Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Michele Bullock's honeymoon over as RBA boss hikes rates for 13th time since May 2022

After a relatively smooth induction as Reserve Bank governor, it seems the honeymoon's over for Michele Bullock.

Her decision to hike interest rates for the 13th time since May last year means more pre-Christmas pain for borrowers and the real risk of a followup in the coming months.

Here's my analysis on AM and ABC NewsRadio

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Going, going ... Goyder. Qantas chairman eyes early exit "in recognition of reputational issues"

After weeks of pressure, Qantas chairman Richard Goyder has announced he'll step down and leave the airline some time next year. 

The decision follows growing anger from Qantas customers and shareholder groups demanding his retirement and greater accountability for members of the Qantas board. 

Mr Goyder's pending departure comes amid allegations that Qantas sold tickets for flights that didn't exist and a High Court ruling that the airline unlawfully sacked 17-hundred ground workers at the height of the pandemic.

Here's my coverage on The World Today

Monday, October 9, 2023

Peter Costello to step down from Future Fund after 14 years as Treasurer Jim Chalmers continues "renewable" of key institutions

Former Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello won't be seeking a third term as chairman of the federal governments Future Fund.

Here's my coverage on ABC Newsradio

A spokesman for Treasurer Jim Chalmers has confirmed Mr Costello's 14 year stint first as a board member then chair will end in February after 14 years.

Mr Costello's decision to step down follows renewal at the top of key institutions including the Reserve Bank and the Productivity Commission.

The spokesman thanked Mr Costello for his "significant contribution" and said a merit-based selection process will now commence to appoint a replacement.

Mr Costello established the sovereign wealth fund as John Howard's Treasurer in 2006 with $60.5 billion in budget surpluses and proceeds from the privatision of Telstra.

Friday, October 6, 2023

A rising number of households on the cusp of financial stress, but Reserve Bank says banking system isn't at risk

Australian homes and businesses are vulnerable to financial stability risks as rising inflation and interest rates continue to pressure the global economy.

Here's my report just after I left the lockup at Martin Place in Sydney

The latest Financial Stability Review released today by the Reserve Bank warns any shock to global growth could result in lower incomes, higher unemployment and “challenge the debt-servicing capacity of more vulnerable borrowers” in Australia.


My report for ABC News Online

The review singles out China as a major risk where stress in the ailing property sector and other imbalances could spread to the rest of the Chinese economy and “reverberate globally”.


Other potential flashpoints include banking systems in the United States and Switzerland where global financial risks remain “elevated” despite intervention by governments to provide support and in the case of Credit Suisse, a forced takeover by rival UBS.


“Higher than anticipated loan losses resulting from rising unemployment could lead to a tightening in lending standards, amplifying the downturn,” the Review says.


“Inflation and interest rates remaining high for an extended period could lead to a significant deterioration in credit quality that could lead to lenders cutting back on the provision of credit.”


The Review warns “disorderly declines in asset prices” could disrupt the functioning of the financial system.


While stressing that Australia’s banks are well-positioned to absorb any shock, the Review says financial institutions could become more cautious about lending given the stresses on households struggling to meet higher mortgage repayments.


“In an adverse scenario where growth slows and unemployment rises more than expected, loan losses for banks would increase,” the Review says.


But it says high provisioning and capital levels “leaves banks well-placed to manage the increase in arrears limiting the impact on credit provision in the economy.”


“Systemic risks are limited due to Australian banks’ low exposure and conservative lending practices.”


The review says only a “very small share of borrowers” are in negative equity (where the value of a loan exceeds the value of a property) further protecting banks from credit losses.


While the Review says Australian households are well-placed to adapt to challenging economic conditions, it warns “some are vulnerable to further shocks”.


It notes most borrowers have restrained discretionary spending, reduced or drawn down savings and increases hours worked to meet repayments.


The Review says variable rate borrowers, who account for three-quarters of loans, have seen repayments increase between 30 per cent and 50 percent since May 22 when interest rates started rising from 0.1 percent.


“The vast majority of households continue to service their debts,” the Review says.


However, the Review does not appear to be alarmed about a feared “mortgage cliff” when fixed interest rate borrowers rollover over a higher variable interest rates world.


