Financial comparison specialist RateCity has published a new study that shows that five years after the worst of the global financial crisis, its still increasingly tough for borrowers, and only better for savers who make it a point to shop around for the best money deals.
The study found that while the move away from the RBA’s centrally determined cash rates by financial institutions towards independent setting of interest rates has had a positive effect on savers, it has come at a higher cost and uncertainty for borrowers.
RateCity found that the average variable rate had increased almost two percentage points above the official cash ate to over three points.
Michelle Hutchison, Spokesperson for RateCity, said while the top savings accounts have grown more competitive, variable rate borrowers have experienced a turbulent five years of interest rate movements.
“Financial institutions have been pushing harder for deposits by keeping their maximum rates relatively high compared to the cash rate. Savers can take advantage of this by shopping around for savings accounts and switching deals when promotional rates expire and the bonus rates drop,” Ms Hutchinson said.
RateCity found lending criteria quickly tightened across the home loan market by mid-2009, after many lenders were offering home loans with minimal deposits, if any at all.
For instance, in mid-2008, RateCity recorded over a quarter (26 percent) of all home loans in its extensive database (out of more than 2000 home loans) with 100 percent loan-to-value ratio (LVR), which means borrowers didn’t need a deposit. By mid-2009, there was only one home loan in RateCity’s database which offered a maximum LVR of 100 percent
Commonwealth Bank has declared a $7.09 billion stator profit after tax (NPAT), recording an 11 per cent increase from last year.
The company’s cash NPAT also recorded a health growth, finishing at $7.11 billion, an increase of four per cent over last year.
Despite the company’s profit growth, it recorded a one per cent contraction in operational revenue over the half year to June when compared with the previous six months.
Commonwealth Bank’s CEO, Ian Narev, defended the results, saying that the bank is continuing to post health results compared to its competitors.
“This is a good result given the uncertain environment in which we are operating. As expected, revenue growth was subdued reflecting ongoing caution from both our retail and corporate customers.
Key components of the result include:
- Continued focus on delivering better services for customers with significant progress towards attaining the Group’s goal of being number one in customer satisfaction;
- Continued growth in the Australian banking businesses, despite modest system credit growth, with average interest earning assets up $32 billion to $630 billion;
- Strong growth in retail and business average interest bearing deposits1 _ up $30 billion to $355 billion, resulting in customer deposits as a proportion of total Group funding improving to 62 per cent;
- Earnings in markets based businesses of Wealth Management and Institutional Banking and Markets being impacted by uncertainty in global financial markets;
- Continued margin pressure, particularly from higher retail deposit costs, with Group net interest margin (NIM) down 3 basis points on the prior year, and down 6 basis points on the prior half;
- Prudent management of operating expenses, with modest cost growth of 3 per cent year on year and costs down marginally half on prior half;
- A 15 per cent decline in loan impairment expense, with conservative provisioning levels retained. Total provisioning, at 30 June 2012, was $4.85 billion with the economic overlay unchanged from the prior year. Credit quality continued to improve with Troublesome and Impaired Assets down by 15 per cent;
- The maintenance of the Group’s strong capital base with a Basel II Tier One ratio and Common Equity Tier One (CET1) ratio of 10.0 per cent and 7.8 per cent respectively. The Basel III Internationally Harmonised CET1 ratio was 9.8 per cent;
- Substantial on-going investment in long term growth. The Group invested almost $1.3 billion over the period on a tightly managed set of growth initiatives focusing on technology, productivity, organic retail banking growth in Indonesia, China and Vietnam and Wealth Management domestic and global distribution.
The Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government (ACELG) has hosted a search conference on local government revenue and capacity in Melbourne last week. The conference was the start of a consultation and research process that will culminate in the release of a working paper in November.
The conference covered key themes faced by local government, including long term fiscal outlook, responses to tax reform proposals such as the Henry Review, alternative streams of own- source revenue for local governments and the potential for revenue sharing across the sector.
The conference saw a range of measures agreed upon to address the issue of ongoing strength of local government revenue.
The conference aimed to explore the findings of local government reviews, contextual research, and analyses of local governments’ financial performance and capacity. It also considered responses that may be warranted by all three spheres of government.
The event was facilitated by ACELG Director Graham Sansom and leading local government expert, John Comrie. Organisations represented included local government associations, local government finance professionals, plus councils, universities, consulting firms and individuals.
