What has changed since the May budget?

Ross Greenwood speaks to, Tresurer Scott Morrison, who admits a positive outlook for the country shown in his Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) isn’t necessarily reflected in the homes of everyday Australians.

Interview with: Scott Morrison, Treasurer

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Royal Commission final report: ‘Australia has a huge debt to pay’

Ross Greenwood speaks to Truth Justice and Healing Council CEO, Francis Sullivan, about the key recommendations that came from the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.

Introduction: Royal Commission final report: ‘Australia has a huge debt to pay’

Ross Greenwood:  The Royal Commission today has been handed down into the child sexual abuse, in particular, the allegations in regards to sexual abuse that was either condoned or overlooked by some of their major churches. Do bear in mind that the Royal Commission in the institutional responses to child sexual abuse really did come about, I guess at the sacrifice of many of the victims who have had to relive the horror of what had taken place when they were kids.

Situations that they’ve had to live with over many decades in some cases that has scared them emotionally, psychologically perhaps even had an impact on their ability to hold their job or to have a normal family life. Many of those people came forward and spoke to this particular Royal Commission. The interesting side about what the Royal Commission itself has said is that there are a number of key recommendations. That is, do not allow clergy who have in any way, shape, or form interfered with children to be protected by the church.

That’s going to be an absolute given. Number two is that if there’re rules inside a religious organization which their eye is inside parts of the Catholic church, the Jewish faith, even Jehova’s witnesses that those laws have to be superseded by the laws of the land and that is the children are protected. That the confessional, if people are told about sexual abuse of children, priests inside the confessional that they should have a duty to the community to release that to the public.

Indeed there are question marks given again by the Royal Commission as to whether the vows of celibacy should, in fact, be changed to be made voluntary. Now, the Catholic Church came in for an awful lot of criticism in regards to this. If you consider that going all the way back when first off this Royal Commission was called that at the time, the Catholic Archbishop Cardinal Pell came out and basically said that he believed at that time that many of the claims against the Catholic Church were exaggerated.

The fact of the matter he said is that the Royal Commission would separate fact from fiction. However, over that period of time, another man has been appointed by the Catholic church to basically act as, well, I guess its spokesperson, but as person who has been within the community trying to make certain that deep divisions are healed. That man is Francis Sullivan, the Chief Executive of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council. Before being with that council, he was the Secretary-General of the Australian Medical Association. He is with me now. Many thanks for your time Francis.

Interview with: Francis Sullivan, CEO, Truth Justice and Healing Council

Francis Sullivan: Good evening, Ross.

Ross Greenwood:  In regards to what the findings of this Royal Commissioner and the reports that’s been given to the governor general today, do you believe broadly that Catholic Church can live with their recommendations?

Francis Sullivan: Broadly they will and I’m hoping very much that you will hear from senior archbishops particularly that they are going to implement those findings, the recommendations because that’s what we are advising them to do.

Ross Greenwood:  What about things such the voluntary vow of celibacy because that’s a key one because it’s been not a hallmark of the church for years or decades, it’s been centuries. That that’s been pivotal to those people who take the faith and become Catholic priests?

Francis Sullivan: Look, I reckon this is a really important point. Even our own council in its submission to the Royal Commission made it clear that in some cases celibacy was a contributing factor to the abuse. You can’t deny. You can’t put your head in the sand and say, “Oh, that’s already fine but we are not going to do anything about it.” This recommendation by the Royal Commission needs to be taken very seriously.

I am a bit hurt that I’ve heard over the last few hours that the head of the bishops conference archbishop Hurt has said that he’s prepared to take that to Rome and to have it in conversation. As you rightfully said, celibacy is centuries old. It doesn’t mean that they’ll get rid of it. It’s the issue about the mandatory nature of it. Some people clearly who abuse children were not able to keep their vows and the psychological pressure on these individuals this was one element, not the only element that cause them to abuse children.

It’s high time that this conversation is heard in a sober way but in an assertive way as well. Not just to be fobbed off as, “Oh, well, that’s what some inquiry in Australia think,” instead of contextualizing it in that dismissive way.

Ross Greenwood:  What about the sanctity of the confessional? That’s again something that is many centuries old and of course, a person to have a faith in their confession quite clearly needs to know the details of that will not go anywhere and yet quite clearly the law of the land and in particular what has taken place in regards to child abuse. That needs to be almost taking precedence in a modern community over something that has been there for many centuries.

Francis Sullivan: Well, Ross you did right if you just bear with me on this one. It’s complex. There are two parts of it. When the archbishops went to the Royal Commission they really didn’t think on the same because experts, legal, what they call canon law experts internationally recognized, make clear. “In the Catholic church when a person wants to participate in the sacrament of confession what they say in there is confidential.” That’s called the seal.

