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IMF slashes global growth forecasts

The global economy is much weaker than believed just months ago as advanced economies stutter, and will pick up only slightly next year, the International Monetary Fund says.

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The IMF has lowered its growth forecasts for the global economy to four per cent for 2011 and 2012, saying activity has “weakened significantly”, but warned of a return to recession if Western leaders fail to get their economies back on track.

“The evidence points to continued, uneven growth,” the IMF said in a twice-yearly outlook report on Tuesday.

The global economy, which rebounded in 2010 following the 2008-2009 Great Recession, has been dragged down by persistent debt and deficit problems in the advanced countries, particularly the United States and the eurozone, it said.

CHINA, INDIA ALSO IN TROUBLE

Emerging market economies that have been the recovery’s driving force, such as China and India, will not escape unscathed from the weakness in the advanced economies, the Washington-based lender said in its semi-annual World Economic Outlook.

“Many emerging economies need to make faster progress in strengthening fiscal fundamentals before cyclical factors or spillovers from advanced economies … turn against them,” it said in an accompanying analysis.

“Anemic” consumption in advanced economies and spiking financial volatility over worries about US and eurozone public debt have put the brakes on growth, originally forecast to be half a percentage point higher for this year.

The advanced economy slowdown was “a development we largely failed to perceive as it was happening”, acknowledged Olivier Blanchard, the chief economist of the 187-nation institution.

Fiscal and financial uncertainty gathered steam in August, roiling financial markets as investors watched political gridlock in Washington over US debt and deficits and the spreading contagion of Greece’s debt crisis in the eurozone.

“Markets have clearly become more skeptical about the ability of many countries to stabilise their public debt,” Blanchard said.

“Strong policies are urgently needed to improve the outlook and reduce the risks,” he said.

The United States, the world’s largest economy, suffered the most notable downgrade – about a percentage point – with gross domestic product growth estimated at 1.5 per cent this year and 1.8 per cent in 2012.

For the 17-nation eurozone, GDP growth was projected to slow by about a half point, to 1.1 per cent in 2012.

Japan’s economy is rebounding from the March earthquake-tsunami disaster, the IMF said, and is expected to contract 0.5 per cent this year, less than previously estimated, before clocking in 2.3 per cent growth in 2012.

For emerging and developing economies, the IMF said capacity constraints, policy tightening and slowing foreign demand would result in slightly slower growth of 6.1 per cent in 2012.

China will continue to lead with a nine per cent expansion next year.

Growth downgrades were nearly universal, from Russia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa to the Middle East and North Africa.

The IMF warned that a negative feedback loop between low growth and fiscal and financial stability is at the heart of risks facing the world economy.

Worries about sovereign debt have spread amid slowing growth, extending to the banks holding those government bonds, mainly in Europe.

“Policy indecision has exacerbated uncertainty and added to financial strains, feeding back into the real economy,” the IMF warned.

The IMF said its projections “assume that policymakers keep their commitments and the financial turmoil does not run beyond their control, allowing confidence to return as conditions stabilise”.

If they fail to do that, “the major advanced economies could fall back into recession”.

“Vulnerable sovereigns are prone to a sudden loss of investor confidence in their debt sustainability if fundamentals deteriorate sharply.”

A separate IMF report showed that the budget woes of Greece, at the heart of Europe’s problems, had risen.

In the Fiscal Monitor, the IMF revised up its projection of Greek debt to 189 per cent of GDP in 2012, from a June estimate of 172 per cent.

Evans doubtful for Tour DownUnder

Cadel Evans remains interested in the London Olympics, but Adelaide’s Tour Down Under might not fit into his Tour de France title defence.

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The cycling star is in the midst of planning next year’s racing schedule with his BMC team.

Evans this year became the first Australian to win the Tour de France and the July race will again be at the centrepiece of his 2012 program.

His manager Jason Bakker said Evans would not vary much from this year’s racing schedule, which worked so well for him.

But Evans is looking seriously at competing in the Olympics road race, which will be held only a few days after the Tour de France ends.

“He’s strongly considering making himself available for Olympics selection,” Bakker said.

“He’s talking to the relevant people – team management and Cycling Australia staff – about it.”

Evans did not race at the January Tour Down Under this year.

