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Homeowners face finding another $50 a month to pay the mortgage, with the Reserve Bank tipped to lift official interest rates again today as it battles to dampen house prices and keep inflation pressures at bay.

A quarter percentage point rise this afternoon would mean official rates would have climbed 1.25 percentage points since October, adding more than $240 to the monthly repayments on a $300,000 mortgage.

It would be the biggest run of increases in a 12-month period since the Reserve took the official cash rate from 5 per cent to 6.25 per cent between November 1999 and August 2000.

But the decision could be a close call, with signs of softness in the retail and building sectors lifting expectations the Reserve may wait at least another month before moving in the week before Treasurer Wayne Swan hands down the Federal Budget.

At least mortgage holders may be saved from a “super-sized” lift to their repayments, with the NAB yesterday saying it would not increase its rates more than any move in the official cash rate. Its recent policy of matching rate rises had led to more customers.

That prompted Mr Swan to challenge other major banks to follow NAB’s lead.

TD Securities senior strategist Annette Beacher expects the Reserve board to hold rates today.

But Macquarie Bank rate strategist Rory Robertson said the chance of a rate rise was about 80 per cent.

“Interest rates here remain unusually low, our jobs market is strengthening, China and bulk-commodity prices are booming, so, too, local home prices, and the world’s biggest economy increasingly is getting back on its feet,” he said.

A new survey from Dun and Bradstreet of business executives out today shows sales, growth, employment and capital investment expectations all rising. 

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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Thornlie’s tree man Richard Pennicuik has ended his 110 day protest and climbed down from the 20m-high eucalyptus melliodorain on the front verge of his home.

Mr Pennicuik has been living in the tree outside his Hume Road home since early December, including during Monday’s devastating hail storm that swept across Perth and caused more than $200 million damage.

The City of Gosnells wants to remove the tree, claiming it poses a danger.                                                                                                                

Mr Pennicuik claimed he won the moral battle before doing a lap around the tree and heading inside his home to have a shower.

He initially released a four paragraph statement, but re-emerged to speak to reporters, saying he felt great.

“The tree weathered the worst storm to hit Perth ever and it’s in good condition, it has proven itself,” Mr Pennicuik said.

“It is worth it because we have shown the people of Australia they need the constitution, they can’t do without it.

“I think I have (proven my point) I think the tree has.”

City of Gosnells Mayor Olwen Searle today welcomed the Mr Pennicuik’s decision to come down from the tree, but confirmed the council would go ahead with plans to chop it down.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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Extreme temperatures over the next two days are expected to bring Western Australia’s most severe bushfire conditions for the season, authorities say.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts “very hot” conditions for Monday with temperatures of about 40 degrees in Perth city, paired with east to north-east winds.

“Fire danger ratings of extreme to catastrophic are possible over most of the south-west land division as well as the south-west Goldfields on Tuesday,” said a Fire and Emergency Services Authority statement issued today.

“If you live in an area with a catastrophic fire danger rating you should put your survival first and leave early. That is hours before a fire starts.

“Under no circumstances will it be safe to stay and defend your home.”

FESA suggests that residents from at-risk areas spend Monday “at the beach, shopping in the closest major town or with family and friends away from bushland”.

Total fire bans are yet to be issued but may be later today.

Emergency service crews say they are well prepared for the fire threat.

On Tuesday, Perth is expected to reach 36 degrees, with the chance of a shower.

Temperatures are then forecast to plummet, with showers bringing a maximum of 23 degrees on Wednesday, warming to 26 on Thursday and heading back into the high 20s by next weekend.

Source  :  www.watoday.com.au

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There’s more pain on the way for Australia’s borrowers with the Reserve Bank today raising interest rates for the third time in as many months.

As widely tipped, the central bank lifted its key cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.75 per cent following its monthly board meeting. It’s the first time the RBA has lifted rates three months in a row. (Click here for economists’ reaction, including Michael Pascoe and Peter Martin.)

”In Australia, the downturn was relatively mild, and measures of confidence and business conditions suggest that the economy is in a gradual recovery,” RBA Governor Glenn Stevens said in a statement accompanying the rates verdict. The central bank’s ”gradual” increases in rates will ”work to increase the sustainability of growth in economic activity,” he said.

For a typical mortgage holder on a $300,000 mortgage, today’s rate rise will add about $47 to monthly repayments, assuming commercial banks match the RBA’s move. Officials for most of the major banks this afternoon said their rates policies were under review.

The Reserve Bank has made regular public comments in recent weeks that it sees no need to keep interest rates at ”emergency” levels as the economy rebounds from a slowdown during the past year. Ric Battelino, the RBA’s deputy governor, last week said the economy’s growth is likely to extend ”for a few more years yet.”

More to rises come

Still, the economic data continue to provide mixed readings. A measure of manufacturing activity in November out today showed the sector continues to grow with companies adding jobs, although the stronger Australian dollar slowed the pace of expansion.

