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July, 2019

Aussie stocks gain 3 percent

The Australian share market closed almost three per cent higher, with strong gains from banks and big miners pushing the local bourse into positive territory.

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At the close, the S&P/ASX200 was 100.5 points, or 2.81 per cent higher at 3680.2, while the broader All Ordinaries gained 95 points, or 2.69 per cent to 3622.2.

At 1615 AEDT on the Sydney Futures Exchange, the June share price index contract was 103 points higher at 3684 on a volume of 24,487 contracts.

ABN Amro Morgans Ipswich manager Tony Russell said gains on the local market were underpinned by positive leads from Wall Street, a spot of bargain hunting and a rise in the banking and resource sectors.

“The stronger leads coming out of the US market over the last couple of evenings has certainly given a bit more confidence to our market,” Mr Russell told AAP.

“The banking and financial sector has been strong today, strongly followed by the resource sector with BHP and Rio.”

BHP Billiton put on $1.28, or 3.99 per cent, to close at $33.38, while rival Rio Tinto gained $2.56, or 4.62 per cent, to $57.96.

The market got off to a positive start opening one per cent higher after gains on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average putting on 152.68 points, or 2.01 per cent, to close at

7,761.60.

Meanwhile, One of Rio Tinto Ltd\’s major shareholders says plans by Aluminium Corporation of China (Chinalco) to invest $US19.5 billion ($A28.29 billion) in the world\’s third biggest resources company is good for Australia and the group.

Aberdeen Asset Management global head of equities Hugh Young said on Thursday the deal proposed by the Chinese state-owned firm, and which has been criticised by some Australian politicians, was “clever” for Rio Tinto.

Stock Move Price

AMP +0.180 4.790

ANZ Bank +0.460 16.340

BHPBilton +1.280 33.380

CBA +0.720 35.350

NAB +1.180 21.500

NewsCorp +0.690 11.730

Polartech +0.010 .135

Rio Tinto +2.560 57.960

TelstraCp +0.070 3.160

WestpacBk +0.480 19.900

Woolwrths +0.110 25.000

Grim times to come, says Swan

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan has warned of higher unemployment and slower growth than earlier forecast, due to the effects of the global economic slowdown.

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Treasurer Wayne Swan released official forecasts in February predicting unemployment would rise to seven percent by mid-2010 and economic growth would slow to one percent this year.

But he said that OECD figures released this week projecting developed economies would experience a 4.3 percent contraction and unemployment of 10 percent this year cast new light on the depth of the crisis facing Australia.

“Certainly it does mean that growth will be slower in Australia than was forecast back in February,” Swan told ABC television late Wednesday.

“It certainly does mean that unemployment as a consequence will be higher, and I think it certainly does mean as a consequence that the hit to our bottom line in terms of budget revenue will be higher than was forecast in February.”

Australia\’s unemployment rate hit a four-year high of 5.2 percent in February, while the economy shrank for the first time in eight years in the final quarter of 2008.

Swan said Australia\’s official forecast would be updated in early May when the government hands down its annual budget.

He refused to speculate on whether the budget would add further economic stimulus to two packages already released worth a combined 52 billion dollars (36 billion US).

But the treasurer predicted a “tough” budget, given that estimates the financial crisis would cost Canberra 115 billion dollars in revenues over the next four years were also outdated.

“There will be tough choices in the budget … revenues have been downgraded to the tune of 115 billion and I think the downgrades would certainly be greater than that,” he said.

He also said Australia\’s plan was to run a temporary budget deficit for the duration of the crisis, then return to surplus over time.

“Everybody at the table recognises that over time that some discipline has to be restored, but that can only happen … when growth is restored and growth returns to trend,” he said.

New laws crack down on bikies

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Document\”> The NSW government has rushed tough new laws to crack down on bikies through parliament, vowing to stop warring gangs from endangering the public.

The legislation was introduced on Thursday, only three days after Premier Nathan Rees warned it might not be ready until June to ensure it withstood a High Court challenge.

It passed the lower house within an hour, with only Independent MP Clover Moore voting against it.

