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Business Outlook Series

The Business Outlook Series was established in 2012 by The West Australian in association with Curtin Business School (CBS). It is a Curtin-funded project which was developed to promote the talent, and research of academics and researchers of Curtin University with an opportunity to showcase their research. The Business Outlook Series aims to bring together experts to discuss issues of relevance to WA.

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SevenWest Outlook Series 2016

Find out more about last year’s candidates.

Skilled migration/workforce

Candidate:

Dr Ros Cameron

Topic:

Skilled Migration/work force

Date Presented:

4 October

Date Published:

11 October

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Project Summary:

There have been a number of skilled migration policy shifts in the last decade and we now have a demand driven system with the SOLs (Skill Occupation Lists) and here in WA the WASOL (Western Australian Skill Occupation List) at centre stage of the skilled migration policy terrain. International students and the phenomenon of “two step” migration is also another interesting aspect of Australia’s skilled migration intake as well as attracting and retaining skilled migrants and their families in regional Australia.

Skills wastage (brain waste) of independent skilled migrants has been identified as an issue which results in skills atrophy and underemployment. The phrase “doctors/engineers driving taxis” come to mind often. A recent research project which looked at minimising skills wastage of skilled migrants has found that a lot more could be done by the WA government in assisting independent skilled migrants when they arrive in WA to secure employment commensurate with their qualifications and experience. The project has developed a framework to assist independent skilled migrants in the crucial arrival transition period to WA. The project has also identified best practises from other state/regions in terms of assisting skilled migrants in their job search activities and integrating within a community. Dr Cameron has lead 3 separate research projects on skilled migration. One for the Australian rail industry, the second for the Gladstone community in central Qld and here in WA.

Energy poverty in WA

Candidate:

Dr Tom Houghton

Director MBA (Oil & Gas), Curtin Graduate School of Business

Topic:

Energy Poverty in Western Australia – A comparative analysis of drivers and effects

Date Presented:

Wednesday 6th October

Date Published:

Thursday 13th October

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Project summary:

The extent of energy poverty in Australia and the effect that energy vulnerability has on household well-being are poorly understood, despite these becoming increasingly prominent societal issues, as energy costs rise faster than incomes.

This BCEC funded project sought to characterise energy poverty in Australia by income bracket, housing type and household constitution and explore the impact that rising energy prices is having on households and individuals.

Through a mixture of firsthand elicitation of householders’ experiences, a survey of households in three states and an examination of Australia-wide economic data, the project was able to build a picture of what it means to suffer energy vulnerability.

The results draw attention to the dual issue facing poor households in rented accommodation that have access neither to energy saving measures nor low carbon home generation. The research will inform debate and support decision-making on policy and market structuring both in WA and nationally.

Policies to address the issue might include:

  • Providing support to low income families to access high efficiency appliances and/or solar generation
  • Legislating for public and private landlords to improve the energy performance of rental properties
  • Tightening building regulations to ensure the next generation of homes offset rising energy costs?
  • Providing more cheap and convenient transportation options

Detailed findings:

The economic boom in WA has meant rising wages, but those in the lowest income brackets have seen the least benefit from the boom and have had to contend with rapidly increasing house prices and rents. These factors increase the incidence of energy vulnerability with lower income households spending over 10% of their gross income on energy, putting them into a commonly accepted category of energy poverty.

The burden of household costs for the lowest income quintile has increased from 32% of disposable income in 2003/4 to 43% in 2013/14. At the same time the utilities price index (including energy) in WA rose by 60% in the period from 2007 to 2012, significantly faster than the consumer price index.

This has led to over 60% of low income households either frequently or occasionally curtailing their use of heating or cooling despite feeling discomfort. This provides an indication that actual energy expenditure might be underestimating the underlying energy burden of households.

Fewer than 40% of privately rented properties are fitted with insulation compared with over 80% of owned properties and while nearly 20% of owned properties now have solar power or hot water the equivalent figure in the rented sector is less than 4%. Around 40% of low income households in WA are renters and consequently have restricted options in terms of fuel switching and investment in energy saving measures such as high efficiency appliances and solar panels.

As a result, low income households are failing to benefit fully from the “low carbon dividend” that results from improvements to energy efficiency and access to home generation. This has the potential to push low income households deeper into energy poverty if fuel prices rise and the income gap between the wealthiest and the poorest continues to grow.

Those households which have been able to benefit from the installation of solar panels, for example, spoke of the reduced anxiety they felt with regards to their energy bills and the greater feeling of involvement it gave them in the management of their energy expenditure.

However, it cannot be overlooked that there is a risk that this remains nothing more than an aspiration for many households on low incomes who either cannot afford the investment or are in rented accommodation and have no control over the installation of such facilities.

Reform of the federation and WA’s relation with the federal government

Candidate:

Professor John Phillimore

Topic:

Reform of the federation and WA’s relations with the federal government (including GST shares)

Date Presented:

Monday 10th October

Date Published:

Thursday 20th October

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Project Summary:

Commonwealth-State relations have always been controversial in Western Australia. WA was the last state to agree to join the Federation; the population voted to secede in 1933; and there have been regular disputes between the two levels of government ever since. Relations sank to something of a new low in recent years with arguments over the carbon and mining taxes, and the distribution of GST revenues between the States and Territories.

This proposed Business Outlook session will, in addition to discussing the potential for reforming the issue of GST shares, also seek the views of business and policy-makers on the state of the federation today, and WA’s place in it, and how the State can best forge a constructive relationship with Canberra and the other states.

 

Tax reform

Candidate:

Dr Helen Hodgson

Date Presented:

12 October

Date Published:

17 October (in the personal finance section)

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Project Summary:

 The 2016 election has been largely based on reform of tax and superannuation, with budget repair policies forming part of the election platform of all of the major parties in this election. These policies all include redistributing tax concessions on superannuation by addressing the level of tax concessions received by the wealthy and maintaining support for low income earners. There are also proposals intended to assist women, who generally have lower superannuation balances than men.

There are areas of contention, including the effect that the Coalition proposals have on retirement plans. In particular there are suggestions that the tax changes to the superannuation will encourage people to shift their investment into areas such as property. There are also proposals by the ALP and the Greens relating to restrictions on negative gearing and capital gains tax.

This session would discuss the reform of superannuation and investment tax concessions in the context of the election debate, taking account of the political climate after the election.

Within a policy context, including the Henry Review[1] proposals and the Murray Report[2] it would discuss the technical reforms proposed by each party, the expected effect of those reforms and the likelihood of those reforms proceeding based on the election outcomes.

 


[1] Henry, Ken, Jeff Harmer, John Piggot, Heather Ridout, and Greg Smith. 2010. Australia’s Future Tax System: Final Report In (The Henry Review). Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

[2] Murray, David, Kevin Davis, Craig Dunn, Carolyn Hewson, and Brian McNamee. 2014. Financial System Inquiry Final Report.

Housing Affordability in WA

Candidate:

Associate Professor Rachel Ong (Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre)

Date Presented:

Wednesday 19th October

Date Published:

Tuesday 25th October

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Business Outlook Series 2015

2015 Issues

These are the issues that were tackled in October 2015 by the Business Outlook Series, hosted by The West Australian in association with Curtin Business School (CBS).