“They (fixed rate borrowers) do not appear to be at more risk than similar borrowers and in fact have benefits from having fixed their interest rates at a very low level for an extended period”.


Other risks to financial stability include “the increasing intensity of cyber attacks” on financial institutions, rising geopolitical tensions stemming from the war in Ukraine and effects on climate change on the global economy.


Global sharemarkets have been volatile in recent days on fears that interest rates in the United States will stay higher for longer given resilient inflation.


The Reserve Bank left interest rates steady at 4.1 percent earlier this week, but some economists think fears about inflation and rebounding real estate prices could prompt a November rate hike on Melbourne Cup Day.


Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth vows to use criminal penalties to clamp down on wage theft

Newly-appointed Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth has vowed to use yet-to-be legislated criminal penalties against employers who deliberately underpay or rip off their workers.

LISTEN to my interview with Anna Booth here

Ms Booth - who began as fair work cop last month - says the risk of tough criminal sanctions including potential jail time would be a major deterent to dodgy bosses if proposed criminal wage theft laws are passed by federal parliament.

"Certainly once the law has passed and there is a criminal liability, as long as the criminal standard of proof has been met then the criminal penalties could flow as well as in the ultimate case of imprisonment.," Ms Booth told the ABC's AM program in an exclusive interview.

"I think the criminal penalties if they become law will be an extremely good, specific and general deterrent. And of course, we will enforce them. 

"It is important that the awareness is raised and there's no doubt that there will be a sharper focus on behavior in that that circumstance."

Ms Booth began her five year term as Ombudsman in September after extensive experience in workplace relations including eight years as Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission from 2012 to 2020.

Ms Booth began her career in the trade union movement in the late 1970s in the clothing industry, witnessing cases of work underpayment and exploitation - paving her path to become Fair Work Ombudsman.

"Back then I observed on almost a daily basis, women being confined to their sewing machines, getting urinary tract infections and getting repetition strain injuries from their work," Ms Booth said.

"There are certain cohorts of workers who are more vulnerable than others. Young people and migrant workers, particularly visa holders .. because they're often either unaware of their rights or afraid to speak up. 

"In the clothing industry, I had seen the experience of of workers being afraid to go to the toilet whilst they were working on sewing machines. So I've seen fear in the workplace. There are still large cohorts of workers who are afraid".

As the mother of a 29 year old daughter with an intellectual disability, Ms Booth is also hoping to eliminate discrimination and injustices for people with disabilities who she says should be welcomed and integretated into the workplace.

Ms Booth recently took to Linkedin to speak about the challenges of placing Clare in employment especially as opportunies faded during the COVID lockdowns.

"Some of the inquiries to our office come either from people with a disability or on or behalf on behalf of people with disability," Ms Booth said.

"I have recently been working very hard to place my own daughter in employment. The challenge is that the workplace itself has to be a great receiving environment for any neurodiverse person. 

"I would like to see more effort put in by not just employers, but the workplace community generally in being a welcoming environment for people with disability."

Ms Booth said in addition to protecting the rights of people with disabilities, her office was casting a net wide across agriculture, aged care, fast food, and universities.

Recently, the Ombudsman's office urged the Federal Court to seek a maximum penalty against the Commonwealth Bank in relation to alleged underpayments of $16 million.

Ms Booth said the maximum penalty stance was designed to send a message to major employers that worker underpayments would not be tolerated.

"It is important that proper penalties be paid in these circumstances so that we shine a light on the behavior and and get people to sit up and take notice," Ms Booth said.

In recent years, the Fair Work Ombudsman has targetted a range of organisations for underpayments including Woolworths, Coles, Qantas and the ABC which agreed to a $600,000 "contrition payment" and an enforcable undertaking to overhaul its timekeeping systems.

A Fair Work Ombudsman spokeman said the ABC's enforcable undertaking over the underpayment of around 1900 staff was "tracking towards finalisation".

"The ABC has been cooperative and it has now completed most obligations," the spokesman said.

In addition to the contrition payment, the spokesman said the ABC had backpaid more than $12 million, plus interest and superannuation.

