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Business has warned that West Australians could be priced out of the resources boom and interest rates pushed even higher if the Federal Opposition follows through with a promise to slash the number of immigrants.

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist John Nicolaou said the flagged cut would mean the abandonment of major developments by companies unable to find the workers they need to exploit the State’s natural resources.

He was backed by Trade Minister Simon Crean who said cutting immigration now would devastate economies like that of WA and Queensland which were crying out for workers.

The Opposition has signalled cutting the net immigration intake which, when temporary workers and students are taken into account, edged down to 297,000 in the three months to the end of September.

Shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison said forecasts of Australia’s population reaching 36 million by 2050 proved immigration under the Rudd Government was “out of control”.

He said a coalition government would bring immigration levels back to a “sustainable level”.

But Mr Nicolaou said with WA needing 400,000 people over the coming decade to deal with the resources boom, cutting immigration levels could prove economically disastrous to the State.

He said major resource companies would go overseas if they could not get the labour they needed in Australia.

Those that did continue work in WA would have to pay higher wages for their staff, which would then push up costs for the rest of the community.

“I think it’s very short-sighted if they’re looking at cutting immigration, because it’s going to push up costs for everyone through wages going up,” he said.

“We lost investment in the last boom because there were insufficient workers, and we run the risk of doing that again.”

Professor Peter Mc Donald of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute also warned that trying to cap immigration levels would have major economic ramifications for people already living in Australia. The Reserve Bank was already lifting interest rates to dampen demand.

“You’re just going to push up wages pressures and that will feed into higher interest rates,” he said.

Mr Crean said the resource States would be disadvantaged if the number of workers was artificially restricted.

“Mining companies generally are saying one of the biggest challenges they face … is the availability of skilled labour,” he said. “People calling for cuts to immigration programs ought to understand how the economy is functioning.” 

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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Parents of children at private WA schools should brace for fee rises up to four times the inflation rate next year, with new figures showing education costs leapt 37.5 per cent in the past five years.

Elite colleges said it was too early to set next year’s fees but they predicted rises between 5 and 8 per cent.

Principals said big pay rises to State schoolteachers last year in a three-year agreement were driving up fees at private schools because they competed for staff.

Scotch College principal Andrew Syme said fees at private schools had to go up at least 6 per cent to keep pace with teachers’ pay rises before any improvements in service.

Anglican Schools Commission chief executive Peter Laurence said fee rises at low-fee church schools would be similar to last year’s increases of between 6 and 9 per cent.

“Teachers’ pay is the number one driver that’s going to keep increases higher than they used to be a few years ago,” he said.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show education costs in Perth, comprising school fees and other miscellaneous costs, have jumped 37.5 per cent since 2004 – the biggest increase registered by any capital city. Canberra had the second biggest leap, with 29.4 per cent.

The rise was driven by a 55.9 per cent lift in fees associated with pre-schools and primary schools. By contrast, pre-school and primary school education costs in Sydney rose almost 23 per cent.

Pre-school and primary school fees have grown faster than the average wage of West Australians which, between 2004 and today, jumped 44 per cent – the biggest rise of any capital city.

The State Government has held down public primary school fees so the increase is mainly for private schools.

A private education in WA costs between $3000 a year for Year 12 tuition at low-fee Catholic schools and $17,000 a year at high-fee independent schools. Many private schools in Sydney and Melbourne charge more than $20,000 a year.

Association of Independent Schools of WA executive director Valerie Gould said the recent teacher pay rises and rising construction costs in the building boom two years ago may have been the big contributors to increased education costs.

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist John Nicolaou said the fact fees were going up so much in the private sector reflected poorly on the public school sector.

He said people were voting with their feet and going to the private sector even while fees were rising, which said something about what parents thought of Government schools.

WA Secondary School Executives Association president Rob Nairn said students in Years 8 to 10 could get an education at a State school for a voluntary contribution of $235 a year. Costs were higher in Years 11 and 12 but much less than in private schools.

Source  :   www.thewest.com.au

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wa small firmsSigns are emerging that the worst of the global financial crisis is over, according to a new survey, and the State’s small businesses are leading the way.
  
The Commonwealth Bank-Chamber of Commerce and Industry quarterly survey of business expectations, released yesterday, shows that economic conditions in WA appear to be stabilising after six months of decline.
  
CCI chief economist John Nicolaou said that the community could “take heart” from the results and that an economic recovery within the next 12 months was on the horizon.
  
“This survey is an important lead indicator of future economic activity,” he said.
  
“While just over half of all businesses remain pessimistic about the next 12 months, that’s come back from around 75 per cent of businesses that were pessimistic last quarter, and at the same time businesses that think conditions will improve (over the same time) has doubled.”
  
Mr Nicolaou said small businesses in service industries were the most optimistic, with 17 per cent of the firms surveyed believing conditions would improve over the next 12 months.
  
Beaumonde Catering owner Mark Dimmitt said he felt small business was better prepared for the slowdown than in other downturns because it had taken time to flow to Australia from the US.
  
He said that though his trade had been affected and was patchy, February was a record month for his 20-year-old business and he expected an upturn over the next year.
  
Woolworths regional manager Brad Bolin criticised “illogical barriers to doing business”, referring to trading hours in WA.
  
Mr Bolin said “conservative estimates” showed the group would need to employ another 300 staff in WA if trading hours were extended to 9pm.
  
“During this time of economic uncertainty there are still companies (looking) to hire more people — these efforts shouldn’t be undone by illogical barriers to doing business,” he said.
  
Coles and Kmart have said they expected to employ another 350 workers if 9pm trading was approved.

Source www.thewest.com.au

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