Cultural change required for Australia to overcome COVID says CEDA panel

MANAGING an ‘open Australia’ will require a re-evaluation of city and workplace design. That is the consensus of an expert Pandemic to Endemic discussion series panel recently convened by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) and sponsored by GSK Australia.

The panel discussion, titled Proofing against future pandemics, focused on how health, smart cities and resilient workplaces should inform Australia’s success as the Australian public and business leaders learn to live with COVID-19.

GSK Australia and New Zealand head of human resources, David Fitz-Gerald said building resilience into the workplace required a change in culture. 

“GSK is known as an innovator in medicines and vaccines. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted us to take further steps forward as an innovative workplace,’’ Mr Fitz-Gerald said.

“It prompted us to find new ways to support our people to thrive. We have applied a new philosophy of ‘flex-pathy’, providing our workforce with ‘maximum flexibility’, coupled with clear and consistent communication. This philosophy was embedded while also ensuring a sustained focus on our company goals.” 

Mr Fitz-Gerald also said companies that apply lessons from the pandemic would reap the benefits when it comes to attracting talent in competitive labour markets.

“Looking to the future, we created a framework, called Performance with Choice, which is brought to life in our culture, not in policy. We encourage our people to have open conversations to identify ways of working that support their performance and their team and to feel safe and secure knowing that this flexibility is available to them.” 

RE-EVALUATE CITIES

Arup's Australasian Cities leader and panellist, Malcolm Smith said re-evaluating Australians' "approach to the way we design our cities for work, education and leisure" will be important in the management of pandemics into the future.  

“Cities are not just about physical structures, they are representations of our social and economic aspirations," Mr Smith said. "When we have our cities disrupted, it affects all of those aspects.

"We need to understand re-integration of those aspects as we come out of disruption and model new scenarios with the lessons we’ve learnt.

“This includes seeing an increase in local trends, provision of services and changes to the composition and concentration of city centres. This has consistently played out in the pandemic as we saw inequitable access to open space across the world," Mr Smith said.

“We now have the digital capacity to monitor the impact of disruption and its social effect on our cities – and we need to use it. We need to model our cities for multiple-use scenarios and have a conversation about making this a requirement for city design, like some countries in Europe.” 

SMART TECHNOLOGY A 'CRITICAL LEVER'

Siemens ANZ CEO and panellist, Jeff Connolly emphasised "smart technology as a critical lever" to address the global challenges of pandemics.

“We used to be bricks and steel only, but now we've got fully intelligent buildings and infrastructure. Pandemics require the real-time response that technology can provide, helping us to address the challenges of future pandemics," Mr Connolly said. 

“At the start of the COVID-19, we used a lot of preventative measures with some of them proving unnecessary later. This was all because our environments were not designed to contain a virus like COVID-19. We now have an opportunity to use smart technology so we can design these environments with purpose.

“Digitalisation is at the heart of the solution. Smart technology is already being used in purpose-built locations like the National Gallery of Victoria. Solutions like increased filtration, UV lighting and ionization mean we’re able to address the challenges of the disrupted cities we now live in.”

The CEDA panel discussion was facilitated by Deloitte Access Economics partner Mel Miller and was the second in a series of three sessions that focus on Australia’s post-pandemic future.

The next Pandemic to Endemic panel discussion will be held in February 2022.

www.ceda.org.au

ends

Global cities summit launches in Brisbane today

FROM AUSTRALIA to Mongolia, city leaders, policymakers and businesses are preparing to create global opportunities and strengthen international networks as the Asia Pacific Cities Summit (APCS) launches its first full conference day in Brisbane this morning. 

The three-day Summit — which will attract more than 600 key decision-makers and influencers from 74 cities — is a catalyst for enabling partnerships and knowledge sharing between cities and business to shape urban agendas and strengthen global trade and investment links. 

Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said APCS wpould offer delegates an impressive line-up of internationally renowned speakers and curated sessions in line with the theme of ‘Redefining Cities through Opportunities and Challenges’. 

“The number of people attending this year’s event – either in-person or virtually – is incredibly strong, particularly considering the wider challenges this country and the world is facing,” Cr Schrinner said.   

“2021APCS is a golden opportunity to focus on the benefits and start planning for the world's biggest sporting event, being held in Brisbane in 2032. 

