World goes nuts for Australian produce

Posted July 22nd, 2019 by admin and filed in 苏州美甲美睫培训
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The world is going nuts for Australian farm produce as overseas markets clamour for locally grown nuts such as almonds and macadamias as well as agricultural stalwarts such as beef, lamb, wool and cotton.

The value of Australian farm production is forecast to surge by 8.3 per cent this financial year to a massive $63.8 billion, thanks to favourable seasonal conditions in most farming areas and strong prices for major exports such as beef, lamb and wool.

Production records have been smashed across the country, and with the overwhelming majority of our farm produce sent overseas, the value of farm exports is forecast to hit $47.7 billion in 2016-17 and rise even higher next year, to a record $48.7 billion.

Australia is tipped to export a record volume of wheat (22.8 million tonnes), barley (7.4 million tonnes) and chickpeas (1.4 million tonnes), and earn a record $75 million plus from cherry exports.

But a new story is emerging behind the Australian farm gate. The value of tree nut exports is projected to be $760 million in 2016-17, down on last year but still the second highest on record.

The nutty success has seen Australia rise to become the second-largest almond exporter in the world, and largest exporter of macadamias. The biggest buyers of Australian almonds in 2015-16 were India and Spain, while the biggest buyer of Australian macadamias was China.

Australia’s agriculture boom is reflected in figures to be released on Tuesday by the federal government’s agricultural economics forecaster, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, at the Outlook 2017 conference in Canberra.

“The exceptional value of farm production this year comes off the back of record crop production and strong performance across livestock industries,” ABARES executive director Peter Gooday said.

More good news lies ahead for Australian farmers, with strong export earnings growth forecast in 2017-18 for sectors including cotton (export earnings forecast to rise 35 per cent), dairy (up 11 per cent), and wool (up 10 per cent).

“It’s a record-breaking year and it’s mainly on the crop side of things that it’s a record-breaking year,” said Trish Gleeson, acting chief commodity analyst for ABARES.

“The winter crop that we’ve just harvested, for the first time, has been a record in every state. So that’s quite significant because usually, if we have a poor year in the eastern states, Western Australia has a bonza year. But this time [there’s] a record in each state for winter crop production,” she said.

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson strongly welcomed the report.

“Ag might be the new black,” she said.

“There’s been a lot of talk about a golden era for agriculture. And I think figures like this really show that agriculture is on the rise.

“We have been contributing for many generations solidly to the GDP, but to see these sorts of increases, to see these sorts of numbers – which NFF has been tipping for some time – is extremely satisfying,” she said.

“We think that agriculture is actually one of, if not the, fastest growing industries in Australia at the moment.”

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Two trends have turned reporting season into Results Roulette

Posted July 22nd, 2019 by admin and filed in 苏州美甲美睫培训
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There are a lot of positive write-ups about the recent results season.

I’ve read about a 20 per cent rise in total gross profit and a 475 per cent rise in pre-tax profit but, this year, believing these numbers is a trap because the whole thing is distorted by the BHP result.

BHP Billiton saw last year’s $5.669 billion net loss after a $7.184 billion impairment charge turn into a $3.204 billion profit. So it’s no good looking at the average of all stocks, it’s all muddled by BHP.

Of more interest to me was the ever growing volatility of company share prices post results announcements.

A 3 per cent move in a share price used to be a big thing. This results season more than half of the 260 odd results we logged moved more than 3 per cent on the day of their results. More than a third moved more than 5 per cent and more than one in 10 moved by 10 per cent.

Since their results, about half the stocks are up and half are down so this is more about the one-day movements than everything rising or falling. It is about ever increasing volatility on the day of announcements and it is happening for two reasons. 1. Continuous disclosure

Companies are not allowed to feed any price sensitive information into the market without a public announcement. Gone are the days when a company would talk to its favourite broker about how things were going and then leave it to them to write some research and quietly and slowly massage the market’s expectations towards something realistic and in so doing head off any precipitous share price falls. It was called “managing expectations”.

