Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Dies, Aged 103; Wife To Keith, Mother To Rupert, Philanthropist

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, mother of media magnate Rupert, has died at her home, Cruden Farm, in Melbourne.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch

Dame Elisabeth reportedly died on Tuesday. She was 103 years, 300 days old. She was born in Melbourne on February 8, 1909.

Dame Elisabeth’s husband, Sir Keith Murdoch, died 60 years ago, in October 1952. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1963.

In 1928, aged 19, Elisabeth Joy Greene married Keith Murdoch, then 23 years her senior. Murdoch, already well known as a journalist, and famous for his World War I campaign against General John Monash, was soon to begin a campaign to take over Australian newspapers. By the time Murdoch died, he had amassed a small media empire known as News Limited, centred on the Adelaide News. Elisabeth’s son Rupert subsequently built News Limited into a global media empire that he still presides over at the age of 81.

Dame Elisabeth devoted much of her life to philanthropy. Active in the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals before her marriage, she was on the management committee of the Royal Children’s Hospital in the 1930s. She was involved with the Australian Ballet, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Deafness Foundation, the Epilepsy Foundation and numerous other organisations and charities.

National Accounts Show Annual Economic Growth Of 3.1%

The Australian economy grew 0.5% in the September quarter, bringing the annual growth performance through the year to 3.1%.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, described the growth rate as “around trend.. which is faster than every single major advanced economy”.

As they did following yesterday’s interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank, Swan and his Liberal shadow, Joe Hockey, disagreed on the meaning of the growth figure.

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Text of a media release from the Treasurer, Wayne Swan.

National Accounts — September Quarter 2012

Today’s National Accounts demonstrate the ongoing resilience of the Australian economy in the face of a difficult and volatile global environment.

Despite global headwinds, Gross Domestic Product rose by a solid 0.5 per cent in the September quarter, building on strong growth in the first half of 2012. This takes Australia’s growth performance through the year to around trend at 3.1 per cent, which is faster than every single major advanced economy.

Our economy has achieved this solid growth performance amid global turbulence, along with low unemployment and strong investment, at the same time as inflation remains contained and interest rates are low – a combination that Australian can feel proud of and confident about.

While conditions remain patchy in some parts of the economy, growth in the quarter was reasonably broad-based, underpinned by strong business investment, modest household consumption, a lift in exports and an accumulation of inventories. There were also encouraging early signs of an improvement in housing investment. There was positive growth in all private expenditure components, with only public demand declining. This shows that the Government’s fiscal consolidation continues to be more than offset by growth in the private sector. [Read more…]

On Labor And Liberalism: Leigh & Glover Debate The Role Of The ALP

An interesting debate took place today in Melbourne as Labor MP Andrew Leigh and Labor speechwriter Dennis Glover debated the ALP’s role in modern Australia.

The debate was one of a series conducted by the pro-Labor think tank Per Capita, under the title: “The Future of the Left in Australia: Embracing Social Liberalism”.

Leigh argued that Labor should become the party of liberalism, in addition to its commitment to egalitarianism. Glover, however, argued that Labor was and should remain the party of social democracy and avoid defining itself by a commitment to free market economic reform.

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Text of speech by Andrew Leigh, ALP federal member for Fraser (ACT).

Andrew Leigh

Exiled in the Polish town of Poronin in 1913, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had plenty of time on his hands. Having already spent three years in a Siberian jail, he was biding his time to return to Russia. And so the man who would soon serve as Russia’s first Communist leader turned his attention to the antipodes.

Like many around the world, Lenin was struck by the way that the Australian Labor Party had swept into parliament. Just a few months after the party’s formation in 1891, Labor won 36 out of 141 seats in the NSW Legislative Assembly. In 1899, Labor won government in Queensland (it lasted a week). In Australia’s first national elections, Labor won 14 out of 75 seats in the House of Representatives. In 1903, Labor’s share of the vote doubled. In 1904, Chris Watson became Labor’s first Prime Minister. Other parties were struck by the strength of Labor’s support, and the energy and youth of their leaders.

And yet Lenin was puzzled. In 1913, he wrote:

‘What sort of peculiar capitalist country is this, in which the workers’ representatives predominate in the Upper house and, till recently, did so in the Lower House as well, and yet the capitalist system is in no danger? … The Australian Labor Party does not even call itself a socialist party. Actually it is a liberal-bourgeois party, while the so-called Liberals in Australia are really conservatives.’

The leaders of the Australian Labor Party are trade union officials, everywhere the most moderate and “capital-serving” element, and in Australia, altogether peaceful, purely liberal. … Naturally, when Australia is finally developed and consolidated as an independent capitalist state, the conditions of the workers will change, as also will the liberal Labor Party, which will make way for a socialist workers’ party.’

Lenin’s characterisation of the two major parties in Australia stands up better than most of his ideas. Unlike many other commentators, Lenin discerned that Labor was not solely driven by a belief in egalitarianism. Even in its early decades, the ALP was also a party of social liberalism. In his discussion of the ALP, Lenin’s only mistake was in assuming that the party would not endure as it had begun.

* [Read more…]

Swan And Hockey Argue Over Interest Rates

Following the 0.25% reduction in interest rates by the Reserve Bank, Treasurer Wayne Swan and his Liberal shadow Joe Hockey have taken different stances on the cut.

