Monthly Archives: January 2019

Australian dollar buffered by short covering after RBA keeps rates at 2 per cent

The Australian dollar has gained almost 11 per cent in value against its US counterpart since the start of the year. Photo: Glenn Hunt Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of the Bank of Japan, faces a yen at the highest level in 17 months. Photo: Yuriko Nakao
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If the Reserve Bank of Australia thought some timid talk would be enough to send the Australian dollar lower, they were wrong.

The currency rallied before settling at around US76¢, the same level it commanded before the RBA policy decision. Foreign exchange experts attributed the immediate rise to a short squeeze where traders who were betting governor Glenn Stevens would jawbone more forcefully had to cover their positions.

The language of the policy statement was softer than anticipated given the rise in the Australian currency during the first quarter. It has advanced around 4.3 per cent against the United States dollar this year.

Ben Jarman, a senior economist at JPMorgan, said that the shift in the language of the statement was not enough to convey deep concern within the central bank.

“The fact they spoke about the Aussie dollar complicating the adjustment in the economy tells us it’s not one way traffic,” Mr Jarman said, highlighting the rise in commodity prices and the stability in economic data.

“That tells us the RBA would like the Aussie lower,” but it is not persistently high enough to demand a policy response yet.

Mr Stevens, in his April statement on Tuesday, said: “under present circumstances, an appreciating exchange rate could complicate the adjustment under way in the economy”.

That has evolved from: “the exchange rate has been adjusting to the evolving economic outlook” in the March statement.

There is no apparent change in the RBA’s policy bias, which is that low levels of inflation provide “scope” for interest rate cuts if needed. The Australian cash rate is at a record low 2 per cent.Trade-off needs to be convincing

“They’ve been telling us for a while that rate cuts are a possibility,” Mr Jarman said. “It’s been a while now where they’ve shown you even though they can move, they’re not necessarily inclined to.”

As the rotation away from mining-led investment plays out, the strategist pointed to previous comments by Mr Stevens that suggested the trade-off in lowering rates had to be convincing.

“There’s maybe an element of wanting to not use your remaining ammunition unless it’s necessary,” Mr Jarman said.

“[The governor] said before they would lower rates if they thought that was helpful but they don’t view that trade-off as being worth it. To do that just to juice up inflation a bit in the near term might not be the best policy settings.”

Over three days, the Australian currency has peaked at US77.5¢ and traded as low as US75.70¢. It was at US75.96¢ late on Tuesday which also saw India’s central bank cut rates by one-quarter of a percentage point.

Meanwhile, optimism around the yen was supported by comments from Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda around the potential for expanding monetary stimulus. The yen is at the highest level in 17 months against the greenback, up 8.05 per cent in 2016. The US dollar is buying ¥110.64.

This has been exacerbated by a more dovish Federal Reserve which in the eyes of the futures market will not raise rates this year, narrowing interest in the US dollar.

“The Fed have a lot of flexibility,” Mr Jarman said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Government to balance ‘constrained fiscal circumstances’ with TV licence fees

Licence fees for broadcasters are being looked at in the context of the Federal budget, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield says. Photo: Jessica HromasCommunications Minister Mitch Fifield has stressed that the government is in “constrained fiscal circumstances”, further decreasing the likelihood of a large cut to television licence fees to 1 per cent of broadcasters’ revenue, from 4.5 per cent.
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Senator Fifield would not comment on budget speculation. However, he conceded that TV and radio licence fees were antiquated.

“We’ve made clear that we would be examining the issue of licence fees in the context of the budget. We’ve undertaken to do that,” Senator Fifield said.

“I recognise that licence fees were conceived in the late 1950s, in a time when radio and TV were really the only electronic media options, and that there’s a great deal of competition now.”

The free-to-air television industry has been lobbying the government to abolish its $173 million a year licence fees, or at least cut them to 1 per cent of revenue so they are more closely aligned with international counterparts.

However, with the Turnbull government due to deliver its first budget in May before an election, budget repair might take priority over the wishes of the broadcast industry.

“We are in constrained fiscal circumstances,” Senator Fifield said. “I can’t give an indication of what will happen or comment on budget speculation.”

Sources said no final decision had been made and that the budget process could always be subject to last-minute changes.

Senator Fifield has said previously he had “a lot of sympathy” for the networks’ case for further cuts.

