No one in the federal government has ever spoken about taking away superannuation from people to pay for COVID-19 support or anything else.
Ms Grubisa’s Master Wealth product costs about $5000 and she promises it provides a lifetime “force field” around assets. “You’ll become bulletproof. You become that man of straw. You can never ever go backwards … like Rockefeller, you’ll own nothing but control everything,” she said.
Other claims made by Ms Grubisa during online events this year include her ability to give clients an inside legal run because she knows “the judiciary” and “the lawmakers”. She even claimed to have out-performed Cate Blanchett when they were both auditioning before the National Institute of Dramatic Art.
“Hello. I was better than her. She forgot her lines and yet she’s out there living my life. I did everything right but the system let me down,” she said.
Purchasers of Ms Grubisa’s Master Wealth product have told The Sunday Age and Sun-Herald that their assets had not been protected as Ms Grubisa suggested they would be.
In one case, a woman struggling with her business affairs said she was instructed to have her university student daughter place a caveat on her house even though the daughter had no financial ties to the property. The manoeuvre was an attempt to stop anyone repossessing the house to repay the woman’s debts. Lawyers for the woman’s creditors quickly identified that the daughter had no genuine basis for a caveat and had it removed.
Ms Grubisa and her DG Institute are being investigated by federal police over the alleged use of the Family Court list to identify couples going through divorce or others in financial stress to allow her clients to target them with offers for their properties.
In addition to asset protection, a major part of Ms Grubisa’s business is educating fee-paying clients on how to acquire distressed properties at discount prices through her Real Estate Rescue package.
Ms Grubisa has had more than 10,000 clients pass through her DG Institute courses since 2010, turning over millions of dollars.
Despite operating out of Sydney, Ms Grubisa does not have a legal practising certificate in NSW. Rather, she operates under a certificate granted by Victorian authorities. Documents seen by The Sunday Age and Sun-Herald show complaints about Ms Grubisa’s conduct and potentially misleading promotional material have been lodged with the Victorian Legal Services Board.
A spokesman for the board said while he could not comment on any specific investigations, the public needed to know it was unable to prosecute a non-resident of Victoria at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal but could “vary, suspend or cancel a practising certificate under certain circumstances”.
“We can also immediately vary or suspend a certificate if we consider it necessary in the public interest. Where a matter is raised with us, including via the media, it is within our powers to consider the issues and take action.”
The New South Wales Law Society is also investigating complaints about Ms Grubisa’s conduct, including the use of her parents in her client’s legal affairs even though both were struck off the solicitors’ roll in 2012 and 2013 in relation to the misappropriation of $600,000 in trust account funds.
Ms Grubisa said in a statement that her parents did not provide legal services and had been hired to help with administrative work.
That statement also addressed criticisms of the DG Institute’s products, including claims they sometimes preyed upon the financially vulnerable. Ms Grubisa said in the statement that deals for distressed assets often turned out to be win-win situations for buyer and seller. She also encouraged her students to carefully study the individual characteristics of any prospective deal.
In response to a question about how her Master Wealth Control product provides “lifetime protection” for assets, Ms Grubisa responded: “This question misquotes what is said by Master Wealth Control to be offered. What is offered is an unlimited lifetime professional service whereby clients, for a flat fee, can seek assistance and advice from Master Wealth Control in respect of a range of matters, including but not limited to contract reviews, contractual negotiations as well as upon changes to their asset positions from time to time.”
Fresh documents obtained by the Sunday Age and Sun-Herald show Ms Grubisa’s mother, Maria Fitzsimons, wrote to the registrar of land titles in Queensland in 2016 and described herself as being from “the solicitors acting on behalf of the transferee”. Ms Fitzsimons signed the letter and included the letters “LLB” to signify her law degree.
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Richard Baker is a multi-award winning investigative reporter for The Age.
Recessions should be a catalyst for change. But what we are seeing is the government wanting to quickly return to the path it was on prior to the pandemic – one which already had low wages, insecure work, low industrial action and an ever decreasing share of the national income going to workers.
This week the government was very eager to say Australia was no longer in a recession.
The reality is there is no “official” or even “technical” recession – those are just words used to hide the fact that two consecutive quarters of negative growth is just an arbitrary construct clung to by many as a definition mostly because it is very simple (and simplistic).
