Showing posts with label economy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economy. Show all posts

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

"What alternate universe does the Australian Treasurer inhabit?

According to AMP chief economist Shane Oliver “consumer spending is being dragged down by low wages growth, slowing wealth accumulation, poor sentiment, high debt levels and rising energy costs."

In the 2017 September quarter households were spending less on clothing, footware, health, furnishings, household equipment, entertainment, dining out and alcohol - as the pressure on disposable income bites.

Yet this is the Australian Treasurer in December 2017……………
The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 December 2017

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Can't live on the wage you bring home but can't get a raise from the boss? Here's the reasons why

In 2016 an est. 3.89 million people living in New South Wales had a personal weekly income of between $0 and $644 per week, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In Tasmania an est. 1.03 million people had way less than $573 per week.

Between March Quarter 2016 and March Quarter 2017 wages growth remained at record lows.

So this should come as no surprise……

Industrial relations lawyer Josh Bornstein writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 2017:

When Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe recently declared a "wages crisis" following a prolonged period of low wages growth, it appears to have caught the federal government on the hop. Quick to respond to crises about border protection, terrorism and rising energy prices, this is one crisis that renders the government mute. There is no plan, no working group, or commissioning of a white paper from the Productivity Commission. Instead, the government has announced a plan to pay up to 10,000 "interns" to work in the retail industry for as little as $4 an hour. This plan will only exacerbate the wages crisis.

Phillip Lowe is not the first prominent mandarin to observe that stagnant wages threaten economic growth. A new consensus has emerged since the Global Financial Crisis that anaemic wages growth and increased income inequality is retarding economies and stoking political volatility in developed economies. Nevertheless, Lowe is the first in Australia to join the chorus. His suggested remedy – that employees need to speak up more to request higher pay – is strikingly naive, inviting the obvious question. What if the boss says "no"?

Lowe's counterpart at the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, has offered a more sophisticated analysis of the wages crisis, focused on the transformation of the labour market. Haldane recently observed that profound changes in workplaces had produced a period of "divide and conquer" that left workers less able to bargain for higher wages. "There is power in numbers. A workforce that is more easily divided than in the past may find itself more easily conquered. In other words, a world of divisible work may reduce workers' wage-bargaining power," he said.

The collapse in bargaining power for workers that Haldane has observed is reflected in the plight of Australian trade unions, which are languishing at their weakest point in their history. Only 14.5 per cent of employees belong to a trade union. In the private sector, that number sits at a shocking 10 per cent and falling. The tipping point passed long ago. Australian trade unions are fighting for their survival. That wage growth and employee share of GDP has hit record lows is no coincidence…..

The explanation for the severity of the collapse of unionisation is far more prosaic. It's our laws. Unions have been seriously weakened by 30 years of constant political and legislative attacks. The last conservative prime minister not to establish a royal commission into trade unions was Billy McMahon (1971-1972). For decades, business lobby groups have permanently and successfully campaigned for legislative change that weakens unions.

In this era, workplace laws have been changed in two key ways. First, the laws have been deregulated to encourage employers to cut wages and de-unionise their workplaces. At the same time, unions have been subjected to complex regulation that restricts their ability to access workplaces, recruit members and to bargain for better wages and conditions. The laws have allowed employers unprecedented ability to cut labour costs, outmanoeuvre employees and their unions while at the same time inveigling unions into a kind of regulatory quicksand…..

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Tony Abbott MP: the man who lied about a carbon tax is preparing to lie to voters once again

The week former chief of staff to Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin, confirmed that he had deliberately lied when characterising the Gillard Government’s price on carbon as a "carbon tax", The Sydney Morning Herald reported this:

Tony Abbott has laid out a five-point plan for the Coalition to have a chance at the "winnable" next election, including cutting back immigration and scrapping the Human Rights Commission.

In a major speech in Sydney at the launch of a new book, Making Australia Right, on Thursday evening, Mr Abbott gave the clearest signal yet he believed the Turnbull government is failing to cut through with voters, and that the contest of ideas - and for the soul of the modern Liberal Party - between the current and former prime minister has a long way to run.

Mr Abbott noted nearly 40 per cent of Australians didn't vote for the Coalition or Labor in the 2016 election: "It's easy to see why".

In a sign a return to the leadership was on his radar, Mr Abbott set out ideas on how to take the fight to Labor and win back Coalition voters thinking of defecting to Pauline Hanson's One Nation.

