Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Rudd sends Australian jobs to conservative-led Canada

AUSTRALIA'S proposed new tax on its resources industry could be a huge competitive advantage for Canada, according to that country's finance minister, Jim Flaherty.

Speaking to the media ahead of a speech to a public-policy forum on pension reform, Mr Flaherty said overnight that the continued decline in corporate taxes in Canada was a “great attraction for investment”.

Mr Flaherty said he still needed to closely review the tax proposed by Australia's government to fully understand how it worked. Like Australia, Canada has a very large and active resource industry.

Kevin Rudd’s Labor government announced plans to make mining giants liable for a tax on profits made from the exploitation of non-renewable resources. The extra revenue will be used to lower other corporate taxes.

Mr Flaherty noted that Canada had been reducing its corporate tax rate, and corporations in most of Canada would face a combined 25 per cent tax rate by 2012.

He said the “easiest thing” for a politician to do is raise taxes, which immediately increases revenues, but limits growth.


Army of let-down voters set to desert ALP

Will Rudd be a new Whitlam -- remembered only for his follies and incompetence?

IN Kevin Grove, Caboolture, they're not happy, Prime Minister. Take Alan Abbott. The 52-year-old ute-driving handyman enjoys his beer and cigarettes and is deeply unimpressed the cost of both have gone up since he changed his vote in 2007 and helped elect the Rudd government.

The list doesn't end there. Mr Abbott and his wife, Sandra, who works in a petrol station, are uneasy about Labor's handling of border protection. They think Australia is already big enough and yesterday's 0.25 percentage point interest rate hike added to their concern about being priced out of Queensland's southeast.

Next time round, they will both be voting for the Liberals and their namesake, Tony Abbott. "You know, before the last election I thought Rudd was a fair dinkum sort of bloke," Alan Abbott said yesterday. "But there's something about him now that I don't really trust."

The couple are part of a growing army of the disillusioned and discontented with Mr Rudd, brought out in yesterday's horror Newspoll in The Australian for the Prime Minister and his government.

Concerns are also growing in the government, with worried Labor MPs planning to ask Mr Rudd to embrace a carbon tax as Labor's climate change policy, to fill the vacuum left by his contentious shelving of the emissions trading scheme.

After being bombarded by outraged younger voters in their electorates, five Labor MPs have told The Australian the government's current position on climate change is untenable and unsellable to the electorate.

The Abbotts' home in Kevin Grove is in the key electorate of Longman, north of Brisbane, which shifted to Labor in 2007 and will be in the Opposition Leader's sights when Mr Rudd calls the election later this year. Mr Rudd was campaigning only a street away on Monday, as he hit the hustings to sell the Henry tax review.

Alan Abbott enjoys a beer and a smoke - "you've got to have some vices, haven't you" - and the cost of both has gone up under the Rudd government. "I'm paying about $25 a week more for my cigarettes now than before," he said.

Mr Abbott doubts whether he will be around to vote again in Longman. "We're moving back to the Kerang district in Victoria and we can buy a house there with no debt," Mr Abbott said.

"And one of the reasons we're doing that is we don't want to get caught up again with a mortgage when it looks as though interest rates are going to keep going up and up.

"And with this Henry report, I don't mind the mining companies paying more tax - most of them are overseas-owned - but what about the other multinationals? "If you looked at all the other people who don't pay all their tax - the lawyers, the company directors - he was going to to do something about that as well, and that's another area where nothing happened."

But he also feels that Rudd wasn't upfront enough with his views on immigration and population, and that Australia is getting too many people.

Both the Abbotts are swinging voters who have no qualms about changing their vote between elections. "I didn't mind a lot of what John Howard did, but Work Choices was a big reason why I voted against him last time. Nothing happened to me, but I heard so many stories from people I knew about it."

In a deadly assessment, he feels that Howard had a core competence, while the current government doesn't. He said that around Caboolture and Morayfield, there was early talk that the Rudd government's roofing insulation scheme was a rort [racket], while the BER scheme to assist schools also seems to have been rorted.


Abbott: public cooling on immigration

THE high numbers of asylum seekers reaching Australia by boat is eroding public support for immigration, says the federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.

"Any perception that the Government has outsourced even a component of migrant selection to people smugglers threatens Australians' sometimes fragile support for immigration," Mr Abbott said in a speech to the Menzies Research Centre in Melbourne. "The danger, when the immigration program is under question, is that millions of Australians feel less secure in their own country."