But one thing is clear: just because you have stopped digging does not mean you are no longer in a hole.
It’s a drum I have been banging a bit of late; not because I am a gloomy, depressive type who takes the “dismal science” to heart, but because these things matter – they shape the narrative.
The government wants the recession to be over so they can justify winding back their stimulus measures.
While they embarked on the biggest stimulus in history, do not be fooled into thinking they liked it.
The Treasurer may boast of research that suggests the jobkeeper program saved 700,000 jobs, but that only serves to highlight that denying the program to the university sector and many workers in the arts and culture industry was little more than a pointed slap at sectors they have little care for.
Even in the midst of a recession the government kept its eye on its ideological prize.
The sooner people believe the recession is over the sooner we can return to the old talk of debt and deficit and the need for tax cuts, more gas and greater IR “flexibility”.
The treasurer told reporters while commenting on the GDP figures that “we’ll look for targeted support where it’s appropriate, but as for our macro supports like jobkeeper, they are tapering down.”
Tapering down at a time when 462,000 more people are underemployed or unemployed than were in March.
Crucially he noted that “all along we have been talking about a private sector-led recovery” because “government is not the solution.”
And yet were it not for government spending, the economy would not have shrunk 3.8% in the past year but 5.3%.
Coincidentally 12 months ago when the last lot of September quarter GDP figures came out we were in much the same state – only government spending was keeping the economy from going backwards.
And back then I was also noting the shrinking level of income going to employees.
Graph not appearing? View here
One of the quirks of the jobkeeper program is that it has led to a massive boost in company profits. Because while the money is intended to go to employees it was provided to businesses and thus is counted as corporate income.
That is one reason why in September a record share of national income went to companies and a record low went to employees. But it is not a weird blip – it merely reflects the story of the past 45 years.
Sixty-one years ago when employees last received less than half of the national income, companies received only 19%; now they receive 31% (the rest is government income, and things like rents and interest earned).
Another record set this week was that the past year had the fewest days lost to industrial action. Now clearly that is also due in part to the pandemic, but again it is also a long-term trend – even before the pandemic the number of strikes was essentially the same as occurred under WorkChoices.
The two aspects are not unconnected; neither is the long run of low wages growth nor the tendency towards casual work and push towards treating workers as self-contractors in the “gig economy”.
The drive to keep this in place is evident in new IR laws to be introduced by the government this week that will give employers “powers to change employees’ hours, duties and location of work and to offer part-time workers extra hours without overtime rates”.
Prior to the recession our economy was experiencing weak growth, with poor wages growth and strong profit growth.
The pandemic forced the government to intervene but it was only temporary and it is quickly using the pandemic and claims that the recession is over to return to where things were heading in February – lower wages growth, less employee power, and greater company profits.
Around Greystanes, duplexes are being built with plunge pools, while at the luxury end there are even penthouse apartments with plunge pools such as Bondi Pool Penthouse.
Trudi and Rohan Ritchie from Bilgola took the plunge a few weeks ago. Despite living on the northern beaches, Mrs Ritchie is not a huge fan of the sand and waves and prefers the privacy and convenience of the pool in her own backyard.
She swims when she needs a break from working from home and her son, 14, and daughter, 12, jump in as soon as they arrive home from school.
“It’s great for work-life balance, it’s been great in the heatwave we had last weekend, and we’ve had friends over for barbecues out the back and had their kids swimming, so there’s the social aspect,” Mrs Ritchie said.
“The kids absolutely love it and it gets them off technology because they want to be outside having fun in the pool.”
The couple always wanted a pool but the pandemic brought their plans forward because it led them to save money since they could no longer travel.
The block wasn’t suitable for a bigger pool and Ms Ritchie said the plunge pool option meant they didn’t need to excavate. Instead they installed a $30,000 prefab fibreglass pool from Little Pools on the concrete slab at the back of their home.
Emily Sim, chief executive of property management at Ray White, said the plunge pool concept was not new and she had found the “secret delight” in many homes, especially in the inner city.
However, they were much cheaper than they used to be, with the “container pool” concept that started four years ago, coming in options for $20,000 rather than the starting price of $60,000 for an in-ground concrete swimming pool.
“Perhaps this is the The Block effect again,” Ms Sim said. “They showcased prefabricated pools in the last season of The Block but they are absolutely gaining momentum with inner-city dwellers as property owners can add major capital for a third of the price.”