Overall building approvals, meanwhile, surprisingly fell 0.6 per cent in October, according to other figures out today. A 5 per cent gain in approvals for private homes was countered by a 19 per cent drop in permits for flats and townhouses.

Even with today’s rate increase, the Reserve Bank’s efforts to tighten monetary policy are likely to be far from over.

”The big change in this statement was their reference to the increases so far as being material,” ANZ’s head of Australian economics Warren Hogan told Reuters.

”I read that as implying that they’re ready to now sit back and watch how these increases affect the economy. And the hurdle for further rate hikes will be much higher than we have seen so far.

“So I think our view that they’re going to 4 (per cent), 4.25 then sit there for much of the year is the right one. There’s every chance they’ll do it in February and March, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s dragged out over a number of months.”

JP Morgan’s Chief Economist Stephen Walters agreed that the RBA may make it four rate rises in a row: “With inflation likely to creep up, and the worst in the economy having passed, there is no need to keep rates at very expansionary levels.”

“We think they will again lift rates in February,” Mr Walters

said. ”The RBA does not meet in January, but I think they will hike when they return after the break. The word ‘gradual’ is still there in the RBA statement and I think they will start going slow in lifting after February.”

Before today’s move, investors were betting that rates would rise to at least 4.75 per cent in a year’s time – equivalent to four more rate rises over the period. Three weeks ago, however, the betting was for rates to rise to 5.25 per cent, indicating confidence in the economy’s strength has recently diminished.

The RBA’s board is not scheduled to meet again until next February.

Political view

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the rate rise would pinch household funds.

”This is tough for families…when rates go up it has an impact on the family budget,” Mr Swan told reporters.

He took aim at old comments from new Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that the government’s billion-dollar stimulus had led to interest rates rises.

”That is laughable and it comes from a political leader who is prone to making erratic statements,” Mr Swan said.

”Mr Abbott is in denial of the fact that this country has performed well in the global recession.”

Even with the latest jump, these rates were last seen in 1967, Mr Swan said.

Mild downturn

A year ago, the Reserve Bank was in the midst of a series of deep interest rate cuts as Australia joined other countries in attempting to limit the damage from the global financial crisis.

Last December, the RBA sliced one full percentage point from its cash rate, lowering it to 4.25 per cent on the way to a fifty year-low of 3 per cent by April. After a pause, the central bank has started to lift rates back towards more normal levels as fears of an economic crunch abate.

”The effects of the early stages of the fiscal stimulus on consumer demand are fading, but public infrastructure spending is starting to provide more impetus to demand,” Mr Stevens said in his statement today.

The jobless rate has been one of the surprises, with Australia’s unemployment holding well below 6 per cent when many had predicted a level in excess of 8 per cent. Business investment has also held up well in large measure due to the sharp rebound in China and India – leaving Australia as one of the few countries to start raising rates.

”Prospects for ongoing expansion of private demand, including business investment, have been strengthening. There have been some early signs of an improvement in labour market conditions,” Mr Steven said. ”The rate of unemployment is now likely to peak at a considerably lower level than earlier expected.”

The RBA believes economic growth ”is likely to be close to trend (in 2010) and inflation close to target.

Market response

In the aftermath of the rates news, the Aussie dollar initially dropped before recovering to about 91.5 US cents in recent trading, close to its level before the RBA statement.

Shares, also turned mildly lower before recovering to be about 0.2 per cent higher for the day with less than an hour of trading left.

Source :   www.theage.com.au

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Adult criminals sentenced to outdoor community work will from today wear bright yellow vests emblazoned with “Repay WA” as part of a Government repay wacampaign to increase public confidence in community service as a punishment.
   
Corrective Services Minister Christian Porter claimed community work had not been used as a sentencing option as often as it could be because there was a perception among the public, and sometimes the courts, that it was becoming “a joke”.
   
“For the public to view community work as an appropriate sentencing tool, they need to see the work carried out as ordered by the courts,” Mr Porter said.
   
The State Government has adopted the tougher stance after statistics showed more than 40 per cent of offenders sentenced to community work in 2007-08 did not finish their programs.
  
WA’s completion rate of 56 per cent, 14 per cent below the national average, confirmed it as the worstperforming jurisdiction in Australia.   
   
Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan had suggested the vests after seeing them used in Britain this year.
   
“These vests will go a long way towards providing reassurance to the community that justice is in fact being done with these sorts of offenders,” Mr O’Callaghan said. 
 
Mr Porter said a crackdown on breaches had resulted in 55 per cent of offenders complying with their orders by attending work sessions, up from 40 per cent in June last year.
   
The rules will be tightened further in the next year, with offenders hauled back to court if they miss work on any two occasions. The existing scheme allows for three consecutive breaches before action is taken.

Australian Lawyers Alliance WA president Tom Percy said in February he was appalled by the idea. He said it was designed to humiliate offenders.

But Corrective Services community and juvenile justice deputy commissioner Heather Harker said yesterday she did not think offenders would be taunted or abused. “Many people out working in the community wear high-visibility vests and in many respects this is no different,” she said.
   