What is sealed is the confessing of a sin? If a child does it too, confession, and discloses information about the fact that they were abused they’re not confessing their sin. There needs to be a way in which priests through a protocol or whatever get that information out to police. The second side of this is if a paedophile goes into confession and confesses that they abused a child that’s the one that everyone is getting concerned about.

Over the last five years, I’ve addressed all sorts of groups, all sorts of priest groups, I’ve asked this simple question. “How many of you I’ve heard the confession of a paedophile?” Only once did a man put his hand up. I said, “Wow, you are the first person who’s ever said that.” He said yes, “I did hear the confession of a paedophile. I heard it while he was in jail. He’d already been convicted.” Priests tell me they don’t hear these things.

They don’t hear the confessionals but also they tell me that even if a law was passed they wouldn’t break their vow. This is going to come down to what parliaments want to do about whether they believe the issue is so big that they need to pass laws about it. The key to this whole problem is that for so long children weren’t believed. If a child comes into a confessional, tells them what’s going on, there is got to be a way in which priests get that information to the police.

Ross Greenwood:  As a part of your role as the Chief Executive of the Truth, Justice Healing Council you have listened to, you have spoken with– Sat with over a long period of time many of the victims of child sexual abuse and particularly those who have been abused from members, priests whatever it might be. Do you believe that this Royal Commission ultimately is being a healing process for many of them?

Francis Sullivan: Yes. You will hear often that people say for once they were actually believed, they were listened to, they weren’t judged, they were affirmed, and they felt that the information they gave has led to something good. It’s been a brilliant process. I know how much it takes to have to sit through, day after day, to cover the story but to do five years of it, it’s been a champion job. Australia has a huge debt to pay. They’re courageous people that came forward with their story.

They have got a big debt to pay to these commissioners who’ve come forward with these recommendations. Ross, our Prime Minister, our premieres, our chief ministers have got to step up now. They’ve got to able to say that we are taking all of this all this to COAG, because they have got to deal with this in concert, together, non-partisan. They’ve got to say these recommendations can’t be shelved.

We’ve got to see real change, consistent national police reporting, consistent working with children checks. We’ve got to get a national address come up and running by July 2018. If our politicians can’t do this, you’ve got to seriously wonder why they are in the job.

Ross Greenwood:  The other thing also Francis does it trouble you at all that given all of the revelations that have taken place in regards to the actions of various churches that the issue of faith and trust in those institutions, in the churches themselves is going to be diminished in the public’s eye?

Francis Sullivan: Absolutely, the credibility of the Catholic Church is low as it has ever been. It’s possibly going to go lower. People have lost trust, confidence in the Catholic Church because it acted for decades contrary to what it preaches. Even as a practicing Catholic myself, I’ve struggled with that corrosion of confidence in it. Most people who have any sense of faith or any sense of spirituality. Look, let’s face it, Ross. We all get out of the bed in the morning wanting it to be a meaningful life. All of us with a sense of spirituality and faith, what I also think that the faith tradition that we’re associated with is good, true and pure.

It has been a really harrowing time for people associated with the Catholic Church and I’m not kidding myself it’s going to take a long time for that to be restored.

Ross Greenwood:  I’ll tell you what, Francis, it’s great day to have you on the program and terrific to have– Chat with you is not a man who has put enormous amount of work into trying to A, communicate and B, coordinate the response of the churches as part of this Royal Commission. The Truth Justice Healing Council of which Francis is the chief executive has coordinated the Catholic Church’s response to the Royal Commission into the institutional responses to child sexual abuse which has brought down its findings today.

Now as Francis says, “It’s up to the government to respond, to put the laws in place to make certain the children are protected in the future and forever more.” Francis, I appreciate your time on the program this evening.

Francis Sullivan: Good night, Ross.

 

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How are retailers expecting this Christmas to go?

Ross Greenwood speaks with Head of Retail at Colliers International Michael Bate to discuss how retailers will fare going into Christmas.

Introduction: How are retailers expecting this Christmas to go?

Ross Greenwood: Well, what can I tell you about falling house prices in Melbourne and Sydney? It’s a bit wobbly in Brisbane although not too bad. Canberra is okay at the moment. Hobart’s probably, well, the funny thing is I reckon the best property market in Australia right now is probably Perth. It’s got more prospects than just about anywhere. That’s been a basket case for three years. Then you’ve got well, rising utility bills, electricity.

The latest thing, you’ve got rising petrol prices. That is always the perfect storm for retail, it’s going to Christmas 2017. Let’s try and find out exactly how it looks right now. Michael Bate, he’s Head of Retail at Colliers International. He looks at all of this, leases out the space. Michael, explain to me right now your view as to how retailers are faring going into Christmas.

