Dry winter saps farmers’ confidence

Farmers are the least confident they have been in four years after a lack of rain over winter slashed production forecasts.

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Sentiment is weak across all states and all sectors, including beef, sheep and grain, says agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank.

Rabobank says the drop in positive mood shown by its latest quarterly survey is unsurprising given that it comes off high levels of confidence over the past year, and many farmers are entering spring with limited soil moisture reserves.

Australia this year experienced its second-driest June on record, leading to downgraded winter crop prospects and cattle and sheep farmers putting animals on the market earlier than expected.

Fifty-one per cent of farmers expect the next 12 months to bring similar conditions to the previous year.

While the percentage of farmers expecting the agricultural sector to worsen over the next year increased to 27 per cent, from 10 per cent in the previous survey.

“With the season front of mind for many, 50 per cent of farmers nominated dry conditions as a major reason conditions were likely to deteriorate over the next 12 months – nearly double the 28 per cent with that view last quarter,” Rabobank said in a statement on Monday.

Concerns over dry conditions were especially heightened in the cropping sector, where the national wheat crop is forecast to reach 22 million tonnes – down from last season’s record 35 million tonnes.

Rabobank’s national manager Country Banking Australia, Todd Charteris, said early August rainfall had given some areas some relief.

But conditions were still very dry in Western Australia’s central and northern cropping regions and across much of Australia’s eastern seaboard.

Although, Victoria and northern Tasmania had benefited from good rainfalls in recent weeks.

Rabobank said that although farmers had lowered their expectations for the year ahead, they were still positive about the long-term outlook for the agribusiness sector.

The Rabobank survey, which questioned 1,000 primary producers, was completed in August.

CBA names new board appointee

Commonwealth Bank has appointed NSW Treasury Corporation director Robert Whitfield to its board while two current directors will leave as the bank battles allegations of breaching anti-money laundering and terror funding laws.

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Chairman Catherine Livingstone said Mr Whitfield, who has taken on the role as an independent non-executive director effective immediately, brings with him extensive risk management experience.

“Rob’s broad risk management and public sector experience, as well as his extensive banking experience, will deepen the board’s existing skills and expertise,” Ms Livingstone said in a statement on Monday.

The director of NSW Treasury Corporation was previously secretary of NSW Treasury and of NSW Industrial Relations.

Before NSW Treasury, Mr Whitfield held senior roles during a 30-year career at Westpac.

Two directors will retire from CBA’s board at the bank’s annual general meeting on November 16.

Launa Inman, who has been on the board for 10 years and served on its audit and remuneration committees, and Harrison Young, who has been a board director for six years and was a member of the risk, audit and nominations committees will step down.

Andrew Mohl has been asked to stand for re-election and serve one more year due to his extensive insurance experience.

The changes follow the mid-August announcement that CBA chief executive Ian Narev will retire this financial year.

The federal financial intelligence unit AUSTRAC launched civil proceedings in Federal Court in early August accusing CBA of breaching anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing laws.

During a directions hearing on Monday, the Federal Court gave the bank until December 15 to file its defence and the matter has been listed for a further directions hearing for April 2, 2018.

The bank is also facing an inquiry into its governance, culture and accountability by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, while the Australia Securities and Investments Commission is looking into whether CBA complied with its duties under the Corporations Act, including continuous disclosure obligations.

A shareholder class action also is on the cards.

CBA shares were $1.60, or 2.1 per cent, lower at $73.88 at 1348 AEST.

Australia urged to intervene in Myanmar

Protesters from Australia’s Rohingya community are calling on the federal government to intervene amid allegations of genocide in Myanmar against the ethnic minority group.

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Close to 300 protesters from NSW and Queensland chanted “help us Australia” outside Parliament House on Monday.

“They actually are ethnically cleansing and eradicating the whole Rohingyan race,” spokesman Ahsan Haque said.

“History is repeating itself. It’s basically what happened in WWII. Let’s not wait another century. Let’s act now and save them.”

The Australian government is being asked to pressure the Myanmar government into ending the persecutions or withdraw its foreign aid.

“This is as serious as it gets. It’s probably the worst the Rohingyas have seen in their country,” Mr Haque said.

“There are thousands more dying.”

The atrocities against the mostly Muslim minority in Arakan State by the Myanmar military are allegedly being supported by the government and Buddhist nationalists.

Since conflict erupted nearly two weeks ago, 3000 people are reported to have been killed, more than 100 villages burnt down and more than 300,000 people displaced, protesters say.

“We need to act immediately, otherwise it’ll be too late,” said Harun Harace, a Rohingya community leader.

Despite limited media access, allegations of rape, torture and the burning of prisoners alive, have also been exposed via leaked videos.