The ABC recently introduced a new rostering and shift tracking system to ensure it complies with the law.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Not a safe bet, but Melbourne Cup Day rate hike a rising risk

After twelve interest rate rises since May last year, bets are rising that troublesome inflation might force the Reserve Bank to deliver yet another rate hike in the coming months. 

While the RBA's cash rate looks like staying on hold at tomorrow's Board meeting, AMP chief economist Shane Oliver think a November rate rise on Melbourne Cup day is emerging as a real possibility.

Here's my report on The World Today

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Pilots urge emergency ejection of Qantas chairman Richard Goyder

Pressure is continuing to grow on Qantas chairman Richard Goyder - this time from pilots who are calling for his head.

The Australian and International Pilots Association is urging Mr Goyder to step down saying they've lost confidence in him after a rolling crisis that's have damaged the Qantas reputation.

Here's my report on ABC NewsRadio

“Richard Goyder has overseen one of the most damaging periods in Qantas history which has included the illegal sacking of 1,700 workers, allegations of illegally marketing cancelled flights, and a terribly managed return to operations after Covid-19,” said AIPA president Captain Tony Lucas.

“The morale of Qantas pilots has never been lower. We have totally lost confidence in Goyder and his Board.

“Qantas desperately needs a culture reset but how can this happen with Richard Goyder as chairman?

“Despite overseeing the destruction of the Qantas brand, Goyder last week accepted a near $100,000 pay rise - taking his pay to $750,000 - while staff are expected to accept a two-year wage freeze. This is a galling and tone-deaf decision.

"Qantas is more than just an airline - it is a symbol of national pride and trust."

Friday, September 22, 2023

Rupert Murdoch steps aside to become "emeritus chairman" of News Corporation and Fox Corporation. But is he really retiring?

I woke up about 40 minutes earlier than usual this morning and stumbled at my bedside as I looked for my Iphone.

My bleary eyes immediatly went to a subject line that contained "Rupert Murdoch" and I feared the media magnate's final deadline has arrived,

But no - Rupert Murdoch has not departed for the great newsroom in the sky.

Instead, the 92 year old is stepped aside to become "chairman emeritus" making way for his son Lachlan.

Here's my first report on Early AM

I then spoke with author Paddy Manning and with Tom Oriti on ABC NewsRadio.

I also spoke on the BBC World Service

Now I need to update the Rupert Murdoch obituary to reflect the latest chapter in his remarkable and contrversial career

News Corporation papers went "full Rupert" including the New York Post

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Inflation beast still a real and present danger, Reserve Bank minutes warn

The Reserve Bank has signalled that inflation remains a clear and present danger to the economy and that another interest rate rise can’t be ruled out.

Listen to my report on The World Today

That’s despite evidence that twelve interest rate rises since May last year are continuing to slow the economy with Board members warning inflation is still too high.

While the RBA board left the cash rate in hold at its meeting a fortnight ago, the minutes released this morning show the battle to get 4.9 percent inflation back into the 2 to 3 percent target zone is far from over.

In considering whether the inflict another rate hike, the Board noted that inflation was “still too high” and “was expected to remain so for an extended period”.

While headline inflation is slowing, the minutes show concern that services inflation might take a while to decline and that the labour market remains tight with the jobless rate hovering around a 50 year low.

“Were inflation to remain above target for an even longer period, this could cause inflation expectations to move higher which would likely require an even larger increase,” the minutes warn.

However, members also note that the economy is “experiencing a period of subdued growth” led by household consumption as high inflation and rate rises weigh on household budgets.

As the impact of rate rises hit, the Board noted the risk “the economy could slow more sharply than forecast” - in other words a hard economic landing.

The minutes show a deepening concern about China where conditions in the property market had deteriorated further.

“Members noted .. significant challenges from financial stress among developers and further defaults posed a risk to economic activity.”

Board members said they would be guided by incoming economic data in assessing the need for further hikes.

Money markets only see an 8 percent probability of a cash rate rise to 4.35 percent at the RBA’s October meeting.

However, if inflation makes a comeback or remains sticky, there's an outside chance of another rate rise before the end of the year.

