by Alan Thornhill
Private spending on engineering construction fell by 9 per cent in the first three months of this year, on trend estimates that the Bureau of Statistics published today.
This fall, which came at the end of the mining boom, took private spending in this area, in the the 12 months to the end of March, to a level 23.1 per cent below that seen in the previous 12 months.
The Statistician also noted that the value of engineering construction for the public sector rose by 4 per cent in the March quarter and 13.1 per cent over the year, on trend estimates.
On seasonally adjusted figures, private sector spending in this area fell by 3.3 per cent in the March quarter and 17.9 per cent over the year.
Public sector spending, on engineering construction though, rose by 3.3 per cent and 11.4 per cent over the year, on seasonally adjusted estimates.
by Alan Thornhill
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, set out his objectives for a Labor government after July 2, in his final speech of the current campaign to the National Press Club in Canberra today.
He said: “We are setting our markers for the Australia of 2030.”
- Strong, universal, affordable Medicare
- A school system back in the top 5 in the world
- 50 per cent renewable energy
- A first-rate, fibre NBN, putting us at the centre of the Asian Century
- Revitalising advanced manufacturing and apprenticeships
- Building the nation building, productive infrastructure unclogging our cities and joining our economic operations
- 3 per cent of our GDP dedicated to science, research and technology
- 300,000 more women in work
- Halving the national suicide rate, and
- Reducing the rates of ovarian cancer.
He said all of this would be matched with an economic and fiscal plan for the next decade, ” to fully-fund our investments in the future.”
This would mean: “Delivering the needed structural savings and tax reforms that will bring the budget back to balance in the same year as our opponents forecast, and build stronger, more sustainable surpluses in the years that follow.
“Achieving these goals over the next decade means starting work next week.
“My team and I have a clear set of priorities for our first 100 days.
“A new Labor government will hit the ground running:
– Offering certainty to Arrium in South Australia – and protecting jobs in Laverton, Rooty Hill and Acacia Ridge
– Setting up our transition fund to support 200,000 automotive supply chain jobs
– Developing the Financing Mandate for our new $10 billion Concrete Bank, so we can get private investment flowing into public infrastructure
– Drawing up the terms of reference and appointing a Royal Commissioner to investigate the rip-offs, scams and credit card interest rate rorts in the banking sector
– And convening a National Crisis Summit on Family Violence, an assembly of the frontline: counsellors, law enforcement, community legal centres, state governments and – most importantly – survivors.
These are the people who know, better than anyone, what is wrong with our system and what we need to do to end family violence.
“Underpinning all of this – our long-term objectives and our immediate plans for action – will be an old-fashioned focus on good public policy.
“A careful and considered approach – recognising that government is a most serious business, a long-term policy institution.
He said a Labor government would be “Dealing honestly with the challenges we face and being upfront about our plans.”
by Alan Thornhill
A new report says big miners – and tobacco companies – would be among the main winners from the Federal government’s proposed tax cuts.
The report, funded by the Get Up organisation, concluded that shareholders in the USA, UK and Japan would collect 15 per cent of the offshore benefits.
The authors described these as the “most significant” gains produced by the proposed scheme, which they described as the “centerpiece” of the Turnbull government’s economic plan.
It was produced in consultation with corporate tax experts, including Associate Professor Roman Lanis, Dr Brett Govendir and Mr Ross McClure from the University of Technology Sydney, with help from to Mikhail Shashnov.
The government has yet to comment on the report.
Its authors reviewed the 250 largest payers of corporate tax in 2013-14 – the most recent year for which Tax office data was available.
It was used to identify the percentage of overseas-based shareholders and calculate the proportion of the corporate tax cut that would flow to them in the form of increased dividend payments.
A detailed analysis of the top 20 corporations was then undertaken.
The results were then assessed to determine who the main beneficiaries of the corporate tax cut were.
This had shown that if the corporate tax rate was cut to 25 per cent, in the planned five year period, those companies would get a total tax benefit of $5.526 billion per annum.
The report also said: “an astonishing 40 per cent – at least $2.176 billion – would be lost to offshore investors in dividend payments.”
