September 7, 2023

Australia news LIVE: Outgoing RBA governor warns of wild inflation swings in final speech; PM meets Chinese Premier in Jakarta

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2.31pm

King says she spoke to cabinet colleagues about Qatar decision

By Angus Thompson

It’s parliament question time and, as expected, Transport Minister Catherine King has been asked about her decision to reject Qatar Airways’ bid for more Australian flights.

Manager of opposition business Paul Fletcher asked King which of her cabinet colleagues she consulted before making the decision, a question she was also asked at her early morning press conference at Canberra Airport today.

King replied: “My department undertook consultations with all the relevant aviation stakeholders and I was well aware of different stakeholder views when I took this decision.”

“I certainly consulted with ministerial colleagues but the decision was mine. Unlike those opposite, we do have a government of ministerial responsibility,” she said.

She didn’t say who she spoke to. King was later asked a dixer about the review of the aviation sector she announced today. Here is some of what she said:

“We want an aviation sector that maintains Australia’s world-leading safety and security standards, we want an aviation sector with stronger consumer protections and that provide secure jobs now and into the future,” he said.

2.10pm

Philip Lowe’s parting words: Australians have a right to understand the RBA’s decisions

By Anthony Segaert

Good afternoon, Anthony Segaert bringing you the afternoon’s news as Caroline Schelle heads off. Thanks for joining us.

We’ll bring you the latest from parliament’s question time – which has just begun with a series of tributes to Queen Elizabeth II on the anniversary of her death – shortly.

But first, Rachel Clun has a final update on outgoing Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe’s speech today:

In his final public comments as Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe acknowledged that while the bank’s decisions can be unpopular, they were also important and Australians deserved to understand why the RBA does what it does, she reports.

He said:

We’re taking important decisions on behalf of the country. They can be unpopular, they affect the distribution of income, so they’re really important decisions.

I think we need to be as accountable as we can and explain our decisions as clearly as we can, and the reasons why we taking those decisions and the trade-offs we’re managing. I cannot see how it can help the situation by being unclear.

At various points in time, I’ve struggled to be as clear as I wanted to be but I’ve always sought to explain things as clearly as possible.

Australians should expect that of us. We take important decisions, we affect all your lives. And you have a right to know why we take those decisions and how we manage them.

Michelle Bullock takes over as Reserve Bank governor on September 18.

1.56pm

PM raised trade with Chinese premier at meeting

By Caroline Schelle

Returning to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for a moment, who told reporters in Jakarta he raised trade impediments with the Chinese premier during their meeting.

“It was acknowledged that the barley issue had been resolved in the issue of both our nations,” Albanese said.

He said the industry was worth $900 million annually, and he also spoke about Australia’s wine producers to the premier.

“It is in Australian wine producers’ interest to export wine, but it is also in China’s interest to receive it,” he said.

Albanese also discussed the slowdown of the Chinese economy with Premier Li Qiang, who was positive about his country’s economic outlook.

“[The Chinese premier] spoke about the rise of the middle class in China as well, which they hope to double from 400 million to 800 million by 2035,” Albanese told reporters.

“It is a considerable achievement of China that they have lifted up millions of people out of poverty over recent decades,” which was an important source of pride for the country.

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1.46pm

Labor’s IR reforms shelved until next year

By Angus Thompson

In breaking news, landmark laws targeting food delivery riders and casual workers have been shelved until next year in a blow to Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke.

He accused the federal opposition of voting down pay increases across crucial industries.

Coalition senators teamed up with crossbenchers, including independent senator David Pocock and Tasmania’s Jacqui Lambie, to push back the reporting date for a Senate inquiry into the government’s Closing Loopholes Bill from late October until February 1, delaying the upper house vote to beyond that date.

Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke accused the federal opposition of voting down pay increases across crucial industries.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Coalition industrial relations spokeswoman Michaelia Cash said the government had suffered an “embarrassing loss” in the Senate after she successfully put the motion to delay the upper house committee’s report until early next year.

“The government desperately wanted to ram this bill through parliament this year,” she said, applauding members of the crossbench for allowing the opposition to defeat the government 33 votes to 32.

The bill aims to create minimum standards for gig economy workers and truck drivers, criminalise wage theft, give labour-hire workers the same pay rates as employees hired by the same companies, and make it easier for casual workers to convert to permanent work.

Burke hit back, saying the outcome meant “they have voted to delay pay increases for mine and aviation workers. They have voted to delay minimum standards that will save the lives of gig workers.”

“They have just voted to trap permanent casuals in insecure work for longer. They have just voted to delay the criminalisation of wage theft. They spent their entire time in government keeping wages low and holding workers back, and they’re still at it,” he said.

1.37pm

Being governor is challenging and rewarding: Lowe

By Rachel Clun

Despite the strident criticism he’s faced in recent time, outgoing Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe says there was a lot to be grateful for.

“It is a challenging job, but an immensely rewarding one,” he said in his final speech this afternoon.

He closed his speech by wishing his successor Michele Bullock all the best – and revealing he was passing on his “glass half full” mug to her.

“I do so in the hope that as you navigate the uncertainties ahead, you will remember that that glass is indeed half full and that we have a lot to be fortunate about here in Australia,” he said.

