Back in May 2022, I made a bet Australian house prices would decline relative to Belgian ones, and the Australian cash rate wouldn't grow as high as the Euro-zone one. On that day, the RBA had lifted the Australian cash rate from the historical low of 0.10% to 0.35%. Today, that rate stands at 4.10%, with the latest increase in a series of 12 having happened at the start of June 2023 - an increase of 4%pt.

The European central bank in the mean time has raised its main refinancing operations rate 9 times since July 2022 from 0% to 4.25% at the start of August 2023, an increase of 4.25%pt.

Both the Australian and the Belgian government have statistical offices publishing median house prices. The way these are tracked varies slightly between the countries. In Belgium, Statbel publishes median prices for 3 types of residential dwellings every quarter, and the corresponding number of transactions that happened for each of these. The Australian Bureau of Statistics on the other hand publishes a median residential dwelling price every month, which is based on a stratification by dwellings type taken from the census which happens every 4 years.

Table with evolution of house prices

Of course, the AUD/EUR exchange rate needs to be taken into account as well. I've adjusted the prices using the weighted average monthly exchange rate. This way, we can compare the price evolution in a way that takes into account the evolving difference in purchasing power between the currencies of the 2 nations.

Plot with evolution of house prices in EUR

Comparing the first 3 months of 2021 to the first 3 months of 2023, the relative price of an Australian residential dwelling has gone to 92% of what it was when compared to its Belgian equivalent. If the starting point is Q1 2022, just before the rates started going up, the difference is an even starker 16% relative decline in price!

So far, both bets seem to have been correct - house prices in Australia have significantly gone down relative to the Belgian ones since the interest rate hikes started, and the cash rate in Europe, which started slightly lower than the one in Australia, has already surpassed it.

Moving countries means learning about a new culture. Even after 10 years in Australia, I am still discovering quirky things people raised here don't think twice about. One of these is the tradition of cutting up oranges for kids playing sports to eat during their half-time. It's not just any fruit - it simply always is oranges. It doesn't have to be oranges, except that it does, as this is just what people expect. Such a lovely tradition! Tomorrow is already the last competition day of netball in WA for the 2023 season, and my first as the parent responsible to bring in the oranges.


Perth, Western Australia is a sunny place, as any local will confirm. Combined with subsidised buyback tariffs for electricity returned into the grid, this has resulted in many local households now having an array of solar panels on their roof.

What most will intuitively understand is the production of these panels varying over the year. That's a combination of the differences in average cloud cover on the one hand, and on the other hand the amount of energy that falls down on the panel from the sun varying over the year due to the tilted axis of the earth.

Combined, this results in significantly different levels of energy available on our roofs throughout the year.

Table: Average solar exposure per m2 in Kings Park, Perth Jan 2017 to Jun 2023.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

MJ/m2 949,152 741,432 642,187 484,428 362,085 280,690 297,863 411,215 548,154 718,831 831,845 958,651

Right now in June, we're at the low point for the year in expected yield from a solar panel, with just about a third of the energy being generated that we can expect to get in Dec.

With summer having come to an end over here in Western Australia, the wind-filled afternoons are also behind us for a few months. While the prevailing easterlies that now reign make for glassy ocean conditions, they're generally not strong enough for wing surfing. Most Autumn days don't bring enough swell to go out surfing either around the area I live. This prompted me to try out a new activity - balance boarding.

I bought the board online from a Sunshine Coast family business, Barefoot & Salty. It came with 2 cork rollers, 5cm and 8cm in diameter. They were really nice to deal with, and included a handwritten thank-you note in the shipment. A lovely touch.

Just a few days in, I can already see a lot of progress, and it's proving to be a really fun activity for which I don't even need to leave the house.

Keep on riding :)

Barefoot & Salty XL Surf balance board


Following on from my last post on joining the indieweb...

Back in February, I implemented Webmentions on my website. I took a roll-my-own approach, borrowing from an idea by superkuh. It's a semi-automated solution which listens for webmentions using nginx. When (if) one is received, an email is generated that tells me about this, allowing me to validate it's a genuine comment.

Technically, nginx logs the body of POST requests in its logfile.

