This statement is CHIA’s initial response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It sets out what CHOs are already doing to support our tenants, communities, and staff, and describes how we want to partner with Government to continue to provide these vital services.
Covid-19 update: 28th April 2020
- The Senate Select Committee on Covid-19 will sit today (10am):
- focus will be on the economic response, including JobKeeper and super withdrawal.
- Witnesses will include Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy
- The government will release a new set of economic forecasts in June, following National Accounts. There will also be a statement to Parliament on May 12 outlining effects on economy, including the total amount spent by government. (AFR)
- Former Productivity Commission chief Peter Harris (he led the inquiry into the PC social housing element of the choice and competition) has been appointed CEO of the National Covid-19 Co-ordination Commission. (AFR)
- signals a significant role for that body in shaping agenda in direction of economic reform
- Foreign Minister Payne has accused China of ‘economic coercion’ after they raised the prospect of consumer boycotts yesterday.
- State Premiers are enjoying high levels of satisfaction, according to Newspoll. McGowan (WA) 89%, Gutwein (Tas) 84%, Andrews (Vic) 75%, Berejiklian (NSW) 69%, Marshall (SA) 68%, Palaszczuk (Qld) 55%. (Australian)
- Essential Poll finds 70 per cent believe the government’s handling of crisis has been good (up from 45 per cent a month ago). (Guardian)
- 64 per cent oppose companies registered in tax havens getting government support.
- Mike Kelly MP (Eden-Monaro) expected to announce retirement later this week, which will trigger a by-election within months. (AFR)
- Contenders speculated. ALP: State MP Tara Moriarty, former Senator Ursula Stephens, businessman Garth Morrison, tourism consultant Leanne Atkinson. Coalition: State Nationals leader John Barilaro, Senator Jim Molan, state MP Andrew Constance.
Covid-19 update: 24th April 2020
- QLD legislation passed Wednesday with adjustments that appear to be in response to the REIQ concerns
- WA package announced yesterday – Support for tenants facing financial difficulty due to COVID-19 – $30 million for grants of up to $2,000 for residential tenants who have lost their job and face financial hardship due to COVID-19, $100 million in land tax relief grants available for commercial landlords who reduce rent for small business tenants impacted by COVID-19 and $24.5 million support package to assist the building and construction industry to maintain a skilled workforce and support apprentices and trainees
- Under the scheme, grants equivalent to four-weeks’ rent up to a maximum of $2,000 will be paid directly to the tenant’s landlord, to contribute to the tenant’s rental payments. The grants will be provided in addition to rental reductions negotiated between tenants and landlords. The residential rent relief grants will be administered through the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS), with applications opening from May 1, 2020. The scheme will be available to tenants or sub-tenants who have lost their job, applied to Centrelink for income support, have less than $10,000 in savings, and are still paying at least 25 per cent of their income in rent. For more information on eligibility criteria and how to apply, visithttp://www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/covidrenting
- PM and Treasurer both mentioned the Productivity Commission’s Shifting the Dial Report (2017) as guiding their future reform agenda.
- National Cabinet meets this morning at 10am.
- One Nation is expressing caution about company tax cuts or fast-tracked income tax cuts (because of debt concerns), as well as industrial relations reform (‘don’t want to see workers worse off’). Other Senate cross benchers – Centre Alliance and Jacqui Lambie – have said that they will approach proposals with an open mind. (AFR)
- The Big Four banks will establish hotlines for businesses needing bridging finance, and have promised to expedite applications.
- The Australian writes that the move came after ‘a furious PM vented his anger at the Big Four’ to the Tax Commissioner Jordan and the Treasurer, who then secured the agreement from the banks.