That’s no longer allowed. Net result, price sensitive information is now dumped on the market in one rare lump and the price reactions are understandably sharp and instantaneous. Some of the small and mid-cap companies don’t have the systems, investor relations departments or time to constantly monitor profits and to constantly manage expectations. So it is no wonder that when they announce their results every six months, it comes with an information dump and subsequent price reaction.2. Computer trading

ASIC did a study in March 2015 of high frequency trading (HFT). They had access to all trading information going back years. The study told us that, as of March 2015, nearly half of all orders entered into the market came from computers. Nearly a third of all trades by number were done by computers and a quarter of all turnover was executed by computers. Nearly four out of five of all computer-based orders were being done by just 10 big HFT players and the average holding time of an order in the market was 51 minutes.

In the futures market, which drives the equity market, the numbers are higher and increasing. If you then consider that 30 per cent of market turnover is also being done off-market in “dark pools”, anonymous order matching systems, then it looks like humans are only doing about 43 per cent of market turnover and that was back in March 2015. It will be less now.

HFT chases volatility. The algorithms that they run on detect other people’s orders in the screen, executed trades and short-term price trends and respond to that in nanoseconds without any consideration for fundamentals.

And a warning to company CEOs who are drafting their results announcements, the algorithms are also now electronically scanning the words of announcements, no humans involved, and picking up on adjectives and phrases like “profit warning” and “lowered guidance” or “raised guidance”. And they instantaneously start placing orders in response. So watch what you write. Especially in the headlines.

That algorithm activity is then picked up by the activity matching algorithms and, Bob’s your uncle, WorleyParsons opens down 21.8 per cent on the day of the results. Only to bounce 11.5 per cent by the end of the day.

Notably this all happens before any analysis is done by the brokers or the big institutional fund managers. The action stems from computer algorithms. The idea that this is being done by individual retail investors sitting at home, is laughable. Retail investors cannot move WorleyParsons 21.8 per cent on the open.

But rather than get upset, we have to accept. ASIC’s study into HFT concluded that while it might be exaggerating short-term price movements, HFT was not disrupting the integrity of the market or materially raising the costs of execution enough to ban it. It is here to stay. ASIC is clearly happy to sit back and let it happen, and the ASX has no interest in limiting it because they are raking it in from HFT customers paying for high speed data feeds with terabytes of information being provided by the exchange at huge cost.

You just have to get used to it. It used to be called the results season. Now it’s “results roulette”.

Marcus Padley is a director of MTIS Pty Ltd, the author of the daily stock market newsletter Marcus Today. For a free trial of the Marcus Today newsletter please go to marcustoday苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛.

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Hiding behind a public servant

Posted July 22nd, 2019 by admin and filed in 苏州美甲美睫培训
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Minister Alan Tudge during question time at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 2 March 2017. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew MearesThe government’s attempt to ratchet up the level of Centrelink funds recouped from overpaid welfare recipients is turning into another of its government’s spectacular policy failures. A detailed analysis of the policy, tellingly labelled “robo-debt” by its critics, will need to await the many reviews that are already under way, including those by the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Senate’s community affairs reference committee. (The Auditor-General, with so many juicy topics to get his teeth into, has happily ceded this one to the Ombudsman, at least for the time being.) But the main problems are already clear from media reports.

The basic premise of the policy is sensible and well-established: that Centrelink payments should be matched against income information held by the Australian Taxation Office to identify individuals who wrongly received welfare payments when their earnings made them ineligible. Such cross-checks leading to recovery of debts had been conducted manually since the mid-1990s. In 2011, the Gillard Labor government, under Tanya Plibersek (minister of human services) and Bill Shorten (assistant treasurer), introduced an automated system of cross-matching data from the two agencies. As a result, Centrelink staff were able to identify overpayments more efficiently. The amount of recovered government debt climbed significantly.

