QBE on track to reach $US250 million in savings

Insurer QBE is on track to meet its savings targets.QBE says it is on track to hit its target to cut costs by “at least” $US250 million by 2015, as it replaces hundreds of jobs in western countries with staff in Manila.
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The global insurer also affirmed its full-year guidance on Tuesday, as it benefits from relatively few natural disasters and the recent fall in the Aussie dollar.

At midday its shares had risen 2.6 per cent, or 39.5c, to $15.70.

QBE, which is looking to rationalise its operations after a spate of acquisition-led growth under former boss Frank O’Halloran, earlier this year unveiled a plan to save $US250 million a year by 2015 by sending about 700 positions to the Philippines.

As the changes are rolled out across its Australian division, chief executive John Neal today stressed that he expected expenses would be cut by “at least” $US250 million as a result of the program.

The cost-cutting push will also result in changes to its operations in North America and Europe – where the company may also look to carry-out cuts in its European business slightly earlier than expected.

“This is very much the start, the first wave if you like, and there will be more activity that will follow,” Mr Neal said.

So far, 521 positions in Australia have been affected by the offshoring changes.

Most of these staff are set to be redeployed within the group, while 39 have been made redundant, and 52 contractor positions have not been renewed.

The chief executive of its Australian arm, Colin Fagen, said QBE was “extremely confident” it would save more than the original $85 million in costs that it had planned to trim from its Australian operations by 2015 through the offshoring changes.

This was likely to occur because the company’s redundancy costs had been lower than expected, while the volume of work being carried out in Manila had exceeded expectations.

Mr Neal also said he was confident the company expected to hit its full-year forecast for premiums to increase by about 5 per cent, and indicated it had benefited from several one-off factors.

He said conditions were “very positive” in Australia and North America but tougher in Europe, where rates were flat.

“It’s still very very early days in the year but we are quite relaxed about where we see ourselves for the half year.”

QBE, which reports its profits on a calendar year basis, will present its half-year results in August.

Insurers have benefited relatively few natural disasters in recent months, while QBE has extensive US operations, so it tends to benefit from a falling Australian dollar.

“Overall, the weakening in the Australian dollar is good news for us, but it does bring some complications,” Mr Neal said.

Deutsche Bank analyst Kieran Chidgey said the progress on cost-cutting and positive one-off factors should cause the “market’s conviction in QBE’s turnaround” to increase.

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Spencer rules breakfast, but Nova’s share explodes

He’s done it again; 612 ABC Brisbane announcer Spencer Howson has retained his crown as king of the lucrative breakfast radio session.
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Despite a 0.1 per cent drop, Mr Howson’s 13.1 per cent market share is still firmly in front of his commercial rivals, ratings agency Nielson confirmed on Tuesday.

But DMG’s Nova106.9 breakfast team of Ash Bradnam, David ‘Luttsy’ Lutteral and Kip Wightman closed in on Aunty’s star, gaining 1.1 per cent to steal the number two spot from Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen and Bob Gallaghar on ARN’s 97.3FM.

Nova also overtook 97.3 as the station with the largest overall audience through the week – a coup that rounds out its standing dominance of the weekend market.

Fairfax Radio 4BC, owned by the publishers of this website, also improved its overall market share, growing its audience by 0.9 per cent to beat 4KQ, 4BH, and the ABC’s Radio National and Triple J for the number six spot.

The station’s breakfast team also recorded a 0.4 per cent audience boost to maintain its sixth-place ranking.

Meanwhile the Triple M Grill Team – Pete Timbs, Michelle Anderson and Greg ‘Marto’ Martin – moved from fifth to fourth place, changing places with their Austereo cousins at B105 – Jason ‘Labby’ Hawkins, Stav Davidson and Abby Coleman.

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What a relief; now let’s get on with it, says Horwill

Now we can all get some sleep: Wallabies captain James Horwill, left, fronts the media with coach Robbie Deans after the judicial hearing. Photo: James BrickwoodWallabies captain James Horwill says he feels ‘‘vindicated’’ by an International Rugby Board ruling that a stamping allegation against him be dismissed for the second time in nine days.
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The Test second-rower is free to play in the series decider against the British and Irish Lions in Sydney after 12 hours of deliberation overnight on Monday produced the same result as the first hearing on June 23.

