Browsing articles in "Trade"
Wednesday 3rd August 2016 - 9:47 pm
Comments Off on PM confronts banks

PM confronts banks

by Alan Thornhill

Malcolm Turnbull directly challenged Australia’s big banks today, saying they should pass on the rate cut the Reserve Bank announced earlier this week in full, or explain why.

 

So far the banks have been passing on about half of the 0.25 per centage point cut.

 

That has left families with $300,000 mortgages some $20 a month out of pocket.

 

The Prime Minister said Australia had needed a period of economic transition after its huge mining construction boom.

 

“That’s why we have the big trade export deals, the big deals, the big free trade deals,” he said.

 

However the shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen disagreed.

 

He said the government was simply “chest beating” on the rate cut.

 

So, this is a Government which is being exposed for a lack of economic leadership, for a lack of economic plan,” Mr Bowen said.

 

He said the government had no plan to increase investment in the non-mining sector, to ensure that we have jobs for the future. “

 

Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are simply not up to the job,” Mr Bowen said.

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Wednesday 3rd August 2016 - 1:59 pm
Comments Off on How we spend our time – and money

How we spend our time – and money

by Alan Thornhill

Hard working Australians, who leave themselves little time to shop, are buying more of their food and groceries online.

 

The National Australia Bank, which watches these trends, says we spent more than $20 billion, making online purchases over the past year.

 

And the strongest growth, seen in that time, was among those aged 35 to 44.

 

That is people of prime working age.

 

Their spending on groceries and liquor rose by 20,5 per cent over the past year.

 

They also spent 19.2 per cent more on homewares and appliances.

 

Meanwhile 18-24 year olds spent 22 per cent more on fashion and 19.9 per cent more on media.

 

The bank said that while overall growth in online spending was still quite strong, it had flattened from that seen back in 2011 when the index was first established.

 

The bank’s Chief Econmomist, Alan Oster, said  “the $20.1 billion spent online by Australians in the last year is equivalent to 6.8 per per cent of spending in the bricks and mortar’ retail sector.

 

“And growth by online businesses is far outpacing these traditional retailers,” he added.s

Tuesday 2nd August 2016 - 6:04 pm
Comments Off on Glenn Stevens’ risks

Glenn Stevens’ risks

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

 

By Alan Thornhill

 

Twice this year, Glenn Stevens has done something that central bankers don’t like doing.

 

That is cutting interest rates to previously unprecedented levels

 

That happened first in May.

 

Then – again – from Wednesday.

 

Both time rates were cut by 25 basis points

 

The reason Reserve bank chiefs, like Glenn Steven, don’t like taking this step is  simple.

 

But not, necessarily, obvious.

 

After all,  young home buyers will generally welcome the relief they will get in their home loan repayments, when their banks pass, at least some of the benefit they receive on to them.

 

If that’s all there was to it, Mr Stevens would, undoubtedly be among the most popular men in the country right now.

 

But although he is, by all accounts, is a fine fellow, things aren’t as simple as that.

 

What  about those probably somewhat older people, we might call the Savers, who have been relying on a little interest income, perhaps through their superannuation accounts, to help them pay their grocery bills  in retirement.

 

There is another thing, too, that can keep central bankers awake at night, when interest  rates fall to unprecedented levels, on their watch.

 

That’s walking down a dark path, on a moonless night.

 

Who knows what might go wrong?

Friday 29th July 2016 - 4:03 pm
Comments Off on Those country cousins – in a big city store

Those country cousins – in a big city store

by Alan Thornhill

The hard right is keeping Malcolm Turnbull on a short leash.

 

 

That was shown, yet again, today when the Prime Minister llrefused to back Kevin Rudd’s bid to become Secretary General of the United Nations.

 

 

The decision caused some surprise in Canberra.

 

 

After all, Mr Turnbull’s cabinet had been evenly divided on the issue, just one day before.

 

 

And it left the current Prime minister, alone, to make that decision.

 

 

Well, almost alone.

 

 

There is still the little matter of the secret agreement that the Liberal party’s country cousins, in the National Party, made Mr Turnbull, himself, sign before they accepted him as Prime Minister, last September.
Neither of the Coalition partners has, so far,  revealed what is in that agreement.

 

But, perhaps they don’t have to.

 

 

For, as the old saying has it: “by their works, ye shall know them.”

 

 

It would be an honour for a small country like Australia to have one of its citizens as deeply involved in settling world disputes, as Mr Rudd would be, if he gets that job.

 

And in such circumstances relatively small matters, like past differences in domestic politics, are often overlooked.,

 

Those who can’t bring themselves to make such accommodations risk being labelled as insular in their outlook.