The new policy builds on Labor’s scheme but relies solely on an algorithm to identify possible double-dippers and to send them a letter without allowing staff any discretion over whom should be approached. It casts the net widely, consciously targeting many who will turn out to have done nothing wrong but allowing them the opportunity to prove their innocence by providing relevant documents. The government has justified its approach, citing the need to prevent illegal claims for assistance and the extra funds that will be added to the budget bottom line. The Public Sector Informant: latest issue

The policy has attracted criticism on a number of fronts. The algorithm itself is crude and simplistic. For instance, it equates average fortnightly earnings based on annual income reported to the Tax Office as equivalent to actual fortnightly earnings, overlooking the intermittent working histories of many Centrelink clients. The policy also places the onus of correcting errors on to the individual client, without acknowledging the human cost imposed on honest law-abiding citizens who are effectively accused of cheating the government and the taxpayer. Finally, the pressures on Centrelink’s communication systems mean that citizens face horrendous difficulties in trying to correct their records.

While this ill-conceived operation will yield many lessons for policymakers, it also raises interesting issues in relation to government accountability. To begin with, like the scandal over parliamentary travel expenses, discussed in last month’s Informant, the hostile public reaction has been greatly inflamed by timing. Robo-debt letters started arriving just before Christmas and the groundswell of public protest grew steadily over the holiday season. The story, with its continuous stream of heart-wrenching personal cases, was a godsend to political journalists desperate for copy during the dog days of the summer break, when governments generate so little news.

Timing also caught ministers on the hop. When the media storm gathered pace in the days immediately after new year, the responsible minister, Alan Tudge, was on holiday and could not be reached for comment. Filling in for him, the Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, defended the robo-debt letters as meeting the government’s policy objectives and “working incredibly well”. Though Porter was the senior minister in the portfolio, the continuing absence of Tudge, the sponsor of the policy and long-time advocate of getting tough on welfare fraud, drew mounting criticism. When he returned to work the following week, it was to headlines such as “Centrelink minister finally emerges, says everything is fine”.

That a minister could be criticised for not returning from vacation until the second week of January is a sign of changing expectations. At that time of year, most of Australia’s movers and shakers are only halfway through their summer break, still holidaying overseas or looking forward to meeting up with friends and acquaintances at the tennis, which has not yet begun. They would look on Tudge’s return to Canberra, about January 10, as unluckily early not unconscionably late. These days, however, the news media operate on a continuous cycle, not only 24/7 but also 12/12.

Failure to recognise fully that the media’s interest in holding governments accountable does not take a summer break might help to explain why both ministers, Porter and then Tudge, were slow to acknowledge the seriousness of the problems facing the robo-debt policy. Still partly in vacation mode, they may have hoped the holidaying public could be fobbed off with bland assurances that the policy was running smoothly as planned.

Tudge may have also taken false comfort from the fact Centrelink has its own designated spokesman, Hank Jongen, who often takes the lead in publicly explaining and defending the agency’s actions. Jongen’s position, as a named spokesman, is unusual in the Australian Public Service. The only recent parallel is the role played by Sandi Logan, who was the prominent public voice of the Immigration Department from 2005 until 2013 when he was moved on by the new minister, Scott Morrison. For the most part, the task of explaining and justifying policy is properly undertaken by ministers, not public servants. On occasions where a politically neutral official view is called for, the appropriate person is either the departmental secretary, identified by name, or an anonymous agency spokesperson.

Jongen’s role can be understood within the evolution of Centrelink, which he joined when it was first established by the incoming Howard government in 1997 as a stand-alone delivery agency. Its creation was part of the then fashion for executive agencies pioneered by the “next steps” agencies in Britain. The rationale for executive agencies was that service delivery should be separated from direct political control. Governments and ministers (the “purchasers”) should be responsible for setting and funding general policy while executive agencies (the “providers”), under independent chief executives, would be separately responsible for implementing policy efficiently and effectively.

