Australians more alarmed about state of politics.

There is no shortage of expert commentary on current shifts in public opinion, understood as a revolt against political elites.

Within Europe and the United States interpretations are supported by the British vote to leave the European Union, the increasing popularityof far-right parties campaigning on anti-immigration and nationalist platforms, and the success of Donald Trump in winning the US presidency.

In Australia, commentators point to instability in politics, elections that fail to return clear majorities, the loss of office of first-term governments in Queensland and Victoria, growing minor party representation in the Senate, and public unease at immigration policy and the Muslim presence.

In a recent article titled “Immigration system is groaning under influx of new migrants”, The Australian columnist Judith Sloan argued:

Our program is no longer working in the national interest … My guess is that more people are beginning to appreciate this fact, particularly as they bear the costs of congestion, loss of amenity and safety, and declining housing affordability.

A different perspective on the Australian political mood is provided by the 2016 Scanlon Foundation survey. Contrary to Sloan’s “guess”, survey data indicate a continuing low level of concern over immigration.

In 2016 just 34% of respondents considered that the immigration intake was “too high”, the lowest recorded in the Scanlon Foundation surveys. This matched the findings of recent Lowy Institute and Roy Morganpolls.

There are grounds for caution in drawing lessons from British and US votes, while ignoring developments in Canada and New Zealand. Structural factors, notably the impact of the global financial crisis on employment and the housing market, and uncontrolled cross-border population movement, do not have the same impact on public opinion in Australia.

Australia bucks the trend

The annual Scanlon Foundation survey, the ninth in a series that began in 2007, was conducted in the weeks following the 2016 federal election. It employed a probability sample with 1,500 respondents, and comprised more than 60 questions. It provides the most reliable measure of the trend of Australian opinion.

There is consistent high-level agreement with the proposition that “multiculturalism has been good for Australia”, in the range of 83% to 86% across the 2013-16 Scanlon Foundation surveys.

The ideal of “assimilation” appeals only to minorities. In Australia, 28% agree with the proposition:

It is best if all people forget their different ethnic and cultural backgrounds as soon as possible.

A relatively high proportion indicate that they are “very negative” or “negative” towards Muslims: 25% of respondents in 2016, compared to 5% with negative views towards Christians or Buddhists.

However, this level is not close to 50% – as indicated by a recent survey. And the trend of opinion shows little change: over the course of six Scanlon Foundation surveys, the proportion negative to Muslims has been consistently in the range of 22% to 25%.

The Scanlon-Monash Index of Social Cohesion, which aggregates the results for 18 questions, finds more evidence of stability and social cohesion than of deterioration, although there are some negative indicators. In 2016 the index is at 89.3, down from 92.5 in 2015 – but close to the average of the last four years.

Not all good news

The findings, however, are not all neutral or positive.

The proportion of respondents indicating experience of discrimination over the last 12 months on the basis of skin colour, ethnicity or religion increased from 15% to 20%. This is the highest level recorded by the Scanlon Foundation surveys.

There are heightened negative indicators in questions concerning neighbourhood. Agreement that “people in your local area are willing to help their neighbours” fell from 85% to 81%. Concern “about becoming a victim of crime in your local area” increased by a large margin, from 26% to 36%.

Questions on the working of Australian democracy continue to find low levels of trust in parliament and political parties. An increased proportion agree that “the system of government we have in Australia … needs major change”, up from 23% in 2014 to 31% in 2016. A further 11% would like to see the system replaced.

The lack of trust in the political system may in part reflect the failure to tackle socially progressive issues supported by a majority of electors.

The 2016 Scanlon Foundation survey sought views on current environmental and social issues. It found 80% support “medically approved euthanasia for people suffering terminal illness”, and 67% support “marriage equality for same-sex couples”. Climate change was considered with reference to “legislation for reduced reliance on coal for electricity generation” and found support at 70%.

The 2016 Scanlon Foundation survey thus provides grounds for caution in applying overseas comparisons. The key finding points more to stability than change, which is measured at less than five percentage points in response to most questions.

At the same time, there is an increased reporting of discrimination, heightened neighbourhood concerns and mounting dissatisfaction with Australian democracy.

OVER A THOUSAND NEW WAYS FOR SENIORS TO SAVE

OVER A THOUSAND NEW WAYS FOR SENIORS TO SAVE

Seniors in the Coffs Harbour electorate are the big winners as the Seniors Card program welcomes over 1,300 new businesses that have joined as part of a new business recruitment campaign.