Judo Bank economic adviser Warren Hogan sees the outside chance of a November rate rise on Melbourne Cup Day as the final nail in the coffin of inflation.

The minutes make no mention of Philip Lowe’s final meeting as Reserve Bank governor.

Michele Bullock is in her second day as RBA governor and will chair the next meeting on October 3.

Michele Bullock settles in as Reserve Bank governor - image doctors working to tame media coverage in post-Philip Lowe era

Michele Bullock is beginning her second day as Reserve Bank governor.

And as she settles into the hot seat, an image-softening campaign appears to be underway to better explain the way the RBA operates.

That comes after her predecessor Philip Lowe copped negative media coverage after he oversaw twelve interest rate rises since May last year.

Here's my analysis of the media management this morning on ABC Newsradio

The RBA also released a Youtube video explaining the workings of the Reserve Bank in using interest rates to calibrate inflation

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Humiliating apology from Qantas as High Court backs Transport Workers Union on unlawful outsourcing of 1700 staff

"We sincerely apologise"

Three humilitating words from Qantas that underscores the enormity of the High Court loss which has handed the Transport Workers Union an unlikely but hard fought victory after more than a decade of industrial warfare.

It's a far cry from October 2011 when then Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce grounded the entire airline - domestically and globally - in a brazen Saturday afternoon response to industrial action by three key aviation unions.

Anthony Albanese - Labor's Federal Transport Minister at the time - was furious he'd been kept out of the loop until the shutdown went public, accusing Qantas of a "breach of faith with the government".

But the animosity between Qantas and unions existed long before the shock grounding in 2011. 

Here's my coverage from October 2011 including an interview with Alan Joyce in a special Sunday edition of AM

Unions - aware of pressure from major investors to cut costs to boost dividends and shares - had already been pushing back against plans for outsourcing of ground services while negotiating for better wages, conditions and job security.

Alan Joyce's immediate predecessor Geoff Dixon had been known to be considering outsourcing options, such as selling off flight catering, but never executed plans during his reign.

At the time of the grounding, Mr Joyce told reporters he taken action in locking out workers to stop industrial action from "killing Qantas slowly" accusing unions of "trashing our strategy and brand."

Now Qantas stands accused of trashing its own brand - without the help of trade unions.

The massive loss of face for Qantas in accepting a ruling that it acted unlawfully by outsourcing almost 1700 staff further erodes a corporate reputation already in tatters and perhaps beyond repair.

The High Court loss and a ruling that it effectively dispensed with long-serving ground staff to counter future industrial action puts Qantas's social licence in jeopardy - and fuels perceptions that the licence has already been lost.

Forced to "acknowledge and accept" the decision, Qantas has now run out of options in defending its high stakes pandemic strategy of outsourcing staff for "lawful commercial reasons", pinning its hopes on an original ruling from the Federal Court. 

Once loyal consumers are more outraged by the day as the airline's corporate spindoctors constantly recalibrate their crisis management tools with Qantas now splashed on the front pages of tabloids and leading commercial news bulletins for all the wrong reasons.

Just a fortnight ago, allegations from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissions that Qantas sold fares for cancelled flights could mean a $250 million fine.

Days after the ACCC action was announced, Qantas revealed late on a Friday afternoon that Alan Joyce would be awarded 1.7 million shares worth around $10 million as part of his long term incentives.

Even after Mr Joyce brought his retirement forward by two months to November, the Qantas board has refused to rule out that a $24 million golden parachute awaits as a lucractive puncuation market to a turbulent career.

The Australian Shareholders Association told the ABC earlier this week there were questions on whether the $24 million payout is appropriate, reminding Qantas board to act in the best interests of the company.

The ASA also wants more information in "clawback" provisions in Mr Joyce's contract if his legal obligations were breached.

The Qantas loss is also an early test case - and a red alert - for other companies considering the outsourcing of staff or dilution of pay and conditions.

They now know "commercial reasons" won't be enough cover for stretching industrial law to the limit.

On the other hand, the High Court ruling emboldens Federal Government's campaign to tighten up loopholes on the use of contractors and mechanisms that could result in current of new employees being put on unfavourable terms.