The vests will be worn by adult offenders working outside — such as in maintenance, repairs and gardening.
   
Juveniles will not be forced to wear the vests, which have been printed by inmates at Casuarina Prison.
   
More than 5500 adults and 770 juveniles are completing community justice orders of between 10 and 240 hours with punishments such as cleaning, gardening, administration, recycling, kitchen duties or sorting donated clothes for charity.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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WA has led the charge with a rise in building approvals in June, fresh figures reveal today. 

There was a 21.1 per cent rise in building approvals in WA last month, compared to a national rise of 9.3 per cent.

But the recovery followed an 11 per cent decline in May, taking the latest tally of 11,086 new construction projects to a level lower than where it was in April.

Still, the latest monthly increase was stronger than a market forecast for an eight per cent rise.

Approvals in the volatile apartment-building sector surged 27.7 per cent while detached housing numbers increased by a much smaller 4.9 per cent.

On an annual basis, overall building approvals are down 14.3 per cent.

Apartment building approvals are also 45.7 per cent weaker compared with a year earlier.

Construction activity was also more robust in Victoria, where approvals rose by 17.4 per cent, followed by an 11.3 per cent increase in South Australia.

NSW had a more modest recovery of 3.4 per cent.

Building approvals went backwards in Tasmania, shrinking by 7.6 per cent, and Queensland, which suffered a 1.9 per cent decline.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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The Rudd Government’s partnership with business and community leaders to Keep Australia Working has secured more than 1000 jobs in its first week, Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Mark Arbib, announced today.

Senator Arbib today joined Local Jobs Champions Bill Kelty and Lindsay Fox at the third Keep Australia Working Forum at Casula, where he announced 240 jobs in Canterbury Bankstown and South Western Sydney Employment Priority Area.

The Australian Government is providing $3.7 million from the $650 million Jobs Fund for three Western Sydney Projects.

The 240 jobs in Western Sydney bring to more than 500 the positions funded through the Jobs Fund and come on top of the 250 jobs in South Eastern Melbourne and 23 jobs in Northern Tasmania announced at jobs forums earlier this week.

The private sector is also playing a significant role in boosting employment with Lindsay Fox announcing this week he would employ an extra 450 staff over the next two years at Linfox and Woolworths announcing 60 jobs for its new logistics centre in Launceston.

“The Rudd Government is doing everything possible to keep Australians working,” Senator Arbib said. 

“This week by working together – the Government and industry – we’ve managed to create or protect more than 1000 jobs.

“Not every week will be as successful as this week in keeping people in work. There will be ups and downs, because the global recession is far from over.

“But this week has shown what can be achieved by working together.”

Parliamentary Secretary for Employment Jason Clare said community leaders, business representatives and job service providers would today join Government to develop a regional employment strategy for Canterbury Bankstown and South Western Sydney.

“The Keep Australia Working forums allow the community to maximise the benefits of the Government’s Economic Stimulus Plan and Jobs Fund and develop localised responses to the impact of the global recession.

“We want to find job opportunities for local businesses and workers, particularly in areas like Western Sydney where unemployment is a growing problem.”

Mr Clare said Local Jobs Champions, Lindsay Fox and Bill Kelty, would bring their considerable experience and wisdom to the table.

“The Local Jobs Champions will help forum participants identify local skill and labour needs and develop directions for the future,” Mr Clare said.

“It’s great to have Lindsay Fox and Bill Kelty on board. Few people understand the Australian economy better than these blokes, they’ve been through it before. They’re travelling with us around the country helping areas hit hardest by the global recession.”

Today’s forum is the third in a series being rolled out in employment priority areas across Australia as recommended in the Keep Australia Working interim report presented last week to Deputy Prime Minister Gillard by Senator Arbib and Mr Clare.

There are now 20 employment priority areas around the country:

  • Canterbury Bankstown and South Western Sydney (New South Wales)
  • Illawarra (New South Wales)
  • Richmond Tweed and Clarence Valley (New South Wales)
  • Mid North Coast (New South Wales)
  • Sydney West and Blue Mountains (New South Wales)
  • Central Coast Hunter (New South Wales)
  • South Eastern Melbourne (Victoria)
  • North Western Melbourne (Victoria)
  • Ballarat Bendigo (Central Victoria)
  • North Eastern Victoria
  • Ipswich Logan (Queensland)
  • Cairns (Queensland)
  • Townsville Thuringowa (Queensland)
  • Caboolture Sunshine Coast (Queensland)
  • Southern Wide Bay Burnett (Queensland)
  • Bundaberg Hervey Bay (Queensland)
  • Northern and Western Adelaide (South Australia)
  • Port Augusta Whyalla Port Pirie (South Australia)
  • South West Perth (Western Australia)
  • North West/Northern Tasmania.

For more information on Keep Australia Working, visit http://www.deewr.gov.au/Employment/KeepAustraliaWorking/Pages/home.aspx

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