Chief Correspondent, Sydney
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Jul 14, 2010

Australia government tweaks economic forecasts

CANBERRA, July 14 (Reuters) – Australia’s government
tweaked its economic forecasts ahead of an upcoming election,
predicting robust commodity prices will ensure the budget
returns to surplus in 2012/13 despite recently watering down a
proposed mining tax.

There is speculation new Prime Minister Julia Gillard may
call a late August election in the next few weeks, with the
robust economy likely to be a key factor for voters.

Jul 13, 2010

Australia govt reshapes climate policy before poll

SYDNEY, July 13 (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, facing an election where climate policy will be a key issue, has pledged again to bring in a carbon price but said it may take time as it needed industry and voter consensus.

Gillard holds a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to formulate a new climate policy, with media reporting it may include restrictions on coal-fired power stations and new energy efficiency targets.

There is speculation Gillard may call a late August election within days.

"I understand there are millions of Australians disappointed we have not yet been able to put a price on carbon. I am disappointed by that too," Gillard told a news conference in Canberra ahead of the cabinet meeting.

"But in order to get there we need to have a dialogue with the community that leads to a deep and lasting consensus about how we all price carbon, how we will go forward with a market-based mechanism, how we will work together to achieve the kind of transformations in our economy." ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

TAKE-A-LOOK-Australia’s Greens to sway policy [ID:nSGE667085]

Reuters Poll Trend [ID:nSYU010167] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Gillard said there were other, unspecified, measures her government could take to tackle climate change, adding "we will take our time to get it right".

Gillard, who became prime minister on June 24 after the ruling Labor party dropped Kevin Rudd, has previously said there would be no decision on an emissions trading scheme until 2012.

Labor appeared headed for electoral defeat before Gillard took over, as voters deserted the government over Rudd’s inability to have parliament approve his carbon emissions trading scheme.

Labor needs to woo back disillusioned Green voters to ensure victory over the conservative Liberal-National opposition.

Opinion polls published on Monday showed the Labor party is set for a narrow victory in upcoming elections, ahead of the conservative opposition at 52 percent versus 48 percent.

POWER SUPPLIERS WANT CARBON CERTAINTY

Voters want quick action on climate change, according to opinion polls, and there is growing business concern over a lack of a carbon policy, with power suppliers warning of stalled investment and rising power prices as a result.

"Our energy prices are going to go up regardless," said Brad Page, chief of the Energy Supply Association of Australia.

"It’s a question of whether they go up more than they need to and they’ll go up less if we have a stable, predictable carbon policy rather than a situation where we have uncertainty."

The lack of an emissions trading scheme and price on carbon would cost the Australian economy and consumers an extra S$2 billion ($1.75 billion) by 2020 due to investment in less energy efficient coal-fired power plants, the Climate Institute estimates.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the cabinet would debate a proposal to cut energy consumption by up to 3 percent a year.

It quoted sources as saying the cabinet may also opt to set nationwide energy-efficiency standards and possibly a scheme to allow farmers to claim credit for saving emissions through forestry.

The newspaper said the cabinet would also consider pollution standards for new electricity generators and requirements for existing generators to look at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia’s top two energy retailers are Origin Energy Ltd (ORG.AX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and AGL Energy Ltd (AGX.AX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

The Australian newspaper said the government was also considering placing tough restrictions on all new coal-fired power stations.

Australia is the world’s top coal exporter, relying on coal to generate more than 80 percent of its power.

Gillard has also been seeking to reframe government policy in other sensitive areas such as over a new mining tax and on asylum seekers, and there is speculation she could call an election as soon as this week. [ID:nSGE66B084] (Editing by Ed Davies and Alex Richardson)






Jul 12, 2010

Australian PM may call election within days-media

SYDNEY, July 12 (Reuters) – Australia’s ruling Labor party is set for a narrow victory in upcoming elections, two new opinion polls showed on Monday, as speculation grew that Prime Minister Julia Gillard could call an election as soon as this week.

While the robust economy, in its 17th year of growth, should be a winning ticket for Gillard, voters believe the opposition is the better economic manager, according to the polls.

Gillard has also been seeking to reframe government policy in key areas such as climate and asylum seekers.

