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FURTHER official interest rate rises could choke off consumer spending and grind the economy to a halt, economists warn.

Herston Economics chief economist Clifford Bennett says if the Reserve Bank raises the cash rate to five per cent by year’s end, the economy would “grind to a standstill”.

The current cash rate is 4.25 per cent, after the RBA lifted the rate by a quarter of a percentage point on Tuesday in an effort to further rein in expansionary pressures.

It was the fifth monthly interest rate rise by the central bank since October last year.

“If the cash rate gets to 5 per cent … the domestic economy will grind to a standstill,” Mr Bennett said.

“We’re seeing in the Sydney press examples of them having to choose between buying groceries and paying their electricity bill and the added burden from the RBA is completely unwarranted, unnecessary and unwanted.”

RBA governor Glenn Stevens said it was appropriate to raise the cash rate towards its long-run average given that “the risk of serious economic contraction

Most economists say the average long-run cash rate is around 5 per cent.

Nomura Australia economist Stephen Roberts said rising interest rates meant consumers were paying a greater proportion of their income in servicing debt.

Data compiled by the central bank showed that when the cash rate was 3.75 per cent at the and of the December quarter of 2009, the average household was paying more than 10 per cent of its income, minus taxes and some other regular payments, on interest payments.

When the cash rate topped 18 per cent in December 1989, the average household was spending just under nine per cent of its income on interest payments.

The figures also show that in December quarter of 1989, household debt was slightly less than half household yearly income.

Twenty years later it was equal to one and a half times an average household’s yearly income.

“That data is from fourth quarter (2009) and you have to remember we’ve had two more interest rate rises already,” Mr Roberts said.

He said a lower interest rate of 3.75 per cent to 4 per cent would be more appropriate given the current difference between the cash rate and the interest rates of major lenders.

Official economic data now points to a slowing economy, with building approvals, employment and retail sales data for March all coming in under market expectations.

Mr Bennett said the data suggested Australia’s economic performance post the global financial crisis was weaker than first thought.

“When you look at the domestic economy, there are patchy elements,” he said.

“There are storm clouds on the horizon.”

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard says WA needs more migrants amid claims hundreds of thousands of extra workers are necessary over the next decade to thwart a labour crisis.

Speaking at a Perth business breakfast hosted by _The West Australian _and Murdoch University, Ms Gillard said both interstate and international migration was needed to help fill future job vacancies.

It comes as employer groups warn labour shortages are set to hit within months.

Ms Gillard said WA also needed to better utilise its youth market, which was suffering a 10 per cent unemployment rate.

She blamed the labour problem partly on the booming resources sector which was drawing workers, infrastructure and services away from rest of the economy.

“That’s why we need to properly analyse and assess all claims about the West’s needs in the decade or so ahead, including claims about the need to attract hundreds of thousands of new workers,” she said.

“There’s no doubt more interstate and overseas migrants will be needed, but we need to look also at how we can achieve better results with the assets that are already available and underused.

“With a youth unemployment rate of almost 10 per cent, there is more work to be done to create the pathways that will give these kids a future.”

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry said labour shortages would hit in the second half of this year, with WA needing an extra 400,000 workers in the decade from 2007. Based on current population trends, there would be 150,000 shortfall.

CCI supports strong migration to alleviate the skills shortage, which threatened to curb WA’s economic growth during the last boom.

The WA Group Training Scheme, which last year sacked some apprentices because of reduced work, said there had been a quick economic turnaround and expectations of boom-level demand this year.

Ms Gillard said an expanded training initiative announced yesterday, creating 11,000 advanced level training places nationally, would help address some of the skills shortage.

Ms Gillard, who heads to the Pilbara today to inspect the $43 billion Gorgon project, warned unions not to engage in unlawful industrial action, singling out the construction union’s Kevin Reynolds and Joe McDonald. “We have got no tolerance for people who seek to break the rules and I am well aware there is a concern in this State over the propensity of some individuals to believe they are beyond the law,” she said.

Mr Reynolds said he was not surprised at being singled out by Ms Gillard over unlawful industrial action, claiming the pair had an adverse relationship. He said migration should be a back-up with the focus on training. 

Ms Gillard said an expanded training initiative announced yesterday, creating 11,000 advanced level training places nationally, would help address some of the skills shortage.

Ms Gillard, who heads to the Pilbara today to inspect the $43 billion Gorgon project, warned unions not to engage in unlawful industrial action, singling out the construction union’s Kevin Reynolds and Joe McDonald. “We have got no tolerance for people who seek to break the rules and I am well aware there is a concern in this State over the propensity of some individuals to believe they are beyond the law,” she said.

Mr Reynolds said he was not surprised at being singled out by Ms Gillard over unlawful industrial action, claiming the pair had an adverse relationship. He said migration should be a back-up with the focus on training.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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A juvenile humpback whale has died after beaching on Cable Beach near Albany.                                                                                                    humpback                               

The 7m whale was found on the beach about noon on Sunday.

Albany Department of Environment and Conservation officer Peter Collins said there was nothing the department could do to help it back out to sea.

“There was limited access to the area where it was beached and the whale was lodged behind the reef,” Mr Collins said.

“It probably weighed around five or six tonnes and, unfortunately, we couldn’t do anything.”

Mr Collins said whale had been badly “scratched up” by the reef but otherwise, at least on the surface, seemed in good condition.

He said that there were no plans to move it as it was believed the current would eventually shift it out into the ocean.

“The public are welcome to go have a look at it but remember, dead whales attract sharks,” Mr Collins said.

“So I would warn anyone against swimming at Cable Beach for a while.”

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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