The NSW Government is aiming to deliver more value for older people by increasing the number and geographic spread of businesses offering discounts to Seniors Card members.

Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, said the Government was committed to assisting older people with the cost of living and supporting them to stay active, healthy and socially connected.

“At the last election, we pledged to significantly increase the number of businesses in Seniors Card and I’m very pleased to say that we are delivering on that commitment,” Mr Fraser said.

The business recruitment campaign has seen businesses ranging from lawyers and accountants to clothing stores, restaurants, fitness centres and electricians and plumbers join Seniors Card.

Members can get discounts of 10, 15, 25 and even 50 per cent off selected goods and services just by presenting their Card.

“This is another example of how the NSW Government is making Seniors Card even bigger and better,” Mr Fraser added.

“There are almost 1.5 million Seniors Card members in NSW and we know they prefer to shop with businesses that accept the Card, so it’s a great boost for business and for the community.”

The business recruitment campaign will run until mid-December and all NSW businesses are encouraged to join.

For more information about NSW Seniors Card, go to www.seniorscard.nsw.gov.au.        

Thus Spake Mungo: Nats on steroids

By Mungo MacCallum

The Nationals are feeling their oats – also their sugar, their water and their pump-action shot guns. Quite suddenly the traditional party of conservative rural socialists are turning feisty and uppity – partly in self defence, but largely just because they can.

The new rambunctiousness arrived with the new leader, Barnaby Joyce, generally seen as the loose cannon needed to shake up the somewhat torpid regime of Warren Truss. Joyce was always going to be a bit of a risk, but one that was worth taking: the Nationals were generally seen as a rather limp appendage of the Liberal Party dog. And initially, at least, the risk worked: the Nationals did far better in the July election than their coalition partners and secured an extra cabinet position and enhance portfolio responsibilities as a result.

But there was a downside: the re-emergence of the minor parties, and in particular the perilous Pauline Hanson and her born-again One Nation. Her own renaissance in Queensland was regarded as inevitable, but when she gathered another seat in the deep north and one each in Western Australia and New South Wales the alarm bells turned into a clangor.

With state elections looming in both Queensland, where the Lib-Nats were hoping to win, and Western Australia, where the Nats were trying to stage a comeback, the national hegemony was threatened. And then came New South Wales, where the Nats were creamed in Orange – not by One Nation but by the well-armed Shooters and Fishers, who had also blasphemously misappropriated the Nations’ treasured title of Farmers.

That result was seen as the acquiescence of the party to Liberal Party policies from the inner urban elites. So clearly something had to be done, and the chosen solution was to be tougher, to be more independent – to be rebellious. In the past the Nationals has generally been regarded as a relatively peaceful bunch of social conservatives – or perhaps more accurately conservative socialists.

But now it was time to rise up, and given the world-wide movements sparked by Brexit, Donald Trump and the rise of the European ultra-right, there was only one way to go. So instant populism was the cry – get back to your roots.
Joyce led the charge: coal is good, but there are more than a few farmers who think that mining on their properties may not be an unalloyed bliss. But surely sugar is even better. When a report came out suggesting that a tax on the crystalline sweetener might prevent, or at least check, the rampant obesity is the population Joyce just said no. If people wanted to get fit – or less fat for a start – they could eat less and exercise. Taxing the product would nor work.

Well, tell that to Malcolm Turnbull who has spent months insisting that all taxes are a disincentive to those who pay them, or better still to the tobacco industry, where taxing smokes has demonstrably reduced the habit – and not only that, it has produced a cultural change: with government intervention, a clear signal that smoking was unhealthy and anti-social, is has become less acceptable all round.

But logic and evidence has nothing to do with it: leave the sugar farmers alone. They are just the sort who would defect to Hanson at the slightest hint of weakness. And so it is with the cotton growers of the north: extraordinarily, Joyce pre-empted a long-standing agreement to add 450 gigalitres of water down the Murray to the parched south in order to protect his constituents in Queensland and New South Wales.

Naturally there was an explosion from Nick Xenophon in support of his fellow Croweaters: settle this now – stick to the contract or my party and I will play not speak about anything else, and most especially about the so-called vital legislation in the senate. Joyce fumed that the government was being held to ransom, which did not help. So it was left, yet again, to Turnbull to throw the rug over another distraction.

