THE Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) has launched Return to Learn, an online education portal designed to cut through misinformation and confusion about FASEA’s higher education requirements.

Released this week after months of rigorous testing, the Return to Learn education portal promises easy access to accurate information on the latest education and ethics policy developments and implications, as well as study tools.

“There are many thousands of ethical, professional, committed financial planners around Australia ready to do what it takes to meet FASEA requirements between now and 2024. Many are confused by misinformation flying around as to what they need to do next, however, and frankly there’s no time for confusion: Australia needs us to take the high road when it comes to education and ethics,” FPA CEO, Dante De Gori CFP said.

Return to Learn was developed in-house by the FPA’s education and policy experts with co-operation from FASEA-approved tertiary education providers.

It includes accurate explanations of FASEA policies, Code of Ethics and education tools in one central hub as well as a guide to study credits, video tutorials on topics like preparing for exams, and information on various approved tertiary education providers including course costs and required time commitments, for example.

“Return to Learn cuts through the noise and misinformation to make the path forward as clear and easy as possible for our 14,000+ FPA members to navigate,” Mr De Gori said.

New CPD standards of 40 hours a year apply from January 1, 2019, and a key foundation of the financial advice reforms is a new Code of Ethics that all advisers will have to comply with from January 1, 2020. All advisers need to pass an industry exam by January 1, 2021.

Tools and information now available to FPA members on the Return to Learn portal:

Education pathways tool – Helps members identify what further studies they will need to undertake to comply with the new FASEA education standards.

Cost comparison tool – A program and fee comparison of FASEA-approved degrees that helps members find the most suitable degree - including a comparison of the credits each university will allocate to members who have completed the 5-unit CFP Certification Program. It also includes links to the university Credit and Recognition of Prior Learning policies. The FPA has formally applied to FASEA for accreditation of all education pathways into the CFP Certification Program where FASEA has not already awarded credits.

FASEA exam study guidance – A range of study resources including academic writing and referencing guides, how to prepare for exams, tips for time management and much more is available in the education hub. FASEA’s practice exam and recommend reading lists will also be available once released by FASEA.   

FPA CPD policy ­– The latest FPA CPD policy is available and has been updated to align with the new FASEA requirements. FPA members and licensees can adopt the FPA CPD policy as their own by March 31, 2019.

www.fpa.com.au

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THE DIRE state of legal assistance funding in Australia has been highlighted as a matter of critical importance in the Law Council of Australia’s 2019-20 Pre-Budget Submission, with a boost of at least $310 million a year required to address critical gaps in the system.

Additional funding should also be provided to introduce Justice Impact Tests, improve resourcing of federal courts, and establish a National Justice Interpreter Scheme, said Law Council president, Arthur Moses SC.

“Legal assistance funding in Australia is abysmal and in need of urgent review. Some of our most vulnerable people are slipping through the cracks, as the Law Council’s Justice Project illustrates,” Mr Moses said.

“At least $310 million a year is needed to provide adequate funding for Legal Aid Commissions, community legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services and family violence prevention legal services. This would provide a much needed injection of funds for frontline legal services to increase civil legal assistance and will come close to restoring the Commonwealth’s share of funding for Legal Aid Commissions to 50 percent.

“Commonwealth legal aid funding is at its lowest in decades. In 1997 the Federal Government spent $11.22 per capita. Today, it is spending less than $8 per capita. Many living under the poverty line are ineligible.

“Disadvantaged Australians are not the only ones impacted by the shortfall. Many Australians simply can’t afford legal representation and if required to attend court, are forced to appear alone. Lives are being destroyed because successive governments have failed to invest in critical social justice infrastructure.”

In the UK, Justice Impact Tests have proven to be a vital tool in facilitating the smoother development of laws and policies with downstream impacts on the justice system and ensuring adequate funding is provided for any repercussions. The Law Council believes such a system should be implemented in Australia.

