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Gillard calls August 21 election

Australians will go to the polls on August 21.                                                    

Prime Minister Julia Gillard this morning visited Governor General Quentin Bryce and set the date.

Speaking to reporters, Ms Gillard set the theme that Labor will hammer over the coming weeks – moving forward.

“Today I seek a mandate to move Australia forward,” she said.

“This election I believe presents Australians with a very clear choice. This election is about the choice as to whether we move Australia forward or go back.”

Earlier Ms Gillard had spent the night at her Altona home in Melbourne and woke up to the sight of dozens of journalists camped out across the street.

She arrived in Canberra just before 7am Perth time, and was driven to her office at Parliament House.

Ms Gillard made the short trip to Government House at 8.30am, where hundreds of Canberrans lined the roads in near freezing temperature to see history being made with the first female PM visiting on the first female Governor-General to call an election.

Two protesters were also at the gates of Government House holding up a banner stating “Where’s Kev? The people’s PM”. It is unclear whether they were Liberal Party supporters.

Ms Gillard said moving forward required conviction and confidence. It also required a willingness to embrace new ways of thinking, acceptance of new challenges, listening and learning, and to embrace new solutions.

“Moving forward with confidence also requires a strong set of convictions and a clear set of values,” she said.

Ms Gillard said she had been driven through her adult life by a clear set of values. “And over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to share those values with the nation,”she said.

“I believe in hard work. I believe in the benefits and dignity of work. I believe in what comes as an individual when you do your best and you earn your keep.”

Ms Gillard said there was no challenge Australia could not conquer if the country worked together.

“So in this, the forthcoming election campaign, I’ll be asking the Australian people for their trust,” she said.

“I’ll be asking Australians for their trust so that we can move forward together.”

She said moving forward meant plans to build a sustainable Australia, “not a big Australia”.

“Moving forward means making record investments in solar power and other renewable energies to help us combat climate change and protect our quality of life,” she said.

Ms Gillard said budget surpluses and a stronger economy would offer Australians the chance “to get a job, keep a job, learn new skills, get a better job and start your own business”.

Ms Gillard said she would protect the budget’s return to surplus in 2013 during the campaign by not going on an “election spendathon”.

“By making sure that any promise we make to spend money is offset by a promise to save money,” she said.

“By making sure that the budget bottom line doesn’t change by one cent during the election campaign.”

The Prime Minister said that “moving forward” also meant stronger protection for the nation’s borders.
“And a strong plan, a real plan that takes away from people smugglers the product that they sell.”

Ms Gillard noted that Labor had increased expenditure on hospitals by 50 per cent in its first term.

Moving forward on health meant training 3000 nurses and 1300 GPs during the next three years “all the while as we expand our GP super clinics and implement our health reforms”.

Ms Gillard reiterated her pledge to move Australia forward during her leadership.

“We’ll move forward together with a sustainable Australia, a stronger economy, budgets in surplus and world-class health and education services and other essential services that hard working Australians and their families rely on,” she said.

Ms Gillard said the Opposition’s economic approach was backward looking, citing the coalition’s stance against the stimulus package.

Failing to provide the stimulus would have sent the economy downwards into a spiral of lower incomes, lost jobs and reduced services.

“That is the spiral they would have recommended for this country but the wrong thing for Australians. It would have taken us backwards,” she said.

Ms Gillard accused Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of remaining committed to Work Choices, no matter what words he sought to use as camouflage.

“In terms of the words he seeks to disguise his intent with, we have heard all of that before,” he said.

Ms Gillard said she believed the Labor government had been a good one, but acknowledged there had been “some problems”.

“Yes there has been some lessons learned and I’ve acknowledged that we’ve learned some lessons along the way.”

Mr Abbott represented a threat to the nation’s future and return to policies of the past, Ms Gillard said.

“We’ve come too far as a country and we’ve evolved too much as a society to risk that kind of backwards looking leadership.”

Australians had an opportunity to elect a government that would see the nation become stronger.

“The choice is very, very clear. And I look forward to presenting our case for judgment to the Australian people over the weeks ahead.”

Ms Gillard committed Labor to offsetting every dollar of new promises with spending cuts.

“We will make a modest set of commitments to the Australian people and we will honour those commitments,” she said.

Ms Gillard said she anticipated – and welcomed – a robust election campaign.

“I think Australians believe that election campaigns should test their leaders,” she said.

“I believe we will all be tested in this election campaign.”

When Ms Gillard became prime minister, she said the Government had ‘lost its way”.

Asked what had changed in the weeks intervening, she said the Government under her leadership had taken several new directions.

She had committed to a sustainable population, announced plans for a regional asylum seeker processing centre, and resolved the mining tax stand-off.

“Through doing those things I’ve demonstrated to the Australian people the kind of way I which I will lead the nation,” Ms Gillard said.

“Talking to people, working with people, making decisions, moving forward, embracing new solutions and changing.”

Ms Gillard said she was determined to implement any promises made during the campaign, but Australians understood some might be broken if circumstances changed.

