Banks on way to record profit

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By , 10/04/2019 12:15


ustralia’s big four banks may be on their way to collectively reporting a record $27 billion in profits this year but one thing is certain – neither side of politics wants to turn it into an election issue.

While in Europe and the Americas banks are still political footballs, the big banks in Australia expect clear air to well beyond the September election.

Gone are the days when interest rate movements dominated the front page. We prefer to whinge about electricity and gas prices. This is despite bank interest margins representing about a third of a borrower’s mortgage rate.

Treasurer Wayne Swan seems to consider his work finished on the banking oligopoly since the 2010 announcement of limited reforms to mortgage exit fees and credit cards.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank may be moving to snap up a handful of credit unions in New South Wales and Victoria but, other than that, Swan’s talk of a fifth force in Australian banking will remain a pipedream. The big banks should feel well pleased with their handiwork. Swan thought they should be generating returns on equity of about 11 per cent. This year they will produce a world-beating 16 per cent. No wonder their share prices are up 30 per cent in the past year.

Meanwhile, any intelligent question about banking reform to soon-to-be treasurer Joe Hockey is batted away by reference to his planned ”son of Wallis” review of competition in the banking sector.

Hockey has said he wants to enhance competition in Australia’s financial services market while maintaining a ”stable, durable, diverse and well-capitalised industry”.

”The inquiry will set down a new road map for the development and maintenance of a globally competitive financial system,” he has said with some hubris. The requirements of the far more significant Basel III global capital accord don’t rate a mention.

For their part, the big banks are largely ambivalent about Hockey’s review, which federal Treasury has been pushing for since 2010.

If it proves just another bashing exercise, the banks feel that, with the help of the Reserve Bank, they are in a good position to demonstrate there is sufficient competition in the market.

If they get help with addressing their over-reliance on foreign funding, for instance by reducing the tax impost on household deposits, then all the better.

Following a little-publicised review, former RBA governor Bernie Fraser has already ruled out account portability as too expensive.

Hockey has said he plans to issue the terms of reference of his review within 100 days of gaining office, which means he will probably get a big, glossy report towards the end of the Coalition’s first term.

Any legislative outcomes of the review are therefore not expected until well into a second term.

So here’s the rub. Apart from a few changes to the Future of Financial Advice reforms proposed by Senator Mathias Cormann, the Coalition has basically committed to not making any big changes to the financial landscape in it first term.

Soon-to-be prime minister Tony Abbott seems to have no interest. Corporate Australia is just not his thing.

The banks may feel that they have made progress in educating the Coalition.

It seems like a lifetime ago that Hockey was effectively calling for price controls on banks and warning them about expanding offshore.

”I understand banking and I love competition,” he now says.

The reality is that Canberra seems incapable of doing anything other than entrenching the banking oligopoly. Small lenders – perennially constrained by a higher cost of funds – just can’t get a look in.

When the big banks decide loan pricing they think only of the reaction of the other three majors and any possible damaging reaction from the tabloids. Some feel-good credit union in the suburbs or the local branch of a giant foreign bank in the CBD don’t get a mention.

Stewart Oldfield is a research analyst at Wilson HTM. [email protected]苏州美甲学校.au

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OPINION: Opportunity  to revitalise our city

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By , 10/04/2019 12:15

TUESDAY’S state budget was a historic day for the Hunter Region, marking the beginning of a new era that will see the city of Newcastle reborn, poised to take its place among the great cities of the world.

After years of undelivered promises by the Labor government, the city we love so much has finally been given her chance to shine.

For the first time in decades, our region lies at the heart of the state budget and money is being returned to where it belongs – with the people of the Hunter. Can anyone even remember a budget that wasn’t all about Sydney?

Our decision to undertake a 99-year lease of Newcastle Port unlocks resources that will be used for accelerating and extending the vision for a revitalised Newcastle, including light rail with the potential to link the CBD with surrounding suburbs, our beautiful beaches and the broader Hunter.

This budget puts an additional $340million into the pot with the $120million the government has already committed to the revitalisation project, which will be overseen by Infrastructure NSW. The funds will be coordinated through the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund (HIIF), taking the HIIF to $690million – money that will go directly towards rolling out the reinvention of Newcastle as a modern city.

