China is ‘our great opportunity’, says Kathmandu

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New Zealand activewear chain Kathmandu says it has improved sales in through better products, promotions and engagement with its customers and sees it as “our great opportunity”.
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About 1 million ns are members of Kathmandu’s loyalty card program. These “Summit Card” members spend more money, more frequently than other shoppers.

” is our great opportunity,” chief executive Xavier Simonet said. Consumer confidence in both and New Zealand were “reasonably OK”.

The comments come after Kathmandu met guidance for its half-year results, with net profit up 6.4 per cent to $NZ10 million ($9 million), thanks to strong growth at its 161 n stores and cost cutting.

Overall, n sales grew 6 per cent for the six months to January 31, compared with a 0.9 per cent decline for its native New Zealand. Same-store n sales, excluding new stores, grew 5 per cent in local currency.

Kathamandu did not provided guidance for the full year, and said maintaining gross margin and operating efficiency would continue to be its focus. It is in negotiations to improve its international wholesaling agreements.

New Zealand broker ForBarr said the result was lower than it had expected and the quality was “not that great”. Sales inched up 0.2 per cent while earnings before interest and tax fell 2 per cent.

“Bear in mind that this is a very small half for Kathmandu, the key issue is how the June/July period goes, nevertheless this won’t help the price,” it said.

Mr Simonet said he did not plan a change to Kathmandu’s practice of discounting heavily from original prices, saying the so-called “high-low” strategy had made the retailer successful.

“We have made the outdoor category accessible to everyone,” he said.

An interim dividend of 4?? was declared, up from 3?? last year.

Premier Investments says retail rents too high in apparel sector

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Premier Investments has foreshadowed more store closures as it warns landlords that the high rents in the apparel sector must come down to reflect the challenges weighing on this retail segment.
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The Solomon Lew-controlled retailer owns the highly successful children’s stationery chain Smiggle and Peter Alexander as well as a clutch of mid-market apparel brands, including Jacqui E and Portmans.

Four of Premier’s apparel brands reported negative growth in total sales during the first half, and chief executive Mark McInnes said the collapse of Marcs and David Lawrence had a material impact on the value of some of that rental real estate.

He said the space those fashion brands were vacating was worth “far less than it once was”.

“You can assume that we are talking to landlords about making sure they right size their rent in line with market values,” Mr McInnes said. “And we are doing that for all our brands.”

Premier’s online sales grew 48 per cent in the first half and it said the expansion of this channel had to be balanced with its bricks and mortar network.

Portmans and Jacqui E attract “exceptional” online sales, according to Premier, and remain “very profitable brands” for the group.

However, Mr McInnes said customers were choosing to buy those brands online, rendering investment in online operations very important.

“Equally we’re negotiating hard with landlords to lower their rent to ensure that the profitability at the shop level remains as there’s leakage to the online business,” Mr McInnes said.

“That’s a challenge for the landlords to get used to at lease expiry, significant pressure from our property team to get their rents in line with what’s happening in the market.

“We’ve seen retailers like Marcs and David Lawrence go out of business, so it’s hard for landlords to say in that category the space they’re renting is worth what they were renting it for.”

Mr McInnes foreshadowed that this would probably lead to some store closures by landlords who could not accept this “structural” shift.

However, he said the main focus for executive director Colette Garnsey and her team at Portmans and Jacqui E was improving products over the short term.

Building Peter Alexander’s network of concession stores was identified as a key plank of the growth plan for the mature, leisurewear label.

Peter Alexander is already in Myer and Mr McInnes revealed that it may broaden its exposure, which could include new stores in David Jones.

He said airport stores were also being targeted for the brand in , which now trades out of just one airport shop in Brisbane.

Virgin China to fly Melbourne to Hong Kong from July

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Virgin has confirmed Melbourne will be its n destination for a new service to Hong Kong starting mid-year.
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The airline flagged its first venture into the Chinese market in mid-2016 and confirmed in February it would launch a Hong Kong service but until now has not said if it would fly from Sydney or Melbourne.

