Resilience extends recession-free run

Scott Morrison says it is a tremendous achievement a generation of Australians has grown up not knowing a recession, but what matters is where the economy goes from here.


The treasurer says the latest national accounts show the resilience of the economy, with growth expanding by 0.3 per cent in the first three months of the year, defying expectations of some economists of a negative result.

However, the slim rise has dragged the annual rate down to 1.7 per cent from 2.4 per cent and well below the three per cent rate which is normally associated with strong employment growth.

“The results today demonstrate the continued resilience of the Australian economy,” Mr Morrison said in Canberra on Wednesday.

But shadow treasurer Chris Bowen says the economy is growing at its lowest rate since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

“Today’s economic growth figures provide no comfort for a treasurer and government that told us they had a plan for jobs and growth,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney.

He said the treasurer’s new slogan of “better days ahead” rings just as hollow.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry director of economics Adam Carr said the result showed policy makers could not be complacent.

“While some of the softness this quarter is due to one-off effects, it follows surprise weakness in the September quarter as well,” Mr Carr told AAP.

However, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has given Australia an upbeat appraisal in its latest Economic Outlook.

It expects the economy to grow towards three per cent by the end of next year.

There is some debate among economists as to whether the latest growth result means Australia can now claim the record for longest uninterrupted expansion in modern history, having not suffered a recession since 1991, or is presently neck and neck with the Netherlands.

But according to economists at Commonwealth Bank, the Dutch may have entered a technical recession in 2003 rather than 2008, which would mean Australia surpassed the landmark four years ago.

“For Australians sitting at home, those sorts of things are less important than what is going to happen to growth in the future,” Mr Morrison said.

“A generation of Australians have now grown up without ever knowing there was a recession; I think that is a tremendous national achievement, but it’s not one that can be taken for granted.”

Household consumption, business investment, government spending and a build-up of business inventories all made contributions to growth during the March quarter, while dwelling investment and exports were a drag.

It was the second quarter in a row of business investment growth after 12 consecutive declines that reflected the end of the mining investment boom.

Adverse weather did affect iron ore exports from Western Australia in the March quarter.

Economy’s growth run masks deeper concerns

Australia’s economic growth has slowed to its weakest pace in almost eight years and there are concerns that weak housing investment and consumer spending will prevent a swift improvement.


Growth of 0.3 per cent in the March quarter took the annual rate of growth to 1.7 per cent, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed on Wednesday, and Australia has now gone 103 quarters, or more than 25 years, without a recession.

The numbers are slightly better than the 0.1 per cent quarterly growth forecast by economists, and the 1.4 per cent predicted for the year to March, and pushed the Australian dollar higher.

They also settled, for now, speculation about the central bank potentially cutting interest rates.

Growth was impacted by bad weather, which restricted commodity shipments and housing construction, and Cyclone Debbie’s impact on exports and construction is likely to carry over into the June quarter.

However economists warn the data points to a broader economic slowdown.

“Some of the main growth drivers of the economy in recent years, including residential dwelling investment and exports, reversed in the March quarter,” St George senior economist Jo Horton said.

“Dwelling investment, which has supported the transition from mining investment-led growth, is close to a peak and its role of support for economic growth is likely to fade later this year.”

There was a 4.4 per cent drop in dwelling construction, a three per cent fall in spending on machinery and equipment and a 2.7 per cent contraction in government spending.

Household consumption grew by 0.5 per cent in the March quarter, down from 0.9 per cent growth in the preceding three months, and exports fell 1.6 per cent in the quarter.

There was a pickup in business investment, indicating the sharp decline in mining investment is almost done.

However, wage growth continued to be anaemic, resulting in households running down their savings. The household savings rate slipped to 4.7 per cent in the quarter, and is now down more than 2 percentage points over the last 12 months.

“The wage, consumption, and household savings dynamics remain worrying. Highly indebted Australian households continue to save less to fund expenditure,” Royal Bank of Canada economist Su-Lin Ong said.

On Tuesday, the Reserve Bank of Australia stuck to its long-term forecasts, saying it expects economic growth to increase gradually to above three per cent over the next couple of years.