The final paper, to be delivered at the end of November, will draw on available information and research to provide evidence and ideas that can inform forums and discussions taking place within policy making circles in local government.
Despite a vehement resistance by the Federal Greens, legislation that will reinstate offshore processing looks likely to pass the Senate.
The legislation is currently being debated before Senate, which will see detention facilities re-established on Nauru and Manus Island within a matter of weeks.
Federal Greens Leader Christine Milne expressed her bitter disappointment over the passage of the bill through the House of Representatives.
The Victorian Government has officially opened the new Peter cook Centre for Carbon and Capture Storage (CCS) Research at the University of Melbourne.
The centre will host 30 scientists and engineers undertaking crucial work on CCS technologies.
The centre received a $6 million sponsorship from Rio Tinto to create a research platform that will be integrated with the Co-Operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC), operator of the existing Otway Project.
"The launch of the Peter Cook Centre for CCS Research is an exciting new chapter in Victoria's emergence as a leader in CCS and will help attract investment and the best and brightest scientists and engineers," Stat Minister for Energy and Resources Michael O’Brien said.
"The research carried out at this new centre will add to our understanding of this potential new industry; an industry which could deliver jobs, boost skills and attract investment, while strengthening Victoria's energy security in a low emissions future.
"I congratulate Rio Tinto on its investment in this important initiative and in the development of the next generation of CCS experts in science and engineering," Mr O'Brien said.
The research outcomes from the University of Melbourne and the Otway Project facilities will support Victoria's CCS centrepiece, the CarbonNet Project, and further the development of the CCS industry. CO2CRC is the lead research organisation for the CarbonNet Project.
The Victorian Government has introduced legislation before Parliament aimed at closing a legal loophole that would allow for an additional $94 million in additional electricity supply charges.
State Minister for Energy and resources Michael O’Brien said the changes will incentivise energy distribution companies to deliver quality services, including reliable power supplies, responsible call centres and efficient overall management of the grid.
"The community rightly expects and deserves these standards and if power companies don't meet them, they should face financial consequences – resulting in reduced charges to consumers,” Mr O’Brien said.
Under existing legislation, power companies are rewarded for delivering on performance and service standards, while penalising them for failing to meet them.
A number of companies had failed to meet the standards, and were due to receive financial penalties through reduced charges as a result. However, the Australian Competition tribunal (ACT) ruled that the independent Australian Energy Regulator (AER) could not legally enforce the revenue cuts for the businesses that failed to meet the standards.
The proposed changes to the Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 will shut down the legislation, giving the AER powers to enforce financial penalties under the Service Target Performance Incentive Scheme and Energy Benefits Sharing Scheme.
The Federal Government has accepted all recommendations made in a report aimed at improving telecommunication services for vulnerable Australians.
The Review of Access to Telecommunication Services by People with Disability, Older Australians and People Experiencing Illness recommended the following:
- Testing how the National Relay Service could be improved through the use of new technologies and new services;
- Strengthening consultation between industry, the community and the government to explore how new communications services can better support people with disabilities, older Australians, and people experience illness;
- Improving the information available to vulnerable Australians to help them make use of everyday telecommunications products; and
- Facilitating periodic discussions between the government and stakeholders about current and emerging telecommunications access issues.
“The Government accepts all of the report’s recommendations. Therefore, the Telecommunications Universal Services Management Agency will shortly be releasing a tender for an enhanced National Relay Service (NRS),” Senator Conroy said.
A copy of the report can be found at: www.dbcde.gov.au/disability
The Victorian Government has announced the formation of the West Werribee Dual Water Supply Project, aimed at ensuring that water supply for Melbourne’s fastest growth area is secured.
"The West Werribee Dual Water Supply Project will ensure this area has timely access to the infrastructure needed to supply drinking water and Class A recycled water to housing developments currently underway and also to the numerous open spaces across the Wyndham municipality," State Minister for Water Peter Walsh said.
"Once completed, the project will be supplying recycled water to an estimated 20,000 homes and 143 hectares of community open space, and it is expected to save 3.1 billion litres of drinking water each year by 2035.
"The West Werribee project aligns with the Coalition Government's commitment to ensure our state makes better use of all our water resources, including stormwater, rainwater and recycled water, and to increase the livability of Melbourne and Victoria's regional cities. That is what our Living Melbourne, Living Victoria program is all about," Mr Walsh said.
The Federal Government has welcomed the decision by the High Court of Australia to reject the legal challenge against its plain packaging laws.
