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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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New Housing Minister Bill Marmion has shocked the property market by saying he wants to flood WA with housing lots to cut home prices.

In a speech to Parliament that has set alarm bells ringing throughout the real estate industry, Mr Marmion said the Barnett Government’s aim was to “bring house prices down”.

“The Department of Land is looking at this issue very closely,” he said.

“It owns land and it is looking at its land stocks and will release as much land as possible.

“That will reduce the pressure on housing supplies. Our aim is to bring the median house price down and to have it lower than the median house price in other States.”

Mr Marmion, who took over the job last month after Troy Buswell was sacked, said the only thing the Government could do to achieve its aim was “release more land and houses”. He refused to elaborate on his comments yesterday.

March quarter figures from RP Data put the median house price in Perth at $480,000, equal to Darwin, but behind Sydney ($500,000) and nation-leading Canberra ($510,800).

Hobart had the cheapest prices in Australia at $323,750.

The State Government established an Office of Land and Housing Supply in Thursday’s Budget and is reviewing available government land which Premier Colin Barnett said would “achieve a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to housing affordability issues”.

Shadow housing minister Mark McGowan warned the policy could result in houses being worth less than what people paid for them.

“If people go into negative equity with their house, that’s the worst possible outcome,” he said.

Real Estate Institute of WA chief executive Anne Arnold said Australians stored their wealth in the family home and it would be “politically unwise for any government to go down that path”.

But the plan won support from developer Nigel Satterley, who said land needed to become more affordable.

But he said the policy would not cut the price of existing houses.

“We’re on the cusp of a block shortage and whatever the Government can do should be encouraged,” Mr Satterley said.

Analysts at RP Data found in April that houses in Perth’s cheapest suburbs cost at least $60,000 more than those in the most affordable areas in the other major Australian cities.

Hillman was named the cheapest suburb in Perth, with a median house price of $280,000 – higher than the cheapest suburb in Adelaide ($200,000), Brisbane ($205,000), Melbourne ($218,000) and Sydney ($219,000).

Perth had less than 10 per cent of its 259 suburbs with a median house price under $350,000, compared with more than 20 per cent in all other big cities.

Blocks of land in Perth were the most expensive in Australia, according to a recent analysis by RP Data and the Housing Industry Association, with a single square metre of “prime earth” now costing an average of $521.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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Australians need to save more for the economy to avoid a more rapid run-up in inflation, triggered by nation’s rising terms of trade, the Reserve Bank said today.

“In putting together the Reserve Bank’s forecasts it has been assumed that more of this boost to income is saved than was the case in the earlier boom in the terms of trade,” RBA assistant governor Phillip Lowe.

“This reflects two factors. The first is the different position of the federal budget and the second is the more cautious approach to spending currently being displayed by the household sector.”

The federal budget, handed down this week, contained no major increases in public spending and is expected the return to a surplus by 2012-13.

In that time, the RBA forecasts Chinese steel production will continue to drive demand for Australian iron ore and coal strong, boosting the nation’s terms of trade.

Terms of trade are the prices of a nation’s exports relative to its imports.

“If this lift in saving does not occur, then demand in the economy could well be stronger than forecast, and this would put additional pressure on capacity,” he said.

A lack of spare capacity in the economy has pushed the year-to-March inflation figure to 2.9 per cent from 2.5 per cent in the year to December, which surprised the RBA, Mr Lowe said.

“Disinflationary forces in the economy are not quite as strong as previously expected, largely because the economy has performed better than previously expected,” Mr Lowe said, in the speech delivered to Colonial First State Investment Forum in Sydney.

The RBA expects inflation to fall only to 2.75 per cent later this year, less than originally anticipated after the release of the March data.

Retail sales have remained lacklustre since the middle of last year, after the end of the government’s cash stimulus grants to households during the financial crisis. Six interest rate rises since October have also cut into demand at retailers, with a number of businesses including Fantastic Furniture, Clive Peeters and Woolworth’s flagging weaker sales ahead.

The RBA lifted interest rates to 4.5 per cent his month, creating more headwinds for shoppers. The latest rate rise added another $46 to the average monthly repayment cost on a $300,000, 25-year mortgage.

Investors currently foresee no chance of an interest rate rise in June, but predict the official cash rate will be at 5 per cent within a year, according to Credit Suisse data.

The central bank predicts 3.25 per cent economic growth this year accelerating to 3.75-4 per cent growth in the next couple of years, amid rising prices for commodities exports.

Source  :  www.watoday.com.au

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After the original name coined by a Perth man was universally condemned and then dumped, Kraft has announced its new product will now be called Vegemite Cheesybite.

After a vote by 30,000 Australians and New Zealanders at the weekend, Vegemite Cheesybite emerged with 36 per cent support to replace the much-maligned moniker iSnack2.0.

WA web designer Dean Robbins, 27, briefly hit the spotlight when it was revealed his suggestion of iSnack2.0 would brand the new product.

His concept was dumped just four days after it was revealed by Kraft when it became obvious consumers hated it.

Quantum Market Research conducted online polling and a telephone survey to gauge support for a number of names for the cream cheese version of the iconic brand.

Vegemite Cheesybite was the most popular, followed by Vegemite Smooth with 23 per cent of the vote.

“We have been overwhelmed by the response of the Australian public; it has been an insightful debate,” Kraft Foods Australia New Zealand head of corporate affairs, Simon Talbot, said in a statement.

“Australians have now selected a popular name for a successful product.”

The Vegemite Cheesybite-named stock will appear on shelves in the coming months.

In the mean time, Vegemite iSnack2.0 jars are still being distributed and sold around the country.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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A CHARTER plane with eight Australians heading to the Kokoda Track is missing having failed to reach its destination in Papua New Guinea.

The Twin Otter, twin engine plane was scheduled to arrive at the small village of Efogi at 9.55am (local time), before being due at Kokoda by 10.15am, then back at Port Moresby by 11am.

Authorities hold fears for the missing 13 people on board, including eight Australians heading to the Kokoda Track, and two crew members.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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Australians will have access to universal dental health care under reforms suggested by a federal government health commission.

The commonwealth will take over responsibility for all primary health care outside of hospitals and fund all outpatient services in hospitals.

The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission has stopped short of calling for a full federal takeover of hospitals, but left open the option of the commonwealth funding 100 per cent of hospital admissions further down the track.

The annual cost of the reforms is estimated to be between $2.8 and $5.7 billion.

In addition, capital investment over five years of up to $7.3 billion is needed.

But the report says the changes could save $4 billion a year by 2032-33.

Of the 123 recommendations, one that could be most welcomed is the suggestion that commonwealth fund a new Denticare Australia.

The commission’s final report, released publicly on Monday, says there are more than 650,000 people currently on public dental waiting lists and the dental health of children is worsening.

‘To address these problems we are recommending a new universal scheme for access to basic dental services – Denticare Australia,’ the report says.

It will cost an estimated $3.6 billion a year. Under the scheme every Australian will have access to basic dental services ‘regardless of people’s ability to pay’.

It will be funded through an increase in the Medicare levy of 0.75 per cent of an individual’s taxable income.

source  :  www.bigpondnews.com

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