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What Australia’s Leaders Are Saying About #Budget2016

By Women For Media | May 4th, 2016

Nicki Hutley, Chief Economist, Urbis

“This budget is a case of fiscal groundhog day. We are seeing the Government move the pieces on the chess board but not actually make significant inroads into the budget deficit.”

“There’s nothing in here that inspires a vision that is going to fundamentally change the Australian economy for the better.” ABC News

“There’s very little here to get excited about. The economic predictions are ridiculously optimistic. We live in an uncertain world and you have to build on conservative forecasts. …as Australians we have to ask, what is it we want from policy and then how are we going to pay for it, because we can’t have increased expenditure and reduced taxes.” World Today, ABC Radio

Andrea Staines, Non Executive Director, QIC, Transport for NSW, SeaLink

“The government’s plan to encourage asset recycling is on the right track with its focus on proper cost benefit analysis for new projects. It was also terrific to see the scope of the program expanded from roads to also include public transport.” Sydney Morning Herald

Professor Miranda Stewart, Director, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Australian National University

On the income tax cut for earners over $80,000: “It’s basically a tax cut that benefits the top 20% of female taxpayers and top 35% of male taxpayers by taxable income.”

“If the government was serious about addressing real tax disincentives to work it would have looked at the high effective marginal tax rates facing many women.”

Su-Lin Ong, Head of Australian Economics, RBC Capital

“An improvement in the budget trajectory remains the central forecast but the underlying budget remains firmly in the red.” Sydney Morning Herald

Romilly Madew, CEO, Green Building Council of Australia

“We are pleased to see a renewed national focus on Australian cities, with more than $3.4 billion allocated to urban rail projects. Only then will Australian taxpayers know they’ve invested in infrastructure that is resilient and that delivers the best value for decades to come.”

“It is disappointing that the budget announces no new funding to assist Australia to reach its international commitments for emissions reductions and to transition to a low-carbon economy.”

“The built environment represents significant opportunities for emissions reductions at relatively low cost, but there are no new incentives or support for the property and construction industry, or any other industry for that matter, to make the most of these opportunities.”

“…investment in urban forests is important, but we’d like to see the development of a national green infrastructure policy that goes further than being just about trees, and include boosting biodiversity, enhancing the public domain and building more resilient cities.” The Fifth Estate

Pauline Vamos, CEO, Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia

“We do not support the reduction of annual concessional caps to $25,000.”

“While today less than two per cent of people with superannuation make contributions above $25,000, a significant number of such individuals that have low balances are attempting to catch up. For instance, around 36,000 women with balances less than $200,000 in 2013/14, were making contributions in excess of $25,000.” SMSF Adviser

Belinda Robinson, CEO, Universities Australia

On cuts to the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme (HEPPP): “Cutting such a program means we could be denying talented students a chance at higher education just because of their background. That is not only unfair but it robs Australia of future highly skilled graduates and innovators.”

“To build the highly skilled contemporary workforce of the future Australia needs all Australians – regardless of their background – to have the opportunity to gain the skills required by employers.”

“Improving equity in higher education is not only fair, but an essential platform for building the diverse, skilled workforce of the future.” Guardian Australia

Catherine Robson, CEO, Affinity Private

“There were some welcome incentives, such as the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset (replacing Labor’s Low Income Super Contribution) and the ability to effectively average concessional contributions over five years, which will assist the self-employed with lumpy incomes and those in the early stages of their career.

However, the reality is that those who have periods out of the paid workforce, or work in low-paid or not-for-profit industries, will continue to find accumulating retirement savings challenging. These people are at a much higher risk of ending their working lives without the security and dignity of independence.” Canberra Times

Dana Fleming, Tax Partner, KPMG

“We strongly support the Government’s measures to allow those with broken work records, often women, to make top-up payments. This is a very fair and important move which will go some way to ensuring those individuals have a decent retirement package.”

“Retaining the Low Income Super Contribution for low earners and allowing tax deductions for all contributions into superannuation are also welcome.” ABC Radio

“Paring back some current concessions – bringing down the 30 per cent tax threshold from $300,000 to $250,000 seems to strike a reasonable balance between equity and incentives for people to fund their own retirement.” Sydney Morning Herald

Ethical funds get the green light

By Catherine Robson | May 20th, 2015

Everyone wants positive returns from their investments, but what if you could do good in the world while you were making money?

This is the goal of ethical investing, also known as sustainable or socially responsible investing. Proponents argue that not only is it possible to do good, but in the long term it’s actually more financially rewarding. The theory is that companies that do less harm, look after their staff and are well managed provide better returns.

There are numerous examples of thriving companies with a strong social conscience, such as United States ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, whose activism resulted in the development of chlorine-free food packaging and sustainable agriculture in the 1990s.

Online retailer Zappos​ started from nothing in 1999 and was sold 10 years later for $1.2 billion, while consistently being listed as one of the world’s most ethical companies.

The challenge of ethical investment is that ethics are very personal and mean different things to different people. It can also be very labour intensive not only to perform investment due diligence, but also to assess a company’s sustainability credentials and, as such, ethical investment funds can be expensive.

These challenges aside, there are several great ways to concurrently meet investment and social objectives:

  • Start with superannuation Most funds have a socially responsible investment investment option and the long-term nature of super is a great fit for the extend timelines needed for companies which, by definition, don’t take shortcuts. There are even super funds that are entirely devoted not only to making investments in ethical companies but to use their influence to agitate for positive change in corporate behaviour and government policy.
  • Specialised managed funds There are a number of actively managed ethical funds, ranging from light green – a negative screening that avoids companies with adverse social or environmental impacts – to dark green, which select organisations that achieve positive social or environmental outcomes.
  • Modified index portfolios These offer relatively low-cost access to a broad index with an ethical overlay, most often excluding tobacco and controversial weapons. Depending on your ethical stance, these exchange traded funds facilitate an ethical approach without some of the high investment management fees, which sometimes characterise the SRI sector.
  • Build your own With the ability to inexpensively trade Australian and international shares with almost unlimited capacity for DIY research via the internet, it’s possible to build a portfolio that meets your moral code. However, all the commonsense investing rules still apply, so make sure you have adequate diversification, don’t try to time the market, and don’t let your emotions get in the way of making good investment decisions.

Catherine Robson is a financial planner and CEO of Affinity Private.

This article was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Sectors: Finance