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Being a CEO or the owner of a growing business comes with an evolution of stress and responsibilities. The problems that plague these professionals change from year to year, as found in KPMG’s annual survey of Chief Executives.

The 2024 version of KPMG’s Keeping Us Awake at Night report has seen fresh challenges rise to the top. The report surveyed CEOs across industries but there were some clear areas where concerns are shared:

 

Top 5 concerns for Australian CEOs

Cyber security

While it sat at fourth place on this list of concerns at the start of 2023, the rise of cyber attacks has brought this issue to the forefront of many executive’s minds. Hacking can affect customers, revenue and reputation, and businesses are under so much pressure to stay one step ahead when it comes to digital security.

Talent

While finding talent remains a top concern for CEOs, it has shifted from the number one concern in 2023 to the second spot for 2024.

The increased rate of immigration in 2023 is starting to take the edge off the talent squeeze. To add to this, there was an increase in companies going under, which helped to even out worker shortages. Interestingly, there were more insolvencies in Australia during the 2022/3 financial year than in 2020/21.

Different industries are experiencing talent shortages at different levels. The freight and logistics industry, for example, seems to have chronic issues filling roles and is having to pay increasingly more for workers as a result.

Regulation

The third top concern is regulation in new-tech areas such as AI, machine learning and quantum computing. The goalposts are moving rapidly, and CEOs are concerned about keeping up with unprecedented technologies and the rules surrounding them.

Digital transformation

These days, it seems that no sooner has a new technology been integrated, something comes along to make it redundant. It can be difficult to figure out what to invest in, and there is also the stress of helping team members adapt to new systems and processes.

AI presents its own challenges, with some businesses being forced to pivot yet again to avoid being replaced by a machine.

Cost controls

With rampant inflation and the cost of living crisis hitting hard over the last 12 months, cost controls are unsurprisingly a high concern for CEOs in 2024.

While inflation is beginning to ease slightly, the effects are still being felt. For example, CPI Transportation in Australia was reported to increase to 130.70 points in the third quarter of 2023, which was an all time high.

Businesses have to think creatively to manage costs while staying competitive. While AI and automation are a concern, they also present opportunities to minimise costs. Distributors and ecommerce brands, for example, can look for ways to automate warehouse and inventory management processes to save money.

 

Other concerns for CEOs

CEOs are also understandably worried about global unrest, with wars in the Middle East and Eastern Europe still wreaking havoc and the effects filtering around the world thanks to higher fuel prices and supply chain delays. An issue at present is being dubbed the ‘Red Sea Shipping Crisis’; Yemen-based Houthi militants have launched more than 20 attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea over recent months in a show of support for Hamas.

The KPMG survey also showed that 12 per cent of CEOs list de-risking supply chains as a major concern and ongoing issues make this very understandable.

Finally, maintaining ESG standards is keeping CEOs up at night as consumers hold businesses more accountable for sticking to their social and environmental policies.

 

We’re here to help!

When you own or operate a business, there is always something to be worried about. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding ways to maximise productivity, reduce costs and ensure sustainable profits, while keeping great people and maintaining market reputation.

At EFS, we help our clients by improving workflows and finding cost-efficiencies related to freight and deliveries. As leading freight consultants, we understand the challenges our clients are facing, have a wide network of industry connections and can help connect you with optimal solutions.

 

Contact us to help manage your freight costs and requirements today.

An industrial relations bill introducing multi-employer bargaining and a raft of other changes was passed by the Australian Senate in early December.

The ‘Secure Jobs, Better Pay’ bill introduces some of the most significant changes to workplace legislation in over a decade.

The Albanese government pushed for these changes with the hope they will lead to wage growth while limiting industrial action and helping to make workplaces fairer for employees. 

Here is a brief overview of some of the key changes. 

Australia’s new industrial relations laws

Changes to worker rights

  • Pay secrecy

Under the IR law changes, pay secrecy clauses will no longer be allowed. Employees will be able to speak about their pay to others and existing secrecy clauses will no longer apply.

