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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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One in two West Australians believes there will be greater skills shortages and more pressure on house prices compared with the last mining boom, the latest Westpoll has found.

The results revealed 53 per cent of those surveyed thought there would be more pressure on a housing price bubble and skills shortages than last time, while 32 per cent believed there would be the same level of pressure.

Just 9 per cent of those polled said there would be less pressure.

“There is a clear community expectation that there will be quite severe skills shortages in WA and, perhaps of greater concern, a view that there will be an upward pressure on housing prices,” pollster Keith Patterson said.

“This may lead to significant levels of speculation in housing in the anticipation that values will surge as the resources boom unfolds.”

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary Steve McCartney said the community was right to be concerned about increasing prices.

“I think lower paid members of our community should be concerned because sometimes the benefits of those booms don’t filter down to the low-paid workers,” he said.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union spokesman Gary Wood said he did not believe there would be more pressure as the WA economy improved.

“There might be the perception put out by the likes of the employer associations so they can attempt to justify the use of overseas labour but it needs to be fully demonstrated they are not just a propaganda war to bring in overseas labour,” he said.

Opposition Leader Eric Ripper said the Government needed to demonstrate a sense of urgency over labour supply, training issues and housing.

“The experience of the last boom was that house prices rose and rents rose and there were skills shortages which made life difficult for small to medium enterprises,” he said.

“The Government is not ensuring that enough housing lots are released.

“The industry is not building enough houses.

“We are storing up a problem for the future.”

Premier Colin Barnett had previously said there was a need to attract more skilled workers to WA and there needed to be more mobility of workers between States.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said last month that interstate and international migration was needed to help fill future job vacancies. 

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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Businesses can claim an additional tax deduction when they buy certain assets, and when they spend money to improve existing assets, for a limited time. It’s called the Small Business and General Business Tax Break – ‘business tax break’ for short.

The Australian Government announced the tax break as an ‘investment allowance’ in December 2008 aimed at helping businesses meet the challenges of the economic downturn.

The government later extended this tax break in the May Budget to allow small businesses to claim a 50% tax deduction on eligible assets bought by 31 December 2009.

Source  :   www.ato.gov.au

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The new Australian citizenship test which assesses prospective new citizens on their understanding of Australian civics and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship commences Monday 19 October.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said the new test is based on the pledge of commitment that new Australians make when becoming citizens. Topics include Australia’s democratic beliefs, laws and government as well as the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship.

The 20 multiple-choice questions in the new test have been written in plain English and will be conducted in English only. All test questions have been drawn from the testable section of the revised citizenship test resource book, Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond, which was launched in September.

The new test is not a general knowledge quiz about Australia,’ Senator Evans said. ‘We want people applying for citizenship to understand the values of Australian society, our democratic beliefs, our rights and our system of law and what it means to be an Australian citizen. ‘All prospective citizens should understand those concepts so all of the questions in the new citizenship test focus on the commitments that new citizens make in the pledge.’

The new test was developed after an independent review of the old citizenship test last year found that it could be improved by focusing on the pledge of commitment. People will now need to answer 75 per cent per cent or 15 of the 20 questions correctly to pass – up from 60 per cent under the old test.

However, the mandatory questions have been removed to make the test fairer. All questions are now equally important and a person can no longer answer 19 out of 20 questions correctly and still fail the test because they answered one of the three mandatory questions incorrectly. A citizenship course is also under development to help a small group of disadvantaged people, who for a range of reasons, such as limited literacy and schooling, are likely to struggle when preparing for and sitting a formal computer-based test.

This will ensure that we encourage people to become citizens without the test being a barrier,’ Senator Evans said. The citizenship test resource book, Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond, and practice citizenship test are available online.

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The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is urging the media and the public to ignore hoax emails circulating on the internet about government benefits provided to asylum seekers and refugees permanently settling in Australia.

Some of the hoax emails also falsely claim Australia accepts terrorists and other criminals under its international obligations.

“The text in these emails has many gross inaccuracies,” a DIAC spokesman said.

“Irregular maritime arrivals are subject to thorough security and identity checks and must satisfy the character test before being a decision is made about protection.

“Only those who engage Australia’s international obligations receive refugee status; indeed, the government has already returned people who were not refugees.

“Figures quoted in these emails also bear no resemblance to income-support payments to asylum seekers and refugees settling in Australia.

“Asylum seekers in Australia who have not yet had their protection claims decided have no access to Centrelink benefits.

“In Australia, refugees granted permanent visas have access to benefits on the same basis and at the same rates as other Australian permanent residents.”

The spokesman said refugees received no cash payments under Australia’s Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy. He said any claims that refugees are given free houses were ridiculous.

“DIAC helps eligible refugees with English-language lessons and settling-in assistance including basic goods to start a household, as well as subsidies for rent and utilities for their first four weeks in the country,” the spokesman said.

“We would strongly encourage anyone who receives an email claiming asylum seekers or refugees are treated more favourably than Australian permanent residents to hit the delete button and ignore these ridiculous claims.”

Media Enquiries: (02) 6264 2244

Source  :  http://www.newsroom.immi.gov.au/media_releases/750

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Chefs and hairdressers will top the list of most sought-after jobs as Australia emerges from the wake of the global financial crisis. It is thought that the highly transient nature of these jobs, with a high turnover and burnout rate, contributes to the skills shortage in these areas and the inability of supply to meet demand.

Other in-demand occupations will include health-care workers, educators, automotive and metal tradespeople, and IT professionals. The accounting and IT sectors are expected to experience high demand because of industry growth over the next two years.

Not so lucky are those in advertising, public relations and finance, as yet further job cuts are expected in these industries in the next couple of years. Those in marketing have been particularly hard-hit as companies slash marketing budgets in an attempt to stay afloat.

The construction industry has also been struggling as many building and development projects ground to a halt, leaving many construction workers out of work. However, with the Federal Government expected to fund new projects with its stimulus package until 2011, things could start looking up in the near future for the building industry. Industry insiders predict an impending resurgence and consequent shortage of construction workers and apprentices.
 
Some projections anticipate that unemployment will peak at around 7.5 per cent in mid-2010 to early 2011, but those sectors benefiting from public funding and the stimulus package – such as the health sector, education and infrastructure – should be well-protected and enjoy sustained demand.

Jobs such as chef, cook, hairdresser, automotive electrician, panelbeater, metal machinist, welder, bricklayer, carpenter, electrician, plumber, accountant, computing professionals and a variety of health care professionals (dentists, GPs, nurses and many others) all appear on the current Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) as the government attempts to fill in some of the gaps through skilled migration.

Not surprisingly given this outlook, enrolment in vocational courses in hospitality, hairdressing, automative trades and IT are up as students and job-seekers attempt to find work and fill the skills shortage gap. If you are at a career crossroads, trying to decide what to study or just trying to find a job, perhaps you, too, should consider jumping on the skills shortage bandwagon – and land yourself a job in the process.

Source  :  www.careerfaqs.com.au

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