Brexit rocks Australian sharemarket, worse to come


Jenni Henderson, The Conversation

Professor Richard Holden talks about the economic impact of Brexit.
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The UK has voted to leave the European Union but even before all the votes were counted volatility made its way across Asian markets and to Australia.

The S&P ASX200 has finished 3.3% down at the close, wiping off approximately $50 billion in value, while the Australian dollar has dropped 3.4% to 73.4 US cents.

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics at UNSW says the volatility is likely to continue at least for another 24 hours.

“We could see volatility, perhaps not as extreme as the current levels, for a really extended period of time,” Professor Holden says.

One of the major factors in this will be how affected UK banks and therefore Australian banks will be by this decision, as they rely on short term funding for their operations.

“If those markets start to dry up and there’s uncertainty about their funding getting rolled over, one day to the next, then that’s when things can go pear shaped within an incredibly short period of time,” he adds.

The position of hedge funds, banks and other financial institutions in betting on currencies in over-the-counter markets (not regular currency markets) in times like this, also adds to the uncertainty.

“Basically we don’t know, what we don’t know and suddenly there’s a liquidity crunch and someone gets into trouble and that has flow-on effects like we saw in 2008,” Professor Holden says.

The S&P ASX200 index closed -3.3% following the Brexit vote.
S&P ASX 200

He also warns that a drop in the Australian dollar shows that money could flow out of Australia and back to the UK as financial institutions there change their positions.

In the longer term, Brexit could affect the way Australian companies trade with the European Union through the UK.

“All of a sudden that’s going to be more complicated, it’s going to have to go through under some new trade agreement and we know that a series of bilateral trade agreements are always more complicated and have more nuance than large multilateral trade agreements,” Professor Holden says.

All this comes as Australia goes into the last week of an election campaign and this volatility will keep economic management top of mind for Australian voters.

“I don’t think either side of politics in Australia has an exclusive right to say they are going to be the best economic managers, I guess we’ll have to wait and see about that as well.”

The Conversation

Jenni Henderson, Assistant Editor, Business and Economy, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Brexit stage right: what Britain’s decision to leave the EU means for Australia


Ben Wellings, Monash University

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has opened a fundamental crack in the western world. Australia’s relationship with the United Kingdom is grounded in the UK’s relationship with the EU.

Given Australia’s strong and enduring ties with the UK and the EU, the shockwaves from this epoch-defining event will be felt in Australia soon enough. Most immediately, the impending Australia-EU Free-Trade Agreement becomes more complicated and at the same time less attractive.

What will happen to trade ties?

The importance of Australia’s relationship with the EU tends to get under-reported in all the excitement about China. We might ascribe such a view to an Australian gold rush mentality. Nevertheless, Australia’s trading ties to the EU are deep and strong.

Such ties looked set to get stronger. In November 2015 an agreement to begin negotiations in 2017 on a free-trade deal was announced at the G20 summit in Turkey. Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said in April 2016 that an Australia-EU free trade agreement:

… would further fuel this important trade and investment relationship.

When considered as a bloc, the EU consistently shows up as one of Australia’s main trading partners. Consider the statistics below:

  • in 2014 the EU was Australia’s largest source of foreign investment and second-largest trading partner, although the European Commission placed it third after China and Japan in 2015;

  • in 2014, the EU’s foreign direct investment in Australia was valued at A$169.6 billion and Australian foreign direct investment in the EU was valued at $83.5 billion. Total two-way merchandise and services trade between Australia and the EU was worth $83.9 billion; and

  • the EU is Australia’s largest services export market, valued at nearly $10 billion in 2014. Services account for 19.7% of Australia’s total trade in goods and services, and will be an important component of any future free trade agreement.

This is all well and good. But when not considered as a bloc, 48% of Australia’s exports in services to the EU were via the UK; of the $169 billion in EU foreign direct investment, 51% came from the UK; and of Australia’s foreign direct investment into the EU, 66% went to the UK.

You get the picture.

The UK was Australia’s eighth-largest export market for 2014; it represented 37.4% of Australia’s total exports to the EU. As Austrade noted:

No other EU country featured in Australia’s top 15 export markets.

In short, the EU is not as attractive to Australia without Britain in it.

Beyond trade numbers

But the Australia-EU-UK relationship cannot be reduced to numbers alone. It also rests on values shared between like-minded powers.