This was a particular risk because migrants and their children comprised 40 per cent of the population, he said.

Citing research by an ANU academic, Katharine Betts, that found Australians were more comfortable with migration when tough political rhetoric created an impression it was under control, Mr Abbott said the former government had more than doubled the migration intake.

"Rebuilding majority support for Australia's immigration program was one of John Howard's important but undervalued achievements," he said.

However, the Refugee Council of Australia said any recent concerns over immigration had been stoked by fear-mongering, not by the 5400 people who had sailed to Australia under the Rudd government.

The 50th boat to be intercepted this year was detected on Monday night, west of Ashmore Island.

Public attention continued to rest on the minority of asylum seekers who arrived by boat, when far larger numbers flew, said a spokeswoman for the council, Kate Gauthier. "If the public knew the truth about the numbers and the horrible situations they were fleeing, Australians would react with open arms and compassion."

On April 9 the government froze all processing of Sri Lankan and Afghan refugee claims in toughened measures to deter future boat ventures. Yesterday Mr Abbott said this change had not worked.

He reiterated a Coalition plan for the Productivity Commission to do an annual, independent review of Australia's infrastructure needs, considering short-, medium- and long-term population projections. "This should help to sustain public support for a significant immigration program."

However, a similar policy already exists. In February the government employed independent experts to advise on optimum levels of net overseas migration and the ability of infrastructure to cope. Professor Sue Richardson of Flinders University was commissioned to examine the relationships between migration and the built and natural environments.

Another professor, Peter McDonald of ANU, was commissioned to advise on net overseas migration factoring in the needs of the labour market.

Similarly, the federal government has also already announced changes to the skilled migration program to better meet Australia's long-term "economic and demographic goals".

Yesterday the Opposition spokesman on immigration, Scott Morrison, joined his leader in criticising the processing costs of asylum seekers on Christmas Island.

Each asylum seeker cost taxpayers almost $82,000, Mr Morrison said. "We are barely four months into 2010 and already Kevin Rudd has racked up a half-century of boats, with more than 2400 people on board."

The Minister for Population, Tony Burke, was travelling and unavailable for comment.


The Rudd baby scheme

The conservatives brought in a scheme to pay mothers to have babies. Now Rudd goes one better

WOMEN will be able to quit work up to three months before having a baby and still be eligible for taxpayer-financed maternity leave once their baby is born. The loophole was revealed in draft legislation setting out how the scheme will operate when it comes into effect on January 1.

The benefit will be worth $9788, compared to the $5185 baby bonus, which non-working mums will have to make do with. "It highlights an inequitable treatment between two groups of women," Opposition families spokesman Kevin Andrews said.

He said the loophole was also inconsistent with the scheme's pro-jobs objective. "It is contrary to the reason the Government has given for paid parental leave, namely to keep women in employment," Mr Andrews said. But Families Minister Jenny Macklin hailed the policy as a revolution for women and employers.

"(It) gives parents more options to balance work and family and helps employers retain skilled staff and boosts workforce participation," she said.

An estimated 148,000 mums will be able to claim the benefit each year, getting 18 weeks' pay at the minimum wage. The $543-a-week benefit can be signed over to stay-at-home dads if a child's mother wants to return to work. But the benefit will be lost if the parent receiving the benefit goes back to work before the leave is finished.

Exceptions will be made under a special "keeping in touch" provision, revealed yesterday, allowing workers to return for up to 10 days for meetings or other activities.

To be eligible for the leave, expectant mums must earn less than $150,000 a year and work at least 330 hours in 10 of the 13 months before their due date. The Government has agreed to allow a gap of up to eight weeks between working days to cater for casual and seasonal workers.

Employers will ultimately have to pay the benefit to eligible workers through their payroll system or face fines of $6600. They will be reimbursed in advance by the Government. But they can opt to have the payments made by the Family Assistance Office during a six-month implementation period. Women who resign will be paid by the FAO.

Women can apply for the benefit up to three months before their due date to get the paperwork out of the way. Workers who get employer-paid leave will also receive the government pay.

Ms Macklin said Australians had been waiting decades for a paid parental leave scheme.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has proposed a more generous scheme, financed by a tax on big business. But he indicated the Coalition would pass the Labor scheme in the Senate.

New mum Jessica Malcolm, 35, of Kensington, who gave birth to Hannah six months ago, said it was good news. "It would be nice to have that option, if you needed it," she said. "Some people get really sick beforehand. "I left a month beforehand and I really needed that time to prepare. Many people need two months."


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