The crisis - complicated by the High Court ruling - casts a great shadown over the Qantas board and whether directors properly questioned Mr Joyce's management to ensure risk and reputation were fully oversighted.

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder is now under fire for his leadership and failure to properly manage Alan Joyce who in the past he's described as Australia's best chief executive.

Now the ghost of Alan Joyce haunts not just Mr Goyder, but Vanessa Hudson who has the task of rebuilding the Qantas reputation aware that the near certainty that new chapters of the crisis await.

The Transport Workers Union has called for a spill of the Qantas board and the exit of Richard Goyder.

Mr Goyder has refused all ABC requests for an on the record interview, but he has told select print commentators that Qantas need to show more humility given it's shattered record.

Richard Goyder and Vanessa Hudson are going to need all the humility they can get - and there's more humble pie to come that will either make or break Qantas

Qantas acted unlawfully in outsourcing 1700 staff, High Court rules.

In yet another critical blow to Qantas, the High Court has backed an earlier ruling the airline acted unlawfully by sacking 1700 ground services staff at the height of the pandemic. 

Dismissing the Qantas appeal, the High Court ruled in favour of the Transport Workers Union upholding a previous Federal Court judgement that Qantas had acted illegally in outsourcing the jobs of baggage handlers, cleaners as part of a commercial decision. 

Qantas has accepted the ruling, but the TWU is now demanding a spill of the entire Qantas board.

Here's my coverage on The World Today 

Monday, September 11, 2023

What did Qantas board know about looming crisis? Pressure grows on chairman Richard Goyder.

The Australian Shareholders Association wants to know what the Qantas board knew about the ACCC's investigation into the "fares with no flights" scandal and what they did to mitigate the fallout. 

The ASA is also questions chief executive Alan Joyce's contract and whether it's subject to clawback provisions on his likely $24 million golden parachute.

Here's my report on the ABC's AM program

Friday, September 8, 2023

AustralianSuper sued over $69m in fees charged to multiple accounts

Corporate regulator ASIC is suing Australian Super alleging it failed to merge multiple member and continued to charge multiple fees and insurance premiums.  

ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court alleges AustralianSuper knew about the problem in 2018 but only began to act in late 2021.

Here's my report on The World Today

Regrets - I've had a few. But Philip Lowe goes out fighting in final speech in a shot at the media as he exits

Philip Lowe has gone out fighting in his final speech as Reserve Bank governor. 

Mr Lowe's warned that Australia's living standards are at risk without productivity reform. 

And he's taken a swipe at the media over the reporting of his now infamous signal that interest rates would stay near zero until 2024. 

Listen to my coverage of Philip Lowe's swangsong here

Also, corporate regulator ASIC is suing Australian Super alleging it failed to merge multiple member and continued to charge multiple feesd and insurance premiums.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Shareholders urge Alan Joyce bonus clawback as Qantas crisis deepens

Australian Shareholders Association chief executive Rachel Waterhouse says Qantas board needs to consider a clawback of bonuses awarded to Alan Joyce and other executives. 

Major investors are demanding a please explain after the competition watchdog accused Qantas of selling tickets for flights that didn't exist - risking fines totalling $250 million.

Here's my report on The World Today

Listen to my earlier report on the ABC's AM program

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Qantas face massive fines for allegedly selling tickets for cancelled flights; Australia Post reveals $200 full year loss as letters decline worsens

Competition regulator ACCC is taking Qantas to the Federal Court alleging the airline advertised tickets for more than 8,000 flights that it had already cancelled but had not removed from sale. 

The watchdog alleges deceptive, false and misleading conduct. 


The theoretical fines (maximum $10 million x 8,000) on paper could equate to $80,000 - off the scale and would never be enforced.

Also Australia Post reveals a $200 million full year loss as the letters decline worsens and community service obligation costs weigh. 

Australia Post chief executive Paul Graham speaks with ABC's Peter Ryan.

Peter Costello says Qatar Airways veto "hard to fathom", underscores Qantas lobbying power; AEMO warns of blackouts risk as coal stations close

Future Fund chairman Peter Costello says the Albanese government's decision to restrict more flights from Qatar Airways is "hard to fathom" at a time when more competition is needed to lower airfares. 

