TURNER, Ore.—Smoke from the West Coast wildfires has tainted grapes in some of the nation’s most celebrated wine regions with an ashy flavor that could spell disaster for the 2020 vintage. Wineries in California, Oregon, and Washington have survived severe wildfires before, but the smoke from this year’s blazes has been especially bad—thick enough to obscure vineyards drooping with clusters of grapes almost ready for harvest. Day after day, some West Coast cities endured some of the worst air quality in the world. No one knows the extent of the smoke damage to the crop, and growers are trying to assess the severity. If tainted grapes are made into wine without steps to minimize the harm or weed out the damaged fruit, the result could be wine so bad that…
Access to credit is expected to be made easier under law changes to be announced by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Sept 25.
At the same time, the Morrison government will strengthen consumer protections for vulnerable people accessing so-called “payday loans”.
About $13 billion of credit is extended each month to help Australian families buy their own home, while about $5 billion flows to housing investors.
The Credit Act was put in place more than a decade ago to ensure lenders do not provide unsuitable loans to consumers, but its “one size fits all” approach is no longer considered fit for purpose and it is unduly restricting lending.
Since the laws came into effect a raft of other changes have been made in consumer credit protection, including empowering the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to intervene and setting up the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
But problems persist such as existing mortgage holders facing delays in refinancing even if they have a strong credit record, and sophisticated borrowers being subject to the same stringent obligations as a high-risk borrower applying for a payday loan.
Under the new rules, lenders will be able to rely on the information provided by borrowers, unless there are reasonable grounds to suspect it is unreliable.
Borrowers will be made more accountable for providing accurate information to inform lending decisions, replacing the current practice of “lender beware” with a “borrower responsibility” principle.
The changes will also improve consumer protections when taking out “payday loans” and consumer leases.
There will be a cap on the total payments that can be made under a consumer lease and new “protected earnings amounts” for payday loans and consumer leases made to people on Centrelink payments.
As well, the government will introduce a “fit and proper person” test for debt management companies representing consumers in disputes with financial services firms.
“The Morrison government is implementing the most significant reforms to Australia’s credit framework in a decade to increase the flow of credit to households and businesses, reduce red tape and strengthen protections for vulnerable consumers,” Frydenberg said.
He said the free flow of credit was critical to Australia’s economic recovery plan.
Paul Osborne in Canberra
Focus News: Free Flow of Credit Critical to Australia’s Economic Recovery
More than 300 people have been charged for committing crimes “adjacent to or under the guise of peaceful demonstrations since the end of May,” the Department of Justice announced Thursday. The crimes were committed in 29 states and Washington, authorities said. Assaulting a law enforcement officer, attempted murder, arson, and damaging federal property are among the charges filed. Approximately 80 people have been charged with offenses relating to arson and explosives; 15 have been charged with damaging federal property. Rioters inflicted millions of dollars of damage to city and federal property across the United States in recent months, including the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct, the Nashville City Hall in Tennessee, and the聽Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, a federal building, in Portland, Oregon. Criminals have also targeted small and big businesses,…