Virgin said on Tuesday it would fly Airbus A330-200s five times return every week starting on July 5. The announcement follows the n Competition and Consumer Commission granting interim approval for Virgin’s tie-up with Chinese carriers HNA, Hong Kong Airlines and HK Express.

The alliance means passengers will be able to connect from Hong Kong to 13 destinations in mainland China. Those flying from Hong Kong on Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Capital Airlines and Tianjin Airlines will connect to Virgin’s domestic and trans-Tasman network under the alliance.

Qantas and its alliance partner Cathay Pacific are currently the only airlines that fly direct between and Hong Kong.

“Virgin ‘s entry into Hong Kong and Greater China is a key pillar of our international strategy, allowing us to tap into ‘s fastest growing and most valuable inbound travel market,” Virgin chief executive John Borghetti said.

“Melbourne is an international city in its own right and hosts some of ‘s biggest and most spectacular events. We look forward to showcasing this great city to inbound visitors from Hong Kong and beyond.” /**/

China is shaping up as a key market for n carriers, with about 1.2 million Chinese tourists visiting last year. Virgin has previously said it hopes to soon fly to a mainland Chinese city, while Qantas last month resumed flights between Sydney and Beijing, more than seven years after it axed the route.

Tickets for Virgin’s new service will go on sale on Tuesday. Schedule:

Melbourne to Hong Kong: Flight VA89 will depart Melbourne at 12.35am on every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and arrive in Hong Kong at 8.15am the same day, local time.

Flight VA87 will depart Melbourne at 10.25am every Monday and arrive in Hong Kong at 6.05pm and depart at 9.40am on Wednesdays, arriving at 5.20pm.

Hong Kong to Melbourne: Flight VA86 will depart Hong Kong at 7.50pm every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, arriving in Melbourne at 7.20am the next day.

The ‘Amber effect’ opens floodgates on dubious conduct by bosses

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AFR 24TH FEBRUARY 2015 John Neal CEO QBE results photo by Louise Kennerley afr Photo: Louise KennerleyTwo observations following news this week of yet another allegation of inappropriate male executive behaviour, this time by an executive at Westpac-owned wealth management business BT: first, the number of publicly disclosed instances of this type of misconduct is on the rise; and second, opinions about it are polarised.
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In the three months since former Seven West Media staffer Amber Harrison blew the lid off the consensual affair she had with its now chief executive, Tim Worner, the floodgates have opened with, most-often anonymous, letters sent to the media alleging all manner of dubious conduct, from affairs to unwanted contact.

Call it the Amber effect.

In the past few weeks alone, I have been alerted to allegations that a very senior judge and a captain of industry have had affairs with staff members. Until recently, the latter was the head of a multibillion-dollar company. In the judge’s case, the woman left her employment, and in the company’s case, both left.

I have even overheard a pillar of the business community refer to Harrison as a “bunny boiler”. This man sits on the board of a company whose annual report is littered with politically correct statements about corporate social responsibility and gender equality.

Of course, just because the ill-treatment of women in the workplace has become the issue du jour, doesn’t mean it’s new or getting worse. More, there is a growing understanding that it is not acceptable and it’s less tolerated.

And it’s noteworthy that most of the tip-offs about affairs or sexual misconduct aren’t coming from the women involved (to the extent we are able to track down the source of the information).

The clear exception is Harrison, who took her own story public because she believed she had been mistreated by Seven.

The former executive assistant, who instigated legal action again Seven last week, is alleging the company began its investigation into her alleged misuse of a corporate credit card after she told Worner she had been suffering anxiety and panic attacks, threatening her employment.

Most often, the outing of misconduct is coming from colleagues who witnessed it. For the most part, whistleblowing by the party involved leaves a stigma that could affect their ability to either stay at the company or get another job.

