News Wrap

IN THIS morning’s wrap: 800,000 workers wanted in five years; Qld weighs QR National sale options; Downer sets sights on working abroad; and Ferguson tells states to sell power assets.
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Lou Caruana

Wanted: 800,000 workers in five years

Australia must find 800,000 new workers over the next five years to ensure economic growth as a surge in service industries eclipses the resources boom, forcing employers to redouble efforts to find skilled staff, according to The Australian.

The federal government has been warned of a coming structural shift in the jobs market as demand grows for professional skills, offsetting the expected loss of another 85,000 manufacturing positions.

Qld weighs QR National sale options

Queensland is considering options for the structure and timing of the sale of its $2.8 billion stake in QR National, Treasurer Tim Nicholls says, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Details of the sale of the 34.9% stake are expected by the September 11 state budget, after the company’s result on August 23, which signals the end of the state’s escrow period.

“We have had a number of people make presentations about QR National. We are just looking at our options,” Nicholls reportedly said.

A sale would help pay down state debt, which has hit $65 billion and is forecast to reach $85 billion in 2014-15.

Downer sets sights on working abroad

Contractor Downer EDI plans to shift more of its business overseas because of the cost of operating in Australia as it braces for a potential slowdown in local mining contracts, according to the Australian Financial Review.

“The crest of the boom was always going to come at some point, where the investment cycle would just turn a little,” Downer chief executive Grant Fenn said. “I think the question that everyone’s got on their mind is how far forward has that come? I don’t know the answer.”

Downer, which reports its 2012 results today, is hoping to diversify geographically over the next few years by picking up more overseas work for large mining customers like Rio, BHP Billiton and Xstrata.

Ferguson tells states to sell power assets

Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson is urging the states to privatise their energy assets and Western Australia to dump its policy of reserving gas for local industry, warning that government interventions are crowding out investment by private players and failing to curb price rises, according to The Australian.

In a move that last night reignited an acrimonious internal Labor debate, Ferguson said a new energy white paper would urge all states to privatise to encourage competition.

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