Swan said the economy was running close to trend. He said the interest rate cut was “an early Christmas present that hardworking Aussies deserve”.

Hockey said interest rates were now at emergency levels and the government and Reserve Bank were at odds with each other over economic policy.

Wayne Swan
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Joe Hockey
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Transcript of Treasurer Wayne Swan’s press conference on interest rates.


Today’s rate cut from the Reserve Bank is the early Christmas present that hard working Aussies deserve. We’ve now had the equivalent of seven rate cuts over the past year and of course that’s been made possible by the Government’s economic management, strong budget management and, of course, contained inflation. But it’s also good news because it comes at a time when unemployment is low and economic growth is in much better shape than many other developed economies. We understand that not everybody out there in business or out there at work is on easy street, but having much lower interest rates than we’ve had particularly under the Liberal Party is a big win for Aussie families, particularly around Christmas time. [Read more…]

Reserve Bank Cuts Interest Rates By 0.25%

The Reserve Bank has cut interest rates a further 0.25%.

The cash rate has been reduced from 3.25% to 3.00%.

The decision was announced at 2.30pm today. It is the fourth cut in interest rates this year. Rates have been reduced by 1.25% since this time last year and are at their lowest point since April 2009 during the global financial crisis.

Text of statement from Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens.

At its meeting today, the Board decided to reduce the cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.0 per cent, effective 5 December 2012.

Global growth is forecast to be a little below average for a time. Risks to the outlook are still seen to be on the downside, largely as a result of the situation in Europe, though the uncertainty over the course of US fiscal policy is also weighing on sentiment at present. Recent data suggest that the US economy is recording moderate growth and that growth in China has stabilised. Around Asia generally, growth has been dampened by the more moderate Chinese expansion and the weakness in Europe.

Key commodity prices for Australia remain significantly lower than earlier in the year, though trends have been more mixed over the past few months. The terms of trade have declined by about 15 per cent since the peak, to a level that is still historically high.

Sentiment in financial markets remains better than it was in mid year, in response to signs of progress in addressing Europe’s financial problems, though Europe is likely to remain a source of instability for some time. Long-term interest rates faced by highly rated sovereigns, including Australia, remain at exceptionally low levels. Capital markets remain open to corporations and well-rated banks, and Australian banks have had no difficulty accessing funding, including on an unsecured basis. Borrowing conditions for large corporations are similarly attractive and share prices have risen since mid year. [Read more…]

Election Funding Rate Increases To $2.47 Per Vote

The Australian Electoral Commission has announced an increase in the election funding rate from January 1, 2013.

The new rate is 247.316 cents per vote. It is payable to all parties and candidates polling at least 4% of the primary vote in House of Representatives and Senate elections.

Election funding was introduced by the Hawke government and was introduced at the 1984 federal election. The rate is indexed every six months in line with increases in the Consumer Price Index.

Federal Election Funding Rates
Year Rate (cents/vote)
1984 Federal Election
House: 61.2 cents
Senate: 30.6 cents
1987 Federal Election
House: 76.296 cents
Senate: 38.148 cents
1990 Federal Election
House: 91.223 cents
Senate: 45.611 cents
1993 Federal Election
House: 100.787 cents
Senate: 50.393 cents
1996 Federal Election
157.594 cents
1998 Federal Election
162.210 cents
2001 Federal Election
179.026 cents
2004 Federal Election
194.397 cents
2007 Federal Election
210.027 cents
2010 Federal Election
231.191 cents
Jan 1 – June 30, 2013
247.316 cents


John Faulkner Calls For Better Governance Of Parliament, Public Service And The ALP

Senator John Faulkner has delivered a wide-ranging speech on political integrity and called for reforms to the parliament, public service, political parties and election funding.

John FaulknerFaulkner spoke at a conference at the University of Melbourne. He called for finalisation of the National Anti Corruption Plan, legislation protecting public interest disclosure, the introduction of a Code of Conduct for MPs, the Commonwealth to support the Open Government Partnership, electoral funding reform and improved accountability witin political parties.

Faulkner also offered a plan to improve democracy and integrity in the ALP. He proposed that party rules be subject to the courts and that all party disputes in NSW should be taken out of the hands of bodies controlled by factions. He called for rank-and-file preselection ballots for Senate and Legislative Council positions, a ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy for party members found guilty of corruption, and a Charter of Rights for members.

Transcript of Senator John Faulkner’s speech to the Integrity In Government Conference at the University of Melbourne Law School.

Political Integrity: The Parliament, the Public Service, and the Parties

No-one ever argues that governments should have less integrity, that elected officials should not be accountable, or that public servants should behave unethically. Broad statements of the value of integrity, transparency, accountability and ethics gain general agreement from all sides of politics and from all participants in public debate.

But government integrity demands more than general expressions of goodwill. Enhancing transparency and accountability requires supportive structures as well as declarations of priorities. And cultivating ethical behaviour needs more than simple, sweeping statements of expectations.

Nor is integrity in government and in politics simply a declaration of the importance of individuals behaving ethically.

Of course, they should behave ethically. But, ladies and gentlemen, human nature is variable, and fallible. Individuals do, from time to time, succumb to temptation or fall into error. As the eminent thinker, French renaissance essayist Michel de Montaigne said more than four hundred years ago, “There is no man so good that if he placed all his actions and thought under the scrutiny of the laws, he would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.” [Read more…]