The tobacco companies, including Phillip Morris, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco, lodged a legal challenge against the plain packaging laws, arguing that Federal Government had taken control of their intellectual property and that the law was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated their right to sell and distribute a legal product.
The High Court ruled that the laws had no such effect on the companies’ intellectual property, clearing the way for the introduction of the law at the start of December.
"I want to say that we are proud as a Government for the action that we've taken. We are very pleased that the highest court in Australia has said that the Australian Constitution allows this measure to be introduced,” Attorney General Nicola Roxon told a press conference following the High Court ruling.
Ms Roxon said the announcement was a crucial piece of health reform, and that it will have a significant effect on forming global legislation around tobacco consumption.
“This is a watershed moment for tobacco control around the world. Australia's actions are being closely watched by governments around the world, including by Norway, Uruguay, UK, EU, NZ, France, South Africa and China. Other countries might now consider their next steps,” Ms Roxon said in a press release.
“The message to the rest of the world is big tobacco can be taken on and beaten. Without brave governments willing to take the fight up to big tobacco, they'd still have us believing that tobacco is neither harmful nor addictive.”
The Victorian Government has launched the next phase of its $80 million New Norlane project, announcing the builders who have won the tenders who will deliver the project aimed at revitalising the suburb.
The Victorian Government has announced Hamlan Homes, Porter Davis and Burbank Australia as the builders who will deliver the majority of the 320 new private and public homes being constructed in Norlane by 2015.
The companies will work with the State Government to build 160 new private homes and a display village in Norlane, along with approximately half of the 160 new public housing homes for the area. All 320 homes are being built on vacant blocks of land.
The remainder of the public housing dwellings are being built by a range of Government approved builders over the course of the project. T.J and H.M Cuell, Rendine Constructions and Hamlan Homes have recently been contracted to deliver 11 of these new homes.
Announced by Ms Lovell last November, the four-year New Norlane initiative is one of the largest public and private housing projects undertaken in Victoria.
"This project will revitalise Norlane, with a mix of public and affordable private housing, along with new local opportunities, jobs and investment," Ms Lovell said.
"The $80 million project will include homes for private sale, with the new homes well-suited to young families. A display village with some of the best value new homes in Geelong will be set up in Norlane."
Telecommunications company TasmaNet has opened its new purpose-built data centre at the Tasmanian Technopark, and is expected to deliver support to a range of local companies.
State Minister for Innovation, Science and Technology, David O’Byrne, attended the official opening of the centre, which forms part of the company’s $5.5 million expansion in Tasmania.
"This is both a significant step forward for a local telecommunications company, and an important investment in a key sector in our economy," Mr O’Byrne said.
"This facility is a key digital infrastructure component to enable industry, business and government to take advantage of the Tasmanian NBN footprint.”
TasmaNet Managing Director, Joel Harris, said in the next five years, industry observers predict more than 75 per cent of all businesses will adopt some form of cloud computing for their ICT infrastructure.
"We recognised the need for an enterprise level data centre in Tasmania and we are proud to be delivering this," Mr Harris said.
"Our new data centre at Technopark will enable Tasmanian businesses to move towards cloud computing, with access to the largest data centre in the state.
Australian Universities have taken a larger stake of the world’s top 500 universities, with five universities taking top 100 places.
Melbourne University has consolidated its position in the top 100, climbing from 60 to 57 in world rankings, while the ANU climbed from 70 to 64 from its positon last year.
The University of Queensland slid four spots to finish at 90 for 2012, down from 86 this time last year. The University of Sydney claimed 93rd spot, up from 96 last year, while the UWA broke through to the top 100 for the first time, finishing at 96.
Monash, the UNSW, Macquarie University, Adelaide and Flinders University all rounded off the top 10 Australian placed universities.
Federal Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, was quick to point to the Federal Government’s historical funding increase as a major contributor to this year’s stellar performance.
"This outstanding result is due in large part to the record $37 billion the Government has invested in our universities, as well as the hard work of Australia's universities,” Senator Evans said.
"Australia now has the third highest number of universities in the top 100. This is an outstanding result when you consider that the top two countries have significantly more universities than Australia's 37. There are 4495 universities in the United States and 115 in the United Kingdom.
The full ranking can be found here
Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have found a 3.7 per cent increase in the average wage of Australian workers.