Those whose opinion falls into the camp that says an office affair is a private matter between two consenting parties (and their spouses) – all very common in today’s workplace – miss the point that good corporate practice recognises there is a power imbalance between a senior executive and a more junior staff member, or that a relationship creates a situation that can give rise to financial favouritism.

In the case of QBE chief executive John Neal, who was recently docked $550,000 in pay for not alerting the board about a consensual relationship with his executive assistant (both were separated from their respective spouses), the company’s response probably set the high-water mark in corporate governance on the issue. Incidentally, Neal alerted the board to his own situation.

At the other end of the spectrum would be Seven’s attempts to pay Harrison to keep quiet about the affair in the face of its belief that she had misused company funds. The saga is both messy and embarrassing and refuses to fade.

The behaviour of BT’s chief investment officer, Martyn Wild, in allegedly stroking a female staffer’s hair and, it was claimed, telling another she wouldn’t be promoted because of her weight, seems uncomfortably anti-social with some sexual overtones.

It’s likely that the BT matter has not yet been brought to an end – even though Wild has been given a “first and final warning” and will take a hit to his bonus.

Westpac and BT need to tread very carefully in handling this matter. It sits very uncomfortably with the bank’s public relations around gender equality – an issue that has been championed by chief executive Brian Hartzer.

Do you know more? [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au

‘People are just making things up’, says Gerry Harvey

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Billionaire retailer Gerry Harvey said his wife’s decision to sell a parcel of her Harvey Norman shares last week was about covering a tax bill and had nothing to do with Monday’s share price rout.
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Katie Page, who is also Harvey Norman’s chief executive, sold about 210,000 shares on March 14, just days before Mr Harvey jumped into the market to secure 2 million Harvey Norman shares in a bid to support the sagging share price.

Mr Harvey initially dismissed questions over Ms Page’s share sell-down as too “stupid”, given she still holds about 14 million shares.

However, he then explained Ms Page sold the shares to pay a tax bill on an options allocation.

“There’s not a director in who has not been in exactly the same position,” Mr Harvey said on Tuesday.

“As soon as they get options, they have to sell some shares to pay tax.”

Harvey Norman’s share price plunged from $5.06 on March 13 to $4.36 a week later, a slide Mr Harvey said had nothing to do with directors selling down shares or the retailer’s broader investor base.

“This has got to the stage where there’s manipulation going on and we’ve got to be very careful,” Mr Harvey said.

“I’ve been doing this for 56 years now and … our reputation is impeccable over a long period of time and now there’s this insinuation by someone saying that we have fake accounts and property with fake valuations and zombie trusts.”

Mr Harvey also denied the n Securities and Investments Commission was investigating its accounts.

Harvey Norman’s share price rout earned it a “please explain” from the n Securities Exchange. The retailer responded by claiming recent media reports had included “false statements and assumptions”.

In the ASX statement, Harvey Norman said an article in Saturday’s n Financial Review made “false statements and assumptions and then proceeds to make assertions and draw conclusions, which are also false, based upon those false statements and assumptions”.

Mr Harvey said he was innocent of any charges and no longer prepared to discuss it.

“You get to a point where you say ‘you can all go and get f—-d’.

“I’m not having anything to do with this, when people are just making things up.”

This is the latest chapter in the increasingly acrimonious debate over how Harvey Norman accounts for its franchised retail operations, including failed traders, a conversation Mr Harvey has previously blamed on short sellers.

Proxy adviser Ownership Matters called on fund managers to vote against accepting Harvey Norman’s financial report at its annual meeting last November in relation to the “financial accommodation” provided to franchisees for unpaid fees, rent, interest and working capital.

Ownership Matters called on Harvey Norman to consolidate its accounts and provide greater insight into issues such as loans to franchisees, which have totalled $566 million since 2011.

Brisbane man had ‘no clue’ who Kubrick was when he scored A Space Odyssey gig

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Queensland man Daniel Brilliant had “no clue” who influential director Stanley Kubrick was when he scored a photography gig on the epic sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
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“I didn’t have a clue, someone said Stanley Kubrick is in charge but I didn’t know who the hell he was,” the 72-year-old recalls from his days working in the dark room on set.

