bush Liberals – still oppose the proposed foreign takeover of Graincorp.

And Mr Hockey, who favoured it, has declared that he “won’t be bullied” on this issue.

“Public slanging matches between Government Ministers over takeover bids aren’t the way to prove ‘Australia is open for business,’”Mr Bowen said.

Tuesday 5th November 2013 - 3:57 pm
Comments Off on $A still too high:RBA chief

$A still too high:RBA chief

by Alan Thornhill

The Reserve Bank warned again today that the value of the Australian dollar is still too high.

The bank’s Governor, Glenn Stevens, said that “while below its level earlier in the year” the $A “is still uncomfortably high.”

“A lower level of the exchange rate is likely to be needed to achieve balanced growth in the economy,” Mr Stevens added.

He made these observations in a statement announcing that the bank had decided today to keep its marker interest rate on hold at 2.5 per cent.

The $A was trading at 94.73 US cents earlier today.

Builders said they had expected rates to be kept on hold today.

Howevert the Chief Economist of the Housing Industry Association, Dr Harley Dale said the bank had “left the door ajar” for another rate cut in future.

The Australian Retailers’ Association was less pleased, though, saying the bank’s decision would do little to encourage customers to spend before Christmas.

The National Farmers Federation was more sanguine, welcoming the fact that “all eight banks” had now passed on the last rate cut to their customers.

Monday 28th October 2013 - 1:06 pm
Comments Off on Can you export your services?

Can you export your services?

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government believes Australia has a big future in service exports.

That’s why the Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb will be visiting the United States this week.

Mr Robb will be taking part in the Global Services Summit which is to be held in Washington DC on October 30.

He said: “Australia has an enviable reputation across a broad array of services.

“And this presents boundless opportunities in the years ahead for our country in helping to cater for growing global demand,” Mr Robb said.

He said the services sector is already a critical part of the Australian economy.

It represents about 70 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product and employs four out of five Australians.

“There are literally dozens of key areas in which Australian businesses specialise in delivering innovative and high quality services,” Mr Robb said.

“These span across mining and resources, energy, agriculture, education, healthcare and medical research, finance and banking, tourism and events management, construction and project management,” he added.

Sunday 27th October 2013 - 3:42 pm
Comments Off on The PM:some surprises

The PM:some surprises

by Alan Thornhill

A little scepticism about election promises is usually wise.

Voters should be realistic.

But these things need watching.

So how is our new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, measuring up against the promises he made, before last month’s Federal elections?

He was clear, above all, about trust.

“You could trust us in opposition and you will be able to trust us in government,” Mr Abbott promised in his policy speech, in late August.

“…This election is all about trust,” he said.

Mr Abbott then reinforced his message, saying: “’We will be a no surprises, no excuses government.”

This was the central message of his campaign.

Even before the September 7 election, though, some doubts were emerging.

The Liberal Leader had promised, repeatedly, for example, that the Coalition’s costings would be delivered in good time, well before the election.

But they were not published until the Thursday before the election, giving voters very little time to assess them.

There have been some surprises, too, in the early weeks of his new government.

Disclosures about expense claims, for example, have raised more than a few eyebrows, over that time.

Who knew, before the elections, for example that the costs of attending a colleague’s wedding, or entering an iron man competition, were being seen as legitimate electoral expenses?

Or that a West Australian Liberal MP, Don Randall, would charge taxpayers more than $5,000, for a trip he and his wife made to Cairns, where they had just purchased an investment property.

Mr Abbott’s explanation that Mr Randall had ”very important discussions” with the then Coalition whip, while he was there, looks, at least a little, like an excuse.

Mr Randall strengthened that impression, by later refunding the money.

Then there is the issue of debt.

The new Treasurer, Joe Hockey, spoke often, before the election, about Australia’s “debt crisis.”

Yet, already he has moved to raise the Federal government’s debt limit from $300 billion to $500 billion.

Mr Hockey explained that the blame, for this, lay with Labor.

However this, too, left many voters mumbling over the newspapers which carried this story.

Still, the Irish playwright, Oscar Wilde, had a point, when he said that: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

That observation has force in this debate as:-

• Some Labor MPs, too, have made questionable expense claims and

• Australia’s Federal finances have certainly been tested, in the wake of the global crisis, which arrived in 2008.

Mr Abbott has moved quickly, though, on other promises.

He has already prepared bills, for example, to scrap both the carbon tax and the mining taxes.

But the outcome of his promises to stop the boats is still clouded – and his plan to buy fishing boats, before refugees could use them, has been quietly forgotten.

There are other reasons, too, for concern about some of Mr Abbott’s promises.

His determination to scrap the carbon tax, for example, borders on the obsessive.