"In short, why not say to the people of Australia: we'll cut the RET [renewable energy target] to help with your power bills; we'll cut immigration to make housing more affordable; we'll scrap the Human Rights Commission to stop official bullying; we'll stop all new spending to end ripping off our grandkids; and we'll reform the Senate to have government, not gridlock?"
He said the next election was winnable for the Coalition, however, "our challenge is to be worth voting for. It's to win back the people who are giving up on us". [my highlighting]

So let’s look at this jumble of potential three-word slogans being readied for the next Coalition federal election campaign.

RET –renewable energy target

In 2014 the Abbott Government ordered a review of RET. This review found that RET tends to lower wholesale electricity prices and that the RET would have almost no impact on consumer prices over the period 2015–2030.

Despite Abbott's downgrading of RET targets when he was prime minister, in 2017 the Turnbull Coalition Government (of which Abbott is a member) continues its support of these targets.

According to the Dept of Industry, Innovation and Science network costs are the biggest factor driving up the cost of electricity and  a large part of these higher costs has been the need to replace or upgrade ageing power infrastructure, as most electricity networks were built throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Housing affordability

In December 2016 the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded 11.3 million houses/units/flats purchased by investors for rent or resale by individuals and a further 1.3 million for rent or resale by others. [ABS 5609.0 Housing Finance]

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) in June 2015 clearly indicated that purchase of housing stock by investors had increased to almost 23 per cent of all housing stock and, that increased investor activity and strong growth in housing prices were occurring along with an increase in negatively geared investment properties. [RBA, Submission to House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics Inquiry into Home Ownership]

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) put the matter bluntly in Fuel on the fire: negative gearing, capital gains tax & housing affordability - The tax system at both the federal and state level inflates housing costs, undermines affordability, and distorts the operation of housing markets. Tax settings are not the main reason for excessive growth in home prices, but they are an important part of the problem. They inflate demand for existing properties when the supply of new housing is insufficient to meet demand. Ironically, many public policies that are claimed to improve affordability - such as negative gearing arrangements, Capital Gains Tax breaks for investors, and first home owner grants for purchasers – make the problem worse.

Competition between investor-developers recently saw $1.3 million added to the sale price of an older house at a Sydney metropolitan auction.

Although population growth is a factor in competition for housing stock, nowhere in reputable studies or reports can I find mention of immigration levels significantly contributing to this competition.  Which is not surprising, given that natural population increase and increase through migration do not occur uniformly within Australian states & territories and natural increase will outstrip migration in some states and territories in a given year.

Human Rights Commission

On 26 December 1976 the Fraser Coalition Government announced its intention to establish a Human Rights Commission which would provide orderly and systematic procedures for the promotion of human rights and for ensuring that Australian laws were maintained in conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in order that citizens who felt they had been discriminated against under specific Commonwealth laws such as laws relating to discrimination on grounds of race or sex (but excluding laws in the employment area) would be able to have their complaints examined.

The Commission was created in 1981 by an act of the Australian Parliament and later rebirthed as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 1986 by another act of the Australian Parliament.

Whilst ever no Commonwealth statute exists which sets out the core rights of Australian citizenship the federal parliament continues to fail to guarantee protection against its own legislative or regulatory excesses.

The Human Rights Commission is one of the few points at which ordinary citizens without considerable financial means can seek redress of a wrong or harm done to them.

No new spending

I simply refer readers to Tony Abbott’s economic record in the slightly less than two years he spent as Australian prime minister, when on his watch economic growth was slowing and living standards were falling.

Senate reform

This is Section 57 of the Australian Constitution which would have to be amended and is required to be taken to a national referendum before reform can occur:

Disagreement between the Houses
                   If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. But such dissolution shall not take place within six months before the date of the expiry of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time.
                   If after such dissolution the House of Representatives again passes the proposed law, with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives.
                   The members present at the joint sitting may deliberate and shall vote together upon the proposed law as last proposed by the House of Representatives, and upon amendments, if any, which have been made therein by one House and not agreed to by the other, and any such amendments which are affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives shall be taken to have been carried, and if the proposed law, with the amendments, if any, so carried is affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, it shall be taken to have been duly passed by both Houses of the Parliament, and shall be presented to the Governor-General for the Queen's assent.

The last national referendum held in Australia was in 1999 and cost $66,820,894 according to the Australian Electoral Commission for a vote on two questions.