“I saw this man come through with a big beard and he always wore this bloody woollen-lined seal skin jacket with big Ugg boots, that seemed to be the way he dressed.”

It was 1966 when the Brisbane-born man worked on the seminal film that will be screened with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra playing the score live on Wednesday to kick off the World Science Festival.

Mr Brilliant, who resides on the Sunshine Coast, has many a tale from his days on set, including washing prints in the movie stars’ bathroom and taking photos used to create the unforgettable Star Gate sequence.

He was working as a photographer in London when he was hired; his boss saw an ad for the film and imitated his n accent to get him an interview.

“My boss rang and said: ‘I have you an interview at MGM studios at Borehamwood, I pretended I was you.’ I said ‘thanks heaps!’ ” Mr Brilliant said.

He went on to work in the dark room to produce images for the first half of the film, printing of hundreds of pictures of models that were scrutinised by the “very fussy” Kubrick.

“He was manic about sharpness, everything had to be absolutely sharp… it was a sort of standing joke, (Kubrick would ask) ‘Have you had your eyes tested lately?’ “

After principal photography wrapped, Mr Brilliant was called in to help shoot hundreds of auto-chromatic transparencies of various patterns that were coloured and used in a technique called Slit Scan to create the film’s famous Star Gate sequence.

“We went through thousands of moire patterns, stars, black and white drawings of various patterns, angular and circular patterns, I would photograph them and print them,” he said.

“I made bloody hundreds of the things… (a colleague) would put various colours behind them and paste them on an 11 foot by 9 foot transparency.”

The transparencies were backlit and would move behind a slit that would filter the images in front of a moveable camera to create an abstract pattern of light, which was extremely difficult, Mr Brilliant said.

“When I finally saw the film I saw he had just used a little bit of everything.”

Mr Brilliant recalls having to wash large lengths of photographic paper for one shot that was subsequently scrapped.

“It was a full-length roll of photographic paper, it was over 24 feet long and about a metre or so deep and they had to get a team of carpenters on the sound stage to build a wall so we could put the paper up and they gave us a projector to create an enlarger… it was quite ridiculous,” he said.

“It was a half-a-second exposure, so we processed it and the only place we could wash it was in one of the bathrooms for the stars that used to come in.

“The cleaner who used to come in said, ‘Oh, Liz Taylor had a bath in that bath’, so I used to always joke that I washed my print in Liz Taylor’s bath.

“The rumour was that MGM were trying to throw (Kubrick) out of the place because it was costing them too much money but he would show them the demo reel and they would all scurry back to the United States saying, ‘god, it’s great’.”

Being on a film set was all about waiting, especially during the production of the scene where an EVA pod tumbles through space, Mr Brilliant said.

“It was put on a mechanical rig and it moved ever so slowly in an eccentric fashion??? they wanted to make it look like it was completely out of control,” he said.

“It took something like 18 hours to film it with the speed it was going at and in the middle of the sequence the art director walked in, stood in front of the model and said ‘Has anyone here seen Stanley?’ and of course they wanted to kill him because they had to stop and do it all again.”

Mr Brilliant said working on 2001 didn’t take away from the magic of the film and described the opening sequence as “just breathtaking”.

The film will be screened at QPAC alongside the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the n Voices choir on Wednesday evening to kick off the five-day World Science Festival.

Women, Test stars winners in cricket’s pay fight but fine print questioned

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‘s top cricketers have questioned the fine print behind Cricket ‘s “landmark” pay offer that plans to have women more than double their income and international male players pocket a 30 per cent rise.
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CA’s formal submission, handed to surprised n Cricketers Association bosses late in their meeting at Jolimont on Tuesday, allows for the average wage of a top female player to immediately jump from $80,000 to $179,000 annually under a new five-year memorandum of understanding, should that be accepted. This would include CA and Women’s Big Bash League retainers, with match payments and tour fees added.