Mr Fagan said plunge pools had become a new “buzzword” during the pandemic and some people were using the term loosely. He defines a plunge pool as less than five metres in length and three metres in width, but Compass has fielded inquiries from people looking for plunge pools as long as nine metres.
“A plunge pool was initially for that courtyard, that small backyard, or something close to the house that they could just jump into and cool off or maybe sit around and enjoy that beer or bottle of red,” Mr Fagan said.
Rhys Nawydycz, owner of Inlander Plunge Pools, moved into specialising in plunge pools when he took over the family business about four years ago because of the growing popularity.
He said it was up hugely during the pandemic because a lot of people who retained their jobs had more money to spend because other discretionary spending was not possible.
“I would say it’s just people wanting to maximise the space in their yard, but still get that extra depth out of a pool,” he said.
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here, The Age’s here, Brisbane Times’ here, and WAtoday’s here.
Caitlin Fitzsimmons is a senior writer for The Sun-Herald, focusing on social affairs.
New data reveals that small-business jobs rose in October despite the winding down of government support programs such as JobKeeper, while revenue experienced slower year-on-year growth.
The latest Xero Small Business Insights (XSBI) program, conducted by small-business platform Xero in partnership with research firm AlphaBeta, reveals that casual jobs are boosting overall small-business job growth, having risen 27 per cent in October since the lowest point during the pandemic in mid-April 2020. Casual employment is now 3.7 per cent below pre-crisis levels with growth of 1.7 per cent over October.
“It is encouraging to see the rise of casual employment as we approach the summer holidays,” Trent Innes, Managing Director Australia and Asia, Xero, said. “While small business has experienced slower year-on-year revenue growth this month compared to previous months, the jobs increase signals a pick-up in business momentum as small businesses gear up for the peak holiday season and scale their operations with more casual workers. We’re hopeful this will be a continued trend in November.”
Overall, small business jobs continue to rise, with 0.9 per cent registered in October. This is despite the significant changes to the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme at the end of September. Small business jobs are still 2.2 per cent lower than they were pre-crisis.
On an industry level, hospitality and arts and recreation are steadily recovering, with jobs in those sectors growing 0.8 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively month-on-month.
Revenue-wise, small business revenue fell 0.5 per cent year-on-year in October, after three months of positive growth.
What a year to come of age. To wander out of high school, or university, or Tafe, and into a world transformed by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
To be young in 2020 is to have watched on helplessly as the exciting new freedoms that come with a birthday, or graduation, were quickly but necessarily taken away: That first “night out”. The first road trip in the first car.
For a generation of young Australians looking to their future, the wide vista of opportunities and possibilities they might have once counted on has dramatically narrowed with the arrival of recession in a nation blindsided by Covid-19.
We’ve seen recessions and recoveries before. In the years after the global financial crisis of 2007, Australia’s unemployment rate – which had been shielded from the ravages of mass unemployment by the then Labor government – recovered fairly quickly by international standards.
A few caveats: a chunk of the new jobs that emerged were insecure, and some older workers never returned to the workforce after they were laid off. And yes, underemployment became an increasingly stubborn problem.
But in general it’s said that Australia’s recovery was a world leader. Yet for young people, the recovery was so not quick, nor smooth, a phenomenon in part driven by these caveats that masked the quality of the recovery itself. For young workers, some might argue, there wasn’t really a recovery at all.
A report from the Productivity Commission, released in July, crystallised this reality. For those aged 15 to 24, “We show that from 2008 to 2018, young people had more difficulty getting jobs in the occupations they aspired to,” the researchers wrote.
“And if they started in a less attractive occupation, it was even harder than before 2008 to climb the occupation ladder. This suggests that poor initial opportunities could have serious long-term consequences.”
This was the state of play before coronavirus. Now, experts describe an already poor outlook for the young being accelerated by the virus-fuelled economic downturn: a “perfect storm”, says one; an “on speed” version of their current experience, says another.
Young people are worried, too. A survey of 2,200 young people by Headspace found 40% felt the pandemic had impacted their confidence about achieving future goals. Research from the Foundation for Young Australians was similarly downbeat: 22% were concerned about their long-term employment future, while a third of those who lost their job in the pandemic did not expect to find work again for a long time.