It said too, that:- : “corporations operating in the finance and materials sectors receive the lion’s share of total tax benefits at 38 per cent and and 30 per cent respectively.
“This includes banks, insurance, and mining companies.
“Seven of the top 20 corporations are mining and energy corporations.
“They receive a $1.56 billion windfall, of which 63 per cent would flow offshore.
“This is on top of the $7.7 billion the industry receives each year in taxpayer-funded fossil fuel subsidies.
It also said two of the top 20 beneficiaries are Big Tobacco companies – British American Tobacco and Philip Morris.”
The report said these companies stand to receive a combined benefit of $88.5 million, of which 100 per cent would flow offshore.
by Alan Thornhill
Malcolm Turnbull says: “the shockwaves in the past 48 hours from Britain’s vote to exit the European Union are a sharp reminder of the volatility in the global economy.”
Delivering his policy speech in Sydney for the July 2 elections, the Prime Minister also spoke of the need for stable majority government, experienced economic leadership and a national economic plan.
An edited copy of his 4,000 word speech is reproduced below.
After praising senior Liberals who attended the launch, Mr Turnbull said Australia needs a national economic plan which “recognises the nature of our times – both the opportunities and challenges – and gives us the resilience we need to succeed.”
“Only the Liberal National Coalition can deliver that plan, that security, that leadership,” he added.
“Everything we seek to achieve, all of our hopes, our dreams depend on strong economic growth, “ Mr Turnbull said.
In a strong economy, business is confident and prepared to risk investing, expanding and hiring.”
Mr Turnbull said: “Our business tax cuts encourage small and medium businesses to do just that.
“A strong economy means a mum whose kids are now at school and wants to work a few more days, or work full time, will have plenty of opportunities to do so,” Mr Turnbull said.
“And our childcare reforms will make it easier for her to do so too,” he added.
“It means that young men and women who have left school and are looking for a job will find an employer who is hiring and is happy to give them a start.”
“Our PaTH program with job training and internships will provide additional support to youth employment,”Mr Turnbull added.
A strong economy means we can fund our Innovation and Science Agenda to ensure our kids learn the digital skills of the 21st century, our research is commercialised to create jobs here at home and investors support start-up companies.
A strong economy means that senior Australians know their children will be in good jobs, their investments will deliver better returns and that Government will have growing revenues to support their pensions and health care.
It means that the farmer is getting much better prices for his cattle and can afford to hire a local contractor to replace his fences, clean out a dam or build a new hay shed.
It means the cafe, the restaurant, the hotel has more tourists and they hire more staff to cater for them.
All thanks to our export trade deals.
A strong economy means that builders will be hard at work on new homes and tradesmen will have more jobs.
It means that a manufacturer has more export orders, can buy more equipment, hire more workers and expand their business.
A stronger economy means we can fund over $50 billion in 21st century road, rail and other infrastructure including the Western Sydney Airport and the 39,000 jobs it will create.
“A stronger economy means we can afford to fund world-class education and health services, including Medicare, without weighing down our children and grandchildren with more debt and deficits,” Mr Turnbull said.
A strong economy means we can meet and beat our international obligations to address climate change and do so without massive hikes in electricity prices as Labor would do.
“We have a national economic plan because the prosperity and security of 24 million Australians depend on it,” he said.
Mr Turnbull said success in the 21st Century cannot be taken for granted.
“Always expect the unexpected.”
“We will need to renegotiate vital trade deals with Europe and Britain,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We concluded five in the last three years – Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and the Trans Pacific Partnership.
“In six years Labor concluded none,” he said.
“We have carefully considered what we need to do to succeed, to make the transition from an economy fired up by a once in a century mining construction boom to one that is more diverse, more innovative, smarter, more productive – an economy that wins, and keeps on winning.”
“So there is a clear cut choice at this election,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We present our fellow Australians with a national economic plan every element of which supports more investment, stronger economic growth and more jobs.
“Our plan invests $1.1 billion to promote leading-edge innovation in our industries and to prepare our children for the jobs of the future.”