“Following the APCS Mayors’ Forum on Wednesday, the 61st Governor of Maryland and former Director of Infrastructure for the London Olympic Delivery Authority, Simon Wright OBE, will deliver his keynote address today. 

“There will also be a special showcase from key figures behind the successful London, Tokyo and Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as a panel on aviation's role in reigniting tourism, events, art and entertainment with executives from Brisbane Airport, Auckland Airport and Air New Zealand.” 

On Friday, former Paralympian and gold medallist Kurt Fearnley AO will headline the morning session, following a project showcase on Brisbane Metro. 

Cr Schrinner said running throughout the Summit will be the APCS Hybrid Exhibition, an interactive virtual space where sponsors and exhibitors will showcase their brand, services and products.  

“APCS provides a platform for community leaders and local businesses to leverage the exposure of Brisbane 2032 and promote their capacity and capability to foreign businesses,” Cr Schrinner said. 

“By facilitating these invaluable connections and partnerships, we hope to build on the success of previous Summits held here in Brisbane and cement our status as a global city.” 

Since its inception, APCS has been held 12 times across six cities, alternating between Brisbane and an international host city every two years. 

2021APCS is being held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and virtually.

www.apcsummit.org.  

ends

Challenges in how working from home should really work – Pitney Bowes

FLEXIBILITY and productivity are held up as shining examples of the benefits that remote working can deliver during the pandemic lockdowns – and many businesses have now permanently adopted hybrid working practices.

While this can continue to deliver significant benefits to organisations and employees alike, it is vital that business leaders consider ways to continually improve the hybrid working approach, according to Pitney Bowes.

Stephen Darracott, the vice president and country manager for Pitney Bowes Japan, Australia and New Zealand said, “The past 18 months have been disruptive yet transformative as companies have adapted to doing business during a pandemic. This has demonstrated how essential it is for businesses to provide alternative working models for their staff to produce great work. 

“However, with the impacts of this situation continuing to develop, taking note of what is working and what can be improved on will help drive further opportunity and growth for businesses.”

For this reason, Mr Darracott warned, it was important for businesses to reflect on key considerations for staff and customers when it comes to remote working.

“Now that remote and hybrid working environments are becoming the norm, it’s essential for businesses to continue to proactively manage the way they support employees and customers,” Mr Darracott said.

“Getting the balance right can help businesses stand out from the crowd and compete more effectively even in a challenging landscape.”

Mr Darracott said Pitney Bowes research had revealed a range of clear and helpful touchpoints:

CONSIDERATIONS FOR STAFF

Connection
Despite not being in the same physical workspace, remote working should not equal isolation. Regular formal meetings and informal check-ins with team members are essential in fortifying bonds between colleagues. Communication channels should be varied and provide options for all staff to participate and share their thoughts. Honest and open communications about how the business is performing can create trust, particularly in an increasingly virtual business world.

Processes and tools
With staff splitting time between workstations, organisation of home and in person offices should be clear and communicated to all staff, with the end goal to keep everyone up to date on the status of accounts. Additional software to digitise files is another great option to save information being lost in translation. Accounting programs, shipping software, and human resources (HR) systems can all work to keep staff and business owners accountable regardless of office location.

Boundaries and burnout
Although commutes may have disappeared and chores may be completed on lunchbreaks, working from home can still incite high levels of stress, comparable to that experienced in traditional offices. In some cases, the lack of physical distance from a workspace can result in the perceived need for longer hours or immediate deadlines. It is essential to continue to monitor employee stress and mental health levels to prevent burnout.

Mindfulness and wellbeing
Another area to consider during these times is mindfulness, which can positively impact a workplace in many areas including through reducing stress, absenteeism and presenteeism. Mindfulness helps to increase resilience and focus, and to create a creative and productive work environment. Check in regularly to see how teams are feeling and if they need additional support. Encourage employees to take breaks during the day whether they be mindful breaks or active ones.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR CUSTOMERS

Be prepared
As the longer-term effects of the pandemic begin to set in, teams need to be agile and prepared to serve customer needs in new and efficient ways. This means team members need to know how to execute processes both at home and in the office and supplier contacts need to be able to deal with quick turn arounds or last-minute changes. It is essential to put these building blocks in place to prepare for the unexpected.

Put the client first
It is important for clients to know that the business is in their corner, particularly during challenging times. As changes occur in the workplace, it can be useful to increase levels of client communication to provide support or offer relevant information. Customer service needs to remain the number one priority, be it face-to-face, online, via phone, or over a video call. By staying up to date with each client’s unique situation, businesses can better anticipate their needs.