The University of Melbourne’s Stefanie Dimov has been working this year on gathering young people’s testimony about their interrupted dreams and job losses due to Covid 19. It has been heartbreaking work, she says.
“The general sense I get from the hundreds of responses we’ve been getting is that young people are experiencing a sense of hopelessness and shock. I’ve been really humbled by their vulnerability with us.”
Dimov, project manager of the Youth Employment Study, says she is struck by the number of respondents, all aged between 15 and 25, who are worried about money – only 37% said they felt hopeful about their financial situation. But even more concerning, she says, is that 14% of respondents said they had run out of food, and 21% said they had skipped meals.
“This financial side of it is so concerning,” says Dimov. “But the hopelessness … very few of the respondents could say they feel they have a sense of hope for themselves, and for Australia.”
“Some of them are saying that before Covid it was near impossible to get a job, now they’re saying it is impossible. Clearly young people were already struggling, but now they are feeling a real sense of despondency.”
As for mental health issues – predicted by many to be the “next pandemic” – Dimov says: “We know that the longer young people are out of work the more likely their self-esteem and mental health will deteriorate. Our research shows that work and mental health are so intimately linked that we need to be urgently prioritising work for young Australians.”
But despite the “distressing” findings of her research, Dimov has cause for optimism: “The disruption of this year is actually a real opportunity to overhaul a system that already wasn’t working for young people,” she says.
Today Guardian Australia launches Dreams interrupted, a series that will amplify the voices of a cross-section of young Australians coping with the fallout of Covid-19 and the recession, explore the challenges they face, and look to the solutions.
Over the coming weeks you’ll hear from Madeleine, Tristan, Michelle, Emmanuel, Melis, Noah, Bethany and Jake about how 2020 has disrupted their plans and their dreams, and how they’re coping in these difficult times.
But for now the question is, how did we get here?
What has the pandemic done?
There is no doubt young workers have been disproportionately hurt by the economic crisis. Industries where young people are more likely to work – hospitality, tourism and the retail sector – have been decimated by the lockdowns put in place to protect us from the virus.
Those who were already behind the eight ball – because of generational disadvantage, or because they are likely to face discrimination – can expect an even more difficult future.
The statistics tell a bleak story: In April an estimated 13,000 people aged 15 to 24 lost their jobs, about two-thirds of all the jobs lost that month.Between March and July an extra 189,000 people between the ages of 15 and 24 started collecting unemployment benefits, according to the Department of Social Services.
Overall, the last Australian Bureau of Statistics survey put the overall unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 24 at 15.6% in October. It’s an improvement from the July figure of 16.3%, the worst in more than two decades. The general rate was 7%, although the true level remains obscured by the jobkeeper wage subsidy.
The youth underutilisation rate (that is, the unemployed and workers who want more hours combined) was estimated to have reached more than 60%, levels not seen since the Great Depression.
Although part of the damage wrought on the livelihoods of the young is down to the nature of the pandemic itself, it is not the only factor.
Emma Dawson, the executive director of the progressive thinktank Per Capita, points out that about 40% of people under 35 were already in some form of insecure work before the pandemic hit. Many of those – who have been in casual work for less than 12 months – are ineligible for jobkeeper.
“They were already very precariously employed and this pandemic smashed into a labour market for young people,” says Dawson.
Things were already bad
If, as most suspect, there is little chance of the so-called V-shaped recovery that relies on governments essentially being able to switch the economy back on, it’s generally accepted young people will bear the brunt of what comes next.
Young people leaving school or further education in the Covid years will be less likely to get into work; many of those who do will start further down the “career ladder”, they will be more likely to be funnelled into insecure jobs; some will extend their study to delay unemployment.
The economic “scarring” effect is a likely reduction in lifetime earnings. They will take longer to get into the housing market or start a family. A Brotherhood of St Laurence report that analysed Hilda data found young people who experience unemployment are more likely to have poor health and have lower educational attainment than those who don’t. They are more likely to experience recurring bouts of joblessness and the difference is stark: 20% for those out work while young, compared with 6.4% for those employed.
Underpinning this reality is the simple principle that when there are excess workers, those with less experience or fewer skills will find it harder to snare the jobs that are available. And firms are more likely to keep their existing staff than employ new ones.
