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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 median price for a Perth house will pass $600,000 within three years as the city’s property market reclaims its title as the strongest and fastest growing in the country, a new report predicts.

The BIS Shrapnel residential property report forecasts house prices in Perth will climb an average 7 per cent a year for three years, pushing the median price to $610,000 from $500,000 today.

No other capital is expected to enjoy such strong capital growth, with even higher interest rates unlikely to slow the Perth market as much as others.

Senior project manager Angie Zigomanis said even though the Perth market slowed before other cities in 2007, conditions were improving on the back of another resources boom. Money flowing from commodities would soon push up house prices across Perth.

“With prices below peak levels in real terms and income in Perth set to grow substantially as the next round of resource expansion projects get up and running, solid price growth should continue,” he said.

“Nevertheless, further increases in interest rates will prevent the boom in prices that we saw in the last upturn.”

Mr Zigomanis said the median house price would climb 22 per cent by the middle of 2013. This growth would be quicker if the Reserve Bank did not increase interest rates in the next six to 12 months.

Growth at that rate would surpass other capitals such as Sydney (up 20 per cent), Melbourne (11 per cent), Brisbane (12 per cent), Adelaide (20 per cent), Hobart (12 per cent), Canberra (14 per cent) and Darwin (12 per cent).

House prices climbed rapidly through the second half of last year and into the first four months of this year.

Mr Zigomanis said this was directly because of record low interest rates in response to the global financial crisis and a “pull forward” of demand from the first-homeowner’s grant. Not only would house prices outpace inflation, they would affect rents.

“Even though overseas migration inflows are steadily easing, a deficiency of stock is still in place with dwelling construction below underlying trend,” he said.

Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show a fall in loans for people buying homes but an increase in loans for investment properties. Financial market analysts do not expect official interest rates to rise until May next year.

source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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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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MUM and dad investors will receive generous concessions to park their savings with banks and building societies as part of sweeping tax reforms.

The Rudd Government is preparing to unveil a new savings scheme offering tax breaks similar to superannuation’s discount rate of 15 per cent, The Daily Telegraph reports.

It will encourage investors to deposit savings with the four major banks and other respected financial institutions.

But investors will have to “lock up” their savings — perhaps for between five and 10 years — to qualify for the special rate.

The new savings deal will be announced as part of the Government’s much-anticipated response to the Henry tax review.

It will be part of a suite of measures aimed at building a new savings culture in Australia.

But it is also hoped it will generate billions of dollars in bank deposits, cutting the need for finance houses to borrow from overseas.

The Government expects it will be popular with voters who currently face punishing tax rates on savings. Some taxpayers can pay up to 50 per cent on interest earned from their bank deposits.

Australia is one of the few countries in the world to tax bank savings at the full rate.

Among key reforms, taxpayers will be able to lodge their annual tax returns with a few clicks of a mouse.

And Australia’s antiquated tax system — containing 125 different taxes — will be streamlined to simplify arrangements.

It is understood the Reserve Bank and other financial authorities have raised concerns about the steady decline in deposits.

Bank CEOs have been lobbying Canberra for changes to taxation on ordinary bank deposits, claiming the superannuation industry gets a huge advantage.

And they have a strong ally in Treasury boss Dr Ken Henry, who has also raised concerns over the punitive rates faced by those who save with banks.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens has signalled interest rates are on their way back up with mortgage rates likely to edge up between half and a full percentage point.

Giving evidence to the House of Representatives economics committee in Canberra, Mr Stevens said the RBA’s focus continued to be on what mortgage rates were offered by commercial banks rather than on the Reserve’s official cash rate.

He said given the commercial banks had lifted rates over and above what the RBA had done, there was still about a half and a full percentage point to go before mortgage rates were back to what the Reserve would consider close to their long term average.

“There’s a little distance to go yet before I think you could characterise the setting of interest rates as normal or average,” he said.

The RBA surprised markets by leaving official rates on hold at its February meeting.

Mr Stevens said on top of the Reserve’s own lift in official rates, the commercial banks actions had effectively delivered three and a half interest rate rises to mortgages cases, and in the case of Westpac customers, four rate hikes.

He said one of the advantages of lifting rates as the RBA did in the last three months of 2009 was that it could hold rates in February and get a clearer picture of how the economy was travelling.

“You get that luxury when you can wait a little a bit further down the line,” he said.

Mr Stevens said Australia had performed much better than even the RBA had expected out of the global recession.

But he warned that meant the economy was now heading into an upswing stronger than otherwise would have been the case.

“With the economy having had only a mild downturn with begin the upswing with less spare capacity than would typically be the case after a recession,” he said.

“There’s less scope for robust demand growth without inflation starting to rise again down the track.

“Monetary policy must be careful not to overstay a very expansionary setting.”

Mr Stevens said the resources sector in particular was looking to grow quickly, with the terms of trade likely to head back to the record highs seen in 2008 this year.

He also highlighted the strength of Australia’s sovereign debt position, hosing down fears the country was carrying too much debt.

“Australia’s position is by any measure very strong indeed,” he said.

The governor also played down fears raised by Opposition finance spokesman Barnaby Joyce that Australia could default on its debts.

Mr Stevens said Australia had never defaulted before and there were no signs it would now.

“I very much doubt there ever will be,” he said. 

“Monetary policy must be careful not to overstay a very expansionary setting.”