Leverage data
While data can be used to process orders, monitor the health of a business, or inform which products or services will need to be provided next, it can also help inform the strategy behind customer service. Leveraging available data can let businesses prioritise customer needs and offer tailored solutions in the short term. It can also help project potential services customers may need in the future, letting staff fortify customer relationships.

www.pitneybowes.com

ends

How will vaccine passports actually play out?

By Leon Gettler >>

ONE OF THE BIG issues now is getting vaccination passports for international travel.

However, doctor Ted Dunstone, founder of Biometix and Bixelab – one of only two labs in the world accredited for international biometric identity standards – a world-renowned biometric and identity expert, has predicted we will wait some time before a passport is developed that works internationally.

“It’s hard to imagine it will be sooner than another six months,” Dr Dunstone told Talking Business. “There is a significant demand at the moment around this. I don’t think the time horizon for this will be years, but it might be up to 12 months

Dr Dunstone said developing a passport was critical for “getting life back to normal”. 

“There needs to be broad agreement internationally on the way forward on this and it has been very difficult to find the right forum for that broad agreement,” he said.

“If the international standards are not set up properly, the outcome would be you would have bilateral or multilateral agreements, but you can’t just take your passport and have it recognised anywhere – which is of course what’s really needed.”

Passport to better world health

Dr Dunstone said a range of international institutions were now working on this problem. These included the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and the European Union (EU), which has a vaccine passport internally.

He said the IATA app seemed to be the leading contender. Because IATA represents the aviation industry, it comes with a lot of credentials.

Dr Dunstone said the IATA app is now being tested and has been adopted by a number of air carriers. If enough carriers accepted it, it would create the momentum for the IATA app to become the global standard.

“We’re yet to see a real consensus on exactly the right path forward but there are some leading contenders,” he said.

One of the issues, he said, was that there were different vaccines and different views about their efficacy.

“It’s entirely possible that you will end up with some vaccines being recognised in one place and not in another,” Dr Dunstone said.

For example, one needs to be vaccinated with Sinovax before one can enter China.

“Obviously, the vaccine passport will need to record enough information so that the recipient country can make sure that the person really has got a vaccine that’s compatible with their risk level.”

Verifiable background detail is the key

The passport would also have to specify the conditions under which the vaccine was administered, as well as the location where it was administered.

That said, we are still a long way from having a system of internationally accredited vaccine passports.

“It’s surprising to me how long this process has taken, given that everybody has known it is critically important,” Dr Dunstone said. “But it shows you how difficult these multilateral things from a global perspective really are to push through

“We need to make sure that when these schemes are adopted, that they are obviously internationally recognised, that they’ve got the right information but they don’t overshare information. You don’t want to have vaccine passport hesitancy.”

Dr Dunstone said there had already been instances documented pointing to a black market in vaccine passports, with people presenting false certificates of vaccines.

“We’re heading into a world where those who’ve been vaccinated will enjoy privileges and those privileges will not be insignificant,” he said.

“So there will be a market place for those who haven’t had, or can’t get vaccinations to try and circumvent that.” 

www.biometix.com

www.leongettler.com 

 

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

ends

Tenants Queensland calls for urgent re-think on new ‘renting fair’ legislation

QUEENSLAND HOUSING Minister, Leeanne Enoch introduced proposed legislation last week that “would see tenants at the whim of the well-funded real estate lobby” according to a community action group backed by more than 50 organisations.

The Make Renting Fair Queensland campaign is supported by over 50 community organisations and it has come out strongly outlining their combined disappointment with the mixed bag of changes to the government’s new proposed legislation, after waiting more than 30 months.

Penny Carr, CEO of Tenants Queensland, the state’s tenant advisory specialists, supported the government’s move to make rentals more pet friendly and introduce minimum standards, but expressed strong concern for the lack of protections for battling renters from unfair evictions.

“Our staff received over 14,000 calls in March this year,” Ms Carr said. “This just shows how many Queensland renters, and their families, are in housing distress and are facing crisis point.”

Ms Carr is concerned the proposals have been watered down to the point where they undermine the current tenancy laws, by introducing more grounds to end tenancies when the tenant is not in breach. 

