G20 Brisbane 2014: World awaits Tony Abbott and Team Australia

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott shakes hands with China’s President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.At the beginning of this year, Tony Abbott was preaching hairy-chested government austerity at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Thanks to a Senate which, by majority, didn’t seem to share his view about the “debt and deficit disaster” left to him by Labor, and to declining iron ore prices, Abbott is operating on a budget with a bigger deficit, and greater debt, than projected by Labor, but he probably has a government doing better than it might have been.
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His Treasurer, Joe Hockey, is talking about being “very focused on maintaining economic momentum in the Christmas period and beyond” and is making something of a virtue of having no plans to raise further revenue or to impose further cuts on government spending.  For the moment at least, this is a government that is pump priming – which is to say spending – just to maintain the level of economic activity, with talk of the need for severe cuts to government expenditure, so as to liberate the potential of the private sector, put aside.

It’s not as if the economy is in deep trouble by international standards.  Annual growth seems to be about on target, and, perhaps in part because of the government’s frustrations in the Senate, the money being pumped into the economy has unemployment and interest rates at more or less satisfactory levels.

But there is a good deal of economic gloom not so evident at the beginning of the year. World economic conditions, which seemed on the improve, are now faltering, and unpredictable. The recovery that seemed evident in the United States seems to have stalled, and before delivering much of an improvement to employment, even the low-wage employment that is becoming more and more the norm there. Almost all of the economies of Europe, and all of the economies of our Asian trading partners, including China and Japan, have slowed or are going backwards.

The weakness around the world is reducing demand and prices for our raw materials, including iron ore. But it also bodes ill for business confidence and  investment, as well as for the government’s bottom lines.

All governments have less for investing in infrastructure, jobs, education and vocational training, and better health care. That’s quite apart from the reduced public spending imposed on particularly weak economies in austerity regimes that were conditions of rescuing governments from debt default.

The experience of the past six years has not yet justified the confidence of the cut-debt, deficit- and-public-spending school, that very tough doses of medicine kills the disease more quickly, and makes recovery quicker.  And, alas for those who hope that it will be proper recovery in the US that becomes the engine room of a fresh bout of growth – the American people have recently elected a congress devoted to reduced expenditure, and also in chronic opposition to whatever the President proposes.

Abbott and his ministers have invested considerable energy on bilateral negotiations designed to get more open markets with some of our trading partners, including China, Japan and Korea, but the benefits of such arrangements to us are unlikely to be obvious during the medium-term economic and political cycle, because trade volumes are likely to decline, even with greater access to markets. The most we can hope for in the short term, and even this is by no means certain,  is that our total export volumes, though lower, will be a higher proportion of the net imports of the countries  with which we have made such deals.

By no means does this undermine the general  desirability of seeking and achieving somewhat freer markets, but it does suggest that the government is not likely to see any immediate political or economic dividend.  Joe Hockey, on Adelaide radio on Tuesday, remarked that “I don’t think, from what I have been briefed, the free trade agreement with China, if it is going to be signed, is going to provide Australian businesses with massive opportunities in the second biggest economy in the world that we do not get today”.

He said that by way of partial distraction from the commonsense remark by Bill Heffernan that all of the benefits from a free trade agreement could be undermined by  movements in the Chinese-Australian exchange rate: the more probable given that China does not float its currency.

At this stage of the week, the government’s domestic propaganda focus is on constant repletion of the idea that Australia and the other OPEC economies  are the most dynamic in the world, and with the most economic potential.  America and China are anxious to maintain growth of APEC, and to reduce barriers to trade, and movements of labour, not only by bilateral agreements but with Trans-Pacific Partnership agreements. By week’s end, the action will have shifted to Brisbane, with Abbott hosting G20, again with a focus on kickstarting economies and getting serious growth in local economies and in world trade.  Around the table will be world leaders responsible, as Abbott said on Tuesday, for 85 per cent of world GDP, 75 per cent of world trade, and 60 per cent of the world’s population.

Abbott has high hopes. “There’ll be no hiding behind lofty words and motherhood statements   in Brisbane,” he said on Tuesday. “Each nation’s domestic growth strategy will have been peer-reviewed and then the strategies will be published for the world to see.

“These, together with the Brisbane Action Plan, will ensure that people back in each of the G20 nations will know, straight after the summit, exactly how their leaders propose to drive new economic growth and deliver new jobs. So there will be a domestic expectation upon leaders to deliver at home, and an expectation from fellow G20 leaders who have resolved to hold each other accountable.”