Our plan promotes export trade deals to generate 19,000 new export opportunities, giving our businesses premium access to the biggest economies in our region.
Our plan invests in local defence industries to ensure every defence dollar possible supports advanced manufacturers and thousands of Australians jobs.
Our Enterprise Tax Plan provides tax relief to tens of thousands of small-to-medium family businesses now and to all companies over time so they can invest, grow and hire more Australians.
“On the other hand, our opponents in the Labor Party have no economic plan.”
“Labor believes its best hope of being elected is to have trade union officials phone frail and elderly Australians in their homes at night, to scare them into thinking they are about to lose something which has never been at risk,” Mr Turnbull said.
“That’s not an alternative government, that’s an Opposition unfit to govern.”
Every element of Labor’s platform would discourage investment and employment.
He described it as: “a recipe for economic stagnation.”
“If returned at this election, we will convene a joint sitting to restore the rule of law in the construction industry and reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, Mr Turnbull said.
So Australians could have the building infrastructure they need “at a price they can afford.”
He said: “housing values would fall in a fragile property market and rents would rise, because of Labor’s investment destroying ban on negative gearing and 50 per cent hike in capital gains tax.
“This threat is real.
“ So we need to be crystal-clear about what our votes will mean,” Mr Turnbull said.
“If your local vote is for Labor, Greens or an Independent, and you are in one of the 20 or so key battleground seats across the country, it is a vote for the chaos of a hung Parliament, a budget black hole, big Labor taxes, less jobs and more boats,” he warned.
Only a Liberal or National vote ensures stable government, a clear economic plan, real funding for the aged, Medicare and education; more jobs and strong borders.
Mr Turnbull urged Australians to: ““Vote for your local Liberal or National in the House and in the Senate.”
“In the last calendar year, there were 300,000 new jobs,” the Prime Minister said.
“Our unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent is well beneath what was anticipated when the Coalition came to office,” he added.
None of this happens by chance. Strong economic leadership supporting hard-working Australians means that, even with difficult global headwinds, we continue to grow our economy and expand our workforce.
And, today, I can announce additional policies from our Coalition team to support our national economic plan for jobs and growth.
Mr Turnbull said his government is determined to ensure none of our regional communities are left behind as we make the transition to a stronger new economy.
“… our regions must be at the frontline of the drive for innovation, jobs and growth,” Mr Turnbull said.
Our ‘Regional Jobs Fund’ is a major commitment… he added.
“As we build a stronger economy, it is vital that we also do all we can to ensure all Australians, especially young Australians, are not left behind,” he added.
So the Coalition woulds deliver a record $73.6 billion over the next four years for all Australian schools,” he said.
“Today, I can announce an additional $48 million for scholarships under the Smith Family’s Learning for Life program, to help disadvantaged students to complete year 12 and transition to work or further education and training,” he added.
“The Coalition will also invest $31 million in programs to encourage more girls and women to study and work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Mr Turnbull said.
It would also help older Australians get smartphones.
He said only about one household in five, with people aged 60 or above, had a smartphone.
“To make their lives easier, to help them retain their independence, and to keep them connected to families and friends, I am announcing today a $50 million Coalition strategy to assist seniors who want to improve their digital literacy skills,” he said.
“And as announced earlier today, my Government will be investing $192 million more in front line mental health services including twelve suicide prevention sites around Australia and ten more headspace centres; and at the same time using smart phone and other technology to make these services more accessible,” he said.
This complements our support for Veterans’ mental health programs, itself a reminder that we best honour the diggers of Gallipoli and Fromelles by supporting the veterans and their families of today.
Mr Turnbull said; “only a strong Australia can be a safe Australia.
“After six years of abject Labor neglect and indecision, our continuous shipbuilding strategy will ensure Australia retains a sovereign capability to build and sustain naval vessels, securing thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs for decades to come,” he added.
Mr Turnbull said:”Labor’s abandonment of John Howard’s proven border protection policy opened the door to the people-smugglers:
The results had included:-
- 50,000 unauthorised arrivals on 800 boats,
- 1200 deaths at sea, of which we know,
- Over 8000 children put into detention,
- 17 detention centres opened, and
- An $11 billion border protection budget blowout.
