by Alan Thornhill
Julia Gillard has taken a cue from the American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In his inaugural speech, Roosevelt said: “”The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
The Prime Minister is well aware that deep insecurities still linger, in Australian hearts, five years after the Global Economic Crisis struck, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Australians are worrying, not only about their jobs, but also about crime and border protection as well.
And with good reason.
Just a few days ago, police in Sydney smashed a major organised crime syndicate after seizing chemicals capable of producing $15 million worth of methamphetamines.
So the Prime Minister’s twin announcements of a National Anti-Gang Task Force and a National Centre, to target crime at Australia’s borders, could hardly have been better timed.
The Coalition sought to convince the public that these were just pale copies of policies it had put, itself, before the 2010 elections, and should be dismissed as spin.
But Ms Gillard dismissed those claims, saying both initiatives were firmly based on US models, which had worked well.
President Roosevelt was speaking both of the Great Depression and the prospect of turning the U.S. economy around, when he spoke about public fears, in that way.
Sadly, there were no resounding declarations, like that, in Ms Gillard’s announcements.
But she did say that the gang crime and tougher border controls, aimed at organized crime, are national issues, not localized fears, in Sydney’s western suburbs.
Yet both Ms Gillard, and her challenger, Tony Abbott, will be out meeting people in those suburbs, over the coming week.
When Ms Gillard announced, at the National Press Club recently, that Australians would go to the polls on September 14, to choose either herself, or Mr Abbott, as the nation’s next Prime Minister, she declared that she would be “governing,” not campaigning, in the weeks then ahead.
Inevitably, though, many will see her exercise in the Western suburbs this week, as powerful, old-style campaigning.
That’s understandable, particularly as Labor will need to poll well, in this area, if it is to be returned to power, however unlikely that might seem, at present.
A loyal lieutenant, Bill Shorten, declared that Ms Gillard will, indeed, be governing, not campaigning, as she tours the Western suburbs this week.
“What we’ll see in Western Sydney is what we see all over Australia – the Labor government focused on jobs,” Mr Shorten said, in a television interview.
“It’s focused on better education for our kids, it’s focused on a National Disability Insurance Scheme….” he added.
Mr Abbott took a simpler approach, as he declared what he will be doing in Sydney this week.
“The Coalition’s plan for western Sydney is quite simple,” he said.
It would sort out problems with bus and train services, in the Western Suburbs.
It would also sort out cost of living issues, by abolishing the carbon tax.
He said the Coalition would also take pressure off the police operating in the areas with initiatives set out in its Safer Streets, Safer Communities program.
“That will get CCTV into crime hotspots, Mr Abbott said.
Australians could see the Coalition’s positive plans, Mr Abbott said.
“They want to see hope for the future and that’s what the Coalition is offering them,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott says a Coalition government would produce a White Paper on Defence, within 18 months of being elected.
The Opposition Leader was addressing a Returned Services League Conference in Sydney.
“The priority for new spending would be to give our forces on operational deployment the weapons systems, reconnaissance platforms, combat uniforms, and fighting vehicles that they need for protection and effectiveness,” Mr Abbott said.
“No Coalition government would ever make savings in defence that would compromise our national security interests or reduce the operational capabilities of our defence force,” he added.
“Probably the most urgent big procurement decision is the replacement of the submarine fleet,” he said.
“Ideally, as with the Collins Class, work on the next generation of submarine will centre on the South Australian shipyards.
“This is not a decision, though, that can be made from opposition,” Mr Abbott said.
However a Coalition government would act quickly on urgent issues.
“Within 18 months of an election, an incoming Coalition government would make the short and medium term decisions necessary to ensure that Australia has no submarine capability gap.” Mr Abbott said.
“The other big procurement decision is the timing of our acquisition of the Joint Strike Fighter.
Again, without detailed operational advice, this is not a decision that an opposition can make but we will make it within 18 months of a change of government,” Mr Abbott promised.
by Alan Thornhill
More than 416,000 Australians were forced out of a job in the 12 months to the end of February.
All were told by their bosses that they had been retrenched, made redundant, or would be forced to leave because their employer was going out of business.
