Australian Politics 2015-02-03 15:49:00


Queensland election 2015: Pauline Hanson could make political comeback

Pauline Hanson has emerged as a player in the Queensland election result, as preferences indicate the former One Nation leader on track for a political comeback.

After the final count on Monday, Labor was predicted to fall over the line with the required 45 seats, leaving the incumbent Liberal-National Party government in Opposition with 40 seats and still scrambling for a new leader after Campbell Newman's loss.

Counting on election night indicated Ms Hanson was likely to fall short in her bid to win the seat of Lockyer from sitting LNP member Ian Rickuss but early preference counting has favoured Ms Hanson, increasing her chances of winning.

That would leave Queensland with four politicians on the cross bench, including long-time independent MP Peter Wellington and two Katter's Australian Party MPs.

But the result continues to fluctuate, leaving Labor reluctant to claim victory and the LNP hopeful it may sneak back into government, with Katter and possibly Ms Hanson's support.

Meanwhile, a divide has emerged between the LNP executive and parliamentary arm,  with both sides duking it out in a battle for party leadership,

Deputy leader Jeff Seeney had planned on resigning his position at a party room meeting on Tuesday to allow a new leadership team, believed to be Treasurer Tim Nicholls and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg on a unity ticket, to take the party forward.

Mr Seeney said he was falling on his sword to allow the party to heal after the shock election result, which may see the party, which spent 14 years in opposition, back there after just one term in government.

 "I have in the past found that leadership contests are very divisive and if we can avoid that, in this particular situation, that would be a great outcome," he said.

" That is why I have spent all day yesterday and this morning working towards that situation and that is the very reason I am standing aside, because if I stand aside then there is a completely new leadership team and hopefully that new leadership team can take their positions without the divisiveness that those leadership contests produce. "

But just hours after announcing the meeting, it was scuttled and Speaker Fiona Simpson was making a strong play for the leadership.  "I would love the job but this isn't just about what I want," she said.  " I am flattered though by the polls that show there is strong support for me across Queensland and in Brisbane.  "I am consulting with colleagues and I hear from the people of Queensland. "I hope that people see I have been fair in the way I have done that."

While the LNP leadership games play out, Labor MPs have stayed quiet, hesitant to claim victory with the result "so up in the air".

More than 75 per cent of votes had been counted by Monday afternoon, but the electoral commission announced a further 600,000 declaration votes could be added to the count. It warned a result in some seats may not be available until next week.


Queensland election 2015: Former treasurer Keith De Lacy says Labor not ready to govern after shock result

Former Queensland treasurer Keith De Lacy says the Labor Party did not expect to win Saturday's election and may not be ready to govern the state.

The LNP had been tipped to win the election but has won only 39 seats compred to Labor's 42, with caretaker premier Campbell Newman losing his seat of Ashgrove to Labor's Kate Jones.

Mr De Lacy, who was treasurer from 1989 to 1996 under former Labor premier Wayne Goss, said the inexperience of Labor's potential ministers could have a destabilising effect on the business sector.

"The big concern I think, and speaking on behalf of the business community, is a period of paralysis when very little gets done while the government works itself out and how to take itself forward," he said.

"The very important game in this country, in a democracy, is being a minister and nobody tells you how to do it.

"I remember, a long time ago now, the best part of 30 years, going into the treasurer's office, you know, the big mahogany desks and red leather armchairs and just shaking my head and saying 'what the hell am I doing here?'"

He said inexperienced ministers must build strong relationships with their departments.  "There's a lot of intelligent people there with a lot of experience," Mr De Lacy said.  "There's a lot of good advice in the department, make sure you utilise it and consider it.  "Don't surround yourself with 'save the world teenagers' and think you're going to get all the advice from them."

He said Queensland's economy was at a crossroads.  "The resources boom is finished, which way are we going to move?" he said.
"The last thing we need in this state is a confidence shock."

He said Labor must focus on economic growth and paying off the state's debt.  "The two big challenges is the debt and delivering social policies," Mr De Lacy said.  "The only way you can address both of those is with a growing economy.

"But if we get into a situation where we're focusing on a whole range of other issues, rather than economic growth, confidence as a consequence declines, the economy declines, the whole situation deteriorates."

Mr de Lacy said Queensland's debt was a big disadvantage. "If anybody out there believes that we don't have a massive challenge in terms of the budget in Queensland they're living in another world," he said.

"And that means pain for Queenslanders. We've got major problems here in terms of spending. "It's a massive and a major challenge and that's why I keep saying economic growth is the best thing you can have helping you.

"You cannot spend more than you earn, the most fundamental, simple budgetary principal in the human race, yet we haven't woken up to it."

But Labor's Jackie Trad said the Labor party had a very clear plan for Queensland.  "If Labor forms government, what you will get is maturity, you will get discipline and you will get jobs growth," she said. "We will roll up our sleeves and we will get to work, working, listening, collaborating with everyone, business, unions, the community sector, everyone."


Punters bet on banks after Reserve Bank cuts interest rate

Half of my portfolio is in banks so I like this

Investors have increased their bets on bank shares in response to the latest cut in official interest rates, even though lower rates tend to squeeze lenders' profit margins.

Commonwealth Bank shares hit a new record high of $90.67 after the Reserve Bank cut the cash rate to 2.25 per cent on Tuesday, while Westpac, NAB and ANZ Bank shares were also up strongly.

The jump in bank shares reflects a market-wide surge in high-yielding stocks. It comes despite bank lending margins being squeezed as interest rates fall. This is because a bank's interest-earning assets, loans, are greater than its liabilities, or deposits.