So there it is. Not a talkfest, but an opportunity for the top economies to show they can deliver.  The trouble is, of course, that each and every one of the 20 nations involved, including Australia, have been publishing peer-reviewed plans for getting their economies in order, and back into good growth, since forever.  But there is no sign that good intentions, or serious resolve, have made much difference. Even powerful authoritarian nations seem to have declining capacity to command their economies. And others have experimented with every known nostrum without much to show for it. Ask Japan, whose economy has been in the doldrums for more than a decade. Or China, which has little idea of which levers to pull at the moment, and no sure feel for when, where and how the landing will occur. Or the US, which has pumped billions into the nation’s arteries, yet can hardly detect a heartbeat.

It does not seem likely that Australia will be showing its leadership merely by telling the other nations to get the fundamentals right. One can, of course, continue to mouth slogans, for they are little more than that, about the key to recovery being the stimulation of sustainable private-sector led growth and employment, or respect for markets. Even China was saying this at APEC. It’s hard to imagine that the joint conference resolution, as likely as ever to be mostly pabulum, will be reciting from the Abbott mantra that “you can’t spend what you haven’t got; no country has ever taxed or subsidised its way to prosperity; and, you don’t address debt and deficit with yet more debt and deficit”.

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Kiwis will be on-song for final: Nightingale

Battered and bruised Kiwis winger Jason Nightingale at a media conference on Tuesday. Picture: GETTY IMAGESRUGBY LEAGUE
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Kiwis winger Jason Nightingale believes his team were on the “decline” heading into last year’s World Cup final before being ambushed by the Kangaroos as they look to overcome a mini-injury crises before the Four-Nations finals.

Australia played almost the perfect 80 minutes of football when it beat the Kiwis 34-2 to claim last year’s World Cup.

But Nightingale said his team was more confident to walk away as Four-Nation’s champions.

“We went in with a similar game against England [last year],” Nightingale said.

“It was a tough game against England. Our performances were starting to decline [at the World Cup]. In the semi final we didn’t play our best footy and in the final we were far from our best.

“We only beat England by a couple of points but we played really well. I see us improving. [The first game against Australia] really means nothing now. It wasn’t the final. This is a final. We can finish the tournament saying we beat the Australians once or we can finish it saying we won the Four Nations. There is a big difference between the two.”

The Kiwis have been rocked by injury woes after their brutal victory against England on Saturday.

In-form hooker Thomas Leuluai has been ruled out of the final with a shoulder injury, while Dean Whare (foot) has skipped training this week.

Tohu Harris (shoulder) is also in doubt with Gerard Beale and Bodene Thompson on standby for the injured duo.

Penrith utility Lewis Brown has been recalled to the interchange bench for Leuluai.

Warriors utility Leuluai started in New Zealand’s wins against Australia and England, but sustained a shoulder injury – as well as a badly gashed face – against England in Dunedin on the weekend.

Nightingale was also sporting battle wounds from the clash against England, with seven stitches needed to repair a cut forehead while both eyes remain bruised.

Nightingale said Leuluai’s injury would be a setback.

“He did a lot of great things for us.”

“For him not being able to back up is a shame. He is a great leader. Someone you get confidence out of,” Nightingale said.

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Pests under pressure at biosecurity forum

Key speaker: DAFWA acting executive director biosecurity and regulation, John Ruprecht, will be a key speaker at the 2014 State Biosecurity Forum.
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EARLY December will see the latest pest and disease issues come under scrutiny at the 2014 State Biosecurity Forum.

The forum, hosted by the Department of Agriculture and Food and the Western Australian Biosecurity Council, will feature biosecurity experts from throughout the primary industry sector.

Chief executive officer of the Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre, Andreas Glanznig, will tackle the probing topic of pest management and innovation in an age of smaller government and fewer land managers.

DAFWA principal research officer David Bowran will draw on his extensive knowledge and experience to discuss the impact of climate change on biosecurity.

An industry perspective on the biosecurity challenges facing the cattle industry will be provided by David Jarvie from Wellard Feeds, while Grain Producers Australia representative Barry Large will profile the grains industry’s issues.

Other speakers include Winthrop Professor Stephen D Hopper from the University of WA’s Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, who will discuss weeds at home: observations and theory from travels in the western Mediterranean and South Africa.

Assistant director forest and ecosystem management at the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife, Paul Brennan, will also give an insight into his agency’s position on pest, weed and disease management.