- The Western half of Australia – WA, NT and SA – could potentially be first to ease because of their low infection rates, according to one of the government’s chief modellers Prof. James McCaw. (AFR)
- Environment Minister Sussan Ley says she is looking at making legislative changes to get rid of green tape. ‘The PM says we need to look at everything with fresh eyes, and coming out of Covid-19 there is no better candidate than the twenty year old Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.’ (The Australian)
- Tony Abbott says that the road out should mean rejecting a ‘scrooge-like concern over dollars and sense’ and less ‘dogma about the size of government’ from the centre-right. Suggests that instead of ending the double-dole in September it should be turned into a wage subsidy for older people and a part-time environmental job with local councils for younger people. (Australian)
- There are suggestions Parliament could return on week starting 11 May.
Covid-19 update: 23rd April 2020
- PM Morrison is lobbying other leaders (Merkel, Macron, Trump) to reform the WHO to enable a more pro-active approach (like UN weapons inspectors). The UK and France have said the priority now is dealing with the crisis rather than investigation. (ABC)
- Considerable speculation regarding possible tax reform:
- Chair of NCCC Nev Power has downplayed company tax cuts as ‘not very targeted’ and says the priority must be to encourage investment. ‘We should be looking at incentivising businesses to invest here in Australia.’ Nominated accelerated depreciation and investment allowances. (SMH)
- Former Treasurer Costello says that the government should stick to its income tax cut timetable and ‘even look at accelerating it.’ Costello also said that red tape should be cut, nominating the responsible-lending laws as ‘thoroughly inappropriate to the circumstances we now find ourselves in.’ (Australian)
- Former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry says four priorities for tax reform – (1) a business cash-flow tax to replace GST, payroll taxes and taxes on insurance (2) progressive land tax to replace stamp duties (3) road user charges to replace fuel excise (4) scholarships, pensions and allowances to be exempt from tax. (AFR)
- Senator Dean Smith has proposed that property investors have their loans converted to interest only mortgages by banks. Senator Smith said that banks might need to be brought in front of a Senate Committee to explain their conduct through the crisis.
- Former senior Treasury official Greg Smith has called for a Budget statement next month, so that we are not ‘running the country blind.’ Smith also said that politicians must be clear that ‘tax reform is not just tax cuts’ and that some taxes will have to rise. (AFR)
- Labor says governments should take an equity stake in all ‘crucial’ businesses facing Covid-19 hardship. (AFR) Shadow Employment and Industry Minister O’Connor nominated advanced manufacturing, including pharmaceuticals, food manufacturing, textiles and clothing, vehicle parts, non-airline transport such as rail freight, and metal work.
- Senate Select Committee on Covid-19 has its first hearing today (10am). First witness will be CMO Brendan Murphy.
Covid-19 update: 21st April 2020
- Virgin Australia set to call in administrators, after formal pleas for government assistance were knocked back yesterday. Two serious bidders believed to be in play: Australian private equity firm BGH and a consortium with Etihad. (Australian)
- RBA Governor Lowe is expected in a speech today (3pm) to appeal for further policy reform to deal with the drop in business investment.
- National Cabinet meets today at 10am.
- It will relax ban on elective surgery, allowing IVF, colonoscopies, dental surgery, knee and hip replacements and other category two procedures. (AFR)
- Federal Government is planning to legislate to assuage privacy concerns around the new Covid-19 Trace App. (AFR)
- Essential Poll finds that 38 per cent of Australians would download app, 33 per cent won’t (poll taken last week under assumption of geo-location). (Guardian)
- The Cyber Security Co-operative Research Centre, tasked with reviewing the App, says it has found ‘nothing particularly disturbing.’