“We advocated new grounds to end tenancies, but only with the view to removing the ability to end tenancies without grounds,” Ms Carr said. “The government has done the former but not the latter.” 

Make Renting Fair is concerned the proposed legislation was watered down following “a scare campaign run by the well-funded real estate lobby”.

The ability to undertake minor modifications has been removed from the proposals completely. 

Queenslanders with Disability Network CEO Paige Armstrong said she was worried that people with disability would be impacted by this.

“Minor modifications like the addition of a shower or other rails make places safer for tenants with little impact upon the appearance and structural integrity of a property,” Ms Armstrong said.

“What we hear from our members is that they are often reluctant to contact their real estate in fear of a backlash like ending their tenancy or not renewing their lease,” she said.

People experiencing domestic and family violence and older women are among the people reliant on private rental homes.

Q Shelter director Fiona Caniglia said the proposals included very important protections for people experiencing domestic violence. However, without protection from unfair evictions, many people will continue to live in properties in poor repair and be forced to move frequently. 

This causes poverty and people experience significant instability, she said.
 
“We know that older women are one of the fastest growing groups of people facing homelessness across our state,” Ms Caniglia said. “These are women who have worked their entire lives, raised families, paid taxes and they are left with virtually nothing and sometimes, not even with a place to call home.”

Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) CEO Aimee McVeigh said the State Government demonstrated that they recognised their responsibility to act on housing insecurity in the State Budget this week, but the 1.8 million Queenslanders who rent cannot be forgotten.

“The most important factor of the government’s prior commitment to rental reform was protecting tenants from unfair evictions. This bill does nothing to improve the status quo,” Ms McVeigh said.

“It defies belief that minimum standards for air and ventilation have been dropped from the reforms. If a person or company can afford to invest in property, they can afford to ensure a tenant has enough light and air.

“We need reform that ensures that all Queenslanders have access to safe, secure and certain housing, whether that be social housing or privately renting.”

www.makerentingfairqld.org.au

Ends

A small business-led national economic recovery Budget?

THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson said the Federal Government’s 2021 Budget was a clear acknowledgement that small and family businesses are central to the nation’s economic recovery and future prosperity.

He highlighted several new, extended and enhanced measures in the Budget to support small businesses.

The ASBFEO list includes:

-       $129.8 million to encourage entrepreneurship through the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) and Entrepreneurship Facilitators Program;

-       $1.2 billion investment in the digital economy;

-       $10 billion guarantee of reinsurance pool to cover cyclone and flood damage across Northern Australia;

-       $506 million extension of federal government’s JobTrainer program;

-       $10 million over four years on small business deregulation agenda;

-       $11 million over three years for national recognition of occupation licences;

-       Tax system reform for small business;

-       $4.3 million to establish the Mandatory Franchise Disclosure Registry;

-       $2.6 million to improve access and awareness of Commonwealth procurement opportunities.

“Tonight’s budget represents a substantial financial and strategic commitment to making Australia the best place to start, grow and transform a business,” Mr Billson said. 

“These measures will support small and family businesses as they help lead our national economic recovery and play a critical role in securing our future prosperity.”

Encouraging Entrepreneurship

The Federal Government will spend $129.8 million on consolidating and expanding small business and entrepreneurial services to support people who want to start, run and grow their own business.

“This initiative will help put the wind in the sails of fledgling small businesses and encourage the Australian entrepreneurial spirit,” Mr Billson said.

“The number of New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) places will lift from 8,600 to 12,000 per year for people looking to create their own start-up livelihoods.

“It will also support existing micro-businesses to adjust to changing labour market conditions to ensure these businesses remain viable and resilient to changes in the face of turbulent trading conditions.”

Digital Economy Strategy

The Federal Government has pledged $1.2 billion towards enhancing the digital economy, including a 30 percent tax offset for the video game industry.

“This $1.2 billion investment will encourage greater digital adoption by small and family businesses, to ensure they are globally competitive,” Mr Billson said.

“We welcome the Australian government’s commitment to help SMEs build their digital capacity and drive business up-take of e-invoicing.

“With 1.2 billion invoices exchanged in Australia every year, making the switch to e-invoicing would add an estimated $28 billion to the Australian economy over 10 years. For SMEs, we know e-invoicing streamlines productivity and improves cash flow with reduced admin and faster payments.”