The Law Council’s submission also calls for urgent additional funding of the federal courts, especially the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

“Australia’s family law system is chronically under-resourced, under-funded and overburdened. Families and children are having to wait up to three years, in many cases more, to have matters heard. As the federal courts’ workloads continue to increase, more resourcing is desperately needed to keep up with demand. This must include appointing further judges and registrars, and additional legal assistance,” Mr Moses said.

“Law Council calls on the Australian Government to commission a review of the resourcing needs of federal courts and tribunals in consultation with the community and key stakeholders. There is also a need for a national interpreter scheme to assist those for whom English is not their first language to access justice.”

Other key funding priorities identified by the Law Council include the need to: Adopt and adequately resource a transparent judicial appointments process; and establish and adequately resource a Federal Judicial Commission to provide training for federal judges as well as a fair mechanism to hear any complaints that may be made against the judiciary.

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THE Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has welcomed the completion of Rio Tinto’s $2.6 billion Amrun bauxite mine project on the Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland. 

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said not only was the mine completed under budget and ahead of schedule but it was a leading example of a resource company working with local communities and suppliers.

“Rio Tinto is a significant employer of Indigenous Australians on the Cape York Peninsula and has invested $2.2 billion with local, State and national businesses,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“The world is hungry for Queensland’s resources, especially bauxite and Amrun adds to the State’s diversification story in commodities.

“Bauxite is one of the building blocks of the modern economy, used to produce aluminium, which goes into everything from soft drink cans in your fridge to frames for solar panels on your roof.”

QRC’s own economic data for the 2017-18 financial year showed the resources sector is a significant investor in the state’s economy and local communities.

“From Toowoomba to Weipa the resources sector contributed to 1,260 community organisations which is an increase of 38 percent on the previous year and in the Far North region the sector contributed $959 million to the economy and supported 6,291 full time jobs,” Mr Macfarlane said.

QRC is the peak representative body for Queensland ‘s resource sector. The Queensland resources sector provides one in every five dollars in the Queensland economy, sustains one in eight Queensland jobs, and supports more than 14,200 businesses across the State, all from 0.1 percent of Queensland’s land mass.

www.qrc.org.au

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QUEENSLAND’s exports have surged to a new record of $82.8 billion – the third record month in a row – on the back of another increase in the value of coal and minerals.

Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the increasing value of exports was a plus for every Queenslander.

“Queensland’s commodity exports make up about 80 per cent of the state’s total exports,” Mr Macfarlane said. “Every shipment of coal, minerals or LNG adds to the budget bottom line and puts money in the bank for every Queenslander.

“Coal exports alone are worth $36.2 billion of the export total and are $5.5 billion higher than this time last year. This reinforces the important role of Queensland’s coal communities and all 316,000 people who work in or with the resources sector and who do so much to add value directly to the state’s economy.

“Today we see even more evidence of the way the resources sector is supporting regional jobs, with the official commissioning of Rio Tinto’s $2.6 billion Amrun bauxite mine project on Cape York in far north Queensland.

“When the resources sector is strong, the Queensland economy is strong to deliver for all of us," Mr Macfarlane said.

“This year the resources sector will pay a record $5.2 billion in royalty taxes to the State Government to pay for schools, hospitals and roads and build projects like the Cross River Rail.”

www.qrc.org.au

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ECONOMIC equality is unlikely to be achieved until at least 2031 despite women making record progress in the March quarter, according to the latest Financy Women’s Index.

The Women’s Index, which measures the economic progress of Australian women on a quarterly basis, rose 1.9 points to 122.7 points in the March quarter, up from a revised 120.8 points in December 2018.

The result reflects the fastest pace of women’s quarterly progress in two years, helped by record female full-time employment, workforce participation, improved educational enrolments and earnings growth relative to men as reflected in a record low of the gender pay gap.

Key results Financy Women’s Index March Quarter

  • · The March Financy Women’s Index rose 1.9 points to 122.7 points.
  • · The result was helped by record full-time employment, participation, tertiary enrolments and a record low gender pay gap.
  • · Little improvement in women on ASX 200 boards and a lagging gender gap in superannuation weighed on the results.
  • · Australian women are 34 percent short or on current trends, 12 years away – at the current rate of improvement - from achieving financial equality.

