Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Suncorp says fewer accident claims helps offset COVID impact

I have over 5,000 shares in them so I like this news

SUNCORP says it is benefitting from a drop in motor accident claims due to COVID-19 helping it offset the negative impact of the pandemic on other parts of its business.

The Queensland insurance and banking giant booked a $140 million gain from lower motor insurance claims as fewer peoople drove during the height of the pandemic earlier this year.

That helped Suncorp offset a $85 million provision made for additional claims and other costs to cover COVID-related rent loss and business interruption claims.

Suncorp on Friday said it achieved full year group net profit after tax of $913 million included a $285 million after-tax profit from the sale of its Capital SMART and ACM Parts businesses, and the $89 million non-cash impairment charge relating to its banking platform.

Cash earnings of $749 million were down 32.8 per cent as a result of reduced profit from insurance and banking and wealth divisions.

“It has been a challenging 12 months for Suncorp and for the customers and communities we support,“ said Suncorp chief executive Steve Johnston.

“First a season of extreme weather conditions, and then the global COVID-19 pandemic which will result in longlasting economic disruption and fundamentally change the way we live.”

But he said Suncorp entered the COVID-19 crisis in a solid position and responded quickly. “We have maintained the financial and operational strength of our business,“ he said.

He said 31,000 motor and home insurance customers had received three month premium waivers or discounts as at the end of June while 9800 customer loans were under temporary repayment deferral arrangements.

“The operating environment remains highly uncertain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic impacts,” Mr Johnston said.

He said Suncorp was prepared for a sharp deterioration in economic conditions before the economy was expected to begin recovery from 2021.

The company announced a fully franked final ordinary dividend of 10 cents per share bringing its full year payout to 36 cents.


Trade spats or not, we must learn to co-exist with China

Amanda Vanstone

What do you think when someone mentions Richard Nixon? The nickname “Tricky Dicky” comes to mind, as does Watergate. Do you baulk at the idea that he changed the world? Like so many things in life it depends on the perspective.

Nixon formally recognised the People’s Republic of China. He had said long before his 1972 visit: “We simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates, and threaten its neighbours. There is no place on this small planet for a billion of its potentially most able people to live in angry isolation.”

China joined the United Nations. Taiwan lost out. Some say Mao got everything he wanted and that Nixon shamefully didn’t push for China to lessen its support for North Vietnam to save American troops' lives. Less than a decade later China started opening up to the world. Without Nixon’s efforts that may have taken many more years.

In China, this opening up to the world created incredible opportunities. Millions have been lifted out of abject poverty.

But the story doesn’t end in China. China’s opening up to the world meant the world had access to much cheaper white goods, airconditioners, clothing, plastics and small electrical goods. All around the globe people with less money could now buy some things that were previously out of their reach. Many everyday items were cheaper for everyone. That means an improved standard of living.

From Australia’s position the story was even more beneficial. China, the new industrial powerhouse, needed iron, coal and grains. We had them to sell and that made us richer.

Nixon may have richly deserved the nickname “Tricky Dicky” but we do ourselves a disservice if that’s all we remember. I think “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” is a bit tricky, as is describing Bill Clinton’s womanising as “he’s a hard dog to keep on the porch", but one aspect of a person is rarely the whole story. Like him or not, Nixon’s decision to recognise the PRC changed our world for the better.

Now we have to deal with that changed world. It’s difficult to see in the near future China becoming unproblematic. The recent announcement on looking at Australian wine imports in the context of dumping is just one example of why. Apparently we need to be sent a message, threatened for not kowtowing to the Chinese perspective. It’s no way to win friends.

Using trade to threaten is never smart in the long term. But to choose wine was particularly lacking in skill. Obviously such a move, with the recent dramatic rise in sales to China, would be bound to get the government’s attention and plenty of media focus. But the wine industry has a special place in the hearts of Australians. Attack it and you’re attacking us. That just engenders ill will in the hearts and minds of Australians. Imagine what the Chinese would say if we put a levy on exported minerals and energy. We might call it the “wine industry support levy”.

In the context of anti-dumping cases one might imagine China is most at risk. Anti-dumping was my portfolio responsibility for a few years and it is the job from hell.

If the decision is that something is being dumped, the importers hate you because their cheap supply is about to become more expensive.

If the decision is that there is no dumping the Australian producers hate you because the cheap competition will keep coming. Perhaps we should give all new ministers a turn in this job; you pretty soon learn that you can’t please everyone so bad luck, just get on with it and make the decision.

What is taken into account to ascertain whether or not a product is being dumped might not make it easy for goods from China, which are either produced directly by state-owned enterprises or by factories supported by them. That means a lot of production. My own nightmare was Chinese clear float glass. In any event the rules are there to protect free trade, which has brought so many people out of starvation and poverty. Playing with them for political messaging seems a bit inept.

The world rightly marvels at how far China has come in the last half-century. There is more opportunity to be seized. It will be many years before China gets the full benefit of Nixon’s decision.

Xi Jinping speaks confidently about further reducing poverty. The Premier, Li Keqiang, brought a note of reality into the debate when he said that more than 600 million Chinese lived on less than $200 a month. Out of a population of about 1.4 billion that’s an unattractively high proportion living poorly. Add to that just about zip in terms of healthcare or welfare and it’s a pretty dark outlook for many.

China is not going away nor one imagines is it going to suddenly become democratic. On the other side, those of us in democratic countries are quite taken with individual freedom, protection from persecution by the state, freedom of speech, good healthcare and decent welfare. We’re not going anywhere either.