Credit Suisse analyst Fraser McLeish is predicting a more modest reduction in licence fees, where they could fall to 2.5 per cent over the next few years.

In 2013 the Gillard government slashed the fees from 9 per cent to 4.5 per cent of broadcasters’ revenue.

Television broadcasters are facing a tough advertising market, underlined on Tuesday when Nine Entertainment said its third-quarter TV revenue slumped 11 per cent from the year-earlier period.

Senator Fifield has proposed the removal of the reach rule, preventing networks from broadcasting to more than 75 per cent of the population, and the two-out-of-three rule, preventing media companies from owning a TV network, radio station and newspaper in the same market.

Asked whether the proposed changes to media ownership laws would be shelved until after an election, the timing of which remains up in the air, with a double dissolution still an option for the Turnbull government, Mr Fifield said he was working “one day at a time”.

“I don’t know when the election will be, so as both Minister for Communications and the manager of government business in the Senate in a legislative sense, I take things one day at a time and I’m still working to progress media reform through the Parliament.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Rio Olympic Games 2016: How Australian swimming started to turn the tide after London

Laughing all the way to Rio: Cate and Bronte Campbell. Photo: Brendan Esposito “We’re very confident and comfortable with our athletes speaking, having opinions.”: Mark Anderson. Photo: James Alcock
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Almost four years after the corrosive disappointment in the London Olympic pool, then the sport-wide meltdown that followed in its wake, Swimming Australia is preparing to rack them up all over again.

This week in Adelaide, Australia’s prospective Olympians will round out months of preparations in the selection trials that they hope will punch their ticket to Rio. Everyone wants their chance to be fitted for a natty new team blazer.

Mark Anderson, the sport’s chief executive since 2013, says FIFO fans whose last interaction with swimming was a group of embarrassed lads bumbling apologies about Stilnox and door-knocks will be pleasantly surprised by the turnaround.

“There’s a real energy and momentum that has built across the whole (Olympic) cycle. You can feel it now. We’re going in expecting some really positive results for individuals as well as times they might record,” Anderson told Fairfax Media.

“We’re going in with a view that we’ve made great progress over the Olympic cycle. For many Australians, this will be one of the first opportunities to see some of these athletes and get to know them and get behind them. We can demonstrate what has been occurring within the sport.”

On the face of things, Australian swimming looks in fine shape ahead of Rio, where the only gold medal was returned by the women’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay team. They are unbackable favourites again, while Cate and Bronte Campbell, Emily Seebohm, Mitch Larkin and Cameron McEvoy are all leading contenders in their events.

But rarely do things flow without disruption ahead of an Olympics. Ever since Ian Thorpe tumbled into the pool like a felled oak in 2004, swimmers have approached the trials with equal parts anticipation and trepidation. Now there is some wiggle room, with SA able to action a clause that provides executive selection powers on account of ‘extenuating circumstances’.

Anderson said it was a small change to a long-existing policy and would only be used in the most extreme scenarios. Even then, it would have to progress right through the organisation and to the top levels of the Australian Olympic Committee before being authorised.

“In reality it’s a fairly minor change. And that clause has existed for many, many years. What we’ve done is make that more explicit. We would only use it in extraordinary circumstances. It allows us to have that discussion,” he said.

“There is a clear process that unfolds, which involves escalation right through the organisation, then through to the AOC. There is a clear and thorough process if that was needed to be used.”

Virtually everyone within SA has done their best to sell the message that the camp could scarcely be happier heading towards Rio under the guidance of head coach Jaco Verhaeren. Compared to the post-London madness, it has been relatively plain sailing, yet Anderson has been called upon to douse some spot fires.

He denies that Australian swimmers are being gagged ahead of the Games, following complaints from Gold Coast based swimmers Thomas Fraser-Holmes and Grant Hackett about Chinese athletes, a number of whom had been previously caught doping, sharing Swimming Australia facilities.

A leaked email to athletes from head office suggested it better to: “Speak only about yourself; about your own performances and your own journey and not about any other issues surrounding the sport.” Anderson said that didn’t amount to a media ban and continued to encourage swimmers to have open opinions.

“We’re very confident and comfortable with our athletes speaking, having opinions and voicing those opinions. That is something we encourage our athletes to do. Again, this policy has existed for many years. What we believe we’ve done well over this cycle is communication across all channels. That’s been really good. There’s a high level of trust.”