It\’s expected to pass the upper house late on Thursday with the support of all parties except the NSW Greens.

The government said it was determined to push the laws through, with parliament not scheduled to sit again until May.

“These are tough and well constructed laws,” Mr Rees told parliament.

“They aim to give no second chances to those declared members of an illegal gang.”

The legislation will enable the police commissioner to make an application to the Supreme Court to have an outlaw motorcycle gang declared a criminal organisation.

Gang members will be able to make submissions to the court.

The judge can make a declaration without giving any reason, but it will only come into effect once it is published in the government\’s Gazette and a statewide newspaper.

Gang members who associate with each other can be charged without warning and face at least two years in jail.

South Australia already has similar laws, with Queensland expected to follow shortly.

Mr Rees last month said bikie gangs “crossed the line” by risking public safety with a vicious Sydney airport brawl which resulted in the death of Anthony Zervas, 29.

His brother, Hells Angel Peter Zervas, 32, is in a serious but stable condition at St George Hospital after being shot as he sat in a car outside a Sydney unit block on Sunday.

Five Comancheros bikies have been charged with affray over the March 22 airport brawl with the Hells Angels.

Police on Thursday afternoon raided the home of Comancheros president Mahmoud “Mick” Hawi, but he is reportedly in hiding with a $100,000 contract taken out for his death.

Opposition Leader Barry O\’Farrell said it took a dramatic escalation of violence to force the government to act on laws NSW police first requested late last year.

He said the coalition would support the laws to ensure the public was protected.

“I would have no problem if you put all the outlaw motorcycle gang members in two rooms and allowed them to shoot themselves to death,” he told parliament.

“I would have no problems with that at all.

“In the current climate of NSW you have drive-by shootings, you have bashings, you have bombings, you have murders, that at any stage could affect an innocent bystander.

“That is why we need to give police these powers.”

But the Law Society of NSW said police already had sufficient powers under the Crimes Act, and that the new legislation would do nothing to wipe out criminal conduct.

“The legislation simply will lead to people going underground and we\’re very concerned about that,” president Joe Catanzariti told reporters.

“At the present time … the people are visible in these activities and that does allow us to have proper justice.”

Mr Catanzariti said he was surprised at the haste with which the laws were introduced and debated in parliament, adding he felt it was an overreaction.

Pakistan lifts ban on popular party

Pakistan has suspended a court ban on politician Shahbaz Sharif and reinstated his party\’s rule in a key province, in a move likely to ease political tensions in the troubled country.

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A February 25 court decision to disqualify Sharif and his brother, former premier and main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, from contesting elections and holding office sparked mass protests.

Authorities detained hundreds of activists in response.

Under Western pressure to defuse the crisis, the government appealed the ban and agreed to reinstate chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, bowing to a key demand from Nawaz Sharif – now the country\’s most popular politician.

“The supreme court has suspended the February 25 decision,” Syed Zafar Ali Shah, a lawyer and leader in Sharif\’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party, told reporters outside the court.

The decision reinstates Shahbaz Sharif as chief minister of the country\’s most important province, Punjab.

PML-N spokesman, Siddiqul Farooq, said the court will fix a date to hear the petition of Nawaz Sharif sometime after May 7.

Workers in PML-N, the second-largest political party in the country, danced and handed out sweets in jubilation outside the court in the capital Islamabad, shouting “congratulations to the nation.”

“Thanks to Allah, our stance was just. Today a new judiciary has come into being in Pakistan. We\’ll work day and night for the welfare of our people,” Shahbaz Sharif told reporters from Lahore, the Punjab capital.

“I\’ll now be completing my agenda for people\’s welfare. A provincial cabinet meeting will be convened soon and we will consult our colleagues in the Pakistan People\’s Party (PPP) about the future course of action,” he added.

The government\’s March 16 promise to put Chaudhry back in office saw Nawaz Sharif call off a mass protest march on the capital and raised hopes of ending the debilitating political crisis in the nuclear-armed country.

Tuesday\’s stay is another significant step towards political reconciliation after Nawaz Sharif walked out of government last August on the judges\’ issue.

