10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

10 things you need to know this morning in Australia
A budget surplus could be out of reach for 10 years as Australian government debt outgrows all major economies. Sam Mooy/Getty Images

Hello!

It’s a big Wednesday for Treasury, which will today announce proposals to revolutionise Australia’s digital payments systems. The Sydney Morning Herald reports Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will outline a new regulatory framework with the goal of bringing global entrants, like Apple, Google Pay, and PayPal, into line with local services. “If we do not reform the current framework it will be Silicon Valley that determines the future of our payments system,” he will say.

Buy now, pay later services, an Australian invention, will also come under scrutiny. Frydenberg will say the Treasury will delve into the “appropriate treatment of these services in a way that best promotes competition and innovation”. His speech will raise the spectre of tighter regulation over major players like Afterpay and Zip, which follow the industry’s self-imposed code of practice.

Frydenberg will also propose new regulations for the booming cryptocurrency scene. Embracing recommendations from a number of recent parliamentary reports, Treasury will reportedly consider crypto custody and licensing systems — a move which could compel local crypto exchanges to hold assets on Australian shores. Treasury will also consult on new frameworks for managing decentralised autonomous organisations.

In fiat currency news: The Reserve Bank of Australia kept the cash rate on hold at 0.1%. Despite the market pricing in a rate hike as early as March 2022, Governor Phil Lowe on Tuesday said the central bank is “prepared to be patient”. In a familiar refrain, Lowe said inflation is still not where the RBA wants it to be. “The board will not increase the cash rate until actual inflation is sustainably within the 2 to 3% target range,” he said. “This will require the labour market to be tight enough to generate wages growth that is materially higher than it is currently.”

Let’s return to crypto for a moment. According to the results of its annual index, Independent Reserve suggests that almost one in three Australians now have direct exposure to cryptocurrency, up from around one in five who did in 2020. But Karen Cohen, deputy chair of Blockchain Australia, says some barriers to entry are still too high, keeping crypto from ‘true’ mainstream integration. “We need to continue to make crypto more user friendly for women, but also for the older generation,” she said.

The total value of Australia’s inflated property market has surpassed $9 trillion, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Rock-bottom interest rates played a part, said Michelle Marquardt, head of prices statistics at the ABS. Low mortgage rates, coupled with “strong demand and low levels of stock on the market,” fuelled the rise, she added. Nine trillion dollars, folks.

Rent is set to increase dramatically in the new year, according to experts surveyed by Finder. Australia’s border reopening is set to return skilled migrants and international students to the country, and Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, said that demand will “quickly” flow back when that occurs. Of course, rents are already rising in some pockets, squeezing vulnerable tenants to the margins.

Australia’s ballooning inheritance payouts are reinforcing absolute wealth inequality and eroding social mobility, according to a new Productivity Commission report. The value of inheritances and intergenerational gifts hit $120 billion in 2018, and is only set to rise from here. But poorer households stand to gain more in relative terms than their ritzier counterparts, the paper claims. Ultimately, the PC dismissed inheritance taxes and other proposals which advocates say would alleviate wealth inequality.

Ripper news for local film production, which reportedly banked $1.9 billion last financial year. The Age reports Australia made good as an alternative shooting location before the Delta variant of COVID-19 stuffed everything up, and foreign productions made up $1.04 billion of that total. Hollywood is gearing back up, but Screen Australia chief executive Graeme Mason said he expected a decent stream of international productions through 2022.

There’s still uncertainty over whether the top-ranked player in men’s tennis will play the 2022 Australian Open — but Novak Djokovic has reportedly signed on to an ATP Cup event in Sydney. The uncertainty comes over Djokovic’s vaccine status, which he has refused to disclose. However, the ATP Cup has the same vaccine requirements as the nation’s Grand Slam event, which Djokovic has won nine times.

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AI programs designed to pump out digital art are en vogue — and one particularly eldritch bot is now taking commissions via Twitter.