“$12.7 million will be spent on expanding the Australian Small Business Advisory Service Digital Solutions program to reach as many as 17,000 small businesses.”

Mr Billson particularly welcomed the support provided to the Australian video game industry, which is comprised of many high growth potential small businesses and start-ups.

“My office has been a vocal supporter of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) which estimates Australia could create a $1 billion industry in game development, providing export revenue and employing an additional 10,000 full time workers with the right support,” Mr Billson said.

“This 30 percent tax offset is an excellent support measure to help Australian video game producers take a greater share of the $250 billion global game development market.”

Insurance

Mr Billson welcomed plans for a reinsurance pool to be backed by a $10 billion Australian Government guarantee to cover cyclone and flood damage across Northern Australia from July 1, 2022.

He said the scheme, which is broadly in line with a recommendation in ASBFEO’s Insurance Inquiry, will make a significant difference.

“This is certainly a welcome step in the right direction when it comes to ensuring essential insurance coverage is accessible to small businesses,” Mr Billson said.

“Our Insurance Inquiry revealed that too many small businesses have been crippled by rising insurance costs and some can’t get it at all.

“A reinsurance pool will go some way to addressing this key barrier for small businesses in Northern Australia.”

Mr Billson says he also recognises barriers still exist for SME insurance coverage in other parts of Australia.  

“In the course of our Insurance Inquiry, we spoke to over 800 small businesses – about 12% of those were from Northern Australia,” Mr Billson says.

“That means there are still many small businesses out there experiencing difficulties with accessing necessary and affordable insurance coverage.

“My office is ready and willing to work collaboratively with the government, relevant agencies and the insurance industry towards making essential insurance products affordable and accessible for small businesses across the country.”

JobTrainer

The JobTrainer program will be extended for another 12 months, as part of a $506 million package to support SMEs to employ apprentices and trainees with a 50 percent wage subsidy of up to $28,000 per year.

“JobTrainer has proven to be a highly effective incentive for SMEs to take on new apprentices and trainees,” Mr Billson said.

“The cost of apprentices and trainees can be significant as they learn the ropes, so small businesses will welcome the extension of this wage subsidy.

“JobTrainer will also offer thousands of young Australians low-fee or free courses – critically in fields where small businesses are struggling to find staff.”

Deregulation Agenda

The Federal Government will spend $134 million over four years on its deregulation agenda, including investing in regulatory technology (regtech) to support smaller employers comply with modern awards, provide data on pay and conditions and help with accuracy in payroll software.

“Small business owners are hard-working, time-poor and don’t have the systems or resources needed to deal with onerous compliance requirements,” Mr Billson said.

“Research shows a small business hiring its first worker can spend up to 18 hours getting their head around awards, pay rates, tax, OH&S and record-keeping obligations.

“This government investment in ‘regtech’ is a positive step towards making it easier for small businesses to pay wages and entitlements correctly and on time, recognising how much they value their team.”

$11 million will be invested in the implementation of automatic mutual recognition of occupation licences across states and territories.

“This will help small business tradespeople who want to meet the demand for their skills in different areas of the country,” Mr Billson said.

Tax system reform

Small businesses in dispute with the ATO will get a fairer go, under new rules proposed in the Budget.

Mr Billson welcomed the pledge to give the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) greater powers to pause or change debt recovery actions applying to a small business in dispute with the ATO.

“Small businesses disputing an ATO debt in the AAT will get a fairer go by stopping the ATO from relentlessly pushing on with debt recovery actions against a small business, while the case is being heard,” Mr Billson said.

“I commend the government which has acted quickly to implement a key recommendation in our recently released report: A tax system that works for small business which will allow small businesses to pause ATO debt recovery actions until their case is resolved by the AAT.

“Currently, small businesses are only able to pause or modify ATO debt recovery actions through the court system. This can be prohibitively expensive and time consuming for a small business.

“Under the proposed changes, small businesses can save thousands of dollars in legal fees, not to mention up to two months waiting for a ruling.

“In line with our recommendation, the AAT will be able to pause or modify ATO debt recovery actions, such as garnishee notices, interest charges and other penalties until the dispute is resolved.

“It means that rather than spending time and money fighting in court, small business owners can get on with what they do best – running and growing their business.”

 

Employee Share Scheme

The Government will help Australian businesses to attract and retain staff by removing cessation of employment as a taxing point for the tax-deferred Employee Share Scheme (ESS) and reducing red tape for ESS.