Like 34 of the 44 referendum questions before them these two questions did not carry. In fact the last referendum questions to be carried were in 1977.

Prospect of successful right-wing reform of the Senate? 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Company tax rate cuts in Australia and the banks that benefit

There has been some finger pointing in mainstream and social media of late over Labor’s use of $7.4 million as the amount banks would be able to retain under the Turnbull Government’s progressive cuts to the company tax rate included in the 2016-17 Budget.

According to the Australian Tax Office on 3 January 2016:

The government announced a reduction in the small business tax rate from 28.5 per cent to 27.5 per cent for the 2016–17 income year. The turnover threshold to qualify for the lower rate will start at $10 million and progressively rise until the 27.5 per cent rate applies to all corporate tax entities subject to the general company tax rate in the 2023–24 income year.

The corporate tax rate will then be cut to 27 per cent for the 2024–25 income year and by one percentage point in each subsequent year until it reaches 25 per cent for the 2026–27 income year.

ABC News reported in May 2016 that Treasury Secretary John Fraser told Senate Estimates: The cost of these measures to 2026-27 is $48.2 billion in cash terms.

So where did the $7.4 billion for banks come from?

Australia is thought to have four big banks – the National Australia Bank (NAB), Commonwealth Bank (CBA), Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) and Westpac (WBA) and it appears that this amount is based on projections done with regards to these banks by think tank, The Australia Institute.

The Australia Institute, media release 2016:

Big 4 banks $7.4 billion budget gift

The Coalition Government’s business tax plan would deliver $7.4B to the big 4 banks.

“Cutting company tax rates delivers a massive windfall to an already highly profitable banking sector,” Executive Director Australia Institute, Ben Oquist said.

“It makes no economic or budget sense to deliver the big 4 banks a multi-billion dollar tax break when Australia already has a revenue problem.

“If your agenda is jobs and growth, targeted industry assistance would deliver a much greater return on investment,” Oquist said.

The value of company tax provisions was derived from 2015 full year annual reports for the big four banks. That figure summed to $11,123 million. That figure was projected forward to 2026-27 to give the no change scenario.

The projection assumed bank profit and hence tax payable would increase in line with nominal GDP. The nominal GDP projections used the figures in the 2016-17 budget papers which give nominal increases of:

2.5 per cent in 2015-16,
4.25 per cent in 2016-17, and
5 per cent in 2017-18 and subsequent years.

Company tax cuts do not affect the big banks until 2024-25 when the current 30 per cent rate will fall to 27 per cent for all companies with further reductions of one per cent per annum until they reach 25 per cent in 2026-27.

The results of this are presented in the following table:

Table 1. Benefit of company tax cuts for big four banks, $million
Savings on company tax

KPMG stated in Major Banks: Full Year Results 2015 that the Australian major banks reported another record earnings result in 2015 - a combined cash profit after tax of $30 billion.

By year’s end 2016 the major banks were reporting a combined cash profit after tax of $29.6 billion.

The Federal Government’s underlying cash balance for the 2016-17 financial year to 31 December 2016 was a deficit of $33,025 million and the fiscal balance was a deficit of $31,143 million. While net government debt for 2016-17 stood at an est. $326 billion.

There is an increasing global perception that banks put shareholders’ and executives’ interests ahead of their customers and the community. This perception is more real for banks than for other corporates as they are seen to rely not only on compliance with strict regulation, but increasingly on the goodwill of the community and government to continue to operate in their current form.

We are seeing heightened scrutiny of Australian banks, including through the recent Standing Committee on Economics (the Committee) inquiry, becoming a regular feature of media and political commentary, notwithstanding eight separate inquiries since 2009. There are many reasons for this increased level of oversight, with terms such as “trust deficit” and “trust gap” often cited as the root cause.

It has been argued that the financial services industry has lost touch with the core proposition customers are seeking by forgetting its real purpose in society and becoming too inwardly focussed. These themes were repeated in testimony to the Committee.

Readers can make their own minds up as to whether banks have lived up to the historic social licence granted them by community (see bank scandals since 2009 and alleged superannuation owing in 2017) and, if they actually need any further tax relief or if that $7.4 billion would be much better in the hands of the Commonwealth Treasury.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Fitch Ratings Inc: The Trump Administration Poses Risks to Global Sovereigns

According to the Australian Dept. Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) the United States ranks as Number 1 in the Top 20 countries with direct investment in Australia [ABS catalogue 5352.0, May 2016 & UNCTADstat database, October 2016].

