In Brief

RMIT expert sees similarities to 1980s and 90s recessions

RMIT UNIVERSITY’s emeritus professor for Public Policy and the Social Economy, David Hayward is perturbed by the current economic clouds that bear a resemblance to recessionary forces in the 1980s and 1990s Australia.

“There are a lot of similarities between the state of the economy in Victoria now and what it was like in the late 1980s, early 1990s,” Dr Hayward said. “Back then Labor was in office and net debt started to climb. 

“The Victorian Treasurer advised that his 1989 state budget was the toughest in living memory, with the state’s finances in a very stressed state.

“Shortly after, the Federal Government pushed interest rates up to over 17 percent as did governments around the world, and Victoria plunged into a deep recession, with unemployment hitting 13 percent. State deficits and debts climbed alarmingly.”

Concerningly, Dr Hayward said, net debt is in a worse state than it was in the tumultuous 1990s.  

“Net debt now is higher in real terms than it was in the depth of the recession back then,” Dr Hayward said.

“If the Reserve Bank’s tightening of monetary policy continues, the Australian economy may be pushed to the brink, while Victoria’s may well be hit especially hard.

“Many people who are still recovering from the economic brunt of COVID – especially those working in or owning restaurants, cafes and tourist accommodation and services, are going to find conditions worsening just when they desperately need it to be getting better,” he warned. 

“Victoria and greater Australia may feel a genuine sense of economic déjà vu.

“Are we on the verge of another bout of painful and unpopular privatisations and other desperate ‘fix-its’ designed to rescue the economy? We may well be about to find out.” 

Dr Hayward’s research interests are the funding of social policy with a focus on the State Governments. He writes regularly for the Age and Sydney Morning Herald and is a frequent expert commentator for the ABC.



Dr David Hayward is Emeritus Professor of Public Policy and the Social Economy at RMIT University. 

Small business mental health and financial counselling support welcomed by Ombudsman

THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Bruce Billson has welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement of $15 million in funding for free mental health and financial counselling support for small businesses in next week’s Federal Budget.

“For small and family business owners, their business is not just their livelihood but a fundamental part of their life,” Mr Billson said.

“Their identities are interwoven into their business and the stakes are so much higher than just a job. Many people have invested a lifetime, and in some cases their family home, into building up their business, which amplifies the emotional challenges.

“It is vital small business owners have support and know that help is available if they need it. 

“I commend Small Business Minister Julie Collins for the $10.9m in extra funding for the New Access for Small Business Owners program operated by Beyond Blue and the extra $4m for the Small Business Debt Hotline operated by Financial Counselling Australia.”

Mr Billson said Beyond Blue’s New Access for Small Business Owners program offers free one-on-one telehealth sessions with specially trained mental health coaches providing evidence-based advice on strategies for managing stress.

“The success of the New Access for Small Business Owners program is built on it being delivered by coaches who have experience in small business,” Mr Billson said. “Being able to speak to someone who understands the mental load of running a small business makes a big difference.

“The Small Business Debt Helpline provides financial counselling support, particularly for small business owners who have loans secured against the family home and are uncertain about their future.

“For small business owners the stakes can be incredibly high and losing the business often means also losing the home,” Mr Billson said.

Mr Billson said he celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit that drives men and women to start a small business but their resilience is being tested and this support was vital.

“Small and family business owners are literally exhausted,” Mr Billson said. “There has been no reprieve from the rolling natural disasters such as floods, bushfires and drought and the lingering effects from COVID-19 and the various lockdowns and restrictions

“Small businesses are struggling to make rosters work and keep doors open due to labour and skills shortages; grappling with supply troubles that means critical inputs, goods and services are not always available; adjusting to higher inflation then many have experienced; rising interest rates; and on edge about cyber security fears.

“Many small businesses are not making a profit and eating into whatever reserves and personal resources they have to pay their bills and service business debts. Understandably this has taken a toll on the bottom line and wellbeing.”

More information about the New Access for Small Business Owners program is available at:

More information about the Small Business Debt Helpline is available at or by calling 1800 413 828.


'Chucking a sickie' this Friday could cost $461m in lost productivity, Finder reports

FRIDAY OF THIS WEEK is shaping up to be a very popular day for Aussies to give work the flick, according to new research by Australian comparison website Finder

The national day of mourning for the late monarch Queen Elizabeth II falls on Thursday September 22, leaving many to believe attendance at work on Friday will be poor.

A new nationally representative survey of 1,060 respondents revealed one-in-eight (13%) Australians – equivalent to 1.7 million workers – have called in sick for a non-health related reason so far this year, at a cost of about $354 per worker, per day.