But when the March result is compared against the aspirational guide on economic equality, the FWX Progress Target of 161.6 points, it shows that women are 34 percent short or 12 years away from achieving financial equality. 

“We still have too many Australian women unable to realise their economic potential,” said the founder of the Financy Women’s Index, Bianca Hartge-Hazelman.

“Surprisingly, in a time of rising employment, there are women who are still underpaid and the female underemployment rate is worse than a decade ago.”

More women than men are enrolling in tertiary studies to better their qualifications but the overall gender gap in undergraduate salaries widened in 4.8 percent in 2018, from 1.8 percent in 2017.

Technical course areas, such as Information Technology, Mining and Engineering, which remain male dominated and generally higher paying, are becoming increasingly sought after by women.

“Its great to see that the latest issue of the Financy Women’s Index shows that women are continuing to make ongoing progress towards achieving financial equality with men," said AMP Capital head of investment strategy and chief economist Shane Oliver.

“Progress in educational attainment is a particularly good sign for the future but there is still a long way to go notably in terms of the pay and superannuation gaps to men and in underemployment,” he said.

The number of women in full-time employment hit a new high of 3.23 million in the March quarter, just as the female underemployment rate declined by 0.2 percent to 10.5 percent in January (versus 6.3% for males), from 10.7 percent in January 2018.

However the level of underemployment is worse today than it was in 2009 when the underemployment rate for women stood at 8.8 percent compared with 5.2 percent for men.

The number of women occupying ASX 200 board positions rose to 29.7 percent in February after a dip to 29.6 percent in January. However a disappointing end to 2018 appears to have affected the momentum seen earlier in support of gender board diversity.

Connie McKeage, CEO of Australian listed fintech company OneVue, said more needs to be done to support women who want to work, particularly those with children or caring for loved ones.

“I would encourage all employed persons considering starting a family, or who have started a family to stay engaged in the workforce.  Even if this means you are only available to work a few hours one day a week.

“As an employer for those employees unable to continue working for a period of time, particularly during maternity or paternity leave there is no reason these employees cannot be invited to log into staff updates, key presentations etc so that they continue to feel like a valuable team member.”

The sectors that recorded the biggest drop in their gender pay gaps in the March quarter are male-dominated and include Construction and Transport, Postal and Warehousing with respective declines of 2.6 percentage points to 12.5 percent and 2.1 percentage points to 15.7 percent.

Financial and Insurance Services and Health Care and Social Assistance, which is the most female dominated, continue to be the worst performing industries for the gender pay gap, which rose by 0.2 percentage points to 26.9 and 0.8 percentage points to 25.8 percent respectively in November.

“The financial sector holds the unenviable title of the least equitable for its mean pay gap of 26.9 percent,” said AFA Inspire national chair Kate McCallum.

“This is not a woman’s problem. This is a system problem. There are inherited systems and structures in financial organisations that simply don’t support women to thrive. 

"Most companies acknowledge this and are already doing some great stuff. The challenge is, we’ve been trying to eliminate the pay gap for years and it’s not budging. It’s time for bold moves.”

A lagging lifetime superannuation gender gap also held back the progress score. The average account balance for women is 34 percent less than that of the average man.

AMP Financial Planning adviser Dianne Charman said the Financy Women’s Index was an excellent tool to remind women of how important taking a proactive stance with their superannuation was for their retirement.

“Whether your retirement is close or quite a few decades ahead of you, everything you do today to be proactive about improving your financial position will mean you’ll forever thank your younger self,” she said.

Ms Charman said key super issues women should be thinking about were: salary sacrificing and after-tax contributions, exploiting the new rules around catch-up contributions and understanding the impact of different investment options within super.

