by Alan Thornhill
Retail sales continued to rise in August, but Australia’s department stores are still facing tough times.
The Bureau of Statistics reported today that retail sales rose by 0.1 per cent during the month and by 0.2 per cent on trend estimates.
However department stores saw their sales fall by 2.9 per cent during the month.
Shopkeepers said the weak growth in August showed that interest rates must be kept low.
The Australian Retailers Association Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said his members are looking for stronger growth in September.
But the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, told Federal parliament later that the 7.8 per cent rise, in retail sales which occurred over the 12 months to August, had been described as the “best rolling result” since 2002.
The Bureau also reported today that the total value of engineering construction work carried out in Australia, in the June quarter of this year, fell by 2 per cent, on seasonally adjusted figures, to a level 3.8 per cent below that seen 12 months earlier.
There were falls, in the June quarter, in both the public and private sectors.
Australians, once again, spent more in the nation’s cafes and restaurants and take away food stores in August, when this kind of spending rose by 0.3 per cent, on seasonally adjusted figures.
But shoppers spent 0.8 per cent less on household goods.
The Bureau also noted that retail sales rose in Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Terrritory during August, but were flat in South Australia and Tasmania.
Sales actually fell, though, in New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT.
The fall in engineering construction coincides with the end of the mining boom.
by Alan Thornhill
We are holding onto our old cars longer.
The Bureau of Statistics reported today that -on trend estimates – new vehicle sales in Australia have been falling steadily over the past year.
A fall of 0.1 per cent in August, on this basis, saw sales fall to a level 1.8 per cent below that seen 12 months earlier.
On seasonally adjusted figures, the falls were even bigger.
Sales fell 1.8 per cent in August, on this basis, to a level 3.5 per cent below that set a year earlier.
On this basis, 91,391 new vehicles were sold in August this year, down from 94,743 in the same month last year.
Sales of sports utility vehicles were one of the few bright spots in the market.
On the same basis, sales of these vehicles rose from 28,304 in August last year to 28,895 in the same month this year.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, announced today that Australia will impose tougher sanctions on Russia, over its actions in Ukraine.
In as statement today, Mr Abbott said this is being done “in coordination with our partners in the US, Canada and Europe.”
He said Australia’s expanded sanctions would include:-
· restrictions on arms exports;
· restrictions on the access of Russian state-owned banks to Australian capital markets;
· preventing the export of goods and services for use in Russia’s oil exploration or production;
· restrictions on Australian trade and investment in Crimea; and
· targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on an additional 63 Russian and Ukrainian officials.
Mr Abbott said Russia had refused to heed the international community’s call to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.
Instead it was fuelling it.
So the government would expand Australia’s autonomous sanctions and travel bans relating to Russia.
“We remain determined to see the perpetrators of the cowardly attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 brought to justice,” the Prime Minister said.
” We owe this to the innocent victims and their families,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
After apologising for a gaffe last week, the Treasurer, Joe Hockey blamed the media today for “misinterpreting” what he had said.
In a radio interview, early today, Mr Hockey declared that anyone looking at what he said last week might well conclude that his remarks had been misrepresented.
Mr Hockey said then that poor people would not be hit hard by fuel price indexation, because they either did not have cars, or did not drive them very far.
He was forced to apologize after the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, declared that he would never have said that.
In his interview with Bay FM, Mr Hockey said: “… any words I use now will be, again, misinterpreted.
“I just move on with what we’re doing and focus on the job that I have, which is to get the Budget through, to lay down the plan to fix the economy.”
But the Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, said Mr Hockey’s remarks today show that the only person he is actually sorry for is himself.
“The Treasurer clearly isn’t sorry for offending millions of Australians,” Mr Bowen said.
“He’s just sorry for himself.
“Joe Hockey has gone beyond being simply out of touch, he’s lost perspective, and he’s clearly not up to the Budget sell and Senate negotiations,” Mr Bowen said.
by Alan Thornhill
New vehicle sales fell by 1.3 per cent throughout Australia last month, on seasonally adjusted figures the Bureau of Statistics published today.
On the same basis, sales were also 0.4 per cent below the level seen 12 months earlier.
The Bureau reported that sales of passenger vehicles were virtually flat, falling by just 9 units during the month.
But sales of sports utility vehicles rose by 2.3 per cent.