Race organisers are extremely keen for Evans to attend, either as a competitor or a special guest.

Bakker stressed that Evans had not ruled out the Tour, which is Australian cycling’s top annual race.

“He’d love to be there, but he’s got to consider what he can do,” Bakker said.

“He certainly acknowledges the Tour Down Under’s importance to Australian cycling.

“It’s not out of the question, but it’s unlikely.”

The AFL invited Evans to attend the grand final as their special guest, but he will not return to Australia until the end of next month.

He made a special visit to Melbourne in early August for a street parade to celebrate his historic Tour de France win.

A major commitment for Evans in mid-October before he returns to Australia will be the official launch of next year’s Tour de France route.

US hiker ‘spies’ released from Iran

Two US hikers jailed for spying and illegal entry have arrived in Oman on their way home after Iran released them on bail, months after handing them hefty jail terms.

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Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, both 29, were flown into Muscat on an Omani Royal Air Force plane that landed at the private airport of Sultan Qaboos bin Said on Wednesday.

US President Barack Obama hailed the release, telling reporters in New York “we are thrilled”, while their families said in a joint statement it is “the best day of our lives”.

The pair was released earlier from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, after more than two years in jail for spying and illegal entry into Iran, after the Gulf sultanate of Oman paid their bail.

Their case poisoned already difficult relations between Tehran and Washington and the release came as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York for the UN General Assembly.

Bauer’s mother and father were in Oman to welcome him, along with his two sisters, fellow hiker Sarah Shourd and Fattal’s father, mother and brother.

Wearing light-coloured shirts and black trousers, Fattal and Bauer ran down the steps of the plane smiling and shouting happily as they hugged their parents and took photographs with them.

“They are healthy, happy and strong,” Fattal’s father said.

The sultan’s envoy to Iran who mediated for their release, Salim al-Ismaili, arrived with them on the same plane. “After all the effort I’ve exerted, I’m going to need a one-year vacation,” he told reporters.

A message by the families thanked Sultan Qaboos, his envoy, their Iranian lawyer Masoud Shafii and the Swiss Ambassador to Iran “for working to make today a reality”.

“We have waited for nearly 26 months for this moment,” said the statement which was also signed by Shourd, Bauer’s fiancee, who was released last year.

“The joy and relief we feel at Shane and Josh’s long-awaited freedom knows no bounds. We now all want nothing more than to wrap Shane and Josh in our arms, catch up on two lost years and make a new beginning, for them and for all of us.”

Obama called the release “wonderful news” and said: “I could not feel better for their families and those mums who we have been in close contact with, it’s a wonderful day for them and for us.”

Oman, a US Gulf ally which has good relations with Iran, agreed to pay the two men’s bail which was set at five billion rials ($A390,000) each.

“Yes, the money for the bail was provided by Oman,” said the pair’s lawyer Masoud Shafii.

Oman also paid bail for the release of Shourd, the third hiker released last year on humanitarian and medical grounds. She also made her way home via Muscat.

Last week Ahmadinejad announced that Fattal and Bauer would be freed and again said on Tuesday that they would be released, amid concern over the delays in their release.

Bauer and Fattal were arrested along with Shourd near the mountainous border with Iraq on July 31, 2009.

On August 21, Bauer and Fattal were each sentenced to eight years in prison by a revolutionary court in Tehran on charges of espionage and illegal entry. They have appealed against the ruling.

All three have consistently maintained that they innocently strayed into Iran while hiking in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region.

Shourd, a teacher, writer and women’s rights activist, met Bauer, a fluent Arabic-speaking freelance journalist, while helping to organise demonstrations in the US against the war in Iraq. The two moved to Damascus together in 2008.

Fattal, who grew up in Pennsylvania, is an environmentalist and teacher. He travelled in 2009 to Damascus, where he met Shourd and Bauer.

End of military gay ban ‘promotes integrity’

The American military opened the way to gays serving openly in uniform as the top ranking US officer said the historic change would promote a sense of honour and integrity.

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The prohibition on openly gay troops expired at one minute after midnight on Tuesday, following years of legal challenges that date back to the 1970s.

Admiral Mike Mullen, whose passionate appeals to senators proved crucial in the repeal of the ban, told reporters the milestone would bring the military in line with its own cherished values.