About the Financy Women’s Index:

The Financy Women’s Index powered by Data Digger is an initiative designed to encourage women to live fearlessly by empowering them with insights to help them realise their economic potential. The Index is based on monthly, quarterly, biannually, and two-yearly data and methodology from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), the Australian Tax Office (ATO), the Australian Government Department of Education and Training and the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

The Financy Women’s Index differs from other economic measures, such as official wages and jobs data, because it focuses on women, whereas most of the headline data reported in the mainstream press reflects an average for the Australian population, but these figures are often skewed towards male outcomes as a result of a male dominated workforce. The Index is designed to highlight trends among working women; from the courses they study once they leave high school, to what industries they work in, whether they want to work more hours but cannot, their earnings and savings in superannuation, through to those occupying top company board positions. The Financy Women’s Index is an independent report, which is sponsored by Australian listed fintech company OneVue, AMP Financial Planning, the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA). It is also a partner of the Economic Security 4 Women.

https://financy.com.au

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THE Australian Retailers Association (ARA) said January 2019 trade figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicates a conservative post-Christmas trade, with a 2.66 percent total growth year-on-year.

Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the ARA, said the ARA and Roy Morgan post-Christmas sales predictions are softer than the actual post-Christmas trade results released today by the ABS.

“As we forecasted a 3.1 percent increase in post-Christmas trade and predicted Australians would spend almost $18.3 billion from December 26, 2018 to January 15, 2019, today’s figures are slightly less than what we anticipated,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“While December sales started off strong, it seems to have slightly lowered for January. Despite today’s amicable figures, the ARA will continue to partner with Roy Morgan annually to deliver the only professionally researched retail industry predictions.”

In light of this, categories showing considerable growth in January included; Food retailing (4.12%), Cafés and restaurants (3.15%),which was strongly supported by Supermarkets (4.52%).

“While consumer sentiment has been at the forefront of media discussion recently, it is pleasing to see that the Cafés, restaurants and takeaway category has recorded strong consecutive growth over the last three months,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“This could be indicative of consumers feeling more confident to spend on small luxuries and we hope this trend will continue to increase and spill into other retail categories across the retail sector.”

While Clothing, Footwear and Personal Accessories received respectable growth in January,  unfortunately, Department stores (-1.38%) noted a decrease in year-on-year sales. However, Mr Zimmerman said he is optimistic that these figures will improve over the coming months.

“Although Department stores saw a decrease in year-on-year growth for January, it’s important to note that Myer had a return on profitability for the first 6 months of this year ” Mr Zimmerman said.

Across the nation, New South Wales (0.65%) and Tasmania (0.42%) recorded the strongest year-on-year growth of all the states. While South Australia (0.12%) and Victoria (0.11%) showed steady year-on-year growth, Western Australia (-0.34%), Australian Capital Territory (-0.40%), Queensland (0.46%) and Northern Territory (-1.21%) received negative figures in January.

“Tasmania, Victoria and Australian Capital Territory indicated a strong year-on-year growth in January and it is promising to see Western Australia continuing to record positive numbers after a period of sustained weakness,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“However, it is concerning to see that the Northern Territory have yet again showed negative figures for the fifth consecutive month in row, after recording such strong results last year from March to August.” 

 

Monthly Retail Growth (December 2018 – January 2019 seasonally adjusted) 

Other retailing (0.68%), Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services (0.26%), Household goods retailing (-0.05%), Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-0.30%), Food retailing (0.31%), and Department stores (-2.12 %).

New South Wales (0.65%), Tasmania (0.42%) South Australia (0.12%), Victoria (0.11%), Western Australia (-0.34%), Australian Capital Territory (-0.40%), Queensland (-0.46%), and Northern Territory (-1.21%).

Total sales (0.11%).


Year-on-Year Retail Growth (January 2018 – January 2019 seasonally adjusted)

Food retailing (4.12%), Other retailing (3.50%), Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services (3.15%), Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (2.27%), Household goods retailing (-0.66%) and Department stores (-1.38%).

Tasmania (4.68%), Victoria (4.23%), Australian Capital Territory (3.77%), New South Wales (2.67%), Queensland (2.10%), South Australia (1.52%), Western Australia (0.57%) and Northern Territory (-2.73%).

