Archive for: ‘May 2019’

The debate over what to do next with the economy

11/05/2019 Posted by admin

With revenue falling in the once-booming mining sector, some economists believe lifting skilled migration could boost economic growth and employment opportunities.



And while the budget is in deficit, opinion is divided among economists on whether spending cuts to get it back to surplus would help or harm in the current economic climate.


Michael Kenny reports.


Emeritus Professor Bob Gregory, from the Australian National University in Canberra, was a member of the Reserve Bank board in the 1980s and ’90s.


Professor Gregory looks at today’s national economy and believes Australia is performing better than many of its key trading partners.


However, he sees worrying signs ahead, with economic growth likely to decline in China over the next few years, suggesting it could have a strong flow-on effect to Australia.


He believes successive Labor and Coalition governments have not planned ahead well enough for the challenges the Australian economy could face once the mining boom ends.


“What you’d want to do when the mining boom runs down is essentially have something to take its place, and the obvious thing is more government infrastructure. And, of course, they’ve basically locked themselves into a situation where governments don’t really want to spend that much money.”


Professor Gregory says both sides of Australian politics seem intent on cutting government spending to try to get the federal budget back to surplus.


However, he believes the current $18 billion federal budget deficit is not that bad by international standards and it is the wrong time to make big spending cuts.


“When the economy’s turning down like this, the last thing you really want to do is cut government expenditure dramatically or try to increase taxes. Now they won’t increase taxes, but they will cut government expenditure. So I think that’s a mistake. Government debt in Australia is lower than almost every other country in the world. Australian government debt is very, very low, and that’s not really the issue here. This is not a question of political judgment. Every economist I know, of almost every political persuasion, thinks government debts at the current level are not really a problem.”


A former economist with the International Monetary Fund, Chris Richardson from ACCESS Economics, takes a different view.


Mr Richardson believes cutting government spending and getting the budget into surplus can help a country’s credit rating and, therefore, boost foreign investment.


But while he can see some merit in cutting that spending now, he believes the benefits may not become apparent for some time.


“In the long run, it helps for a range of reasons. In the short run, on the way there, of course it hurts. You see that in the UK at the moment. They needed to get the budget in better shape over there. However, there’s no doubt that the cuts that have gone in have weighed on (economic) growth in the short term in the United Kingdom.”


Professor Gregory, from the ANU, believes economic growth is likely to slow down in Australia over the next few years, regardless of who wins this year’s federal election.


He says, once the mining boom ends, lifting the level of skilled migration could be an effective strategy to boost the Australian economy.


In this year’s federal budget, the Gillard Government opted to maintain Australia’s immigration intake at 190-thousand places in the 2013-2014 financial year.


This included 128,000 skilled migration places.


Professor Gregory believes there could be long-term economic benefits in lifting the annual immigration intake, particularly the skilled migration component.


“If you get a trained engineer where somebody’s paid for all his education, all his undergraduate education, all his training, (and) he’s worked somewhere else for a couple of years and got all the experience, and then you bring him to Australia and he stays in Australia, which is what tends to happen with 457 visas, then I think that’s got to lift the average labour-market quality of Australia.”


That is a view shared by the head of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, Bob Birrell.


Dr Birrell has provided advice on immigration issues to both Labor and Coalition governments since the 1980s.


He agrees with plans put forward by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for 457 visas to become the mainstay of Australia’s immigration program if the Coalition wins election.


“Well, I think there is a case for building our migration policy around employer sponsorship, because employers are sponsoring people to (take up) actual jobs where there clearly is a shortage. So I would go along with the Coalition here. However, there needs to be fundamental reform to establish that the skills employers are sponsoring migrants to actually are in shortage, and, at the present time, there are no regulations in effect to ensure that this is the case.”


Dr Birrell believes whoever wins the next federal election should urgently reform the 457 visa program to ensure it targets industries with genuine skills shortages.