If there is so much trust, why the leak? “That’s a fair question. We do have close relationships with all of the team. We’re genuinely sure that confidence and trusts exists. For me, it’s a non-issue. Every behaviour and everything we’ve seen from our athletes and coaches is encouraging. But it is important that as we go into Rio we continue to do what has built a very strong culture within our sport.”

Anderson also said SA was keenly aware of every international swimmer training in affiliated pools and that they were subject to ASADA testing like any Australian athlete, even if Hackett had contended they are tested less often.

“We’ve got some strong controls over that and that process has worked well across the three-and-a-half years. If other international athletes come in and are fundamentally renting pool space off private providers, we don’t have a lot of control over that.

“What we do, though, is make sure we are aware of international athletes when they are training here and check in with ASADA to make sure they have visibility. They are therefore open to the same testing regimes as our athletes are.”

Like athletics beforehand, swimming has been rocked by suggestions of systemic doping by Russia, with an investigation by English newspaper The Times suggesting widespread use of PEDs and little or no punishment for positive tests.

Anderson has become well aware of the scenario but said SA had confidence in FINA to run as clean an Olympics as possible. Australian has also been working closely with USA Swimming to try and ensure best practices are followed in by counties, as well as throughout the sport.

“We’ve put in a lot of effort over the past 18 months and that’s included president John Bertrand and myself having discussions FINA about testing regimes. We had our questions answered to ensure there is strength in that system,” Anderson said.

“We’re trying to ensure we are protecting our athletes but also the integrity of the system to make sure the Olympics is as clean as possible.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Federal budget 2016: ABC prepares for funding cut, journalist job losses

The additional funding helped support the creation of the Killing Season, a Sarah Ferguson documentary examining Labor’s time in power under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Photo: ABC TVThe ABC is bracing for a $20 million a year budget cut the broadcaster says would put the jobs of investigative journalists and reporters in regional areas at risk.
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Funding, equivalent to around 10 per cent of the ABC’s news budget, will expire this year unless the Turnbull government provides extra money in the May budget as part of the ABC’s triennial funding deal.

The previous Labor government gave the public broadcaster $89.4 million over four years for new reporting initiatives and upgrades to its digital services in its last budget. The money was spent on new investigative journalism positions, a fact check unit, suburban newsrooms and extra money for documentaries.

“The $20m funding the news division receives is a significant amount of its annual budget,” the broadcaster said in documents lodged with the Senate.

“If the monies are not renewed as part of ABC’s triennial funding, it represents a significant challenge to the division.

“ABC News management is currently scoping contingencies in the event of further funding shortfalls.”

The ABC continued: “If the tied funding is not renewed, it will inevitably result in cuts to programming, content and personnel.”

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has been tight-lipped about whether there will be extra money for the ABC in the May budget. But he said last week: “I can provide the assurance that the government will make sure that the ABC is well resourced to do the job it does.”

ABC sources say they are hopeful of some funding in the May budget for news services, but do not expect the full $20 million a year to be renewed.

In its written response to the Senate, the ABC said the funding supports 106 full-time positions, with more than half located outside Sydney and Melbourne. This includes new positions for journalists and video crews in Bunbury, Renmark, Newcastle, Wollongong, Broome, Alice Springs, Geelong, Ipswich and Gosford as well as a new ABC bureau in western Sydney.

It also funded a new National Reporting Team producing investigative and specialist reports across television, radio and online.

As well as the ABC Fact Check unit, the money was also used to make documentaries including The Killing Season, examining the Rudd-Gillard years, and a documentary on the history of the Nationals.

In one of his final interviews as ABC managing director, Mark Scott told the ABC’s Media Watch there would be “significant job losses” if the funding is not renewed.

Mr Scott has begun a month-long handover to his successor, former Google executive Michelle Guthrie.

The Abbott government cut the ABC’s funding by $250 million over five years in 2014.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Lindt cafe hostage Marcia Mikhael left frustrated by Tony Abbott

Marcia Mikhael enters the inquest into the deaths arising from the Lindt cafe siege on Tuesday. Photo: Nick MoirSiege hostage wanted to stab Monis in the neckTori Johnson’s triple zero callMonis agree to let Katrina Dawson leave’If you wait, someone is going to die’
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Lindt cafe hostage Marcia Mikhael has described her growing frustration at the failure to meet the demands of gunman Man Haron Monis, saying: “I didn’t understand why it was so difficult for the prime minister to get on the phone”.