Total sales (2.66%). 


About the Australian Retailers Association:
Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association, representing the country’s $320 billion-dollar sector, which employs almost 1.3 million people. As Australia’s leading retail peak industry body, the ARA is a strong pro-active advocate for Australian retail and works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,800 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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BOTH major parties need to "re-commit to policy agendas for economic growth following the worse than expected performance by the Australian economy in the closing months of last year," according to Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn. 

“The latest GDP figures from the ABS show that the economy grew by just 0.2 percent during the December 2018 quarter, a weaker result than expected,” she said. 

“Australians know that we need strong economic growth to boost living standards, provide jobs and provide the certainty and incentive for business to keep investing.

“As the nation’s second largest industry, building and construction is already a major driver of growth in the economy but worryingly, a number of components of the economy actually shrank during the quarter including new home building activity, home renovations and commercial and civil construction. 

“We want both major parties to show their commitment to an economic growth at the upcoming Federal Budget so that the slide can be halted and the policies for a new period of economic growth delivered,” Ms Wawn said. 

 “As the economy’s largest provider of full-time jobs, construction must be at the centre of the recovery. Government needs to explore ways to reduce the burden on an already heavily taxed sector, and look accelerating public works programs. 

“We want to see more shovel ready infrastructure projects out the door for construction to commence not just languishing on lists.

“We want policies that will actually increase the construction of new homes and jobs in the residential building sector rather than taking them backwards,” Ms Wawn said. 

“Stimulating building activity not only boosts demand over the short term. Well-targeted construction projects would expand the economy’s creative potential for decades to come.

“A strong construction industry builds a strong economy,” Ms Wawn said.

www.masterbuilders.com.au

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ENERGY NETWORKS Australia CEO Andrew Dillon today welcomed the Western Australian Government’s announcement of an Energy Transformation Plan.

“The power prices consumers pay are linked to the total system cost, so it makes sense to consider how the co-ordinated end-to-end power system of the future should look,” Mr Dillon said.

“It’s a positive step that a government is thinking beyond short-term rebates and starting to plan for how we manage an integrated low emissions electricity system.

“Energy Networks Australia will tomorrow be launching the first of a set of guidelines for safe, consistent and efficient connection of solar, storage and battery devices to the grid.”

Distributed energy resources (DER), which include household solar panels and batteries, present challenges to electricity grids that were not designed to handle individual energy sources.

This is why Energy Networks Australia and the Australian Energy Market Operator are working on the Open Energy Networks project. The project is investigating how best to integrate DER into Australia's electricity grid.

“Open Energy Networks is developing options to improve the electricity system to ensure household solar and storage work in harmony with a grid that was never designed for two way energy flows,” Mr Dillon said.

“As we move to greener grids, this work will help ensure reliable supply and lower household power bills for all customers.

“We look forward to seeing more detail about the WA Government’s planning program for DER integration.”

More information about the National Connection (DER) guidelines can be found here.

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THE maritime union has welcomed Labor’s commitment to create a government-owned National Fuel Reserve, describing it as an essential step to protect Australia from natural disasters or global crisis that could disrupt oil supplies.

The Maritime Union of Australia said Australia has been in breach of the the International Energy Agency’s 90-day fuel stockholding obligation since March 2012, with figures released last month showed the country had just 22 days of petrol and 17 days of diesel on hand.

MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the fuel reserve commitment, along with Labor’s previous announcement of a National Strategic Fleet that will include oil tankers and gas carriers, were vital steps required to safeguard the security of an island nation that is reliant on fuel imports.

“For nearly seven years, Australia has been in breach of the IEA rules that are in place to ensure member nations have the capacity to weather unforseen disruptions to the global supply chain,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Despite countless reports warning about Australia’s lack of fuel security and the urgent need for action, the Abbott, Turnbull, and now Morrison Coalitions Governments have done absolutely nothing.