“And today, with implementation of the new law fully in place, we are a stronger joint force, a more tolerant joint force, a force of more character and more honour, more in keeping with our own values,” Mullen said.

The four-star admiral, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had argued for repeal last year at a Senate hearing because he saw it as “a matter of integrity”.

He said the prohibition “was fundamentally against everything we stand for as an institution to force people to lie about who they are just to wear a uniform”.

President Barack Obama had pledged to end the ban and in December, his allies in Congress voted down the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which required gay and lesbian troops to keep their sexual orientation secret or else face dismissal.

About 14,000 service members were discharged under the law, a compromise struck in 1993 after commanders and politicians rejected former president Bill Clinton’s bid to allow gays to serve openly.

Former service members who had been forced out of the military under the rule celebrated the milestone on Tuesday, with many hoping to return to the force.

Others currently in uniform voiced relief and openly declared their homosexuality, including 101 men and women who appeared in a photo essay in Outserve magazine.

In Vermont, Navy Lieutenant Gary Ross marked the new era by taking his wedding vows with his partner after the stroke of midnight, a same-sex union that would have sabotaged his military career under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule.

Even with the end of the ban, partners of gay troops under federal law will be denied benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples, including the military’s generous medical coverage.

Once the repeal was approved by politicians, the military revised policies and worked to ensure a smooth transition, with more than 97 per cent of the 2.3 million force undergoing training since January.

Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the military was ready for the change and that the repeal was in keeping with the country’s core values of “equality, equal opportunity and dignity for all Americans”.

Panetta also suggested he was open to reviewing a prohibition on women in combat, a rule that has often been ignored in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where there are no clear front lines.

In eastern Afghanistan, American soldiers at a mountain outpost said allowing openly gay recruits to serve would have scant effect on their gruelling fight against insurgents.

Captain Michael Kolton, the officer in charge at COP Monti, insisted they were “not going to have any issues” with attitudes at the base, despite the “macho” image of infantrymen.

If necessary, “they will adjust their moral values to be professional. That’s what makes us disciplined infantry soldiers”, he said.

“If you tell someone they’re going to be tolerant they will be, better than anyone else.”

Before Congress approved scrapping the ban, the Pentagon carried out a survey that showed most service members did not expect repeal to cause any major disruption.

Out of all the services, members of the Marine Corps voiced the most reservations and the commandant said before the repeal was passed that it could cause “distraction” for troops in combat.

But one Marine officer, writing in Tuesday’s Washington Post, objected to General James Amos’ remarks.

“Given the number of gay Marines in combat, this comment was deeply hurtful,” wrote Major Darrel Choat.

Earth to satellite: When will you hit?

Or, say, Iran or India.

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Pinpointing where and when hurtling space debris will strike is an imprecise science. For now, scientists predict the earliest it will hit is Thursday US time, the latest Saturday. The strike zone covers mostof Earth.

Not that citizens need to take cover. The satellite will break into pieces, and NASA put the chances that somebody somewhere will get hurt at just 1-in-3,200.

As far as anyone knows, falling space debris has never injured anyone. Nor has significant property damage been reported. That’s because most of the planet is covered in water and there are vast regions of empty land.

If you do come across what you suspect is a satellite piece, NASA doesn’t want you to pick it up. The space agency says there are no toxic chemicals present, but there could be sharp edges. Also, it’s government property. It’s against the law to keep it as a souvenir or sell it on eBay. NASA’s advice is to report it to the police.

The 20-year-old research satellite is expected to break into more than 100 pieces as it enters the atmosphere, most of it burning up. Twenty-six of the heaviest metal parts are expected to reach Earth, the biggest chunk weighing about 136kg. The debris could be scattered over an area about 800km long.

Jonathan McDowell, for one, isn’t worried. He is in the potential strike zone – along with most of the world’s seven billion citizens. McDowell is with the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“There’s stuff that’s heavy that falls out of the sky almost every year,” McDowell says. So far this year, he noted, two massive Russian rocket stages have taken the plunge.

As for the odds of the satellite hitting someone, “it’s a small chance. We take much bigger chances all the time in our lives,” McDowell says. “So I’m not putting my tin helmet on or hiding under a rock.”