Economists said this is likely too optimistic given the slowdown in the economy, coupled with the impact of unemployment and a weak outlook for wages growth.

ANZ senior economist Felicity Emmett said persistently weak wages growth will mean inflation remains under control.

“In our view, this will leave the RBA on hold for the foreseeable future,” she said.

Economy extends recession-free run


1991 – Paul Keating’s “recession we had to have” ends.


Reserve Bank cash rate 9.5 per cent.

1992 – Jobless rate hits record 11.2 per cent in December. RBA cash rate 5.75 per cent.

1996 – John Howard’s coalition wins government, appoints Peter Costello as treasurer. Ian Macfarlane becomes Reserve Bank governor.

1997-1999 – Asian financial crisis, Australia avoids recession.

2000 – Economy close to a recession in final two quarters of the year after the introduction of the GST.

2001 – Dot长沙桑拿按摩论坛, bubble bursts. Australia avoids subsequent recession triggered in the US, having been previously ignored by investors as an “old economy” of agriculture and mining rather than making computer chips.

2006 – Glenn Stevens becomes RBA governor.

2007 – Kevin Rudd’s Labor party wins government, appoints Wayne Swan as treasurer.

2008 – Jobless rate falls to four per cent for the first time in February. RBA cash rate seven per cent.

– Growth contracts in the December quarter in initial reaction to the global financial crisis but Australia is one of few countries to avoid the subsequent worldwide recession.

2009 – RBA cash rate cut to three per cent, lowest on record at the time.

2010 – Julia Gillard rolls Rudd for Labor leadership, Swan remains treasurer.

2011 – Economy contracts in March quarter as a result of a series of natural disasters – Cyclone Yasi and the Queensland floods, along with the trade disruption from earthquakes in neighbouring New Zealand and Japan.

2013 – Rudd rolls Gillard, Chris Bowen becomes treasurer for 83 days.

– Tony Abbott’s coalition wins government, appoints Joe Hockey as treasurer.

2015 – Malcolm Turnbull rolls Abbott for prime ministership, Scott Morrison becomes treasurer.

2016 – Negative growth in September quarter due to weather-related disruption and a downturn in confidence after the trifecta of a long Australian election, the Brexit vote and the run-up to the US presidential election.

– RBA cash rate cut to an all-time low of 1.5 per cent in August.

– Philip Lowe becomes RBA governor.

2017 – Economy grows 0.3 per cent in March quarter, keeps record expansion alive.

* A recession is classified as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Ramping it up for Ramadan: Meet skateboarder and rapper Amar Hadid

Amar Hadid is not short on drive.


The 18-year-old was awarded a scholarship for her skateboarding talent, and is in her first year at the University of Sydney, with ambitions to study medicine.

She’s competed in California at an international meet where she finished third in the Vert category and fifth in the Bowl. 

But personal success isn’t the only thing that drives her.

She told SBS World News she wants issues such as child slavery, terrorism and women’s rights to be acted upon by everyone that cares.

“Do something about it, and don’t be silent,” is her advice.

Amar Hadid and her mother Anne HadidSBS

That’s exactly what she did after the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege.

Hadid, who’s of Lebanese heritage, was so disturbed by the events she wrote a rap song expressing her anger that innocent lives had been lost.

“No true Muslim who honestly believes in God and believes in Islam would ever do anything like that,” she said.

The key for Hadid is doing what she loves. She’s already aiming for the Olympics as a skateboarder and points to the power of doing something you’re connected with.

“When you do something you love, you do it well,” she said.

She’s pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Science and Arabic, with the long-term goal to study medicine.

But right now the prospect of appearing at an Olympics when skateboarding makes its debut in Tokyo is her focus.

“To be standing at the Olympics standing in front of everyone representing my country, to get that feeling, that’s the feeling I want to feel,” she said. 

Hadid has observed Ramadan since the age of six, even though her faith doesn’t require pre-pubescent children to do so.

But she admits it isn’t easy not eating or drinking during daylight hours.

“Of course it’s got it’s challenges and you do get hungry, but it reminds you of what Ramadan is,” she said.