She cited the example of the collapse of ABC Learning and Labor’s subsequent backdown on its promise to build new childcare centres.

“I believe that Australians understand that there are sometimes where objective circumstances change,” she said.

“But obviously, in giving commitments in this election campaign, I will be giving commitment that we will implement, that I will want to implement, intend to implement, that I will be determined to implement.”

Ms Gillard will reveal Labor’s climate change policy during the election campaign.

“They will be policies coming from a person who believes climate change is real, who believes it’s caused by human activity and who has never equivocated in that belief,” she said.

Asked if she thought she had sorted out a number of issues she identified as problematic for the government since she was installed as prime minister, Ms Gillard pointed to the minerals resource rent tax.

Labor had made some big strides forward with the mining tax, she said.

“We’ve obviously been able to enter a breakthrough agreement with some of the biggest miners in the country,” she said.

“An agreement that’s given them certainty, that’s given mining communities certainty.”

Australians would be saying to themselves “haven’t we heard all this before” following Mr Abbott’s promise to leave Labor’s workplace relations scheme in place for the first term of a coalition government.

Mr Abbott had always promoted the previous Howard government’s Work Choices industrial relations regime, Ms Gillard said.

“I always thought Work Choices was wrong. Mr Abbott has always thought Work Choices was right.”

Australians will have until 6pm on Monday to register to vote with Ms Gillard confirming writs for the election will be issued at 6pm on the same day.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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The latest statistics confirm Australia’s net overseas migration (NOM) level is on track to drop by about 20 per cent by the end of the financial year in response to government reforms to temporary and permanent migration and economic conditions, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said today.

Preliminary estimates released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) ‘Social Trends’ series show the level of NOM in 2008 was 301 200 people and fell to 277 700 people in 2009.

‘Based on current visa application numbers, the level of NOM is on track to drop to between 230 000 and 250 000 people by the end of the financial year,’ Senator Evans said.

‘This confirms that record high population growth has been fuelled by growth in temporary long-stay migrants, especially students, as a result of the policies of the previous coalition government.’

Senator Evans said net overseas migration began to climb and get out of control under the previous government, as a result of its decision to open up pathways for temporary residents—particularly students—to remain in Australia permanently.

In response to the ABS report’s findings, Senator Evans said the level of NOM—which includes both permanent migrants and long-term temporary migrants, including students—had peaked and was clearly on the way down.

‘The government is committed to ongoing forward-planning and reform to ensure immigration levels are guided by Australia’s needs and not by the desire of prospective migrants to come to Australia,’ Senator Evans said.

‘Prime Minister Gillard has already articulated her vision for a sustainable population—one that supports our environment and our renewable resources and that is in turn supported by proper resources and infrastructure.’

The government will develop policies to ensure all Australians benefit from our strong and growing economy.’

Source  :  http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/media-releases/2010/ce10055.htm

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Australia has its first female Prime Minister after Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd at a partyroom meeting this morning.

In an unprecedented move, Ms Gillard will replace Mr Rudd less than six months out from this year’s federal election.

Once she is sworn in by Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Ms Gillard will become Australia’s 27th prime minister since Federation.

Ms Gillard, a Victorian who represents the Melbourne seat of Labor, will be joined by Treasurer Wayne Swan as her deputy. Mr Swan is from Queensland, like Mr Rudd.

After the caucus meeting this morning, Ms Gillard emerged with Mr Swan by her side.

She said she was honoured to be Australia’s first female PM.

“I feel very honoured and I’ll be making a statement shortly,“ she said.

A smiling Mr Rudd emerged from the partyroom 20 minutes later with Senator John Faulkner by his side. He refused to comment to the throng of reporters which chased him back to his office.

After it became clear that Mr Rudd’s support in the ALP was evaporating, he decided against standing for the PM position this morning.

All elements of the Labor Party swung behind Ms Gillard in the face of opinion polls which show the Government still in a winning position but with dire satisfaction ratings for Mr Rudd.

The Labor Party’s returning officer for the meeting, NSW senator Michael Forshaw, said Mr Rudd, Ms Gillard and Mr Swan had given gracious speeches.

Declaring Ms Gillard would lead the Labor Party to victory at the next election, Senator Forshaw conceded the events of the past 24 hours had been tough

“This has been a difficult time for the Prime Minister and has been a difficult time for the party,” he said.

A visibly tired Senator Forshaw paid tribute to Mr Rudd.

“He led us to victory in 2007, a victory that was achieved when many people thought we still would be spending more years in opposition,” he said.

“That was a great achievement.

“We now have a new team and I’m looking confidently forward to the next election.”

Brand MHR  Gary Gray, who according to a recent Westpoll would lose his seat despite sitting on a 6.1 per cent margin, said ahead of the poll that a change was needed to turn around the Government’s electoral chances.

“It’s necessary to have both a fresh pair of hands, fresh eyes and a different approach to the management of government,” he told ABC radio.

It is understood Mr Swan will remain in the Treasury portfolio.

Source : www.thewest.com.au

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The airline war has reached a new low, with AirAsia offering return flights to London for $217 from the Gold Coast or $240 from Melbourne.