  • Equal remuneration, anti-discrimination and sexual harassment

Modern Awards will be amended to be more clear about people’s rights to secure work and equal pay. As shared by Lexology.com, “Some minor changes will align the FWA with other anti-discrimination legislation by including protection against discrimination on the basis of breastfeeding, gender identity and intersex status as protected attributes.”

Changes to sexual harassment laws mean employers may be vicariously liable if they cannot show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent improper conduct.

  • Fixed-term contracts

With some exceptions, employers will soon find there are limits on how many times they can extend a fixed-term contract. 

  • Flexible work arrangements

Workers will have more circumstances under which they are able to request flexible work, for example on the grounds of family and domestic violence.

  • Bargaining

Perhaps the most talked about change is the expansion of multi-employer bargaining. 

As explained by The Guardian, the bill contains three streams of multi-employer bargaining:

– the cooperative stream where employers opt-in to bigger pay deals

– the supported stream, for low-paid sectors

– the single-interest stream.

Within these streams, some of the changes and new rules include the following: 

  • The Workplace Minister will be able to declare that an industry or occupation is eligible for supported multi-employer bargaining (MEB)
  • Workers with common interests will now be able to bargain together, where it is in the public interest for them to do so (exceptions will apply for small businesses that only have a limited number of employees)
  • The Fair Work Commission will have the power to compel a multi-employer agreement to be put to a vote, without an employer’s right to veto and without union support, limiting the ability of parties to unreasonably withhold agreement.
  • If larger businesses want to avoid multi-employer bargaining, they will have to prove they are not reasonably comparable with other businesses
  • Bargaining disputes

The Fair Work Commission will have additional power when it comes to arbitrating bargaining disputes. For example, if the minimum bargaining period is longer than nine months, the FWC may issue an intractable bargaining declaration if bargaining has not and is not likely to be progressed further.

  • Terminating agreements and sunsetting of old agreements

The reforms introduce restrictions on employers terminating agreements after the normal expiry date.

There is a helpful explainer article about old and ‘zombie’ agreements here: https://www.cbp.com.au/insights/insights/2022/june/dusk-of-the-dead-the-end-for-zombie-agreements

If you’re an employer

The passing of this bill may require you to review your policies, agreements, contracts and bargaining plans in 2023. Talk to your HR team about how the changes may affect your business. 

Stay up to date with freight and logistics, transport and employment news by following Effective Freight Solutions on social media.

There seems to be a new cyber-attack announcement every couple of days… businesses from boutique vendors to supermarkets and insurance companies have detected ‘unusual activity’ that has resulted in personal information potentially being exposed. 

According to a report from Smart Company, nearly one in two Australians has been embroiled in at least one of several high-profile company breaches that have taken place over recent weeks.

 

Cybersecurity for businesses

If you own a business and are concerned that something has gone awry in terms of cyber security (ie, if personal information is accessed or disclosed without authorisation or if it is lost), you must report it to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. You also have to get in touch with your customers to let them know, which can be expensive and damaging to your reputation. 

To prevent a hacking incident and protect your own data as well as your customers’ personal and financial information: 

  • Hire a cybersecurity consultant to help you check and improve your security
  • Educate your team regularly about cybersecurity (a device left open can be the easiest entry point for hackers)
  • Back up your data daily so if you are threatened with ransomware you at least still have access to the information you need to operate your business
  • Set up MFA (multi-factor authentication) so your customers need more than a basic password to log into your system=

It’s also advisable to have cyber insurance in place so you are protected from the expense of a cyber attack. 

Cybersecurity for individuals

There are a number of ways you can protect your personal information and avoid being the victim of a hacker or scam.

One simple recommendation is to switch from passwords to passphrases. So instead of writing BaskEtball123#, (basketball, incidentally, is a very common password), you could put something like MyFavouriteUSBasketballTeamIsTheLakers. This is relatively easy to remember but much harder for bots to guess. A line from a song can also work for this cyber safety strategy. 

Many experts will tell you that a seven-character password can be cracked in as little as 31 seconds, while one with six or fewer characters can be cracked pretty much instantly. If you use the same passcode on several different platforms and websites, it’s alarming to think of how quickly a hacker can get into almost all your accounts. 

You should update your apps and devices whenever a new version is released. Updates often fix security issues that may leave you vulnerable. 