And the same, in spades, applies to the backpackers tax. The government, which included the Nats, started by imposing a tax of 32 per cent on non-resident seasonal workers. The rural revolt that followed forced a reduction to 19 per cent. But this was an agreement with the Farmers Federation – not with the rank and file, some of whom thought it was still too much. So Jacqui Lambie suggested 10.5 per cent, and Labor, the Greens and other crossbenchers backed her.

Joyce went a still wilder shade of beetroot: this would mean the foreign devils would be taxed less than the hard working (in the unlikely event they were willing to work at all — that was why we needed backpackers, remember?) Actually it wouldn’t.  Since Australians receive a $18,000 tax free threshold while backpackers pay tax on the first dollar they earn, it would mean Australians had to earn some $40,000 before they hit the 10.5 rate – a lot of fruit picking. Joyce, an accountant, presumably knows this. Once again, it is not about the facts.

But where the Nats really showed their muscle was the debate over he Adler shot gun. Not one of them voted in the Senate to retain the current ban. Two backbenchers actually crossed the floor to have it removed and the third abstained. Okay, fair enough – they are, after all, backbenchers. But as well, all three National Party ministers abstained, and that is, in parliamentary terms, treason.

The principle of ministerial solidarity means just what it says: ministers must support the government or resign. They cannot simply skive off whenever they feel like it. The excuse was that since Labor and Liberal were voting together for the ban, it didn’t matter; it was what was called a Mickey Mouse vote. But that is not the point: by their action, the Nats have effectively broken the coalition agreement.

And there may be worse to come: incredibly the ultra-right George Christensen is also a statutory officer: the important and influential National Party whip in the House of Representatives. We all know what he thinks about solidarity with Malcolm Turnbull; in the present climate he may well be emboldened to follow the Walt Disney image and play the part of Goofy. He is already freelancing with Bill Shorten to support a Royal Commission into the banks.

The Nats may not yet be out of control, but they represent a far more frightening prospect to Turnbull and the Libs than the crossbenchers ever will.

With friends like these…?

Three years of stagnant wage growth.

Three years of stagnant wage growth. Don’t be surprised if people look for someone to blameThree years of stagnant wage growth. Don’t be surprised if people look for someone to blame

$2 coins
 ‘The private sector has now seen wages grow by less that 0.5% in seven consecutive quarters.’ Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

This week came the news that once again a record low has been set for wages growth. The wages price index in the past year rose by just 1.9% – a full percentage point below the level of growth that occurred when Australia was in the midst of the global financial crisis. It means that real wages have not grown at all for more than three years.

If you like records being broken, now is the most exciting time to look at economic data. The annual growth of wages in September of 1.9% was a new record low, breaking the old mark of 2.1% set only three months ago in June. It was the 16th consecutive fall in the growth of annual wages. The last time Australians wages grew faster than they had three months earlier was September 2012:

The new annual record low came off the back of another record low quarterly growth – just 0.4% in seasonally adjusted terms.

The private sector has now seen wages grow by less that 0.5% in seven consecutive quarters. Prior to this run, there had only been one quarter in the history of the wages price index below that level (during the GFC):

But while as a general rule public sector wages grow faster than the private sector, the public sector is also experiencing record low wages growth – just 2.3% in the past year:

The narrative around public sector wages is often rather skewed – as though we’re talking about bureaucrats getting fat off the taxpayers. At the moment there is a fair bit of dispute – literally so in some cases – over the federal government’s public sector bargaining policy. The drive to keep annual pay rises below 2% has seen some pay disputes last over three years.

The lack of pay rises for commonwealth public servants can be seen in the weak growth of public sector wages in the ACT. Unlike other states, the public sector of the ACT is dominated by those working for the Australian public service, rather than teachers, healthcare workers and other non-bureaucratic workers as is the case elsewhere.

The last time ACT public sector wages grew faster than that of private sector workers was March 2013. Over the past five years, wages for the private sector have risen by 13.6% compared to 12.4% for ACT public sector workers. Even going back 10 years, ACT public sector workers have had lower pay rises than that of private sector workers across the country – 34.9% compared to 36.2%:

The slowing growth of wages across the country is being driven by a couple of factors. Firstly, the mining industry is massively off the boil.

For just over 10 years from the middle of 2004, wages in the mining sector grew faster than everywhere else. But this situation reversed in the middle of last year:

And it wasn’t just that workers in the mining sector during the boom years were on average getting better pay raises than everyone else, they were also the source of the biggest pay rises.

review of 18,000 different jobs by the RBA and the ABS found that in 2012, over 60% of mining sector pay rises were greater than 4% per annum; now it is less than 10%.

