Currency markets are bracing for volatile
trading ahead of China’s move to allow the yuan to be
traded against eight extra currencies, including the Australian dollar, reports The Australian. The reform is being viewed as a precursor to the much-awaited upward
revaluation of the yuan, which would hamper China’s export

Booming demand from Asia for liquefied natural gas means Woodside Petroleum believes it’s time to get the ball rolling on the
planned $10 billion development of the remote Browse Basin LNG project off the West Australian coast, reports Barry Fitzgerald, as The Age’s business pages return to their own section.

National Australia Bank plans to move part of its
back-office to India, fuelling fears of more job cuts
just days after it announced that it was axing 4,200 positions, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. And McDonald’s is set to appoint Peter Bush, an expert in crisis
management who has helped transform the fast food giant’s image and
sales over the past three years as the
new head of the company’s Australian operations, reports Julian Lee in the Smage.

Former Optus chief executive Chris
Anderson used to claim “we are not Telstra in short pants,” writes Micheal Sainsbury in TheOz. But on the
strength of the company’s fairly underwhelming full-year financial
results two weeks ago, that is exactly what Optus has become.

The Fin Review (subscription) reports that Australia’s largest
law firms are under pressure from corporate clients to deliver more
services for less money as organisations search for new ways to cut
costs. And John Howard has taken personal control of industrial relations reform
as federal cabinet prepares to sign off on its long-awaited blueprint
as early as next week, report Katherine Towers and Susannah Moran.

Also in the AFR, David Jones would be interested in up to ten of the better-performing
Myer outlets around Australia if the Coles Myer board decided to sell,
says CEO Mark McInne, but a full buy-out won’t be contemplated.

Australia’s banks are easy to criticise, but they haven’t
been relentlessly extracting heavier tolls from customers,

says Malcolm Maiden in The Age. The price we pay for bank services has
become more obvious, but the extra fee income the banks have
been booking is outweighed by the income they have been losing as Australia’s economy
deregulates, lending competition increases (particularly in the home-loan
market), and interest rate margins on loans narrow.

The federal government’s proposed Australian
Building and Construction Commission is likely to spark a dogfight that may
pitch the Australian and Victorian governments against each other, says Robert Gottliebsen in TheOz. And the company that could be caught between the battle lines is Leighton.

If you listen to the rhetoric of Peter Costello, the cooing
of the sycophantic business lobbies and the salivating of the financial
markets, you’d think the Future Fund was God’s gift to the economy,
says Ross Gittins in the SMH. But in truth, the motivation for the fund is more
prosaic. It’s being used to deal with a problem not so much of economics as of
political economy: how do you run a counter-cyclical fiscal policy when the government has no debt to repay?