The former Liberal Treasurer says the decision underscores Qantas lobbying in Canberra to protect its market power. 

Also the Australian Energy Market Operator says Victoria and South Australia are facing an increased risk of power blackouts this summer as coal-fired generators close down.

Here's my coverage on ABC Newsradio

Friday, August 18, 2023

Latitude Financial in $98 million half year loss as cyberattack costs mount

 Watch here

Economy at turning point as jobless rate ticks higher; Michael Parkinson in popular culture on cover of Paul McCartney's Band On The Run album

Australia's economy could at a critical turning point after the official jobless rate unexpectedly ticked higher to 3.7 percent in July.  

Listen to my report

While the jobs market remains tight and economy for the most part is resilient, that could change dramatically in the coming months given the economic storm clouds ahead. 

Also Telstra CEO Vicki Brady on big profits driven by the need for speed. 

And some Michael Parkinson trivia - he featured on the cover of Band on The Run by Paul McCartney and Wings.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Jobless rate ticks up to 3.7pc in July. Could this be a sign the economy is slowing?

There are fresh signs that the economy is starting to gradually slow after aggressive interest rate rises since May last year.

The official unemployment rate ticked slightly higher than expected last month with the number of full time jobs going backwards.

Here's my report on The World Today

It's "the biggest issue" facing the economy: NAB CEO Ross McEwan on the housing supply crisis.

National Australia Bank chief executive Ross McEwan has welcomed by deal struck by National Cabinet supply to boost housing supply.

Mr McEwan's currently on the road on northern New South Wales and he told AM local businesses are struggling to attract workers because housing and rental accommodation is so scarce.

He says the housing crisis is dominating talks with customers - along with mortgage stress from twelve interest rate rises since May last year.

Ross McEwan spoke to me from Tamworth in northwest NSW.

And here's my analysis from the AM program

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Chinese authorities block official youth unemployment data

There are growing concerns about the health of China's economy amid almost daily evidence that a deep downturn is underway.

The worries have been exacerbated by a decision by authorities in Beijing to stop releasing data on youth unemployment after months of skyrocketing increases.

Here's my report on The World Today

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Reserve Bank minutes dovish but rate hike risk remains

Senior Business Correspondent Peter Ryan

The Reserve Bank board is holding on to the risk of another interest rate rise this year if inflation remains stubbornly high and fails to slow in line with forecasts.

But in decidedly dovish minutes from the RBA's meeting a fortnight ago, it's now increasingly clear the impact of 12 cash rate rises since May last year is now working to slow the economy and cool inflation.

In leaving the cash rate at 4.1pc on August 1, the minutes show RBA members were confident that the aggressive action was "working as intended" with monetary policy "already tightened .. significantly".

"The full effects or earlier tightening were yet to be recorded .. but consumption had already slowed significantly .. and early signs that the labour market might be at a turning point."

But there was also debate in the RBA boardroom about the need to maintain the pressure with another rate rise as a hammer blow against inflation, now running at 6 percent over the year.

"The case to raise the cash rate centred on the risk that inflation might prove to be more persistent than currently forecast," the minutes say.

"Were this to occur, it would require the Board to raise the cash rate by more than otherwise to get inflation back to target".

Members proposing the losing argument for a rate rise argued gains in the jobs market would need to be sacrificed to get inflation lower and hiking in August would "mitigate the risk of that undesirable scenario eventuating."

The minutes show members are also becoming increasingly concerned about a rebound in real estate prices.

The RBA board also remains concerned that wages growth in Australia and around the world remains "above levels that would be consistent with many central banks' inflation targets".

However, the minutes note that higher wages could be a one-off correction and might be partially offset by weaker corporate profit margins or faster productivity growth.

In the background, concerns are rising that the health of China's economy created "a high degree of uncertainty".

The minutes say China's outlook depends on a recovery in household consumption, support for the ailing property sector and the effectiveness of policy support from authorities in Beijing.

ASIC delivers rocket to insurance companies; Amazon Australia says online shoppers moving back to bricks and mortar stores

Australia's biggest insurance companies have been told to lift their game on the handling and assessment of claims.