In 2015 Australia direct investment in the U.S. was led by manufacturing, and the finance/insurance sectors and U.S. direct investment in Australia is led by the nonbank holding, mining, finance/ insurance companies, and manufacturing sectors. [Office of the United States Trade Representative: Executive Office of the President, 2017]

So international credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings Inc’s media release of 10 February 2017 may raise some concerns:

Fitch Ratings-London-10 February 2017: The Trump Administration represents a risk to international economic conditions and global sovereign credit fundamentals, Fitch Ratings says. US policy predictability has diminished, with established international communication channels and relationship norms being set aside and raising the prospect of sudden, unanticipated changes in US policies with potential global implications.

The primary risks to sovereign credits include the possibility of disruptive changes to trade relations, diminished international capital flows, limits on migration that affect remittances and confrontational exchanges between policymakers that contribute to heightened or prolonged currency and other financial market volatility. The materialisation of these risks would provide an unfavourable backdrop for economic growth, putting pressure on public finances that may have rating implications for some sovereigns. Increases in the cost or reductions in the availability of external financing, particularly if accompanied by currency depreciation, could also affect ratings.

In assessing the global sovereign credit implications of policies enacted by the new US Administration, Fitch will focus on changes in growth trajectories, public finance positions and balance of payments performances, with particular emphasis on medium-term export prospects and possible pressures on external liquidity and sustainable funding. US positions on some countries may change quickly, at least initially, but any potential rating adjustments will depend on consequent changes to sovereign credit fundamentals, which will almost certainly be slower to materialise.

Elements of President Trump's economic agenda would be positive for growth, including the long-overdue boost to US infrastructure investment, the focus on reducing the regulatory burden and the possibility of tax cuts and reforms, assuming cuts don't lead to proportionate increases in the government deficit and debt. One interpretation of current events is that, after an early flurry of disruptive change to establish a fundamental reorientation of policy direction and intent, the Administration will settle in, embracing a consistent business- and trade-friendly framework that leverages these aspects of its economic programme, with favourable international spill-overs.

In Fitch's view, the present balance of risks points toward a less benign global outcome. The Administration has abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, confirmed a pending renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, rebuked US companies that invest abroad, while threatening financial penalties for companies that do so, and accused a number of countries of manipulating exchange rates to the US's disadvantage. The full impact of these initiatives will not be known for some time, and will depend on iterative exchanges among multiple parties and unforeseen additional developments. In short, a lot can change, but the aggressive tone of some Administration rhetoric does not portend an easy period of negotiation ahead, nor does it suggest there is much scope for compromise.

Sovereigns most at risk from adverse changes to their credit fundamentals are those with close economic and financial ties with the US that come under scrutiny due to either existing financial imbalances or perceptions of unfair frameworks or practices that govern their bilateral relations. Canada, China, Germany, Japan and Mexico have been identified explicitly by the Administration as having trade arrangements or exchange rate policies that warrant attention, but the list is unlikely to end there. Our revision of the Outlook on Mexico's 'BBB+' sovereign rating to Negative in December partly reflected increased economic uncertainty and asset price volatility following the US election.

The integrative aspects of global supply chains, particularly in manufactured goods, means actions taken by the US that limit trade flows with one country will have cascading effects on others. Regional value chains are especially well developed in East Asia, focused on China, and Central Europe, focused on Germany.

Tighter immigration controls and possible deportations could have meaningful effects on remittance flows, as the US has the world's largest immigrant population. World Bank data confirm that the US and Mexico share the world's top migration corridor and have the largest bilateral remittance flows. Relative to GDP, remittances are even larger for Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, all of which receive most inflows from the US.

Countries hosting US direct investment, at least part of which has financed export industries focused back on the US, are at risk of being singled out for punitive trade measures. The list of these countries is potentially long, since US-based entities account for nearly one-quarter of the stock of global foreign direct investment. Countries with the highest stock of US investment in manufacturing are Canada, the UK, Netherlands, Mexico, Germany, China and Brazil.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Current Australian Real Gross Domestic Product figure is no reason to panic

Australia has enjoyed 25 consecutive year of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.

This is what the last ten years of that growth looked like:

So  when that arch enemy of sound economic principles, Federal Treasurer and Liberal MP for Cook, Scott Morrison, starts yelling that the sky is falling and Santa Claus is dead – remember the only weapon in his armoury across all three portfolios he has held (Immigration, Social Services & Treasury) is The Big Scare.