If banks reduce rates on their deposits and loans by the same amount, the overall result is lower profit margins.

"Basically, lower interest rates means lower margins," Bell Potter analyst TS Lim said. "You lose more on interest income, as opposed to saving on interest expense."

Shareholder funds held by banks also make lower returns when rates fall.

Despite these headwinds, big bank shares have been star performers in an environment of record low rates.  Research by Macquarie analyst Mike Wiblin this week found the big four banks' share prices had outperformed the ASX 200 significantly during the last cycle of interest rate cuts between November 2011 and August 2013.

A key reason was that the cutting cycle gave the banks an opportunity to "reprice" their mortgage books; lowering their mortgage rates by less than the reduction in the cash rate.

The country's biggest bank, CBA, was the strongest over the period analysed by Wiblin, outperforming the ASX 200 by 30 per cent, while Westpac, the second-biggest mortgage lender, was ahead by 23 per cent. ANZ outperformed by 20 per cent and NAB, which has been challenged by its British business, fared 4 per cent better than the index.

Bank share prices are also benefiting from a broader "search for yield" among investors as returns from bonds and cash are at record lows.

Even at Tuesday's record intra-day high of $90.67, CBA's estimated dividend yield for this financial year is 4.6 per cent, before franking credits.

Lower interest rates can also benefit banks because lower repayments for borrowers can result in fewer bad debts, and can encourage credit growth.

This has been occurring recently; banks' provisions for bad and doubtful debts are at 20-year lows, a trend that benefits their bottom lines.

Housing credit has also accelerated to its quickest pace in four years but it is still growing far slower than before the global financial crisis.

Even with another rate cut confirmed, Mr Lim is doubtful about the chances of a significant lift in lending growth.

Many consumers would continue to pay down debt and banks would be wary of regulators cracking down on lending to housing investors, he said.

Aside from the soft economic outlook, banks also face pressure to hold more capital, which reduces returns.

A report from Standard & Poor's found the big four were outside the top quartile of best-capitalised banks in the world, which is consistent with the the view of the financial system inquiry.


Federal education minister Christopher Pyne praises weird and extravagant new university building

The Education Minister drew audible gasps at the opening of the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at UTS  when he launched a spirited defence of his government's embattled higher education reform.

"The wonderful thing about this building is that it shouts out that the University of Technology Sydney is in the race for higher education - that it is a real competitor and that it is not content to sit back and receive large government support," he said.

The Education Minister has struggled to gain support for the tertiary reforms which would decrease university funding by an average of 20 per cent and allow them to set their own fees, as well as extending funding to private colleges and TAFE.

Mr Pyne was unable to have the reforms passed by the senate in December, and last week said he had set himself a two-month deadline to pass the changes.

In his speech on Monday Mr Pyne criticised what he said was an unwillingness to recognise overseas competition and the importance of international tertiary students to Australian's economy.

 "That competition is something that governments and Australians can't pretend  is not happening," he said.

Mr Pyne praised the $180 million spent on the Frank Gehry building as showing a focus on quality and innovation as opposed to the university using the funds to build several buildings.

"It's not enough to have 41 very good universities, we must have the best university system but also the best universities in the world," said Mr Pyne.

He said that proposed higher education reforms would mean that university vice-chancellors could charge more if they believed they were providing a better course and facilities. 

"If UTS has the best entrepreneurship MBA in Australia it will be able to attach a real value to that rather than it costing the same as another MBA in Australia-regardless of whether they are the same quality in that course," Mr Pyne said.

The speech was in stark contrast to Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, who did not focus on the reform. He praised the building as the "most beautiful squashed paper bag I have ever seen."

Attila Brungs, a Vice Chancellor of UTS, said: "Just as the Opera House put Australia on the map for the arts, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building will confirm Australia's place as a global innovative leader."


Former Rudd candidate Samuel Miszkowski donates $200K to Liberal Party

In 2007, Samuel Miszkowski sold his house to contest the safe Liberal seat of Moncrieff on the Gold Coast.

Such was Mr Miszkowski's enthusiasm to join the march of "Kevin 07" as a Labor candidate he cashed in $372,000 in property and assets to finance his own campaign and ran under the slogan "Sam's the Man".

But, less than a month out from the election, he admitted to feeling "neglected" when Kevin Rudd could not recall his name during a media conference.

Mr Miszkowski almost quit the ALP but contested the election, struggling to make an impression on sitting Liberal Steve Ciobo who survived with a muscular two-party preferred result of 64:36 in his favour.

So it might come as a surprise to Mr Miszkowski's former ALP comrades that he is at the centre of one of the largest single donations to the Liberal Party in 2013-14.

He is listed as the financial controller of Mist Consulting, located in the Gold Coast suburb of Bundall. Mist donated $200,000 to the federal Liberal Party, according to returns released by the Australian Electoral Commission on Monday.  Mist Consulting did not donate to Labor.

Contacted by Fairfax Media, Mr Miszkowski said: "I was left hanging like a shag on a rock by the ALP when I ran."

He said he viewed the Liberal Party as having "potential going forward" but after the weekend landslide against the Newman state government he was no longer so sure.

"We might just give up donating at all to either side," he said. 

According to the Australian Business Register, Mist Consulting is the entity behind Friends of Israel (Queensland).

Mr Miszkowski, who is a director of the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland and a former director of the Gold Coast Jewish Community Council, said that was just a registered trading name that had not been used and the donation had nothing to do with the Israel lobby, as claimed by the Greens on Monday.

Interviewed after his failed election bid, Mr Miszkowski revealed his family's opinion of selling their home. "(They're) not happy – it's not an adventure we'd repeat," he said in 2008.