Seeking skateboard success – and bridge-building

She’s currently observing Ramadan and, despite making her training much harder, she’s committed to breaking down the barriers recent extremist attacks have created to a wider acceptance of her religion.


The 18 year-old is in the first year of her scholarship for skateboarding at Sydney University, the first of its kind in Australia.

She’s only been skateboarding for four years and Hadid says doing something she loves is the key.

“Ever since I started skateboarding I felt a connection with it and I felt that it was something that I really loved and something that I wanted to pursue. And when you do something you love, you do it well.”

Hadid has been observing Ramadan since she was six years old, even though she wasn’t required to do so until puberty.

And she remains committed to doing so, despite it making her training and university studies more difficult.

“I just make sure that I eat and consume the right amount of food, and the right types of food, so that sustains my energy levels longer throughout the day.”

Hadid admits she’s got a long way to go before being a chance of earning selection for the Australia Olympic Skateboard team.

“Women’s skateboarding is progressing every day. The bar is raising every single day. Its going to be a lot of work and that’s no doubt about it just like for any sport. A lot of work, a lot of dedication.”

Recent extremist attacks in Australia and around the world have saddened her that moderate Muslims may be being misrepresented.

She’s hoping that through her music, sport and studies she’ll be able to have a positive impact on the world.

“I skateboard because I love it of course, and I rap because I love it. But I do it for other people as well. I think anything is possible. But for myself, concentrate for the next three years on skateboarding. And competing in the 2020 OIympics. And hopefully after that I want to study medicine.”

Hadid has already competed at international events and scored podium finishes.

Her skateboarding career looks set for success but, if it doesn’t happen in Tokyo, with her dedication towards all aspects of her life, success in some endeavour looks assured.


Federal and state governments bicker over parole after Brighton attack

The Federal Government is still struggling to understand how he was granted parole despite having terrorism links.


The Prime Minister is playing down suggestions from Victoria that Australia’s spy agency should have the power to intervene in future parole decisions.

Twenty-nine year-old Australian citizen and former Somali refugee Yacqub Khayre was killed by police after he murdered a man, took a hostage and shot three police officers on Monday.

Police said he had made claims that night he was doing it for al-Qaeda.

He had been acquitted of involvement in a planned terrorist attack on a Sydney Army barracks in 2009, but had a lengthy criminal history.

Despite that, the Victorian legal system granted him parole in December.

The head of Victoria’s Adult Parole Board, Judge Peter Couzens told Melbourne radio station 3AW:

“The board received absolutely no information from either corrections or external services which would cause us to have any concerns about risks to the public. We had been told nothing about him that would indicate any suggestion of risk. Had we been told, we would’ve acted.”

Attorney-General George Brandis says the parole board should’ve looked at his entire legal history.

“The Victorian Parole Board apparently only looked at the charge under which he’d been imprisoned and didn’t look back beyond that to the fact he had terrorist antecedents. Had they done so, it’s inconceivable he would’ve been released on parole so readily.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told 3AW he agreed.

“Everybody knew, it was a matter of public knowledge, that he had been involved in extremist activities. Yes, he had been acquitted but there was no doubt he had associations and engagement, involvement with violent extremist elements.”

Judge Peter Couzens said counter-terrorism police did contact them about Khayre, but only to ask for a current phone number so they could return some property to him.

“You would’ve thought, Neil, that if the federal authorities were concerned about this person as a risk, they would’ve been more concerned about that then returning property to him.”

Facing intense scrutiny about how this happened, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews told Channel Seven criminals with known terrorist links should only be released from prison with Commonwealth approval.

“ASIO and the Australian Federal Police are after all the primary experts in this matter. This is a national issue and we need to work together and all be involved in this.”

The Prime Minister is unimpressed by the proposal.

“Of course it can seek advice and information from other agencies but I think many Victorians would be shaking their heads at the prospect of the Victorian Premier wants to abdicate his responsibility as leader of the government of Victoria.”

Attorney-General George Brandis says every state needs to take a stronger stance on parole for those with terrorist links.

“I think the public are entitled to expect that for people who present that level of danger to the public and who have a terrorism backgound, there should be a presumption against bail or parole except in a very clear case.”