Like all his big scares this one is designed as warfare against the weak and vulnerable, so expect the MYEFO (mid-year budget update) released tomorrow to be structured to deliver doom and gloom.

According to Yahoo! News: The last time Australia was in recession, Sale of the Century was on the nation’s televisions and people endured Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do it for You as the number one song for 11 long weeks.

So if a 77 year-old Tony Barber isn’t fronting a new television game show this month and a 57 year-old Bryan Adams hasn't returned to centre stage from the musical back blocks he currently tours, then I suggest you don't have worry about an economic recession just yet.

Otherwise, enjoy your festive season in the sure knowledge that federal parliament is in recess until 7 February 2017 and therefore pollies can do no further harm for the remainder of 2016.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Is "Yes, Minister" syndrome rampant in the Turnbull Government?

In the face of this……

The Guardian, 3 October 2016:

The Coalition, contrary to all perceptions, has been spending at an alarming rate. 

In 2012-13, the last full year of the previous Labor government, the ratio of government spending to GDP was 24.1%. 

In 2014-15, this had risen to 25.6% and, in 2015-16, it rose to 25.7% of GDP. 

The 1.6% of GDP blowout in spending between 2012-13 and 2015-16 is about $26bn and accounts for more than the blowout in the deficit from the time of the 2014 budget.

The deficit blowout fed into the level of government debt as it had to ramp up its borrowing to cover the ever growing shortfall.

Net government debt rose to $296.4bn at June 2016, up from $153bn in June 2013 just before the Coalition took power. 

As a share of GDP, net government debt has risen from 10% to 18%, just off the all-time high in the wake of the second world war. 

When the 2016 Myefo is released before year end, net government debt will be at a 60-year high and rising.

Gross government debt, according to the final budget outcome documents, rose to $420.4bn, or 25.5% of GDP, in June 2016. This is at the highest since 1971-72 when the Vietnam war effort was being funded.

And this......

The Australian Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee was informed on 19 October 2016 that all public health cost-cutting measures previously supported by the Turnbull Government are still being progressed as policy.

The Turnbull Government is doing this…..

The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 October 2016:

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spent an estimated $215,000 or more sending nearly two dozen senior bureaucrats from Canberra to Paris to attend an inhouse talkfest about ways to save money.

Fairfax Media can reveal the two day junket in September included business class return travel for all 23 DFAT officers.

They included John Philp, Australia's former ambassador to Afghanistan and current first assistant secretary of the consular and crisis management division and John Fisher, first assistant secretary of DFAT's corporate management division.

But the entourage, which was hosted for the two day conference by Australia's ambassador to France, Stephen Brady, included a departmental psychologist, a conduct and ethics manager, and a health and safety officer, according to a list of attendees obtained by Fairfax Media.

According to the Qantas website, the cheapest business class "saver" ticket to Paris costs $3800 one-way, indicating the group of 23 cost at least $175,000 in airfares alone for the 48-hour jaunt.

The group stayed at the four-star Mercure Paris Centre Eiffel Tower Hotel where standard rooms for mid-week business travellers start at $530 a night, according to booking websites…..

That figure does not include the as yet unknown cost of getting more than two dozen Europe-based diplomatic staff to Paris.

The conference, hosted at the Australian embassy just near the Eiffel Tower, was held to discuss a project known internally as "Redesign" and aimed at "streamlining work and improving efficiencies at posts in Europe", according to DFAT.

According to a source familiar with the September 7 to 9 conference, some Australian-based participants wondered why the conference could not have been held via a cheaper and perhaps more agile fashion like video conferencing…..

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Australian and foreign-owned companies who are laughing all the way to the bank

QANTAS AIRWAYS LIMITED with an income of $14.90 billion stated it had no taxable income in in 2013-14 so paid no tax. Hmmmm…..

ENERGYAUSTRALIA HOLDINGS LTD earning 8.84 billion and EXXONMOBIL AUSTRALIA PTY LTD bringing in $9.94 billion in that same financial year also had no tax to pay.

News Corp’s APN NEWS & MEDIA (owner of most of the regional newspapers in Northern NSW ) with a taxable income of $21.29 million in 2013-14 also paid no tax.

They are among the hundreds of Australian and foreign-owned companies with incomes of over $100 million a year which the Australian Tax Office (ATO) lists as paying no tax.

