Sydney drives home prices up 10 per cent

Home prices across Australia’s capital cities have risen an average of 10.

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2 per cent in the year to March 2017, driven by Sydney’s strong property market.

The Harbour city led the pack with an average annual home price lift of 14.4 per cent, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday.

Melbourne was only just behind recording an annual increase of 13.4 per cent.

Hobart was also a strong performer, with an increase of 11.3 per cent for the year, and lifting 3.4 per cent in the March quarter, the highest quarterly rise of all the capitals.

Meanwhile, Darwin and Perth had the weakest outcomes, being the only two cities to post a fall in prices in both the March quarter and the year to March.

Darwin slipped 5.9 per cent for the year while Perth dropped 3.5 per cent.

The were both also lower for the quarter, down 0.9 per cent and 1.0 per cent, respectively.

Overall, residential property prices rose 2.2 per cent in the March quarter, marking the fourth consecutive quarter of growth.

The ABS figures found the total value of Australia’s roughly 9.9 million residential dwellings rose $163.1 billion in the quarter to $6.6 trillion, only six months after reaching the $6 trillion mark in September last year.

The mean house price in Australia stands at around $670,000.

NSW ($886,800) remains at the top of the country for the mean house price, followed by Victoria ($708,300), with Tasmania ($357,000) recording the lowest mean price for the March quarter.

CAPITAL CITY HOME PRICES:

* Sydney – up 3.0 pct in March quarter, up 14.4pct in the year

* Melbourne – up 3.1pct and 13.4pct

* Hobart – up 3.4pct and 11.3pct

* Canberra – up 2.8pct and 8.9pct

* Adelaide up 1.5pct and 5pct

* Brisbane – flat and up 3.5pct

* Perth – down 1pct and down 3.5pct

* Darwin – down 0.9pct and down 5.9pct

Brexit talks finally underway, 12 months after vote

A year after Britain voted to leave the bloc, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michael Barnier, and Britain’s Brexit secretary, David Davis, have agreed on a two-year timetable for the negotiation of Britain’s exit from the EU.

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Both parties are hoping to make the divorce as clean as possible.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, says it’s important that Britain withdraws from the union in an orderly way.

“Today we agreed on dates, we agreed on organisation and we agreed on priorities for the negotiation. In a first step, we will deal with the most pressing issues. We must leave the uncertainty caused by Brexit. We want to make sure that the withdrawal of UK happens in an orderly manner.”

Britain’s Brexit secretary, David Davis, also spoke after the first day of talks in Brussels.

Ireland has long been identified as a difficulty for the process, for identifying the rights of expatriate citizens and making decisions over a new EU-UK border.

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will be the only land border between the EU and Britain once Brexit is complete in March 2019.

Mr Davis describes the issue as “technically difficult”.

“I think Ireland has taken — Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — have taken more time today than anything else. We discussed two aspects of it. One of course is the political sensitivities, which everybody understands, the other is the determination to maintain as near as possible an invisible border so we do not undermine the peace process, do not provide any cause for concern in Northern Ireland. This is a technically difficult issue.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May has reaffirmed her commitment to a so-called “invisible border”, essential given the number of people who would cross it every day.

“I’m personally committed to ensuring a practical solution that recognises the unique economic, social, cultural and political context of the land border with Ireland, which so many people pass through every day, and will remain our priority to work closely with the Irish government to ensure as friction-less and seamless border as possible.”

Some doubt had been cast over the Brexit negotiations after the Conservative Party’s terrible showing in the recent general election.

Theresa May called the election three years early in an attempt to increase the Conservatives’ majority.

But the election returned a hung parliament, forcing the Prime Minister to try and form a coalition government with Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Mr Davis says despite the political uncertainty, both Britain and the E-U are working towards “the best possible outcome”.

“I have been encouraged by the constructive approach that both sides have taken. We’ve laid a solid foundation for future discussions with an ambitious but eminently achievable timetable. It was clear from the opening that both of us want to achieve the best possible outcome and the strongest possible partnership – one that works for the UK and for the EU.”

But uncertainty surrounding the negotiations is presenting a risk to Britain’s international capital market.

Managing director of the International Capital Market Association, Paul Richards, says the still-uncertain outcome of the negotiations poses a number of concerns.

“One of them is the shortage of time for the international capital markets to prepare for Brexit. Brexit is due to take place by March 2019, so there is a quite a short of time to prepare, and the markets do not yet know what the terms of the Brexit will be. Secondly, the markets want to know that they have legal certainty in their contracts over Brexit. Thirdly, they want to know that they’re going to have continuing access to other markets, in particular when the UK leaves the European Union. And the terms of that access has yet to be negotiated. Then fourthly, they want to make sure that there are not different regulations in the UK from the European Union.”

 

 

Police identify man arrested after London attack near mosque

Forty-seven year-old Darren Osborne, identified by British media as a father-of-four from the Welsh city of Cardiff, was arrested after pedestrians were targeted by a man driving a van near a mosque in north London.

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The attack is the fourth since March in Britain and the third to involve a vehicle deliberately driven at pedestrians.

British authorities have confirmed an elderly man who was receiving first aid before the incident near the Finsbury Park mosque has died, although it’s not yet clear if that was a result of the attack.

London’s Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, says there are a number of people in hospital whose lives have been turned upside down.