He believes too many 457 visas have been issued in areas like hospitality and accounting, where he says there are enough Australian-trained workers to do the job.


“Recently arrived migrants are effectively getting all the new jobs being created, and this is squeezing out residents, particularly younger people who are trying to get into entry-level jobs, where competition is especially fierce from temporary visa holders: working holidaymakers, students, visitors and so on. I think we need to radically rethink our migration program in the context of the realities of our labour market in the post-mineral investment boom era.”


Professor Gregory, from the ANU, disagrees, saying he believes the skilled-migration program is working reasonably well in its current form.


He believes there could be long-term economic benefits if the next government also encourages more international students to stay in Australia and become citizens.


“I am in favour of skilled immigration, either through the 457 visas or through what’s going on in the universities, where foreign students move from doing a university degree here into Australian citizenship. So I’m sort of in favour of that.”

Abbott announces $45m indigenous jobs deal

11/05/2019 Posted by admin

The coalition has made a $45 million pledge to combat indigenous unemployment.


Speaking passionately about the inferiority of Aboriginal education, life expectancy and employment prospects, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said it’s his “mission” to make a change should he become prime minister.

“If you want to make a difference quickly to the Aboriginal people of Australia, the one thing that can make a difference … is having a fair dinkum job,” Mr Abbott said during a visit to Fortescue Metals Group’s Cloudbreak mine in the Western Australian Pilbara region on Saturday.

“That’s the thing that more than anything else restores people’s self respect. That’s the thing that more than anything else enables them to live as a proud and free Australian.”

Mr Abbott said the training will not aim to provide a certificate, but rather job-specific know-how leading to a guaranteed position for 5000 unemployed indigenous Australians.

“For too long we’ve had training for training sake. If nothing happens at the end of it you lose hope.”

In 2012 Fortescue Metals employed 402 indigenous people, representing 10 per cent of its workforce, through its GenerationOne campaign, finding jobs for Aboriginal people.

The coalition funding will make indigenous workers job-ready for positions sourced by the campaign.

The jobs training promise is the latest in a string of coalition policy moves focused on lifting the quality of life for Aboriginal people, which includes shifting indigenous affairs into the department of prime minister and cabinet.

Indigenous leader Warren Mundine has agreed to head a special prime ministerial advisory council on Aboriginal affairs under an Abbott government.

The former Labor party national president is keen to increase economic development in remote Aboriginal communities.

Key federal election issues

11/05/2019 Posted by admin



Australia’s economy is growing modestly while other industrialised countries are still in or emerging from recession.


Interest rates are low, inflation is under control, the jobless rate remains low – but is expected to rise. Voters remain concerned about livings costs. Job security is an issue, with sectors like retail and manufacturing recently shedding hundreds of workers. Households are saving more, which is good for debt reduction. But they are spending less, which is bad for business. Labor promises to support for jobs and growth, and seek a better relationship with business. The coalition offers a strong and prosperous economy and cuts to business red tape.


The federal budget is in deficit and will remain in the red until 2016/17 – that’s a year longer than expected in May. Government revenues have fallen by about $3 billion a week since the budget, mainly due to weaker receipts from individuals and companies. The revenue issue looks likely continue, as the government waits for the mining investment boom to transition to the production phase and for the non-mining sector to pick up. Big spending is earmarked for disability and education. The government says it has “responsible” savings in the bag to pave the path to surplus. The coalition says only it can be trusted to deliver surpluses, and cut debt and government spending.


Who’s the better person to lead Australia? Rudd’s return to the Labor leadership immediately gave the ALP new stability and improved its election prospects. The government will be hoping to capitalise on Rudd’s popularity in the electorate. The coalition argues Rudd hasn’t changed from the leader who was bad enough to be dumped by his own party in 2010. Rudd says he’s learned. The coalition has maintained discipline and is firmly behind Abbott. Labor says Abbott has tried to create an unrealistic sense of chaos and instability and pegged him as too negative. Rudd’s aiming for positive statements about Australia’s future. The coalition says Labor is dysfunctional and needs time in opposition to decide what it stands for.


