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Thursday 7th July 2016 - 6:13 pm
Comments Off on Politicians squabble over Triple A warning

Politicians squabble over Triple A warning

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government and opposition differed sharply today, after a major ratings agency, Standard and Poors, put Australia’s prized triple A status on negative watch.

 

It did so citing both the still unresolved Federal election result and high levels of both household and external debt.

 

The Treasurer, Scott Morrison, said the agency’s move, “reaffirmed the government’s fiscal direction and the need to “stick to the plan” the Coalition set out in its last budget.”

 

However the shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, said it underlined the government’s “fiscal failure” and cast further doubt on its budget projections.

 

 

The agency’s warning means that  Australia’s AAA credit rating might be slashed in future  if there is no improvement in its budgetary performance.

 

 

This  could  increase  government borrowing costs and weaken international investment.

 

Mr Bowen said S&P statement is “sombre reading.”

 

He said the agency  “…calls out the Government on three years of fiscal failure, based on unrealistic Budget revenue forecasts and savings measures that will never pass the Parliament.

 

“S&P makes it clear that it doesn’t have much faith in the Government’s Budget revenue forecasts – a point Labor has consistently made since the Budget in May,” Mr Bowen added.

 

However Mr Morrison took a different view.

 

 

He said the agency’s warning reinforces the government’s message that Australia must “live within its means”.

 

 

He said S&P were clearly concerned about the outcome of the election and that “the pace of fiscal consolidation may be postponed”.

 

Mr Morrison said it would be irresponsible to increase the deficit over the next few years, because “that increases the debt and you can’t get that money back”.

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Thursday 7th July 2016 - 12:59 pm
Comments Off on Anxious shoppers identified

Anxious shoppers identified

by Alan Thornhill

Middle aged women shoppers typically experience much higher anxiety levels  than men.

 

This is confirmed in a study that the National Australia Bank published today.

 

Overwhelmingly though its results were positive.

 

The study found, for example, that anxiety levels among Australian consumers have now fallen for the fourth straight quarter.

 

The bank said this had happened as Australians responded to sustained improvements in the labour market and recovery in the non-mining economy.

 

Its chief economist, Alan Oster, said:  “…this is the fourth Survey in a row where overall consumer anxiety has trended downwards.

 

“Consumer anxiety is now at its lowest level since half-way through 2013 and well below its long-term average,”Mr Oster said

 

And he added: “while we continue to expect moderate growth in consumer spending throughout 2016, this is contingent upon further pick-up in labour market conditions and risks associated with further declines in the household savings rate.”

 

The bank said its Consumer Anxiety Index had eased slightly to 60.2 points in Q2 2016, from 60.4 points in the previous quarter.

 

“Lower overall consumer anxiety was driven by decreasing anxiety associated with the cost of living, government policy (post the 2016-17 Federal Budget) and health expenditure,” it added.

 

However the bank also said:  “overall women reported much higher anxiety than men.

 

And it added that:  “… women aged 30-49 now the most stressed group overall.

 

“In contrast, men over 50 are among the least stressed,” it added.

 

The study did find, though, that some worries are persistent.

 

It concluded:  “financing retirement, providing for their family’s future and healthcare were identified by Australians as the biggest drivers of financial stress.”

Thursday 7th July 2016 - 11:39 am
Comments Off on Medibank tax statements delayed

Medibank tax statements delayed

by Alan Thornhill

Many Medibank customers will have to wait longer than usual for their annual tax statements.

 

The health fund’s chief, Craig Drummond, said the delay followed a major technology upgrade.

He said the fund is : “….. experiencing a reporting issue which will likely prevent it from providing  annual tax statements to a majority of customers by July 15.

Mr Drummond also said the situation is:  “is result of customer data migration and acknowledged that it is   unacceptable for customers.
He said:  ““I sincerely apologise to our customers for this disruption.

 

“It is important for customers to know their personal data has not been compromised.

“Our team is working around the clock to resolve this issue, and I want to assure customers that our focus is on minimising the impact this will have on them,” Mr Drummond said.

Customers wishing to find out more information can go to the website www.medibank.com.au he added.

 

 

 

Tuesday 5th July 2016 - 1:51 pm
Comments Off on Trade deficit blows out:ABS

Trade deficit blows out:ABS

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s trade deficit rose $433 million in May to $2,218 million.

 

This is shown in figures published by the Bureau of Statistics today.

 

The bureau also reported that Australia’s retail sales rose by 0.2 per cent in that month.