 

That label isn’t sticking to to Mr Turnbull just yet.

 

However, this latest decision isn’t the first of its kind.

 

That has led to a series of doubtful stories about Mr Turnbull, with headlines like “ will the real Malcolm Turnbull please stand up?”

 

So far, he hasn’t.

 

And his country cousins are still running the shop.

Thursday 28th July 2016 - 5:51 pm
Comments Off on Who are our subs really protecting?

Who are our subs really protecting?

by Alan Thornhill

 

Analysis

 

 

 

A submarine led recovery?

 

That’s not advocated in any respectable economic text book.

 

Yet it is precisely the path the Federal government is taking us down.

 

At a cost of some $800 million over 10 years

 

Money the Productivity Commission says might well have been better spent elsewhere.

 

The government’s decision to build our new subs in Australia is being accompanied by the slow spread of what might well be called a ”barbed wire broadband.”

 

That is one based on copper wire, rather than the then superior fibre to the node system, that Labor was proposing when the two choices were first offered.

 

 

The slower copper wire system, that Malcolm Turnbull pushed, also ended up costing more than the snazzier Labor model.

 

 

Even though the man who is now Prime Minister said it would be substantially cheaper

 

 

And the man appointed to run it, has since described the Turnbull alternative as a “colossal mistake.”

 

 

However, as Mr Turnbull’s lieutenant, Christopher Pyne,  has since explained “Australians don‘t need a faster internet.”

 

So that’s alright, then.

 

The government has its explanations.

 

 

Mr Pyne, for example, also says it will make Australia “a defence hub.”

 

 

But the Productivity Commission won’t have a bar of it.

 

 

It notes that building a sub in Australia means that it will cost 30 per cent more than simply buying one overseas.

 

 

While necessarily based on hypothetical data, because of time differences, its example reveals that the effective rate of assistance provided to Australia’s submarine industry might well exceed that provided to tne nation’s vehicle industry and its textile, clothing and footwear indsustries,  while those payment  were s their respective peaks.

 

The commission also notes that paying more to have the subs built in Australia without getting sufficient value in return  diverts productive resources  such as labour, capital and land away from  more efficient uses that need less assistance. .

 

 

This damages Australia’s capacity to get the best possible benefits from the community’s resources.

 

Its report  leaves no room for its  readers to doubt about the fact that the commission regards the Federal government’s decision to promote with submarine construction in Australia was a dreadfully dud deal.

 

So why did it happen?

 

The commission notes that “iconic” factories were closing and local areas, particularly in South Australia and Victoria, were doing it tough, as a closely fought election, on  July 2, approached.

 

And those who suspect that political, not economic judgements prevailed in this case, won’t get much argument from the Productivity Commission.

 

Friday 22nd July 2016 - 6:38 pm
Comments Off on Federal government acts on steel jobs

Federal government acts on steel jobs

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government says it has “struck a deal” to secure the jobs of South Australian steel workers.

 

In a joint statement late today, the Prime Minster, Malcolm Turnbull, said  his government “is delivering” on its its “election commitment to support South Australia’s steel sector and workers at Arrium .“

 

He said the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation would provide a loan of $49.2 million for new machinery at the Iron Knob and Iron Baron mines.

 

This would be done under the National Interest Account.

 

Mr Turnbull said this would enable Arrium’s OneWhyalla business to process iron ore to export quality and is expected to boost Arrium’s cash flow by more than $200 million over the next five years.

 

The Prime Minister said this investment would build on his government’s ongoing commitment to support Australia’s steel industry.

 

He said the measurers already announced included:-

  • Using Australian steel across our naval shipbuilding program
  • Upgrading 1200 kilometres of rail line between Adelaide and Tarcoola, a project worth approximately $80 million to Arrium
  • Strengthening Australia’s anti-dumping system.

 

 

Mr Turnbull  said his government would continue to work closely with the administrators as they prepare Arrium’s businesses for sale.

Wednesday 20th July 2016 - 9:09 am
Comments Off on Australia:the entepreneurial

Australia:the entepreneurial

by Alan Thornhill

Thinking of starting a new small business?

 

You are not alone.

 

A new survey, that the National Australia Bank published today, shows that one Australian in three shares your ambition.

 

The bank says this shows that the start-up culture is alive and well, in this country.

 

So what did the survey find?