Instant Asset Write-Off

Small businesses can continue to write-off the full value of assets purchased until 2023.

“This one year extension of the uncapped instant asset write-off is a big win for small businesses,” Mr Billson said.

“It gives small businesses more time and certainty to plan and buy major equipment. It significantly reduces the need for depreciation and cuts red tape.”

Loss Carry Back

“The loss carry back provision will also be extended to June 2023,” Mr Billson said.

“This is a tax initiative that effectively allows a small business to carry back tax losses from 2022/23 income year to offset previously taxed profits as far back as 2018/19, to support business recovery.”

Payment times

The Government is committing an additional $16 million to ensure effective implementation of the Payment Times Reporting Scheme, which has been in effect since 1 January, 2021.

“This reporting framework requires big business to be upfront and honest about the time it takes to pay their small business suppliers,” Mr Billson said.

“Cash flow is king for small business and we know that if small businesses are paid on time, the whole economy benefits. AlphaBeta estimates if large businesses pay small businesses in 30 days, the net benefit to the economy is $313 million per year.”

Mandatory Franchise Disclosure Registry

A Franchise Disclosure Registry is set to be established at a cost of $4.3 million. The registry will require franchisors to lodge disclosure documentation about their franchise annually.

“This is about improving transparency of franchise operations and providing prospective franchisees with vital information they need before entering into a franchise agreement,” Mr Billson said.

“My office has advocated for the implementation of this registry as a key component of effective due diligence all prospective franchisees should undertake before entering into a franchise agreement.”

SME procurement

The Australian Government will provide $2.6 million over four years to support and strengthen SME participation in procurement, including mapping common pain points for SMEs.

www.asbfeo.gov.au

ends

RBA Survey: 47pc of experts say recent house price growth is 'unsustainable'

AUSTRALIA’s housing market is experiencing a peak growth rate, but experts say the current boom won’t last forever. 

In this month’s Finder RBA Cash Rate Survey, 40 experts and economists weighed in on future cash rate moves and other issues relating to the state of the economy. 

While all experts surveyed predict the cash rate to hold, nearly half of those who weighed in on property prices (47%, 16/34) believe Australia’s current house price growth is unsustainable.

Property market growth surged at its fastest rate in 33 years in March, with national dwelling values also increasing by 6.2 percent over the past year according to CoreLogic.  

Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, said that some experts are concerned a housing bubble is emerging.

“Rock-bottom rates, government stimulus and a fear of missing out have really lit a fire under the belly of the market," Mr Cooke said.

“Listing numbers are unable to meet high buyer demand, keeping inventory levels low overall and adding to the sense of urgency among buyers. 

“We’ve seen more borrowed for housing over the last six months than during any similar period in history – and economists have tipped us to borrow more over the next six. 

“However, the view from our panel is that this fast-paced growth will not continue indefinitely. 

“It’s unlikely we'll see any regulatory intervention from policymakers yet, but this might be a possibility down the track,” Mr Cooke said. 

According to Mala Raghavan of the University of Tasmania, buyers may put themselves at risk by acting too hastily. 

“The recent uptick in buying behaviour largely appears to be due to the fear of missing out, and many buyers are rushing into the market without clear foresight of the impending risks," Ms Raghavan said.

“When mortgage rates start rising, many households will risk being unable to service their loans, and could be vulnerable to foreclosures,” she said. 

A small rate increase could cost mortgage holders $26,000 in interest

While experts agree the RBA is unlikely to increase the cash rate for a while yet, this doesn't mean mortgage holders can rule out an out-of-cycle rate hike. 

UBank announced an out-of-cycle move late last week, increasing its three-year fixed rate from a near market-leading 1.75 percent to 1.85 (an increase of 10 basis points). Westpac also bumped up its fixed-term rates last Friday. 

If a homeowner with the average mortgage of $495,420* experienced a rate hike of 25 basis points from the current average variable rate of 4.27 percdent to 4.52 percent, they would need to pay an extra $878 per year. 

Over the course of a 30-year loan, this would cost them an extra $26,330 in interest. 

Finder’s Consumer Sentiment Tracker, a survey of 7,191 mortgage holders, found a monthly raise of $200 or less would cause financial distress for two in five mortgage holders (41%).

Mr Cooke said that while the cash rate wasn't going anywhere, that did not mean home loan rates would stay put. 