Such falls in the proportion of above average wage rises has occurred across all industries, and so too has the size of those large wage rises. In 2012 the average of wage rises above 4% was 7.5%, now it is 5.75%.

The biggest wage rises over the past year have come in the education and healthcare industries, and also rather surprisingly, the accommodation and food industry.

This is a surprise because, as a general rule, that industry usually sees the worst wages growth. Over the past 10 years, wages in that industry have increased just 31.6%, well below the national average of 37.1%.

A main driver of the increase in that industry is the 2.4% increase in the minimum wage handed down by the Fair Work Commission that came into effect on 1 July.

By contrast the mining sector is currently the worst performing industry for wage rises, and yet over the past 10 years it has been the best. But given in the past four years its workforce has shrunk by 20%, it is doubtful there are many workers who have been around for the full 10 years:

All up, the poor wages growth means that real wages continue to be flat.

When comparing wage growth to the RBA’s underlying inflation measure, real wages haven’t grown by any appreciable level for three years. They have done better when compared to the employee cost of living index, but this is mostly due to the impact of interest rate cuts, and as result can be a rather erratic measure:

Since 2002, real wages have gone through four stages – the mining-boom, the GFC-flatness, the post-GFC improvement, and then the now three year run of near stagnation:

As the US political system has shown, when real incomes stay flat, voters get angry. We’re now three years into a run of stagnant real wages, don’t be surprised if people start looking for someone to blame.

Trumpism has Shorten and Turnbull focusing on the politics of ‘disquiet’

This week the Trump ripples played out, particularly over the issue of foreign workers. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Pauline Hanson knows how to hurt. She tweeted this week: “When you look at Bill Shorten’s recent rhetoric it seems Labor is now taking its cues from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. Good to see.”

Of course Shorten strongly rejects any such thing. But after Donald Trump’s win, the mainstream parties are looking towards those people who, squeezed by economic change, alienated and often angry, swelled One Nation’s vote in July.

Their concerns will be increasingly accommodated in the next couple of years. The question is how far that accommodation will push policy towards more inward-looking and status-quo stances.

In a speech warning against countries retreating from openness, Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday said in an understatement: “The need to undertake reforms that will deliver long-term gains – but which may create winners and losers in the near term – isn’t keenly felt in many parts of Australian society.”

The disruptive effect of Trump’s victory is rippling through Australian politics, delighting Hanson – who is relishing the possibilities that lie in the next Queensland election – but discombobulating the main parties, which know its risks, although for Labor there is also the smell of opportunity.

Trading on the perceived unpopularity of Trump here – 59% believed Australia’s economy would be worse off with Trump in the White House, according to a post-election Ipsos poll – Shorten is now referring to Turnbull’s company tax package as his “Donald-Trump-style corporate tax cuts”.

When Shorten addressed the Victorian ALP conference on Sunday the United States was firmly in his mind.

He pointed to “the long-term decline of the economic security of working people [there] – the squeezing of the middle class, the rise of the working poor”.

And “some of the seeds of the disquiet we see overseas are present [and] growing in this country, although we are not there yet”, he said. Labor would “heed the lessons from the mines and mills and factories of Detroit, of Ohio, of Pennsylvania”.

Shorten has a set of slogans, likely to appeal to the disquieted: “Build Australian first. Buy Australian first in our contracts. Employ Australians first.”

Turnbull is also looking to what he describes as the “rising disquiet”, saying the presidential election had taught that policy changes must be fair.

But more problematically, Turnbull wants to define fairness “in a very broad sense”. Rather than looking at winners and losers narrowly, decision by decision, he sees it as a matter of “making sure our overall system is fair, examining the transfers of goods and services over a person’s lifetime and asking ourselves, does this reflect the benchmarks we set ourselves of an open, fair and just society?”.

Short-termism is the hallmark of our politics, however, and the prospect of voters adopting Turnbull’s “broad” concept of fairness in the current environment wouldn’t seem high.

This week the Trump ripples played out particularly over the issue of foreign workers with Shorten, who toured regional areas in Victoria and Queensland, revisiting 457 visas.

“Employers are using and abusing temporary work visas to bring in cheap labour,” he said. “Manipulating the visa system to import and exploit overseas guest workers.”

The government’s reaction was to have things both ways, attacking Shorten for hypocrisy – saying as employment minister he was an “Olympic-grade 457 visa issuer” – but also announcing a tightening (a decision it had already taken) and flagging further action.

