Australian Firms Pay Bills Quicker in Improved Times

By AAP
January 12, 2021 Updated: January 13, 2021

In a further sign of improving economic conditions, payment times between businesses declined in many industries last year.

However, there are concerns that this trend could be cut short from the imposition of snap COVID-19 lockdowns.

Research by commercial credit bureau CreditorWatch found 15 out of 19 industry groups reported a reduction in the time it takes to pay their bills.

The most notable improvement was in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, which saw payment times halved over the year after a decade of tough times due to the impact of the drought.

At the other end of the spectrum, the retail sector saw payment times increase by almost a third over the year, although there was a 29 percent reduction in December.

CreditorWatch CEO Patrick Coghlan said the reduction in payment times reflects better economic conditions.

“However, lockdowns and border closures at the end of the year due to COVID have the potential to stymie this,” he said on Jan. 13.

Virus lockdowns over Christmas in the NSW northern beaches, and more recently a weekend lockdown in Greater Brisbane, has put a minor dent in consumer confidence to start the new year.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index—a pointer to future household spending—fell 0.1 percent in the past week, compounding the two percent drop when it was last reported just prior to Christmas.

The index had struck a 13-month high earlier in December and was still 66.8 percent higher after tumbling to a record low when the COVID-19 pandemic first struck.

The monthly Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment survey is released on Wednesday.

In December, this index surged to a 10-year high after recovering 48 percent from a low in April.

Colin Brinsden in Canberra