Friday, August 16, 2013

A "Gaffe" circus

It was ridiculous to hold that you must not call a woman attractive and Latham is equally entitled to say that the same woman is not.  For the record, I think Latham was the most realistic

Former Labor leader Mark Latham has made his umpteenth controversial gaffe but his first of the election campaign, by denigrating the appearance of a Liberal candidate described by Tony Abbott as having "sex appeal".

"It showed very bad judgment and it shows he has low standards," Mr Latham said on 3AW in reference to Tony Abbott's remarks about the Liberal candidate for the seat of Lindsay, Fiona Scott on Tuesday.

"I had a good look at Fiona Scott on page eight of The Australian today and she doesn't have sex appeal at all.  "She's not that good of a sort."

Mr Latham's comments provoked astonishment from the radio hosts, but he doubled down.

"She's a rather plain ordinary-looking woman and Abbott has exaggerated massively to try and win her vote among the blokes ..." he said.

"Tony had the beer goggles on and in politics they say it's showbiz for ugly people and I don't think she'll be out of place."

Mr Abbott had drawn criticism for commenting on Ms Scott's looks and "feistiness".

But Mr Latham's comments sent social media into overdrive.  Fiona Scott, Mark Latham and 'sex appeal' became nationally trending topics on Twitter.

Nathan Luke said: "Latham will have a shabby [corner ...] in a very unexciting page of Australia political history."

Former Howard minister Amanda Vanstone waded into the issue on Wednesday night, saying that Mr Abbott was just "trying to be nice" and argued that women pay similar compliments to men.

"I think he was just commenting on trying to be nice and I think he's sometimes a bit awkward in some of these sort of social occasions and decided to pay what he thought was a compliment," Ms Vanstone told the ABC's Lateline.

"I do not want us to get to the stage where people can't pass a compliment. Women say about blokes, 'Gee, he's nicely packed, isn't he?'".  Ms Vanstone explained that by "nicely packed" she meant a "good looker". 

Former Labor minister Craig Emerson said he was not going to wade into the sex appeal "quagmire", adding he did not think the election would be decided on the matter.


Coalition will deny boat people settlement

THE Coalition's asylum seeker policy will take away the people smuggling model of permanant residency, deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop says.

"We will provide temporary residency, so should the situation in their home country improve, then they will be sent back to their home country to help rebuild that nation," Ms Bishop said on the Nine Network on Friday.

"It takes away the people smuggling model that they are selling and that is permanent residency."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison will announce on Friday that almost 32,000 asylum seekers already in Australia after arriving by boat will never get permanent settlement, creating a crucial point of difference between the coalition and Labor, Fairfax reported.

Ms Bishop said asylum seekers would also have work rights under the policy.

"There is a mutual obligation, if you are here on a temporary protection visa you will be expected to work," she said.


Feds should stop running schools: expert

THE next prime minister should not appoint a schools minister and should end federal government control of schools, an education expert says.

Under the present system, hundreds of millions of dollars are being wasted in bureaucracy, while Australian students are going backwards when compared to the rest of the world, Professor Brian Caldwell says.

Prof Caldwell, a professorial fellow and former dean of education at the University of Melbourne, said the constitution says that schools are the responsibility of states and territories.

He said the federal government's only role should be funding them.

"The incoming prime minister should not appoint a minister for school education and should get out of the business of running schools or trying to dictate to states and territories and schools how they should go about their work," Prof Caldwell told AAP.

"Essentially the present situation of having two large bureaucracies, one in Canberra and the different states and territories, is not working.

"If you take out one whole layer of federal bureaucracy you will have, by my calculations, several hundreds of millions of dollars a year just in those savings."

Prof Caldwell said the education system needed to be simplified and the arguments between governments must end.

However, he acknowledged that the change he was suggesting would likely take two terms of government.

He said the model of states solely controlling education was working well in many countries including Canada and New Zealand.


Election will lift economy: Wesfarmers

And Mr Goyder is always right -- not quite perhaps but he's a very good bet

WESFARMERS boss Richard Goyder is hoping the federal election will usher in a new era of pro-business policy that recognises it is companies that create wealth and jobs.