Horwill said he was ‘‘very relieved’’ to be told the news during a gym session on Tuesday morning after enduring a sleepless night in limbo.

‘‘I feel very vindicated by the way it’s gone,’’ he said. ‘‘I love what I do and it means a hell of a lot to represent my country and not only to represent it but the opportunity to lead in what is probably the biggest game in this country since the 2003 World Cup final. I’m very excited and now we can focus on the game and that’s what is important.’’

The decision was handed down by Canadian judicial officer Graeme Mew  at about 10am on Tuesday, 12 hours after he took final submissions from Horwill, his legal counsel and the Australian Rugby Union.

Mew found there was no cause to overturn the original ruling of judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC, who said on June 23 that he could not find an intentional or deliberate action of stamping or trampling on the head of Lions second rower Alun Wyn Jones.

‘‘For the appeal to succeed the IRB would have to establish that there was some misapprehension of law or principle by the judicial officer or that his decision was so clearly wrong or manifestly unreasonable that no judicial officer could have reached the conclusion that he did,’’ Mew noted in his judgement.

‘‘There was sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable judicial officer could have reached the decision that was made.

‘‘Accordingly, it could not be said that the judicial officer was manifestly wrong or that the interests of justice otherwise required his decision be overturned.’’

Horwill accepted the decision calmly on Tuesday but was obviously pleased to have the uncertainty behind him.

‘‘I can’t complain. It’s been a very fair process both times; as I said before, the hearings have been very fair and the process is what it is,’’ he said, after  thanking the public for their support.

‘‘My family and the team have been very overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received so I thank you very much and it’s now time to get on with football.’’

The original incident occurred in the third minute of the Lions’ 23-21 victory over the Wallabies in the first Test.

Horwill struck Jones in the head during a ruck. The Lions second-rower played out most of the match and required stitches to his eye after the full-time bell.

The Lions referred the matter to the citing commissioner after the game, but a four-hour hearing in front of IRB-appointed judicial officer Hampton last Sunday night found there was enough merit in Horwill’s explanation that he was ‘‘spun off balance’’ by Lions players entering the ruck from the other side.

The decision was controversially overturned by the IRB on Thursday night and while the board did not provide a clear reason,  they cited the ‘‘preservation of player welfare’’.

‘‘It is important for the IRB to ensure amongst all stakeholders in the game that there is full confidence that priority is given to player welfare and the values of the game,’’ the IRB said at the time.

Horwill said he had been unaware of the incident until he was cited and had a chance to view footage from the game.

Rugby Union Players’ Association chief executive Greg Harris congratulated Horwill on being cleared to play.

‘‘James Horwill was initially cleared of the stamping charge as per the IRB’s established judicial process.

“RUPA, like the ARU, was both surprised and disappointed that the finding of the IRB appointed judicial officer, Nigel Hampton QC, from New Zealand was deemed to be ‘erroneous’.

‘‘The fact that the verdict was not delivered until midday on Tuesday added significant disruption to the preparation of the Wallabies team for the third, and deciding Test.

‘‘RUPA still remains sufficiently concerned with the perceived inconsistencies with the processes and as such has raised the matter with the International Rugby Players’ Association and requested that IRPA raise the matter formally with the IRB.’’

Harris said the case set a dangerous precedent by the IRB and that not only the RUPA membership, but the broader rugby community in Australia, were concerned about the motives behind the decision to refer the matter again.

‘‘James is the Australian captain and is a sportsman of impeccable character who in 130 professional games had never been cited.

“He always had the full support of RUPA and his fellow players no matter what the outcome of the IRB’s judicial processes were to be,’’ Harris said.

The IRB released a statement a short time ago accepting Mew’s decision.

‘‘While ultimately not proving successful in its appeal, the IRB is satisfied that it took the right approach,’’ the statement said.

‘‘The IRB would like to acknowledge the professional manner in which the Australian Rugby Union managed the process as host union of the tour.’’

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Warm blankets and hot chocolate 

So, I didn’t quite get the chance to write this blog lastweek.
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I can probably give you several excuses as to why it didn’thappen … some of them pretty good as well, but there are only two that will sitright with me.