ATO Corporate Tax Transparency - 2013-14 Report of Entity Tax Information

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Counting the coins as we wait for the 45th Parliament to commence

Before Malcolm Turnbull (as prime minister of a government in the third and final year of its first term in office) called a double dissolution election, the last Dept. of Finance Australian Government General Government Sector Monthly Financial Statement due was for May 2016 and, this revealed an underlying cash balance for the 2015-16 financial year to 31 May 2016 which was in deficit to the tune of $34,860 million.

total government revenue - $360,209 million of which $340,866 million was taxation revenue
total expenses - $388,061 million leaving a shortfall of $27,852 million
public debt interest - $14,101 million
net government debt - $284,657 million.

The June figures are yet to be published and it will be a case of track the Dept. of Finance website for the next three years as the Liberal-Nationals Coalition fails yet again to reign in its own discretionary spending.

Meanwhile Prime Minister-elect Turnbull - in an election so close that by 18 July 2016 only 13 of 150 House of Representatives seats have been officially declared - held an evening of champagne and canapés with a who’s who of Liberal and National MPs and senators at The Lodge in Canberra on 17 July.

The food included Pialligo ­Estate’ smoked salmon on rye toasties with horseradish cream, Moroccan lamb rissoles with harissa yoghurt, vegetable samosa with mint relish, roast beef en croute with stilton cream and tomato chutney, Vietnamese prawns with chilli jam and chicken satays.

I sincerely hope that Mr. Turnbull personally paid for use of The Lodge that night and for all catering and security at this event, as he didn’t become the official tenant again until after the Governor-General swore him in on 19 July 2016.

Mr. Turnbull's reportedly in excess of $1 million donation to the Liberal election campaign may possibly have brought him government but it could never buy the allocation of taxpayer funds for his private victory party.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Statistics that Team Turnbull hope voters won't notice

The Guardian, 4 June 2016:

Australian Bureau of Statistics data released over the past few days shed a stark light on private sector business investment and company profit trends over the past few years. It shows that rather than being anti-business, investment and profits boomed under Labor, and rather than being pro-business, they have collapsed under the Coalition.
Here are the facts.
In the two and a half years since the 2013 election, company profits have fallen 11% to their lowest level since 2010. This has occurred with the global economy registering decent growth and interest rates at record lows. In the six years of Labor government to 2013, company profits rose 28% despite the global financial crisis which plunged the world economy into a deep recession.
On business investment, the credentials of both sides of politics are even more extreme. Since the September 2013 election, private sector capital expenditure has fallen a thumping 26% and the outlook for the next year is for a further fall of between 5% and 10%. The fall in business investment is set to be more severe than during the early 1990s recession.
Under the previous Labor government, business investment rose a robust 67% to reach a record high proportion of GDP. It seems the policy settings which included the carbon price and mining tax did nothing to discourage the private sector from going out and investing.
Labor being anti-business with its emphasis on better health and education, and the Coalition being pro-business with its planned tax cuts.

Don’t believe the journalist? Still convinced only conservatives understand business? Then check his facts at 5676.0 - Business Indicators, Australia, Mar 2016 – data from 1994 to 2016.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016; debt, credit and GDP

So how is Australia’s economy faring under the Abbott-Turnbull Government in the lead-up to the 3 May 2016 federal budget and the following general election?

The underlying cash balance for the 2015-16 financial year to 29 February 2016 was a deficit of $38,719 million.1
The fiscal balance for the 2015-16 financial year to 29 February 2016 was a deficit of $35,292 million…..

Total revenue was $1,223 million lower than the MYEFO profile, primarily due to lower than expected taxation revenue and dividend income.
Total expenses were $2,831 million lower than the MYEFO profile, primarily due to lower than expected supply of goods and services, wages and salaries and grants expenses…..

Net worth is negative $352,423 million;
Net debt is $287,920 million; and
Net financial liabilities are $516,561 million.

Financial Review, 28 March 2016:

Australia is one of seven countries that Forbes magazine says is the "most likely to suffer a debt crisis" within the next three years. 

China, whose economy has faltered in the past two years, comes No. 1 on the list of seven, but Australia is No. 2. Sweden, Hong Kong, South Korea, Canada and Norway complete the list of infamy.

Using data for both private and public debt compiled by Switzerland-based Bank of International Settlements, the magazine looks at the rate of growth of credit compared with gross domestic product, paying particular attention to when credit growth begins to fall……

"The bottom line is that private sector expenditure in an economy can be measured as the sum of GDP plus the change in credit, and crises occur when (a) the ratio of private debt to GDP is large; (b) growing quickly compared to GDP," the magazine says.

