10 October 2018
The SAFCA Board is now under the leadership of a new Chair. Carolyn Piper (former deputy Chair), commenced in the position at the SAFCA AGM held on Monday October 8.
10 October 2018
Scott Morrison’s first message to the people of Australia after being anointed Prime Minister was “we’re on your side”. It was a welcome change in message after he had previously used the term “taxed and the taxed-nots” as federal treasurer to describe the social security system.
24 September 2018
As Australia’s levels of household debt relative to disposable income hit historic highs, experts are warning of a perfect financial storm on the horizon for struggling home owners with a surge in repayments set to hit interest-only home loans over the coming 12 months.
Homeowners, particularly in the mining states of WA and Queensland, are already grappling with a number of factors including unemployment, under-employment, stagnant wages growth and weak house prices.
Another looming threat is rising interest rates, with three of the four major banks raising variable home loan rates earlier this year independent of the Reserve Bank of Australia.
19 September 2018
Mr Peter Kell has announced his resignation as Deputy Chair of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), following seven years of service.
Since beginning his tenure in 2011, Mr Kell has been part of ASIC’s leadership team, first as a member and then from 2013 as Deputy Chair. His experience and understanding of corporate regulation has been appreciated by successive governments as well as members of ASIC.
Mr Kell’s time at ASIC followed a stint as Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. He has also been on the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board since its establishment, has made a significant contribution to improving financial literacy and ensured that the transition to the new Chair of ASIC was as smooth as possible, including serving as Acting Chair.
ASIC has six Commissioners, with new Commissioner Danielle Press starting this week. Mr Kell’s resignation will be effective from 6 December. Sean Hughes is due to commence as a Commissioner later this year.
The Coalition Government has undertaken significant reforms to ensure that ASIC has the resources and powers it needs to combat misconduct in the financial services industry and across all corporations for the protection of Australian consumers. This includes:
• injecting a further $70.1 million into ASIC to boost its enforcement capabilities and address other regulatory priorities, in addition to $121.3 million in additional funding in 2016 to bolster ASIC’s investigative and surveillance capabilities;
• the appointment of Daniel Crennan QC as a new Deputy Chair who has a key focus on enforcement action; and
• announcing the strengthening of criminal and civil penalties by increasing terms of imprisonment and fines, increasing the maximum civil penalties that can be imposed by courts and allowing wrongdoers to be stripped of profits illegally obtained, or losses avoided, from contraventions of the law.
These reforms support ASIC’s new Chair James Shipton’s approach to increase ASIC’s strategic direction on proactive enforcement and increase onsite supervisory approaches.
The Coalition Government thanks Mr Kell for his contribution to ASIC and wishes him well in his future endeavours.
13 August 2018
New SACOSS figures show 7.1% of households below poverty line in Adelaide and 14.8% below line in rest of state
13 August 2018
The Federal Government is letting the worst and most harmful financial products in the community run wild according to consumer advocates.
It’s now one year, eight months, one week and fifteen days since the Government accepted recommendations to reform laws governing payday loans and consumer leases. Despite committing to bringing the reforms to Parliament by the end of 2017, the Government has not included the Bill on the legislative agenda for the rest of 2018.
2 August 2018
IF COMMBANK had its way, Assam, a 58-year-old pensioner, would be paying off his credit card for the next century and a half.
The 58-year-old disability support pensioner, who has been unable to work since 2003 due to ill health, can barely make ends meet.
31 July 2018
From 1 August 2018, modern awards will be varied to give employees access to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year.
The leave can be taken by employees to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence. This includes (but isn’t limited to) taking time to:
• make arrangements for their safety, or the safety of a family member
• attend court hearings
• access police services.
This entitlement applies to all employees (including casuals) who are covered by an industry or occupation based award.
Find out more
You can find more information about domestic and family violence leave and who it applies to at www.fairwork.gov.au
Confidential information, counselling and support for people impacted by domestic and family violence is available at www.1800respect.org.au
30 July 2018
Let me take you to ground zero of the mortgage crisis.
Right now the National Debt Helpline (1800 007 007) is receiving so many calls that they’re at breaking point.
