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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!

October is National Mental Health Month

October is Mental Health Month in Australia. As we enter the home stretch to Christmas, it’s a good time to check in on a number of levels, especially if you run a business. 

Let’s start with you…

How is your mental health? 

The pressure on small business owners in 2022 has been intense thanks to rising costs and worker shortages. These days, everybody’s to-do list is infinite and customers all want everything yesterday. 

It can be easy to find yourself staring at the walls or starting tasks but finding you don’t have the mental fortitude to complete them. The sleepless nights start to creep in and the resulting ‘tired but wired’ feeling can be overwhelming. 

Research from the start of this year found that 45% of SMEs thought running a business over the past 12 months had caused them anxiety, while 24 per cent said it had led to depression.  

If anxiety is building and you feel like you’re one stressful event away from a complete breakdown, you’re not alone. However, you do need to be proactive about your situation. 

Here are some top-level steps to minimise the overwhelm: 

  • Avoid checking social media during the day. These channels force you to make dozens of micro-decisions which can contribute to your overwhelm. 
  • Take a day off, either to simply relax and not think about work or to step away from operations and do some planning. When you give yourself time to identify what’s causing your stress, you can work towards finding a solution.
  • Reduce your daily task list. Instead of ten, add a maximum of three tasks to your list for each day. This way, when you get interrupted and distracted you will still have time to get things done. 
  • Start saying no. People pleasing takes its toll, especially when you fail to be realistic about what you can manage in a day.
  • Stop thinking in terms of ‘more’. As the saying goes, “Enough is a feast”. Give yourself a quarter to hold steady rather than striving to increase profits.
  • Outsource and delegate. You simply can’t do everything yourself. Whether you pay a cleaner or arrange food delivery, or whether you finally find that marketing agency to take over your emails, it’s time to stop wearing every hat in your business.
  • Book a holiday. This will give you something to look forward to. 

These steps can help but you may need professional intervention to handle your stress. Don’t be afraid to book an appointment with your GP to discuss what’s getting you down. 

Looking after your staff

As the workplace evolves, staff well-being is more of a priority. Some steps you can take to ensure the good mental health (and therefore higher productivity) of your staff include: 

  • Implementing an internal mental health support program known as an EAP (Employee Assistance Program). This delivers confidential counselling support & advice services to all employees.
  • Training senior staff members in Mental Health First Aid. Mental illness is the Leading cause of absence and long-term work incapacity in Australia so equipping your staff to support each other can make a big difference to everyone’s experience. Mental health first aid is the initial help offered to someone who is experiencing a mental health problem, or a mental health crisis, until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis resolves.
  • Sharing anonymous surveys so staff have the opportunity to share how they are feeling in terms of their mental well-being. Your business can form a response based on what people have to say. 
  • Building a caring, responsive culture that values the quality of people’s work and doesn’t push them to overdeliver. 

Participating in programs such as R U OK? and inviting suicide awareness speakers can also let your staff know their mental wellbeing is important. 

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

Unemployment is at a low point in Australia that has not been seen in over 50 years. 

This is great in terms of people being able to find work and earn a great salary. It’s not so great if you are an employer because skilled people are hard to find and are well-placed to negotiate in terms of their salary package. 

To address the issue caused by low migration and very few international students (thanks COVID), the Australian Government held a Jobs Summit in early September. The goal of this summit was to: 

  • keep unemployment low, and boost productivity and incomes
  • deliver secure, well-paid jobs and strong, sustainable wages growth
  • expand employment opportunities for all Australians including the most disadvantaged
  • address skills shortages and get Australia’s skills mix right over the long term
  • improve migration settings to support higher productivity and wages
  • maximise jobs and opportunities from renewable energy, tackling climate change, the digital economy, the care economy and a Future Made in Australia
  • ensure women have equal opportunities and equal pay.

Here are some of the key announcements that followed the summit: 

Education

An additional $1 billion in joint Federal-State funding will go towards fee-free TAFE in 2023 and accelerated delivery of 465,000 fee-free TAFE places, with 180,000 to be delivered next year. 

There will be improved access to jobs and training pathways for women, First Nations people, regional Australians and culturally and linguistically diverse people. This includes equity targets for training places, 1,000 digital apprenticeships in the Australian Public Service, and other measures to reduce barriers to employment.

The Government has also pledged to develop a comprehensive blueprint with

key stakeholders to support and grow a quality VET workforce. 

Migration & Visas

An increase in the permanent Migration Program ceiling from 160,000 to 195,000 in 2022-23, should help to ease widespread, critical workforce shortages. 

The extension of visas and relaxation of work restrictions on international students will hopefully strengthen the pipeline of skilled labour, and provide additional funding to resolve the visa backlog.

Increased duration of post-study work rights will allow two additional years of

stay for recent graduates with select degrees in areas of verified skills shortages

and strengthen the pipeline of skilled labour in Australia.

Fair Work

The Fair Work Act will be amended to strengthen access to flexible working arrangements, while unpaid parental leave will be made more flexible and will strengthen protection for workers against discrimination and harassment. 

The Fair Work Commission will also be given the capacity to proactively help workers and

businesses reach agreements that benefit them, particularly new entrants, and small

and medium businesses.

Women in the workforce

Businesses with 100 employees or more will be required to publicly report their gender pay gap to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. 

Existing reporting standards will be strengthened, to require employers with 500 or more

employees to commit to measurable targets to improve gender equality in their

workplaces.

Pensioner working hours

As shared by the ABC, pensioners will be able to earn an additional $4,000 during the 2022/2023 financial year without losing any of their pension. This is on top of the $480 fortnightly earning limit that currently applies.

As a small business owner, these changes will hopefully give you a deeper talent pool to draw from. In the meantime, the challenge is to hold onto the people you have and make your business a place people want to come to each day. Need help with freight so your staff can focus on other tasks? Talk to EFS about freight and logistics services today.