“The last time the cash rate was held for an extended period of 34 months, banks changed their interest rates on average seven times – five of which were increases.

“It’s important that homeowners factor in potential rate increases when applying for a mortgage – keeping a cushion in your budget can keep your budget from getting dicey down the track,” Cooke said.  


Potential repayment increase if banks increased rates by 25 basis points

 

Current average
variable rate
(4.27%**)


25 basis point increase
(4.52%)

Loan size

Annual cost

Monthly increase

Annual increase

30-year cost

$250,000

$14,793

$37

$443

$13,287

$495,420*

$29,316

$73

$878

$26,330

$750,000

$44,380

$111

$1,329

$39,860

$1,000,000

$59,173

$148

$1,772

$53,146

Source: Finder, RBA                                                                                                            
*Average owner-occupier mortgage in Australia (RBA)
**Average owner-occupier standard variable home loan rate (Finder) 

Housing affordability sentiment hits all-time low 

Finder's Economic Sentiment Tracker gauges experts' confidence in five key indicators: housing affordability, employment, wage growth, cost of living and household debt.

Positive sentiment around housing affordability (3%) reached the lowest level ever recorded since the Finder survey began in 2018.

On the other hand, positive sentiment around wage growth is at 32%, which is the highest it's been over the last 12 months. 

Mr Cooke said there had been an increase in positivity for all but one economic metric over the last quarter. 

“Economic sentiment is clearly improving, which is a great thing to see," he said. "The only metric trending down is housing affordability, which, while good news for owners, is bad news for potential first time buyers." 

Here’s what Finder's economic experts had to say:

Nicholas Frappell, ABC Bullion: "Conditions will probably shift the timing of a rate rise forward, although it will hinge on wage growth. Lack of wage growth will tend to push rather than tighten back towards 2023."

Shane Oliver, AMP Capital: "While the economy is recovering faster than expected, the RBA is still a long way away from seeing its stated requirements for a rate hike, being a tight jobs market, wages growth well above 3% and actual inflation sustainably within the 2-3% target range. So a rate hike is still a fair way off although I think it will come before the RBA’s expectation for 2024 at the earliest.”

David Robertson, Bendigo Bank: "The RBA will most likely start to tighten policy by an increase in interest rates in early 2023 or late 2022, the timing dependent on the pace and success of vaccination programmes."

Sean Langcake, BIS Oxford Economics: "The labour market recovery has progressed much quicker than the RBA anticipated. But the economy is still a long way from the conditions the RBA have indicated will precede a rate rise."

Ben Udy, Capital Economics: "While labour market outcomes have continued to surprise to the upside the RBA has lowered its view of the natural rate of unemployment so the labour market still has a long way to go before the RBA will be satisfied."

Peter Tulip, Centre for Independent Studies: "Inflation will remain below 2% and unemployment will remain above the NAIRU until 2024."

Mala Raghavan, College of Business and Economics, University of Tasmania: "The cash rate will only start moving upwards when inflation and unemployment rates are comfortably above 2% and below 6% respectively. It might take a while to achieve these targets."

Stephen Halmarick, Commonwealth Bank: "It will take until Q2 2023 or 2024 before inflation is sustainable inside the RBA target range."

Saul Eslake, Corinna Economic Advisory: "I agree with the RBA that it will take some time for unemployment to fall to a sufficiently low level to trigger wages growth fast enough to ensure price inflation sustainably within the RBA’s 2-3% target range - but I suspect that situation may be reached before “2024 at the earliest.”

Craig Emerson, Craig Emerson Economics: "The RBA has indicated it will not increase the cash rate for several years or until the unemployment rate falls to around 4%."

Peter Boehm, director: "It’s steady as she goes for now as far as the RBA's cash rate is concerned. But while the RBA has signalled it will keep rates low for the next two to three years, its hand may be forced if inflation starts to increase. We are already experiencing material house price growth, and now with a shortage of skilled migrant labourers, there is increasing upward pressure on wages. These (and other) factors, if allowed to continue their upward trend, may see interest rates rise sooner than expected."

Angela Jackson, Equity Economics: "While the economy is currently performing strongly, some of the heat from the post-pandemic bounce is expected to dissipate in the second half of 2021, especially given the ongoing border closures. The RBA is expected to maintain its interest rate policy under this scenario."

