by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, declared today that the newly elected Federal Parliament “has great work to do.”
Speaking at the opening of the new Parliamentary session, the first he has faced as Prime Minister, Mr Abbott said it has to “secure our borders, to balance our budget, to strengthen our economy, to the relief of families and for the protection of jobs.”
Today’s meeting of Parliament is largely ceremonial.
However Prime Ministers making such speeches are expected to lay out their plans for the new parliamentary session.
Mr Abbott has already declared that his main objectives, for this sitting, will be to start the processes needed to abolish both the carbon tax and the mining tax.
In today’s speech, though, he spoke mainly about the unity of the Australian community, including aborigenes.
“It’s Noel Pearson, a great indigenous leader and a prophet for our times, who has observed that Australia is the product of a British and an indigenous heritage,” Mr Abbott said.
“This Parliament is redolent of our British heritage.
“But only recently has this Parliament acknowledged our indigenous heritage.”
He noted that the present parliament has two Aboriginal members and added: “May that number increase.”
“There is much that I dispute with my predecessor as Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd,” Mr Abbott said.
“But I honour him for the historic apology to indigenous people that took place at the opening of this Parliament in 2008.”
In his reply, the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, said Labor would help close the gap that still exists between Aboriginal and other Australians.
“I know that there is much still to do,” Mr Shorten said.
“..and it’s with this new spirit of reconciliation that we stand together today and reaffirm our commitment to do more.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott says he would use the military to stop boat people if he wins the upcoming election.
In a statement today, the Opposition Leader said :There is a national emergency on our borders.”
And he added: “A Coalition government will establish a military-led response to combat people smuggling and to protect our borders.
It would be called Operation Sovereign Borders.
Mr Abbott said: “We will ask the Chief of the Defence Force to recommend the appointment of the 3 Star commander, as well as a command and control model for this major operation.
“The commander will report directly to the Minister for Immigration, who will have portfolio responsibility for Operation Sovereign Borders.”
He said the operation would be directed by a Joint Agency Taskforce involving all agencies with direct involvement in border security.
In the first 100 days of a Coalition government, it would:-
? Establish a headquarters and create the joint agency taskforce;
? Finalise an operation to turn back boats where it is safe to do so
? Increase capacity at offshore processing centres and
? Lease and deploy additional vessels to relieve patrol vessels of passenger transfers.
Mr Abbott said a Coalition government would “end the chaos and dysfunction that has characterised our border security under the Rudd-Gillard Government.”
by Alan Thornhill
Kevin Rudd says Tony Abbott’s “ultimate fitness” to be Prime Minister is in doubt.
The Prime Minister said the Opposition Leader had produced that situation himself, by “undermining” the government’s new refugee policy.
Speaking to reporters in Sydney, Mr Rudd said: “It is quite plain to us that Mr Abbott is out there deliberately undermining the Government’s clear message to people smugglers.”
“This is not in the national interest,” the Prime Minister said.
“It might be in Mr Abbott’s personal political interest.
“But frankly, if you do that sort of stuff, you raise the question about your ultimate fitness to hold the high office of Prime Minister,” Mr Rudd said.
He announced last Friday that asylum seekers who came to Australia by boat would never be allowed to settle in this country, but would be sent, instead, to Papua New Guinea.
Mr Rudd said this “hardline” decision, taken in co-operation with the PNG government, would undermine the people smugglers’ business model.
Mr Abbott sought to cast doubt on the deal the Australian and PNG governments have reached on this issue.
Speaking to reporters in Melbourne, earlier in the day, the Opposition Leader said: “The trouble is (that) this particular deal is unravelling before our very eyes.
“It is not legally binding and it doesn’t say what Mr Rudd says it said.
“It doesn’t say that everyone who comes to Australia illegally by boat will go to PNG and it doesn’t say that no-one who goes to PNG will ever come to Australia.
“So Mr Rudd is being misleading to the point of dishonesty and that’s the problem.
“You can never trust what Mr Rudd says because what Mr Rudd says today is totally different from what he said yesterday and it will be totally different from what he says tomorrow,” Mr Abbott said.
by Alan Thornhill
Unexpected arrivals always test nations.
Only a few years ago, the unscheduled arrival of some 30,000 people from the overcrowded island of Malaita, on the nearby island of Guadalcanal, led to a bitter civil war, in the new nation of Solomon Islands.
More recently, it was Australia’s turn to be tested.
Fragile boats, loaded with hundreds of asylum seekers, seeking refugee status, have been appearing off Australia’s northern approaches, in ever increasing numbers.
The ambition, of every adult aboard, was to secure refugee status in Australia.
This presented Australia with acute problems.
The UN convention on refugees, which Australia has signed, gives anyone, in genuine fear for their lives, or safety, a right to seek that status.
So, despite what Conservative politicians said, these arrivals were not illegal.
But scepticism about the boat people has not been confined to the Conservative side of Australia’s political fence.
It was the Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, after all who said he believed 98 per cent of boat people, in recent times, have been economic refugees.
International worries, though, have been growing with the Coalition’s Immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, talking of using SAS troops, to turn back the boats.
Indonesia responded drily by saying it would not welcome such “unilateral” action.
Anyone familiar with diplomatic language would know that is serious.
The most acute domestic political issue, presented by the boat arrivals, though has undoubtedly been its divisive impact in Australia.
Labor politicians, like Kevin Rudd, have often derided Tony Abbott’s three word slogan “stop the boats.”
But they have never denied its power.
The Prime Minister’s complex announcement, on the subject today, might strike you as just a tricky politician’s attempt at a quick fix, in the shadow of an imminent election.
Or you might see it as a clever step towards a possible solution, to this apparently intractable problem.
Either way, that dead, nameless baby, lying in the Christmas Island morgue, haunts us all.
It is time for this heartless trade in desperate human lives to stop.
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.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Wednesday December 11
Holden has announced it will stop producing vehicles in Australia in 2017. Toyota likely to follow suit
The Dow Jones index fell 53 points to 15,973
Acting PM Warren Truss writes to Mike Devereux seeking “a clear statement” on Holden’s future
The Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey, says the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook will be released next Tuesday, at the National Press Club.
|Aud To Usd||0.9126||N/A||N/A|
|Bhp Blt Fpo||36.180||-0.640||-1.74%|
|Anz Bank Fpo||30.590||-0.190||-0.62%|
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