The offer to the internationally contracted men, to continue under the set-percentage model embraced since 1997, is also a substantial increase over five years, with bonuses to be paid should revenue be higher than projected.

The women could also share in bonuses, with overall revenue set to grow when new international and Big Bash League broadcast deals are brokered in the next year.

CA says total “potential” remuneration for all players will leap from $311 million in the current five-year deal to $419 million over the next deal.

Under the new plan, the average international retainer for men will rise from $703,000 to $816,000, with the expected average income, including Big Bash League payments, to be $1.45 million by 2022. This year, international stars Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc will already pocket more than $2 million when their tour and match fees, retainers and prizemoney are included.

Domestic cricketers, set to enjoy an 18 per cent pay rise, will have their average retainers jump from $199,000 to $235,000 by 2022 but the ACA said the lack of detail meant it was unclear whether these players remained a part of the set-percentage model – an area of concern.

CA’s initial submission had insisted domestic male cricketers – those playing in the Sheffield Shield – would no longer share in the percentage revenue model but the game’s governing body says it has changed its narrative, claiming those players will still share in the model but through “proportionally higher guaranteed payments”. However, a particular percentage won’t be locked in.

Players had received between 24 and 26 per cent of revenue under the expiring deal.

CA chief James Sutherland said the MOU, with women included for the first time, had “gender equity at its heart” but admitted there was much detail to work through with the ACA.

“It’s a landmark moment for n cricket and I think it’s a landmark moment for n sport,” Sutherland said when announcing the plan at Bill Lawry Oval in Northcote.

“Cricket will offer for the first time a genuine opportunity for our women cricketers to pursue a full-time career in our sport.

“Under the proposal, women will receive an immediate average pay increase of more than 125 per cent. As a result, our international women cricketers will see their average pay increase from $79,000 to $179,000, as of July 1 this year. By 2021, we expect to see our international women cricketers earning an average of $210,000.

“Our state female cricketers, playing both WNCL and WBBL, will see their average remuneration more than double from $22,000 to $52,000 this year.”

The core figures of the MOU have been based on an hourly rate of $32 for male and female players.

ACA chief Alistair Nicholson questioned whether the submission preserved the revenue sharing model for all players, what actual percentage went to men, women, grass roots and administrators and whether CA had provided “sufficient financial information” through the negotiations.

“For the moment, what can be said is that this proposal shows a number of promising signs that indicate that CA has been taking the ACA’s lead on various key points from our MOU submission,” Nicholson said.

“However, with a lack of detail in the terms and conditions that underpin this proposal, the ACA will continue to seek clarification from CA and advise the players on this accordingly.”

The current MOU expires on June 30, just weeks after the revamped Champions Trophy is held in England.

‘s next series after that is the yet-to-be confirmed tour of Bangladesh from early August, where two Tests and three one-day internationals have been slated, pending safety and security clearance. The Southern Stars have the women’s World Cup in England from July.

If CA and the ACA do not come to an agreement before these events, players, as revealed by Fairfax Media, could go on a series-by-series contract, or even consider a boycott.

Players have been fighting hard to ensure state cricketers remained part of the percentage scheme, with star n batsman and ACA executive member Aaron Finch reiterating that stance on Tuesday before CA’s offer was revealed.

Asked what action the players would be prepared to take should their hopes not be met, Finch replied: “That’s a good question … that [domestic players] is probably the biggest issue of the MOU so far, from our side of it, and the women’s MOU is also very high on the priority list.”

In its initial submission, CA said state men’s total remuneration have grown by more than 50 per cent in the past four years, averaging $234,000 this season, and this could not be sustained.

Discussions between the ACA and CA – when they have gone ahead – have been tense, with CA moving to win over skipper Smith and his deputy, Warner.

“We have placed the emphasis on increasing the guaranteed amount that the men will receive, rather than rely on any projected increase in revenue,” Sutherland said.