Brexit represents the further fracturing of the West at a moment when that already weakening political identity is in relative decline compared to other regions of the world, notably Asia (or more specifically China).

EU-Australia relations rest on shared concerns such as the fight against terrorism advanced through police collaboration and the sharing of passenger name records. The EU and Australia also collaborated to mitigate climate change at the Paris climate summit. And they work for further trade liberalisation in the World Trade Organisation – but don’t mention agriculture.

Without the UK, these shared political tasks become harder.

Clearly, Australia-UK relations rest on a special historical relationship. However, it has seen efforts at reinvigoration, as British governments buckled under the pressure of the Eurosceptics among the Conservatives.

David Cameron addresses the Australian parliament in 2014.

Beyond everyday trade, historical links have been reinforced through the centenary of the first world war and the UK-Australia commemorative diplomacy that has come with this four-year-long event.

Cultural ties are most regularly and publicly affirmed through sporting rivalries such as netball, rugby and most notably cricket. Expect these ties to be reinforced as the UK seeks trade agreements and political support from its “traditional allies”.

For those with British passports, there will be a two-year period of grace as the UK negotiates its exit. After that, it will be quicker to get into the UK at Heathrow, but this might be small consolation for the loss of a major point of access to the EU.

The vote to leave is a major turning point in Europe’s history. It marks a significant crack in a unified concept of “the West”. It is not in Australia’s interests.

It’s time for Australia to make new friends in Europe.

The Conversation

Ben Wellings, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Leave wins UK Brexit referendum 52-48


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

Defying expectations of a solid Remain victory, the UK has voted to Leave the European Union by about a 52-48 margin. Remain won easily in Scotland, London and some other big cities, but otherwise Leave swept. The Labour heartland north of England was expected to be better for Remain, but in fact Leave dominated.

Online polls had the contest neck and neck, while phone polls had Remain well ahead. So the online panel polls did better this time than live phone polls. Perhaps this was caused by shy Leave voters.

This vote was not just the result of anti-immigration sentiment. Many people on the left disliked the European Union because they thought it was too authoritarian.

Conservative British PM David Cameron put his authority on the line to get a Remain result. With Remain defeated, it is likely that Cameron will resign, and that the next PM will be more right wing than Cameron. 13 months after winning a shock majority for the Conservatives, Cameron is effectively toast.

Scotland voted heavily to Remain, and may well have another referendum on leaving the UK, following the failure of the first Independence referendum in 2014. If such a referendum were to succeed, the UK would be much reduced.

This result will also affect the Australian Federal election. The stock markets have crashed following the Leave vote, and economic uncertainty should be good news for the Coalition.

Trump slumps in US general election polls

A month ago, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were tied in the RealClearPolitics polling average, now Clinton leads by 6%. This has not happened because Clinton has gone up, but rather because Trump has gone down.

Not only is Trump trailing in the polls, he is struggling to raise money. He raised just $3.1 million in May, compared to over $28 million for Clinton, and he ended May with only $1.3 million in cash on hand, $41 million behind Clinton. All currencies here are US.

Presidential candidates need to raise huge amounts of money so they can fund ads and pay campaign staff. At the moment, Trump is getting pummelled in the ad wars, and Clinton has a far larger staff.

There has been some recent speculation that Trump could be dumped at the Republican convention by a delegate revolt. The convention rules are set at a pre-convention meeting, and it is possible that the rules meeting could unbind all delegates, or require a 2/3 supermajority on the first ballot, which Trump would be unlikely to meet. Many delegates pledged to Trump in fact support Cruz, so it is possible Trump could lose if delegates were unbound.

If Trump lost in such a Game of Thrones type coup, it would enrage his supporters. Whether establishment Republicans or movement conservatives like it or not, Trump won the nomination by a large margin, and to deny him at the convention would be highly undemocratic.

If there is a delegate revolt, but Trump still wins, as is very probable, the revolt will further damage him in the general election. If he loses, his supporters are unlikely to be reconciled to the eventual nominee.

According to an Essential poll, Australians wanted the UK to stay with the EU by a 38-22 margin, with 40% undecided. Australians preferred Clinton to Trump by a 71-15 margin.