Or, as the Australian Bureau of Statistics puts it, one out of every six Australians who left a job in that time was forced to do so.
The Bureau also reported today that some 2.5 million Australians had left a job in that time.
Those forced departures are a clear indication that the aftershocks of the global economic crisis are still being felt, even though the Australian economy has performed better in that time than almost any other Western nation.
Even so, there is, arguably, some sign of improvement in the Bureau’s grim figures.
“In 2010, around one people in five reported that they lost their last job for these reasons,” the Bureau said.
But that compares with just one in 10 back in 2008, before the full impact of the crisis was felt.
The Bureau also reported today that the number of tourists, and other short term visitors, coming to Australia fell by 2.9 per cent, on seasonally adjusted figures, in July.
The high $A may have contributed to that fall.
In a separate publication, the Bureau also reported that tax revenue, received by all levels of government in Australia, rose by 14.8 per cent in the June quarter, to $109,941 million.
Butt it added: “General government sector expenditure exceeded revenue.”
The Bureau said this resulted in a deficit of $4,287 million.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government is to look at setting up a register of foreign ownership of agricultural land.
In a statement today, it announced the establishment a working group to consult interested parties on this proposal.
The government said this would provide the community with a more comprehensive picture of the specific size and locations of foreign agricultural landholdings over and above what is currently available.
The working group will seek stakeholder views on the establishment of a register, including:
· What ownership interests should be captured under a register;
· How the register would interact with existing state and territory land title registers, including the Foreign Ownership of Land Register in Queensland;
· Ways to monitor and enforce compliance; and
· How information would be reported on and disclosed.
The Government said its aim is to improve transparency of foreign ownership in agriculture without imposing unnecessary burdens on investors or duplicating work already undertaken by State and Territory governments.
The statement said the Government continues to maintain an open and welcoming approach to foreign investment, including in the agriculture sector.
“Foreign investment in the agricultural sector brings significant benefits to Australia and opportunities for Australian farmers.
“It can help to generate higher employment and incomes, investment in infrastructure and improvements to our food production capabilities, often in regional areas,” the Government said.
The working group will begin consultation with stakeholders and the States and Territories and will be led by Treasury and include senior officials from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and other relevant agencies, the statement said.
by Alan Thornhill
Australians have started to spend again and that – along with high investment spending – pushed the nation’s economic growth to 1.3 per cent, in the first three months of this year.
Even more remarkably this – helped by an revised increase of 0.6 per cent growth for the December quarter – saw Australia chalk up a remarkably high growth rate – of 4.3 per cent – in the 12 months to the end of March.
The Bureau of Statistics, which produced these figures said growth in the quarter had been driven by a 1 per cent contribution from final consumption spending and a rise of 0.9 per cent in business investment.
But these increases had been partially offset by a 0.5 per cent fall in net exports and 0.1 per cent decline in dwelling investment.
The bureau also identified the industries which it said had driven Australia’s growth, in the March quarter.
It said these were mining, professional, scientific and technical services and financial and insurance services.
Each had contributed 0.2 per cent to growth in gross domestic product, the bureau said.
by Alan Thornhill
Luxury cars, including Rolls Royces, a Lamnborghini and an Aston Martin have been seized in a police and Tax Office crackdown on crime and tax evasion.
Altogether, assets worth some $40 million were seized by Federal police, as part of Operation Wickenby.
The Federal Justice Minister, Jason Clare and Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury, congratulated the police on their success.
They said the seized assets are believed to be the proceeds of crime generated through an elaborate tax evasion and money laundering scheme.
“ The Commonwealth Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce today executed six warrants in NSW and Queensland and charged a 67 year-old man with conspiring to dishonestly cause a loss to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and conspiring to deal in the proceeds of crime to the value of $63 million,” the two ministers said in a joint statement.
The assets also included a Mercedes Benz car, a BMW and yachts.
The two ministers said: “today’s seizure was the result of a seven month joint operation – Operation Beaufighter – between the Australian Federal Police and the ATO.”
“Organised crime is driven by money.