New vehicle sales fell by 1.3 per cent in New South Wales last month, on seasonally adjusted figures, and 0.3 per cent in Victoria.
Only ACT dealers increased their sales, reporting a 1.6 per cent rise for the month.
The falls in other States were Queensland 1.7 per cent, South Australia 3.5 per cent, Western Australia 1.8 per cent and Tasmania 1.9 per cent.
In the Northern Territory, sales fell by 6.2 per cent in July.
by Alan Thornhill
The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, apologised today for a controversial statement he made Wednesday, about poor people and cars.
The Treasurer had said, in a radio interview then, that fuel price indexation would not hurt the poor, because they didn’t have cars, or didn’t drive much.
However in another radio interview today, Mr Hockey said: “I am really, genuinely sorry that it came out that way.”
He said he had not meant to suggest that either he, or the government, is not concerned about the poor.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, had earlier distanced himself from Mr Hockey, saying: “I would not have said that.”
However Mr Abbott also said that he supports Mr Hockey.
Earlier today a senior minister, Christopher Pyne, had several times, avoided endorsing Mr Hockey’s remark, although he, also declared that the Treasurer has been doing an “inspirational” job.
Mr Hockey allso said:“All of my life I have fought for and tried to help the most disadvantaged people in the community.
“For there to be some suggestion that I have evil in my heart when it comes to the most disadvantaged people in the community is upsetting.
“But it’s more upsetting for those people in the community. So I want to make it perfectly clear to the community that if there’s any suggestion that I don’t care about you or that I have evil intent toward you, I want to say that couldn’t be further from the truth and I’m sorry for the hurt.”
Mr Hockey conceded that his government’s message about the need for budget repair had been lost because of his misstep.
“We are trying to deliver a plan for the nation that ensures that those most disadvantaged get the very best we as a community can offer. I’m trying to make the healthcare system sustainable, I’m trying to make the welfare system sustainable and the education system the best it can be,’’ he said.
“You can only do that through what we are trying to do in the budget but it has been lost in the last few days and I’m sorry.”
by Alan Thornhill
Bill Shorten described Joe Hockey today as “remarkably arrogant” after the Treasurer said his fuel excise would hit the wealthy harder than the poor.
Mr Hockey had said that was because poor people either don’t have cars or don’t travel great distances.
The Opposition Leader responded sharply.
He asked: “”Are you serious Joe Hockey?
“Are you really the cigar-chomping, Foghorn Leghorn of Australian politics where you’re saying that poor people don’t drive cars?”
Mr Hockey had defended his budget decision to increase the fuel excise, by producing Treasury research to support his case.
The increase – worth $2.2 billion – was earmarked to fund new road work.
The Treasury research -based on census data concluded that families households in relatively disadvantaged areas were less likely to own motor vehicles than those in relatively advantaged areas.
And it added: “Where motor vehicles are owned, households in relatively disadvantaged areas are most likely to own only one car whereas households in relatively advantaged areas are more likely to have two or more motor vehicles.”
The Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, responded by producing other research, which produced different findings.
He quoted John Daley of the Grattan Institute who said a higher tax on fuel would have a disproportionate impact on low-income households.
“If [the government] is looking at increasing petrol taxes like this, [it] has to correspondingly increase welfare payments to poorer households,” Mr Daley said.
by Alan Thornhill
Tasmania has the shortest roads of any Australian State – but the highest number of vehicles for each person – anywhere in Australia.
The Bureau of Statistics reported today that the island State had 861 registered vehicles for every 1000 people, at the time of its Motor Vehicle Census on January 31 this year.
It said the Tasmanian car fleet had also grown more rapidly than that of any other State, on population ratio basis, over the past five years, with an increase of 63 vehicles per 1,000 residents in that time.
West Australians also have a high vehicle to population ratio, with 840 vehicles for every 1,000 people, back in January.
The rate, for Australia as a whole, was 756 vehicles for each 1,000 people.
The Bureau also reported that there has been a move away from passenger vehicles, over the past five years, towards light commercials.
Passenger vehicles made up just 75 per cent of the national vehicle fleet in January this year, compared with 77 per cent five years earlier.
Light commercial vehicles now account for 16 per cent of the fleet, up from 15 per cent five years ago.
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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