 

The bureau said that, on seasonally adjusted figures, Australia’s exports had been worth $26,170  million in May.

 

But imports had been worth $28,387 million.

 

So our trade deficit that month was 24 per cent bigger than  that of the previous month.

 

Why did that happen?

 

Our exports rose by 1 per cent in May.

 

However our imports rose by 2 per cent in the month, on seasonally adjusted figures.

 

The Statistician also reports that we spent more in food stores and in Australia’s cafes and restaurants in May than we did in April.

 

But trade in Department stores was flat and we spent less on shoes and clothes in May than we had in April.

 

 

Tuesday 5th July 2016 - 12:12 pm
Comments Off on Business outlook bleak before those shocks

Business outlook bleak before those shocks

by Alan Thornhill

Business confidence in Australia was weak before two recent shocks.

 

A survey, by Dun and Bradsreet, showed that expectations for sales and selling prices, in the three months to the end of September, had hit their lowest levels since 2014.

 

Stephen Koukoulas, an economic adviser to the firm, said this result should be treated with caution, as the survey was conducted before both the British vote to leave the EU and the inconclusive result of last Saturday’s Federal elections.

 

However Mr Koukoulas added: “the slide in business expectations over the past year appears to have been arrested in the most recent survey.”

 

And he added: ““there were some mildly encouraging signs, with expectations for capital expenditure edging up from the recent low point.”

 

But he said: “there were, worryingly, signs of further weakness in expected sales and selling prices…”
The Business Expectations Index is an aggregate of the survey’s measures of sales, profits expected sales and selling prices.
He said the low price expectations confirmed by the survey, “points to ongoing low inflation.”

 

The survey also showed that: “profits, Employment and Selling Prices” in Australia’s construction industry, have all been “plunging into negative territory.”

 

It also revealed that: “the Retail industry fared poorly for the first three months of the year, with its Actual Sales and Actual Employment indices falling to -3.9 points and -4.3 points respectively

Monday 4th July 2016 - 8:46 am
Comments Off on Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s political leaders will be hitting their phones this week, trying to scrape together enough support to give the country stable government for the next three years.

 

The main rivals, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who heads a conservative coalition and Bill Shorten, who leads the Labor party both found themselves short of the 76 seats they would need, in the House of Representatives, to govern in their own right, at the end of the initial, but still incomplete, count.

 

Late yesterday, Labor had 67 seats, the Coalition 65, others 5 and 13 were still in doubt.

 

The Australian Electoral Commission had counted 78.2 per cent of the votes cast, at that point.

 

It will not resume the count until Tuesday, and the final result, for the House, will probably not be known until some time next week.

 

Mr Turnbull had made much of the need he saw for stability, during the late stages of the eight week election campaign, particularly after Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
However the swing to Labor, evident in Saturday’s election, showed that voters were more impressed with Mr Shorten’s warning that only Labor could be trusted to protect Australia’s health insurance system, Medicare.

 

Mr Turnbull had sought support for a plan centred on tax cuts for big companies and high income earners.

 

He had warned that a big spending Labor government could not be trusted to manage Australia’s economy responsibly.

 

And, at a news conference today, he welcomed a question from a reporter who asked him if the election result could threaten Australia’s TripleA credit rating.
He thanked the reporter and said: “This is why it is very important … for me to explain what is happening at the moment.”

 

“We are simply going through a process of completing a count,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

The Prime Minister also said that he could still form a new government, for the next three years.

 

However Bill Shorten greeted the initial count with a triumphal declaration.

 

He conceded that the public might not know the outcome of Saturday’s election : “…for some days to come.”

 

“But there is one thing for sure – the Labor Party is back.” he said.

 

But which of these two men is likely to be Australia’s Prime Minister over the next three years?

 

The answer to that question will depend, very much, on their relative telephone skills.

Thursday 30th June 2016 - 6:46 pm
Comments Off on Job vacancies:where to find them

Job vacancies:where to find them

by Alan Thornhill

 

The number of public sector job vacancies in Australia has been rising rapidly.

 

Trend figures that the Bureau of Statistics released today showed that there were 16,500 public sector job vacancies available in Australia in May.

 

This represented a 4.1 per cent rise from the February level and a 26.2 per cent rise over the year.

 

But most opportunities are still to be found in the private sector.

 

The Bureau also reported that there were 155,400 private sector vacancies in May this year.

 

This represented a 0.6 per cent rise from the February level sand a rise of 8.1 per cent over the year.

Thursday 30th June 2016 - 5:50 pm
Comments Off on Medicare:The big sleeper?

