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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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A new report has found Australia’s migration program is more effectively meeting the needs of employers with a 60 per cent increase in the number of employer-sponsored skilled migrants to Australia in 2008-09 compared with the previous year.

The Report on Migration Program 2008-09 shows that the Rudd Government’s targeted approach to overseas workers is helping to fill critical skills gaps in the healthcare, engineering, financial services and IT sectors.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said that changes introduced in January including the Critical Skills List (CSL) of high value occupations and prioritising employer-sponsored or state/territory-sponsored skilled migration visa grants were having a significant impact.

Overseas workers who were sponsored by employers comprised 33 per cent of the 2008-09 skill stream compared to 22 per cent in 2007-08 and 17 per cent in 2006-07.
“A properly targeted migration program will ensure we have the right sized and appropriately skilled labour force to meet Australia’s needs now and into the future as our economy recovers and grows.”

The Government cut the 2008-09 permanent skilled migration intake in March 2009 by 14 per cent from 133 500 to 115 000 and reduced planning levels for the permanent skilled migrant intake in the overall 2009-10 migration program to 108 100 places.

“This is in direct response to the economic slowdown and represents an overall drop of almost 20 per cent on previous planning levels,” Senator Evans said.

“The migration intake in the coming year reflects the economic conditions while ensuring employers can gain access to skilled professionals in industries still experiencing skills shortages such as healthcare and engineering. “The reduction is being achieved through a cutback in places in independent skilled migration rather than in the high-demand employer-sponsored category or in areas in which Australia has critical skills shortages.”

Across all permanent skilled visa categories, the top three occupations for successful applicants were accountancy (6238), computing professionals (3879) and registered nurses (3355) while the top three countries of citizenship under the skill stream were the United Kingdom (23 178), India (20 105) and China (13 927).

“Australia’s migration program is better targeting the needs of Australian employers who are still experiencing skill shortages,” Senator Evans said.

Source  :  www.manmonthly.com.au

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The AMA wants the government cash incentive scheme designed to lure nurses back into the workforce to be extended to include nurses who want to work in general practice.

It was reported this week (The Australian, 27 August 2009) that the Federal Government’s program to bring nurses back into the workforce was failing to meet targets, with only 541 nurses recruited.

AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said nearly $40 million over five years in funding had been set aside for the Bringing Nurses Back Into The Workforce program and it was vital that the money was used effectively.

“The Government’s initiative is too restrictive because it only targets public hospitals, private hospitals and aged care facilities,” Dr Pesce said.

“The Bringing Nurses Back Into The Workforce program ignores the important contribution that nurses can make in other parts of the health sector such as general practice.

“The program’s guidelines should be relaxed so that nurses who want to return to the workforce to take up a position in general practice will be eligible for funding.”

Around 60 per cent of general practices employ practice nurses who work collaboratively with doctors.

“General practice can offer nurses a very rewarding career and a great work/life balance,” Dr Pesce said.

“Getting more nurses into general practice supports multidisciplinary care and will free up GPs to see more patients.”

The AMA also believes general practices should be better supported to employ practice nurses by making practice nurse grants available to all general practices and ensuring that the Medicare Benefits Schedule recognises the full scope of patient care that GP practice nurses can provide.

Source
Australian Medical Association

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