Outgoing RBA boss Philip Lowe pictured with his successor Michele Bullock. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Lowe said Australia faced major economic challenges recently, but he remains “incredibly optimistic” about the future.

“We’ve got a country that is still growing reasonably well. We’ve got fantastic natural resources, we’ve got incredibly smart people, and people from all around the world want to come and live here,” Lowe said.

“One of the challenges we have at the moment is that population growth is strong and causing problems in the housing market, but people want to come here, they want to live here, they want to work here, and you can understand why they want to do that, because this is one of the best places in the world to live.

“We have responsible fiscal policy, we have good policy frameworks, and there aren’t many places in the world you would want to be, are there?”

1.30pm

‘I did not make these points’: Lowe takes aim at criticism

By Rachel Clun

Philip Lowe has taken aim at further criticism of his comments, saying the misinterpretation of his guidance show how difficult communication is in a digital world.

Here’s what he said in full:

There are many other points that have been attributed to me, including: a promise that interest rates would not go up until 2024; everybody needs to get a flatmate; people need to work more hours to make ends meet; and young adults should stay at home because of the rental crisis.

Yet, I did not make these points.

My experience here highlights the difficulties of communicating in the social media and digital age.

Despite these difficulties, I have always felt a responsibility to explain complex ideas, and the trade-offs and uncertainties we face.

I know that some of my explanations have missed the mark. But the media has a responsibility too.

My view is that we will get better outcomes if the public square is filled with facts and nuanced and informed debate, rather than vitriol, personal attacks and clickbait. As a society, we have got work to do here.

But the media has a responsibility too.

My view is that we will get better outcomes if the public square is filled with facts and nuanced and informed debate, rather than vitriol, personal attacks and clickbait.”

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1.25pm

Lowe defends legacy defined by miscommunication

By Rachel Clun

Philip Lowe used his last public appearance as governor of the Reserve Bank to defend his communication, particularly his comments as late as November 2021 that he did not expect interest rates to rise until 2024.

“The issue that has defined my term more than any other is the forward guidance about interest rates that was provided during the pandemic,” he said.

“That guidance was widely interpreted as a commitment, rather than a conditional statement, that interest rates would not increase until 2024.

Philip Lowe has reflected on what he would have done differently during his term as RBA governor.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“As you know, interest rates started being increased in May 2022 and there has been much criticism since, especially by those who borrowed during the pandemic based on our guidance.”

Lowe said there was “a lot to be learned” from that experience, including how to communicate in such uncertain times, but said people needed to remember the unprecedented circumstances the country faced in 2020.

“It was a very scary time. An unknown virus was sweeping the world, our international borders were closed … temporary morgues were being set up, and a vaccine was thought to be years away,” he said.

“With the benefit of hindsight, my view is that we did do too much. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. None of us can predict the future, and we have had to make decisions under great uncertainty and with incomplete information. We got some things right, but we got other things wrong.”

1.21pm

Three challenges marked outgoing RBA governor Philip Lowe’s term

By Rachel Clun

Outgoing governor Philip Lowe says his seven-year term as head of the Reserve Bank has been marked by three major economic challenges.

In his final speech before handing over the bank’s top job, Lowe said the first challenge was a lengthy period where inflation was below the RBA’s target range of 2-3 per cent.

Second, the global pandemic, and third, the highest rate of inflation in more than 30 years.

“None of these events were widely predicted, they were all unexpected, and none were unique to Australia,” he said in a speech to the Anika Foundation in Sydney.

Outgoing RBA governor Philip Lowe, is delivering his last speech in the role today. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“Inflation has been more variable over my term as governor than it was in the previous two decades; over the past seven years, inflation has varied from a low of minus 0.3 per cent to a high of 7.8 per cent.”

Lowe, who has been at the bank for 43 years, said he expects inflation to be difficult to keep in a narrow range into the future.

“The increased prevalence of supply shocks, de-globalisation, climate change, the energy transition and shifts in demographics mean either steeper supply curves or more variable supply curves,” he said.

“While this doesn’t mean that the inflation target can’t be achieved on average, it does mean that inflation is likely to be more variable around that target.”

Lowe said ending his term with an unemployment rate under 4 per cent – it has been about 3.5 per cent for the last year – was a positive.

“The share of Australians with a job has never been higher than it is today and the number of people with a job has increased by more than 2 million since mid-2016,” he said.

“The current cycle still has way to run, but it is possible that Australia can sustain unemployment rates below what we have had over the past 40 years. If so, this would be a very good news for both the economy and our society.”

1.17pm

PM raised case of detained journalist Cheng Lei with Chinese premier

By Caroline Schelle

Staying with Anthony Albanese, who says he raised the issue of Australian citizens detained in China including journalist Cheng Lei, when he met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Jakarta today on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit.

Three of the five Australian citizens have been sentenced to capital punishment.

“I raised those issues, put Australia’s position that Australia does not support capital punishment, and we will always make representations for Australians who have been given the death sentence for that to be removed, and I did that,” Albanese said.

The prime minister also raised the case of detained journalist Cheng Lei, who has spent three years in a prison on vague national security charges.

“I put forward my view, which is the view I think … that Australians are very much conscious of this case and want to see Cheng Lei reunited with her children.”

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