The revitalisation of Newcastle is critical to enhancing our entire region and yesterday’s budget gives cause for every citizen of the Hunter – regardless of where we fall between local and state government boundaries – to celebrate.

For too long, Newcastle has been sitting on the edge of its potential, only to be pulled back again and again by a Labor government intent on using the port as a political football to forward its own agenda.

But yesterday the NSW government gave us the green light to leverage the expertise, incentive and financial capacity of private enterprise by undertaking a long-term lease of the port. In addition to bringing a new wave of investment to the region and with it, inherent flow-on effects, the leasing of the port will also create employment.

As evidenced by the successful 99-year lease of Port Botany and Port Kembla, the NSW government is experienced in such transactions, using them to maximise benefits to the community.

The lease of the Port of Newcastle will be no different, fast-tracking urban renewal to create a CBD that is part of the waterfront, opening the city to the foreshore and creating a diverse, vibrant place for everyone.

In turn the East End will be bolstered as a retail, entertainment, leisure and residential precinct, the Civic will be strengthened as an educational and cultural hub, and the West End will emerge as the city’s commercial hub.

It isn’t news the revitalisation plan we announced last year included changes to the rail line – changes that replace a 19th century solution to coal freighting need to a 21st century approach to an efficient transport system and beautification of a city.

While some people hold the rail line dear – and there is no doubt it has important historic and cultural significance – its day has been and gone.

Moving forward without the burden of nostalgia is critical to the revitalisation of Newcastle and yesterday’s announcement that a new light rail option will go ahead is an incredible opportunity for the region. Initially the line will be between Wickham and Newcastle, but $10million will also go towards exploring the potential for linking the CBD with suburbs and town centres.

Light rail will greatly improve amenity in the CBD by removing heavy rail infrastructure from the centre of the city, with passengers transferring to light rail at an interchange offering regular services into Newcastle. It’s a transport system that has worked all over the world and will enable traffic and pedestrians to move freely in a way heavy rail cannot.

There is no doubt the Hunter Region is a unique and beautiful place to be. We are lucky enough to have stewardship of rich natural environments, as well as a backbone of industry, education and innovation. The Hunter Region deserves a CBD that is on par with everything else it has to offer.

Andrew Cornwell is the state Liberal member for Charlestown.

BUDGET: Cash for regional roads 

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By , 10/04/2019 12:15

MIXED: Hunter Transport Improvement Association president Graham Boyd welcomes the government’s light rail investment, but says more is needed on other transport networks. Picture: Simone De PeakWHILE the spotlight will rightly shine on the state government’s plan to proceed with a light rail line into Newcastle’s CBD, other significant road and transport projects were funded in yesterday’s budget.

Some, such as the Scone rail overpass and Muswellbrook bypass, got off the starting blocks with funding commitments to planning processes.

At the top of the scale, a further $222million was committed to the predominantly federally funded Hunter Expressway project. And, as revealed by the Newcastle Herald yesterday, $30million has been committed to the ongoing construction of the Newcastle bypass between Sandgate and Shortland, with a further $24.7million kickstarting some long-awaited improvements to the roundabouts on the New England Highway at Maitland.

Also getting a funding nod yesterday was the widening of Cormorant Road on Kooragang Island with $3million committed to the planning phase.

The widening of Nelson Bay Road was also boosted by a commitment of $20million to widening the Bobs Farm to Anna Bay stretch.

On the Central Coast, $56million will be injected into that region’s ailing road system.

Back on the rail network, the state government has set aside $314million for improvements to the freight rail corridor between Sydney and Newcastle.

The government is also pushing ahead with rolling out its Opal card – an integrated transport ticketing system which will be extended to Newcastle after it is introduced in Sydney. The Opal card will apply to all trains, ferries and buses operating in the Newcastle area.

Also of interest to the Hunter, the government will deliver 39 new Waratah trains this year, which are produced mainly in the Hunter.

Additionally, Newcastle will probably share in a $92million commitment to providing 201 new and replacement buses.

Light rail a catalyst for other transport

REACTION: A renewed commitment to light rail in Newcastle will be the catalyst for broader transport improvements in the city, one of the region’s peak transport groups said yesterday.

Hunter Transport Improvement Association president and former Newcastle city council Graham Boyd said a $10million commitment to investigating the extension of light rail to the suburbs was ‘‘really positive news’’.

