Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Same sex vote helps stem Australia Post snail mail losses - for now

The same sex marriage survey has provided a one-off boost to Australia Post's traditional business which continues to be hit by a decline in "snail mail" letter volumes.

Australia Post says without the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey creating a $26.3 million revenue surge late last year, a ten percent fall in traditional letter volumes would have been "even sharper".

But chief executive Christine Holgate - who took over last year from Ahmed Fahour - has warned that despite the boost from the same sex vote and $113 million in savings she expects Australia Post to swing back into loss in the second half of the year.

"Due to the strong seasonal nature of our business, we expect to again make a loss in the second half. The results demonstrate the significant challenge for Australia Post to continue to transform," Ms Holgate said. 

In its half year results to December 31 released today, Australia Post said addressed letter volumes have fallen more than 26 percent in the past three years as large organistions continue to move their communucations online.

Australia's Post has reported a 65 percent improvement in half year profit after tax of $217 million helped by property sales and one off benefits.

An eight percent increase on its parcels business has seen revenues increase by three percent to $3.6 billion.

Australia Post is continuing to struggle with maintaining its traditional bricks and mortar portfolio of post offices while transforming into a parcels business.

"It is critical for Australia Post to continue to meet the needs of Australians by maintaining a healthy and viable Post Office network, including our Licensed Post Office partners," Ms Holgate said.

"We are currently working to find new revenue streams for our Post Offices, as their role in communities becomes increasingly important to serve an ageing population and with traditional services closing branches." 

Australia Post has an obligation to provide a service that is "reasonably accessible to all people in Australia, wherever they reside or carry on business."

In today's report, Australia Post said it has 15,160 street post boxes; 4,369 post offices nationwide including 2,541 post offices in regional and remote areas.

Ms Holgate pointed to strong growth from Asia with inbound parcel volumes up by 45 percent in the period with most of the growth coming from China.

She said almost two-thirds of Australia Post's revenuee coming from competitive markets but highlighted concerns about its share in the deliveries business with trading flat with growth of just one percent.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Seven West human resources policies "stress tested" and "fine" in wake of Amber Harrison scandal says Tim Worner

Seven West Media chief executive Tim Worner says the company’s human resources policies have been “stress tested” after reputational fallout from his ill-fated affair with former executive assistant Amber Harrison.

In response to questions from the ABC, Mr Worner added that the network’s policies were “fine” despite allegations that the network mishandled sexual harassment allegations by Seven cadet journalist Amy Taeuber who was sacked last year after making an official complaint.

“I think that we’ve definitely stress tested our human resources policies but actually we found that they were fine,” Mr Worner said.

“We’ve undertaken a little more work in terms of making sure that our people know what the rules are. Certainly, in the last six months we’ve undertaken a fair bit of work in that regard.

“But in terms of your question pointing to some sort of deficiency I think that is wrong.”

Asked if he was confident all necessary steps have been taken to ensure all Seven staff were treated properly, Mr Worner replied told the ABC “that’s correct”.

Mr Worner was briefly quizzed on Seven’s handling of complaints in the wake of the Amber Harrison scandal after revealing a surge in half year net profit to $101.7 million.

Seven won orders against Ms Harrison last July to ensure she complied with a confidentiality deal that prevented her from revealing confidential documents gained during her employment with the network and her affair with Mr Worner.

The company’s human resources policies were also in the spotlight last September after cadet journalist Amy Taeuer claimed she was dismissed from Seven’s Adelaide newsroom after complaining about sexual harassment by a male colleague.

Seven’s half year profit turnaround to $101.7 million from $12.4 million in the previous correspondent period comes after significant cost cutting and a decision to temporarily suspend its dividend to shareholders.

Seven West Media shares rocketed on the profit result and ended the day 18.6 percent higher at 60 cents a share.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A weather blip? IMF downgrades Australia's economic growth outlook

Weaker mining exports and housing investment hurt by bad weather earlier this year have prompted the International Monetary Fund to cut its growth forecasts for the Australian economy.

In what appears to be a blip, the IMF's latest World Economic Outlook released overnight has sharply revised Australian growth down to 2.2 percent in 2017 from projected of 3 percent just six months ago.

While Australia's economy is expected to recover in 2018, the forecast has also been softened to 2.9 percent down from an anticipated 3 percent.

"Growth is expected to soften temporarily to 2.2 percent in Australia, where housing investment and mining exports in the first half of the year were undermined by bad weather," the IMF says.

Treasurer Scott Morrison, in Washington for the IMF's annual meetings, said he remains committed to the government’s own budget forecasts but will take the IMF's outlook into account.

"We'll obviously revise or review that as necessary as we go into the mid-year economic statement. That's the time to do that," Mr Morrison said.

While not rejecting the IMF's revision, Mr Morrison pointed to "encouraging" economic data including the latest business survey from the NAB which described business conditions as rock solid.

"So the better days I spoke about in the budget is being borne out by this data and let's not forget 325,000 Australians getting a job last year," Mr Morrison said.

The IMF has cited the impact from Cyclone Debbie in March as a factor where delays in coal transportation triggered a decline in the coal price index which has since recovered by 16.5 percent.

The report says strong demand from China assisted in the price recovery in addition to labour dispute at Australian mines restricting supply.