It comes one day after the government lifted central rule in Punjab.

The deeply unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari had put the province, home to more than 60 percent of national lawmakers and Sharif\’s power base, in the hands of one of his allies on February 25.

“The president respects the courts and court verdicts. The PPP accepts unreservedly the supreme court verdict,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said in a statement.

“It is hoped that the restoration of government in Punjab will take the process of reconciliation further forward and help in diluting the bitterness generated recently,” Babar said.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called Shahbaz Sharif and “congratulated” him on the restoration of his government, an official at the premier\’s office told AFP.

Analysts also welcomed the suspension.

“The decision is likely to provide a reconciliatory environment and they have to learn to co-exist,” Zafarullah Khan, director of the independent, Islamabad-based Centre for Civic Education, told AFP.

Political parties have long battled for control of the huge province, where the PPP had wanted to establish its own government.

A court in Lahore ruled in June that Nawaz Sharif, ousted by then military ruler Pervez Musharraf in a 1999 coup, was ineligible to stand in a by-election because of criminal convictions.

He was convicted of “hijacking” a Pakistani commercial airliner carrying Musharraf after denying the aircraft landing rights while he was prime minister, on October 12, 1999. The plane eventually landed and Musharraf seized power.

Sharif\’s brother, who has been acquitted of murder charges, was disqualified on the grounds of defaulting bank loans and ridiculing the judiciary.

Fears for peace under new Israeli FM

Israel\’s new government has set a hawkish tone in its first days in office, with statements by its top diplomat setting off warnings that Benjamin Netanyahu\’s cabinet risked burying the troubled peace talks.

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A day after he sparked criticism by saying Israel was not bound by a US-backed 2007 agreement to restart peace talks with the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday refused any withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria.

“There is no cabinet resolution regarding negotiations with Syria, and we have already said that we will not agree to withdraw from the Golan Heights,” Lieberman told the Haaretz daily.

The Golan is a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and annexed in 1981, which Damascus wants back as part of any peace treaty.

It marked the second day running of controversial statements by firebrand Lieberman, which have sparked furious reactions by Palestinians already worried about a cabinet led by Netanyahu, who opposes giving them a state.

“This minister is an obstacle to peace. He will cause harm to Israel first,” Yasser Abed Rabbo, an aide to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, told AFP.

“Nothing obliges us to deal with a racist person hostile to peace such as Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Lieberman,” he added.

Opposition MPs in Israel were as harsh in their criticism of a man whom critics have branded a “racist” and “fascist” for his regular diatribes against Israeli Arabs.

Tzipi Livni, from whom Lieberman took over the foreign ministry, said that with the statements “Israel in effect announced that it was no longer a partner” in the peace process and called on Netanyahu to distance himself from the comments.

Comparing the Soviet-born onetime bouncer to a “bull in a china shop,” Opher Pines-Paz of the centre-left Labour party warned that ultra-nationalist Lieberman was “a strategic threat to Israel.”

“This is proof of total irresponsibility,” he told public radio. “The damage that he has caused will take years to repair.”

Reactions from abroad remained muted.

US President Barack Obama, who has called advancing a two-state solution “critical,” called Netanyahu on his assuming office, saying he looked forward to working with him on his concerns abut Iran and reiterating his desire to advance the peace process.

“The president said he looked forward to working closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government to address issues of mutual concern, including Iran and Arab-Israeli peace,” the White House said.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the US State Department declined to comment on Lieberman\’s statements, saying Washington was instead focusing on Netanyahu\’s pledges to continue negotiations with the Palestinians.

“I\’d point you to Prime Minister Netanyahu\’s comments, that he will work for peace with the Palestinians and peace in the region,” Gordon Duguid told reporters in Washington.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon went further, saying that the Palestinians\’ promised state remained a key goal for the international community.

“The secretary general… looks forward to working with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the full range of peace and security issues in the region,” UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said in a statement.

“This includes the resumption of the Middle East peace process, with the aim of achieving an independent and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace with a secure Israel, and a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace as envisaged in Security Council resolutions.”