“In contrast, the Coalition has restored security at the border, integrity to our immigration program – and with it, public trust,” he said.
“I am proud to announce that today marks 700 days without a successful people-smuggling venture to our country,” he added.
“I am also very proud to announce that we have removed every child from detention in Australia,” Mr Turnbull said.
Labor had failed Australia before.
“The people-smugglers are looking for the earliest sign that an Australian government will waver,” he added.
Mr Turnbull said: “our policies are tough.
“But these policies have stopped the drownings at sea, and restored the integrity of, and trust in, our large but orderly immigration and refugee programs,” he added.
To further strengthen our domestic security I announce initiatives that go to that most fundamental of liberties – the right to live without fear of violence.
Mr Turnbull also said: “my first announcement as Prime Minister was a new $100 million package to encourage all Australians to confront squarely and honestly the ugly truth of violence against women and children in our society.
“Today, I can announce a $64 million commitment to crack down on the trafficking of illegal firearms on our streets, in particular by criminal gangs,” he added.
He said he is asking Australians to make a clear choice — to back a strong and stable Coalition majority government that can press ahead with its plan for a stronger new economy.
That would deliver the economic security that enables Australians to fulfill their aspirations.
“That is why I am asking my fellow Australians at this election to support our Coalition’s National Economic Plan for a Strong New Economy,” he said.
by Alan Thornhill
The $A tumbled today, as the vote to leave the EU came in higher than expected.
However, a short time ago, the BBC still had the vote to stay higher than the vote to leave.
At that point, 2,933,388 Britons had voted to stay in the EU.
But 2,841,709 had voted to leave.
The $A fell by 1.35 per cent, to 75.35 US cents in the confusion that followed the unexpectedly high vote to leave.
That vote is seen, in large part, as a product of British impatience with calls for austerity.
But British Conservatives are being urged today to maintain their faith in the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who campaigned hard for the no vote, that would keep Britain in the EU.
by Alan Thornhill
Bill Shorten sought to inspire Australian voters with a speech he gave today.
Acknowledging that the Labor party he leads polls more strongly among women than men, Mr Shorten opened his speech with a line that reverses an old favourite, of Australian politicians.
“Women and men of Australia,” he declared.
An edited version of his 5,000 word speech is reproduced below.
As expected, Mr Shorten concentrated on traditional Labor themes, health, education and jobs, while attacking the government’s “arrogance.”
And he warned that the Liberals pose a real threat to Medicare .
Mr Shorten said: “ We gather as one united party: ready to serve, ready to lead, ready for government.”
He declared that “a great future is within Australia’s reach” – and said he is “certain that Labor has the plans to grasp it.”
“Labor knows “… that this election can be won…”Mr Shorten said
“Mr Turnbull says he’s got this in the bag, he claims he’s already won it,” Mr Shorten added.
“I say to him – never underestimate Labor.
“You ain’t seen anything yet, has he?”
“… only a Labor Government will build a stronger economy and a fairer society, Mr Shorten said.
Only Labor would:-
*…. fund our schools and protect Medicare.
*….create jobs and build roads, rail and a proper National Broadband Network.
On aborigines, Mr Shorten said:-“I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I pay my respects to elders past and present,“…but let our respect travel past words into action.
“ because as long as a young Aboriginal man is more likely to go to jail than university, words are not enough. Action matters. ”
“Friends, our issues are starting to bite – please, keep up the great work, we count on all of you.
Mr Shorten thanked three previous Labor Prime Ministers, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard who attended his launch and mentioned Kevin Rudd who is overseas.
He said that under Labor “… Medicare stays.”
Mr Shorten also said: “We’ve got the best people, we’ve got the best policies and we’ve got the best plan to pay for them.”
He said Labor would be :” …accountable and responsible for every single dollar.”
It would deliver: “Only policies that we can fund, only policies our country can afford.
“We will not be a big spending government.