The helpline refers people in the most dire situations on to community-based financial counsellors ‒ yet the demand is so intense that the wait time for someone to actually sit down in person and help has stretched out to three months! (And it’s only getting worse. As I reported last week, a study has suggested that one million people may find themselves in mortgage stress if ‒ when! ‒ interest rates move upwards by just 0.1%.)
Hang on, who are the financial counsellors and what do they do?
These guys are the unsung heroes of the financial services industry. They’re free to use. They’re independent. And in your darkest hour they’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with you and fight for you when no one else will:
For the guy who’s just been diagnosed with a terminal illness …
The mother who grabbed her kids and fled from her violent husband in the middle of the night …
The young woman with a brain injury who doesn’t understand the (deliberately confusing) payday loan contracts …
The father who was laid off from work and is just trying to keep food on the table …
Yes, the ongoing Banking Royal Commission has shown us ‒ over and over again ‒ that we need these heroes.
Yet the truth is that the financial counsellors are having their own financial crisis: there are not nearly enough of them on the ground. I believe so passionately in what they do that I’ve donated 10% of my book royalties to the Financial Counselling Foundation … yet it’s a drop in the ocean.
There is only one man who can truly help: Dan Tehan.
Dan is the man, because, as the Federal Minister for Social Services, his portfolio funds the community-based financial counsellors. Dan has made recent announcements on financial counselling funding, but this only extends existing funds and doesn’t grow the services to meet demand. You need to fund ’em, Dan … it’s a growth industry!
So here’s my call to you, Dan Tehan. The financial counsellors need someone to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and fight for them when no one else will.
Now’s your chance, Minister. Make us proud.
11 July 2018
SOUTH Australian power bills would be slashed by an average of $371 per year by 2021 under reforms recommended by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. In the interim, an ACCC report found that SA power prices continue to be among the highest in the world.
The report raised concerns about the market power of large vertically-integrated “gentailer” power companies which have both generation and retail operations.
AGL supplies 48 per cent of SA retail electricity customers and controls 42 per cent of generation capacity. The ACCC wants to give small SA electricity retailers access to more cheap power for their customers by forcing the big “gentailers” to buy and sell hedge contracts for electricity every day. “The ACCC is therefore recommending market making obligations be introduced in South Australia in order to boost market activity and provide access to trading partners for smaller retailer,’’ the report said.
Mergers between large power companies would also be banned to prevent a further reduction in competition and regulators would get more power to crack down on predatory behaviour in the sector.
The ACCC found discounting by retailers could be misleading and unfair.
It said customers should be able to compare discounts to a benchmark rate set by the Australian Energy Regulator. Changes were also recommended to make it easier and faster for customers to change to cheaper deals.
It also called for a nationally-consistent approach to electricity concessions for low-income earners.
The ACCC said the 2016 closure of the coal-fired Northern Power Station had driven up prices and made the state more dependent on electricity generated by gas. “South Australian prices increased dramatically in the months following the closure of the Northern power station, the report said.
“Other factors such as the Victoria — South Australia Heywood interconnector upgrade occurred at a similar time which likely contributed to price outcomes.
SA’s power prices were almost as high as Germany and Denmark, which have environmental taxes on energy. The ACCC said SA’s small businesses were struggling with high electricity costs. “The South Australian Hotels Association reported increasing financial stress across its members, with examples of bills increasing by $500 —$600 per week, and highlighted electricity prices were a key factor in some hotel closures’’ the report said.
It said the cost of solar feed-in tariff schemes, which subsidise household solar panels, should be met through state government budgets instead of higher power prices for other energy users.
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said they would discuss the recommendations with the states. “We will consider the recommendations in detail and consult with stakeholders and jurisdictions as part of developing the Commonwealth’s response before the end of 2018,’’ Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg said in a statement.
Federal Labor energy spokesman Mark Butler said power prices had skyrocketed under the Turnbull Government. “For too long, recommendations for sensible change have been lost in the fog of the civil war being waged in the Coalition Party Room over energy policy,’’ Mr Butler said.