An emotional farewell for child sex abuse victims’ advocate

Anthony Foster has been farewelled as a passionate campaigner who helped survivors of sexual abuse deal with their grief, and a dedicated father who loved his children and grandchildren dearly.


His efforts contributed materially to the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations.

Mr Foster began campaigning against child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church after learning two of his daughters were sexually abused by their priest.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews offered the family a state funeral, saying Anthony and Chrissie Foster helped transform victims and give them a voice.

“The Fosters were fighting for every childhood that had been taken and for every family that had been broken. While perpetrators and their protectors continued to deny and hide, the Fosters defied that culture of silence. Anthony and Chrissy shone a powerful light on one of our darkest chapters.”

Ann Barker, former MP for Oakleigh, also spoke at the memorial.

Ms Barker took the Fosters’ book “Hell on the way to Heaven” to the state parliament, and called for an inquiry into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

“Anthony and Chrissie fought hard and long for their daughters and their family and they continued to fight for full justice. They saw systems that failed in so many ways, that put up barriers at every opportunity, and covered up crimes against children. They didn’t step back from those many victims and survivors, they stepped forward.”

Although Mr Foster became a high-profile advocate for victims of sexual abuse, he was remembered at the service as a devoted family man.

His brother, Brian Foster, told those attending how proud he was of his brother.

“Anthony’s greatest achievement, outside his family, became his campaign to expose child sex abuse and cover-ups, initially in the catholic church and later in wider areas of the community. To this he dedicated the final 21 years of his life. This is his legacy. In pursuing justice, the personal costs to Anthony and Chrissie have been enormous. Dear brother, we are immensely proud of you, rest in peace.”

Anthony Foster’s mission for justice started when he found out two of his daughters, Emma and Katie, were sexually abused by Father Kevin O’Donnell at their Melbourne primary school between 1988 and 1993.

Emma took her life in 2008 and Katie was hit by a car in 1999, leaving her with brain damage and in need of 24-hour care.

Katie spoke at the memorial and thanked her dad.

“Hey dad, thanks for always making me feel special. You were so smart, wise and giving, and a generous man. Love always, Katie.”

Mr Foster’s other daughter, Amy, also spoke.

“Throughout unthinkable loss and grief, his spirit never ceased to blossom, how can one man be so strong. Despite all, he kept on keeping on, he never turned to vices designed to numb, nor to rage or blame, instead he took his pain and turned it inside out and clutched tightly to empathy and justice. Regardless, his untimely death points to all that he endured. I am so fortunate to have been this rare man’s daughter, what a privileged life I have lived. You can rest in peace now dear dad, we will be okay because you have showed us the way.”


Ramadan just the first challenge for Aussie boxer

Elmir is currently observing Ramadan – just the first of many challenges she will face this year.


It’s common for Bianca Elmir to abstain from eating and drinking before a training session.

But the physical demands of boxing means she isn’t be able to fast every day.

“Sometimes it can get very overwhelming with the training schedule that I’ve got on and leading up to a fight it’s very difficult because everything is assessed you know like how much you’re drinking, how much you’re eating, because I have to be perfectly a certain weight, to the gram.”

When she does fast, it’s done with a purpose.

“I’ll dedicate it towards something, so you know the other day I dedicated it to just recognising my environment and I was just really mindful of my environment all day because I made the intention of fasting for – obviously, first for God – but then secondly to be mindful of my environment, care and respect it. I was trying to pick up rubbish around me and just being really grateful for everything around me, just being mindful of trees and all these really beautiful things.”

Elmir has been a Muslim since she was a child.

The 34 year-old admits being open about her faith still presents its challenges.

“As soon as I say I’m Muslim I have to automatically defend myself, I’m in a defensive position, and that’s a really negative experience.”

In November, she will attempt to qualify for next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Her trainer, former Olympian Jamie Pittman, says Elmir is destined for success.

“If she can continue to grow and improve and stay obsessed with boxing the way she has the last six weeks she will be going to the Commonwealth Games and winning a gold medal, I’ve got no doubt in hell that she will be the best 51kg in the Commonwealth.”

Elmir hopes achieving that goal will inspire other young Muslim women in Australia.