In that context, it made sense for Centrelink, without a minister officially responsible for its day-to-day operations, to look for new ways to communicate with its clients, now badged as “customers”. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Since that time, Jongen has proved himself to be an able communicator and advocate for Centrelink in its manifold interfaces with the community. He is active on social media and clearly helps many members of the public find their way around the agency’s complex systems.

Centrelink, however, is no longer a separate agency at arm’s length from ministers. Indeed, it probably never was. As the British soon discovered, Westminster expectations do not tolerate ministers who wash their hands of responsibility for administrative performance. After a few high-profile cases of blame-shifting, the Blair government reimposed full ministerial responsibility for executive agencies. The agencies have remained as separate organisations focused on service delivery but ministers take responsibility for their actions in the standard way.

Similar thinking underpinned the inclusion of Centrelink in the new Department of Human Services in 2004. Centrelink would continue as a separate delivery agency, along with Medicare and other constituent agencies, but would come under direct ministerial control, albeit under a separate minister for human services.

Being part of a departmental structure makes Jongen’s role as designated spokesman more anomalous, particularly when it involves defending government policy. For example, in the latest controversy over the robo-debt letters, he has been in the thick of public argument, expressing confidence in the online compliance system and the checking procedures. On several occasions, he has argued that the letters are not debt letters but merely lawful requests for information. The alleged “error” rate of 20 per cent is not an error rate at all.

These are all arguable positions but, in the current context, they are also highly controversial, not to say partisan. It is Tudge, as minister, or other senior ministers and the Prime Minister, who should be expected to make this case for the government. Allowing Jongen to mount a defence on behalf of Centrelink gives the impression that Centrelink, not the government, is responsible for the policy. This impression is reinforced by the fact that Jongen is often identified as “general manager” as if he were the agency head. (The department has about 30 “general managers” and its organisational chart lists Jongen merely as “departmental spokesperson”.)

No doubt ministers are happy to have Jongen draw some of the hostile political flak away from themselves and towards the hapless bureaucrats in Centrelink. But the robo-debt crisis is a classic illustration of the need for ministers to take full responsibility for both policy and implementation. Ministers have certainly determined the general directions. They have looked for significant budgetary savings while depriving Centrelink of the staffing resources needed to administer the policy fairly and compassionately. As members of a right-of-centre government, they naturally lack empathy with welfare recipients and have thus encouraged a tough-minded attitude among loyal senior officials.

No doubt some of the failure is due to bureaucratic incompetence, which will be thrashed over in future reviews and reports. But such problems do not occur in a political vacuum. As the home insulation debacle demonstrated, government failure often flows from the determination of headstrong ministers to override practical difficulties. In such cases, ministers must take responsibility for the consequences of their actions and not hide behind their overstretched public servants.

Richard Mulgan is an emeritus professor at the ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy. [email protected]论坛

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Partisan officials undermining the public service

Posted July 22nd, 2019 by admin and filed in 苏州美甲美睫培训
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News New Public Service Commisioner John LloydThe Canberra Times Date: 22 January 2015Photo Jay Cronan Photo: Jay CronanOnce upon a time, Australian Public Service staff were absolutely prohibited by legislation – regulation 34(b) – from making any public comment on any matter relating to official business.

The regulation could be taken seriously. In the early 1960s, the director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (then part of the Health Department) was bold enough to publicly criticise legislation affecting his organisation. He was charged with improper conduct and had his rank and salary reduced as a result of actions taken by what The Age newspaper called “the Pecksniffian chiefs of the Public Service Board”.