Also .. for much of the past decade, online shopping giants like Amazon have been threatening the future of bricks and mortar department stores.

While the battle for customers continues, a survey out today says cost of living pressures are forcing consumers back into traditional stories as they shop around to compare often cheaper online offers to get the best deal.

Listen to my reports on AM and ABC Newsradio

JB Hi FI boss Terry Smart says he's seeing of an economic slowdown

There are growing signs that consumers are pulling back under the weight of Reserve Bank interest rate rises and the surging cost of living.

The chief executive of the electronics retail JB Hi FI says there's "heightened uncertainty" with a new survey showing consumer spending is in "outright decline" in Australia's two biggest states.

Here's my report 

Monday, August 14, 2023

NBN boss Stephen Rue braces for rising demand from artificial intelligence

Throughout the pandemic, demand for high speed interest went through the roof as Australians were ordered to work from home.

But now - as more people creep back to the office - the demand is still there with baked-in expectations from consumers and businesses for high speed bandwidth.

I speak with National Broadband Network CEO Stephen Rue

Thursday, July 27, 2023

US jobless spike the price for taming inflation - Federal Reserve chair warns

Inflation might be falling in the United States, but that's not good enough for the US Federal Reserve which has once again raised interest rates this morning. 

While Fed chairman Jerome Powell is now downplaying the risks of a recession, he's conceded that unemployment in the US will have to rise as a big social cost in getting inflation lower.

My coverage on ABC Newsradio 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Fears of jobless spikes forced RBA rates "pause" - so are the hikes over? And the big reputational bill from Dan Andrew's canning of the 2026 Commonwealth Games

Fears about an unexpected spike in the jobless rate appear to have forced the Reserve Bank to leave interest rates steady a fortnight ago.

That's stoked concerns that the RBA is now worried about going too far with it's aggressive rate hikes - to the point where consumers stop spending and push the economy into a recession.

I speak with Tom Oriti on ABC Newsradio

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Politicians must tackle productivity reform: blast from outgoing Reserve Bank governor

It's been a bumpy few months for Philip Lowe who learned late last week he's been overlooked for a second term as Reserve Bank governor.

But Mr Lowe has used his final official appearance on the world stage to blast politicians for failing to make hard decisions on economic reforms such as ways to boost productivity growth.

Here's my analysis on the AM program

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Reserve Bank feared unanticipated jobless spike from more rates pressure, Board minutes reveal

Fears about a possible spike in the unemployment rate forced the Reserve Bank to leave official interest rates on hold a fortnight ago. 

That's the revelation in the minutes from the RBA's most recent Board meeting.

I report from RBA headquarters in Sydney's Martin Place

Friday, June 30, 2023

Positive retail sales in May complicate Reserve Bank's "narrow path"

The Reserve Bank's decision on whether to leave interest rates on hold next Tuesday has been complicated by better than expected retail sales data.

Evidence that consumers remain resilient despite 12 interest rate since May last year could tempt the RBA to tap the brakes again.

Surprisingly positive retail sales could see 13th RBA rate rise next week; Gladys Berejiklian's corruption findings damage trust in public institutions

Bets are rising for another interest rate rise next week after better-than-expected retail sales figures out yesterday.

The outcome complicates the Reserve Bank's decision on signs that 12 rate rises since May last year are yet to work their way through the economy and dampen inflation.

Also, the corruption finding against former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is likely to be contested.

However, at the very least the finding damage trust and confidence in public institutions.

I speak on ABC Newsradio

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Cooling inflation, 5.6pc in May, could prompt Reserve Bank rates pause

There are positivethe inflation - while still uncomfortably high - is slowly starting to fall.

The latest monthly reading shows the pace of inflation fell to 5.6 percent in the year to May.

It's undoubtedly good news. 

But will it be enough to convince the Reserve Bank to leave interest rates on hold?

Here's my analysis on The World Today

Inflation at a turning point? All eyes on May inflation indicator for Reserve Bank repreive.

After more than a year of surging inflation, could the turning point be finally in sight?

We'll find out later this morning when official monthly inflation data is released.

The big question is whether that will be enough for the Reserve Bank to hold off on another interest rate rise. 