“For other Islamic women I would hope that I can lead by example, in showing that ‘be comfortable in your own skin, things will get tough sometimes, it’s tough for everyone just being a human being in this world and if you just try hard and do as much as you can to be the person that you can be, then anything is possible.’ I honestly believe that.”


No kisses but Harry’s fans get Sydney hugs

It was a case of deja vu for Daphne Dunne and Victoria McRae when the pair came face to face with Prince Harry for a second time on the shores of Sydney Harbour.


In the pouring rain on Wednesday, the elderly woman who embraced Harry in 2015 and the young female fan who famously stole a kiss from the prince during that trip were willing to get wet to do it all again.

The two fans were part of a 200-strong crowd who waited in the rain to catch a glimpse of Harry as he walked around Circular Quay after watching a sailing demonstration as part of the 2018 Invictus Games preparations.

The 97-year-old was at it again on Wednesday, but this time she was armed with a blanket and umbrella.

“He’s marvellous, I’ve met him before and he’s an absolute gem,” Ms Dunne told AAP.

“I’ve been waiting a couple of hours, but it’s worth it, even with this heavy rain.”

And Ms Dunne was rewarded for her patience.

Not only did the British royal remember her but the 32-year-old appeared visibly excited as he gave the 97-year-old a hug and had a brief chat.

In a moment that melted the hearts of onlookers, Prince Harry even tucked Ms Dunne’s blanket in and fixed up her umbrella before he continued on his walk.

While there were no kisses during this visit the prince did receive some phone numbers and photographs – including one from Ms McRae capturing the moment the then-21-year-old stole a kiss two years ago.

Ms McRae confessed to having a copy of the picture on her bedroom wall and she’s hoping Harry might put his copy up at home in London too.

“I don’t think it’s likely but it’s good to pass it on,” she told AAP on Wednesday.

Ms McRae, who was wearing a plastic crown and holding a Union Jack flag, wasn’t disappointed she didn’t get a kiss this time but claimed she was “happy with what I got”.

“We shook hands and we talked about our last rendezvous – it was great,” she said.

Many fans screaming as Prince Harry made his way through the crowd with one heard yelling out: “Isn’t this amazing that someone can bring this many people so much joy!”

UAE turns screws on Qatar

The United Arab Emirates has tightened the squeeze on fellow Gulf state Qatar by threatening anyone publishing expressions of sympathy towards it with up to 15 years in prison, and barring Qatari passport or resident visa holders entry.


Efforts to defuse the regional crisis – prompted on Monday when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over alleged support for Islamist groups and Iran – showed no immediate signs of success.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash threatened more curbs if necessary and said Qatar needed to make “iron-clad” commitments to change policies on funding militants. Qatar vehemently denies giving such support.

US President Donald Trump took sides in the rift on Tuesday, praising the actions against Qatar, but later spoke by phone with Saudi King Salman and stressed the need for Gulf unity.

His defence secretary, James Mattis, also spoke to his Qatari counterpart to express commitment to the Gulf region’s security. Qatar hosts 8000 US military personnel at al Udeid, the largest US air base in the Middle East and a launchpad for US-led strikes on the Islamic State militant group.

Kuwait’s emir has also been seeking to mediate, meeting Saudi’s king on Tuesday.

Qatar’s isolation from powerful fellow Arab states advanced, however.

UAE-based newspaper Gulf News and pan-Arab channel Al-Arabiya reported the crackdown on expressions of sympathy with Qatar.

“Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form,” Gulf News quoted UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi as saying.

On top of a possible jail term, offenders could also be hit with a fine of at least 500,000 UAE dirhams, the newspaper said, citing a statement to Arabic-language media.

Since the diplomatic row erupted, slogans against and in support of Qatar have dominated Twitter in Arabic, a platform used widely in the Arab world, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

Newspapers and television channels in the region have also been engaged in a war of words over Qatar’s role.

The UAE’s state-owned Etihad Airways, meanwhile, said all travellers holding Qatari passports were currently prohibited from travelling to or transiting through the emirates on government instructions.

Foreigners residing in Qatar and in possession of a Qatari residence visa would also not be eligible for visa on arrival in the UAE, Etihad spokesman said in an email.