A perfect lobbying opportunity. We can expect Australian vehicle manufacturers to come knocking on their government’s door to follow the example of the Germans and provide a cash incentive for people to buy a new car provided that one older than nine years is deregistered. The payment of €2,500 for such trade-ins was a key feature of the 50 billion euros stimulus packaged announced overnight by Germany’s governing coalition.

The scope for such a trade-in incentive in Australia is clear from figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this morning, showing that the average age of vehicles on our roads as at 31 March last year was 9.9 years.

The Bureau’s motor vehicle census (MVC) shows the average Aussie car is now younger than the 10.4 years recorded in the 2003 MVC. Over this five year period, a drop in the average age was observed in all vehicle types except buses. Vehicles manufactured before 1993 (those more than 15 years old) comprised 21.2% of the total Australian fleet. This is slightly lower than the 21.9% of registrations recorded 12 months earlier.

At 31 March 2008, campervans were the oldest vehicles registered with an average age of 18.4 years, while motor cycles were the youngest vehicle type with an average age of 8.8 years. Tasmania had the oldest fleet with an average age of 11.9 years at 31 March 2008, with 30.8% of vehicles manufactured before 1993. This was followed by South Australia with an average age of 11.1 years and 26.5% manufactured before 1993. Northern Territory had the youngest fleet in Australia with an average age of 8.9 years and 17.3% of vehicles manufactured before 1993.

That German stimulus. All those years when the Germans lectured the rest of Europe about the need for countries not to exceed EU budget deficit of 3% of gross domestic product are now to count for nothing. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats who share power have thrown fiscal conservatism out the window as they confront the world financial crisis in what is an election year.

Der Spiegel reports that the new stimulus plan envisages €18 billion of new investment in the construction and repair of roads and the rail network and of schools and universities. Some of the money will also be used for faster Internet communication networks.

Taxes are also being cut, with the tax threshold being raised to €8,004 from €7,664, and the entry rate of tax will be lowered to 14% from 15% on 1 July.

A PR success story. Hats off to the PR for Queensland Tourism who came up with the caretaker on Hamilton Island promotion.

It is doing more to stimulate northern hemisphere interest in Australia than the millions of federal government money spent on advertising. The interest in a paid stay in the sun was shown by these ratings last night on the BBC website:

Our reporting based on surveys update. The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release details of its estimate of December retail spending on 4 February. And what will these official figures show? Well, says the Australian Centre for Retail Studies, let’s do a survey to find out. Yesterday it released results which the Melbourne Age reports led to the $37 billion that consumers spent in the lead-up to Christmas falling below the rate of inflation and wage growth.

A helpful combination. The combination of a tripled first home buyers grant from the Federal Government and a big cut in interest rates by the Reserve Bank has given some help to the ailing housing market. The 1.3 per cent increase in the number of loans granted to build or buy homes and apartments in November compared to October (when they advanced a revised 1.4 percent). The Bureau of Statistics figure released this morning was well above the median rise of 1 percent that business economists surveyed by the Bloomberg financial newsagency had predicted.

Peter Fray

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