Interview with: Michael Bate, Colliers International, Retail Expert

Michael Bate: It’s one very simple word, Ross, and it’s called tough, it really is. Everything you just outlined is not a great recipe for this particular Christmas trade.

Ross Greenwood:  Is there any feeling of people going online to do their shopping or is it simply a case that they just don’t have the dough that they had a year or two years ago?

Michael Bate: I think there’s two things. There’s no doubt that the online presence is eating into pure sales. There’s anecdotal evidence to suggest that online is having a greater impact on retail sales. The more people explore us, the more people are satisfied with us. But it’s the pressures, it’s the economic pressures that are out there at the moment on the general family household income.

That are just, we’re just going to see people saying, “You know, I won’t spend it this year. I’ll be very cautious about the way I do spend what I have got to spend for Christmas.” The Myer result, the Myer profit warning during the week was of course a litmus test for a lot of retailers in this line.

Ross Greenwood:  Well, the other thing also my shares this week down by 16%, that is the real issue. From a consumer’s point of view, from a retailer’s point of view, you do not want to get caught with stock that you can’t move at Christmas time. The question is, “When do the sales start?”. Because that’s always the big thing to watch. Isn’t it? Because if they go early with the sales, in many cases, that’s the tell-tale sign that they’re worried they wouldn’t be able to clear that stock.

Michael Bate: Correct and once, the moment that they start to clear, the moment that they start to go on sales, there goes margin. Once margin is eroded or eaten into, there’s profitability. I think this weekend is a real litmus test right across particularly the big three markets Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. I think a lot of retailers will be sitting back on Monday morning next week saying “Well okay, what was it like? Did we in fact clear? Is it an indicator from the volumes that we do over this weekend that we’re going to have a great week next week and then lead into the weekend before Christmas?”

I think it was, if my memory serves me, I think it was about 2005 maybe 2006 that we saw this particular scenario where Christmas Day fell on a Monday. “Guys, you get two full weekends leading into Christmas” and it was a bumper year and ‘06 was a very very good year. They’ll be sitting back Monday morning, having a look at what happens this weekend and deciding, “Do we push the button early on sales or do we ride it out?”.

Ross Greenwood:  Okay. I haven’t talked to you about it since then but the deal that the Lowy family had done the other day in regards to Westfield International. Is that do you think indicative of the mood of retail right now? Because online ultimately is going to make some sort of impact around the place. Question is, from your point of view, is space going to be really as valuable and at the same premium in the future as it is today?

Michael Bate: You know I think that Frank Lowy is one of the shrewdest businessmen I know. I had the pleasure of working with him for many years in my Westfield career and I admire the man greatly. I’m sorry I didn’t keep his shares because you’re holding the shares, that’s another story. But I do think that they’ve picked the market well.

Unibail and Rodamco are great retail owners throughout the globe and they saw a great opportunity to own some of the best retail assets across the globe that had been created by a Sydney-based family. I think that the Westfield story is a great story and I think that yet again, Frank Lowy has picked the market and picked the market very well.

Ross Greenwood:  All right, just going back to that whole issue about when the sales will happen. Just a real tell-tale of this will be you yourself. When will you be doing your Christmas shopping, Michael?

Michael Bate: Probably Saturday a week, that’s five o’clock in the afternoon.

Ross Greenwood:  And the reason is, because you think the sales are best or simply because you’ve left it that late?

Michael Bate: No, I’ve left it that late and I’m a sucker for leaving it to the last minute.

Ross Greenwood:  There you have Michael Bate, he’s Head of Retail at Colliers International. One of the really good things about retail in this country and Michael, we appreciate your time. Have a great Christmas.

Michael Bate: You too, Ross. Cheers.

 

 

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Is the property boom over?

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Interview with: Rob Klaric, The Property Expert

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Optus in trouble for the second time this week

Ross Greenwood speaks to Teresa Corbin, CEO of Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), about why the ACCC has taken Optus to corut for the second time this week.

Introduction: Optus in trouble for the second time this week

Ross Greenwood: Yes, welcome back to Money News. We’ve talked a lot about the National Broadband Network. We’ve talked a lot about, in many cases, whose fault is it? Sometimes it is the NBN fault. Sometimes it is actually the telecommunications companies’ fault as to why a person’s service or what they’re getting in terms of their offer is not what it should be.

The ACCC has now taken federal court proceedings against Optus Internet. Basically saying it misled customers about the need to move more quickly from its existing cable network to the National Broadband Network. This went from October 2015 to March this year. Let’s get Teresa Corbin, the chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network on the line. Represents a lot of consumers in this case. Teresa, why has this come to pass?

