Browsing articles from "March, 2013"
Friday 8th March 2013 - 9:38 am
Comments Off on PM speaks out – against slavery

PM speaks out – against slavery

by Alan Thornhill

Julia Gillard has spoken out firmly against slavery,  both in Australia and overseas.

The Prime Minister was addressing an International Women’s Day breakfast in Sydney.

“This year America has been celebrating 150 years since President Lincoln ended slavery,” she said.

“We imagine slavery as something from the pages of history.

“But it’s not.

“It’s hard to imagine from the safety and comfort we know, yet slavery still exists in our world and in our land,” the Prime Minister said.

“ In February this year I had the opportunity to meet with two women who were victims of human trafficking,” she added.

“They had been brought to Australia by their employers under false pretences.

“They had their passports taken from them.

“They weren’t allowed to leave the house without supervision.

“One of them wasn’t paid properly; the other wasn’t paid at all.

“When they challenged their employers, they were abused and threatened.

“That occurred here, in Australia,” Ms Gillard said.

“I was introduced to those women by Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and his wife Nicola, who were talking to me about their role in establishing ‘Walk Free’ – a global movement that aims to eradicate modern slavery.

“There are many things on which Mr Forrest and I do  not agree but ending modern slavery is not one of them,” Ms Gillard said.

“Already we’ve been able to help around 200 women and their dependents in Australia, and today I pay tribute to the special role the Salvation Army has played in this,” she added said.

But as Australia’s first female Prime Minister, I’ve wanted us to do even more,” Ms Gillard declared.

“That’s why we passed the Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking Act which our Governor-General signed into law yesterday,” she added.

“Alongside these new laws, we are updating Australia’s National Action Plan to combat trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices, such as forced marriage – which will come into force next year,” Ms Gillard added, in a separate statement.

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Thursday 7th March 2013 - 12:22 pm
Comments Off on Pay:the “fat cats”

Pay:the “fat cats”

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s “fat cats” are still getting the cream, in their pay packets.

That’s the –  much hated – name the Whitlam era Labour Minister, Clyde Cameron, gave to Federal public servants.

Reporting on rises in average weekly earnings, the Australian Bureau of Statistics notes that  the Australian Capital Territory recorded the nation’s highest annual increase in full-time Adult Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings,, in the 12 months to the end of November.

It did that with a 6.2 per cent rise.

“This was 0.4 of a percentage point higher than the next highest, New South Wales,” the Bureau said.

Those employed in the Australian Capital Territory had the highest Full-Time Adult Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings at, $1,645.10, it said.

The Australian Capital Territory has a high proportion of Public sector workers, who on average earn more than those in the Private sector.

The next highest figure was for the resource rich State Western Australia.

The comparable figure there was $1,590.60 a week.

The figures for other States were:-

 Average Weekly Earnings, By State, Original, November 2012

Full-time adult average weekly ordinary time earnings

November 2011 to November 2012, % change

Full-time adult average weekly total earnings

November 2011 to November 2012, % change

All employees average weekly total earnings

November 2011 to November 2012, % change







New South Wales

1 398.90


1 448.80


1 081.20



1 331.00


1 392.40


1 023.70



1 370.10


1 437.30


1 065.90


South Australia

1 276.00


1 330.30




Western Australia

1 590.60


1 692.40


1 244.00



1 226.60


1 264.90




Northern Territory

1 417.40


1 496.50


1 235.60


Australian Capital Territory

1 645.10


1 665.90


1 384.40



1 396.00


1 458.00


1 081.30


Thursday 7th March 2013 - 11:52 am
Comments Off on Big rise in “disouraged” job seekers

Big rise in “disouraged” job seekers

by Alan Thornhill

Australia now has more than 106,000 discouraged job seekers.

That’s how the Bureau of Statistics counts jobless people who want to work –  and would be available to start within four weeks – if  offered a job, but are not actively looking for work, because they believe they would not find it.

The Bureau’s Labour Force Director, Cassandra Gligora said, “the number of  discouraged job seekers increased 18 per cent from 90,700 in 2011.

She said that is a return to the numbers prior to 2011.

“The increase was mostly driven by a rise in the number of male discouraged job seekers – up 31 per cent from 2011,” Ms Gligora said.
“Discouraged job seekers reported that their main reason for not looking for work was that they believed they were considered too old by employers.”