- Labor will move a disallowance motion in the Senate to reverse the government move to fast-track enterprise agreement voting period to 24 hours. It would require the support of cross bench to succeed (One Nation and Centre Alliance views unknown). (AFR)
- Ongoing issues regarding JobKeeper:
- complaints that some employers are misusing JobKeeper, refusing to apply if staff don’t agree to new conditions, or refusing to apply if staff don’t increase hours (AFR)
- concerns that partnerships can only access JobKeeper benefit for one partner (SMH)
- Industry Super Australia modelling finds more than one million Australians intend to withdraw cash from their funds that they are not entitled to. (DT) (ATO had received over 600K applications at weekend but not all will be entitled
- Industry Super Australia chief Greg Combet has downplayed liquidity fears in the sector. Also flagged greater public-private approaches to building national infrastructure: ‘One thing we have to crack is a better partnership with governments in providing capital to achieve projects that are nationally important and that are going to help on the road to economic recovery.’ (AFR)
- US oil prices plunge, futures moving below zero for oil being delivered in May. (WSJ)
Covid-19 Update 16th April 2020
VIC announced its housing eviction etc package yesterday. Rent increases and evictions will be illegal for six months and tenants will be able to access assistance payments of up to $2000 from a $80M fund – Applications from those who earn less than $100,000 and have less than $5000 in savings. The payment will go direct to landlords
NSW issued a press release about progress on its ‘targeted stimulus program’. A $60.5 million program for maintenance works and upgrades on public housing properties. Work includes pausing plans to redevelop the ageing Arncliffe Estate in Sydney’s South, to provide emergency accommodation in response to the crisis. Billbergia Group, and Evolve Housing the development partners will be involved in scoping and delivering
A similar stimulus works program costing $13.5m is being undertaken through the Aboriginal Housing Office with a focus on improving living conditions and reducing cost of living pressures for Aboriginal tenants in regional and remote NSW.
- National Cabinet meets today at 10am, will discuss school reopening and broader issues.
- Covid-19 crisis has caused significant population decline (Australian).
- Down around 300,000 temporary visa holders already (temporary workers, tourists, students), according to Acting Immigration Minister Tudge.
- Predicted to decline by another 300,000 by end of the year according to former Immigration Dept official Rizvi.
- UBS predicts house prices to decline by 10 percent, with new housing starts to drop from 174,000 in calendar 2019 to around 120,000 in 2020. (AFR)
- RepuTex predicts power bills to fall by 20 per cent over two years (lower demand, lower energy prices, more supply from renewables) (AFR)
- Australia Post CEO Christina Holgate accused of political interference, after emails to colleagues revealing discussions with Queensland Premier Palaszcuk. Noting that the Premier was keen to further catch-up to understand ‘how we could help with her upcoming election,’ Holgate was looking to have AP assist. Holgate denies impropriety. (Australian)
- Federal government recommits to WHO funding, but backbenchers such as Dave Sharma and Sen Fierravant-Wells are looking for a review when the crisis is over. (SMH)
- YouGov survey reveals community anxieties – one in two people feeling isolated, 57 per cent suffering stress, 27 per cent say relationships are more strained (Daily Telegraph)
- Germany says some small shops can reopen next week (including bookstores, car dealers and bike shops).
- G20 Finance Ministers have agreed to suspend debt repayments – developing countries – until the end of the year.
EY have organised a webinar with a specialist panel to discuss the practical steps community
housing providers can take to navigate challenges around business
viability, workforce and government stimulus. For further details please click here
- $50 million of relief to any business that pays license fees to the NSW Government – 200,000 businesses will no longer pay these taxes (License fees will be predominately paid by tradies – Construction industry is so important to the recovery of the state)
- IMF predicts Australian economy to shrink 6.7 per cent this year, followed by rebound of 6.1 per cent next year (if global pandemic peaks within three months and social distancing eases in second half of his year.) Predicts global economic impact as worst since Great Depression.
- Trade Minister Birmingham will today announce a $500m credit facility to exporters. The Covid-19 Export Capital Facility will extend loans of between $250,000 and $50m to SMEs that had been profitable prior to pandemic but are now struggling to get credit.
- CMO Murphy confirms a tracing app will be offered to Australian public. Probably based on Singapore app, which works through Bluetooth, and records contacts with others with app. De-identified data, opt-in, and the government hopes 40 – 60 per cent of people will take it up.
- Prime Minister Morrison says easing priorities will be getting people back to work rather than leisure, and on areas of low risk, high value, nominating manufacturing, infrastructure, agriculture, and construction. From there on people may do short office work weeks or rosters.
- The PM will today use a Facebook video to urge teachers to return to school to ensure childrens’ education is not impaired.
