Economists described Reserve Bank governor Michele Bullock’s communication style as “transparent” and “assertive” in her first speech on monetary policy since succeeding Philip Lowe in the top job.
Ms Bullock said that she “will not hesitate to raise the [4.1 per cent] cash rate further if there is a material upward revision to the outlook for inflation”, speaking on Tuesday night, and delivering a clear-eyed account of her policy challenge.
Judo Bank’s chief economic advisor Warren Hogan described her as more assertive than her predecessor.
“Assertive, in the sense ‘we (the RBA) will act on controlling inflation’,” he told The Australian Financial Review
“What she said on not hesitating, has urgency and forcefulness, and we haven’t heard it before.
“I think she’s making it quite clear that she’s laid out her inflation fighting credentials, and that inflation still remains the number one job of a central bank and we’ve got an inflation problem.”
Mr Hogan noted Ms Bullock’s “strong desire to explain clearly what the RBA are doing” to keep inflation on a correction course to the 2 per cent to 3 per cent target.
“It’s a very transparent way.”
Morgans chief economist Michael Knox and AMP’s chief economist Shane Oliver agreed Ms Bullock’s plain-spoken style conveyed necessary clarity.
The speech was also notable because it provided nuance and insight absent from the minutes of her first policy meeting.
“I think she’s very thorough and very genuine. She’s done the work and done the analysis, and she was very straightforward and very genuine in the way she presented,” Mr Knox said.
“She gives you the feeling that she clearly cares about the people she’s talking about.”
Mr Knox said his impression of Ms Bullock’s thoroughness in her maiden speech as governor compared to previous addresses by her predecessors was evident in the high level of detail about housing.
She told the audience the pressure facing indebted households was much greater for highly leveraged borrowers than those with modest levels of debt.
About 5 per cent of variable rate borrowers are estimated to be paying more to get by than they earn. But that outcome applies to 25 per cent of the most geared households.
Dr Oliver thought Ms Bullock did a “very good job of explaining the trade-offs between the two competing objectives for the Reserve Bank and that’s full-employment and low inflation”.
“She might prove more transparent than [Dr Lowe] has been if you’ve read her material,” he said.
“I think she probably is more keen to explain the trade-offs ... I don’t think she really said anything that was new, and it was a reinforcement of the view that they are watching things pretty closely, but it was clear the central bank still has a tightening bias.”
BIS Oxford Economics head of macroeconomic forecasting Sean Langcake said she “gets to the point and in a way that people can understand”.
“I think there were things that were said to just remind people that cash rate hikes are not completely off the table and we might see another one or two coming up.”
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