“This was quite clearly an attack on Muslims, who looked like they were probably Muslims and they were coming from a prayer meeting. We treat this as a terrorist attack and we in the Met (Metropolitan Police) are as shocked as anybody in this local community or across the country.”

Meanwhile London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, says extra police have been deployed to reassure the public.

“My message to Londoners and those across the country is to be calm, but vigilant. There will be an increased visible policing presence in London today at and around mosques and places of worship.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May was heckled by protesters after visiting the mosque.

It follows anger at her delay in visiting victims of London’s other recent tragedy – the Grenfell Tower fire, in which dozens of people died.

Speaking later outside 10 Downing Street, Ms May vowed to fight terror in all forms.

“This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship and, like all terrorism in whatever form, it shares the same fundamental goal: it seeks to drive us apart and to break the precious bonds of solidarity and citizenship that we share in this country. We will not let this happen.”

Opposition Labour leader and local MP Jeremy Corbyn has praised the emergency services.

“I know that people in Muslim Welfare House and the mosque extremely well and the community very well. I came here last night to talk to the police and the firefighters and the ambulances that were here and I have to say the response by all three emergency services was very timely and very quick.”

In Cardiff, neighbours of suspect Darren Osborne describe him as an “everyday guy”.

Khadijah and her Pakistani husband live next door to him.

“He was never unpleasant to me or anything and we’ve been here since April. And I just didn’t suspect him of anything, that his views were that strong, or that he even hated Muslims, with us being Muslims as well next door. So, I think it’s just a shock that he’s done what he’s done.”

Farhad Ahmad, Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, says there’s an urgent need for the government to clamp down on platforms where extremism is brewing.

“We’re saying that if there is far right extremists who are promoting their message, they should really be clamped down on – just as if there are Muslims who are preaching hate to increase extremism in their communities. They need to be clamped down (on) because both of these ideologies are completely wrong and they don’t represent any faith at all. If there are universities that are giving platforms to hate preachers from any aspect – far right extremists or certain Muslims who claim that their faith is encouraging this which it isn’t – any angle which people are promoting extremism through needs to be tackled. Hate preachers should not get a platform, even on social media – wherever a hate preacher is, it should be clamped down on.”

 

 

Property market delivers again for NSW

Continuing strength in Sydney’s property market and increased dividends from state corporations will help NSW deliver a higher-than expected surplus in the coming year.

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The NSW government forecast a surplus of $2.7 billion for 2017/18 in Tuesday’s state budget, nearly doubling the $1.5 billion surplus predicted during its mid-year budget review in December.

“The outlook remains strong with above-trend growth forecast over the next three years,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.

The state posted a surplus of $4.5 billion for the current financial year, thanks mainly to the booming housing market and one-off transfer duty payments from asset sales.

Transfer duties, which make up more than 30 per cent of the government’s tax revenue, far exceeded expectations in 2016/17.

This was primarily driven by a 9.6 per cent jump in revenue from residential stamp duty but also included one-off transfer duty payments from the partial lease of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy during the year.

Higher than expected coal export prices also boosted royalties by about $300 million to $1.56 billion for the year.

Stamp duty revenue from residential property is expected to continue growing but the state government is now clearly expecting the housing market to moderate.

“Macro-prudential regulations along with new Commonwealth measures are expected to moderate activity in the housing market in 2017/18,” the government’s budget papers said.

It expects growth in residential stamp duty revenue to nearly halve to 5.9 per cent in 2017/18, and then ease further to average 5.4 per cent over the next three years.

The state also expects overall revenue growth to be hit by a decline in its share from the national pool of goods and services tax revenues on account on account of strong economic growth in the state.

As a result, GST revenue forecasts over the four years to 2019/20 have been revised down by $1.4 billion.

Net debt will fall to a negative $7.8 billion at June 30, as cash holdings are temporarily boosted by the partial sale of Ausgrid and the Land and Property registry services, but this is expected to rise to $18.6 billion by June 2021 as proceeds are reinvested in infrastructure.

NSW budget builds western Sydney

NSW is getting better roads and public transport and it’s western Sydney residents who will reap the most benefit from the government’s infrastructure spend.

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In delivering his first budget on Tuesday, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced a $12.1 billion cash injection into public transport and $8.5 billion to improve the state’s roads.

The Berejiklian government is following through on its promise to build western Sydney, with $648 million of the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan to be spent in 2017/18, including $485 million on the Northern Road and an additional $153 million to upgrade western Sydney roads.

The government will also spend $160 million on the new Western Sydney Stadium at Parramatta, which will seat 30,000 fans and employ 1200 people during construction and more than 900 people once it’s operating.

Commuters in Sydney will benefit from the $1.7 billion promised over the next year to fund the Sydney metro and southwest rail line and $252 million for a new train fleet.

“We’re improving frequencies on key routes, setting up new routes and importantly building new infrastructure to grow and improve public transport in this state,” Transport Minister Andrew Constance said in a statement as the budget was being handed down.

Central Coast roads also get a splash of money with $188.3 million promised over the next year to upgrade the Pacific Highway and widen the M1 Pacific Motorway.

A further $1.2 billion has been allocated to upgrade the Pacific Highway on the state’s north coast from Woolgoolga to Ballina.

In Sydney the government will spend $103 million on developing the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link over the following year.

The Sydney Opera House will also get a slice of the pie, with $190 million promised as part of the government’s commitment to keep the iconic landmark shining for future generations to enjoy.