In the main configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf, I've added

# Defined for Webmention logging support of
log_format postdata '$time_local,$remote_addr,"$http_user_agent",$request_body';

In the configuration for, the following lines enable logging webmention requests:

# use proxying to self to get the HTTP post variables.
    location = /webmention {
    limit_req zone=webmention;
    client_max_body_size 7k;
    if ($request_method = POST) {
            access_log /var/log/nginx/postdata.log postdata;
            proxy_pass $scheme://;
    return 204 $scheme://$host/serviceup.html;
    location /logsink {
    #return 200;
    # use 204 instead of 200 so no 0 byte file is sent to browsers from HTTP forms.
    return 204;

Before the server section in there, I'm reducing the risk of abuse by rate limiting requests:

limit_req_zone  $server_name  zone=webmention:1m   rate=2r/s;

The logfile is being monitored by a service calling a shell script:

# Service starts on boot in /etc/systemd/system/webmention.service
inotifywait -s -m $WEBMENTION_LOG --format "%e %w%f" --event modify|
while read CHANGED;
    echo "$CHANGED"
    logger "Webmention received"
    tail -n1 $WEBMENTION_LOG | /usr/bin/mail -a'From: niihau webmention service <webmaster@email.address>' -s 'Webmention received' $TO

This uses inotifywait, which is part of inotify-tools. Unfortunately, logrotate will remove the log file on a regular basis, which is done in 3 steps. The first 2 steps results in a MODIFY event, before a DELETE event is created. That results in 2 emails being sent every time logs are rotated if using the above script. I've not tried to ignore these yet - checking for logrotate running at the time an event is triggered could be a solution.

The systemd service is defined in /etc/systemd/system/webmention.service:

Description=Service to monitor nginx log for webmentions



Announcing I'm accepting webmentions is as simple as putting the endpoint in the header of the blog:

<link rel="webmention" href="">

Clearly federating conversation as the final level of joining the indieweb is quite a bit more complicated than achieving 'level 2' status on

Public Sector Network's Innovate WA conference today started with a poll amongst the attendees, asking for our biggest goal or aspiration for the public sector in Western Australia. Overwhelmingly, collaboration came out as the main opportunity for contributors and decision makers in the sector. Closely linked was the desire to better share data between government departments and functions. In his opening address, WA Minister for Innovation Stephen Dawson touched on that, mentioning the State Government is planning to introduce legislation later this year around privacy and responsible data sharing. This will be the first time WA government agencies and state-owned enterprises will be subject to privacy laws, and at the same time is hoped to encourage data sharing that should result in better outcomes for citizens of the state.

poll results

Greg Italiano, the state government's CIO, gave an update on the digital transformation of the WA government. Delivering a digital identity has been a key milestone so far - no easy task given the many arms of government at state and federal level that were involved. He acknowledged the Service WA app doesn't offer a compelling range of services to deal with government so far though - finding your best deal for refueling and notices on shark detections probably don't top the list of needs for many.

With an ability to digitally authenticate as yourself, many options now do exist for future enhancements. This was also the viewpoint of Hans Jayatissa, who spoke about the steps the Danish government has taken over the last 20 years that have brought the country to be the world leader in digital government.

All the focus on 'digital first' should not result in 'digital only' though, which came out strongly in a review of the blueprint to ensure digital inclusivity in government. To that end, it was great to hear several actions have been planned to help specific groups in society at risk of being left behind: people in regional communities, older people, Aboriginal communities, people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds all have a range of reasons why they may be digitally excluded: lacking education on how to use IT, no access to devices like internet-connected phones or computers, lacking budgets to pay for connectivity, etc. A human-centered approach to digital inclusivity clearly brought out what to work on to ensure everyone will have a decent opportunity to access an increasingly digital world.

Giselle Rowe and Danielle Giles in their respective talks provided excellent advice on how to foster innovation in an organisation. The former listed out a range of factors for success - an understanding of 'what is in it for me', small steps, supportive leadership, innovation ambassadors all are enablers for changing business processes. The latter convinced the conference room of the power of simple 2 minute exercises like creating a portrait of the person you are working with without taking your eyes of them, or continuously asking 'who are you' as a variant of the '5 why technique' demonstrating how you need multiple attempts at answering the same question to get to a root truth.

