What’s been happening in Australian business news throughout November? With rate rises, holiday shopping and scam prevention on the radar, let’s take a look at some of the more pressing news.

Even more rate rises cut a little deeper and cause Christmas trade concerns for small businesses

The recent 25-point rate rise by the RBA, which brings the cash rate up to 4.35%, is pipped by several experts, to be anathema to Christmas trade for Australian businesses.

Governor Michele Bullock and the RBA noted in their press release on 7 November that,

“Inflation in Australia has passed its peak but is still too high and is proving more persistent than expected a few months ago … CPI inflation is now expected to be around 3½ per cent by the end of 2024 and at the top of the target range of 2 to 3 per cent by the end of 2025. The Board judged an increase in interest rates was warranted today to be more assured that inflation would return to target in a reasonable timeframe.”

Co-founder and CEO of Employment Hero, Ben Thompson, said that the RBA announcement had the power to “make or break” Christmas for Australia’s SMEs.

“Regrettably, with interest rates now set to rise, we are likely to see growth drop off over the summer trading period.

“With already thin or shrinking profit margins, Australian SMEs face even greater financial burdens coming into the end of the year. Not to mention that Australian workers are already grappling with the rising cost of living now must face the possibility of reduced job opportunities and hours as businesses scramble to adjust their plans and budgets.”

Another voice on the matter, Laura Hill, Managing Director of Sendle Australia, noted the results of their recent small business survey,

“Sendle’s 2023 Small Business Survey shows that many small businesses are feeling less confident about consumer demand this peak sales season, due to the impact of recent rate rises and cost of living pressures.”

She noted that their results showed 34 per cent of small businesses are confident about their peak sales growth this year, compared with 42 per cent in 2022. The survey also revealed that 52 per cent of small businesses were worried about slowing consumer spending due to cost-of-living pressures this peak sales season.

The Guardian’s Australian economic expert, Greg Jericho, noted that the continued rate rises were ‘cruel’ and that “Australians are already getting hit by higher costs for necessities, reducing their ability to save and spend money on non-essential goods and services.”

This of course impacts Australian consumers’ ability to spend on non-necessities and signals more mortgage stress on the horizon.

The government lays out their new cybersafe framework

Due to increased prevalence and sophistication, cybercrime has become a top threat for businesses in 2024. With this in mind, the federal government has laid out a new $586 million 2023-2030 Australian Cyber Security Strategy to meaningfully address the impacts of cybercrime on businesses and individuals.

The strategy has been delivered amidst the backdrop of a 23% increase in reports of cybercrime since 2022, as revealed by the nation’s digital spy agency.

Cyber Security and Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil noted that while the cyber threat is growing, cybersecurity provides an opportunity for jobs and product development.

So what does the strategy entail?

For businesses, there will be several tools to deal with ransomware, starting with a ‘ransomware playbook’ to assist businesses in avoiding ransomware and dealing with the impact if affected.

Interestingly, many businesses do not report ransomware for fear of reprisal from regulators or customers. In response, the government proposes legislation around a mandatory no-fault reporting scheme as a ‘safe harbour’ for businesses to report these attacks.

This will be coupled with a proposed single reporting portal to make it easier for businesses to report cyber incidents.

A further measure would involve increasing skilled migration to boost the Australian cybersecurity workforce.

Christmas and Black Friday fake websites in the spotlight

In other news, there’s been a sharp uptick in fake websites masquerading as well-known establishments, during November’s Black Friday sales.

The National Anti-Scam Centre has reported that they’ve received notifications of nearly 3,000 fake websites this year, netting criminals more than $500,000 in consumer losses and jeopardising the profits of genuine retail traders.

NSW Fair Trading commented on the phenomenon stating that “November is historically a time of heightened scam activity and was the most profitable month for fraudsters (in 2022) fleecing $316,000.”

Andrew Williams, chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, said,

“Scams are taking place over Black Friday and Cyber Monday because that’s when more and more Australians are expected to be doing their online shopping.

“So [scammers] are just taking advantage of more shoppers being online during this period.”

He said the fake websites can come from any source — from a hyperlink in a text message or via social media.

Such scams are expected to continue through the holiday trade as Christmas approaches.

A new accord between the Big 4 Australian banks in relation to scam prevention announced

In other scam-related news, Australia’s Big 4 banks have joined forces in an attempt to combat scams. The head of the Australian Banking Association, Anna Bligh, has said that the new Scam-Safe Accord would provide a comprehensive set of anti-scam measures across Australia’s banking industry.

“This Scam-Safe Accord is a new offensive in the war on scams,” she said. “It reflects the banking sector’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding every Australian.”

The accord details that the Big 4 banks will:

  • deliver an industry-wide confirmation of payee solution to customers
  • take action to prevent misuse of bank accounts via identity fraud
  • introduce warnings and payment delays to protect customers
  • invest in a major expansion of intelligence sharing across the sector
  • limit payments to high-risk channels to protect customers
  • implement an anti-scams strategy for increased oversight of their scam detection and response.