At the same time, government and Labor are jostling over the tax arrangements for backpackers, with the opposition trying to cut back the tax rate for them from the Coalition’s proposed compromise.

Labor is also seeking to position its foreign policy stance for the age of Trump but it has found this slippery ground.

Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong wrote in an opinion piece for Fairfax: “We are at a change point, and face the possibility of a very different world and a very different America. Our collective task now is to carefully and dispassionately consider Australia’s foreign policy and global interests over coming months, and how best to effect these within the alliance framework.”

While reaffirming Labor’s commitment to the US alliance she said that Australia needed “to work harder in our region”.

The article was unexceptionable, and the Shorten office had seen a draft. Nevertheless, the government was quick to exploit it, with Turnbull saying this was an instance of “Labor being hopelessly divided on national security”.

It’s not just the government that will face a challenge on foreign policy in the Trump era. For Labor, it’s a matter of striking the right rhetorical balance.

The ascension of Trump will add a new element of uncertainty for Turnbull as he faces trying to regroup in 2017.

With the final parliamentary fortnight starting next week, he hopes to end this year by securing the passage of the industrial relations legislation, including to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

The deal with the US to take the refugees from Nauru and Manus Island can be claimed as an achievement, though it can equally be seen as belatedly dealing with a problem. The tough lifetime ban on visiting rights for ex-Nauru and Manus people faces a struggle in the Senate. And the government can only hope there is no reassessment of the refugee deal from the Trump administration when it takes power.

The government’s priorities for next year look demanding. As part of refreshing its agenda, it wants to do something on housing affordability, as well as focus on infrastructure (Turnbull has an infrastructure statement due next week) and cities, linked closely to the jobs narrative. There is a tertiary education policy to be unveiled (finally). A review of climate change policy has to be made.

As we move through 2017 the implications of the Trump revolution for Australia and the responses required will become clearer.

And all this will be against the need for Turnbull to improve perceptions about his performance.

Sydney shockjock Ben Fordham was blunt and brutal when he interviewed Turnbull this week. “Can I tell you prime minister what people are actually saying about you at the moment? … They’re saying you’re not doing a good enough job as prime minister. They’re saying that you are out of touch with the average Australian.”

In the time of Trumpism, there are few worse things to be condemned for than being “out of touch” with average people.

Dream on if you think the lunar right can’t happen here:

I’ll say one thing for Australia’s far right conservatives, they don’t miss a beat. With fear and loathing on the streets of America – a nation split down the middle over the president-elect – our own standard bearers for the lunar right are lining up to preach the perils of ignoring the “silent majority”, to thump their chests and say “I told you so”.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott wasted no time last week offering his analysis on the merits of opinion polls and the woes of “disenfranchised voters”, and his views are echoed by the twin beacons of the Coalition’s Christian right, Cory Bernardi and George Christensen. It’s a familiar refrain and it goes like this: the major political parties don’t care about the concerns of the mainstream middle class because the establishment, aided and abetted by “intellectuals” and “some sections of the media” – which is to say anyone but the Murdoch press, presumably – has been captured by the “cultural elite” and its leftist agenda.

There’s nothing new here, although it’s edifying to see how swiftly the ultra-conservatives have scrambled to capitalise on Trump’s victory and sought to make it their own. It’s a pretty slick narrative, too – the conflation of neo-conservatism and voter disenchantment – so you can’t blame our homegrown conservatives for having a crack. Abbott, for starters, has nothing to lose in peddling his essentially self-serving assessment, and Bernardi may well be looking to the tidal wave of evangelical support that lifted Trump to victory and dreaming, perhaps, of a similar Antipodean uprising.

Dream on. Much as Australia’s far-right would like to see the analogy – to think of Trump’s victory as a harbinger of their own – the parallels are largely imagined and almost certainly exaggerated.

While Bernardi and his ilk have been insisting for years that the political machine has ignored mainstream concerns, that it’s pitched to the left in the pursuit of “power and self-interest”, the evidence suggests the contrary. To wit: the rising influence of the Liberal Party’s hard-right faction – which anointed the previous prime minister and is keeping the current one on a pretty tight leash.

And anyway, are our ultra-conservatives really more in touch with voter sentiment? Not on same-sex marriage or climate change, where there is a clear disconnect between majority public opinion and the views of Coalition MPs. Not on access to abortion either, which 87 per cent of the Australian community supports despite Senator Bernardi pronouncing it a “death industry” – a la Donald Trump. The difference, of course, is that Trump was probably parroting the views of mainstream Americans – half of whom think abortion is morally wrong – whereas Bernardi is genuinely an outlier.