All told, 544kg of wreckage is expected to smack down – the heaviest pieces made of titanium, stainless steel or beryllium. That represents just one-tenth the mass of the satellite, which stretches 10.7 metres long and 4.6 metres in diameter.

The strike zone straddles all points between latitudes 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south. That’s as far north as Edmonton and Alberta, Canada, and Aberdeen, Scotland, and as far south as Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America. Every continent but Antarctica is in the crosshairs.

Back when UARS, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, was launched to study the ozone layer in 1991, NASA didn’t always pay attention to the “what goes up must come down” rule. Nowadays, satellites must be designed either to burn up on re-entering the atmosphere or to have enough fuel to be steered into a watery grave or up into a higher, long-term orbit.

The International Space Station – the largest manmade structure ever to orbit the planet – is no exception. NASA has a plan to bring it down safely sometime after 2020.

Russia’s old Mir station came down over the Pacific, in a controlled re-entry, in 2001. But one of its predecessors, Salyut 7, fell uncontrolled through the atmosphere in 1991. The most recent uncontrolled return of a large NASA satellite was in 2002.

The most sensational case of all was Skylab, the early US space station whose impending demise three decades ago alarmed people around the world and touched off a guessing game as to where it might land. It plummeted harmlessly into the Indian Ocean and onto remote parts of Australia in July 1979.

The $740 million UARS was decommissioned in 2005, after NASA lowered its orbit with the little remaining fuel on board. NASA didn’t want to keep it up longer than necessary, for fear of a collision or an exploding fuel tank, either of which would have left a lot of space litter.

Predicting where the satellite will strike is a little like predicting the weather several days out, says NASA orbital debris scientist Mark Matney.

Experts expect to have a good idea by Thursday of when and where UARS might fall, Matney says. They won’t be able to pinpoint the exact time, but they should be able to narrow it to a few hours.

Given the spacecraft’s orbital speed of 28,162k/ph or eight km per second, a prediction that is off by just a few minutes could mean a 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) error. It probably won’t be clear where it fell until afterward, Matney says.

If it happens in darkness, it should be visible.

“If someone is lucky enough to be near the re-entry at nighttime, they’ll get quite a show,” says Matney, who works at Johnson Space Centre in Houston, also in the potential strike zone.

Brown expects Gillard to back gay marriage

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown says he expects Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the ALP to back same-sex marriage at its national conference.

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Every state and territory Labor branch, except NSW, have passed motions supporting same-sex marriage, and the issue is expecting to come before the party’s national conference in December. Senator Brown said he expected the party to change its platform.

“It is becoming a milestone as far as the Labor Party,” he told reporters in Hobart on Friday.

“You’ve only got to look at the state conferences and the territory conferences to know they’re going to support it.

“Under those circumstances, I think we’ll find Prime Minister Gillard joining the incoming tide to fix up the marriage laws and allow equal marriage rights to people regardless of their sexuality.”

Senator Brown also backed moves from his Tasmanian counterpart Nick McKim to legislate for same-sex marriage.

The state’s lower house this week became the first Australian house of parliament to move a motion supporting marriage equality.

Mr McKim, who introduced the motion, said he would bring legislation before the state parliament to legalise marriage if the federal government did not act on the issue “in a timely way”.

Premier Lara Giddings, who voted in favour of the motion, said she had legal advice that indicated it was a Commonwealth issue.

But Senator Brown said it was at least worth testing the waters. “I think the states have the power to do that.

The one way to ensure that’s sorted out is by legislating,” he said. “You don’t say at the outset, as Ms Giddings is doing, ‘Oh, there might be a question about it, so we won’t do it, even though it’s the right thing’. “You go ahead and do it. Let someone challenge it if they want to.”

Morrison maps out welfare changes

Mothers, young people and women over 65 will be encouraged to get off welfare and into work under proposals being considered by the government.

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On the same day he delivered a major report into welfare reform, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison outlined three areas he was keen to pursue in the May budget and beyond.

Parents, especially single mothers, should be encouraged to work by making child care more affordable and simpler, he said.

Seniors, especially women, should remain in the workforce as long as they could.