There is also the never-ending game to spot scammers. Quick tips include: 

  • Remembering that your bank or any other organisation such as Australia Post will never contact via email or phone you to ask for personal information like your PIN. 
  • If you suspect a caller is a scammer, hang up and call the right number for the organisation to check if they are actually trying to get in touch. 
  • Check the brand name and hover over links in emails to check whether or not the link they are directing you to looks legitimate. For example, an email with the subject line ‘Re: AUpost™️ Courier Pickup Confirmation ☑️!!2nd attempt’ may look like it is from Australia Post but the brand name is incorrect. The link in the email may look like this: http://onwvyj03t93zlhk.usps2022dlv.dudns.org/ym.xe?dDsncxQDrcbbb4N instead of resembling an official Australia Post link.
  • If you receive a text, phone call or email that warns you about a problem like unpaid tax debt, overdue payment or warrant for your arrest, type the wording of the message into Google. You will probably see results explaining it is a scam.
  • Double check you have the right details before you transfer money to someone, particularly if it is a large fee like a property deposit.

If you believe you may have been hacked, one place to start is the Government’s free tool. 

Use https://www.cyber.gov.au/have-you-been-hacked to figure out if you have been hacked and find advice on what to do about it. It may recommend you contact your bank to speak about updating your login details or that you change the passwords/phrases on your email. 

If you’re concerned your information has been compromised by the recent cyber attacks in Australia, be aware of any emails, phone calls or messages from organisations claiming to know personal details such as your address. You can also check Equifax to see if anyone has applied for a credit card in your name. Finally, you may wish to update your driver’s licence, passport and Medicare card so you have new numbers that hackers can’t take advantage of. 

Follow EFS on social media for more information and updates about freight, logistics, security and small business. 

This year, Australia had not one but two Federal Budgets because of the change in leadership and rapidly evolving economic conditions. 

The October budget, handed down by Treasurer Jim Chalmers, reflected a number of election commitments. 

Here are some of the highlights: 

For Families and Individuals

If you’re planning to start a family over the next few years, you can look forward to more generous payments in terms of child care and parental leave.

A key feature announced in the budget is the evolution towards 26 weeks of Paid Parental Leave by 2026. Households with two parents will be able to decide how leave is shared between them. 

In addition, over the next four years, the Government will spend $4.7 billion on child care as it increases the child care subsidy cap to 90 per cent for families earning below $530,000 in household income.

In terms of housing, the government has set a goal of building a million new homes over five years from 2024. The Help to Buy Schemes announced earlier in the year will remain in place. 

The government has also committed $787.1 million over 4 years to reduce the general

patient co-payment for treatments on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from $42.50 to

$30 per script. 

Education and economic drivers

The budget announced investment in skills training across a number of areas, including: 

  • Delivering 480,000 fee-free TAFE places and a $50 million TAFE Technology Fund to

modernise TAFEs.

  • Providing 20,000 additional university places for disadvantaged Australians.
  • $474.5 million over two years to support student well-being and improve classrooms.
  • Supporting women’s workforce participation and advancing gender equality.
  • Boosting the Work Bonus income bank to give older Australians the option to work and keep more of their pension.

Environment, restoration and energy

Initiatives include: 

  • A Powering Australia Plan to drive investment in cleaner, cheaper energy, including $20 billion of low-cost finance under Rewiring the Nation to upgrade our electricity infrastructure.
  • Acting on climate change and a $1.8 billion investment in strong action to protect, restore

and manage our precious natural environment.

  • Up to $200 million per year on disaster prevention and resilience initiatives through

the Disaster Ready Fund, as well as additional funding for flood affected communities and

extra staff to quickly get Australians the support they need.

  • The Government is responding to rising energy costs by committing $62.6 million to support small and medium-sized businesses in improving their energy efficiency and reducing energy use. 