 

The key conclusions, according to the bank, were:-

 

  • Around 1 in 3 Australians would like to own their own business with young Australians clearly the most aspirational (nearly 1 in 2)
  • Over 1 in 2 men and 41 per cent of women say they have “good” to “excellent” levels of entrepreneurship
  • The most popular new businesses are cafés and retail, followed by IT and personal services
  • Most budding entrepreneurs would go it alone or with their spouse or partner
  • Around 40 per cent of budding entrepreneurs and 75 per cent of existing business owners need or needed less than $50,000 to get their business off the ground
  • Over 1 in 3 aspirational and existing business owners would be keen to be part of “community” of other entrepreneurs

 

The NAB’s Executive General Manager for Micro and Small Business Leigh O’Neill said a healthy start-up sector is critical to fostering a new wave of growth for the Australian economy.

 

“Small businesses are so important to creating future jobs and economic growth, and understanding their motivations and needs means we can help support the right ecosystems for growth,” Ms O’Neill said.

 

“We’ve got a huge community of budding entrepreneurs eager to get their ideas off the ground, and it’s clear that they need more than money.”

 

The release of the research coincides with the launch of NAB Startup, a service that allows aspiring small business owners to become operational quickly, with guidance on setting up an ABN, ACN, business and domain name registrations, as well as website creation and invoicing functionality.

 

“We see plenty of small business owners juggling full time jobs while setting up their new ventures.

 

 

“They have huge amounts of excitement and energy, but very little time, so they need things to be simple, quick and connected,” said Ms O’Neill.

 

“Services like NAB Startup, our new unsecured $50,000 QuickBiz Loan and digital marketplace for small business Proquo, help entrepreneurs get their business ideas off the ground more quickly and connect with other small businesses.”

 

The full survey ‘The Lure of Entrepreneurship – Australia’s Start-up Culture’  in available at www.news.nab.com.au.

Monday 18th July 2016 - 7:17 pm
Comments Off on Tony Abbott:off the team

Tony Abbott:off the team

by Alan Thornhill

Tony Abbott has missed out on a place in Malcolm Turnbull’s new ministry and Christopher Pyne is to become Australia’s new minister for defence industry.

 

The Prime Minister has also named Josh Frydenberg Australia’s new environment minister.

 

This has angered environmentalists who say Mr Frydenberg has always favoured the  coal industry over the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Mr Turnbull’s new ministry and cabinet are to be sworn in next week.

 

The Prime Minister’s decision to leave his predecessor, Mr Abbott, off his front bench comes as no surprise, even though hard right MPs, within the Liberal Party, would have welcomed such a move.

 

As he  promised do before the election, Mr Turnbull generally avoided unecssary changes changes when he announced his new team today.

 

But Mr Frydenberg will become minister for the environment and energy.

 

Mr Turnbull said all his previous cabinet ministers had been reappointed although there had been some changes and expansions in their duties.

 

He said:  “Senator Fiona Nash will add Local Government and Territories to her Regional Development and Regional Communications roles.

 

“Christopher Pyne will be appointed to the new role of Minister for Defence Industry, within the Defence portfolio.

 

“Mr Pyne will be responsible for overseeing our new Defence Industry Plan that came out of the Defence White Paper.

 

“This includes the most significant naval shipbuilding program since the Second World War.

 

“This is a key national economic development role. This program is vitally important for the future of Australian industry and especially advanced manufacturing.

 

“The Minister for Defence Industry will oversee the Naval Shipbuilding Plan which will itself create 3,600 new direct jobs and thousands more across the supply chain across Australia.

 

“Beyond shipbuilding, there is a massive Defence Industry Investment and Acquisition Program on land, in the air and inside cyberspace.

 

“This is a massive step change set out in the Defence White Paper. This investment in Defence Industry, as you know, is a key part of our economic plan.

 

“It will drive the jobs and the growth in advanced manufacturing, in technology, right across the country. And I’m appointing Christopher to be the Minister to oversee that and ensure that those projects are delivered.

 

“As I said at the outset, this is a term of government for delivery.

 

“We will be judged in 2019 by the Australian people as to whether we have delivered on the plans and the programs and the investments that we have promised and set out and described in the lead-up to the election.

 

Greg Hunt will move from Environment to become the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, where he will drive the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

 

“Can I say that Mr Hunt has been an outstanding Environment Minister and he served in that portfolio in Government and indeed, in opposition.

 

“He has a keen understanding of innovation, he has a keen understanding of science and technology and he will give new leadership to that important portfolio and those important agendas so central to our economic plan.

 

“Josh Frydenberg will move to the expanded Environment and Energy portfolio combining all the key energy policy areas.

 

“These include energy security and domestic energy markets for which he has been previously responsible in the current portfolio. Renewable energy targets, clean energy development and financing and emission reduction mechanisms which are part of Environment.

 

“Senator Matt Canavan will be promoted to Cabinet as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and I welcome Senator Canavan to the Cabinet in this key economic development role,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

 

 

 

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Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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