As for immigration, Bernardi recently called for the government to halve the migration intake, a move that suggests he’s out of step with the 61 per cent of the community that wants us to maintain, or even increase, our intake.

So perhaps our conservatives don’t speak for the mainstream after all. But it wasn’t ideology, on the whole, that underpinned America’s protest vote and handed Trump the critical edge even among those who didn’t like himpersonally. It was the “disenfranchised”, the forgotten middle classes – as Abbott and Bernardi are at pains to point out – and what they are truly enraged about is the “gaping wealth inequality” that sets America apart.

The United States has the highest level of economic inequality of any major developed nation, where the top 1 per cent hold half the national wealth in mutual funds and stocks, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. GDP per capita may have recovered since the global financial crisis, but median incomes have declined. The rich are getting richer, in other words – and you can guess what’s happening to the rest.

The evisceration of America’s middle class has also led to the lowest level of home ownership in the United States in 50 years. Credit is tight, wages are low, and first-home buyers can’t break into the market.

Comparatively, Australia seems to be doing well. On a ranking of median wealth per adult – a measure that favours lower levels of wealth inequality – Australia “tops the list“. But median incomes have stalled since 2009, and median disposable incomes have fallen slightly.

Another ominous signpost is the composition of Australian household wealth, which is heavily skewed towards property. Our average level of real assets is the second highest in the world – hardly surprising when you consider Australian property prices. And, like the US, Australia is also tracking a downward trendin home ownership, thanks to the real estate boom that came before the GFC and the stagnating wages that came after.

We are now ushering in the first generation of Australians who won’t do better than their parents – who simply can’t afford to acquire the assets that represent their best opportunity to build wealth. And it’s partly down to the favourable tax concessions that have pushed up property prices, according to respected economist Saul Eslake, and effectively transferred wealth from workers to investors. So here, at last, we can find a parallel of sorts, although Bernardi and the rest of the conservatives might prefer we didn’t when you consider that the policy settings that fuelled the rise in property prices are ones the conservatives are reluctant to wind back, despite significant mainstream support for doing so.

In the end, the story of Australia’s populist backlash is not the narrative our conservatives are peddling, but it’s one we ought to ponder nonetheless. Because our community is not as ideologically divided as we thought, nor as fundamentally unequal. Our middle classes have not been “hollowed out” by the same economic forces that have desecrated America’s heartlands. Our ultra conservatives do not, on the whole, represent our collective values. But here’s the kicker: to the extent that a truly disenfranchised middle class is emerging in Australia, our Liberal conservatives, by all indications, may be the last to champion them.

Sarah Gill is a Fairfax Media columnist.

Dutton eyes Tony Abbott’s role as far right leader

Peter Dutton
Dismissing Peter Dutton as a buffoon would definitely be a mistake. Photo: AAP

Lebanese community issues demand to Dutton

Meet with us or be quiet .

Mr Dutton said that the Fraser government had made mistakes in letting some migrants into Australia from the Lebanese Civil War in the 1970s, referring to advice that 22 of 33 terrorism offenders were second and third-generation Lebanese-Muslim Australians.

Ethnic communities are mobilising against Mr Dutton with 30 Lebanese organisations, including the Lebanese Muslim Association and Lebanese Community Council, meeting in Auburn on Friday night to discuss his comments.

Several community leaders said the comments reverse years of hard work in building cohesion and belittle the entire community.

“We are certainly not reducing the threat, we are contributing to the threat by those statements. Effective intervention means working with young kids and the only way you can get to young kids is working with communities,” he told Fairfax Media.

“The government has taken a 10 or 15-year step backward.”

Dr Jones, now a research fellow at the Australian National University’s School of Global Governance, has been working with Islamic community members to help design and set up youth intervention and support programs.

He said frontline police and intelligence agencies trying to build links with those communities would also likely be dismayed by Mr Dutton’s comments.

“Police struggle at the best of times with community engagement because they have the difficult dual role,” he said.

The federal government has invested millions of dollars in trying to get effective Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs off the ground. But the Dutton comments could jeopardise any progress already made, others also warned.

Professor Clive Williams, a former senior defence official now at the Centre for Military and Security Law at the ANU, slammed the minister’s comments as ” counterproductive”.

“Its not a good idea to make that kind of observation in public. We need the co-operation of families, they are the first point of contact really if there is concern developing about a young person.”

Last week Mr Dutton argued the Fraser government had made “mistakes” in parts of its 1970s’ migration program.