‘‘We’ve always said to the government that $40million has been spent on that line, with new concrete sleepers and the like, so why would they want to cover it all up with dirt,’’ he said.

It is also the association’s desire to see light rail extended to the university and to John Hunter Hospital, he added.

While the association was pleased with the government’s commitment to new buses, Mr Boyd said it fell short of what was really needed.

‘‘We don’t need any more new buses,’’ Mr Boyd said. ‘‘What we need are more regular bus services.

‘‘We also welcome news that money is being invested in the freight rail corridor, but the downside of that is that more freight will continue to pass through the Adamstown gates.

‘‘Likewise, funding for the inner-city bypass is also great news, but we’d still like to see funding for that missing link between Jesmond and Rankin Park.’’

News of the Opal ticketing system moving closer to Newcastle should be treated with some caution, Mr Boyd warned.

‘‘It’s a good concept, but we’ll have timed ticketing on buses in Newcastle under that scheme, meaning that bus fares will rise, and on some routes double,’’ he said.

NRMA director Kyle Loades welcomed money earmarked for major road projects in the budget, especially for winery roads where funding will be almost doubled to $13.8million next financial year.

Hunter motorists would also appreciate allocations to on the New England Highway, F3 and at Warners Bay, he said.

“The NRMA is looking forward to the Hunter Expressway opening in 2014, knowing that the link will provide Hunter motorists with a considerable reduction in both travel times and congestion,” Mr Loades said.

BUDGET: Little new for education in Hunter

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By , 10/04/2019 12:15

THERE was little in the state budget specifically for Hunter schools with most of the government’s attention directed to funding the federal government’s Gonski reforms.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said it was a record $14billion education budget for 2013-14.

In included $153million towards the extra $5billion nationally to deliver the Gonski reforms up to 2019, which will benefit Hunter schools.

That state government has also put aside $320million for school maintenance, a 23per cent increase, and nearly $1billion for private schools.

There were five new schools for Sydney but none for the ever-bulging Hunter.

‘‘The NSW Government is spending $301million on early childhood education and care, continuing the focus on universal access to quality early childhood education in the year before school,’’ Mr Piccoli said.

The state government also noted its plan to give greater control over school budgets to principals would be rolled out in 2014 through a staggered implementation.

‘‘The reforms currently under way in NSW are already consistent with the direction of the Gonski report,’’ Mr Piccoli said.

‘‘These reforms will be see funding targeted to where it is needed most.’’

Capital works in the Hunter long on parents’ agendas and still not funded included a high school at Medowie, replacement building for demountables at The Junction Public, a creative arts centre at Callaghan College Jesmond Campus, new school at Cameron Park and new buildings at Ashtonfield Public.

What was funded was the Rutherford High School upgrade and the Maitland Tutorial Central Relocation.

There was also almost $9million to relocate Gosford Public School.

Statewide there was $2.3billion for TAFE and other vocational training including at Hunter TAFE where there was money for Kurri Kurri Campus Plant and Heavy Vehicle Training Centre and $6.2million for Maitland Campus Centre for Dry Wall Plastering and Associated Trades.

WAITING TOO LONG: From left to right, Hayley, 12, and Rose Jorgensen, 13, Sharon Pascoe, Breanna Almond, 16, and Abbey Marshall, 14, from Lake Macquarie High School. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Spending welcomed

REACTION: IT’S like pulling teeth.

That’s the experience of Hunter parents trying to get school maintenance funding from the NSW Education Department.

Parent groups welcomed news in yesterday’s state budget of a 23 per cent increase to maintenance funding for schools and principals getting increased control over school budgets.

Lake Macquarie High P and C president Sharon Pascoe said their 53-year-old school’s buildings needed regular work such as gutters unclogged, painting and cracked concrete repair.

‘‘We have got to the stage where just pay for it ourselves,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s a huge priority for us.’’

A better share of funding for state schools under the Gonski reforms was also welcomed. The changes should see more funding for students with special needs and Ms Pascoe said the school would like to get more teacher’s aides for them.

‘‘It’s only going to benefit students,’’ she said.

Ms Pascoe was disappointed not to see mention of money for school security fences.

Lake Macquarie High is on a large site at Booragul and has previously lost a building to arson and fallen victim to a serious graffiti attack.

