Shiraz and wagyu are on the menu again. But not for your dinner plate…it’s the topic of today’s Profit Watch.
Why so? Perhaps you’ve already guessed — it’s the ASIC versus Westpac court battle over what constitutes ‘responsible lending’.
The wagyu and Shiraz stuff references the original court ruling in 2019 that let Westpac off the hook. The idea is that they didn’t breach responsible lending laws by failing to account for a client’s expenses properly.
After all, so said the court in spirit — if not in these exact words — someone can always drop from spending big on nice wine and fine meat to brown rice and spring water.
ASIC appealed the decision — and lost again.
Westpac has won the first two rounds of fisticuffs. But will there be a third? Not if the government has it way.
The Australian Financial Review reports that ‘senior’ members of the federal government want the regulator to let the fight go completely.
It’s pretty simple. The government can’t allow bank lending to contract anymore than it already is.
That’s a recipe for a deflationary spiral when we’re already in the thick of tough economic mire.
The government would prefer the banks lend as much as they can. An adverse ruling against Westpac now would make this much harder for this to happen.
It would mean they’d have to turn away more borrowers than they probably already are. And then the links of the housing chain — mortgage brokers, real estate agents, builders, designers — begin to rust from want of activity. Rusty chains break.
Government Stimulus for Housing Market
Don’t forget, the government is ploughing significant stimulus into the housing market via the first home buyer incentives.
Stricter responsible lending laws would negate this budding flower before it’s even had a chance to bloom.
And the Australian economy can ill afford to weaken home buying and construction from their teetering state as it is.
I would be staggered if this court battle goes into a third round. Either way, we’ll know by the end of the week.
Let’s not forget that the second biggest city in the country is now in Stage 3 lockdown. Some even say it could go to Stage 4. That’s a whole lot of economic activity with a boot on its throat.
It’s certainly not going to do much for the Melbourne property market, either. But Queensland and Western Australia look a lot brighter.
But isn’t COVID-19 going to tank the property marker forever more? Not so fast.
Similar talk came through after 9/11 — nearly 20 years ago now. Eventually, the world recovered and property went on to greater heights.
Of course, which property sector and cities benefit will unlikely repeat in the same way.
We know the market is pricing in a bright future for industrial property that can service the e-commerce boom. Suburban shopping malls look problematic.
Another dicey proposition is traditional service stations. Elon Musk just sounded a warning here on this, in a roundabout (ha ha) way.
Musk said in Shanghai last week that Tesla is close to ‘Level 5’ autonomy. This is where the car drives itself; in all conditions, and it could be as soon as this year.
Is he talking his own book? Probably. But Tesla also has five billion miles of data via its Autopilot software.
What follows on from that? A Tesla owner can rent out their vehicle when they don’t want it. It can earn them money by giving people rides. That’s the vision anyway.
The flow-on effects of this are staggering. The enormous superstructure we, as a society, have built around buying, driving, servicing and maintaining the vehicle fleet, underpinned through mass private vehicle ownership, will begin to crumble.
Daniel Yergin, in his epic book on oil, called the suburban 1950 consumer with a car and a house in the suburbs ‘Hydrocarbon Man’. We’ve been living largely the same way since.
Hydrocarbon Man is just about dead.
It won’t all happen in a heartbeat. But that’s the way the world is heading. A service station is only valuable with a lot of frequent customers.
When the cars go, the customers go. And it’s not a case of swapping out your petrol car for an electric one. Why own a car at all when you can call one up with an app on demand?
The future is always treacherous for the unwary. Tesla is coming to wipe out the traditional car society. Solar is coming to wipe out the traditional energy grid. Hold on for the ride — it’s going to be bumpy.
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