Challenged in parliament to identify the groups he was referring to, Mr Dutton said “of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist related offences in this country, 22 are from second- and third-generation Lebanese Muslim backgrounds”.

In terms of long term damage its doing, we are really creating the terrorists of the future

Dr Clarke Jones, ANU security expert

Mr Dutton has since sought to soften the context around the remarks, telling Sydney radio host Ray Hadley on Thursday that “the point that I was making is that we should call out the small number within the community, within the Lebanese community, who are doing the wrong thing. If we do that we can hold up the vast majority of people within the Lebanese community who work as hard as you and I do, who have contributed to Australian society.”

But Diana Abdel-Rahman, president of Australian Muslim Voice, told Fairfax “the damage is done, the milk is spilt”. She said CVE programs were already having trouble gaining traction but “now I’m sure there will be a lot more who will drop out of the system”.

Jacinta Carroll, head of counter-terrorism policy at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said Mr Dutton’s figures are correct but “don’t tell us much that is helpful”.

“Fortunately in Australia to date the numbers of supporters of Islamist extremism and terrorism are very low; so low, in fact, they’re categorised as cases and clusters rather than being statistically useful,” she wrote in an opinion piece for Fairfax Media.

“The figure of 22 represents less than 0.01 per cent of the about 180,000 Australians of Lebanese background, according to the ABS.”

Terrorism expert Greg Barton said there were lessons to be learned from the problematic Lebanese Civil War intake but that Mr Dutton’s comments were “unfortunate”.

“Instantly everyone’s back is up and people are feeling aggrieved,” Professor Barton said.

“We’re talking about an exceedingly small number of people in the Lebanese community.”

Allan Behm, a former top aide to Labor minister Greg Combet who once headed the division of the Attorney-General’s department that included counter-terrorism, said no cabinet minister should have made the kinds of remarks that Mr Dutton made.

“It simply undermines the credibility of government agencies setting about the difficult and painstaking and time-consuming work of ensuring that the various Islamic communities feel valued,” he said.

2017 NSW WOMEN OF THE YEAR AWARDS

COFFS HARBOUR ELECTORATE COMMUNITY ENCOURAGED TO NOMINATE FOR 2017 NSW WOMEN OF THE YEAR AWARDS

Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, today said the search has begun for outstanding women in the Coffs Harbour electorate to be recognised, with the nominations for the sixth annual 2017 NSW Women of the Year awards now open at www.women.nsw.gov.au.

Mr Fraser said he is calling on constituent in the Coffs Harbour electorate to nominate extraordinary women from all walks of life, who deserve recognition for their outstanding achievements.

“Every NSW community is made up of women who stand out with their remarkably inspiring success stories,” Mr Fraser said.

“The Women of the Year Awards are a chance for the NSW Government and the community to officially recognise the phenomenal contribution they make.”

Mr Fraser said six categories are open for nominations to honour the significant achievements of women.

“Nominations are open for the prestigious NSW Premier’s Award for Woman of the Year, A.H. Beard’s Community Hero Award, Rex’s Regional Woman of the Year, Harvey Norman’s Young Woman of the Year Award, Aboriginal Woman of the Year and a new category, Business Woman of the Year, which all celebrate the excellent achievements of women from across NSW.”

Winners will join an honour-roll of inspirational alumni, including mining engineer and burns survivor Turia Pitt, leading scientist Dr Cathy Foley, domestic violence survivor and founder of the Beauty Bank Jen Armstrong and migrant communities advocate Faten el Dana.

Mr Fraser said now is the time to nominate an impressive woman you know.

“Don’t miss out on acknowledging a remarkable woman from our community. Entries close on January 10, 2017 – so start nominating!”

Minister for Women Pru Goward, said “nominations for the Awards never fail to remind us that many women are making a difference to the lives of people around them, in their communities and across NSW. They are achieving incredible things.”

A ceremony announcing the 2017 winners will be held on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2017 with the Hon Mike Baird, Premier of NSW. Nominations can be made online at www.women.nsw.gov.au.

21 November 2016  

THE AWARD CATEGORIES AND CRITERIA FOR THE 2017 WOMEN OF THE YEAR AWARDS ARE:

Premier’s Award for Woman of the Year

This award is specifically for:

  • demonstrated excellence in a career, field or passion; and/or
  • a significant achiever in a traditionally male-dominated area.
  1. H. Beard’s Community Hero Award

This award is specifically for:

  • community heroes and/or volunteers; or
  • a woman making an outstanding contribution to her local community.