Transport

  • The budget’s Driving the Nation Fund invests $500 million to help reduce transport emissions, including electric vehicle charging infrastructure at 117 highway sites and hydrogen highways for key freight routes. The Government will also ensure its fleet purchases and leases will be 75 per cent electric by 2025.
  • There will be more than $120 billion of investment in transport infrastructure over the next 10 years. Projects include: 

  • $500 million for corridor acquisition, planning and early works on high-speed rail between Sydney and Newcastle
  • $300 million for the Western Sydney Roads Package
  • $2.2 billion investment in Victoria’s Suburban Rail Loop East over the next 5 years 
  • $586.4 million to upgrade the Bruce Highway through Brisbane’s outer northern suburbs 
  • $85.9 million in funding for Canberra Light Rail Stage 2A

Hip pockets

There didn’t seem to be any big announcements in terms of cost of living relief, wages or tax breaks other than things like exempting eligible electric cars from fringe benefits tax (FBT) and the 5 per cent import tariff. There were also general promises to “improve the integrity and fairness of the tax system”, which will be done in part with the help of “a multinational tax integrity package which raises around $1 billion over 4 years”. 

The Government has pledged to support increased pay for women in low-paid sectors, including through the introduction of a statutory equal remuneration principle, which will reduce barriers to pay equity claims. It has also discussed tackling insecure work to allow more workers to plan for their future and get ahead by making job security an explicit objective of the Fair Work Act 2009 and limiting the use of fixed-term contracts for ongoing roles.

Follow EFS on social media for more information and updates about freight, logistics, security and small business. 

More than two years after the pandemic began, rules and regulations are changing again for Australians. After several ‘waves’, the last significant peak was in July, when more than 12,000 cases were being reported across the country each day. 

As of early October, case numbers are at around 1600 per day. As a result, state governments and the national cabinet are winding back restrictions, including the need to stay at home for five days if you test positive for the virus. 

For example, you no longer have to wear a mask when you board public transport or fly on a domestic flight. 

Take a look at some of the latest updates. 

Face mask rules in Australia

In NSW, people over the age of 12 are required to wear a face mask:  

  • at a public hospital or private health facility (including private hospitals and day procedure centres)
  • in residential care facilities or hostels.

You may also be asked to take a rapid COVID test before entering one of these facilities. 

See more: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/stay-safe/rules/face-mask-rules 

In Victoria, face masks are required for everyone aged 8 years and above in the following settings:

  • while visiting a hospital, care facility or any other indoor space that is publicly accessible in a healthcare setting, including allied health settings
  • while working in an indoor space that is a publicly accessible area of a court or justice centre
  • while working in a resident-facing role in an indoor space at a care facility, including when not interacting with residents
  • while working in an indoor space at a prison, police gaol, remand centre, youth residential centre, youth justice centre or post-sentence facility
  • after being tested for COVID-19 and awaiting results
  • while outside your premises, if you have COVID-19 or are a close contact and are permitted to leave your premises.

See more: https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/face-masks 

In Queensland, face masks are still required in indoor spaces that are, or are part of, a:

  • residential aged care facility
  • shared disability accommodation service
  • hospital
  • healthcare setting where face-to-face services are provided
  • corrective services facility
  • detention centre

See more: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/public-health-directions/face-masks 

For WA, masks must be worn by people aged 12 years and older in the following high-risk settings:

  • Hospitals and health care settings including:
  • GPs
  • Aboriginal health services
  • Dental and optical health clinics
  • Allied health services such as physiotherapy, radiology and occupational therapy services
  • Aged care facilities, residential care facilities including disability service facilities and mental health residential facilities
  • Correctional facilities

See more: https://www.wa.gov.au/government/covid-19-coronavirus/covid-19-coronavirus-face-masks-0 

South Australians must wear masks in:

  • health care services
  • pharmacies
  • disability care facilities
  • residential aged care facilities
  • correctional services, prisons, training centres, and other places of custody

See more: https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/conditions/infectious+diseases/covid-19/staying+covid+safe/face+masks/face+masks 

Similar rules apply in the NTTasmania and the ACT.

Face masks rules have applied for people who are household contacts or who have contracted COVID. However, these are currently being updated due to the changes in mandatory isolation rules. Check the guidelines for your state for the most up to date information. 

Isolating at home

It was announced at the start of October that state and territory leaders unanimously decided that anyone who tests positive to COVID-19 will no longer be required to isolate for five days, starting from October 14.