Regulation 34(b) was based on an apprehension that if staff were to get caught up in partisan political debate the public would lose confidence in their ability to serve whatever government they elected. In turn, this would tempt governments to ditch merit and fill public service positions with political cronies. That’s standard practice in some countries, including the United States. Indeed, in the 1980s, the Hawke government came within a hair’s breadth of reserving a proportion of senior executive service positions for political appointees. The Public Sector Informant: latest issue

The problem with regulation 34(b) was that its absolutism was disproportionate to the politicisation risk. For example, it was one thing for the Treasury secretary to wade fearlessly into public political debate. Indeed, one (John Stone) did and his actions did much to tempt the Hawke government into compromising merit staffing in the SES. On the other hand, there would be little untoward if the local postman (up until 1975 a member of the APS proper) were to write a letter to the editor of his (and they were all men) local newspaper accusing the prime minister of being a dill. Public confidence in the postal service as ever rested on whether the letters turned up in one’s postbox.

Thus, the regulation was repealed in 1974. The Public Service Board explained that the aim was “to give public servants greater freedom by minimising the restrictions on public comment, but at the same time seek to avoid the involvement of staff in public controversy where this could prejudice the identity of a politically impartial career public service”. At the same time, guidelines were issued and staff who overstepped the mark could be disciplined.

And so it has remained and, while their purpose is unchanged, the guidelines have been revised from time. Indeed, the Public Service Commission is examining them to see if they’re adequate amid the perils of “social media” in the modern world.

The Public Service Commissioner, John Lloyd, appears to have been properly vigilant in administering the public comment guidelines. However, he has done himself no favours by writing an article in the Murdoch press barracking to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission, a matter that has nothing to do with his current responsibilities and is a political hot potato if ever there was one. Anyway, not much harm seemed to be done as there were few if any ructions as a consequence of Lloyd rushing into print. And why should there be, as the resuscitated construction watchdog is unlikely to do anything to improve productivity in the industry as it can do no more than try to treat the symptoms of its dysfunctions and not their causes.

But Lloyd’s intervention in policy debate outside his current responsibilities brings to mind the general position of officials who, like him, occupy statutory positions outside the public service. Typically these statutory-office holders perform functions independent, in differing degrees, from ministers and their circumstances are different from public servants in departments, who are directly responsible to their ministers. Indeed, many statutory-office holders have legal and less formal responsibilities to engage in open debate and, at times, advocacy.

Nevertheless, the general principles underpinning the rules about public comment by departmental officials also apply to statutory-office holders. That is to say, they should avoid being seen as politically partisan so as not to cause public concern about their ability to perform their duties in an impartial way or cause political parties who are on the sharp end of their tongues to think about giving them the flick if the opportunity should arise.

With his hands on several major economic levers, Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe works in a charged political environment. Yet the public utterances of Lowe and his stern predecessor, Glenn Stevens, are in many ways models of how statutory officials should conduct themselves in public. Their speeches are even-handed, take great care to analyse evidence thoroughly and they avoid taking partisan positions. Even then, hazards remain when hapless journalists distort the governor’s remarks for the sake of a headline. For example, a Financial Review journo reported that, in a recent speech, Lowe said he was “backing corporate tax cuts”. The governor did no such thing.

The small business and family enterprise ombudsman, Kate Carnell, should take a leaf from the Stevens-Lowe songbook. While the ombudsman is legally obliged to be an advocate for small business by conducting research, advising ministers, contributing to inquiries and “national strategies” and promoting best practice, she is stretching these responsibilities to breaking point via public statements chock-a-block with the crude political advocacy of second-rate politicians.

In a recent article in the Fairfax press, devoid of analysis and full of assertion, Carnell puts her shoulder behind tax cuts for small businesses, arguing they would boost confidence in the sector and create jobs and investment because “owners won’t pocket the savings”. But she says all this is at risk because “one of the major parties continues to argue against what would undeniably be a vital stepping stone for the future expansion of the sector”. Then, for those not in the know, she adds that, yes, “the federal opposition continues to oppose the flagged tax relief for small business”.

To gain a better understanding of her thinking, Carnell was asked about her estimate of the effective rate of tax in the small business sector, if she thought, as she said, that all owners “would not pocket” a tax reduction or, if not, what proportion might and what estimates she’d made about the employment effect of a tax reduction to 27.5 per cent.