Parents have been lobbying for more than five years for a fence.

‘‘They tell us we’re top of the list then we find out there is no list.’’

Live blog: Brumbies vs British-Irish Lions

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By , 10/04/2019 12:15

Brumbies v Lions Hail comes down over Canberra Stadium at 4:13pm ahead of the Brumbies clash with the British and Irish Lions. Photo: Melissa Adams

live match icons

Join us for full, live coverage as the Brumbies take on Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions in Canberra. Kick-off is at 7.40pm.

The curtain-raiser for the ACT Brumbies and British and Irish Lions match has been cancelled because of hail at Canberra Stadium.

The ACT Griffins were due to kick-off against the Australian Barbarians in a pre-match contest before more than 22,000 fans rolled into the venue for the blockbuster mid-week match.

But a downpour and hail in Bruce and Belconnen has forced officials to can the game.

Fans are expected to pack into Canberra Stadium for the once-in-12-year chance to see the Brumbies take on the Lions.

Both sides were training hard on Monday – here are the best shots of the boys in action.

Hello from Canberra Stadium, where the hail is starting to melt (slowly) and of course the stands are half empty as Canberra does its mandatory late arrival. There might be a few tickets left at the gate, so if you’re a brass monkey then get out here coz it’s absolutely perfect weather!

It’s a bit of a throwback to my uni days, they’ve installed lecture theatre seating in the top of the Meninga Stand for the hordes of journos who are following the British and Irish Lions around. If you see a bunch of people balancing laptops on their laps in Bay 13 feel free to say gday.

Special shout out to the four Lions fans who were kind enough to let me in from the cold into their camper van outside Canberra Stadium. If the aroma of their van is anything to go by, our wine industry will be loving every minute they’re staying down under.

The players are out on the ground warming up, trying to find a patch in between the piles of hail to do some hamstring stretches. Geez the Brumbies look fit, while the Lions look a little tired to me…

Brumbies coach Jake White is getting excited…

Piece of rugby history about to unfold in Canberra. Our toughest match this season. Time to put plans into action. #BRUvLIO— Jake White (@JWhiterugby) June 18, 2013

Just to test the waters early on…

Not long now…just four minutes til kick-off. Can the Brumbies go one better than 12 years ago when an after-the-siren was needed to win it for the Lions? That music sounds ominous, something must be about to happen. The drums are a dead give away…

A shout out to Bob Dwyer, who’s just taking a seat nearby, he looked over clearly envious of our spot in Bay 13…

Huge roar for the Brumbies! So much for the much heralded Lions support. Clearly Lions fans are no match for the Barmy Army…

2 minutes: Fast and furious start by the Lions! Looked certain to score in the corner. but for some desperate defence by the Brumbies. “LIONS, LIONS, LIONS” goes up the chant…

The crowd can feel something special happening tonight. The Lions put it out from the restart. A very expansive start from the Brumbies, willoing to throw it wide, with captain Peter Kimlin putting in an audacious grubber kick as well. Has Jake White sold ice to the Eskimos? He said they were going to play their normal conservative game…

13: The Brumbies putting on some big hits there! Leon Power putting on a bone cruncher, could here it up here in bay 13, then Kuridrani followed up with one of his own….crowd booing a rolling maul by the Lions…

Apologies for my spelling of hear there, it’s cold and I’m wearing gloves… #excuses

5: But again the Brumbies fans out cheer the Lions, and Tevita Kuridrani, as if inspired, storms over after a barnestorming run! Everyone in Canberra would’ve heard that roar! Ian Prior hits the post and misses the conversion, but it’s the Brumbies 5-0.

16: These sports ears are fantastic! Can hear the action up close, ARU guru Karl Schubert is handing them out up here in bay 13 so hit him up for some…

19: More boos as the Lions opt for the points from the penalty, but that turns into a HUGE roar as Hogg hits the upright and the danger is cleared. Looks like Halfpenny’s job is safe. Typing of Halfpenny, what’s with his kicking style? No crazy routine, he just lines it up and kicks it. It’ll never catch on…

23: Gotta love Clyde Rathbone, gets the ball and just treats everyone like a speed hump…Brumbies 5-0.

Kuridrani is carving it up right now #BRUvLIO— Aquila Afeaki (@akuilabat7) June 18, 2013

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