Overall, the private sector showed a 3.9 per cent boom in wages, while the public sector recorded a total of 3.3 per cent increase in wages.
In quarterly terms, the index for all wages recorded a one per cent increase in average wages.
The full statistics can be found here
The Westpac-Melbounre Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment has fallen 2.5 per cent in the August period, down to 96.6 from 99.1 in July.
Despite continual positive news about the economy over the last month, and generally over the last quarter, consumer sentiment has continued to contract, steadfastly ignoring positive unemployment statistics, which fell to 5.2 per cent, and a steady interest and inflation rate.
The results are the sixth consecutive month that consumer sentiment has registered below the baseline 100 points, averaging 96.2 per cent. The results are uncharacteristic of a non-recession period, given that the only time sentiment has consistently trended below 100 points is over the early 1990s recession and the 2000-01 period.
Westpac’s Chief Economist, Bill Evans, said that media coverage of the RBA’s reluctance to cut the cash rate over the coming sixth months have unsettled already jittery households.
“While the Reserve Bank did not surprise by holding rates steady at its August Board meeting, consumer perceptions of the outlook for interest rates have shifted. Media reports that the Reserve Bank may have decided against future rate cuts are likely to have unnerved households. For example, despite rates staying on hold the confidence of respondents who hold a mortgage fell by 3.9%,” Mr Evans said.
““The print for August indicates that pessimists clearly outnumber optimists. The Index is only 0.6% above the level in March this year which preceded the most recent rate cuts and the cash disbursements.”
Mr Evans also expressed his concern over the retail sectors recent results, saying that the positive results earlier in the year were a result of aggressive marketing and discounting in the industry rather than an overall upswing in in consumer spending.
The Index found that Victoria was the only state to post a boost in confidence, while Queensland recorded the sharpest fall, which Mr Evans attributed to speculation around the forthcoming State Budget.
“The Reserve Bank Board next meets on September 4. We do not expect a rate cut. However, despite current media speculation, we do believe that the case for further cuts is likely to be clear by the December quarter,” Mr Evans concluded.
The Australian Financial Services Group (AFS) has announced the appointment of Alan Logan as its new Chief Executive.
Mr Logan brings 22 years of experience to the role, having served in a range of senior management roles at the ANZ, Apogee Financial Planning, MLC and BT Funds Management.
"AFS Group's foundations are strong and my focus as chief executive will be to work with the board, senior management and the adviser network to strengthen the dealer group's infrastructure and foster a more competitive, robust organization, capitalising on marketplace opportunities in the new Future of Financial Advice environment," Mr Logan said.
Mr Logan will start on 3 September.
South Pacific countries will experience more severe and extreme weather events as a consequence of increasing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a research paper published in the journal Nature.
The international study, led by the CSIRO’s oceanographer Dr Wenju Cai, found that the increase in emissions will lead to large changes to the South Pacific rain band, the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
The study found that changes to the band as a result of climate change will double the frequency of extreme weather evens in the band.
Dr Wenju and colleagues turned to the extensive archives of general circulation models submitted for the fourth and fifth IPCC Assessments and found that increases in greenhouse gases are projected to enhance equatorial Pacific warming. In turn, and in spite of disagreement about the future of El Niño events, this warming leads to the increased frequency of extreme excursions of the rain band.
During moderate El Niño events with warming in the equatorial eastern Pacific, the rain band moves north-eastward by 300 kilometres. Countries located within the bands’ normal position such as Vanuatu, Samoa, and the southern Cook Islands experience forest fires and droughts as well as increased frequency of tropical cyclones, whereas countries to which the rain band moves experience extreme floods.
“During extreme El Niño events, such as 1982/83 and 1997/98, the band moved northward by up to 1000 kilometres. The shift brings more severe extremes, including cyclones to regions such as French Polynesia that are not accustomed to such events,” said Dr Cai, a scientist at the Wealth from Oceans Flagship.
A central issue for community adaptation in Australia and across the Pacific is understanding how the warming atmosphere and oceans will influence the intensity and frequency of extreme events. The impact associated with the observed extreme excursions includes massive droughts, severe food shortage, and coral reef mortality through thermally-induced coral bleaching across the South Pacific.
“Understanding changes in the frequency of these events as the climate changes proceed is therefore of broad scientific and socio-economic interest."
Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz has been announced as Mirvac’s new Chief Operation Officer following the announcement that Nick Collishaw would be stepping down from the role of CEO and Managing Director as of 31 October.