Consequently, ‘wagging work’ on Friday could cost employers more than $461 million in lost productivity.

Taylor Blackburn, a personal finance specialist at Finder, said employers could be facing a spike in absenteeism this Friday. 

“Workers are trying to take advantage of the bonus public holiday by turning it into an extra long weekend.

“This is how Black Friday got its name in the US – with the Thanksgiving holiday always on Thursday, many workers would not come in on the Friday – hence it was a dark day for owners,” Mr Blackburn said. 

Finder’s survey found 4 percent of Australians have taken a sick day to take care of a pet, while the same number have done so to go shopping.

A small number of Aussies (2%) have 'chucked a sickie' to spend the day at the beach.

Mr Blackburn said good beach conditions can be a tempting reason to take a mental health day.

“Your sick leave should be viewed as a safety net for serious injury or illness in most cases, but there are times when taking a day for yourself is healthy," he said. “A few companies have created a new brand of leave to deal with life that isn’t strictly about running a fever.

“Finder introduced ‘Life Leave’ to give employees time to take a day whenever they need – for their pet, the beach, or a family member – with no questions asked.”

The research found women (17%) were twice as likely as men (9%) to have called in sick just to ‘have a day off’.

An impressive 18 percent of Australians haven’t taken a single sick day so far in 2022, Finder reported.


In 2022 have you taken a sick day for any of the following reasons

Go to the beach






Taking care of a pet


Taking care of a sick family member


Have a day off


Mental health day


I haven’t taken any sick days this year


Source: Finder survey of 1,060 respondents, September 2022



QRC calls for Qld Govt to 'finally' declare New Acland coal extension a 'prescribed project'

THE Queensland Resources Council (QRC) is calling on the Queensland Government to stop stalling and declare New Hope Group's New Acland Stage 3 a prescribed project.

The call follows what the QRC said were unfounded claims by the Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) that the Department of Environment and Science was influenced by New Hope Group to award New Acland Stage 3 its Environmental Authority.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the Department of Environment and Science took more than six months to hand down a decision regarding New Acland Stage 3’s Environmental Authority and its decision had been thoroughly and appropriately considered.

“The Palaszczuk Government needs to have faith in its own processes and not be held to ransom by minority activist groups,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“No resources project in Queensland history has been more scrutinised or assessed than New Acland Stage 3.

“New Hope Group, its workers and the local community have been stuck on a never-ending roundabout for more than 15 years.

“If the relevant government departments and Ministers Stewart (Mining Leases) and Butcher (Associated Water Licence) believe New Acland Stage 3 should go ahead, then they should back themselves. 

“If the Palaszczuk Government believes in its processes and people it needs to declare New Acland Stage 3 a prescribed project," Mr Macfarlane said.

“Otherwise, it is giving an indefinite green light to groups like OCAA, which is backed by the taxpayer-funded Environmental Defenders Office, to challenge every decision. 

“Does the Palaszczuk Government really want New Acland Stage 3 to return to the Land Court for a fourth time, and place at risk hundreds of potential new jobs associated with this project? 

“It’s time for the Government to act decisively.”


World MSME day celebrates the essential vitality of small business says Ombudsman

AUSTRALIAN Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson is using World Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Day (MSME Day, June 27) is calling on Australians to join him today "in saying a big thank you to the women and men running our small and family businesses".

Mr Billson said World MSME Day presented "the perfect chance to applaud the contribution small businesses make to our country".

Mr Billson launched an MSME video of community leaders giving thanks to small business and encouraged people to show their own support.

“These are great people in plain sight, and we see them everywhere, every day,” he said.

“When you stop and think about it, we depend so heavily on the small and family-run businesses in our lives – whether it is the local café, pharmacy, accountant, builder, mechanic or grocer who are conveniently there when you need them. 

“The best way to support small businesses is to be a kindly customer – patient and understanding, with good and generous intent. Small businesses are run by real people who deserve our respect and empathy every day.”

Globally, the United Nations has marked June 27 as MSME Day to raise awareness of the contribution of small businesses to sustainable development and the global economy.

Small businesses provide employment for more than five million Australians – two out of every five people with a private sector job work in a small business.

Small business contributes $483 billion to the Australian economy each year.

Mr Billson said about 38 percent of small businesses are owned by women and in recent years two-thirds of all new businesses have been led by women who are finding solutions to everyday problems, sharing their ideas and building a business from their ingenuity.