“We will be a government for the fair go, fully paid for.
“Bringing down the deficit each and every year.
Mr Shorten said: “… the difference in competing economic visions has never been sharper or starker:
“A Labor party investing in people, in productivity, in infrastructure and technology.
“And a Liberal party asking for three more years on the back of one bad idea.
“A $50 billion giveaway to big business, $30 billion of which goes straight overseas.
“This is not a plan for the Australian economy – it is foreign aid for foreign companies.
“Treasury has put a final figure on the economic benefits, such as they are.
“A growth dividend of 0.1 per cent a year.
“Zero. Point. One.
“$50 billion dollars for a benefit that rounds down to zero.
“But at least Mr Turnbull has already told us already how he is going to fill the void it that will leave in the Budget – a 15 per cent GST, on everything.
“Or ripping every single Commonwealth dollar out of every single government school.
“And letting the states loose to charge their own income tax.
“Make no mistake, if the Liberals win, we shouldn’t be worried about Mr Turnbull breaking his promises, we should be worried about him keeping his promises.
“Mr Turnbull’s plan, such as it is, means a $7.4 billion windfall for Westpac, ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank and NAB.
“Three out of four of these are under investigation for rigging the interest rates of Australians trying to save for a home, pay-off a mortgage or plan for a self-funded retirement.
Mr Shorten said: “The Australian economy needs a real jobs plan.”
And he said that was what Labor would provide. (see earlier story)
Mr Shorten also said: “… the two most important things for an economy in transition are: public investment in infrastructure and education.
‘Building and teaching.
“Labor will do both.
“We will turbo-charge Infrastructure and create a new ‘Concrete Bank’.
“We will clear away the market blockages that hold back our superannuation investing in good projects.
“We will build if given the opportunity by the Australian people, the Perth Metronet, AdeLINK, the Melbourne Metro and of course Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail.
“And we will build the Western Sydney Rail Line connecting fast growing communities.
“We’ll back this up with 15,000 new places for apprentices – of all ages – right across the nation.
“And we will clean-out the dodgy private colleges undermining vocational training in this country.
“Politics, as you understand, is about choices,” Mr Shorten said.
“We choose TAFE.
“We choose local content.
“We choose the apprenticeship system.”
“We choose renewable energy and Australian steel because we believe advanced manufacturing has a future in this country.”
On schools, Mr Shorten said: “We will build – and we will teach.
“And our future as a knowledge economy depends upon the National Broadband Network, “ Mr Shorten said.
“It’s vital to small businesses in the regions engaging in our region.”
But Mr Turnbull has made a horrible mess of the NBN.
The cost is now double what he promised – and it’s going to take as twice as long to build.
Australia’s ranking has collapsed from 30th to 60th in the world in global internet speeds.
“I suppose, this was the perfect preview for his time as Prime Minister.
“Over-promise, under-deliver and take forever to get to the point.
“Australia deserves so much better than this.
“A new Labor Government will connect up to 2 million more homes and businesses to a first-rate fibre National Broadband Network.
“Equality for women will be a national mission for my government,” Mr Shorten added.
“That would mean:-
A minimum of 18 weeks paid parental leave, guaranteed.
Better childcare, sooner – for 800,000 working families.
He said, ,too, that Family violence is not a family matter – it is a national disgrace.
Mr Shorten also said, Labor would provide “…will provide the leadership in the Parliament to deliver marriage equality within our first 100 days.”
And he added: “There is a hidden story in our country.
“Teenagers are taking days off school to attend the funerals of classmates who have taken their own life.
“Parents sitting at kitchen tables, numb with incomprehension, shattered by grief, trying to write a eulogy for their child. No parent should ever bury their child.
“Yet seven Australians die every day at their own hand.
“Every single day.
“We can do better than this.
“A new Labor Government will start by providing $72 million for 12 regional suicide prevention project, Mr Shorten said.
He said the election on July 2 would be “ a referendum on the future of Medicare.
“Medicare is the community standard, it’s the gold standard, it speaks to Australians about who we are,” he added.