Ms Lloyd-Hurwitz has been appointed as both CEO and Managing director, and will take up the role before the end of the year.
Ms Lloyd-Hurwitz is currently Managing Director Europe at LaSalle Investment Management based in London, and has held a number of senior executive roles at Macquarie Group and Lend Lease around the world.
Mirvanc Group chairman, James MacKenzie, commended Mr Collishaw’s ‘long list of achievements’ over his time as CEO of the company.
“Nick has delivered on the Group’s objectives and also established a clear strategy for Mirvac focused squarely on the Group’s core activities. The work that Nick has led to build Mirvac’s capacity and preparedness to partner with wholesale investors will be central to our strategy going forward,” Mr MacKenzie said.
Mr MacKenzie also extended his congratulations to Ms Lloyd-Hurwitz, saying her experience will be vital to the company’s future growth.
“Susan comes to Mirvac with a wealth of experience gained from 23 years working across four continents and many facets of the property sector. She is a respected leader of people and businesses, has a global outlook and is well-versed in the opportunities and challenges associated with all parts of the business cycle,” Mr MacKenzie said.
The Local Government Association of the Northern Territory (LGANT) has outlined a series of position statements ahead of the August 25 Territory election, calling on all potential members of the legislative assembly to support them as part of their election platforms.
The LGANT has said that it is seeking commitments from a future Territory Government to grow and support local government, both generally and constitutionally, while seeking to improve local government finances and growing partnerships.
The document request support for the local government by advocating the introduction of provisions in any future territory constitution.
The Western Australian Government has introduced the Dog Amendment Bill before State Parliament, which seeks to make significant improvements to existing legislation that governs the management of dog complaints.
The Bill makes amendments to the Dog Act 1976, including:
- Improving community safety through increased controls over dangerous dogs, including restricted dog breeds, and higher penalties encouraging more responsible dog ownership;
- Enabling nuisance dogs, including nuisance barking dogs, to be more effectively dealt with;
- Recognition of assistance dogs as an extension of the guide dog provisions; and
- Meeting changing community expectations in areas such as microchipping, lifetime dog registrations and impounding provisions.
A copy of this Bill and the Explanatory Memorandum are available on the Parliament of Western Australia’s website www.parliament.wa.gov.au in the ‘Current Bills’ section and on the Department of Local Government’s website www.dlg.wa.gov.au in the ‘Legislation Under Review’ section.
The Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) has lent its voice to the push for the introduction of a cash for containers scheme.
WALGA President Mayor Troy Pickard said the time was right for the introduction of a scheme, saying that the Local Government sector had long been calling for legislation to encourage recycling.
“Container deposit legislation in other states has been proven to be successful in increasing recycling rates and reducing litter,” Mayor Pickard said.
“We were delighted to hear in September last year that legislation was going to be introduced to State Parliament to bring such a scheme into effect, however this was put on hold whilst a national scheme was considered.”
As ALGA Vice President, Mayor Pickard, along with State Environment Ministers will attend the upcoming meeting of the Standing Council on Environment and Water at which they will decide whether to progress a National Scheme.
Mayor Pickard said although a national scheme would be ideal, it was debatable whether it could be achieved in a timely fashion.
“While we definitely support a national process, pressures from the beverage industry, possible flaws in the cost benefit analysis and different State political priorities may slow or halt the process,” he said.
“If the national process stalls, we will be calling on the WA Environment Minister to introduce a ‘cash for containers’ scheme here in WA.”
The New South Wales Government has welcomed the decision of the state’s two peak local government bodies to form one consolidated group.
State Minister for Local Government, Don Page, said the decision by the members of the Local Government Association and the Shires Association to form a single body would create a stronger voice for councils and enhance the new association’s effectiveness.
“One association will make it easier for the State Government agencies to engage with the local government sector, and for the sector to provide consistent and clear advice on important issues. This will be underpinned by a new Intergovernmental Agreement,” Mr Page said.
“The new arrangements will ensure that the voices of rural and regional communities will continue to be heard, and be better supported by councils from across NSW. Rural/regional councils and metropolitan/urban councils have an equal voice within a set of rules that continues the democratic principle of membership control.
The Minister noted that NSW Aboriginal Land Councils will continue to be members of the new association.
“This is important for the continued development of Land Councils, which represent Aboriginal communities, and deliver services and functions on which NSW Aboriginal communities depend. ‘’