“Yes, it is a variation from a model that has stood the test of time over the course of the last 20 years but, in our view, it is a model that has served its purpose. It is a model that is now outdated.”

TheatreThe World of MusicalsKen Longworth

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PACKED SHOW: The World of Musicals has numbers from 20 popular productions. WHEN Rebekah Johanne was training as a musical theatre performer she never imagined that she would get to play characters as diverse as The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, and The Rocky Horror Show’s heroine, Janet, in the same show.
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But that has happened in The World of Musicals, a production featuring numbers from 20 musicals that are very different in style.

The World of Musicals has been a hit with musical fans of all ages since it premiered in Britain in 2013, with tours to China and Germany, and now . It will be presented at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on April 1 and at Cessnock Performing Arts Centre on April 3.

The 10 cast members present solos, duets and ensemble numbers from shows including Les Miserables, The Lion King, Sister Act, We Will Rock You, Dirty Dancing, Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys, Cabaret, Wicked, Phantom Of The Opera, The Rocky Horror Show, Chicago, Once, Evita, Singing In The Rain, Little Shop Of Horrors, Miss Saigon and Cats.

They also do numbers from a musical that was developed in the country in which they are performing. In , that is The Boy from Oz, which looks at the life and career of singer and composer Peter Allen.

Rebekah Johanne, who has been a member of the show since 2014, said the performers have had to sing numbers in Chinese and German dialects and present some of them in the styles that were used in the musicals’ staging in those countries. But they were wholeheartedly embraced by audiences and the popularity of the show in Germany led to two casts touring simultaneously there in 2016.

Scottish-born Johanne trained at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London and has appeared in London West End musicals including Rent, as well as choreographing shows such as the Four Seasons tribute Oh, What a Night.Her performing specialty is rock-style numbers, and she gets to deliver Queen’s Somebody to Love from the musical We Will Rock You.

The World of Musicals can be seen at the Civic Theatre on April 1 at 8pm. Ticket prices include adult $79.90 and concession $74.90. Bookings: 4929 1977. The Cessnock Performing Arts Centre show is on April 3 at 8pm. Tickets: adult $69.90, concession $64.90. Bookings: 4993 4266.

Fed rate hikes threaten Aussie dollar’s resilience

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The n dollar climbed to its strongest in 2017 early on Tuesday morning, before the release of RBA board minutes took some wind out of its sails.
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The Aussie peaked at US77.48??, its highest since November, before dropping some US0.40?? following the release of the minutes from the Reserve Bank’s February monetary policy meeting, despite no explicit changes to the central bank’s view on the currency.

In late Tuesday trade the Aussie was buying only a touch above US77??.

The RBA maintained its assessment that “an appreciating exchange rate could complicate the adjustment in the economy following the end of the mining boom”.

“We suspect that the RBA would have been expecting a March Fed rate hike to take some pressure off the [dollar],” CBA economist Gareth Aird said. “But the currency has strengthened since the Fed tightened policy and is edging further away from where we think the RBA views the sweet spot” in the low 70s.

“The RBA’s well-telegraphed reluctance to take the cash rate any lower has put more upward pressure on the Aussie than would otherwise have been the case,” Mr Aird said.

The Fed last week lifted rates and deflated some investors who had bet on an accelerated path of increases. Fed predictions

On Monday night Chicago Federal Reserve president Charles Evans told US television he sees US interest rates rising twice more this calendar year.

“It could be three, it could be two, it could be four if things really pick up,” Mr Evans said.

Also speaking was Philadelphia Fed chief Patrick Harker, who said he expects inflation to rise a little more than the Fed’s 2 per cent target, in line with the plan to gradually lift rates.

Investors should be able to better assess the future pace of rate hikes over the coming days, with Mr Evans and Mr Harker just two of nine Fed speakers this week, headlined by chair Janet Yellen on Thursday night.

