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.
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
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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.
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
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
For the first time in the present election campaign, Bill Shorten appears to have seized the initiative.
He did that on Sunday, when he declared that the vote July 2 would be “a referendum on Medicare.”
In doing so, he greatly increased his chances of becoming Prime Minister.
But he still has to win 21 seats to do that.
The Prime Minster’s response, to this challenge from the Opposition Leader, was to say – very forcefully – that it was based on “a lie.”
Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Sydney today that Labor had been ringing older people in the evening, saying “Medicare is going to be sold off.
“Medicare will be privatised.
” This is the biggest lie of the campaign.”
“I want to be very clear. Medicare will never ever be privatised,” Mr Turnbull said.
“Every element of Medicare services that is currently being delivered by government will continue to be delivered by government. Full stop,” Mr Turnbull said.
Labor strategists remained cool, saying simply that their charges are “biting.”
A reporter had asked Mr Turnbull why voters should accept his latest promises on Medicare when his predecessor, Tony Abbott, had not kept his.
The Medicare debate has caught fire, among voters.
Reports in Fairfax newspapers today help to explain why.
The headline on one, in The Sydney Morning Herald, says: ‘Narcissistic’ surgeons charge cancer patients exorbitant out-of-pocket costs without disclosing
It quotes chief executive of Cancer Council Australia, Sanchia Aranda, saying : “the most brazen example was robotic surgery for prostate cancer.”
She said these cases attracted out-of-pocket fees of between $15,000 to $30,000, even though there is no evidence to suggest robotic surgery offered patients better cancer or functional outcomes than a standard prostatectomy when performed by a surgeon of equal skill.
“We know of patients who are mortgaging their houses because they are being led to believe that these flashy new types of procedures are the best way to have their cancer treated,” Professor Aranda added.
by Alan Thornhill
Labor says it will revive a valuable support program for apprentices which the Coalition government axed.
The Shadow Minister for Vocational Education, Sharon Bird, said too few Australians are starting apprenticeships and and too many of those who do are dropping out before they finish.
“A Shorten Labor Government will turn this around by giving apprentices real support when they need it by bringing back Tools for Your Trade – the valuable apprentice support program axed by the Abbott-Turnbull Government,” Ms Bird said.
She said Australian apprentices earn between 55 and 90 per cent of a standard wage while they are training, meaning a first year construction apprentice may take home base pay of as little as $420 a week.
This makes it hard to cover the cost of equipment, transport, books and other work essentials.
She said the Tools for Your Trade helps apprentices with these costs throughout their training to get over the hurdles that prevent them from completing.
From 1 July 2017, workers starting an apprenticeship will be eligible for $3,000 in payments throughout their training.
Payments will be spaced to provide support to apprentices as they train and back them all the way to completion.
As well as investing $285 million to bring back this important apprentice support program, Labor will also boost Group Training Organisations to help small and medium businesses take on more apprentices across Australia.
Group Training Organisations help these businesses participate in apprenticeships by managing the administrative and personnel side of hiring an apprentice.
They take care of training, setting up work placements and managing administrative functions like pay, leave and superannuation. This leaves businesses free to focus on developing on-the-job skills with their apprentices.
Labor will invest in Group Training so that these organisations can help to get more apprentices into work, with $10 million a year in new funding over the next four years.
We believe every Australian should have the chance to gain real skills and a good job. Australian apprenticeships have given millions of workers that opportunity over the past few decades.
“Our plan to support apprentices from start to finish comes on top of our commitment to get more apprentices onto Commonwealth-funded projects by setting aside a proportion of the jobs for apprenticeships,” Ms.Bird said.
by Alan Thornhill
The job market figures, that were published today, don’t look too bad.
Indeed graphs that the Bureau of Statistics presented with its May labour force figures appear to show things moving both strongly and in the right directions.
They show Australia’s unemployment rates unmistakably on a downward path.
Total employment, too, is rising strongly.
The Bureau’s integrity, too, is beyond question.
So why, then, does the uncomfortable feeling, that perhaps the monthly labour force figures are no longer capturing the full picture, of Australia’s increasingly complex labour markets, persist?
There are, of course, special cases, as there always will be.
The nation’s latest youth unemployment rate, for example, has not yet been published.
But it will probably turn out to be roughly double the general unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent.
What else, though, is actually going on out there in the real world?
One figure, that the bureau did publish today, offers a clue.
The bureau said Australia’s labour force underutilisation rate was steady in May, at 14.2 per cent.
That means, at the very least, that many workers who have lost “old” jobs, perhaps in the now abandoned car industry, are still waiting around – maybe in part time work – until they can get better “new” jobs – making submarines.
But will that part time work pay their grocery bills?
And what do we mean by full time work, anyway?
There are still many questions to be asked – and answered – about Australia’s new workplace practices.
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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