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Sunday 16th June 2013 - 3:42 pm
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Pressures rise as Parliament resumes

by Alan Thornhill

Kevin Rudd has positioned himself well, for the circumstances he says he “cannot imagine.”

Those are his return to the Labor leadership.

He has campaigned powerfully and effectively for Labor colleagues who know they might lose their seats, on September 14, if the polls are right.

Those show, persistently, that the present Labor Leader, Julia Gillard, is not popular with voters.

And Mr Rudd’s public appearances have confirmed, powerfully, that he is.

With the election on September 14 approaching fast, leadership pressures in Canberra are close to peaking.

And the most dangerous times, for any insecure political leader, are when party members are in town.

With Federal parliament about to resume, for two weeks, Ms Gillard has reason to be nervous.

Asked about Rudd, Ms Gillard replied that she expects all Labor MPs to be out now, campaigning vigorously in their electorates.

Even Mr Rudd.

The former Labor leader, though, has been doing more than that.

Twice, last week, he spoke of mistakes he had made, while he was still Prime Minister.

Both times, he admitted, that he had not given Labor colleagues the credit they deserved, for the good work they had done.

Not in public, anyway.

Although he had noted their work, mentally.

In politics, of course, there is always a subtext.

In this case, it might go something like this.


“You sacked me last time for being an egocentric bastard.

“But I would be nicer this time, if I did get my old job back.”

“And I can win the election for you.”

A crude summation, of course.

And for all who will listen, Julia Gillard does have both a very impressive record sheet – and some very attractive plans.

The trouble, for Labor at least, is that too many voters have stopped listening, either to Ms Gillard, or to her Treasurer, Wayne Swan.

So Labor MPs, who will face voters on September 14, didn’t have to be “nervous Nellies” to be worried.

So far, though, the hiatus persists.

Julia Gillard says she will stay put.

Labor’s kingmakers, like Bill Shorten, are holding back.

But if it all does collapse, under the weight of these somewhat less than Great Expectations, Kevin’s political resurrection might not be the last.

The Liberals are well aware that their man, Tony Abbott, isn’t particularly popular, either.

So nobody in Canberra is totally discounting a comeback by Malcolm Turnbull, either.

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Tuesday 11th June 2013 - 1:17 pm
Comments Off on PM spells it out

PM spells it out

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, says she is “completely” confident that she will lead the Labor party into the September 14 elections.

Reporters questioned her, after a school function in Brisbane today, about speculation that she might be challenged by her predecessor, Kevin Rudd.

One asked: “How confident are you that you will lead the Labor Party to the next election?”

Ms Gillard replied: “Completely.”

Then she added: “I am the best person to lead the Labor Party.

“ Government is about getting things done.

“ It’s about getting done the big things you need to achieve for your nation’s future.”

Ms Gillard said there were no bigger needs facing Australia at present than: “…making sure our children get a world quality education.

“That’s what’s driving me.

“Getting those big things done,” she said.

Then Ms Gillard added: “I will certainly be leading Labor at the next election.

“And I will be taking to that election the clearest possible choice between a government that is investing in our nation’s future.”

The Prime Minister said her government had “seen this nation through tough economic times and continued to invest for the future.

She said the Leader of the Opposition’s plan is for painful decisions and big cuts.

Friday 7th June 2013 - 6:43 pm
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“Optimism” over car industry’s future

by Alan Thornhill

Federal, State and local governments are being urged to buy Australian made vehicles, to support the local automotive industry.

Agreement on this basic requirement was reached at an industry summit, attended by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and vehicle industry unions and company leaders, in Melbourne today.

“All parties acknowledged the shared responsibility in ensuring a viable, innovative and efficient automotive industry,” the participants said, in a statement issued afterwards. .

“The meeting expressed a shared commitment and optimism about the future of automotive manufacturing in Australia,” they added.

They acknowledged, too, that community involvement and support would be needed.

The Prime Minister – and other participants – said:”Today’s meeting agreed on the importance of cooperation and community involvement in implementing the $76 million package of measures announced in response to Ford’s recent decision to cease manufacturing operations in Australia in October 2016.”

They, noted, too, that Ford will remain in local production until then and will continue as a significant employer in design, engineering and sales.

They also acknowledged the importance of the industry to Australia.

“The meeting acknowledged that a successful automotive industry, which creates skilled jobs, drives high-level research and supports other technologically sophisticated industries, is a marker for an advanced economy and its manufacturing capability,” they also said in their joint statement.

They admitted that Ford’s decision to stop local production from 2016 had been a blow.

But they also said there had been “other positive developments including recent investment decisions by Holden and Toyota.”

Monday 3rd June 2013 - 9:05 am
Comments Off on Are you ready for broadband?