Interview with: Teresa Corbin, CEO, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)

Teresa Corbin: Well, it was actually very confusing for consumers because Optus made a different arrangement with the government for the transition for NBN services that were on their cable network than what every other provider had in place. Every other provider was using the Telstra, the Telstra cables or copper network. In those arrangements, people had 18 months to transition. But it was news to us and news to those consumers that they were only going to be given three months, 90 days to transition.

Ross Greenwood:  But that doesn’t make too much sense, does it really?

Teresa Corbin:  No.

Ross Greenwood:  If they pushed across there, now we’ve actually heard that the NBN Co itself is slowing down the actual rollout of customers with the hybrid fiber coaxial NBN because the technology was not up to scratch. It seemed as though the NBN Co was worried that because the network wasn’t up to scratch, it was potentially liable for some sort of action down the track if it was promising something that it couldn’t deliver. It’s goes a bit around in circles easily.

Teresa Corbin:  Absolutely, this is so confusing for the consumers because they don’t necessarily know what technology they’re on or what they’re not. If you’re an Optus cable customer, it doesn’t necessarily mean when you switch to the NBN that you will continue to use that same cable. It will be a different cable that you’re using. You could be using the Telstra HFC cable or you could be switching to a Fibre to the Node or another kind of technology. It doesn’t actually make much sense to the customer.

What they’re transitioning to and they don’t necessarily need to know. But what they do need to know is how much time they’ve got to switch. How much time they’ve got to think about their options and weigh it all up. They need really clear information. What we’ve been asking for is consistency because everybody else and all our messaging up until March this year was you’ve got 18 months after you’re told you need to switch to think about this, you don’t have to hurry.

This was very frustrating from our perspective. Some of those customers then got disconnected. Some of them may have also suffered from that problem you just explained about how — We haven’t heard of examples like this one but I’m sure it’s possible that they may have been switched across to the NBN HFC service for the NBN future HFC network. They may have had ongoing problems which are the ones that were announced last week.

Ross Greenwood:  You know my it’s bet your bottom dollar that that’s exactly what’s taken place, Teresa. The other thing also about this is, I’m just thinking outside the square, because the NBN is obviously supposed to be a wonderful thing. Of course you can throw your address in on the Internet side, on the NBN Co internet site and figure out what sort of technology you’ve got and when it’s going to come and all that sort of stuff.

But what sort of strikes me if I find that I’ve got fibre to the Node, then am I likely to get slower speeds than if I’ve got the HFC cable? Or if I’ve got fibres to the home. Is one of those things where does the technology that they use and they get it to me affect the speed that I’m going to be able to receive from the NBN itself?

Teresa Corbin:  Now, this is an interesting issue too because in general you’re probably right but not in all instances. This is why what we’re suggesting to people is after they sign up for a service, if they’re not getting the speed that they have signed up for, then they need to go back to the provider. Now, Telstra and Optus have both put an arrangement that within the first few weeks of having the new service in place, if they’re not getting the service and if it turns out that that service can’t be delivered at that speed, then they will be put on a plan that that speed can be delivered on. Depending on how many people are using the network for fibre to the Node.

How far you’re away from the node. All of these things, perhaps interference from other services. All of these things will affect whether you’re getting a good speed on fibre to node or a bad speed. The same happens with obviously, we’re hearing that some people are having good experiences with the HFC. But most have not been having good ones. That’s got more to do with the fact that they have not tested it and rolled it out initially and made sure it’s all working rather than whether or not it will be better in the long run. There are so many different complex circumstances that people are experiencing. There are people with good stories.

But the truth is what we’re saying to people is if you are experiencing problems, do escalate them to the service provider. Obviously if they say it’s NBN’s fault, NBN does have a call centre despite the fact that they’re not supposed to be engaging with the end customer. Chase it up with the NBN. If you’re still not happy, go to the telecommunications industry ombudsmen because that’s what it’s there for.

Ross Greenwood:  As we’ve said, we’ll try and fix one person’s NBN problems at a time. We certainly done a few of them so far. Teresa will keep on doing that as well. Part of the reason for this that I’m interested is because I’m affected by this. This so called six to nine month delay in the HFC connection because of equipment upgrades and real problems with the potential speed.

I’m going to say the HFC that I receive now from Telstra, absolutely fine. No problems at all. It’s relatively quick. It actually doesn’t drop out. It’s good. No dramas. For some reason, I’ve got the situation where the NBN situation now says that they’re going to add an extra six to nine months to that connection. It’s going to be interesting. Teresa Corbin is the chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network and Teresa, always great to have you on the program.

Teresa Corbin:  You’re welcome.

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