Great to see such a focus on enabling and supporting innovation, not only to streamline access to government services, but also in the wider economy to help keep Australia shine on the world stage!

After setting a personal objective late last year of reaching 'level 2' on the indieweb, with the ability to send WebMentions, I stumbled on Bring Back Blogging yesterday. I love how some people are dedicated to keeping a decentralised internet available and of relevance.

Over the past month, I created an OpenGraph plugin for IkiWiki which allows to add customized Open Graph tags to posts on my blog. This in combination with standard IkiWiki blog support seems equivalent to an h-entry, which was a level 1 feature.

I've also added an h-card to the About section of this site, thereby completing the first part of the level 2 requirements.

Yet to do are the WebMentions. There were some conversations about that on the IkiWiki discussion forum years ago, but no code was checked in to complete the feature. At its simplest, it appears to be a matter of including another site's blog post in yours and sending of a ping to the site to inform it about this. Having the ability to receive back seems quite a bit harder.

Synergy's Pricing and Portfolio team took the opportunity at the end of the year to volunteer for Ronald McDonald House Nedlands. This is a charity providing a 'home away from home' for families with a child in hospital in Perth. These families often live hundreds if not thousands of kilometers away due to the size of Western Australia, with Perth the only metropolitan area in the state featuring a children's hospital. Families often stay for weeks and even months in the facility while their child undergoes treatment.

Group picture with the house manager

We prepared lunch for the families and volunteers in the house, followed by a tour of the place by its manager. Hearing some of the stories about the children was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. During extremely demanding times for a family, both mentally and financially, the volunteers and the team at Ronald McDonald House do a great job in making life slightly easier for them. It was great to be able to contribute a little bit to that this Christmas period.

I recently had the honour of giving a talk about delivering consumer insights at a publicly owned utility during a session organised by the Western Australian Data Science Innovation Hub (WADSIH). During the talk, I walked through the data science process the team moves through while delivering customer insights. To make that less theoretical, I did this using an example of work delivered recently to prompt consumers to take mutually beneficial actions to both lower their power bills and help ensure the stability of the electricity grid.

I converted the presentation from Powerpoint to code on the weekend, and made it available online, as well as a compiled PDF version.

In its latest statement on monetary policy (Internet Archive), the Reserve Bank of Australia highlighted that households in Australia have much higher private debt than before. Total private debt is approximately 120% of GDP (Internet Archive), roughly double Belgium's. Analysts hint this will restrict by how much the central bank will be able to raise the cash rate target (Internet Archive) to battle rising inflation in the near future.

Most mortgages in Australia are contracted on a variable rate, or fixed only for the short term. As such, rising interest rates not only affect people taking out new loans - they also affect the amount all other indebted households need to repay. This contrasts with Belgium for instance, where in the first 3 months of 2022 93.5% of mortgage contracts had a fixed term over the entire duration of the contract (Internet Archive). Only less than 1% of contracts closed in this quarter has a rate varying periodically. This despite strong consumer protections built into the Code of Economic Law see art VII.143, ยง 2 to 6 in the Flemish publication (Internet Archive): few of them vary immediately upon changes in the cash rate as the minimum term between changes is at least a year, and the updated interest rate can never exceed twice the original rate.

In contrast, Australian mortgages are rarely offered with a fixed interest rate period beyond 2 years - 5 years is practically the most I have seen advertised. Banks can vary the rate at will - they are not mandated to link a change to a variation in the cash rate, nor do they need to stick to that variation. Rates can go as high as the banks want them to go.

This is a remarkable difference in the products banks in these countries make available. I wonder to what extent this will influence how high the cash rate will be allowed to rise before politicians will need to step in, if at all they will, and how it may affect the evolution of houseprices in the countries. My current bet: Australian houseprices will decline relative to Belgian ones, and the cash rate won't grow as much. (At the time of writing, the RBA has a target cash rate of 0.35% while ECB still has a target cash rate of 0.00% though.)

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