“Because it’s good for their families, it’s good for their income, it’s good for their support,” Mr Morrison told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

And young people should be either learning or earning and prevented from a life of welfare dependency through early intervention programs similar to those in New Zealand.

Mr Morrison said the system needed reform, but would not be drawn on whether he was likely to accept advice to reduce the number of welfare payments to just five.

That is a recommendation of the McClure welfare review which argues for a tiered working-age payment, supported living pension, child and youth payment, carer payment and the age pension.

The minister said long-term reform should not be rushed, but wanted to lay the groundwork for Australians to start thinking about necessary, but hard, changes.

“What we sew now in apathy will be reaped in a future harvest for generations who will not get the safety net provided by those who went before us,” Mr Morrison said.

MCCLURE REVIEW RECOMMENDATIONS:

* People with a disability, parents, carers, students and the jobless would get a tiered working-age payment recognising their ability to work.

* Those with a more severe disability who cannot work more than eight hours a week would get a supported living pension.

* A means-tested payment would be paid to parents or guardians with kids under 22, but conditional on regular immunisations and school attendance.

* A means-tested payment for carers.

* No change to existing age pension payment.

* Supplements for housing, child and family, education and carer and disability costs.

* No reduction in the value of payment rates.

* A “Passport to Work” that ensures no disincentives to work if employment hours change and ensures retention of concession cards.

 

Greece moves closer to getting aid money

It persuaded international debt inspectors to return to Athens and resume reviewing its austerity program.

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The euro jumped on the news, trading up 0.7 per cent at $US1.370.

The common currency and global stocks had been up for most of the day amid growing expectations that Greece will get the next 8 billion euros ($A10.73 billion) batch of aid money.

Without the money, the country would default on its debts within weeks, a major blow to the European banking system and wider economy.

The decision to resume the review early next week implies that Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos convinced officials from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund that Greece will be able to cut its budget deficit in line with promises made last year in return for 110 billion euros ($A147.58 billion) in rescue loans.

“Good progress was made, and technical discussions will continue in Athens over the coming days,” a Commission statement said after a two-hour conference call on Tuesday between the so-called troika and Venizelos.

“The full mission is now expected to come back to Athens early next week to resume the review, including policy discussions.”

A Commission spokesman declined to say whether Venizelos offered new cuts or taxes beyond what has already been announced.

The Greek finance ministry said technical experts were still finalising spending plans for 2011 and 2012 and that talks would resume at the annual IMF meeting in Washington this weekend.

Prime Minister George Papandreou will chair a Greek ministerial meeting on Wednesday that is expected to focus on the outcome of the teleconference.

The troika’s assessment of Greece’s efforts to cut spending, privatise state assets and reform its struggling economy is key to the eurozone finance ministers’ decision on whether to transfer the next aid instalment at their meeting in early October.

The money had originally been expected in September but the troika left Athens earlier this month amid disagreements over whether Greece was fulfilling its promises.

Without the aid money, Greece’s cash reserves will run out around mid-October, forcing it to stop paying public-sector salaries and eventually default on its debt.

A default could plunge Europe’s banking system into turmoil and potentially push Europe and other parts of the world back into recession.

Greece has been depending on rescue loans from other eurozone countries and the IMF since May 2010, when its borrowing costs went through the roof following revelations that Athens had been under-reporting data on an alarmingly bloated budget deficit and public debt.

In July, eurozone leaders agreed on a second, 109 billion ($A146.24 billion) bailout supposed to keep the country afloat until mid-2014, when they realised that the first rescue package would not be enough.

However, eurozone countries are still haggling over details of the plan and the talks with banks, which are also supposed to contribute, have not yet concluded.

Most analysts still think Greece will have to restructure its debts at some point, especially if its economy remains mired in recession.

Fitch Ratings said in a report on Tuesday that it expected Greece to eventually default but to do so while remaining in the eurozone.

Some experts believe the country may even have to drop out of the 17-nation eurozone, a notion Venizelos dismissed earlier on Tuesday.

“Greece’s participation in the eurozone and the euro is an irrevocable and fundamental national choice that the Greek population is making sacrifices to safeguard, in full knowledge of how priceless it is,” Venizelos said, rejecting a Greek newspaper report that the government was considering a referendum on the issue.