1. Ijust ran out of time. (In case you didn’t hear there were somemassive news events last week both nationally and in the central west).

2. Ididn’t want to really admit that I have kindafallen off the wagon a bit. I have fallen into a pile of warm comfortableblankets, nice wine, television shows and hot chocolates. And that is probablymy main excuse.

But, here I am, a bit late, but writing the blog I don’treally want to confess to.

Three weeks ago my plateau started. I haven’t lost a thingfor the past three weeks. Thankfully I haven’t gone up either, but thosenumbers not moving kinda depresses me and makes me think ‘why bother’.

The winter weather hasn’t helped either (yes, yes, I know Ihave overcome all these excuses in the past but for some reason that’s just notworking!) It’s been cold and miserable in the mornings, and after long days atwork I haven’t wanted to exercise so I have given in.

I have also reached for hot chocolate and marshmallowsinstead of tea in the evening – because in my mind tea just isn’t as yummy as ahot chocolate with melted marshmallows on top, while you curl up under theblanket in front of the television. (Can you imagine what I would be like if Ihad a fire and a good book!)

Anyway … I am happy to say as of Monday this week I am backon track. The sun was (thankfully) out yesterday and a run/walk with the dogfelt so good. An ab workout when I got home topped off my exercise session.

I also have a full freezer of 12 week body challengeapproved meals to keep my calories in check and I am going to do what I can toget over my plateau. I have four weeks and I plan to give it my all.

Wish me luck … the sun is out, I am going for another runthis afternoon!

GETTING HEALTHY:Is it really never too cold to exercise? | Losing weight isn’t that hard | Is it all about the numbers? | In sickness and in health

Even when 2GB loses it wins

It’s good to be the kings … John Singleton, Alan Jones and Ray Hadley celebrate at a bar in Darling Harbour. Photo: Rick Stevens Nielsen Commercial Radio Australia ratings Sydney ? Survey #4 2013
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Back on top in the Drive slot for the first time in 2013 … Richard Glover on ABC702

Radio giant 2GB demonstrated just how strong it is in the Sydney market by retaining its number one position in the Nielsen ratings despite a significant decrease in listeners.

The station experienced a drop in audience of 1.7 per cent overall – including a 3.8 per cent drop for Ray Hadley on mornings, 2.8 per cent for Chris Smith on afternoons and 1.2 per cent for Alan Jones’s high profile breakfast show – yet didn’t come close to losing the top spot overall, nor in any of those timeslots.

2GB’s significant drop in the fourth survey of the year, which measures Sydney listeners for the period from April 7 to June 22, comes as something of a surprise as there have been no major scandals during that time period to suggest such a shift. The last time 2GB experienced an audience loss of this magnitude was a 2.3 per cent drop in the first survey of the year which came on the back of Ray Hadley’s alleged bullying scandal.

The talkback station’s loss proved to be the ABC’s gain, as many of those listeners appear to have been hoovered up by ABC702 for the most part, where an overall 1.2 per cent increase was built on a 1.8 per cent jump in ratings for its morning and afternoon shows.

Richard Glover’s Drive show went one step further, reclaiming the top spot that it lost to 2GB in the first survey of the year.

ABC702 also recorded a big increase in the breakfast ratings, bringing in an extra 1.4 per cent share, however it wasn’t all good news for the national broadcaster as it had big losses in the same timeslot on both News Radio (-1.0 per cent) and ABCFM (-1.3 per cent) amounting to a 34 per cent and 40 per cent drop in listeners respectively.

2UE also experienced a slight downturn in audience in all weekday programs.

AM Spectrum total audience share Mon‐Sun 5.30am‐12.00 MidnightThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Failed $47m carbon reduction project abandoned

Former minister of foreign affairs Alexander Downer, and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono mark the Forests Partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Sydney in 2007. Photo: Peter BraigAustralia has effectively killed the last of its vaunted on-the-ground projects in Indonesia to restore and protect forests and peatland for the carbon dioxide they store.
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In a small note on the AusAid website, the Commonwealth government has confirmed a $47 million project to restore 25,000 hectares of peatland on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan will end before most of its major milestones are met.