Here's my outlook on the AM program and ABC Newsradio

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Australian consumers at breaking point with recessions bets 50-50. Andrew Bragg warns axing of Philip Lowe would damage Reserve Bank independence

It's taken a while despite 12 interest rate rises since May last year, but there are growing signs that Australian consumers are close to their breaking point.

But will that stop the Reserve Bank for delivering even more rate rises?

Also, NSW Liberal senator Andrew Bragg wanrs the removal of Philip Lowe as Reserve Bank governor could compromise the central bank's independence.

Here's my report on ABC Newsradio

Monday, June 26, 2023

Acting PWC boss Kristin Stubbins apologises, flags severe consequences over tax leak scandal

The damage control at the consulting firm PWC has moved into overdrive with a new chief executive being parachuted in from Singapore to rescue it's shattered government business.

A key part of the strategy to restore trust at PWC is the decision to sell off its government consulting arm to a private equity company - for just one dollar.

But will that be enough to stem the contagion at PWC Australia to the rest of the global empire?

PWC Australia acting chief executive Kristin Stubbins has fronted a NSW parliamentary committee to apologise for the tax leak scandal flagging "severe consequences" for those involved. 

Ms Stubbins said the sale of PWC's government business was critical in rebuilding trust and confidence while protecting up to 2000 staff. 

Here's my report on the ABC's PM program

New PwC chief executive Kevin Burrowes parachuting in, damaged gov't consulting arm sold to Allegro Funds for $1

The future of the consulting firm PWC remains under cloud with a new chief executive Kevin Burrowes being parachuted in from Singapore to rebuild the damaged business.

But is that going to help with the survival of PWC's once lucrative business even though its government consulting arm is being sold off to a private equity firm - for just one dollar?

That might sound like a firesale bargain but the suitor private equity company Allegro would know the risks given the massive liabilities its taking on from a damaged business.

And it's a major challenge - rebuilding trust and confidence in a company the broke confidentiality agreements by undermining a new multinational tax avoidance law - working both sides of the street to make money from clients.

But the big change is that unlike PWC, Allegro will only work with "public sector" clients from federal and state government departments and agencies - it won't work for corporate clients and will be a purely government business to eliminate the risk of conflicts that's got PWC into so much hot water

Things are moving quickly and Allegro's hope is to have a binding deal by the end of July and a new CEO Kevin Burrowes will be in Sydney soon.

This is critical for PWC staff caught up in the scandal where 130 PWC partners and up to 2000 staff will move over to Allegro.

Investigative author and former policy advisor Tom Ravlic tells me it's not just about rebuilding the old PWC government business - but protecting the jobs of PWC staff who did nothing wrong.

Here's my analysis on ABC Newsradio

Friday, June 23, 2023

Slim chance of Philip Lowe being reappointed as Reserve Bank governor. So who might replace him?

Philip Lowe is hardly Australia's most popular person - and his chances of being reappointed governor of the Reserve Bank look increasingly slim.

The axe is hanging over Mr Lowe because he's done what most other central bank governors have being doing - raising the RBA's official cash rate 12 times since May last year to battle inflation.

But it's not just the rates sledgehammer - it's Mr Lowe's now infamous signal at the height of the pandemic that rates would probably stay near zero until 2024 - the cash rate is now 4.1pc.

So he's offside with not just with borrowers but the federal government which has failed to back an independent RBA governor.

I speak with UTS chief economist Tim Harcourt and Judo Bank economist adviser Warren Hogan.

Here's my report on AM and I also speak with Tom Oriti on ABC Newsradio

Thursday, June 22, 2023

PwC in "calculated breach of trust" over tax leak scandal


The global consulting giant PwC has been accused of a massive breach of trust and a deliberate coverup where potentially tens of millions of dollars was at risk of being swindled from the Australian taxpayer.

An explosive Senate report has found PwC exploited confidentiality agreements to boost its own revenue and that partners going right to the top of the firm supported or condoned unethical behaviour.

Here's my report on AM

I speak on ABC Newsradio about how PwC whisteblowers have used burner phones and secret emails fearing retribution about revealing tip of ethical iceberg.