Queensland Newspoll has Labor ahead 51-49

A Queensland Newspoll, taken over May and June from a sample of 1450, has Labor leading by 51-49, a one point gain for the Liberal National Party (LNP) since the October to December poll. Primary votes are 38% for Labor (down 3), 40% for the LNP (up 1) and 8% for the Greens (steady). Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s satisfied rating is 44% (down 6) and her dissatisfied rating is 42% (up 7) for a net approval of +2. In his first Newspoll as opposition leader, Tim Nicholls has a net approval of -5.

Normally the primary vote shifts would have produced a 2 point gain for the LNP after preferences. However, Queensland has changed from optional preferential to compulsory preferential voting, and this change has mitigated the primary vote swing.

The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, PhD Student, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Brussels attacks: why Europe?


Mark Beeson, University of Western Australia

What goes on in the mind of a suicide bomber? What motivates someone to spend their last day on the planet blowing up complete strangers? Bad enough, perhaps, if the strangers in question are soldiers, police, or other representatives of the state. But holidaymakers and commuters?

It takes a special sort of alienation, radicalisation and dehumanisation to think that the people standing next to you in the check-in queue merit being randomly dismembered.

One assumes that the growing number of people who volunteer for these sorts of missions are confident that they are off to paradise. Given that they won’t live to see the results of their zealotry, the logic must be in some way transcendental, and not one available to rational scrutiny or dissuasion by the rest of us.

Either way, if paradise is going to be full of ex-jihadists I’m rather glad I’m not going.

In the meantime, back on earth, the effectiveness of this suicidal strategy is all too clear and painful, especially for those directly affected. Even for the rest of us, the net result is to add yet another level of depressing tedium to our day-to-day existence, as security is increased to ever-higher levels.

No doubt we ought to be grateful to have the opportunity to travel around Europe or spend a long lunch enjoying a bit of intellectual chit-chat in a Parisian café, as I did today. I am – very.

This is, as they say, just about as good as it gets. And that is rather the point of the attacks on the symbolic heartland of Europe as a civilisation and – in today’s case – as an institution.

The freedom of association, expression and thought that is such a distinctive feature of European intellectual and social life is clearly resented by an alarmingly large group of people. Such hitherto taken for granted freedoms are directly threatened by the randomness of terrorism. Last week, for example, I had to queue to have my passport checked on re-entering France – despite arriving from another Schengen area country.

Yes, I realise this is an especially privileged sort of problem and one that evokes little sympathy. But it is another very real manifestation of Europe’s steadily shrinking public space. One doesn’t need to be a starry-eyed cosmopolitan to recognise that passport-free travel is one of Europe’s greatest practical and symbolic achievements.

It takes a particular sort of confidence in one’s neighbours to make such an idea feasible. The Schengen agreement was unlikely to survive the migration crisis; terrorist outrages may seal its fate.

What this suggests is that noble ideas, admirable principles and feelings of human solidarity may only be possible under particular, possibly unique and historically unrepeatable circumstances.

The European project emerged from the greatest trauma that continent has ever known. It ought to be remembered that today’s problems pale into insignificance beside them. Europeans have made remarkable progress over the last 50 years or so – in every sense of the term. It is no wonder so many people want to live there.

And yet it is also painfully apparent that such achievements are being steadily eroded and undermined. EU President Donald Tusk’s suggestion that European solidarity will be a vital part of the response to these events looks like well-intentioned wishful thinking.

The reality seems to be that there are sufficiently large numbers of people in Europe who are prepared to die and slaughter others in an effort to undermine Europe’s greatest achievements. There is, it seems, very little that can be done to stop them.

Depressingly, there is also no basis for negation with zealots who think they are on a mission from God. It’s not even clear – to me, at least – quite what the suicide bombers hope their deaths will actually achieve or what the big plan is.

It’s hard not to think that some of the animus directed toward European civilisation is fuelled by a resentment of just how agreeable and successful it has been for those fortunate enough to be part of it.

No doubt some will consider such views as naïve and Eurocentric. Yes, the French did dreadful things in Algeria, and the Belgians did worse in the Congo.

But even if this is construed as some sort of post-imperial blowback, it looks a bit late, ludicrously out of proportion, and unlikely to do anything other than to make life in Europe miserable, too. But perhaps that’s ultimately the point.

The Conversation

Mark Beeson, Professor of International Politics, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.