The Kalimantan project was first launched with great fanfare in 2007 by then foreign minister Alexander Downer and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. It then became the centrepiece of a $100 million Indonesia-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership launched by President Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008.

The end of the project comes as Mr Rudd is likely to head to Indonesia later this week to meet with President Yudhoyono.

The project had originally aimed to re-flood 200,000 hectares of dried peatland, protect 70,000 hectares of peat forests, and plant 100 million trees in Central Kalimantan.

But as the project ran into difficulties and delays it was later scaled back to about 10 per cent – or 25,000 hectares – of the original 200,000 hectares of peatland to be re-flooded.

Peatland soils are some of the most carbon dense landscapes in the world, and are estimated to hold about 18 times the carbon dioxide of trees. Previous estimates have found that only about four per cent of Indonesia’s original peatland areas remain in pristine condition, with another 37 per cent containing forest with signs of degradation.

The major part of the Australian project was to remove or block large canals to re-flood the peatland that had been drained for a failed agriculture project under President Suharto.

On its website AusAid says the project: “will not extend in its current form, but both governments are discussing which parts might benefit from additional work in the next 12 months to maximise outcomes”.

“Large-scale blocking of drainage canals will no longer be carried out. However, the methods and plans for blocking canals that were designed under [the project] are valuable. They can be used by others in Kalimantan, elsewhere in Indonesia, and internationally for projects in peatlands that are facing similar challenges.”

Professor Luca Tacconi from the Australian National University said loss of peatland was a major source of Indonesia’s emissions and he expressed disappointment that the Australian government had pulled out of the project before it completed its goals.

“Australia had made a lot of noise about supporting emissions reductions in countries like Indonesia, and the peatlands were the right place to be,” he said.

Professor Tacconi said the project had developed some good science around peatland emissions and brought the problem to the focus of the international community.

But he said had the project been completed it would have demonstrated how peatland areas can been rehabilitated, which would had been fundamental to helping countries in Asia protect and restore such sites.

Professor Tacconi said it was unclear why the project has ended without blocking any canals. He said the engineering plans to block the drains were completed late last year and had gained Indonesian regulatory approval to proceed. He added a community development project had also been built around the project, which had raised expectations in local villages.

It is understood the government may continue some of the community and monitoring work at the site for another year. AusAid has been contacted for comment.

On its website AusAid say the project’s achievements include rasing 2.6 million seedlings for planting in the project area and a monitoring system for estimating peat emissions had been developed.

It is the second Indonesia peatland and forest project to be cancelled early by Australia. A second $30 million project to protect forests for carbon on the island of Sumatra was dropped before any on-ground work had begun.

As part of the Forest Carbon Partnership, Australia is also helping Indonesia develop a national carbon accounting system.

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Labor preselection battle for Kingsford-Smith

Seeking preselection for Kingsford-Smith … Labor Senator Matt Thistlethwaite.Labor Senator Matt Thistlethwaite has confirmed he will stand for preselection in the federal seat of Kingsford-Smith, which the former education minister Peter Garrett has decided to vacate.
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Despite “pressure” from head office to not stand, Randwick mayor Tony Bowen will also run for preselection for the seat, which was held for 20 years by his late father, the former deputy prime minister Lionel Bowen.

Mr Bowen, who has been Randwick mayor since September and a councillor for five years, said he made up his mind to run on Friday after Mr Garrett had announced he would not recontest the seat.

“I was very surprised to be contacted out of the blue by head office and told in no uncertain terms I should not be running and to withdraw any idea of nominating,” Mr Bowen said. “It is important for there to be a rank and file preselection. It is a test for the party.

“The Labor Party has a great history of producing high-quality local members for Kingsford Smith.

“Peter Garrett’s resignation was unexpected but understandable in the circumstances.”

Fairfax Media understands Mr Bowen received a call from NSW Labor’s deputy general secretary Jamie Clements, who had advised him not to run because Mr Thistlethwaite was certain to win the preselection which needed to be settled quickly in time for the federal election.