There are some exceptions. As reported by SBS, “While COVID-19 isolation rules will be lifted for the general public on 14 October, the rules will still apply to employees in vulnerable settings such as hospital workers and those in aged care.”

When announcing the change, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was quoted as saying, “There’s not a role for government in running every bit of people’s lives forever”.

Ending mandatory isolation for general workers will mean no more pandemic leave payments for those who fall ill with COVID and have to stay off work. 

The feedback has been understandably mixed. Business representatives say it is a welcome change and will help get more people back to work. 

Meanwhile, others have raised concerns about what will happen to infection numbers when people who have COVID are allowed to move around in the community. Australian Medical Association president Steve Robson warned that dropping the requirement for COVID patients to isolate for five days could potentially lead to new waves of infection. This will put further pressure on hospitals and can cause stress for people who are trying to manage other medical conditions. 

Medical experts are reminding people to get their booster vaccination if they have not done so recently. There is also pressure from the Australian Council of Trade Unions to keep pandemic leave payments in place, particularly for those who cannot claim sick leave. 

If you are sick, it is important to stay away from work, no matter what you are unwell with. However, the change in regulations allows people to make their own choices about isolating or wearing a mask. This could change again if there is a significant rise in infections. 

Follow EFS on social media for more news and updates.

We recently attended a talk from Paul Bloxham, the Chief Economist at HSBC and were impressed with the information he shared about interest rates, the economy and the financial status of the world we are living in.

Paul has been writing recently about the highly charged topic of rising interest rates. In The Australian in August, he said that, “If the Reserve Bank of Australia wants to deliver a soft landing and avoid a recession next year, slowing down the pace of its hiking soon makes sense.”

Paul’s perspective is that interest rates should have been lifted earlier. Instead, we ended up with a full-on set of rate hikes in rapid succession. At the time of writing this article, four large jumps have taken place, lifting the cash rate from just 0.1% to 2.35% between June and September. 

It has been a lot for anyone with a variable mortgage to swallow, particularly when combined with the increasing cost of living and the threat of more to come.

It is all for a reason: the Reserve Bank has taken action in an attempt to get inflation under control. However, Paul also points out that we have ended up with a bit of a ‘tightrope’ situation, which may result in a recession if it goes too far in the wrong direction. 

You can read some of Paul Bloxham’s latest articles via the links below: 

Time for the Reserve Bank to Slow Down

Handle RBA Inflation Target With Care

Where is the interest rate ‘sweet spot’?

The challenge for the Reserve Bank is to lift interest rates to the ‘right’ point so it can get inflation under control. 

As stated by Phillip Lowe, the Governor of Monetary Policy Decision, “The Board places a high priority on the return of inflation to the 2–3 per cent range over time, while keeping the economy on an even keel. The path to achieve this balance is a narrow one and clouded in uncertainty, not least because of global developments.” 

The global developments he is referring to include Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continuing COVID-related lockdowns in China. Both have contributed to jumps in the cost of fuel and interruptions to the global supply chain. 

The Reserve Bank also explained in August that inflation in Australia is the highest it has been since the early 1990s. For the year between June 2021 and June 2022, it was at more than 6 per cent.  

The domestic factors playing a role in this fluctuation include low unemployment figures, which are forcing employers to pay more and put up their prices to cover costs. There have been issues with goods coming in from overseas and flooding also took its toll on the cost of things like fruit and vegetables. 

In addition to all this, there is a push and pull situation going on. Unemployment is low, which means people can charge their bosses more. As a result, prices go up but people can still afford ‘nice things’. This drives inflation.  

On the other hand, consumer confidence is falling as house prices drop and everyone feels the pinch due to everyday items becoming more expensive. This could potentially see inflation steadying itself out. 

As Phillip Lowe stated, “The Board will be paying close attention to how these various factors balance out as it assesses the appropriate setting of monetary policy.”

The challenge is to bring inflation back below the three per cent mark, without pushing it too far in the wrong direction. It is very difficult for forecasters to pinpoint what is going to happen… but fingers crossed for everyone’s sake that it’s not a recession; we have been through enough over the last couple of years!