Harvey Norman’s Young Woman of the Year Award

This award is specifically for:

  • a positive and inspiring role model to other young women
  • someone with drive, determination and motivation in her chosen field, or
  • a young woman who has made significant achievements and/or contributions to the community.

REX airlines’ Regional Woman of the Year Award

This award is specifically for a woman from a regional area who is:

  • a significant achiever in an area important to rural or regional communities; or
  • a woman making an outstanding contribution to resolving issues faced by a rural or regional community; or
  • a significant achiever in a traditionally male-dominated field within the rural community.

NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year Award

This award is specifically for an Aboriginal woman who has:

  • excelled in their chosen career, field or passion;
  • exceptional achievers who have promoted economic, cultural or social opportunities for Aboriginal peopler in NSW.

NSW Business Woman of the Year Award

This award is specifically for:

  • recognising excellence in business in NSW
  • women who provide outstanding leadership and inspiration for other women to succeed

What’s happening in bond markets

For the past three decades the yields on long-term bonds have been on a downward trend. This has dramatically reversed since the election of Donald Trump, with more than a trillion dollars wiped off the global bond market in the past week and a half.

But it’s not just investors that are impacted by this spectacular reversal. The bond market is a backbone of the global financial system, meaning the sell off has implications far and wide, from economic growth through to real estate prices.

Bonds are a type of long-term debt – companies and governments sell bonds to investors and these will in turn be bought and sold on the bond markets.

The thing to look at with bonds is the market price, which is reflected in the yield quoted or price paid when a bond is bought and sold. Investors in bonds receive their returns in regular interest payments and the return of principal when the bond matures.

As the price of the bond rises, the yield will drop. With the price of bonds steadily rising during the 30 year bull market, yields have fallen away significantly, bringing down the interest rates around the world.

US 10 Yr Treasury Yield.

Why we pay attention to the bond market

The price of bonds filters through into the rest of the economy. This is because government bonds are considered relatively risk free, and so act as a benchmark for pricing (relatively more risky) securities in all other markets.

A company’s shares, for example, are expected to yield the risk-free rate (what a government bond would yield) plus an additional amount to compensate investors for their riskiness – called the “equity risk premium”. Investment in corporate bonds can be expected to yield the risk-free rate plus a premium for taking on the added default risk.

The US bond market is especially important, as it is the largest and its prices act as a benchmark for interest rates globally. Rising bond yields in the US signal a number of things – higher expected inflation from the touted tax cuts and higher spending, and the need to borrow to fund this expansion. All of this puts further downward pressure on bond prices and upward pressure on interest rates, increasing yields.

Overall, bond prices serve as a “barometer” of what the market is “thinking”. Especially what it thinks will happen in the future, as the relation between long term interest rates and short term interest rates has a mechanical effect on future interest rates.

What this could mean

The sudden increase in bond yields, most notably the 10 Year US Government bond yields, has broad implications for the economy.

Mortgage rates are tied to the 10 year bond yield, for example, meaning borrowers will need to pay more for housing loans. This won’t happen overnight and we will have to wait to see the long-term effect on real estate prices.

But taking in past history, here are a range of possibilities from the end of the bull market.

First, when long-term interest rates are higher than short-term interest rates, the market expects interest rates in the future to be higher. This suggests that this market sell off isn’t an aberration, we can expect higher yields and lower bond prices in the future, and this trend will continue.

Second, long-term bond yields generally reflect an economy’s long-term real growth rate plus a premium for inflation. Inflation measures around the globe have been quite low and central banks have struggled to reach their inflation targets. Rising bond yields could mean the growth starts to tick up.

Third, there will be more uncertainty in global markets until the implications of a Trump presidency are known. Investors will expect a greater return to investment in US government bonds because of this heightened uncertainty. So yields on long-term US Treasuries are likely to stay up and even increase further in the foreseeable future. But even so interest rates are still low by historical standards.

Fourth, new borrowing for housing will be more costly. The risk of rising interest rates on existing mortgages has been mostly shifted elsewhere in the US economy. Let’s hope that the institutions or individuals holding that risk fare better than the institutions which collapsed during the savings and loans crisis in the US in the late 1980s.

Fifth, this is a permanent change in the nature of global interest rates. Rising bond yields could push up interest rates. Australia’s Reserve Bank Governor Phillip Lowe has signalled no further interest rate cuts unless inflation drops well below its current 1.5% level.