The University of Melbourne’s Jeff Borland has been studying the impact of Covid-19 on youth unemployment. He notes young people will be further crowded out as a sizeable group of older workers are likely to delay retirement to rebuild their superannuation balances.
In this recession, he says, he’s expecting to see “the type of adverse effects or disproportionate adverse effects on young people that we saw in the 80s and 90s recessions”.
And there are reasons to be worried it’ll be worse this time, argues Dawson, pointing to the deregulation of the labour market, ailing social security and employment programs and a lack adequate investment in education such as Tafe. “It’s a perfect storm,” she says of what’s to come.
As the Productivity Commission found, things were already bad. A report by the Grattan Institute released in 2018 was among those that sounded an increasingly common note of alarm, saying: “Today’s young Australians are in danger of being the first generation in memory to have lower living standards than their parents’ generation.”
“Youth unemployment is higher than we would normally expect at this point in the economic cycle,” the report says. “And youth under-employment is much higher than in the past.
“More young people are choosing to study – which may help them earn more in future – but for now, a growing share of those studying are unsuccessfully seeking work.”
Overall, according to a Youth Action research paper timed for last year’s New South Wales election, one in three young people were unemployed or underemployed. The reserve bank has also looked into the problem. It found there was a significant rise in underemployed young people over the decade to 2018, while the share of 20- to 24-year-olds disengaged from work or study had also increased.
Meanwhile, the average rate of youth unemployment within OECD countries steadily fell “albeit from a much higher rate, to below the Australian equivalent”.
Some have been out of work for a long time. The Brotherhood of St Laurence, which tracks youth unemployment through a regular monitor report, noted late last year that nearly “one in five unemployed 15 to 24 year olds today have been out of work for 52 weeks or more”.
“They’re not establishing that sense of economic security to leads them to a pathway where they’ve got some certainty about work into the future, that draws on their talents and their aspirations and that gives them that stability to make other choices,” says Conny Lenneberg, executive director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
“Whether it’s to do additional study, whether it’s to move out of home, to move to relationships, long-term relationships, it’s all underpinned by a sense of economic security.”
The problem is also linked to where they live. In some regional areas such as the Queensland outback and the Coffs Harbour and Grafton area, more than 20% of young people were out of work before the pandemic. Areas including Wide Bay (20%) and Moreton Bay (19%) in Queensland and Bendigo in Victoria (18%) were similarly affected.
Within the capital cities, a postcode is similarly indicative. “Here in Melbourne, out in the west, Deer Park and Brimbank, there is youth unemployment of 15%,” says Lenneberg, referring to pre-pandemic statistics analysed by the brotherhood. “You go to the south-eastern suburbs and it’s about 5%. It’s around the same level as the general unemployment rate.”
The Morrison government has acknowledged this bleak outlook for young people. In a speech to the National Press Club in October, the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, noted that due to the recession of the early 1990s, it took nearly a decade for the unemployment rate to return to pre-recession levels.
But for younger Australians, he noted, “it took longer; around 15 years.”
“Young Australians have been disproportionately affected by this Covid-19 recession,” Frydenberg said, adding: “Employment for young Australians remains 8% below its pre-Covid-19 level. Lessons from past crises show that young people are often the last in and first out of jobs.”
The government’s jobmaker hiring credit, announced in the budget, is aimed at turning things around. The credit pays employers $200 a week for each additional employee they hire aged 16 to 29 and $100 a week for those aged 30 to 35. Though it has received some support from employer groups, it is estimated it will create an additional 45,000 jobs, fewer than initially anticipated.
Welfare to work?
Jeremy Poxon, an activist at the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, says the main problem is a lack of jobs. The AUWU – which is run by and whose members are unemployed people – has sought to change the narrative that people out of work are to blame for their predicament.
His case is aided by the data. In a report released this year, the Australian Council of Social Services found that in November 2019 there were eight people unemployed or underemployed for every job vacancy, while the previous year a government survey estimated there were an average of 19 applicants in total for every advertised job.
Analysing the job market in May, Anglicare found there were eight disadvantaged jobseekers for every entry-level position. Similarly, when Youth Action analysed 1,355,513 positions online in 2019, it found only 6,311 or 0.5% were advertised as “no experience required”.