DAFWA acting executive director biosecurity and regulation, John Ruprecht, said the forum was an important opportunity for people involved or interested in biosecurity to share knowledge and experience.

“Biosecurity issues are constantly evolving and becoming more complex, as our world becomes a smaller place due to transport, trade and environmental change,” Mr Ruprecht said.

“It is important that we come together to address these issues, on which our $6 billion agriculture and food sector relies, as well as the many possible export opportunities before it.

“For more information or to register to attend the 2014 State Biosecurity Forum, on Thursday, December 4, contact DAFWA project officer Amanda Page on 9363 4035 or email [email protected] ,or visit agric.wa.gov.au and search for ‘state biosecurity forum’.

North Ballarat Rebels’ Hampden hopefuls put to testPhotos

North Ballarat Rebels’ Hampden hopefuls put to test | Photos Brad Lucas, 15, from Noorat, runs through the gates in the 20m sprint trial at last night’s Rebels’ pre-season testing session at Terang stadium. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE
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Locky Bone, 16 from Simpson, strains for effort in the 20m sprint trial. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

North Ballarat Rebels Under 16 and Under 18 hopefuls run through a warm up before undertaking fitness testing. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Charlie Darcy, 15, from Cobden, glides through the 20m sprint trial. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

North Ballarat Rebels’ Phil Partington talks to the new Under 16 and Under 18 hopefuls and their parents about the expectations and commitment for the upcoming season. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

North Ballarat Rebels Under 16 and Under 18 hopefuls run through a warm up before undertaking fitness testing. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

North Ballarat Rebels Under 16 and Under 18 hopefuls run through a warm up before undertaking fitness testing. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE


North Ballarat Rebels’ Phil Partington talks to the new Under 16 and Under 18 hopefuls and their parents about the expectations and commitment for the upcoming season. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

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Reeves ready for Corrimal Coal challenge

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Thecoaching appointment of Brendon Reeves at Corrimal comes with a stern warning.

The former Steelers and Manly fullback is well aware of the enormity of the challenge awaiting him, trying to turn the Cougars into a competitive force against Illawarra Coal League premiers Thirroul and powerhouse clubs Helensburgh, Wests and Collegians.

Reeves refuses to shy away from the task, he knows his brief as coach is to make the hard decisions.

“Let me be blunt, it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.

“You hear a lot of coaches come in with a plan over a few years, but the reality is, success isn’t going to happen overnight.

“People will need to be really patient, because this is a club which had zero wins last season.

“But the club has been open about what’s ahead and I believe I’m the right man for the job.”

Reeves is familiar with the rugby league landscape in the region, making his Steelers debut in 1996, before joining Manly in 1999, the year St George Illawarra started as a joint venture.

He played 144 games, 99 with the Sea Eagles – or Northern Eagles – before being forced into retirement in 2003 because of ongoing knee and back injuries.

His retirement paved the way for Brett Stewart to make his way into the NRL.

Reeves likened his appointment to Des Hasler’s arrival at Manly in 2004 when the Sea Eagles were wallowing near the foot of the NRL ladder.

By 2005, Hasler took the club to the finals, before making the grand final in 2007 and winning their first title since 1996 with the 40-nil demolition of Melbourne in 2008.

“I’ve been in situations where teams have been down the bottom for a couple of years, like it was when I finished at Manly,” he said.

“But look at what Des Hasler did when he came in there, it took him a couple of years, but the club has been a force ever since.”

Reeves almost tasted premiership success in the Illawarra competition when coaching Wests in 2005.

The Red Devils were edged out 16-14 in the grand final by Collegians, with Reeves at the helm.

After a stint in Group Six, as well as coaching NSW Schoolboys and other representative teams, Reeves is now charged with delivering Corrimal’s first premiership since 1974.

However, he is adamant he won’t have to tear the club apart to be a September force.

“We’ll look at strengthening a few areas. There’s already been some discussion to identify some weak areas with some signings, but the club already has plenty to work with.

“The first thing for me is to make sure everyone at the club is prepared to work hard and in the same direction and lure a few Corrimal guys back to playing.

“It will also be a matter of working out the situation and what players might be available from the [NSW Cup Illawarra] Cutters next year.”

A Camden school teacher, 38-year-old Reeves lives in the Illawarra and has thrown the doors open for former greats Luke Patten and Ben Hornby to have some involvement with the club.

“All of those local juniors are always welcome. We’d welcome them down at Ziems Park any time.”

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