“Australia is the only developed oil-importing country without government-controlled stocks of crude oil or refined petroleum products, which has become more and more of an issue as the proportion of our fuel that is imported has risen to well over 90 percent.”

The MUA last year commissioned a report by shipping expert John Francis, Australia’s Fuel Security – Running on Empty, which found that Australia now relies on the equivalent of almost 60 full-time fuel import tankers to keep us supplied with petrol, diesel and jet fuel.

“This research concluded that the Australian economy would grind to a halt within weeks of a major crisis in the region that interrupted fuel shipments,” Mr Crumlin said.

“It also found that Australia’s reliance on foreign flagged tankers removed any opportunity for the Commonwealth to requisition national flag tankers if necessary to secure imports or coastal distribution requirements following major economic or geopolitical disruptions.

“The commitment that a Shorten Government will both create a national fuel reserve, along with a strategic fleet that includes Australian-flagged oil tangers, provide a welcome end to years of political inaction that continues to put all Australians at risk.

“The public now have a stark choice between the Liberal National Government, which has done nothing to address fuel security, and a Labor Opposition with a clear vision for protecting Australia’s economic security by creating a government-owned fuel stockpile and Australian oil tankers to bring it here.”

 

THE House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics will hold public hearings in Malvern, Brighton, Mount Martha and Torquay, Victoria, for its inquiry into the implications of removing refundable franking credits.

Chair of the committee, Tim Wilson MP, said, "The committee continues to gather evidence about how the removal of refundable franking credits would affect investors, particularly senior Australians whose financial security could be compromised.

"The committee has received well over 1000 submissions, including many from retires who are concerned they will be forced on to the aged pension if the ability to claim a refund on their franking credits is removed.

"These hearings will provide an opportunity for Australians impacted by a change to refundable franking credits to address the committee directly with a three minute statement, and we welcome their contributions and participation," Mr Wilson said.

Public hearing details:

Malvern, 10am to 11.30am, Tuesday, 19 March 2019, St George's Anglican Church Hall, 296 Glenferrie  Road, Malvern, Victoria

Brighton, 2pm to 3:30pm, Tuesday, 19 March 2019, Brighton Town Hall, Corner of Carpenter St and Wilson St, Brighton, Victoria

Mount Martha, 9am to 10.30am, Wednesday, 20 March 2019, New Peninsula Centre, 370 Craigie Rd, Mount Martha, Victoria

Torquay, 3pm to 4.30pm, Wednesday, 20 March 2019, Spring Creek Pavilion, Spring Creek Reserve, Torquay, Victoria

Further public hearings will be announced as the inquiry progresses. The hearings will be webcast live (audio only).

A number of submissions have been received and are available on the committee’s webpage at: www.aph.gov.au/economics. A number of submissions are currently being processed and will be published over the coming months. Submissions can be made online or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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“THE NUMBER of approvals for new home building started 2019 on a positive note with an increase of 2.5 percent during January in seasonally-adjusted terms,” according to Master Builders Australia’s chief economist Shane Garrett. 

“The rise in approvals during January follows a run of weak results during the back end of last year. Higher density housing in particular has lost a lot of ground over the past 12 months,” he said. 

“During January, the number of approvals for new detached houses rose by 1.9 percent with a stronger increase of 3.8 percent on the apartment/units side of the market,” Mr Garret said. 

“Despite the welcome increase in approvals during January, we are still down by almost 30 percent compared with this time last year,” he said. 

“The ongoing difficulties in the flow of credit and concerns about the direction of housing policy post-election are having negative effects on home building activity,” Mr Garrett said. 

“Construction is the economy’s largest provider of full-time jobs and the upcoming round of federal, state and territory budgets provides a real opportunity to get us back onto the right track." 

During January, WA saw the largest increase in total new home approvals (+28.8%), followed by Tasmania (+15.4%) and NSW (+12.0%). 

The largest reductions affected the ACT (-19.8%) and the NT (-8.0%). Approvals also declined in Victoria (-7.9%), Queensland (-3.5%) and SA (-1.5%) during the month.

www.masterbuilders.com.au

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