Opinion polls published in Fairfax and News Ltd newspapers put Labor ahead of the conservative opposition at 52 percent versus 48 percent. For Reuters Poll Trend [ID:nSYU010167]

"They’re in front and they’ve got a primary vote that can deliver victory," John Stirton, research director with pollster Nielsen, told local radio. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

TAKE-A-LOOK-Australia’s Greens to sway policy [ID:nSGE667085]

Reuters Poll Trend [ID:nSYU010167] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Gillard, 48, is Australia’s first woman prime minister. She replaced Kevin Rudd on June 24, in a move that has resurrected Labor’s electoral standing and reshaped Australian politics.

Speculation Gillard may be set to call an election grew after Governor-General Quentin Bryce delayed leaving for a trip to Europe by a day until Saturday, sparking talk that Gillard could ask the representative of Australia’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth, to dissolve parliament as early as this week.

Gillard declined to comment on the timing when questioned by reporters on a trip to Adelaide, but said in a speech "in the days to come I will be putting forward more detailed arguments about some of the biggest challenges facing our nation.

"I will be explaining the steps I think we need to take and asking for people’s consideration of those steps. I will ask for the Australian people’s trust to move Australia forward," she said.

Political commentators said Gillard’s words meant she may seek to call an election on Thursday or Friday this week.

But commentators warned that Labor still risked losing an election expected in late August. [ID:nSGE6600MU]

"The coming of Julia Gillard to the Labor Party leadership appears to have stopped the decay in her party’s fortunes," said The Age newspaper’s national editor Tony Wright.

"She has stopped the Rudd rot, though she hasn’t been able to make any serious inroads into Labor’s loss of the disaffected to the Greens."

Labor took power in 2007 promising to tackle climate change, but under Rudd failed to implement a carbon trading scheme, a disappointment that saw Green voters desert Rudd.

Labor needs to woo them back to ensure victory over the Liberal-National opposition.

Gillard has acted quickly on key policies, ending a three-month row with mining companies over a new tax that was hurting the government in the polls, and proposing a regional asylum processing centre, possibly in East Timor, to curb boatpeople arrivals. [ID:nAUTAX]

The tax deal has been generally accepted by voters, but her asylum policy has received criticism for being in its infancy.

The cabinet will meet on Tuesday and was expected to discuss a new climate policy, but it is not clear whether Gillard will go as far as announcing a carbon tax as an interim measure before a full blown carbon trading scheme can be created.

She has said a carbon price is inevitable, probably via a market-based scheme, but that any decision on such a scheme would not be until 2012 and not without community consensus.

But voters want quick action on climate change, according to opinion polls and public comments in local media.

Until now the political risk of announcing a carbon price ahead of an election has been the threat of rising power bills. But two new surveys suggest power bills will rise and energy investment will fall because of a lack of a carbon price.

The lack of an emissions trading scheme and price on carbon would cost the Australian economy and consumers an extra A$2 billion by 2020 due to investment in less energy efficient coal-fired power plants, The Climate Institute estimates. (Additional reporting by Ed Davies; Editing by Alex Richardson)






Jul 12, 2010

Australia government ahead in polls, seeks policy revamp

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s ruling Labor party is set for a narrow victory in elections expected to be announced within weeks, two new opinion polls showed on Monday, but it is struggling over key policy issues on climate and asylum seekers.

While the robust Australian economy, in its 17th year of growth, should be a winning ticket for new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, voters believe the opposition is the better economic manager, according to the polls.

Jul 12, 2010

Australia govt ahead in polls, seeks policy revamp

SYDNEY, July 12 (Reuters) – Australia’s ruling Labor party is set for a narrow victory in elections expected to be announced within weeks, two new opinion polls showed on Monday, but it is struggling over key policy issues on climate and asylum seekers.

While the robust Australian economy, in its 17th year of growth, should be a winning ticket for new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, voters believe the opposition is the better economic manager, according to the polls.

Opinion polls published in Fairfax and News Ltd newspapers put Labor ahead of the conservative opposition at 52 percent versus 48 percent. For Reuters Poll Tend [ID:nSYU010167]

"They’re in front and they’ve got a primary vote that can deliver victory," John Stirton, research director with pollster Nielsen, told local radio.