“Small business is a dynamic and fast-growing sector that allows people with an entrepreneurial spirit to pursue their dreams,” Mr Billson said.

“We should do more to celebrate the vital and deeply personal commitment made by more than 2.3 million small and family businesses to our community.

“Small business people take on a big and often stressful responsibility. It is not just an enterprise but their life – often their home and mortgage, family and identity are all tied together.”

Mr Billson said the past two years had been particularly hard for small businesses who faced not just shutdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic, but a series of rolling disasters such as devastating bushfires, ongoing drought conditions and record-breaking flooding in various parts of the country.

“Now small businesses have to navigate crushing supply chain disruptions and leaping input costs, soaring energy bills, higher wage costs and a chronic labour shortage just to keep their doors open and serve their communities,” he said.

Mr Billson also urged small business owners and leaders to not overlook their own mental health during such difficult times.

“This can feel unrelenting and it is vitally important those running a small business look after their emotional well-being and mental health,” he said.

“Sometimes it can be as simple as making time to pause, reflect and reconnect. Talking to trusted advisers and networks is a great way to find solutions.

"Our website and the My Business Health portal have useful tools and resources," Mr Billson said.

"Watch the thank you MSME videos and join us in saying thanks by using our MSME stakeholder pack and learning more about the contribution of small business to our society through MSME small business facts."



Master Builders applaud High Court decision that 'sees through' CFEMU attempt to erase law breaking history

THE FOLLY of the Labor Party policy to abolish the construction watchdog, the Australian building and Construction Commission (ABCC), has been highlighted by a significant High Court decision, according to Master Builders Australia.

The decision of the High Court to overturn a Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia ruling is "a significant relief for the nation’s $210 billion building and construction sector" according to Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn. Mr Wawn said the High Court decision "brings to an end attempts to erase from history countless examples of bullying, intimidation and other illegal behaviour demonstrated by the CFMEU and other construction unions for decades".

Ms Wawn said, “This is a huge relief for our industry and means that the horrific track record of building unions will be relevant when courts consider penalties for future breaches. 

“Construction unions have a long and sorry history of law breaking, particularly right of entry, misrepresentation and anti-coercion, which far exceeds any other union. This case means that record won’t be erased from history and remains relevant,” she said.

“Over the last five or so years, the ABCC has succeeded in around 98 of 107 cases in the courts, which resulted in around $16 million in penalties for breaches of the law by building unions. Over $14.5 million of these penalties were imposed on the CFMMEU for well over 1600 separate contraventions of workplace laws,” Ms Wawn said.

“To say that a track record like that isn’t relevant misses the point of why we have the ABCC and why it must be retained.

“The High Court decision has backed the reason why we need the ABCC – to ensure that penalties can determined in a way that stops the continuation of the CFMMEU’s history of non-compliance with the law, by making it something that is too expensive to maintain.

“The ALP has promised that the ABCC will be abolished if there is a change of government and this decision should hopefully make them reconsider. We are an essential part of economic recovery, so they need to tell the 400,000-plus businesses and almost 1.2 million workers we employ what their plans are to stop lawbreaking in our industry.”


Urgent Queensland coal shipment to assist Ukraine

AN AUSTRALIAN resources company has stepped up to supply a cargo of essential humanitarian aid to war-torn Ukraine -- thermal coal for vital electricity services.

Whitehaven Coal is supplying Ukraine with 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal to help keep the lights on and stave off freezing conditions, following an urgent request from the Australian Government.

The Australian Government is donating the shipment, worth close to $30 million, as part of its humanitarian response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Ian Macfarlane said council member Whitehaven Coal's shipment would be welcomed, following reports of civilians bunkering down in cities with no electricity and limited heating in bitterly cold conditions. 

“I'd like to commend Whitehaven Coal for working so quickly with the Australian Government to provide access to a cargo of thermal coal, which isn’t easy at the moment because it’s in such high demand,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Whitehaven has also contributed $250,000 to the Australian Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal to help the people of Ukraine, so it’s wonderful to see such a heartfelt, local response to this unfolding and tragic situation.”

Mr Macfarlane said the war in Ukraine had shone a harsh spotlight on the strategic issue of energy security.

“The secure and consistent supply of electricity is essential to so many aspects of everyday life,” he said.

“With millions of displaced Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, it’s vital they still have access to electricity for heating, lighting and even for charging phones so they can stay in touch with family members around the world, including in Australia.”

Today’s announcement comes shortly after many Queensland resources companies dug deep to help people in flood-affected parts of the state by donating millions of dollars to relief efforts, Mr Macfarlane said.


Contact Us


PO Box 2144