If the booking confusion doesn’t deter your search for the ultimate fare (all legs need to be booked separately and through Kuala Lumpur), you may be rewarded with an unprecedented discount flight.

AirAsia has been a dominant player in the ultra-cheap flight sector, recently making headlines for offering free flights to Bangkok from Asian ports, to help restore tourism after the recent political unrest. Earlier last month, it excited travel enthusiasts with $378 Australia-London flights.

The current discount-basket fare is part of a sale which started at 2am this morning and will run for 48 hours, for travel only between October 11 and November 14, 2010.

Although the base flights are some of the cheapest in Australian history, don’t expect to indulge in the normally free benefits of international travel – the low-cost airline will charge you for meals, beverages, in-flight entertainment and extra baggage.

AirAsia recently reported a net profit after tax of $A81.23 million for the first quarter of the year. The airline sources 16 per cent of its revenue from their extra charges, referred to as the “unbundling of services”.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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The Reserve Bank has delivered some badly needed relief to mortgage holders, deciding today to leave official interest rates on hold.

For the first time since February, the RBA board did not use its monthly meeting to lift rates which now stand at 4.5 per cent.

In a statement, bank governor Glenn Stevens said the issues around sovereign debt in Europe and its impact on financial markets were a major reason behind the move.

He said the impact of these on the wider economy were still to be determined, arguing global growth is still expected to be around trend for the rest of this year.

But Mr Stevens signalled interest rates were likely in the future on the back of the return of the mining boom.

“In Australia, with the high level of the terms of trade expected to add to incomes and demand, output growth over the year ahead is likely to be about trend, even though the effects of earlier expansionary policy measures will be diminishing,” he said.

“Inflation appears likely to be in the upper half of the target zone over the next year.

Consistent with that outlook, and as a result of actions at previous meetings, interest rates to borrowers are around their average levels of the past decade, which is a significant adjustment from the very expansionary settings reached a year ago.”

The decision followed new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which showed retail sales growing 0.6 per cent in April and a 14.8 per cent collapse in dwelling approvals.

However, the retail sales – while stronger than expected – were pushed up by food sales which jumped 1.3 per cent. Once this sector, which accounts for 40 per cent of all sales, is excluded retail was up just 0.1 per cent.

Other ABS figures showed government spending is holding up the economy and will add about 0.8 percentage points to tomorrow’s GDP result. Without that burst, the economy may have actually contracted in the March quarter.

CommSec chief equities economist Craig James said the figures showed the RBA had no option but to leave rates where they are for some time to come.

“Given the latest round of data, there are good reasons for the Reserve Bank to leave rates on hold for the next few months,” he said.

“Not only are retail sales holding at very weak levels, but the housing sector is showing signs of consolidation.”

Treasurer Wayne Swan says the Reserve Bank’s decision to leave the official cash rate unchanged is a “welcome relief”.

“This news will be welcome relief to Australian families and businesses around the country, who are of course doing it tough,” Mr Swan told parliament minutes after the decision was announced.

The national accounts for the March quarter are due for release on Wednesday.

“I have every confidence that with right polices in place, our economy can continue to be one of the best in the world over coming years,” Mr Swan said. Consistent with that outlook, and as a result of actions at previous meetings, interest rates to borrowers are around their average levels of the past decade, which is a significant adjustment from the very expansionary settings reached a year ago.”

“Not only are retail sales holding at very weak levels, but the housing sector is showing signs of consolidation.”

“Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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Perth tenants should brace themselves as rising house prices, improving economic conditions and more newcomers to the state combine to force up rents this year, a leading property researcher says.

The latest rental report by Australian Property Monitors shows asking rents in Perth have increased in the first three months of the year.

The median weekly asking rent for houses in the metropolitan area is now $370, a $10 increase on the previous quarter and the first rise in more than a year, while units increased $8, to $358.

But with rising house prices, increased rents have not led to increased yields. The gross yield for houses is now 4.06 per cent, while units are yielding 4.62 per cent.

That leaves Perth ahead of only Melbourne among all state capitals.

APM economist Matthew Bell said he expected Perth rentals to increase a further $10 a quarter for the rest of the year, with a strong resources sector and population growth the driving factors.

But this was unlikely to be fast enough to maintain yields, which would drop slightly as house prices rose further. The median Perth house price is believed to have passed $500,000.

Really, the outlook for both rents and house prices is pretty strong,” he said.

“Yields will probably soften again, but historically they are at pretty good levels.”

Houses were usually bought by investors for capital growth, with units offering better yields, Mr Bell said.

Meanwhile, the Urban Development Institute of Australia said its own research showed a six-month delay in planning approval could add 7 per cent to the price of an average block in the metropolitan area.

UDIA WA chief executive Debra Goostrey said developers were doing what they could to ensure “affordable” land was being made available during a time of increasing prices.

“We also need the support of a fast and efficient planning approvals process to avoid costs associated with delays,” she said.

Her comments follow those last week by property researcher Terry Ryder, who said claims of housing shortages were a beat-up by property industry lobby groups.

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