A spokesman for NSW Labor head office said: “we need to get a candiate into the field as soon as possible due to the uncertainty of the election date and the overwhelming view of locals is that Matt will win the preselection and will be the candidate.”

Mr Bowen was a barrister for 11 years and also worked as a solicitor.

His father, Lionel Bowen, was the member for Kingsford Smith from 1969 to 1989. He served in Gough Whitlam’s cabinet and as Bob Hawke’s deputy prime minister. He was also a mayor of Randwick during the 1950s.

“Dad never encouraged any of his eight children to get involved in politics. He did encourage us to think for ourselves and to stand on our own two feet,” Mr Bowen said.

“What prompted me to join the Labor Party in 1996 was the election of John Howard as prime minister.”

The NSW MP for Maroubra, Michael Daley, and the NSW MP for Heffron, Ron Hoenig, are backing Mr Thistlethwaite as the preferred candidate.

Mr Daley said Mr Thistlethwaite “was born and bred in Maroubra Junction, is president of the Maroubra Surf Club and president of the Maroubra Police Citizens Youth Club”.

“We are really lucky in this area – the Labor Party has always had many people of great talent. Matt Thistlethwaite is one of them,” Mr Daley said.

If Mr Thistlethwaite wins preselection for Kingsford-Smith it will open a vacancy in the Senate which may be filled by NSW Labor’s general secretary, Sam Dastyari.

In a tweet, Mr Dastyari said he was focused on the job of helping Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to get re-elected.

Former NSW Premier Nathan Rees believes that if Mr Dastyari leaves party headquarters, Mr Rudd would need to order a full-scale intervention in the state party, which has been disgraced by years of revelations about corruption among MPs and union officials.

“If the successor to Sam Dastyari does not have the same enthusiasm for party reform, then the PM should give his consideration to stepping in,” he said.

On Friday, Mr Rudd said repeatedly he was “revolted” by the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiries into former Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald. Former ALP official Michael Williamson is also under police investigation into the way he ran the Health Services Union.

Mr Rudd said: “I am revolted by what I have seen unfold in NSW … I am revolted that this could’ve been seen to have been acceptable practice. I will therefore be having a very deep discussion with cabinet colleagues of an entirely political nature about the new direction for NSW and more broadly, where we go on the overall remit of party reform nationwide.”

Mr Rudd said his “overwhelming preference” was for local democratic preselections. The only exception was a genuine crisis of time, which was not the case in the Sydney electorate of Kingsford Smith.

A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said “these matters are organisational matters for the ALP”.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Folkes pays price for Dragons woes

Parting of the ways: St George Illawarra assistant Steve Folkes and head coach Steve Price. Photo: Kirk GilmourFormer premiership-winning coach Steve Folkes is set to be the first casualty of St George Illawarra’s poor season as the Dragons look to revamp their coaching structure next year.
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Fairfax Media understands Folkes, an assistant coach to Steve Price, has been told his contract won’t be renewed at the end of this season. Folkes joined the Dragons on a two-year deal last year to add some experience to the coaching ranks. But with the Dragons sitting just two points away from last place, the club hierarchy thinks changes are needed, with Folkes likely to exit at season’s end. St George Illawarra have won just two of their past nine games and are on the verge of missing finals in consecutive years for the first time in the joint-venture club’s history.

Folkes’ demotion comes after the Dragons re-signed Price for an extra season earlier this year. Folkes has had a decorated coaching career. He spent 11-seasons in charge of Canterbury, including the 2004 premiership win. He left at the end of 2008 before taking up a stint as the fitness coordinator for the West Indies cricket team. Folkes also spent time at the Wests Tigers before joining Price and fellow assistant Joey Grima at the Dragons.

The changes will force a reshuffle within the Dragons coaching ranks. It is understood under-20s coach Justin Holbrook will follow Price’s lead and make the jump from the Holden Cup to first grade assistant after coaching the youth side for the past two years. Holbrook, who played 17 top grade games for Newcastle, Penrith and Sydney Roosters between 1999-2002, also coached Canterbury’s NSW Cup team to successive premierships before joining the Dragons last year. Former St George Illawarra captain Paul McGregor is also expected to rejoin the club’s full-time ranks again as another assistant to Price. McGregor has spent the past two seasons in charge of the Dragons NSW Cup side, Illawarra Cutters, having been part of Nathan Brown’s coaching set-up before Wayne Bennett’s arrival at the Dragons in 2009.