Speaking after the parent company of Coles supermarkets reported a net profit of $2.26 billion for the 12 months to the end of June, Mr Goyder said he was hopeful that an end to political uncertainty would help buoy consumer spending after the election next month.

"Interest rate reductions have helped, and getting the election out of the way will help," he said.

"I just hope that towards the end of the year we start to see some improvement in consumer confidence, but who knows? A lot will depend on the external environment, I think, beyond Australia."

But he said the key to improved economic performance was a stable, pro-business government.

"For the country, the best thing that can happen in government -- either federal, state and in some ways local -- is leadership which is long-term, which is fiscally responsible, where there's an acknowledgement that the wealth creators in the economy are the businesses," he said.

This would foster "an environment that allows business to thrive and in doing so, invest in infrastructure, the community and people", he said.

Coles, the company's biggest earnings generator, reported a 13.1 per cent gain in earnings before interest and tax to $1.53bn, on revenue of $35.78bn, up 4.8 per cent.

"Despite difficult trading conditions, we have continued to drive cost savings to invest in service and value," Coles divisional boss Ian McLeod said.

Shelf prices fell by 1.7 per cent over the course of the year, highlighting the continued price war with larger rival Woolworths.

However, Credit Suisse analyst Grant Saligari said Coles "seems to be having to invest more in price and promotion to generate its sales, and this has slowed profit growth".

Growth in EBIT margins -- the amount of operating income Coles makes from every $100 in sales -- was just 15c in the second half of the financial year, compared to 40c in the first half.

"That slowdown appears to reflect a stronger competitive environment involving higher levels of food and fuel discounting," Mr Saligari said.

Hardware division Bunnings was a highlight, growing EBIT by 7.5 per cent to $904m, with a 7.2 per cent increase in sales to $7.66bn driven by new-store openings and a 9.6 per cent gain in commercial sales.

Divisional boss John Gillam said the company was maintaining an accelerated growth path, planning 20 new Bunnings Warehouse stores this financial year and next, increasing total selling space by 10 per cent in each year.

Among the retail businesses, Mr Goyder said the only disappointment was Target, which was continuing to struggle with excess inventory that led to a 44 per cent collapse in EBIT to $136m.

Target division boss Stuart Machin said the inventory issue would continue to affect the company in the new financial year, with excess winter stock still remaining and lower levels of summer stock than last year, while sales would suffer in comparison with the discount-driven purge undertaken in the second half of the past financial year.

"This year, 2013-14, will be a very bumpy road," Mr Machin said.

Wesfarmers declared a final dividend of $1.03 per share, fully franked, taking the full-year dividend to $1.80, up 9 per cent.

Shareholder returns were further boosted by a 50c per share capital return, which although unfranked will not give rise to an immediate tax liability for most shareholders, with a draft ruling from the tax office stating that it will instead lower the cost price of investors' stock when assessing them for capital gains tax when they eventually sell out.

Angus Gluskie, managing director at Wesfarmers shareholder White Funds Management, said the 50c capital return was "welcome, and not commonly expected". He said: "In general people are somewhat comforted about the fact that they are showing good gains in the pursuit of the Coles business and the solidity there is underpinning the business in future periods, so they're prepared to overlook the weakness in the coal business; there's confidence in management."

Citi analyst Craig Woolford said a highlight was the recovery in Wesfarmers' insurance business, which generated $205m in earnings before interest and tax compared to $5m the previous financial year.



Paul said...

"Ms Vanstone explained that by "nicely packed" she meant a "good looker"

Oh puleeez Amanda. You know as well as Peter Slipper what that really means.

Paul said...

I have a feeling that the election may well have turned on the Fiona Scott Sex Appeal affair. The PC circus that started on the Labor side blew out of the water Rudd's phony "regular bloke" persona, and demonstrated that Abbott actually was just that: a regular bloke. Once that happened, a large number of more superficial reasons for voting Labor packed up and left. Many voters don't engage with issues but they do with personalities (sadly), and Rudd and the Penny Wong school of scalding wimmin blew it on this one. if I'm right then Australia may have survived all the much that's been thrown at it by the past seven years.