- Industry Minister Andrews says she will use federal government procurement power to assist sectors such as medical supplies. ‘Governments historically don’t like to pick winners. But there are pretty critical industries emerging that we can build on.’ Andrews told AFR that ‘We will use procurement as a real option.’
- Office of Budget Responsibility in United Kingdom (equivalent of our Parliamentary Budget Office) predicts British economy will shrink by 35 per cent if tight social distancing remains in place for three months with partial lifting after that.
- Debates around goals – Greg Hunt said our goal is now ‘effective eradication’ of Covid-19. This reflects the unexpected success in reducing cases, with the possibility of complete eradication hovering into view. It’s a strategy increasingly popular in parts of the medical establishment.
- Of course moving to an ‘Effective Eradication’ goal would entail very different economic/business impacts compared to the strategy of Flatten the Curve, then Ease.
- The Grattan Institute support the eradication – wrote on this issue yesterday (CEO John Daley and Health Program Director Stephen Duckett). See here: https://grattan.edu.au/news/australias-endgame-must-be-total-elimination-of-covid-19/
- Grattan explicitly calls for ‘elimination,’ rather than what they call the ‘Goldilocks’ strategy (ease and restrict to manage Covid-19 at low level)
COVID-19 Housing Update (NSW): 14th April 2020
The main development has been the NSW Government announcement today on land tax relief for residential landlords (https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/nsw-unveils-440m-rental-rescue-package-20200412-p54j65.htm). Parliament will be recalled to pass. The available detail is gleaned from the news article and the press conference. It is in place for six-months for tenants facing financial stress due to COVID-19 and includes an interim moratorium on applications for forced evictions due to rental arrears. There will be an obligation on both parties to negotiate and tenants will be protected from eviction until NCAT is satisfied negotiations are concluded. Unpaid rent will accrue as rent. In addition residential landlords could be eligible for a land tax waiver or rebate of up to 25 per cent if they passed the equivalent saving on to tenants in financial distress – think defined as people losing at least 25% of their income. Additional mediators will be appointed to assist with negotiations. Tenants affected will not go onto blacklists.
Of course not all landlords pay land tax – owners of a single property may well not reach the land tax threshold of circa $750K – on unimproved land.
COVID-19 Update: 6th April 2020
Australian Bankers Association says banks will offer advances and loans to business to cover wages to bridge gap until JobKeeper comes in.
Parliament meets on Wednesday:
Media speculation that Govt looking to expand JobKeeper to more casuals, but Attorney General Porter pushed back on this today.
The Treasurer last night allowed charities to access JobKeeper with a 15 per cent decline in turnover Covid-19-related.
Parliament to authorise at least one Committee to scrutinise Covid-19 health and economic responses. Could be either a Senate select committee (usually chaired by non-government Senator), or a Joint Committee agreed by both Houses of Parliament (with a Chair from government Party), or both.
Super fund issues:
360,000 super fund members have registered with ATO to withdraw money (Australian)
Chairman of House Economics Committee, Tim Wilson, has written to industry super funds reading possible liquidity issues and unlisted asset valuations.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has written to state governments to exempt telcos, postal services and media organisations from restrictions on movement (The Age)
Australian Institute of Company Directors has written to the Treasurer asking for an emergency amendment to the Corporations Act to give safe harbour against legal action based on earnings guidance and forward looking statements (AFR)
Financial Review’s economists’ survey March quarter median forecasts:
3.9% contraction in calendar 2020, rebound in 2021 of 3.2%
unemployment up to 8.5% by June, fall back slightly to 8% by December
84% are worried about impact on economy
worried about catching virus (67%), govt debt (38%), losing your job (36%), super balance drop (35%)
high support for JobKeeper scheme (86%)
surge in support for Prime Minister (up 20 pts); slight lift to Coalition (up 2)
Department of Defence has banned personnel from using Zoom re security concerns (Australian)
NSW to create a new Department, Resilience NSW, devoted to disaster preparedness and recovery
Increasing discussion about Covid-19 survivors being given ‘immunity passports’ to work in certain roles.