Yet the Prime Minister’s declaration that the carbon tax is just “….socialism masquerading as environmentalism” isn’t convincing everyone.

And, whatever else, the early bushfires that have struck New South Wales over the past week, are deeply disturbing.

The head of a United Nations committee on climate change, Christiana Figueres, saw a connection between those fires and climate change.

Mr Abbott responded, less than acutely, by accusing Ms Figueres of “talking through her hat.”

Who, though, is backing him, with reputable research, on this critically important matter?

Friday 18th October 2013 - 5:20 pm
Comments Off on The fires:who pays?

The fires:who pays?

by Alan Thornhill

All Australians will, ultimately, contribute to the cost of the devastating fires that have swept through New South Wales.

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, says the Commonwealth will be picking up “about half of the tab” for the joint funded Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

These will provides assistance to individuals and families, including emergency food, clothing and accommodation.

However Mr Abbott says it is still too early to say what that cost is likely to be.

The fires have been so severe, though, that Australia’s insurance companies will be forced to review their premiums, in the months ahead.

The fires, themselves, which have already left hundreds of Australians will little more than the clothes they were wearing, at the time, will also be a stark reminder of why no-one, in this sunburnt country, can afford to be without insurance.

Large parts of the country, like the Blue Mountains, where the fires were, perhaps, at their worst, are tinder dry, at present.

And summer hasn’t yet started.

Mr Abbott has extended his sympathy – and that of his government – to those whose homes have been devastated by these fires.

Meanwhile, he is offering a little help.

He said the Federal Government will provide much needed assistance to those affected by the devastating bushfires still raging in New South Wales.

Mr Abbott said it would do that by making available the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP).

“While the full extent of damage caused by the bushfires is still unfolding, the payment of $1,000 per eligible adult and $400 per eligible child will assist those already affected, particularly those who have lost their homes or suffered damage, are seriously injured or have lost an immediate family member,” Mr Abbott said.

Need to know more?

Go to www.disasterassist.gov.au or ring 180 2266

Friday 11th October 2013 - 1:38 pm
Comments Off on Government urged to update policy as drought looms

Government urged to update policy as drought looms

by Alan Thornhill

Farmers in much of Northern Australia are again facing the spectre of drought.

And, as the threat rises, the National Farmers’ Federation is pressing the Federal government and the States to finalise the National Drought Policy.

“The new Federal Government essentially inherited the drought policy of the former Government – which is very light on in detail,Farmers in much of Northern Australia are again facing the spectre of drought.

And, as the threat rises, the National Farmers’ Federation is pressing the Federal government and the States to finalise the National Drought Policy.

“The new Federal Government essentially inherited the drought policy of the former Government – which is very light on in detail,” the Federation’s Vice President, Brent Finlay, said.

Mr Finlay warned that even this policy: “won’t come in for another nine months and provides little comfort for farmers in the grips of yet another drought,”

He said there had been severe rainfall deficiencies across large parts of Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

“Currently, there are some measures that help farmers prepare for drought included in the Farm Finance package – including concessional loans to farmers, additional support via Rural Financial Counsellors and changes to Farm Management Deposits to make them more accessible,” he added.

“But after six years of review, National Drought Policy is still in the ‘developmental’ stage,” he said.

Tuesday 8th October 2013 - 5:55 am
Comments Off on Where the money will be

Where the money will be

by Alan Thornhill

Australia has strong prospects for boosting prosperity in at least five sectors – outside mining – according to a new study.

Deloitte Access Economics, which conducted the study, says the trick to positioning for prosperity is “catching the next wave.”

So what are these five sectors, which this forecaster says have “super growth” potential?

It names them as agribusiness, gas, tourism, international education and wealth management.

“It’s all about catching the next wave,” economist Chris Richardson of Access said.

“Mining will continue as a major driver of our prosperity over the next two decades and beyond.”

But he warns: “The reality is that we need new growth drivers.

“And the first place to look is markets that can be expected to grow significantly faster than the global economy as a whole over the next 10 to 20 years…”

So how do these five sectors rate?

With global population growth of 60 million a year, agribusiness appears to be a very good bet, especially as Asia’s growing middle class looks set to increase its protein intake.

The forecaster points out, too, that with rapid growth in emerging economies is raising pollution levels in cities to our North. It says gas is “a cleaner, greener alternative.”

It notes, also, that tourism is expected to double in the next 20 years, with Asia’s expanding middle class “fuelling the growth.”

Foreign students are already Australia’s fourth biggest export earner. India and China are expected to drive even more growth in this area.

The three billion people, who will join Asia’s middle class by 2030 and by 2050 the region will hold more than half the world’s financial assets,the forecaster says.

And they those assets will require management.

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Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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