Thirty six per cent believed that.

Twenty per cent believed  that there were no jobs  either in their locality or in their line of work.
“These discouraged job seekers were part of the 833,700 people who were not in the labour force, who wanted work and were available to start work within four weeks, but were not actively looking for work,” she added.

“Of the 727,200 who were not discouraged job seekers, the most commonly reported reasons for men not actively looking for work were studying (35 per cent) and own long-term health condition or disability (15 per cent), while for women it was caring for children (31 per cent) and studying (19 per cent),” she added.
In total there were just over six million people, or a third of Australians aged 15 years and over, not in the labour force in September 2012.

Just under 1.3 million (21 per cent) of them wanted to work.
The main activity for those not in the labour force varied by age.

Those aged 15-24 years and not in the labour force were most likely to be studying while those aged 60 years or over were mainly retired.

” Men aged 35-59 years were most likely to report their main activity as their own long term health condition or disability whereas for women aged 25-59 years it was home duties or caring for children,” Ms Gligora said.
Further details can be found in Persons Not in the Labour Force, Australia, September 2012 (cat. no. 6220.0).

Thursday 7th March 2013 - 11:15 am
Comments Off on Raise welfare payments by $50 a week:charities

Raise welfare payments by $50 a week:charities

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government is being urged to raise Newstart and other allowances by $50 a week to ease poverty.

Several welfare organizations, led by the Australian Council of Social Service, want the Federal government to take this action, in its May budget.

They said this is a fundamental requirement to help lift hundreds and thousands of people out of “worsening poverty.”
Their call follows media reports yesterday that the Government is considering a proposal to allow single parents and other people on the Newstart Allowance to keep more of their earnings before losing benefits.

The reports said this is being considered as an alternative to raising the Newstart payment itself.

However the welfare lobby argued that this is not an ‘either or’ choice.

“While we need to allow people to keep more of the money they earn, we also need a more adequate base payment,”  they declared in a joint statement.

“There should not be a trade-off or the central problem that current payment levels are driving people further into poverty and making it more difficult for people to find paid work will be missed,” they said.

“It is like filling potholes in a road when the road should be rebuilt.”

ACOSS has long been campaigning for an increase the single rate of allowance payments by $50 per week, arguing that $35 a day is simply not enough to live on.

These  allowances include Newstart,  Youth Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Special Benefit, Austudy and ABSTUDY.

This campaign broadened after the Federal government decided that it would move all single parents off parenting payments when their youngest child turns eight.

It decided that they would then be moved onto Newstart.

That decision, taken as an economy measure, cut the payments received by some 84,000 single parent families, by as much as $110 a week.

It led to vigorous protests.

The other bodies  signing the statement were Anglicare, the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, theAustralian Youth Affairs Coalition, Catholic Social Services Australia, COTA Australia, Jobs Australia, the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, the National Welfare Rights Network, the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia, The Benevolent Society and The Salvation Army.

Thursday 7th March 2013 - 10:02 am
Comments Off on Home building recovering

Home building recovering

by Alan Thornhill

Home building is picking up.

There has also been a lift in Australia’s engineering construction sector.

Both, very welcome, developments are evident in the latest reading of the Performance of Construction Index, which has touched its highest level in almost three years  last month.

While still in contractionary territory, the index rose 9.4 points last month, to 45.6.

Readings below 50 indicate a contraction in the industry with the distance from 50 indicative of the strength of the decline.

However the sub index for the house building sector, which has been very weak, rose 15.4 points to 51.5.

Engineering construction was also strong with its sub-index rising in February to 53.2

Australian Industry Group Director Public Policy, Peter Burn, said: “While it is only one month’s reading and comes after more than two and a half years of decline, the pick-up in house building activity is very welcome news.

“ The lift in engineering construction is also positive,” Dr Burn added.

Housing Industry Association Senior Economist, Shane Garrett, said: “The strong rebound in house building activity captured in the figures adds evidence to the prospect of a modest recovery in this area, which we welcome.”

But he added a caution.

“The nature of the housing recovery is nonetheless tentative,” Mr Garrett said.

“And the overall weakness of construction activity merits further intervention from the RBA in the form of interest rate reductions,” he said.