In the case of young people particularly, Borland, and the economist John Quiggin both say that broadly speaking, the key to their success in the labour market is the overall strength of the economy. Quiggin points to the 1970s to make his case.
“I mean, whatever you think of the gig economy and part-time jobs and all that kind of stuff, in the 70s, there were no jobs,” he says. “So there was very high level of youth unemployment, and of course the usual cliches about young people.”
Borland says: “There are always hypotheses out there like, ‘Maybe the university system is failing, it’s not providing people with the right skills, maybe it’s technology.’
“Everyone comes back to the conclusion that, ‘Look, this is not on the supply side.’ It’s not to do with young people’s characteristics, or their motivation to work or anything like that. This is completely about the balance between labour demand and labour supply.”
Since the 1990s, the approach of the federal government has appeared increasingly removed from this reality. The commonwealth has spent billions on privatised employment – or “welfare to work” – programs and set various arbitrary or punitive hoops for people to receive increasingly inadequate unemployment benefits.
Pre-pandemic, an unemployed person in Australia lived one of the lowest unemployment benefits in the OECD. The usual rate of the jobseeker payment, about $40 a day, might seem unspeakably low; but for those under 21 living out of home, it is lower: a measly base of $33 a day.
Welfare benefits are set at such a low rate that, by the government’s logic, they provide an incentive for people to take a job. Jobseekers also lose their benefits if they refuse a “suitable job”. These payments were temporarily raised during the pandemic, but have been tapering down since September. Where they might end up after March, when the coronavirus supplement expires, is anyone’s guess.
Low rates of welfare benefits not only guarantee the unemployed to poverty, there is plenty of research to show they also impede their efforts to get jobs. If you can’t afford to eat properly, decent clothing or transport, you will undoubtedly be disadvantaged in a competitive labour market.
Most young people who are out of work are sent to a private provider of the federal government’s $5bn flagship employment program, Jobactive. Myriad reports have found the scheme dysfunctional and ineffective. For young people, in particular, though not exclusively, it can be soul-crushing experience. “It’s not a system where you have breathing room of any kind to be able to plan the future and then try and get your life back on track,” says Poxon. “No one really goes in there coming coming out with their dream jobs. I’ve never heard an example.”
The National Youth Commission, a non-partisan inquiry conducted outside parliament, is examining the issue of youth unemployment. Its chair, David Eldridge, says the commission has heard some “appalling” evidence about the “essentially failed” Registered Training Organisations system, which he says led to a “devaluation and defunding” the Tafe system.
Some things caught Eldridge by surprise, like how some young people living in suburban fringe, rural and regional communities felt state government rules making it more difficult to get a licence had hurt their employment prospects.
Twenty years ago Eldridge penned a report for the Howard government on “youth transitions”. “I suppose what surprised me a little bit was that 20 years ago we probably had some better systems in place in young people’s transitions through school,” he says.
Young people were more likely to experience structured workplace learning where they could get a sense of what career they’d like to pursue after school. School career advice had also deteriorated.
Of course, it’s all academic if the jobs aren’t there. Quiggin and Dawson both say that leading out from the pandemic the federal government should focus on job creation. “We actually need an active role for government in job creation,” Dawson says.
“And that doesn’t mean big state nationalising industries, but it does mean a government that works hand in hand with the private sector.”
She points to opportunities in the green economy and the care economy, such as disability or aged care, now one of the fastest growing sectors. Per Capita has also called for a youth guarantee, which would ensure all people under the age of 25 were guaranteed a place in a place in employment, education or training.
The employment aspect might be modelled on the Victorian government’s youth employment scheme, which gives long-term unemployed young people a year-long traineeship in the Victorian public service.
What’s at stake?
When asked, Eldridge agrees with two propositions: one, that the transitions from school to employment for young Australians now are much less clear than they were when he penned the report for John Howard; and two; that their futures are increasingly left to chance.
In too many cases, good outcomes are “accidental”. “If young people are well supported by family, have some networks and connections, they’re likely to find both part-time work in school and work beyond school and have a better understanding of what they want to study and where they want to go,” Eldridge says.
“But if you haven’t got an adequate family support, if you’re a ward of the state, or a young person or homeless, or even if you just struggled at school, you’re not going to get the right sort of advice.”