The steady flow of asylum seeker boats from Indonesia and Sri Lanka has been a sore point with voters. Labor under Rudd in 2007 dismantled most of the former Howard government’s measures. Gillard from 2010 promised to resolve the boats issue. The government then reopened offshore processing centres on Nauru and PNG’s Manus Island and is working with Indonesia to crack down on people smuggling. But the boats kept coming. Rudd’s return resulted in a new hardline approach. Boat arrivals will no longer be resettled in Australia and will be sent to PNG or Nauru for processing and resettlement there. Abbott supports the extension of offshore processing but doubts Labor’s ability to implement the Rudd plan. The coalition promises a return to Howard-era measures such as turning back the boats where it’s safe to do so. He wants work with Indonesia to stem the flow of boats in his first term. So far, Indonesia has signalled it won’t “cooperate” on a tow back policy. Rudd claimed the coalition policy risks a diplomatic incident with Indonesia, which Abbott utterly rejects. But whoever wins, it looks like the resettlement plan will remain.


Abbott wants to make the election a referendum on the carbon tax, which has been a factor in electricity price rises. Rudd’s tried to neutralise this by promising the government will “terminate” the $24-$25 per tonne fixed price and move to a market-based emissions trading scheme linked to Europe a year earlier. This will deliver cost of living benefits because the carbon price will be much lower at around $6, Labor says. The coalition disagrees, arguing a floating carbon price still risks higher power prices that will hurt business and families. Abbott plans to repeal the carbon tax legislation, but keep the tax cuts and welfare payments associated with it. Labor earlier this year deferred a planned round of tax cuts for 2015 after conceding international carbon prices were likely to be lower than expected.


A Labor flagship policy, under Julia Gillard, aimed at raising the national education system to the top five in the world by 2025. It starts with a new schools funding model delivering more than $15 billion over six years to the states and territories that sign up. NSW, ACT, South Australia and Tasmania did. Rudd sent Bill Shorten out to get the agreement with Victoria. Queensland, WA and the NT remain outside. The coalition had questioned the validity of the reforms but has now backed “certainty” for schools. The coalition’s also promising communities will be given more control over schools and to scrap Labor’s school kids bonus cash payments to parents.


Labor is setting up a national disability insurance scheme to cover 460,000 Australians from 2018/19. The legislation had bipartisan support when it came before parliament earlier this year. The cost will be covered by the Commonwealth and the states, and a rise in the Medicare levy to two per cent from next year. Labor claims full credit for the scheme. The coalition shares the credit, for backing it.


Labor set up the minerals resource rent tax to “share the benefits” of the mining boom. No delivery yet on the billions of revenue it was forecast to generate for government coffers. Last estimate was about $200 million for the 2012/13 year – well down on $2 billion. The Greens question say the 30 per cent tax on the super profits of coal and iron ore producers must be change to stop miners exploiting loop holes and should be widened to other commodities, like gold. The government says because the tax is profits-based, revenues will naturally ebb and flow. The coalition says it’s a failure and plans to scrap it.


This could be a deal breaker for technology-minded voters. Labor’s $37 billion high-speed national broadband network will cover 93 per cent per cent of the population, run fibre optic cable to buildings and deliver download speeds of up to 100Mbps. The coalition’s NBN is cheaper at about $20 billion, runs fibre to the corner and uses copper wire to connect to premises, will deliver download speeds of up to 50Mps or more and be completed two years earlier.

Australia under fire in human rights report

11/05/2019 Posted by admin

The report criticises both some new developments and some long-standing issues in the country.



Ron Sutton has the story.


Amnesty International has sharply criticised Australia’s move to excise the mainland from its migration zone in the human-rights group’s State of the World’s Human Rights report.


The annual report is also highly critical of the Federal Government’s offshore processing of asylum seekers.