When credit growth slips as servicing debt exhausts funds available to finance it, "new borrowers baulk at entry costs to house purchases, and numerous euphoric and Ponzi-based debt-financed schemes fail" leading to a change in available credit.

Australia, like the other six countries on the list, fill the two key prerequisites, a high level of private debt to GDP, and a rapid growth of that ratio in the last few years, the report says.
Economic crises often coincide with private debt exceeding 1.5 times GDP and the level of private debt grows by about 20 per cent over a five-year period.

The Guardian, 15 January 2016:

The results are in: Australian households have more debt compared to the size of the country’s economy than any other in the world.

Research by the Federal Reserve has shown the consolidated household debt to GDP ratio increased the most for Australia between 1960 and 2010 out of a select group of OECD nations. Australia’s household sector has accumulated massive unconsolidated debt compared with other countries. As of the third quarter of 2015, it now has the world’s most indebted household sector relative to GDP, according to LF Economics’ analysis of national statistics……

Australia has around $2 trillion in unconsolidated household debt relative to $1.6 trillion in GDP. Australia’s ratio is 123.08%.....

Australian property investors and homeowners are burdened with massive mortgages, especially new and marginal entrants. Unlike winning a gold medal at the Olympics, having the world’s most indebted household sector is not an achievement the nation should be proud of. This is where Australia’s real debt and deficit problem lies, not in the public sector.


1. Compare with the 2013-14 financial year to 30 September 2013 which covers the last eight months of the former federal Labor government:

The underlying cash balance for the 2013-14 financial year to 30 September 2013 was a deficit of $22,929 million.
The fiscal balance for the 2013-14 financial year to 30 September 2013 was a deficit of $19,659 million…..

Total revenue was $4,580 million lower than the Budget profile primarily due to lower than expected taxation revenue. This reflects lower than expected individuals and other withholding taxation, company tax, superannuation fund tax and resource rent taxes.
Total expenses were $4,636 million lower than the Budget profile primarily due to lower than expected grants and subsidies, suppliers and personal benefits expenditure.  This is in part consistent with reduced expenditure during the election caretaker period and reflecting timing differences, particularly for grants and subsidies…...

The net worth of the General Government sector is a negative net asset position of $220,670 million at 30 September 2013.
The net debt of the General Government sector is $174,557 million at 30 September 2013.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A Trans Pacific Partnership negotiated for Australia by the Coalition Government? Well, what did you expect!

It seems that the Australian Liberal-Nationals Federal Government laboured to bring forth a puny bundle of little joy.....

World Bank, Global Economic Prospects, January 2016:

On October 4, 2015, 12 Pacific Rim countries concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest, most diverse and potentially most comprehensive regional trade agreement yet. The 12 member countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 January 2016:

Australia stands to gain almost nothing from the mega trade deal sealed with 11 other nations including United States, Japan, and Singapore, the first comprehensive economic analysis finds.

Prepared by staff from the World Bank, the study says the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership would boost Australia's economy by just 0.7 per cent by the year 2030.

The annual boost to growth would be less than one half of one 10th of 1 per cent….

Since sealing the deal in October the Australian government has been reluctant to commission an economic analysis of its effects, turning down an offer from the Productivity Commission.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the deal as a "gigantic foundation stone", saying it would deliver "more jobs, absolutely".

It opens up trade between members but makes trade more difficult with non-members through a process known as "cumulative rules of origin" where members lose privileges if they source inputs from countries outside the TPP.

The Productivity Commission has been strongly critical of the provisions saying that they turn so-called free trade agreements into "preferential" agreements.

The Partnership also requires members to sign up to tough intellectual property provisions and to submit to investor-state dispute settlement procedures administered by outside tribunals.

World Trade Online says the negotiating parties are planning to sign the agreement in New Zealand on February 4. It says Chile has confirmed the date and some trade ministers have already made arrangements to travel to Auckland, but it says New Zealand has yet to issue formal invitations.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

As we approach the Abbott Government's second set of Budget Papers due in May 2015 - a timely reminder of how far we are going backwards

Sky News on 3 April 2015 telling Australia what social media commentators have known since December 2013:

In the year ended 30 June 2013 the then Labor Federal Government reported total revenue of $338.7 billion, total expenses of $381.4 billion (est. 25.1% of GDP) and a fiscal balance deficit of $28 billion. Net government debt and net interest payments on that debt stood at stood at 10 and 0.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) respectively.

