12/03/15

Committee Communiqué

Should Super help fund first home deposit?

Dipping into Superannuation savings for use as a home loan deposit has been raised at the federal level. Speaking on ABC News Breakfast yesterday, CEO Kate Roffey noted some very good points have been made regarding the dangers of doing this, in particular the impact this will have on the total amount of super available to support living expenses after retirement. But there are some examples, such as in Singapore, where this system is working. Under its Super system, contributions go into three accounts; an ordinary account that can be used to buy property or fund educational costs; Medisave, for hospital and medical expenses; and a special account that is held for post-retirement expenses. Of course, the significant difference is the level of contribution, which at 20 per cent salary and 17 per cent employer contribution in Singapore, is much higher than our current rates and makes this style of fund splitting much more practical. While there are no doubt some issues with the Singapore model, reassessing how our Super system works is certainly a discussion worth having.

Making graduates more job ready

In an effort to build better links between education institutions and employers, the first Australian National Work Integrated Learning (WIL) strategy was released yesterday. A collaboration between universities and business groups, WIL aims to integrate theory with practical work experience by combining work placements, internships, shadowing programs and practical programs with study to create ‘work ready’ graduates. While many sectors, such as health and teaching, already do this well, according to Universities Australia it is under-utilised in many emerging industries where jobs of the future will be in increasing demand. As student demand for study-related work experience is currently outstripping the opportunities available, the focus of this initiative is to engage industry to help meet this growing demand, while at the same time playing a practical role in providing students with the skills and experience they need to meet employer expectations.

Cyber safety an issue for Melbourne

In the 2015 Safe Cities Index, Melbourne has ranked the 9th safest city in the world, falling behind Sydney at 6th. The index, which ranks safety in the areas of health safety, infrastructure safety, personal safety and cyber safety, placed Melbourne well ahead of our cross-border capital in all categories, except cyber safety. In the area of cyber safety, which includes factors like having dedicated security teams to fight cyber crime and frequency of identity theft, Melbourne (20th) rated well behind Sydney (14th). While cyber security is not a new issue for us, it is an area we need to improve as technological advances feature more prominently in our everyday lives. On the upside, Melbourne ranked second only to Zurich for infrastructure safety, an important issue for us given that hosting major national and international conferences and sporting and cultural events is key to our economy.

New York City tackles affordable housing

Housing is the most significant cost facing families in New York City,  and Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that confronting this economic inequality is the central focus of his administraion. Similar to Melbourne, NYC is facing a significant inequality and opportunity gap, and the clearest indicator of this, according to de Blasio, is the soaring cost of housing. To bridge the affordability divide, a number of initiatives are being introduced, including what will no doubt be a controversial Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning requirement. This requirement will mean developers must include affordable housing as a precondition to developing all major residential re-zonings. By putting in place a groundwork for denser, more economically diverse communities, de Blasio plans to build and preserve 200,000 affordable homes in NYC in the next decade. de Blasio notes that a failure to address this issue leaves the city open to the risk of becoming a gated community, defined by exclusivity rather than opportunity.  As Melbourne struggles to bridge our own growing economic divide, it would behoove us to watch carefully how NYC progresses with this initiative.

What’s the big deal about the Olympics?

You tell me. Such is the allure of this festival of sport that the mere mention of the Olympics sends us into a media frenzy – and why not? Melbourne is not only the best-placed Australian city in terms of available facilities and supporting infrastructure to host a games, but one of, and I would say definitively the, best in the world. As such we should be looking to host again. As we saw from London, cities that genuinely have the capacity to host this incredibly demanding event, can generate enormous benefits. For London, it wasn’t just about the sport. It was about leveraging their brand, and using the opportunity an Olympics brings to rejuvenate under-developed city areas and build transport and social infrastructure. Hosting an Olympics isn’t for every city, but for Melbourne, where we need little in terms of additional world class sporting venues, this provides us with an opportunity to decisively move forward with much-needed upgrades to our public transport system, to improving links between our airports and the city, and to activating developments like Fishermans Bend. Melbourne is in an ideal position to play host again, and if new IOC President Tomas Bach is coming here to talk about the possibility of Australia hosting another Games, then Melbourne should be pushing to the front of the queue.

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