Ms Mikhael, who was one of the few hostages still inside the Martin Place cafe when police eventually stormed the building at 2.14am, also recalled being carried over Monis’ body and “half of his head was blown out”.

Another hostage, barista Harriette Denny, has told an inquest into the siege that she asked a police officer soon after the 17-hour ordeal ended if all the hostages had got out alive.

“He said yes and I was really happy for about an hour before I found out,” Ms Denny said, breaking down in tears.

Her friend and cafe manager Tori Johnson was executed by Monis at about 2.13am on December 15, 2014. Barrister Katrina Dawson died after being injured by shrapnel from police bullets as they stormed the building to end the siege moments later.

Giving evidence on Tuesday, Ms Mikhael said she did not see and could not recall Monis executing Mr Johnson.

She said she heard Monis fire a shot at a group of escaping hostages and also heard him reload his shot gun. She and hostage Katrina Dawson lay on their stomachs and hid under tables and chairs and the next thing she remembered was “fireworks”.

Ms Mikhael, who at the time was working as a project manager for Westpac, said she saw “bright flashes exploding… it was like being inside a firework, loud noises, the smell of gun powder, it was the most horrible thing, just to be right in the middle of it.”

The project manager said she became angry and swore at the police negotiators she was speaking to by phone because she felt she wasn’t being treated like an intelligent woman who could help the situation.

Monis had demanded an Islamic State flag be brought to the cafe and a phone call with then-prime minister Tony Abbott live on radio.

“I couldn’t comprehend why it was so difficult for us to get a flag,” she told counsel assisting the inquest Jeremy Gormly SC.

“I didn’t understand why it was so difficult for the prime minister to get on the phone.”

Ms Mikhael said the police negotiator told her Mr Abbott was too busy to speak to Monis.

“I was told, ‘Sorry Marcia, the prime minister is a very busy man’.

“I’m sorry but you don’t tell someone who has a gun at their head that.

“I’m going to feel like I’m a piece of nothing and I’m going to die. Just pick up the phone!

“People didn’t think our lives were worth saving.”

Ms Mikhael told the inquest at the time she didn’t understand the “meaning of an ISIS flag” and that police feared Monis would use the flag in carrying out an “atrocity”.

But she said she was most frustrated at the failure of hostage negotiators to “give me more information to help others to understand what was going on… all I was given was not so intelligent conversation”.

Asked by counsel for Mr Johnson’s family, Gabrielle Bashir SC, what the negotiator told her about the demand for a flag, she said: “the reason was, ‘we’re working on it and as soon as I get permission from my supervisors you will get the flag’.”

But as evening fell, she realised the police would not negotiate with him and his demands were not going to be met. She believed Monis “had a plan to die”.

“I’m not a stupid person, he’s asked for a flag and a phone call and if it hasn’t been done it wasn’t going to happen. I was just waiting.”

She came to believe police would not act unless a hostage was killed or injured.

“They have not negotiated … they have left us here to die,” she said during one of the phone calls to a radio station, which was ultimately transferred to police.

Ms Denny echoed Ms Mikhael’s sentiments about Monis’ demands. “I didn’t understand why they don’t give him a flag – that would be one hostage out – I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t have Tony Abbott talk – that was five hostages out,” she said.

Ms Mikhael said Monis was paranoid and unpredictable but she didn’t think he would shoot any hostages unless he was provoked, so she tried to go along with his demands.

“If he wanted us to make a silly phone call or silly video, we would. If he felt betrayed by us… he would be capable of doing something.”

However, she came to the belief Monis did not have a bomb.

Earlier on Tuesday Ms Mikhael thanked the first police officer on the scene, Senior Constable Paul Withers, for helping to calm her down. Mr Withers made contact with Ms Mikhael by using hand gestures through the glass swing doors that lead to a foyer on Martin Place. He encouraged her to breathe and settle down and then she helped him ascertain how many gunmen were inside using her fingers.

“I don’t think I could have got through it if someone hadn’t calmed me down,” she said.

“I was hoping he was going to come back with lots and lots of police but it didn’t quite happen that way.”

Ms Mikhael said after police stormed the cafe she was picked up and carried by two tactical police officers.

“They had to step over Monis and half of his head was blown out,” she said.

The inquest before Coroner Michael Barnes continues.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.