The Abbott Coalition Government was sworn in on 18 September 2013.

In the month Tony Abbott took hold of the reins of government the Department of Finance listed Australia’s net debt at $174.5 billion and an underlying cash balance (deficit) of $22.9 billion projected to fall to $18 billion by 30 June 2014.

The Abbott Government reported total revenue of $374.6 billion, total expenses of $415.2 billion (est. 26.2% of GDP) and a fiscal balance deficit for the year ended 30 June 2014 of $42.2 billion. At that time net government debt stood at 12.5 per cent of GDP and net interest payments at 0.6 per cent.

In February 2015 and just on halfway through the Abbott Government’s term in office, the Department of Finance listed net debt at $254.9 billion and an underlying cash balance (deficit) of $40.4 billion projected to fall to $40.3 billion by 30 June 2015. At which time net government debt is expected to be 13.9 per cent of GDP and net interest payments at 0.7 per cent of GDP.

So why did budget deficit and public debt increase so dramatically in those first nine months and why is it barely decreasing to date?

Well, there have been signposts along the way and the most obvious place to start is with the borrowing spree that Treasurer Joe Hockey went on almost from Day One of the Abbott Government.

By 4 December 2013 (after less than 3 months in office) Abbott Government borrowings were averaging in excess of $203 million a day. At 30 June 2014 borrowings stood in excess of $351 billion and the 2014-15 budget papers predicted that borrowings will be 23.3% of GDP by 30 June 2015.

Then there was the $8.8 billion grant to the Reserve Bank in October 2013 and the loss of est. $2.9 billion over the 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years due to the repeal of the Mineral Resources Rent Tax.

Add to this the cost of The War On Terror conducted Abbott-style, which is conservatively estimated to cost $400 million in this year alone for troops deployed in the Syria region, plus the $5.3 million a month cost of an ongoing and inevitably fruitless search for a long gone commercial aircraft.

Throw in the approximately $4.7 million spent on the prime ministerial fleet of bomb-proof cars (which will be stationed around the country for Abbott's convenience) and the est. $250 million reportedly being spent on a new VIP aircraft sometime this year primarily for the prime minister's use .

Factor in the cost of servicing political egos found in the Dept. of Finance lists of parliamentary entitlements paid and the additional expense of VIP flights for political elites.

Add the est. $2.4 billion in tariff revenue foregone due to international trade agreements signed since 2013, along with the est. $86 million spent on two royal commissions into 'pink batts' and trade unions.

Pour in the mix that $400 million plus reportedly spent on hosting the G20 Summit in 2014.

Then toss in a reported $1 billion in public service redundancy payouts expected to flow from the Abbott Government's 'restructuring' of government departments and downsizing of the public service between September 2013 to 2016-17.

Insert the increasing costs of immigration detention and the in excess of $2 billion in contracts awarded in early 2104 for the management of two overseas detention centres. This equates to these contracts costing over $420 million annually. The National Commission of Audit's February-March 2014 report states the projected detention costs for all centres over the forward estimates currently exceeds $10 billion.

Top it all off with the unfair 2014-15 federal budget, which for all the ideologically driven pain it intended to inflict was expected to only save $27 billion over a four-year period and which has now been effectively gutted by the Abbott Government is a desperate grab for some degree of popularity.

Combine all of the above with Prime Minister Abbott's recent conversion to a 'debt is good' philosophy and it is easy to see why government finances are mired in red ink. With the non-Treasury document being circulated by the Treasurer, the March 2015 Intergenerational Report Australia in 2055, predicting net government debt could be as high as 60 per cent of GDP in forty years' time.

Now Tony Abbott has abandoned his 'debt and deficit disaster' rhetoric he has decided that the real budgetary crisis is actually federal government spending. Spending is probably the slowest growing line item in all the aforementioned figures, nevertheless Abbott was quoted in The Australian on 2 April 2015 as stating;even with the changes that we’ve already made, we’re still heading for government spending at around 31 per cent of GDP".

If all this sounds a mite confusing, remember one of the features of budget predictions and economic outlooks produced by the Abbott Government to date is that rarely do all of the documents contain the same basic assumptions or numbers. Since September 2013 creative writing not reliable economic policy appears to be the order of the day.