“Does this not move you?” Mr Harace asked.

Queensland community leader, Hussein Johar said, “the acts of genocide against the Rohingya are not random and should not be considered in isolation”.

German candidates want to block Turkey from EU

About 20 million Germans, almost one-third of the electorate in the country of 80 million, were predicted to tune in as the candidates met in a 90-minute televised debate.

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With almost half the voters still undecided, Martin Schulz, a former European Parliament chief and head of the Social Democratic Party, hoped to halt a major slide in the polls.

A recent poll had shown Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union ahead as they began their debate on topics ranging from domestic security to foreign policy.

But Mr Schulz appeared to surprise her with a promise to push for an end to the negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the European Unionif he were elected chancellor.

“If I become chancellor, I will not only cancel the agreement, but I will also call off Turkey’s accession talks with the EU. We have got to the point where no German citizen can safely travel to Turkey. We have got to a point where we must end the financial and economic ties, the customs union and the accession talks. We cannot do that alone. We must talk to our European partners about it. I think the next chancellor has the duty to protect Germany by saying to Turkey that all red lines have been crossed and, therefore, this country cannot become a member of the EU — which is actually difficult for me.”

Turkish president Rejep Tayyip Erdogan launched a huge purge of state institutions after military officers tried to oust him a year ago.

More than 50,000 people have since been arrested, including more than 170 journalists and many opposition politicians, academics and activists.

Responding to Mr Schulz, Angela Merkel initially cautioned against such a move by the European Union.

She said it would be irresponsible to endanger ties with Turkey at a time when 12 German citizens are imprisoned there on political charges.

“I was never in favour of Turkey joining the EU, and now I will reflect carefully on the options. I am immediately in favour of stopping pre-accession aid, but whether we close the door or whether Turkey does, we will have to see. Above all, I now want to help the 12 people, or it is now 14, who are sitting in prison for political reasons, and, here, I see limiting economic ties as a very important point.” n …)

But after the moderators moved on and asked a question about United States president Donald Trump, Ms Merkel returned to the Turkey issue.

She appeared to agree with ending the membership talks.

“Back to Mr Erdogan, of course we need a clear position here. I have a lot of experience talking to Mr Erdogan on this issue. Secondly, we are in agreement: no pre-accession help, and the fact that Turkey should not become a member of the EU is also clear. Apart from this, I’ll speak to my colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks.”

Another hot topic was migration, with Martin Schulz accusing Angela Merkel of failing to find a Europe-wide solution to the crisis.

But she defended her policies, saying they were absolutely right.

After the debate, Christian Democrats secretary general Peter Tauber praised her performance in the debate.

“Angela Merkel was just as people know her: calm, circumspect, level-headed, as a chancellor should be rather than just aiming for quick election points, and I thought that was very good.”

But German justice minister Heiko Maas, of the Social Democrats, says Martin Schulz was clear on both domestic and foreign policy.

“Above all, I thought Martin Schulz’s closing remarks were very convincing. You can see that he is a great European, and that is important. We won’t solve today’s big challenges alone, we need a strong Europe, and, for that, he is the best person you could imagine.”

 

 

 

Nationals MP criticises govt’s oil plan

A Nationals MP has accused his own government of “squibbing” on its obligation to manage the country’s oil supplies properly.

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Andrew Broad told parliament on Monday he isn’t satisfied the country has enough fuel in reserve or refineries to deal with a significant global emergency.

Members of the International Energy Agency are obliged to have 90 days worth of oil stock, but Australia does not currently comply.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, that would allow Australia to buy access to oil stocks to meet that obligation was not good enough, Mr Broad said.

“This appears to me like buying a boat with holes in it in case there’s going to be a flood,” he told MPs.

Mr Broad likened it to the Australian government being ill-prepared for the Pacific War, sending ships of troops to New Guinea without enough guns on board.

The proposed ‘ticketing’ system suits places like Europe with land borders but would not work satisfactorily for an island nation, he said.

The Victorian MP noted that of the countries from which Australia sources its oil, only one isn’t in the region of a potential conflict zone – and that was India.

“While the ticketing (mechanism) perhaps does tick the box and saves the government a lot of money, I do believe we are squibbing on our obligation to look after the security of the Australian people,” Mr Broad said.

“I think someone in this parliament needed to raise it.”

It wasn’t only about ensuring access to fuel for Australia’s defence capabilities, including tanks and planes, but also for food transport to heavily populated areas that have very limited food reserves.

Mr Broad wants Australia to increase its oil refining capacity and spread it across different locations to “limit the ability for them to be taken out by an airstrike”.

“This is maybe buying us time, but it is not addressing adequately the major risks that we have in our region,” he said.

Despite his concerns, he will still vote in favour of the legislation.