CHIA participated with the following organisations to write to the Prime Minister and NSW Premier in support of a number of essential initiatives aimed at boosting social and affordable housing in the post Covid-19 recovery phase.
These organisations include: Australian Institute of Architects, the Centre for Social Impact, the Community Housing Industry Association, the Community Housing Industry Association NSW, the Constellation Project, Homelessness NSW, National Shelter, the Planning Institute of Australia, Shelter NSW, the UNSW City Futures Research Centre and the Women’s Community Shelters.
The full letter can be viewed here.
COVID-19 Update 3rd April
- National Cabinet meets today.
- Speculation that:
- States and Territories finalised their commercial rent support packages last night
- Victoria will push for commercial landlords to be part of JobKeeper scheme; NSW to focus on waiving or deferring land tax for landlords offering savings to tenants and a moratorium on rent increases (SMH)
- Some states pushing for closure of shopping centres (Australian)
- May get announcement of some sort of residential tenancies
- Nev Power, head of the new National Covid-19 Co-ordination Commission, talks up the ‘enormous opportunity’ to reboot Australia’s manufacturing industry. ‘It will be import replacement and we can take advantage of current market conditions and disrupted supply chains’. (AFR)
- NSW govt to give $10,000 to keep small businesses (up to 19 employees, turnover $75,000 p.a.) afloat, part of a Third Wave NSW package worth $750m
- Tasmania suspends horse and greyhound racing for next four weeks
- Mining employer group Australian Mines and Metals Association call for suspension of awards and enterprise agreements for six months; Attorney general Christian Porter rejected the proposal (‘Now is not the time for ambit claims for systemic or ideological changes’)
- COSBOA calls for suspension of unfair dismissal claims for crisis
- Allan Fels says domestic aviation rules (air cabotage) needs to be eased to assist foreign entry
- Australia’s largest tollroad operator, Transurban, gets criticisms from Deputy Prime Minister McCormack (‘last thing Australians need’) and NSW Transport Minister Constance (Australians ‘won’t forgive or forget’) for increasing road tolls.
COVID-19 update 2nd April
- Fair Work Commission has proposed changes during pandemic:
- a new temporary workplace right giving workers, including casuals, access to unpaid pandemic leave if they enter self-isolation
- allowing agreement to take twice the amount of accrued annual leave at half-pay
- would operate until June 30
- Commercial tenants to be offered part deferral/part waiver on rents in package being prepared for Friday’s National Cabinet (AFR)
- Parliament will sit next Wednesday to pass JobKeeper subsidy. Only around 40 MPs.
- AMP Chair (and former Chair of Financial System Inquiry) David Murray warns against govt liquidity support for industry super (on moral hazard grounds)
- Government unlikely to bail out Virgin; more likely to encourage new entrant, say govt sources (AFR)
- Geoff Wilson (Wilson Asset Management), high-profile campaigner against ALP franking credit policy, says ‘everything must be on the table’ for paying back government debt. Suggests capping to make it ‘more equitable’.
- ACCI and COSBOA urge wage subsidy to be used to upskill during pandemic
- NSW government allowing constructions sites special permission to operate across weekends and public holidays (to allow better social distancing with fewer workers on site). (DT)
- NSW supermarkets and pharmacies also allowed to trade 24/7
- Exporters rescue package to be announced today. $110m for organising freight; $50m for Export Markets Development Grants programme; $10m in commercial fishing fees waived. Michael Byrne (ex-Toll) has been made International Freight Co-ordinator General.