This dynamic only further entrenches inequality and disadvantage. Already, within statistics counting young people who are not in work or study, Indigenous people, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, and those who live in areas of lower socioeconomic status are overrepresented.
And so the cost of inaction will be great.
“If we just allow the situation to continue then what we know is that people who’ve already got experience will find work,” Lenneberg says. “And that’s that’s important too, but we’re not wanting to leave the next generation of young people behind.”
Nuix has built its business model on sifting through this so-called unstructured data and it’s this ability that caught the attention of the millionaires factory – Macquarie Group – in 2011.
That investment has now seen Macquarie mint a billion-dollar payday as Nuix became a publicly listed company. The investment bank used the float to sell down its stake in Nuix from 76 per cent to 30 per cent. At the $1.8 billion market valuation, new investors are paying an eye watering $9 for every dollar of revenue Nuix will generate for the current financial year.
As far as technology valuations on the ASX go, Nuix still isn’t quite in the same league as Afterpay ($27 billion), Wisetech Global ($9.9 billion) and Xero ($19.6 billion). However, its platform, which straddles the world of data analytics and cybersecurity, is a unique proposition for Australian investors that have until recently paid little attention to the world of data analytics.
Nuix boss Rod Vawdrey says the company has over the last two decades fine-tuned its ability to unscramble unstructured data and put it in a “normalised state”, making it simpler for business and government to use.
“I think this is the critical thing about what really makes us special.”
He harks back to the company’s genesis, the original program designed to find inappropriate emails, to explain what the core technology does.
“Cyber attacks are real, the threat is increasing, and companies need to spend money and be prepared and to protect their customers”
ichard Bergman, regional head of EY’s Cyber team.
In the early days Nuix’s technology scoured through emails to identify anything that looked like skin tone in a photograph.
“That photograph could be embedded in an attachment in an email, it could be zipped up in a zip file, and it could be in a container in the cloud,” says Vawdrey.
“If that skin tone is a large part of that photograph, it’s a reasonable assessment, that that is potentially an inappropriate photograph.”
The product has evolved since then and a big component of Nuix’s success has been the ability of its core technology to convert unstructured data into one of two states, a zero or a one, and then index it.
This binary conversion puts structure around the data and makes it possible to analyse vast amounts of it in forensic detail and apply it to all sorts of applications. In the case of Utegate and Grech it helped determine whether the email, central to the affair, was real or forged.
The forensic accuracy of Nuix’s work is so exacting that the company says it is accepted as evidence in courtroom proceedings.
“If I take your emails, and I break them down into zeros and ones, and I can reconstruct them to their original form and retain that chain of custody it’s very, very powerful. That makes us very different to what you might think of when you think of a Google search,” says Vawdrey.
It was Nuix’s role in the Panama Papers in 2016 which first thrust the Aussie group to prominence though. Nuix’s technology helped analyse terabytes of data, 11.5 million documents in all and showed how the rich exploit offshore tax regimes.
The breadth of applications open to Nuix now includes criminal and civil cases of law, litigation, counter-terrorism, human trafficking, child exploitation, cyber security and large scale data-intensive corporate tasks like the banking royal commission.
“Nuix was used by the regulator, Nuix was used by the major banks, Nuix was used by the law firms that were advising them,” says Vawdrey.
Despite the accolades and the growth potential at hand, it has not all been plain sailing in the lead up to the float though, not even for Macquarie.
In 2018, Macquarie veteran Anthony Castagna, who had been deeply involved in Nuix’s development even before Macquarie made its investment in the company, was jailed for tax evasion.
Nuix customers the Australian Tax Office and the Australian Federal Police were behind the conviction which was quashed on appeal last year. Castagna walked free and remained as Nuix chairman as recently as last month.
And it’s not the only legal headache that has troubled the group.
Nuix’s former boss, Eddie Sheehy, is due to file documents next week supporting his $118 million legal claim against the company that he led for more than a decade before walking away from the business in January 2017, just as talk of a public float ramped up.
“The substance of the former CEO’s claim is that, as a result of a share split of one existing share into 50 shares completed by Nuix in March 2017, his options should now represent an entitlement to call for 22,663,650 unissued shares on a sale of Nuix’s business,” the company said in its prospectus.
“Nuix rejects the claim in its entirety and is defending those proceedings.”