The Socialist government has already taken a series of highly unpopular austerity measures over the past 20 months, cutting public sector pay and pensions and hiking taxes and retirement ages. Unions have responded with strikes and demonstrations.

Earlier on Tuesday, hundreds of civil servants demonstrated peacefully in central Athens, while about 250 high school students marched in a separate protest against shortages in schoolbooks and other supplies at state-run schools.

Public transport workers have called for a daylong strike on Thursday, while air traffic controllers have declared a 24-hour strike on Sunday and a four-hour work stoppage on September 28.

‘Small chance’ satellite may hit Australia

Scientists say there is a small chance debris from a satellite due to crash to Earth this weekend could land in Australia.

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NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), which weighs more than five tonnes, is expected to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere at 1058 AEST on Saturday.

The US-based Centre for Orbital and Re-entry Debris Studies estimates that re-entry could occur up to seven hours before or after this time.

The satellite’s flight path includes several passes over Australia.

The Australian Space News website said the satellite poses a negligible threat to life and property on Earth.

“Most of the satellite will burn up on re-entry, with perhaps as many as 26 stronger or harder small pieces surviving to reach the surface,” editor Jonathan Nally said in a statement.

“But with the majority of the Earth comprising oceans or uninhabited (or very sparsely populated) remote regions, the chances are overwhelming that any pieces of UARS that survive re-entry will fall harmlessly and never be seen again.”

The UARS was launched in September 1991 and was decommissioned in December 2005.

After the satellite’s productive days were over, NASA deliberately placed it into an orbit about 200 kilometres lower than its operational orbit.

“This was done to accelerate its eventual demise and means it is re-entering the atmosphere 20 years earlier than it would otherwise have done,” explains Mr Nally.

“This was a very responsible thing to do. The longer a spacecraft stays in orbit, the more chance it has of being hit by other orbital debris, leading to a destructive breakup and therefore more bits of debris.”

Debris from SkyLab, another satellite which plunged to Earth, was scattered over parts of Western Australia in 1979. Skylab weighed about 77 tonnes, many times more than the UARS.

Dr Alice Gorman of the Department of Archaeology at Flinders University in Adelaide said the re-entry of the UARS brings back memories of Skylab 32 years ago.

“There is the same exaggeration of the hazard through the media, public anxiety as the advance warning allows for speculation, and a lack of understanding of what the risks actually are,” Dr Gorman said in a statement.

“Should it land in Australia, we might expect the same rush for souvenirs as we saw with Skylab, as anything that has been in space has a special meaning on Earth.”

Offshore buyer fees won’t address issues, economists say

New fees and penalties for foreign investors designed to make housing more affordable for Australians will have a “feel good” effect but won’t address the real affordability issues, economists say.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday announced new rules for foreign property investors aimed at giving locals “the fairest possible go” at entering the housing market.

A new register will be set up to keep track of property bought by foreigners, who will be charged a $5,000 application fee when buying a residential property under $1 million.

For properties over $1 million it will be $10,000 for every extra $1 million in the purchase price.

The new fees will raise more than $200 million a year, which will go to better enforcement of the rules.

Anyone breaking the law will be fined up to 25 per cent of the value of the property and forced to sell it.

AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said the new rules were a positive step but would do little to make housing more affordable.

“I think it’s more of a feel good factor that the government is tightening it up. I don’t think it necessarily solves the property problem,” Dr Oliver said.

“The problem is that we don’t build enough houses in Australia.

“Foreign buying of Australian property is really a bit of a sideshow in the context of all of that. It’s very regionalised, it’s mainly happening in parts of Sydney, parts of Melbourne, but it probably wasn’t having a huge impact on areas where first-home buyers buy.”

Market Economics managing director Stephen Koukoulas said having new fees that would help with keeping better records showing the true level of foreign investment in Australian property was a good start.

But he agreed it wouldn’t do much to make housing more affordable.

“The fact that we haven’t had a register of foreign holdings of property is an issue that had to be addressed,” he said.

“But if your main objective is to make housing more affordable for young people, do this, that’s fine, but you’ve got a lot more to do.

“We need to build more houses and make sure there’s not this silly leverage going on for investors who take advantage of the tax system to bid prices higher.

“Negative gearing is part of the problem and I think it should be phased out.”