Their vacancies are expected to be filled by recent retirees Ben Hornby and Dean Young. Hornby is likely to take control of the under 20s from next season while Young will replace McGregor. After retiring last year, the duo coached St George and Illawarra’s respective SG Ball under-18 sides this year before Hornby moved on to the under-20 team’s set-up and Young the NSW Cup, when their short seasons ended in April.

A loss to the high flying Sydney Roosters on Saturday could result in the Dragons slumping to last on the premiership ladder.

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Sixers eye ex-Test batsman North

In demand: Marcus North plays for the Perth Scorchers in last year’s Big Bash League. Photo: Dallas Kilponen DAKFormer Test batsman Marcus North is likely to join the Sydney Sixers for this summer’s Twenty20 Big Bash League.
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Franchises are in the midst of the player-contracting window for next season’s tournament – the first to be broadcast on free-to-air television – and 2011-12 champions the Sixers are understood to be in talks with North as they seek to complete their squad list within the $1.05 million retainer pool.

The 33-year-old veteran of 21 Tests was previously at last season’s finalists Perth Scorchers and notably quit the Western Australia captaincy last October after the Scorchers’ Champions League campaign unravelled in South Africa.

Elsewhere, the Sixers have retained the services of veteran crowd-puller Brett Lee despite suggestions he may have been heading across town to rivals Sydney Thunder.

The mission to transform the ANZ Stadium-based side from basketcase to boom franchise could, however, see Australian opener David Warner lost to the Sixers. The Thunder have already made the key acquisition of Michael Hussey, and have Test captain Michael Clarke on their books.

Although Warner, like Clarke, would only be available for one or perhaps two games if on international duty this summer, his return to the electric green would be another boost for last season’s BBL cellar dwellers.

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July RBA statement on monetary policy

At its meeting today, the Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 2.75 per cent.
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Recent information is consistent with global growth running a bit below average this year, with reasonable prospects of a pick-up next year. Commodity prices have declined further but, overall, remain at high levels by historical standards. Inflation has moderated over recent months in a number of countries.

Globally, financial conditions remain very accommodative. However, a reassessment by the market of the outlook for monetary policy in the United States has seen a noticeable rise in sovereign bond yields from exceptionally low levels. Volatility in financial markets has increased and there has been some widening of credit spreads.

In Australia, the recent national accounts confirmed that the economy has been growing a bit below trend over the recent period. This is expected to continue in the near term as the economy adjusts to lower levels of mining investment. The unemployment rate has edged higher over the past year and growth in labour costs has moderated. Inflation has been consistent with the medium-term target and is expected to remain so over the next one to two years, notwithstanding the effects of the recent depreciation of the exchange rate.

The easing in monetary policy over the past 18 months has supported interest-sensitive spending and asset values and further effects can be expected over time. The pace of borrowing has remained relatively subdued, though recently there are signs of increased demand for finance by households.

The Australian dollar has depreciated by around 10 per cent since early April, although it remains at a high level. It is possible that the exchange rate will depreciate further over time, which would help to foster a rebalancing of growth in the economy.

At today’s meeting the Board judged that the easier financial conditions now in place will contribute to a strengthening of growth over time, consistent with achieving the inflation target. It decided that the stance of monetary policy remained appropriate for the time being. The Board also judged that the inflation outlook, as currently assessed, may provide some scope for further easing, should that be required to support demand.

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RBA holds fire on interest rates

The Reserve Bank has keep the cash rate on hold for the second consecutive month, but has kept the door open for further cuts if they are needed to stimulate the economy.
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The cash rate remained at 2.75 per cent, a 53-year low, after the last RBA cut in May.

“At today’s meeting the Board judged that the easier financial conditions now in place will contribute to a strengthening of growth over time, consistent with achieving the inflation target,” Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens said in a short statement.

“It decided that the stance of monetary policy remained appropriate for the time being. The Board also judged that the inflation outlook, as currently assessed, may provide some scope for further easing, should that be required to support demand.”

