The Australian government is preparing to launch an independent inquiry into the media sector that threatens to escalate simmering hostilities between Julia Gillard’s Labor administration and Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspaper operations, the FT reports. The prospect of an inquiry, first raised at the height of the UK phone hacking scandal in July, gained fresh momentum last month after Ms Gillard threatened to sue The Australian newspaper, the flagship title of Mr Murdoch’s News Limited unit, over an article that attempted to implicate her in a “major union fraud” before she entered parliament. The newspaper later retracted the article and apologised to Ms Gillard for making false accusations. Read more
The slender hold on power of Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister, is being threatened by a deepening scandal consuming one of her MPs accused of making credit card payments to an escort agency, the FT reports. Ms Gillard’s Labor party has a one-seat majority in parliament and should the MP, Craig Thomson, be forced to resign the party would have to fight a by-election that national opinion polls suggest it would lose. The political upheaval comes at a critical time for the government which is battling to have its carbon and mining taxes – both of which are unpopular with business – passed into law. Tony Abbott, opposition leader, has vowed to abandon both taxes if he takes power. Mr Thomson admitted earlier this month that payments were made from his union credit card to an escort agency in Sydney at a time when he was head of the Health Services Union. Read more
Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister, took aim at Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday, saying his Australian subsidiary must answer “hard questions” in light of the UK phone hacking scandal. Amid calls for an inquiry into Australia’s media industry, Ms Gillard warned News Corp’s local subsidiary, News Limited, that it had a responsibility to be transparent, writes the FT. “When there has been a major discussion overseas, when people have seen telephones hacked into, when people have seen individuals grieving … then I do think that causes us to ask some questions here in our country,’ she said. Read more
Julia Gillard swept into the heartland of Australia’s coal industry in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney on Tuesday intent on heading off opposition to her government’s unpopular carbon tax proposals, reports the FT. In hard hat and orange fluorescent coat, Australia’s prime minister listened patiently to dozens of Centennial Coal miners who echoed widespread community fears that her carbon tax would destroy jobs, damage the nation’s lucrative mining and energy industries and push up living costs. A little over a week after launching plans for a A$23 (US$24) tax for each tonne of carbon emitted by the country’s 500 biggest polluters, effective from July 2012, Ms Gillard is trying to convince a sceptical electorate of the merits of a reform that will place Australia nearer to the front of global action on climate change. Read more
Who would have guessed. The colour smokers find most repulsive is olive green.
Well, that’s the finding of researchers working for the Australian government which on Wednesday launched a bill aimed at banning any form of branding on cigarette packs. Read more
Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister, has announced a one-off tax levy, a raft of spending cuts and deferred spending on infrastructure projects to meet the estimated A$5.6bn ($5.6bn) cost from the nation’s flood crisis, the FT reports. The floods have been described as the worst natural disaster in Australia’s history and have hit the north eastern state of Queensland, one of the nation’s two mining boom states, particularly hard. The government said the massive rebuilding programme would cover road, rail and port facilities. It said it will boost its skilled migrant workforce intake and provide additional incentives to the unemployed to help with the recovery efforts. Ms Gillard defied those who said the government should take on additional debt by saying the country was in a strong position to pay for the rebuilding as the economy continued to grow. Read more
Australia’s 17-day political deadlock ended on Tuesday with Julia Gillard’s centre-left Labor government narrowly securing a second term, reports the FT. After last month’s election delivered a hung parliament, Gillard, prime minister for less than three months, cut a deal with independent and Greens MPs to secure 76 of the 150-seat lower house, compared to 74 for Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition. But, asks FT Alphaville, how long can the minority government last? Meanwhile, reports Bloomberg, the Australian dollar traded near four-week highs on expectations of strong jobs data due on Thursday. Read more
Australia’s 17-day political deadlock has ended with Julia Gillard’s centre-left Labor government securing a second term after winning support from two independent parliamentarians, reports the FT. An election last month delivered Australia’s first hung parliament in decades, forcing Ms Gillard, prime minister for less than three months, to rely on independent and Greens MPs to form a minority government. She clung to power after securing 76 of the 150-seat lower house, compared to the 74 garnered by Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition. Read more
The uglier – and in some cases, the more ridiculous – a country’s politics become, the more serious become some of the issues.
At least, that would seem to be the lessons from Australia and also Japan, in light of the political paralysis that has been gripping both countries of late while urgent reforms are left unaddressed. Read more
Australia’s leaders on Monday gathered to meet independent MPs for talks after the weekend election delivered the country’s first hung parliament in 70 years, the FT reports. Julia Gillard’s Labor government appeared marginally ahead of Tony Abbott’s opposition conservative coalition but the final outcome, which could take more than a week to determine, hinges on a handful of seats and talks with three independent MPs. The winners so far, says FT Alphaville, include resources stocks which have risen on expectations of an end to the proposed mining tax. The Australian dollar on Tuesday weakened further to 0.8884 US cents. Read more
In every debacle, financial or political, there are those who come out smiling.
In the case of Australia’s weekend election shambles, resources stocks – big and small – are zooming, and punters who shorted the Aussie dollar are undoubtedly laughing in glee. Read more
Australia’s dollar fell and mining stocks rose after the country’s weekend election resulted in the first hung parliament in 70 years, reports Bloomberg. Projections showed the Labor party, led by prime minister Julia Gillard, winning 72 seats in parlaiment’s 150-seat lower house with Tony Abbott’s conservative coalition expected to hold 73 seats, the FT reported. The final outcome is subject to pending counts and postal votes but Gillard is already set to form a minority-led government. Mining stocks rose on Monday amid optimism the election will result in abolition or dilution of the proposed mining tax. Read more
Kevin Rudd has publicly given his backing to Julia Gillard’s campaign in the run-up to the August 21 election in a move that will go some way towards healing the rift that has divided Australia’s ruling Labor party since he was ousted as prime minister in June, reports the FT. Her election campaign has been rocked in recent weeks by a series of damaging leaks, widely believed to have originated from Mr Rudd or those close to him, questioning her support for higher pension payments and paid parental leave. Read more
How relatively little it takes to please miners these days.
A 30 per cent tax on so-called super profits instead of a 40 per cent rate — when there was no suggestion of any ‘super profits’ tax just six months ago. Read more
Julia Gillard, Australia’s new prime minister, has caved in to mining industry demands and watered down the controversial resource super profits tax as she prepares for a national election as early as August, reports the FT. The Gillard government announced key concessions to the mining industry on Friday, ending a two-month fight that damaged her predecessor Kevin Rudd and the Labor party’s re-election chances. Iron ore and coal will now be subject to the new tax at a rate of 30% instead of the originally proposed 40%. The tax will kick in on profits that exceed an approximate 12% rate of return, rather than 6% before. The Australian dollar rose as much as 0.9% against its US counterpart to $0.8511 on the news. Read more
Julia Gillard, Australia’s newly crowned prime minister, has declared a truce with the country’s powerful mining industry over a controversial new resources tax, saying she would “throw the doors open” to the sector to discuss the levy, the FT says. Ms Gillard made no promises about changes to the tax but her promise to open negotiations prompted positive statements from the two giants of the industry in Australia, BHP Billiton andRio Tinto. Read more
Australia’s proposed mining super-tax — unlike the prime minister who launched it — appears to be sticking round. Kevin Rudd’s successor Julia Gillard, is cut from the same Australian Labor Party cloth, which doesn’t bode well for BHP Billiton, Xstrata and Rio Tinto, who all have heavy (and heavily taxable) Australian mining exposure, FT Alphaville says. Read more