We will all have to work out how to co-exist. That’s possible. Sticking fingers in another’s eye doesn’t augur well for happy co-existence.


High school mark cutoffs for getting into university expected to rise due to coronavirus crisis

A big leap in domestic demand is outweighing the drop in overseas students

University courses will be harder to get into, with ATAR cut-offs predicted to spike thanks to a skyrocketing demand for tertiary study and a cap on funded places.

Griffith University tertiary expert Stephen Billett said “without a doubt” the domestic student market would be more competitive given the loss of international students and the economic downturn of COVID-19.

And former Grattan Institute higher education program director and ANU professor Andrew Norton said amid COVID-19 there would be both increased tertiary applications and fewer people deferring entry, meaning minimum entry cut-offs for courses could soar.

It comes as the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre has already recorded a staggering jump in applications for university this year.

It experienced the most applications ever received on an opening day when admissions opened on August 4: 2918.

QTAC executive officer John Griffiths said the high applicant number was a good indicator there would be strong demand from the domestic market next year.

Dr Griffiths said there had been a 37.8 per cent increase in tertiary applicants compared with the same time in 2019, with a big increase from current Year 12 students.

About 6600 students had already applied for university admission next year and to receive their ATAR in December after registrations for both opened on August 4, he said.

Prof Norton said in recent years about 9-10 per cent of people who accepted university offers deferred by a year but it was expected fewer people would defer because of the impact of COVID-19 on travel and employment.

“So that will push a large number of higher ATAR students into wanting a place in 2021,” he said.

“And because ATARs are, in most cases, the interaction of supply and demand, that could well push up the minimum thresholds for some courses.”

Prof Billett said there would be greater competition for courses with “identifiable occupations”, on top of a trend of young people seeking “clean, well-paid and secure employment”.

Medicine and law might become more difficult to access, he said.

And courses in physiotherapy, dietetics, speech pathology, occupational therapy, and engineering could be the courses with a big increase in demand, Prof Billett said.


Global warming diehards object to natural gas

Gas can actually replace coal so that is no good

A group of leading Australian scientists has taken the unusual step of writing to the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, saying his support for gas as an energy source "is not consistent with a safe climate".

"We are making a definite and profound statement that the advice the Chief Scientist is giving is in opposition to the evidence the Australian scientific community has gathered about the climatic system and the way it is changing," Professor Will Steffen, the founding director of the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute, said of the decision to write the letter.

The letter's signatories include many world-leading Australian experts and lead authors with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They include professors John Church, Matthew England and Steven Sherwood from the University of NSW's Climate Change Research Centre, Professor Mark Howden of the Australian National University and Professor Graeme Pearman of the University of Melbourne.

"We are writing to you as Chief Scientist with our concerns about your strategy for dealing with climate change, and to offer any scientific advice that you might find useful on climate change issues," begins the letter, which is signed by 25 scientists.

Professor Steffen said the scientists' decision to take the unusual step of speaking out about the Chief Scientist was prompted in part by elements of Dr Finkel's address to the National Press Club in February, as well as other public comments he has made about gas.

Professor Steffen said more would have signed the letter but could not as they were employed by government agencies such as the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.

In the speech Dr Finkel outlined how Australia needed to electrify its energy system to meet Paris climate goals.

He said that as renewable energy generation, storage and transmission technologies are scaled up to decarbonise the economy, gas would play a "critical role", and that the transition could take decades.

The speech, made shortly before the government embraced a gas-led economic recovery from the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, caused concern among elements of the scientific community who see gas as an increasingly destructive global warming agent.

"He seems to be speaking in ignorance of or [to be] ignoring the overwhelming amount of evidence gathered by his own scientific community about the impact of the gas industry on the climate," said Professor Steffen.

Professor Steffen said that Australia's Paris climate targets were weak, set politically and had no scientific basis; that even if they were to be met Australia would still not be doing its fair share to mitigate global warming under the agreement, and that the use of gas as a transition energy source was quickly making the situation worse.

In the letter the scientists applaud Dr Finkel's support for a transition to renewable energy, but take issue with his support for the government's advocacy for an ongoing role for gas.

"Our concern ... relates to the scale and speed of the decarbonisation challenge required to meet the Paris Agreement, and, in particular, your support for the use of gas as a transition fuel over ‘many decades'," they write.

"Unfortunately, that approach is not consistent with a safe climate nor, more specifically, with the Paris Agreement. There is no role for an expansion of the gas industry."

"The combustion of natural gas is now the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the most important greenhouse gas driving climate change.

"On a decadal time frame, methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

"In Australia, the rapid rise in methane emissions is due to the expansion of the natural gas industry. The rate of methane leakage from the full gas economy, from exploration through to end use, has far exceeded earlier estimates."

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor as well as the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission support gas as an energy source that is less carbon intensive than coal and that can quickly be ramped up or down to support renewable energy sources in the grid.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Scientist said Dr Finkel was considering his response and would comment in due course.

A spokesman for Mr Taylor said that the International Energy Agency has estimated that coal-to-gas switching has avoided more than half a billion tonnes of emissions between 2010 and 2018.

"A separate CSIRO assessment of Queensland LNG production found that gas alone can reduce emissions from electricity production by up to 50 per cent. When gas backs up solar and wind, the emissions savings are even greater.

"Australia's gas exports are reducing emissions in importing countries overseas where they displace more emissions-intensive alternatives or backup renewables.

Dr Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project and a chief research scientist at the CSIRO said greenhouse gas emissions from the gas industry in Australia were "skyrocketing".

"They are not taking Australia in the direction it needs to go."


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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