Are you ready for broadband?

by Alan Thornhill

Is your business ready to take advantage of high speed broadband?

A new report, ordered by the Australian Industry Group, reveals that many are not.

Confidence levels, in the small business sector, are particularly low.

The report “Ready or Not? Technology investment and productivity in Australian Business” makes that clear.

It is based on a survey of nearly 350 CEOs and discussion groups with business leaders around the country.

The report found that: “”While Australia is making a significant and important public investment in high-speed broadband, less than half of businesses are confident they can take advantage of it.

“Small to medium enterprises are the least confident, with 40 per cent of medium-sized companies and 47 per cent of small companies expressing confidence compared with 70 per cent of larger companies.

“Also disturbing is the finding that business investment in new technologies is expected to decrease in 2013 due to an uncertain economic outlook and rising cost pressures.

“ Only 22 per cent of all companies surveyed are looking to invest in new technologies in 2013.

“ This is a ten percentage point drop compared with 2012.

“Around a quarter of businesses (26 per cent) expect to reduce expenditure on new technologies.

“This is a fifteen percentage point rise compared with 2012.”

Thursday 2nd May 2013 - 3:53 pm
Comments Off on PM moves swiftly on disability levy

PM moves swiftly on disability levy

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.”

Friday 19th April 2013 - 4:38 pm
Comments Off on Residential mortgage backed securities – still a painful memory

Residential mortgage backed securities – still a painful memory

by Alan Thornhill

The Reserve Bank is setting tight, new reporting standards for residential mortgage backed securities.

That’s hardly surprising.

After all, wholesale abuse of these financial instruments – in the United States – played a central role in the collapse of Lehman Brothers back in 2008.

That produced the global financial crisis.

It is still afflicting us some five years later.

No-one is suggesting that anything like that abuse is happening in Australia, right now.

But a close watch is always wise.

The Reserve Bank certainly believes that.

It released a progress report, on this project, today.

The bank recalled that back in October 2012, it had announced that it would be introducing new criteria for eligibility of residential mortgage backed securities in its operations.

It said this reflected the bank’s wish to get “more comprehensive and standardised information” on these sophisticated financial instruments.

The bank noted that it had then asked institutions, which issue these securities, to comment on its request.

“The consultation period closed on 28 December 2012,” the bank said in its statement, replying, in turn, to those who responded.

It said the main changes, to the templates it had set, were that:-

* Data must be made available either on a secure website managed by or on behalf of the information provider, or through a data warehouse with secure access and expertise in handling the new reporting requirements.

* This data should be available in a usable format and

* It should be be free of charge.

“Only the most recent reports need to be made available,” the bank said.

“Some changes have been made to the required loan-level data to address privacy concerns,” it said.

For more

Monday 12th November 2012 - 10:29 am
Comments Off on Teleworking:the good, the bad and the ugly

Teleworking:the good, the bad and the ugly

by Alan Thornhill

Tired of office politics?

And sick of the daily grind of getting to and from work?

Telework might be the answer.

And it could be closer than you think.

The roll out of the national broadband network will help.

So will changing managerial attitudes and strategies.

But if you boss is a slow learner, by all means discuss it with him.

That’s what National Telework Week is all about.

Julia Gillard, who launched it today, predicted that Telework would become a big part of the future of work in Australia.

And what is it?

Simply a flexible work arrangement that allows employees to work from home.

Australia’s public servants will be among the first to be offered this choice.

The Prime Minister said the Federal Public Service’s commitment to telework is in line with the Government’s National Digital Economy Strategy.

She said several Federal public service departments would conduct a series of telework trials commencing in the first half of next year.

There has already been a study on this subject.

New research by Colmar Brunton and Deloitte Access Economics found:-

*   66 per cent of people with disabilities who are not in the labour force would take up telework if it was available to them;

*   74 per cent of people with family or carer responsibilities who are not in the labour force would take up telework if it was available to them;

*   60 per cent of people nearing retirement age would take up telework if it was available to them; and

*   70 per cent of people living in regional or remote areas, who are not presently in the labour force would take up telework if it was available to them.

The research also found that by 2020-21 these participation impacts of telework alone could:

*   Help grow annual GDP by $3.2 billion; and

*   Create the equivalent of an additional 25,000 full-time jobs, with 10,000 of these jobs in regional Australia.

The idea is not entirely new.

Leading companies such as Cisco, Telstra, Westpac, Medibank Health Solutions, Microsoft and KPMG are already using it.

But be warned.

There are traps.

There is always something that needs to be done first, at home.

And if your partner is also at home, there might well be interruptions.

(Questions starting with the words “would you..?) for example.

Take heart, though.

There are escape routes.

A laptop at your local library is one.

Just don’t expect to push me aside, when you get there.

My book

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Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill

A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.

Available now on the iTunes store.


Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.

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