The IMF has urged Australia to use low interest rates to deal with an "infrastructure deficit" alongside Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It urges greater attention to upgrading surface transportation and improving technologies such as high speed rail, ports, telecommunication, broadband and green investments.

"After three decades of almost continuous decline, public investment in infrastructure and the stock of public capital as a share of output are near historic lows in advanced economies," the IMF says.

"Many countries could take advantage of the favourable funding environment to improve the quality of the existing infrastructure stock and implement new projects."

The IMF also raises concerns about stalling reforms to productivity and work practices once again singling out Australia in addition to Greece, Italy, Japan and Spain.

"Persistently sluggish productivity in some countries has led to greater emphasis on product and labor market reforms," the IMF says.

"These reforms have been found to raise productivity and employment and to improve resilience to shocks."

The IMF's slight revision comes after 26 years of continuous economic growth in Australia where fallout from the global economic crisis was largely avoided because of the mining investment boom and government support to banks.

Cautious confidence about the global economy is based on the IMF forecasts for pickups in investment, trade and industrial production after a long period of slow growth and low inflation.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Australia well-placed to adapt to driverless car world says former US Transport Sec Rodney Slater

Australia is well positioned to adapt to the new world of driverless vehicle technology given its widespread use in the resources sector, according to former US transportation secretary Rodney Slater.

Speaking in Sydney, Bill Clinton's transport czar in the 1990s says while regulators grapple with the issues of automation, Australia is in a positin to teach the rest of the world.

"If you look at most of your mining, you already have autonomous vehicles doing a lot of that work," Mr Slater told the ABC.

"It's in a structured and limited environment but that's exactly the kind of environment we have to create for automation to be used in cities like Sydney and Melbourne.

"I think you have the kind of public leadership and the kind of dynamic corporate leadership to help Australia to not only be a player but a leader."

But Mr Slater said Australia and the world needed to look beyond comparing automation to fantasies played out on The Jetsons and Star Trek.

"Imagine your elderly parents who may have had to give up the ability to drive or someone who has a disability and can't drive can now being able to enjoy it in a way that is independent for them," Mr Slater said.

"That's really the magic of this expansion of transportation and portability that automation provides."

Mr Slater says a challenge for governments. regulators and motorists will be how traditional cars driven by humans share roads with automated vehicles.

"I think we'll get to a point where we'll have to have set routes in certain parts of certain areas you're likely to have set routes for all vehicles that will allow for greater automation."

However, Mr Slater says trust is a major factor and worried that some technology like drones could be "weaponised" and possibily exploited alluding the last week's deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas.

"But we cannot live being paralysed by fear. We cannot allow something just because it can be used for ill to not have the benefit of being used for good," Mr Slater said.

"I think both the public and private sector have a responsibility to help the public with these types of vehicles and with this new technology."

Mr Slater says 94 percent of motor vehicle accidents are caused by human error meaning automated vehicles could be important in lower the road toll.

China tourism to boom says ACBC as John Brumby rejects concerns about Chinese influence

Former Victorian premier John Brumby has rejected concerns about China's influence in Australia higher education sector as he projected the flow of Chinese tourism is about to boom.

"We don't see that in business. I think with influence every country around the world exerts its own influence internationally and China is no different," Mr Brumby told the ABC's AM program.

"What we've got to make sure in Australia is that we stick to our values and our views around the world."

Mr Brumby said that in his role as a university lecturer he has seen no evidence of influence or interference that concerned him.

"My first hand experience as someone who has a lot of contact with students from masters level down is that I don't see any influence. I see happy students , keen students, students who want to learn."

Earlier this week, the federal education minister Simon Birmingham agreed with Ms Adamson that Australian universities needed to be vigilant about their academic integrity and independence.

Concerns about China's growing influence came as the Australia China Business Council released research showing the number of Chinese tourists visiting Australia is set to more than triple to 3.3 million per year by 2026

The report conducted with LEK Consulting and Trade Victoria says over a million Chinese tourists visited Australia last year and spent $9.2 billion underscoring the deepening economic and trade relationship.

However, Australia’s ability to handle the projected Chinese tourist boom has been highlighted as a concern, with a China Readiness Score delivering a score of 65 out of 100.

John Brumby points to recommendations urging better Mandarin signage, improved transport and the availability of Chinese payment options like Alipay.

Mr Brumby says Australia's accommodation sector is particularly under pressure from the expected boom in Chinese tourist numbers,

"We're not really ready. We've had issues with Chinese new year when you get 150,000 or 200,000 tourists and the hotels struggle," Mr Brumby said.

"So if they are struggling now they're really going to struggle with 3.3 million visitors ."

The rise of Chinese tourism is also likely to overtake the importance of Australia exports of iron ore to China, according to Mr Brumby.
"Put education, financial services and tourism together and the services market for a state like Victoria is already much more important than the resources market."

Concerns about growing Chinese influence were fuelled when Frances Adamson used a speech in Adelaide to warn that universities needed to be on alert.

"We have seen attempts at untoward influence and interference," Ms Adamson said told an audience at Adelaide University's Confucius Institute.

"When confronted with awkward choices, it is up to us to choose our response, whether to make an uncomfortable compromise or decide instead to remain true to our values, "immune from intolerance or external influence" as Adelaide University's founders envisaged."