But legal wrangles aside, Nuix’s story has clearly resonated with investors and the market opportunity for the company to capitalise on continues to grow.
According to IT industry analyst IDC, the end point security software market, which protects the entry points on a network like laptops and mobile devices, was worth $US12.8 billion in 2019. Digital forensics was worth $US1 billion and eDiscovery $US3 billion. But it is the $US10.5 billion Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC) sector that is the most promising market for Nuix.
“In growth opportunities, what’s emerging the fastest is this area of governance risk and compliance, which is the whole world of regulatory compliance,” he says.
It covers everything from a COVID scenario where people are trying to make sure that the right money ends up in the right hands for a benefits program, or ensuring cyber protection of an organisation.
This includes healthcare organisations using it for compliance and fraud checks, and pharmaceutical companies looking for intellectual property protection.
“All these areas are really huge growth opportunities,” says Vawdrey.
“And one of the things that we think is pretty cool about our business is that we can take products that were developed for narrow verticals like policing or e-discovery, and we can apply them to these massive growth opportunities around risk compliance and cyber response.”
Cyber security is certainly top of mind though for many companies. Toll Holdings was hit by a ransomware attack this year and more recently hedge fund Levitas Capital collapsed after another cyber attack.
“Cyber attacks are real, the threat is increasing, and companies need to spend money and be prepared and to protect their customers,” says Richard Bergman who is the regional head of EY’s Cyber team.
“We know from our own research that destructive cyber attacks have increased 59 per cent in the last year.”
But Nuix has put its focus more on detecting internal vulnerabilities and internal cyber threats like disgruntled employees.
One of its key executives is Keith Lowry who previously worked for the US National Counterintelligence following the theft of NSA documents by Edward Snowden.
“Insiders represent one of the greatest but rarely mentioned cyber security threats to government and corporate organisations because of their ability to access and exploit sensitive and critical-value data,” he told the Australian Financial Review in 2015.
Vawdrey says Nuix’s cyber security role is more in providing intelligence and investigative analytics than “perimeter defence” of networks.
“We’re on the other side of the cyber fence which is, what happened, why did it happen? How do we prevent that happening again? So learning investigative analytics, using processing is very important.”
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Colin Kruger is a business reporter. He joined the Sydney Morning Herald in 1999 as its technology editor. Other roles have included the Herald’s deputy business editor and online business editor.
Christmas will be here before we know it, and with many businesses
closing down for the festive break from Friday 18 December – it’s only a few
weeks away! In the mad rush to get everything done before putting the
out-of-office on your email, don’t forget to record your staff’s annual leave
and public holidays to save you any headaches over the Christmas break. Payroll
is a crucial area, not only for you as a small business but for your employees,
so it is crucial to get it right.
Here’s a short checklist of the things you should be doing. Set aside
some time in the next few days to get them done.
Check you have the holiday groups set correctly in your payroll software
platform. This will ensure Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day are
setup as public holidays and normal salaries will calculate for those days.
Keep in mind, if an employee is on leave and there is a public holiday during
their leave period, they are to be paid the public holiday, so don’t use leave
on this date.
If your staff are working on the public holidays, check your award or
agreement to see how they should be treated. This should involve being paid
public holiday rates or given a day off without loss of pay.
Annual leave loading
Have you checked the relevant awards and employment contracts to
determine if your employees are entitled to annual leave loading? If this does
apply to your staff, ensure your payroll software is set up correctly to
calculate the loading on any leave taken.
Awards can be tricky and depend on your industry, and in some states
what business structure you operate under, so ensure you are using the correct
one for your staff.
If your business has a shut-down period, employees will still need to apply
for leave to cover this period. Send an email out to all team members now, so
that you can approve leave requests before the festive break begins. Once they
have applied, you need to approve their request.
What happens to staff that don’t have enough leave? You have the option
to allow them to go into negative leave or ask them to take leave without pay.
Schedule the pay run
The next step is to schedule the pay runs. If yourself of your payroll
person is going to be on leave on your normal pay day, you can schedule this in
Use technology to your advantage but take the time to check it is set up
correctly. That way you can also relax and enjoy the festive season. Also
remember bank processing times may be delayed due to public holidays, so you
may want to schedule pay runs a day or two earlier if your normal pay day falls
on a public holiday.
Michelle Maynard, Chartered Accountant and Partner, Carbon Group