Mr Stevens said the resources sector in particular was looking to grow quickly, with the terms of trade likely to head back to the record highs seen in 2008 this year.

He also highlighted the strength of Australia’s sovereign debt position, hosing down fears the country was carrying too much debt.

“Australia’s position is by any measure very strong indeed,” he said.

The governor also played down fears raised by Opposition finance spokesman Barnaby Joyce that Australia could default on its debts.

Mr Stevens said Australia had never defaulted before and there were no signs it would now.

“I very much doubt there ever will be,” he said.

Source www.thewest.com.au

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IMMIGRATION officials are preparing a 50-year migration plan to ensure that intakes consider a range of long-term issues such as climate change, water needs and national security.

The Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Andrew Metcalfe, said yesterday the department was conducting a review of the nation’s migration needs to ensure a more rounded and visionary approach.

”In terms of the future, we are trying to lift ourselves away from year-to-year decisions to a 50-year vision,” he told the Australian and New Zealand School of Government conference in Canberra.

”We are trying to move away from an immigration department that is responsive to one that can help the government achieve long-term objectives … A long-term planning framework … is something whose time has come.”

Mr Metcalfe said a well-planned skilled migration program could contribute to Australia’s long-term economic, demographic and environmental goals.

”We want to ensure our skilled migration programs are responding to longer-term skill needs which cannot be addressed through domestic training and skills development,” he said.

”The question then is how we can best address shorter-term labour market requirements … It will be important that the skilled migrants we choose are not only young and healthy but also have a high level of education, language proficiency and other skills. This will ensure that skilled migration contributes both to labour force growth and to the productivity of our labour force.”

Mr Metcalfe said the review will include an examination of the points system used to select skilled migrants, known as the Migration Occupations in Demand List.

”The MODL is not as flexible as we would like to address a rapidly changing and uncertain global environment. In my view, one of themes of this century will be the increased mobility of people around the globe, and we need to manage this adroitly.”

But the Government has denied it has adopted a new policy towards asylum seekers in the wake of a decision this week to process a group of 10 Afghan children on the mainland rather than on Christmas Island.

”These are 10 unaccompanied minors and therefore what’s happened is that they’ve been transferred from Christmas Island to the mainland on September 2,” he said

Asked whether there had been a change of policy, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said: ”Absolutely not.”

He told 3AW yesterday the group of 10 children had been transferred to the mainland because unaccompanied minors were given priority in processing.

”That’s what’s happening in the case of these minors,” he said. ”That’s why they’re treated separately.”

Source  :  www.smh.com.au

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AUSTRALIA has delivered a blunt message to India that it is selling education, not visas, even as the Rudd government deploys its most senior ministers to patch up relations damaged over a series of Indian student assaults.

Trade Minister Simon Crean, whose visit to India this week overlaps that of Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, outlined to the Confederation of Indian Industry yesterday federal government measures to crack down on shonky education and training providers in Australia.

But he said the crackdown could be successful only if similar action were taken in India to close down shonky education and immigration agents running scams to secure permanent Australian residency through student visas.

“Let’s be clear, we are offering a quality education in a safe environment,” Mr Crean said yesterday. “The quality of our education is what we are promoting, not the visa attached to it.

“For this to succeed, we also need the co-operation of the Indian government. The fact that politicians in both countries have been forced to focus on the issue improves the odds of coming up with a better system.”

Ms Gillard is understood to have delivered a similar message during meetings with Indian Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal and, late on Tuesday night, with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, where greater engagement between the two countries on defence, energy and climate change were also discussed.

Mr Crean denied Australia’s international education industry needed to be remarketed in India, despite the fact it is widely seen — and in some areas promoted — as a pathway to permanent residency.

But he conceded better co-operation between Australian government agencies was also needed to help stem student visa abuses.

What the student issue has done is shed a light on the importance of interaction between Austrade, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and those that market our services in the Department of Education, Employment and Work Relations in the protection of our brand,” he said yesterday.

In just eight days, India will have hosted three of Australia’s most senior politicians, Mr Crean, Ms Gillard and Wayne Swan.

By the end of the year, a total of eight Australian ministers will have graced Indian soil.

The ministerial offensive is aimed at patching bilateral relations, damaged by a recent series of attacks on Indian students in Australia, as well as building trade relations with the emerging Asian superpower.

Mr Crean, who is in India for a two-day meeting of G20 trade ministers ahead of the next Doha round of WTO talks in Pittsburgh later this month, said Australia’s trade relationship with India had historically been “underdone”.

The ministerial visits — which will culminate in a tour by Kevin Rudd later this year — were designed to correct that.

“We understand the fundamental importance of India to our future, just as we do China and the rest of Asia. This is going to be the fastest-growing region in the world for the next couple of decades, it is the place to be,” he said. “Australia fortunately positioned itself for that a couple of decades ago but we have to renew the effort.

“Obviously, if there is a hiccup in the relationship, as there has been here over student safety, of course we have to address it. Visits here are an important part of that.”

Canberra hopes that a successful culmination of the Doha talks — aimed at reducing international trade barriers — will help accelerate free trade agreement negotiations between Australia and India, still at the feasibility stage.

It was also concentrating on building trade ties in infrastructure and energy security areas, with particular focus on investments in gas and coal.

Mr Crean denied that Australia’s refusal to sell uranium to India — a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — would hurt the progress of the talks, despite Mr Singh again raising the issue during his meeting with Ms Gillard.

Source  :  The Australian

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