- Some emerging criticisms of wage subsidy plan:
- the required declines in turnover
- how workforces are structured
- some workers on lower pay now leapfrogging others
- Increasing deficit speculation:
- Grattan Institute says gross debt would double in next three years to $1 trillion
- Warren Hogan UTS says Budget deficits of $300b in next two years
- RBC Su-Lin Ong says deficits of $100b over this year and next
- Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer say tax cuts will go ahead, and Cormann says submarine purchases will go ahead (AFR). (Albanese has said he reserves position on Stage 3 of tax cuts)
- Moody’s says Australia can maintain AAA rating if economic slump is temporary
- Finance & Treasurers Association (executives from top-200 companies) have written to govt seeking further protections such as a debt moratorium (AFR)
- G20 Finance Ministers meeting last night – Treasurer urged a ‘fiscal support tart=get, and keep supply chains open.
- Gladys Berejiklian is calling for businesses to ‘retool’ to help supply equipment
- Paul Kelly gives a ‘tick-tock’ on the development of the wage subsidy policy (as briefed – one presumes – by JF):
- Discussions began in earnest straight after second package
- Thursday 26 March – principles developed at dinner – PM, Frydenberg, Cormann, Treasury Sec Kennedy and Dep Sec Jenny Wilkinson
- Frydenberg convos with four business people Richard Murray (JB Hifi), Rob Scott (Wesfarmers), Justin Hemmes (Merivale), and Solomon Lew.
- Greg Combet tasked with engaging with ACTU
- Frydenberg spoke with Tim Reed (BCA chief, MYOB) re payroll systems
- Friday 27 March – Treasury, Frydenberg and Kennedy refining scheme, JF takes proposal to Morrison.
- Saturday 28 March – Treasury updates costings. Treasury tells JF that ATO is good and that scheme can also apply to sole traders
- Sunday 29 March – Expenditure Review Committee discusses, ATO Commissioner Jordan says ‘we can deliver this’
- Monday 30 March – ERC oks, then full Cabinet oks, then announced at 4pm
31 March 2020
- Govt’s wage subsidy plan gets broad support – business groups, ACTU and ALP.
- 60,000 businesses have registered for wage subsidy overnight
- Virgin Australia asks for $1.4b govt loan. Mathias Cormann, without responding directly, says that the government wants two airlines when we come out of crisis. (Eight regional airlines asked for bailouts last week)
- Qatar Airways announces increasing flights to Australia, with new route Brisbane to Doha
- Assistant Minister for Super Jane Hume criticises industry super funds with membership drawn from a single industry for ‘structural weakness’
- ACCC chief Rod Sims indicates he will look through the present crisis in determining merger decisions
- NSW Deputy Premier tells city people to ‘stay away’ from rural and regional Australia.
- Seven biggest sports (Cricket Australia, NRL, AFL, Tennis Australia, FFA, RA) have jointly sought support from Sport Minister Colbeck.
- Essential Poll shows increasing concern (53 per cent now ‘very concerned’)
- 20% say they will be in serious financial distress if there is a short-term loss of income.
- 88% support closing borders
- 82% support for direct payments for people losing work due to Covid-19
- 81% support for closing pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes
- 80% support for direct payments to SMEs who are losing money
- 69% support for distance learning at schools
30 March 2020
- Wage subsidy will be announced later today, will use existing tax and transfer system, legal obligation to keep employees
- Speculation that wage subsidy:
- $1500/fortnight, capped at middle income workers
- concern that a UK 80 per cent system would be inequitable,
- being referred to as ‘job keeper allowance’.
- likely to target full time employees over six month period.
- will need to be legislated
- Eviction moratorium details expected over the next few days (though states already started to take steps – TAS, NSW given powers to amend / suspend clauses in the RTA etc ) and clearly linked to the other initiatives including the deferral of loan repayments. Messaging suggests that limited to financial stress
- Treasurer Frydenberg last night changed FIRB rules to now scrutinise all foreign investment ‘regardless of value or nature of foreign investor’.
- Banks to announce today loan repayments for almost all Australian businesses will be deferred
- Businesses with loans up to $10m will be able to defer their loan repayments for six months, above that level case-by-case
- Speculation Government will lift the SME 50 per cent loan guarantee to include big business (Australian)
- Senator Andrew Bragg has criticised industry super for being too reliant on illiquid assets
- Expenditure Review Committee meeting today, will discuss Stimulus Mark III