“Take away their money and assets and it reduces the incentive to commit crimes,” Mr Clare said.
“The Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce was set up in January last year to target the profits criminals make.
“Just like with Al Capone – you can catch criminals by following the money.”
“ This is the first time the Australian Federal Police has conducted litigation to restrain assets on behalf of the Taskforce since the legislation came into effect in January this year giving the AFP powers to commence and conduct proceeds of crime litigation,” the two ministers said.
by Alan Thornhill
On line share traders beware.
Scammers are about – and the watchdog is barking.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is making a big noise, to warn of the dangers..
In a statement released today, ASIC said clients of online stockbroking firms should urgently review their account security.
Well, the Commission says that “during regular surveillance” it has “become aware of several stockbroking account intrusions involving unauthorised access and trading.”
ASIC is urging on line traders to take urgent action.
Specifically, it says that “as soon as possible” traders should:-
*…ensure their computer virus software is up-to-date;
*…change their passwords and
*…check their transaction history.
It says traders should take these steps regularly.
“If you become aware of any unauthorised trading on your account, you should contact your stockbroker immediately,” ASIC says.
This will help to ensure that any further unauthorised activity can be prevented.
ASIC says it already is working with online stockbroking firms to help those whose clients who have been hit.
It says it is also also “working with other authorities” to identify and catch the scammers.
by Alan Thornhill
“China is very important to Australia,” I said, making conversation with a Chinese businessman sitting next to me, on a long train trip, recently.
“And Australia is very important to China,” he replied.
Given the huge difference, in the size of our respective economies, that remark surprised me.
It shouldn’t have.
On reflection I realised that China needs our iron ore and coal, to boost its economy, just as we need its business.
Our conversation soon turned to other things.
As our train passed through Glenrowan, I told my new friend the story of Ned Kelly, who was killed there.
The Chinese gentleman was fascinated.
He said he couldn’t wait to get to Melbourne, to Google Australia’s most famous outlaw.
Despite this friendly exchange, Treasury sees possible trouble ahead, in the now critically important relationship between Australia and China.
As regular readers will know it referred – very circumspectly – in a recent report, which has not received anything like the attention it deserves.
That report said:“The economic centre of gravity is shifting with the re-emergence of Asia and the integration of one third of the world’s population into global markets
It warns that this economic shift has profound implications for international geopolitical relationships
“In particular, Australia will operate in a global and regional environment where leading powers have very different political systems and operating assumptions.”
“Moreover, Australia is operating in the historically unique environment where its primary economic and security relationships do not coincide,” the report warns.
Put more bluntly, the Treasury is warning that Australia could find itself trapped between its security needs, which depend on the US alliance and trade, which now rests, very much, on our biggest customer , China.
Especially, as will no doubt have noticed, this dilemma became, that much more urgent, over the weekend.
That happened when the US President Barrack Obama, in the words of The Sydney Morning Herald “unveiled a strategy for a leaner US military focussed on countering China’s rising power, while signalling a shift away from large ground wars.”
This shift will involve basing at least 2,500 US troops in Australia.
While this is not a US push to contain China, there is a very real risk that the Chinese government will see it that way.
China might also perceive Australian involvement in such a containment strategy.
This emerging dilemma will, at the very least, require careful diplomacy, of the highest order, on the part of the Australian government.
There is absolutely no room for mistakes, of any kind, in this delicate situation.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Friday May 24
The Dow Jones Index fell 12.44 points to 15,294.70
Ford Australia says it will close its Australian manufacturing plants in October 2016. Some 1,200 jobs to go.
Hazel Hawke dies at 83
A British soldier is hacked to death in the London suburb of Woolwich, in an apparent terrorist attack
- Sharon Coulton on Proposed family tax benefit scrapped
- Pete on Rudd government had entered “paralysis:” Gillard
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|Anz Bank Fpo||27.680||-0.450||-1.60%|
|Qbe Insur. Fpo||15.650||-0.580||-3.57%|
|Nat. Bank Fpo||31.290||-0.410||-1.29%|
|Bramb Ltd Fpo||9.170||-0.330||-3.47%|
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