The local currency’s US5?? rise against the greenback this year comes against the background of a consolidation among traders who bid up the buck aggressively in the weeks following the US election, amid talk of border taxes, immigration controls, and repatriation of the billions of dollars held by American companies offshore. Since then concerns around the pace of US President Donald Trump’s policy agenda have led many to unwind those bets this year, putting downward pressure on the currency.

A sharp fall in oil prices over the past two weeks has also weighed on US inflation expectations.

Continued strength in key commodity prices such as iron ore, which has pushed back above $US90/tonne, has also helped the n dollar. Further decline likely

JP Morgan currency strategist Sally Auld noted a frustrating resilience to the Aussie dollar. According to Ms Auld’s research, and consensus thinking, the local unit should be weaker against its American counterpart given the shrinking gap between the two countries’ interest rates. Global traders will tend to favour currencies with relatively higher rates. The US Federal Reserve last week raised rates for the second time since December, and is expected to tighten twice more this year.

“There is clearly scope” for the spread between n and US short-term yields to contract further this year, Ms Auld said.

“And if the RBA is forced to lower rates, as we expect, then the real policy rate spread will decline to levels not seen since late 2000,” she said.

“In our view, this suggests that the [n dollar] has further to decline over the course of this year.”

Why industrial relations is China’s everlasting battle

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It’s the economic debate that just won’t die, even when it’s dead, buried and cremated.
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The fresh political war over penalty rates, and new ACTU Secretary Sally McManus’ controversial comments about the rule of law, are just the latest flashpoints in a century-long and bitterly fought battle between Aussie bosses and their workers, which began when a bunch of sheep shearers gathered under a ghost gum tree in central Queensland in 1891 to strike for better conditions and ended up creating the n Labor Party.

‘s one-of-a-kind industrial – or workplace – relations system has evolved over time into a set of rules, regulations and institutions designed to strike the best balance between the interests of employees and employers.

One worker’s wage is, after all, another business person’s cost of doing business.

Few disagree there is a need for workers to band together to overcome an inherent imbalance of information and negotiating power between capital (bosses) and labour (workers).

But it is possible for union power to go too far, just as it is possible for employers to screw workers down too far in the name of community standards.

As the Productivity Commission explained in its 2015 review of workplace laws: “Labour is not just an ordinary input. There are ethical and community norms about the way in which a country treats its employees.”

Any economics textbook will tell you that if prices are set above market equilibrium, demand for that product will fall.

If wages rise too fast, there will be less demand for labour, leading to higher joblessness.

The commission again: “The challenge for a workplace relations framework is to develop a coherent system that provides balanced bargaining power between the parties, that encourages employment, and that enhances economic efficiency. It is easy to both over and under regulate.”

Here’s the rub. Because we’re dealing with ethical and social norms, that balance is ever evolving. We used to think it was OK to have just one week’s mandated annual leave. Maybe one day we’ll think it inhumane to have a two-day weekend – not a three-day one.

At various points in our history, the balance of power between capital and labour has shifted.

For much of the early and mid-20th century, was celebrated as a “workers’ paradise”. High trade tariff walls protected domestic industries – profits and wages alike – from foreign competition.

Joblessness was low, and workers were able to push for super-sized pay rises, usually by drawing on their collective power to strike.

Industrial action reached a peak in the first three months of 1974, when a record 2.5 million working days were lost to industrial disputes, be it strikes or lock-outs.

Higher wage demands from scarce labour fuelled double-digit inflation, which would peak at an eye-watering 17.7 per cent in 1975.

Realising there was a problem, the Whitlam government gave support to a new system of wage indexation.

But joblessness began to climb, from 2 per cent in the mid 1970s to 10 per cent by the early 1980s. The Hawke-Keating era

In 1983, the newly elected Hawke government endorsed a Statement of Accord with the ACTU under which unions agreed to link pay increases to cost of living and productivity gains, in return for increased spending on social programs.

Meanwhile, the Hawke Government set about dismantling the wall of tariffs protecting n industry, exposing industries to fierce international competition.