Rather than answer the questions, Carnell blustered, saying the effective tax rate is hypothetical, that “when big businesses are downsizing, small and medium businesses are creating the new employment opportunities”, and speculated that a quarter of the three million SMEs may each take on one new employee.

It’s hard to know where to start with this kind of distorting commentary, but let’s make some points: In the eight years to 2014, employment growth rates in medium to large businesses were three times that in small ones (23 per cent to 8 per cent) while, in the five years to 2016, small businesses created only 5 per cent of the growth in private sector employment.If a tax reduction to 27.5 per cent were to result in a 750,000 increase in employment in SMEs, as Carnell hints, that would reduce unemployment to zero and be more than half as much as the total employment growth to 2020 predicted by the Employment Department, and three times more than the growth the department predicts in the fast-growing healthcare and social assistance area.The effective tax rate is not hypothetical for small businesses: it’s what they experience and one could be excused for thinking that Carnell has not bothered to find out what it might be.It’s London to a brick on that some small businesses would “pocket” a tax cut, and who could blame them if they’re struggling to stay alive given the special difficulties under which they operate, like – as recently summarised in a Reserve Bank paper – greater susceptibility to demand fluctuations, lesser economies of scale, higher fixed costs and often greater difficulty in attracting capital.For those who believe in the so-called “trickle-down” economics of corporate tax cuts, to the extent that these would lead to greater increases in capital in larger enterprises, there may be a sounder employment case for tax reductions for bigger enterprises than smaller ones.

There may be a case for a tax cut for small business. However, the kind of partisan political tactics to which Carnell has resorted is counterproductive. She’s failed to make any rational case for them. Her methods do not foster an open-minded consideration of tax options on their merits. They encourage responses in kind, making it less likely she will be able to advance the interests of her small business constituency. Moreover, it is inappropriate, for the reasons already canvassed, for Commonwealth statutory officials to deliberately take provocative, partisan positions in public debates.

The apparent increasing preference of politicians of all hues to advocate policies on the basis of cheapskate politics rather than the logical analysis of facts and evidence, as best they can be defined, is seriously restricting the federal government’s capacity to improve its management of the economy. The masses are sick of it. The contributions of the Reserve Bank governor and the likes of Productivity Commission chairman Peter Harris may help; those of the small business and family enterprise ombudsman on tax cuts and other matters are unlikely to.

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But to conclude on a lighter note.

On March 1, the Institute of Public Administration Australia and the Public Service Commission put on a $130-a-head do in the Glandel Hall at the National Gallery to mark the approximate second anniversary of the McPhee report on public service personnel management.

A wake might have been better, because this report was almost certainly the worst of its kind in Australia. Any doubt about that could be dispelled by a reading of the 1958 Boyer report, relevant sections of the 1975 Coombs royal commission report, or the public accounts committee’s report in the early 1980s on senior management.

Among other things, the McPhee report encouraged a dilution of merit, proposed measures that confused responsibility for staffing, and entirely ignored the dog’s breakfast of remuneration policy and practice.

The institute and the commision now say that “a key recommendation” of McPhee’s report was “the development of a new employment brand for the APS”. That’s a revealing comment about how inconsequential some of the report’s lesser recommendations were.

Anyway, on the strength of the “key recommendation”, the institute and the commission organised what it called a BRANDit competition, saying a new brand would lead to better engagement and reduced turnover. Entries were sought and more than 700 were received. They were judged by a committee composed of Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson, Lloyd and two people from outside the public service.

At the knees-up at the Glandel Hall, presentations were made on “the exciting and innovative work” that been done on McPhee’s recommendations and the BRANDit winner was announced. New APS recruiting slogan: ‘Shape Australia. Create your Future.’ | #apsbrandit The Mandarin IPAA ACT (@IPAAACT) March 2, 2017This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲美睫培训.