Wednesday 6th March 2013 - 2:47 pm
Comments Off on Growth reflects “resilience” Swan

Growth reflects “resilience” Swan

by Alan Thornhill

Wayne Swan says today’s National Accounts highlight the enduring resilience of the Australian economy against a challenging global economic backdrop.

In a statement on the accounts, the Treasurer said Australia had managed to achieve solid growth in the December quarter,  at a time when about half of all advanced economies had contracted.

“Australia’s around-trend growth rate over the year is more than four times the OECD average,” Mr Swan said.

Solid growth in the quarter was underpinned by strong growth in export volumes, with positive contributions from new business investment, consumption and dwelling investment,” he added.

“Exports were the largest contributor to quarterly growth, growing by 3.3 per cent, the second fastest quarterly increase in almost a decade,” Mr Swan said.

“This was supported by strong rises in coal and iron ore exports.”

He said, too, that there is more to come.

“A number of major investment projects in the mining and energy sectors have reached or are about to reach completion stage,” Mr Swan said.

“…this will contribute to a further ramp up in export production and an improvement in productivity growth over the next few years,” he added.

“We are already seeing an emerging upswing in productivity growth,” Mr Swan said.

Market sector productivity had risen by 3.3 per cent over the year to December.

“ This is considerably higher than its average of the past ten years of 1.5 per cent per year,” the Treasurer said.

Wednesday 6th March 2013 - 2:29 pm
Comments Off on A stocktake – as the election draws closer

A stocktake – as the election draws closer

by Alan Thornhill

How is the Australian economy really traveling, as the September 14 elections approach?

With the nation’s politicians differing sharply, in their often strident assessments, some public confusion is understandable.

This makes independent calculations, by experts, very valuable.

And that is precisely what the Australian Bureau of Statistics has just produced, in a publication it calls its December quarter national accounts.

These show that the Australian economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the final three months of last year – and by 3.1 per cent  over 2012 as a whole.

These results are, perhaps, below what we might have expected, in better times.

But they still outpace those of most other countries, in the wake of the global economic crisis.

Yet looking at broad figures, alone, is not enough.

(We have, of course, been studying seasonally adjusted measurements of growth in gross domestic product).

The Bureau’s accounts  also show that income has been flat.

It reports that Australia’s real net disposable income fell by 0.1 per cent, on  seasonally estimates, in the final three months of last year.

And  they rose by  bare 0.3 per cent, over 2012.

So what happened?

Well, we took some big hits on our export prices.

That is reflected, essentially, in the terms of trade results, that the Bureau produced.

These show that we suffered a 2.7 per cent reversal, on this indicator, in the final three months of last year.

This followed a 5.3 per cent fall in the September quarter.

Over 2012 as a whole, our terms of trade crashed by 12.9 per cent.

This occurred, mainly, as a result of sharp falls in the prices we get for basic commodities, such as iron ore and coal.

Those cuts came as the mining boom faded.

However the Reserve Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens, insists that our commodity prices are still quite high, by historical standards.

So how did Australians respond, as all this was happening?

Well, the Bureau reports that we have been saving much more, although that has been flattening out, a little, over the past year or so.

Even so, the Bureau reports, the household savings ratio in Australia, at the end of last year, was 10.1 per cent.

That’s up from a bare 4 per cent, when the crisis first struck, back in 2008.


Wednesday 6th March 2013 - 11:53 am
Comments Off on Australia chalks up 0.6 per cent growth:ABS

Australia chalks up 0.6 per cent growth:ABS

by Alan Thornhill

The Australian economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the final three months of last year.

This took the annual growth rate for 2012 to 3.1 per cent.

These developments are reflected in seasonally adjusted gross domestic product figures that the Australian Bureau of Statistics published today.

The Bureau said this growth was driven by mining, manufacturing, health and finance, with each industry contributing 0.1 per cent to the increase in GDP.

But the December quarter saw the terms of trade fall by 2.7 per cent.

The Bureau said growth for the quarter was driven by a 1.1 per cent contribution from public investment, and a 0.6 per cent contribution from net exports.

But it said these increases were partially offset by a -1.0 per cent contribution from private investment and a -0.4 per cent contribution from changes in inventories.

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Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.

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