Medicare:The big sleeper?

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

 

 Labor has been talking about Medicare again in the dying days of our eight week Federal election campaign.

 

The shadow minister for health, Catherine King, did that when she said:  “Today there is yet more evidence of the overwhelming damage of Mr Turnbull’s Medicare cuts.”

 

This was shown by the Victorian Government’s “dire warning” that his Medicare rebate freeze will rip $230 million out of the pockets of Victorians and see more patients crowding into hospital Emergency Departments in that State, she declared.

 

Labor’s repeated warnings that Medicare’s future  will be threatened if the Turnbull government is returned on Saturday, is one of the few that looked like catching fire, in that otherwise dull campaign.

 

Especially as the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, still believes that he has extinguished Labor’s Medicare threat, under a blanket of strong words.

What, though, if the issue has simply become a sleeper, instead?

 

Let’s look at it, one last time.

 

All parties agree  that Australian voters place a very high value on universal access to health care.

 

Our  politicians agree, too, that voters deserve much more than empty, rattling semantics from their leaders.

 

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, for example, was able to encapsulate the debate very neatly by holding up a Medicare card.

 

He would then declare that this piece of green plastic, not a Visa card, should be all that is required, to get medical treatment.

Mr Shorten would then add that only a Labor government would protect Medicare.

 

Mr Turnbull responded buy branding this “the most outrageous lie” of the entire campaign – and asserting that Medicare would be preserved, if the government he leads is returned on Saturday.

 

He was helped when Labor’s campaign stumbled, because a major medical association refused to endorse th ALP’s warning that a fresh Turnbull government would threaten Medicare’s future.

That is where the semantics kicked in.

We now know that

 

Labor has been talking about Medicare again in the dying days of our eight week Federal election campaign.

The shadow minister for health, Catherine King, that when she said:  “Today there is yet more evidence of the overwhelming damage of Mr Turnbull’s Medicare cuts.”

She said this was shown by the Victorian Government’s “dire warning” that his Medicare rebate freeze will rip $230 million out of the pockets of Victorians and see more patients crowding into hospital Emergency Departments in that State.

Labor’s repeated warnings that Medicare’s future  will be threatened if the Turnbull government is returned on Saturday, is one of the few that looked like catching fire, in that otherwise dull campaign.

Especially as the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, still believes that he has extinguished Labor’s Medicare threat, under a blanket of strong words.

What, though, if the issue has simply become a sleeper, instead.

Let’s look at it, one last time.

 

We now know that many patients will have to pay for blood tests, Pap smears, X-rays and other scans for the first time from July when the government axes the incentive it pays providers to bulk bill patients.

 

The present government has also extended a Medicare rebate freeze that the previous Labor government had introduced as a temporary measure.

We can confidently expect to see more economy measures like these next year if the Turnbull government is returned.

 

Of course Mr Shorten has also said that he is prepared to “modernise” Medicare, if necessary.

 

Where does all this leave, understandably confused, voters?

Take those now vanishing rebates on those tests, for example.

 

They might well be a bargain all round, if they show that patients, often with quite troubling symptoms, don’t need expensive stays in hospital, after all.

Labor, essentially, is arguing that Medicare faces death by a thousand cuts, under a Turnbull government.

 

Mr Turnbull, himself, denies that, saying Medicare is “core business” for any Federal government.

Voters, though, have already confronted him by pointing out that the last Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, promised that there would be no spending cuts to health or education, if he won office.

Politicians, on all sides though, do find it hard to keep promises like that.many patients will have to pay for blood tests, Pap smears, X-rays and other scans for the first time from July when the government axes the incentive it pays providers to bulk bill patients.

The present government has also extended a Medicare rebate freeze that the previous Labor government had introduced as a temporary measure.

We can confidently expect to see more economy measures like these next year if the Turnbull government is returned.

Of course Mr Shorten has also said that he is prepared to “modernise” Medicare, if necessary.

Where does all this leave, understandably confused, voters?

Take those now vanishing rebates on those tests, for example.

They might well be a bargain all round, if they show that patients, often with quite troubling symptoms, don’t need expensive stays in hospital, after all.

Labor, essentially, is arguing that Medicare faces death by a thousand cuts, under a Turnbull government.

Mr Turnbull, himself, denies that, saying Medicare is “core business” for any Federal government.

Voters, though, have already confronted him by pointing out that the last Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, promised that there would be no spending cuts to health or education, if he won office.

Politicians, on all sides though, do find it hard to keep promises like that.

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