Gillard, 48, is Australia’s first woman prime minister. She replaced Kevin Rudd on June 24, in a move that has resurrected Labor’s electoral standing and reshaped Australian politics.

But political commentators warned that Labor still risked losing elections expected in late August. [ID:nSGE6600MU]

"The coming of Julia Gillard to the Labor Party leadership appears to have stopped the decay in her party’s fortunes," said The Age newspaper’s national editor Tony Wright.

"She has stopped the Rudd rot, though she hasn’t been able to make any serious inroads into Labor’s loss of the disaffected to the Greens," said Wright.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

TAKE-A-LOOK-Australia’s Greens to sway policy [ID:nSGE667085]

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Labor took power in 2007 promising to tackle climate change, but under Rudd failed to implement a carbon trading scheme, a move which saw Green voters desert Rudd.

Labor needs to woo them back to ensure victory over the Liberal-National opposition.

Gillard has acted quickly on key policies, ending a three-month row with mining companies over a new tax that was hurting the government in the polls, and proposing a regional asylum processing centre, possibly in East Timor, to curb boatpeople arrivals. [ID:nAUTAX]

The tax deal has been generally accepted by voters, but her asylum policy has received criticism for being in its infancy.

She is expected to this week release her 2010 election climate policy, but it is not clear whether Gillard will go as far as announcing a carbon tax as an interim measure before a full blown carbon trading scheme can be created.

She has said a carbon price is inevitable, probably via a market-based scheme, but that any decision on such a scheme would not be until 2012 and not without community consensus.

But voters want quick action on climate change, according to opinion polls and public comments in local media.

Until now the political risk of announcing a carbon price ahead of an election has been the threat of rising power bills. But two new surveys suggest power bills will rise and energy investment will fall because of a lack of a carbon price.

The lack of an emissions trading scheme and price on carbon would cost the Australian economy and consumers an extra A$2 billion by 2020 due to investment in less energy efficient coal-fired power plants, The Climate Institute estimates. (Editing by Ed Davies and Jonathan Thatcher)






Jul 6, 2010

Australia govt, opposition battle over asylum policy

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard unveiled a new asylum policy on Tuesday aimed at allaying voter fears about rising boatpeople numbers ahead of elections, with the centrepiece a possible East Timor processing centre.

Conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott also released his asylum policy on Tuesday, saying he would “turn back the boats” by restoring the “Pacific Solution” of mandatory offshore island detention and temporary protection visas for boatpeople arrivals.

Jul 6, 2010

Australia govt under new mine tax revenue attack

SYDNEY, July 6 (Reuters) – Australia’s opposition accused
the government on Tuesday of misleading voters over billions of
dollars in lost tax revenue, reigniting a row over a
politically damaging mining tax ahead of an expected election.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard ended a three-month dispute
with global miners on Friday by announcing a watered-down tax,
but revelations the new tax revenue was based on higher
commodity forecasts put the tax back in the public spotlight.

Jul 6, 2010

Australian government under attack over mine tax revenue

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s government came under political attack on Tuesday over a potential A$4.5 billion ($3.8 billion) loss in revenue from a new mine tax, months before elections in which economic management will be a major issue.

But economists said the new tax structure would only kick off in 2012 and it was too early to make a precise estimate of the revenue. Growth in China, which is Australia’s biggest importer of minerals, was another variable.

Jul 6, 2010

Australian govt under attack over mine tax revenue

SYDNEY, July 6 (Reuters) – Australia’s government came
under political attack on Tuesday over a potential A$4.5
billion ($3.8 billion) loss in revenue from a new mine tax,
months before elections in which economic management will be a
major issue.

But economists said the new tax structure would only kick
off in 2012 and it was too early to make a precise estimate of
the revenue. Growth in China, which is Australia’s biggest
importer of minerals, was another variable.

Jul 1, 2010

Australia and miners reportedly agree to tax deal

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s government and key mining companies are reported to have agreed a compromise on a mining “super tax,” which could open the way for new Prime Minister Julia Gillard to call an early election.

The government made concessions in talks with miners on the headline 40 percent tax rate, the Sydney Morning Herald said, quoting sources with knowledge of the talks.