“And Medicare costs Australia far less than other countries pay, and we get better care,” Mr Shorten said.
And he added:”The Liberals have given the Productivity Commission new riding instructions, to investigate privatising human services and Americanising Medicare.
“This is Mr Turnbull’s second strike on Medicare and we know he won’t stop, he won’t rest,” Mr Shorten added.
by Alan Thornhill
Bill Shorten says Labor will offer small business tax cuts to create new jobs.
The Labor leader said this policy had been designed to particularly help two groups that have often been finding it very hard to get work.
That is both younger and older workers.
He put the cost at $257 million and said it would help up to 30,000 Australians find a job each year.
But he said the cost of the tax cut would be fully offset from the existing wage subsidy program, which is not working as well as it should be.
So how would it work?
Mr Shorten said under Labor’s New Jobs Tax Cut, small businesses will be able to claim a tax deduction of up to $20,000 per worker to offset the wages of up to five new employees.
Businesses would be able to claim a 40 per cent deduction on top of the amount they can currently claim for their employees.
“Central to Labor’s positive plan to support small business is cutting red tape – making it easier and simpler for small business owners to support Australia’s economy and create jobs,” Mr Shorten said.
“This is a real jobs plan that offers a responsible tax cut to small businesses – the backbone of our economy,” he added.
To qualify for the deduction, the employees will need to be a net addition to the company’s average full-time equivalent staffing level for the previous year.
An employer will deduct 140 per cent of the wages expenses of a new employee when doing their accounts.
Mr Shorten said: “ Labor’s policy will be targeted to small businesses with turnover of less than $2 million which have been operating for more than two years.
“Importantly, the New Jobs Tax Cut will be available to businesses hiring Australians who face real barriers to finding work,” Mr Shorten said.
He said these would include:-
* Unemployed job seekers aged under 25 or over 55 and
* Parents or carers returning to work after more than six months away.
“Just like the previous Labor Government’s instant asset write-off, businesses will be able to claim the New Jobs Tax Cut as part of their regular tax return,” he said .
“ This minimises paperwork for busy employers and means they do not have to deal with yet another agency in order to help someone back into work,” Mr Shorten added.
Labor is arguing that its job creation scheme will be more effective – and much less expensive – than that being offered by the government.
That would cost $50 million over 10 years, mostly in tax cuts going to big companies.
by Alan Thornhill
An industry watchdog did Malcolm Turnbull no favours when it alleged there had been dirty work at the cross-roads as the Federal government moved to sell off Medibank Private.
Its action, just weeks before a Federal election. allowed some to suggest that Medicare, too, might soon be on the auction block.
The Medicare Private sale had been profitable, raising almost $5.7 billion, which the Federal government said would be spent on infrastructure projects.
Now, though, that watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused Medibank of “engaging in misleading conduct,” to raise that very tidy sum.
Although the case has yet to be decided, unions have been out in the streets of Australian cities today, handing out brochures warning that the Federal government is now planning to sell Medicare as well.
The Prime Minister responded angrily, rejecting that accusation “absolutely” and accusing Labor of “frightening” old people, in particular, by telling them “disgraceful lies.”
Scare campaigns are not entirely unknown, in Australian elections.
Both sides, at times, have accused their rivals of indulging in them.
This time, though, the tension evident in Mr Turnbull’s voice, as he rejected that allegation, showed that he recognises that Medicare might still become a decisive issue, in the present campaign.
Speaking in a radio interview, he said his government would: “absolutely, completely, unequivocally guarantee Medicare will not be privatised – will never be privatised. ”
“It is a core government service,” he said.
“It will always be provided entirely by the government,” the Prime Minister added.
The interviewer, Neil Mitchell, then said: “So you are just selling off the support area?”
Mr Turnbull replied: “It is one of the most disgraceful lies the Labor Party is telling.
“And they have trade union officials ringing up people, selective, they are ringing up in particular older Australians and frightening them with this lie.”
“ Medicare is a core government service.”
“It will always be provided by the government.”
““ It will never be privatised,” Mr Turnbull said.
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 is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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