Mark Brimble, Griffith University: "The economy still requires support and the COVID future is not clear, particularly with problematic vaccine roll out and questions re long term on for quarantine."

Tony Makin, Griffith University: "Australia's interest rate spectrum is ultimately influenced by global factors, most notably US interest rates. Ten year US Treasury rates have risen around 70 basis points since the beginning of the year and will keep rising due to the huge US budget deficit and higher expected inflation. The RBA will be unable to stem this tide."

Tom Devitt, Housing Industry Association: "After a short term burst in activity in 2021 and maybe 2022 as a result of fiscal stimulus, home building and households exploiting their accumulated savings, Australia's economy will still be affected by the same factors that suppressed interest rates, inflation, wages, productivity and economic growth pre-COVID. This includes a world awash in savings, ageing populations and limited private sector investment opportunities. And now we have the addition of suppressed population growth. Even if the government exploits its record-low borrowing costs to invest in the necessary long term infrastructure and reforms, it will take a number of years to get the labour market tight enough to generate the wage growth that will force the RBA's hand on interest rates."

Alex Joiner, IFM Investors: "The RBA will look through any near term inflation and once the stimulus acceleration in growth fades the economy will still be away from full employment - the RBA will have to keep policy accommodative."

Michael Witts, ING Bank: "The timing of the RBA is uncertain, the first half of 2023 is possible at this stage, although the strength of the domestic recovery may see this timeline move forward."

Leanne Pilkington, Laing+Simmons: "While there have been some concerns raised recently about rising house prices and therefore household debt, low rates remain an important foundation for the economic recovery and we believe it's prudent for the Reserve Bank to maintain the course it has previously stated."

Nicholas Gruen, Lateral Economics: "The recovery will be strong and will stimulate some inflation, though it will take some time for it to materialise and longer for it to work its way into expectations."

Mathew Tiller, LJ Hooker: "The RBA has continued to indicate that it will keep the cash rate steady for the time being. This is despite improving economic data and very strong increases in dwelling prices."

Geoffrey Kingston, Macquarie University: "Inflationary pressures are building up more quickly than is generally realised."

Michael Yardney, Metropole Property Strategists: "The RBA has made it clear it won't increase interest rates until unemployment is so low that we get consistent wages growth."

Julia Newbould, Money magazine: "If the economy continues to grow and unemployment stays relatively low the bank might start to increase rates to combat inflation and perhaps cool the property market."

Susan Mitchell, Mortgage Choice: "The economic recovery is supporting remarkable growth in consumer sentiment and we’re seeing record growth in the housing market but we are a long way off any changes to the cash rate. RBA board members were clear in the minutes of the April monetary policy meeting - the cash rate will not be increased until inflation is within the target range, wages growth improves and the labour market strengthens."

Dr Andrew Wilson, My Housing Market: "Clearly no rational case for interest rate move in foreseeable outlook."

Rich Harvey, Propertybuyer: "I think the RBA will move rates up sometime in 2022 as the economy is rebounding faster and stronger than anticipated with stimulus money flowing through and commodity price giving the terms of trade a nice boost,"

Matthew Peter, QIC: "Although headline inflation will lift this quarter and next, most of the rise will reflect transitory effects which the RBA will look through. Core inflation rates will remain low, reflecting low wage growth, and the RBA will keep forward guidance for a first rate hike in 2024."

Cameron Kusher, REA Group: "RBA have their credibility on the line and they will choose to wait longer to be sure that they achieve their inflation and full employment targets. That is still likely to take some time."

Christine Williams, Smarter Property Investing: "The global market will eventually move once the Pandemic is under global control."

Jonathan Chancellor, Urban.com.au: "There's no prospect of any official cash rate move for many months, but home borrowers can expect more increases to long-term fixed rates as banks prepare for the end of the RBA's term funding facility."

Dale Gillham, Wealth Within: "The economy is starting to move in the right direction. However there is still a long way to go with combating COVID and getting back to what is a normal economy again. Therefore we are unlikely to see major growth at a level that is enough to warrant an increase in interest rates."

Other participants: John Hewson, ANU. Jeffrey Sheen, Macquarie University. Alan Oster, Nab. Malcolm Wood, Ord Minnett. Noel Whittaker, QUT. Jason Azzopardi, Resimac. Sveta Angelopoulos, RMIT. Jakob Madsen, University of Western Australia. Bill Evans, Westpac.

ends

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