The report examines the human rights record of individual countries around the world over the past year.


Amnesty accuses the Gillard Government of introducing bad immigration policies and says the offshore processing has not deterred people smugglers.


Amnesty’s Australian director, Claire Mallinson, says the Government’s policies are leading to increasing numbers of self-harm cases among asylum seekers.


“We need to address why people are having to flee and why are they are getting on boats. And, if you look at the countries that people are coming from — from Afghanistan, from Sri Lanka, from Iran — you see the terrible human rights situation in those countries. So we need a much wider policy. This is not a quick-fix issue. We need to address the source countries, as well as the transit countries, rather than trying to put a bandaid solution together.”


The report also calls on Australia’s state and federal governments to work more closely to address the high rate of Indigenous incarceration.


Amnesty says Indigenous youths account for nearly three in five inmates in juvenile detention, despite Indigenous people making up only two per cent of the nation’s population.


Claire Mallinson says all levels of government are not taking the problem seriously enough.


“One of Amnesty’s real worries is the increasing Indigenous incarceration rate. Despite the fact that it’s 20 years since the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody, incarceration rates continue to increase. We’re now seeing adult Aboriginal people 14 times more likely to be in jail than non-Aboriginals.”


On the world stage, Amnesty is urging Australia to use its temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council to speak out more strongly over human rights abuses in Syria.


Amnesty says the United Nations needs to take a stronger stance on the Syrian conflict, which has left at least 70-thousand people dead since 2011.


Ms Mallinson suggests Australia could play an influential role in trying to resolve the conflict through the Security Council.


“The international community can make a difference, and Australia can take a leadership role here and press Russia not to sell arms, because we’re still providing arms to the Syrian government. We can freeze the assets of the president of Syria. We can refer Syria to the International Criminal Court. And we can really focus on providing humanitarian aid to the people in Syria.”



That’s another trophy for Sir Alex, says Moyes

11/05/2019 Posted by admin

United beat Wigan Athletic 2-0 in the season curtain-raiser to give Moyes a successful start in his bid to fill the huge boots of Alex Ferguson who stood down in May after leading United to 38 trophies in 26 years at Old Trafford.


“I class that as another piece of silverware for Sir Alex,” Moyes told a news conference.

“I was in charge of the team today but it’s a reward for winning the Premier League under Sir Alex last season and I won’t take too much credit for it.”

Robin van Persie scored both United goals against Championship side Wigan who upset Manchester City in the FA Cup final last season to earn their place in the Community Shield.

The Dutch striker opened the scoring with a superb long-range header, continuing the prolific form he showed in netting 30 goals in his first season at United.

“It was a great header, a brilliantly guided header,” Moyes said. “He’s (Van Persie) been very easy to work with, very receptive and helpful.”

Moyes recognised the importance of keeping Van Persie fit to spearhead United’s bid to retain the Premier League title but remained adamant that his club did not want to sell Wayne Rooney.

The forward missed the Wigan match due to a shoulder injury but will join up with the England squad for Wednesday’s friendly against Scotland.

“We don’t want to sell Wayne,” Moyes said in a terse response to suggestions that Rooney wanted to join Chelsea and had been forced to train with the reserves.

“I have not fallen out with Wayne and the reason he trained with the reserves was because he wanted to because he wasn’t allowed any contact.”

Moyes remains hopeful of adding to United’s squad after a frustrating summer in the transfer market.

“I hope so, we move on every day and the transfer window gets closer and closer,” he said. “But if we have to start the season with what we’ve got then I’ll be happy.”

Wigan never seriously threatened United whose goalkeeper David de Gea did not have to make a single save.

“We’ve done the job, kept a clean sheet and I’m pleased although we could have made better use of our possession,” Moyes said.

United right back Rafael suffered a hamstring injury early in the game and could be doubtful for the opening Premier League match at Swansea City on Saturday.

(Editing by Rex Gowar)