The Australian dollar was trading at 92.23 US cents just before the statement was released. It rose slightly before slipping about a quarter of a cent to 91.72 US cents.

Financial markets were pricing in a 14 per cent chance of a 25-basis-points cut today, according to Credit Suisse data.

A majority of economists had expected the central bank to stay its hand, after a sharp fall in the Australian dollar over the past few months helped to ease the pressure on export-oriented sectors of the economy.

Mr Stevens said the Australian dollar still remained at a “high level” despite its recent falls.

Since the last RBA cut in May, the Australian dollar has slipped more than 10 per cent against its US counterpart, with currency strategists not expecting it to return to its above parity levels.

The Reserve Bank said in its June board minutes that further falls in the dollar would help to “foster a rebalancing of growth in the economy” as the mining boom peaks. Mr Stevens repeated the same comments in his statement today.

Analysts said the RBA could to ease rates again later this year amid a slower-than-expected transition towards non-mining-led growth as the resources investment boom peaks.

Data released yesterday suggested that the housing and manufacturing sectors – two key industries economists said needed to grow – were strengthening. But analysts said the sectors needed to expand more to fill the gap left by mining.

Economists said fears about China’s slowing economy and credit crunch were also weighing on Australia’s growth.

The Reserve Bank’s current easing cycle started in November 2011. The cash rate has fallen by 200 points since then.

More to come…

RBA interest rate decisions in current easing cycle

2013

May 7: -0.25, to 2.75 per cent

2012

Dec 5: -0.25, to 3 per centOctober 3: -0.25, to 3.25 per centJune 6: -0.25, to 3.5 per centMay 2: -0.50, to 3.75 per cent

2011

December 7: -0.25, to 4.25 per centNovember 2: -0.25, to 4.5 per cent

Cash rate kept at 2.75 per cent

THE Reserve Bank has keep the cash rate on hold for the second consecutive month, but has kept the door open for further cuts if they are needed to stimulate the economy.
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The cash rate remained at 2.75 per cent, a 53-year low, after the last RBA cut in May.

Financial markets were pricing in a 14 per cent chance of a 25-basis-points cut today, according to Credit Suisse data.

A majority of economists had expected the central bank to stay its hand, after a sharp fall in the Australian dollar over the past few months helped to ease the pressure on export-oriented sectors of the economy.

Since the last RBA cut in May, the Australian dollar has slipped more than 10 per cent against its US counterpart, with currency strategists not expecting it to return to its above parity levels.

SMH

Moylan charged over hoax email 

ENVIRONMENTAL activist Jonathan Moylan is facing up to 10 years in jail after being charged under the Corporations Act for his January hoax email over Whitehaven Coal.
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The charges were confirmed today by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

The Newcastle-based Mr Moylan put out a press release in January purporting to be from the ANZ bank saying that bank was withdrawing a $1.2 billion loan to Whitehaven for its Maules Creek mine near Narrabri.

Mr Moylan said he had been told of the charge on Thursday night and would appear in the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney on Tuesday, July 23.

Mr Moylan said he had been charged under Section 1041E of the Corporations Act, which carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $495,000.

“Noone has ever been charged with this as far as my lawyers know,’ Mr Moylan told the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday.

“In plain language, it charges with me with providing false or misleading information that could induce someone to sell their shares.’’

Lock the Gate Alliance president Drew Hutton said the charges against Mr Moylan were a clear example of double standards.

He said Mr Moylan was potentially facing 10 years in jail over a protest press release while no action appears to have been taken against Whitehaven despite concerns over the accuracy of information in environmental reports compiled for Whitehaven over Maules Creek.

“We are asking ASIC to reconsider their decision and withdraw the prosecution,’’ Mr Hutton said.

“The penalty is clearly disproportionate to the offence and Mr Moylan has apologised to anyone affected by his actions.”

“Whether you agree with his actions or not, Mr Moylan’s intent was obviously just to tell the world about the plight of the people and environments at risk from this massive coalmine.”

A spokesperson for Whitehaven Coal declined to comment on the charge facing Mr Moylan but said full information about Maules Creek was available on the Whitehaven website.

JONATHAN MOYLAN