The power once commanded by n industry to generate large economic rents was undercut, as was the ability of workers to lay claim to their share of the super-sized profits with super-sized wage demands.

In this new cut-throat competitive environment, industrial action became more damaging to the economy.

In 1993, the Keating government introduced a new “enterprise bargaining” system, which shifted to a more decentralised wage bargaining system, and also came with a new legal right for unions to strike, under certain conditions.

Strikes had, until this point, always been unlawful in virtually all cases. But rarely had employers ever sought to extract penalties from unions or workers for taking action.

This new right to legally strike came with harsher penalties for illegal strike action. Days lost to industrial disputes fell sharply as a result. Post-accord era

Three years later, the newly elected Howard government formally abandoned the accord and introduced the first form of individual contracts to the workplace relations system.

A decade later, Howard swallowed his own political poison pill by passing the highly unpopular WorkChoices legislation, which removed a long standing “no disadvantage test”, which ensured employers were unable to sign employees up to individual contracts which left them worse off.

The laws only stood for a year or so before the government re-instated, under employment minister Joe Hockey, a “fairness test” to protect workers.

The main principle behind the WorkChoices push was to make the industrial relations system more efficient by drastically reducing – from 4000 plus – the number of state and federal awards governing pay and conditions.

When the newly elected Rudd government abolished WorkChoices, it sought to continue this spirit of reform by securing agreement from state governments to reduce the number of awards down to about 122, which remains the case.

The Labor government’s 2009 Fair Work Act also retained some of the WorkChoices-era reforms to strike laws – much to the frustration of unions. Rules requiring unions to hold a secret ballot before being able to legally strike remain in place.

Having promised that WorkChoices is “dead, buried and cremated”, the Abbott and Turnbull governments have done little to meaningfully alter the balance of power between employers and employees, besides reinstating the n Building and Construction Commission and holding an inquiry into union corruption.

Employer groups still complain the Fair Work Act winds back the industrial relations clock to the pre Hawke/Keating era, with an excessively proceduralistic focus and by forcing employers to collectively bargain with their workers if they request it, whereas this was voluntary under Hawke/Keating. Unions, on the other hand, complain the act does not go far enough.

Where does this leave us today?

The Productivity Commission’s 2015 review – which the Turnbull government is yet to respond to – broadly concluded that ‘s industrial relations system is relatively “harmonious” and “not dysfunctional”.

“Contrary to perceptions, ‘s labour market performance and flexibility is relatively good by global standards, and many of the concerns that pervaded historical arrangements have now abated. Strike activity is low, wages are responsive to the economic cycle and there are multiple forms of employment arrangements that offer employees and employers flexible options for working.”

Most controversially, the commission recommended reducing Sunday penalty rates to Saturday rates, as the Fair Work Commission has just mandated.

‘s idiosyncratic system of awards still has some “undesirable inconsistencies and rigidities, but they are an important safety net and a useful benchmark for many employers”.

And industrial disputes remain at historic lows.

“In the debates about regulation of industrial disputes, there is often a mantra that disputes are harmful to productivity and efficiency, and that there should therefore be more binding constraints on their use,” the commission observed.

However, while this was possible, there was little evidence of material effects: “Many disputes are about who gets what portion of a cake, not the quantum of the cake.”

Blame for failures to resolve industrial disputes, according to the commission, more often fell at the feet of individual unions and employers, than flaws in the system as a whole.

“In fact, a missing story is that the toxic relationships that can surface between employers and employees are sometimes the result of poor relationship management ??? a key skill for both employers and employee representatives ??? not a fault of the workplace system.”

If the overriding goal of an industrial relations system is to balance the interests of workers and employers while resolving disputes quickly, efficiently and fairly – to avoid productivity-harming industrial action – then is not too far from where it needs to be.

Amid the recent slump in wages growth to three-decade lows, it’s certainly hard to argue workers have too much power.

When both sides of a deal are equally unhappy, that’s usually the sign of a good bargain.

Let the battle continue.